In the Palm of Your Hand: A Poet’s Portable Workshop by Steve Kowit

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To write honestly means that you are willing to tell the truth about your feelings and perceptions, but that doesn’t mean you have to say anything about your own life that you wish not to. In the service of that honesty one may employ any devices, reach back into any memory, discuss any subject, call upon any emotion, and invent any fiction. You are not obliged to write raw autobiographical poems that reveal things you are not ready to have revealed. Honesty means, in part, to be able to feel one’s anger and grief and envy and frustration, to have the courage to look at one’s own life and thoughts so that one can tell the truth about how human beings think, feel and behave. It does not mean exposing yourself in ways that you do not find appropriate.

Alan Watts – “The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are”

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“God also likes to play hide-and-seek, but because there is nothing outside God, he has no one but himself to play with. But he gets over this difficulty by pretending that he is not himself. This is his way of hiding from himself. He pretends that he is you and I and all the people in the world, all the animals, all the plants, all the rocks, and all the stars. In this way he has strange and wonderful adventures, some of which are terrible and frightening. But these are just like bad dreams, for when he wakes up they will disappear. “Now when God plays hide and pretends that he is you and I, he does it so well that it takes him a long time to remember where and how he hid himself. But that’s the whole fun of it—just what he wanted to do. He doesn’t want to find himself too quickly, for that would spoil the game. That is why it is so difficult for you and me to find out that we are God in disguise, pretending not to be himself. But when the game has gone on long enough, all of us will wake up, stop pretending, and remember that we are all one single Self—the God who is all that there is and who lives for ever and ever.

….

“You may ask why God sometimes hides in the form of horrible people, or pretends to be people who suffer great disease and pain. Remember, first, that he isn’t really doing this to anyone but himself. Remember, too, that in almost all the stories you enjoy there have to be bad people as well as good people, for the thrill of the tale is to find out how the good people will get the better of the bad. It’s the same as when we play cards. At the beginning of the game we shuffle them all into a mess, which is like the bad things in the world, but the point of the game is to put the mess into good order, and the one who does it best is the winner. Then we shuffle the cards once more and play again, and so it goes with the world.”

The Dhammapada

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Not to commit any sin, to do good, and to purify one’s mind, that is the teaching of (all) the Awakened.

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Let a wise man blow off the impurities of his self, as a smith blows off the impurities of silver one by one, little by little, and from time to time.

Let no man think lightly of evil, saying in his heart, It will not come nigh unto me. Even by the falling of water-drops a water-pot is filled; the fool becomes full of evil, even if he gather it little by little.

Let no man think lightly of good, saying in his heart, It will not come nigh unto me. Even by the falling of water-drops a water-pot is filled; the wise man becomes full of good, even if he gather it little by little.

-The Dhammapada

What a gem this volume is! It’s a collection of sayings attributed to the Buddha, from the Theraveda tradition of Buddhism. It’s one of the least religious sutras I’ve read – it concentrates more of the philosophy of proper living in this world than theological matters.

Buddhism is a religion that recommends moderation in body, spirit, and mind, as well as detachment from emotions and day-to-day life. One goal of the Buddhism is to reduce suffering in this world, by promoting good deeds and a gentleness toward all living beings. The other aspects vary depending on which branch you’re studying, but another common goal is release from the cycle of reincarnation, the multiple rebirths experienced until a being has spiritually purified itself and obtained nirvana.

What I especially love about most forms of Buddhism is its focus on correct living in this world, rather than dogma. Gautama Buddha himself is generally not deified and is treated as a fellow traveler who could have released himself from the rebirth cycle but chose to teach and help others free themselves instead. Anyone can eventually become a buddha, with enough spiritual practice.

As someone who’s experienced chafing at Western religion, I adore the freedom of Buddhism’s flexibility on specific dogmas. I especially like that we’re all given endless chances to achieve heaven and cessation of being – there is no one great chance, instead we’re all fellow co-learners at different points of development…

There are many forms of Buddhism, and there are many deities-Mara, being the king of Hell, and others. For me, right now, I read it more these as a metaphor – a greedy person or addict who dies without is reborn as a hungry ghost in the hell realm to suffer eternal hunger.

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone interested – you can read it as an ancient philosophy that ables to our modern world.

