Thursday, November 09, 2006

Meditation

So just what the heck does meditation have to do with writing anyway? I get this question a lot. There's many answers, but here's just one for today. Meditation slows down my mind and helps me recreate characters and action.

In the type of meditation I practice and teach, we set up conditions and perform exercises which slow and focus the mind. We sit still or we move slowly. A still body calms the mind. We focus on one thing - the feeling of the breath or the feeling of our feet as we slowly move across the floor - and we gently bring our minds back again and again to that object in order to develop concentration. We practice experiencing the present moment. We see it, smell it, hear it, and feel the touch of it right now.

In Memorial, the book I'm (still) writing, there's a scene on The Palms golf course in Mesquite, Nevada. My first draft failed to capture the power of the landscape and the mixture of tension and joy I experienced with my father. When I began to edit the scene, I had to close my eyes and become still enough to allow a day more than ten years ago to play out across the screen of my mind. Here are some images that came to me: the heat and dust, the color of the mountains, my father's hands on the club as he set up the shot, the sound of the gasoline engine in the golf cart, my hand on the side of the cart and the breeze in my hair as Dad gunned the engine and we sped down an enormous hill, the sound of his laughter and the feeling of my own laughter as it arose from my chest. By developing a calm, concentrated mind (my mind still wanders as all minds do), I improve my chances of remembering the important details.

This works for fiction too. When I'm working on a short story, I step inside the main character and look out at the world through his or her eyes. What did she see, hear, smell, taste, touch? How did she feel?

Could I learn to do this without meditating? Of course! I can't quite see Hemingway sitting cross-legged on a meditation cushion. But for me, meditation expedited the process.

1 comment:

Griefcase said...

Hello Nita. I stumbled onto your site while doing research. How impressed I was to finally put a face with a name I've read for years. Though not surprising, your profile is impressive. Sheesh! *smacking head with hand* Summa Cum Laude!

See you in print.