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Posts Tagged ‘Practice’

i come here often
to ponder higher learning
ice like busted glass


crinkly brown leaves glow
first bare feet of the season
away from center


cool black mud follows
the ripple of blowing hair
under secret feet


out of season wind
shadowboxing the bare elm
blending crabapple


winding in and out
green spouts under black pant cuff
gnat, a rising star


twisted shadow branch
you can walk any season
while going nowhere


juicy green center
the perimeter is dry
sweat between my legs


grubby spring tadpole
dark undertones on the lake
snap to attention


winter is over
from crumbling insanity
springs eternal life


humbled by the saints
who walked tight curves before me
moon high in the sky


talking to Louis
in lotus blossom petals
Chartres calls me home


sun hot on white face
naked feet to unthawed ground
mosquito flits by


near the end of March
how bad i need a haircut
stepping in the door


wavy grass petals
undefined by crooked lines
spikes from a spiral


tennis ball popping
off a catgut racket head
damp earth underfoot


rings of blanket ice
i miss the snowy season
the itch in my nose


lone fly buzzes by
a leaf between pasty toes
yells, “March 25th!”


I stopped at Porky’s
remembered the fire pig year
grass grows as I walk


on the edge again
a stubborn leaf pricked my sole
out came a reindeer


a woman walks near
fire red pants & orange striped top
she wants what i have


drive peace & spread love
dare it to follow you here
chasing a faux tale


part of my practice
mixes raw heat with cold fire
a mother’s last wish


-haiku from labyrinth walk, March 26th, 2007

-related to post, Spring Walk and Labyrinth Walker

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I’m drinking a cup of French Roast in a black ceramic mug that I reheated in the microwave. I wasn’t thinking when I took the first sip. My tongue and the roof of my mouth are burned. I write anyway. No, red gums are not keeping me back. Nor pink, fleshy ripples on the roof of my mouth, nor the size of my gut, nor the overwhelm I feel on a Monday morning, a week after the last Intensive in New Mexico.

I remember in the zendo, we were to write something on a piece of paper and put it on the altar for the week. Something we wanted to let go of. When I walked over to grab a piece off the pile of cut and stacked used paper, on it was a poem by Jimmy Santiago Baca:

“I remember what’s in front of you.” – Baca poem

In the silence, I thought it was so profound. Like Natalie telling us to follow the person behind us. Now I can only think of following the person behind me as the writers that came before me. I stand strong on their backs. And they watch mine.

What is holding me back? Me. I like Baca’s words. Because they remind me that other people can see me and where I am going much more clearly than I can see myself. We are all in this together. Whether we are writers or astronauts. We all live on this planet. Though we sometimes travel to others.

I feel like I am on the edge of something, a steep precipice, some cliffhanger on Mount Hood. I’ve been hearing a lot about Mount Hood lately. Climbers falling and rescued. They take great risks, great leaps of faith, because they love climbing. That’s what I have to do as a writer. My life is not in danger but my character is hung out there to dry, for all to see.

I’ve still got some of those old wooden clothes hangers my mother used to use to hang wet clean laundry on three strings of clothes line. I use them to clip Rice Krispies and Doritos packages closed so they don’t get stale. I used to love the smell of sundried clothes when I would take them down, fold them, and stack them in the plastic turquoise laundry basket with hundreds of cut vents in the sides.

There is nothing like the smell of clean laundry. Unless it’s the smell of the first mowed grass in early spring. Or the scent of fireflies in a summer pickle jar of emerald cuttings.

But what is holding me back? Fear. I’m afraid I will fail. And I will only succeed if I am fearless of failure. That’s what my teacher says. And I believe her. But I have to find out for myself, don’t I? Yes. I have to make my own mistakes.

To be honest, I have no idea what is holding me back. I feel like I am moving forward. I don’t exactly know the plan. But I have a loose outline of the year ahead, structured around writing. I want to start work on my memoir and I have an outline that came to me in a dream five years ago. Can you believe that? A dream. Not much has changed on the outline. I’ve decided to let the book unfold – I want to let the story tell me. When I go back to the places I will write about, I want to listen. And write down what I hear. Like we did at Ghost Ranch, writing haiku in the steaming sun.

