Giving Your Heart a Place to Open
“No writing is a waste of time – no creative work where the feelings, the imagination, the intelligence must work. With every sentence you write, you have learned something. It has done you good.” ― Brenda Ueland
The birds are beginning to awaken even though it is still dark outside. In a few minutes I am going to settle on my black meditation cushion and listen to the stillness of the morning. Even though it has been a warm winter (thank you El Nino) and small buds are beginning to appear at the tips of branches, winter is still with us. The landscape is varying shades of grey and brown. Everything is flat and dormant. The furnace continues to click on and roar to life every 15 minutes or so. Yet I also hear the softness of a single mourning dove cooing up on the roof that will soon turn into multiple birds of different varieties singing for the joy of more sunlight and warmth. Paying attention to the shifts of the seasons is my morning prayer in some ways. It is how I hope—I start my days slow and pay attention.
Hope is also cultivated when I show up to the page and my words flow with ease and grace. Expect when they don’t, because sometimes I struggle to show up. Yes, we are on the backside of winter. Yes, we are gaining more sunlight each passing day. But there is still more darkness than light. After months of darkness and limited movement outside, I feel internally like a light switch is stuck in the off position. I struggle to rouse the motivation and enthusiasm to show up for my writing and other creative projects. It takes all my energy to show up for my day job and the basics in my life.
I am hibernating and I struggle with allowing myself the space to know this is okay. I struggle with allowing myself to let go of the inner critic that tells me it is useless to show up and try to write. That tells me it is useless to write. I know from years of experience that showing up to the page and writing will grant me safe passage through this darkness. Writing reduces my suffering, it always does.
If this was happening to a good friend I would say to her, meet yourself where you are at, go gently with kindness and compassion, but show up to the page—write. When you do this you are giving your heart a place to open.
But how do we do this? How do we keep showing up and creating (no matter what that is, writing, living, painting, you name it) when anxiety is constricting our bellies so much we can’t take a deep breath? Or the fear pushes every thought or word out of our minds and we are left with foggy brain? Or the winter doldrums are weighing us down, stealing every ounce of enthusiasm?
It is hard to show up and write when the resistance and fear is so strong. When the pull to hibernate and burrow deep inside is compelling. I can say from experience it does get easier, but you have to show up with compassion and kindness for yourself and your writing or other creative work. You have to be willing to release judgement of what comes out. Instead be willing to say thank you to yourself for the courage to write. Even if all you wrote was a recap of your week or how you felt about an upcoming meeting at work. It all does matter.
If we keep showing up, our heart will show up too. It might take awhile, but it will happen.
When I am in this space I use the prompt, What I really want to say…, to help start the flow of words. You may have been offered this prompt before, as many writers use it as a tool to dig in when stuck or the writing is shallow. If you are struggling too with winter depression or the motivation to even start where you are at, try this prompt. Set a timer for 5, 10 or 20 minutes and just keep repeating, what I really want to say.
Something will shift, something will happen. It might not be brilliant. It might be whiny. It might be boring. I might be awesome. Who knows, it doesn’t really matter, the point is you are starting. You are creating space to write. You are giving a place for your heart to open.