May 30, 2010 § 8 Comments

1. i am working on a piece of writing.  personal essay-like. and it is taking me forever.  the muse finally came back yesterday. and that has been a huge help after more than a week of writer’s block.

i have so many things i want to write.  things that are started but unfinished.  pieces that i love and want to finish.  a fairytale.  a book of poems. essays. zines. personal essays. etc.

but i can only stare at my computer screen for so long until my brain turns to mush.  this morning i was writing with the television on and that movie – a time to kill- was playing in the background.  and even though intellectually i know that movie is crap.  and i know that the racial analysis is ridiculous.  etc. i could feel myself, my emotions swelling and deflating along with the narrative.  damn, that fucking movie is moving. i got all teary when matthew mc conaghey gives his closing arguments. ‘and now imagine that she is white.’ ooooh…. my essay seemed quite dry and weightless in comparison. john grisham is a motherfucker.

i usually do yoga in between sitting at the computer typing.  its a good rhythm. typing. yoga. typing. yoga. and you know your writing is just not working when you are doing more yoga just so that you dont have to go back to that white screen with those black letters.

remind me why i am a writer? somebody? i should have been a lawyer.

2. ok i dont know if i should share this. or if i have already hit my quota for blog masturbation for the year, but, i am digging practicing some form of shikantaza.  if there is a right way to do it, im probably not doing it that way.

and, more embarrassingly, i got into it, via white boy buddhist, brad warner of hardcore zen.   i read the book a couple of years ago and dug it.  i dont identify as a buddhist, but i cant deny how many variations of buddhism have been influential on my life.

starting with my mentor in high school, a japanese-american (raised in hawaii) conservative republican lady who ran the debate club.  she didnt talk a lot about buddhism philosophy, she emphasized community service, participating in politics, being grateful for the opportunity to participate in the world, honoring traditions and family, speaking truth clearly.  its because of her that i moved from being a liberal to being anti-authoritarian anarchist revolutionary.  that is how much space she made for me to become more of myself.  and never occurred to me until years later how amazing it was that she nurtured me to the point that i never thought of my politics as completely opposite than hers.  but complementary.  ha ha ha…

anyways, back to shikantaza, which is just sitting.  i was reading brad warner and how emphasized posture in sitting practice.  and i was like, shrug, i dont get it, but do what you do. and then he wrote:

So, I’ve been looking over some of the stuff people have been writing in the comments about how horribly dogmatic I am about zazen posture. Aw.

Lately when I give instructions in zazen I’ve taken to describing what I do as being like a yoga class in which there is only one asana and you hold it for-fucking-ever.

I think this explanation might help folks understand my so-called dogmatism. If you went to a yoga class and the teacher told you there was only one way to do downward-facing dog and then had the gall to correct you when you did it differently, you probably would not accuse her of dogmatism. In fact, you would expect any decent yoga teacher to be pretty dogmatic about downward-facing dog. I personally wouldn’t trust any yoga teacher who wasn’t.

Same with zen. Like a decent yoga teacher, a good zen teacher can help you find modifications to the posture if she determines that you really can’t do it. But she’ll also gently push you into doing it right if she thinks you’re just being lazy and actually can do it. Or if she feels you just need a little bit of stretching before you can do it right.

The posture in zazen is not arbitrary. I think this might be the source of much of the confusion. I say this over & over & over, but zazen is not some random pose you take in order to work on your spiritual/mental stuff. It’s a physical practice.

i get that. its a yoga asana that you hold forever.  and once i thought of it like something went zing! in my brain. and i sat down in full lotus and just sat.

the other thing about shikantaza was that i dont count breaths. or even watch the breath necessarily.  i just hold the posture. the emphasis on the physicality works for me.

i would like a zafu pillow. this is the cheapest found, i might order it.


§ 8 Responses to confessions

  • armillaria says:

    So- the conservative republican lady- I think it’s really cool that that was able to happen in the world. I tend to think that one of the highest forms of maturity is becoming willing to help other people figure their ideas out to the point that you’re able to help them reach conclusions that you disagree with. Instead of trying to fill in any gaps you detect in other people’s knowledge with your own biases. Yeah. I read your blog a lot. Not writing much; thanks for being a presence.

    • mama says:

      yeah, when i look back, i realize how amazingly fortunate i was to be guided by such a subtle hand. i havent gotten there yet. i still want to fill in all the gaps with all the ‘right’ answer. and am just beginning to learn. to sit back and let ppl figure out for themselves what they need, and what is right for them. she though, was a master teacher. and she did so and still made clear what her perspective was and who she was going to vote for, and what policies she believed in. may i someday be at that point. honest and open and allowing.

  • […] know, i say i have writers block, and then i keep posting blog posts.  but i am not writing.  i am saying these words out loud as […]

  • Mamita Mala says:

    I used to sit zazen alot, when la Mapu was younger and when poroto wasn’t here yet. Reading this made me miss that practice pero I used to count breaths 🙂 I also had a nice buckwheat zafu that La Mapu ruined with some 25 cent slime thing.

    I know I need to sit and remind myself how to be still and breath again.

    • mama says:

      nods. nods. honestly, in the past year, i have just found myself needing to meditate. really needing it. cause when i dont, i am a pissy mama. lately aza has been all about pushing and testing boundaries and buttons. and i have to remind myself…she can only push buttons, if i let her. and meditation lets me see that more clearly.
      i counted breaths, or said internally ‘inhale, exhale’ for years. even now, when i am in meditation and i get caught up in thinking, i end up returning to the breath, in order to center myself. now, i mainly focus on ‘keeping the full lotus position’ and that seems to take all of my focus to do.
      maybe we can have a radical mamas zen practice! i think it would be awesome.

  • Mamita Mala says:

    Ooooh mujer you just got me all excited thinking about the possibility of a radical mami zen practice.

    • mama says:

      lets do it! its brainstorming time! i mean radical means to get to the ‘root’ and that is what zen practice is. it totally fits together. what would it look like?

      • Mamita Mala says:

        So here is where I get stuck in the roots….how do you engage small children in this practice. It feels to me like three year olds and zen practice do not mix pero I think it’s also my being stuck on the idea of needing quiet to meditate breath etc. And now poroto calls….breath

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