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The Art of Life and Writing

September 15, 2011
pink, rising sun
pink reflected on wet driveway
rain falling from a clear sky
the gift of being an early riser

“And the good Lord made me what I am and I play the hand I’m dealt
Said sometimes the hardest thing to be in this world is just yourself.” -Brother Ali

Being who we are is not easy.  Getting to that bedrock of our deepest and most authentic selves, of the voices of our souls, takes practice.  Writing is one way to access our most authentic selves so that we may listen to the voice of our souls.  We have the questions and we have the answers all within.  We have a system of constant feedback about our lives, whether that feedback is a pain in our backs, a nagging feeling of discontent and sadness in our hearts, or depression, anxiety, or even joy.  Our lives offer us feedback about how we are living them, yet we are so busy, our minds and bodies in constant motion, that we cannot hear or see this feedback.  We want a quick fix.  We want to feel good, or at least ok, and get on with it.

When we write as a practice, as a response to this life, with all of its twist and turns, joys and agonies, confusion and illumination, we enter a Zen of being who we are.

Writing in a journal is a means through which we can take time to slow down long enough to listen to ourselves and reflect on our lives as we are living them.  This is the practice of journaling, of meeting ourselves at the blank page and unraveling the tight ball of thoughts and emotions, drawing them out so we can see them clearly.

I wake at 6:00 every morning to write.  I do this because it is the only time of the day that is quiet—before my four and six year-old wake up—when I can connect with myself and this life I am living.  Otherwise I get caught up in the busyness of the day, and my thoughts make fly-by’s through my head, agitating and incomplete.  It is not easy to pull myself from the warmth of my bed, the warmth of my children who crawl into the covers in the middle of the night.  I am tired.  But I need this time.  It feeds me and grounds me.

This morning, I woke up, poured myself a cup of coffee, and sat on my favorite red couch in the waning darkness of my home.  I always read something as I drink my first cup of coffee, waking up my body and brain before I come out to my Treehouse to write.

The book I read this morning is called, “The Earth House,” by Jeanne Duprau, and the friend who gave it to me said it was her favorite book.  It is a book in part about the author’s experience with Zen Buddhism.  She writes:

“…you do not do the practice of Zen with your mind, you do not learn it the way we learned other bodies of knowledge—by studying, memorizing, fitting ideas into familiar logical frameworks.  You understand only by doing, and the understanding is something that you cannot necessarily put into words.  It is more like learning to ride a bicycle than learning a subject in school: you do not do it by following a set of instructions but by trying again and again to do that which seems impossible, and which you have no idea how to go about, until after a while the way grows in you.  You can learn to ride a bicycle, however, in a few days or weeks, and once you’ve learned it you’ve got it for good.  The practice of Zen takes your whole life, and there is never a point at which you have accomplished it and have nothing more to learn.”

As it is with the art of life and writing…


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