August 20, 2015

What I Learned this Summer: Word Rehab Broke Me Free.


I sent my words to rehab this summer.

My good word, my spoken word, my heartfelt word and my written word spent three months in Elephantland taking in lessons in mindful living as a raison d’etre.

Three months ago, I started an apprenticeship with elephant journal with the intent to keep writing. When I started, writing was therapeutic to me. I never considered it as a service of any other purpose in my own life—or anyone else’s, for that matter. It was just my way of expressing my emotions.

The act of bring pen to paper was a meditation for me. I envisioned it my gateway to catharsis.

Earlier this year I quit a job in healthcare patient services that was slowly killing my happiness. This was part of a series of events when I reached the painful realization that when something is wrong—when we’re not happy—we have the power to change the outcome.

But change is scary as he** because it means breaking free of our proverbial boxes that keep us stuck in our ruts. We keep our lives in boxes because it’s a neat way of living on the surface, and we can make ourselves appear content superficially—but it’s truly miserable if we’re suffering inside.

As part of my therapy to get through this transition time and break free of my box, it was suggested to me to journal to make myself more accountable to my healing journey.

My idea was to write to give a voice to my suffering. My idea was to write myself out of the pain provoked by change and write myself into freedom and a place of balanced living.

So I carried around a journal with me and I wrote whenever the need hit me. A lot of what came out was dark, brooding and ugly. A lot of my thoughts that came out made me feel like a jerk and a victim of my own suffering. It was the deepest contents of my soul and unhappiness dissected.

I was writing to get anybody and everybody to listen that I was in pain and I was struggling with making the changes that were needed and ultimately stepping into a new unknown livelihood.

I was ecstatic to begin the writing section of the apprenticeship because I believed my words would finally be heard by the masses and this would be an outlet for me to shed some of the heaviness of my pain. And then I received a good strong dose of reality when I learned about emotionalism.

We gain nothing from writing the contents of a bleeding heart without mindful purpose and presence. We all have our own shit and we don’t get anywhere productive by just putting it on display in a messy, unkempt manner. It hit me that playing the victim through my writing hadn’t been cathartic this whole time.

All I wanted to do at this point was to box up my bleeding heart and go back to the way things were. But I met my brooding thoughts with compassion and I reminded myself that I was committed to using my writing to heal and to face the changes that would ultimately make me happier.

When I alchemized my bitter, angsty emotionalism into authentic writing, my words started to flow more effortlessly and the act of writing started becoming truly more healing than it had ever felt before.

My words were setting me free from the heaviness of the emotions I could no longer carry. I learned that with true passion and purpose behind the words I wrote and the words I spoke, I was making a difference. The need to express the pain of change and fear of transition through my words was gone.

Spending the summer with Les Elephants left me with these nuggets of wisdom and the courage to write with soulful purpose when my pen hits paper:

1. Write what you love and let your passion break you to pieces.

“If something burns your soul with purpose and desire, it’s your duty to be reduced to ashes by it. Any other form of existence will be yet another dull book in the library of life.” ~ Charles Bukowski

2. Write words from a place of trust and not power.

When we try to take power over our words to make a point and serve a purpose, we are controlling something not meant to be controlled. Writing is truly a meditation. Whatever you trust in (your divine, some higher being), trust that the right words that need to be conveyed will bubble up effortlessly.

3. Don’t ever give up.

When you fall in love with something, don’t ever give up on it. Don’t glorify your busy-ness as an excuse to get out of crafting your trade.

Writing is healing and is an act of the soul. And when you truly understand this, that’s when your words will be read, heard and felt from a place in the heart.

“The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.”    ~ Maya Angelou

May you live mindfully, walk in beauty, and go and write (or whatever else feeds your soul).


Author: Caitlin Oriel

Editor: Toby Israel

Image: LK/Flickr


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