As you write and revise to submit to Bombay Gin’s next issue, here are a few simple writing exercises and prompts to help you along in connecting to the body and “flesh memory.” Keep in mind that these are not required exercises for submission. They are simply exercises that can help in any and all of your writing. The italicized are parts of our submissions request. Below you will find the exercises and prompts:
With the late Akilah Oliver’s spirit and thought in mind, Bombay Gin invites submissions for issue 39.2 that explore “flesh memory.” We encourage contributors to extend Akilah’s “flesh memory.” Consider the following:
…what the body knows that the mind can’t hold, the DNA-memory of 500,000 years of human experience and 4 billion years of life on Earth, thinking is one way of knowing the world, the other is being…
Our heads are not directly attached to our spinal cords, so if there is a feeling of disconnection between the mind and body, you are not imagining it. Here are a few tips to connect with the body throughout the day and then begin to write in a new way:
Before sitting down to write, do a body scan. It is helpful to sit or lie down for this practice, with your feet rooted in the ground. Start by focusing on your breath and watching it move from the bottom of your spine to the top of your throat. Sometimes it is helpful to envision a ball of light moving up and down the spine or to chant while breathing. This focuses the attention. Then you can begin the body scan. This is as simple as focusing on each part of your body individually for a short period of time. First, start with your toes. Feel whether they are tense, tingly, numb, or any other sensation. Tell your toes, “I accept that feeling” and then allow them to relax. Allow them to melt into the floor. After it feels like they have melted, move up to the higher levels of your feet, then ankles, even up to elbows and crown of the head. You can continue this practice throughout the day with your whole body or just one part of your body. When you are especially busy, it may be helpful simply to touch one of your chakra centers – put a hand on the heart, on the belly, on the solar plexus below your chest – and ask to connect to that energy. The key is to write from that space once you have done the body exercise. Don’t put too much pressure on it. After you have done these exercises, just start writing stream-of-consciousness style and see what emerges.
…the memory of trauma, through repetition and the reinforcement of patterns, the body learns loneliness, self-destruction, body memory is paved into neural and muscular pathways….
Acknowledge the current patterns. In recovery circles I once facilitated, this was extremely important. The samsara cycle is a pattern of thought and suffering that sometimes gets etched into our brains like rocks being washed over by the same rocks continuously. The water deepens the etchings in the rocks. This is interesting to notice. Some of these patterns are helpful and some are not so helpful. This is interesting to notice. Also, don’t be afraid to build new patterns. I recently coached a friend of mine in doing a creative statement for a graduate school application. She was trying to see how the different parts of her life had connected. We had just seen an exhibit at the Brooklyn Musem titled “Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui” which contains a few pieces made entirely of linked together bottle caps and tin can tops. At first glance, the pieces are impressive, large tapestries and golden legs that reach outward like the roots of a tree. Upon closer look, we see the bottle caps and tin cans and realize the intricate details necessary in building these structures. We worked on a few of the following exercises: Observe your own patchwork. Draw a map – a map of your childhood landmarks, of what you think your neural connections look like, whatever emerges. Even if images don’t seem to connect at first, draw or write them anyway. It is important to do this exercise from the body or from other media – draw, paint, play music, dance – and you will be amazed at the connections you can make with words after reflection on these pieces. If you are stuck, go see an art exhibit, a concert, or a play. See what inspires your body as well as your mind. Give yourself time and space without words – set a specific time – and then set a time to only write after that experience.
… neuroplasticity—through consistent, positive action, dance, body work, we can heal the mind’s trauma that lies trapped in the body; like everything else, it is a matter of practice and patience, trial and error, repetition…
These are just a few simple exercises. If they seem frustrating or don’t work for you, don’t do them. In uncovering what the body holds, it is most important to be patient. Our bodies are holding some of these traumas and memories to protect us. Let them sit if needed. Or peel them away gently. Try to enjoy the process. Let yourself laugh. Or let yourself cry. And then wait for the writing to pour out.
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