Read widely and often

13686397863_788745ee6c_zKaspa writes: The last time I posted on here I talked about writing lots and often. Today as I come to the end of a three week summer break I’ve been reflecting on the wisdom of reading widely.

Just before our break I went to our local library to get some holiday reading. I checked the opening hours before heading down and saw that the library was about to close. I jumped in the car, rather than walking, and when I arrived I stopped at the first table of books through the door: the new books. I picked some that looked interesting and vaguely literary without paying too much attention to what they were. There wasn’t even time for me to look through the Sci-Fi books as I usually do.

What a great crop of books I came away with. One of them was a little too odd for my tastes but the rest were excellent. I’ve just taken them all back so don’t ask me for the titles… I *might* be able to dredge them up from my memory later – I’ll let you know sometime 😉

I’ve also had time to dive into some poetry again which was wonderful. Old poets, new poets, English speaking poets, poets in translation. Good stuff.

To read widely is old advice but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good advice.

Sometimes I read for comfort, going back to old favourites. Sometimes when I’m feeling more spacious and relaxed I read to open my eyes a little wider.

Reading widely encourages empathy. We get to see the world from lots of different points of views. It can teach us about style, and give us permission to find our own way of writing when we see how many different choices authors make. It can teach us the impossibility of writing a book that pleases everyone, as we’re disappointed in a book all our friends have been raving about (or the other way around). It can show us how many different ways there are of exploring some universal human truths, and how each person’s experience of those universal truths is special and unique.

Libraries and independent book shops are great for introducing you to new writers. Unlike online shops they don’t have algorithms set up to feed you more of what you already love. In amongst the shelves of real paper books there is the possibility of something different and unexpected

Keep enjoying the books you already love – but take a chance on something new as well.

 

Image: reading rainbow by emily kneeter

Tiny pockets of joy & rainbow socks

socksIf you’ve got ten minutes a day, an open mind & a tenner, I’d like to propose a swap – hand them over, and in return I’ll give you more joy for the next 31 days. The offer runs out on Mon 14th – read more & register here to start today.

One of the things you’ll receive is a chapter of my new book: Choose joy. Here’s an extract. I’m sending a little fragment of shiny joy out with this newsletter – it should take effect at some point today – let me know if it works! Sending blessings, go easy.

“Last year I bought some long stripy rainbow socks. Whenever I put them on, they made me happy. I wore them on a trip to my young nieces, hidden under my long red skirt, and they received rave reviews – when I got home I found some miniature versions online and put them in the post. My nieces were overjoyed, and that made me happy too. […]

Tiny pockets of joy do add up. What works for you? Crooning to your dog or luxuriating in a rose-scented glittery-bath-bomb bath? Planting a bright red cyclamen, or going to a coffee shop on your own for a gingerbread soy latte? Putting time aside to write or paint? Helping out at your local school? Sending your great aunt a hand-written letter? Baking cupcakes with your children? Grabbing five minutes to promenade in the garden with your coffee trailing steam before the chaos of your day?…”

Would you like more joy in August?

sunflowersGreetings. This morning Kaspa & I recorded a special (slightly ramshackle) video just for you – you can see it here. We’ve also decided to discount the 31 days of Joy e-course until Mon 14th – read more & register here.

Something that brings me a lot of joy is running WOWH courses. When people sign up, I’m happy that they have made a decision to put time aside to look at what’s important. I love knowing that people are writing small stones, and supporting each other in the Facebook group. It brings me joy to hear from people who’ve received insights & peace of mind from the course, and who decide to move forwards in a different direction.

This sort of ‘looking at what’s important’ is a devil to prioritise. There are a million things asking for our attention – tugging at us – they are noisy critters! How would it be to protect ten minutes a day so you can meditate, or read your novel? How would it be to create two hours a month to go out on a date with yourself and have a long conversation with yourself?

I want you to find the time and courage to do this, because I want you to make the most of your lives whilst you can. As part of our morning service we recite ‘time has passed with the switftness of light… it is already morning’. It is already August! Don’t delay – make some space for joy and for looking at the important stuff, whether that’s a course or some therapy or ballroom dancing or walking your dog or whatever you most need.

Keep in touch, sending love,

Satya

“He who postpones the hour of living rightly is like the rustic who waits for the river to run out before he crosses.” ~ Horace

 

Write lots and write often

Writing by Bianca Moraes

Writing by Bianca Moraes

Kaspa writes: I have started keeping a journal of bad poetry. I don’t set out to write bad poetry (who does?) but calling it a journal of bad poetry has taken away the pressure of performing.

These poems aren’t for anyone to read. I try and write at least one every day. Sometimes I manage it. Sometimes I don’t.

These aren’t calculated poems. There is a lot of value in practicing forms and in searching hard for the right words. But that isn’t what my writing needs right now. What my writing needs is permission to be rubbish.

I open the book. It’s a slim unlined notebook that was left behind when one of our residents moved out. It’s full of welcoming empty pages. The page is slightly rough to touch, like recycled paper. I have a favourite pen that I use .There is something about the ritual of using the same pen and the same book that feels supportive.

