Readers of Slow Love know that I read voraciously, looking for help, comfort, company, guidance, diversion, information, enlightenment...all the things we want from one another, and from the books we read. I return, every year, to the Bible, to Ovid, to Buddha, to Dante...I am agnostic in the company I choose, believing that no one has cornered wisdom.

I have been thinking about the kerfuffle over two recent posts here, one on Tiger Mothers, and the other on the unravelled morning of bad dreams. The responses to both were rich and fascinating. Of course, sometimes I wonder what possesses me to write so openly (and other times I just do it; writing opens a vein of rich, life-giving blood. As I think about the need to write, it crosses my mind that perhaps, even, writing comes from the same subconscious corner that led us to the idea of using leeches as a curative technique? Then there's the simple pleasure of groping for words to express thoughts, feelings... Not to get too tangled up in another thread....)

My friend Abby gave me a lovely little book called Awakening Loving-Kindness, by an extraordinary woman, Pema Chodron. That led me to another tiny Shambhala Pocket Classic by Chogyam Trungpa. He founded Naropa University, a school my son Theo is interested in attending. I started reading it, and came quickly to two passages that bear on the subject of the importance of facing fears (or sadness, or confusion) and I thought I would share them.

"Going beyond fear begins when we examine our fear: our anxiety, nervousness, concern, and restlessness. If we look into our fear, if we look beneath its veneer, the first thing we find is sadness, beneath the nervousness...[Sadness] is calm and gentle....discovering fearlessness comes from working with the softness of the human heart."

I'm taken with the idea of softening one's heart. We've all felt that wonderful, lilting melt, at one time or other--glancing at a friend with love, watching a child play, helping someone across the road, attending to a sickbed, being the first to compliment someone on a beard that has been growing in for a week, so they realize they are being seen, not just looked at, and smile... It intrigues me to think that we can actually learn to be in that heart state, rather than have it happen, only on occasion, by accident. Someone said rather impatiently, in the comments about my tattered morning, "Relax, Dominique." At first, I was affronted by that, but thinking about it, that's really part of this same message. Relax. Sit with it. Sharing it, of course, can help, and help others, too. Writing is often about not pretending (when it isn't about completely pretending!) There's no point, I think, if you aren't reaching for honesty, whole-heartedly.

My friend Elisabeth Young-Bruehl recently wrote about "parenting wars", sharing a conversation with a wise Jamaican man who was worried about how harshly his daughter disciplined her young son. Elisabeth told him what an analyst had once told her, "Anxiety makes people stupid." Such a profound observation, so many traditions of thinking get to the same place, no? In our fearfulness, we lash out at others.

The other passage that sparkled for me this morning was in a chapter called Make Friends With Yourself:

"Making friends with yourself means accepting and acknowledging yourself. You work with your subconscious gossip, fantasies, dreams--everything."

It strikes me that this sort of self awareness is one of the fruits of solitude--as it takes quiet and concentration to dig in; people who dislike being alone are often really afraid of confronting their own anxieties.

But it is easier to be calm, self aware, and at peace, when one is in solitude. Sometimes that's simply avoidance. It takes going out into the world, tangling with other people, with life's messiness and the world's problems, to really get somewhere. We need both: self center, and centered self in the world.

So, a Saturday morning's thoughts, thanks to all of your thoughts over the last week....


c said...

One of my "passtimes" is thinking about how I and others act and react to situations. I've come to the conclusion that people who dislike being alone really don't like themselves very much. And it shows in unintended ways - mean retorts, put dwns, even ridicule. I know a few like that. Doesn't make them "bad", but most, if not all of them, are very insecure.

OTHH, solitude is not always avoidance. For me, it's not being willing to waste my time with what I consider shallowness, and sometimes just plain stupidity. (I'm also painfully aware of what a cynic I've grown into). Wait ... I guess you are right - I'm avoiding what I don't want in my life?

