How the ZenPen Process Heals

IMG_20121025_171736Last spring I created a live writing group in my home which I initially called “Writing for Transformation and Personal Growth.” Every Wednesday, four-six of us would gather in my living room for tea, snacks, and writing.

I facilitated the session with writing prompts based on a theme and we’d write, share, and write some more. It was like yoga for writers. The sessions were body-based and process-oriented and had little to do with writing craft and critique (actually, they weren’t about those crafty things at all). In essence, we wrote for an hour and were witnesses to each other. We were mindful, present, willing, open, and aware of our bodies’ messages.

We started and ended each session with three words which represented our body, our mind, and our heart. It was like our writing kata — and these words didn’t have to make sense, though they often did in that magical way words often do. (For example, once my body was peanut, my heart was shards, and my mind was elephant.) This kata is emblematic of the ZenPen process, which is to write from the body. When we write from the body, we are able to reach depths that the mind just won’t allow us to take. Body wisdom is key and so is staying in the present moment.

One of the group members, Lauren, came up with the name “ZenPen” for what we were doing and it resonated — and “ZenPen” was born. (Thank you for your word wizardry, Lauren!) In all, the title is this: “ZenPen: A Process of Body-Based Writing for Healing and Transformation.” Sounds kind of juicy if I say so myself!

I want to share with you some ZenPen writing prompts now and also say that I hope to do more with this concept in the near future — whether in the form of my own book, a live group, or a virtual group. For now, though, here’s an invitation to take yourself into the zen of your writing process. Breathe, write, don’t think, keep writing, listen to your lungs, your feet, your hands, keep writing, keep breathing. Stop. Start again. Go.

“ZenPen” Writing Prompts

BTW, to join the “ZenPen” community on Facebook, do so here:

 1) WritingZen: Expansion

“Thoughts are like burning stars, and ideas, they flood, they stretch the universe.” ― Criss Jami

Write with expansion about expansion. How big and wide can your thoughts and feelings be when you stretch them across the page? Think and write BIG. Stretch yourself — literally and figuratively. How can what you write feel so big, so wide, so expansive that you can’t even contain it?

2) WritingZen: Expectations

What happens when your expectations are not met? What happens in your body when you feel that an experience far exceeds your expectations? Or what do you make of that phrase, “expect the unexpected”? Do you love that idea or does it scare you? Write about this idea of expectation. How do you play with this notion in your life? Ready, set, go…

3) WritingZen: No-Thought Writing Challenge

Try writing without thinking for a few minutes. Get out your journal or open a new WORD document and go for a few minutes. Often this requires that we write very quickly, bypassing the brain’s stop signs. Now, of course we are using our brains, but see if you can feel like YOUR BODY is actually doing more of the writing. How did it go?

4) WritingZen: Humility

Consider this quotation from Confucius: “Humility is the solid foundation of all the Virtues.”

What does humility look like? Feel like? What memories do you have that involve your or another person’s humility? If humility were a color what would it be? An animal? A plant? A season? Write for 5 minutes, 10 minutes. Go.

5) WritingZen: Confidence

“Confidence is not a wilted plant that can be brought back to life with a bit of water. It is a highly flammable object. Doubt sets it aflame and destroys it irreparably.” ― Michèle Halberstadt, The Pianist in the Dark: A Novel

How do you experience confidence? How easily does the feeling arrive? How quickly (or slowly) does it disappear? Does it never disappear? If your confidence were an element, what would it be? What element or color or texture or structure or animal does it want to be?

With writerly, zen-infused love,




About Courtney Putnam

I first came to healing work through art and writing. Creating collage art and poetry in particular allowed me to deeply understand the benefit of self-expression in the healing process. But, I also began to see the benefit of bodywork (manual work in the form of massage and energywork in the form of Reiki) as keys to unlocking the emotional stresses we hold in our bodies. I became a Reiki practitioner in 2002, received an MFA in Creative Writing in 2003, received my massage license in the spring of 2006, and became a Reiki Master in 2010. In my practice I bring together these three areas -- the body, the mind, and the spirit (or energy body) -- so others may experience profound and positive change in their lives.
This entry was posted in creativity, event, healing, inspiration, life events, life lessons, personal growth, spirituality, wisdom, workshop/class, writing, Zen and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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