I have numbered each of the poems. For no good reason, but it helps complete the ritual.

I open the book and I just write. A line appears, and then another one. I don’t worry too much about changing words that don’t fit, although I have once or twice. Mostly I just want to keep the flow of words going.

Some days it feels great and I think that I might not be writing bad poetry at all. Sometimes it feels like I am writing bad poetry. But writing bad poetry is better than not writing at all.

I started writing bad poetry after reading “Why you should aim for 100 rejections a year” on Lit Hub. Kim Lao writes:

“In the book Art & Fear, authors David Bales and Ted Orland describe a ceramics class in which half of the students were asked to focus only on producing a high quantity of work while the other half was tasked with producing work of high quality. For a grade at the end of the term, the “quantity” group’s pottery would be weighed, and fifty pounds of pots would automatically get an A, whereas the “quality” group only needed to turn in one—albeit perfect—piece. Surprisingly, the works of highest quality came from the group being graded on quantity, because they had continually practiced, churned out tons of work, and learned from their mistakes. The other half of the class spent most of the semester paralyzed by theorizing about perfection, which sounded disconcertingly familiar to me”

My own project was nearly disrupted when I saw a call for submissions recently, and started to imagine writing something to send in. The writer’s block began to loom. I dismissed the idea of submitting and went back to writing bad poetry.

Maybe next year I’ll start collecting rejections too.

Write lots and write often.

 

~ Kaspa

How do we find home?

AM prayer flags flutteringFirst: if you’d like to reconnect with what’s at the heart of it all, join us for Spacious July.

This weekend we welcomed someone who hadn’t visited the temple before. Today they told me that they felt at home here, that they had a second home. How did they do it, and how do we find our way home?

For me, home is where I feel safe to be myself. This is easier in some places and with some people than others, but it relies more on my attitude than it does on anything else.

If I worry about being rejected, then I change myself to ‘suit’ others. If I worry about being misunderstood, I stay quiet. If I worry about not having enough, then I feel needy. If I worry about things not suiting me, then I feel critical and controlling.

When I remember to lean in to the Buddha, I don’t have to worry about any of this, and I can be at home regardless of where I am and what is happening around me. Ironically, feeling more secure often makes it easier for other people to accept me and to offer me things.

What do you lean into when you feel wobbly or alone? What helps you to do this?

If you’d like to explore this further, join us for Spacious July (including a private Facebook group where you can share your experiences with your fellow course participants).

Take good care, Satya <3

The difference between self-care and self-indulgence

kahlua-cupcake-by-stacyI’ve never been very good at self-care. My tendency is to make myself safe by making sure other people are okay, and so I often neglect to factor in my own needs.

When I do try to look after myself, I often end up eating too much cake or watching too much television and feeling slightly sick, spaced out or hung over.

Recently I’ve been pondering the difference between self-care and self-indulgence. I think that when I feel over-tired or overwhelmed, I try and reach out for self-care but instead grab onto self-indulgence. These activities bring me instant comfort but also anaesthetize me, helping me to continue avoiding the things that got me into a mess in the first place.

When I am able to choose differently and write in my journal or go on a walk or sit and look at the sky for a while, I often feel worse before I feel better. If I keep going, sticking with the uncomfortable bits, by the end of the day or week I feel replenished rather than zonked.

Self-care doesn’t always feel good to start with. But it never leads to a hangover. And it always turns us back towards the light.

What do you do tend to reach for when you feel depleted? Which of these things anaesthetize you and which nourish you? How can you get better at self-care?

Let me know your thoughts. And advance warning that I’ll be running Writing & Spiritual Practice in July, for the usual discount. I’ll write again to remind you – I hope you’ll join me.

Go easy, Satya <3

How to write a love letter to yourself

12229693393_291520d542_kHow are you?

How are all the different parts of you? Do a quick sweep of your body. Where is there tension? Aches? Lightness? How are you feeling? What has happened this week (or this year) that has been difficult? What different versions of you are living inside yourself?

Life often moves fast, and it can batter us about a bit. I would like to suggest that you give yourself the gift of half an hour and sit down to write a love letter to yourself.

Start with your name – Dear Satya – and then see where the pen takes you. Remember, this is a love letter written from the perspective not of a smitten early-days lover but someone who has been married to you for as long as you’ve been alive – a marriage with ups and downs, but one that has brought you much joy and one which contains much hope.

What do you need to hear? Write it. What questions do you have? Write them down. What do you appreciate about yourself? What do you struggle with, and what would it look like through the eyes of love?

Do make time in your diary to do this, and when it’s done, keep it somewhere safe. You might need to read it again.

I’d love to know how you got on.

Much love from me,

Satya <3

Mindful Writing May

DaisyMindful writing allows my thoughts to move forwards rather than around in circles. It invites me to move towards an experience of the world that is closer to how it really is, and to investigate my own experience. It shows me my life in a bigger context. It grounds me, and creates possibilities for new ways of seeing and of being and of acting.

