Looking Back

Cold, dark, January nights are hard to cope with on any occasion, but they’re practically unbearable when you’re already down. It was late. I’d already done my reading for the night, and I didn’t have another page in me to write. I was tired, but not tired enough to fall asleep fast on my pillow, and I knew my mind would wander too much into thoughts I’d rather not have, so going to bed wasn’t an option. 

I was fiddling around in my room and came across some old journals I used to keep. It had been years since I looked through them. They begin in 1995. I was nineteen years old. I still keep a journal. It’s therapeutic, but I discovered that night, as I read about the days of my life from twenty-seven years ago, journaling is also a time-travel machine.

I was suddenly transported to the home I grew up in and in the bedroom I dreamed of being a rockstar, and, much later, a writer. Most of the entries from my college years, and into my twenties, mention a lot about the writing courses I was taking and the stories I was writing at the time. 

Which was a bit surreal since I am currently working on one of those stories right now. It was my first completed novel. I was twenty-three years old, three years after coming out and writing about the love between two women that was still so new to me. 

The novel itself wasn’t very good, but I kept it and decided it was worth a revision. I have since turned two short stories I wrote in college, that also wasn’t very good, into two published novels. The first, A Penny on the Tracks, and the newly contracted novel, Annabel and the Boy in the Window

Little did I know then, as I wrote those stories, that they would be kept for over two decades and rewritten by the older, but not always wiser, and somewhat jaded forty-five (soon to be forty-six) year-old self. 

I miss my younger self. I often wonder if the nineteen-year-old me would be happy with where her life ended up. In reading my old journals, I didn’t live up to everything my younger self had wanted, but of course, nothing then could have warned me about health issues that would get in the way of work, love, life. 

So, I didn’t get everything checked off on my “life list,” but I am a published author, and as I spent my twenties at some dead-end jobs, that was all I dreamed of being. 

 

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Be Like Pooh

At the start of every new year, I always have a goal to be more spiritual. More introspective. More Zen.  I vow to do more yoga, more meditation than the previous year. The yoga is easy, but the sitting still in one place is hard. I do it, but at times it can be a struggle, and it really shouldn’t be. You are literally just sitting. But you are sitting without thoughts. Without the day’s frustrations or what didn’t get checked off the to-do list weighing on your mind.

You just be. You sit with a clear head. Maybe there’s a chant you say to yourself that helps to calm you and find your center. If I’m having a hard time settling into my meditation and letting go of invasive thoughts, I have a go-to chant that helps to reel in my wandering mind. I say with a steady inner voice, “At this moment all is well.” I repeat the mantra as many times as I need to bring me back to the present moment, where my mind is calm enough to just be. 

I always start the year with a book about spirituality. This year that book is the same book I started last year off. It was worth a second read.  The Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff. (Tao pronounced DAO) I bought the book at an estate sale. The title grabbed my attention because though I’ve read many books about Buddhism, I was only faintly familiar with Taosim. And also, I was a big fan of Pooh as a little girl. Who wasn’t? He was such a cute and cuddly little bear, and apparently, he knew the secret to staying “happy and calm under all circumstances.”

In this book, the author explains “the principles of Taoism through Winnie-the-Pooh…” He concentrates on the basic sentiment of Taosim that centers around “a particular way of appreciating, learning from, and working with whatever happens in everyday life.” With a simple-mind and not over-analyzing every aspect of his every day, Pooh has no expectations. He simply lives, without interference or fight, but rather by “working in harmony with life’s circumstances…”

Pooh lived by what is known as “the most characteristic element of Taoism-in-action”– Wu Wei.  Wu Wei means “without doing, causing, or making.” Living life without interfering, or being contentious, or arrogant. It means “no going against the nature of things…”  Like water flowing over rocks. The water just goes where the path takes it. There is no “mechanical, straight-line approach…” 

We only begin to reach the state of Wu Wei “when we learn to work with our own Inner Nature, and with the natural laws operating around us…” The person who thinks too much is bound to interfere with the natural laws by trying too hard. Wu Wei is effortless. “No stress, no struggle.” The round peg goes in the round hole and the square peg goes in the square hole. Don’t make life harder than it needs to be.  Sometimes highly educated minds try to find ways to force the pegs in holes they don’t belong because they want to seem cleverer than the average mind. This is not Wu Wei.

 While the brainiacs spend their days struggling, while trying to be smarter than everyone else, and their frustration growing, Pooh, having simply put the round peg in the round hole, sits under the shade of a tree and happily eats a bowl of honey. 

Pooh knows Wu Wei.

“Wu Wei doesn’t try. It doesn’t think about it. It just does. And when it does, it doesn’t appear to do much of anything. But Things Get Done.”

Be like Pooh. 

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