Archive for February, 2010

This past weekend I participated in a personal, introspective journey that took me straight into the snares of my own mind. And man, it’s a veritable jungle in there, with traps, pitfalls, and snakes. Funny thing is, I never left my seat. And everywhere I sought, it was only me, only my mind, unceasing in its attempts to solidify delusions, to ensnare me in false thinking, to tease me and even terrorize me with the trappings of the self, poisoning my chances for joy. Creeping along behind me like a jungle cat waiting to pounce.

Where I went was a Zen temple, and what I did was practice Zazen. While sitting there, hands folded into a cosmic mudra, I was surrounded by others on a relentless journey to deepen their existence and recognize the need for deep faith, for solitude and for awareness of each one’s particular form and place in the world. We didn’t speak. We ate in formal postures, and maintained silence, downcast eyes, and contemplative study of our individual selves. But together we gathered strength from one another in a way that seems more real and virtuous than many of the deepest conversations I’ve had with dear friends. Not to discount those wonderful and illuminating times, but merely to note: the spoken word doesn’t settle our minds the in the way stillness can. By facing what lies within, without naming it, without talking about it, in a crew of folks who are committed and focused on the same intrinsic questions, the same desire for ritual and reclamation of the inherent nature of all beings, is what makes this more than just a few days or hours spent sitting on a cushion, in, let’s face it, a pretzeled position that can become quickly uncomfortable, to downright painful. Let’s just say that my knees felt as though they were on fire.

Not to mention, folks, I’ve never been so quiet for so long in my life! As those of you who know me, dear readers, I am seldom at a loss for words. Being forced to be quiet gave me an opportunity to peer into the sort of things my mind would prompt me to say, and then realize how most of those things are completely unnecessary to voice. Little snide remarks, funny asides, sometimes downright rude, judgmental and mean, the things I am tempted to say in the moment are rarely inspired, profound, or even kind. I was humbled and ashamed of several thought patterns, the little movie reels that play again and again in the mind. We all have these, to varying degrees. What was most surprising was the spaces that were not filled in by the seemingly endless stream of thoughts, impulses, and emotions. Whenever these would stop, I would drop away from time and place and simply exist in the moment, witnessing the simple act of breathing. But these are moments that are very few and far between for someone like me, riddled with thoughts, feelings, attachments, desires, hopes, fears and worries. It’s amazing how much you can invent, believe and torment yourself with, in the space of your own mind.

Sitting there, doing my little round robin thing, I catch glimpses of what lies beyond the endless circling of my thoughts. These thoughts are often compared to birds in a clear blue sky, according to the Zen Masters. Somehow, my thoughts seem more like comets blazing across in a fiery display, whistling and shooting sparks in every direction. But that’s ok. Learning to turn toward everything I think and feel, rather than push it away, or name it and fear it, is the rich stuff of this seeking. In fact, the more challenges I face, the more I am likely to break through the barriers and become truly free. Which is why, as I sit there with the fire burning in my mind and my knees, in tandem, I am suddenly transported by a memory that comes dancing in out of nowhere. My grandma Mollie used to needlepoint, and she made a few of these small needle-pointed plaques that she thought were so hilarious that commented on aging. One said, “Screw the Golden Years.” Hung below it, there was another that read, “Of All the Things I’ve Lost, I Miss My Mind the Most.” I’d like to propose a twist on that saying for those who practice Zen:

Of All the Things I’ve Lost, I Miss My Mind the Least.




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Beyond inspiration

Sometimes waiting for inspiration means we’ll never manifest anything. It’s almost paralyzing, waiting for something to strike you, to move you, and then, nothing seems to do the trick. Any old day the world seems full of miracles, until you get caught in the idea that you need something to work with, something that will make people think you’re brilliant! Then, sit down and try to write. Anything.

Nothing will come of that.

Moving beyond inspiration to the places that seem mundane, offering odes to the commonplace, everyday blessings, is the meat and potatoes of anyone who is serious about writing. Just look at how famous the red wheelbarrow has become, so much depending on it…

The delirious laughter of my son, giddy at bedtime and full of a misplaced energy, is beautiful. A surprise snowfall, a day of sledding and red cheeks, of crying at lost boots in the snow, and of a bonus night with my sweetheart after days spent apart. These things are what make my world, although regular and unremarkable, move with the deep rhythms of inspiration.

In these here humble beginnings, I am finally creating a life that I want to live, that I fully embrace and embody. By just bringing awareness to all my working parts, the good and the bad, and learning to live with it, to learn from it, I’m becoming more able to let experiences come and go and catch the lessons that each leaves in it’s wake.

So it may be boring to some, just detailing the bits and pieces of my life that strike me, that seem to shimmer in the glistening snow. That’s okay. Working on writing something everyday, or at least, as often as I can, is going to displease some with it’s banal qualities. I apologize. I’m reaching into a space that is beyond inspiration in search of the everyday miracles that I am filled with the grace to be immersed in. My life, each day, dripping with the melting, ephemeral snowflakes of whatever the weather may bring.

As I was writing this, a zen quote came vibrating in on my phone…it goes:

“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” ~Lao Tzu



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An invitation

As the snowy streets are filled with sledding children and snow sculptures, two snow days in a row plus the undeniable urge rising within me to share my writing again, I welcome you to my thoughts, my dreams, and my musings that will be chronicled here.

Falling snow

has a smell all of it’s own


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