This writing prompt is adapted from How to Train a Wild Elephant by Jan Chozen Bays. Before I go to bed I often like to read a mindfulness exercise, as something to focus on for the next day. It helps set the stage for a more thoughtful and focused day, and is part of trying to approach life with a sense of practice and presence.
In this particular chapter, Jan Chozen Bays writes, “Become aware of how you define yourself and defend yourself and your personal territory. For example do you see yourself as a Liberal or a Conservative? An East Coast person or West Coast person? How do you defend that position? Notice how quickly a mug, parking place, or seat on the subway becomes “mine,” and how you react when someone else takes it.”
Writing Prompt: Much like the Prism writing prompt, try writing as much as you can on each of these aspects, but instead of placing your story within the confines of these ideas, write openly and freely about how each of these define you/or how you define yourself by them. Try to come up with one example of when one of these concepts were challenged and how you reacted. That is the essence of seeing the play between DEFINING and DEFENDING.
- Geography: the essence of a place, the beliefs of its people, the layout, the shape of the mountains, the quality of the air, the history of the space.
- Race: the way that race has influenced your life, how you have interacted or been interacted with in your life.
- Gender: male or female qualities and traits, tomboys, sissies, beliefs about what it means to be a man, what makes a good woman.
- Class: haves and have-nots, perspective of class, interaction with money.
- Religion: what you can and cannot do, what is moral, what is right or accepted the space spirituality holds, what are dreams made of, where do we go after we die, ghosts.
- Politics: who deserves what, who we are in society, what we believe is just, what we are willing to fight for, what is equitable?
- Culture: were you a cheerleader or a punk rocker? Are you the organizer or the follower? Do you mow your own lawn? Do you read food labels? What are the types of characteristics that define your culture?
- History: is there a story in your family? Did you have to emigrate after Chernobyl or did your relatives leave Ireland during the potato famine? Is there a story of how you were born? How your parents met? Does your family have a motto, or a myth?
For more information on How to Train a Wild Elephant, here is a short excerpt of her book on the Spirituality Practice Blog.