StoryFlow: Nadia Colburn Shares Her Turning Points and Three Writing Prompts for Fall

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StoryFlow is a series featuring original conversations with Kripalu presenter Lisa Weinert and visionary doctors, writers, yogis, and spiritual leaders about the role of storytelling in their healing and caregiving processes.

Words are powerful medicine. Stories can lift us up and connect us; they can also divide and terrify us. At times, painful, frightening narratives threaten to divide us; yet there are always inspiring stories of heroism and activism to give us hope. As writers and healers, it’s our job to listen and to find ways to use our own voices to help everyone be heard.

This installment of the series features a Q&A with Nadia Colburn, who brings both Western and Eastern philosophy into her personal practice and her teaching of yoga and writing. She holds degrees from Columbia and Harvard Universities, and is the recipient of numerous prizes for her work. A certified Kundalini Yoga teacher and an Order of Interbing aspirant in Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village Tradition, she offers an online course called Align Your Story, which incorporates literature, yoga, and meditation in a personalized writing program.

Was there a particular event that led to your writing practice? Can you be specific about the incident and also any writing practice you adopted as part of your healing process?

There have been three main pivotal points that deeply affected my writing practices, all of which involved the body in some way. The first was becoming a mother, when I was 27. Motherhood made me pay attention to my body and to the sacred in a whole new way, and to the urgency of living in a more peaceful, connected way. I began writing poetry more seriously to express this sense of wonder and also the power of the body.

The second was close to 10 years later, when I started consciously to remember early childhood sexual abuse. In part it was the process of listening to myself through my writing that brought me to remembering the trauma. My own writing—and reading— pointed me in the direction of my own story. And once I could name it, then I needed to re-integrate that story into my own understanding of myself and of my world.

The third came in my early 40s, when I felt healed enough to start not only sharing my story publicly in writing, but also helping other people tell their stories and integrate their stories and writing with other forms of deep listening and healing, including yoga and meditation. That has been deeply rewarding. Writing can often feel solitary, but when we realize that our stories are all part of a web of stories, the creative process becomes even more powerful. In a world so often out of balance, our stories have the power to heal us not only individually, but also collectively.

What conditions do you need around you to be able to truly listen to your inner voice?

I come back to my breath and reconnect with my body, and with the practices and teachers that have taught me to trust that deeper peace and intuition.

Can you share some suggested writing prompts as readers prepare for the fall season?

Before writing, I encourage people to take a deep breath and reconnect with their bodies and the present moment. Here are a few prompts:

  • Write from your body. What body part is calling to you now (choose the first thing that comes to mind)? You might turn the body part into its own character with a voice—and even its own personality or being. 
  • Choose six words completely at random. Write from those six words. Here are six words I have taken at random as examples: magenta, walnut, hammer, porcupine, laughter, wind.
  • Go back to your favorite poem or piece of literature and write after reading.