Free Your Pen

Buddhist Writing Prompt: Don’t Hold on to Your Stories

Don’t hold on to your stories reminds you to let go of your ideas about reality and yourself. It’s also about not taking these slogans too seriously. They’re just ideas or thoughts in your mind. They may be useful tools, but it’s important not to get too attached to them.

The original lojong slogan is: Self-liberate even the antidote, which needs a bit of explaining. In slogan 2 we saw how everything is dream-like and empty of inherent existence because nothing can exist on its own. In Buddhism, this is called shunyata, or emptiness, and it means that everything is selfless, or empty of itself.

To understand this is to self-liberate; in other words, to see through the nature of the self, to see that it is empty. The antidote is exactly that process of seeing through to emptiness. So this slogan is saying that even emptiness is empty.

This means you can’t turn the idea of awakening into another identity because there’s no self that needs to awaken. In fact, you can’t turn any of the stories you tell yourself about who you are into a solid identity. Don’t get attached to any particular way of seeing reality or yourself.

Apply this slogan to your writing practice by noticing the stories that keep repeating in your life, especially ones that hold you back in your writing, like: “I don’t have time to write,” or “I’ll never be successful.” This slogan reminds you that these are just ideas and you don’t have to believe them. None of the stories in your mind have any inherent reality, they’re all empty and impermanent. Whatever you believe about yourself, it’s just a story and stories can be changed.

Your writing prompt this weekend: Write about what you would do if you didn’t write. Who would you be if you weren’t a writer?

More in the book: Free Your Pen: Mind Training for Writers


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