My Opened Awareness after Taking the TLA Class: The Five Senses and the Four Elements

by Karen Silsby

I highly recommend this class (TFSATFE) with Angie Rivers, our instructor! While moving through the weekly assignments, I had a profound opening up of my inner awareness. This came about as we explored The Four Elements with our five senses open, using poetry as a vehicle to absorb the meaning behind the assignments. Our readings and expeditions out into nature helped my classmates and I define what the different Elements of Wind, Fire, Water, and Earth meant to us as human beings and as a part of nature. As well, she created a supportive community amongst the class participants to aid our processes of self-exploration.

For me, one of the biggest take-aways from this class was keeping up the practice of what Angie calls, “small noticings” of nature, relating to these things from our five senses. What I noticed over the six weeks of classwork was that I came to a deeper sense of mindfulness and compassion. Whenever I practice this exercise now, some weeks after finishing the class, I land in the same place of quiet, mindful understanding and peace.

Let me go back and explain a bit more about the class as a means of self-exploration.

An easy example, one that we tried yet anyone can do, incorporated a Wabi Sabi approach when exploring the Earth Element. That meant we were to look at what we perceived as the “uglier” parts of the Earth, and see the “singular beauty” in small things. So I went outside and weeded, raking through the dirt and mud, observed the earthworms grinding through the leaves, all the while hearing the sounds of jays shreaking about my head. I could taste the bitter leftover coffee in my saliva; and smelled the verdant long grass as I raked its twisted, gnarly heads. In the 90-degree heat, the sweat rolled warm, down my chest in incessant drops. My awareness was heightened to see the world in a more vivid and heartfelt way, even through the difficulties and challenges of weeding my garden in the heat!

Further, this sense of wonder and engagement was broadened by our use of poetry. Angie had us try out a variety of poetic forms, like Haiku and Renga. I found that the poetry weaved into my weekly writings and “noticings” in a rather interesting way. My inner writer became looser and more watchful of deeper truths. I noticed the shift from being in a reporting mode to one of, something that I can only describe as, more spiritually connected to myself and the world and others around me. As each week progressed, I felt more at peace writing poetry that was grounded in my sensory experiences.

At the end of class, we were charged with deciding how we wanted to continue our journey with the Five Senses and the Four Elements. I chose to go out into nature once a week to continue my small noticings and be more quiet and mindful. Some weeks, I write down these noticings in detail and formulate a poem. I’d like to leave you with an excerpt of one backyard sensory noticing that allowed me to touch on my up and down health after cancer and a resultant, changed life path. This led to a free form poem, as follows:

Sometimes I think I’ve had enough ickiness
And am ready to go,
Tired of the fight to stay on top of things.

Yet, that is a transitory point of view.
Life is precious
And all experiences are a
Part of the memory box
Which becomes so full by age 67.

Believing in myself to anchor me,
Believing in something more vibrant than me
That roots me,
Believing that life is a journey of many lessons,
Brings me to that ever-present light from a singular star, pointing the way.

I breathe in the verdancy of hope.
I shine the light of sun upon my living skin.
I touch the earth’s heart with my toes.
I listen to the song of the bells chiming free.
I taste the inner peace of life within me.
And my senses are one with The Elements.


Editor’s note: This is Karen’s first blog in fulfillment of her Transformational Language Certificate.

karen

Karen Silsby is a Life Fulfillment Coach and journaling instructor in the San Diego area. She has a long history of
using writing as a means of self-exploration and life strategizing. Karen is presently in the TLA certification’s program, enjoying the opportunity to expand her horizons with the written word as a means of diving deeper into the inner wisdom source that guides us all.
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Creating Space

by Melissa Rose

The writing process can be ritualistic, so setting the space is important.

Keep it consistent. Keep it holy.

I set the timer. Write the prompts on the white board while pictures of Frida Khalo gaze down at a table I have covered in stray paper, pens and composition notebooks.

Every week I lead a writing workshop with female trauma survivors. The format is simple: One hour of writing. Your time. Your space. I provide prompts that encourage introspection and self-care, but the direction the participants choose to take those prompts are unique as they are.

What began as a simple routine has quickly transitioned into a life line. Women who have curiously come one week now come every week. Diving deeper into themselves, discovering more with each session and unearthing more possibilities with every word they write.

Giving oneself permission to do something healthy, even for one hour, has slowly become a reason to give oneself permission to do something healthy for another hour. A reason to speak up in situations where they wouldn’t have before. A reason to forgive. A reason to tell their story. A reason to love themselves more.

