Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Zen of Writing Without Words

When I started writing "100 Days of Dharma" at the beginning of January I didn't think about how many words I'd be spilling out on to the page.  It never occurred to me that I'd become conscious of talking too much.  There are many things we can't see when we set out on our travels, namely what lies round the bend.  So here I am thinking about  "right speech", one of the tenets of the eightfold path that leads to the end of suffering.  One of the aspects of right speech is not engaging in idle chatter.  Now I don't think of this as idle chatter, but on many occasions I have thought of it as too many words.  

So then I have my koan, how do I write "100 Days of Dharma" without words?  I could simply say enough words and stop, or write less frequently (which in truth would be much more convenient for me) but I want to complete my 100 Days of Dharma for a variety of reason.  I guess I am curious to see if I can do it.   And it feels like good Dharma practice to go through with it,  good discipline.  When I look inside, the combination of writing and the Dharma have clicked into their little lock position.  And it's a way to build a little writing muscle, weight lifting the alphabet.  

Originally it was my plan to just write in a private journal, you know one with a lovely cover and lined pages.  I think if I'd done that I might not be wondering if it were too many words, but that's speculation at this point.  I ended up in the blogosphere because of an Etsy tip that suggested a blog was a good companion to your shop.  Supposedly I was to write about Etsy related stuff.  Yet the blogging immediately took on a life of it's own that doesn't have a huge amount to do with Etsy other than providing a little welcome mat to the shop.

When I started I thought the blog will make me more committed, less likely to abandon the empty page when the first pang of sloth & torpor hit (sound like a couple of cartoon characters don't they?).   The threat of a little public shaming is apparently effective for me.  But I think the public nature of the writing is also what leads me to ask  " is this too many words?"  Then I have to ask why is this?  Is it my ego, my little self again, primping and straightening in front of the mirror?  Am I simply worried that you will think I'm a blabbermouth, a bag of self inflated hot air, a windbag of tornado proportions, a blathering bombastic Buddha babbler (okay enough already) ?  I think if I am to be truthful there is some of that.

So I am thinking about silence, the fact that we need silence to get to know ourselves, that our true realizations often come when we are sitting silently.  And that in general I know I'd be better off if I listened more and talked less.  And so there is the work for today and always. And so I will end with fewer words than usual perhaps, a fitting ode to silence and right speech and with a quote from Sengstau, the 3rd Zen Patriarch "The more you talk and think about it, the further astray you wander from the truth."  I think I am going to need a very big bag of bread crumbs to get me home, Hansel.


  1. i really like your blog and am enjoying your posts. i look forward to more, whether with words or without.

  2. Thanks Lisa. Always nice to know I'm not talking to myself! And I think it will contain words although I'm getting very inspired by all those people out there doing "a thing a day" art projects. Check out Keri Smith's site that I've just discovered and have marked in my interesting places to visit. It is wonderfully inspiring.