Category Archives: writing

Thinking but not Writing

Ok, I was going to think more and write more this year… the thinking is going well, but I don’t get around to the writing part. I need to do more of that.

What do you do to get yourself to write more often?

Writer (repost from 2005)


“Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid,” by Jan Vermeer

She withdrew into herself,
First writing just for one,
Then touching thousands.
She incarnated ghosts, hurt, and joy
Into paper-and-ink stories of wonder.

One author said, “I can get rid of anything by writing about it,” meaning that the process of externalization could liberate him from the pain in his soul. That realization produced a delicious dichotomy; to free himself: or to hold on to both joys and tortures by remaining silent about them.

Writers write because they must: They need to express something from deep within themselves. They hear voices that others do not. They listen urgently, and they must communicate what they hear.

People feel Tao in the same way that writers feel something unique. In the process of listening for mysterious voices and expressing the wonder that comes is a magic akin to the perfection of Tao.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

To withdraw myself from myself has ever been my sole, my entire, my sincere motive in scribbling at all. — Lord Byron

“I started with all the handicaps, incapabilities and helplessness. I didn’t talk when I was twenty. I taught myself by the act of writing.” –Anais Nin

“Writing, like life itself, is a voyage of discovery. The adventure is a metaphysical one;
it is a way of approaching life indirectly, of acquiring a total rather than a partial view of the universe. The writer lives between the upper and lower worlds: he takes the path in order eventually to become that path himself.” — Henry Miller

Most people are separated from writing about the things they really feel deeply or even sometimes from knowing they feel those things at all. We live in a very shallow sort of society where we are rather actively discouraged from thinking about anything too deeply or expressing our inner thoughts and emotions, and most people come to internalize this and guard their own thoughts from any depth of feeling.

Yet we admire writers who are able to make us feel, and end up caring more at times about fictional characters than those in our own lives. Why? Because we see the depth of feeling displayed in those characters, while those in our own lives are trained not to show their own depths.

A lot of writers write because they can’t express these things in their own lives, so they create fictional characters where they can share their thoughts and feelings.

Tao is about a deep connection with the process of life itself. Once you experience that, you find it everywhere, in everything. It isn’t possible to be separated from it, although some days the feeling is certainly deeper than other days.

I’ve written for a long time for myself. I would like to write for others as well.

Today's Lessons

Get up and do something first thing in the day.

Be active.

Be motivated by love.

Don’t be silent anymore.

Simplify life — remove whatever and whoever does not inspire, inform, add personal value and friendship, or provide a needed service

Clean it up, and make it easy to keep clean.

There will always be more things to learn and do as the day progresses, but you have to start somewhere.

Open

Keep your Heart Open

Keep your heart open even when you can’t have what you want. It’s easy to keep our heart open to life’s magic and all its possibilities when we have what we want. It’s more of a challenge, and more necessary than ever, to keep our hearts open when we can’t have what we want.

Even on the best journey, things happen. Plans change. Things shift and move around. This shifting and moving causes doors to close, relationships to end, blocks and frustrations to appear on our path. For now, that is what we see. For now, what we know is disappointment. We can’t have what we want, and it hurts. When that happens, our tendency may be to shut down, close our hearts, forget all we’ve learned.

Keep your heart open anyway. Consciously choose to do that. Yes, you can go away, you can leave, you can shut down, but you don’t need to. Now is a turning point. If you choose to open your heart, even when you can’t have you want, miracles will unfold.

For now, remember this. Even though you don’t have what want you right now, keep your heart open anyway. Later, you’ll see more. You’ll see how it worked out. How it needed to be just so.

– Melody Beattie,  Journey to the Heart


Powerful

See how Powerful You Are

Although we know there is much in life we can’t control, we also know we have the power to think, to feel, to choose, and to take responsibility for ourselves and our lives. We’re discovering our creative powers, and our power to love, including our power to love ourselves. We’ve embraced our power to grow, to change, to move forward. We know we have the power to claim our lives and take responsibility for ourselves in any situation life brings. Although life may deal us certain hard blows, we’ve learned to see beyond that. We see life’s beauty, gifts, and lessons, and its mysterious and sometimes magical nature.

Now, our journey has led us someplace else. We know we have powers; we know we have choices. And we no longer need to be right. Just free.

See how powerful you are!

– Melody Beattie,  Journey to the Heart

Resistance

We sometimes resist new lessons. And what we resist the most is likely to be what we most need to learn.

