How to Use Writing as a Form of Meditation

Do you use writing as a form of meditation? I do! Writing as a form of meditation or meditative writing has become a daily morning practice. When you approach writing as a form of meditation, you are invited to stay in the present moment. Writing as a form of meditation invites you to pay attention and enhances mindfulness.

There are so many creative ways to use writing as a form of meditation and in this post, I’ll share one of my favourite practices.

All you need is a poem, a favourite pen, a favourite journal, and a quiet, comfortable space. (Although, really, as with all meditation, you can do this on the move and on a mobile device!)

So, let’s get started!

“Real meditation…is a deeper form of attention.”

・ David Whyte ・

What is Meditative Writing?

The practice of meditative writing typically involves writing with pen and paper, but you can also do it on a digital device. 

Meditative writing is a mindfulness practice during which you use your writing (instead of your breathing, for example) as the anchor of your attention.

The intention of meditative writing is to help you remove mental obstacles, encourage mindful concentration, and enhance your creative practice. The practice of meditative writing is a timed practice and this helps with reducing distraction and reducing the temptation to ruminate (or overthink) on the blank pages of a journal or computer screen. 

How to use writing as a form of meditation

Here is my guide to using writing a form of meditation. This specific approach starts with a poem.

What you will need

This practice is your personal practice and you will develop a preference for the tools and spaces in which you will use writing as a form of meditation.

Here are my preferences:

  • I like to write longhand with a Lamy fountain pen and a Clairefontaine journal.
  • I like to sit on the floor, my back supported by the edge of the couch, my dog, Henrietta, there behind me on the couch (looking over my shoulder, it seems, sometimes).

How to meditate with writing, and a poem

Start with a poem.

  • Start with a poem. A short poem. Maybe a Mary Oliver from her A Thousand Mornings or a David Whyte from River Flow. Here is a collection of my favourite poems for meditative writing practice. I compiled these especially for my daily morning meditative live sessions on Instagram Live for the Stay-At-Home! Lit Fest, Monday 26 April to Sunday, 9 May 2021.
  • Sit quietly with the poem. Just take your time and look over it. Note your breathing. Note how you feel in your seated position. Shift around to find the most comfortable spot.
  • Go back to the poem. Read the poem out loud, or in a whisper, or in your head.

Start copying the poem word-for-word

  • Now, start to copy the poem. Literally, I mean, copy the poem word-for-word. If you are writing in a journal, start with a blank double-page spread, and start copying on the left-hand-side page of the journal.
  • As you start copying, pay attention to your breathing. You might find that you breathe and write in syncopation. You might find that you lose focus or want to rush or find the copying boring. If so, that’s fine, simply accept that your mind will entertain all sorts of thoughts, and then just come back to the poem and the task of copying.

Focus, breathe, pay attention as you are copying

  • Focus again. Breathe. Stretch if you need to. Then, back to the page. Pay attention to each word of the poem and then pay attention to how you are copying out and writing each word, each letter, each stroke. Pay attention to the sound your pen makes across the page. Is there a rhythm? There is absolutely no need to adjust to a rhythm, just pay attention.  
  • Focus on forming the letters and note your breath again. If you notice that you’ve lost attention, or if you notice that you are forming an opinion or a judgement or a response or an expectation to the poem, that’s okay, now come back to the poem and simply focus on copying out the words. Judgements and expectations are just thoughts and they come and go. You can choose what to pay attention to during this session.
Here is an hour of meditative writing with me. I delivered this session for Hooked, a young readers and writers festival in Wigtown, Scotland. It’s a session that uses poetry, copying, and freewriting as an invitation to meditation. I like to call this “writing for meditation rather than destination.”

Continue with meditation and writing freely

Okay, once you’ve copied the poem, you might read it again. Stretch, shift your body to get comfortable, breathe in and out. Read, whisper, or just silently pay attention to the poem you’ve copied out.

Set a timer for your meditation with writing

Set a timer for 15 minutes. According to James Pennebaker, the Canadian psychologist who first used expressive writing for therapy, we should limit our freewriting to 15 or 20 minutes.

Now, on the right-hand side page of the journal, this is your invitation to begin free-writing.

So, start by imitating the poem at first.

Maybe take the first few words and copy them again until you are ready to add your own words, thoughts, feelings, sensations, sounds, and scenes.

Then, start to freewrite quickly, without thinking, until the timer sounds. 

At that point, pause, take a few deep breaths, stretch.

Then quickly read over your writing. You may like to underline or circle any phrases or sections that are particularly striking or amplified. 

We can make a note of these as prompts for future writing sessions. Or simply let them be. 

Finally, go for a solo walk to maybe ponder your thoughts a little more until you, finally, release them and reset.

I hope you enjoyed this. Let me know if you try this method and please do share any writing or snapshots of your journal pages!

Here is another guided meditative writing session for next time.

I choose to challenge on International Women’s Day

It’s International Women’s Day and I have a confession to make. For a number of years, I lost my activism and my feminism. But here is what I learnt this year.

Kathryn Koromilas celebrates choosing to challenge on  International Women's Day

Even when you are loved, even when you love, and are doing well, you still need to act. You always need to act. Always. Always act. Don’t let anything get past you.

IWD 2021 campaign theme: #ChooseToChallenge

This is the theme of International Women’s Day this year.

“A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day.

We can all choose to challenge. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.”

But wait.

Before you choose to challenge…wait.

Be considered and gentle. Be good and honourable.

(I continue to learn how to do this with my Stoic study and practice. I am a work-in-progress and I celebrate this too. So I’m speaking to myself here as much as I am speaking to and with you all).

Don’t act from anger or pride.

Pause, retreat, think and focus on the greater good, step back from yourself, get over yourself, go beyond your own petty drama and ego.

Reason. Use your head.

Consider what will come if you challenge; what will come if you act.

Consider those around you, your family, friends, and colleagues.

Make sure you care for them and keep them as safe as you can if you do need to act. Maybe you don’t always need to act. You may choose not to act so long as you know that you may do so when the time is right for you in the future.

Consider what comes before you act. Imagine how things will be like for you and your community when you act. Judge if there is any advantage for you and your community and for the greater good.

Consideration will help you act in the best possible way for all. This is not just about you.

Choose to challenge only because you are part of a community that you can make better because you act.

Is International Women’s Day a thing?

If you consider all of this and you judge that there is still a reason to act, do so.
I brought up International Women’s Day in a meeting recently and heard this:

“International Women’s Day? Is that a thing? Is it important? Never heard of it.”
Yes. It is important. By choosing to celebrate women we can help create a better community, a better world.

I brought up a concern about someone’s behaviour recently and heard this:
“Are you sure you aren’t overthinking it? Just smile and get on with it.”
No. I’m not over-thinking it.

But you bet I’m thinking it. I’m considering it. I am using the awesome power of my brain to reason through it.

And having properly reasoned, I now choose to challenge it.

After years of forgetting all this, after years of forgetting how to be a real woman, a good woman, today I am back.

Hello, world!

I choose to celebrate you all, you amazing women. I see you, hear you and I love you.

And to the men and everyone who have held me and celebrated and cared for me. I am so grateful to you all. Love to you all too.

And I choose to challenge those of you who are so caught up in your own petty ego that you cannot see how you fit into this world, how this world works, and how we are all meant to work together and celebrate our so very short and transient lives together.

Who’s in? Who of you my dear Facebook friends will consider choosing to challenge? If you need to talk about this, please message me. And pop on over to Facebook to chat.

Happy Women’s Day #IWD2021 #choosetochallenge