A couple of weeks ago I got hold of Natalie Goldberg’s Thunder and Lightning. Natalie, of course, is a Zen Buddhist who uses writing as a spiritual practice. I have been wanting to share this bit with you guys for some time, and I finally had a few minutes so here it is. I don’t think I need to explain. Just read it:
‘I never gained control of my mind—how do you dominate an ocean?—but I began to form a real relationship with it. Through writing and meditation I identified monkey mind, that constant critic, commentator, editor, general slug and pain-in-the-ass, the voice that says, “I can’t do this, I’m bored, I hate myself, I’m no good, I can’t sit still, who do I think I am?” I saw that most of my life had been spent following that voice as though it were God, telling me the real meaning of life—“Natalie, you can’t write shit”—when, in fact, it was a mechanical contraption that all human minds contain. Yes, even people with terrific, supportive parents are inhabited by this blabbing, resistant mouthpiece. But as I wrote longer, went deeper, I realized its true purpose: monkey mind is the guardian at the gate. We have to prove our mettle, our determination, stand up to its nagging, shrewish cry, before it surrenders the hidden jewels. And what are those jewels? Our own human core and heart, of course.’
Natalie Goldberg, for me right now this is gold! Thank you.
She goes on, ‘I’ve seen it over and over. The nearer I get to expressing my essence, the louder, more zealous that belittling voice becomes. It has been helpful to understand it not as a diminishing parent but as something universal, impersonal, a kind of spiritual test. Then I don’t have to wither or sneak away from censoring dad, carping mom, or severe schoolteacher with sunken chest when I hear that onerous yell. Instead, it is my signal to perservere and plow through. Charge! I scream with pen unlanced.’
I hope this can be of use to some of my writer friends. Unlance your pens!