"We're so high on progress that we allow a tiny segment of the population to create the narrative of the world." -Ailton Krenak, Ideas To Postpone The End Of The World
Tyrants winning an election is an old story, mostly known to us through the news and histories of other countries. His Holiness the Dalai Lama had to flee his country at the age of 15; Tibet now left more to the imagination than a place we can visit. About ten years ago the Dalai Lama gave up his role as a political leader to give his full attention to his role as spiritual leader.
When I got out of bed this morning, after being up most of the night I wondered what role might I give up, like His Holiness, in order to live a life I am meant to live now. I wondered what giving up would look like. What role no longer truly serves me or others? Would giving up be more of a giving in and letting things unfold as they will? A form of passive-aggressive rebellion? Should I give up my role as author?
Is there a role I am fulfilling that is preventing me from attending to another more important role?
This is a question worth exploring.
We can't let our imaginations, our dreams, our stories or our love be hijacked by a tyrant or by any real threats to our humanity. We have to keep writing our stories, speaking up, joining in, believing in and finding our way to each other. We have to purposely chose our roles in this shared story.
Many people identified with His Holiness as their political leader. But he believed it served humanity more to let go of that identified role.
What roles might I be in that are preventing me from finding my way to what is truly meaningful in my life? What role do you identify with that may be preventing you from living a truer role? Write about that.
What are the roles you live right now? Write about that.
What promise might we have to break to fulfill a new role? Write about that.
What do you identify most with? Or what do others identify as your role in their lives? Write about that.
The Four Reminders
the buddha reminds us that because we are born
we will die, because we are born we will lose everything and everyone we cherish,
that we will encounter sickness and change. . .
because this is true, what is meaningful?
bullies will continue to show up on the play grounds
the fungi will recycle the dead,
though everything will end
often things will be okay
the tyrant will leave the playground
bound too, by laws of nature.
broken toys and abandoned swings
will be brought back to life or
recycled into something else
Let's see what we can do to stay in this conversation––
be born, lose everything, die
we are so fragile
we live with so much uncertainty
with all that love in between.
Please, let's find our way
to each other.
I find returning to my novel, or to my daily meditation practice, or to letter writing, or to my daily walks through Stewart Park to be a particular challenge during these COVID times. How do we get back into what is helpful to us?
Writing as it turns out is a lot like a meditation practice. We spend a significant amount of time off the object of our meditation (typically the breath). So, in our meditation practice we have to practice bringing our awareness to the distraction and then return our awareness, our attention, to the breath (or object of our meditation.) Much of our meditation is then returning to the breath.
Same with writing.
I realize that there are writers out there that are with the page consistently every day; Stephen King, for instance. And there are meditators who likely rest in the breath without wandering off to other places, having to remind themselves to return to the breath. His Holiness the fourteenth Dalai Lama comes to mind.
The page calls to us, we want to give it our full attention but our attention is often elsewhere. We have to clean the sink full of dishes first, pay the bills, stare at the wall, do a load of laundry. (Check Twitter). Our daily routines or distractions interrupt the best of our intentions.
Then something remarkable happens—we realize that we are off the breath, or are not doing what we really want to be doing, which itself is a moment of awareness, and so we then return to the breath, or find our way to the page. This can and will happen again and again, if we are truly practicing. This returning is an integral part of the creative process. Now, into my forty-some years as a writer and meditator, I can trust that I will at the very least return to the page, return to my meditation, return to the breath. I will never wander off so far that I cannot find a way back.
The way back to the breath or the page or the canvas, or to whatever creative promise you have made, is in becoming aware in the moment of where you are, and then, where you want to be.
I have been practicing this of late: I ask myself "is this what I want to be doing right now?" So, I gently check in with myself. If doing the dishes is exactly what I want to be doing, then I bring my awareness to this and finish cleaning. I find more enjoyment then! If my response is that I want to be on my walk, I put my dish sponge down and get me walking clothes on. (This also makes my dogs happy as they witness me getting my walking shoes on!)