Our lessons usually come with inner conflict. The action we should be taking, the idea we should be learning is sometimes hidden behind a wall of resistance. There’s a border, a barrier we need to cross to get into the heart of the lesson. Most times, that barrier is within us. Lessons require us to let go of old feelings, old beliefs. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be lessons. We’d already know them. Sometimes, the very thing we feel guiltiest about doing, the place we’re most resistant to visiting, the person we’re most convinced we shouldn’t contact, or the behavior we’re tormenting ourselves most about is exactly what we need to be doing.

And more often than not, the lesson we’re learning is not what we think it is. We need to embrace the surprise element of life —  embrace the mystery of life as it unfolds, as the lessons appear, as we grow and change.

Do what you need to do to break through your
resistance. Often that means simply seeing your
resistance for what it is. Remember that the point
of greatest resistance is often the place of greatest
learning.

— Melody Beattie,  Journey to the Heart

Cherish

Cherish Today’s Lessons

“I’m brokenhearted about my divorce”, the man said. “I’ve spent four years searching for a new wife, trying to recreate my family, trying to jam the pieces of the picture back in place. All I’ve gotten from my desperate search is more pain and anguish. It’s hurt other people. It’s hurt me. I’m tired of trying to manipulate other people to meet my own needs, to postpone my own grief.”

Some of us may be desperately trying to recreate the life we once had. Desperation attracts desperation. Pain attracts pain. And so the downward spiral goes. Yes, loss hurts. Sometimes life hurts, too. But loss can’t be negotiated. Becoming obsessed with putting the pieces back in place is an understandable reaction, but it won’t work. Yesterday cannot be superimposed on today. We need to go one step further.

Feel the obsession, and let it go. Feel the desperation, then release that. Come back to the lessons of today. They’re different from the lessons of yesterday, but just as valuable.

We face many losses along the way. People we love disappear from our lives; we may lose a career, money, or something else we valued. We can lose our dreams, too. But looking for quick replacements as a way to avoid feeling pain about the loss won’t work. And we’ll miss the lessons. Before we can go on, we must feel our sadness about what we lost. Losses demand acceptance.

Eventually life will send you new people and
new dreams. Cherish this time to grow and learn.
Cherish what the universe is teaching you now.

— Melody Beattie,  Journey to the Heart

Transcend Your Limitations

Transcend Your Limitations

You’re free now, free to take the journey of a lifetime. Free to experience life, in its newness, its freshness, its magic– in a way you never have before.

The only limitations on you are the ones you’ve placed on yourself. Your prison has been of your own making. Don’t blame or chastise yourself. Life has created certain challenges for you. The purpose has been to set you free, to provide you with lessons, experiences, circumstances that would trigger growth and healing. Life has been provoking, promoting, urging you to grow, stretch, learn, heal. Life has been trying to break you out of your prison.

Set yourself free. Let yourself go on a journey of love. Take notes. Be present. Experience. Learn. Love and laugh, and cry when you need to. Rest when you’re tired. Take a flashlight to help you see in the dark. But most of all, take yourself and go.

Go on your journey of joy.

— Melody Beattie, Journey to the Heart

The Marriage of the Princess and the Dragon

The Dragon and the Princess

Because of the mishaps of her parents, a young princess named Aris must be betrothed to a fearful dragon. When the king and queen tell her she becomes frightened for her life. But recovering her wits, she goes out beyond the market to seek a wise woman, who has raised twelve children and twenty-nine grandchildren and knows the ways of dragons and Men.

The wise woman tells Aris that she indeed must marry the dragon, but that there are proper ways to approach him. She then gives instructions for the wedding night. In particular, the princess is bidden to wear ten beautiful gowns, one on top of the other.

The wedding takes place. A feast is held in the palace, after which the dragon carries the princess of to his bed chamber. When the dragon advances towards his bride, she stops him, saying that she must carefully remove her wedding attire before offering her heart to him. And he too, she adds (instructed by the wise women), must properly remove his attire. To this he willingly agrees.

“As I take off each layer of my gown, you must also remove a layer.” Then, taking off the first gown, the princess watches as the dragon sheds his outer layer of scaly armour. Though it is painful, the dragon has done this periodically before. But then the princess removes another gown, and then another. Each time the dragon finds he too must claw off a deeper layer of scales. By the fifth gown the dragon begins to weep copious tears at the pain. Yet the princess continues.

