By Melanie Lee
Author, “A Year In Sedona~Meeting The Muse At Wisdom’s Edge”
(July 30, 2018)
July and August in Sedona present a splendid opportunity to experience what the Zen Buddhist folk call ‘crazy wisdom’, which I understand to be a beginner’s mind approach to life, viz : “Who knows anything for sure, be open to new ideas, chill, relax, we’re all in this together so best to try to have a little fun along the way.” As we slog on through this annual liminal moment with our muggy monsoon season is upon us, much fussing and fretting in the heat of the dog days before September returns might well vanish, were we only to sit down and catch up on our reading. I recommend books that have lots of crazy wisdom to share.
What are you reading? Any crazy wisdom out there you’ve encountered lately that you can share? While you’re thinking about it, I’ll start…here’s a couple on my list that remind me to stay open, flexible, bemused, tolerant and to enjoy a continuously unfolding life. Stay tuned next time for Summer’s Crazy Wisdom, Part 2.
Last week I read Cottonwood author/musician/artist Joe Wise’s latest book, The Truth in Plenty (entries from my journal, Vol II/a rolling memoir). I met Joe and his wife, artist Maleita Wise, at one of Gary Every’s recent Poetry and Prose Project evenings at the Sedona Library. Joe was the featured performer and I was happy (flattered!) when he suggested we exchange copies of our respective books. A long time journal writer myself, I was curious about his work. Could something as potentially messy, meandering and mundane as a personal journal reflecting 70-odd years of life, both personal and professional, be crafted into a book with structural integrity, abiding interest and literary merit? In a word, yes. His book achieved a fine balance on all counts, delivering his life in a friendly conversational voice that let you know here was someone who’d come quite a long way on the road to wisdom’s edge.
Joe may not call his musings crazy wisdom, but I think there’s plenty there suggesting otherwise. Like “Baskart Buddhas,” his story about teaching a religion class to third graders. One precocious nine-year-old had obviously met his muse, evidenced by his pithy, crazy wisdom answer that was every bit as profound as sly old 13th-14th century mystic Meister Eckhart’s observation that ‘God laughs and plays.’ Here’s a delightful excerpt:
“Tony Dennis sat in the front row. He was possessed of a certain mischievous strain in his gene pool as well as an eye phenomenon (part strabismus) that kept his eyes and head dancing, and something else in him that kept him mostly smiling. Tony didn’t have his hand up. I called on him. “Why do you think God made you, Tony?”A pause. Not too long. “I think God made me…just for the fun of it.” Some kids laughed. I did too. Anybody who knew Tony at all could believe God would make him just for the fun of it. And why not all of us? For the fun of it. For the play of it. For the extravagance of it. For the mystery of it.”
The New Yoga for Healthy Aging and The New Yoga for People Over 50
As you surely know if you keep up with esoterica, practicing balance and moderation is a Libra must-do. I’ve learned that to avoid sinking into total summer torpor this time of year, I must find special books to clutch to my heart (Libra again) and two yoga books top the list.
With lovely thoughts, and much needed crazy wisdom about both balance and moderation, The New Yoga for Healthy Aging and The New Yoga for People over 50, have become essential annual reading. Both were written by my Ojai, California friend Suza Francina. Suza, born in The Hague, Holland, is now in her late sixties and is a longtime yoga teacher for those beginning yoga at midlife or older. In other words, those of us reaching wisdom’s edge.
Quite the mover and shaker in Ojai, Suza is a spokesperson for sustainable lifestyles and was at one time the mayor of that lovely little town. I like her books because they offer a sense of crazy wisdom borne of a wide and deep life experience way beyond the ordinary. She’s not afraid to share her considerable insights with candor and humor in a candid and highly accessible style. The books have excellent illustrations plus clear and useful directions on the ins and outs of a safe and effective Iyengar yoga practice.
Sometimes, to get a personal perspective on a book, I look at the dedication and introduction pages. When I got The New Yoga for People Over 50, there was this chirpy advice:
“Start your morning with yoga, wear beads while baking, make brownies and enjoy life!! “
What? That sounds like something kids would do! Oh wait, that’s what crazy wisdom is, it’s what kids do, those masters of Zen beginner’s mind. So first I tried the baking with beads part and I can report that I felt unusually spiffy. My husband appreciated the new look and said so. Next, although I’m used to doing yoga in the afternoon, I said OK to a morning romp. And finally, who among us could deny that making brownies is clearly a very crazy and wise thing to do if you truly want to enjoy life.
Cheers and wishing you a summer filled with crazy wisdom!
Melanie Lee is an award-winning writer, editor, artist and author. Growing up in Texas, she read mostly biography and autobiography and dreamed of being a writer who could help inspire others to meet their muse by honoring beauty in everyday life. She holds degrees in languages and journalism and was a features editor and columnist, writing everything from lifestyle stories and business news to profiles of entrepreneurs, artists and inventors engaged in the creative pursuit of right livelihood. She lived for ten years in Northern New Mexico where she was creator and director of Sojourns Writing Workshops of Santa Fe.
At the second half of life she moved to Sedona with her husband Louis Michalski. She met her muse anew, took up painting, became a yoga teacher and avid hiker and wrote “A Year in Sedona~Meeting the Muse at Wisdom’s Edge“, available on Amazon.com or from the author. She can be contacted at
P.O. Box 1419 Sedona, AZ 86339 or email@example.com