Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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A Year of Mindfulness: Just Eat

Each week I am sharing a mindfulness practice based on the book How to Train a Wild Elephant by Jan Chozen Bays. To learn more about mindfulness, please read the introductory post here.

Last week we practiced mindfulness by appreciating our hands. Are you appreciating your hands more?

I found this practice difficult. I found it hard to observe my hands while doing another task. My focus was on the task at hand (ha, ha) not on how my hands moved in unison, in partnership or individually.

Wait, I must have noticed something if I knew they were working in unison, in partnership, or individually. Okay, so maybe my subconscious was paying attention on some level. I think the point here is that, once again, we often move so quickly through our day that we don’t notice what we’re doing. What we’re REALLY doing.

I will continue with this particular practice but focus on a smaller task, such as putting lotion on my hands.

This Week’s Practice: When you eat, just eat

Oh this is a good one. This week we are asked to remove all distractions when we eat. That means no watching TV when eating. No reading a book or newpaper or magazine while eating. No iPad, No computer, No nothing when eating.

Why? Because when we eat we often multi-task. We sit at our desk at work, eat lunch, and surf the Internet or catch up on email. We eat and talk on the phone. We go through a drive-through, pick up a meal, and scarf it down in the car.

Not the best way to enjoy our food is it?

So this week when you eat. Just eat. Remove all distractions. Start with one meal, slow down, and enjoy your food.

Reflection: When eating, just eat. When drinking, just drink. Mindfulness is the very best seasoning. -Jan Chozen Bays


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An Artsy Weekend in New York

Over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend, we ventured to New York as part of our Christmas gift to each other. The primary reason for our visit was to see Alan Rickman, one of my favorite actors, in the Broadway play Seminar.

Our visit started with dinner at a favorite restaurant Fig and Olive.

The Guggenheim

On Saturday we visited the Guggenheim Museum, a first for both of us. The main exhibit was Maurizio Cattelan’s All.

Guggenheim Art Museum

Cattelan is an Italian artist who uses the exhibition format as a mode of expression. All is a site specific installation which suspends Cattelan’s entire body of work in the center of the Guggenheim rotunda. As the exhibit brochure states, this method of installation is “disorienting” and makes the work seem like a “haphazard mass in the center of the building’s Frank Lloyd-Wright designed rotunda.”

Indeed.

Maurice Cattelan's Exhibit "All"

Love Saves Life

Untitled Gelatin Print

Mother

Felix

Not Afraid of Love

Untitled

It was an interesting exhibit. One that if you looked at it long enough you’d see items you hadn’t seen on first pass. We also checked out the other galleries at the Guggenheim and had lunch at the museum

In the evening we enjoyed seeing Seminar. On our walk back to the hotel, we passed by Rockefeller Center and the skating rink.

Ice Skating at "The Rock"

It certainly looks quite different in January than it does in September.

Rockefeller Center at night

Sparkly Lights

More Artsy Fun

It was cold the weekend we visited. On Sunday, we visited another museum, the Morgan Library and Museum. The Morgan is comprised of Pierpont Morgan’s own library, an annex, and Morgan’s mid-19th century brownstone.

The Museum holds the vast collection of artistic objects collected by Pierpont Morgan. This includes drawings by Rembrandt and Rubens, medieval and Renaissance texts, Gutenberg Bibles, letters and manuscripts by Dickens and Twain, musical scores by Mozart and Beethoven, and Near East carvings.

On Sunday evening we enjoyed seeing Kevin Spacey in Richard III at the BAM-Harvey in Brooklyn. (Be sure to click on the first link to see a video synopsis of the play.) This was a complete surprise. Spacey was amazing on stage and I’m still basking in the thrill of seeing another favorite actor on stage. Seeing Shakespeare performed live is always a treat. It can be a little tricky to follow the original Shakespeare, but you’re sure to hear several familiar phrases that we continue to use today.

It was a lovely weekend. We came home on Monday filled with new and interesting art experiences.


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A Year of Mindfulness: Appreciate Your Hands

So how did you do last week with eliminating filler words? I thought it would be easy. However, eliminating those words is more of a challenge than I expected.

As an artist I spend a lot of time by myself. When I’m with family or friends, conversation is a welcome change of pace. What I realized this past week was how quickly I forgot this mindfulness practice. It wasn’t until late in the week when visiting a friend that I listened to myself while speaking. My big filler word? “Um.”

I find I use the word “um” as a way to string together my thoughts. Instead of taking a short, silent pause between phrases or sentences, I fill the silence with “um.”

Of course, the more aware of this I became, the more effort I put into trying to stop myself from saying “um.” I was hearing myself speak, then thinking “stop saying um,” and then worked harder to try and stop myself. Frankly, it was a bit exhausting. The solution? Speak slower and think about what you’re saying.

