Notes on a Buddhist path

Why write?

January 6, 2013 By | 8 Comments

“I hate writing, but I love having written.” ~ Dorothy Parker

Some Sundays I find myself cringing on a cliff of words. I’ve made a vow to myself to write each Sunday and paramount to that commitment is that a blog post will be born. Some weeks that vow flows over the brink of the cliff with the wet pleasure of a giggling waterfall; other times it must be shoved screaming past the edge of stagnation with the hopes that a net will appear at the bottom of the abyss.

Today I took a slight detour along the edge of that precipice. Along with eight other women we joined in a mini-blogging workshop facilitated by my dear friend and brilliant writer, Chris Kay Fraser. One of the lovely excursions we shared in our time together was distilling into a sentence why we appear to be blogging in the first place.

I love that; not why do we blog, but why do we appear to blog. Appearances are so much about how we present ourselves, or think we present ourselves, to others. Our masks and propped up illusions of self can create a whole circus of tantalizing attachments to pride and fame, joy and disappointment in all that we do, all we encounter in life. Stripping the layers of chipped and antiquated paint from the merry-go-round of our life can bring us into alignment with the natural grain of our more genuine being.

As to why I appear to blog, here is what I wrote:

I appear to be blogging in order to express and deepen my own understanding of my Buddhist practice, my desire to get my words onto the virtual page and out into the world, and to push the boundaries of my fear comfort zone.

Yep, and a little bit more.

When I sit down to write a new post each week, the name of my blog is always whispering to me, reminding me of why I’m doing it. “Dhamma“, the Buddha’s teachings, is in all caps; “scribe” (that would be little ‘ole me) is in lower case. These notes along my Buddhist path are just that; my scribblings and translation of the Dhamma as I’ve encountered it in my journey through this life. The Dhamma comes first; my ego and the trappings of Tess have to be second fiddle to anything those teachings can offer to others. Writing about loving kindness or suffering, death or equanimity broadens my tentative footprints into a road of practice, each mindful step enlivening the vista of my Dhamma landscape.

By sharing my words with the big, luminous planet there’s an intimacy and a threshold that I cross over each time I hit that “Publish” button. Some posts can bring up a tsunami of fear, whether it be about posing for an artist or posing an uncomfortable point of view of current events. Yet in facing the fear, in facing what I believe people may think of me, I’m doing my practice. There is no self to be afraid, no self to experience shame or regret or grief. I try with all my intention to offer only goodwill to the people who come across my blog. Perhaps leaning across the boundaries of my emotions will give others a chance to see the glint of another way to face similar experiences in their own lives. You never know.

The weekly practice of writing has been so rewarding to the writing side of me, that one who was cringing on the cliff at the beginning of this piece. In the past I’ve been a really good starter when it came to getting words down on paper or a computer screen, but not such a good closer. Committing to a regular routine, be it daily meditation, weekly walks, or writing has solidified the foundation of my practice and allowed that cringing being to step into the fullness of expression. While the doer in me keeps tugging, trying to divert me from the edge of the cliff towards the endless tasks still undone on my to-do list, it’s in jumping, in diving through the ether with compassion and faith that I find my terra firma. As I’m typing these words, right now, I feel such grace, such sublime peace, something I don’t encounter in the cleaning of tubs, the sewing on of buttons or the rearranging of sock drawers. At least, not yet.

For decades I didn’t write because I thought there were more important things I should be doing. Now I know that the gnawing inside of me, the sense that something was eating at my flesh like maggots on sun baked bones, was years and years of words worming their way into my life, begging to be told, praying to be heard. Writing now is as important for me as eating and sleeping, meditating and moving.

Why write? Because I appear to have something to say and the dirty dishes can wait. Maybe that’s reason enough.

Advice to Myself

by Louise Erdrich

Leave the dishes. Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don’t patch the cup.
Don’t patch anything. Don’t mend. Buy safety pins.
Don’t even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don’t keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll’s tiny shoes in pairs, don’t worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic—decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don’t even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don’t sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we’re all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don’t answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in through the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don’t read it, don’t read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

“Advice to Myself” by Louise Erdrich from Original Fire. © Harper Collins Publishers, 2003.

With Gratitude

To Chris Kay Fraser, for the quote at the top of this post, and for showing me a few new ways to share my words with all of you.

A Gift for You

If you’re a blogger or want to start a blog, check out Chris’s Blog Shop. It’s a place where you can get started in a safe, fun, inspiring space. Mention you heard about her upcoming January 19th class at DHAMMA scribe along with the code “VSP” and you’ll get $35 off the price of the workshop. Good stuff.

Image Credit: Suspension by Powderruns via Flickr Creative Commons


  1. Dear Tess,

    So happy you decided not to do the dishes. Again, thank you for the expression of you.


  2. Yes, I agree, forget the dishes, dig into the words deeply and get dirty. 🙂

  3. A beautiful portrayal of the work and conflict inside [all of us] and your willingness to pursue something greater. Thank you, Tess, for sharing.

    • Thank you, Helen. It was wonderful sharing yesterday afternoon with you and all the other creative women in Chris’s e-class. Here’s to beauty, in all its forms.

    • It was so lovely to be in that circle with you Tess. I find myself just trying to paraphrase Helen’s comment….but why do that? She said it so well. 🙂

      • Thank you for your kind words, Danette. It was great being with you and the other magnificent beings yesterday. I hope your writing flows in grace.

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