The Problem of Suffering

I’ve been concerned about suffering since I was eight, and I went to a friend’s Baptist church with her. They had fun games about remembering things from the Bible, and—always the showoff when it came to learning—I enjoyed those games. But though I had a good time, I declined to go with her again. And soon, I declined to go to the Sunday school classes at our own Episcopal church. When my mother asked me why, I said, “I don’t know about a God who is supposed to be all-powerful but still lets animals and little kids get hurt.” I was lucky: my mother let me out of the classes, only if I sat quietly in church during the grown-up part of the service, next to her.

I never did know about that God. I loved the language of the King James Bible, and many of the verses, particularly the Psalms. I liked singing hymns, especially at Christmas. But I could not find faith, when logic would not reconcile the things this religion told me. The closest I came was when I taught a survey literature course in Southern Illinois and the Old Testament was part of the curriculum. I had to teach the Book of Job.

The suffering of Job

One aspect of Job is the awful bet that begins the book, where God brags about Job’s extreme faith and goodness, and Satan says (and feel free to imagine this in a needling, snide voice), “Yeah, that’s only because you’ve given him all good things.” God then says, “Oh yeah? Well, do whatever you want to him. He’ll still be a good guy.” And that’s how Job’s suffering begins. Because of this bet—precisely because he remains good, you might say—he loses everything, including, eventually, his friends, his reputation, and his health. And reading it is truly horrifying, particularly if you think about people you know who are good, kind, generous, and thoughtful, and how those people have suffered and are suffering. The book seems to make my childhood point for me: it shows an all-powerful, all-knowing God who not only allows suffering, but seems to incite it. And all during his suffering, Job’s “friends” come and tell him to stop complaining; they won’t listen to his understandable anger and confusion over this unfairness. Poor Job! Poor us, humans left in the hands of a cruel and capricious god.

For some people, the answer comes directly from God, close to the end of the book of Job, when God gets tired of Job’s complaining and (perhaps to prevent him from doing what God told Satan he would never do, and cursing God’s name), God comes down to give him a direct talking-to. What does God say? Basically that Job wasn’t there when God created everything, set up the world and chilled out with monsters and angels—that God’s understanding is so complex, subtle, and deep that there is no way Job could understand all of God’s ways. It’s just not possible. It would be like trying to explain economic theory to your dog.

Ok. Ok. So if you can block out your prior literary knowledge here—that Job’s suffering is the result of a bet between God and Satan—that actually makes sense. The likelihood that a being powerful enough to create the world would be beyond our understanding is pretty high. In the context of suffering, it is the only thing that makes sense; certainly we can look around us and see numerous people whose goodness should make them prime candidates for receiving good, and numerous people whose evil should make them prime candidates for receiving evil, and observe that this is not what happens.

Buddhism’s take on suffering

What I like about the basic idea of Buddhism is that there’s no pretense that good behavior will get you good things in life. The Buddha just says, “Yeah, human existence cannot be separated from suffering. Life is suffering. So I’m going to give you some tools for making that suffering less.”

All right. Yes, I said all right. Because this no bullshit approach sounds absolutely true to me. I’m a very sensitive person who has suffered from depression since my teens. I not only sob when I witness suffering, like a squirrel hit by a car, but also when I hear about suffering. And then I spiral down into the dark, wondering what the point of all this is, feeling my insignificance in the universe, deciding that I actually cannot stand the suffering, and the unfairness. If I put the additional pressure on myself of believing that, if I were only better in some (or numerous) ways, I wouldn’t suffer, then I can’t move. The weight is too much. Suffering is down to me? It’s my fault? I can’t live with that.

What I can live with is a world largely indifferent to my suffering and the suffering of others. A universe with its own systems, and a body and brain set up to be particularly attentive to the passing of time. Hey, we evolved to be like this—ruminating on the past, to see what we learned, and worrying about the future, so we know what to avoid. This all happened so we could stay alive.

But now, we suffer when we spend all our time in the past or the future. A bill from the doctor’s office doesn’t hurt us in the present; it is our regrets about the past (Should I have not gone to the doctor? Not spent that money in that way last month?) and our fears about the future (If I pay the bill now, will I have enough for rent?) that make us suffer.

Life’s going to suck sometimes

Which is where meditation comes in. I want to be clear: meditation doesn’t take away the bill. I don’t subscribe to the “meditate and you’ll draw good things to you, including money and success” set of beliefs. Basic Buddhist ideas work best for me: life is going to suck sometimes, and you’re going to suffer. Most of that stuff will be out of your control. So what can you do? Try to modify your reactions to what happens. 

