Writing to Awaken: A Journey of Truth, Transformation, and Self-Discovery

Writing to Awaken is an inspirational investigation of the self through expressive writing, guiding you along the path of awakening through radical truth-telling and self-inquiry. With targeted and revelatory questions, you’ll be prompted to explore your own personal narrative—to write honestly about your deepest wounds, greatest challenges, hidden gifts, yearnings, and opportunities for growth—in order to discover a deeply authentic understanding of yourself and move toward a more liberated, truthful life.
Filled with powerful stories and revealing exercises, this book opens the craft of writing as a way to dive into the art of self-reflection. It will restore meaning and change your life.”
~Mark Nepo
We each have our own story, a personal myth constructed from the content life presents us: we connect dots to shape the narrative, devise plot lines from circumstance, change characters, fashion conflicts, and adjust structure, settings, and themes as our lives unfold. But so often, over time, we come to believe that we are our story, identifying so strongly with the tales we’ve told ourselves and others that we cling to them for our very existence—even when they don’t quite fit. The realization that there’s a discrepancy between the narrative you’ve crafted and your authentic self can be disconcerting at first, but the exploration of that gap is a doorway to personal freedom, and this book will guide you through it.
Scientific studies have shown that a consistent writing practice has the ability to improve physical, mental, and emotional health. Writing to Awaken offers the exceptional opportunity for you to get in touch with your inner voice – your witness. Writers of all levels can benefit from the lessons and wisdom found in this engaging book.

Introduction by Mark Matousek

I started to write compulsively when I was in the second grade: journals filled with secret thoughts and shameful truths that I could tell no one. Many writers begin this way, turning inward as children to look for answers they can’t find around them. These notebooks were my confessional, the place where I could reveal my true feelings and try to make sense of myself and the world.
I always felt better after I wrote. No matter how anxious, confused, or unsettled, my mind was clarified by writing. It was like flipping on a light in a darkened room; with words to describe what was blocking my way, suddenly I could see my way forward. Language helped navigate my inner world—I no longer felt helpless or trapped. Afterward, I could reread what I’d written and locate clues about who I was, what I was thinking, and why this person inside me was so drastically different from what others saw.
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Foreword by Joan Borysenko, Ph.D

Mark Matousek’s Writing to Awaken is a gift to the world. An engaging process of self-inquiry guided by just the right questions, it is perhaps the most effective of all spiritual practices. Since it bypasses dogma and doctrine, it is available to anyone who wants to heal, grow, and connect with their authentic self.
When I was a child and magic was afoot, the word abracadabra was synonymous with the power of manifestation. I could wave my magic wand over Doris the princess doll, or Boris the stuffed panda, and practically feel them come to life under the gravitas of the spell. Later in life, as a Harvard-trained scientist and researcher in the field of mind-body medicine, I discovered that abracadabra is more than magic-speak or a song by the Steve Miller Band. These Aramaic words mean, “I will create as I speak.”
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Praise for Writing to Awaken

As a writer, I know from experience just how transformative the creative process can be, but Mark Matousek invites us to make that potential fully conscious. A great resource for anyone wishing to develop a holistic and healing approach to writing.
~Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness and Real Happiness
“Making sense of our lives through reflective writing is a research-established way of cultivating well-being in your life. As a scientist and clinician, I find Mark Matousek’s reflections and life-changing insights in this marvelous book to be filled with timeless wisdom and practical advice. Empowering you to integrate new understandings of the past into a liberating awareness of the present, the suggestions in this helpful volume enable you to free yourself to live the life you deserve. Let Mark be your guide in this transformative book as you journey to the depths of your mind to nurture a new way of being with yourself and with others.
~Daniel J. Siegel, MD, clinical professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, executive director at Mindsight Institute, and New York Times bestselling author
In Writing to Awaken, Mark Matousek invites you onto a direct path of self-inquiry and spiritual realization. Mark is a masterful and loving guide: his wisdom teachings and brilliantly conceived questions will enable you to dissolve the coverings and open to life-changing truth. You don’t need skill in writing to partake; all that’s required is the longing to awaken your heart.
~Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance and True Refuge
In Writing to Awaken, Mark Matousek is a wise and caring guide who, like the early Eastern masters, offers insights as tools to free and build your life with. Filled with powerful stories and revealing exercises, this book opens the craft of writing as a way to dive into the art of self-reflection. It will restore meaning and change your life.
~Mark Nepo, author of The One Life We’re Given and The Way Under the Way
Writing to Awaken begins with reminding readers how changing our stories transforms our lives, then leads us on a journey beginning with the self and rippling out to encompass the essence of our stories as a radical act of truth-telling. He unfolds narratives, approaches, and a rich collection of writing prompts that help us release or revise the stories that separate us from ourselves, and dwell in the stories of who we truly are. This valuable exploration helps readers become writers of their own lives, cultivating the practice, imagination, and engagement needed to awaken with compassion and courage.
~Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, 2009–2013 Poet Laureate of Kansas, and founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College
Writing to Awaken pulls no punches. Giving you writing prompts to serve as your scalpel, and with profound psychological and spiritual wisdom to help you step-by-step along the way, Mark Matousek invites you to dive into the depths of your life experience to explore the fundamental question: Who am I? This book is a solid road map for the soul, and it puts you squarely in the driver’s seat.
~Roger Housden, speaker, writing guide, and author of twenty-three books, including the best-selling Ten Poems to Change Your Life and Dropping the Struggle
Mark Matousek unveils the path of writing as revelation. This is a beautiful book, one that will inspire writers, and really all of us, to take the pen in hand and look deeply into the human heart and into the world.
~Roshi Joan Halifax, abbot at Upaya Zen Center
Writing to Awaken is a brilliant, practical application of expressive writing research. In his characteristically frank, accessible, and lucid language, Mark Matousek guides readers through four passages of self-exploration, providing dozens of writing prompts and examples to help readers dive deeper into their own self-discovery. Always gentle and mindfully compassionate, Matousek makes a significant contribution to the literature of writing to heal. I strongly recommend this book for those who desire to learn about the power of language to change and to discover a new, authentic way of living.”
~John F. Evans, executive director of Wellness & Writing Connections, author of Wellness & Writing Connections, and coauthor with James W. Pennebaker of Expressive Writing
One of Mark Matousek’s great gifts to the expressive writing literature is his sensitivity to the nuances of life stories. In particular, his approach to shadow material—those dark canyons within that we’re often reluctant to bring to light—is an awakening that offers healing to many readers and writers.
~Kathleen Adams, LPC, director of the Center for Journal Therapy, author of Journal to the Self, and coauthor with Deborah Ross of Your Brain on Ink
Mark Matousek’s writing instruction is transformative. His classes will change the ways in which you examine your life, and how you think about yourself as a writer. He approaches your work with a deep sense of empathy, allowing him to help you tell your story in your voice. Mark’s insight, imagination, and precise instruction will push your writing in incredible directions, both creatively and technically. Mark not only recognized that I had the makings of a book, but his mentorship at every step of the process empowered me to bring the project to fruition. No matter what stage of the process you are at, time spent with Mark will yield extraordinary results.
~Libuse Binder, author of Ten Ways to Change the World in Your Twenties
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