Dance as a writing prompt?

My new friend Miriam is a long-time professional dancer and choreographer. I met her in a writing workshop at Bar Ilan University and have enjoyed hearing her tales of dance, particularly those she found herself in while living in far-flung areas of the world foreign to me.

But yesterday, Miriam surprised me even more when she led our group in a movement exercise designed to be used as a writing prompt.

Movement as a writing prompt?

While I’ve sometimes walked around outdoors as a way to move past writer’s block, I never would have guessed that following simple guided instructions on how to move in space would bring such a wealth of content to the surface …and so quickly.

The experience for me was remarkable. While in it, I was singularly focused on following Miriam’s instructions. But as it turned out, my body’s movement allowed my mind to relax … and open up to new ideas.

In the final of three exercises, Miriam instructed us through a series of varying movements during which we were to write our name in the air. For the final movement, however, we were to present ourselves to the group, then write our name in the air.


I noticed a grave difference between how I felt when I moved independent of the group and wrote my name in the air, and how I felt presenting my name inside and to the group. The difference was physical. An ease that accompanied my independent movements … a stiffness that showed up once I faced the group.

This physical discomfort stirred inside my creative space afterwards, when we sat down for ten minutes to write.

And it was this discomfort that became a poem that I dare to share with you…

The Group.

Take care with my bare heart …

With the me out there.



Me Alone Meets Me Out There

Will I always be two Mes?

The Me alone and the Me out there?

When I am Me alone, fast or slow, I am me.

Giggly, thoughtful, silly me.

When I am Me out there, within without, I am not me.

I am a stilted lilted version of me.

A me wrapped in bubble wrap.

A me on display.

I am cute, a hoot, but not a whole


I wish the two Mes would meet one day

On the street, on the stage,

in the office, on the page

And decide to become one.

The Me alone

and the Me out there.

Easy peasy pair.


(All content, including poetry, is original — unless otherwise noted — and copyright Jen Maidenberg.)

Letting Go, Love, Mindfulness

Kindness is less expensive than you think

I was sitting at a sidewalk cafe table when I noticed a praying mantis slowly crawling on the arm of the plastic chair next to me.

praying mantis
A bug in Israel

I was sitting there because I had nothing to do but kill time ¬†— 15 minutes to kill — until my scheduled driving test in downtown Haifa.

It would be, in fact, my second driving test in as many weeks. I failed the first one.

Since waking up with a startle at 4:30 am, I had been psyching myself up for the test. Trying to remind myself that the test was not that big of a deal; that passing or failing wasn’t life or death. I told myself I’m a good and safe driver, but (as I learned last time) there is only so much I can be prepared for such a test.

As in life, sometimes a street cleaner in an orange vest decides to walk backwards into traffic and you have to make a split second decision, and hope for the least messy result….and, in the case of a driving test, the kindness of the instructor.

Sitting in that cafe chair with 15 minutes to go and nothing else to do, I noticed the praying mantis. I thought to myself, “That guy is lucky I sat next to him and not some 6 year old serial-killer-to-be who would have enjoyed pulling off his skinny little legs one by one.”

I examined the creature closely. How was he so calm? How could he possibly just meander along like that without worry? Did he sense the presence of the fat hairy guy standing next to him drinking an espresso? Was he worried at all that the guy would sit down and rest his heavy arm on top of him?

In fact, I could very easily smush that bug myself, I thought. Or at least swat him away, off the chair, simply because I don’t like bugs.

Instead, I’m observing him, I thought. Acknowledging him. Letting him be.

Lucky him. I kinda wish I were that praying mantis right now.

Or, at least, I wish for the same kind of luck.

I need to be let alone today.

I need a lucky break.

I need the simple kindness of a stranger.

Then it hit me.

Sometimes, just letting someone — or something — be is an act of kindness.

To be kind doesn’t require a lot of time or money. Nor does it require great courage or forethought.

Sometimes, you just need to let someone be.

Leave a bug alone.

Allow someone a mistake (without reprimanding her for it)

Give someone a break (when she doesn’t necessarily deserve it)

Back off  someone when you could just as easily crush her

(Pass her when you could just as easily fail her).

Sometimes (just as our listening is sometimes a bigger gift than our speaking), our inaction is a greater kindness than our action.