I have a plan for my writing and consulting business. I have a plan to teach. I have a plan to start my first memoir. Maybe there will be many. I was reading last night that Haven Kimmel is on her second memoir, a sequel. I like the idea of that. Mabel Dodge Luhan did that, too, wrote a series of memoirs. Were there four? It doesn’t matter how good they are. What matters is that I get them out. I can do the editing later. I have to make time and money to travel, research, get the words down on paper, the first draft.

It’s going to take years. In the meantime, I practice. There is nothing holding me back but me. Everything is in place. Because, slowly, over the last 6 years, I took risks at looking dumb and exposed and allowed myself to show me to other writers in my life. I have a big writing community. I do writing practice nearly every day. I have strong writing bones. I didn’t always have those things. Not that long ago, I only had me. I know how to teach other writers to practice and create community. Those are not the things that are stopping me.

It is fear. The same fear arises every time I finish a piece. I gear up to write, I am lost in the process of writing, I am feeling great joy, that writing euphoria every writer knows. I am done, I edit, it’s ready – then the let down. After every high of writing comes the big let down that it’s done. And the next piece awaits me.

I have to stay strong and steady in the middle of the pendulous wave. I can picture it on a graph, x/y coordinates, like a big tsunami, aftershock, and then falling down to bone level, kind of like the even wave I saw at the Science Museum of Minnesota the week before I left for Taos.

There was a 30 foot long rectangular tank with a continuous wave, perfectly even at the top, undulating from one end of the tank to the next. There was also a vertical tornado chamber in which a spray of fog whipped itself into a frenzy when you spun a wheel. I do all those things when I write. And then it’s over.

What keeps me back is knowing that when I finish one piece, or a practice, the next calls out to me. Eventually, I have to get up the gumption to keep going. No matter what. Even when I am afraid. Even when every bone in my body is telling me I can’t write. I keep going.

Because somewhere, some other strong, tired, worn out writer is saying, “I remember what’s in front of you.”

It’s scary to think I might have forgotten. Yesterday I cried. On Friday, I felt a great joy at the largeness of my life. Saturday I was tired and feeling under the weather. Sunday I slept most of the day. Monday is solemn. So I take the next right step. What’s in front of me. Just like this writing practice. And the ritual of French Roast. And now my morning shower.

Monday, February 19th, 2007

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1. I don’t know why I write but I’ve built my whole life around it.
2. I write to keep myself alive. I can’t not write.
3. I write because I have something to say, a story to tell.
4. I write because if I don’t it feels like a million cactus pricks are sticking it to my insides.
5. I write to give something back to the world.
6. I write so I don’t say something I’ll regret.
7. I write to make my life have meaning to me.
8. I write to be in the circle of other writers, part of the legacy of other writers, in the lineage of other writers.
9. I write because I love the taste, touch, and smell of books and the lives of the writers who wrote them.
10. I write to practice writing, to feel the words dance on the page.
11. I write because I’ve been called to write my whole life – I can’t ignore it any longer.
12. I write because I love writing.
13. I write because when I dive smack dab into the middle of a piece, everything else in the world drops away.
14. I write to keep myself company.
15. I write to stick it to the Monkey.
16. I write to feel the uncomfortable edges and the vacuous spaces in-between.
17. I write because it feels holy to me.
18. I write because lost is a place and writing is the map.
19. I write because the screaming inside wants to be heard and I believe in what she’s trying to tell me.
20. I write because it helps structure my life.
21. I write because fear sneaks in at all hours of the day and night.
22. I write to keep the creative juices alive.
23. I write because there is no other high like it. There is also no other low.
24. I write because when I ramble around in the insanity of my brain – out on the page springs something sane.
25. I write to be true to myself. I write to live well. I write to be free.
 

Monday, January 29th, 2007 

-related to post, WRITING TOPIC – 25 REASONS I WRITE

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I woke up writing haiku in my mind. Chaco, the black Siamese, could not sleep. And kept rattling the door. So I couldn’t sleep. The wind howled. The chimes rang. It reminded me of writing retreats in the Zendo. I’ll be back again in February. Writing haiku.

I stared at the ceiling. I composed haiku in my dream. I have long forgotten the lines. And so I start over.

We are all starting over in some form. New beginnings. Thank god. New beginnings teach me to love change. I used to fear change. But now I understand.

Without it, I don’t get the chance to start again.

