By Therese Fitzgerald A small group of us gathered in the O'Neill Room of the UC Berkeley Faculty Club for a Winter Solstice meeting with Maxine Hong Kingston. Maxine welcomed us to this "Mother Night," the longest of the year. After spending a few minutes in couples, we introduced our partners, emphasizing what we hoped to bring home from the evening workshop. After these introductions, we sat in meditation for twenty minutes and then Maxine read an invocation of the bodhisattva Quan Yin and invited participants to read their pieces of writing. "Listening with understanding heals wounds," Maxine explained.
Jim read a full piece about the state of mind of a Gulf War soldier's mother during an afternoon of football and beer with her husband and friends.
Molly, poet and incest survivor, read a poignant poem, "Veterans," embracing the pain of sexual abuse.
Conscientious objector Randy did not read but spoke about an experience of peace he had a while ago. Maxine masterfully responded to him, saying, "While you were describing your experience, you used some cliches. I want to give you some homework: go home and take some time to write out the concrete details of that experience. What were the physical sensations you experienced? Describe your thoughts, feelings, impressions. Find the concrete words and rhythm, so that anyone can know that peaceful state of mind just by hearing you describe it."
Ted read a "mature love poem" and another about his outrage over the media's exploitation of the Polly Klauss story in light of so many neglected and abused children of all colors in this country and the public's "living vicariously through the media's packaged tragedy."
Bob described his inspiration for a story when he found himself looking up his own name at the Veterans Memorial Wall.
Tom read a raw piece about "looking death square in the face" and passed around many recent powerful drawings. Each writer received ample feedback from the group. At the end of the evening, we sat in meditation for ten minutes and parted after arranging to meet again January 29 for a full day of writing and mindfulness practice.
Therese Fitzgerald, True Light, is Director of the Community of Mindful Living and co-editor of The Mindfulness Bell.