Then at night, when I may be settling into a show on Netflix, I ask myself again:
"Is this what I want to be doing right now?" (Asking with compassion, just a gentle checkin.)
Sometimes I return to my novel; sometimes I watch a rerun of West Wing. (I'm on the 1st season). Sometimes both. (But not at the same time) 🤓
What matters is that we give ourselves something to return to, be it the breathe in meditation or the novel you are working, or the walks through the park. We then return to these acts of self-kindness when we find ourselves wandering too far out beyond the boundaries of our creative or spiritual life.
I also frame it like this: it’s not so much that I should stop eating so much sugar, but that I want to return to a healthier diet. Name what it is you want to return to.
"The paradox seems to be, as Socrates demonstrated long ago, that the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery." Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
What are you giving yourself to return to? Write about that.
What is it you want to be doing with your life? Write about that.
Join Molly Chanson and me for 3 Sunday's in November to help you return to what is important
Sundays, November 8, 15, and 22, 2020 11:00am - 12:45pm (CST)
3 Sundays in November with The Yogi and The Writer: Nurturing the Deeper Self Reach places within that nurture and strengthen your fearlessness and passion. Develop trust in yourself to further open and receive this season of your life. Listen and allow for what you love. Come to a deeper recognition of what you want and dream to be now. Includes writing prompts and time to explore on the page and an hour of yoga.
“Synchronistic meetings are like mirrors that reflect something of ourselves. If we want to grow spiritually, all we have to do is take a good look. Synchronicity holds the promise that if we want to change inside, the patterns of our external life will change as well.” Jean Shinoda Bolen. (author of The Tao of Psychology: Synchronicity and the Self).
Synchronistic encounters are a tangible clue to how to let our lives be deeply meaningful. They offer us perceptions and insight into how we may live a life that resonates with our inner callings. Our life is full of these meaningful encounters, be it with each other, a wild creature, events, dreams or physical accidents.
These meetings appear as divinely tailored somehow by an invisible hand that opens up our life. Often disrupts the present current of our life. These are invitations to take notice! These synchronicities often take place in our vocational life. As a writer (just so for anyone in the healing professions as well), I recommend that we keep synchronicity in mind. Jean Bolen refers to synchronicity as the ultimate "match maker," bringing many significant others into our lives. As a therapist and Writing Sherpa, my clients and mentees often share how a set of circumstances brought us together.
Write about that! Write about significant encounters or events that you have had, and how these are match makers,--matching you to your soul's journey and to the truest meaning and path of your life.
These encounters are energized with emotions and creativity. The emotion may be antagonistic or they may be affirmative or antagonistically affirmative. They always hold archetypical and mythological depth to them. This is one reason in my work with writers that I invite you to explore the myth and symbolic language of your stories. There is always this thread of myth and synchronicity throughout our life and stories. Writing brings what is often unconscious to the conscious level. An encounter may be synchronistic but we may miss its message if we don't have a language to identify it as such.
Poetry, journal writing, taking notes, writing our letters and our stories down gives these meaningful coincidences a language.
Writing can bring together our inner and outer worlds.
Make a list of meaningful events and encounters. A list of synchronistic encounters.
To whom or what did these encounters match you to? Write about that!
What and to whom are you matched to now? And what were the events that brought you together? Write about that!
What is outside of you, is inside of you. Write about that.
“You have the need and the right to spend part of your life caring for your soul. It is not easy. You have to resist the demands of the work-oriented, often defensive, element in your psyche that measures life only in terms of output - how much you produce - not in terms of the quality of your life experiences. To be a soulful person means to go against all the pervasive, prove-yourself values of our culture and instead treasure what is unique and internal and valuable in yourself and your own personal evolution.”
-- Jean Shinoda Bolen
Join us, the Yogi & the Writer for 3 Sundays in November to Nurture the Deeper Self. Reach places within that nurture and strengthen your fearlessness and passion. Develop trust in yourself to further open and receive this season of your life. Listen and allow for what you love. Come to a deeper recognition of what you want and dream to be now. Come spend 3 Sundays opening and receiving the gifts of self we always carry within us.11:00am - 12:45pm (CST). Sundays, November 8, 15, and 22, 2020
“While everyone has a different experience of what is soulful, these experiences do share similar beginnings. We start by giving ourselves permission to be soulful, to take seriously this aspect of ourselves, our soul and our soul needs.”
