No Hindrance – Writing tips from a Zen master…

Twenty years ago. I am sitting on a cushion, opposite a Zen Master.

‘No hindrance,’ he says. ‘Don’t make good or make bad.’

‘But…’ I say. The day before I had told him that I had just remembered a horrible childhood memory, while I was sitting the morning four hours of meditation. Now, I want to ask him how I am supposed to live with the damage and pain I have just seen inside myself. I look at him, and he smiles at me. He pats my hand.

He says, ‘Don’t make bad. Just is.’

‘But…’ I start to say again. Quick as a flash, he whacks his stick on the table. It’s a big stick. The ‘crack!’ is so loud I can feel it in my sternum.

‘No hindrance,’ he says. I bow and leave. The interview is over.

Down I walk to the dharma room. I’ve been sitting uneasily on my cushion, ever since I remembered the horrible thing. I have found it hard to keep still. I’ve  been choking back tears. I enter the room as the bell rings for the next student to attend an interview. We pass each other at the door. I bow, and settle back down onto my cushion.

As soon as my breathing settles down, I start my practice. But again, I think about this horrible thing. Then, suddenly, I understand. I don’t have to think about it. I can just feel the pain and keep in the moment. I don’t have to go back and back and back to the horrible time. I can just stay here on my cushion and do my practice. That’s what I was here to do, after all.

I sit like a rock that afternoon. I acknowledged that this memory had come up. I felt the pain of it. But I was there to do my practice. It was no hindrance.

The Olympics are on, and you know I love watching world-class sport. I will have three job interviews this summer. My department has a new head and  new staff coming in. I still don’t have a publisher for Hospital High, and the puppy is being quite naughty. My daughter is off school and my husband has been home with a virus.

But I am here to write. And so I sit down and I wait for my breathing to settle and I travel into another person’s body, in another time and I put down one word after another.

No hindrance.  CRACK!

Project: To Hide Her Blazing Heart

Word Count: 10,357

You can find our more about where I got my Zen training here:


4 thoughts on “No Hindrance – Writing tips from a Zen master…

    1. I’ll give you a Seung Sahn reply. Am I writing now? If you say yes, I will hit you 100 times. If you say no, I will hit you 101 times.

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