Sunday, January 24, 2010

Jeffery Davis Yoga As Writers' Muse - Part 2

Welcome back, Jeff!

This week I want to ask you about your book, Journey from the Center to the Page.

The first section of the book introduces readers to what I call The Four Preparations:

    • Write with intention
      • Show up and shape time
      • Stoke the writer's fire
      • Ride the wave of concentration

      The second second section helps writers learn to pay attention to different creative faculties - imagination, deep memory, intuition - in tandem with very specific facets of craft - imagery and detail, syntax, metaphor, dialog. I hope that writers experience craft in a whole new context.
      The third chapter consider emotional crags - writing the truth, dealing with the inner heckler, writing beyond trauma.
      And the fourth section addresses a variety of issues from revising to forming writers' groups to teaching Yoga as Muse in the academy to engaging Yoga As Muse for artists and dancers.
      Each chapter acts like a sort of shapely essay (I hope) that interweaves a topic relevant to a writer with clear examples from writers as and specific yogic tools and philosophies. Several chapters include specific exercises that help writers begin the practice.

      Can you learn this practice from a book?
      Although I had doubts, several writers email me from around the world to tell me how the book works for them. A writer last week emailed me to say that the book helped her finish her first novel. That's rewarding to me.

      Yoga As Muse specifically is a way to help writers and artists become aware of their embodied mind's nuances so they can become their own muses. They don't have to wait for some mysterious muse to show up each blue moon wearing angel wings and blowing a golden trumpet. Those inspired moments - like a Miles Davis impromptu solo - require a lot of practice. Yoga As Muse offers that practice.

      Tell me about the Yoga as Muse workshops and e-courses.

      The workshops and retreats immerse writers in this work. They typically focus on a specific theme relevant to writers (and sometimes artists) such as compassion or truth. I always ground the workshops and retreats in readings from contemporary writers. It's crucial for writers to read and to learn to read as writers (that's my old teacher talking, but it's true).
      In the mornings, we practice yoga and also have Yoga As Muse sessions that generate new writing from the yoga. In the afternoons, we share our writings and discuss facets of craft. We usually conclude with a celebratory reading by the participants. What's beautiful about these events is that inevitably first-timers arrive with some secret trepidation: Is my writing good enough? Do I belong here? I'm no good at yoga. Usually, that stuff gets dispelled within the first 15 minutes.

      Every one - including me - is a beginner who learns from everyone else present. Aspiring writers and writers who have published multiple books attend and support each other. Non-yogis and yoga teachers alike show up.

      The YAM e-courses are really exciting. Writers from around the world can take these courses without leaving their bedroom or living room or wherever their computer is. Each week participants receive an e-lecture that focuses around one facet of Yoga As Muse and includes at least one sometimes multiple exercises. Then, participants correspond via a message board set up exclusively for participants. There, they share their experiences with Yoga As Muse, post their writings, and give each other specific feedback. It's a great way to build virtual communities.

      What are you writing now?
      I'm working on a short story. It's told from the point of view of a 58-year-old woman named, I think, Doris. I think she's a widow - widows keep visiting me - and is not too sad about being a widow as she's discovered online dating while grieving her faltering body. She's saucy and edgy. It's one of several stories told in first-person that have been triggered by people I've met or, in Doris's case, simply overheard in the farming hamlet where I live in upstate New York.
      I've also just finished an essay called "Papa's Prana" that explores how my breath has given me what my wife's breasts have given her - an intimate connection with our five-month old daughter Dahlia.
      And I'm still researching and, after feedback from my agent, simplifying a mammoth project for a non-fiction book.

      What's coming up?

      Lots is coming up. I'm offering a free one-hour Yoga As Muse tele-workshop on January 28 through We use this impressive phone technology that allows us to divide callers into break-out groups for discussions, to journal, and have a rich dialogue about how yoga can help us emanate deeply creative lives in 2010. It's free, so your subscribers have nothing to lose. The fifth annual Yoga As Muse retreat in Taos comes up in March - where I'll see you! - and then I offer a retreat at Kripalu Center in May, a workshop at UNM's Taos Conference in July, and a retreat at Omega in September.

      But perhaps the most exciting new offering of 2010 is the Yoga As Muse Facilitator Training. People have asked me to offer this for years, and I finally feel as if the time is right. I love to teach teachers, and I love to help people become the absolute most powerful teacher they can become. This training is not a yoga teacher training. Instead, it helps people (who must be certified to teach yoga) become a facilitator of their own Yoga As Muse classes and workshops. It's going to be amazing, if I do say so myself, with an intense immersion, an extension program, and (for graduates) a nine-month Facilitator Support Network that will give graduates support in taking the training to their communities, studios, and writing centers.

