This week I’m getting stuck into Open To Desire by Mark Epstein, which looks at whether Buddhists really need to chuck desire into the dustbin along with our ideas of a permanent self and all those mind-altering substances.
Here’s something I liked, where the author describes a student asking a question of the writer and Buddhist scholar Stephen Batchelor:
“I have no trouble understanding the idea of non-attachment in medatation,” the questioner asked, “but when it comes to my marriage and family, I don’t get it. Why is non-attachment even a positive thing to aspire to?”
Stephen motioned to his wife, Martine, who was just coming into the room. “My wife says it is like holding a coin,” he said, and he held out one arm with his palm up and his fist closed. “We can hold it like this,” and he emphasized the closed nature of his fist, “or we can hold it like this,” and he opened his hand to show the coin sitting in the centre of his palm. “The closed fist is like clinging,” he said. “But with my hand open, I still hold the coin.”
What are you reading this week? What are you liking? Add your quotes to the comments section. I always enjoy reading them.
On an unrelated note, have you come and said hello on Facebook yet?
I’m off to a Valentine’s salsa party tonight, argh. Wish me luck. Happy weekends x
Okay, so I didn’t explain this very well last week.
The idea is that we all post a quote in the comments – something that you’ve read this week in a book or a blog or on the back of a cereal packet – something that made you pause or snigger or ponder.
This week mine is from Kurt Vonnegut’s last novel, Timequake. I’ve always been a big fan of Vonnegut’s – where did that imagination come from? Here he is quoting himself.
“My uncle Alex Vonnegut, a Harvard-educated life insurance salesman who lived at 5033 North Pennsylvania Street, taught me something very important. He said that when things were going really well we should be sure to notice it.
“He was talking about simple occasions, not great victories: maybe drinking lemonade on a hot afternoon in the shade, or smelling the aroma of a nearby bakery, or fishing and not caring if we catch anything or not, or hearing somebody all alone playing a piano really well in the house next door.
“Uncle Alex urged me to say this out loud during such epiphanies: ‘If this isn’t nice, what is?’ “
Over to you!
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.)
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?
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.”