Tag: zen

poem: how many times

How many times
have i prayed,
a monster of need,
tiny hands grasping,
flabby arms flapping,
stewing in hopelessness.

Such desperation
is exhausting,
and it did me no good.

My worst nightmares
have begun to come true
and i cannot rise
to the occasion
than i already stand.

The worst
has begun
coming to pass,
but such losses
with contentment.

The dog’s last breaths
taught me
about gratitude,
about finding
loving kindness
even in agony.

With a teacher like that,
what could i do?

all my praying stopped.

For if i can find
and joy
with this pain,
and failure,
then who am i
to pretend
i know
what i need?

7 may 2016


poem: delicate balance

The engine
of my ambition
has broken down today.

It sits in the sun-drenched field
like an ancient tractor,
unwilling to move.

It has served its time.

All that is left
is this intense need
for quiet and stillness –
i would do nothing today
that would compromise
this delicate balance,
for one hand holds peace
while the other dances
with oncoming winter.

There is no shame
in movement,
for i am normally driven.
i love the days
when wild ebullience
flows through me
like music,
riding bareback
on ink
or paint
or clay.

Ah, but not right now.
In this instant
i am the wind
and the leaf,
completely clear
in my vision
if i don’t wreck my focus
by trying.

30 november 2015

the dog practices zen

They say it’s Dog appreciation day…. so, an old poem about my old dog, when he was still a young pup.


the dog practices zendarwin the dog

he sleeps upside down
in the rounded belly
of the papasan,
legs askew
hanging in the air.
soft sighs
and twitching toes
testify to his dreams.
even rolling over
is accomplished
with a slumbering vitality
few humans will ever achieve.
suddenly waking,
he attacks his left leg,
chewing it with the same
intense wholeness…
and, surely, stretching
should only be attempted
with complete attention
and unhesitating abandon.


4 may 2006

giving myself some rights

Early this week, i was introduced to the idea that small business owners have rights – even in a highly customer-centered field like art.

As soon as that lesson penetrated the outer layers of my skull, particularly the idea that i have the right to say no to jobs or appointments or obligations – or at the very least, no not now, without any firm justification other than i felt the profound need to form the letters “n” and “o” in sequence – the course of the next few days shifted miraculously.

i am still breathing so much better than i thought i could be, unafraid to use my asthma medications since i can finally get refills.  This has lead to my enjoying better stamina than i have in years, which has lead to more physical activity and more joyful, aching soreness.  However, while breathing is a blessing beyond measure, i can testify that this is not a panacea to all problems.  i continue to have issues with coordination and confusion, i am exhausted from healing and overwhelmed with stress, duty and responsibility.  After embracing the idea that i could say no, though, i realized the world will not fall apart if i took a couple of days to be kind and gentle to myself. Indeed, given how profoundly i feel at risk of dissolution, i have a duty to myself (and my customers! and those with whom i work at cooperatives!) not to let myself fall apart.

TIMG_0286he only way to keep that from happening is kindness.

So, i gave myself some gifts and worked through the guilt surrounding my magnanimity.  For two days, in between errands and appointments, worked on art (poetry, sculpting and pen and inks.)  The busier i get, the more i have to keep in mind: art comes from a place of stillness for me.  If i do not have a certain amount of quiet solitude, i will not be as effective as an artist, much less as a human being.

i kept my involvement with email and social media to the barest of bare minimums.  While i did spend an inordinate amount of time compiling to-dos for every client and project, while nestled in warm blankets, i also was merciless about their priorities.  What had to be done at this exact moment?  What could be done by Monday?  What could be done by next Friday?

Once those choices were made, i let myself have some time to watch a couple of movies, to cuddle with the animals, to read a book, to simply sit in silence until the screaming of anxiety was not so loud.  Then the art and word began to flow.  Probably, there are people who will feel terribly let down by this blog – and maybe i shouldn’t have written out that i actually took some time to make art and rest – but, this was a huge realization for me.  Usually, i have to be in physical crisis to really take downtime.  Indeed, the drive to make art is fairly merciless, pushing me forward despite myself.  But, this morning, i feel so much calmer and more capable – and that wouldn’t have happened if i didn’t act on having the right to say no.


