Friday, September 9, 2011

What to write?

It is interesting that I have a yearning to write, yet I have no firm idea about which to write. It is interesting on two levels. First, the fact that I want to write is still novel to me as well as still conjures feelings of insecurity which I must constantly push back. I see so much hurt produced in the world by people using their talents for writing and speaking thoughtlessly, or to espouse views of hate and single-mindedness which do nothing to help heal all the wounds which lay gaping open in our world today. I don't want to be yet another one of these voices. Yet I also read challenging books, witness heartening acts of kindness and love from other people, have friends who are using their voices and lives for openness and justice, and therefore feel I have the highest obligation to lend every part of me, including my voice and writing, to the cause. At worst, I'll be lost or drowned out in the madness. At best, perhaps one mind will take heart in my words and shift themselves towards love and away from the status quo of indifference.

The second level on which this yearning to write is perplexing is that I can't put my finger on what to write about (don't let all these words fool you, I'm not really writing). It seems as though I'm treading water in the sea of my passions, knowing and feeling there are concrete ideas and words beneath me, yet unable to grab hold of them (apparently I chose the scariest possible analogy I could for some reason). 

I recently finished reading Turning the Mind Into an Ally, by Sakyong Mipham, the head of the Shambhala Buddhist lineage. The foundation of Shambhala teaching is meditation, or peaceful abiding, in which the aim is to "tame" and "train" our minds away from their constant state of discursiveness. This idea of discursiveness, that our minds are constantly in flux, fixating on one thought or sound or image and immediately and seemingly without warning jumping to another, perhaps entirely unrelated thought, couldn't be more accurate. Especially in this age of technology, we have constant stimulation for our minds, whether its through music, computers, TV, news, radio, driving, meetings, cell phones, traffic, restaurants, the internet, or all of them at the same time. Our minds never stop. At least not until we train them to. 

The teaching is that, through practicing meditation, we can train our minds to not only notice when we are thinking and feeling, but to understand why we think and feel, and therefore not let those thoughts and feelings take control of how we act or where we focus our efforts. By training our minds, we then have more space and ability to contemplate and act on love for others, on why we are here and on what will allow us to effect the most positive change. Mipham says the work of a true warrior, what takes the most courage and perseverance in life, is to radiate love and compassion in all we say and do.  

So the sea in which I'm treading water is discursiveness. Its the same sea in which we all tread water, searching for the next thing to make us happy, or the next quick fix to poverty or climate change, or the one product which will keep us younger for another year as we grow older. Its time we slow down and swim to shore. There we can get out, realize that we were in fact simply treading water, breathe, then decide to move ourselves toward love for others instead of just for ourselves. Toward healing our Earth and the nations which depend on it for life. Toward a slower, more purposeful way of life which might actually accomplish a lot more than treading water.

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