How Presence can Improve your Writing
If anyone is familiar with Ekhart Tolle, you will have heard about the theme of presence. Presence is the arising of a dimension of consciousness from which you can become aware that there is a voice in your head. This awareness is beyond thinking. It's a space of consciousness from where you can become the observer of your own mind - the awareness behind the thought processes. As writers, I believe this is the space we need to aim for continually, for it is here that the idea of Tolle and the psychoanalyst Carl Jung can intimately interact. Jung believed that human beings are connected to each other and their ancestors through a shared set of experiences and that we use this collective consciousness to give meaning to the world. The sweet spot for a writer must therefore be to access a state of presence to better tap into the collective consciousness. It is only then that the writer will gain a good grasp of the human experience.
So how might one do this? First of all, and this is not too tall an order for most writers, there is a need to slow down, practice mindfulness, to become intimate with the present moment. For it is only in the present moment that life truly comes alive. Not only does slowing down help the brain become better placed for observation, but it is also through mindfulness that the mind becomes more attuned to detail. As every writer knows, God - and therefore the very heart of your novel - lies within such detail. To enhance the practice of mindfulness, which is a practice of continually bringing yourself back to the here and now every time your mind begins to wander, meditation provides a means.
Meditation changes the brain by leading to an increase in Theta and Alpha waves which in turn promote learning, relaxation and a sense of well-being. The faster Alpha waves - generated at around 10 per second, are also associated with daydreaming and creativity. People report that meditation has helped them find their mojo and purpose, deepened their sense of awareness and that there emerges a sense of spaciousness within the body in which new seeds can be germinated and watered. Patience improves as well as a general acceptance of the self, of where you are in life and of your creative endeavours. But more than this...
With meditation, the voice of presence becomes more distinct. It is, to my mind, the voice described well in the hymn, Dear Lord and Father of Mankind: the still, small voice of calm. It is this voice, beyond all others that our frenzied brains might generate that seems to be the closest to the soul. This voice is our wisest part. Our unchanging part. The part that knows, within the present moment, more than we do. Listen to this voice. It is your intuition. Your higher self. It will guide but only if you listen patiently. So how do you know which voice that is? How does one separate the ego - more often than not the negative, nagging voice in our brain, from something more profound? Practising meditation over time will increase your awareness so that eventually this will be the part you come to recognise with a deep sense of simply knowing. Its guidance will elevate your life; help to carry you in the best direction of travel, which means as a writer you can begin to write more intuitively, with less self-doubt and restriction.
There will be other pay-offs to tapping into your essence, into your soul. You will be able to prioritise what's more important to you. A day of writing can't so easily be pushed aside in favour of social media trivia or general procrastination. The groundedness that you feel will empower you to make wiser decisions both to encourage you to write and in turn follow the true heart of your story. If all stories have already been told before, effectively all that you are doing is tapping into the collective unconscious to download the archetypes and the structure that best suits your characters and your story's theme, and you will be doing so with a greater connection to your true essence, in other words, your uniqueness. Unique you, unique story.
Another way meditation can be of benefit to writers is when there is a block or an unsureness as to where your story is to go. Enter your morning meditation practice, which should be at least fifteen minutes, with a question about your writing. Leave this aside as you enter the realm of no mind and following see if a vision begins to emerge. Also, pay closer attention to your dreams. These can become more cryptic when meditation commences and can shed light on the deeper themes within your novel. Essentially, as a novelist, we are aiming for this depth consistently. Dig as deep as you can, and you might just be surprised what your soul manages to retrieve from the very depths of your being and thus the very depths of what it means to be human.