Friday, July 1, 2011

Understanding the writing mommy-mind with guest author Joy E. Held

A few months ago I read 'Writer Wellness' by author Joy E. Held. I agreed with all her advice and was thrilled to see that I was doing it all except for one thing--meditation. So, lately I've been trying to have a more peaceful mind. But it's hard to fit in meditation when I'm working to meet deadlines and I'm caring for my one-year-old daughter.

Enough of my whining, I invite you all to listen to the 'Writer Wellness' expert. Joy E. Held understands the pressure and stress of being a writing mommy because she is one. Take it away Joy with some interesting info on how the mommy-mind and monkey-mind aren't that different.

Meditation takes work. It’s the kind of work that leads to long term benefits. It looks deceivingly simplistic, but all good things are complicated at some point which makes them worth the effort. What is meditation and how can it benefit a busy parent? The simple answer is that a steady meditation practice teaches our minds to focus, and who doesn’t need more mental clarity? I have kids. They are wonderful grown women now who sucked my brains out as children with their energy, activities, desires, and education. I don’t regret a minute of mothering, but I couldn’t have survived it without a basic meditation practice.

“How is meditation difficult?” you ask. “All you do is sit there with your eyes closed. I do that every night once the wine kicks in.” Meditation is not sleeping. Snoring is a sign that our brain is bored and has fallen asleep. This is not meditation. Meditation is CONSCIOUS RELAXATION where thoughts are guided, not controlled or followed, but guided. Huh? We all have this state of thinking that is fondly referred to in meditation circles as “monkey mind.” It’s not that different from “mommy mind” where our minds are racing from responsibility to responsibility. Meditation is taming your monkey mind to keep it from jumping from thought to thought, image to image, and idea to idea. Taming monkey mind is not as easy as cracking a whip or stabbing at the air with a wooden stool (or spoon.) This may cause hungry lions to back down, but it does not scare monkey mind. Monkey mind responds better to kindness and compassion. Monkey mind ceases to chatter and screech and finds a still place to rest if it is fed a steady diet of calmness, reassurance, and love.

What helps tame monkey mind is a mantra which is a simple set of words repeated over and over in the mind to calm your brain, breath, and body. Mantra literally means “mind tool” in the ancient Sanskrit language which is the mother tongue of meditation and yoga. It is always a very simple phrase like “Breath in. Breath out,” that is repeated rhythmically with the movement of the breath and sometimes the body. A mantra is not quite a chant because chanting is a call to order, a statement of purpose, or a dedication. Mantras are always really, really simplistic and tend to feel musical as they are repeated over and over. They aim to produce a hypnotic state of stillness and peace by repeating the chosen phrase over and over until it doesn’t want to be repeated any longer. Yes, I said until the mantra decides it has been said enough. This is one point where the difficulty arises.

It reads like a simple exercise to mentally repeat a phrase until your mind is at rest, but the actual practice is challenging because monkey mind is typically very immature and difficult to appease. With time and practice, just like any normal toddler, monkey mind will learn to quiet down sooner and sooner when it hears the mantra, but it requires practice, practice, practice. One thing toddlers and monkey mind do NOT respond well to is punishment. No spanking, yelling, or time-outs in the corner for monkey mind. It will only mature and become quiet with patience, practice, and love which are exactly the same things we give our children.

So here’s the plan. Sit comfortably with your spine supported and your eyes closed. Yes, you can recline slightly as long as you PROMISE not to fall asleep. Better to sit upright. Begin by allowing monkey mind to chatter away about everything it can possibly think of. When you think the time is right, begin repeating the mantra you have chosen. (See list below.) Anytime monkey mind interrupts your mantra, kindly and gently IGNORE it and return to repeating the mantra. Set a timer so you don’t get frustrated. Start with three minutes once a day and gradually add a minute as you notice the time seems to “fly by.” That’s a signal you’re ready to increase your meditation time.

Simple? Let me know. Be kind to monkey mind and it will be kind to you.

Mantra suggestions:

Breath in…breath out

I breathe in…I breathe out

Peace in…negative out


Okay, I know we didn’t get into how to fit this into the world of being an all consumed parent. That’s for part two. Be sure to sign up and follow Natalie’s blog so you will get a notice about the next installment.

Be well, write well.

Joy E. Held is a wife, mother, teacher, and author. Her book Writer Wellness, A Writer’s Path to Health and Creativity is available from Who Dares Wins Publishing

Visit her blog for more details on journaling, fitness, relaxation, nutrition, and creativity.


Thank you Joy for this great post!

To any of my followers on Twitter and Facebook, I'm sorry I've been MIA this week. I'm currently in NYC for the Romance Writers of America National Conference.

I have launched my official writing website. You can visit it at Thanks to my fabulous brother for doing such a great job. Now I'm sure I'll have some new ideas after this conference :-)

My non-fiction, ‘Caring for Your Special Needs Dog,’ is out. Vets will always be your first resource in pet care, but as owners, we have a lot of power in giving our dog the best possible life. It is currently selling for $2.99 with a percentage going to The Texas A&M Foundation to the benefit of the Neurology Section, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinarian Medicine.

If you want a free book, then check out the 400 Hundred Hours to Four Hundred Days that I'm participating with. Find details in the previous post's announcements.


  1. Hi, Natalie and visitors. Thanks for inviting me today!

  2. Thanks for the information as I have two beasts snoring at my feet right now.

  3. While the "beasts" are snoring is a great time to take a few meditative moments for yourself, which I'm sure you do. Thanks for popping in today!

  4. Bob- I can totally relate to beasts snoring! Or a beast. I can't wait to see my human baby and first baby AKA "dog" baby!

  5. Thank you Joy for this wonderful post!