As for your posts over the last week - there was so much! I couldn't slow down enough to comment. I'm still re-reading and digesting ... Thank you.

karensandburg said...

some random thoughts/responses:

i like the idea about living in the heart state and i think theo would be very happy here in boulder attending naropa -- let me know if you plan a visit and i can direct you to some of the secret spots, restaurants, etc... boulder is a really wonderful (and i think) conscious place...

and i also appreciate your thoughts on solitude and bringing yourself into the outside world with what you've learned during that solitude...funny isn't it how you know you've learned a thing or two about a thing or two (deniro in "this boys life") when you feel your successes in the outside world and you know clearly that its because of time spent in solitude -- for me anyway...

you've been particularly contemplative lately -- is it your age? i've been particularly thoughtful too and in part i attribute it to my age (54) -- a time of transition. no longer young, but not old either, but certainly heading in that direction. the meaning of life has changed -- my comfort in this world has changed -- my god, my appearance has changed! what do i want from the next 30 or so years?

Concrete Jungle said...

In the same vein of thinking if you have a chance read When Heaven and Earth Changed Places by Le Ly Hayslip with Jay Wurts " A Vietnamese Woman's Journey from War to Peace." Older thoughts but there are no new stories and the Vietnamese peasant seem to have know all well before.

Grace said...

LOVE this post! Thank you, Dominique. "What is this life, if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare?" Gratitude and Compassion.

Dominique said...

Thank you all. I know, I've been posted a lot, but I think I'm also preparing for a drier spell, as I'm not sure what sort of access I'll have in India, coming up. Karen, thank you so much for those heartening words about Colorado. I will definitely go out there if Theo attends, and will take you up on your generous invitation. Yes, I do think age has a lot to do with this, feeling these days as if I were on a hinge of some sort, swinging open into a new chapter....other days, though, it is amazing to me how I feel the way I did when I was, oh, say, five years old! lovely! Thanks Grace, re standing and staring, I just found a quote from Vic Muniz that I've posted....I think you'll like it. I've heard about the Hayslip book, and will now put it on my reading list....

Betty Kurecka said...

I am totally addicted to your blog and of course, your book is next to my night stand. I am trying the blog thing and constantly strive to imitate your style and depth. I can't and I accept that. As much as I enjoy all of your blogs, the ones where you go inside are the ones that make me want to work harder to become a writer of your caliber. If I don't make it, that's okay. At least I'm raising the bar thanks to you.

david terry said...

Dear Ms. Browning,

Hoping not to be more-than-usually off-topic?.....here's a quotation which my partner (who was, last night, reading the latest issue of "the Week" as I told him of that "kerfluffle") passed to me:

"We live in an era in which it is important to have opinions. Not necessarily smart or original ones; almost any opinion will do as long as it's forcefully expressed. We post them on Facebook; we tweet them;we express them in comments on "Huffington Post". It wasn't that long ago that opinions were something carefully considered and weighed, so that they'd stand the test of time and reflect well on the author. Thinkers were like gourmet chefs laboring over an elaborate meal they wanted to be perfect. But today, opinions are like Big Macs---thrown together hastily, served by the billions, and not very good for you" (Stephen Randall in the Los Angeles Times).

Now....on to my own morning's reading. My most wonderfully&fantastically-named friend, "Martini Emmart-Niedbalski", has just sent another longass and thoroughly entertaining ( I can assume this, since they always are) email to her friends about her current trip to India. She goes there for a month every year (this has to be her 8th or 9th trip). She's a late 60-something Irishwoman who married an American, moved here, and has two sons (by her first marriage) who for completely unrelated reasons happened to marry two Indian women. She's one of the few folks I know who still sends travelogues (she includes photographs) to friends.

In any case, internet connections in India are, from what I've gathered, not so very few and far-between as one might fear (I can assure you, from experience, that this isn't the case in France; as much as I've married into that tribe and genuinely love some of them?....well, they take your money and just plain-out LIE about their internet access. And, yes, I know that I'm now sounding like Donald Rumsfeld ...).

