#1 Live in the Moment
#2 Pay Attention
I’m forever trying to be more present, more in the moment, because research shows that people who regularly practice The Art of Now are happier and healthier. (See previous post.) Small Stones provide a concrete means of measuring progress toward this lofty goal. And paying attention is just something that all writers have to do in order to have something to write about, so these two ideals merge nicely for me.
What are Small Stones?
As explained on Robyn’s website, Writing Our Way Home, and from notes taken from the program I heard her host on BlogTalk Radio, “A small stone is a very short piece of writing, a snippet really, that precisely captures a fully engaged moment.”
There are no strict rules for what makes a piece of writing a small stone, as there are for forms such as haiku or other poetry. And just like with children’s art, the process is much more important than the finished product. “Finding small stones will encourage you to keep your eyes (and ears, nose, mouth, fingers, feelings and mind) open,” declares Fiona.
There are only two steps involved and they seem simpler than they are.
First, notice them.
Second, write them down.
What makes this difficult? For one thing, paying attention is so hard. We’re self-focused much of the time, or in a great hurry to get to our next destination. Who can be bothered with paying attention? But to enter the higher state of mindfulness, we have to observe, to pay attention to our immediate experience. And because paying attention is other-centered, it slows us down and calms us and often become a spiritual experience.
Writing small stones down is a good practice because in writing them they become an expression of praise. And if you love words, recording small stones becomes a play date. You create something very poetic without tons of effort, and more importantly to me, the practice take me away from the electronic world of email, group discussions, blog stats and Facebook. Collecting small stones brings balance into my life because it’s a more satisfying way of connecting with the world.
My goal is to collect at least one small stone per day. Harder than it sounds and I usually do them in bunches and then forget them for a while. For example, I tried this during a run last week which is unfair because there’s nothing that puts me in the moment as much as running. I’m noticing my creaking knee, the stitch in my side, the thudding heart. I’m intensely focused on the present as in, “what time is it now,” and “how many minutes until I can walk again?” But seriously, when I did get in the zone and stopped focusing on ME, I discovered small stones during the predawn jog and it was great fun:
dew winking on and off across the grass
as I move along the jogging path,
white lights on a Christmas tree
A ball of a moon
hangs low in the west,
while in the east
the sky streaks pink
as the sun begins its ascent
Although small stones are often nature-based, they don’t have to be. They can reflect emotion, both good and bad:
new baby sleeping on my chest
wrapped like a burrito
in a blanket of pink and green circles
ringing my doorbell,
I don’t want to do this.
you stayed just long enough
to carve out space in my heart,
I look for you
but you’re not there
Cool, September morn
longs for gas logs
to knock the chill off.
Wasteful, my dad whispers, from the great beyond.
I light them anyway.
Sorry. I got carried away and posted more that I’d planned. That’s how much I love small stones.
Small stones are all around us. We just have to pay attention and have a notebook at hand, or a good memory. We have to remember to look for them, because they’re not something to be created at the end of the day, but rather when we’ve entered the moment.
Collecting small stones will bring you to a place of peace and serenity — a spiritual practice much like being still and listening for the small inner voice.
Try one and post it in the comments section!