We’re celebrating April Poetry Month at the National Association of Memoir Writers–on Zoom—with our guest is Gail Warner, poet, healer, and retreat leader in southern California. Many of us come from poetry and journaling to memoir writing, and I wanted to honor that tradition—imagery, free associations, writing from the body and the heart.
Weaving Myself Awake: Voicing the Sacred Through Poetry is a collection of my poems, each accompanied by a visual representation- photo, blended image, drawing or soul collage. It was not intended to be a memoir, but indeed it is a memoir, voicing awarenesses and discoveries harvested in the past 10 years of my life.
My lifetime work as a therapist and as a retreat facilitator has been to provide a safe place for others to be able to express what is difficult or painful and sometimes what is beautiful and precious and to be witnessed in that expression.
Inquiry has always been a part of my writing practice. In early 2015, I spent 5 days in my own Silent Retreat and my intention was to NAME what was sacred to me. I felt like I had words that were adopted or words that I’d outgrown, but not my own words. I also lacked a confidence in my own expression. I longed to find my own voice, to find words for wonderings at this threshold of aging, honoring a variety of threads coming from my my heart and life experiences.
In this session I would like to focus on how an invitational attitude expands our fixed ideas and infuses our ways of seeing. It is easy to have conditioned, fixed pictures of ourselves and of others. These pictures are familiar and habitual. We automatically operate out of pockets of blindness. When we can accept that reality, but stretch beyond it, endless new possibilities unfold.
Some things that help me move beyond my limited ways are:
- Spending time in silence. I hold my own personal 5 day Silent Retreat each year and also hold that same space for others in a retreat setting.
- Continuing to be gentle toward myself while taking responsibility for the ways I shrink myself.
- Creative expression is a central practice in the midst of inquiry, whether that is painting, collage making, sand tray, or journaling.
- Woven writing— a soup of words and expression that brings forth a collaborative voice is the final path toward broader perspective and grounding.
The INVITATIONS are my offering for today and for your continued exploration:
- Sit with what you might reject in yourself and see if you can listen gently to what you reject.
- Try on new ways of seeing your experience. What is the view from the upper room?
- Experiment with the lying down of each belief. You can let it go or pick it up again.
- Invite tenderizing that often shows up when we allow grief room to be felt.
- Learn to see your own value and appreciate your unique voice.
- Understand that YOU get to decide!
Gail Warner is a poet, psychotherapist and founder of Pine Manor Retreat Center in Southern California. She has journeyed through losses that changed her picture of who she took herself to be. Drawn to expressive psychotherapies from psychodrama, to sand tray, to Bioenergetics (body oriented) to SoulCollage, Gail found expression to be a central part of her own growth and development. She has facilitated retreats for over 40 years and loves offering processes of inquiry and reflection and honor the wisdom of each individual as they share their own journey.
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