Stop This Hamster Wheel! I Want to Get Off!

Today, I'm welcoming my friend Donna Gephart, to talk about writing with Purpose, Peace, and Presence. This article was originally published in the Jan/Feb SCBWI bulletin and definitely bears repeating.



Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, once in a while, we could access right brain bliss and creativity while quieting left brain chatter? If we could approach our work with focused purpose, peace and presence?

            In my twenties, I worked full-time, part-time and freelanced in my “spare” time.  Then came marriage. Kids. More work. More freelancing, etc. Basically, I got an A+ in being a Type A personality through my thirties and into my forties. I assumed the never-ending hamster wheel of life occurred outside myself, and I had to keep up.
            It took 46 years, a restorative yoga class and listening to Eckhart Tolle’s The New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose to understand the hamster wheel was spinning furiously, but it was inside my own mind. Ceaseless chatter filled my mind from waking till sleep. (If I slept.) Eckhart Tolle calls that voice “ego” and says it’s not who we are. It’s outside of our true essence.
            Some left brain chatter is necessary, of course. It’s the left brain that helps us make deadlines and arrive on time for meetings. But that same noisy left brain tells us we’ll never be as good as J.K. Rowling so why bother trying, and dust bunnies are spawning under our furniture because we’ve neglected cleaning to finish writing that last chapter and, um, let’s check our Amazon ranking one more time. Too much left brain chatter all day, every day leaves us exhausted.  It drains energy we could use to create art and literature.
            I have three words for my loquacious left brain:  SHUT UP ALREADY!
            Jill Bolte Taylor, in her book My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, wrote about the morning a stroke affected her brain’s left hemisphere. She was in a brilliant state of bliss with her left brain nearly incapacitated. It took her hours to activate her left brain enough to call for help. She survived and wrote about the nirvana of accessing the right side of our brains.
            Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, once in a while, we could access right brain bliss and creativity while quieting left brain chatter? If we could approach our work with focused purpose, peace and presence?

WHAT IS YOUR INTENTION/PURPOSE?
            My yoga teacher often asks during class, “What is your intention? In this class?  For your life? For our planet?
            What is your intention? What are you uniquely qualified to do? To what effort will you give unbridled enthusiasm?
            Thinking deeply about your intention/purpose will guide you away from actions that don’t support your purpose (i.e., scrubbing toilets) and toward actions that do support it (i.e., penning a novel that will illuminate the world for your reader).

SITTING IN STILLNESS
            I recently discovered that sitting in stillness for a few minutes leaves me alert and aware, peace-filled and quietly energized. Want to try?
            Sit quietly. Palms up. Eyes closed. Focus on your breath. Feel it fill your body and release. If a thought flies into your mind, be aware that it doesn’t need to be acted upon and let it fly out again. Back to the breath.

BREATHE
            Being aware of your breath makes you unaware of your thoughts and draws you to the present moment. According to Eckhart Tolle, it’s really all we have. In the present moment, we’re not thinking of the speech we’ll give next month nor the mistake found in a book we’d written. We’re not recalling the sting of a recent rejection nor the deadline we might miss because of a family emergency. In the present moment, all memory and future thinking falls away. In this space, we can practice our writing and illustrating with clarity, purpose and focus.
            Yoko Ono once gave John Lennon a card that read simply: “Breathe.”
            So, every once in a while, hop off the hamster wheel in your mind.
            Consider your intention/purpose. Sit in stillness. Breathe.
            Then create with great purpose, peace and presence.
            Namaste!


Donna Gephart writes award-winning, funny fiction for tweens from her home in South Florida. Her new middle grade novel, Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen (Delacorte Press), is about a girl who will do anything to get on the TV quiz show Jeopardy! Visit Donna at http://www.donnagephart.com.

23 comments:

Jeanne said...