      Thanks Jeff, for offering your work to writers. I am excited that you have decided to share this work through e-courses. I hope writers all over the world will benefit by bringing yoga into their writing and taking their writing to the mat. Namaste.

      TIP TO READERS: If there are spaces left for 
      Sign Up Now!

       This Yoga As Muse conversation will inspire you to discover
      how an energized body and expansive mind can awaken your muse.
      Explore how specific yogic tools can remove creative obstacles
      and be woven into a creative practice and a creative life.

      January 28, 2010 at 1 pm EST
      FREE registration now open
      Come away inspired, refreshed, and well-equipped to emanate your creative spirit. 

      Photograph of Jeffery Davis in Taos by Amber Polo
      Photograph of Amber Polo in Taos by Jeffery Davis
      Photograph of Amber's windon in Taos by Amber Polo

      Sunday, January 17, 2010

      Jeffery Davis - Yoga as Muse for Writers- Part 1

      Welcome, Jeff Davis, yoga teacher, writers' coach, and author of Journey from the Center to the Page.

      Let's start with how you developed the connection between yoga, authentic writing, and creativity?
      In my early thirties, I was in pretty bad shape although you'd have to peek behind my perennial smile and smirk to sense it. Work, work, work - that was my mantra. But my work as a writer suffered, and my body wore out, or vice-versa - the connections weren't yet clear to me. With a slew of emotional and physical hardships, I found my way fortuitously to a yoga class. I came back. And came back again. My body felt alive. I could sense "energy" in my toes and in parts of my body I didn't know I had. Within weeks, I could concentrate and meditate again. My imagination felt on fire.

      Within another year-and-a-half, I resigned from full-time academia and entered my first yoga teacher training. My mind became more clear. My imagination, more alive. And my heart cracked wide open - frightening for a serious-minded male in his early thirties but necessary for a writer whose work was too intellectual and turgid.

      With or without yoga, for as long as I have been aware of, my mind has worked avidly in metaphor. Yoga seemed to heighten my mind's ability to associate, and during that first training, my mind was forging immediate associations between yoga and authentic writing. I was also testing out my new-found knowledge on my own writing practice to see what worked for me and my writing.

      Then, one of my first yoga teachers encouraged me to start a drop-in class that explored these connections between yoga and writing. This was back when I lived in Dallas. Every other Friday morning, 20-plus strangers and students would show up from all around. The results were wild and fresh, and I knew I was onto something both for myself and for others.

      After teaching creative writing on one campus or another for - at the time - a dozen years, I felt as if yoga was breaking the teaching ground wide open for writers and students of creative writing. I traveled to Greece to study with Angela Farmer and Victor Von Kooten - also very encouraging of my studies - and soon moved to Woodstock, NY where I completed another training. Then, I traveled to Chennai, South India to study with my teacher Sri TKV Desikachar and his family of heart-centered teachers. All the while, the perennial student and writer that I am, I immersed myself in some of the core texts of yoga philosophy and started gathering thirty years of neuroscientic studies to see what parallels I could draw among yoga philosophy and practice, neuroscience, and creativity. The connections are overwhelming - which is why I tried to cover so much ground in The Journey from the Center to the Page.

      How would a writer benefit from bringing yoga into her or his life?
      Yoga brings a clear mind that becomes aware of itself. It instills that luxurious immersion, that deep concentration all artists and writers need and yearn for. It awakens what I call the felt mind - this is a term I've just stumbled upon in my own journaling and is not something I've written about yet except in a Yoga As Muse e-course. I distinguish the felt mind from the processor mind.

      Let me digress a moment because this point is essential, I think. The processor mind wants to explain and analyze and compute and calculate and, frankly, conclude and wrap stories and poems and essays up before my fingers have even completed a page of writing. The felt mind slows down. I'm not a fan of automatic or quick writing or free writing, by the way. I'm a fan of slow writing, of a process that is so deeply felt that while writing your inner ears can hear the textures of words and your inner fingers can feel the textures of words. The felt mind feels. The processor mind is made of steel and sky. The felt mind is made of silk and sinew, of felt and grit. It mind wrapped in earth.

      Several yoga practices quiet the processor mind. (Neuroscience has an explanation for this phenomenon, too.) And several yoga practices awaken the felt mind.

      Yoga As Muse specifically is a way to help writers and artists become aware of their embodied mind's nuances so they can become their own muses. They don't have to wait for some mysterious muse to show up each blue moon wearing angel wings and blowing a golden trumpet. Those inspired moments - like a Miles Davis impromptu solo - require a lot of practice. Yoga As Muse offers that practice.