So when you get that doctor’s bill, you’re going to have a reaction. That’s a feeling, and you can’t control it. It’ll be a sinking feeling, or a feeling of sadness or even anger. Notice the feeling, have the feeling, but separate the feeling from all the thoughts that will come afterwards. Meditation helps you do this, and it helps you practice nonjudging. Because if you refuse to judge yourself, then the thought, “I shouldn’t have spent that money last month” can be just a thought, noticed and watched as it floats past on your river of thoughts. You can, in fact, significantly lessen your own suffering by not judging yourself based on that thought. Instead of chasing after that thought, telling yourself, “I should have known; I should have saved,” you remember that you not only couldn’t know about the future doctor visit, you couldn’t control yourself getting sick. Translation: this is not your fault. This is just one of those sucky things that happens because the universe sometimes gives you sucky things.

Freeing yourself from the blame and self-judgment amounts to a real lightening of the load of your own suffering. It’s like magic! Only it isn’t magic. Human nature, capitalist culture, modern technology, and more make it particularly difficult to separate yourself from judgment and from the illusion of control. It’s hard to give yourself even a few moments of quiet time to think, to remind yourself to notice your thoughts and feelings without judging them, or yourself for having them. That’s why people have meditation practices, because a practice is something you try to do on a regular basis. It helps us actually take the steps that will make us better at doing something we know we want to get good at.

Perhaps the Buddhist approach to suffering is, in fact, a bit like that answer towards the end of Job, where God says that we simply cannot understand God’s ways. In both cases, we must accept our limitations—we are not all-knowing nor all-powerful—and devise ways to meet the uncertain with equanimity. People with religious faith and those who don’t claim a particular faith can all benefit from a new way of seeing, and responding to, suffering.

Depression and suffering

And for those of us who struggle with depression, it is even more essential to come to different terms with suffering. Without some handle on it, the specter of ending our suffering in a permanent way rises regularly, even daily. But we can endure, I believe. I have endured, and you will, as well. Your suffering is not your own fault. Remember that, however you can. And try to practice meditation, if only for the hope of a few moments relief. It has worked for me. It is not a cure, but it is a tool I would not have survived this long without. Both this perspective on suffering and the practice of meditation have also—you can trust me on this, because I absolutely admit to the inevitability of the dark times and the sucky events you cannot control—brought me times of joy. I promise you, joy is possible, even given the inevitability of suffering. You can feel the whole range of human emotions, including joy. That’s where I hope to take you, in my writings: on this slow, fitful journey with me, where we recognize, together, that our lives have worth.

Writers and Meditation

I gave this talk as part of a panel with Casey Clague at the Gulf Coast Association of Creative Writing Teachers conference a couple of weeks ago, so forgive the speech-like feel. (And if you’re anywhere near Fairhope, Alabama, and a writer, consider coming to that conference next year—I’ve taken over as president, and it’s always a great time of community and connection. Not just for teachers, and not just for literary writers or writers within academia.) 

—Katie

I wanted to start my little talk with a joke, something to loosen people up and connect us to the here-and-now, something that might establish me as at least good-natured, a little bit clever, knowledgeable about the strategies of successful panels and conferences (as I should be at this point, having done this kind of thing for 25 years). I even thought about opening with my opening at the Other Words conference, my other favorite Southern writing conference, where all I had to say was, “I’m not funny. I’m from the Midwest,” and the audience burst into laughter.

But. That conference was back in early November. That conference was before the election. We are living in a different world now, and I am even less funny now than I was then. I am, in fact, stricken. I try to write, to think, about anything other than the suffering that will be a consequence of the current administration—that is already happening—and, mostly, I can’t.

Except for meditation. I can think and write about meditation, because I first came to it due to suffering, and it is one of the few things that helps me deal with suffering, mine or others’.

So one of the things I’m writing about meditation is a short book, tentatively entitled, There’s No Wrong Way: 44 Meditations, in which I list a variety of ways you might meditate. Some are standard parts of Buddhist or mindfulness meditation practices, and some are a little weird, like stoplight meditation, cursing meditation, fabric store meditation, and time travel meditation.

I bring this up for two reasons.

