You might read this title and shake your head with curiosity. The connection may not be entirely clear. So, the next time you sit down to write, draw, and create, take a moment to notice your state of mind when you begin. Are your thoughts ever-alert to the mistakes you see, to sloppy phrasing, never quite satisfied with what is emerging on the page? If this is true for you, a loving-kindness practice will help to turn down the volume of that inner critic, the one always looking for what’s wrong, instead of what’s strong.
The meditation practice of loving-kindness begins with “may I be safe.” I firmly believe that without a sense of safety, our deep messages and artistic expression will be diminished. It was only after I discovered what “safe” felt like during a week-long loving-kindness retreat that my confidence as a writer increased. Safety does not always arrive from a formal practice of sitting on a cushion. Safety also comes from the trust that grows from attentive listening, respectful feedback, and a non-judgmental acceptance of whatever is shared.
My relationship with writing changed when I joined a mentorship group, at which time I started taking risks and reading aloud to others in the circle. Everyone had been coached to listen for something they recalled in my words. Nothing about “good or bad”, “right or wrong”. The question asked, was, “What do you recall?” There was no judgment in the group feedback process, which reduced my fear of being criticized. The writing circle created a deep sense of trust, a place where I could take risks with my writing and have my words received, no matter what. I was reassured by the phrase “All is welcome here.”
Ultimately, I believed in myself enough to create a manuscript and publish my memoir, The Chocolate Pilgrim.
Everyone in the circle was learning what it meant to feel safe. We weren’t just building safety and trust for ourselves, we were creating safety for each other, with the careful guidance of our mentor. My time within that mentorship was so life-affirming, I decided to begin offering a similar process to other writers like me, people who had a strong desire to write but had never felt supported or had been discouraged earlier in life.
The most amazing result of all was that experience didn’t just stay within the group. Over time, I started to notice I was becoming less judgmental, instead looking for “what is strong”, or “what do I appreciate” about daily events, rather than running a critical litany in my mind. As a result, my relationships became more positive, and within my own family, everyone started taking steps toward their creative desires: pottery, drawing, creating board games. We had the tools for encouraging each other in our wildest dreams, rather than only focusing on all the reasons there would be failure.
I dare to say that loving-kindness practice can lead to great magic. Are you curious enough to give it a try?