Writing may be the medium we use here, but what we are creating is sacred space. Collectively, through sharing the space we have conjured, we are tapping into something magical. The strength of creative energy. The spell of communal healing.

Creating space, for me, is such an integral part of TLA. It is the equivalent to turning the soil, preparing it for the seeds. I now find myself just as excited to lead the workshop every week and contribute to that space. To understand that it is not only the participants who benefit from this experience, but I as a practitioner.

Together, we have learned that we cannot heal alone.

Healing

is the little ghost

hiding under your tongue.

A miracle you mutter under

your breath

Afraid you will jinx its magic

Mind over matter

Whole life preparing you for this

You will now show your cells

Life is worth living.

Healing

is the the voice that reminds you to rest.

The whisper that challenges you

to take a step back.

The gently falling rain on the roof

above your head.

The sound of growth.

The promise of a million new lives.

Healing is what happens when you finally put yourself first.

It is the wound that knows exactly what to do

when you give it the chance.

The burn that saves you

from infection.

The silent pulse

only you can feel within yourself.

Here

in your empty

there is still space to put your hope.

The seed that is sheltered by will

and soil.

The dirt beneath you

you are not ready to die in.

Swallow this spring.

Let it fill you like a sunrise.

You are only just beginning. 

 

 

 

melpromo4Melissa Rose is a spoken word poet and playwright. She has hosted community spoken word events since 2003 and has been a member of 5 National Poetry Slam teams. She has performed her work across the United States and Germany and was a featured poet at the German National Poetry Slam in 2010. She currently lives in Eugene, Oregon.

 

Making Music

by Barbara Burt

“Can You Turn a Poem into a Song?” is the title of an article I just ran across. “How hard could it be for a poet and fiction writer to turn a poem into a love song?” asks the article’s author, Desiree Cooper. She concludes that it’s “Pretty hard.”

Some of us in the TLA Network might beg to differ. The fact is, even if you don’t read notes, play scales, know chords or fingerings, you have the capacity to make music. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

We are all born with music in us; whenever we sing or play music, we unleash that expressive engine. A number of ways to make music are represented in workshops offered at this month’s TLA Power of Words Conference. Here’s a sampling:

Songwriting: The Inspiration and Acrobatics of Language — Martin Swinger shares insights and processes that lead to the creation of his quirky, one-of-a-kind songs which gain national recognition and awards for their originality. Part concert, part discussion, part hands-on exploration of language, inspiration, songwriters ‘filters’ and the prosody which makes songs SING! No songwriting experience necessary.

Soul Song for Centering: An Experiment in Creating Sacred Song — Using your name as a foundation for exploration, you will be guided to create your own personal Soul Song to sing or chant whenever you want to connect with and feel the beauty of your Soul. You will create your own meaning and intention for your Soul Song and will be gently guided to find your inner melody. Whether you’re shy or comfortable using your voice to sing, we will create a safe environment for you to find your Soul Song for Centering. No singing or musical experience needed. Bring notebook, ear buds or plugs (if you have them), and an open mind and heart. Led by Tonia Pinheiro.

Sound Puzzles, Rounds, and the Meaning of Life According to the Woodthrush — This interactive presentation showcases the culmination of one woman’s modest experiment in responding to birdsong as a unique portal to re-inhabiting her own singing voice.  Interspersed with narratives from her story, “I Shall Go Singing,” spoken against a recorded backdrop of original vocal sketches, Deb Hensley’s presentation offers listeners live performances of original songs, rounds, and sound puzzles inspired by birdsong. Audience members will be invited to learn a few of these lyrical, whimsical, and sometimes quirky “why” rounds. Deb’s story offers insight into how deep attention to sound and song in the natural world promotes access to one’s own ancestral, spontaneous, innate, and amazing natural voice, as well as a deeper understanding of ecological literacy, place, and identity.

Note that none of these workshops requires previous experience with songwriting or musical training. Yet, by the end of the workshop, some wonderful and unique musical compositions are sure to have been created. I plan to record some examples of this music-making as I attend the conference; watch for videos on upcoming blog posts.

Quick, Change Modes!

by Barbara Burt

As we went around the table, each workshop participant talking about her past week, Chris was squirming. When it was her turn, she giggled and said she’d had a funny experience. She’d been stuck about what to write and hadn’t managed to get very far. Then, as she drove along a familiar road the day before, a story began to form in her mind. Not wanting to lose inspiration, she pulled over, took out her smart phone, and recorded the story. To her surprise, it came out whole, in one delightful swoop. However, she said, she hadn’t had time to transcribe it yet.

