Today my quote comes from an interview Natalie Goldberg gave about her old Zen teacher, Katagiri Roshi (here).
After Katagiri’s death, allegations came to light about his sexual misconduct with students. This shattered everything Goldberg thought she knew about her teacher, who’s teachings had been fundamentally important to her in her practice and in her life.
She wrote about the process of coming to terms with this in the book Long Quiet Highway, which is recommended. This quote seems to get to the nugget of her (our) difficulty:
My understanding of Zen is that it involves a willingness to see things as they are, not as we want them to be. [...] Some students I know just repressed the new information and said, “Well, he’s a great teacher anyway.” It’s definitely true: He was a great teacher. And this also happened. Let’s incorporate all of it. It’s much more real. One of the ways to become an adult is to learn to hold ambiguity, polarity, the gray area. He wasn’t either great or bad. He was both great and bad. He had problems, and he was also wonderful. How do we hold both? And not cut off one?
Let’s see what you’ve been reading this week – over to you! (Do include anything you’ve read and liked elsewhere in the blogosphere.)
Although I have never met (and never will meet) Suzuki Roshi, the author of Zen Mind, Beginners Mind, he is an important influence on me. He is dear to me – as dear as ‘real’ people in my ‘real’ life.
I was very moved by his biography, Crooked Cucumber, written by David Chadwick, and I’m also fond of Zen is Right Here – a small book of anecdotes about his teachings and his ordinary life. He was a very ordinary man, and simultaneously very extra-ordinary, like all great teachers. Here’s a little story I wanted to share with you today.
During a lecture in which Suzuki Roshi was talking about the precepts, he said: “Do not steal. When we think we do not possess something, then we want to steal. But actually everything in the world belongs to us, so there is no need to steal. For example, my glasses. They are just glasses. They do not belong to me or you, or they belong to all of us. But you know about my tired old eyes, and so you let me use them.”
How easily we fall into the trap of thinking we can GET stuff, that we can KEEP stuff. Not just material possessions, but people’s attention, their praise, their love… What a relief to relinquish our attempts at grasping, to realise that we were on a fool’s errand from the very beginning.
We know about each other’s tired old eyes. We can look after each other.
What writer/teacher is dear to you? Tell me about them.
In this case, my view was mostly blocked by a big black furry thing.
In answer to Jan’s question, my view is a huge walnut tree.
It is a township for birds: blue tits, pigeons, dunnocks, goldfinches (now they’e found my niger seed), mistle thrushes, blackbirds, and the grand old great spotted woodpecker.
I can also see Purdy, my neighbour’s cat, returning from the fields with a mouse in her mouth, on the way to add it to the graveyard outside their back door.
I can also see trees in the distance, the big old sky, the little piece of patio which will be mine and which I’m looking forward to sitting in when the temperature rises.
What can you see?
PS check out the lovely small stone today on my widget (scroll down, scroll down, there it is!)
I don’t have anything to say to you this morning except good morning and I hope you have a good week.
Here’s a great post on raising Buddhist children on Cheerio Road. Karen has a new book coming out soon, I can’t wait. I like her last point especially.
It’s still a little wintery here, so here’s a Kooser poem to warm us all up. Good morning and have a good week.
A Winter Morning
A farmhouse window far back from the highway
speaks to the darkness in a small, sure voice.
Against this stillness, only a kettle’s whisper,
and against the starry cold, one small blue ring of flame.
As I said last week, every Friday I’m going to share a snippet from one of the books I’ve been reading during the week and invite you to do the same.
Wise, funny, informative, or just-plain-silly quotes all welcome.
Here’s mine this week – what’s yours?
“In my experience, therapy and meditation, psychological development and spiritual realization, seem to be intertwined. One can facilitate the other, or retard the other, or subtly infuse or contaminate the other. Realized beings can still be competitive, or narcissistic, or vulnerable to transference projections. Troubled, neurotic individuals can still be capable of profound insight.”
Mark Epstein, from ‘Psychotherapy without the Self’.
I like that last bit. Translation – even if we’re super-spiritual-self-developers we’re only human. And even if we think we’re in a complete and utter mess, we can come out with diamonds. We’re all in the same boat.
