Here's an article I wrote for the March issue of Shambhala Sun Magazine about turning problems into art.
When you’re a writer or an artist, nothing is wasted. Even the most painful and difficult situations in life can be recycled into material for a project, and it’s the artist’s job to be awake, aware, and opportunistic. This attitude might sound a bit cold and calculating, but it’s not. Quite the opposite. Art, when it comes from dark and difficult places, gives us a means to fully feel our most powerful human emotions and to transform our suffering into something meaningful.
The theme of the March issue is Life Is Tough, which is also the title of the feature article by Norman Fischer about transforming difficult situations into beneficial ones. The essay is based on his wonderful new book, which I'm reading now, entitled Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong. Lojong refers to the ancient Tibetan Buddhist mind-training methodology, described in The Root Text of the Seven Points of Training the Mind, by the twelfth century master Geshe Chekawa Yeshe Dorje. The seven points of mind training, each contains several pithy slogans, which are like taglines or exhortations to guide your practice.
In his article, Norman talks about the six Lojong slogans that pertain to transforming difficulty, but in the book, he goes into greater detail about all seven points and fifty-nine slogans, and offers ways of practicing with them. They are all very useful, very beautiful, and far more practical than writing novels.
Here's a list of some of my favorite slogans:
- See everything as a dream.
- Do good, avoid evil, appreciate your lunacy, pray for help.
- Be grateful to everyone.
- Trust your own eyes.
- Don't be a phony.
- Abandon hope.
- Don't poison yourself.
- Don't be so predictable.
- Don't go so fast.
- Don't be tricky.
- Be wholehearted.
- Don't expect applause.
These are the ones I'm going to be practicing when I'm on book tour next month...