Writing from Beginner’s Mind
Today, in the bathtub at 4:45 am, I thought: I don’t want to write that way anymore. I don’t want to write in the preachy, teachy style that I adopt when I think I am supposed to be helping people.
It’s not me.
So I’ve taken back my voice.
I don’t need to try so hard – to be wise, to be spiritual, to be useful. I don’t need to sound like an expert – which, I see now, I have been doing, out of the misguided notion that doing so is the only way to sell spiritual books, the only way to be a real writer.
The truth is, it’s one of the many ways to NOT be a real writer.
It’s also one of the many ways to NOT sound like an expert. Odd, isn’t it?
I AM a real writer – and as for my expertise, i know what I know. What I don’t know, well, more to learn.
When I take my voice back, I find these bedrock truths that have served me well:The only story that matters is the story that lives in the details and experiences of the real world in which I live. The story that begins when the writer opens her eyes and looks around.
Enough has been written about Beginner’s Mind – whole books, articles, many blog posts – so I won’t go there. Instead, I will demonstrate it.
- The early hour, when all I can see in the window of my office is the reflected glow of the lamp in the next room – and the screen of my computer.
- The room, a dark cave that opens around me – at the lit center – into layers of increasing darkness. At the far end of the living room, I can see only outlines of things – the sofa with its flowered pillow and heap of blanket. The closet door, gaping open onto black emptiness. The shape of my sister’s painting, A mirror – reflecting my shoulder, bathed in blue light. I am exhaling now – leaning into this moment, here, now.
- The empty wine glass on my desk, a reminder of last night’s family dinner when, I stood, leaving my husband and kids at the table and came here, to check my Twitter feed ‘for a moment’ and stayed for an hour.
- The postcard that my other sister gave to me when I visited San Francisco is held to the wall beside me with a clear thumbtack. On it, the image of another cave – with moist red walls, rounded and close – that has always reminded me of the room that sits at the inside of my heart.
- How is it that I am just noticing these hot flashes that must have awakened me, and drawn me from my bed, as they do – to this desk. Have they become, after two years, so commonplace that I no longer consciously register the surge and flow of their heat? How does this happen? How do things once so huge and important drift to the bottom of the pile of life, heaped in a shadowy corner like that quilt?
- Beside the glass, my tarot cards stacked, each blue card decorated with stars. It sits atop another card deck – and on that one, balloons sail into sky.
- Here is the thick white oval platter that I filled with smooth stones and a hammered brass ball and two spheres of blue metal that chime when you hold them in the palm of a hand.
- And here is the Mother Earth doll that has stood on my desk for more than ten years with her brown felt skirt stuffed with wool and her wreath of woven grass and ribbon and her embroidered eyes.
Yesterday, my daughter asked me to take her for a drive. We were both stir-crazy with being confined to the house for four days – she’d had her wisdom teeth pulled; I was hovering about, bringing ice packs and ibuprofen.
We got into the car and drove around – past the farm and the swimming hole and the health food co-op. So much of our lives is invested here… I thought.
And then, as we passed the Waldorf School – where Katie and her brother virtually lived for 12 years – and where, one Christmas, I purchased this Mother Earth doll that now sits on my desk – a wave of grief blew through me.
“Do you ever feel…. ?” I said. I confessed that sometimes when I drive past this place, I feel such a loss. “I mean, how can a place that you’ve loved so much – a place to which you’ve devoted years of love and care – so much investment – in the children, the teachers, the staff, the grounds, the festivals, the fund-raising… ” I spent four years as PTO president, nine years managing the food tent at the music festival, every moment driving and cooking and calling and volunteering. Twelve years of devotion. “… and then, it just ends.”
“Do you ever feel that way, driving by here?” I asked.
“All the time,” she said.
Writing this, oh, hell, now I am crying.
Beginner’s mind does this – brings me back to myself, to my true voice, to the story-telling I have missed. Back to this desk, this not quite morning moment, these fingers hitting thee keys, this room.
Back to my heart, which, I can see now, I’ve been neglecting – and which has, for the moment, been witnessed.
Sitting in Beginner’s Mind, at the beginning, this moment, this wine glass, this platter of stones and spheres, this soft handmade doll, this heart overflowing.