“Be submissive to everything. Open. Listening.”
To loosen up some mental and physical cobwebs, I’ve been taking a yoga class with a wonderful instructor named Rebecca. She has a very elegant way of using words to describe different techniques. Just today, she had our small group focus on exhaling and then on “receiving the breath” when we inhaled.
This reminded me of something that Natalie Goldberg says in her wonderful book, Writing Down the Bones. In a chapter aptly called “Listening,” she talks about the importance of being attentive and open in our work: “Listening is receptivity. The deeper you can listen, the better you can write. You take in things without judgment, and the next day you can write the truth about the way things are….If you can capture the way things are, that’s all the poetry you’ll ever need.”
Often, I find that I get so lost in the day’s activities or in planning the next thing I need to do, that wide-eyed looking and deep listening fall by the wayside. And yet when we are open to receive, so many gifts come our way that we can turn to gold in our writing: a chance comment, a childhood phrase remembered, the wheeling, arcing motion of birds chasing the sky. Just the other day, I was sitting with a small group of women and the lamplight in the room fell on one woman’s lovely curly auburn hair in such a way that it made me think of my little knight Britomar and how she looks. For a moment, I was paying attention and I saw something I might be able to use. It’s the same with listening.
“…deep, nonevaluative listening awakens stories and images inside you,” says Natalie. “Basically, if you want to be a good writer, you need to do three things. Read a lot, listen well and deeply, and write a lot…. Just enter the heat of words and sounds and colored sensations and keep your pen moving across the page.” Am I listening to this? Are you?