WRITING WORKSHOP, FERME VILLEFAVARD

 

For years, I wanted to do a creative writing workshop with Natalie Goldberg. I was reading her books and did many of her exercises. This winter, I met her for the first time at a Ryokan workshop in Santa Fe. I was excited to be able to spend one week with her.

Shortly before the workshop started in Villefavard, I heard the sad news that Natalie became seriously sick with chronic lymphotic leukemia and could not come. I was very disappointed. But I went, nevertheless – and did not regret it. She was there – through her students, her structure of the course and her past teaching style.

 

 

Perfomance hall transformed into a Zendo

Perfomance hall transformed into a Zendo

 

Natalie Goldberg was a student from Katagiri Roshi. Many of her ideas come from the practice of Zen. The basics of her workshops are staying in silence, writing and reading with a nonjudgmental mind and getting the monkey mind out of the way. For that, she suggests keeping the pen moving until the specific writing time is over. I love these exercises.

 

My own writing exercise in front of the little Zen garden

My own writing exercise in front of the little Zen garden

 

In the morning, we started with meditation. The evening meditation was in the garden overlooking a lake and a meadow with gazing cows in the distance.

 

 

Meditation in the evening sun

Meditation in the evening sun

 

 

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Street from "La Solitude" to the farm

Street from “La Solitude” to the farm

 

 

Mist over the lake

Mist over the lake

 

 

Early morning

Early morning

 

Writing alone and sharing with the group was an essential part. Sometimes, we made up our own exercises, like reading passages from three different books.

 

 

Rebecca, Jody and I, reading aloud passages of three books

Rebecca, Jody and I, reading aloud passages of three books

 

The workshop contained challenges for me as past emotional difficulties were rising up from the unconscious. At the end of the workshop, I got a severe headache, had a bad cold and felt very weak. I was afraid that I could not continue my pilgrimage. But there was Erica, my “angel”, who helped me on the last seminar day not to give up. Her knowledge as a medical doctor was extremely helpful and she gave me lots of her own herbal medicine.

 

 

My angel Erica

My angel Erica

 

(Kevin S. Moul took all photos for the Natalie Goldberg seminar)