Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


Illness Anxiety

I am tired, cranky and generally impatient feeling tonight. I am irritated with my slow-healing body and that the continuing headache makes writing feel like I'm swimming through black-strap molasses in winter. Usually when I feel lousy I'm still able to focus on some writing, but I have been just staring at the screen lately.

Still haven't done up a review of the M. Ward/Port O'Brien show at the Aladdin from last week. I started to write about the amazing discussion around generosity the Love Based Living group had on the 9th. Wanted to post some stuff about the Ashtanga Vinyasa class I took weeks and weeks ago. Trying to finish up the piece I've started looking back at the service practice of maintaining the Transfer of Merit list for my Portland Sangha. My teacher still wants me to write on my weight loss, and the way I came to see mindful eating as a practice of very literally "feeding peace" within myself.

My inner critic likes to make lists and point out how I skipped a day of writing practice yesterday, including failing to produce another poem for the Sangha Challenge. It doesn't matter to that critical voice that the decision was made to not write after teaching a class, running errands, attending a Sangha tea, and helping CK with the week's shopping. By the time all that was done I was exhausted and my head hurt, not that my inner critic cares about how I feel physically or emotionally. Instead of writing CK and I spent the evening making a simple dinner, talking, watching a DVD and attempting to get to sleep at a reasonable hour.

Honestly, what I think is underneath it aside from the thoughts that I should just be producing MORE, is feeling anxious that I'm still having a terrible sinus headache. Today it moved to the right side, including the pain in neck, and I am fatigued again. I took my last dose of antibiotics with dinner tonight and am worried that not feeling well is going to hit me with a thump later this week. I've been taking pseudoephedrine, ibuprofen and drinking lots of water. I really don't have the time to spare to be sick and will have 5 days packed with yoga classes next week to get finished with teacher training.

When the Self is Slow

I am impatient
With this body.
It heals slowly
And reminds me
That I am not
Comprised of
Limitless energy.
Even my mind,
Well, most of it,
Resists prodding
To make it go.
Instead it mostly
Ignores criticism and
Lingers instead
On thoughts of
Sleeping late
And spending
A day going


About my Poetry (and my day too)

My day was filled with meetings with clients in which I tried to figure out what they're doing, what they need, and that I don't actually do "magic", I write code. Then I fixed bugs, caught up and generally went about my Monday.

Checked out a Hatha/Restorative class at Exhale, a new "green" yoga studio in the Alberta Arts District. Great class, enjoyed it a lot. Not as restorative as I was not-so-secretly hoping for, but not too strenuous considering I felt a bit tired and achy. Lovely space with a nice feel and a cork floor (which was kinda chilly to me). Would be a class/studio I'd considering taking more classes at definitely! Gave me little thoughts about having my own studio too!

After class, which got out at 8:30, I foraged around the kitchen and came up with a mostly leftovers dinner + steamed broccoli. Watched Q.I. while I ate dinner and chatted with CK a little. All the time in the back of my mind thinking, "Gotta write a poem for the challenge today..."

I used to write a lot of poetry. Angsty stuff when I was in high school and college. In my 20s I wrote a lot of steamy, sexy stuff of desire. In my 30s I pretty much stopped entirely except for the very occasional haiku that's popped up over the past 4 years.

Now putting thought into poetry, thinking about how some of my favorite poems used language and space, I find myself an even harsh judge than ever before. As though lines written without the fire of infatuation lack spark.

That the 30 poems in 30 days challenge is part of my Zen community... well, my inner critic gets very insistent that I try to write about being in the present moment, shining the light of Dharma... But that feels even more pretentious than anything else I try.

This evening I wrote about Portland. I guess in a way it is writing about the present moment.

Evening Commute

As the train turned
To cross the bridge
The city was drenched
In the last golden light
Of a late winter day.

I was watching gulls
Flying above the river
Turned into glimmering
Gems hanging in the
Approaching twilight.


and Now for Something…

...a little different. I have retitled the blog, clearly.

Why -- This is actually what my blog was titled when I started out on this whole writing practice idea. The title is taken from a snippet of lyric in a Peter Gabriel song entitled, More Than This. The rest of the lyric goes, "Like words together we can make some sense." It fits with how I see my writing practice, my words together making sense of my life.

Sharing about myself, wholly, is challenging. In most of the relationships in my life I've compartmentalized myself - sharing various parts of myself depending upon the audience. Protecting and keeping hidden a lot of myself. Writing is a practice that helps bring all the parts together into the same space. As I was starting to learn how to write about myself and the interactions in my life, I hit a period where I started to chop things into smaller parcels again. Subconsciously I decided I wouldn't fully share the real me that wrote about struggles and healing.

Although my teachers say this is a voice worth hearing, a way to turn bitter past into "potent medicine" to help heal others, it is hard to be open in these spaces most of all. Since one of my struggles is around being open with others, it makes for difficult practice to try and share my voice. Ultimately what I did make public where things that were less revealing of more tender places.

What this means aside from the title change? More posts will show up in the archives as I import things in and bring my pieces back together again. New posts will explore things like my inner critic, dramatic weight loss, and other more personal, deeper topics further.