  • As both writers and readers, you know that how someone explains something is often as important—or more important—than what they are saying. Which means that some books and speakers on the topic of meditation and mindfulness will turn you off. Tone, word choice, metaphor, and all the other tools we work with daily will affect you. (Personally, the words of Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun, don’t work for me. Her tone reads to me like “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” when I need something more like “everything’s going to be ok,” or really, “everything’s going to be as it is, and you freaking out about it won’t make it better, so give yourself a break and chill out.”) There are tons of books and videos on meditation—in fact, I thought about calling my book Who needs another book on meditation?—so if one doesn’t resonate for you, try another one. Meditation itself may still work for you—I believe it works for nearly all of us—but you need to find the right perspective and wording.
  • If you think you’ve tried meditating and you can’t do it, I’m here to say that I don’t believe you. Because if you’re a writer, you’ve meditated. What do you think that “zone” is, that “flow,” where you’re writing the first draft and your hands can’t move quickly enough to get down your thoughts? Where do you think your crazy ideas come from, when your characters say things you didn’t plan for them to say or your poem loops back around to that image from the first stanza and you suddenly have an ending? I would argue that this state—which we all know is not all there is to writing—at the very least has a lot in common with meditation. It is a state of concentration without striving, a state of openness and receptivity that nevertheless excludes our usual worries about the future or regrets about the past. Success and failure are not part of it; when you’re in that state, you simply are.

Now, do you get to that state of being every time you sit down to write? No, of course not. Similarly, you don’t get to that state of being every time you sit down to meditate. But the more you practice meditation, the more likely you are to enter that state. I suspect there are writers here who would attest to a similar effect when writing, who know that it is the sitting down regularly that makes it possible for that “zone” to occur.

So, in this ultra-busy world, I can hear some of you thinking, if the writing “zone” is so much like meditation, why would you want to do both? Don’t they accomplish the same thing?

Ah…no. For us, writing is inevitably, inextricably tied to both the past and the future. It is connected to judgment at its very core: our writing is judged by teachers, mentors, and editors, as well as by our own inner critics. The zone may be free of all that, but as soon as we leave it, we’re back to the world in which we are writers, people whose careers depend on being published, people who want to be read. We suffer from our rejections, fall into self-doubt, spend months hoping for good news and dread having to publicize ourselves when the time comes. Yes, the writing zone is a beautiful state to be in, and it’s a vital mental practice, and it’s a high; but we’re always going to come back to the other parts of writing, the revision and submission, publication and reviews.

Meditation is not connected to all that. There’s no editorial board for meditation. No one will tell you whether you’re worthy as a meditator or not. Your income doesn’t depend on it, nor your public reputation. When you’re done meditating, you don’t then have to pick apart the results of that half hour, applying your overlay of craft knowledge to the raw materials of the imagination. The point of meditation is not to produce anything. For the time you’re meditating, you are out of the loop of work and judgment. In fact, two basic ideas of meditation are nonstriving and nonjudging.
But it is still a mental practice. Studies abound on the specific effects of meditation. Meditation improves creativity, flexible thinking, concentration, and decision-making. It improves resilience and lowers stress, which is measurable in lowered blood pressure and heart rates. Meditation will feed your writing, making it easier for you to access the writing zone, manage your time so you can write, and bounce back from the inevitable negative events of life so you can spend more time being productive and less time down the YouTube rabbit hole. Maybe you’ll find the courage to get really weird in your writing, break some rules, experiment. Practicing the shutting down of those inevitable inner voices of judgment and discouragement may make innovation more possible. Not to mention the ability to access quiet, stillness, and concentration in a world of constant, instant connection, stimulation, and information overload.

One last thing: when I was younger, I worried that if I ever found a way to silence my inner demons, heal lifelong emotional wounds, that I’d lose the urge to write. I worried that I’d lose the inner itch, that urge to create, to try to understand the world through words. Meditation may seem like that kind of bandage, soothing your inner turmoil and simultaneously smothering the crazy, effed-up part of you that needs to write. Of course I can’t promise you won’t become a bodhisattva, an enlightened one, and levitate into the next world—but I suspect that, like the rest of us, you’ve got plenty of crazy for this lifetime. After all, you’re a writer.

Inner Weather

Today is the 12th day since I stopped taking my anti-depressant. Before that I went on half the dose for a month. Before that I was on that particular drug for perhaps 5 months.

