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Nessa McCasey

Writing Our Hearts Out
October 2003

by Nessa McCasey

We are very pleased to welcome Nessa McCasey to SoulfulLiving.com as our newest monthly columnist!  Each month, Nessa will offer a poem or short writing, based on SoulfulLiving.com's monthly theme, and will provide techniques for creative expression that you can use to explore the topic yourself.

Can We Write (or Read) Our Way to Serenity?

As I started writing this first column, the topic was so intriguing! And I wanted to say something profound here on SoulfulLiving.com. But instead, a journey began... Who am I? You don't know me at all yet. And what is Poetry Therapy? It seemed to me that some definitions would have to be forthcoming. And yet, I wanted to get to Serenity! Oh, don't I always want to get to Serenity? As if it were a place I can go to and stay forever. If only... If only... And then I sigh.

Sometimes serenity seems to elude us in the physical world--with demands of all sorts around us and the stresses of our fast-paced lives. Sometimes even as our dreams are coming true, we can be faced with challenges that we didn't expect leaving us to wonder, "I thought that now I would be relaxed and enjoying my life!" And then I read the last line of the poem below, one of my favorite poems of all times. It brings me back to reality about the momentary aspect of serenity.

The Peace of Wild Things
by Wendell Berry
When despair in the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my
children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water and the
great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with
forethought of grief.
I come into the presence of
still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting their light.
For a time I rest in the grace of the world
and am free.
(Note: This is copyright material presented for educational/therapeutic purposes only.)

"For a time I rest in the grace of the world and am free." It stops me every time I read this poem, wanting so much to find that place of serenity. It seems that as soon as I come to realize, again (and again and again!) that it is indeed "for a time," something very tense releases in my body. Ahhhhhh. This is always a surrender moment of grace for me.

Now back to the details I said were needed. Who am I? I am a woman of journey, now on a path that is leading to my heart's work. For years, I was afraid of following this inner yearning, and still, there is much inner healing that is happening every day as I walk into this life of mine. I am a woman opening my heart to myself and to the world. As I do this, the most amazing people have been coming into my life, and here I am, after finding SoulfulLiving.com and its creator, Valerie, along the way.

What is Poetry Therapy? It is an Expressive Arts Therapy, and one of the newer ones. Yet it is found in ancient history, too, for poetry and storytelling have been involved with physical, emotional, and spiritual healing throughout the ages. During the last half of the 20th century, Poetry Therapy (also called Bibliotherapy) has become an organized, professional healing art. I am in the process of becoming certified as a poetry therapist, under the personal supervision and direction of an approved mentor through the National Association of Poetry Therapy. You can read more about this profession at their website: www.poetrytherapy.org.

So here we are, beginning a journey of exploring the themes of SoulfulLiving.com through poetry and creative expression. Each month, I will offer a poem or short writing, as well as several avenues that you can use to explore the topic for yourself. I heartily invite you to send me an email (poetnessa@writersofwrongs.com) to share your writing or your insights. Poetry therapy is about personal expression and you might be surprised (or you might not be surprised, after all) how writing can become a wonderful journey to discover yourself!

Here are some suggestions for writing about serenity this month: 

1.  Make a list of things or beings that you love, those that can bring you a sense of well-being and peace.

2.  Drawing from the list above, write your own prescription for bringing about serenity. As in Wendell Berry's poem, "The Peace of Wild Things," write a deluxe, custom-designed recipe that will allow you to "rest in the grace of the world and (be) free."

3.  Choose your favorite lines or phrases and create a mantra for yourself. A mantra is something that you can reach for quickly and is easy to remember. Rewrite the line as you would most like it to read. 

4.  Write your own poem, "The Peace of your name" and start it out with the phrase "When despair in the world grows in me" and express for yourself the remedy that leads you away from that despair and into the blessing of serenity. If you would rather, write a few paragraphs or a journal entry beginning with the same phrase. You have the freedom of creative expression--write it your way and for your own beneficial calm.

Serenity is something that we could continue to journey around in circles without ever finding it. Some days I think that is a spiritual challenge for me to experience again. It is also a spiritual habit or regular exercise that we can do for ourselves, bringing about our own serenity and calm.

"When despair in the world grows in me," I worry a lot before I eventually realize that I have tremendous power to overcome my worry and fear. My power is in myself and I'm grateful for the expressive ways that bring me closer to myself. My own writing does that for me, and I hope that I can teach others to do that for themselves, too.

© Copyright 2003 Nessa McCasey.  All Rights Reserved.

Nessa McCasey
Nessa McCasey,
A former technical editor for NASA, street/performance poet in Denver, corporate writer, single mom, marketing communications specialist, and church music director. She is charting a new path for work and life in the profession of Poetry Therapy serving as a State Representative for the National Association for Poetry Therapy (NAPT) where she facilitates group or individual poetry therapy sessions and presents poetry and writing workshops to jump-start others in their own powers of creative expression. You can reach Nessa at: poetnessa@writersofwrongs.com


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