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Each Word a Rock

I don't recall the title of the poem, but the words have stuck with me since high school. I'm fairly certain it was David Wagoner, a poet who settled north of me in Washington. Somewhere in boxes of old papers maybe the writing project I turned in at 15, or was it 16... My own poetry, some artwork of mine, and poems I felt a connection to.

Each word a rock
The size of a fist.

I throw them one by one
At the dark window.

That was all, those thin, unadorned lines. I cannot find reference to this anywhere on the Internet and will dig around at the library this week to see if I can track it down to confirm. Maybe I'll be posting later this week I have the writer entirely incorrect or someone will correct me via a comment. What is important is how these words stuck with me through the past couple of decades.

The image of each word being a rock has especially stuck with me. My mind goes to how some of our words are tiny pebbles, a vast scattering of "and", "or", "the" and countless "ahs", "ums" and "ohs". Vast stone crags of Hope and basalt columns of Courage. Bits of jagged words like Shame and Fear, cutting like obsidian.

Today started a little writing challenge in my Sangha - to write and post a poem a day for the next 30 days. The goal is to just write, not to judge not to weigh and compare, just to share this practice together.

I started with an homage to this spare poem that has stayed in my mind all these years. Funny how writing poetry brings my inner critic front and center, loudly. Writing the occasional haiku has felt easy, but there always has been something about free verse that feels more revealing than anything else. I found myself looking at the first poem for the project finding it lacking in grace and style, excessive and pretentious. Feeling the anxiousness brought on by the harsh comments of my inner critic I posted a new poem to the site dedicated to collecting the works of this friendly challenge to go deeper into the practice of writing.

Stone Words

“Each word a rock…”

Another poet’s words
Read when I was young.

My words,
Now grown older,
Are like the geology
Of this place.
Shaped by water
and by fire.
Explosive energy
And cold, silent rain.

Words like the shoreline which
Reaches out to meet the
Constant change of ocean
With fingers of stone and
Pebbles strewn high and low.
A trove of glimmering
Words murmuring together.


The Critic & Writing

I was really touched by a comment on a recent post from a friend from my Sangha. I thought it was really interesting to know how another person could spot my inner critic at work. I didn't even think of it that way, but as soon as I read Patrick's comment I thought, "Ah-ha, there you are again!" I could suddenly recognize the same voice of my critic stopping me from using art supplies until my creations were "good enough".

I am trying to be mindful of this critic when I look at my writing and learn not to dismiss my writing in the same ways I tend to dismiss my art, my voice, and my own needs & desires. I'm trying to look at writing as a practice for learning how to spot my critic, hear her words more clearly, and am then able to work more effectively with her. It is also remind myself that writing is a means for sharing with my community.

Honestly, I've always enjoyed writing. Pretty much since I figured out that I could do more than merely read the books I dove into at a very young age. I would draw my own pictures and write about my life. When I began to learn about poetry, haiku first, I wrote that too. I even enjoyed writing papers in college, especially researching for them. At work now I enjoy creating clear, concise, helpful documentation.

The past year seems to have been about my voice. From the very literal way of become one of the chant leaders for my Sangha, being asked to write about my experience with mindful eating, to writing about the places I visit -- all of it deepens my connection to this practice of words.


My Picture in a Zine

My article came out today in the Sangha newsletter, Ink on the Cat. It seemed a little strange to me to see myself there, printed, in black & white, looking out from something I could hold in my hands. I'm not sure if I've ever had my photograph next to something I wrote. When I think about it, the only time my photograph has been printed is in things like year books. Once or twice in small, local papers when I was a kid participating in a school or civic event.

In high school and college I had things I wrote show up in the school papers or literary zines. Mostly poetry, I wrote so much poetry throughout my teens and twenties. I moved onto just having a website and putting up my own poetry there when I was in my twenties. The poetry seemed to just stop showing up, years ago. It feels strange sometimes to not have poetry swimming around my head all the time. Once in a while something occurs to me, just in a flash and mostly whole. Haiku shows up in those flashes.

At times it feels like the PTSD burned through that language. When the anxiety caused by it is at a peak it feels like I am entirely cut off from any ability to think coherently, much less communicate. Being able to get any words out is a physical fight. In finally naming what left me feeling like I was broken and trying to work on it, the words no longer arrive in the spare beauty of poetry.

And yet on all sides I am being encouraged to write. My Zen teachers and community, my Hatha yoga teacher, my loved-ones, and co-workers. Tell the story of my weight loss, my realizations about myself as I study yoga, coming to a place of peace. All of is why I write a blog, trying to come up with some practice that would help me figure out how to tell whatever story decides to come up.

I feel a little at a loss as to where to start. Really all of those stories are the whole story. The free-fall of personality I experienced, was because of my weight loss. That loss of my carefully constructed personae that I defined as me left behind the stark reality of my PTSD. Peeling back the layers of the trauma leads me inexorably back to my childhood. The way out of all of these things has been the yoga and Zen practice.

I feel a sick fear at my Mother finding out what I've written and still managing to punish, humiliate, or at the very least make me feel guilty for embarrassing the family. There's a voice that says that I should wait until she is dead to write about her. I guess I feel like I don't know how to write this story because I'm still living it and most of the time lately I feel like I have no voice of accomplishment to speak from.

Yet here is my picture, printed in the newsletter next to my words. Someone from the Sangha has already emailed a compliment to me on my words, adding their voice to both CK and AM's.