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4 Quick Writing Prompts to Change Your Perspective

Stale thinking can be the destruction of freedom and creativity.  It’s the kind of taking for granted that robs the color out of life.  It takes the dignity out of our pain and overlooks the joy.  So, how do you get breathing room and fresh perspective from concrete thoughts and beliefs?

These are 4 Writing Exercises to Jostle up Your Interpretation on Things.

  1.   Write About 3 Times You Were Wrong about Something:  You don’t need to write a book on this.  Just write 3 short instances of where your view on things wasn’t exactly rock solid.  For example, when were you incorrect about what you thought of another person?  Or, when did you take a path in life (starting a blog?) that you didn’t see coming?
  2. Describe Something in Your Life that is Causing You Stress, and Re-write A Completely Different Interpretation of the Circumstance:  Look, I’m not asking you to change what you believe about your life.  I’m just asking you to have some fun with writing.  You could write two different interpretations if you wanted to.  The first could be sensible and calm, the second could be fantastical and apocalyptic.  The significant other is really the worm king/queen of the Planet Shit and I need to make peace with them to prevent the war of the worlds.  Whatever.
  3. Describe Yourself from the Perspective of Another Person in Your Life:  Or even an inanimate object in the room you’re currently in!  Once again, it doesn’t need to be an anthology.  Just three or four quick lines about the person in your skin as seen from another perspective.
  4. Write the Instructions that God/A Guardian Angel/Aliens would Give You in This Moment:  Take a deep breath.  Direct a question to the unharmed part of you.  “What should I do?”  Mine was, “Stay here.  Have fun.  Relax into the moment.  Experiment.”

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The Devil Lives in You (and Why It’s No Big Deal)

It seems like every group has a name for it.  Christians call it Satan (the Adversary), the Buddhists call it Mara.   My tribe would probably name it conditioning or negative thinking.

I call it The Voice.

External events and the actions of others aside, it is the force inside that drains and causes suffering, that keeps us small and habitual, that keeps us stressed and afraid…and upon recognition, they disappear.  In their wake, a measure of freedom.  So, how do you become aware of this force then?

It’s been said that what hurts us the most in this life is not so much as what happens to us, but how we interpret what has happened to us, what we believe about the situation either present or past.  Belief is a powerful thing, neither positive or negative of its own merit.

Unconscious beliefs, however, seem to be the place where all the boogeymen and demons live, and just like looking under the bed vanishes the boogeyman, so too does recognition of an unconscious belief.

Microcosm of a First-World Problem

Let’s take me in this very moment right now for instance.  I am not comfortable right now.  My breath is shallow and sluggish.  My shoulders are creeping their way up to my ears, and a dull tightness is pressing down between my shoulder blades.

I know how to make myself calm.  Breathing consciously and fully would be a good start, as would relaxing my shoulders.  But belief about my circumstance at this very instant is what is cranking my torso muscles up and in, and with the strokes of my fingertips on this keyboard, I can play around with that belief.

The idea nagging me right now is this…”I must finish this blog post and it must be good, otherwise I’ll be a failure as a writer.  If I’m a failure as a writer, then I’ve betrayed my calling….I have to finish this blog post soon, so I can work on my book before I have to go to sleep, and I must work on my book for at least an hour.”

I can ask myself, are these beliefs a reality?  They’re not.  This blog post can be unadulterated garbage and I will go on to make more blog posts.  Life will go on, and I’m learning as I go.  Do I have to work on my book for an hour?  No, that’s ridiculous, who says?

AA taught me how to examine myself.  They called it inventory.  Byron Katie calls the spotting of negative beliefs or ideas the “inquiry process.”  Anthony De Mello said that awareness brings the end of all suffering.  I’m sitting on my girlfriend’s couch.  I’m doing what I love (writing).  True, my leg muscles do have a certain unsettled electricity in them, but my shoulders are relaxed.

So, I have a challenge for you…right now, look around you.  Physically, look around you.  Take a deep breath.  Now, with pen and paper, or your keyboard, write down something that is causing you stress right now.  Could be something small like my aforementioned  mini-crisis on the couch, or it could be something absolutely devastating.

Write it down.

What is that demon inside you telling you about that sentence, or paragraph, or diatribe that you have just committed to ink?  Play around with it.  See what comes up, and let the experience take you somewhere.  Maybe you can re-write your interpretation of it.  More likely, though, it’s simple recognition gives you a sense of power.  Try it, and comment below!