By Ty H Phillips
I haven’t written in almost a month.
In fact, I haven’t had the desire to write. I realize it’s been a while and note its absence yet, the desire is not there. I have made several attempts to sit and I manage to do that—sit. I look at the screen, the table, the carpet, the fan, out the windows and at my phone, yet my fingers never manage to type a single word.
I was thinking about this, this morning. What makes a great writer?
Is it simply our desire to write? I hear writers say it all comes so easily; it just flows all the time, day and night and yet, their work is always the same piece rehashed (maybe mine are too, who knows). Other writers say writing is hard—harder than anything else and they sweat and torment themselves over every word. Others get a spark every once in awhile and their work comes in spurts, much like mine.
Anyway, as I was pondering this, I thought it must be like Buddhist practice.
Do we desire to be Buddhists or do we desire to understand? I would hope that Buddhism (or the desire to be Buddhist) is beside the point. The Buddha certainly wasn’t worried about being a good Buddhist. I have found that although I identify with Buddhism and certainly enjoy what it has become, I also have a sense of detachment from it.
I wish to understand not become.
When I walk through the woods to practice walking meditation and take photos, I am not forcing the environment, I am simply open to the space around me. I am open to the sights and sounds and rhythm of my steps.
I’m aware of the in breath and the out breath, the breeze and the smell of fresh earth and green living things around me. Can writing be the same? Can we sit with page and have a creation without overt desire or attempt?
When I sat this morning, coffee on table, phone on silent, bright screen before me, I was anticipating the outcome not the practice itself. I wanted a finished product to share instead of being within the practice itself. This seems to me a bit like what the Dalai Lama referred to as cultural worship instead of actual practice. We like to play dress up and decorate our homes in eastern garb and yet the practice itself is missing.
When I sit to write, I am no longer a writer, I am attached to the idea of outcome instead.
In Buddhist meditation, when we sit to achieve some outcome, we are not meditating, we are clinging—grasping at our idea of what it should be. We are fascinated with our projections, not the actual moment of being within practice, open to space and movement. When we forget that we are meditating and we are simply immersed within the nature of our being, magic happens.
In a moment of this open awareness, I realized that this is what writing needs to be (for me). It is a moment of openness to what I am experiencing, not about what I am trying to achieve.
Writing becomes cathartic when I am not trying to be a writer.
It works when I am just writing. When we bring ourselves fully into what we are doing, we are no longer trying to force the situation. We are instead being within it, open to time and context.
I sit writing and meditating not distracted by what is around me but instead aware, engaged, alive within the experience of here and now. I curl my toes into the carpet and notice the sensation and a spark happens, a moment exists that only I am aware of.
It coincides with my breath and the page is now full.
Editor: Dama Gornall