            ***

the black pond melts clear
snow drifts against the window
and floats into cracks

the rope swing dangles
under the leafless white oak
breathless in the cold

water pools, leaves blow
chimes stir, January winds
blast hard from the North

chimney smoke waffles
off the neighbor’s snowy roof
seamless resistance

gnarled knot in the oak
I turn my head from the wind
dead leaf clings to life

weathered bat house nailed
into bark near a hollow
filled with emptiness

I rest in a thought
spring hides around the corner
buds sigh in relief

ancient potted soil
holds gangly roots of bamboo
flecks of snow swirl by

tawny rabbit tufts
snatch hare tracks from crusted snow
my gaze blazes trail

chocolate red bells
in the tray on the table
January 7

green leaf, dirty pane
stares at the naked buckthorn
steamy dimpled cheeks

no one understands
the winter frosted writer
curled up on the bed

Sunday, January 7th, 2007

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We chanted The Heart Sutra again in December. This time it was for joy. The teacher was wearing her rakusu, the one her teacher before her gave her in 1978. She said she doesn’t wear it much because it’s old and she wants to preserve it. But she used to wear it all the time when she taught her writing classes. She talked about sewing the rakusu, Buddha’s robe, and referenced when she wrote about it in one of her books. She talked about the symbols, the rice fields and insects and all of life.

All of Life.

She told us about the Square Papers, the bloodline. And that she never knew what her papers said because she was afraid to open them and unravel the intricate folding. But then a friend of hers who knew the way of creases and folds, opened the papers on the mesa in Taos and told her what was written. It was a few years to the day her teacher died. It wasn’t planned. It just happened that way. Some larger unfolding.

She said her name means One Who Embraces One’s Life and Others with Magnanimous Mind.

She talked about being ordained at Clouds in Water Zen Center in Minnesota. And then she said this was the first time she had signed anyone’s rakusu in a Jukai Ceremony. Jukai is a Lay Ordination, a ceremony of giving and receiving. She said she didn’t feel right about signing for anyone – until after her great failure. Then she knew it was okay.

That night she asked her student to talk to us about The Heart Sutra. The student spoke on the history of the sutra and about Hakuin and the sound of one hand clapping. She referenced him as one of few who accepted women of the cloth. She told us The Heart Sutra was The Great Mantra and that it had been distilled down from the tens of thousands of verses that preceded it. Then she had us each draw a verse from a bowl and do a 7 minute writing practice on the words we had drawn.


Here is the verse I chose from the bowl. It was written on a neon pink Post-it:

in emptiness
no taste
no touch
no dharma


Here is the 7 minute writing practice:

In Emptiness – No Taste, No Touch, No Dharma – December 6th, 2006

Emptiness – a glass bowl on an empty table. Nothing but sparkle snow. That’s what Harlequin said – sparkle snow. No taste. No touch. No teaching. No teachers. There is nothing left but me. Small on the cushion. Long in Spirit. High in mind. Walking to the white cross along the Morada. Carried on the backs of those that came before me. They walked for me. And now I am free. In emptiness, no taste, no touch, no dharma. If my Soul cries, I can relieve it. A single flake on the toe of my boot. An ant crawling along a purple sky – the rhythm is haiku 5-7-5-5-7-5.

5 Say No Taste No Touch
7 In Emptiness a Night Jar
5 Cries Itself to Sleep

5 I Heard The Silence
7 And I Thought It Was The Sun
5 It Was Only Rain

After we wrote a practice on each verse, a few students read what they had written. Then we chanted an old version of The Heart Sutra while our teacher kneeled on the floor and signed the student’s rakusu. They each stood and hugged. And the cloth was passed around, hand to hand. If memory serves me, it read, Kanpo Kazan Taos. Kazan is Mountain.

Before we left the zendo that night, our teacher told us to meditate on the meaning of the last verse before falling asleep. In writing as practice, we are making space to receive.


