For months, I kept a list of keywords and imagined titles for this blog. For months, I ran possible names by friends and family, who responded with “nope,” “eugh,” and “huh?”
Then, casually and unsurprisingly, my friend and frequent co-author Rasha Diab said, “Beth, your blog is heart-head-hands. That’s your thing.”
I guess this exercise—this linking of feeling with thinking with acting—is “my thing.” Often in classes and workshops, I use the contemplative writing practice that this blog’s name draws on. Simply, I ask:
- Heart: What are you feeling?
- Head: What are you thinking?
- Hands: What are you going to do?
The day following Trump’s election in the United States, my students and I shared reflections: some focused on emotions (heart), others shared thoughts (head), and still others related action plans (hands). As a white woman, I shared my own embodied responses—including tight chest, aching muscles, and exhaustion—and my intended actions: “I must write, write, write! Stand tall in my truth, and speak out/up more confidently, courageously, even when afraid.”
I appreciate this exercise because it communicates the connectedness of our emotions, thoughts, and actions. It recognizes and values embodied knowledge. It helps us put into words what we implicitly know, but often have trouble talking about. And it holds us accountable to our commitments as we write and speak aloud the work we’re called to do.
Though there are many versions of this exercise (especially for K-12 contexts), I first learned of this contemplative practice from Michele Eodice, who suggested we use it in a research methods workshop. (Michele, thank you for the ways you’ve modeled for me both contemplative pedagogy and the valuing of embodied response.) The exercise has stayed with me, has become part of my teaching repertoire, and now provides the structure for this blog.
I invite you to join me by following posts that bring together embodied experience, emotional responses, and self-care (heart); ongoing research and active reflections (head); and attempts at everyday activism, which includes the writing of this blog (hands).
This post is written by Beth Godbee for Heart-Head-Hands.com. Please consider liking this blog on FB and following the blog via email. Thanks!
Hi Beth, this is Emily from the Writing Center those years ago–perhaps you remember me? I am now working in Child Ministry at a church, and I was interested in the contemplative approach you mention in your blog post, focusing on heart, head, and hands. You mentioned there are several variations for children in k-12 grade. Do you know some keywords or key people I could look up to start learning more? This kind of mindful approach is exactly what I want to nurture in my students. I want them to notice things around them, feel things in their heart, reflect on what that means to them, and think of how to act for positive change in our world.
This blog is truly inspiring. THANK YOU for speaking out so openly and honestly. As a white woman, I can relate to much of what you have said here already. I look forward to journeying with you! Take care.
Thanks, Emily, for your comment and the update on your work. Of course I remember you! I hope you’re well!
In terms of locating contemplative writing practices for your work with young people, you might do google searches around “contemplative pedagogy,” “contemplative writing,” and “contemplative teaching practices.” I’ve connected with and learned from the Center for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education. Many of their practices can be adapted for younger folks. You could also google “heart, head, hands” with words like “teaching,” “writing,” and “practices” (there’s SO much online). I’ll also say that I’m hoping in the next years to develop more materials and to offer workshops and consultations, so perhaps we’ll find a way to connect in-person around this work?
Sending good wishes. May we learn and work together. ~ Beth