Terrance Keenan Says: This Helps

Terrance KeenanToday we welcome monk, writer & artist Terrance Keenan – first I fell in love with his book, Zen Encounters with Loneliness, and then I was lucky enough to become his friend. It’s an honour to have him here today. This is the latest interview in celebration of my new book, ‘What Helps: Sixty Slogans to Live By‘.

What slogan helps you?
No blame.  Be kind.  Love everything.

How does this slogan help you?
It is simple. There are no ends to its permutations.  Taking blame out of your vocabulary, out of your life, out of your consciousness, wow!  To not just act in a nice way, but to actually be kind, be kindness itself in your whole being.  It changes everything.  And to love everything teaches all you need to know about unconditional love and a life of compassion.

How have you seen this slogan help others?
People in recovery have used it as a paired down version of the 12 step program.  People dying have used it to diffuse their fear and anger.  People lost have told me it has helped them take the first steps back to finding themselves and their world again. They pause, recite the 3 phrases, and all the steps are right there.  They find they are affirmed by and can once again affirm everything else.

What else helps you when you feel stuck, when you are suffering, or when you are in need of inspiration?
I do zazen (especially), walk the lanes and hills of West Cork, peg-out-laundry-meditation, read the old poems, and sing.   Sometimes just one or some of these, sometimes all.

What advice do you need to remind yourself of the most often?
No blame. Be kind. Love everything.

Terry’s Artist’s Statement: I spend every moment of my life in the happily hopeless task of learning how to put into form and words what cannot be seen or spoken. Thomas Merton said poetry was a door to that place about which nothing can be said. Virginia Woolf wrote, ‘We have reached the edge where painting breaks off and takes her way into the silent land… and all our words will fold their wings and sit huddled like rooks on the tops of winter trees.’ I ask why something must mean? Does dawn mean? Do stars? A flower? Broken city streets? When art devolved into being just for its own sake, we lost something vital – a voice for the reality and joy of our being in the world. Art emerges from the ash of thought when it is touched by our need to be affirmed by reality. To me the joy of reality subverts our ego’s delusions about reality.

Joy is the great revolution.

Reality is the last nostalgia.


Read the introduction to my new book here & the first chapter here. All the others interviews I’ve published so far are here.