I know it is the 12th day because every day for the past 12 days I’ve felt like I had the flu: all the muscles and joints in my body ache, intensely. In fact, for the first 3 days, I thought I did have the flu, because for those days I also had stomach pain. But then the stomach pain receded a good bit while the muscle and joint pain went on, and on. Standing or sitting or lying down, morning or night, with painkillers having negligible effects. The other symptoms include a slight dizziness/fuzziness in my head, which comes and goes, and the tendency to cry, very suddenly, at a stray thought.

And I’m lucky. I don’t have the rages, irritability, brain zaps (hard to describe, apparently, but people know them when they have them), or irrationality that are also common. I did realize there was a good possibility I would have some withdrawal symptoms—research on the web suggests 50-75 percent or more of patients quitting this drug will have symptoms—but I confess, I thought maybe I’d be the exception. I’ve never had a reaction to quitting an anti-depressant—or any drug, really—before. I’m hardly a pale, frail, wispy kind of person; I figured my heft might stand me in good stead, for once. But I was wrong.

colorful-1325268_1280It’s scary, how little doctors and scientists seem to know about the brain. Mess with a few chemicals in the brain—ones supposedly having to do with mood, and maybe sleep—and you get…intense physical pain? How does that work, again?

The truly wonderful thing—the thing that makes me know I made the right decision—is that my mood is improved. It improved on the first day after I stopped taking the medicine. Yes, I cry suddenly, and with little provocation—but I bounce back. I cry for a minute or two, but those tears don’t lead down the same old depression-paved path of my own worthlessness that used to waylay me for hours, days, or longer. Any ongoing tears in the last 12 days have been due to the physical pain. And yeah, I do consider that an improvement—though it also reaffirms my admiration for those who live with physical pain daily.

This is NOT an anti-drug rant. I want to make that clear. Whether you take medications to help with your depression or not is up to you and your doctor. The brain, as I said, is complex and little-known, and if individuals can respond so differently to drugs as basic as antibiotics, then you know damn sure individuals will respond differently to anti-depressants.

bwca-1150305_1920But for me, it was time to try out my brain without the chemicals. I’ve been grieving my dream career for nearly a year now. I’ve done a lot of work—practicing, reading, attending groups—on meditation and mindfulness. And deep down, I just had an intuition that the drugs were not helping. In fact, I felt like they might be actively hurting my mental health and balance. They had become a heavy weight in the canoe, moving too sluggishly from one side to the other to try to counterbalance my negative thoughts and feelings. In doing so, they kept the canoe from doing what a canoe is, innately, capable of: recovering from the small-to-medium tips after a few dicey moments.

Of course, this was after A LOT of different ways I dealt with, or didn’t deal with, my depression. I tried different prescription medications; vitamins and supplements; exercise; meditation; talk therapy; yoga; and more. Everything had some effect, though it wasn’t always easy to tell what the effect was. Like nearly everyone with depression, my moods weren’t always cause-and-effect. I might not even be able to articulate what made me unable to get out of bed that day—and generally I’m all too good at talking, or at least writing, what I’m thinking and feeling.

How did I get to the point where I was brave or crazy enough to try going off anti-depressants altogether? I’m not entirely sure. Time was a big factor, no doubt. And some amazing things I read and heard and thought and felt. Interestingly, one of the sets of ideas I’m most excited about came after I went off the medicine, when I stumbled on the podcast Invisibilia. If you’ve tried therapy, meditation, or mindfulness—if you’re just interested in thoughts and mood and mental health—listen to the first episode. The examples they include seem extreme at first, not related to most of us, but trust me, the ideas will come back to us “regular folks” and our dark thoughts. (I’ve got too much to say about that episode and how the ideas put some of my own concepts together in new ways, so look for another post about that in the future!)

But here’s the thing: this post has taken me over 10 days to write. To even begin writing. Why? Because writing about my personal experiences with depression is difficult. It’s embarrassing, somehow. I imagine the faces of people as they read this, and their judgments and “solutions” (please remember, problem-solvers out there, how oppressive your suggestions can be to those who are struggling with something as complex as depression). Writing about my experiences with mental health makes me feel inferior, activates my worries about burdening or boring other people, and feels, in short, like walking naked around the grocery store.

