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“Of the two witnesses, hold the principal one,” is saying that one witness is everybody else giving you their feedback and opinions (which is worth listening to, there’s some truth in what people say) but the principal witness is yourself. You’re the only one who knows when you’re using things to protect yourself and keep your ego together and when you’re opening and letting things fall apart, letting the world come as it is—working with it rather than struggling against it. You’re the only one who knows.

– Pema Chödrön, from Start Where You Are

This concept, so wonderfully stated by Chödrön, is anthemic for anyone who makes art. A mantra to keep right at hand, at the front of the feeling mind.

And for finding this quote, thank you to the river that just keeps giving—Whiskey River.

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In her conversation with Bill Moyers, Buddhist writer and nun Pema Chödrön talks about going into an extended retreat:

I felt like I was in Kansas, and Oz was outside the door. You know, it’s like sensory deprivation. But, gradually, what begins to happen is that you sink so deeply into what life has been distracting you from. Because it’s a definition of no distractions. That’s the purpose of the retreat, no distractions. You quickly learn that distractions are not just phone calls and emails and outer phenomena. Our own mind, and our longings, and our cravings, and our fantasies and everything are also major distractions. And, as time goes on, and you’re feeding it less because no talking. You begin to sink deeper into the undistracted state. And then you begin to realize that life is always pulling you away from being fully present.

It’s like the tides, the mind. The seeking for that undistracted place is always in companionship with the pull away from being fully present. And both states—high tide and low, present and distracted—have a place in the flow of things.