Tag Archives: writing workshops

The Power of LIVE Events



Dear Friends, As much as I love teaching via the video, the blog, email, and on social media, there is nothing like a LIVE event to inspire that next level of your creative and spiritual growth. I have two AMAZING  live events coming up. One on the west coast at Asilomar State Beach; “The Yoga of Creativity & Writing” May 5-7 and one on the east coast at The Omega Institute “Writing as a Path to Awakening” May 26-29 in Rhinebeck, New York. I would love to see YOU there!


ASILOMAR: https://www.albertflynndesilver.com/meditation-classes-retreats/yoga-creativity-writing-asilomar/

OMEGA: https://www.eomega.org/workshops/writing-as-a-path-to-awakening-0#-workshop-description-block

Discovering Your Purpose as a Writer

Discovering Your Purpose as a Writer

Every successful writer I know comes to writing with a purpose. It may start as an urge, an interest, and then blossom into a need to communicate your experience of the world. It’s a sincere desire to participate, to join the conversation based on your unique take on the world.

Purpose is critical to your success because if it is overshadowed by doubt and distraction, you will never manifest your writing dreams. You must investigate, cultivate, and nourish your purpose for a lifetime of writing success.

Purpose is the first P derived from my 10 Key Success Principles for Writers. These are foundations, really the ground work, for really establishing a writing practice. Some of you may have already started a practice but have fallen off or have gotten distracted, so it is important to start back at the beginning, which is the number one foundation for successful writers: your purpose.

Why do you write? Why do you want to write? The answer is your purpose. As a writer, what gets you to the page? With a million other activities to engage in, why are you investing your time in being a writer? A little bit of soul searching around these questions will help you tap into what your purpose is.

You must investigate, cultivate, and nurture your purpose throughout your lifetime in order to carry on as a successful writer.

If you’re a little confused about your purpose, that’s fine. It can take some time figuring out what the true essence of your purpose is. What are you most inspired by? What activities bring you the most joy? Spend some time with these questions, jot down thoughts in a journal, and you’ll find the wisdom within you.

Discovering your purpose as a writer is just one of the many things I touch on in my online writing course The Master Class for Successful Writers. If you’re interested in learning more, CLICK HERE to check out the course!

Mindfulness and Writing as a Path to Awakening

Mindfulness and Writing as a Path to Awakening

Mindfulness meditation is perhaps one of the best gems a writer can have in their creative treasure box. Being aware of life and the world around you will shine light onto your ideas and bring insight into your concepts. Great writers tend to think outside the box, but brilliant writers have no box at all. Mindfulness meditation creates conditions for this by providing a space for solitude, self-reflection, and awareness.

Writing itself is a path to awakening. It is a process of utilizing the practice of writing toward further self-awareness, increased emotional intelligence, and overall expansion of consciousness. Writing as a path to awakening is a journey into creativity and exploring one’s sociological, emotional, psychological, and spiritual story for the primary purpose of insight, understanding, further clarifying, and ultimately transcending any limitations it may inspire due to over-identification.

Many of the greatest spiritual teachers from around the world were, and are, writers. From Sappho and Rumi to Pema Chodron, Thomas Merton, Jack Kornfield, and the Dalai Lama — the written word has the power not only to inspire, but also to awaken the very best in the human heart.

There are two easy ways to start incorporating mindfulness and writing as a path to awakening into your daily life. With both of these exercises, get into a space of quiet meditation first by sitting down and taking at least 30 consecutive deep breaths and turning off all distractions.

1. Mindfulness while journaling

Keeping a journal offers many benefits, and one of these is the ability to be mindful on paper about the contents of your daily life. Think about any recent interactions with people and write down the emotions that come up. Jot down descriptive words or any colors that come to mind. Your journal is a space to explore how you felt about a myriad of things, from the argument you had with your spouse that morning to why you like the smell of apples at the farmer’s market.

Being mindful while journaling will allow you to look at aspects of your life from new angles. It will unlock emotions around certain things that you maybe never even knew you even had. Best of all, mindfulness while journaling can help you resolve conflicts and look at situations with renewed gratitude and empathy.

2. Stream of consciousness

Once you have taken your deep breaths and feel as close to having an empty mind as possible, take a pen or pencil and write without stopping for about ten minutes. Don’t pause to think about what you’re writing and don’t take any breaks.

When you’ve finished, look at your writing and underline phrases or words that repeat. Highlight any parts where your handwriting had a dramatic change. Ask yourself what these things represented for you, which themes were present and why, how different parts made you feel, and if any new ideas or insights arose.

You can take this type of writing to the next level by focusing on a mantra or key word or phrase while you are doing the deep breaths before the writing. Try setting an intention and see if that shows up as you jot down your stream of consciousness.

