Writing as a practice after the ‘real meditation practice’

After a Deep Rest Meditation retreat in Sattal Ashram in India, I stayed a few days hanging around in the ashram. And as is happening more often, the real stuff happened in this after-time. And that was mainly because I used these days for writing.

While writing I reflected back on what happened to me during the retreat. There had been some big insights and great shifts. I had felt so light and connected to life. So receptive to the love that was resonating in the air. And in tune with a revealing deep wisdom.

Writing as a proces of understanding – making an experience your own

But it was only when I wrote about it that this feelings and insights could settle in me, by giving them my own words. Experiences in meditation are often ungraspable, wordless. They do feel really true, but often when you get out of the meditation you can easily forget again – or loose the connection with this deep place.

By writing about my experiences they could anchor in my own language, they did not stay ‘experiences in Sanskrit’ or ‘messages from another world’. By writing it down, it rooted down. And the essence became clearer to me.

Writing as a creative meditation in itself – a second truth shows itself

And next to that something special happened. It was as if a second truth opened up to me. The writing experience added something to the experience I was writing about. The experience deepened by giving it language. I could also place it in a context, could relate my insights to happenings in my youth. I wrote things down I did not even know I thought or felt them. Forgotten memories came up.
And I found new language: sparkling metaphors, unexpected associations and poetic descriptions were made on the paper, without my involvement. I felt a creative flow going through me.

Writing as a joyful, informal writing practice – trusting the backdoor

It was this retreat that I decided that writing would be – and was actually already – my main practice and not a side-practice next to the ‘real thing’. Later I started to call this making the ‘backdoor’ my ‘front door’.

The backdoor is this entrance that you often use, in a very naturally way, sometimes without even noticing. It is your ‘little secret alley’ that goes to the back of the house. A mud road you have often taken. That leads you to this lush overgrown back garden, where you find freedom and can be yourself.

With this backdoor I mean for example dancing while you are cleaning the house, singing while you do the dishes, walking the dog, drawing in your agenda, writing just after waking up with a cup of black tea, watching the moon from your bed. Often we make these moments unimportant. We put no emphasis on it. But actually they are our main way in.

Writing as a front door – how a formal practice can block your creativity

We keep believing in this front door, this official door, with a paved path to it, with a name plate and a bell. The formal practice. A dancing course that has a ‘name’ – it is either ballet or jazz. The instructions that you follow to be a ‘good’ singer, or writer, or meditator. Often there are a lot of guardians at this door – that often mainly live in your head – that are very strict about the standards you should attain. We think this is the way we should do it – and at the same time it is blocking us.

I was a kind of front-door-person. I could be really strict about the rules. In the first Deep Rest Retreat in Holland that I managed my mother participated. I hardly gave her a look, and certainly not hugged her – as I thought that was the way to relate and behave in a silent meditation retreat– certainly as a manager.

Writing as an ‘illegal’ practice that is disturbing the silence in a mediation retreat

And when my mother was openly writing in the public space I asked her to stop or to write in a place ‘where she could not disturb others’. I explained to her that she was not allowed to read and write in this retreat, ‘that’s better for your practice, mum’. She went to her car on the parking lot, to write behind the driving wheel, where no one could see her. As if writing was the most illegal thing to do.

This was what I had been doing during many retreats. I wrote secretly with a torch under blankets in the night, or hidden in the bushes, or just outside the ashram gates.

And a part of me thought that was ‘right’ – as writing did not fit in the structure of a silent retreat where words –written or spoken – are often seen as a disturbance or distraction of the deep silence. I could see the reason for that. Language can be superficial, mind-oriented, connected to old patterns of ‘trying to understand and control’. Somehow we are addicts of language and it can keep us away from a very alive region in ourselves that is wordless. And writing can be like narrowing down a very broad experience in a too small jug – in words that never can really say something about the true expansiveness of life.

Writing as a juicy, alive and wild practice – that makes my journey more playful and more me

But I also knew that writing was much more, writing had really helped me to go through difficult processes and deep transformation. For me felt not-writing during a retreat as if I was allowed to breath in, but not to breath out. I could let all the insights come in, but I was not allowed to air them on paper. Writing is a way to release. To embrace. To deepen. And to surrender. While writing I am part of this creative flow that is much bigger than me.

I remember the relieve I felt when I did my first ‘sit, walk, write’ retreat with Natalie Goldberg – where she combines formal zen practice with ‘writing practice’. In a big hall we wrote in blocks of ten minutes non stop about the trees, the light, the village you are from, coca cola and about your first love. In all these ten minutes something magical happened.  Things clicked and I felt alive.

I this retreat I did not need to be only ‘a formal perfect meditator’. In the writing I could be free and wild.  Writing was really an entrance to this jungle in my back garden, with so many hidden fruits and treasures. By making writing my main practice, my practice became more alive, playful and deep – and more connected to me – because it was my natural way to grow, to arrive.

It felt like writing made my practice complete – it was the missing link. Yes, meditation is still essential, silence deeply needed. But the writing gave the juice to it – it makes the front door colorful, and I do not to ring and knock and work. The door is already open. Writing was the main entrance to my own deep wisdom.

Writing as the main entrance in the writing retreat in Holland in January 2020

I am so happy to offer now a silent Deep Rest Retreat where writing is transformed from ‘a secret and forbidden backdoor’ to a ‘powerful and transformative front door’. That writing is no longer the thing you do in a car, in the bushes, under your blanket or after a retreat but openly and free and guided within the retreat.

Do you join us?

INSIGHT WRITING RETREAT 24-26 JANUARY DRENTHE, THE NETHERLANDS. WITH NANDA HUNEMAN AND GEMMA POLO PUJOL.