For many many years I’ve been fortunate enough to practice something called Wild Writing with Laurie Wagner. Each Friday morning when we’re in session I pack up my notebook and drive across the Bay Bridge to Alameda where myself and a handful of other women gather around her dining room table and spend two hours in practice.
I wish every woman in every community had a regular Wild Writing group. It feeds such a potent mix of hungers. The hunger for connection, for truth, for hearing your own voice, for laughter, for space and slowing down, for time away from screens, for emotional release, for inspiration and new discovery. For me, it’s often been a powerful support to my mental health. I could go on.
For some time now I’ve felt the call to lead my own group in my own version of this practice and so I am.
I’m calling it Sift: a writing practice for being human.
Let me tell you a little bit about what this practice looks like and who I’m inviting to join me.
First off, this is, right now, just for women in the San Francisco Bay Area. We’ll be meeting in-person at my home.
I have space for 8 women in total. [NOTE: ALL SPACES HAVE BEEN RESERVED, EMAIL TO GET ON THE WAITING LIST FOR THIS AND FUTURE GROUPS]
We’ll meet Wednesdays September 6th – October 11th (side note: the last week we’ll actually meet on a Tuesday, October 10th) from 10 AM to noon. Yes, for now, this is for folks with flexible weekday schedules.
This is a practice. Like yoga or painting, it’s about showing up and being willing meet yourself where you are.
This is not for people who want to be better writers (though you can want that too), it’s not for professional writers (though you can be that too), it’s not really about the writing at all. It’s about what this practice helps us access and about doing it together. You need no prior experience to participate. Just a willingness to show up and be honest.
Personally, I practice to tell the truth, to be human with other humans, to hear my stories, to make sense of myself and the world around me, to make space for my contradictions, to find the words, to reveal, to relax, and to be a little messy.
The practice essentially goes like this:
You’ll arrive. Get a cup of tea. Settle in.
I’ll read a poem and when I’m done I’ll pick a line or two for us to use as our writing prompt.
Then we’ll write, unedited, pen to paper, not stopping for 10 to 20 minutes. We don’t try to sound smart. We don’t try to write well. This practice serves to help us get around our perfectionist and performer.
When the time is up we go around the table (myself included) and read our writing. No feedback is given. We don’t discuss what’s written. We just witness each other. Sometimes there is laughter. Sometimes there are tears. It’s all welcome.
Then we repeat.
If it sounds simple, it is. It’s also profound.
If it sounds exhilarating but also scary. You’re not alone.
The cost to participate for the six weeks during this initial run is $200.
If you want to reserve your spot at the table send me an email expressing your interest and I’ll send you an invoice for your deposit. [NOTE: ALL SPACES HAVE BEEN RESERVED, EMAIL TO GET ON THE WAITING LIST]
If you don’t live in the Bay Area, Laurie, my brilliant teacher, teaches Wild Writing online in small groups and it’s very powerful in that format too.
What are you truly hungry for? What feeds you?
If you’ve been around my work for a while you’ve heard me ask that question.
And yet, it’s so rare that we ask ourselves or that other people ask us.
I ask this question so often because it is the gateway to a well-fed life.
When was the last time someone asked you want you want or what feeds you?
When was the last time you paused to ask yourself?
For most women I talk to it’s been a while. I good long while.
Sometimes we’re scared of the silence and stillness that is required to hear an answer.
Sometimes we’re scared that the answer will be something painfully impossible to achieve.
Sometimes we’re scared that to listen to our hungers is to hear just how needy we are.
Sometimes we’re scared that no amount could ever fill us up, that we’re a bottomless pit.
Sometimes the safer bet just seems not to ask ourselves at all.
Well, I’m here to ask you.
I want to know what feeds you.
I want to know what you long for.
I want to know what kind of tending you need.
I want to help you feel safe in the asking, safe in the listening, and safe in your pursuit, however slow or small, of a well-fed life.
One of the tools I’ve come up with to explore this question and support us in well-fed living is the Fulfillment Pyramid.
If you want play along, grab your Fulfillment Pyramid Kit, a pen, some paper, scissors, tape or glue, and any craft supplies you enjoy and watch the rebroadcast:
Here are the questions I ask in the video:
: What induces an exhale for me?
: What do I get envious of and what does this tell me about my life and hungers?
: You get the best version of me when…
: What restores when I’m drained is…
: When I’m full/filled up what I most like to expend that energy on is…
: A well-fed life composed just for me is/includes/looks like…
: I start to feel not like myself when I haven’t…
: My body is most happy when…
And here are the areas of your life that I invite you to think about your fulfillment:
: Physical Environment
I’d love to hear about your experience making a Fulfillment Pyramid. Snap a photo and tag it #fulfillmentpyramid. Send me your photo to be added to the reader gallery. Drop me an email and let me know what this activity revealed for you.
Above all, remember this: your hungers are wise and they always point toward a life that not only feeds you, but a life that allows you to be engaged in and of service to the whole of life. Hungry women can’t serve nearly as well as well-fed women. Fill up.