If you’d like to learn more about Writing as a Path to Awakening, there are several workshops throughout the year at different meditation centers. The next one is coming up soon from July 15, 2016 – July 17, 2016. More details here: Writing as a Path to Awakening

The Greatest Writers Retreat

[This is from my Redroom.com blog, that I actually just won a contest for–free admission to the USC  Writers’ Conference–and I can’t go :(]

The greatest writers retreat is into your self, into books you love, into the wildness of nature, into the chaos and beauty of your deepest emotions. As for actual retreats, in the late 1990’s I had the blessing of being a campground host at a remote state park called the Sinkyone Wilderness on the Northern California coast. The folks who had been campground hosts, had been so for years, were super-attached to their position, and it was extremely rare to get the gig. I just happened to luck out and my timing was right when a long-time participant had a family emergency and needed someone to fill the spot. March was not a popular time for anyone to be out there, but for a poet and artist haunted by his past and enchanted by his present, it was perfect!

The following excerpt is from my memoir “Beamish Boy,” which includes a chapter from this extraordinary experience that became the ultimate writer’s “retreat” into my self! Enjoy!


Alone in the Sinkyone


I had never ventured north of Sonoma County and was in awe driving west out of Garberville, California as I passed through a sweet little remnant old-growth redwood forest down by the Eel River, then followed the road out toward Shelter Cove, where it got more and more wiggly, meandering up and down through blond hills and densely forested patches of third-growth redwood and Douglas fir. I continued on through a couple of old settlements that have come and gone over the years. They were just clusters of houses with junk cars strewn about and old, rusty signs advertising a stopover for lunch or gas. Whitethorn is one of these places, once teeming with a tan-bark mill at the turn of the century and then for a while at mid-century, inhabited by Beats and hippies. It now appeared mostly abandoned, except for some back-to-the-land holdouts and pot growers hiding out in old school buses and VW campers being reclaimed by blackberry and wild ivy.

At Whitethorn, the road turned to dirt, met up with the headwaters of the Matole River for a while, then split at Four Corners where there used to be a stage stop and an old hotel. I took a slight right  to head into the Sinkyone Wilderness, named for the native peoples that roamed this wild land for thousands of years before European settlers showed up in the late 1800s. This is known as the Lost Coast, the one section of Highway 1’s coastal route that stymied the engineers. At the Usal Beach Road, Highway 1 gets diverted inland due to the exquisitely rugged terrain and the fact that this is one of the most seismically active areas of California.

I proceeded nervously down the Needle Rock Road into the heart of the Sinkyone, as the road narrowed to one lane and descended more and more steeply. I couldn’t help but notice that I was at the abrupt end of the continent. The land practically breaks off there, with the Pacific thundering a thousand feet below. The Ranger had told me it might be best to leave my car at Four Corners, as there are frequent mudslides, downed trees, and rockfalls throughout the Winter and early Spring. Down I wound, vultures flying below me through the fog and mist while I kept an eye out for elk who were known to trot lazily across the road.

Out my rolled-down window, I heard a redtail hawk shriek and watched him ride a thermal high above a tiny meadow. Lyle Lovett was on the tapedeck singing “If I had a boat, I’d head out on the ocean, and if I had a pony, I’d ride him on that boat, and we could all together head out on that ocean, me up on my pony on my boat . . .”

It took a good thirty minutes going fifteen miles per hour before I finally arrived at an open meadow a hundred feet or so above the sea, and there in the middle of the meadow sat the Needle Rock House. Once a homestead site, it is now a visitor center with an apartment in the back for a campground host. I was that host for the month of March in 1997 and 1998—two of the most magical months of my life. After my first visit in 1994, I had asked the ranger how to get on the list to volunteer. He said there was a three-year waiting list, but that sometimes people have to back out because of personal emergencies. I put my name down and followed up some months later. Sure enough, one of the longtime volunteers had to take care of an ill relative and gave up her slot for March of 1997. I stayed in the humble little Needle Rock House through the dramatic spring weather, sipping tea, reading books, writing poetry, painting, meditating, and hiking every nook and cranny I could find in thirty days’ time. I used to hike up to Chemise Mountain to watch the sunset, or head out to Bear Harbor to explore the rocks and shells. I’d walk the length of the beach (always negotiating the tides) out to Whale Gulch to birdwatch, whalewatch, or otherwise contemplate the great, infinite magic of existence. A poem from that time reads:



Needle Rock Mountain

from the tongue

of four

ravens spill cobalt cloud

shadow paintings

on the sea



The photo self-portrait (the one that ended up in my final show at the Art Institute) epitomizes my experience of being at the Sinkyone. My pale body is caught in a bright shaft of sunlight dancing blurred against the backdrop of a giant charred-black redwood trunk. I appear as an angelic forest sprite, almost lifting off the forest floor, blooming and ascending through a giant bouquet of sword ferns and into light, emerging from the darkness of the world and merging into the light of an eternal, more-awakened self.

When I arrived for my first month-long stay in 1997, the first thing I did was hike down the steep, washed-out bluff to Needle Rock. At the bottom, I was met with the bloated remains of a recently dead elk. The smell was incredible, and I couldn’t help wondering how the animal had wound up there at the base of the cliff. Had it fallen and broken a leg? Had it died of old age? During the month I was there, I visited the carcass almost daily and watched it decay, from distension and bloat to rot and animal scavenge down to the bones and head, which were the only parts left as I packed up in early April to leave.

I was about a week and a half into my stay when the ranger came down one day with the news that I had an important phone call.

