Journal Writing for Self-Awareness at the Krishnamurti May Gathering in Ojai

Scan_Pic0018Note: This is Part One of two parts –written quickly while it’s fresh in my mind.

Update, June 12, 2013: The river of life has swept me away —but am aware I haven’t finished this! Will post photos soon!

Update, May 14, 2013: Still working on Part Two. By the time I got home yesterday the heat was so oppressive that I threw in the towel and passed out.

Update, May 25, 2013: The river of life carried me away from my personal writing back to yoga writing, which I’ll post on this blog in the coming days. I also took a four-day focused journal writing workshop at the Krotona Institute in Ojai with playwright and screenwriter Cathrine Ann Jones. The notes for Part Two still sit on my desk,  patiently waiting their turn to be posted, as promised.

There has to be a first time for everything and yesterday was the first time I ever asked a group of people at my Journal Writing for Self-Awareness workshop to actually write. I gave them a few prompts, like “The thing I’m most worried or mad about is . . . ” and assured them that if their hand froze up they could doodle or make a To-Do-List to keep the pen moving.

Much to my amazement and utter delight —thrill of thrills–when I looked around, everyone (about 35 people) was intently looking down at their paper and their pens were moving!

I arrived at the Krishnamurti Retreat around 9:30 a.m., (now renamed The Krishnamurti Educational Center) and unloaded all my books to sell, books to read from, big yoga bolster, mat, blankets, and other props, binder full of notes, my purse, etc., into my old lady shopping cart, so I wouldn’t have to make three trips back-and-forth. Craig Walker, one of the organizers of the event, was sitting nearby under a Pepper Tree, possibly the same tree Krishnamurti meditated under for many years. When Craig spotted me he offered to help schlep everything up the path that led to the Pepper Tree Retreat garden area, where I would be speaking.

I was almost an hour early, just as I had planned, because I wanted to absorb the peaceful atmosphere and get the lay of the land. When I saw that Craig had in mind that I would be speaking at a spot under the canopy with some bushes right behind me, I asked if we could reconfigure the chairs so participants would face out to the lawn area, to the open space, where they could better see the sky, mountains, and tall pine trees. And where I could freely move around and demonstrate the poses I often practice before gluing myself to the chair.

After arranging my books and notes on the table, I got out my yoga props. The lawn was still wet so I spread out a blanket instead of my mat. Then I laid down on my bolster with the soles of my feet together in the Goddess Pose, and closed my eyes. I noticed my heart was beating fast–maybe from the exertion of pulling a cart loaded with forty books slightly uphill, plus the anticipation of doing something new and maybe a bit of anxiety of speaking to an unknown audience. And, to be honest, it was no small feat to extricate myself out of the river bottom, feed and water Honey, Chico, and the cats, clean the kitty litter, shower, get dressed (my friend Sholom says he’s starting to freak out because I always wear the same thing) load up the borrowed car, run back into the house for a banana, and say good bye to Honey all over again . . . etc.

So, lying on my old familiar bolster, I smoothed out my breathing and felt my heart slow down. When I opened my eyes I looked straight up at the branches of the trees and the sky. It just happened that for these few moments all the people were elsewhere on the premises and pretty soon I noticed a bird coming closer and closer to the bolster. Relaxing on the bolster brought me in touch with the sweetness of my surroundings. I stopped worrying about the workshop and by the time people started to sit down around the tables under the canopy I was enjoying a heart opening supported backbend on the yoga chair I’d thrown into the backseat at the last minute

At the end of the workshop I promised participants that I’d describe how the workshop unfolded, the material we covered, including a list of the writing books I read from, which I’ll do later today.

But I will add this:

To set the tone for the workshop, I opened my talk on journal writing with this quote by Jiddu Krishnamurti, from The Book of Life: Daily Meditations

Igniting the Flame of Self-Awareness

“If you find it difficult to be aware, then experiment with writing down every thought and feeling that arises throughout the day; write down your reactions of jealousy, envy, vanity, sensuality, the intentions behind your words, and so on.

Spend some time before breakfast in writing them down, which may necessitate going to bed earlier and putting aside some social affair.

If you write these things down whenever you can, and in the evening before sleeping look over all that you have written during the day, study and examine it without judgment, without condemnation, you will begin to discover the hidden causes of your thoughts and feelings, desires and words.

Now, the important thing in this is to study with free intelligence what you have written down, and in studying it you will become aware of your own state.

In the flame of self-awareness, of self-knowledge, the causes of conflict are discovered and consumed.

You should continue to write down your thoughts and feelings, intentions and reactions, not once or twice, but for a considerable number of days until you are able to be aware of them instantly.

Meditation is not only constant self-awareness, but constant abandonment of the self. Out of right thinking there is meditation, from which there comes the tranquility of wisdom; and in that serenity the highest is realized.

Writing down what one thinks and feels, one’s desires and reactions, brings about an inward awareness, the cooperation of the unconscious with the conscious, and this in turn leads to integration and understanding.”

— J. Krishnamurti, The Book of Life

Books quoted at the workshop and recommended reading:

The Book of Life: Daily Meditations by Jiddu Krishnamurti

Krishnamurti to Himself: His Last Journal   by Jiddu Krishnamurti

Old Friend From Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir by Natalie Goldberg

If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence and Spirit by Brenda Ueland

Zen In the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury (Mine is an older edition. The subtitle has been changed in recent years.)

Writing Yoga: A Guide to Keeping a Practice Journal by Bruce Black

Fishing on Facebook: A Writing Yoga Memoir by Suza Francina

The Way of Story: The Craft and Soul of Writing, by Catherine Ann Jones

Note: This is a listing of books I brought to this workshop–not a complete list of all the writing books I recommend!

Photo credit: Carolyn Studer

(I demonstrated some of the heart-opening restorative poses I often practice before writing)


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