This question always has an answer. Used as a writing prompt, it's as simple as they come. It can also be powerfully illuminating.
The key to squeezing the juice out of this one is consistency. Ask it often and answer it thoroughly. Write in a stream of consciousness. Your hunger, your backache, your desire to be doing something else entirely, your scepticism about this exercise, lay it all on the page. Be willing to do this and you might be amazed where it takes you.
You can use yourself as the subject matter. You can apply the question to characters, to really find the heart and soul of them. You could even forego the writing completely and meditate on the question.
When you're sitting in front of a blank page and want to drop into a flow, begin your sentence with:
'In this moment I am feeling....' or 'Right now I am experiencing...'
Find out how those sentences want to finish themselves and where they take you. Play around with the exact wording to find out what opens you up.
The Soul Scripting process involves a lot of stream of consciousness writing and I invite people to bring mindfulness to the process. This means to purposefully pay attention to how you feel and what you experience as you write. When you do this, you'll notice that there's a difference between coming to the end of an idea and finding your pen come to an abrupt halt mid flow. The first feels satisfying. The second usually signifies a block.
Perhaps your mind it somewhere else. Maybe you've penned your way into a subject that you have some reticence to explore. Either way, you can use this question to find out, turn that block into inspiration and learn something new about yourself or your character (this prompt works just as well when you apply it to a character instead of yourself). Here, you can use the question in two ways:
1. Take a moment's pause to notice the feelings and other sensations in your body and mind, then begin writing again, starting your sentence with 'In this moment I am feeling/experiencing...'
2. Have a conversation with yourself. Write down the question in words that you would use to vocalise it to someone else. That might be 'What's going on for you?' or 'How are you feeling?' then don't leave yourself hanging; answer the question. Imagine a friend just asked you in conversation and write the answer as quickly as you would speak it if they had. In a conversation you don't pause to find the perfect grammar. You may even say 'Er, um, I'm not sure you know,' and it's ok to write those words here too. It's ok not to know at first. Just. Keep. Writing. Whatever your experience is, it's valid. Write it. 'I feel frozen. I don't know what to write next. This is making me uncomfortable. I'm going to go and put the kettle on.' All great. Now keep going and it gets really interesting.
As you write your answer to the initial question, look out for new places to ask it again. These openings will provide opportunity to dig deeper into your experience, or the experience of your character, and this is when things get really interesting.
Here's an example:
What am I experiencing in this moment?
All I can focus on is the fact that my belly feels full because I just ate a huge bowl of food that I made to distract me from the fact that I had a deadline.
How do you feel now, as you reflect on that?
I feel guilty that I wasted half an hour making food when I wasn't even hungry.
What are you experiencing in this moment? What does 'guilty' feel like?
I have this kind of low level headache – a tension across my forehead – and then the feeling in my belly. That full feeling is really present for me and that's what guilt feels like to me. I've always had this kind of messed up relationship with food, so now the feeling of satiated satisfaction is almost directly associated with guilt for me. That doesn't feel good to admit but it does feel true and familiar. It brings memories to mind of plenty of other times when I felt this way. Now I'm angry as well. That's the headache. Can't I just enjoy a sandwich?
What does it feel like to consider enjoying a sandwich?
And so the contemplation could go on in this way.
Narrow your answers to focus on the physical sensations of the body as often as you can and watch them naturally expand again, like breath:
I feel guilty.
Guilty feels like a full stomach.
That full stomach is so familiar to me that now there are a hundred stories in my head of times when I've felt this before.
Since you're old enough to be writing in this way your body is old enough to have stored all kinds of memories. A sensation in the body can operate like a familiar scent, opening up avenues that you didn't even know where there. It can be expansive, transformative, hugely creative and challenging, so be sure to take care of yourself as you walk this path even if you are writing about fictional characters.
As in the above example, this line of questioning can lead you to explore some uncomfortable places. It is super important, therefore, to be kind to yourself. Explore only what you want to explore. If your experience becomes too intense, stop.
If you do go somewhere that feels a bit sore or sticky, pause from time to time and read your words back. As you do, imagine they are the words of someone you love. If this person wasn't you, if I was a friend or family member experiencing these things, what would you say to them? See if you can extend the same kindness to yourself.
You could also, from time to time, drop in the question, 'What is this person asking for?' or 'What does this person need?' and, when you answer, be kind.
Compassion is an inherent part of mindfulness. It can be illuminating, interesting and transformative to pay this level of attention to ourselves but it can also get raw, so self-exploration of this type is best done with a compassionate companion. Before you begin, decide to be that voice within yourself.
This exercise can be applied in a slightly different way in order to get you off a train of thought that you don't want to be on. At any time, you can orientate yourself by noticing your experience in context of your surroundings.
This can be a useful way to bring you back from whatever journey you were on:
List five things you can see, four things you can touch, two things you can hear and one thing you can smell. You're back in the room.
Last but not least, anytime it feels good to do so, pause and ground yourself in gratitude by listing three – five things your grateful for. Never underestimate the power of a simple practice to 'change your mind'.
Let me know how you get on.