Gratitude meditation

I haven’t done this before, but I am following up with more specifics for the meditation mentioned in my other blog today. Although, now that I come to write it, I am having a hard time figuring out if this is a meditation or guided self-therapy. Most of my favorite meditations: tonglen, lecta divina, are much less chatty and visually oriented than this one was. Still, it helped. I will focus on the last stretch, when I had finally calmed down the howling worry and heartache. Imagine the hour and a half of gnashing of teeth that came before – just listening to it and trying not to fight it. Once I began to quiet a bit and could focus on the cure rather than enduring the despair, the path went something like this:

– I am grateful for my legs (I was inverted, with my legs above me in the air) that they have been holding me up for so long. They look thinner and stronger than they have in years – I am grateful for the chance to bring that appearance into how they manifest physically. I am grateful for my feet and for that in this moment, I can feel them.

– I am grateful for my hands, heavy though they feel, because they can make such beautiful art. I am grateful that they are also content to lie still for a few moments.

– I am grateful that I have this soft skin, and this body so eager for sensation. The fan blows over me and I see a wild array of color, which fills me with gratitude. While my vision is very blurry right now, I am grateful because the world is still recognizable despite the haze.

– I am grateful that I am breathing, even though it hurts, because without that there would be no life. Around all these difficulties, despite them, life can be so very wonderful. I am grateful for the rhythm that the lungs and heart create – it soothes me when I can quiet down enough to hear it.

– I am grateful that I can be this still and quiet and not fall asleep! I can listen deeply to the world, hearing sounds that normally would not come to me. The dog’s snoring brings me much comfort. Every time the meditation buzzer goes off, I know that another twelve minutes has passed, all the blood in my body has done the full circuit and change has occurred.

– I am grateful that I have this building in which to dwell. It may be gone tomorrow, but for now, I have this marvelous space soaring above me and the softness of the cushions below me.

– I am grateful for the people who have come here, admiring my work and the effort of my hands, even though they have not purchased anything. Having my words read, my art seen, the pots I have made handled, all provides sublime satisfaction.

– I am most grateful for the quiet that I have finally found within myself. Now that I think about it, i am also grateful for the howling, deadly despair that filled me this morning – it proves that I still care, that I have not surrendered completely, and that I still exist. Its ebbing away proves that I am getting better.

– I am grateful that even though I have been exhausted beyond measure today, I managed to write. The poems and prose are so terribly sad, but they helped to exorcize my depression. I am grateful that the flow of words, watching the ink flow from my pen in this wonderful sensual delight of writing, can soothe me to my bones.

I kept going, finding things wonderful and tiny to give thanks for: the softness of the pillow beneath my head, the sunlight streaming in through the windows, the hidden communion with the world that I feel when I just sit and listen to it go by.

Maybe this will help – for honestly right now, this kind of practice is the only thing keeping me going.

Restless stress

written Sunday, 29 June 2014

Yesterday, inside the four walls of a cooperative, far away from my wheel and my studio and enough quiet to compose a story, I started to go a little crazy.  I had been asked some very good questions about my business that morning, and they kept ringing through my mind.  Unfortunately, answers did not rise up to greet them.  Instead, restless stress kept echoing within my skull – guilt over the bills I can’t pay quite yet, the amount of work the house requires, the long list of commissions I have to finish, my general incompetence as a businesswoman.  It all just took over, defying every attempt to be present in the moment.  As the day wore on and my physical condition deteriorated, those annoying stress levels kept shooting up.  The last drawing I managed before my hands quite me completely is below: the poem gives a hint of my state of mind. Unable to manifest contentment or hope, I rooted myself in stubbornness.  By the time I made it home, I felt like a dishrag that had been wrung out too violently.

The poem: There can be no quitting when you soar near the sun – No matter what setback, keep flying – sometimes surviving means that you’ve won.

Today, I have stayed home, feeling for all the world like I have a stress hangover.  Even though I wanted to very much, I did not go to church.  Even though I kept imagining myself swimming in a lake, I stayed in.  Desperate for quiet stillness, I curled up in bed and rested, reading and thinking about writing (as opposed to actually picking up a pen.)

Yesterday the effort of worry wore me down – and I need time to recuperate.  The most irritating part was that I knew how useless the anxiety was, which added a sense of futility to the stress that made it even more stressful.  I could sense contentment just past my fingertips.  For every tremor of concern that made its way through my body, the memory of peace and contentment floated over my awareness.  I knew better.  I know better. Worrying about sales won’t get me more.  Fretting about the commissions won’t get them done faster.  Listing out every to-do that looms over me won’t make the mountain they create when combined feel less intimidating.  Ringing my hands over money won’t get the accounting done.  Wondering if I have enough energy and focus within me to finish everything I need to get done does nothing to increase my confidence.  Indeed, all that happened was that I became miserable and weary and despondent, the effects of which linger into today.

