Live Virtual Group Session: 6pm EST November 30th 2020

Thirty-six people, including nine first time participants, from Canada, Poland, UK, and US gathered on Zoom to read a prose excerpt of poet/zoologist Diane Ackerman’s The Moon by Whale Light and engage in reflective writing.

After listening to two voices read aloud, participants commented on: the beauty of each sentence, “the miracle of the self” and an “early embodied awareness of mind-body connections”. As a group, we responded to the author’s word choices and phrases: “hand-me-down mammals”, “blood, dream, and electric”, “the shy hooves of a goat”, “all the grander and lesser mayhems of the heart” (“what a great way to sum up what happens in this organ,” someone commented). We thought about what makes us human, and whether we have our origins in hydrogen. We wondered about “location”—where we are when we are in our minds and when “out of one’s”? We marveled at all a mind is able to do: abstract, compare, consider, imagine, project.

Many raised the what felt like the existential question at the center of Ackerman’s text: What is a mind? What is the self? Are we a space? A way of being? The brain is an “infinite, strange organ”, remarked one participant; and yet, another added, our consciousness is “a whole universe”. As with many of our sessions, the text left us with even more questions to explore and pursue beyond our hour together.

We wrote for four minutes to the prompt: Write about simmering.

Three writers read aloud their work and several people generously responded to each. “Simmering” elicited associations to soups and stews and chickpeas cooking and coagulating; to ourselves as “stews” with changes in hormones, the gains and losses due to aging; moods simmering, heating up, and coming to the boiling point; time needed to create visual and culinary art that can be shared. One reader defined simmering as “the precursor to peace”. In this spirit, we hope tonight’s simmering of words and ideas bring you all a peaceful week ahead.

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

Also, we would love to learn more about your experience of these sessions, so if you’re able, please take the time to fill out a follow-up survey of one to two quick questions!

Please join us for our next session Wednesday, December 2nd at 12pm EST, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.

After all, mind is such an odd predicament for matter to get into. I often marvel at how something like hydrogen, the simplest atom, forged in some early chaos of the universe, could lead us into the gorgeous fever of consciousness. If a mind is just a few pounds of blood, dream, and electric, how does it manage to contemplate itself, worry about its soul, do time-and-motion studies, admire the shy hooves of a goat, know that it will die, enjoy all the grander and lesser mayhems of the heart. What is mind that one can be out of one’s? How can a neuron feel compassion? What is a self? Why did automatic, hand-me-down mammals like our ancestors somehow evolve brains with the ability to consider, imagine, project, compare, abstract, think of the future? If our experience of mind is really just a simmering of an easily alterable chemical stew, then what does it mean to know something, to want something, to be?

Diane Ackerman: The Moon by Whale Light: and Other Adventures Among Bats, Penguins, Crocodiles, and Whales (1991)

6 thoughts on “Live Virtual Group Session: 6pm EST November 30th 2020

  1. Julia

    I had to google ” simmering ” definition before writing about it. Should I write this on my prompt?
    On our October NM workshop, I decided that I should embrace English not being my first nor my second language. It is okay not to know every word by heart.
    My head sometimes feels like burning, I feel uncomfortable not knowing a word. Now I ask myself if my head feels simmering?
    The past month at home there were 3 different times when I forgot something simmering:
    the first one during a NM session – the coffee machine melted (I had to google this one too. I knew this word but I forgot it when writing… Maybe physical state change – google again – is not my forte in English?)
    The second time I forgot my tea boiling. Nothing melted. Nor any other state change. No need to google anything this time.
    The third one was today. I forgot water boiling…

    I am now turning a timer on to remember me about something on the stove.

    Also during the NM October Workshop, I googled a word for one piece and the translation wasn’t coherent … I wrote about ocean when the word was mare…
    My mind might be simmering right now hoping google gave me the actual definition this time…!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Simmering~~~

    I sit here in a semi-drowsy state,
    wondering what tomorrow will be like.
    What will my motivations be?
    What are my reasons for being here?
    Shall I press forward with determination and fortitude
    or shall I be reticent and thoughtful,
    a slow-boil?

    This is me,
    always in a quandary of choices.
    I am here to make a difference,
    so now is not the time to be stagnant.

    Living should be a pathway of improvement,
    for each day to be a bit better than the one before.
    Enough of the simmering.
    I am taking the pot off the stove.
    Now is the time for action.
    I am ready
    but the better question might be,
    is the world ready for me?

    Let’s turn up the heat!


  3. Patricia D.

    This stew, with floating cabbage flowers, chunks of chopped potatoes, diced onions, bright carrots, squished garlic, simmering together in a veggie broth awaiting a dash of curry and a touch of cumin promise to bring forward flavour for those with hungry hearts.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. al3793

    Write about simmering

    What keeps simmering in my mind, (or is it in my heart or my soul),
    is how people are messing with the profession that I love.
    You know I don’t feel it in my head where my mind resides although
    I sometimes feel the clench of my jaw in my temple.
    I feel it deep in my chest, in the pit of what would be my soul.
    Is that where my mind resides, or is it my soul or the soul of my profession
    that is simmering?
    How long do I simmer my mind or what’s in it so it doesn’t get lost or lose its flavor,
    get denatured?

    Does blood boil?

    It is difficult to get the temperature right.
    It can get electric sometimes or would a gas stove allow a smoother, more delicate simmer.
    There are so many boxes to click that we can’t see them, our patients.
    I’ve heard many people say, “I am going to see my doctor,”
    and the doctor sees them. Doesn’t he?
    We can’t simmer the software,
    Can we…?


  5. I see there is a number of pots “simmering” on the stove just under the full -boil temperature, so close to boiling over if not carefully watched. What if all these individual pots of liquid were poured into one gigantic pot on the stove, reducing the surface temperature of the liquid just a bit. This one large pot could feed the bodies of many, but yet this joining together to form one, prevents the boiling over of the nourishing broth as it sits on the stove. It becomes a source to be reckoned with, an imposing pot to feed many. But the “cook” in the kitchen must realize this potential, must take advantage of the opportunity.

    The mouths of those waiting to be fed and nourished are just thankful that the broth did not boil over, wasting the nourishing capabilities of this special broth. The broth has been preserved to feed the hungry. And the “cook” is pleased with his efforts.


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