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Defragmenting Ourselves

When I was practicing law and computers were becoming networked, our IT expert insisted we turn off our machines every night. While the computers were sleeping, they were busy defragmenting, which meant pulling back together the pieces of data that had broken apart (at least that was how I understood it.) She said, if I didn’t turn off my personal computer, the whole network threatened to crash.

I think of this when I sit in contemplation. I’ve followed a contemplative practice for years. It has taken me forever, however, to understand how it works for me. What doesn’t work is getting quiet, shutting my eyes, focusing on a candle flame in my mind, or reciting a mantra while I try to let my thoughts drift on by without taking hold of me. No. What works is for me to sit in an active place—porches are great. On a porch, life swirls around me, but no one is watching what I am doing.

Seated there, I take in the world. What I’m seeing, smelling, hearing, feeling. (Tasting is hard, but I’ve done it.) Instead of retreating from the world, I immerse myself in it. Not forming thoughts about it. Just experiencing it.

Contemplative Writing

Last year, I began to tweak this into a contemplative writing practice. I start the same way, but wait for a nudge to write something down. When that happens, I pick up my pen, write no more than 3-4 sentences, then put the pen back down (or lift my fingers from the keyboard.) This is key. The practice isn’t a river of words. It is quiet. A nudge. Quiet. Repeat.

The practice makes me amazingly present. And it defragments me.

CW as Defragmenting

As I sit in this intentional awareness, the parts of me that daily life has scattered slowly, effortlessly glide back into place. My brokenness is healed. I run more smoothly after that.

Doing this practice last night—this is so embarrassing—I suddenly remembered I had outlined, chapter-by-detailed-chapter, a sequel to my homeless mystery Harboring Evil. In my defense, I worked on this story during COVID lockdown, when reality itself slipped into a big black hole. I had an agent I thought would sell Coot’s story, and a sequel seemed appropriate. She didn’t sell it. Her efforts made it impossible to get another agent for the story, and I quietly slipped it in the drawer.

But, in the new 2024, I am submitting an improved version of Harboring Evil to small presses. I thought, I really need a sequel to this. Which I have almost already written. Which I remembered when contemplation began defragmenting me.

The Lord works in mysterious ways, indeed.

A sepia toned harbor with wild winter trees and the Conway snuff factory in the distance.
The harbor that inspired the story that defragmenting returned to me

Contemplative Writing, defragmenting, Harboring Evil, Memphis mystery stories, stories set in Memphis, Wolf River Harbor

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