Intimacy with Your Own Life

Dawes Arboretum's Japanese Garden, March 19, 2011

Excerpt from "Unleashing the Mystery of Existence," Spirituality & Health, March-April 2013:

Kim Rosen: You have been a Zen practitioner for many years. How have your own spiritual path and your evolution as a poet been interwoven? Does your Zen practice teach you about writing poetry? Does your writing teach you about Zen?

Jane Hirshfield: They are left foot and right foot.

Zen is the taste of your own tongue in your own mouth. It’s a way to find something very simple that’s already present within you—a subtler, sharper, nondistanced, and nondistancing awareness.
 
Everything else emerges from this intimacy with your own life, this opening into attention. We become the instruments of our lives and become part of the orchestra of the larger existences that our lives in turn are part of.
 
The same basic attention and permeability are the beginning of poetry writing. Whatever I’ve done in both practice and poetry is a search for ways of seeing and speaking, of feeling and understanding, that draw from the limitless well of the limitless real. I’ll add, I always feel a slight dismay if I’m called a “Zen” poet. I am not. I am a human poet, that’s all. Labels just get in the way. The fundamental wildness and mystery of existence slip every leash we try to put on them, and both meditation practice and the writing of poems are leash-slipping acts.