INTRODUCTION

INTRODUCTION
​AND HOW TO USE THIS COURSE

WELCOME! WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THIS COURSE, AND HOW IT'S UNIQUE (PLEASE CLICK TO OPEN AND READ)

Align Your Story is the culmination of my personal, spiritual, and scholarly experiences over the past twenty years.

It brings together my passion for literature and also my deep commitment to mind-body-spirit integration, wellness, and growth.
 
I didn’t see many—if any—other places that were doing this work.
 
The assumptions of this course are that our creative energies and talents are an essential part of our humanness, and we need to cultivate them.
 
My goal for you in this course is to help you tap into your creativity and bring it to the next level.
 
What is holding you back?
 
In this course, I will give you the tools to break free from whatever is holding you back.
 
Those tools include technical skills, which most writing courses focus on. I will too. I will put you in the company of great writing. I walk you through why and how great writing works. In this part of the course, I draw on my experience as a Professor with a Ph.D. in English from Columbia University and give you the resources that you would get in a great Ivy League literature class.
 
I’ve seen my students gain real mastery of form. I’ve had students come to me as complete newbies and a few years later, they have published a book.
 
I also want something else. We need not just technical know-how, but also emotional and spiritual tools.
 
I’ve seen a lot of really unhappy writers. I don’t want to help contribute to the world of unhappy writers—I want to help people push through not only their writing blocks, but whatever other blocks are there preventing people from feeling in tune with their own essential wholeness and goodness. I want to help people share their best qualities with the world to make it a brighter place.
 
Having worked with writers for the past twenty years, and having done a lot of personal growth myself, I have come to believe that our desire for a voice sometimes cuts us off from ourselves—we become disembodied from our own articulations and expression. We come to believe—falsely—that if only we could communicate something, or create a great piece of literature, we would be whole.
 
I see this not only in my students and in my past self, but also in so many of the great writers of the past several hundred years.
 
We need a voice—that is true—and we need to connect that voice to our whole person and to our community.
 
It is my hope to go back to a more embodied form of communication, expression, and wholeness. And when we do this, I believe we get not only happier, healthier individuals, but also more full-bodied (pun intended) art—art that is connected to our physical, embodied experience and has more expressive and artistic capabilities to really be transformative for ourselves and for others.
 
I’ve had many students ask me, “If I am happy if I am in the flow, will I still produce good writing. Don’t I need that grit and tension to create good work? Don’t I need my suffering?”
 
The simple answer is no—you don’t need it—you will still produce good work, and likely even better work.
 
Indeed as a woman, as a mother, as someone deeply concerned about the direction human life on this planet is headed, I believe it’s vital that we create a model of art that works towards wholeness, integration, and growth.
 
That doesn’t mean that we don’t talk about difficult things in our art—far from it. But it does mean that we can be mindful and have the intention of transformation.
 
As Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist master and peace activist, teaches us, we can use our suffering as manure to create lush, bountiful gardens.
 
Many of us need to learn how to turn our compost into a rich garden. I certainly needed to learn—and I didn’t have a road map.
 
Traditional literature courses didn’t really give me what I was looking for. Traditional spirituality and healing courses didn’t either. This course is the course I wish I had had.
 
It brings together many different modalities so that you can become your most creative aligned self and create your most enduring, shining work.
 
I think you may be surprised at what comes from the course—you will learn things about the craft of writing and also about yourself that just might surprise you and allow you to reach new levels not only in your writing life, but also in your life beyond the page. 

Please also come over to the private Facebook group and introduce yourself. This is a wonderful, supportive, inspiring community of women writers around the world! 

THE MOST IMPORTANT TEACHING

If you take one thing from this course, I hope it will be that you can come to listen to and trust yourself and your voice.

While our critical mind is helpful in many ways for many things, it often gets in the way of our creativity and of our ability to develop this self-trust and intuition.

Throughout the course, I encourage you to ask your critical self-judging mind to step aside.

When that voice of judgment comes up, please notice it, pause, and consciously ask it to step aside. Just for a little while.

Practice being kind to yourself.

When we are in judgment mode, our muscles contract and we can’t access our full creativity or power.

Too often, we stop ourselves before we even had time to explore.

Allow yourself to explore, make mistakes, be vulnerable, be generous, and grow in this course.