This was disappointing news. We all loved hearing Chris’s stories. “Do you have the phone with you?” I asked. She nodded. “Would you consider playing the recording for us?” Chris looked surprised, then dug deep into her book bag. Phone in hand, she pressed the buttons until her familiar Maine accent filled the room.

The story was hilarious. We laughed all the way through, as Chris’s voice on the phone recounted one mishap after another. When it was over, it seemed like some sort of miracle. Where did that come from? How did she do it? Chris, a clay artist and newly hatched writer who didn’t yet feel confident about the words she wrote on a page, had discovered a better way to capture her storyteller’s voice.

On another day in another workshop, I frightened the group by giving them a two-stage prompt. The second instruction was to rewrite as poetry what they had just written in prose. “Poetry!” Dave exclaimed. “I can never understand poetry, let alone write it.” I let them know that any form of verse was fine but they needed to use line breaks and brevity to convey the meaning. Each person read their two versions out loud: prose, then poetry.

Dave’s original prose piece had been about an emotional experience. It was full of detail and quite affecting. Then he read the poetry version. When he ended, we all sat in silence, stunned. “The poetry was more powerful,” he said with surprise, looking around the table.

When I work with people who don’t consider themselves writers, I often find that they are intimidated by preconceptions of what “writing” is. Yet, their stories are fresh and original when they feel confident enough to use their own voice. By trying lots of different modes of storytelling—including music, drawing, and movement—in the safety of a supportive workshop, they can escape those preconceptions, and get to the heart of the story they want to tell in the way they need to tell it.

 

Workshops At The Power Of Words Conference

powtla

The Power of Words Conference (POW) will soon be underway and we are so excited to see the amazing keynote speaker presentations and workshops that will be occurring during the event.

From songwriting to storytelling, to body movement and awareness, this year’s POW Conference offers many opportunities to share in the community building possibilities of Transformative Language Arts facilitated by some of the most inspiring practitioners in the field.

Here is a list of the workshops. Click  here for a full description

Friday, August 18th-Pre-Conference Keynotes and Workshops:

  • Limbs & Language — Mahogany Browne
  • Creative Empathy that Builds Bridges Across Difference — True Story Theater
  • We All Belong to Stories — Joseph Bruchac
  • Soulful Singing — Kelley Hunt
  • Can We Talk? Strategies for Building Young Children’s Language — SusanBennett-Armistead
  • Keynote Presentation: True Story Theater — Stories of Stigma and Social Healing
  • Keynote Presentation: Mahogany Browne — By Any Means Necessary: When the Narrative Interrogates a Righteous Rage

Saturday, August 19th

  •  Love is All There Is: Mantra Singing for All — Barb Asen
  • My Story In A Soundbite: Notes from A Digital Evolutionary — Brenda Magnetti
  • Wabi-Sabi Storytelling: The Perfect Imperfection of Spoken-Word Art — Lyn Ford
  • What’s Your Blue Moon Legacy?: Honoring the Uniqueness of Your Voice and the Bigger Message in Your Work — Tina Games
  • Mother’s Voice: Nurturing Self through Expressive Writing — Joanna Tebbs Young
  • Keynote Presentation: Dr. Susan Bennett-Armistead — Read it gain! Read it again! How Read Aloud Builds Brains and Changes the World!
  • How to Write the Story That Brings You Audiences and Jobs — Doug Lipman
  • Women’s Writing Circle (WWC): Using Expressive Writing in Sacred Circle — Jennifer Minotti
  • Psychodrama, Writing, & Imagination: Playful Tools for Healing, Growth, & Change — Kelly DuMar
  • Songwriting: The Inspiration and Acrobatics of Language — Martin Swinger
  • Soul Song for Centering: An Experiment in Creating Sacred Song — Tonia Maria Pinheiro
  • Drinking from the Well of Laughter: Laughter Exercises — Lyn Ford
  • Sound Puzzles, Rounds and the Meaning of Life According to the Woodthrush — Deb Hensley
  • What a Composer Hears and Sees: Sharpening Your Musical Sight — Wytold
  • Contact Improvisation Movement: ​A Nonverbal Language of Communication — Christopher Eillinger
  • Making Friends with a Poem — Cynthia Anderson
  • Keynote Presentation: Joseph Bruchac — Trickster’s Truth and Lies

Sunday, August 20th

  • Gratitude as Wisdom and Healing — Karen Edwards
  • Qualitative Research in the Arts for Publication, Research, and Funding — Emilee Baum Trucks
  • Writing the Tree of Life: Midrash to Re-vision Our Lives — Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg
  • Narrative Healing: Transcending the Illness Narrative — Reggie Marra
  • Connect to the Earth & Dance your Heart, Body, and Soul AWAKE! — Katey Branch

Read about the Community Building Opportunities At The Conference 

Register for POW!

