Reading As a Path to Awakening


By Albert Flynn DeSilver //

Here’s a funny question: What is reading? I mean really. The act of looking at words splayed out across a page or screen? (An army of ants skittering across an expanse of white sand, a flock of geese strewn windward against a dusk-lit sky). Maybe reading is a primal act of tracking and hunting. Footprints, deer trails, wing movements in the batted-down brush. We are looking for signs of movement, action, food. Contemporary reading is based on an ancient primal embodied knowledge of studying the landscape—scrawl of branches against a winter sky, tide patterns left in the sand at the tip of the ocean’s reach, a musical script the wind left via quick ripples against the calm face of the bay, hexagonal patterns of drought-cracked earth, debris patterns at flood lines, terminal moraines and glacial erratics (giant stones left behind in open meadows by receding glaciers). Each a lone word, sentence, phrase, or paragraph—nature leaves her book wide open, her journal pages flapping in the wind, for us to drink in by reading. Nature is always writing her song for us to read and to sing.

Every time you step outside you join the conversation started by the earth. Every time you crack open a book and set out on the hunt for original knowledge, the conversation expands. The more deeply you read and the more attention you offer, the more that will be revealed to and through you. You are becoming a sponge, a catalyst for your own ideas. A good reader is a mirror, springboard, ping pong, tree, or celestial object casting forth a beam of light or shadow. You are taking in others’ ideas—tasting, contemplating, digesting, and making them your own. When you read deeply, you inhabit another dimension of reality, engaging in an act of creation initiated by the writer. It’s as if the writer set off on the hunting expedition. They broke the trail, batted down the brush, recorded their sightings, and invite you along. They point you in a new direction, give you the map of the page and a string of crumbs (words) to follow into the vast wilderness of your imagination. When your imagination is triggered, you get inspired to reflect and generate. Good writing teleports you into new and revelatory places (landscapes), time periods, psychologies, emotional states, and even spatial dimensions. The sprawl of black script marching across a page or the digital zeros and ones arriving on the screen pulsate as thought assembles in a particular sequence, as a narrative in order to convey an idea. It starts as an invitation and then grows (depending on the reader’s level of commitment) as a bond between writer and reader. It’s an act of convergence between two seemingly distant strangers, a way of linking humanity that connects the illusory chasms between us.

From Writing as a Path to Awakening: A Year to Becoming an Excellent Writer & Living an Awakened Life (Sounds True, 2017) © Albert Flynn DeSilver 2017

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Writing & Meditation Retreat with Albert Flynn DeSilver, Susan Piver and Lodro Rinzler, September 21–25, 2017 — click here to learn more

About the Author

Albert Flynn DeSilver is an internationally published poet, writer, speaker, and workshop leader. His latest book is Writing as a Path to Awakening (based on his popular workshops by the same name) and will be released September 1st from Sounds True. Albert served as Marin County, California’s very first Poet Laureate from 2008-2010. His work has appeared in more than 100 literary journals worldwide including ZYZZYVA, New American Writing, Hanging Loose, Jubilat, Exquisite Corpse, Jacket (Australia), Poetry Kanto (Japan), Van Gogh’s Ear (France), and many others. He is also the author of the memoir Beamish Boy, which Kirkus reviews called “a beautifully written memoir poignant and inspirational. . ..” Albert received a BFA from the University of Colorado and an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. Albert is also a speaker and trainer who has taught writing workshops at the Esalen Institute, the Omega Institute, Spirit Rock Meditation Center, and literary conferences nationally. He lives in Northern California. //


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