The following paragraph is an entry for a reader-contributed section in the Sunday Washington Post called “LIFE IS SHORT | Autobiography as Haiku.” The instructions say, “Find a way to give insight into your life in under 100 words.” It’s my favorite part of the paper and I read it religiously every Sunday because the writing is surprisingly good and most people “get it.”
During my senior year at college, my friends provoked each other, half in earnest, half mocking, with the question: “So, what are you going to do for the rest of your life?” The question’s immensity made us laugh uncomfortably at our cloudy career paths. Now 33 years later, I realize that I missed the point completely — it’s a trick question. There is no such thing as “the rest of your life.” There is only now, and if you are going to accomplish anything, it has to be done in small breaths, one after the other.
Well, it’s been four weeks since I submitted it so it must have gotten lost among the hundreds of other entries. The Post just publishes two a week. So I am going to post it here. When I get a seed of wisdom, I have to share it — because it so rare.
A friend recently reminded me about a book that I had purchased more than a decade ago — Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. It is published by Shambhala Publications, a publisher specialized in Zen, Buddhism, spirituality, yoga and other neat things. The book has become a classic, nearly one million copies in print since 1986. Goldberg writes and teaches writing with a Zen punch. She says that “writing is a practice,” just like mediation and yoga.
I was drawn to writing a blog about my yoga life because it is part of a practice for me, just as much as the asanas and pranayama. I learn, share that experience and refine understanding through putting words together. Writing is what sets me apart from most people — I learned that in my graduate studies, at work, on the web and in my life. It is how I manifest generosity and acknowledge the joy and fulfillment of my daily existence.
Golberg explains her 25 years of meditation practice in an article in Yoga Journal. She imparts some wisdom about meditating and writing:
“And my final rule is this: No matter how far your meditation diverts from the cushion or the chair, don’t forget to return again and again, as much as possible, to that immobile sitting position, where everything runs through you. Think of it: If a writer is a writer, she eventually, even 30 years later, must pick up a pen again and write. A Zen student, no matter how much he or she chops wood or carries water, must return to the zafu. Each practice has its one essential activity. For Zen, it is sitting. This is good. Otherwise we might wander off, get lost forever, and never find the beginning.”