by Suzanne Reisler Litwin
At the end of one of my creative writing workshops, a student got up from her chair, stretched and said, “Ahhhhhh! That felt like I was meditating!”
Her comment took me by surprise! Students say many things to me after a class or workshop. Mostly, students ask questions about the course materials and content. This was the first time a student compared a creative writing workshop to meditating.
At first, I thought that I must have bored the student so much they went off into a meditative state. In this regard, I suppose my class was terribly boring and drastically needing some excitement. I felt concerned.
I asked the student why she felt as though she was meditating. She said, “The process of taking the creative journey detached me from my reality and I liked that. I only realized I was in a classroom when you ended the workshop.”
So I asked, “Was this a good thing?” Her reply, “Oh, yes Dear! It was wonderful.”
Phew! I thought I had bored my student into a meditative state.
After I teach a writers workshop or class, I gather my thoughts and re-evaluate the lesson. I think about what we did, how we can do it better and how to plan for the next class.
This time, all I could think about was the student and her feeling of meditation. I wondered what it was about the workshop that detached her and felt like meditation.
After much evaluation, I realized that parts of the creative writing journey could also be a journey of meditation.
During the workshop, I asked the students to get in touch with their 5 senses: touch, smell, sight, sound, and taste. I asked them to go beyond their normal use of their senses and try to heighten them.
One of the best ways to do this is to block out the sense of sight.
All the students participated in this fun activity. They put their hands into a Mystery Box and felt an object. They could not see the object, just feel it. Most were able to identify the object, but some were not. I asked the students to write about what they felt, but not what it is. I asked them to go beyond their sight. Feel the object and imagine what else it might look like, sound like, feel like, taste like, and smell like. I suggested they use their imaginations, creative words, and go really beyond the reality of the object.
The students had about 30 minutes to complete the assignment.
After 30 minutes, the sharing started. The students read their assignments out loud. Every student’s experience and written work was completely different from one another other.
Even though, to their surprise, some students felt the same objects!
All the students shared one common experience. They felt as though their senses were heightened with the removal of their sight when touching the mystery object.
After the sharing, my suggestion to the students was to take the time to see beyond their sight. To look further than they are used to. I told the students to see beyond the spectrum of their normal view. Look up. Look down. See the tops and bottoms of things. Try to capture the shades and hues of colors. Really make an effort to see beyond what you see.
I also suggested to touch, smell, taste, and hear without using their sight. I said, “Eat with your eyes closed. Touch things with your eyes closed. Smell fruits or flowers with your eyes closed. Listen to music with your eyes closed and even try to hear all the instruments. Now, think of the best words you can use to describe the experience.”
Perhaps this is where the meditation started and ended with the closure of the class.
You don’t have to be a writer to have this experience. Simply, try to see beyond your sight. I’m certain you will enjoy the journey.
Suzanne Reisler Litwin is an instructor at Concordia University in The Centre for Continuing Education. She is a writing instructor at The Cummings Centre. She writes a weekly column in The Suburban Newspaper and at the West Island Blog. Suzanne is a freelance contributor to The Suburban Newspaper, West Island Blog, Wise Women Canada, The Metropolitain, and Women on the Fence. She is the author of the children’s book, The Black Velvet Jacket. Visit suzannereislerlitwin.com to read more of her published articles, books, and poetry.