using the arrow buttons.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Lions Roar : November 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2008 34 we may have only weeks to live? How often do we waste the precious time we have? But if fantasies can be negative, doesn’t that mean that they can have a positive effect too? Human beings love stories, so perhaps they can be used to our benefit. Perhaps they can even help us to experi- ence greater clarity. As a writer I regularly experience the strange paradox of being in the moment, fully aware, utterly engaged, yet dealing with people and situations that are not real. In fact there are few occasions in my life when I am more mindful than when I am writing. I find it hard to reconcile this with most of the teachings I have read or heard about mindfulness but I venture to propose that what makes it work is the consciousness of stepping into that other world, of accepting it in the way that one can mindfully accept stepping out into rain or sun without judgment. When I look up from my computer and see the trees outside my window, I know I am in two worlds, the one outside and the one inside. I step between them as I step between my own life and that of my character. I am not daydreaming in order to escape reality but to experience a different form of reality. In order to write the best book that I can, I need to allow my imagination to roam freely. But I must also work with the more conscious aspects of my mind to shape the writing and polish the language. Writing needs to have some funda- mental truth about it, if it is to be of any value. For of course it is not just the writer who steps between an outer reality and an inner one—as readers we follow the same path. The imagination is a complex and mysterious part of our consciousness. How can we understand and engage the imagination in a way that enhances our clarity and understanding, rather than being a way of tuning out reality? The act of reading can be like a medita- tion. In meditating we still the body and mind in an attempt to be mindful; the I who observes the thoughts is separate from them. In reading we take time out to enter another world; the I who is read- ing is at once experiencing that world and separate from it. And just as we may find greater clarity when we observe ourselves in meditation, so, by reading, the dual perspective can lead us to insights, which we can carry into our lives. Fiction—books and films—have helped me to see things more clearly, to understand human nature more deeply, and to aspire to something better. As a writer and a reader I know that fictional characters are not real but I care about them as if they were, and I am shocked, distressed, or delighted by the events of their lives. Just as it is often easier to understand other people’s dramas more clearly than our own, fiction helps us to see how we can be blinded by our emotions. Reading about characters can free us from our prejudices, which often obscure our view of family and friends, and can let us see things from other cultural perspectives. Of course fiction can be trivial and dis- honest too; it can sensationalize situations and manipulate our emotions. The prac- tice of mindfulness encourages us to accept and understand, rather than to judge. Yet there is a difference between being judg- mental and being discriminating. Through training ourselves to be mindful and aware, we nurture our ability to sense when things are off-kilter. This involves listening to and observing our body’s reactions so we can heighten our awareness of what and how much we need to eat, but it also involves observing the effect that a book has on us. Just as too much junk food makes us feel deadened, so too does too much reading of material that does not serve to move us in the direction of greater awareness. Of course the books that are helpful for one person are not necessarily so for an- other. I was an English teacher for many years, and one of my greatest joys was helping to introduce and cultivate a love of reading in children. Being able to introduce the right book at the right time to a child is a great privilege. It’s a bit like watching a plant grow and knowing the right time to give it water or move it to a sunnier or shadier spot. As adults we have to cultivate that sensibility for ourselves and, to some extent, become our own mentors. Then maybe those little pinprick moments of awareness, the chink of cold air through the glass, will come more often. ♦ NOV 18-39.indd 34 NOV 18-39.indd 34 9/1/08 12:18:34 PM 9/1/08 12:18:34 PM