GATE GATE PARAGATE
PARASAMGATE
BODHI SVAHA

Gone, gone, gone beyond
Gone completely beyond
Praise to awakening



THE GREAT PRAJNA PARAMITA HEART SUTRA


AVALOKITESHVARA BODHISATTVA
LIVING IN DEEP PRAJNA PARAMITA
CLEARLY SAW ALL FIVE SKANDHAS EMPTY
CROSSED BEYOND ALL SUFFERING AND MISERY
LISTEN SHARIPUTRA, LISTEN
FORM IS EMPTINESS
EMPTINESS IS FORM
FORM IS EXACTLY EMPTINESS
EMPTINESS EXACTLY FORM
THE SAME IS TRUE OF FEELING AND PERCEPTION
THE SAME IS TRUE OF INTELLECT AND CONSCIOUSNESS
LISTEN SHARIPUTRA, LISTEN
ALL DHARMAS ARE MARKED BY EMPTINESS
NOT BORN, NOT DESTROYED
NOT STAINED, NOT PURE
WITHOUT LOSS, WITHOUT GAIN
IN EMPTINESS NO FORM NO FEELING
NO PERCEPTION NO INTELLECT NO CONSCIOUSNESS
NO EYE NO EAR NO NOSE
NO TONGUE NO BODY NO MIND
NO COLOR NO SOUND NO SMELL
NO TASTE NO TOUCH NO DHARMA
NO SEEING AND SO ON TO NO THINKING
NO IGNORANCE, NO END OF IGNORANCE
NO OLD AGE AND NO DEATH
NO ENDING OF OLD AGE AND DEATH
NO SUFFERING, CAUSE OR END TO SUFFERING
NO PATH, NO WISDOM AND NO GAIN
SINCE THERE IS NOTHING TO GAIN
THE BODHISATTVA LIVES AS PRAJNA PARAMITA
SINCE THERE IS NO HINDRANCE IN THE MIND
THERE IS NO FEAR
FAR BEYOND ALL DELUSION
NIRVANA IS ALREADY HERE
ALL PAST PRESENT AND FUTURE BUDDHAS
THROUGH THE BLESSING OF PRAJNA PARAMITA
AWAKEN TO PERFECT ENLIGHTENMENT
THEREFORE KNOW THAT PRAJNA PARAMITA
THE SACRED AND BRIGHT MANTRA
THE SUPREME AND UNSURPASSED MANTRA
BY WHICH ALL SUFFERING IS CALMED
IS TRUTH, NOT DECEPTION
GATE GATE PARAGATE
PARASAMGATE
BODHI SVAHA


Monday, December 18th, 2006

-related to post, WRITING TOPIC – TAOS

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There comes an age when there are stains on the front of my sweatshirt when I go into work, when I don’t feel like working, when my mouth is dry and I’m thirsty, and my back aches. That age must be 52. There comes an age when I don’t care what people think about me anymore, when vanity takes a backseat to wisdom and sensibility, when falling in love doesn’t hold the same juice it once did – it’s merely another form of love.

There comes an age when you can count only on yourself though you are surrounded by good people, when standing on your own two feet is preferred to being taken care of, when writing might be the only thing that matters in your life anymore. There comes an age when hair grows inside the ears and tugs out the edges of the nose, when the fingernails grow misshapen and brittle, when the calluses take longer to brush off with the serrated file, when the gray outnumbers the natural colors.

There comes an age when you don’t get excited about the next romp in the hay, when love is more powerful than hate, when the irritation you feel from others is like the grain of sand in the oyster shell – producing a giant compassionate pearl. There comes an age when the most powerful people become the most exposed, when humility seems to go underground, and jokes from the ex-megalaughbuster, Kramer, are in poor taste and bad manner. What the hell was the ugly guy thinking?

There comes an age when the truth matters more than lying, when the color red becomes as popular in your life as it was at age 6, when fragility outweighs the need to get tough on love. There comes an age when strength is not measured in pounds on the benchpress, when clear sight has nothing to do with the clarity of the corneas, when visionary does not extend out past the 30 year mark.

There comes an age when humility and grace speak louder than fame and privilege, when money is something I want enough of without being greedy, when the good traits about men and women become the same damn thing.

There comes an age when I want to laugh at my mistakes and tout them as successes, when the snow flies in the face of reason, when I want to soar down the hill on a round disc of a sled and fall flat on my face in the freshly fallen power only to discover that my thirst has already been quenched.

There comes an age when silence speaks louder than words, when the tough get going and the meek inherit the earth, when the framers of the Constitution come back to us in Spirit and through the voice of medium, Lisa Williams, tell us they made a few mistakes – no those witches were not supposed to be burned at the stake. And, no, all the other 300 languages and countless races were not supposed to be wiped off the face of the earth when the first booted sole plunked down on the tiny piece of granite that is Plymouth Rock.

