Hi! I'm Nadia Colburn—writer, teacher, yogi, activist

On Love, A Poem, A Writing Prompt, & An Announcement

Published 4 months ago • 5 min read

Dear Reader,

I hope this finds you well!

Yesterday was Valentine's Day, so I wanted to send you a note of love and share some thoughts on love–

I also have a poem, a writing prompt, and an announcement about some upcoming classes and events at the bottom of this email :)

On Love

Several years ago, when I came out of a silent retreat, I had a very clear understanding that all the complexities of the world—the knots, the twists and turns, the difficult decisions, the blocks and anguish–were just misunderstandings because our directive as humans is really quite simple: it's to live in love and ensure our actions are all in service of love.

Our celebration and our mourning are in the service of love; our work and our practice are in the service of love.

Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh talks about meditation being like a distilling process: a cloudy cup of apple cider sits, and over time, the particles sink to the bottom, and the liquid becomes clear.

For a little while after that silent retreat, I had that clarity, and there seemed to be a rich, clean simplicity. And then, of course, life rushed in again. And all the noise, the contradictions, and the busyness of our contemporary world swept in. When we read the news, when we look around us, it can feel hard to remember that love is central. And yet, when we get still, we see that the very disorientation and vulnerability of our times are calling us back to what is really important.

And when I use the word, love, I do not mean it in a naive sense. I speak as someone who has made the (ongoing) decision not to see my parents because for me, in that particular relationship, love means boundaries (I've written about this elsewhere). As writers, part of our job is not just to use language, but to understand what language means to us.

What does love mean to you? What is the relationship between the word and the experiences of your own body?

It always seems unfortunate that English doesn't have more words for different forms of love. There is love of the Divine. There is romantic love. There is love for one's children, love for one's friends, and love for the earth.

There is also the distorted coercive experience of domestic violence that some people also call love. And the distorted coercive experience of cults that some people also call love.

When we write, how do we distinguish the different forms of love? How do we write our love for ourselves? How do we write our love for the earth?

I recently read a book called Restoring the Kinship Worldview that maps out the differences between what the authors called the “dominant worldview” and an "indigenous worldview" that they argue has been held by 99% of humans across 99% of cultures and human existence.

Despite all the different forms of indigenous cultures–and there are many varieties (see, for example, The Dawn of Everything, which talks about the diversity of different indigenous cultures)–there were, nevertheless, some underlying principles that most humans held.

And one of them was that humans are in a kinship relationship with the rest of the world and the earth. That we are not superior to animals or to the earth, but rather part of them all. The idea of a hierarchy with humans at the top and the earth, other animals, the waters, and the fire below was not held by the vast majority of human cultures across time.

Similarly, when the authors look at the records of different indigenous cultures across time, almost all of the cultures have a worldview in which the female is considered as powerful, if not more powerful, than the male in their cosmology: sacred female figures preside over the seasons, the cycles, the creative processes, and the skies. It's very unusual for cultures across the span of human existence to have a hierarchical single male God.

What does this mean for us? I don’t mean to suggest a hierarchy of religions or worldviews, but I do believe that part of our work as writers is to find the worldviews, the stories, that resonate for us. And for me, as I sort through what I think and feel about love, I find myself coming out of hierarchical thinking and moving towards an even more expansive understanding of our interconnectedness and a commitment to cultivating caring, respectful relationships.

For me, this is deep, important personal work and it's also my work as a writer. As my world view shifts, my writing shifts.

I just came back from AWP, a large writers' conference, which was wonderful in its own way. But I noticed that most of the conversations were only about what happens on the page and in the classroom. And my interest is almost always how we can bring our life experience, which is so much bigger than the page, to the page, and then have that experience of writing, in which we come to greater understanding and reclaiming, ripple out beyond the page and move us to take even greater action in our own lives. I believe being a writer means being called to a vision of connection.

Below I share a short poem as well as a writing prompt on this topic. But first, I wanted to let you know:

Upcoming Class

I’m going to be teaching my Align Your Story for Women class this spring, starting in late March and unfolding over 12 weeks. This is a holistic writing class to connect mind, body, and spirit. Come out of blocks, write your best work, and fall in love with your creative voice! The course will guide you into greater connection with yourself, your writing, and your life. If you might want to take it, you can join the waitlist here.

I’ll also be offering a FREE 60-minute Seminar to give you a little taste of the Align Your Story experience and also to offer something free to those who might not be able to take the whole class. I’ll announce the date soon.

A Poem

Here’s a poem from I Say the Sky. This poem is short and, in one measure of time, it took me only a few minutes to write. But in another measure, it took me decades to get to the writing of this poem and to the simple love it expressed…In the poem, the everyday sparrows that sing in the bushes of my neighborhood in Cambridge are my muses–and siblings.

Outside the Sparrows Are Awake

and all the complications in my heart:

I, who did not know how to love

my own body, who mistook

the world for a task. Listen:

one voice and then another

amid the rustling of the leaves.

A Writing Prompt

Reflect on one form of love, and then reflect on a different form love can take—and then others. What do those different forms of love feel like? Where do you feel them in your body? Do you want to rename any of those forms?
Write whatever comes to mind without judgment.
Remember, you can always go back and edit later.
Enjoy the process.

with so much love for you and deep gratitude for this community,

PS: Check out my upcoming events and readings here! I’ll be back in the Boston area soon and have a number of events lined up this spring. I’d love to see you!

PPS: Learn more about Align Your Story for Women, which I’ll be teaching this spring, and join the course’s waitlist here.

Hi! I'm Nadia Colburn—writer, teacher, yogi, activist

Author of The High Shelf and founder of Align Your Story writing school.

At Align Your Story Writing School, we bring traditional literary and creative writing studies together with mindfulness, embodied practices, and social and environmental engagement. Join a community of over 25,000 other mindful writers. Get the tools and community to write your best work.

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