Over to you – what have you got for me this week?
Are you signed up to my quarterly newsletter yet?
If you are, you’ll already know that I have a new article up about surviving rejection on my website. Writers, and most other human beings, might find it helpful.
You’ll also know that I have three gorgeous hardbacks of my first novel The Letters to give away – all you have to do to enter is send me an email (email@example.com) with ‘The Letters’ as the title by the end of January.
If you’re picked out of the hat I’ll sign your name in it and send it (with love) to wherever you are in the world. Anyone can enter so let your friends know too and if they win you can borrow it from them. Cunning eh? And feel free to blog the competition for your readers.
If you’re not signed up to the newsletter yet, do so by putting your email into the newsletter box over on the right. Scroll down a bit. See it?
It’s snowing again, but seems to be turning slushy so far. I’m off out in a minute. Wish me a continuing Thaw (he he).
This morning I found myself talking to my microwave.
Yes, thank you very much, Mr. Microwave. But five beeps is really rather excessive. Three would be quite enough.
I talk to my cats a lot, and you all know about Rosie, but I wonder if personifying my microwave has tipped me over some kind of edge?
Do you talk to your kitchen appliances, or any other inanimate objects? If so please leave a comment and I shall judge my sanity by your replies.
PS, just wondering, have you bought my book yet? ; )
In my last place, the TV was always on.
Even when I was on my own, when I got home I’d automatically turn on some music (if I was very chilled), the radio (if I was a bit chilled) or the TV (if I’d had One Of Those Days).
Even when I was listening to music, I’d turn on the TV to accompany me whilst I ate. As Galway Kinnell was aware, there are certain foods you shouldn’t eat alone, and TVs provide a kind of false company.
Earlier in the week I carried out an experiment. I came in, took off my shoes, and didn’t turn on any noise. I made my dinner. I ate it. I read my book. I did a bit of internet-faffing. I didn’t turn on any noise. I went to bed.
It was delicious.
This morning I sat outside my house (in my coat and gloves) and felt the sun on my face. I listened to the birdsong, and I listened to the gaps between the birdsong.
It was delicious.
I would like to invite more silence into my home, and my life. Here is some bloggy silence, to inspire you all. Close your eyes for a few minutes and breathe it in.
I’ve always favoured a subtle approach to marketing my books.
I hope you’ll forgive a short lapse. MY NEW NOVEL THAW IS AVAILABLE NOW! BUY IT IMMEDIATELY!
If you’re in the UK, Amazon might be your online retailer of choice – here’s the link.
If you’re in the US or elsewhere, The Book Depository offer free worldwide delivery. Change the currency in the top right hand corner and Bob’s your uncle. Here’s the link.
So just to recap – if you’ve ever enjoyed any of my blogs, if you’d like to support a struggling writer, if you want to know whether or not my character Ruth decides to carry on living, if you like photography, Russian men, microbiology, cake or the sea (all in the novel), if you like the colour of my hair, if you have a vowel in your name, then BUY MY BOOK! If more than one of the above applies, BUY TWO!
There. I’ll go back to being subtle now.
Let me know in the comments section when you’ve done so. Let’s see if we can get one of those Amazon spike thingies to happen.
As always, THANK YOU LOVELY PEOPLE.
A new idea for Planting Words.
Every Friday, I’m going to share a snippet from one of the books I’ve been reading during the week.
The snippet might be wise, funny, informative, or just-plain-silly.
The idea is that you’ll then share your own snippet in the comments section. One quote each, along with the book you found it in (or which of your children said it) and anything else you want to say about it. I can’t wait to see what you’ll come up with.
I nearly called it ‘quote Friday’, but I’m a writer and I’m meant to have lots of imagination, so I’ve settled on Quoday. Genuis ; )
My first quote (also quoted in my work-in-progress) is from Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook.
“Do you know what people really want? Everyone, I mean. Everybody in the world is thinking: I wish there was just one other person I could really talk to, who could really understand me, who’d be kind to me. That’s what people really want, if they’re telling the truth.”