Body Awareness and Creative Process

How inviting your body to your practice can change everything

I’ve been thinking of how what is broken is sometimes an invitation to re-see the world, to re-decide what is beautiful, to relearn who we have been and who we are. What part does brokenness play in your own creative practice?

Preview: Episode 42 with Brooke McNamara

“In terms of being honest and artful, I have to stand naked at the edge of the void,” says poet, teacher, dancer and Zen monk Brooke McNamara in our bonus episode. We speak with her in both episodes about how an embodied practice informs our creativity. What does that mean? As Brooke says, “There is a thing that happens in my body, like a swoon, it goes through me, and oh I have to make space for something that is coming.” How might getting our bodies on board with our practice change and inform our creativity? We speak with Brooke about how a more embodied practice has developed for her and how we might cultivate such a practice as well—through movement and through stillness.

Brooke McNamara, MFA, is a poet, teacher, and ordained Zen monk. She has published two books of poems: Bury the Seed and Feed Your Vow. She loves to create poems from 3 main ingredients: the raw material of everyday life, wholehearted and visceral listening, and the mind of meditation. For her poetry, Brooke is the recipient of the Charles B. Palmer prize from the Academy of American Poets. She has taught at Naropa University in Yoga Studies and at the University of Colorado, Boulder in Dance. Brooke is creator and instructor of online courses in poetry, meditation, and creative practice, both solo and in collaboration with Lauren Beale and Lisa Gibson. She is a long-time lay Zen student of Diane Musho Hamilton, Roshi, and is empowered as a senior monk. Brooke lives with her husband, Rob, their two sons, Lundin and Orion, and two kitties, Sattva and Mowgli.


What We’re Reading and Listening to:

Rosemerry:

  • I am loving Of This River by Noah Davis—a book of poems that stem from tragedy and explore incredible beauty. Everything seems to be integrally related to everything—land, loss, love, natural world, human world, past and present.

  • Bury the Seed: Poems for Releasing More Life into You, is the gorgeous most recent collection of our guest on this podcast, Brooke McNamara. These are poems of body and spirit, learning and unlearning, love and struggle. Gorgeous.

  • I was completely thrilled by this article in The Atlantic: “You Won’t Remember the Pandemic the Way You Think You Will” by Melissa Fay Greene. Part science, part story, part how to, this article tackles how the way we frame things changes us and has so many interesting graphs and ideas about why we structure our stories certain ways and how it affects a reader.

Christie:

  • I just read Haruki Murakami’s new book of short stories, First Person Singular, and was thrilled to tell Rosemerry that Murakami had written a story, "On a Stone Pillow" in which one of the main characters is a Tanka poet. The story also features a few Tankas. The book is a great collection of stories — the kind you find yourself thinking about for days afterward.

  • Seth Godin’s latest book, “The Practice: Shipping Creative Work” is a fun collection of thoughts and advice on getting creative work done. I love that he uses one of my favorite analogies for creative work — running — when talking about about how to deal with “the resistance,” which he likens to the fatigue you feel from marathon training.


33 THINGS TO DO INSTEAD OF WORSHIPPING YOUR PHONE

—Brooke McNamara

Write a poem called 33 THINGS TO DO
INSTEAD OF WORSHIPPING YOUR PHONE.
Write a poem called PLEASURE 
IN THE AFTERNOON.
Worship a faux phone, and make it explicit: 
make it huge out of porcelain and put it on an altar, 
surrounded by $20 stones with hand-painted words like 
“connection,” “validation,” “self-image,” 
“notes to self,” “memories,” and “how to human.”
Throw the real phone to smash the glass 
and pick a shard to carve a star 
somewhere on your left wrist to scar 
and remind you that you can worship your phone 
if you want to,
but a glass of water might be more beneficial.  
Pay for the groceries you’re paying for.
Wait for the bus you’re waiting for.
Drive the car you’re driving.
Walk across the street. 
Duct tape some cut bungee cord to the top and bottom
of your phone and then wear it as an eye patch. 
Craft a little winter diorama and stretch 3 cotton balls
around the outside of your phone 
to make the snowy frozen lake.
Memorize a 3-minute phone-worship 
movement sequence of finger swiping and typing, 
and perform it 3 times daily
on your cheek or inner thigh.
Find some pleasure in the afternoon. 
Conceive of a sieve subtle and vast enough 
to filter out the Benzene from our children’s air.
Press one thumb hard into each inner eye dome 
until your headache begins to fade.
Grind your phone to a fine powder 
and snort some lines — 
compare the high to social media likes.
Bury the phone, then dig it up 
and use the hole to bury a letter 
to Mother Earth asking about her secret longings.
Bury the phone, then dig it up 
and use the hole to bury a letter 
to Mother Earth asking her forgiveness. 
Bury the phone, then dig it up 
and use the hole to bury a letter 
to your future self with a map 
to where the food is stored. 
Sit.
Sit till you feel the center of the planet.
Move till you feel the center of yourself.
Shake till you feel the center of yourself 
become one with the center of the planet. 
Bury yourself, then dig yourself out 
and use the hole to hear you say, 
“This is my second chance.”
Claim this as your only chance.
Use your phone as a platform
to see how long you can balance on one foot.
While balancing, shoot your gaze
to any horizon it can reach.
Hold that horizon with your eyes while still balancing
on one foot on the platform of your phone,
and whisper to it five ways it’s different than a screen.
While you’re whispering, listen 
to the soft sound of your own voice. 
While you’re listening, notice
the silence inside the sound. 
Right when you notice the silence, 
curl into a little ball.
To curl correctly, wrap all of yourself tightly 
around your own center until you disappear. 
Right before you disappear, become 
a seed and feed yourself to the future. 
Feed yourself to the future 
in order to disappear. 


A Note About Paid Subscriptions:

First, we want to thank ALL our subscribers! We are so grateful you join us in this conversation about what it is to engage with yourself, the world and others in a creative way. And a BIG thank you to our paid subscribers. You make this podcast possible. Starting this month, only our paid subscribers will receive our bonus episodes as a thank you for their financial support. If you are not yet a paid subscriber, you can go now to our website, EmergingForm.substack.com or by clicking the button below. Thank you!

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Two Questions:

(share your answers with us here on Substack or in our FB group)

  1. In what ways do you notice your body informs your creative practice?

  2. Describe what happens in your body when you get a great idea.