“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal. I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.” — Toni Morrison
I grew up just outside Washington, D.C. My dad worked for the government and as lobbyist (not a dirty word all of the time) for most of my life. The paper versions of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal were at the breakfast table every morning (is my privilege showing?).
I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Political science and spent three of my college summers interning in D.C. including in the U.S. Senate. I wrote my thesis on charter schools.
Certainly I wish someone had grabbed me by the shoulders and said “Hey! Rachel! Snap out of it! What are you doing majoring in political science?! You know yourself, you should be a psychology major with an art minor. Obviously.”
Alas, no one held that intervention, it was a slog to the end of those four years, and it took me a bit longer to find my true path. One of the results though is that political engagement remains a core value of mine and never has it been more tested than now.
The truth is that since January I’ve been riding these two waves: periods of intense engagement followed by periods of intense burnout and overwhelm.
I believe that when the ground is shifting underneath us and the aftershocks (or subsequent earthquakes) haven’t ceased, feeling shaky is to be expected. It’s normal is we don’t yet know what the new normal looks like.
That said, I also believe that each of us, especially the privileged among us, needs to be committed to sustainable civic engagement. I say ‘sustainable’ because, as so many have said, this is a marathon and not a sprint. So the question I’m left with and that I pose to you is “What will allow me to be engaged and active in a sustainable way?”
My answer, so far, has been: activism + art.
This equation that’s working for me right now.
This equation is what’s keep burn out at bay.
Here’s what this looks like in practice:
- Attend my local Indivisible meeting
- Paint protest postcards.
- Call my representatives.
- Sewing for my niece.
- Create a fundraiser for causes I believe in.
- Try a new recipe.
- Sing my protest.
- Play with Sculpey.
- Watch Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin break it down. (Then watch Rachel Maddow)
- Sew some more.
This is the dance I’m trying to do: make my activism infused with art or following my activism with creating of any kind. The goal is to fill my tank, which creating does for me in spades, so that I have something to give to the resistance.
It’s worth noting that the label “artist” ignites many people’s imposter complex.
“Who me? An artist? I don’t think so!”
All humans need to make. Creative expression, no matter the form, is available and essential to everyone. The forms of art that I have been playing with (sewing, painting, cooking, etc.) are the ones I’m called towards. Let what you’re called towards, let what you make, be enough. This isn’t about being Picasso. This isn’t about making perfect things. This is about making because the act of making renews us.
On the protest front, if you’re still not sure what actions to take but want to be part of the resistance you can check out this beginner’s guide I put together back in January. It’s chock full of resources and places to start.
I’d love to hear what’s working for you? What’s allowing you to find your path to sustainable engagement? What’s filling your tank? What are you making these days? Pop on over to my Facebook page and share your experience.
“My thoughts turn to something I read once, something the Zen Buddhists believe. They say that an oak tree is brought into creation by two forces at the same time. Obviously, there is the acorn from which it all begins, the seed which holds all the promise and potential, which grows into the tree. Everybody can see that. But only a few can recognize that there is another force operating here as well- the future tree itself, which wants so badly to exist that it pulls the acorn into being, drawing the seedling forth with longing out of the void, guiding the evolution from nothingness to maturity. In this respect, say the Zens, it is the oak tree that creates the very acorn from which it was born.
I think about the woman I have become lately, about the life that I am now living, and about how much I always wanted to be this person and live this life, liberated from the farce of pretending to be anyone other than myself.” from Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
There are a few times in our life, if we’re lucky, that we can palpably feel that we’ve become what we were becoming. This isn’t to say we stop growing, changing, maturing, just that there is an arrival of sorts.
When I started my business four and half years ago (on 1-1-11), I very much felt like an acorn that intimately knew the oak tree she was becoming. But she wasn’t there yet. I didn’t start things off as the oak tree. I couldn’t. I had to live my way to her unfolding.
I had to coach, teach, sit with, circle, and guide so many hungry women. I had to make mistakes. I had to taste things that didn’t taste good. I had to risk being seen. I had to open to receive praise and affirmation. I had to let it be easy and to let it evolve in the ways it wanted to evolve.
And today, as I reintroduce myself to you, I can feel my deeper roots and the broader expanse of my branches. I know the heart of my work. I know the fingerprint of my magic. I know the trimmings that needed to happen to that the best parts of me could shine. I know not to aspire to be a different kind of tree, but rather to embody as much of my own self, my own suchness, as possible.
A website, if you let it, is so much more than pretty dressing or a means to deliver information. A website, I believe, can meaningfully narrow the distance between you and me. The internet age is a time filled with a lot of pseudo-connection, but I believe a good website married to honest words does bring us closer.
So if you want to know who the oak tree is that I’ve become have a look around. Watch the video on the about page. Read the words I’ve written about my work. Browse the testimonials those who have worked with me have shared. Check out Feast, the best thing I’ve ever created. Let’s get reacquainted.
And while you’re exploring perhaps today is a good day to reflect on who or what you are becoming?
Add a splash of gumption. Rinse, lather, repeat.