With each successive layer the dragon’s skin becomes more tender and his form softens. He becomes lighter and lighter. When the princess removes her tenth gown, the dragon releases the last vestige of dragon form and emerges as a man, a fine prince whose eyes sparkle like a child’s, released at last from the ancient spell of his dragon form. Princess Aris and her new husband are then left to the pleasures of their bridal chamber, to fulfil the last advice of the wise women with twelve children and twenty nine grandchildren.

As in a dream, all the figures in such a story can be found within us. We find the scaly dragon and the attending princess, the wise grandmother, the irresponsible king and queen, the hidden prince, and the unknown one who cast his enchantment long ago.

What this story reveals from the start is that the journey is not about going into the light. The forces of our human history and entanglement are tenacious and powerful. The path to inner freedom requires passing through them. Receiving grace, opening to illumination, becoming wise has not been easy even for the masters. It is described as a difficult purification: cleansing, letting go, and stripping away. Suzuki Roshi called it a “general house cleaning of the mind.”

It is painful to cast of our own scales, and the dragons guiding the way are fierce. It requires the inspiration of angels; it requires diving into the ocean of tears.”

via The Marriage of the Princess and the Dragon-A Dharma Story « Metta Refuge.

The Dance of Awareness

Awareness in life is not hoping you learn to dance — it is recognizing that you already are dancing. Life is the dancer, you are the dance.

2004:

It is true that being aware of how things happen makes one’s words more potent and one’s behavior more effective. But even without the light of consciousness, people grow and improve. Being unconscious is not a crime; it is merely a lack of a very helpful ability.

Knowing how things work gives the leader more real power and ability than all the degrees or titles the world can offer. That is why people in every era and in every culture have honored those who know how things happen.”Tao of Leadership

When I first started blogging about the Tao back in 2004, I was at the beginning of developing my full sense of awareness. But of course developing awareness isn’t something you can ever really finish; it is always a continuing process. Some moments allow us to be more present and aware than others, some people in our lives allow us to be more present with them than do others. This summer I had the amazing experience of being with a friend where we were both totally and completely aware with each other over several days, and it was a life changing experience for both of us.

I can still find it difficult to be around those who lack awareness, as I said when I posted this in 2004. I am pretty forgiving most of the time, though, and see it as a way to practice loving kindness towards those who are less aware. I often take the bodhisatva path of trying to wake others up, and walk with them for a while, but I usually revert to Tao eventually and am content to simply walk my own path.

2005:

Too many people seem to walk through their lives in a daze, not aware of what is going on around them at all, lost in their concerns over what has happened or will happen. We all need to be awake and aware to the possibilities of the Now –- and the consequences to the future of lacking that awareness.

I blogged a great deal about Tao in 2005, including most of Deng Ming Dao’s wonderful 365 Tao, which I sometimes give to friends who are in conflict. I have a good friend who is reading this right now, and I think it is beginning to help her. I credit this book with helping me the most with my own personal inner changes. If you want to see my real changes, it is in the contrast between the posts from that book and the political articles I was posting. In that year, I felt all the anger I had felt over our country’s situation shift into taking action to do something to change things. I worked a lot on political issues, but lost the anger I had felt and let it shift into movement. I began to understand that Tao is not only about acceptance of what is, but using the power of Tao to help create new or different situations. We are not helpless victims, we are the creators of our own world.

2006:

A person with true self-acceptance is “a person with full awareness of self in body, mind and spirit. This person’s center of consciousness (Hsing – “Heart Flower”) is in full bloom, ready to receive power from above, openly relating to and being reflected by others.”

It may seem clever to know and accept others
Yet accepting oneself is the way to Wisdom.
It may feel powerful to overcome others
Yet disciplining oneself is true Strength.
It may be noble to honor others
Yet respecting oneself is deep self-esteem.

Tao Mentoring

It has taken me a long time to fully learn to accept myself as I am. And it is a process I’ve repeated many times over. Each time I come to believe I finally accept myself, I find something I still want to improve. Meeting this balance between accepting myself as I am and knowing that I have even more room to grow is always interesting. It means not being complacent with where I am at, but always knowing there is more to know, more to see and feel and do, and that is ok.

But I think the key is really respect. Self-respect is not simply about accepting who you are right at this moment, but also respecting yourself enough to continually challenge yourself. Not allowing yourself to become complacent, thinking you are already the best you can be, but knowing there is more you can do and always being ready to learn and grow and change, truly opening yourself to the possibilities of life that are all around you.