Join me for Mindful Writing May and commit to 31 days of writing to connect with yourself and the world, to create space and to create new possibilities.

This morning the sun is streaming in through the window beside my work desk, lighting up my dusty keyboard, and my paper journal lying beside it. The journal is full of thoughts and fragments of writing on all sorts of things: there are records of dreams in there, there are questions that I’m living with at the moment, and there are pages of writing which move from questions to something approaching answers.

How to take part in Mindful Writing May?

It’s simple – just commit to a writing practice every day throughout the next month.

You might want to write a small stone every day. You might want to commit to an organic journaling practice, writing about whatever comes to mind, or if you want some structure and support you might download my Eastern Therapeutic Writing e-course and allow that to guide your journaling through May.

“It exceeded my expectations – it opened doors to spiritual practices that are meaningful to me, both in writing and in other ways. It’s helped me to grow. A huge huge thank you.” ~Tammy Hanna

I’ll offer the course at the discounted rate of £9.99 GBP or $12.99 USD. Sign up now.

The course offers four ways of using your journal to support you in creating possibilities, in grounding yourself, and in becoming more at ease with yourself and the world.

If you’d like to you can share your experiences in the dedicated Facebook group, or keep it as a purely personal practice, supported by the idea that people from all over the world will be journaling alongside you, in their own ways, throughout May.

Where can I begin?

Prayer Flags by Diamond Mountain shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Prayer Flags by Diamond Mountain shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Kaspa writes: If I lean back and stretch my neck and head to the right and look through my window I can glimpse the worn out prayer flags barely moving on this still, clear day. Sometimes, early in the morning, they look as if they are glowing when the sun shines through their thin fabric.

When I ease into a more comfortable position the window fills with the rebuilt walls and roof of the old coach house. The slates and bricks might be two hundred years old, but they have been recently laid in new straight lines. The edges of the slates are rough, revealing their thin layers.

Above the roof the sky is soft white clouds with wispy edges, against pale azure nothingness.

Any of these places are places to begin writing about.

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Robert M. Pirsig talks about a student he once had. She had chosen to write an essay about the town she lived in, but didn’t know where to start.  Pirsig directed her to a single brick up high in the side of the town hall and said, “Start there.” She turned in a great essay.

As I sit typing, my neck is zinging pain signals at me. There is tightness there. I can feel an insistent pressure between two vertebrae at the back of my neck. There’s a story here.

I sneeze; hay-fever, I think. The big fields of rape-seed in the valley have just come into golden-yellow flower. I pull a tissue out of the pocket of my red trousers. The tissue is stained pink, and smells like fabric softener. Tiny pieces of soft paper sprinkle out into the room and all over me. There’s a story here.

A blank page can be overwhelming. But anywhere is a good place to start, if you pay the right kind of attention. Be curious, be opened hearted, choose a thread and keep pulling at it.

The sun has moved a little and lights up the dirt on my window. I can make out the shapes of rain drops imprinted in the dust. Brick dust from the building work on the coach house? Dust in rain carried from the desert somewhere? There’s a big old bird poop in the middle of the window. The rain has washed most of it away, but the shape remains like a shadow or a ghost. How many stories are here?

We don’t need to be in the midst of great conflict or feel fraught or like we’re trying to work something out in order to create something good. Just start paying attention. If you need more advice than that, then start by paying attention to the things people usually forget to see.

 

 

 

You are beautiful beyond measure

Blue BuddhaYou are flawed, you are stuck in old patterns, you become carried away with yourself. Indeed you are quite impossible in many ways. And still, you are beautiful beyond measure. ~ John Welwood
As I type, a blackbird is singing his heart out as dusk comes on. I spent three hours this morning in our shrine room, doing the same. In my Buddhist tradition we chant the Buddha’s name as a way of connecting with something infinitely compassionate and wise.
It is a powerful practice. As I sat, the usual mental chatter arose. Oh, there aren’t as many people here as there were last time. That person is singing out of tune. Why am I doing this again? When can I go and eat chocolate and watch television?
I am quite impossible in many ways. This practice, and the practice of writing small stones, puts this foolish being into relationship with something that accepts me just as I am. Whether we see this ‘something’ as the gaze of the Buddha, the Good in the Universe or the spirit of blackbirds doesn’t matter. What matters is being honest about our flaws, and feeling loved anyway. If we can get even a small taste of this, we can begin to pass it on to others. This is our most important work.
I’d like to pass on the merit from this morning’s practice to you all – all of you reading this post in different parts of the world. My teacher says that merit can be seen as ‘happy mind’ – the joy and peace that we generate through our practice gets passed on to whoever needs it most. I hope you can feel it.
A few of you have come over to check out our friendly ‘virtual temple‘ where we talk about this practice and get to know each other so we can support each other in this funny old life. You’d be very welcome.
Deep bow, and I’m still planning on writing a new WOWH course on ‘Creating Sacred Space’ – watch this space!
Satya <3