Posts Tagged ‘Attention’

Attention is love

June 29th, 2009    -    13 Comments

Attention is the most concrete expression of love. What you pay attention to thrives. What you do not pay attention to withers and dies.

Quite simply, it bears repeating.

Subscribe to my newsletter

From a tipi to a tribe

May 27th, 2009    -    2 Comments


Perhaps if this woman had ever been here, she would have had the fearless forethought to stay there. Maybe if more girls could find their own expression, they wouldn’t be lost in translation. It’s not farfetched to imagine the day we’ll have one of our own braves as chief. That would indeed be tribal justice.

My friend Wendy Cook has taken an impossible dream out of her laptop and into her lap with the launch of the Mighty Girl Art empowerment camp starting this summer. It’s for our tweens riding the raging waters between slippery rocks and hard places. (And those aren’t just the frontiers where calls get dropped.) I have a tween, and I hope in the months and years ahead she will learn to trust the voice of her native intelligence above the mindless cacophony of the crowd. But she needs wise mentors and guides beyond her mother’s fleet fingertips. All of our girls do.

What I really want is for Wendy to bring her tipi to my front lawn for a West Coast outpost. Saving that, I want you to look around the camp see how you can add your muscle to the magic. How can we grow this? Spiral it outward? I liken it to my own recent kids’ writing project, which has ricocheted to 70 places all over the world in just the last week. There’s no underestimating the power of getting ink all over your hands, and no one has to make a case for it.

It’s about time, girls, to put our faith in the tipi instead of the WiFi, connect to the sacred circle and not just a cell network, and flex something other than our thumbs.

We have a whole world to rescue and seven generations to serve, starting now.

Whoop!


Subscribe to my newsletter • Come to my retreat.

After the ecstasy, the ecstasy

May 20th, 2009    -    10 Comments


For the before, click here.

Dear Karen,
Thank you for helping us doing our book. You are a very good author. Yesterday at the book tour I was kind of shy to read it but then I was very excited to do it. The kids asked us how many months did it take to do the book. We said it took us about 2 months. We kind of got like every kid’s question. They loved us and they loved our books a lot. One of the kids said I want to be an author too!

You are the best author ever in the whole wide world!

Love,
Wendy

The last 19 books I didn’t write

May 17th, 2009    -    76 Comments

stock-footage-colorful-books-stack-loop-colorful-books-piled-seamless-loop-with-copy-spaceAbout mid-way through this school year, my daughter started griping, I’m bored. I thought, whatever. She nagged me to volunteer in her class. I thought, no way.

When a four- or five-year-old uses the word, bored, it’s a safe bet they are playing with the word. But when they are eight or nine, it might be time to pay attention. When I did, it changed my life.

I like Georgia’s historic, charming, well-staffed, well-intentioned public school. She does too. This post is not about the shortcomings of her school. It is about the shortcomings of my attention.

My daughter and her classmates are being taught superlatively well how to write to rules and rubrics. But to write freely, for fun and without judgment? That’s a different story.

Stuck in my own nowhere of creative momentum, I plunged instead into a new adventure. I proposed to Georgia’s teacher that I lead a classroom project in something I’d never done, but that amounted to the only thing I could contribute. The magnificent teacher did her part: she said yes. Then, over a four-month period, she and I worked together with 19 third-graders to write their own creative nonfiction (and a bit of fiction) stories.

We tell our children stories. We read books aloud, and prod our kids to read for themselves. So they read about famous people, folk tales and legends, biographies, historical fiction and fantasies. But do they realize that their own lives are stories? That they have the experience and imagination to create and share stories that come entirely from themselves? Based on their own remarkable lives and the future they envision?

Well, of course, they can. Give them tools and attention and you will be amazed. I was amazed. I was encouraged. I was uplifted and transported. I was repaid a million times over, with the only payment that counts or lasts.

I want you to know that wherever your child goes to school, or doesn’t, whatever their age or grade level, they are brilliant. They are geniuses. They are authors. I am convinced already. I am their first fan.

