Bernadette Wagner is a Saskatchewan based award winner author and poet, who has used her meditation practice for years to deepen her craft. We sat down with her to find out more about how meditation plays a role in her creative practice and how she brings integrates both together as a teacher of writing and meditation.
*Bernadette is hosting a free Meditation and Writing workshop on meetup July 17th at 11am EST, all are welcome!
How did you discover meditation and when did it become a part of your journey as a writer?
In my 20s, some friends explored Buddhist meditation. But I steered clear. I’d recently left the church I’d grown up in and had no interest in anything that looked like religion. At the same time, a professor encouraged me to continue writing. I did. And in my 30s I attended the Sage Hill Writing Experience and worked with Betsy Warland who taught breathing exercises as a pre-writing activity. I started a micropress, “B Print Editions” when I got home. The next year, after my sister-in-law passed, I signed up for a Healing Through Meditation class with the local Insight Meditation Sangha leader, Dana Anjali, and began a more formal, regular Mindfulness and Meditation practice. I wrote and published a chapbook of poems, “The Lester Poems” in memory of my late sister-in-law.
Not too long after that I had the great privilege of a week-long class with Diane di Prima who had us lying on the floor in a light meditative state, notebook and pen at hand, listening to recordings of Hildegard von Bingen’s music, with instruction to pick up the pen to make a note and to put it down after the thought/idea was on the page. It was remarkable how it allowed a voice I hadn’t used to come forward in my work. My first book was published in 2010.
After a decade of HTM classes, I sensed there was more. And when I signed up for a Level 1 Training In Power class with Mary Hampton, I knew I’d found it! And as I trained, I added tools to my toolbox, tools that help me tune in to me, the world, and the cosmos, tools that have improved my focus immensely, tools that help me work with the issues and emotions writing brings forward for me. My second book was published in 2019. But it wasn’t until I started working on my next manuscript, about uranium, that this practice became absolutely vital to me. Exploring the horrors uranium creates, from extraction to production to transportation to uses to waste storage both enraged and depressed me. I don’t know how I’d have put those words on the page without this practice.
You’ve had many amazing Spiritual teachers, what has been your greatest lesson that you carry with you in your creative practice?
The importance of the breath is, I think, the greatest lesson I carry in my practice. It connects me to myself, to others, to trees, to the universe!
Do you believe meditation makes you a better writer? Does it influence what you write about?
I suppose it depends on how you define “better”! But it has certainly improved my writing practice, my focus, attention to detail, creativity.
As a teacher of both meditation and writing, what is your philosophy?
As a teacher, I believe everyone has the capacity to learn, contribute, and grow — especially me. I learn as much from students as they learn from me. I want my students to know success so I work with them as whole individuals as well as with the group to know it.