Single Lady Books: Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg

If you haven’t read this poem from Galway Kinnell, please do. I’m in love with it:

The bud

stands for all things,

even for those things that don’t flower,

for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing,

though sometimes it is necessary

to reteach a thing its loveliness,

to put a hand on the brow

of the flower,

and retell it in words and in touch,

it is lovely

until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing

Sharon Salzberg’s book is not specifically about the single life, but what I love about it is the emphasis on living a happy life.

Happiness, like fear, totally fascinates me. I don’t think people should or are even capable of pressuring themselves to be happy if they are really miserable and hating life. For me, true happiness is being content with what I have, accepting that I have enough and that it would be nice to have more but if I don’t have more, that’s also OK.

My meditation practice helps me appreciate contentedness more than being happy. Happy just sounds so…perky.

Meditation is the thing that grounds me, helps me let go of a lot of angst and perceived powerlessness and be present for the people around me. It has also helped me to cultivate self-love and self-care.

Salzberg’s book was a joy to read because she writes about how often selfishness is confused with self-love when, in fact, selfishness can be the most generous thing you can do for others. As I said to a friend a few weeks ago – selfish is not a dirty word. Taking time to do what you need and/or want to do for yourself allows you to have space to be generous with others and fully present for them.

I believe that we are all mirrors for one another. What I work to detach from, especially in a world that is obsessed with couples, is deepening my spiritual and inner life while also relearning, daily, how to detach from my expectations of others and desire. I wish I didn’t have to say that I often fail at this.

Actually, I fail everyday.

Salzberg writes, “This is how we are. There is always something else to want…If we are always looking for some object, person, or place to create a sense of completion for ourselves, we miss entirely the degree to which we are whole and complete in every moment…We practice generosity to free our hearts from that delusion, so that we can find and enjoy the force of essential happiness.”

Her writing on the legacy of separation, which impoverishes the spirit and keeps us from connecting with each other resonated with me. There have been many times in my past when I felt like I was incomplete and utterly alone because I wouldn’t settle for a relationship that was harmful to me. But so much of that perspective was about choosing to focus on my alienation instead of how I could get whole. “It is only due to our concepts that we feel separate from the world,” Salzberg wrote. “We are isolated by ideas of inadequacy, ideas of danger, ideas of loneliness and ideas of rejection…if we do not want to be enslaved by our thoughts, we can choose to transform our minds.”

I think a lot of you will like this book, even if you’re not into meditation. Sharon Salzberg offers a lot of wisdom for the solo life travelers among us.

Reads for the Weekend: Creative writing as therapy, Sinead O’Connor & Teju Cole on White Saviors

The phenomenal poet, Adrienne Rich, who died this week at age 82. I’m glad she was with us for as long as she was. I found her work to be tremendously beautiful and profound. I found this interview from 1994 on Tumblr:

Q: June Jordan has this great remark in one of her poems, “I lust for justice.” You have that, too. Where does it come from?

Rich: Sometimes I think it’s in all of us. It gets repressed. It gets squashed. Very often by fear. For me, I know it’s been pushed down by fear at various times.

Q: Fear of what?

Rich: Fear of punishment. Fear of reprisal. Fear of not being taken seriously. Fear of being marginalized. And that’s why I think it’s so difficult for people on their own and in isolated situations to be as brave as they can be because it’s by others’ example that we learn how to do this. I really believe that justice and creativity have something intrinsically in common. The effort to make justice and the creative impulse are deeply aligned, and when you feel the necessity of a creative life, of coming to use your own creativity, I think you also become aware of what’s lacking, that not everyone has this potentiality available to them, that it is being withheld from so many.

A great article in the New York Times last week about creative writing as therapy: “What matters is that she and her comrades have found a way to face the toughest truths within themselves, to begin to make sense of them, and maybe even beauty. In a world that feels increasingly impersonal and atomized, I can’t think of a more thrilling mission.”

Sinead O’Connor on Trayvon Martin, Racism & Popular Culture, (h/t Davey D.)

My heart goes out to the family of Rekia Boyd, a 22-year-old who was fatally shot by an off-duty police officer in Chicago.

I’m didn’t have a chance to read this lovely, important essay by Teju Cole when it was first published, but I urge you to read it. One of my favorite sentences: “Marginalized voices in America have fewer and fewer avenues to speak plainly about what they suffer; the effect of this enforced civility is that those voices are falsified or blocked entirely from the discourse.”

Lots to think about. Kind of a heavy week. Maybe this will lighten the mood: Gentlemen, a cocktail may inspire your creativity.

Reads for the weekend: Gratitude, Love Poems & Inspiration

I had the honor of being a guest writer over at WomenWellLoved, Katina’s insightful & lovely blog. Single or Paired-off: It’s Time to Get Engaged.

To those of you who have been following the blog since December and those of you who just arrived, I am deeply grateful for your presence. There is a lot to read out in the world, so I really appreciate that you take time to read my work & thoughts. I was thinking of y’all on Valentine’s Day, when I shared the love of the guest blog with my Facebook family & Tumblr friends. It is true love to have the love of your life — for me, my writing — valued by a community, virtual & otherwise.

Before I get all choked up, here’s some good reading for the weekend:

The New York Times Room for Debate blog offers perspective on the advantages & disadvantages of living alone.

Stephanie Coontz says marriage suits educated women, contrary to popular belief.

While I was hanging out, trying out my not-very-latent comment/trolling tendencies, I noticed this related blog about the battle of the black sexes being The Media’s fault. I have a psychological tick & pet-peeve against anyone who blames The Media for any sociological phenomenon. I had forgotten how pronounced my pet peeve had become.

18 Ways to Inspire Everyone Around You — I think about these things when I’m not being a snarky, non-anonymous commenter.

& finally, a book recommendation, because the librarian in me just cannot stop: For my birthday, one of my favorite women in the world gave me this book of poems selected by Caroline Kennedy. May the sweet, enormous love in some of these lines fill you with enough passion to share — with yourself &/or with others. The book is full of greatness.

Come live with me, and be my love.

And we will all the pleasures prove,

That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,

Woods, or steepy mountain yields. ~Christopher Marlowe “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”

What is brilliance without

coordination? Guarding the infinitesimal pieces of your mind, compelling audience to

the remark that it is better to forgotten than to be

remembered too violently,

your thorns are the best part of you. ~ Marianne Moore, “Roses Only”

(Last, but never least, one of my favorite quotes in the world)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. ~The Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

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