I word-processed and printed out each three-chapter-long book on my computer. They drew illustrations and a cover design that we laminated. They wrote author bios and I snapped their photos and we put that together on the last page. We spiral bound everything together and then they went on book tour reading their stories aloud in classrooms of younger ages. We’re having a book festival next week where the kids will read their stories to their fellow authors and everyone gets a literary prize. An eraser. Oh how I prize my own, because the most important thing about writing is not that you finish. It’s that you start, and then start all over again.

What did they write? To keep it short, I assembled 19 lines from their work into this abridged life story. It gives you an idea of the treasure they handed to me.

My story is unlike any other.
I was born early because I wanted to go places.

My first smile wasn’t a real smile, it was my “about to cry” smile.

It was like being sad and happy at the same time.
When I was little I liked excitement. I put Cheetos in the microwave.

When people asked how many friends I had, I said, “It would take a long time to count them.”
It seems like I have friends all over the world.
Friends are magic, movies are magic and spelling is magic because people can read your writing.
Making people feel happy and safe is the most important thing there is.

Everywhere we went, we went fast.

I thought a lot about growing up, but my parents thought about when I was little.

That’s what parents do.

Sometimes you have to lose something to find something better.

What you love never really goes away.

I used to want to work in an ice cream store, but something tells me life will be more interesting than that.

The day you read this I may be 9 or 90.

Now my energy goes up in the daytime and down in the nighttime.
The funeral lasted three hours.

Somewhere I’ll be watching, and I’ll be happy if you are good citizens.

I could go on forever, but my heart is bursting, and I find I have some writing to do.

***

If you are a parent or teacher and you would like a copy of the lesson plan I created for this project, “My Life Story: A Creative Nonfiction Project for 3rd Graders,” just leave a comment with a way to contact you, or email me and I’ll gladly share.

Subscribe to my newsletter • Come to my retreat.

Like sand through the hourglass

May 12th, 2009    -    8 Comments

Another spring.
Another carnival.
Another gallon of distilled water every week.
Introducing Zippy and Bubbles.
Newly installed and counting the days in this life everlasting.

A morning memorial.

Photo by Georgia Miller


Subscribe to my newsletter • Come to my retreat.

The problem with your work ethic

April 16th, 2009    -    7 Comments

I’m going to share this with you because, well, she said it.

Dad, what do you do when you are at work and you are done with your work?

I keep working.

No, I said when you are done with your work.

I’m never done with my work.

Pooh! That’s no fun.

Now entering the motherland

April 12th, 2009    -    11 Comments


Last week I was reminded of one of the most refreshing aspects of an arduous trip to a foreign country: not speaking the language. What sweet relief! Being utterly, absolutely free of language and its insidious effect on me: reading, talking, eavesdropping, writing, judging, second guessing, comparing, competing and then, and then, and then. Last week I didn’t read, blog or bloviate. I didn’t charge ahead. I didn’t fall behind. I didn’t make a list. Here I’m home but for two hours, and the list is already lengthening at my side, the pen squiggling across the lines of my journal even as I fight a reunion with the cherished sleep I missed most dearly.

I’m striving again. We’re all striving. If we’re not striving, we might wonder, what then?

As I rapid-fire clicked through emails and blogs I returned twice to Kelly, who today stands in the nowhere between a very sick mother and a very sick sister:

The most challenging part of all the illness around me is accepting that I have absolutely no ability to help anyone get better.

That is the truest thing I haven’t said lately. Being with someone who is sick or dying can seem like being in a foreign country. Or a foreign airport, in my case, in an unmoving line leading to one Lufthansa ticket agent hammering uselessly into a broken computer while the cushiony minutes to takeoff disappear. The most challenging part is accepting that I have absolutely no ability to help. There’s no striving. There’s just being. And even though there is no striving in just being, some folks will tell you that there must be a way to steer the being along better. Not just a way to do nothing, but a right way, a good way, to do nothing.

I don’t subscribe to that expertise. We are all amateurs at death; in the same way we are all amateurs at life, although we rarely give ourselves permission. For those of us whose part in dire hours is to sit it out and sit beside, our part is to just sit. Sitting with my mother and my father as they died was the most intimate act I’ve ever known. And while I do not think it more sacred than going nowhere at a ticket counter, it was no less sacred.

