Trust Your Gut



I had been looking forward to this writing retreat for months, so I was indignant to be feeling sick. Was it food poisoning, or a virus? I lay there trying to take some deep breaths, anxious that Leah was working diligently downstairs without me.

We had planned this retreat as a way to spend a few days focusing solely on pounding out some pages. Away from home, uninterrupted by our daily obligations, we were certain we could get closer to finishing our books. Since it wasn’t an option for us to go weeks at a time without seeing anyone, as Dickens had frequently done, a few days would have to do. When we mentioned our plans to a dear friend, she generously offered us her condo in Vermont.

I picked up Leah in the morning and we headed north. The conversation along the winding roads revealed that we had both had a rough week leading up to the retreat. Turns out, a glimpse of the finish line was causing some interesting and unexpected disturbances in our creativity.

We pulled up to the quiet spot and admired the view before settling in and getting some writing done before dinner. We were eager to get a good night’s rest to face the next day of marathon writing. I went to bed with a minor stomach ache, and woke up with full-blown gastrointestinal upset. It was nearly impossible for me to sit at my keyboard and ignore the discomfort.

Lying there in the loft, I examined my thoughts. I looked at them without judgement, which wasn’t easy. Resistance, tension and many excuses were floating around in there, probably settling into the rest of my body. I put on my headphones and listened to some relaxing music, and focused on how grateful I felt to have this time and place to write. I fell asleep for a bit and woke up refreshed. Not only was my mind clear, but my stomach pain was gone.

I returned to the dining table where Leah was writing, absorbed in her work, and joined her quiet progress. We got a lot done that day. Over dinner we talked about how this effort and commitment to get away and focus completely on our books had affected us and our writing. We were amazed by the breakthroughs that seemed to present themselves, one after another. I realized that perhaps Dickens had figured something out: removing all the distractions and obligations leaves little to get in the way. It becomes obvious then, that one’s own bellyaching is the only obstacle to moving forward.

Carolyn and Leah

Writing Exercise: Take a moment before writing to do a body scan: With eyes closed, take a few deep breaths. Starting with the crown of your head, release any tension with your exhale. Move on to your neck, shoulders, arms, etc… All the way to your toes. Tune in to any discomfort and acknowledge it. Opening your eyes, write one sentence about a visible thing you are grateful for, and another sentence about an invisible thing you are grateful for, like a relationship or opportunity you appreciate.

12 comments on “Trust Your Gut

  1. Beautifully written, Carolyn. Vermont is such a special place. We all long for those quiet, uninterrupted moments where we hope to find the words that express what’s in our mind and heart perfectly. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it is a thing of beauty. I enjoy your blog and look forward to your and Leah’s insights.

  2. A writing retreat would be a dream realized for me. However, your story reminds me that no matter how many obstacles are removed, we not only still have our obstacles within, but even unplanned obstacles. I really like your exercise for becoming mentally and physically prepared in order to allow the creativity to flow through. Anyone who wants to write must always find ways to reach that flow, or there will always be something to block us. Thank you very much for sharing.

  3. I loved how you were able to observe your situation with the “belly ache” without getting caught up in it! (That kind of detached mindfulness is something we should all aspire to!) And choosing gratitude over self-pity about your situation was another great example of how we should all choose to live. You so eloquently illustrate the power of the mind over circumstances.
    Beautifully written!

    As Paramahansa Yogananda says, “There are roughly two kinds of people: those who continually lament what is wrong with the world, and those who smile away life’s difficulties and remain always positive in their thinking.”

  4. Thank you. Being ‘away’ made mindfulness more easily attainable than usual for me. Back at home it has been more challenging! The insights we gained from our retreat remain powerful.

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