Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Excerpt from Walks With Yogi, by Anda Peterson

An excerpt from Walks With Yogi: The Enlightenment Experiment by Anda Peterson. Just released!


Throwing Yourself Away Doesn’t Work

I used to think of lovingkindness and mindfulness as words that describe a person who is better than I am. My default setting was self-denigration. I had developed a laser-like focus on what was wrong with me and others. But then, when I was in my mid-thirties, I started going to Al-Anon meetings. There, for the first time, I experienced what I now rediscover in Buddhism. The twelve step recovery programs are remarkably similar to the tenets of Buddhism. Both tell me that I can and must accept myself as I am; trying to punish or criticize myself into being a perfect person doesn’t work. 

All of this was news to me when I was in my thirties. Entering an Al-Anon meeting was like finding myself on a different planet, one populated by strangely compassionate, non-judgmental people who said they were no better or worse than me. In their own strange Al-Anon language, they told me what Pema Chödrön says: “We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who you already are.”

However, the journey has fits and starts. Some days I feel the heavy weight of self-denigration again, like a wall has collapsed on me. It’s so easy to fall back on all the old tactics. I try to avoid the whole thing and resort to eating too many chocolate M&Ms. Then I feel inordinately tired and lay down on the bed, pulling shame over me like a blanket. Finally, I feel how much I hate myself and think that no one is as crazy and self-centered as me. I beat my head against the wall trying to knock out my character defects and tell myself that a good person would be selfless and volunteer to aid those who are really suffering.

But then I remember: I can’t throw myself away. So I stop and observe, stop and listen, stop and just be in the present moment.

I remember . . . but then I forget . . . until I remember.
That’s why it’s called practice.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Bob Thurber's Reflection on Writing

Something for our writers . . . 

Remember . . . Keystrokes are hammer taps. Get words on paper. Don’t worry about connections, character or plot. Work for an hour. Promise yourself an hour. Do nothing else but move your fingers. Make coarse shapes. Follow any emotion that pops up but never impose emotion, never fake it, and don’t make up your mind or your heart ahead of time. Understand you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s why you’re here. Rough it out. Anything goes. You can decide later what any piece of text looks like, what it might mean. Don’t stop. Don’t question. Don’t quit. Don’t stop to read what you wrote. Move your fingers. You mind will have no other option but to keep up. Remember that writer’s block is merely the cold marble waiting for the chisel to heat up.

Bob Thurber, author of Paperboy and Nothing But Trouble (Shanti Arts Publishing, 2014) and countless short stories and flash fiction.

Note: Shanti Arts Publishing is republishing Paperboy and it will be released later this spring. When I read Paperboy a few years ago, I was stunned and amazed. It's a book I've never been able to get out of my head. When Bob asked us to republish it, I was elated. I'm delighted to make this book available again.