​Enjoy!

HOW THIS COURSE IS STRUCTURED

This course has many pieces because you have many pieces and qualities and sides to you.

Each module contains:

  • A lesson overview of the module in audio and text formats
  • Close readings in audio and text formats
  • Writing exercises (suggested, especially the first two; you can cycle through others later)
  • Yoga: A short video to show you how to do the movements with an audio recording guide so you can close your eyes and concentrate on your own body as you move.
  • Meditation: A short video to show you how to do the meditation with an audio recording guide so you can close your eyes as you meditate.
  • Other suggested readings list. These readings, which can be found online, are only if you have more time or for when you come through the course again.

​Each week also includes a live group conference call/live coaching/question and answer session with me—see the calendar page for times and an explanation of how conference calls work. If you can’t make the calls live, recordings of the sessions will be on the calendar page.

You will also have unlimited access to the Facebook group: Please come join the group and post your questions, your insights, your breakthroughs, and your writing there. Take the time to read other posts and respond to them, too. This is a wonderful community of female writers around the world with a rich body of experience and insight and gifts to share. I encourage you to enjoy this group. Connect with it the way it works best for you (and this might also change over time). I encourage you to reach out to one another, share, discuss, and ask for as well as offer feedback. I’ll also be there supporting you.

 

HOW TO USE THIS COURSE

This course is designed for YOU, and you are all looking for different things, so there are a number of ways to work through this material.

Some people really want to concentrate on building a home yoga and meditation practice—if that is you, then concentrate on that.

Some people are new to writing; some people are working on a second or third book and want to use the course to work on a longer project more smoothly.

The most important thing I can tell you is: Please don’t feel you need to do everthing. Don’t feel that you are falling behind. Again, this course is for you! The most important lesson that you can take away from Align Your Story is that self-criticism doesn’t serve you, so please find a way to work through the course that is best fit for you and have that be enough. You can always do more later.

Enjoy what you do!

I suggest that you try to listen to/read the lesson and close readings each week. They will very much support your writing.

I suggest starting each module with the lesson—that will give you some understanding of what we’re going to be doing in the module, and of how I put the module, exercises, yoga, and meditation together.

After you read the lesson, you can turn to the close readings or you can go directly to the writing exercise and come back to the close readings another day.

I also suggest trying to put yoga, meditation, and writing together.

Over time, each person will come up with her own practice, but this is what I recommend trying:

  1. Start with the yoga set to warm up the body and to connect with yourself (I’ve kept the yoga short in the beginning. If you like them, you can put several together as you go through the modules).
  2. Take some time to write. You can also stop the audio between exercises and write between exercises.
  3. Do the meditation.
  4. Take some more time to write.

Notice how your writing changes after the movement and after the meditation.

For each module, I suggest that you work with the first two writing prompts, but there is always more to explore.

Decide what is right for you, but most importantly do something—if you can only write once a week, that is fine. Something is infinitely better than nothing!

I’ve included a checklist at the top of each module to help guide you through the module.

See more below in the 6 different tracks to work through the material section.

SIX TRACKS TO WORK THROUGH THE COURSE

BASIC TRACK

To get the most out of the course, with the least amount of time, I suggest that you do the following:

Both the lesson and the close reading section are where I deliver my main teachings. I highly recommend that you read/listen to both of these sections of the course each week! Together they should take less than 40 minutes. Start with the lesson and then move onto the close reading.

Many people like to get off their screens and listen to the recording. Feel free to do this while you are doing the dishes, going for a walk, or driving. Listen to these lessons/close readings the way you’d listen to a podcast and enjoy the experience!

Schedule your writing sessions in your calendar for the week. I suggest that you try to spend between 30-60 minutes each week on these writing sessions. If you can do more, that’s great, but if not, you can still get a lot out of the course with this amount of time.

When it’s time for your writing session, look at the writing prompts. Numbers one and two are recommended. So start with one and then move to two.

But everyone is different and coming to this course with different needs. So I’ve also included many other writing prompts. Run your eyes down the page. If prompt one or two don’t speak to you another one does, feel free to jump to that.

You are not expected to do all the prompts!

When it’s time for your writing session, pair the writing with either meditation or yoga (first watch the short teaching video and then practice with the audio). If you have more time one day, pair the writing with both meditation and yoga. You will find that your writing goes farther and faster if you do so.

