6. Quieting the mind, growing the pen

It’s great if we can be mindful all day, throughout the day, noting what you see around you, what you hear, where you sit, how a chair holds your back, but sometimes that’s hard. If, in the process of trying to stay more present, you can also try to collect some time into one short concentrated period of five or ten minutes to stop everything, sit down, and practice becoming aware of what you see, what you hear, what you smell, how you feel the air on your skin, your surroundings, your breath, body, mind, and heart, this will help you feel more mindful, more settled.

Exercise 1: After you do this, take pen to paper and write three things.

  1. What is the first thing you noticed while staying present and quiet for five minutes?
  2. What’s it like to sit still for five minutes?
  3. What do you notice about your shoulders? (Or another part of your body)

When you have this still quiet period of noticing on a regular basis, after a while, maybe a couple of weeks, you’ll begin to see things change. You will be able to access the strength of being mindful that you develop from this short time of quiet calm, at other times too, at times when you feel bored, sad, angry, stressed, lonely, and afraid.

When you focus in and have a calm quiet time regularly, you will automatically become more focused and calm during other times in your life. Also, with writing, when you write every day, you will more easily be able to access your creative energies. Not only will you be there with your pen, ready to write whatever gem comes to you, but you will hopefully begin to notice more around you.

Exercise 2:

Go outside, hopefully on a walk. Instead of thinking about your day, what you have to do, stressful stuff, try to notice what is around you. What sounds do you hear? Maybe birds. Maybe sirens or cars driving. What smells do you notice? For years now, I have tried to figure out why it often smells like donuts in my backyard. I have looked for a donut shop and not found one, but it is an intense donut smell that comes every few days at certain time. Who knows? Maybe a donut baking neighbor? We don’t need to think about it too much. In fact, thoughts like these, just notice them and move on. No need to dwell on them. Just notice what is around you, good or bad. Notice how your feet feel the ground below you. Notice how your arms move with your body, through the air. Notice how it is to feel your body move.

Any tension you feel, notice it, let it drift away. If you would like to bring a piece of paper and pen with you to take notes of what you see and thoughts you have, please do. That is encouraged whether you are in a city or the country or suburbia. If you don’t want to, that’s okay too.

When you return from your walk, write about your feet and their journey. Write about where they just took you, what you saw… and write about one place in the past where they have taken you before. Maybe a place you wish you could return to, maybe a place that haunts you and you are still trying to leave. Maybe a place you are proud to have been or one that you feel embarrassed or awkward to have walked there. This could be a place you like or don’t like, but try to give us details.

If this feels strange, begin this way: My feet took me…

An example might be: My feet took me down the block, past Mrs. Henders’ house with the pink flamingo in the yard, up to the park, like they did when I was a child. Today it’s windy, the sky white with clouds, my skin mostly goosebumps. My feet took me there when I was fifteen too, to smoke cigarettes with Lisa and Jan. I would come back home smelling of smoke, lie about why……

You can go on to say whatever comes to mind. If it feels too close, put the character whose feet walk them to this place in the third person. Example: Jose’s feet walked him up the street to Lucille’s house again. She was so mean to him, he didn’t know why he kept going back. He knew he’d be better off with someone who made him feel good about himself, but he kept hoping things would change…

As we begin to think about the entirety of our lives and all that we have been through and done, our bodies have carried us there. For most of us, our feet have taken us these places. If you are someone who does not walk or cannot walk, still write about your feet and the places they have gone (or not) with you. We are beginning to get a bit more personal, headed into our stories. We’ll go in a little and come back out. Remember to orient, look around. Remember ways you take care of yourself.

We are working to quiet and calm the mind and to write about what we notice, who we are, and what we bring to this wild wild world. Thank yourself for writing.

I thank you for reading this, for writing about you, and for tuning in.

Until next Tuesday,


Published by lizawolfffrancis

Liza Wolff-Francis is a poet and writer with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Goddard College who is proud to have served two terms as a member of the Albuquerque Poet Laureate Program’s Selection Committee. She was co-director for the 2014 Austin International Poetry Festival and a member of the 2008 Albuquerque Poetry Slam Team. She has an ekphrastic poem posted in Austin’s Blanton Art Museum by El Anatsui’s sculpture “Seepage” and her work has most recently appeared in Steam Ticket, eMerge, Minute Magazine, Weaving the Terrain: 100 Word Southwestern Poems, Bearing the Mask: Southwestern Persona Poems, Poetic Routes, Poetry Pacific, Edge, and on various blogs. She has a chapbook out called Language of Crossing (2015, Swimming with Elephant Publications), which is a collection of poems about the Mexico- U.S. border. She loves breakfast food, popcorn and dark chocolate.

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