Matt Niswonger

The Raging Buddhist: Emotions, Writing, and the Art of Taking Risks

Recently my wife and business partner Cathy gave me the nickname “The Raging Buddhist,” because despite meditating regularly to stay calm I am often very emotional.

Even though she was only joking, I like my new nickname. I read books by Zen Buddhists, but many times I struggle with my own runaway emotions. Life is happening at the pace of life, and sometimes it feels beautiful and other times it feels like a train wreck. 

As a writer I seek inspiration in the  wild realms of California and Nevada. The natural world informs my inner world. Sometimes I feel isolated and alone and other times I feel gloriously connected with everything. Either way I do my best to live authentically. 

Like a powerful storm moving across the landscape, my emotions fuel my creativity in wild, unpredictable ways. Sometimes people like what I write, and other times people are critical of my work.

Regardless, If you are reading these words, I want you to be happy. In fact, our collective happiness is bound together. We depend on each other through the phenomena of Interbeing as described by the late Zen philosopher Thich Nhat Hanh. Together we can merge the storms brewing in our hearts with the storms moving across the landscape to become powerful artists and healers.

From the very beginning, ASJ was intended to be a space where people could be authentic about their adventures. We only sought the truth in our pages. Twenty years later we are still seeking the truth about why we test ourselves in magical landscapes. Not to seek danger for danger’s sake, but because we know that without challenge and a measured dose of risk we can’t evolve and progress as human beings.

With the inescapable knowledge that every life is terminal,  I seek the courageous existence because no other existence is inspiring. Instead of running away from my problems, I’d rather swim into the cold ocean seeking rebirth and illumination to help me face my challenges head on. I don’t post fake versions of myself on social media, I try to understand my emotions and stay mentally healthy for the sake of my loved ones.

For every incredible video of a big wave surfer on Instagram there are ten thousand people sitting at home mindlessly scrolling their lives away. It’s an easy trap to fall into. Like most people I spend too much time on social media.

I’m not saying that extreme athletes are the only ones living a valid and beautiful life. I’m saying that because so many of us are addicted to digital comforts we are afraid to become the artists and poets we were meant to be in the real world. Risk taking doesn’t always mean physical risk. Sometimes emotional risk feels even more challenging. For example, how often do we say “I love you” to the people in our lives? For most of us, not often enough.

Welcome to issue #127. In this edition we invite you to join forces with hundreds of ski racers and glide through the winter landscape of Lake Tahoe for a good cause. We also invite you to climb mountains, ride a fat bike, replant Joshua trees, and explore the Willett and Sespe hot springs in Ventura County. There are so many ways to get out of your comfort zone during the winter season.

This also includes getting out of our emotional comfort zone to express ourselves through writing and art. I hope you are dissatisfied with comfort and ready to push out into the cold darkness of uncertainty, fear, and adventure. I mean this both literally in the sense of outdoor adventure and metaphorically in the sense of emotions, writing and art.

I’m always interested in hearing from readers, especially if you have any insights to help us do a better job. Send me an email: Better yet send me a hand written note: PO Box 35 Santa Cruz CA 95063

— Matt Niswonger

Read other editor’s notes here.