This is slightly embarrassing. I was talking this afternoon with a colleague and the topic turned to our various writing projects. We got into the interesting problem of writing about things that aren't linear, which seems to be the case when it comes to writing about energy healing. It also seems to be the case that big flurries of ideas come all at once when you get into these holistic themes and it's hard to do right by trying to write about them in a strictly sequential way.
I mentioned to her that I had a blog entry on the subject of writing about these non-linear topics, way back when I did the series on the "communication task" inherent in having an energy healing practice, and promised to send a link. I went digging and found entries called
. . . but nothing about writing. I don't know why I didn't include it back when it was all about the communication task, so here it is now!
Writing When Your Subject is Holographic (Like Energy Healing):
The Random Access Write-Brain Book-Growing Box
(A Missing Episode in the "Communication Task" Series)
Energy and consciousness can seem to go in all directions at once. As students, we might be studying the energy centers or energy movements in our bodies one day, and the anatomy of the neck on the next, but in reality, we are studying fragments of something a lot more mysterious than energy centers, energy flows and necks. When these subjects are studied as a hologram, anything we touch upon can draw us into a sense of wonder at that mysterious something which connects them. If you want to challenge yourself, try writing about them.
So where do we begin? What are appropriate starting points? Probing with our consciousness into the human energy field, we find we are embedded in a multi-dimensional system that is at once within and without us, encompassing the entire diversity of elements that we humans can link with. Our flesh body and its senses connect us with all that we encounter as “external” to ourselves: the multifarious animal and plant species, land, air, water and weather of the environing earth. Our consciousness carries us into the personal inner world of our emotions, energy movement, sexuality, beliefs, memory, altered states of consciousness, family, karma, love, society, personal history, evolution, thought, religion, spirituality. In our interconnection with others, we relate to the mysteries of culture, family, language, a sense of history. Beyond the confines of the human story, we may encounter the primal movement of spirit. In reality, any beginning point will do, for in the cosmos of human experience, everything is interconnected.
This plays hell with any attempt to write about energywork, or any other truly holographic subject, in a straight-line fashion. When I wrote Energy Healing and A Pilgrim in Your Body, I encountered this challenge routinely. One of my tools for meeting this challenge is what I call my “Random Access Write-Brain Book Growing Box.” This was inspired by a couple of pages in a novel called Lila by Robert Pirsig, who also wrote Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I will try to describe the book-growing box here because it can be a great help in some phases of writing on such slippery subjects as energy and consciousness.
Here were some of the problems I encountered in writing these books:
There was no obvious starting point. Another way of saying it is that was a starting point.
The book’s growth was organic; it grew in all parts at the same time.
I had to find a way to slow down the flurries of ideas and insights that came. It’s one thing to open up and let in everything—that can be inspiring—but here, the project is to write it down so that a reader can come along for the ride.
Robert Pirsig’s Book Box
In the novel, Lila, the protagonist lives in a boat. After an evening of partying on shore, he wakes to find someone else in bed with him, a woman named Lila. As events come back to him, he vaguely remembers that things got a bit wild. As he scans the room around them, he sees his “book box,” a filing box with cards and tabs, teetering perilously on the edge of the sideboard near the bed. In his reflection on how much of the work on the book he was writing would have been ruined if the file box had gotten dumped during their nocturnal wrestling match, he tells about his system for writing. It was basically this:
Accommodate each impulse that comes in about the book by writing down each idea on a card, honoring even the strange and weird but somehow significant-feeling impulses by writing them down on a card, too. (Here, you develop a relevance detector, even if you don’t immediately know what the relevance is.)
Each new idea that seems to have relevance to the book is written down on a card. This lets you change them and re-sequence them.
Insights come. Groups of ideas form. In the course of a month, I might have accumulated fourteen different insights on a subject, let’s say “grounding.” All of these “grounding” cards are grouped together.
Sequencing: Start by picking up two cards, each with one idea on it. Ask yourself, “Which came first?” Pick up a third card and ask the same question. Often, an order or sequence will reveal itself. This gives my fourteen “grounding” insights a chance to reveal their sequence as some ideas turn out to be prior to others.
Enough grouped ideas create a theme, a colony of ideas; these one-sentence insights group into paragraphs, the paragraphs into sub-chapters, and these into chapters.
Other kinds of cards: In order to help this organic process of writing along, Pirsig also invented cards with other functions. These give valuable insight into the process of random-access writing. Here they are, each with a short description:
UNASSIMILATED: new ideas that interrupt what you are doing. They come in spontaneously while you’re doing something else. This is a way of honoring these spontaneous things, but placing them on hold until there is time to do something with them.
PROGRAM: these are your insights that are basically instructions about what to do with all the rest of the cards. One card per instruction.
CRIT: these are the fault-finding thoughts that come in about your project, the nay-sayers. Putting each of these down on a card gives them someplace to be until you are a bit more dispassionate about your writing.
JUNK: These are the cards which seemed to be of very high value when you wrote them down, but now seem terrible. Most of the cards that come into this category will die there, but some will reincarnate. Keep [the number of] JUNK cards as small as possible with out deliberately suppressing it.
TOUGH: These are cards that seem important, but don’t fit into any topic. This category and JUNK are the outsiders, the pariahs of the system—the ideas that tend to get dismissed out of hand. Treat them well.
Using this approach allowed me to grow the book like a crystal. That is to say, it could unfold at any point instead of just at the ends. Of course, the final product has a certain linearity to it, but it came about organically. In the process of grouping the insights together and asking which comes first, a sequence is suggested. Part of the random-access aspect is inherent in the holographic nature of energywork, i.e. the more you go into the energetic, the more the holographic nature of life reveals itself, the more the holographic level of organization becomes apparent.
Once I got the hang of it, and cultivated the discipline of writing one insight per card, the insights would begin to come at a rate of speed slow enough for me to write them down. And it began to take on a life of its own and grow. Then the process had to do with guiding and trimming the pieces into the emerging shape. (You have to be able to recognize the emerging shape.)
Postscript: Since writing this article and writing two books using more or less these ideas from Robert Pirsig to guide the process, I ran across a writing app called "Scrivener," which gives you an elegant, affordable on-screen way of doing what the Book Box does. Highly recommended if you are working on a large idea, trying to get it into writing. Check it out: https://www.literatureandlatte.com/
Good luck with your writing!