-- Jean Shinoda Bolen
When writing about bullies in an autobiographical book it’s best to find that golden blend of human character. Very few people are pure evil or without hope. When writing about an abusive or alcoholic parent one might share the history of this person to give some context or perspective.
Then there are the exceptions.
Some people are villains made flesh and may not reveal or have access to any redeeming humanity. Some may be bullies through and through. When this is the case, we must be brave. I recommend a strong determination to name a bully a bully, to name their cruelty and abuses whether that person be an abusive brother, priest or a president of the United States.
The context of such real-life dark characters may simply be how that person got to be so cruel. An example of this kind of read is Mary L. Trump’s book: Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.
In response to the bullies on and off the page, a fearless compassion is required. Fearless in writing whatever we choose. Compassion toward ourselves and our readers when exposing the tyrants among us.
Shame breeds in secrecy and so does the power of the bullies and tyrants. They want us to shut down and to shut up. Our stories may cause discomfort and even grief in ourselves and our readers, but our shared stories will help us and future generations navigate such dark terrain.
Our written word is that light through dark times, especially when our personal stories includes our own encounters with this darkness. And, how this darkness affected us.
As I’ve expressed before, the written word is a superpower. Bullies want us to shrink, to hold back, to not speak up or share our stories. They certainly don’t want us to bring light into the dark corners of our life and experiences. They hope our embarrassment, shame or fear will stop us from coming out into the open.
(Sweet little girls don't write about such things.)
Bullies invade and occupy space. They interrupt, physically intimidate, control the timing, puff themselves up, ridicule, threaten, blame and do so relentlessly. Nothing we do or say will necessarily stop them or heal them. But your shared story can generate in yourself and your readers the resolve, determination and courage to live our lives in full and in the open.
We can stop shrinking and disappearing from the conversation. We can hold our ground. We can take up space on the page and off.
My oldest brother was a bully, a cruel con man, and now he is a sad, old alcoholic who still bullies his way through the scenes and people in his life. I have written about him in articles and books. His name is Rob. I shake a little bit as I share his name. Not because I’m afraid he will come after me. I shake because I feel the energy of breaking that culturally endorsed silent agreement to never speak the name of our abusers.
How have you been bullied or abused? Write about that.
Who bullied or is bullying you? Write down their names.
Where have you felt yourself shrink? Write about that.
What have you left out of your story? Write about that.
I carry a couple field notebooks with me to collect ideas, jot down something I notice or to remind myself of a good line to place in a piece later. My notebooks fill up much slower these days, since the pandemic touched every part of our lives. There's only so much I can jot down about what I see from my window or yard.
I do get out for my daily walk through Stewart Park with my dogs, where I use my phone to take notes.
All I have to do is say, "Siri, take a note." She doesn't always get the message or word right, and sometimes the message is utterly lost in translation. I wonder what I meant by "the carrot spoke in rhymes." Later then, when I give myself an hour or so, I take out my field notebooks and notes to Siri and place them somewhere. Most of them have a place to go: my journal, a blog, into a poem, a manuscript, or a note to someone. Some are a start to an article or possible project.
As I walk a familiar but changing path through the park, ideas arrive as invitations into another conversation.
Here is what I found on Siri of late:
She wears her unhappiness like a tight skin.
Our abandonment anxiety plays out in the present in ways that it first showed up in the past.
We never know where the story might take us, that's why we allow it to take us where it will.
Fascination comes with a realization, but then we must release the fascination and live the realization, otherwise it becomes a fascination with a moment that has passed.
(idea for my novel): She feels her power through the connecting tissue in the earth and she needs to do that to rejuvenate, to reconnect she can't go without connecting like that, so she has to make sure she's in a nature a lot, like all of us. So, that's one way for the bad guys to weaken her is to get her in a room of concrete.
