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A View of Lake Tahoe, July 2020


About Me

I am an author and consultant with ten years of experience teaching at top business schools. I have a Ph.D. in economics from MIT and published research on innovation, entrepreneurship, trade, and productivity. I taught operations management, design thinking, and business strategy at Harvard Business School, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Boston University. In 2021, I left my tenure track position at Georgia Tech after shifting my interests toward art and creativity. I now work on a variety of writing projects while building a private intuitive reading business. My husband and I live in downtown Boston, and we love traveling on the road, spending time in nature, and watching old movies. I am also an avid player of Animal Crossing: New Horizons.






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Pian Shu, Ph.D.



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—Inter-woven.


How poetry re-engaged my love for writing. (And why silence is the best sound.)



September 2022
(currently revising)

Part I

To me, poetry speaks the “unspoken.” It is deeply personal yet powerfully connective. Unlike academic writing—which aims to persuade, poetry is self-explanatory: the experience of reading a poem is as varied and serendipitous as the process of creating one. Which is why writing poetry is a liberation.

My first poem came to me in May 2019. Earlier that month, I experienced a mysterious shift in my consciousness, where, in the middle of a night, I “woke up” with my thoughts completely halted. A meditative chant that I had been practicing for years was simply “running” by itself, as if it contained my only consciousness on repeat. I then observed, for the first time, how a wandering thought appeared out of pure awareness, which then led me to wake up—for a second time—to my physical body. Strong sensations arrived, which included an abnormally fast-beating heart and a swirl of energy in my abdomen area. I started to panic and grasp for explanations of what was happening, but eventually, I had to just let go and surrender to the happenings. I fell back asleep, and the next morning, I began to notice my heightened sensitivity, which lasted for a whole month. Poetry arrived during this period.

A few days into the month, I was walking home through a public park in Atlanta when, suddenly—I felt nostalgic. By now I had gotten used to the rushing of emotions, but newly present this time were some words and visuals: I saw myself as a young and naive backpacker, eagerly setting her foot on an exciting journey, not knowing what was about to happen. I then saw that, over time, weights started piling on until they completely wore the hiker out, who was disheartened yet still determined. She was trying very hard to maintain her steps, her aspiration, and her idealistic nature. As I saw this sequence, it became clear to me how pure her intention was, and that it was the purity of an intention—not the weight that I was carrying or the pinnacle that I was eyeing—that called me home. An instant relief came over me as if the trees, air, and grass all around me all sang lightness. No more weight was necessary. With immense gratitude and clarity, I heard the following:

Yearning

Young she was and eager
A first-time traveler
Setting out to find
That which words could not describe

Burdens were carried
Earnest effort made
Duties, she thought
Were there to pave her way

For then she didn’t know
That Beauty has no Weight
That love is lightness
And Light is all She is

But here, now, she remains
Arms bracing air
Breathing flowers in the spheres

For finally, She is—
at home, and—
At Ease.


— (May 2019)


And that was the beginning of my poetry writing.

(The first half came to me in its entirety. The second half I fine-tuned over time.)


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For a long time after that May, I felt disoriented. Not only did words fail to capture the exhaustiveness of what was happening, attempting to label the experience would be the very trap that woos the incessant mind. However, the various spiritual teachings that I came across all specified a similar timeline: a “reverberation” period of two to three years is to be expected after something like what Jed McKenna calls “The First Step”, or in Don Juan and Carlos Castaneda words, “the world stopping”. This turned out to be accurate.

Contrary to the blissful peace that I had hoped for (and was envisioning), what oozed, engulfed, and overflowed my days was this deep sensation—much more than a feeling—of dissatisfaction and inadequacy. Such was a moment that gifted me “Eager,” which goes like this:


Eager

Neck stretched thin
Arm reaching high
Head held tight


‘Me Me Me! Notice me!’
‘Compliment Me!’
‘Feed me!’

