Last night I had the singular pleasure of hearing Gary Snyder read his poetry at the Folger Shakespeare Library. At the end of the reading, Mr. Snyder answered a few questions. In response to one question about advice he gives to aspiring poets, he said: “Don’t be journalists. Do hard physical labor that leaves y0ur mind open.” This is not surprising advice, coming from one who has chosen a life requiring regular manual labor. “Meditate only for its own sake,” he added, in an apparent non sequitur and without elaboration.
Gary Snyder’s poetry is evidently influenced by his dedicated study and practice of Buddhism. The insight and clarity of his poetry surely reflects not only his intellectual study, but the deep wisdom of a dedicated, long-standing, and steady meditation practice. The advice to “meditate for its own sake” seemed almost the offering of a koan by the master (poet) to his pupils. Meditation, in my experience, definitely enhances clarity, insight, creativity, and health. Meditation is not meditation, though, unless when engaging in meditation that is all one is doing and without any goal (like the “actionless action” of the Bhagavad Gita). It is the deepest of practices to engage fully, but not be doing except for the sake of doing itself (and in alignment with the deepest truths).