Spread The Word!

communitytla

Writing in concert

by Barbara Burt

I have been leading a writing workshop at my local community center. While I enjoy hearing the writing that the four members have worked on over the past week and are eager to share, I think the most fruitful part of the workshop is the prompted writing during the workshop. Often the prompt is met with moans: “I hate these introspective exercises.” “I can’t think of anything…” But invariably, within a minute or two, everyone is writing away, engrossed in their response to the question that may have made them feel a bit uncomfortable at first (although that’s not my aim).

When the time comes to share the prompted writing, at least one or two people find that there is the germ of a story to follow up on, planted in that day’s scribbling. To me, there is definite music in the quiet sound of all that thinking and writing that reminds me of playing chamber music. We are aware of each other, listening, but also intent on our own part. It happens that the music of our own writing is more meaningful, somehow, residing in the harmony of our group endeavor, whether we share it or not.

I wrote this during the most recent workshop:

Writing in Concert

We sit in folding chairs
and set our elbows on the plastic tabletop.
Its bumpy surface doesn’t slow us.
The mah-jongg game in the next room
erupts in loud laughter.
Still, we are not deterred.

Pens scratch.
Hands swish across smooth sheets,
pages are turned, paper rattles.
We hold our breath
or sigh.                                                                                                                                         Sip coffee.
Or rest our foreheads in our hands,
eyes closed, thinking.

There is companionship in writing alone
together.
Our thoughts are secret
but our output obvious.
We start together with the same prompt
then wander separate paths,
secure in the knowledge that
each step is worthy of its effort
and will be celebrated.

Celebrated, whether spoken or
silent.
Celebrated by our fellow writers
in the chamber music of creation.

Greetings from Maine, site of the 2017 Power of Words Conference

As one your new editors of the TLA Network blog, I am looking forward to reading your submissions and engaging in the conversation about the importance of Transformative Language Arts to each of us, as well as the importance of our TLA practice to the community around us. I am fairly new to the field, although I have been telling stories through writing for my entire life. As the title of this post says, I write from Maine, which means I’ll be excited to attend the Power of Words Conference in Maine this summer, where I hope I’ll meet many of you in person.

The conference, officially called the 14th Power of Words Conference: Transformation, Liberation, and Celebration Through the Spoken, Written, and Sung Word, takes place from August 18 – 20th at Ferry Beach in Saco. As a Mainer, let me assure you that this is prime summertime on our beautiful southern coast. I can’t imagine a better place to feed the imagination and create a sense of community. Here’s a photo from the Ferry Beach website:

ferry-beach-porch-photo

Picture yourself in one of the chairs on the porch surrounded by fellow conference attendees. You’re all sharing stories, ideas, and reactions to the great workshops/lectures/performances you just attended, while the porch flags flutter in the sea breeze. (Learn more about the Ferry Beach Retreat and Conference Center here.)

Keynoters at the conference include Joseph Bruchac, True Story Theater, Mahogany L. Brown, Susan Bennett-Armistead, and Kelley Hunt. The list of workshops is varied and extensive. To find out more about the conference, visit the conference webpage: https://tlan.wildapricot.org/conference.

Speaking of the conference, if you are planning to attend, you can save $20 by registering before April 25th.  After that date, the registration fee becomes $230 for TLA members and $250 for non-members.

I have to say, just thinking about a wonderful seaside conference in August is an effective spirit-raiser in gray late February. And, this year, it seems more important than ever.

–Barb Burt

POW Workshop: Self-Expression Through Movement and Play with Marguerite Walker

Thank you for this opportunity to exchange ideas with the other presenters for the POW conference in August!
My workshop “Self expression Through Movement and Play” is designed to enable the participants, regardless of background, to experiment with their childhood curiosity. They will be encouraged to use voice and movement in a play -like atmosphere. Scenarios will be provided or the participants may develop their own. These stories will be shared with the group in a supportive atmosphere.
I enjoy enabling others to experience the freedom of letting our adult guard down
and then allowing our creativity to find new ways of looking at a situation.
This workshop is an outgrowth from my passion for improvisation with voice and song. In watching and learning from artists such as Rhiannon and Bobby McFerrin and locally from improv director, David LaGraffe, I have been motivated to share my joy of play with others.

