How to Build Your Own Veteran Writers Group
Edited by Maxine Hong Kingston
a day together, the Veteran Writers Group has four sessions of
meditation. The day begins and ends with sitting meditation. The
leader guides the meditation, usually by reminding us to breathe, and
by sounding the Bell of Mindfulness. At lunch, we have eating
meditation. And in the middle of the afternoon, after reading and
listening, we have walking meditation.
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Time and Place
the mind on the body can be readily accomplished while sitting. You
need to find a time and a place that affords you calm and freedom
quiet room with not much in it to distract the mind is ideal; a
setting with light and space has a brightening and clearing effect,
while a cluttered and gloomy room is just the opposite. Timing is
also important, particularly as most people's days are quite
structured with routines. It is not especially productive to meditate
when you have something else to do, or when you're pressed for time.
It's better to set aside a period—say, in the early morning or in
the evening after work—when you can really give your full attention
to the practice. Begin with fifteen minutes or so. Practice sincerely
with the limitations of time and available energy, and avoid becoming
mechanical about the routine. Meditation practice, supported by the
genuine willingness to investigate and make peace with oneself, will
develop naturally in terms of duration and skill.
Awareness of the Body
development of calm is aided by stability, and by a steady but
peaceful effort. If you can't feel settled, there's no peacefulness;
if there's no sense of application, you tend to daydream. One of the
most effective postures for the cultivation of the proper combination
of stillness and energy is sitting.
a posture that will keep your back straight without strain. A simple
upright chair may be helpful, or you may be able to use one of the
lotus postures. These look awkward at first, but in time they can
provide a unique balance of gentle firmness that gladdens the mind
without tiring the body.
the chin is tilted very slightly down this will help, but do not
allow the head to loll forward as this encourages drowsiness. Place
the hands on your lap, palms upwards, one gently resting on the other
with the thumb-tips touching. Take your time, and get the right
collect your attention, and begin to move it slowly down your body.
Notice the sensations. Relax any tensions, particularly in the face,
neck and hands. Allow the eyelids to close or half close.
how you are feeling. Expectant or tense? Then relax your attention a
little. With this, the mind will probably calm down, and you may find
some thoughts drifting in—reflections, daydreams, memories, or
doubts about whether you are doing it right! Instead of following or
contending with these thought patterns, bring more attention to the
body, which is a useful anchor for a wandering mind.
a spirit of inquiry in your meditation attitude. Take your time. Move
your attention, for example, systematically from the crown of the
head down over the whole body. Notice the different sensations—such
as warmth, pulsing, numbness, and sensitivity—in the joints of each
finger, the moisture of the palms, and the pulse in the wrist. Even
areas that may have no particular sensation, such as the forearms or
the earlobes, can be 'swept over' in an attentive way. Notice how
even the lack of sensation is something the mind can be aware of.
This constant and sustained investigation is called mindfulness
(sati) and is one of the primary tools of Insight Meditation.
Mindfulness of Breathing (anapanasati)
of body sweeping, or after a preliminary period of this practice,
mindfulness can be developed through attention on the breath.
follow the sensation of your ordinary breath as it flows in through
the nostrils and fills the chest and abdomen. Then try maintaining
your attention at one point, either at the diaphragm or—a more
refined location—at the nostrils. Breath has a tranquillizing
quality, steady and relaxing if you don't force it; this is helped by
an upright posture. Your mind may wander, but keep patiently
returning to the breath.
is not necessary to develop concentration to the point of excluding
everything else except the breath. Rather than to create a trance,
the purpose here is to allow you to notice the workings of the mind,
and to bring a measure of peaceful clarity into it. The entire
process—gathering your attention, noticing the breath, noticing
that the mind has wandered, and re-establishing your
attention—develops mindfulness, patience and insightful
understanding. So don't be put off by apparent 'failure'—simply
begin again. Continuing in this way allows the mind eventually to
you get very restless or agitated, just relax. Practice being at
peace with yourself, listening to—without necessarily believing
in—the voices of the mind. If you feel drowsy, then put more care
and attention into your body and posture. Refining your attention or
pursuing tranquility at such times will only make matters worse!
further information about meditation, please visit
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eat, and eat in silence—
luncheon i enjoy
the noise and scuffle
i was just a boy.
dine on different dishes—
are cooked and some are raw—
from a hundred gardens
be going through my maw.
they travel down my gullet,
my stomach dead ahead,
will dance with a tomato,
they both will dance with bread.
of rice will mix with lettuce,
with pumpkin will resort,
will parlay with potatoes,
with cabbage they'll disport.
my stomach they'll all gather,
to say a brief “hello,”
it’s off to the intestine
they’ve got a ways to go.
will spare you the description,
we all know how it ends—
day of perfect weather,
the company of friends.
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