back to school


September has that crisp, cool feel about it.

New book bags, binders, and blue jeans.  The air is lighter, foliage is in transition and everything starts to calm down and settle in.  It's like running your hand across a freshly made bed.

That, and there is learning to be done.

I'm heading into week four of a writing course called Found in Translation.

What happens is, we are given a translation (the bare bones) of a poem from its original language - so far we have covered Chinese, Spanish and Russian.  Then we translate it into our own words, while still honouring the poet's choice of words and, ideally, maintaining their intention, meaning, and vision.

That's what happens.  

But there is much more to it than that, of course.

It's an online class taught by long time Zen practitioner, author, teacher Peter Levitt and is made up of people from Germany, Scotland, Israel, Italy, Vancouver Island, the USA, the GTA and various parts of Ontario.

So many perspectives.  So great.

Week one most of us didn't understand the instructions of what to do or the actual assignment and went ahead and did the work anyway.

The result?

Learning.

Learning through being vulnerable, through not knowing, through trust, intuition, letting go, slowing down, and having confidence.

This approach to writing is not easy.  It's different than anything I have ever done.  It's challenging, enlightening, frustrating, fascinating, tiring, and...highly enjoyable.

We have spent a fair amount of discussion on the value of rigour and discipline.  Of facing things as they are, and keep coming back to this image:

Once inside the bamboo tube
the snake
finds a new way

I'll say.

And I'll say this.  I find bits of this course - this careful, subtle, process - seeping into other areas of my life.  I am doing other things more wholeheartedly, with more honesty, with fewer constraints.

I think it is healthy to be reminded about the value of rigour and discipline.  A useful quote that Peter shared with us is from CG Yung on the definition of discipline: "Discipline is the obedience to awareness."

Good advice for writing, and, well, everything else.

Like skydiving, for example.

Last weekend I did a whole lot of learning about formation skydiving at Skydive Burnaby.  And a lot of that learning had to do with facing things as they are.  A lot of it was about being relaxed and focussed.  It was about trust, intuition, letting go, slowing down, and having confidence.

I edited a highlight video of the jumps I did and posted it here.

Poetry in motion?

You tell me.