Behind all the strive for excellence
is the eagerness to impress

The seemingly only way to politely invite in
A tiny bit of warmth and affirmation
That fills up the infinite cold darkness in vain


Eager is the price of Pride
The consequence of conditioning
The sad reality of a L-o-n-e-s-t-a-r— 
Hoping to turn the surrounding
e  x p  a  n  s  i  v  e  n  e  s s
into anything other than
Its only Existence

— (November 2019)


I was teaching at the time, which tended to my insecurities and vulnerability. How these feelings originated may be a lost cause, but the siren from the lone star pointed me in a new direction that I had never dared to stare into. This time, rather than running away—as I had always done before, I made my first attempt to stop and listen. This means: instead of filling up my life with mindless busyness and fanatical “to-do”s, I allowed myself to sink deeper into the discomfort, the feelings of rejection and worthlessness, and the “crown jewel”—the idea that nothing I had done mattered or had any meaning. An interesting shift took place: I became disenchanted with the things that I used to obsess with, like getting tenure and achieving “excellence”. Instead, I was drawn to simpler matters, like taking naps under trees in the city breeze. Many such naps were taken.


Various views from napping spots, 2019-2022


Fast forward to February 2021: fifteen months had passed since I dived into this exploration of emptiness which also led to a leave of absence from my job (I never returned). Initially, I had hoped (and was envisioning) that I could do something with this time off, but all plans went out of the window as the world descended into a (similar) swirl. So then, I sat with the reality that I had no sense of belonging or identity in this world for days on end. Days morphed into months. And finally into a year.

Then the winter of 2021 came, and my husband and I were driving through a rural, barren town in the North Cascades during our exploration of the Pacific Northwest region. An unprecedented snowstorm had just hit, and there was gloominess all around. I was staring casually through the car window at the passing buildings—many of which looked abandoned—when, suddenly—I heard a mutter in my heart: “The depth of my loneliness scares me.”  The silenced sound rolled right off the window into my lap, and I could feel a familiar swell rising. But then I remembered something else my heart muttered a little while ago during the holiday season—right after I took a restful slumber. The sheets were clean and embracing; the morning sun was still peeking. Another half-asleep-half-awake state came and went. This time a message was left behind, and it came through the heart. It said:

“All brokenness will be healed.”


*          *          *

The Four Noble Truths

( 苦 集 灭 道 )

Sadness is the echo of Effort
Like a quiet string
Perturbed by a young clumsy finger

The inquisitive mind wanders into the future
The timid one drowns itself in sorrow
The eloquent one announces: “I can silence these sounds!”
The audience laughs at the puppets’ performance

Deeper into the night, notes linger behind
Chatters float into the sweeping darkness...

And the wind whistles back:
“I hear songs that make the moon smile and the stars dance!”


— (May 2019)


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(To be continued.)




No Agenda

Flowers blossom
For reasons none other than blossoming

Wind chimes
For reasons none other than chiming

I take a slow walk through the Green
For green is the gift of Spring
There is no agenda in receiving
There is no agenda in sharing

— (May 2019)




I Owe the World an Apology

Every drop of blood
Feels obligated to justify its temperament
“Sorry I’m too cold on Sunny days
And too hot when it rains”

Skin
Wants to be molded
Swirling
Into sands and ashes

Anything but pale and stale
That resembles remotely a figure

Skeleton though, is my favorite
Nothing feels freer than having it dissolved into the emptiness of Oblivion...

Chatters don’t matter
Voices disappear
Memories expire—please let them!

*    *    *
I stay here to transit, the view is almost fun
The bed is nice and soft, sorry for leaving my body’s mark
I promise to depart quietly, the door will be left ajar
Furniture stationed orderly,
Same old, same old

The only trace left will be a question mark:

“If Nobody Was Here, Who Opened The Window?”

— (December 2019)




The Moon

The moon doesn't say:
`I'm the moon. I'm round and white. I reflect light.’
It is round and white. It reflects light. It is the moon.

When you look up to the sky you know it's there
The lamination of your skin
declares an existence
That needs no proof or elaboration

Does the moon push its light on you?
Does the moon try to spin faster?
Is the moon ever shy of shining, or not shining?

I sleep soundly, knowing that the moon is always there, within.

— (December 2020)





Gravity

I weep.
Tears flow.
Not a care given.
In the whole wild world.

They flow for gravity.
Not for sorrow.

Like rain—
That touches—
The beautiful surface of the Earth,
Like a pearl’s kisses.

— (June 2021)





[︎︎︎ A Dreamer’s Wilderness ]





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