Friday, October 1, 2010

Friday Challenge - the Six Paramitas and our practice as writers

Today I am feeling less frivolous than I might sometimes feel. The truth is that our family has been having a tough time of it. I'm not going to share details but to tell you that there is sometimes, in a family, the sense of being between two millstones, ground exceedingly fine. Just like as I do to remind myself that I have chosen to be a writer and all that that means, I need also remind myself that I am a householder and all that demands. So I will surrender to the mill and trust that all of us come out our essences intact.

Because of this, my heart goes back to a familiar refuge - the Six Paramitas of Buddhism. Today's Friday Challenge will be for you to choose one of the paramitas which I will describe below and see how it works in your creative life. I will do the same here today.

For a wonderful essay on the Paramitas please click the link below. As well, you can see my writings on these virtues by going into my category list to the right and down some and finding the label - Paramitas. There should be six of them!

A Bodhisattva’s actions are described in terms of the Six Paramitas, or Transcendental Virtues. The Paramitas are generosity (dana), discipline (shila), patience (kshanti), exertion (virya), meditation (dhyana) and transcendental knowledge (prajna). Incorporating the Six Paramitas into our lives even if we have not yet taken the Bodhisattva vow is a wonderful practice.

The Paramita I choose to work with today is patience. Patience in this sense is a little different than the western notion of it. It doesn't mean waiting calmly. It means something on a slightly deeper level. As if we were on the floor of waiting calmly but we recognized that underneath we were longing for things to be different. When your mother says in a very calm voice "I'm waiting for you to finish your dinner, Susy Q", you know she isn't really calm or at all happy with the state of things. So when you are on the floor of calmly waiting you need to take the elevator down one or two floors to 'whatever is happening is fine with me'. The mother doesn't need to say a thing on this floor because she doesn't want things to change until they do. She knows that Suzy Q is struggling with her beets and can abide with that. She has no aggression about the present circumstances, no restless need to adjust everything. Now, what could that mean for my writing practice? I think, for me, it means not to struggle so hard with plot and structure - to trust the process more and let it unfold more organically. To not apply force. As it happens, I think that is probably good advice for me in terms of my family too. To understand that my desire for things to change can be aggressive and not very respectful of others' process. Yes.


Clarissa Draper said...

I'm really sorry to hear that your family is having a rough time. I hope you can find comfort.


Elspeth Antonelli said...

Patience is a virtue I still strive to achieve. I wish you and your family a more peaceful time, Jan and know my warmest thoughts are winging their way to you from the west coast!

Jan Morrison said...

Thanks Clarissa and Elspeth. I appreciate your warmth. I would like to know how you might approach this challenge!

Liza said...

This all needs months and months of analysis, but to answer quickly, I'll go for it pertains to writing. For years I found easy reasons not to write. Now I give myself weekly goals and daily requirements. These mean nothing to anyone but me. To me, it means listening to inner voices, and accepting, and completing what they suggest. When I do, it feels good as good as anything I have ever experienced in life.

Jan Morrison said...

Liza - yes, that sounds right. Discipline isn't a whip - it, along with exertion will elicit joy. Joy! I'm the same - if I remember that I chose this life and that it entails a daily practice (or three!) and I follow that discipline - my reward is not in what is produced but in the joy of having done what I said I will do.