A Passage On Writing From Natalie Goldberg

Excerpt from “Thunder and Lightning” by Natalie Goldberg:

“I never escaped being a monk!  The morning gruel, the frost on the bell, bare feet on frigid floors, all have been mine.  Except that my meditation position has been a bent body hovering over a notebook with only my right hand moving across a blank page for hours at a time.

I know no one wants to hear me say how hard writing is – quit while you can.  In the Japanese monasteries they warn you not to come in.  In fact, you have to prove your sincerity and mettle by sitting outside the gates day after day before you can be admitted.

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi once sent an energetic but uppity San Francisco Zen Center student to a monastery outside Kyoto.  They had him sit for five days outside the wall, and then he was called in for an interview.  The teacher handed him a paper and pencil: ‘Write your name.’  He did what he was told and handed it back.  The teacher looked at the paper.  ‘Please continue to sit.’

After five more days, he was called in again.  ‘Write your name.’  He wrote his name and once more was sent outside.

The eleventh day, the twelfth day – the same.  On the thirteenth day, the Zen teacher again asked the young American to write his name.

He picked up the pencil, put it to paper, paused, looked up, looked back down, looked up at the teacher.  ‘I can’t.  I don’t know how.’

‘Good.  You’re ready to enter.’  ”

 

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Field Row’s End

I am thrilled to have this poem appear in the current issue of The Cape Rock literary journal from Southeast Missouri University.

 

Field Row’s End

Ox turns at field row’s end –

onions, tomatoes, zucchini and dill.

 

The luminous strands of March

get up, get ready, to work, to begin.

 

Get up, get ready, to work, to follow

the arc of the world, the slope of the light.

 

Dirt beneath thumbnail,

knees imprint the soil.

 

Clods of mud smear rubber boots

and we, the workers,

 

anchored to weather

with its moods, whims, dictations.

 

We, the workers,

fastened to the ox and the engine of his breath,

 

fastened to the fields,

splashing around in our patience,

 

working until it is no longer work,

but who we are and what we do.

 

Tuning in to the stillness of evening,

we have become the work itself.

 

We are the field, the ox.

We are the onions, the mud, and content to be so.

 

Watching attentively, listening closely,

we view ourselves as if through a microscope,

 

our metronome held in the bone-basket of our ribs,

its momentum not yet interrupted.

Siddhartha Considers Emotion

“He pondered this feeling which completely filled him as he slowly made his way.  He pondered deeply, sinking down into the depths of this feeling, as through deep water, until he reached the point where the causes lie.  For to know the causes – so it seemed to him – that is what thinking is.  And only in this way do feelings become knowledge instead of being wasted.  In this way they become meaningful and begin to radiate what is within them.”

-Herman Hesse, Siddhartha

 

Calm Glimpse

The sky
is always there.
The sun
is always there.
Storms come and go.
Clouds come and go.

 

Wheel

I stand on the mountain, one vast expanse of energy sweeping across the cosmos,

reverberating gratitude to the world that has sustained my physical form.

A life force unharnessed, a spirit no longer in battle against itself.

Having endured beyond tangible decay, I simply am.

Now every dawn over every land reveals itself to my sight.

Now every star’s ocean-sounding breath wends its way into my hearing.

Now every water flowing in every stream and fountain

that has ever been, or will ever be,

has become available to the mouth of my heart,

which is also the mouth of the Great Spirit

that chews, swallows, and digests

all creation and non-creation,

all being and non-being

in a wheel ever-turning.

Light My Way

May my heart light my way.  May it come into a place not unlike the narrow line that exists between water and fire, a pocket of stillness where both forces are within reach.  Then I could learn their ways, how to call on them, how to let them enter me, how to recognize which one is called for.  Then I might discover how to refuse nothing, yet also how to hold on to nothing.

May my heart find peace.  May it find a way to be supported by the great net of life – the embroidery of things – and not lose itself in the intricate mesh.  Then it might remember to bow more readily, honoring what support it has already found.

Having lost my way many times before, may I more easily recognize those paths and not start down them again.  May I light my way instead of losing it.

 

 

 

 

Stones On The Shore

Like stones on the seashore, we too are fragments of something larger, something greater.

We too are individual yet connected. We too are washed up here from another realm, only to return to it. We are moved back out of the sphere of gravity and oxygen, back out of a place that owes everything to its proximity to a burning star.

Our time in this dimension will cease to be, as we are returned to the same waves that washed us up, in earth-time, only a moment before. Strands of consciousness, we return to our transcendent source, no We, no You, no I.

In the one hand, Time. In the other, Eternity.  In both hands, Love.