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Zen Mind: Writer's Mind

As a long time meditator I have come to deeply appreciate the simplicity and basic rightness of Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki. It is a doorway and a guide to a practice of grounding oneself in the act of meditation as well as life. And this includes the act of writing. Fundamental to the meditation practice is the "letting go" of preconceptions and expectations in order to tap the steady flow that lies within. Key is releasing control and not getting attached to outcomes. How hard this is to do in life as well as writing! I have found the seeking to control and project outcomes as a real block to myself, my fellow writers, and my students. The moment I switch from allowing the process to guaging it with results--publication--something crucial is lost. Now self-guidance  and pubication may eventually come, but if we turn to it too soon, originality and flow are stopped. Allen Ginsberg once pointed out that once we stop our writing to commend ourselves, "Look at me writing!" we are no longer writing, we have lost the flow. And so, I have learned from a practice of meditation how to approach the act of writing.

Recently I have been reading and listening to a young teacher Adyashanti who suggests that the true act of meditation means removing the meditator. We must release controlling the act and process in order to experience it fully. We must welcome the beginner's innocence in allowing the natural flow. Someone once described the poetry of Mary Oliver as her taking us into nature, then disappearing, leaving us there in wonder. Gary Snyder is another writer who knows how to get out of the way of the poem. And I would say that most fiction writers know how the writing takes over and seems to be writing itself with us along for the ride. It's a deep and wonderful experience, satisfying in itself. And so, while recognizing that there are as many ways of writing as there are writers, I suggest this approach as a way of writing to you. As we learn to let go of controlling the process and just be there in it, we create our truest writing. Particularly helpful for those suffering from writer's block, this letting go and letting flow can open you, your writing and your readers to new wonders.

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A few lines from Ryokan...


As long as I don’t aim,

I won’t miss.

With the catalpa bow

I shoot the arrow

toward the open sky.