Brand building through storytelling

Blogging as spiritual practice

A magazine deadline made me do it. I should have been at home with an afghan and Alice Munro, but I braved ice pellets and an a blistering wind to lie on the floor of the under-heated room where a gaggle of earnest souls were learning to meditate. My restless brain all but screamed, “Get me out of here!” Meanwhile my fellow students were blissing out right on schedule. “Oh, wow!” they sighed as we stumbled to our feet. This was back in meditation’s early days, when new adherents meditaters still talked like hippies grooving on acid. At least no one said, “Far fuckin’ out!”

Thirty-odd years later, meditation is mainstream and I still don’t get it. I’ve never had a mantra or a healing crystal. I wish health spas would scrap the wussy New Age Muzak and play me a Schubert impromptu. When someone swears that The Secret has changed her life, I can’t keep the disdain off my face.

You might think I ought to show some respect for spiritual practices. In fact I do follow one. It’s called blogging.

For well over two years now, I’ve been writing here twice a week—sometimes brimming with excitement at what I intend to say, other times doubtful that I’ll dredge up any thoughts or impressions worth sharing. In the early months I worried about running out of ideas. Then I discovered that the very act of showing up, of sitting down at the computer and shaping that first hesitant sentence, has a way of unlocking my word hoard.

I’m not equally sharp in every post, but that’s okay. If you’re serious about yoga, you don’t slack off because you’d rather watch I Love Lucy reruns than drag your rebellious muscles through a round of sun salutations. Any spiritual practice demands a certain rigour, the commitment to go on in the face of distraction and discouragement. What it takes, in short, is faith.

Some people have practical reasons to blog—a product line to sell, a reputation to burnish (oops! guess I should have said “brand”). A tiny and tenacious minority are making hefty sums from their blogs. To be honest, I too once harboured fleeting hopes that showing up here might lead, if not to fame and fortune, then at least to something more tangible than the sweet satisfaction of sharing my latest post with readers who’ll be amused, moved or challenged by whatever occurred to me today. But I had this crazy plan to write about anything and everything that caught my interest, from hats to Hillary Clinton. Perhaps even crazier, I kept circling back to the unsettling matter of mortality. Condolence notes. CemeteriesFriends lost to cancer. Wherever my middle-aged mind needs to roam, my typing fingers attempt to follow.

The branding experts would give me hell for my fanciful and freewheeling ways. Don’t I know that cyber-stars pick one buzz-worthy topic and position themselves as the authority? “You want to own your topic everywhere, cross-linking between all your social sites,” one widely-quoted guru, Dan Schawbel, tells Intelligent Life magazine. “And you have to keep on pushing out content relating to your topic. It’s a marketing machine.” So says a 25-year-old American who’s never been to Europe.

If I were an expert on gardens or food, like some of my blogger friends, I could stick to the branding straight-and-narrow and still be myself online. But since my subject is the gloriously complicated grab-bag known as Life (and Death) in General, I’ll never be an expert. I deal in questions, not answers. I look for meaning in everyday disorder, and trust that what I find will resonate with someone else. The wonder is that it so often does. Thank you for visiting my virtual meditation room.

P.S. Click here to read about where I get ideas for my blog and how I develop them (my answer to the question below from Claudette Sandecki).

P.P.S. Let me introduce you to a few of my favourite bloggers in the Life (and Death) in General camp: Ruth Pennebaker of The Fabulous Geezer Sisters, Tessa Ryan-Lipp of Nuts and Mutton and Jules Torti of Alphabet Soup.


Posted by Rona

Previously posted comments:

Kerry Clare
December 18, 2009 at 6:06PM

You’re one of my most trusted authorities, actually. Thank you for doing what you do.

Jules Torti
December 19, 2009 at 5:05AM

I love Basset’s Allsorts, the Mill Street Mini Brew Pub Seasonal Sampler, mixed nuts, 80s greatest hits compilations, jambalaya and mish-mash grab bags like your blog. It’s the non-decision maker in me that leans towards generalized passion for several things.rnrnAnd thanks to you, blogging has become the beacon of my week too. Glad to camp out with you in the not so black and white “Life (and Death) in General” quarters, Rona.

December 19, 2009 at 5:05AM

Writing is something some of us simply must do. The blog(s) serve as both format and delivery vehicle and occasionally some of us are fortunate to connect as a result.

If that practice and those connections are not spiritual in nature, then I’d best chuck my dictionary, my computer, and call it a day!

