I walked out of the Sutter Hospital building on H St. thinking to myself, this is my new church. I had stumbled, well actually reclined (my doctor told me about the AWA writing group during my annual gyn exam) onto a totally different kind of writing process. In this group everyone was equal and the emphasis was on relaxing into our creativity and letting go on the page, on trusting our creative genius.
Not wanting to sound evangelical, I kept the thought to myself but treasured the feeling and wondered about it. The fellowship of Outward Bound came to mind along with the good will of long ago Sunday School mornings, but no real clarity.
Through the years of writing in AWA groups, I’ve been touched by the vulnerability shared while reading our brand new pieces of writing. How mysteriously the AWA process works to bring us closer to our own truths. How egalitarian the conversation, how it satisfies what wasn’t fed at the dinner table all those years growing-up. How, sometimes, buried feelings dovetail into memories and a subtle knitting of spirit to body, mind and emotions occurs, a layer of congruence, like new connective tissue is formed.
But still, I don’t understand why it feels like church to me.
Hence, I’ve been waiting with great anticipation for Pat’s new book, How the Light Gets In: writing as a spiritual practice. Ten years in the writing, the book was celebrated this week along with Pat’s life and that of her husband Peter, at Pacific School of Religion where Pat is professor emeritus. A new fund for AWA was announced so PSR will be training people to become AWA writing group leaders. The funny thing is that both Pat and Peter left the church in their fifties. Deciding they could no longer identify with any denomination, they struck out on their own. But rather than discard the mystery, Pat chose to rappell deeper into it.
The preface of her new book begins with a journal entry from when she was beginning the book. The following are snippets from that entry:
This time I want to find my way, explore my way, take my time. I want more than I have ever asked of myself before. Maybe it requires a silence and a centering that I have not yet– in my whole life–given myself.
This time I want to go for the big one. Some people in Missouri wade into deep water, reach far back into underwater caves in the river banks, catch huge catfish in their bare hands, pull them out alive. Something wild, something hidden, human hands reaching for that wildness, touching it. What does it mean–our violence, our hunger, our need?
The Presence is mystery. It breathes, and I feel its breath on my hand as I write the words: This time I want to go for the big one.
I’ve just begun reading How the Light Gets In and am already gaining clarity into what makes writing sacred for me. If you have felt writing to be a kind of entryway into mystery, even a kind of prayer, then I suggest reading Pat’s new book and hope you will share what you think of it with her at www.PatSchneider.com or with me here at Visionary Space for Grace.
Rock your voice on paper,