• Rachel Anne Baer

The Stories We Carry

#writing #stories #kripalu #danishapiro #writingworkshop #writingandmeditation #goingwithin #findingourstories

The Stories We Carry was the name of the workshop I attended run by best selling author Dani Shapiro.

This past weekend I traveled two hours to the amazing yoga center and retreat Kripalu. Situated in the beautiful Berkshires it truly is a haven for rest and personal growth. The freezing temperatures kept me indoors for most of the time although I did venture outside to enjoy the beauty of a brief snow shower as well as taking part in a walking meditation which was part of the workshop.

Dani Shapiro was an excellent presenter, although at first I was a little disappointed with how large the group was, there were just under two hundred people eager to write and learn. Dani was so experienced and professional that she somehow still managed to make the experience feel personal. After that first session I was no longer disappointed but eager to hear more, this was sure to be a great learning experience.

She gave some wonderful ideas for writing prompts and how to access the hidden stories within us. Which I will use in my next session of the writing group Chapters of our lives. Meditation and finding the stillness within is crucial to the writing life. She was such a natural, although of course she stated the obvious that would be writers often overlook "at some point you have to stop the thinking and excuses and sit your butt down on the chair and just write."

Another quote of hers I love "Write what you know, you are relevant to many"

This is so true, she went on to explain that we just need to write, no thinking, no editing, no stopping just write out whatever is inside you. Write in a journal, write that "shitty first draft"

It was both scary and encouraging to hear that with her current best selling book Inheritance she ended up discarding the first two hundred pages after coming back to it after a couple of months away on speaking engagements. What she had written she had needed to explore and release but it was not book worthy material. That's a lot of work to throw away, the growth of a writer is in the writing. We write to know ourselves, to explore our stories, how we work, how we think, she called it "narrative medicine" Dani called our stories "the unthought known - what we know in our bones but can't bring ourselves to think because it's just too dangerous to think it. A secret has the power to drive an entire life."

I am new to writing, really just at the exploration stage, I am not sure where it will take me, it is a whole new idea and possibility for me. We write to know ourselves and to process our lives, our fears, hopes and dreams.

Dani did give me the freedom I needed in my mind to not have to follow chronologically when I write, I am reading Hourglass right now and she does travel back and forth to different times of her life often, I found that refreshing having thought for some reason that memories need to be recorded in order. That is not the way they work, at any given time a thought or word, a piece of music, an activity can take us back in time to any year or memory, go with the flow.

I have just ordered several poetry books from my local library. Lines were shared from these during the workshop, it's been years since I enjoyed poetry at any length. Perhaps it will inspire me to write a poem which I haven't done since my school days when it was required of me. One she shared was The Sleepless Ones by Lawrence Tirnauer.

I rarely wait in line for things these days unless it is essential, however I did arrive early to be fifth in line for Dani's book signing on the Saturday evening. It must get tiring doing this with so many people all over the country, however she was gracious and took a few moments to speak to each person as she signed copies of her various books. I imagine it must also be pretty awesome to see so many people that want to read the product of so many hours of hard work and editing. An authors dream. I think she is very courageous to bare her soul and share so much of her personal life in her writing. In that way I would like to be like her. I also lined up early for the last session and made it to the front row, having enjoyed conversation with those next to me as we whiled away the time.

I asked how she dealt with the emotions/guilt/family responses of writing about her mother.  She replied that she "had been writing badly about her mother for years" so it's my mission to read her other books which I have purchased and already made a start on so that I can explore this in more depth.

She also said that "if you are writing from a place of bitterness or revenge it comes over in the pages & doesn't make for good literature, she was writing her story & her mother was a part of that story. If you have that feeling when you read it back to yourself of payback then you are not coming from a good place" The wording made total sense to me and allows us as writers a lot more freedom.

I enjoyed the most wonderful variety of quality vegan food during my stay, had meaningful interesting conversations with many fellow writers, many just exploring like me and some more established authors and journalists. I had an enjoyable and empowering weekend, a much needed break as good for the soul as it was for the mind.

An additional bonus was a meet up with a good new to me friend who always inspires me to live a better version of myself. She is taking the month long yoga teacher training that Kripalu offer. I'm excited to see where this will lead her. I could write for hours about my amazing weekend but I will stop here. I hope you have learned just a little from reading this. Kripalu offer an abundance of workshops or you can just go there to relax. Let me know if you feel inspired.

Getting my books signed by Dani Shapiro.

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