The Nature of Reality
Who am I? My name is Lottie Angell and I live with my husband and two delightfully barmy cats in Sussex. I’m a poet and short story writer currently studying for a master’s degree in Creative Writing at Brighton University. I’m also training to be a Thai Yoga Masseuse and hope to be practising this giving, meditative discipline next year.
In November 2017 I was given the chance to become a creative writer in residence at The Hamblin Trust. As part of my residency I created a poetry pamphlet reflecting on a search for inner peace called Paper Cranes, inspired by my meditation practice and the beautiful garden at the trust. Paper Cranes can be found in quiet spots such as the meditation sanctuary or library and can be used for bibliotherapy, read as inspiration for your own meditation practice or simply for reflection and enjoyment. You can also find four poems from the pamphlet in the garden by the cherry tree, mulberry tree, eucalyptus tree and pond which I hope you’ll enjoy reading as you sit or have a stroll around the gardens.
Most recently, I have been selected as a Highly Commended writer by the (Literature) British Council and invited to attend a writing workshop with poet Helen Mort and author/professor Torsten Schäfer in Germany. As part of this trip I’ve also been asked to attend a Nature Writing Literature Seminar to learn more about the fantastic genre of nature writing. My writing is often influenced by the natural world and I’m very excited to have this opportunity to develop my creative practice.
To see my personal blog, enquire about purchasing a copy of Paper Cranes or get in touch to say hello, please visit my website: mantimoon.co.uk
What will I be writing on this blog? I’m so pleased to have been asked to write for the Trust’s new blog. My intention is to write monthly and I’d like this space to be somewhere where you can come to enjoy reading my new poems and short stories. I’d also like to share where I get my inspiration from as a writer, writing exercises to begin or continue developing your own creative writing and let you know about any events you might be able to hear me read at, such as poetry open mic nights.
To start with, I’d like to tell you about my residency at the Hamblin Centre and the benefits of using meditation to enhance and inspire your creative writing. I recommend reading the following book if, like me, you’re interested in integrating your meditation and writing practices: Writing Yourself Awake: Meditation and Creativity, by Kimerbley Snow. There are a wealth of writing and meditation exercises you can try. The book’s patient, insightful tone really helps get your creative juices flowing and gently guides you towards writing from and knowing your true, awakened self.
THE NATURE OF REALITY
In November 2017 I began my creative writing residency at The Hamblin Centre in earnest. My project set out to research the links between meditation, creativity and exploration of our inner world. As such, over the coming weeks, I would regularly meditate in the sanctuary and attend group meditation classes in search of some answers. I hoped for a journey filled with serenity and spiritual transcendence. In fact, what I found at the end of a long road was something much better. I came face to face with reality and began to learn how to accept it.
The beginning of my journey consisted of long bouts of endless questions and recriminations. Will this meditation ever end? Why is the clock ticking so loudly? Why am I so hot? Why is my back hurting so much? Why can’t I just do this properly? I was my thoughts and as such I was frustrated, in pain and consumed with self-judgment. Then I met Dinah during a twice monthly meditation class at Hamblin. Dinah advised us to imagine our thoughts as a flowing river. What she said next had a huge impact on my private meditation practice: ‘You can choose to get into the river or you can choose to sit on the bank and observe the river.’ She described practicing meditation not as an absence of thought but as a process of observing thoughts and allowing them to be, accepting them before you allow them to pass.
My practice began to shift. When difficult feelings or questions arose I applied the principles Dinah had talked about. Although not an easy task, with each session, I began to feel as though I was taking back control. I was not and am not my thoughts. This brought with it a sense of space. I saw this space between each thought and between each breath as an opening, imagining this process as the transition between a closed and open flower. A closed flower experiences the world differently to an open flower. When closed, it’s in standby mode and when open it’s ready to embrace the day. In the same way, when I am my thoughts, I am closed to the world and when I am not my thoughts, I am open to it.
This opening brought about a union between my writing and meditation practice where previously they had felt disconnected. Meditation allowed me to practice acceptance, patience and self-compassion. These experiences began to change my creative process. Where before I had felt frustrated at not being able to get my thoughts onto paper or been critical of what I was writing, I used my experiences to help me take a step back, accept my feelings and observe my physical responses before allowing them to pass. This also began to feature in my writing and it felt as though I was beginning to engage with myself and nature in a more authentic way. I found beauty in watching the same space change over time, deepening my interaction and understanding of impermanence. I felt compelled to capture the present moment. My senses became more attuned to my surroundings, creating a more grounded understanding of myself and the world around me.
As Kimberley Snow, author of Writing Yourself Awake, suggests: ‘Through meditation we come to see reality as it is; through writing we learn to find ways to live comfortably with things as they are.’ How right she is.
To end this first post, I’d like to share my poem ‘Presence’, taken from Paper Cranes and inspired by the cracked cherry tree at the trust. We don’t know what the future holds and a lot of us, myself included, find ourselves worrying about this. We tend to ask many loaded questions that often begin with: What if….?
I spent quite some time sitting by the cherry tree at the trust and when I looked at it I kept thinking what a shame it was that the trunk had split. I wondered how long it would still be in the garden for and, as I love trees, found myself preoccupied with this rather sad thought. One day, I came to the cherry tree and I realised that I had never looked at it for what it was now. It made me think that all the time we worry about the future could be better spent living, really living, in the present moment; thankful for who we are right here, right now.
The cherry tree
does not lament the loss
of its blossom
or the shortening of days
with bare attention
as the lone tree mouse
begins to sing