Writing as a Spiritual Practice

Write from the heart with author and Zen teacher, Sallie Tisdale.

Take up the path of a writer

This class is about writing as a spiritual practice, and that means two things.

Firstly, we learn to write from the place in which spiritual work happens. That means cultivating an attitude of open heartedness, curiosity, wonder, and fearlessness. This class includes exercises to help you cultivate those qualities.

Secondly, we create work expressing those qualities. Human beings have always found ways to express the path of seeking and wonder. This class includes a number of examples of spiritual expression and prompts for creating your own.

Writing as a Spiritual Practice is available now.

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Scholarships are available should you need support to access this course. Apply here.

Sallie Tisdale smiling.

Meet Sallie Tisdale

I am the author of ten books, most recently The Lie About the Truck. My earlier books include Talk Dirty to Me and Advice for Future Corpses (and Those Who Love Them). I published a collection of essays, Violation, in 2015. My work has appeared in Harper’s, Antioch Review, Conjunctions, Threepenny Review, The New Yorker, and Tricycle, among other journals. I also teach at Dharma Rain Zen Center in Portland, Oregon.

A young woman writing in a notebook

Progress at your own pace

This easy-to-use course comprises of six units that form a program of inspiration, instruction, and writing exercises.

Each unit contains around 15-20 minutes of material to guide your personal writing practice.

You are free to progress at your own pace, and will retain ongoing access to the material.

All audio and written material is available for download, so you can progress offline if you wish.


Colorful paintbrushes
Bring creativity to your path

Writing as a spiritual practice means expression that is both humble and unafraid, honest and intimate, and it confronts deep questions and celebrates fragile beauties.

Close up of a pencil.
Overcome self-censorship

We inherit censoring voices. From a very early age, we are taught to speak in particular ways, not to say certain things, not to talk about particular feelings. Writing can be an act of liberation.

A Buddhist inscription on a temple at Angkor Wat
Find inspiration in great spiritual works

Throughout this course, you will hear examples of spiritual writing that have inspired and delighted people through the ages. We, too, can emulate these visionary writers.

A young woman writing in a notebook
Seek wholeness in self-expression

Spiritual writing can be therapeutic, healing, angry, grief-stricken, grateful, reverent. There is joy in allowing our emotions to surface on the page. This is also a journey of self-knowledge.

A coffee cup next to fairy lights and a notebook with flowers between the pages
Make time for writing

This course is carefully crafted to ensure you have the time you need to write. Each session is a protected space in which you can explore your inspiration.

A young man writing in a notebook
Share your creativity with like-minded people

Enter an online community of spiritual writers motivating each other and celebrating each other's work.


Praise for Writing as a Spiritual Practice

The fascinating insights into energy and creativity and how these and so many more are intertwined with what we are as beings. The quest to find that 'place' from which to allow good, clear, strong and meaningful words has no simple answer. This course knocked on many inner doors for me.
Excellent gentle coaching on how to improve your writing skills as well as get out of your own way so that you can open up yourself to writing.
This course is a great spark to ignite the writing fire within.

Praise for Sallie Tisdale's writing tuition

Sallie Tisdale is simply one of the best teachers of writing you will ever find, and those gifts of mind and heart that make her so are what also give her deep insights into the spiritual roots of creativity. Generous, thoughtful, and holistic, Tisdale makes her classes fun with creative assignments and inspiring readings. As a working writer, to this day I refer to the intuitive yet practical writing process she teaches.

Meisha Rosenberg, writer specializing in the arts and culture.

How the Journey Unfolds

Unit 1 | Facing Fears: How We Limit Our Expression

In this unit, we will talk about what limits our ability to express ourselves in language. My goals are for you to understand linguistic priming, identify a few of your own blocks, and practice writing freely around your own internal obstacles.

Unit 2 | Repetition and Echo: Experiencing Language as New

We will explore the tradition of creation stories as a shared community vision, and the uses of repetition and echo. This is a very important part of creative expression, but also spiritual work. We repeat, we echo, and we repeat again.

We are going to think about our own creation story. Every culture has at least one, and sometimes several creation stories. Such stories describe not only how the larger world came into being, but what the foundation of the community itself is. Where did the parts come from? How do they fit together?

Unit 3 | Writing From an Open Heart

We are going to talk about the nature of vows and prayers. What does it mean to reach out to a force beyond your normal ken? How do we describe the ineffable? How do we express awe and surrender within the discipline of writing?

Unit 4 | Writing About Loss

In this unit, we will tackle despair and regret. We'll look at a few literary traditions around loss and how we express the pain of loss. What is despair? We all know it at some point. Despair is a complete disillusionment that leaves no hope. How do we express this? Throughout human history, there have been individuals trapped in overwhelming events, stunned by despair, and they have still found a way to express themselves.

Unit 5 | Writing into Wholeness

Now we will bring in the experience of wholeness and connection. How do we find consolation? How do we write about connection, safety, and understanding? We find wholeness first in acceptance, and we find consolation and stability in that acceptance. Consolation can be big or small, vast or quite intimate.

Unit 6 | The Joy of Language

In our concluding unit, we will talk about the relationship between gratitude and generosity: how we acknowledge our place in the world, and practical ways to use text and line together: image and words.

We're really talking about celebration. Celebrations are public and sometimes private. So often in our writing, we're confronting problems but a great literature of celebration exists. I think sometimes we forget that as writers: it's not just about difficulty and solving problems, it's also about joy and presence, how we honor families and communities, and declarations of faith and gratitude.

A typewriter on a white desk

A practice of self-knowledge and self-expression

Writing to a spiritual perspective or to answer a spiritual question, can help us cultivate freedom in the journey of practice. In both, we celebrate the joy of expression and we bow to the limitation of language. There are many qualities in common between these two forms of practice: confusion, humility, curiosity, intuition. We bring all of these to both spiritual work and creative work. They both need courage, trust. They both benefit from mentoring and from solitude.

Course Curriculum

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  Introduction: Creative and Spiritual Expression
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  Unit 1: Facing Fears – How We Limit Our Expression
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  Unit 2: Repetition and Echo – Experiencing Language as New
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  Unit 3: Vows and Prayers – Writing From an Open Heart
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  Unit 4: Writing About Loss
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  Unit 5: Writing into Wholeness
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  Unit 6: The Joy of Language
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  Continuing Your Journey
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