Presence & Free-Flow Writing

Last weekend, I read Natalie Goldberg’s new memoir, Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home. For 3 days, I was inside her world of cancer.

What happens when our world comes crashing down? How do we humans do this? How did my favorite writing/mindfulness teacher do this? How did Natalie Goldberg live her teachings and wisdom when the shit hit the fan?

She said she needed to hear or read what other people went through, but she found little about the nitty-gritty experience.  

And so, she wrote the nitty-gritty experience.

She wrote it for herself to understand what happened to her and “claim her existence.”

She wrote it for others to feel less alone and less crazy.

“This too is part of life. Don’t give up. Pay attention. We have to make ourselves larger to include the inconceivable.”

We have to make ourselves larger to include the inconceivable.

This week I found scribbled on the top of a random page in my notebook the words, presence = never abandoning yourself.

How can I best be with what is?

To be present with what pains me in myself, my life, the world? 

To remember that “this too is part of life.” “Pay attention.” Become larger to include all of it – even the inconceivable.

For me, for now, it’s through writing practice. 

Writing as a practice invites us deep into our life, into the human experience we’re here to participate in: 

Could I be in the middle of it, not so much victorious but actually flower, become more tender, more inside human understanding? Could it open love? And reflection? Could I stand inside the storm, be drenched and endure, whether into life or into death?

It’s been a week since I finished her book, and I still feel the high. I remember last Monday, a sunny, 70-degree Portland day. Maybe low 80s. I remember gifting myself a full afternoon of reading. Nothing on my agenda but reading the final third of the book. I began at Café Umbria where I sat outside in the sun. I sipped iced coffee. I remember feeling chilly when the sun sank behind a building and I packed up to find a new sun-spot. I landed at Nuvrei and ordered a decaf cappuchino and a sweet roll I’ve eyed, but never ordered: sweet dough made from fruited olive oil with anise and candied orange peel. OMG, that sweet roll. And I remember the sun streamed through the window and drenched my window seat for a long, long time. I remember the man to my right working diligently at his computer, and the mother and little blond-haired boy, who got me thinking about Connor at that age. And though I was reading a memoir about cancer, I felt infused with life’s beauty — taking in all the details, like the September light, and the three dove-like birds that sat on a ledge outside the window, creating the sweetest still-life, and the classic-rock music playing over the speaker, and Natalie Goldberg’s generously shared details of her life and world, both the sharp notes and the beautiful. I remember finishing the book early evening, a few blocks away at Teardrop Cocktail Lounge, where I sat outside, again in the sun, sipping a pinot noir, and grateful, grateful, grateful for my health, for the warmth and beauty of a late September day, for the teachings of my beloved teacher, and her returned health, and these words:

“We can be awake on both sides of the coin, in sickness and in health, in light and in the dark. In both states we can glow.”

Oh, to be penetrated by a book. A teacher. A fellow human being, walking her path, in this inconceivably terrifying and beautiful world of ours. 


With love,

Want to write?
Take a pen & prompt journey:

writing prompt

"In both states we can glow."

1. Grab a pen & notebook. Write the prompt at the top of the page. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Or 5. Or 2!

2. Keep your pen moving as you write the thoughts, feelings, and images that arise. Don’t stop to think or edit.

3. Accept ALL that you write - the pretty + ugly; absurd + boring. Discover what wants to be felt, known, expressed, released...