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August 10, 2011

Trusting Your Own Voice: Writing as Spiritual Practice

Laura Deutsch is a nationally published author and teacher, who leads writing retreats from Tassajara to Tuscany. Laura has taught writing for more than 15 years and has participated in numerous workshops at Tassajara and Green Gulch. For more on writing as meditative practice, developing one’s own voice, and Laura’s upcoming retreat at Tassajara, please enjoy the interview below.

What will the retreat be like?
We’ll share techniques that will help us tap into our stories, memories, and imagination, whether we’re writing with a view toward self-exploration and healing, or creating art for a wider audience.

How did you come to offer this retreat?
I began a writing practice [writing as meditation] about 20 years ago, after my house burned down. I was having trouble [in seated meditation] and I went to a teacher at Green Gulch Farm. I thought she was going to tell me to sit longer, but she advised a moving meditation and, since I liked writing, why not try a writing practice? The experience was so eye-opening for me I decided to pass it on.

Laura Deutsch

Laura Deutsch

How is writing as a meditative practice different from writing in its other forms?
The classes I teach are a full spectrum from writing as a spiritual practice to how to get into print. Crafting to put your writing out into the world is one end of the spectrum and, at the other, is writing without trying to control it, letting the writing flow through you without censoring it. Through the practice, things come onto the page that amaze me, that would not have appeared otherwise. I find it’s a centering practice. I think in both meditation and writing we show up and are present and we’re not trying to perform. And that’s the difference. We’re not trying to create a product. We’re just showing up and seeing what comes, noticing what arises. In seated meditation you might use your breath to anchor your mind and in a writing practice you anchor you mind with your pen.

How have you found that writing and meditation practices go together?
Writing as a spiritual practice gave me a way of showing up and having a regular practice where thoughts could arise and I could let go of them. I find writing can really train you to pay attention and observe and be aware and mindful in a way similar to meditation. So now I find that they really go hand in hand.

What kind of writers come to the retreat?
I find a full range of people, from those who want to explore a way to enhance their spiritual path to experienced writers who want to find ways to open up their creativity. It gives each of us a technique to explore the individual quirks of our minds. Writers of all levels are welcome.

Is it the kind of writing that’s shared among the group?
It’s valuable to share. This is a great opportunity to let your voice be heard. Part of the writing practice is to develop a strong central core, so that you trust your own voice. We’re not looking for approval or disapproval from other people and this is not the kind of writing we critique. It’s more important to me that people write where their minds go, to their juicy, maybe scary, maybe very personal material and if they don’t want to read it, it’s perfectly fine. It’s more important that they go there.

For more on Laura’s work, visit her blog on Psychology Today. For more on her works and retreats, visit www.lauradeutsch.com. Join Laura Deutsch and Unzan Mako Voelkel in their Tassajara retreat, Writing as Spiritual Practice from August 26-28.

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