I joined the Mindful Writers group completely by accident. My friend (who shall remain nameless and blameless) told me she’d signed up, and let me know there were only a few slots left. Edged on by the possibility of seeing my friend every week, as well as by the thought of breakfast (the meetings are held at Eat ‘n Park), I thought, “Why not? It might be fun.” It ended up being so much more than fun.
I had no idea what to expect, and was shocked by how long the meetings lasted. They were held every single week from 9:30-2:30. Five solid hours. I wondered what on Earth we could be doing for five long excruciating hours at Eat ‘n Park. That basically covered breakfast, lunch, and nearly hit dinner. I thought it was odd, but decided to try it anyway.
Our instructor is a fellow Pennwriter name Madhu Wangu, and I liked her as soon as I met her. When I first heard her name, I thought she was a Jedi, but my children soon corrected me. Mace Windu is the Jedi. Madhu Wangu is an author and a professor with a doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh and a post-doctoral Fellowship from Harvard. She could be a Jedi. She's actually cooler than Mace Windu.
We started the meeting with a prompt. I worked away diligently, hoping that this wasn’t the sort of thing I would eventually have to share with the strangers sitting around me at the table. The group assembled was a real mix. There were some familiar faces from Pennwriters, but there were some people I’d never seen before. There were a few men, but it was mostly a girls' club. I tried to relax and just write.
After a few minutes, Madhu told us that it was time for a guided meditation. We listening to a recording of Madhu’s soothing, soft voice as she led us through breathing and relaxation exercises. I’d done meditation and yoga before, so I was very comfortable with it, but I liked that this particular method was geared towards writers.
When we the meditation was over, we opened our eyes, and Madhu told us to go back to the prompt we’d been given previously and try to write on that again. What happened was sort of miraculous. What had been a series of random, meandering thoughts, now was something completely and utterly different. I wrote sentences, more like bullet points, that were clear and precise and organized. It was like my mind had been decluttered. Everything was suddenly so easy.
As soon as the prompt writing was over, Madhu announced that we could begin to free write for the next four hours. My friend, the one who’d told me about the group, had a look of absolute panic in her eyes. “Four hours,” she whispered. “I don’t know what to write. What am I going to write?”
I had to work on an edit, and wondered if that would be appropriate in Mindful Writers. I decided there was no right or wrong. It was what I needed to do, so I did it, and the experience was amazing. I wrote for those four hours. Madhu almost had to kick me out of Eat ‘n Park. I was able to do exactly what I’d hoped to do, and it had actually been quite easy and enjoyable.
The fun didn’t stop there. After Mindful Writers, I had to go to my son’s soccer game. Then I made a huge dinner for my family. After dinner, I decided it would be a good time to cut the grass. I thought I’d be exhausted after writing all day, but I was actually energized.
This might now work for everyone, but I’m really happy about how it’s turned out for me. I’m still a newbie. I’ve only gone three times, but I look forward to each meeting and I don’t want to miss. I think there are several reasons this works so well. First of all, the meditation really does clear my mind and help me to focus. Secondly, there is a positive energy that is produced when you’re sitting in a room full of people working towards a creative goal. I guess it’s also like the difference between doing yoga at home versus doing yoga in a class. When you do yoga at home, you are still stretching and strengthening your body, but being in a class adds an extra element to it. Thirdly, other than a delicious breakfast, there are no distractions at Eat ‘n Park. We’re in a conference room, which is fairly quiet, and there are none of the distractions that exist when I write at home. The laundry. The dishes. The errands. I can’t do any of those things while I’m at Mindful Writers, so they are simply gone from my mind.
If you are interested in trying out Mindful Writers at home, Madhu does have CDs and audio downloads available. Check out her website: http://www.mindful-writers.com.