This is serious advice for serious writers—to kill our darlings. Sounds brutal, no? Well, actually, what it means is that sometimes we come up with great material, but, in the context of the whole piece of work, say a short story or novel, this terrific piece of writing does not work to create a vivid continuous dream that the reader can resonate with. It hurts to do this, yes, that particular piece may have been celestially inspired, but sorry, it ruins the whole and therefore, once we have stepped from our opus and decided that it sticks out like a sore thumb or ruins the thread of the plot, we must be willing to commit word murder. A sacrifice of the brilliant part to the cosmic whole.
Fortunately today we have computers—I often marvel at what great writers in the past did. Imagine writing War & Peace with ink and paper and then trying to kill or rework sections of it—my god, how lucky we are today! We can cut our darling out of the current piece and store it safely in another file so we can use her later, in a place where she does work. And it strikes me that this advice is valuable anywhere, even as we begin the intense and often lonesome journey into the spiritual heart. We must kill our darlings, all those ideas, habits, dreams, concepts and conditioning that no longer mesh with our present map of reality. And we must make sure they stay dead, by burning their very roots, so that they do not rise up again with a vengeance to ruin our perfect plan for blissful liberation.
Those of us on the path of jnana have heard Ramana Maharshi say that the mind is just a bundle of thoughts. Ah, such a relief to reduce that monster that caused us both great suffering and joy to an instrument we can comprehend and therefore handle. But in the realm of thought too we have our darlings, habits that we may have started in a previous lifetime, or early in the current one. For instance, even as a girl I realized that my rebellion against the conservative world I was raised in would exact a great price—that I would also have to make do without the usual supports that women who toe the party line have access to. As a result, my mind must have decided to take charge in its own eccentric way and as soon as I awoke, it would list all the worries and problems I would have to confront that day. Which is why the seeker of peace is urged to give up being busy all the time so that we have less reason to think.
Last night I woke up at 3 am and found my mind dwelling on a vexing issue…of course it went on and on, spinning its usual nonsensical scenarios. And I wondered briefly – what the hell? What is the use of all the inner work I do? And then I realized something: that as a result of all I do, I could watch the mind clearly and laugh at its antics – what’s more, I know how to stop it, and how cool is that? Ramana advises us to just kill an unnecessary thought and its not that difficult; and Nisargadatta says that because all thought comes from a false (unreal) base, it is false too. Both these gurus are brilliant especially when you use them in tandem. Its never the teacher for me, except initially, but the teaching. Teachers will come and go and many, if they have not fully burned down the ego, have feet of clay. I accept this completely, but I cleave to the gold of the teachings.
Greeting from Arunachala, Shiva in the form of a hill of fire and light, who vows to help us let go of all our vices and attachments so that we can realize that we are no less than the blissful and immortal Self!