Writing as Practice

I subscribe to a few different Buddhist sites on the internet. They all feed into my specific interests

On Facebook I get notifications from the Zen Center For Contemplative Care (which is a center dedicated to end of life and grief issues)and from The 12 Step Buddha (which is obvious, right?). In email I get a Daily Om and Horoscope, and I get a newsletter from the Upaya Center, another Buddhist training ground for chaplaincy and hospice workers, among other more traditional Zen center interests. I also spend time listening to dharma talks by Tara Brach, Pema Chodron, Ram Dass and others. I meditate, I do yoga. Early on in recovery I read a book by Kevin Griffins called One Breath at a Time: The Buddhist Way Through the 12 Steps. It helped me immeasurably as I was so opposed to the theist language and approach that AA held (something that keeps a lot of people out of the rooms of AA; a big hurdle for many in getting well).

All of these things working together,and adding in the wisdom of many people I admire and respect, has given me a world view that leans heavily Buddhist. I don’t want to name myself any one thing, but so much of what I read, hear and experience through these different sites and personal work resonates with me. Non-attachment, be here now,leaning into arrows, accepting suffering as a lesson…so many more teachings. The one I grab hold to often is just the idea of practice, specifically the idea of life as a practice. Practice for what? I have no idea, but a practice none the less. I expect no specific outcome and am trying to be open and willing to accept anything that comes to me along the way. My practice is to be mindful always. Do the dishes mindfully, go grocery shopping mindfully, step out into the world doing the next right thing and being fully in the moment. That shit TAKES practice! I am not very good at it, but I try and it is so rewarding when I do inhabit the moments, shut off my monkey mind and be, just be.

I’m writing about this after reading a fascinating interview with Natalie Goldberg in the latest Upaya newsletter. Natalie Goldberg wrote one of, in my opinion, the 2 definitive books on writing….Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird, and her own  Writing Down The Bones.  I have Writing Down The Bones next to me as I write this because , even though I am reading too many books right now, I plan to add this one into the mix. The interview fascinated me from the start. She described the whole book as a Dharma talk. My book is a second edition from 2005, but it was originally published in 1986. It has a blurb from Robert Pirsig who wrote Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance, which I read many years ago. It says very clearly in her little bio on the book that she has practiced Zen and taught seminars in writing as a spiritual practice for over 30 years. I haven’t picked this book up for quite a while and I am quite sure I never noticed any of this before.  In a description of the book it says “she brings together Zen meditation and writing in a new way. Writing Practice, as she calls it, is no different from other forms of zen practice …”

I’m fascinated by this.. It ties right into my own ideas of practice. It resonates with my new found need for meditation and the way I want to live my life as practice. It reminds me that I have always wanted to write and that looking at it differently might engage me more, it dares me to begin  a new practice. It feels like a sign, which isn’t such a Zen concept, but I like signs.

I’m going to do some reading, I’m going to read her Dharma book once again. No attachment, just reading.And I’m going to see what develops, what comes to me. I am going to be open to the possibility of a writing practice…..maybe that’s what this blog has been all along and I just didn’t know it. I’m going to listen.



The last few weeks have been very hard for several of my friends and so for me. When I say I try to practice non-attachment that doesn’t mean from my friends or their problems. I attempt to detach from the outcome, with a sense that the universe will address the problem and bring about the best possible outcome. When I say I try to lean into the arrow and learn from suffering, that doesn’t mean I am not shattered by my love for my friends and sorrow at what they are going through, it’s that I am attempting to find meaning in all of this mess. Attempting being the operative word. I have attempted and failed many times in this; I will keep attempting and, probably, failing. The closest I come is just an acceptance of what is, no more than that. What is sucks, often. We all have our arrows to bear and the only thing we can hold on to is each other and the fact of what is. I don’t know…it is way easier to wash the dishes mindfully than to watch 3 of my friends and their families fight cancer. I will though, as will all of these folks differing circles of friends. Ram Dass says “We are all just walking each other home”…sometimes it’s bit more complicated than that, but, essentially this is what it boils down to.  We are all in this together because we are all one. Some of us are more one than others…our nearest and dearest friends, families, but essentially we are here to care for one another, each and every one another.  We forget it,  some don’t ever learn it. For some it is too painful to live that openly (raising hand), but we have to try. I am sitting back now, having offered my services in any way that I can possibly be of help, and waiting for them to ask. Here is the detachment from the outcome, I guess, though mentally I am fully attached. I want to help and I want them all BETTER. I want them all to not be going through this at all. I don’t want to feel as sad as I do about this. I can, however, accept that this is happening. Step one.


I guess what happened here is a another example of letting go and allowing what will happen to happen.This post is a mess, all over the place, but it fits in my practice. Expecting no specific outcome, for example, a coherent post. Accepting what I have written as having some purpose, even if that purpose is just that I needed to spew these thoughts out. Talking about Buddhism,practice, writing and sick friends. I don’t know.

I’ll let it all figure itself out. I’m going to go start my book.




Add yours →

  1. your studying seems to be paying off. 🙂
    may you find joy and healing
    as you breathe
    and take steps
    in mindfulness

  2. Writing as practice?!? Whaaaaaaat?!?

    Ahem. Perhaps I’ll try that, too. I know attachment isn’t working too well for me 🙂

    Great post. I love your heart. I’m praying for your friends. And f*ck cancer!!!


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