Free Your Pen

Buddhist Writing Prompt: Train with a Whole Heart

Train with a whole heart is about applying the practice of mind training to everything in your life, not just when you’re meditating. The original lojong slogan is rather long: Train without bias in all areas. It is crucial always to do this pervasively and wholeheartedly.

The key idea is to practice without bias, which means you practice with everything that happens. Include everyone and all experiences, with no exceptions. Training with a whole heart means you don’t discriminate – you approach everything in the same way: with openness and compassion.

Don’t split your life into meditation on the one hand, and then everything else on the other. Mind training isn’t just about what happens while you’re sitting on your meditation cushion. It also applies to how you deal with other people and the ups and downs of life.

So this slogan challenges you to accept every part of your life and every part of yourself. Nothing is off-limits. Be indiscriminate with your compassion. Be totally democratic and even-handed in your approach. Don’t hide from yourself or avoid people you don’t like or circumstances that you find difficult. Everything can help you to cultivate compassion and wisdom.

Apply this slogan to your writing practice by looking at any biases you have towards your writing. Are you happy with your description and prose but struggle with dialogue? Maybe your storylines are brilliantly realised but your characters feel flat. Or perhaps you enjoy writing short stories but long to write a novel.

This slogan encourages you to embrace all of your writing – not just the parts you like and enjoy, but even the parts you don’t like.

Embrace everything: your mistakes, false starts, bad writing, clumsy characterisation, embarrassing dialogue, and half-finished stories. There’s nothing wrong with any of this stuff. You might not want anybody else to read it, but you learn from it all.

There’s only one way to become a better writer and that’s to write badly and to learn from your mistakes and try again. In the process, you also learn something about yourself. You learn that you can open yourself to any experience, no matter how difficult or painful, and you can take it into yourself and transform it into something meaningful.

Your writing prompt this weekend: Find a story or poem that you abandoned as a lost cause. Read it with a whole heart – without bias – and notice how it feels. Write about your reaction and what you can learn from it.

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

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