Thanks for this. I heard Donna last spring at SCBWI's Pocono Retreat in Pennsylvania, and then as now, her poignant humor rings with truth. Learning to truly live in the present is a lifelong challenge for me, even though at some level, I know the benefits. With each passing year, I hope I get closer.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks so much for this, especially since I'm just back from a frenetic weekend writing conference where I was also taking part. Think I'll need to print it out and hang it somewhere!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for sharing this. I work full-time and have a family so definitely feel the hamster run. I really need to get back to my yoga and meditation and be in the moment more.

Traci Kenworth said...

It's tough being up on that hamster's wheel and you're right, we have to take time for ourselves, too, if we're to a happy, healthy life. Thanks for the reminder!!

Kim Van Sickler said...

I absolutely have a huge problem with all the chatter in my head. I hate the idea that it's all "ego" although I know it's right because I've heard this before. I also hate that no matter what I do, the voices telling me everything else I need to do don't want to go away. Exercise does help but until I accomplish the things that are screaming at me inside my head to get done, I find I can't do much productive writing. This is my biggest struggle!

Mindy Hardwick said...

Thanks for this post! I also discovered how yoga can be great for stopping that hamster mind--and remembering to breathe!

joanleacott said...

Namaste, Donna. I've recently started bikram(hot) yoga. The best time of the whole class is the savasana at the end. If you want some more info on the left brain/right brain thing, here's a link to a TV interview that I found fascinating.

http://ww3.tvo.org/video/173834/two-minds-origins-our-mental-malaise

Michael Horvath said...

My brain talks in it's sleep too. Maybe I'll play a Yoga video when I go to bed.

Becca Puglisi said...

This advice is applicable to pretty much everyone, I think. And it goes both ways; sometimes I have a hard time turning off my inner writer. I have to remind myself to be present with my children or my husband, instead of thinking about my next blog post or what revisions I'm going to work on next.'

Thank you, Donna, for sharing!

Martha Ramirez said...

Love the title! Awesome advice! Thank you so much!

Wild About Words said...

Thanks for having me! I think quieting the chatter is a process. Sometimes the louder the chatter, the more we need to sit in quiet. Our brains deserve a quiet break each day. Even five minutes of sitting in silence can renew and rest our overworked brains. Now . . . if only I remember to take my own advice!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I need to start yoga again. I quit so I would have more writing time. Oops!

Kitty's Blogspace said...

I almost always have ideas running through my mind while I'm cooking or even sleeping. Sometimes it becomes a real pain. Thanks for this advice.

Christina Farley said...

I find that running stimulate that creative part of my brain. My best ideas come when I'm running.

Angela Ackerman said...

Such a great post. I don't take time to listen to and connect with the quiet nearly enough. I was thinking I should put a sticky on my monitor asking me if I've sat in silence and focused on my breathing--that way it'll prompt me to do it! :)

Theresa Milstein said...

Angela, so nice to see Donna here. I met her at NE-SCBWI--I wound up taking her workshop and I got an autographed book for my daughter.

I found those moments of relaxation and breathing so difficult at first. But now I've learned to be in the moment. Yoga is amazing!

Gwynneth White said...

Learning to breath is what I need. I'm a breath-holder and can, unwittingly, go for what seems like minutes before breathing. It's all stress related, of course. I just have to keep reminding myself to let go and be. Thanks for sharing this.

Kristen Wixted said...

Very helpful. Thanks. I was wondering if I was the only one who felt like I was on a hamster wheel.

Mirka Breen said...

Yup.
'nuff said.

Barb said...

Thanks for the reminder, Donna. I really should take yoga lessons again.

Mimi Sebastian said...

This post really spoke to me. Sometimes when I make myself sit down, just sit down, the left brain starts the chattering about the dishes that need washing or trash waiting to be taken out not to mention how it jeers at me about my writing aspirations. This post just confirmed that I need to find some methods to quiet it down. I have found that exercise and walks help.

Paula E. Bird said...

Thank you for sharing your insights. I was writing an article with a hamster wheel example, and my search brought up your article. I learned something, or rather, you reminded me of something I knew already and had forgotten. -- Paula, http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com

inluvwithwords said...

Sounds like great advice. I'm ready to try this.

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