Updated: Oct 1, 2022
Intuitive (Eco)Writing is the culmination of all my passions put into a blender, juiced up and ready to serve.
Writing has been my passion since puberty when I discovered that my creative expression came through best with words. I pursued prose since and have been a professional writer and writing instructor for decades, receiving my MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College in 2005. I published two books with independent presses, a novella and poetry chapbook, as well as short stories, poems, essays, book reviews, listicles and a few pieces of “real” journalism. I have taught at colleges, writers’ conferences, high schools, camps and more. I have directed writers’ programs, curated readings and coached writers. Basically, if you can make a career out of writing, I’ve tried it all.
Yet concerns about my career surfaced in 2020 at the peak of my success. I was making good money and just published my second book, Gestation, but I felt dissatisfied with my work. I was disenchanted by the publishing world, which required 20 rejections for every publication. The industry that I had spent decades studying and serving, shapeshifted in my perception from a benign conglomerate of book lovers to a devilish social hierarchy. Suddenly, all I could see was a vicious cycle of underpaid published writers teaching novice writers struggling to get noticed by gatekeepers who could publish them in journals that only other writers read. The signs were all there, but I chose to ignore them. I had been so fixated on this singular path for so long, I could not see that it no longer made me happy. I was ready to move on.
But what the hell was I going to do about it? I had encased my entire identity around being a writer. Who was I if I wasn’t a writer? If I stopped being a writer, was I a quitter? Was I giving up? I was holding on tight. I would require a declawing, perhaps a phalanges amputation to convince myself that a writing career was no longer right for me no matter how dissatisfied I felt.
In order to figure out who I was now, I had to become no one, nobody, nothing. I had to try on ambiguity and alienation like an itchy smelly old coat that was the only thing to keep me warm in arctic conditions.
I hid myself in a cocoon where I was deeply supported by my family and a small group of friends. I stopped working for a few months. The pandemic arrived simultaneously to further insulate me. I had to allow for the darkness of this cocoon time, to go deep into the void of mystery and not turn away from myself. It wasn’t pretty.
Inside a chrysalis, a caterpillar eats itself from the inside out. Literally. It uses its own digestive juices to decompose its old physical form, creating new cells called imaginal cells. Imaginal cells can become anything; they are cells in a liminal state of being. They exist in nothingness; they are neither that which they were before nor that which they will become.
The word imaginal is often used in Jungian psychology. The imaginal realm is a place deep within our subconscious where we channel dreams, archetypes, imagery, stories, metaphors and myths. Jung considered the imaginal realm to be the language of the soul or the psyche.
As the imaginal cells of the caterpillar exist in the cocoon, so does personal transformation exist in a dark insulated void, waiting to be dreamed into a butterfly.
My own release from the chrysalis in many ways continues, and as I emerge, I recognize myself more clearly for who I am. I am not a fixed identity easily coined by one phrase that explains my career and therefore answers, “So, what do you do?”
I finally let go of my identity as a writer. I remember the moment clearly in November of 2021, not that long ago really, that I told my therapist I was done being a writer with a capital W, over it, complete, kaput, finished. But writing was still something I loved. I wanted to write for the sake of writing and not for any end goal other than how consistently good it made me feel when I wrote for myself.
Throughout this time, I returned consistently to nature for solace.
This is not unusual for me, of course. I have always had a love of the outdoors. I grew up in the suburbs of New York and lived a typical suburban life. I was fortunate my parents had an acre of unmanicured land and even through the usual tribulations of being a kid and then a teenager, I found myself swinging on an orange hammock, visiting the duck pond at the park, climbing the apple tree, caring for my various pets, and celebrating the annual lilac bloom. In college, I traveled to Israel to work in the orchards on a kibbutz and soon after, I headed west. I officially became “outdoorsy” during my six years living in rural Alaska. In my chosen home state of New Mexico where I've raised my 14 year old daughter, I have gained more joy in nature not just from hiking, rafting, backpacking and snowshoeing but from homesteading, wildcrafting and living off grid.
Yet, during my chrysalis or what I like to call my mid-life transition, nature beckoned me in a whole new way, more like it did in childhood. I was not in nature to get exercise or bag a peak or have an adventure or find an herbal remedy or any of the other reasons I saw nature as a resource for me. I was there for peace. And though I meditated daily as I had for years since becoming certified to teach yoga in 2015, my time in nature felt more mindful than hours on my cushion. I noticed that my nervous system reset itself as it coregulated with the resonance of the plants and sky and mountain and river. A dip in the river, cleared me of thought loops and anxiousness quicker than a hike up the canyon. This was new. This was something different.
It became clear to me that nature was not only medicinal for me, but a direct line to my spirit. Nature was the language of the divine. Nature was the imaginal realm of material existence.
During my time in the cocoon, I also became deeply interested in energy work through meditation and to further my exploration took a course in energy body work and become certified in Reiki 2. Reiki is a hands-on healing technique where the practitioner channels life force energy through their hands to a person who can use it to heal themselves. I also became certified in Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra is a yoga practice of guiding students into a trance like theta state of consciousness where they can allow for deep relaxation and reprogram subconscious patterns.
Last summer, I began teaching Nature Writing classes to local Taosenos, as well as visitors to the community of Taos. I took people on hikes or to the park where I guided them through meditations similar to those I learned through energy work and yoga nidra. We used breathing exercises like I teach in my yoga classes. I stopped teaching about the technical craft of writing. We do not discuss narrative arcs, character development, themes, agency, dialogue, active verbs or outline structures. Nor do we talk about publishing and agents. Instead, I ask people to write from their hearts, to channel the muse from the imaginal realm, to express themselves from a state of embodiment, discarding egos and intellects and audiences. We breathe in the trees and the swamps and the sagebrush and listen to the birds sing and we write about the world all around us that beckons us back to who we truly are. I absolutely loved teaching these classes and connecting with people, often one-on-one. I knew that this was part of my path forward.
I am currently working toward a certification in Forest Therapy through the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides.
As I reemerge into society, I am bringing with me all the tools I accumulated during my chrysalis phase. Combining my knowledge of breath, meditation, energy work and outdoor wilderness experience with my passion for writing, the School of Intuitive (Eco)writing was born. It’s not all that different than what I’m already doing, taking people to the park to write. I am adding virtual classes and asynchronous online classes to my new website as well. There is something in motion here though I am hesitant to call it a business and prefer to name it a project. I like projects.
And so, welcome to my newest project for now for as long as it wants to exist until a new season or another chrysalis begins its weaving.
Intuitive (Eco)Writing consists of three parts. The first part is intuitive. We use guided imagery, breathing, movement and energy work to help us write from our bodily sensations, as well as from our extra-sensory perceptions, but not from our ego. We try to reduce our intellectual effort and write from a channeled and heart-centered space. The second part is nature. Through our writing we are connecting with nature in an entirely new way, being fully present and tuning in to the non-human natural world, deeply listening to what it wants to show us. And the third part is sharing our work with others. Whether you share it with your best friend, your social media circle, publish it on your blog or put it in a book, Intuitive (Eco)Writing wants to be shared. It is most powerful in its raw and only slightly (if at all) edited form where others can read it or hear it and be inspired to seek out their own connection with nature. Hopefully, we can create a ripple effect and help others to understand that we are not separate from nature but an intrinsic part of the ecosystem that needs nurturing.
If this sounds like something that interests you, I invite you to participate in one of my educational offerings either in-person in Taos or my upcoming virtual class that begins in June called It’s Elemental, My Dear, in which each week we explore one of the four elements through writing and meditation.