Those who can't lead, divide.
I don't know because I wonder.
Let the light break me open like a bud.
“The vision of the beautiful city was in her, the wide streets, the towers of marble, the tiled and bronze roofs, the white-sailed ships in harbor, the marvelous throne room where sunlight fell like swords, the wealth and dignity and harmony, the order that was kept there. From that bright center, she saw order going outward like the perfect waves on water, like the straightness of a paved street or a ship sailing before the wind: a going the way it should go, a bringing to peace.” - Ursula K. Le Guinn, Tehanu.
Back in my early thirties, my therapist recommended I read Tehanu. A book he felt was a quintessential read for me. A read that could help me claim the inner child that had been somehow wounded and consequently went into hiding. I read that book (in a night) and later, the accompanying Earth Sea Trilogy. (Tehanu is actually the 4th book, but can be read alone.)
The story mirrored my life. The book gave me inward and outward vision.
To have vision is a superpower. To be given this power of vision through a book is the gift that every writer gives to readers.
Most who come into therapy have lost their vision (or misplaced it somehow). They have lost, or never discovered, their inner callings, their dreams, their intentions. Anxiety, sleeplessness, physical illness, depression and a deep sense of grief, or disconnect, may guide us to seek help. At such times we are likely experiencing what Parker Palmer refers to as the divided life. We are somehow divided from ourselves.
As a writer you are driven by a calling and vision. The strength of your vision and connection to that inner calling the stronger your commitment is to the written word. Once you have awoken such a vision it is harder to deny it than it is to follow it. Listening in this way may be painful, it is certainly heroic and transformative.
In these shared dark times, and these times are dark and threatening, holding on to or moving toward our writerly (creative, spiritual) vision is an essential.
Writing our way into a better way of being is essential.
Writers are essential workers.
We offer up our words and stories as gifts to our readers through fictional and nonfictional material that they use to create their visions. This is radical. Sometimes sharing our stories is an act of defiance against those who want to silence us.
What book are you reading now, or poem, or blog that inspires you with vision? Hope? Ideas? Write about that.
What vision do you hold that wants to be shared through story? Write about that.
Who is trying to silence you? Write about that.
Can you see how essential your work as a writer is for yourself and your readers? As I have shared before, if this blog reaches just one heart and mind, that is worth my effort. You are worth my effort. I am worth my effort. To write this blog, or my books, first gives me this gift of visioning. That is the transformational magic of writing: as writer we first get the gift of our own words and visions.
Then we gift our readers.
Here are a few ways to encourage you to listen to and write from your visions:
Do not let circumstances define you. Know that we can ask the questions we need to ask that moves our life forward, in any circumstance.
Identify and ask the questions of this season or threshold of your life. What are you exploring now?
Practice ways that keep you connected to that inner calling and knowing. (Meditation, walks in nature, counseling, prayer, listening to songs or nature, contemplation, journaling, yoga . . .)
Live life from your side, (don’t drive in other’s lanes), live the zero point agreement, while meeting other’s half-way.
Remember you have nothing to prove and everything to explore and share.
And when you can, join up with other writers.
“Only in silence the word,
only in dark the light,
only in dying, life:
bright the hawk’s flight
on the empty sky. . - Ursula K. Le Guinn, Tehanu
Free Yogi & the Writer first Wednesday Nights of the Month, from 6:30 till 8:00. Such a great combo!: Writing and yoga for an hour and a half. Email Molly Chanson to get on the mailing list.
RISE!: Transformational Writing and Yoga:
Restorative•Integrative•Soulful•Empowering. An upcoming WINTER retreat by Molly Chanson and Julie Tallard Johnson. Save the dates: February 19th, 20th & 21st . REGISTER HERE: RISE! Join Molly and I for a unique experience of writing, contemplation & yoga.
Daiju visited the master Baso in China. Baso asked: What do you seek?
“Enlightenment,” replied Daiju.
“You have your own treasure house. Why do you search outside?” Baso asked.
Daiju inquired: “Where is my treasure house?”