I cannot imagine you narrowing your focus arbitrarily or putting any major restrictions on that amazing brain and talent of yours. Please, blog on and don’t change a thing.

claudette sandecki
December 19, 2009 at 7:07AM

Rona, your blog is the only one I follow or enjoy. You always round out your piece, offer some interesting sidelights — such as other authors — and think things through.

So many blogs are mush dished out half cooked and slopping over the edges.

I’ve often wondered how you tackle an article — outline first? map mind? forge ahead and see what develops?

And do you have any systematic way of finding topics to write about?

Please don’t refer me to your articles on how to write. I’ve read them already.

December 19, 2009 at 8:08AM

Ms. Maynard,

My blog is on MySpace and I know exactly what you mean! I tend to rhapsodize about people past and present, things/situations/people I have little or no control over, and the disappointment that comes about as life unfolds around us in ways one never expects.

That is one way of purging the “demons” that daily life deals us and finding solutions to work through grief/heartache/ all emotions and unresolved issues without choking the life out of someone we simply can’t stand. Welcome to Reality 101. Life basically sucks but it has a few great moments thrown in here and there…

December 19, 2009 at 6:06PM

Everyday life can be filled with meaning.
Thanks for helping us to see this.

Rona Maynard
December 20, 2009 at 12:12PM

Thanks for the encouragement, my friends. I blogged here faithfully when hardly anyone was pausing to comment, but it’s a lot more fun when people chime in. Jenefer, glad to see you joining this conversation. Claudette, I’m meditating on your questions—another blog post in the making.

Carol Harrison
December 20, 2009 at 5:05PM

I’m not religous but am spiritual. My spirituality comes in the form of watching the snow come down in thick, beautiful flakes and when the outside looks like a WINTER WONDERLAND. My spirituality comes in the form of glassy looking water and the greenery of the foliage. I love spring when the trees come into full blossom and sometimes I have the privilege of seeing deer and their fawn on the property next to where I live.

Even when I took Pain Management Classes, meditation didn’t work for me…too many emotiona, mental and….psycholgical issues. I wasn’t made aware that to become part of these classes, a patient had to have already had psychiatric counselling. I now see a relational counsellor and she hasn’t yet got around to teaching me meditation except for the three deep breaths, inhalations which I repeart three times, slowly breathing in and slowly breathing out with my mouth pursed. I can feel a definite difference in my brain. I actually feel relaxed.
I listened to the author of The Secret, talk to Ellen DeGeneres, whom I adore and I heard him but didn’t relate to anything he said. SOME of what Deepak Chopra has said within the last week, resonates with me.

I wouldn’t be one of those people EXPECTING you to show respect for spiritual practices, unless of course you believe in a ‘god’. which I don’t. I do not have respect for patriarchal religious despite the millions of people who takes religious beliefs as gospel. That’s not for me. I also don’t believe that religion will make me happier, despite those who believe it would. How can believers presume to talk for me?!

You know Rona, unless I can’t relate to your subject matter, I more often than not, read your Let’s Talk because I often do get something out of it.

I do get a sense of relaxation when I listen to some of my favourite classic composers and classical singers like Sarah Brightman. I love Cannon’s Pachabel or is that the other way around.

I find every day a challenge to survive due to chronic osteoarthritic pain which has affected my lower back and plus, I have piriformis syndrome involving my sciatic nerve. That requies enormous mental and physical energy particularly when I don’t see the sun first thing in the morning. I don’t have ANY faith that my pain will reduce drastically any time in the forseable future. I am really limited physically in what I can do and it’s made me both angry and irritable. I’ve pretty much lost my physical independence.

Geraphobia…the fear of getting older and old. As soon as became 50, my mortality hit me like a ton of bricks and I wanted to live long enough to get to 58 and beyond; my mother had died in her 59 year. Then, I became cancer phobic.

Wherever my middle-aged mind needs to roam, my fingers seem to follow:” That is so me! There’s never any shortage of topics to talk about whether through social media or letters to people I feel, need to know something or when life is unjust. I can write just about anything, atlhough I don’t write for a living nor could I write a book.

Rona….keep on blogging, ’cause personally, I love it. I’ve started a file of my favourite Rona Maynard subjects.

Rona Maynard
December 21, 2009 at 4:04 AM

Carol, I’m honoured to have a special file at your house.

ruth pennebaker
December 21, 2009 at 11:11AM

Thank you, Rona. So glad I’ve met you and Tessa. I love your writing.

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