I have a neck wrap –
the kind that holds water and keeps you cool –
I soaked it overnight,
ready to come on a summer walk.
Left it in the sink.
Now it’s hot and I have no relief,
getting more uncomfortable, angrier
by the minute, each sweltering step.
Turn all obstacles into the path,
the Buddhists say,
and so I try –
Try to welcome this forgetting
as a chance to keep walking,
step after step,
not listening to the voice in my head –
“So stupid, so stupid”
but to the song of birds, each one different,
and quieter, more subtle,
the unperturbed rustle of insects.
Poetry & photography (c)2017 Michelle M. Welch
Author’s note: “Turn all obstacles into the path” is a variant on the Lojong slogan “When the world is filled with evil, transform all mishaps into the path of bodhi.”
So this happened. Photo from ADOT via KPHO
Is every writer’s blog a collection of dilemmas? More to the point, does everyone repeat themselves the way I do? (I’m guessing the answer is Yes.) This time I’m revisiting the question of how a creative person – particularly a writer, who has to stay tied up in words – can follow a practice like Buddhism, which is all about letting go, and particularly letting go of words.
Here’s a particularly striking example of the impact words have. See all that fire on the road in the image? Yeah – I was driving through that last week as I was coming home from work. I’m in the process of drafting another post about this incident for the blog on the Phoenix Shambhala Meditation Center site, where I periodically contribute. Here’s how I’m describing the incident for that post:
I’ve been writing romance novels. The last two books I self-published were the first two in a planned series of four romance novels, and the project I’m working on now is the third in the series. I’m writing them under a pseudonym to differentiate them from the rest of my work, which is much different in style and tone. I call these my “cheesy romance novels,” partly as a joke, and partly because I have this lingering feeling that they can’t really be taken seriously.
This is a pretty lousy attitude to have toward your own work. I try to remind myself to be professional, to take all my work seriously and to write what’s best for the project at hand. In fact, this project is starting to go very smoothly and I’m happy with it. I wrote the first two books seven or eight years ago, when I was much more optimistic about publishing, and it’s been a real struggle to get back to number three. Finally it’s going well, I’m happy with it, I’m feeling successful – and yet I can’t help hearing the little voice in the back of my mind saying, “Are you sure this is what you should be wasting your time on? Shouldn’t you be working on one of the more serious story ideas you have?”
I attended Phoenix Comicon last weekend. My write-up from last year was more thorough than this one will be, but I did make some interesting observations while sitting in at some of the writing panels. First, they were rather good panels (not always a given at conventions), well managed and moderated (thanks to the PhxCC staff), and featured well-spoken and insightful guests (including my friend Jamie Wyman, whom I was delighted to support). They stayed pretty well on topic and offered some helpful advice. They also afforded me the opportunity to do something I hate to say I needed to do: practice the art of letting go.
I had a discussion with someone about trends in recent science fiction and fantasy, and how he doesn’t much care for them. So much fantasy is about war, and the visions of the future presented by science fiction are often bleak, pessimistic, or outright dystopian. He wondered why writers seem to lack positive vision, and as he knows I’m a writer, he seemed to hope that I would offer something more inspirational. I had to admit – maybe a little sheepishly – that my fiction tends to be dark, and the project I’m currently working on is absolutely brutal, but I think my characters come through in the end.
This is perhaps a roundabout way to get at the topic of basic goodness. Tuesday, May 7 has been designated Basic Goodness Day by Shambhala International, an organization that teaches meditation and lessons based on Tibetan Buddhism, inspired by the vision of an enlightened society. In the words of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, the leader of the organization:
In my continuing quest to learn stuff, I have been reading about Buddhism. One of the primary tenets of Buddhism is the idea of letting go. What does this mean for writers?