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Natalie Goldberg Deck: Card #11

“You’ve finally eked out space to write…but there’s nothing you feel like writing about. Don’t pop up or pull a different card. Sit there for ten minutes, feeling your breath. Allow everything to be as it is. Just for now I’m asking you to be. Now write what you can accept with no judgment, no criticism.”

I’m working through the Natalie Goldberg deck of writing subjects. Each card in this world-renowned author and zen teacher’s Deck contains a writing topic on one side and a short lesson on the reverse, delivered in Natalie’s honest, heartfelt urgency. “This is my wish for you:” she says. “[T]hat you take these cards, grab the topic on one side and write, write, write . . . Remember no good or bad. Just words on the page.”

What can I accept with no judgment, no criticism?

Read this list as though it were yours. What's your list? Can you practice accepting yourself with no judgment? It's very interesting, and difficult, and can even get fun if you let it. Give it a shot.

  • The enormous electric pencil sharpener I bought. Big enough to take up half the space behind my laptop screen. A kindergarten teacher should be the one using it. Or an art teacher. I only use one of its six sizes.

  • The Verilux light I bought to make me happy. I only remember about .7% of the time to turn it on. I don’t even know if I believe it works. But I have it. And I’m practicing now. Practicing the art of accepting that I have it, that I thought it would make me happy, that I don’t hardly ever use it. Loving all that. Loving it.

  • The crowd of objects on the little Container Store shelf in front of me at eye level. One one of the shelves (about 10 x 4 inches), there is a little glass ramikin with a half way burnt sage smudge in it; my mother’s clock that she always kept by her bed, unwound; a little rock that says “serenity;” a much bigger pink quartz rock; a 2GB Kingston card that looks like it might’ve come out of my Canon SLR camera; a voided check (sometimes I need to send it to professionals for one reason or another); and three little square postits hanging off the edge of the white plastic shelf, reminding me to file, reminding me what a task is, reminding me to upload tax files, and to keep writing the dharma book.

  • The papers to my left. Bills I’ve paid, but am afraid to shred or throw away and unwilling to file because — do we really file this stuff anymore?

  • The Barbara Kingsolver book I’ve gotten half way through, only because I will not gift myself with the time to sit on my couch and let everyone else go screw themselves so I can READ THE REST. Learning to love the me that wants to, the me that thinks I shouldn’t, the me that sees all of this. Wrapping my arms around her.

  • Looking around my studio office at the sheer quantity of stuff I don’t need and haven’t used in ages. Practicing, practicing. This little decorative tin box. It exists, and I don’t need to judge it or myself for having it.

  • This box of postcards, 100 of them. Each with a photograph of a different library — libraries worldwide.

  • These fabrics, sorted by color because I might use them in the future for a quilt. They exist. They’re beautiful. I bow to them. I bow to the simple fact of their folded selves, waiting with infinite patience.

  • And to myself. My own folded self, the quilter also waiting to unfold her dreams. Waiting with infinite patience, while I write instead, and make breakfast and take naps, and watch TV, and walk Ruby, and have dinner with Elena and sleep and sleep and…

  • …to my unfolding self. Awakening in micro-increments. Learning to spell the new words of a new language. A language I probably won’t need by the time I can speak it fluently.

Blessings to all, to everything that exists, to everyone trying to figure it out, trying to be right with the world, trying to do good things.

The challenge: Can we accept ourselves without judgment or criticism? Let’s try. Every day.


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