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Stillpoints: A Podcast with Scott Johnson

Apr 8, 2023

In this beautiful and enlightening conversation Scott Johnson talks to Zen teacher, poet and author Peter Levitt about his book Fingerpainting On The Moon, his life as a Soto Zen practitioner and poet and how we can all use contemplative practices to find our own unique creative process.


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Peter Levitt on How Mindfulness Is Creativity

Scott and Peter talk openly about his life as a writer and a Zen practitioner. Peter shares:

  • About his early years of growing up with chronic illness
  • How his early life spending time on his own was the catalyst to his learning his craft
  • How he discovered Zen at the end of the sixties.
  • How he begun to understand how his creative process comes from him
  • How the art of practice is intimacy
  • How all relationship is intimacy
  • Who the great Soto Zen master Dogen was.
  • How non-separation is the key to creativity
  • How creativity is expressed without language.
  • How poetry lands in someone.
  • How we finds words that move through us.
  • How the language of poetry carries ineffable words.
  • On how we are all creators
  • About his book Fingerpainting On The Moon
  • Seeing that we have choice with what we do with this moment


About Peter Levitt

Peter Levitt is authorized as a Zen teacher within the Suzuki-roshi lineage, and as a preceptor within the White Plum Asanga. He is is the founder and guiding teacher of Salt Spring Zen Circle on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia where he lives with his wife and fellow poet Shirley Graham,

Peter is the author of seventeen books of poetry and prose including Within WithinOne Hundred Butterflies and Bright Root, Dark Root.

In 2003 Peter wrote Fingerpainting on the Moon: Writing and Creativity as a Path to Freedom a beautiful meditation on finding our own unique creative process.

A longtime student of Zen, he edited Thich Nhat Hanh’s classic,The Heart of Understanding, and recently he served as Associate Editor of The Treasury of the True Dharma Eye – Zen Master Dogen’s Shobo Genzo, edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi (pictures above with Peter) and he co-edited, with Tanahashi, The Essential Dogen: Writings of the Great Zen Master. In addition, Peter has published many fiction and literary translations from Chinese, Japanese and Spanish.

In late 2022 Peter released his latest book of translations, Yin Mountain: The Immortal Poetry of Three Daoist Women, co-translated with Rebecca Nie. You can find links to these books in the show notes.

Governor General Award recipient, Robert Hilles said of Peter books One Hundred Butterflies and Within Within, “these are master works that reveal the interconnected fabric of it all in ways that will leave you stunned.”

And Legendary poet, Robert Creeley, wrote that Peter Levitt’s poetry “sounds the honor of our common dance,” and, in 1989 Peter received the prestigious Lannan Foundation Award in Poetry.

Find our more about Peter Levitt here:


"Peter's book Fingerpainting On The Moon is a roadmap to getting underneath our own creative process. This conversation with Peter Leviit is beautiful and helps us to consider how we can make our way through this precious life with openness. It is one of my favourite conversations and has changed the way I see my own creativity."

Scott Johnson - April 2023


If you enjoyed this podcast then you might also enjoy Scott’s conversations with Pamela Weiss, Sarah Powers and Frank Jude Boccio.