Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart


poetry (again), practice, and beginner’s heart ~

poetry goes aroundIf you know me at all, you know I’m not quite rational about poetry. Of course, poetry isn’t a rational subject. And writers of it tend to not be, either. How could we be? It’s all about stories and metaphor and images and following a silvery thread through the labyrinth of the human heart… How’s that for an image?

Really, though, it’s more like the picture. It’s gears in your head, and a kind of writing machine that’s powered by your blood and thought and experience and who knows what else? Not (in other words) rational…

But the practice of poetry has changed my life.  These days, when I find myself eaten up with anger at the injustices visited upon so many Americans — and even more world citizens — I try to write it out. Or read it out. And when I’m missing my long-gone father, or my mother, or friends half-way across the country? I focus my attention on poetry.

It’s a kind of tonglen, I guess. Certainly I try to practice poetry that way, turning my own anger or grief or sorrow (even my joys) into a form of practice. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t mean that the zombie tanka I submitted last night to a journal (really) is Buddhist practice. But the concentration on the moment, the attempt to observe (even imaginatively!)…? These are components of practice. They keep me in the moment, and move me away from attachment. Well, except for the whole ‘get-it-right’ thing…lama chokyi

That’s the beauty of practice, though, as I’ve said here, here, and here. You’re always beginning, and it’s always a fresh start. There’s not even a word for ‘guilt’ in Tibetan, a lama once told me in a session. Lama Chokyi, a translator for several monks as well as of several Buddhist texts, said that when he tried to explain the concept of guilt to the monk for whom he was translating, the monk’s eyes widened and he exclaimed: Why would you DO that??

I agree. Why do we do that?

So I am deeply smitten w/ writing as practice. The Japanese have a lovely way of putting it: they add as a suffix to a martial art (or the tea ceremony) to mean that the sport (or practice) has become an art, a discipline and a way into practice:

In Japanese … culture the suffix ‘do’ transforms a sport into an art and indicates that some philosophy and correct moral discipline is intrinsic to it. For the Japanese do is an experiential term in the sense that the practice (the way of life) validates the discipline cultivated through a given art form. The ‘art’ in this case is martial art; though now we should remember that traditionally and at the conception of Japanese martial art this included poetry, painting, calligraphy and flower arranging to name but a few.(Dó – the Japanese Way

While I don’t know the old Japanese term for the practice of poetry as a ‘way,’ I know it’s what I do. And not simply poetry, but all my writing. Because whenever we discipline ourselves to pay attention — to almost anything, as the Japanese knew — and work to perfect that attention, we are practicing.

Even in a lowly blog ~

 



Previous Posts

time and healing
I was reminded today healing happens, but it takes time. More than a week ago, I cut my finger pretty badly. I think the verb I used was 'clove,' since I whacked it w/ my brand-new cleaver. As you can se

posted 5:40:30pm Jul. 27, 2014 | read full post »

peace, love, and teaching our children
I often think that old hippies -- those of us who were in it for the peace & love, not the sex, drugs, rock&roll -- became teachers. Because that's what the teachers I know believe in: peace & love. P

posted 11:12:28pm Jul. 25, 2014 | read full post »

ritual and being our own best friends
So yes, I am the person who will make Việtnamese coffee w/ a stainless steel straw, bought specifically for the occasion. Because ritual rocks. Seriously: it offers us structure and space, time to sip a cold drink and pamper ourselves, as we would a loved one. A dear friend. Someone who needs a

posted 1:09:23pm Jul. 23, 2014 | read full post »

friendship, memory, and love
My mother-in-law has a friend! This may not sound like a big deal to many of you, but those of us w/ family in elder care KNOW it's bigger than it may sound. Nursing homes -- even good ones -- aren't conducive to happiness, sadly. My beloved mother-in-law was used to her own place, her own schedule

posted 1:18:07pm Jul. 22, 2014 | read full post »

time travel
Today over lunch, my husband & I went back in time. We don't do that very often -- it's boring for other folks, and it's just not really us. At least, not most of the time... But today for some reason, it jus

posted 9:07:23pm Jul. 20, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.