1. How did you first discover your love for writing?
Children have an uncanny innocence in how they communicate what is going on inside their hearts to their surfaces and the people around them. In the beginning this coping mechanism is a pristine psychophysical system for sensing the world, one perhaps with deep mystical roots. For me, as a 10 year old, the sensing of the world was overwhelming. It spilled over into expression through writing. For others, it was their prowess in sports, dance, drawing, or goofy humor. My grandfather was a scholar and an orator and had this deep well trained voice and kindness – I was trying to be like him and still am. Writing was a necessity at first. It was the result of an auto-reaction to what I observed around me. It became both an escape and later an entrance – from one world to the next. I remember my family encouraging me as they read my words on holidays and anniversaries. I suppose that in a way I first published in a Hallmark greeting card! I was amazed at the trail of words as I read them back to myself; as if someone else had spoken them. Years later I’m still reminded by a passage by Rumi, “Who says words with my mouth?” I have included this poem in the end of this writing piece.
So the discovery of my writing became a quest for the source of it; even as a child. I found an inner friend and cohort back then and we’ve stuck together over the ages. I owe the “friend” my commitment to remain clear, unfiltered, uncensored, and as pristine as possible. We must continually rediscover the new artist within us. This process keeps the heart and mind clear. There is a passage in Twenty-Five Words toward Truth (#25wtT) that goes like this,
“The only species to not evolve is the child within a human. Save the world with the minds of adults and the hearts of children.”
I suppose my writing discovered me, captured me, not the other way around. It is often tender, but sometimes it beats the hell out of me.
"The role of the captive writer is to endure the artist who creates within him,”
2. Take us through the process of what writing feels like for you:
It’s an untethering from the shores of my distracted world. It is detachment. Writing begins as an unsteady but euphoric wordless energy between my shoulders and it flows into and from my heart. I think people can see it happening in me. I’ve heard my daughter say, “uh oh, here it comes, there he goes again!”
Writing is catalyzed by any medium that conveys color and light, sound, smell, vibrations, romance – you name it! It comes to me in my sleep, on my bike, swimming in the pool, or quite often on my way to work. When anything linear (like “work”) becomes necessary, be it a proposal or an important meeting with a customer, the creative urge quickly intercedes and bends the lines, blurs the edges, and insulates my consciousness from the world around me. I am so heavily called to the keyboard that I’ll drop everything, show up to a meeting late, and get an extension on an assignment just to attend to the creative writing process. Even writing for this blog is taking me away from “linear necessity.” And imagine my poor family! Oops, I’m pretty sure the water has boiled out of the teapot while I sat here writing. The process of writing may feel like death and rebirth in a single moment.
It is a forgetfulness of time and space, and an embracing of true self and I ask, is this not meditation?
Once the outpouring begins, the heart becomes an unquenchable vessel, a relentless broker passing unspoken meaning from something “deep in there” to the writing hand and on to the reader. I just write and my awareness of the words comes an instant after the words appear. It may seem there’s not much consciousness in it. It can be a complete loss of control, where I’m just writing (or speaking) a stream of consciousness or it can also be a meticulous craft – sometimes both. I’ve even dreamed poetry in foreign languages that I don’t speak or understand. The feeling can be ecstatic, never really painful or overly cathartic as many writers experience. If something becomes uncomfortable, so be it – simply go off script. At other times, a good writing process means just walking away from the notebook.
A writing session is a string of meditative moments, some long and some short. So, I try to stay present during the gaps. At a poems end, I take the time to go back, read and polish, but even this is brings another feeling of “untethering” and I’ll suddenly find myself opening up a new file on the screen and starting yet another poem. There are about a dozen open poems on my computer at any one time. My phone and iPad note applications are filled with impromptu scrawlings. They are little S.O.S. messages spread all over the place… hence comes the writer to save me.
Robert Graves wrote:
"Poets don't have an audience. They are talking to a single person all the time."
This is so true. I’m in love when I write…I am in love all over again with her, him, it, this, God.
3. If you had to suddenly stop writing how would that affect your life, what would change?
If I had to stop writing, I’d recite verbally from a trance state. If my lips were sealed, I’d draw pictures, I’d dance, I’d play horrible notes on the ney. The fact is, it’s not about the writing, it's about the expression of inner presence.
And the best poets I’ve known have sat silent beside me. They have never written a word. Khamosh! (Which means “silence” and it was the little known sobriquet used by Rumi). I admit that if I had to stop writing, I might be sad and my ego jaded. Yet my spared moments would be overjoyed and tearful that I’d take more time to honor the sunset with stillness, rather than writing about it.