Marguerite WalkerAfter 35 years spent as an RN, Marguerite Walker  brings a cornucopia of life experiences to her workshop. As a lover of word play and seeing the zany side of situations, she enjoys helping others experience that sense of enjoying the moment.
Marguerite presently resides in South Portland enjoying time with her dog, going to Meet ups, visiting with friends, reading historical fiction, singing daily for the joy of it, and looking forward to her next adventure.
She agrees with GK Chesterton regarding play:
“The true object of all human life is play.”
She would like to thank Debra Hensley for suggesting that she submit a workshop proposal to the TLA Network.

“Oh My Stars and Garters!” with Lyn Ford, POW Keynote Speaker

Editor’s Note: I’ve known Lyn for several years, and she is an incredible human being. Listening to her talk would itself be worth the conference registration.


OH, MY STARS AND GARTERS…I’M TALKING ABOUT BELLY BUTTONS!

THE HERNIA JOURNAL:  MY WORD-DANCE THROUGH DARKNESS TO JOY – A journey in progress, from belly-ache to belly laugh, from abuse to a-ha, from hell to Hafiz, shared in personal narrative, folktale, and poetic joy.

That’s the blurb I passed on to TLAN for my Saturday, August 13 keynote performance for the 2016 Power of Words Conference.  Then I set aside any thought on the subject, so that, in a couple days, I could look at that blurb with fresh eyes.

04crw_2102-1Five days later, I looked at what I’d sent, and my fresh eyes blinked as if I’d been smacked by a hard gust of wind.  I said to myself, “Self, you’ve just committed to sharing a portion of the map of that dark walk into and through the woods, the one that frightens and confuses and excites you, and makes you laugh and cry at the same time.  Just a few steps, reflection and folktale connection and poetry.  You are going to share from your hike through personal muck and mire, in 45 minutes.”

Oh, my stars and garters…

This writing project grew from journaling while I worked on socio-emotional development activities and stories for educators and storytellers.  That work became difficult as I maneuvered over several rough patches—illness and injury, problems with medications, emotional situations…you know, life.  In the worst of it all, I wrote and shared my stories.  Folks laughed with me, which made me laugh more.

I’ve selected stories and verse from my journal, offered because they lend themselves to the conference theme, “Begin with YES!”  But “yes” isn’t just the beginning of transformation.  It’s the effective affirmation of every step of each human being’s personal journey.  “The Hernia Journal” presentation has its emotional ups and downs, but, yes, we will laugh, because that’s how I roll…or, reel, or trundle, …it’s all good.  I always pack joy for the journey, even when I’m crawling, with “yes” in my heart.

The preconference workshop that I’ll facilitate is titled “LAUGHTER, BREATH, JOY: COMMUNAL COMMUNICATION”.  That’s what we’re going to share.  As a Certified Laughter Yoga Leader (and now, I’m a Certified LY Teacher, too—yay!), I’ve become more aware of the important empathetic connections of laughter, play, and simple stories.  Most big folks just don’t play enough, or feel the excitement of telling their own stories without self-criticism and with the lightness of the child’s heart that still beats inside us.  I’m hoping folks come to the conference early, and play and laugh and communicate with an open heart and mind.


Lyn FordLyn Ford is a fourth-generation Affrilachian storyteller and workshop facilitator. Lyn is also a Thurber House mentor to young authors, a teaching artist with the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education (OAAE) and the Ohio State-Based Collaborative Initiative of the Kennedy Center (OSBCI), and a Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher. Lyn’s work is published in several storytelling-in-education resources, as well as in her award-winning books, Affrilachian Tales; Folktales from the African-American Appalachian Tradition, and Beyond the Briar Patch:  Affrilachian Folktales, Food and Folklore. Lyn’s 2015 book, Hot Wind, Boiling Rain: Scary Stories for Strong Hearts is a creative-writing resource; Lyn’s fourth book (with friend, Sherry Norfolk), Boo-Tickle Tales: Not-So-Scary Stories for Kids, is set for publication in the summer of 2016.   For more information on Lyn’s work, go to her website at www.storytellerlynford.com. Or contact Lyn at friedtales2@gmail.com.

Watch “Hush in the Room,” Regi Carpenter’s Tedx Talk

Storyteller Regi Carpenter speaking at TEDxChemungRiver 2015 in Corning, New York talks about what she’s learned through work with sick and dying children and the power of our stories. Watch her Tedx Talk here.

Check out Regi’s upcoming class for the TLA Network — Living Out Loud: Healing Through Storytelling and Writing — here. This online class allows you to explore writing, storytelling and healing on your own time in a support community. Scroll down for a recent interview with Regi to learn more.