MINDFULNESS BASED POETRY THERAPY (MBPT)
In 2010 I read a book by Kim Rosen called Saved By A Poem, in which Kim talks about the way poetry healed and made her life whole, not through writing poems or even through reading them, but rather “by taking a poem I love deeply into my life and learning it or speaking it aloud causing a profound integration of every aspect of me – physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. I felt a wholeness I had never before experienced. I felt like I was flying. I was speaking the truth, and the truth was setting me free.”
I have always had a somewhat ambivalent relationship with poetry, even though I had enjoyed reading and studying it at school and University (I think many of us feel this way towards this literary form), but Kim’s ethos really spoke to me, and so I started using some of the practices described in her book, as well as exploring other ways of bringing literature into the realm of therapy and daily life.
This predominantly involved doing a bibliotherapy training with The Reader Organisation and working with them for a few years running therapeutic reading groups in libraries and other settings. I also did a PGCert in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes, but I kept on coming back to the experience of how poetry, learnt and recited when in need or on a daily basis, calmed, settled and revitalised me in ways that creative writing or other mindfulness practices (including formal meditation) didn’t.
Subsequently, with clients who wanted a different route into mindfulness or were interested in having a kind of literary-spiritual experience, or practice, that didn’t require them to adhere to any creeds or deities, I developed my 8 week MBPT course, which I now occasionally teach to groups or interested individuals.
It’s broadly based on the the 8 week MBSR/MBCT course devised by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Mark Williams and Zindel Seagal (among others), but also draws on a number of influences from Kim Rosen’s work, bibliotherapy, and ecotherapy.
I think you would get a lot from engaging with MBPT, if you fall into one (or a combination of) these categories:
1) You have had some counselling or psychotherapy in the past, but feel that its premises and approach is a circular one in which you are able to gain some insight into yourself and your life, but don’t feel that it offers a way for you to engage with broader existential questions, issues that don’t always fall neatly into the forms of enquiry that traditional talking therapy provides.
2) You are drawn in some way to poems and poetry and would like to have some kind of spiritual or mindfulness practice which allows you to engage with yourself through certain poems, both in writing, but also in learning and reciting verse. As with all spiritual/mindfulness practices, the hope and prospect of this approach is one of working towards greater insight into your thoughts and emotions, improvements in attention and concentration, and transformations in your relationship to yourself, others, and the world around you, especially the natural world.
3) You’re agnostic about poetry but intrigued by the premise of poetry being “the most ancient form of prayer: a companion through difficulty; a guide when we are lost; a salve when we are wounded; and a conduit to an inner source of joy, freedom, and insight.”
4) You’re interested in literature and self-exploration broadly speaking, and looking for something that fuses the two together in a way you have not experienced before.
“I, too, dislike poetry,” poet Marianne Moore candidly wrote some 50 years ago, adding an equally candid qualification: “Reading it, however, with a perfect / contempt for it, one discovers in / it, after all, a place for the genuine.”
For “reading it”, replace “learning it” or “reciting it”, and you have a line of verse that perhaps opens a door to MBPT: an authenticity-seeking practice, designed to help us to engage more fully with contempt, love, wonder, and indeed every other emotion or perception that might enliven, even thrill us, but equally challenge and unsettle us in the course of our lives.
Please feel free to get in touch either by email or telephone (07804197605) if you would like some more information about Mindfulness Based Poetry Therapy.