You see, when it looks and feels as if we are doing nothing, we’re actually doing quite a bit. We are standing still on one of those slow-motion moving walkways stretching from terminal A to terminal E. We are crossing a threshold all the while, crossing a border whose demarcation is all but imperceptible. We are entering the motherland, the pure land, and in that nowhere else, we are coming home.

A tribute to my mother, and to everyone’s mother, on the eighth anniversary of her death April 13, 2001.

Subscribe to my newsletter • Come to my retreat.

Cut off her head with a pencil

March 28th, 2009    -    18 Comments


A reader wrote the other day with a bit of earnest confusion that gave me a quick tickle. Earnestness tends to promote hilarity. She said she’d finished the book and pretty much liked it until part of the last chapter that she didn’t understand.

Frankly, I can never imagine how my writing perplexes. To me, I’m always blathering about the most literal, obvious, barenaked things. Perhaps I can’t imagine the confusion because I’m so lousy at imagining.

The reader wondered if by skipping over the evil parts of fairy tales when reading to my wee daughter, did I do that for Buddhist reasons?

This is a very good question, and one that few would be sincere enough to ask.

Did I do it to overcome dualism? So that I didn’t present the dichotomy of good versus bad? Did I likewise edit out so-called good parts? To teach nonjudgmental equanimity? Which is to say, even-mindedness?

This is a question that points to the very trouble with Buddhism.

I laughed the moment I saw it, because no philosophy, Buddhist or otherwise, has ever guided my parenting. Philosophies aren’t very effective at guiding anything. It’s like learning how to drive by studying the motor vehicle code.

So I want to take a minute to make it clear. Many people want to be better, to do good, to raise better children, to save the world, to promote peace, etc. etc. and they reach for a philosophy to do it. Buddhism seems like a pretty nice one. But then, all philosophies are pretty nice ones. They just don’t ever seem to change behavior very much. (See items 1-10.)

What I apply in parenting is not an ideology or worldview, it is not Buddhism or any -ism. It is the magnificent, miraculous, intelligent, intuitive product of Buddhist practice. What I apply, on those lucky days I can find it, is attention.

Attention is what works when I crack open a Disney Read-Aloud Princess Storybook and see that the evil stepmother is about to dispatch an axeman to lop off Snow White’s head. Attention alerts me that it is an inappropriate and unwelcome image to insert into my baby’s silky haired noggin, especially at bedtime. So I skip it, and when my girl points to the picture of the hatchet and asks what it is, I say, “a pencil.”

Until you practice, you might have a hard time believing that attention alone can spontaneously direct and correct behavior without the substructure of a philosophy. A set of prescribed rights and wrongs. Or in the Buddhist sense, a set of prescribed non-right rights and non-wrong wrongs.

People are fond of saying about their chosen ethics or morality, “How else will we know right from wrong?” And I ask this: beneath your skin, in your bones, within your heart, have you ever not known right from wrong? Just attend to that knowing.

Attention alone is what assuages anger, abates greed, and promotes kindness. Attention alone is even-minded. Attention is love, and love always knows what to do.

I’m so glad you wrote and brought it to my attention.

Tall trees grow in full sun

March 9th, 2009    -    5 Comments


Still soaked from the shine of your full attention, I offer my thanks to the mothers of Palo Alto and everywhere whose lives met mine at the Mothers Symposium at Stanford on Saturday. Tremendous, great good went into it, and tremendous great good will come.

You’ve inspired me to offer my own retreats, my own programs, as many as I can, wherever I’m asked. Please ask.

And to those of you reading, yes you, who were there: I’m so honored to know you by name.

In gassho.

Great minds don’t think

March 5th, 2009    -    4 Comments

Before I leave you for a weekend of higher learning, I’ll offer this link to a compelling tribute to the lost genius of the novelist David Foster Wallace. It’s in this week’s New Yorker magazine.

“I believe I want adult sanity, which seems to me the only unalloyed form of heroism available today.”

The article traces Wallace’s unfulfilled “preoccupation with mindfulness.”

“They’re rare, but they’re among us. People able to achieve and sustain a certain steady state of concentration, attention, despite what they’re doing.”

Give yourself the time to read it, all, along with this excerpt from his unfinished work. I know you have the time, and I pray you have the attention.

Pages: Prev 1 2 3 4

archives by month

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.