Why Taking out the Trash Clears Your Mind – The Art of Contemplative Writing

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When I was young, one of the chores I did daily was to take the house trash out to the garbage can behind the garage. Mom would change out the trash liner in the house and toss the bag just outside the back door before I came home. I would walk into the back yard after school and It was always there, waiting for me each day. I could rely on it. So when I arrived, I would grab the bag and throw it in the garbage can. Sometimes, as a child, I would be so excited to be home that I would not see the garbage. I would knock on the door and let mom know I was home. She would open the door and remind me to toss the trash before I did anything else. Through this, I learned that I should not wait to be reminded, but to do the task first and thus, the entry into our home would be clear.

I have been a writer of my thoughts for a long, long time. I would write in journals and notebooks. I wrote stories, poems and songs. I would go to the grocery store with my mom, and then later on to the office supply store, and get excited about new school supplies, pens and paper. I would write notes and letters to friends about anything on my mind. In high school, I wrote in the school’s creative writing booklet that was published annually. What I didn’t know then, but became aware of later, was that my writing provided insights to my feelings, my thoughts, beliefs and it became my confidant as somewhere I could go to get my thoughts out. It was like private therapy where my higher Self became my guide.

The simple act of picking up a pen and paper, or typing out my words, allows the flow of thought to pour from my mind without distraction. Some prefer to only use pen and paper as it slows down their thoughts. I have done it both ways and I enjoy both. Yet, I now type my words on my laptop each morning and I use a site that keeps me accountable. It is www.750words.com. It is free for the first 30 days and is completely private. I can review my trends of thoughts and emotions. After 30 days, there is a fee of $5 a month to continue. No one will lose any of their entries if they choose not to continue. Everything is still there for us when we log in with our user name and password. I continue to use this site as it does keep me responsible and they are doing good work by helping thousands through the act of daily writing.

Julia Cameron, the author of the Artist’s Way, also teaches about writing every day through what she calls “Morning Pages.” http://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/morning-pages/ She also is a strong proponent of writing with pen and paper and to do the writing in the morning. Both, Julia and 750Words, teach that we are not to over think what we are writing nor are we to pay attention to spelling or punctuation. That, in itself, is a lesson in releasing control!!! Yet, if we concentrate on making it perfect, we stop the flow of what is really important. The goal is to let our thoughts come out. Our hearts will tell us what to write about. Many times, I sit down to start my writing with an idea and the topic will shift just by the act of beginning.

Sometimes what I write is absolute junk (or what I call “Taking out the Trash”) or it can be a clarifying stream of conscious dialog with myself that gives me insight to something I have been challenged with during the last few days. If you don’t know what to write, just begin with that… “I don’t know what to write today. Sitting here makes me feel….” and you will be on your way. The length of our writing doesn’t have to be long. Julia says to write 3 journal pages while the other site I shared mentions 750 words. I think the point is to write just long enough so that there is a shift.

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As you can see from the title, I call this process “Taking out the Trash.” This is one of the benefits of contemplative writing. I think of it as a brain dump. Anything that is floating aimlessly in my mind becomes purged. And, as I continue putting words to paper, the path begins to clear and allows other thoughts to become dislodged and evaluated and considered for examination. These are the good ones! These may be the thoughts and beliefs I have not been aware about, the ones that have been running the show behind the more benign, everyday activities. This is can be our “Ah-Ha” moment where our questions begin to be answered and awareness begins to grow regarding a concern or a situation or maybe we gain some direction we have needed. Clearing the path is very important as our mind does get full.

So I encourage the practice of contemplative writing. Try it a few times a week and watch what it does. You may find that you become eager and protective of that time between you and your confidant… your higher Self.

Clearing the mind,

Sue

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