Stop Collecting Thought Bubbles!

I love this story about Allen Ginsberg, frantically writing his crazy poems while meditating. The best ideas always seem to come when you’re doing something else, usually something that puts you into a mild trance and stops your mind from interrupting itself.

It’s hard for a writer to let go of the contents of the mind – I mean, without thoughts, what would you be? Could you still call yourself a writer? What would happen to this blog if I stopped collecting my precious and oh-so-fleeting thought bubbles…?


“Once, when Allen Ginsberg was in Colorado to do a one month solitary meditation retreat, he told his lama, Trungpa Rinpoche, that he was going to bring little notepads that he would keep by his meditation cushion so he could write down the beautiful haiku that would flash into his mind after many hours of meditation. The lama said, ‘Can I see your pads and pens?’

When Ginsberg displayed the tools of his literary trade, the lama snatched them away, saying that the reason to go on retreat and meditate is to stop collecting and holding on to all those transient thought bubbles. He exhorted Ginsberg simply to be aware of the ongoing process of transparent awareness itself, rather than getting caught up in collecting the flotsam and jetsam of the mind and continually rearranging its contents in the display cases of artistic ambition.

Ginsberg loved to tell this story, because he was still – like all of us – so attached to displaying beautiful thought bubbles. The more we meditate, the more good ideas we seem to get, don’t we? We can’t wait to get back home and tell somebody, write about them, paint them, bottle them, and market them. Samsara cologne, nirvana books and tapes, enlightenment records, greeting cards, and calendars…”

From Awakening the Buddha Within by Lama Surya Das

Image: Ginsberg