I wake up a published author: today marks the official publication of my first book “Weaving the paths of Buddhism and Psychotherapy: the practice of human being”. Fittingly, I am in Normandy; staying in the house where much of the book came to be – both experientially and in taking written shape.
I was here two weeks ago, fortunate I could arrange my diary and grab the opportunity to meet-up and celebrate the book with Nuala (on the right in the photo below), the artist who so generously gave the practice of human being it’s teal container. I think of Nuala now as I arrive at publication day: just like when she asked “how does it feel?”, right now I can’t put words on it today.
In one respect, production of this book has been such a long time inthe making that its publication is but one moment after many moments in its birth. Like we might ponder the exact moment when a human becomes a being: conception? a certain size or autonomy? on taking the first breath? Did Practice of human being “become” when I scribbled some notes in my new “book project” journal on that Spring day in 2018? Was it the day I bought that journal from Foyles? or when we booked the trip to Normandy with an intent to write and retreat? It certainly felt like a book when I finished the first draft last Spring. I felt like a writer (a novice one) as I talked through the draft with Crystal (standing between myself and Nuala here), my meditation instructor…and now unofficial writing mentor…again here in Normandy.
All these moments; incremental. We are always becoming; it’s not easy to pinpoint.
In another respect, it’s not easy for me to know how I feel. As therapists, we often have experiences with clients who when faced with that question “how does it feel?” look perplexed. I’ve come to know in myself (an Enneatype Six, with a propensity for thinking over feeling) that there IS a feeling, but often there is so much that the mind is thrown into doubt – tumbling thoughts, undercutting thoughts: an oscillation that is often hard to distill. At best, a felt sense of dissonance; or as I am learning to hold, a “both this and that”.
It’s tempting to try and locate THE answer to “how do you feel?”. We as humans are conditioned to pinpoint and reify reality. Working with this in my practice, in the experience of not knowing, there is a lot going on for me. I’m learning that firstly not knowing is okay. Best to stay with the felt-sense of the situation and the meaning will arise. And secondly, it’s the process of meaning making rather than the outcome (or production of the answer) that is the path.
Since last Friday, when the complimentary books arrived from Routledge, I have been penning words of thanks to those I was giving copies to. It’s not easy, and I don’t know how authors write such dedications on the spot at book signings! Each dedication has taken a lot of thought (well, I am a Type Six!) Yesterday afternoon, I sat in the late summer sunshine here in Normandy trying to birth the words for one particular dedication, my mentor Crystal. It was indeed one of those moments of immense-feeling-finding-no-words. In staying with that process, so much meaning and understanding has arisen. Confusion and wisdom co-emerge as the great Buddhist sage Gampopa tells us.
In not being able to find the words that match the felt sense of gratitude, to stay with the “no-words” felt more truthful, more congruent. I remembered a teaching from Zen that Rupert Spira often quotes:
To speak is to lie, to not try is to be a coward
Likewise Aldous Huxley:
Silence comes closest to expressing the inexpressible
In other words, language is important to bring forward meaning – we have to try, as through it we find our becoming.
But language is NOT the truth; it’s a construction.
In trying to express truth or love, with each word we move away from the expanse and wisdom play of emptiness, our true being.
I think again of Nuala. Her art conveys so much of this; no need for words. The deeper I go into my practice as a Buddhist, as a phenomenological-based therapist, I come to appreciate art. It feels late in my life (I find myself regretting I didn’t encounter more philosophy and art when younger). I am endeavouring to make up for it now; maybe the timing is ideal. It’s certainly a fuel for more exploring, more writing.
As Crystal said that weekend we discussed my first draft
“The book writes you”
Many, many thanks and deep bows of appreciation to those of you who have pre-ordered the book; and for the congratulations that are coming in. I hope this book will be of benefit, as I have benefitted from writers and their works on my own path.