Hopelessly-Anecdotally as ever,

david terry
(click on the "it's all about ME!" icon for further, not-available-in-stores, suggested exercises in self-involvement and giddy self-promotion)

david terry said...

P.S...to "Karen Sandburg"....

I just read (in the past day or so...was it on "Huffington Post"?) a really interesting/convincing article which claimed (convincingly) that Boulder is one of the 2 or 3 best "food towns" in America.

I've never been east of the Mississipi, but that article confirmed my ambition to stop being so ignernt and go in that direction someday.

----david terry

david terry said...

P.S. (2) That should have been "west of the Mississippi"....

I constantly have this orientational problem. Having spent some time in Nantes at Christmas, I publicly referred to it as being in the "East" of France, because it was, insofar as French towns go, close to New York and the Outer Banks.

Parochially as ever,


Kristin Parella said...


Dear Dominique:
I am often in the same frame of mind as you, similar circumstances (even a son named Theo) and recently I have committed my self to introspection through the lense of the Bible, looking for fellowship, belonging, truth.

I think as an artist one is constantly wrestling with life and how it affects our already soft hearts. In pain, joy and wonder, it is up to us, being gifted, to bring forth the many colours of humanity in hope of comforting those- and ourselves- in such solitude. In the end, it is art, of all ages, all forms- written and formed, that speak to the human heart.

Thank you for your work.

karensandburg said...

dominique, i think we are all happily aware of your 5 year old self! (i share many of your swoons...)

meanwhile, hopelessly-anecdotally-it's-all-about-me david terry(you naughty boy!), yes boulder has many fine restaurants and we've been honored in many other ways worth mentioning -- one in particular is probably the reason we have so many great restaurants -- we have been voted by Fortune magazine the "smartest" town per capita than any other place in the u.s. Smart meaning people with degrees and advanced degrees. we smart people like good food!!! in addition, we've also been named the most fit place in the u.s., we're on the top three "most livable places" lists, most bicycle friendly, and most outdoorsy. i've lived here for 3 years and STILL almost every day i am so grateful and think about how lucky i am to live here.

meanwhile, i wanted to comment on Herve's reading to you this morning about non-reflective opinions being like big Macs... our popular culture continues to reach new lows. you might be interested in Scorsese's documentary on Fran Lebowitz entitled "Public Speaking." she bemoans the loss of connosseurs, people whose opinion you could count on and trust when it came to fine art, music, literature, food, etc... people who actually knew and appreciated quality. she says everyone wants to write a memoir - "Please, DON'T!" she says with her hand out as if to stop them.

and i find in my own life precious few sources that i trust to tell me which restaurants/movies, etc. are really good -- i suppose that is one of the reasons i'm so drawn to this site.

david terrY said...

Dear Karen Sandburg,

Oh, I know of "Public Speaking", and I really want to see it. Like a lot of other folks, I've loved (a too cuddly&fuzzy-warm verb iN regard to Leibowitz, but let it stand) Fran Leibowitz for years.

My hat is completely off for anyone who so sufficiently doesn't really give-a-shit-what-you-think as to have publicly declared (in regard to her notorious, 30 years-long writer's-block) that she gave up writing to pursue smoking full-time.

I hope the documentary comes out on DVD, so that I can see it someday.

As for Boulder, all I've known of it (prior to the last week or so) are what's to be learned from a couple of Jean Stafford's more harrowing short stories (do, some morning, read "In the Zoo" for uplift). Apparently, things have improved around Boulder.


David Terry

Cristina said...

...but that's just what I expect from a blog, to be written "so openly"!! otherwise it's only a clean act of beautiful writing, a style exercise void of passion & vibrations, isn't it?

Madison Dotson said...

Hello dear,
You're absolutely right about stress making you stupid. It literally does. Stress, among other things, inhibits new cell generation in the brain.

Susan C Hammond said...


The second book your refer to...what is it's exact title?

Thank you for the pleasure reading your posts brings me. I feel I'm being self-indulgent.


Anonymous said...

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