To Your (Narrative) Health in 2020!

Full Moon Greetings!
The First Full Moon of the New Decade!!

After a decade leading women in writing journeys through the chakras (and leading yoga, dance, retreats & even business workshops through the chakras), I went dormant for the better part of 2019 without knowing why.

But now it all makes sense. Hindsight 20/20.

Instead of leading, I’ve been learning, immersed in the exploration of Narrative Medicine, curious about the intersection of medicine and writing since unlike my father, grandfather, and great-grandparents, it’s the pen that’s chosen me instead of the knife.

Alas, after assisting a half-dozen programs focused on the healing power of narrative (see list at the bottom of this page), I’m still not sure what Narrative Medicine is. I suppose this isn’t entirely a bad thing, as it once took two years of focused study and application to articulate an understanding of Non-Violent Communication.

Some things are that big (and worthy.)

What I have gleaned in the company of leading thinkers, including the originator of the field of Narrative Medicine, Rita Charon, and fellow giants from the field Carol Gilligan and Paul Browde, not to mention my regular assists with two women who over time I think on as friends, scientist/mystic Joan Borysenko and memoir writer Dani Shapiro, is a greater understanding of what makes my own writing journeys through the chakras tick,  ie. the brain science behind the alchemy of witness, presence and the page.

It’s funny to arrive at an understanding of the writing journeys I lead only after the fact, glean the how, why, and what of it now after experiencing it first-hand and through feedback from participants.

When I first started, I imagined the writing journey a one-time thing, but then some participants asked for more, returning again and again, and so I followed their energy and the energy of the journey instead of my ideas about what it was or wasn’t.

One such long-time participant is a business leader who works internationally and yet sets aside time in her travels to write and read and lean into other’s voices.

The careful articulation of her experience has enlarged my understanding again and again:

I keep returning to the journey because I love what bubbles up.

I am no longer writing for an audience. I am writing for me, to explore and unearth what wants to be said. I spend very little time analyzing- I just take the prompts and write whatever comes.   I now LOVE my words. Unedited. Raw and powerful.  Vulnerable and honest. Poetic.

Every time, I surprise myself.

I am writing into the present moment of my life – a zooming in on what currents are affecting the course of my life…… And I play with new ways of looking at my life… in any direction that moves me.

…With women who have my back, who empathize with whatever my journey is, with women who are also being vulnerable.  Total support.

Like floating on water, a woman’s womb that nurtures and feeds the soul…

New and returning journeyers echo these refrains, sometimes citing revelations that they have never spoken or understandings that they have never gleaned, or forgiveness they have never felt, or self-love they have never known (my favorite!) or a sense of community they have never experienced (which grieves me.)

Their feedback often surprises and unnerves me, but fortunately, as I age, I don’t need to understand everything or take it personally so even with my newfound understanding of the science behind these journeys, what truly matters is the journey itself and the journeyers who make magic together every. single. time.

That magic is uniquely shaped by those who gather on any specific journey, but it always feels the same–awe and wonder and soul-stopping.

Sometimes the journey points the way backward for an individual, unearthing truths, other times it points forward, toward endings or new directions or greater understandings.

I like how the author Christina Baldwin speaks of personal writing:

Life hangs on a narrative thread. This thread is a braid of stories that inform us about who we are, and where we come from, and where we might go. The thread is slender but strong: we trust it to hold us and allow us to swing over the edge of the known into the future we dream in words.

For me what has always been true of writing since I first cracked open a dusty journal in my bedroom above the garage when I was a girl of 18 and everything I knew was falling apart, is what I heard spoken at a recent Poetry as Narrative Medicine program with Lisa Weinert and Holly Wren:

Writing contains the chaos of my creative mind.

My friend Dani Shapiro has been known to say that writing saved her, and perhaps that’s true for me too.

Writing saved me as a girl of 18 and then overtook me and spit me out and swallowed me whole while taking me on adventures that continue to unfold.

May it be so.

Here’s to shaping healthier narratives for 2020, particularly for this nation and our global community and planet.

Yours on the page,

Kelly Salasin
January 10, 2020

On the First Full Moon of the New Decade!

United Nations

2019 Narrative Program Study
(some of the programs/presenters I assisted at Kripalu this past year of learning instead of leading):

Radical Listening Narrative Medicine for a Polarized World
, Rita Charon, Carol Gilligan, Paul Browde and more.