Baso answered: “What you are asking is your treasure house.”
Daiju was enlightened! Ever after he urged his friends: “Open your own treasure house and use those treasures.”
Paul reps and nyogen senzaki,
Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
In this story, Daiju comes to understand that what he seeks is carried within. He understands that his innate curiosity is a treasure in itself. He comes home to himself but cannot contain himself; he must share his gift in service to others. He finds his treasure house. Daiju comes full circle, as each of us can—we begin by wondering where our treasures are. Where is yours? What, up until now, have you been searching for? Where have you been looking for meaning? It’s human nature to want to make our lives fulfilling personally, vocationally, and in our relationships. we all want to feel good about what we are doing with our lives. Most of us, however, are in one of two camps: those searching for meaning, or those who have given up the search. But there is a third option that is reemerging, a new myth as it were, which is to give up the search for meaning in order to make meaning within all the circumstances of our precious life.
There is an underlying science to living an inspired and meaningful life. My book, The Zero Point Agreement is a template for those ready to fully engage in making meaning from all of life’s situations. the zero point agreement and the techniques within this book are reliable methods for awakening yourself to the world around you and to your fullest potential (to your treasure house), no matter your circumstances. These methods offer an interior science of transformation that is established and proven, a spiritual technology for meaning makers. We can only discover the truth for ourselves by living life from our side (the zero point). In living life from your side you not only find lasting happiness and satisfaction but personal awakening. And through this personal awakening we directly benefit all life on this planet.
No one else can run the race, enjoy the fine meal, write the novel, or love your partner in your place. This life is yours to live. Too often, however, we rely on outside circumstances and resources to bring us happiness and fulfillment. Many wait on the sidelines of life for that opportune moment when circumstances will be just right for them. However, external conditions never bring us lasting happiness (focusing illusion). this search outside ourselves only strengthens our feelings of separation and dissatisfaction as we search for our happiness in this way. And our religious institutions and leaders, pop gurus, spiritual and economic con artists, big box chain stores, pharmaceutical companies, and many politicians depend on your search for meaning—for they will happily supply it to you.
One of the illusions of life is that the present hour is not the critical, decisive one.
ralph waldo emerson
No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.
stanislaw Jerzy lec, poet and aphorist
There are core themes of exploration and meaning in my life. These themes influence every thing I do, say and write. These are my themes (that come up in my books and life): Being a Meaning Maker; trusting our experiences, Being the Cause not the effect of our lives, living the writer’s life, how everything is material for transformation and healing, the conversational reality of life (the power of language and words), trusting in a Higher Power, and living the zero point agreement (living life from our side/being 100% responsible for how you experience our life/living life from the inside out).
What are your life themes? Write about that.
What themes guide your explorations and experiences? Write about that.
How do your themes come up in your writing?
What theme is arriving at your doorstep today? Write about that.
Many clients and writers come to me expressing concern that they feel stuck.
In response I ask them, “What does this stuck look like, feel like?” (Write about that.)
Usually this stuck-ness is described in judgmental terms of what they feel they should be doing. The context of this stuck-ness usually is a busy, full life with movement and engagement. Just not movement in that one area. Their stuck-ness is particular to their writing or some unfulfilled wish. They have a creative commitment and are not acting on it. So, they feel stuck. And this stuck-ness acts like a poison – or ink in a glass of water. It touches everything and makes them feel as if their life is stuck.
Often confusion comes with this feeling of stuck-ness. Where do I go from here? What should I be doing? Why am I having trouble moving forward on this? Who do I think I am? What possibility should I pursue? Should I just stop writing altogether?
Along with this confusion comes a desperation to find some solution to their feelings of stuck-ness and confusion.
Every condition and situation holds a story, holds something for us that can and will move our lives and intentions forward.
Often when we are stuck or confused we simply are not ready to act. As long as you are waking up and holding some intention in your heart when you become fully ready, what you need to do to live or write forward will be there for you.
When we hold so many ideas or options or possibilities in our minds (this can cause us to be stuck and confused), this can mean the time is not right to act on these possibilities. We can create more difficulty in our lives when we hold on to all these options and try to force ourselves to choose and to act.