It was Etoile. I hadn’t heard from her in years.


“Al, it’s me, Etoile.”


“It’s Etoile, Al, St. Luke’s, remember me? Helloooo!” She said sounding frustrated and serious.

“Holy shit, Etoile, oh my God, how are you?” I said excitedly, with a pang of nostalgia sweeping through my heart.

“I’m okay, but listen . . . I need to tell you. . . I don’t know how to say this, but. . . Raine’s dead.” Silence.


“She died last week in a car wreck in Florida. I thought you’d want to know.”

“Oh my God, I, I, I, I—wow, this is fucked up. What the . . . Jesus . . . I’ve been so out of touch— but I didn’t even know you two were close.”

“Yeah, we became friends when I was in Denver, and then we actually moved back to Connecticut around the same time. I saw her three months ago, before she left for Florida. She got back with an old boyfriend who was doing a lot of drugs, and— I don’t know what exactly happened.”

“I, I, I, I . . .” I couldn’t stop stuttering.

“I know, I’m so sad, Al.” She broke down, which inspired me to burst into tears.

“I’m so sorry, Etoile,” I said, sniffling. “Is there anything I can do from here?” I was at a loss of what else to say.

“Me too,” she said, “me too—I don’t know, maybe you could write to her family, tell them you were a good friend, and tell them what she meant to you.”

I was shocked and devastated, and flooded with reignited guilt. But I set aside all the conflicts and confusion of our past, and did write to Raine’s family with awkward, yet sincere condolences, then went down to the beach and wailed and screamed into the waves.

The ocean didn’t care, my dead elk friend didn’t care, the sky didn’t care, but somehow they all listened, and held me as I lay in the black sand, sobbing. In the days that followed, I made little altars for Raine on the beach. I prayed for her peaceful passage, and I prayed for her forgiveness. I filled my notebooks with a wobbly poetry of grief, regret, death, and rebirth.



We Kiss Ourselves Against This Thorny Mirror


We kiss ourselves against this thorny mirror

face our punctured lips

clean up our deflated kiss                   against

this thorny mirror       begin

again in the name of love . . .


. . . I will beam ecstatic float and drown

and resurface once again against that thorny mirror

upon which we kiss ourselves

release the wounds and embrace the world!



While in the Sinkyone, I kept obsessive notebooks that were not only filled with poems, but also drawings, watercolors, favorite words, journalistic drivel, and various quotes. I had endless amounts of time on my hands. The park was quiet at that time of year, though an occasional local might come by to visit. Otherwise, I just hung out and read, wrote, ate, slept, meditated, and walked or hiked. Thinking back on it now, one day at the Sinkyone was like a month in my current life. A year these days seems to fly by in the span of a single month. Out there in the Sinkyone, each day I was meeting eternity face to face, keeping time by the sun and stars, the shouting waves, and the sound of the singing rain.

The other thing I did a lot of was read. I read five hundred pages of dialogues with the obscure Indian mystic Nisargadatta Maharaj, called I Am That. Twice. I read Lorca’s biography and collected poems forward and backward about twenty-seven times. I read Gertrude Stein until my brain started to burble and seep out my ears, until I would run naked, laughing hysterically, into the meadow, tears of confused joy streaming across my face like frayed silver ribbon. I read Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, lamenting how I had missed the boat on a life of serious Euro-bohemianism. I read books on physics and the origins of the universe, and then a terrific book called An Everyday History of Somewhere, about the history of this most remote stretch of Northern California coastline: the Native Americans, the miners, the loggers, the hippies, and the back-to-the-land pot growers.

All this time of reading, writing, and just being, was heavenly. There was such an intense immediacy to the landscape, and a lack of regular distractions (TV, the computer, socializing, making money). I became emotionally raw and open, clear of mind and filled with an inspired happiness and joy. Around this time, I had begun to ask those great, timeless human questions: Who am I? What is the meaning of life? What is my purpose? These questions enchanted and sometimes haunted me. In a way, I felt as if I was finally living them here in the Sinkyone, in this space of wild simplicity. And yet, like everything, it was temporary. Temporary, with a taste of the eternal.

One evening, I was hiking down Chemise Mountain at sunset when I came around a slight turn in the trail and I found myself on the edge of a steep cliff more than a thousand feet above the ocean. The waves were crashing below with their little foam doilies shifting across the sand and then disappearing—and suddenly facing me, was a huge male elk with a massive rack of antlers. Our eyes met and we stared at each other, frozen in time, suspended in the salt air in a kind of magical embrace, species to species. I don’t know how long we stayed in our embrace, but it was a brilliant sliver of eternity.

At that moment, my heart burst open, and my vision became incredibly clear. The elk finally wandered into the brush and I kept walking, and my surroundings continued to glow—the ocean rushed into my eyes and receded, the redwoods laughed, the clouds breathed in sync with my lungs, the alder leaves shimmered electric green. I started to cry and I didn’t know why, except that I was just overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of this merging experience, by the simple yet profound lack of separation. At that moment, the self I knew as Albert merged into elk and alder, ocean and sky. In that moment, I became awake to the immense presence and infinite beauty of this world, and instantly realized, yes, I am that!