Narrative Healing Unlock the Power of Storytelling, Lisa Weinert, Jamia Wilson,  Ethan Nichtern and more…

Poetry as Integrative Medicine Narrative Healing, Lisa Weinert & Holly Wren Spaulding

The Stories We Carry Meditation and Writing, Dani Shapiro

Spirituality, Neuroscience, and Narrative Becoming Fully Human, (and upcoming in 2020: The Spiritual Art of Memoir.) Joan Borysenko

Radical Acceptance Healing and Freeing our Hearts,
Tara Brach

Bonus: Each year I return as an NGO representative at the annual Commission on the Status of Women, at the United Nations; to help shape a new narrative for the world!

 

Writing as an act of devotion & societal transformation


My husband was home from work for a week this winter and I reserved some of each day to play. Alas this meant that my time was too fragmented to delve into my work of memoir, and since I can’t go a day without writing (like others can’t go a day without caffeine or exercise), I wrote about… us… which is terribly taboo, unless it’s all romance & adventure.

Just after I began blogging, a decade ago, an energetic eighty-year old whispered to me as I led a dancing journey through the chakras:

“I feel like I’m eavesdropping.”

I would hear variations of Ted’s confession over the years, say at lunch with an old friend:

“Sometimes I’m up in the middle of the night reading your parenting blog.”

Or when introduced to someone new:

“Before I moved to Vermont, I read everything you wrote about living here.”

Or among community members or classmates or even friends of my sons:

“I’ve been poking around your writing.”

I’ve never entirely understood the awkwardness people seem to feel, and I guess that’s because writing is neither an act of confession or intimacy for me, but a play of consciousness and generosity.

I wrote privately in a journal for two decades, never calling or knowing myself as “writer,” until my mother’s death in 2000 when my voice was unearthed.

Unable to decide upon a single “niche” (which was the rule for bloggers at the time), I began a new one for each realm I wanted to plumb publically–from spirit to parenting, to marriage, to life in Vermont, to loss and healing, to journeying with chakras, to the path of memoir, to social justice, to the beauty of conversation. (I’ve lost track of how many blogs I’ve begun.)

My third-grade teacher, Mrs. Campbell, who I adored, once put tape across my mouth as we were lining up to go to the library. I have always had a lot to say. I just rarely said it in person once I came of age.

Like many of those labeled “introverts,” I maintain, and always have, a very small circle of intimates and even among them, I hold my emotional landscape close. In fact, in our early decades, my husband would often ask to read my journals so that he could know what was going on inside my head. Now he just pops onto Facebook.

Last weekend while assisting a writing and meditation program at Kripalu Yoga and Health Center, I found myself in a small circle of familiars with whom I was meant to read aloud what I had scribbled in my notebook that morning.

When I hesitated, confiding that I was a very private person, my colleagues laughed.

I don’t know how to explain the dichotomy. Perhaps it’s like a prostitute who offers her body for money but is self-conscious when sharing it in love.

Alas for me, it is writing that I love as an act of consciousness and so far there is little money.

This brings to mind how author Dani Shapiro speaks about intimacy and memoir. Even if what was shared late at night over a glass of wine is much of what I later read in Inheritance, it’s not the same. One is a personal connection, the other is a literary act, though I suspect, one born of generosity and love, just as I suspect that the distinctions intimacy and work fade with age.

In my philosophy of education studies at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, I remember learning about Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development. Surprisingly it was the “generativity vs. stagnation” stage which lingered in my memory–the one which occurs in middle adulthood, between the ages of approximately 40 and 65–an unfathomable distance then from 20.

Even so, smack in the middle of “identity vs. confusion,” on my way to “intimacy vs. isolation,” I felt the pull of generativity, as described by Erickson: to contribute to society and do things to benefit future generations.

Which brings me to my point:

So much of our lives, our struggles, our souls remain in the shadows, often secretive and shamed.

It’s not lost on me that women are the ones who primarily tend these private realms in homes and families, communities and workplaces, and I believe that if society is to be reshaped as it must be, we will have to make this vital work transparent and we must insist that we not do it alone.

This is not to say that everyone should write into their lives and post it publically like I so often do. I once had a client ask if she should blog about a private matter because she was feeling isolated. I counseled that unless she was accustomed to such exposure (called to it, devoted to it, surrendered to it), her needs would be better met (and her heart protected) by sitting with a small circle of friends who could bear witness to one and other’s path.

What I mean in laying down my life in words is to offer a ripe center of self-connection for those who choose to read and reflect and respond, and in that, we share an intimacy of sorts, a dance of consciousness and transformation, spinning new worlds.