This was one of my favorite posts, and one I return to often. I truly believe the key to being able to help others lies in acceptance of ourselves. In 2006, I developed the ability to really create change through simply being myself. I also blogged a lot about art journaling, and using art as a means to learn about yourself and perhaps visually see the inner processes that are usually hidden within us. It was a very helpful time for me, opening me up to new experiences and ideas and a great community of art bloggers.

2007:

We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips we lay on ourselves never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of the eye from being fully awake.” — Pema Chodron, Start From Where You Are

In 2007, I blogged about yoga, including Rolf Gates’ wonderful “Meditations from the Mat”, and Buddhism, including much of the wonderful Pema Chodron . I spent a lot of time exploring different paths, but still found Tao to be the one that I kept returning to (well, return is the way of the Tao…) I did a lot of traveling and exploring, worked a great deal on politics, and really felt that our political community was moving towards creating change.

2009:

How much of the day are you aware -– just basically aware of what life is presenting -– rather than being lost in waking sleep, in being identified with whatever you’re doing, almost as if you didn’t exist?

To what extent do you blindly drift from one form of comfort to another, from one daydream or fantasy to another, from one secure place to another, in order to avoid the anxious quiver of discomfort or insecurity? How much of your energy is used to fortify a particular self-image, or to simply please others in order to gain approval, instead of devoting your energy to living a genuine life?” — At Home in the Muddy Water: A Guide to Finding Peace within Everyday Chaos Ezra Bayda

Oh soul,
you worry too much.

You have seen your own strength.
You have seen your own beauty.
You have seen your golden wings.
Of anything less,
why do you worry?
You are in truth
the soul, of the soul, of the soul.”

Jalal ad-Din Rumi

For me, spiritual growth has come in strange ways and from strange places, and I think that is how authentic spiritual growth progresses, from within, as we turn through the limits of our own being and try to become more. We find ourselves turning again and again within the limited space of ourselves, and finally realize that there is an enormous amount of space outside of ourselves. We then create mobius strips and Klein bottles, trying to bring this outside space within ourselves, an impossible task at first. We see the beautiful poetry of Rumi as he struggles with spirituality, the magnificent stories and tales of mythology, religion, and literature, all trying to move in these same paths.

And then one day, a small hummingbird sits in front of your nose, flapping its wings, and looks at you curiously, or you gaze into a flower and finally really see it, or someone says something that catches your ear and your mind at just the right moment, or a quiet meditation brings you to the place within yourself that just knows, simply knows, and you smile. You get it. You get that Mona Lisa smile on your face and just — become yourself.

And it happens over and over. We find ourselves, we lose ourselves, we find ourselves again, at another place on the spiral. The helixes divide, and come back together. And life goes on.

2009 for me was about realizing “there is nothing to achieve” — we are already within ourselves everything we want to be or could hope to be. Everything else is just ego. It’s the point where I really became comfortable in my own skin, even as I watch that skin age.

And then — my wonderful friend came along and exploded my world again with this question:

“How open to change are you?”

My boat strikes something deep.
At first, sounds of silence, waves.
Nothing has happened;
Or perhaps everything has happened
And I am sitting in my new life.
-– Rumi

2010:

Dogen reminds us that to raise the mind of compassionate awakening is none other than the whole of daily activity with no concern for one’s self, no thought of outcome, no sense of self-gratification. It means that whatever is, is the best that there is at this moment. Just this, wholly this, only this.

Engaging in the Way, in the life of continuous practice, means that we are constantly awakening with each new moment. Awakening is not a single event in time. Rather it is a continuous event through time. Basho wrote: Let me be called a traveler. He did not mention any destination. Just a traveler.”
– Joan Halifax via Whiskey River

“Being present in the motion, moment after moment, provides that secret chamber of awareness and gives the writer the chance to notice what is passing by before it is gone.” — Richard R. Powell, Wabi Sabi for Writers

So you may have noticed a lack of posting here lately. Well, much of my work has moved elsewhere on the Internet — into Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr — but much of me is now just off living my life, living in awareness, being where I am and with who I am with and doing whatever I am doing, but always Being. I made a vision board a year or so ago with the words “Go. Do. Be” on it, and that’s what I’ve been doing. I keep growing, moving, changing, becoming, being. Others may notice, or not, it doesn’t matter. I may change the world, or those around me, or not, it doesn’t matter. What matters, for all of us, is Awareness and Being.

That’s all there is, really. The rest is ego. Life dances. You are the dance, not the dancer.