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

some periods you just breathe through...
At times like this, I don't know what I'd do w/out tonglen. When I'm grieving for a loved one's unhappiness, or breathing through my own, I remember: all over the world there is suffering. I know - how hokey is

posted 4:20:37pm Jan. 28, 2015 | read full post »

the fragrance of peaches
I wish I could send out, over the ethernet, the fragrance of the peach tea I made today. I wish there was a way to bottle the steam spiralling from the cup, comforting on a worrying day. Often when I worry, it

posted 12:11:07pm Jan. 26, 2015 | read full post »

with a little help from friends
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posted 5:00:00pm Jan. 25, 2015 | read full post »

talking to strangers
I know, your mother told you not to. But now you're a grown-up, and I beg you to reconsider. You're sooo missing out! Yesterday I had the loveliest conversation with two strangers -- two of the many I meet daily.

posted 10:30:46pm Jan. 23, 2015 | read full post »

more on time (and acceptance)
I was thinking today about how much I dislike meditating. Not the actual act, but the resistance I have to just doing it. KNOWING that sometime during the day, I should take out the time to sit down and breathe. N

posted 10:04:50pm Jan. 22, 2015 | read full post »




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