      Thank you, Jeff, for the interview and the benefits I've found in your work.  In Part 2 Jeff will talk more about his book and workshops and his new Yoga as Muse E-Courses


       Yoga As Muse
      with Jeffrey Davis
       This Yoga As Muse conversation and forum
      will inspire you to discover how an energized body and expansive mind can awaken your muse.
      Explore how specific yogic tools can remove creative obstacles
      and how they can be woven into a creative practice and a creative life.
      Come away inspired, refreshed, & well-equipped to emanate your creative spirit.

      January 28, 2010 at 1 pm EST
      FREE registration now open

      Photograph of Jeffery Davis by Hillary Harvey

      Thursday, January 7, 2010

      Carolyn Howard-Johnson on Capitalization, CAPITALIZATION, and capitalization!

      My guest this week is Carolyn Howard-Johnson, award winning novelist and author of the The HowToDoItFrugally Series for authors. Today I'm asking her questions about her book The Frugal Editor.

      Welcome back Carolyn. First I have to tell you how much I love your subtitle Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success and using the word “frugal” for your series is brilliant. (I also love your unforgettable last name.) As my regular blog readers have figured out, I interview in order to ask the questions I want answered. 
      When I was in junior high (tough school) the English teacher decided only 3 students wanted to learn and instead of teaching how to diagram sentences taught only capitalization. I still don't understand diagramming and it doesn't seem to affect my writing life but I got very good at capitalization. This was enforced later in my career as a librarian where capitalizing had special rules we kept secret from the ordinary public.

      So, Carolyn, tell me, when did the rules change and why wasn't I informed?

      First of all, the rules don't suddenly change. They change over time and they change because we (meaning lots of people) start to use something (like capitalization) in a different way. Thus, we have several style books and all of them are "right" and they all disagree on many, many issues. Newspapers tend to use the AP Stylebook,book editors tend (but not always) use the Chicago Manual of Style. All are listed as good (-: reading in the Appendix of The Frugal Editor.

      How about these examples?
      "President Obama said..."
      "The President of the United States said..."
      "The president said.." (not just any president)

      "I toured the Chicago Public Library's collections..."
      "The library's collection included..." (not just any library)

      In both the library and the president instance, you are referring to one specific place/person. But it is not part of a title in either of the third choices. Thus, no cap would probably be used in most cases. But anyone who faulted you for using a cap probably would be equally confused about the difference between style choice and rules. Throw a little extra something in there, too. Rules have become more lax. 
      Oh, and one thing more. Often English teachers teach us wrong. I was confused about the verbs "to lie" and "to lay" by the time I'd been through 15 different teachers with 15 different ideas and explanations and examples I wanted to cry. The thing is, it's really soooooo simple. They just didn't know how to teach it.

      Oh, and one more confusing thing. Different rules apply in creative writing. It's OK to use grammar incorrectly in, say, dialogue or when you are trying to create a voice.

      So, any secret tricks to getting it right? 

      If you're a creative writer sign up for an online subscription to the Chicago Manual of Style. Or buy a real copy (a new one--not something that's 20 years old because it's cheap). And use it.

      And read books by respected MODERN editors. That probably doesn't even include the venerated Fowler's, that everyone considers holy. That book can confuse a creative writer learning rule-oriented grammar. In fact, it generally does and that's exactly what happened to you, Amber.

      We get caught up in the rules, confuse one rule with another, try to memorize a catalog of rules (impossible!). I have one dictionary of English (just English--not other languages except for some borrowed words from French, German, Latin, etc. that we've made our own) that is over 1 foot tall. I have at least a dozen grammar and style books on my desk. English just isn't simple enough to boil down to a few rules and a few verbal guidelines like the one that tripped you up here.

      The rule you were taught went something like this: If the word refers to a specific thing (library or president) always capitalize. See? Kids, adults (and writers) tend to over think rules like this.

      Some style books argue that without the actual name and/or title, it isn't a specific thing. Thus no cap. Other style books argue the opposite. The more casual approach is winning.

      How do you not get in too much trouble until your editor makes a final decision?
      Basically the trick is to decide what kind of material you're writing, and choose the style book (from the two I mentioned above) that most closely matches where your end product will appear.

      Lacking the wherewithal for that, choose the more casual approach. That would put you in good company with "rules" like serial commas, commas after dependent clauses, etc. etc.

      Oh, and one more warning. Never, never correct someone else's grammar. Even when you're sure. Ha! You could be wrong. Even if you looked it up! 'Cause that other person looked it up somewhere else.

      Well now I know I am not alone. Thanks, Carolyn for stopping by!

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