I spent four nights at the Upaya Zen Center* in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at a workshop with Natalie Goldberg and Wendy Johnson: Sit, Walk, Write. It was a nice antidote to driving, and to being on my own, too. I had people to talk too. Though the workshop was more a retreat, and we spent a good part of the day in silence, so a little irony there, from my perspective. But it worked out just fine. I liked the companionship, but didn’t mind not having to go through the usual conversational challenges of who are you, what do you do, why are you here. That came out through the writing that we shared, and no, none of it will be shared here, mine or anyone else’s. What I heard in Santa Fe remains in Santa Fe.
Natalie doesn’t run workshops on craft. She is all about getting the pen moving, and keeping it moving. This was good for me; my pen hasn’t been doing that, much, for a while. But the four days, well, it was a good jolt back into the practice of writing. It was also an introduction into meditation, Zen 101 if you like, led by Wendy. I’ll admit to a bit of resistance around the rituals, but told myself to stop being so stubborn (I could still talk to myself) and just be there. When in Rome…
I’ll admit I waffled about taking this workshop, as it drew nearer. Wondered about the Zen part of it. But mostly the expense gave me pause, given the sorry condition of the Canadian dollar right now, but in the end I closed my eyes (metaphorically) and hit the pay button. So glad I did, too. Beautiful place to stay (if a bit difficult to sleep, sharing a room with two others, when I’m used to no one). Food was both simple and complex; vegetarian of course. Pleased me, as by preference I rarely eat meat, but cooking for myself means my meals are really simple; never much in my refrigerator. (Or at least there wasn’t when I had one, back before I sold my home and stuffed everything into storage.)
Continuous Practice is the idea that I take away, for both my elementary meditation (quieting the mind, paying attention to my breathing) and for writing (quieting the monkey mind, and getting words out before inner editor gets to work sabotaging the process). It’s not that I didn’t know this already, but for some reason, I need to relearn the basics from time to time. Keep the pen moving. That’s to be my continuous practice.
* I generally use the ‘re’ spelling; ie centre, not center. Call it Canadian spelling, although I recognize that both er and re are acceptable in Canada, given the amalgam of British and American influences. So it’s my preference. But if it’s in a name, upper case and spelled Center, well, that’s the way I’ll spell it.