The Blue Sky Tag

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Knight was gracious enough to tag me in this, and provided some amazing questions; Here are my answers and tags for others, feel free to answer as you wish:

Here are the rules:

  • Give 11 questions
  • Tag as many people as you want
  • Answer the 11 questions given to you

Questions:

  1. What is the most beautiful place you’ve ever been to?

2. If you could recommend one book and/or movie to the rest of humanity, what would it be?

3. Describe the strangest thing that has ever happened to you.

4. What poem or piece of writing has had the biggest impact on you?

5. Who’s your favorite artist? (Music, visual art, or writing)

6. Was there one moment that changed your life in some way? If so, what was it?

7. Share a song with us.

8. What are your spiritual beliefs?

9. What do you miss the most? (Person, place or thing)

10. What is your ultimate goal in life?

11. What skill have you yet to master?

 

People tagged:

  1. PinkForDays

2. Jeff

3. Sharmishthu Basu

4.desertcurmudgeon

5. Himanshi Shukla

6. Manal

7. Unhinged and Unenlightened

8. AddictedSophie

9. Vera Wabegjig

10. Krista

11. soberinvegas

What made you start writing ?

I’ve been writing since childhood. It helps me organize my thoughts and I enjoy it.

 

Your favorite writer/ poet ?

That’s a hard one. Currently, I love Thich Naht Hanh’s books on basic mindfulness practices, but in terms of a long term relationship with a writer/poet, it’s Allen Ginsberg . I used to walk around with a printed out copy of his poem “Howl” in my coat in high school.

 

A fear yet to conquer

I’m weirdly afraid of succeeding. I have a long history of getting within spitting distance of a goal, and then going off in a weird direction/distracting myself with something else and losing the opportunity or messing things up for myself.

 

Describe yourself

Ooh, boy. I dunno. I’m pretty easy-going and calm, unless I feel like someone is violating the basic laws of being a human being. I don’t end up in these situations a lot, but I will call whoever it is on what they’re doing, and calmly destroy them in about five sentences. Yeah, it’s a cool talent and usually gets whoever it is to stop doing whatever they’re doing, but seeing me in “attack” mode freaks people out.

Also there’s no hallmark card that says something along the lines of: “Sorry for pointing out that you were doing the same thing your asshole father did to you when you were a kid when you were attacking a someone for doing something minorly wrong/being in a situation they didn’t create/etc.”

 

Your ultimate goal in life

A stable, quiet life.

 

Will you call yourself an introvert or extrovert?

I’m pretty strongly introverted, but I’m actually kind of good at jobs like cashiering and working front desk at a hotel. If you just focus on filling the other person’s needs and making sure they have a good experience, it’s not that hard.

 

Your Zodiac sign

Western: Sun: Pisces, Moon: Aries, Rising: Cancer.

Interesting note: I have several combinations of planets that are linked to a heavy tendency toward addiction.

Vedic: Ashwini.

I don’t know a lot about the technical aspects of vedic astrology, but I had a birth chart done by Kapiel Raj about a year ago. Vedic astrology tends to be more predictive, and deals more with long-term patterns than western astrology.

In terms of romance, I’m something called manglik, which has stigma attached to it, and basically means I have bad luck in love, and it’s likely that I’m going to marry late…or I’m going to unintentionally kill my spouse with my overtly fiery nature. It seems to depend on who’s talking.

Weirdly enough, he said there’s a chance in the next few months that I’m going to meet a tall, fair man through friends who works in law enforcement, something like a probation officer, and it would be my “ideal” match.

I don’t know how much weight I put on that, but I’m amused because my type is more along the lines of “short, dark, and has a probation officer”.

…seriously, I get this image of me walking next to some tall blonde giant and it makes me laugh…my boyfriends are generally closer to 5’7 than 6’7….

I could never go to this guy’s place of work, I’d probably know like half the dudes in the waiting room…

Also, my career aspects are weird, and it’s recommended that I work for myself, and I have several healer/shaman aspects and should consider a career in alternative medicine.

Chinese: Earth dragon, no clue what any of that means beyond what you’d read on a placemat at a Chinese restaurant.

