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  • Writer's pictureHannah Marsh

Allowing It All

“And what will be needed, if the story is going to be good, is: everything, all that you are, even those parts you don’t like or usually exclude.”

Open arms

I was struck by this idea from George Saunders' Story Club.* In this wonderful exercise (here), the Booker Prize-winning author invites us to reflect on our creative influences from childhood until now. What has powerfully affected us? Books, music, people, experiences? He gently nudges us to look past the obvious, the "elevated/literary/cool influences," to the things we may have forgotten or cast aside as unworthy/embarrassing/shameful (i.e. for me: not just Italo Calvino and Philip Glass, but also Archie comics and The Spice Girls). What might happen if we allowed it all?

"The point of this, for me," George Saunders writes, "Is that it might (might) help us bless certain influences that we haven’t allowed to the table yet. But those influences are in us, waiting to be used, and wanting to be used." For me, there's a profound sense of expansion in recognizing these influences; I hadn't realized how much I'd excluded - how much more I have to draw upon than I'd allowed myself.

If you try this exercise, you might start wondering, as I did: what other parts of myself do I cast aside as unworthy/embarrassing/shameful? You might suppress a silly sense of humour, or deny your appetites, or harshly judge your perceived mistakes, or censor your creative expression...or whatever is true for you. For each of us, there are likely ways we don't allow ourselves to be fully who we are - a complicated, imperfect human being.

In our January Mindfulness & Creativity drop-in, rather than resolving to become a better version of ourselves (as per new year's tradition), we'll try an experiment: giving ourselves permission to be just as we are. To allow even what we "don't like or usually exclude." Perhaps this sounds strange, counterintuitive, welcome? We'll get curious, noticing what happens in our mindfulness practices when we set an intention to allow ourselves to be just as we are. We'll be gentle in this process, kindly acknowledging and sending loving-kindness to our whole selves - in all our messy, human glory.


*As you may know, George Saunders is a wise, generous, and acclaimed fiction writer and Buddhist practitioner. He brings a mindful attention, non-judgement, and playfulness to his work. I highly recommend A Swim in a Pond in the Rain and Story Club to anyone interested in writing, reading, and the creative process.


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