There comes an age when stinky cheese seems even stinkier, when a single glass of wine puts me over the age, when laughter is more important than sex. There comes an age when it’s harder to keep in shape, when the weight piles on over Thanksgiving weekend, when I don’t want to haul an evergreen home to celebrate the birth of Christ or spend the entire weekend baking turkeys and mashing potatoes. But I will watch a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.

There comes an age when Aquarius has passed and we’ve moved into Aries, when the fire puts out the watery flame, when the Fifth Dimension is no longer a singing group or the last parallel Universe, and What’s Going On never loses its punch.

It’s Thanksgiving week of 2006. I am restless and bored, old and feeling young. I am hopelessly forlorn and quietly strong. My heart hurts, yet I’m in love and full of hope and promise for the future. My stomach churns and the head says be quiet. I’m full. I’m empty. I’m alone. I’m surrounded by the best people life could imagine. I’m hopelessly lost. Yet I’ve found my true calling.

There comes an age. I have to let go.

Tuesday, November 21st, 2006

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paranoia drifts inside my sanity
I vowed to write during lunch
not agonize over one ounce of truth

if I take fear with a grain of salt,
the ever-present whispering, “I am not enough,”
the lingering voice of the Monkey in all her many forms,

will it make me a better writer?

sitting under a rock
on the steps of Calcutta
a fire ant crawls
through Gandhi’s fascination

and I breathe Minneapolis –
monsoon clouds of Pantone gray.

the truth is I feel scared
the truth is I am empty
the truth is I seek validation and comfort.

3 grains? or 1 ounce?

you said you were mirror-phobic –
your mother said the first ingredients
to add to a new apartment are:

salt
and sugar,
a broom, to sweep away Old Spirits
and bread for the breaking.

Ancient traditions,
or bonding superstitions?

the bouquet of lilies – Post Minimalist –
I saw them there, on the glass table
alone, shining, white and pure –
future clutter.

when I read your short paragraph
I threw salt over my left shoulder,
while an Angel on my right
whispered something in your ear

to keep the Devil at bay,
in a particularly vulnerable situation –

or from sneaking up on me
while I’m cleaning up my mess.

There will be Southern black-eyed peas
on New Year’s Day
a too salty ham, reminding me

I stole the title from Nikki Giovanni
and James Baldwin stole a little something, too;

something every writer should know –
we are excavating our ancestors for data

and sometimes that means walking
left of the straight and narrow,
3 sheets to the wind,
silent under
Taos Mountain

watching a sagebound magpie
through the dirty glass

listening to the wind howl
and the jackhammer roar

pushing 7,500 feet of air
through an ounce of truth.


Friday, November 17th, 2006

-from Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – BOOKENDS, BALANCES, AND HARD RAIN

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Pick up your pens. It is time to lay down the assignment for the week, for the blog.

I did not think about this much, it came to me in meditation Saturday and I thought I had another week to think, and besides we are not supposed to be thinking when we meditate, just watching the thoughts, so I put aside the pen and paper and now on this victorious Wednesday morning I have forgotten all the grandness, recall only the most basic.

What I want to propose is that this week we all hold something. Hold something for ten minutes, or it could be fifteen and you could get by on five or seven, but for the sake of uniformity, let’s say ten. I do not mean something like an idea, a belief. I do not mean holding someone in our thoughts. I mean literally taking the five fingers of your right or left hand, picking up an object and holding it.

Let your fingers clutch, let your palm get sweaty, caress the front and the back of the object. You can move the object up and down your arm, if you want, rub it along your chest, squeeze it in your armpit. Do not taste it, do not smell it, and if you put it near your ear, for our ears are very sensuous, try not to listen. Only feel what it has to say.

The object can be something ordinary, like a toothbrush, or exotic, like a tube of toothpaste.  This morning it feels like everything is exotic, doesn’t it? Hold the piece. Then write about it.

As an exercise, I’d suggest that you put the piece behind you while you write, that you do not look at it. Write from the feeling, from the sensation that was picked up by your finger cells.

The object should not be living, breathing, but it can be of nature, does not have to be – pardon the expression – manmade. Your choosing is your own, you can pick up something off your desktop, or you take time to think about what you want to hold. It doesn’t matter.

If this seems lame and too lucy goosey it doesn’t matter. Just hold something, and hold on to it when you write.  Ten minutes holding, then go.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

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