 

Movie you have watched hundred times and can watch over a hundred times more and still relish it

Beetlejuice, my first favorite movie. I wore out the tape and ate the box as a small child, and still enjoy it as an adult.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ic87SfqQAAM

 

If given a chance , which famous personality would you like to date ?

Out of those people who are living, not approximately 100 years old, and attracted to women (which narrows things down to a depressing degree)-we’re left with Damian Marley, who I believe is married.

He’s scarily intelligent, spiritual, and is a kinda “street”, which is what I like.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djWm-5fjyWA

Okay, so he seems more than a little street here…

Also in real life, I have a horrible time understanding men with Jamaican accents. Women from the islands I understand, most people with accents don’t throw me, or at least for long, but I’m pretty sure every man from Jamaica that’s dealt with me thinks I’m a little deaf and a little slow.

 

Your Favorite writing genre

Spirituality/Recovery from addiction/Self-help

 

The decision you regret the most

Hm, it’s hard to pick, but there’s a guy (actually there’s a couple like this, but this guy is in his own league) who’s been in and out of my life for years, but we’ve basically been in each other’s social orbits for about fifteen years now (which is approximately half my life, thank you very much). Every time he reappears, my life turns into complete chaos and I’m totally thrown completely off balance in 2 weeks to month. He’s basically a human poltergeist.

It sounds like I should have figured this out sooner, he displays a lot of normal “toxic” traits, but literally some of the stuff that happens in my life when I’m around him are a) totally unrelated to him, b) really weird and just kind of inexplicable.

If I could have never met him or decided to befriend him, or the in the very least decided to stop giving him the benefit of the doubt so much, that would have helped me out.

Like, have you seen the Dark Knight? The last time we saw each other was (hopefully) as close to this moment as I’m going to get in my own life…and it was substantially less dramatic…also, this better be the one time in my life I compare myself to Batman.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oPsvq81n2A

Ahaha…I don’t feel like the Harley Quinn to his Joker, I feel like the Batman…

Whenever we hang out, it’s like 2-6 hours of mental chess that always ends with:

Him: ….crazy whore….

Me: …white trash thief….

Is there such a thing as a “dark” soulmate? Like someone that’s going to eternally mess with you without even trying half the time? We run into each other sometimes randomly at gas stations, through friends we didn’t know were mutual, etc.

I actually asked him out approximately three months ago based less on my attraction to him and based more on how astronomically weird I find this situation, we have a really weird synergy and I thought that maybe like having a more traditional relationship with him would change the mind-bending elements of this relationship, or at the very least extinguish some lingering questions. Now he’s my second biggest reason for moving a minimum of 2-3 hours away…

Friday Night Gratitude list

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  • meetings
  • nice weather
  • my big scary book hoard. no mas books for me until I finish these…okay, no new books for the calendar year, anyway.
  • Managed to share at a meeting today without freaking out and someone thanked me for my share.
  • my “real” classes are done for the week, but I still have a ton to do on Coursera. I slacked off this week, so I’ve pretty much been alternating online meetings and coursework all day.
  • The fact that I could sit on my ass and do this all day.
  • having my new glasses – I can see!
  • Feeling super domesticated. Don’t want to use, run, or do anything stupid.
  • Still no anxiety, and the depression is decreasing. I think mindfulness made me more aware of my feelings and thinking, which was hell at first, but I’m getting better at observing without getting involved, and then guiding my brain back to happy or neutral thoughts rather than going into a rumination death cycle.
  • Dr. Shalini, my dentist. She’s fixing the havoc that homelessness and drug use reaked on my teeth, and she’s an absolute gem about it.
  • I am not a homeless drug user anymore
  • having plans for the future
  • new friends. New, sober, female friends. Admittedly these friendships are still in the nascent stages, but it’s super super exciting. I seriously thought that me and other women were like, too different to successfully “friend”.
  • I have a couple leads for a sponsor. The one I was talking to can’t sponsor me, but she’s an awesome friend anyway.
  • My phone contacts list can no longer be called “Julie and the Polysubstance Abusing Sausage Party”. It is actually a hen party now. A small one, but …our little Joss is growing up *tears up*
  • Also exciting: These women, as far as I know, stay out of trouble and haven’t asked me to rescue them from themselves once. They are totally rescuing me from me, though, which is pretty damn necessary at this point.
  • I have someone to read the Big Book with! AHHHHHH.