By Jyoti Wind
In mid-February, 2016, a few of us drove to Taos, NM for the 30th year celebration of Natalie Goldberg’s book Writing Down the Bones. The city was naming Feb.19th “Natalie Goldberg Day” to commemorate her contribution to the area, in bringing writers and students there for seminars, documenting places in Taos where she would write (cafes, laundromats, restaurants), and adding to the view of Taos as a creative center.
The next morning, people gathered to tell their stories of Nat’s life, their personal experiences with her. She was gracious in a Zen way, and then led us through a fund-raiser afternoon of writing and sharing. One piece of advice she offered: ‘Keep the hand moving. It is a chance to separate the critic from creative mind.’
Natalie had been an at-a-distance mentor for me over the years, leading me to form women’s writing groups, using her book to re-inforce principles such as: ‘Write where you are’, ‘write what wants to be written,’ and to allow our trust in the process to guide us. She sent us off with the exhortation: ‘Don’t waste your life!’
Last night, two months later, Natalie Goldberg came to Boulder for a public interview at the library theater. She said: ‘Put pen to paper. In doing so, you face everything.’ Her words rang true. She continued: ‘The practice of writing becomes the relationship of you with your own mind, and everything else, trees, etc.
From her new book, The Great Spring: Writing, Zen and This Zigzag Life, she suggests, ‘Through writing I grew strong-minded, not stubborn. I stood close witness to our aching, inspired living. The act of pen on paper, or two hands on keyboard, rendered a practice of confidence, a training in waking up.’
And she asks us to wake up to ourselves, to our lives, and to writing as a spiritual practice.
Jyoti Wind is a poet and author. Her poetry has recently been published at elephant journal online and she has self-published several books of poetry and prose, a childhood memoir, and three anthologies. In her day job as an astrologer, she counsels her clients on spiritual as well as mundane affairs. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org