Thursday, September 25, 2008
The Truth Is...
When I first realized that I wanted to be a writer, completely lacking any self-confidence, I learned quite a bit about how to approach writing from Natalie Goldberg’s excellent books – three about writing – Writing Down the Bones, Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life, and Thunder and Lightning- and one book – Long, Quiet Highway – about her spiritual work in the Zen Buddhist Tradition.
I learned a lot about writing. What I didn’t realize is that I also learned a lot about Zen Buddhism. Later, when suffering poured upon me, it was this foundation that helped me to accept it without submerging. I had gleaned a sense of how to sit in the emptiness, and how to hold the silence. I still fight, of course, but I continue learning.
Anyway, from time to time, I’ll post an excerpt from Goldberg’s books. I think you’ll like them:
My great teacher, Katagiri Roshi, is sick now and I am very sad. I think about the six years I was with him in Minnesota. I want him to be well again for himself. I realize he has already given me everything. I do not need to be greedy and think I can get more from him. My job is to penetrate what I already know so that I live it day by day. So I am not separate from it.
When I finished writing Writing Down the Bones in Santa Fe in 1984, I went to visit Roshi in Minneapolis. I showed him the book. I said, ‘Roshi, I need a teacher again. The people in Santa Fe are crazy. They drift from one thing to another.’
He shook his head. ‘Don’t be so greedy. Writing is taking you very deep. Continue to write.’
‘But, Roshi,’ I said to him, ‘it is so lonely.’
He lifted his eyebrows. ‘Is there anything wrong with loneliness?’ he asked.
‘No, I guess not,’ I said.
Then we talked of other things. Suddenly, I interrupted him. ‘But, Roshi, you have sentenced me to such loneliness. Writing is very lonely,’ I stressed again.
‘Anything you do deeply is very lonely. There are many Zen students here, but the ones that are going deep are very lonely.’
‘Are you lonely?’ I asked him.
‘Of course,’ he answered. ‘But I do not let it toss me away. It is just loneliness.’
So there you have it. There are days I think, how did I get into this writing? But here I am. And the truth is I wanted it.”