Saturday, June 18, 2016

finding the right words

June 18, 2016: 
Part 1

I'm having a hard time finding the right words for things this week, so I thought I would skip writing anything at all today. After all, I just got back from a trip to Pittsburgh, and tomorrow I leave for Massachusetts. I didn't think I had any meaningful commentary to add to this week's news, and I certainly didn't expect to find time to write. I have to pack.

But when I got up, I couldn't resist going outdoors. When I left the house there wasn't a cloud in the sky, not a breeze. Fields that were emerald two weeks ago had turned to gold. Except for birdsong, the world was silent--not an airplane overhead, not a lawnmower humming away, not a single dog barking in the distance. For me it was the perfect way to start the day...too perfect for words.

As I walked I remembered the headlines from this past week. I thought about the families who are burying their LGBT sons and daughters today. Families who lost young children in unimaginable tragedies this past week. People fleeing deadly floods and raging wildfires. A friend whose cancer is spreading. For them, this is a terrible day...too horrible for words.

I walked with them for an hour and a half this morning, but it wasn't enough. Not long enough, not far enough, not hard enough. I may have to go back out again later...

June 18, 2016
Part 2

This weekend we observe Fathers' Day. In a perfect world, every day would be a happy day for fathers. But it isn't. Too many despair of finding and keeping their jobs so they can care for their families.Too many of them are stalked by bitter memories of war or abuse or the shortcomings of their own childhoods.  Some are besieged by addiction to drugs or alcohol, to gambling or sex, to the very work they take such pride in. Some have lost a child. 

In a perfect world, the rest of us would be happy to celebrate Fathers' Day with them, but we can't. We don't always know how to comfort them, or heal them, or make peace with them. Some of them are already gone. 

Perhaps we should try celebrating Heroic Fathers Day or Healing Fathers Day or Hopeful Fathers Day for the men out there who can't find happiness. For the rest of you:

Sunday, June 5, 2016

writing is a meditation

If you practice meditation you know how hard it can be to quiet your mind while sitting in silence. Our minds like to be busy--thinking back on things that have happened, thinking ahead to what awaits us, guessing, planning, judging, fretting--when our goal in meditation is to let go of all those thoughts so we can remain calm, mindful, and compassionate.

When our minds wander during meditation, we are encouraged to simply acknowledge the interruption and refocus on the body. When thoughts arise, we label them "just thoughts" or "just thinking" and move our attention back to the next breath--in, out, in, out. Letting go of intrusive thoughts helps mitigate the impact of negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, bitterness and resentment that may have a strangle hold on us.

This, I believe, is a practice writers should embrace. We are accustomed to labeling our own negative thoughts as "voices" we hear. It's an interesting metaphor. We are advised not to pay attention to the voices of negativity that discourage our creative efforts...voices that insist we're wasting our time, that we have no hope of success, that our work is meaningless or inferior. Voices that make us feel guilty for indulging in something we enjoy when others are so hard at work.

The voice of a parent might come back to us...something about taking life seriously, earning a decent living or keeping up appearances. It might a teacher or boss or co-worker, all of them with your best interests in mind as they scatter aspersions and dissuasions and conventional expectations along your path as if your journey weren't difficult enough without them.
The point is that those negative voices are just thoughts. Just echoes from the past, not worth arguing about. They are opinions, and they do not have your best interests in mind at all. Banish them! Return to the breath. Or take a walk. Or call up a friend--someone who encourages you and supports your dream. Someone who understands how hard this is and respects you for trying. Someone whose friendship isn't invested in your success or wealth or fame.

Do whatever it takes to stay on the optimistic side. Turn your attention back to the truth: 
When we choose to pursue something as fleeting as a creative urge or as elusive as a dream, negativity is intrusive. Think about it. Meditate on it. Learn how to let it go.

For more on writing and meditation visit my friend Madhu Wangu, at .

She's the expert.