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Zen Writing Retreat with Livi Michael and Julian Daizan Skinner
The purpose of the flow is to keep on flowing, not looking for a peak or utopia but staying in the flow. It is not a moving up but a continuous flowing; you move up to keep the flow going. There is no possible reason for climbing except the climbing itself; it is a self-communication.
― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
This is a new retreat aimed at developing the links between creative writing, reading and meditation, self-communication and flow. We will be studying a classic text from the Zen tradition, The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Matsuo Basho in order to explore our own responses to it and to the theme of journey.
Matsuo Basho (1644-94) was the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan. He made a living as a teacher, but avoided literary and courtly circles in favour of travelling throughout Japan. Towards the end of his life, in 1689, he made a 150 day journey to the northern provinces of Honshu covering a distance of approximately 2,400 km. He wrote his masterpiece, The Narrow Road to the Deep North about this journey, which became a classic text. The first edition was published posthumously in 1702.
We will use this text as a way of contemplating our own experiences of travel and journey, in the inner or outer sense of the words. The course will consist of guided meditations, yoga and dharma talks, combined with group reading and writing sessions and individual tutorials. It is hoped that you will explore different ways of approaching your own experiences in writing, gain a deeper sense of the resonances between your own experiences and Basho’s work, and of the connections between meditation and creativity.
This retreat is suitable for anyone interested in developing or beginning a practice of writing, and investigating a spiritual approach to their practice. No previous experience necessary.
An excellent resource to go with this retreat is the Write Practice course developed by Livi and Daizan, available from our online shop here. But there’s no requirement to have done it or signed up to it before coming on this retreat.
Livi Michael has over 30 years’ experience of writing, and teaching creative writing. She has published novels for adults, young adults and children which have won or been nominated for various awards, including the Faber Prize, the John Steinbeck Award, the Nestle prize, and the Blue Peter Summer Read. Her middle grade novel The Whispering Road was Borders book of the Month throughout the US in June 2005 and is featured on the Read Manchester Map created by the literacy trust. Her short stories have been published in several magazines and anthologies, and her first play, Singers not Sinners, was performed at the Millgate Arts Centre, and St Mary’s Parish Church, Oldham in 2022. Her 20th novel, Reservoir, was published in March 2023.
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