But, on the bright side, today I have been able to be quiet, still and thoughtful.  If I let myself go for a moment, I could easily fall into the same well.  After all, the work I wanted to do isn’t getting done.  However, I will not go there.  The relief of being out of the pit is too strong; happiness feels vulnerable enough that it should be protected.  I still feel weak, even though my body has finally stopped screaming in pain.  My heart no longer hammers in that odd syncopated way.  And, when I lose my grip on tranquility, I force myself to dig my roots deeper into peace by focusing on two other lists: the list of things I love and the list of things for which I am wildly grateful.

That helps a lot, but it didn’t work just 24 hours ago. The biggest lesson for me this morning was that none of these things helped yesterday.  I was drowning in my discomfort and no sparks of wisdom or reminders of my blessings or even the comfort I took in drawing could save my state of mind.  In the end, I just had to endure it – to accept that I was suffering and wrap myself in one comfort I had: that eventually I would be able to rest, restore myself, and the situation that seemed so dire would become survivable again.



This level of weariness feels gratuitous, as though my flesh feels nothing so much as anger at the thought of movement.  I crave stillness and quiet.  These needs are remaking me.  Unless I am driving, I have stopped playing music.  My flesh revolts at relentless labor.  The moments that I steal from other activity to meditate or write feel blessed and transformational.  Perhaps I grow more inside stillness than I do when I am overwhelmed with energy and movement.  This is where the artist and the spirit are at odds – the former grieves the time lost to recuperation, but the latter knows that it is from these moments that art comes.

Either way, I have until 1 today to do what I like.  I can write, draw, paint, rest.  This is Sunday’s reward.  Customers might derail my quiet, but as long as the studio is open for them to enter, I am free.

This morning, I had neither the money nor energy nor ability for church.  Instead, here I am.  Still.  Only the movement in the room is my pen sliding arose the page.

If I let my thoughts stray, worry will consume me.  So, I sit here, coaxing my mind into the same stillness as my body.

My spirit can soar, though, I am perfectly content with her graceful dance.

poem: a love story

timchin_may2014_0056These fat little fingers
can make such lovely things.

My tiny, thick toes
keep my balance,
such as it its.

These legs walk
and they have worked so hard
kicking wheels and hiking trails.

My arms are pale,
covered in freckles and tattoos,
absolutely glorious
with strength.

My belly remains round
with longing for dreams
but within dwells
a core of steel,
a reservoir of resilience
i never expected
to find in myself.

These eyes may see the world
differently from anyone else,
but that has suited me well.

These ears have given me
the gift of music,
which all on is own,
made life worth living.

My voice.

Well, that keeps changing,
constantly growing and deepening,
a gift that i hope will not end
until the last breath
exhales from these blessed lungs.

This is a love story
to being alive
in this body
and in these times.

Through all the goodness
and all the grief,
i have arrived at this moment
to find myself joyous
and filled with laughter.

2 june 2014

another poem: the stillness remains

and the stillness remains.

i struggle and thrash
but one foot stays anchored
inside an oasis of grateful quiet.

i cry out in need and longing
but feel as though
i have been answered enough
that i do not require a response.

i pray
often and loudly,
with endless lists
of requests –
and i recognize the fraud in myself,
for i know
none of it matters,
not my bank account,
or my credit rating,
or my current mood,
or my overwhelm,
or my dreams.

i used to beg.

i sought awakening
like a starving man food;
hints of the divine,
like one dying of thirst.

underneath all the temporary tumult,
i feel quiet,
and filled with love.

On the surface,
i remain a mess of stress,
but when i glance at my core,
i realize that my depths
have grown too still to care.

30 april 2014

poems that heal me (episode 2)

I read this a few times this winter… I have to keep reading this poem, to remind myself that I don’t have to struggle.  All I have to do is put my burdens down.


Quietly, secretly,
a longing has crept over me.
It’s strange.
i rarely find myself
yearning in this way.
Most of my dreams
come out grand
and unlikely.
But, this time
all i want
is some joy –
a sliver of happiness
at a moment in time
when i have been imprisoned
by my loneliness
to a terrifying degree.
This secret desire
doesn’t even include
great hopes for my future.
All of it –
the sum total of the dream –
is to have a good night,
a happy series of moments
when i forget my fears,
the demands and the stress,
and throw myself into happiness.
Finally, i have a fantasy
i can fulfill
without any massive efforts
or fervent planning.
All it requires
is for me to put my burdens down,
secure i can pick them back up again
in due time.