Sacred Writing Pants

I have sacred writing pants—pants I only wear when I write.

They’re grey Aeropostale sweatpants with a yellow stripe down the leg.  They’re about 7 years old. They were once my daughter’s and were so ratty even she, of the grunge generation, didn’t pack them when she went to college, so I stole them.  They don’t really fit me. I have to roll them at the waist so as not to trip.

Full disclosure: I actually have a sacred writing outfit.

On the top of these ratty sweatpants I wear a red, long-sleeved, 2-layer cotton tee that is soft and warm.  The inside layer is gray and the outside is red.  I’d never wear it out of the house because it looks like I picked it out of the bottom of the hamper, (which I didn’t), but I  think even if I ironed it, it wouldn’t be presentable for even Wal-Mart, or a dog walk at night with no moon.

Over that I wear a gaudy, printed, half-zip fleece from REI, (also from Emily’s discard pile).

Thor-lo socks complete the ensemble.

No underwear. Ever.

This is the “Sacred Writing Outfit.”  The writing is not sacred, nor is the outfit.  Or maybe both are.

It’s the putting on of the outfit that’s sacred.  Putting it on signals that writing is going to happen.

It’s like vestments for a priest.

It’s like an apron for a cook.

It’s like a smock for an artist.

It’s like a tie for a banker.

It’s like a uniform for a athlete.

It’s like a bathing suit for a swimmer.

It’s like Carhartts for a mechanic.

It’s like a tool belt for a carpenter.

When I put these particular clothes, I know that I am ready to head down into the deep recesses of my brain, like a miner looking for gold.  It’s dark and dangerous down there and I won’t be surfacing for a few hours, so I need to be comfortable.  I can’t be distracted by my clothes. They have to be soft, comfortable and not distracting in any way.

Putting on My Sacred Writing Outfit ritualizes what is a rather mundane, often boring activity. It elevates my writing time into something special, or just something I do consciously.

After I finish my writing for the day, I immediately change into different clothes.  I never wear my sacred writing clothes outside, ever.

So I ask you:

Is there something you do that you’d like to ritualize, make special, set apart in some way?  Maybe you could find a hat, a piece of jewelry, a certain pair of shoes, a shirt, a scarf, something you decide you will wear to signal that your special activity is about to begin.

Everyone needs some version of sacred writing pants.

Core Rituals

Today was my 252nd day in a row of Holosync.  No misses.

I think the act of doing something religiously, with discipline, every day changes you.  It’s this kind of persistence that we admire in athletes, and musicians, and writers who complete manuscripts.  We recognize (even if we don’t quite understand or feel it) what it must have taken to persist in something for a long time without giving up.  It is admirable.  It is inspiring

Disciplined people shine a little brighter, somehow.  And I mean this quite literally.  There is an aura about them.  Their eyes emit a little bit more fire than a person without a disciplined habit.   In yoga there is a concept called Tapas.  Tapas literally means “to burn” but in yoga pertains to self discipline and burning through resistances.  Every time you resist the urge give up, and instead persist with your resolve by acting in accordance with your goal or aspiration, you build a little more fire, a little more heat.  You glow a little more brightly.

A lot of people try to do hard things but give up.  And that’s why we can recognize and appreciate a feat that must have taken a lot of work and self-sacrifice and self-discipline.

I become inspired by people who do that.  I am inspired by those who climb Everest or bicycle across the country, or memorize complex musical compositions or write amazing books or do highly skilled athletic maneuvers.  But I also recognize that for the most part I can’t or don’t want to do those things myself.  I don’t have that particular interest, nor do I have the body type or brain configuration that would enable me to do that.

But I can meditate every day. And do my yoga. And write in my journal. These are my core rituals and they ground me and support me.  I don’t know what I’d do without them.

I’d probably just watch Dancing With The Stars and drink beer and eat Fig Newtons.

“Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate”

I just finished reading Brad Warner’s latest, Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate.

It was the first book I read on my new Kindle and both the book and the reading experience were great.

Brad Warner is a Zen master with a dopey job making monster movies, a circus-y family life, and a past life as a punk rocker.  (He is definitely not your typical Zen master–whatever image that brings to mind.)

What inspired me was here was someone who clearly faces real world dilemmas every day; a guy who gets frustrated, aggravated, angry and annoyed, BUT at the same time, in the midst of the whole circus, can see it. He can see that it is a circus.  He says at one point:

“You can’t function in society if you don’t involve yourself in the fictions society accepts about time. But you do so with the understanding that you’re playing a game.”

And how is he able to do that? Involve himself in the time games society plays without being totally played by them??

By having a practice he is committed to.  His is a long practice of daily zazen, but as I was reading I thought that it could be anything: yoga, tiddlywinks, exercise.  Anything you are ritualistically committed to.  Ritual commitments ground a person. They ground, they do not make you “perfect.”

This is what I aspire to, and I know the recipe: daily, unwavering and committed practice.  Like my fave yoga sutra says:

“That practice is firmly grounded when it is practiced incessantly,reverence, for a long time.” I.14

That’s not only how Brad Warner can simultaneously live and witness his life, but how he can manage to write books about it.  He clearly must also have a writing practice in addition to his zazen practice.

This is a very cool book.

It inspired me today.