A Not-Quite-Daily Doorway Writing Prompt
Every few days, a new word will be posted at the top of this post as a daily writing prompt. The description of this practice follows the most recent prompt, and previous prompts are listed at the bottom of the description. Clicking on the photo will also link you to a video also describing this practice.
Not-Quite-Daily Word 11: Contagious
What is contagious in your experience today? We know that COVID-19 is highly contagious, but what else is spreading prolifically in your life now? Likely, you can name both the desirable and the unwanted, moving toward you, around you, within you. How do you protect yourself from the contagions you do not want to catch? How do you increase your exposure to the ones you long to have more of in your life and in the world?
Daily Doorway Prompt: a description of the practice
In his beautiful poem, “The Meaning of Simplicity,” the Greek poet Yannis Ritsos wrote:
Every word is a doorway
to a meeting, one often cancelled,
and that’s when a word is true: when it insists on the meeting.
In this time of COVID-19 with all the necessary precautions around meetings and contact with one another, I appreciate this poem’s clear reminder that we still have so many ways to safely connect with one another — and with the sacred source of life itself — by engaging our human gift of language. Whether it’s in writing or speaking, online or physically but across our social distancing, we are invited to turn to words for connection to one another and to the sacred truths carried in our own hearts.
Early on in my experience of “being safe at home,” I woke up in the middle of the night, processing the events of the day and as I did, a single word rose from all the others with a curious insistence. Spaciousness, was the word. I turned it over and over, wondering why it was there, keeping me awake in the middle of the night.
The next morning, I let that word prompt my morning spiritual practice of writing. And I discovered, within the new confines of pandemic living, I was gaining a more nuanced understanding of spaciousness — of where it could be found and how it could be cultivated even in the smallest of spaces.
Since then, seeking some structure to guide my daily writing through these pandemic times, each day I have ended my morning meditation by waiting for a word to rise out of the silence. Then I let that word prompt my daily morning writing, asking myself what new depth that might word offer me now, or what new understandings of the holy emerge from exploring that word in the context of today’s world and times.
Today, I am beginning to share that practice with you by posting a new word here each day, accompanied by a few brief questions, as a doorway inviting you into your own encounter with the truth of your experience of these times. You don’t have to write much. It could be a single sentence or maybe just a paragraph. If you write just that much each day, you will not only have the gift of a daily pause for reflecting in the midst of so much change; you’ll also leave a record of how you have experienced the extraordinary challenges of this time. It will offer you something to return to in the future, to consider how and where you encountered your own truth and meaning in the face of such a rapidly changing world. I’ll try to post a new prompt each day, but there may be some days when I don’t post or others when I post two. (Life can be like that!)
Previous Daily Words:
Daily Word 1: Spaciousness
Where do you find spaciousness in your life now? In time? In space? In solitude? In relationships Inside or outside? How are you clearing and claiming the space within or around you for something that makes your life sing? How might you live into it?
Daily Word 2: Habits
What habits are you being asked to change? Touching your face, hugging your friends, snuggling with grandchildren…. What new habits are you trying to establish? Staying and working at home, washing your hands often and for a full 20 seconds, visiting by phone and internet…. List the habits you are giving up and the ones you’re beginning. What are you learning about yourself as you do? Which of these changes are ones you hope will continue when the pandemic is lifted? Note: the word habit originally meant “dress” or “attire.” How might you modify the new habits required in these times to suit your own style and identity?
Daily Word 3: Hands
Has your relationship with your hands changed? With all the frequent washing, the denial of handshakes and face touching, of hugging and holding? In the absence of touch from others, have you enlisted your own hands in caressing and soothing your own body — your shoulders, neck and arms, legs and feet, torso and head? What have you learned from your hands in this time?
Daily Word 4: Distance
What connection or affection is strong enough to reach across the distances now protecting us? In theater blocking, the greatest energy between two actors on a stage arises from radical proximity or from expanded distance. What energies are gaining strength in your heart across the social distances now prescribed for our shared well being? As the full moon rises tonight — a Super Moon, no less — what can we learn from the way we feel its tug across a quarter million miles of space?
Daily Word 5: Waking Up
Ever find yourself wishing you would wake up one day and discover this is just a bad dream? Have you been literally waking up in the middle of the night, as I have been, sleeplessly turning over the changes now unfolding and considering what they might mean? What deeper awarenesses, feelings, or understandings are waking up in you as the days pass? What might be waking up in the world around us as we move through this challenging time, and beyond?
Daily Word 6: Home
Home is often known as the place where one’s body settles and relaxes, where we let down our guard and experience comfort and safety. For some, home is the physical place where we sleep and return to after venturing out into the world. For others, by necessity, home is somewhere else — or maybe even a place visited in memory or imagination. Where is home for you, and what are you learning about it as we are advised to “stay safe at home”? If you are sheltering at home, has your understanding of home changed as you do? Has it gotten bigger or smaller, busier or quieter, more safe or more filled with risk? If you are venturing out to provide or support essential services, what does home feel like to you when you return? Are there practices you are using or might yet try engaging, to mark and bless your home as a place of well being and sacred encounter and solace? What does home mean to you now?
Daily Word 7: Breath
What does it mean that this life sustaining rhythm of our bodies is also now the carrier of the virus shutting down our world? The risk — or one might also say the price — of living has always been dying, just as the risk of loving has always been losing our loved ones. The difference in this pandemic time is that the veil has been lifted and the risks — and the gifts too — are more clear. Taking in a deep breath, and letting it out slowly, ask yourself, has your understanding of the gift of each breath been changed by the risks that we share? If this is difficult or frightening to consider, stay with your breath a while longer before you begin to write. Notice, with each slow exhale, where you are supported as you sit and how your slow breathing might begin to settle your body. Notice with each inhale, the gratitude you feel in your body. Then begin your writing.
Daily Word 8: Delicious
Is it my imagination, and maybe it is different for you, but food is especially delicious to me now. Gone the option of daily grocery runs to supply each meal’s whim. In its place, attention rises to taste what is on hand. To savor the second last orange and the pot of lentil soup made from whatever is left in the vegetable drawer. To marvel at the deliciousness of every day — minuscule or large. What have you noticed as delicious in recent days? And how have you savored it?
Daily Word 9: Home
Home is the place where the body settles and relaxes when we return to it. It might be the place where we live, or any other place, including a place in our memory or imagination. During this time of staying safe at home, what are you discovering about home? Has it gotten bigger or smaller, more sheltering or more confining? Is it safe for you — in whatever way you regard safety? Are you staying there, or are you venturing out to provide or receive essential services? Is it a place where your body settles and takes comfort? What does home mean to you today?
Daily Word 10: Kinship
In the irony of the pandemic, some of us must now keep a distance between us and our closest kin while at the same time noticing the giant family tree connecting all of us worldwide by breath and air, and by our shared lineage of risk and exposure, of vulnerability and unknown futures. Who do you regard as your kin or your people, and has that changed in this time of pandemic? ? Whose lives are connected to yours, physically or otherwise? What does kinship mean to you today?