When the meditation/yoga practice is over, write.

You might also want to pause the yoga recording and write anything that you’re noticing is coming through your body after the different exercises. You can also pause the meditation if you’re experiencing something strong and put it on the page!

If you paired your writing session with the meditation, the second session, try to pair it with the yoga.

Try doing both yoga and meditation before writing and see what happens.

You’ll develop your own rhythm over the weeks. As you’re writing, stay connected to your body and stay curious. Notice what comes through your body.

I recommend saving the suggested readings for the second time you go through the course—especially if your time is limited.

Come over to the live call (schedule permitting) and participate. The recording is also always available.

Come onto the Facebook group (if you’re on Facebook) at least once in the week and connect with others.

Chart your progress, share writing, ask questions, and comment on someone else’s post (optional).

Use the checklist to stay on track.

MAXIMUM TIME TRACK

This track is for people who have more time to give to the course. You can spend many hours a week on this material; the course is very expansive.

  • Listen to the audio/read the lesson and close readings on day one or two.
  • Schedule on your calendar 1-3 hours for your writing practice 4-7 days a week. It can be very powerful to do meditation, yoga, and writing every day!
  • Ideally, do the yoga practice, then the meditation practice, and then the writing practice.

Keep a notebook and pen or your computer near you while you are doing the yoga and meditation practices. If any insights come up during your practice, stop the audio and take time to write. Then continue the practice.

Enjoy the live call/recording and participate in the Facebook group.

DAILY PRACTICE TRACK

You choose the amount of time you put in each day, but try to commit to a daily–or 5 days a week—practice, even if it’s just 15 minutes a day.

  • Listen to or read audio of lesson and close readings (roughly 40 minutes) over the course of the week. Feel free to listen as you are driving, walking, doing the dishes, etc.
  • Schedule on your calendar a time for daily practice—maybe 15-20 minutes each morning or choose your best time and best.

Perhaps alternate between doing the meditation before writing and the yoga before writing. If you have more time, do both.

Enjoy the live call/recording and participate in the Facebook group.

 

MEDITATION AND YOGA TRACK

Some people prefer to concentrate on using the course to establish meditation and/or yoga practices at home.

  • Listen to the audio or read the lesson and close readings (roughly 40 minutes) over the course of the week. Feel free to listen as you are driving, walking, doing the dishes, etc.
  • Schedule on your calendar times to practice for the week. Decide what you want to concentrate on and make time on your weekly schedule for that. In this track, you spend more time on your yoga and meditation practices than on writing.

Take just five or ten minutes after your meditation and yoga practice to write. Very short writing sessions are fine. In this track, concentrate your attention on your meditation and yoga practices and on jotting down what comes to you from these practices.

Enjoy the live call/recording and participate in the Facebook group.

NO YOGA TRACK

Some people prefer not to do yoga or have other yoga practices or have physical reasons to decide to skip yoga.

If this is you, I encourage you, nevertheless, to try mindfully to connect your writing practice with your body in some form.

Even if you don’t want to do the yoga, I suggest you watch the short yoga video each week and bring your mindful attention to your body throughout your writing practice.

Then choose your other plan (depending on how much time you can devote to the course) and do that minus the yoga.

Enjoy the live call/recording and participate in the Facebook group.

 

WORK ON YOUR OWN WRITING PROJECT TRACK

Use the course greedily to feed your own project. Work steadily on your own project but also use the course; it will help you shift your relationship to your writing and give you different practices and insights.

  • Listen to the audio or read the lesson and close readings (roughly 40 minutes) over the course of the week. Feel free to listen as you are driving, walking, doing the dishes, etc.
  • Schedule the appropriate amount of meditation/yoga/writing time each week on your calendar.
  • Do the meditation and/or yoga before your writing; it will get you out of your habitual ruts and give you more energy and insight into your project.
  • Read through the writing prompts and the lessons—what jumps out at you? How can you use them to move forward with your project? If you ask these questions, you will find that the answers often appear for you in the modules and prompts. Follow the prompts that most help you move your project forward.

Enjoy the live call/recording and participate in the Facebook group.

If you’re working on a longer project and need more support about how to pair the course with your work-in-progress, reach out to me.

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