So I started a community for people to talk to each other about meditation, mindfulness, and mental health. I know, I know—it seems anti-mindfulness to give you yet another online social network to check. But this isn’t like Facebook or Twitter; the people at Inner Weather have joined specifically because they are interested in these topics. You don’t need to be into all of these things—meditation, mindfulness, and mental health. Maybe just one of them relates to you. Maybe the connections between them are intriguing. Maybe you just want a place where you feel safe telling other people which drug you just went off, and why, and how it’s going, and maybe ask if anyone knows how long the withdrawal symptoms might last. (In my case, it’s very unclear—the company’s own research says that “at least 50 percent will continue to have withdrawal symptoms after two weeks” but not how long after. And yes, if you join Inner Weather, and ask, I’ll tell you which drug it is.)

window-276922_1920Anyway—please join Inner Weather, whose name I stole from a Robert Frost poem. I hope to see you there, my courageous friends.

Seed the Future: Katie’s Vlog April 25 2016

Another reason to meditate

Love and meditation

One Reason to Meditate

Inside your mind

Living in Uncertainty (item #8 from The Manifesto)

I will live in uncertainty. I will put myself out in the world without having a guarantee that everything will go the way I want. I will understand that the condition of living in uncertainty is the human condition. To this end, I will not try to control the people around me by anticipating their needs/wants.

We are always getting ready to live but never living.
― 
Ralph Waldo Emerson

I try to avoid looking forward or backward, and try to keep looking upward.
― 
Charlotte Brontë

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All the items in my manifesto are about freedom, but this one is rooted in the Buddhist tradition of accepting uncertainty—and so opens up to a much bigger freedom, a universal freedom. So much of what we do every day is about trying to minimize risk: we make sure we have enough gasoline in the car before we drive anywhere (for that matter, we maintain our cars and have them inspected to guard against breakdowns); we pay our insurance (car, health, life); we get yearly physicals; if we have a choice, we don’t drive at rush hour. The list goes on and on. We are prudent. We use our human ability to anticipate possible future events in order to plan for the future. As we do these things, we begin to believe we’re not just planning for the future: we’re controlling it.

How could we not believe this? We can see cause and effect. We have enough gas in the car: we make it to our destinations without being stranded by the highway. It makes sense. We know if we don’t have enough gas in the car, we’re sure to be stranded, waiting for assistance.

But aren’t there scenarios in which we end up stranded even though we had enough gas? Flat tire, engine breakdown, accident, stolen car. And those are just the common ones. There’s also the possibility of tornadoes, earthquakes, stampeding elephants, asteroids falling from the sky.

My point is not to feed the fears that the media stokes for us every day, but to show that planning is not control. The future will happen its own way. We do not control it. Whatever’s going to occur will not ask us if we’re ready before it occurs. Snowflakes as big as houses might fall in Florida. It’s unlikely—but in any case, we don’t control it, and we can’t plan for that kind of chance.

Which brings us back to basic Buddhist doctrine, often worded as the admonition to live in the present. The mere idea of this is so alien to us in the West that it sounds like nonsense. But what it’s really about is accepting that the human condition is the condition of living in uncertainty. To live in the present moment means understanding simply that we don’t know what’s going to happen. And though understanding this truth can be terrifying, it can also be the ultimate freedom: if we don’t know what’s going to happen, then the burden of worry can be put aside, at least for the moments we truly accept our ignorance of the future. I’m not suggesting we’re all going to become experts at this, able to live in the present moment all the time, or at will. But next time you’re worrying about whether your job is secure, whether your friend has cancer, whether your house is going to sell or your child is going to try drugs, stop and take a breath. Say to yourself, “I don’t know what will happen.” See what that feels like.

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And then think about how you can accept uncertainty in your daily life in ways that give other people freedom as well as yourself. Babies and children, of course, must have their needs anticipated. They must be taken care of, nurtured, sometimes indulged when they really want something. But the other adults in your life do not require this kind of anticipatory care. They, like you, are in charge of deciding what they want and asking for it. Both they and you suffer when you try to anticipate what they want and do it before they even ask.

One example is all those “relationship rules” people make themselves crazy over. How soon after getting his/her phone number should you call? Will she think you’re too needy if you call the next day? Will he decide you aren’t really that desirable if you’re available for the first time he suggests? Does she like guys with a sense of humor or the brooding type? In this way we remake ourselves for other people, failing to be our authentic selves, failing to even try to figure out what we want, and failing to give the other person a chance to express what he/she wants. Romantic comedies to the contrary, the “true person” may not come out before the relationship goes very far. The pattern, once begun, may continue in small and subtle ways, so that we constantly reshape ourselves for other people.