This week’s practice

This week’s mindfulness practice is to appreciate your hands. Several times during the day this week, observe your hands as you use them in activities. Observe them at rest. Observe your hands as if they belonged to someone else.

We use our hands naturally and unconsciously. This week observe your hands, how you use them, and how they help you.

Caution: I suggest doing this practice during safe activities. Watching your hands while driving, chopping veggies, or cutting wood is not recommended.

Reflection: If you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm.  -Yiddish proverb


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Art Ideas in Progress

One of the challenges for artists is coming up with new work. Sometimes the creative well is filled to the brim with ideas. At other times that well can be drier than fallen leaves.

I have several sketchbooks full of ideas, many of which never see the light of day. It can be fun to flip through the pages long after a particular idea has passed. I look at some sketches and wonder “what was I thinking?” Sometimes old ideas can spark something new.

Drawing on Inspiration

Following the success of my Ornimals: Animal Sculpted Ornaments, I started sketching ideas for a new line of artwork. This new line may compliment the Ornimals in some way. I definitely want to continue with the sculpting that I really enjoy. So I started thinking about totems and mobiles. Brainstorming with some fellow artists, other ideas that came about were house spirits, garden totems, and reworking the standard ornament so that it doesn’t look like an ornament.

I took several of these ideas and did a brain dump in my sketchbook. (That isn’t as messy as it sounds.) I sketched ideas, did some word play with names, and flipped through several books on icons and symbolism. I also poked around on the internet. There I found some inspiration in the face beads created by the lovely Maureen Carlson.

With Maureen’s face beads as a springboard, I pulled out some molds made from my own hand sculpted faces, a pile of texture plates and tools, polymer clay, some alcohol inks, soft pastels, markers and colored pencils.

Below is the result of playing with these materials.

Totem idea

Janus Face 1

Janus Face 2

Two Faced Janus

Ideas are still percolating in my head. I really like the two faced piece and will explore that further. I also got some ideas from another friend for potential themes for totems (or whatever name I decide to give them.) The biggest piece in all of this is keeping it fun. And these are definitely fun.


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A Year of Mindfulness: Eliminate Filler Words

Each Monday during 2012 I am sharing a mindfulness practice based on Jan Chozen Bays’ book How to Train a Wild Elephant. You can read more about the book and mindfulness here.

Last week’s practice was Leave No Trace which essentially means to pick up after yourself before you leave a room. How did you do with this practice? My big challenge with this practice was cleaning up in the kitchen. I have a tendency, especially during the day, to let the dirty dishes collect in the sink.

With this practice I found myself not only cleaning the dishes instead of letting them sit in the sink, I also dried and put them away. It did feel pretty good to get everything cleaned up and out of the way instead of letting it linger. The one caveat to this practice: my studio. I may pick up a little bit, here and there, after I finish for the day. But cleaning up completely? Nope.

This week’s practice: Eliminate filler words. Oh boy, this could be a real challenge. Filler words, such as “um,” “you know,” “like,” etc permeate our conversations today. Some say it is because we’re afraid of silences in conversation, so instead of silence, we use a filler word. Some say it is because we’ve become lazy in our speaking skills. And others may say that these filler words “fill in the space” while we think of the word we’d really like to use.

Whatever the reason, filler words are an unconscious habit that can be difficult to change. That is the challenge this week. Eliminate filler words.

Reflection: I think you’re all enlightened until you open your mouths. Zen master Suzuki Roshi


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A Year of Mindfulness: Leave No Trace

Each Monday I am posting a mindfulness practice based on Jan Chozen Bays book, How to Train a Wild Elephant. To read about last week’s practice, visit here.

How did you do with the first practice, using your non-dominant hand? I found that eating with my left hand was not too troublesome, though I did the practice primarily at breakfast which is usually a less challenging meal. However, when it came to brushing my teeth, ugh!

Using my non-dominant hand to brush my teeth required that I slo-o-o-w way down. I felt like a little kid learning a new skill. After some time, big brother right hand wanted to take over and “get the job done.” And I think that was the point. To slow down, to take notice of the experience, and to feel the movement & sensation of the activity.  Something we take for granted these days because we’re always rushing around, moving from point A to point B, and not paying a lot of attention to what we’re doing.

Pretty neat trick.

This week’s practice: Leave No Trace.

The goal of this week’s practice is well, um, to clean up after yourself. Pick a room, like the bathroom or kitchen, and leave no trace. Instead of putting off the picking up of stuff (your dirty clothes, doing the dishes, etc), do it sooner rather than later.

Reflection: Each time we bring to routine activities an awareness of ‘now,’ we raise our vibratory frequency and cause the freshness of the moment to fall upon us. -Dr. Michael Beckwith

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