Self-compassion for writers (and other tortured souls)

June 12, 2014

WriterI was talking to a Buddhist friend recently who’s a wonderful writer. She creates amazing blog posts that usually start off deeply personal but go on to teach important and universal lessons about life. I have a lot to learn from her about combining the personal and the instructional, and in many ways I regard her as the better writer. The thing is, she told me she hasn’t been able to write for two years now, because she’s a perfectionist.

And that’s the problem with perfectionism. Perfectionism makes us anything but perfect, because, for one thing, it makes it harder for us to create. Perfectionism is like teaching an animal to do a trick by … Read more »

Bringing accountability to your practice

April 16, 2014

The Steppe Eagle is a bird of preyI’m just getting over a bad habit relating to meditation that’s plagued me for over thirty years.

It was reading a blog post on developing good writing habits that helped me. The idea came from Brett Cooper who, like me, found that he tended to write in fits and starts, with long periods of non-writing, followed by spurts of intense production.

Two ideas came to his rescue. The first was that he realized he needed to establish “a small, non-threatening daily writing habit,” and that a goal of 100 words a day was innocuous enough to be doable.

The second idea was the realization that he needed accountability. Left to our own devices, it can … Read more »

Transcendental Science Fiction and the magic of contrast

January 9, 2013


‘..that quest for new and relevant cultural expressions of the Dharma is of the foremost importance if Buddhism is to have a major impact on the world.’
Subhuti, A Buddhist Manifesto.

I came to Buddhism through the catalyst of Speculative Fiction (SF), which includes, amongst others, the science fiction and fantasy genres.

At the root of Speculative Fiction I saw a spiritual urge; the desire for transcendence. In it I recognised what could almost be seen as a new spiritual movement.

I place the origins of Science Fiction in the nineteenth century with the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, as does Brian Aldiss in his book Billion Year Spree. I don’t think it’s a … Read more »

“The Best Buddhist Writing 2010,” edited by Melvin McCloud

March 31, 2011

best buddhist writing 2010When I began reading mainstream Buddhist writings and familiarized myself with the prominent Buddhist teachers in the United States, I regularly bought Shambhala Sun, Tricycle, Turning Wheel, and eventually Buddhadharma. In 2004 the first of the yearly Best Buddhist Writing collection came out and I read it cover to cover. At that point I was simply grateful for the resource, and I didn’t even mind rereading the articles I had already seen in the magazines. Besides, the anthology included many book excerpts that inspired me to run out to my local bookstore.

Title: The Best Buddhist Writing 2010
Author: Melvin McCloud (Ed.)
Publisher: Shambhala
ISBN: 978-1-59030-826-4

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“The Writing Warrior: Discovering the Courage to Free Your True Voice,” by Laraine Herring

February 6, 2011

The Writing WarriorWoody Allen once joked that 95% of the work is in turning-up. This book is about that 95% and what stops us from ‘turning up’ as writers — things like feeling we don’t have enough time, or isolation.

This is well and good, and Laraine Herring is an accomplished writer, who’s particularly adept at personal anecdotes designed to lift our spirits and keep us focused on our task. However, after a few hundred pages, what is meant to be inspiring becomes (for me at least) a little wearying. The essential message seems to be that every problem can be solved if you just make enough effort. She tells us over and over things like:


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“Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants,” by Arnie Kozak, PhD

May 3, 2010

Wild chickens and petty tyrants 108 metaphors for mindfulnessA delightful, readable, and humorous book offers 108 images to help us understand the intangible qualities of mindfulness practice.

This enjoyable little volume offers 108 different images and metaphors to apply to one’s experience of mindfulness. It is written by Arnie Kozak, the founder of Exquisite Mind, a consultation service offering mindfulness to manage stress and enhance one’s quality of life.

Title: Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness
Author: Arnie Kozak, PhD
Publisher: Wisdom Publications
ISBN: 0-86171-576-4
Available from: Wisdom, and

The book is divided up into five main sections.

Metaphors for mind
This includes such things as: “Doggie Mind and Monkey Mind” and … Read more »

Freedom on the inside

May 5, 2009

Light coming through prison windowPeople behind bars are often open to change, as Suvarnaprabha discovers when teaching prisoners to meditate.

There is a series of rituals you learn when you start going into prisons. Of course they aren’t meant to be rituals –- they’re for security, but they end up feeling like rituals, in the same way that some of us automatically bow when we enter a meditation room. You walk up to the door, push the button, turn your back to the door, the door buzzes, and you turn around, open the door and go inside. Every time you go through a door, even on the inside, you do the same thing: you push the button, turn to … Read more »

The Best of Inquiring Mind: 25 Years of Dharma, Drama, and Uncommon Insight

March 23, 2009

Best of Inquiring Mind

Title: “The Best of Inquiring Mind: 25 Years of Dharma, Drama, and Uncommon Insight”
Author: edited by Barbara Gates and Wes Nisker.
Publisher: Wisdom Publications (2009).
ISBN: 0-86171-551-9
Available from:

As the exceptional, essential new anthology The Best of Inquiring Mind: 25 Years of Dharma, Drama, and Uncommon Insight underscores for us, Inquiring Mind journal has been both a vital and heroic effort in English-language Buddhist media.

At a quarter-century in age, the biannual is one of the longest-standing publications for Dharma practitioners in North America—a survivor, a keeper, and an example. As publisher Alan Novidor so aptly puts it in his preface, the journal is generally regarded … Read more »