A very dear friend of mine has always, in divine ways, asked me to stop writing. What she meant was, move from headspace to the heart space. Do not relieve the discomfort of this struggle, this jihad, through the tapping away at a keyboard. Immerse, suffer, burn with experience – be soaked by the sunrays, drown in the light before a word is even illuminated – die inside before you die in print.
Were I to stop writing, it may be the best thing for me, but it’s often just a multi-hued, belletristic reflection of the struggle within. A symptom. This is why writing is often automatic and happening in different states of awareness. It is a connection between the heart and the mind.
In #25wtT, I wrote:
“Words are neither of the heart nor the mind but a bridge between them. Silence, above speech, spans rivers of truth on our way home.”
Anything that comes from the heart is good. Our job is to keep that heart clean. If I were to stop writing, my life would not change only the symptoms of how I live. Those who love me will continue to do so. Those who turn to me for guidance or to whom I turn will hear me nonetheless. But I do feel and hope that by writing I can enable or accelerate and celebrate others in their quest to know themselves, to know God, and to come close to that experience of the universal singularity.
4. Why do you think it's so hard for many to surrender and "get lost" in something that brings joy/peace and how could that change?
We want control. We cannot trust. We are battling our egos and this is okay. For the writer/warrior, it has to be okay.
Surrender and being lost are going inward. When we go inward, sometimes there is a sense that we are leaving behind an unconscious shell that is vulnerable to the world’s ridicule and susceptible to becoming lost in its errant breezes. In the movies Avatar, The Matrix, and Altered States the protagonists experience a state of detachment and enter into another dimension, another domain of existence, another time. Each leaves their bodies behind on the table or in the metabolic chamber. Their bodies are vulnerable, but their spirits are endless and ethereal. For these characters, there is no fear in surrendering over the greater known when it leads them to unlocking the lesser even more beautiful unknown. Mysteries need not be mysterious.
For many, it’s frankly embarrassing to write, paint, dance, and sing without heed to what others believe of us. So, we clam up, we avert our eyes, we veil our words and betray our nature. We wonder about things like, “am I drooling when I go deep into meditation, am I quivering in my asana, will I fail to hold this note?” Then it penetrates deeper and we ask ourselves, “am I seen as a good enough father? Am I a good or bad daughter? Is my charity believable?” At some point this fear suffocates us and abandons others.
Who cares?! We were lost and imprisoned when we arrived on this planet! We are a society that builds structures around us. Why do we do this when we can rather revel in the amazing things we’d otherwise do in the journey of finding and freeing ourselves. In my decades of experience, I’ve found the term “surrender” is largely feared by western culture. Surrender implies there must be some oppressive conqueror standing over us with a whip and hidden key to our shackles. We don’t realize that the source of all things binding and liberating are within us and so it’s inconceivable to think we need only surrender to ourselves. Yep, we hide within a prison, thinking it a fortress. The secret is that the key to the door we are locked behind is inside the cell with us.
The conqueror within us is a benevolent and beneficent being. We pay such close attention to movies and fantasy, but not to ourselves. The creative genius inside each of us is a pauper, a muted slave, and a maundering gentle savant. So what fear is there in surrendering to this humble soul within?!
In error, we equate joyful and peaceful states to dalliance and sinfulness; no different than artificial states induced by drugs and alcohol. But life is a drug administered by the heart. I have discovered that like everything else, poetry included, the path through life is nothing but an acquired method that leads us to cede control to – ready for this – love!
If we are to change into unabashed creators, then we should keep searching for love above all else. Do this and your method, your teacher, your beloved, and your “drug” will arrive. To be a progressive seeker, enter the station of patient understanding. Surrender to your own gentleness. Close the door to distraction. Turn down the sound and light in the room. Pause while immersed within your own self inflicted discomfort and surrender.
It amazes me how so many surrender to fear.
I’m stunned by those who harken to the voice of the most nefarious oppressor yet cannot surrender to love.
Paraphrasing Gandhi, “be the change you wish to see in yourself.” Writing in a loving direction is like riding a bike or a horse. Turn your whole awareness in the direction of love, and rest of you will follow.
I am frequently drawn to this poem by Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks:
Who Says Words With My Mouth?
All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that,
and I intend to end up there.
This drunkenness began in some other tavern.
When I get back around to that place,
I'll be completely sober. Meanwhile,
I'm like a bird from another continent, sitting in this aviary.
The day is coming when I fly off,
but who is it now in my ear who hears my voice?
Who says words with my mouth?
Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul?
I cannot stop asking.
If I could taste one sip of an answer,
I could break out of this prison for drunks.
I didn't come here of my own accord, and I can't leave that way.
Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.
This poetry, I never know what I'm going to say.
I don't plan it.
When I'm outside the saying of it,
I get very quiet and rarely speak at all.