NANCY G. SHAPIRO

FINDING CALM IN THE MIDST OF CHANGE

ON the Road to Calm

February 19, 2019

on morning walk wind 

nips at ears, whispering of 

snow, a broken branch -

Last week I attended a program called 500 Years of Haiku at Upaya Zen Center. Natalie Goldberg and Clark Strand were teaching, two important mentors in my writing life through their respective books, Writing Down the Bones and Seeds From a Birch Tree. I was craving quiet and inspiration. New to group meditation, I was surprised by the silence of seventy people within one room, the way it opened up a river of quiet that I gladly let sweep me down its soft current. There was bowing on entering and leaving the zendo, also before sitting dow...

January 25, 2019

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance…" 

- William Hutchinson Murray (1913-1996), 

from his book The Scottish Himalayan Expedition.

A friend wrote a...

January 21, 2018

As dark and crazy as the world currently is, something bright resides beneath the darkness—and it’s the light of a single awakening human soul, multiplied by tens of thousands, in many cities, towns and countries.” – Mark Borax.

I used the above quote to begin a blog five years ago. The first draft of A Ritual to Read to Each Other, William Stafford's* poem about staying awake during times of deep darkness, is dated June 23,1953 (pictured above**). The subject of darkness and light as metaphors about time is a timeless subject—be it geological, religious, political, philosophical, cultural, cosmological, quantum, or pe...

November 1, 2016

Back in March I read a review of a book with a title much too similar to the working title of my own book. My first reaction was a nauseous feeling in my stomach, accompanied by the thought, “Well, that’s it. Might as well throw it in the trash.” The next day a friend’s questions led me to talk about my work. The finality of the “throw it in the trash” thought disappeared as I spoke to her with energy and excitement about coaching and writing. Feeling thankful for the conversation and relieved to once again connect with the foundational inspiration of all I do, we said our goodbyes.

...

April 13, 2016

We humans are fragile, and incredibly strong. We can grab onto familiar yet flimsy habits oh-so easily, and leap almost simultaneously into the unknown spaces of adaptability and resilience as if we were superheroes. Perhaps nowhere does this play out more in daily life than when our health is compromised. 

I am sitting in a room on the sixth floor of the University of Washington Medical Center. In his hospital bed next to me is my husband, sleeping. Two days ago he had a long-awaited shoulder replacement surgery, and between the anesthesia, shock of surgery, medications, the painful exertion of a 5x/day exercise...

March 23, 2016

 

“A mystic is anyone who has the gnawing suspicion that the apparent discord, brokenness, contradictions and discontinuities

that assault us everyday might conceal a hidden unity.”

– Lawrence Kushner*

 

Stories, in the form of long-held beliefs, thoughts and behaviors, have fascinated me for many years, and lately I’ve been watching how some of my own stories have faded away like smoke disappearing on the wind, and how others seem to have a half-life similar to nuclear material. The last few weeks I’ve been touched and inspired by mind-stretching information about the extent of our cultural stories, an interview about t...

January 20, 2016

 

 

Six friends have died in the last ten months. In the stark realization of no more hugs or laughs or conversation between us, histories and future plans suddenly come to a stop, friendships and love irretrievably gone—a sense of disbelief has lingered beside the grief. I thought I could write about this, how loss constricts everything in its path, and how if we’re lucky, over time we are opened up to a life that, although so very different and completely changed, is irrevocably worthy of inhabiting and loving again.

 

Yet as these words come out, the immensity of the subject makes me go inward, and into the past. Loss,...

May 10, 2015

Once again I am visiting family and friends in my hometown of Boulder, once again I’m writing about letting go. With umbrella in hand, walking around neighborhoods that are still etched into my brain and heart and body, I’m noticing that the memories of growing up here are now like a well-loved movie seen many times, the low clouds and rain of this blustery May adding a softness to the edges of the scenes (“faded” was the word I used two years ago).

 

Even better is that each day spent here is utterly new and fresh. Not weighted with the more noir shades of old stories lived out in these streets and mountains. There is...

April 6, 2015

In their collaborative novel "Sunlight and Shadow*, authors Sue Boggio and Mare Pearl write: “It struck her as miraculous that there was unlimited power and freedom in choosing what one thinks…

I woke at 4:15 a.m. this morning, this waking up in the 3 to 4:30 a.m. pre-dawn darkness a rather exhausting new habit. Looking out the window I saw the beginnings of the lunar eclipse and knowing I wouldn’t be going back to sleep any time soon, I took my pillows, a sleeping bag and my dog Mancha outside and arranged us all on a lounge chair to watch the moon melt from full to infinitesimal.


Not expecting anything other than...

November 10, 2014

I call them mom-isms, my mother’s newly found perspectives that speak of Buddhist equanimity with a dash of slapstick humor. She offered up her latest this morning: “If something is bothering me, I look out the window at the mountains and just picture the worry floating away over the mountains like a feather…I don’t want to be one of those grumpy old women.”

 

She has Alzheimer’s now. She has been a Presbyterian, Catholic and Southern Baptist at different times in her life, and humor doesn’t figure highly in my own memories of her, so these bits of wisdom are a precious gift. In her very decline, we are both emerging an...

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