Put your pen to the paper and see what happens.
What is “Contemplative Writing”?
I have written and read since I was in primary school, when I learned that fiction could carry me away from difficult struggles at home. Poetry saved me from my father’s death in middle school, and plays softened the harsh realities of my high school experience.
But it wasn’t until after college that I discovered there was another way to approach writing. Writing not just for writing’s sake, not just as something to be edited, finished, published; writing also as a process, a practice. My first teacher, Paula Novotnak, taught her first and foremost that “Practice makes Practice, not Perfection.” My current teacher, Natalie Goldberg, has said of me: “Miriam Hall has the heart and head and hands of Writing Practice. Study with her.”
For over seven years now, I have offered various forms of Contemplative Arts as a full-time occupation. My mainstay is Writing Practice, or Contemplative Writing. I offer weekend retreats, week-to-week classes, and extended online classes for ongoing students of mine who are living far away. I am an internationally-recognized teacher, and increasingly published author. I am sought out for my kind manner, sharp awareness and precise understanding of Buddhist teachings and human condition.
Miriam Hall has devoted her life to create safe spaces for people to explore the vast depths of healing through writing and photography. What blows me away about being around her is how this practice is gifting me back with tremendous, and innate, creativity. Miriam and her classes are a rock solid cornerstone of my life.
Quantity, not quality. Just being free to write, write, write without judgement. No one had ever told me to do that before, and it was amazingly freeing.
Miriam hears with her heart and holds space with compassion. From her reflections, guidance, and presence, I'm learning to trust the process of writing practice, find the value humming under the surface of even my most scattered efforts, and listen more deeply to myself and others. Attending weekly writing class is a gift.
Miriam is a brave, expansive and loving container as she holds space for my writing. Even when at times my writing doesn't feel worthy of sharing, she has a gentle and exquisite way of encouraging me and other class members to keep going through our discomfort of sharing (always optional) and then helping us see the worth of what has been shared. Often, I come into class feeling covered with the cobwebs of life's stressors but, by the time I leave class, I am refreshed and renewed from the inside out.
In this class, I found the structure and group support to explore the relationship between meditation practice and writing, and also to learn more about the craft/art of writing. What Miriam offered was warmth, forgiveness, understanding and insight that I don't get when I write by myself.
How Do the Classes Work?
We meet as a small group (seven students) once a week, for two hours each week. In each class, we do meditation, a body/breath scan and then 20 minutes of writing on a theme, with guiding questions. The writing is without break and often subconscious.
The second half is spent sharing and/or listening to each other.
The class spends half its time for each of the two important core teachings: creative process (first half) and compassionate listening (second half). The two are, in fact, inexorably linked, which becomes apparent to all who practice over time.
How Do Retreats Work?
The retreats alternate Walking Meditation, Contemplative Writing (writing and listening) and Sitting Meditation.
Through the mixture of practices of stillness and sharp awareness, our writing begins to sharpen and deepen, and, most importantly, we begin to connect with ourselves and each other as human beings with real hearts and real stories.
Why Do these Classes and Retreats Work?
My teacher, Paula Novotnak, was the first person to create for me an environment of raw creativity I felt I could rely on, week after week, as a safe container for whatever needed to emerge. Learning to abide by the creative process, all of its ups and downs, resistance and flow, is essential if we want creativity to really work in our lives.
The second component, compassion, comes for me out of Buddhist teachings, but can apply to any religious belief or philosophical approach. It is a common core for all of us. All of our relationships, activities, creative or otherwise, need compassion in order to truly benefit the world. The practice of listening, being listened to, and reflecting back to each other is perilously rare in our modern world.
Miriam gives feedback and teaches how to give feedback that supports and energizes the writing process. Through the safe container of her feedback, I've heard my own voice more clearly. I've felt deeply heard and that is a unique kind of healing.
I love the listening skills the practice of contemplative writing teaches. I love the honesty and the safe space to try anything. Your house is perfect. It is warm and inviting and the tea and ginger are wonderful.
Miriam holds a gentle and open space for exploring the moment-to-moment experience of contemplative writing. She generously shares her vast knowledge of this process and helps us discover what waits just beyond the surface.
The main thing I got from this course was to allow myself to journal and begin to listen to the voices writing in a compassionate way. (A work in progress!) I really appreciated that there was equal attention given to the feedback practice as to the writing one. I appreciated the opportunity to move/write in the live calls on Skype as a source of further investigation.
I appreciate most Miriam’s wisdom and spacious presence, her open heart, message of gentleness/being gentle, and knowledge.
Miriam is a skillful teacher, who creates an environment of trust, where one can let go and open up to using words to communicate the unseen, and freshly felt experience of one's mind.
Great! So, How Do I Register?
Please see my Schedule page for registration information and schedules for upcoming classes. The best way to get on a list is to fill out this form. As always, if you have any further questions or would like to see some samples of writing from these classes, please contact me.
Read What I’m Writing
I currently keep two blogs. The first, Memoir Mind, is focused specifically on memoir: writing, reading, and recommendations. The second blog, Inside Space, has a broader focus with a vulnerable, personal voice: teaching, writing, photography, and life in general. I encourage discussion and feedback in both of those spaces as well on the Herspiral Facebook page and group.
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