Writing from Within with Virginia Frances Schwartz

1. Please share what you do in 10-15 words.

I’m an author who uses a spiritually-based approach to writing novels.

2. Why do you do what you do?

I have always been in love with words. Where do they come from? How do we find them? What can we do to enter the flow?

I used to battle with words, forcing my ego to push the work. Slowly, over many years with a yoga and meditation practice, my writing practice began to shift. I realized that we don’t write with only our minds. We write from a deep core of memory and collective unconsciousness. When we use yogic strategies to access the deeper parts of ourselves, we tap into the infinite well that flows within us. When we write from that inner space, we are guided and struggle less.

3.What are you currently fascinated by in your work?

Everything! Flow! Prana! How deep listening, showing up regularly, and growing awareness within the writing process creates a firm foundation. Sacred yogic practices bring prana to the words we write … it’s magnetic and mysterious.

I’m also fascinated by how one day, I may have no answer to an issue in a story I’m writing, but then by meditating, taking a slow walk, or doing dishes mindfully ideas begin to bubble up from the void. By the end of the day or during the next morning, the answers appear in a form I couldn’t have anticipated. That always surprises me.

4. How did you come to your path? Any aha moments or key teachers?

The shift for me was noticing how my monkey mind took me away from being in my own body, preventing me from being able to live out my calling — to write novels for the purpose of healing and releasing my samskaras. A sense of ungroundedness held me hostage. I couldn’t sit still to meditate. My yoga teacher suggested meditation in posture, and that changed everything. It helped me develop enough focus to steer my monkey mind rather than the other way around.

5. What book(s) did you like reading this year?

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders is a Buddhist-themed novel that challenged all my beliefs. It’s full of hysterics, rajas and ultimately, redemption.

6. If you’ve taught at the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat before, what is one surprising thing about the experience for you?

When students come to the workshops at the Yoga Retreat, they’re ready to write and dig deep. This is not necessarily the case with most writers. They procrastinate, lose focus, or turn away from their intentions — usually due to fear, attention deficit, or lack of self worth. But the writers at the ashram sit along the strong backbone of the steady spiritual practice that has been growing in the ashram for decades. This calms and soothes them.

“Writers must have peace at their backs,” says writer Natalie Goldberg. The ashram provides that. There is a sense of total acceptance and support to let go and release the stories embedded in your bones. I observe that the students themselves are surprised at this transformation and bond with the process of writing.

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