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Archive for January, 2010

Iceberg Tips

I gave a presentation about alternate handwriting to a communications class at a university several months ago. I noticed that most of the students were trying the writing while I was talking, although I didn’t give them any guidance or helpful hints. Their instructor had said that none of them considered themselves creative — such a sad thing for 20-year-olds to believe — and asked that I tell them about how AH can tap into their innate creativity.

After the class a young man asked me earnestly whether this practice was like a Ouija board. Without giving him much time to explain, I smiled and said that no, it’s not magic. It’s grounded in ourselves.

So a couple of weeks later I spoke to a group of adults who were in transition between jobs and careers. I mentioned the story about the Ouija board and got some laughs. Then after they’d tried the writing, a software engineer mused, “You know, it sort of is like a Ouija board.” At my quizzical look he added, “It almost feels like it’s coming from somewhere else.”

He was right on more than one level (and so was the poor college student: my apologies!) The feel is quite different than dominant handwriting. In this is passive, meditative process, you watch your alternate hand form shapes, which is what your right brain “sees.” Not letters, which are labels that come from the left brain. More like designs. The fact that we get a written record of helpful guidance is what sets AH apart from other forms of meditation.

On a deeper level, although it’s grounded in ourselves, alternate handwriting allows us to tap into something that’s… bigger than the person doing the writing. Many times I feel that it’s more than just me responding. Not magic or ghostly: wiser and kinder. I’ve heard the same thing from clients and students. Remember Lindsey? From Why I Love this Work (posted 9.16.09):

I finally feel like I have a relationship with a loving being. My earlier ones were painful and abusive, including the one with myself. Now I feel unconditional support and love.

Including the one with myself. Alternate handwriting allows us to be one with ourselves. As immense a gift as that is, it’s the tip of the iceberg. If we truly open to it, AH allows us to be one with something much greater than ourselves.

[Note: the final chapter of the story about Gerry and Mattie is posted in Pages.]

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The Child Within

I’ve written about how alternate handwriting can bring up childhood memories. I think it’s time to talk about how it also allows the writer to directly tap into their inner child, or as Daniel Pink says in A Whole New Mind, to pick up my inner child from the day care of my subconscious. I can almost see eyes rolling in skepticism, and not long ago my eyes would have been doing the same thing. That’s before Little Betty called my brother by a nickname we hadn’t used in 40-plus years. As I wrote the name I heard myself say, whoa.

When they first try alternate handwriting, many people say it looks childish. (Although a few say it looks like an old person’s — see Old Ladies and Little Kids, posted 10.29.09) Sometimes, this leads them instinctively to writing to their younger selves.

Remember Sharon from Wise Questions (11.20.09)? In her notebook were pictures drawn by her inner child. There were also conversations with her. She calls herself Sissy, Sharon’s childhood nickname. Sissy wrote that she didn’t like being yelled at and wondered what she’d done wrong. Sharon reassured her that she hadn’t done anything wrong and that she was perfectly loveable. She told me later that she felt soothed after this writing.

The process is the same: you write a question to your younger self with your dominant hand and let her or him respond with your alternate one. Here’s one of my conversations. I’ll note that I’d had ‘pernicious insomnia’ for seven years when I wrote this.

Dominant Hand: I’m back! I have questions! Who are you?

Alternate Hand: Betty

DH: How do you feel?

AH: Busy.

DH: Why are you busy?

AH: Playing with toys & friends. Going to kindergarden.

DH: Do you feel too busy? Are you tired? Do you want to rest?

AH: I like naps

DH: Me, too! Do you know why I can’t sleep?

AH: I can sleep. Easy. Are you afraid to sleep?

DH: I don’t know. Something wakes me up.

AH: Something scary?

DH: I don’t think so. What would be scary to you, enough to keep you awake?

AH: Going to hospital to get shots. Getting lost or left behind.

DH: I won’t let you get lost or left behind. Sometimes we need shots but they’re not as bad as they used to be. Still not fun! Do you feel like I ignore you & leave you out?

AH: You remember me.

DH: Do you want to feel more included/part of me?

AH: I am when you let me write. I’m not mad at you. I’m always here.

I noticed that the handwriting was much more childlike than my usual alternate writing. I have stories to tell about getting shots and being left behind. I laughed when she wrote that she liked naps. I took two naps a day until I started kindergarden. As for being afraid to sleep: pretty perceptive question.

I felt reassured by this conversation, especially when she said I remember her and that she’s always with me. And I realize that she is me. It’s just so cool to talk to her directly.

For those of you keeping up with the Gerry and Mattie story, I’ve posted Part 6 in Pages.

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“People do not die for us immediately, but remain bathed in a sort of aura of life which bears no relation to true immortality, but through which they continue to occupy our thoughts in the same way as when they were alive. It is as though they were traveling abroad.”

~ Marcel Proust

I’ve just posted Part 5 of the story about Gerry and Mattie in Pages. A friend had emailed me about the sadness of the story and I’m afraid this chapter begins with tears. Hang in there, though: it perks up.

I don’t remember where I came across this Proust quote, but it’s timely because this has been a season of loss for several friends. Two lost their mothers, one lost his wife, another’s father is near death and another lost her 14-year old dog.

It might seem odd to group those together, but I know how hard it is to lose a dog. I’ve done it five times, and each time I wonder how I can possibly survive the pain. A friend who could no longer keep her dog said it was like giving a child away.

But to lose a parent or dear friend…They continue to occupy our thoughts. My mother’s friend Gerry wrote in her first letter to me, “I find myself hearing something funny or a bit of news I think she’d like to hear and find myself going to the phone ‘to tell Florence.'” I remember nodding when I read that: I found myself doing the same thing.

And although in a way it reopens the wound of grief, in another this aura of life is soothing. During that instant between thinking about them and then remembering the loss, they’re alive for us. In the almost surreal time after the death of someone we loved, those instants are like gifts.

Some say that they are gifts, that the one who died is reaching out to help. I don’t suppose there’s a way to know whether that’s true. All I know is that for me these occupations of thought gradually stopped and I was left with the task of slowly adjusting to a new reality. And eventually I could remember with fondness and take joy from the remembrances.

So to my own dear friends, and to anyone reading this who is going through the pain of recent  loss, perhaps you can be soothed by this idea of traveling abroad. I hope so.

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