Enter stillness to practice listening

IMGtreesBerkshires2On a stretch of highway near Great Barrington, MA, I was called to stop at a dirt road framed by trees (pictured above). On one side a cemetery hid in the shade and on the other a green, grassy lawn stretched into the sunlight. The road felt majestic like the trees were tall knights guarding a secret passage. And the road’s existence itself felt hidden, especially to me as someone who wasn’t from the area but rather enjoying an extended stay one hot July.

Very few people traveled the road. It was quiet. Surrounded by these tall, beautiful trees I felt an invitation to be still, to listen.

When I look at images from my time on this small stretch of road, I’m reminded of one of my favorite poems by David Wagoner, Lost, from Collected Poems 1956-1976, Indiana University Press.

It begins,

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.

Reading the poem alone brings a sense of stillness and calm but above that it captures the knowingness of the trees and what exists in the space of the present moment. 

Read the entire poem on the Writer’s Almanac site.

Pensive

Poem selected for publication

IMGbooks2

I’m happy to share that my poem, “Anoche,” was selected as the top poem for a National Poetry Month contest held by the Jersey City Independent (JCI) and Jersey City Writers. The poem is one of three that will be featured and published by the JCI during the month of April.

I’ll also have the opportunity to read the poem on April 13, 2016 at a literary reading being held at Barrow Mansion at 7 p.m. The event is being hosted by JCW, JCI, and Art House.

The event will also feature Claudia Cortese whose first full-length book, “Wasp Queen,” will be published by Black Lawrence Press in 2016.

Other poets selected to have their poems read that evening include: Abigail Pillitteri, Rachel Poy, Kevin Singer, Simon Pereira Shorey, Holly Smith, John Trigonis, Beth Bentley, Carol Lester, Joe Del Priore, Aileen Bassis, and Kay Dominguez.

This April marks the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month, which was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996.

 

 

Start where you are

Adriana Rambay

Photo Credit: KatalinaStudio

When you are at a loss about where to begin any practice, start where you are. Start where you are, and then again, start where you are. Each time you return to make an effort to change a habit, to shift a perspective, to be more open, start in that space of acceptance. Accept all of you including all of your stuff–that baggage that weighs a ton packed with emotions, fears, anxiety, stress, regret, pain, sadness–all of it.

Starting where you are means letting go of the desire for things to be perfect both externally and internally. There are the little things that get in the way like the quality of space, timing, sounds, and degrees of comfort. Then there are bigger things like people, priorities, work, and all sorts of obligations and wanting–lots of wanting–that everything big and small is in perfect order before you begin.

But one of the biggest obstacles to starting where you are is the inner critic and judge that watches your every move waiting to pronounce the whole effort a failure. In the worlds of meditation, yoga, and writing I’ve encountered techniques that guide you to “get out of your own way.” Even after practicing how to get out of my own way, I still need practice at getting out of my own way.

Getting out of your own way involves letting go of expectations, the word “should,” the word “must,” and certainty. It means launching into the light of the unknown.

Movement to unlock creativity

Yoga and Writing Series in Jersey City

I am guiding a Yoga and Writing Class Feb. 22 at 12:30 p.m. at Yoga in the Heights in Jersey City.

When I close my eyes and settle into savasana at the end of a yoga class, the final relaxation pose, I am often flooded with scenes from future stories. In this state of total relaxation, creativity blossoms, characters manifest, and ideas multiply.

To explore this state of creative inspiration with fellow writers, I am leading a series of Yoga & Writing classes for Jersey City Writers beginning on February 22, 2015 at Yoga in the Heights from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.

The class is open to beginners and new and/or experienced writers. Movement will be gentle and will include focused breathing and relaxation. The writing prompts will incorporate techniques that allow writers to inhabit a moment or experience through guided visualizations. The warm-up exercises include positional therapy exercises to loosen tight shoulders and tense wrists.

February’s theme is trees. We will open up to trees in our writing and movement.

To register, visit Jersey City Writers on Meetup or Facebook.

For those participating, please remember to:

  • Wear comfortable clothing
  • Bring a pen/notepad
  • Bring a yoga mat (rentals available at studio)
  • Bring $15 cash payable at the registration desk

Parking is available at the municipal lot across the street — off of Griffith. The location is a ten-minute walk from 9th and Congress Light Rail station.

I hope you will join us to move, listen, breath, be, and write.

Celebrating a growing community of writers

During a morning stretch of quiet hours, writers work on their respective projects.

During a retreat in Mount Vernon, writers work on their respective projects.

When you stumble upon fellow scribes who share a similar passion and joy for writing, hold on fast. Don’t let go of opportunities to connect and get out of your cave to practice, share, and collaborate.

In the past few years Jersey City Writers (JCW) has provided ongoing support to local writers through regular workshops, marathons, and special events. It is wonderful to be a member of a community that keeps me writing.

Take a moment to read some of JCW’s highlights from 2014.

If you haven’t found your community, keep up the search! It takes time to find the right group of people who are willing to offer constructive and honest feedback.

On habits of highly productive writers

Puddy napping

My old cat Puddy taught me how to nap and take breaks throughout the day.

Napping was not on a recent list of habits of highly productive writers featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education but I think it should be. Napping is a practice in letting go of any judgment about doing nothing. When you sit down at your desk and stare at a blank screen you are sitting down at your desk and staring at a blank screen—not doing much. But that’s okay. In that space, the mind rests and reboots, if you allow it. Just like you need breaks between paragraphs, spaces between words—you need naps even if you just close your eyes and rest your head in the palm of your hand for a few moments of breathing.

Looking closely at the list, however, I can see that napping could fall under, “They know that a lot of important stuff happens when they’re not ‘working.’” But in this case the author Rachel Toor refers to doing task-like errands not napping.

Find space between all of that productivity to rest the mind and body and breathe.

To see the full list, visit: http://chronicle.com/article/The-Habits-of-Highly/150053/