It may not be time yet for you to take that next big step. This confusion is the next step. Listen to that. . . write about that. !
Let yourself be with the confusion and feeling stuck.
Notice what comes up when you are conscious and compassionate with yourself. As long as you are showing up in your life – what wants to manifest in your life will also show up. The time to act or move forward on a project or story will become known to you. Simply stay in the conversation. Let your ideas and possibilities cook for the time they need and then be aware of when it is time to act. To write. To leave. To begin. To finish. To continue.
To push the send button.
"Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever I may be in, therein to be content." –Helen Keller
"You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone – any person or any force – dampen, dim or diminish your light. Study the path of others to make your way easier and more abundant." John Lewis, A 2012 speech in Charlotte, North Carolina
Both the writing experience, as a writer, and the written word can be the good trouble we and the world need. Right now.
“When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just … do something. Do some good trouble.” John Lewis
He spoke about “living it,” living our compassion, living our “spirit of love,” living our beliefs for justice. For us writers this may mean getting our experiences, thoughts and vulnerabilities down on paper. Writing it down so that we can face ourselves first. Then we can take what we know out into the world as stories, protest signs, letters to politicians. We can post blogs that may stir things up in our readers. We can have our words be a call to action.
Every good read, in all genres, provides a call to action. What is your call to action? What is your good trouble? Write about that.
Through our writing we can challenge our sleepiness, our resistance and in the sharing of our stories we can trouble our readers in a good way.
This is the time for action.
This is the time to write.
This is the time to speak up.
This is the time for your version of good trouble. Necessary trouble.
What does your protest sign say? Write about that.
What is your version of good trouble today? Write about that.
"Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble." John Lewis, tweet in 2020
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"I am the way
And the truth
And the life.” John 14:6
“The truth is not always beautiful, nor beautiful words the truth.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
"I have the answer for you." (Some false guru somewhere)
The. The is the most powerful word.
The way instead of a way.
The truth instead of a truth.
The path instead of a path.
This word is also a word, the word, that can take away from other words. Most of us use The way too much in our written word. (The) Use of the can make us lazy writers --- instead of describing something like sun on a lake, we may write: the sun sparkled on the lake. (Sun bounced off water like secrets).
In my spiritual and contemplative practices I am challenging the use of The (the way, the path, the truth). I see it more as a tool to manipulate spiritual seekers. I am diving into some historical context around use of the word the, as in The Way, The Truth, The Toa and as in, Jesus is The Way . . . . Plenty of psychological scams claim to be the way as well. And too many teachers and gurus consider themselves expression of the one and only way.
I am certain that something went amiss here in recording Jesus’s words. I imagine that either the recorders were convinced that this was the way (for them at least), and some were further convinced that claiming their truth as the truth would make for a more powerful and likely conversion experience. And, in the case of using this word to convince others that other ways are wrong, makes the use of this word a simple fear tactic.
So, I go about my writing and my living challenging the application of the. We shall see what I discover.
I will be off-grid starting tomorrow. I head into a meditation retreat at Kevala Retreat Center till Monday, taught by a most wonderful teacher, Santikaro. I will practice leaving my “the’s” behind.
And find a way for now.
All Write Wednesdays: World into Word
All Write Wednesdays is a blog about living the writer's life. Everything in our lives is material to explore & write about. Here, the spiritual path meets up with the writer's path. Read the All Write Wednesdays posts.
Welcome to the Conversation blog
is a blog that invites you into our new & emerging conversations within & about us. Read the Conversation posts.
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I live in Mount Horeb WI where I walk (snow shoe in the winter) my dogs through Stewart Park, garden my corner lot, wear a mask in public (and a cape at night). I love to write & connect to writers. My book The Zero Point Agreement is my latest of ten. I do love to write! My up coming book: the Clue of the Red Thread: Discovering Fearlessness & Compassion in uncertain times comes out this January 26th, 2021 through Shanti Arts, Nine Rivers Imprint.