A Cup of Tea

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

I was happy with “Inside the River.” I thought the “cup” of my novel was full.  Then I was given the incredibly accurate advice to switch the order of the parts so that Emma (not Ana) begins and ends the book since it’s ultimately her story.

I am loving the restructure; the book is reaching its true current.  It needs work and I am cutting out unnecessary passages. My phenomenal editor, Jacob Miller, was impressed with how easily I let go of paragraphs and phrases that previously I hung onto.

And so I embrace another Zen story, “A Cup of Tea.”  How could I dive into another edit if I cling to the idea that the book is done? If I let my own opinions fill up my head, how is there room to hear someone else’s advice? How do I show up to my work, my days, my mat, my interactions? Am I spacious and open to whatever opportunity presents itself or do I let my ego and past opinions spill over into everything?


Find the Funny Friday: Rework

It’s time for find the funny Friday.  I haven’t written a blog in a bit because I’ve been busy with “Inside the River.” I got some amazing advice about the book.  The simple version is that if it’s ultimately Emma’s story, then Emma and not Ana has to be the beginning part.

So I’m in the midst of a restructure.  It feels good.  And the funny is that when you think you’re done, it may only be the beginning.  There’s no end game.


Find the Funny Friday: Procrastination

Procrastination is a find the funny Friday because we all tend to do the most outrageous things instead of the task at hand. These are a few of the things that I do when I sit down to write and don’t write:

I speak whatever I had recently written in a strange, almost slavic accent

My nails suddenly need to be cut to perfection

Tea needs to be made and then more tea and more tea and sometimes I do a weird dance while making it

I need to look at all forms of social media and scroll down and keep scrolling

I think about weird things that need to be googled immediately: this new frog species, what is a black hole (I google that a lot and still can’t grasp it), what is that amazing Margaret Atwood quote from one of her books about not wanting to know about someone’s past, all things Rumi, what is the temperature of Rome in March, where is Sean Connery now?

I pace around my apartment and do some more weird dancing

I call Aetna again and fight with them

I tap my feet to the Cher song, do you believe in love

I start to write…

What are some funny things you do?







The reasons why…

I have begun to write about Antonio.  In my book, “Inside the River,” Antonio is an old man, with piercing blue eyes, who mysteriously happens upon Emma.  He tells her about Ana, the story passed down from father to son and to his son and so on. In the first short story of Antonio that I am working on, he is a five year old boy, crying to his father about how mean people are to him because of his eyes.  The title of the story is “The Color, Demon.”

It’s an interesting exercise into the human condition. How much of us do we carry from when we were young? How much do we repeat, over and over, in our patterns of behavior and reaction, believing we could get  a different outcome…the outcome we had wished for when we were little and didn’t receive?  How hard is it to change our patterns, let go of the past, and make decisions and take action solely from our present condition?

As Antonio said:

“If I had understood, Emma.  I would….can I start at the beginning?” His hands trembled. 

And so, for him, I have started at his beginning so he can make sense, so his actions tell a story, so we can fully appreciate what happens when we hold onto what is no longer.  It’s a powerful thing, this ghost of should haves and what ifs and if only…it haunted Antonio.  That’s why I wanted to write his book as a collection of interweaving short stories because we all tend to move forward in circles.


Muddy Road

Zen Story: Muddy Road

Tanzan and Ekido were once traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling.

Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection.

“Come on, girl,” said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.

Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. “We monks don’t go near females,” he told Tanzan, “especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?”

“I left the girl there,” said Tanzan. “Are you still carrying her?”

I am ready to start writing again after a bit of a hiatus.  My intention is to write a collection of interweaving short stories about Antonio, the old man with piercing blue eyes, from “Inside the River.” There is a nagging thought that goes something like this–why write it, why not wait to see how “Inside the River” gets published?

And then I went to the stories I love that swirl around my head, stories that help me reset my brain, so as not to cling to negative thinking.  The above Zen story is what I chose to think about.

What does it mean to me? There are rules all around us, and rules that Tanzan and Ekido follow.  And then life happens and for them, life happened with a lovely girl who needed help.  Tanzan helped her, and then let it go. Ekido did not help her, but chose to hold onto his discomfort that Tanzan broke a rule.  Ekido, therefore, was still carrying her, making it dangerous for him as it clogged his thoughts with perhaps temptation or cravings or the disquiet of the mind.

What do we get attached to and how does that stop us from our pursuits, intentions, ease? If I am waiting for the end result of “Inside the River,” before continuing to write, an action that enlivens me and brings me joy, than aren’t I just like Ekido?  And by clinging to negative thoughts, can I be of service to myself or anyone else?


Find the Funny Friday: Twenty plus years later

Time is a funny thing when looking back on it:

When I was a teenager, I talked on the phone with my friends for hours every night, twisting the phone cord into knots as I paced my room.  Now I text in phrases and can’t imagine what we could have spoken about for so long.

When I was younger, if something embarrassing happened, I swore I would never go to school again…now when I bump into someone from my past, it takes me a long time to remember who they are.

When I was growing up, there were no cell phones, GPS, or computers (I went to college with a fancy typewriter). Atari had come out, and music was on records and cassettes. I had  a Sony walkman and we had a CB in the car–my handle was Snow White.

When I was younger, I used a lot of hairspray and wore a lot of make-up and pretended to be older and wiser. Now I hardly wear make-up, and never use hairspray, and am comfortable in always coming from a beginners mind, and know that wisdom is not knowledge, but compassion.

When I was younger, I listened to the lyrics of songs and books and poetry and felt it explode inside of me.  I wanted to write a story that mattered, and kept my ideas on scraps of paper and half filled up journals.

Funny, how some things never change…