More importantly, if we get the “results” we want from all this speculation about what someone else wants, we decide that anticipating others’ needs is a great way to control our lives. We believe that if we behave in way Y, then she will behave in way Z (or at least not behave in way A). Control.

But. But what about the person living with someone with an anger problem? She may spend her day trying to prevent an outburst of anger, and still accidentally say the “wrong” thing. All that preparation, the emotional exhaustion of questioning everything you say and do in terms of how another person would see it—and still the dreaded response happens.

Most of us live in less obvious situations. We try to prevent our partner from being “in a bad mood,” from pouting, from getting irritated, or from being disappointed in us. But do we really want to treat the other adults in our lives like children? The real question: are we brave enough to face whatever response others have to our authentic selves?

If you’re not always the maid, accountant, cook, gift-giver, comedian, mechanic or nurturer of your family, then what are you? Who are you? And if others love you for the things you do, will they still love you even when you don’t automatically do those things?

Again, this is scary stuff. It is admitting that you do not control the future, and that you do not control other people. It is accepting that you live in uncertainty. Be who you are. Respect others’ rights to have feelings, thoughts and reactions to what’s really going on around them. Don’t be afraid of those reactions. Remember, no matter how others react, you are not allowing them to judge you. If you say, “I love you” first and the other person says, “Oh no, I feel smothered,” be courageous enough to talk about it. You don’t know how the conversation might go. That’s the point. In accepting your own freedom—you do not control the future—you give others their freedom—you do not control them.

None of this is to suggest you abdicate your responsibilities. It is only to tell you that you’re allowed to redefine your responsibilities. You’re allowed to be who you are, to be genuine in your interactions with other people. You’re allowed to stop believing you are responsible for things you cannot control. You’re allowed to look around at the world—even if only for a minute—like a child would, delighted by some new taste or sound. The economy will not crash because you’re failing to worry about it. It may crash—but you can’t control that. It’s not your fault, or your job.

Isn’t the freedom glorious?

 

*This post is part of a chapter from The Manifesto, a book of ten suggestions for living a freer life. Please click here to buy the book, in print or for Kindle.

The Manifesto Free on Kindle

In the spirit of Thanksgiving shopping deals and Christmas giving, my book of suggestions for a freer life, The Manifesto, is free on kindle for a few days. Please download, read, and enjoy. It’s about not judging yourself, about giving yourself the time and space to nurture your inner life, about relationships and asking for what you want and dealing with worry. I hope you get something out of it.The Manifesto cover

For now, I’ll leave you with my best advice when it comes to close relationships–partners, family, friends: Say what you feel, and say what you want. Be honest with yourself and others. Be compassionate with yourself and others. Be open. Don’t apologize for your feelings, for what you want. Trust your loved ones to listen, and expect them to respond with lovingkindness, even if they can’t give you everything you want. Take a breath, gather your courage, and then say what you feel, and say what you want.

Q & A with Katie: How can we deal with rejection?

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Q: Hi Katie, How’s it going? I remember a post you wrote maybe last semester about rejections…I’ve had a string of them recently. Trying to rationalize (“maybe it wasn’t a good fit,” “you’ve got to be a better reader,” “you’ve got to be a better writer,” etc.) Do you have any advice for not letting that feeling take over the day? It’s kind of hard when it’s the first email you wake up to! Hope all is well!

A: Oh, sweet. I definitely know how it is. For me, the only way to “not let that feeling take over the day” is to meditate. Because when I meditate I remember that I cannot control everything. We live in a world that suggests if we only bought this or did that, we’d be able to control everything: our future health, happiness, success, and prosperity. When we feel that as writers, it can lead to despair, because we blame ourselves for our own rejections.

BUT you know as well as I do that editors have personal tastes, ideas about shaping a particular issue of a magazine, and more submissions to read than they really have time for. So you KNOW the rejections aren’t about the quality of your work, but about larger factors over which you have no control.

What you can control: that you keep writing. That you keep reading the things you love, the things that connect you to this world. That you keep putting words together to try to understand this bizarre, incredible life, because that’s what you really do it for.

And if it takes a little weeping, ok. If it takes a bit of screaming (I find in my car is good, where no one else can hear me), ok. If it takes the scribbling of some truly terrible lines about your despair and fear, that’s ok too. Because your real life project isn’t a book, or your career. Your real life project is yourself, and that’s the fucking hardest project possible, but also the only one that’s truly important.

xo, Katie

What a Real Meditation Session Looks Like

visual meditation 1visual meditation 2 2nd