Effortful effortlessness

I know, that’s backwards. It’s usually “effortless effort,” the Zen approach to living. But I think it may be more realistic and compassionate to say that putting in a focused effort upfront pays off in the practice of most things.

One of my friends asked me when I’m going to add “watercolorist” to my profile here and on social media. I replied that my motivation in taking up the brush was to achieve “beginner’s mind,” which, unfortunately, I seem to have burned up like a rocket after satellite launch. I just learned something: “beginner’s mind” isn’t something to aim at.

Perhaps my artistic practice isn’t zen, but instead a tremendous amount of paying attention. And this effort goes into both intuitive and deliberate knowledge of what to focus on. When I approach the work, I don’t know what I know. But knowledge doesn’t arise out of nowhere.

Too much attention is paid to the poet’s suffering consciousness, not enough to accomplishing clarity of mind, not enough to the influence of actual wisdom from received tradition. My own experience has been guided by early exposure to classic works of art, both literary and visual, as well as a lot of science, philosophy and religion. Guidance from the ancient to contemporary masters of culture. In other words, poetry is accomplished through a lot of uphill effort to earn those views from gorgeous precipices.

If you want to make… a poem

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