Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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A Year of Mindfulness-Overlooking Something?

Namaste dear mindfulness friends. How did your practice of noticing dislike turn out? For me it was a time to notice the small triggers, such as grumbling about the morning alarm, the ache in my lower back, or my resistance to exercise (ugh, do I have to do that exercise again?)

Most often, for me, becoming aware of dislike makes me realize that many of my dislikes are pretty insignificant in the bigger picture of life. I try to find the positive in what I’m grumbling about-like realizing that half way through my exercise routine I actually start to feel better. (I’m still working on the positive about the alarm clock.)

This Week’s Practice: Are You Overlooking Something?

This practice dovetails nicely with last week’s practice about dislike. Why? Because often when we’re complaining about something that we don’t like, we end up missing the good stuff. In other words, we fail to notice what else is around us.

As we have learned through many of our mindfulness practices, we tend to have a narrow focus as we move through our day. We only pay attention to what is directly in front of us. The items on our to-do list, whatever is on the TV or computer. Often, we only widen our attention when we are jolted out of our narrow focus by some unusual occurrence, such as a loud bang.

When something unusual occurs, we become alert. We stop what we’re doing and look around or look up. Maybe we get up and move around.

So why don’t we spontaneously stop what we’re doing and enlarge our sphere of listening and seeing? Must we be forced to notice our surroundings by some outside occurrence?

Take a moment to stop reading this blog post. It’s okay. It will still be here when you return.

Turn off the music or TV in the background.

Sit a few minutes in silence.

What do you hear? Are you missing something?

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t focus on the task at hand. Maybe you’re working on a term paper. You’ve got a deadline coming up for a project at work. Certainly we all have situations where we need to intensely focus.

But much like knowing you should turn your eyes away from your computer monitor to give them a break, so should you give your mind a break.  Notice what is around you without any internal dialogue, criticism, or judgement. In Zen practice this is called “not knowing.” A very wise kind of ignorance. Because when we rest in not knowing, many possibilities open up.

Reflection: For a pause that refreshes, at least once a day, stop trying to know and do. Open your awareness and simply sit in “not knowing.” -Jan Chozen Bays


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A Year of Mindfulness-Notice Dislike

How did you do last week with becoming aware of the ground beneath you? Did you practice grounding yourself to the earth?

In the past two years my awareness of the ground beneath me has become greater because it is part of my walking practice. When my sciatic nerve problem flared up a while ago, I worked with a physical therapist who assessed my walking as part of a comprehensive evaluation. One area that I had to work on was walking. Walking with my weight on the big toe side of my foot. Not the baby toe side of my foot which had been my “normal” for, well, my whole life.

This simple act of grounding my feet, literally feeling the ground beneath me as I walked, improved my awareness of the ground and also the strength in my quads. It caused me to be more balanced when I walked. I guess you could say grounding myself to the earth, literally and figuratively, improved my back pain.

This Week’s Practice: Notice Dislike

This week’s practice asks us to become aware of dislike. Not just the big emotions, like anger or hatred, but the minor emotions as well, such as irritation. Another timely practice given our current election cycle and world situation.

When we do this practice, it is common to realize that aversion or dislike is much more frequent in our emotional landscape than we may have originally thought. You may find that you start your day with dislike when the alarm goes off in the morning. You get out of bed and your back is stiff. You have to wait in line at Dunkin Donuts. You harrumph at the morning news (my favorite.)

It is important that we become aware of dislike or aversion because this is the hidden source of anger and aggression. It arises from the thought that if we could manage to get rid of something or someone, then we’d be happy.

Think about it. If you could arrange things just as you want them, so that you’d be happy, this perfection would only last a few seconds because our “perfect” is not “perfect” to anyone else. Forcing perfection on the world is bound to fail because of impermanence. Nothing lasts forever.

This week, become aware of dislike and aversion. Learn to counteract it with appreciation of things as they are. Find the positive in the negative.

Reflection: Anger does not cease through anger, but through love alone. -Buddha


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A Year of Mindfulness-The Earth Beneath You

Hello fellow mindfulness practitioners. How did you do last week in becoming aware of hot and cold temperatures? Here in the northeast we are beginning to experience the shift from summer to fall-cool mornings and evenings. It is refreshing and also a bit sad. I think the sadness comes from my inner child. She senses the end of summer which means the end of lazy days and lots of sunshine.

On the other hand, I embrace the fall for its glorious colors, wearing warm sweaters, and the physical and spiritual acts of turning inward. Fall reminds me of a warm, loving embrace.

This Week’s Practice: The Great Earth Beneath You

This week, we are asked to become aware of the great earth, Mother Earth, below our feet. We are reminded to become aware of the earth not only through touch via the bottom of our feet, but also through sight and smell.

In How to Train a Wild Elephant, Dr. Bays shares a wonderful practice that she used at the monastery to honor the earth: Each morning, after you get out of bed, immediately kneel and touch your forehead to the ground.

In this act of kneeling and touching the ground with our forehead, we express our humility and gratitude to Mother Earth.

Think about it. We walk, drive, and run across the surface of the earth without even thinking about the ground beneath us. Yet what if we suddenly lost touch with earth? What if gravity stopped and we were no longer “attached” to the earth?

The earth grounds us, literally. Yet when we live “in our heads” and are distracted, we are easily pushed off balance. Grounding ourselves to the earth can be deeply comforting. It helps to keep us rooted, feel more solid and less swayed by thoughts, emotions, or unexpected events.

This week, become aware of the earth beneath you. Practice grounding yourself to the earth. Extend your attention from the bottoms of your feet down through the earth and to its core.

Reflection: Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find resources of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. -Rachel Carson


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A Year of Mindfulness-Sensations of Hot and Cold

Namaste my dear friends. This week I am regrouping and returning to weekly mindfulness practice posts. Thank you to everyone who expressed kind words of condolence regarding my Mom’s passing. I appreciate it.

This Week’s Practice: Hot and Cold

This week we are asked to increase our awareness of our reactions to hot and cold temperatures. This includes both physical and emotional reactions to temperature changes.

Why is this awareness important? Because many of us are never satisfied with changes in temperature. When it’s too hot, we wish it was cooler. When it is cold, we wish it was warmer. It’s as if the sun, clouds and Mother Nature have all conspired against us.

Think back to when you were a kid. Depending on your age, when you were a kid you probably didn’t have central air in your home. Maybe you didn’t have a window air conditioner either. When it was hot, it was, well, hot. We dealt with it. Cooled ourselves with hand-held fans. Drank lemonade or ice tea. Jumped in a pool or lake.

Same thing in the winter. It was cold. We bundled up and played in the snow.

When we’re kids we tend not to complain. We go with the flow. But when we reach adulthood we seem to become more intolerant of changes in temperature.

One way to deal with our discomfort is to stop avoiding it. Instead of complaining about the temperature change, we can walk right into it. We feel it with our bodies. We become aware of the sensations. We try to stop controlling external conditions.

After all, the nature of all things is change. If we stop trying to control change, we improve our physical and emotional condition.

This week, become aware of your reaction to changes in temperature. Instead of complaining, feel the heat or the cold. Be present with it. Inhale deeply and exhale the sensations.

Reflection: I don’t get into semantics. The wind will always blow. It’s always going to be hot or cold. You just have to go out there and play. -Dan Hawkins

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