Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Welcome 2014

SunThruTreesI have been spending the past week reflecting on the past year, waiting for my word for the year to find me, and setting new intentions for 2014.

Below, I share with you two questions that were posed during my meditation today. They are good questions to consider as we begin again in 2014.

What was the most life giving for you in 2013? Where in your body do you feel these memories? As you recall these memories, remember them with gratitude.

What was the most life draining for you in 2013? Where in your body do you feel these memories? As you recall these memories, remember to forgive.

If you are so inclined, feel free to share your answers in the comments below.


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A Year of Mindfulness: Awareness of Light

What a great time of year to become mindful and aware of the light. Here we are in February, slowly emerging from our winter cocoon. The groundhog predicts an early spring. The length of daylight is gradually getting longer.

This week’s mindfulness practice asks us to become aware of light. Not just daylight, but also artificial light. Something that many of us have lived with for so long that it is easy to take it for granted. We don’t truly appreciate the light until we lose it, such as during a power outage. During the day, it may not be too bad. But when night falls, only then do we understand how important light is to us. Especially if you’ve tried reading by candlelight.

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, our appreciation of light becomes evident during the winter when the days are shorter and the skies gloomier. We realize how precious a sunny day can be. How good the sun feels on our faces.

And how about when we switch from daylight savings time? We get up in the dark and come home in the dark. The lack of light affects our mood. Notice how much lighter you feel when there is light?

Light is therapeutic. It sparks energy and creativity.

As you become more aware of light, you find it everywhere: sunlight, artificial light, bright and dim, direct or reflected. You notice how it moves throughout the day and how it changes colors.

As you become more aware of light, you might also become more aware of darkness. While light and dark seem to be opposites, they actually contain and depend on one another. If there were no darkness-the night-we wouldn’t rest our eyes and bodies.

This week, become more mindful of light, both daylight and artificial light. Notice how you feel when there is lack of light and an abundance of it. Practice grateful attention whenever you turn on a light switch.

Reflection: Be a lamp unto yourself. -The Buddha

DCF 1.0

Image from Morgue File


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A Year of Mindfulness: Becoming Aware of Food

Bless us oh Lord and these, thine gifts, which we are about to receive….

And so went the daily prayer my family would say each night before digging into dinner. A prayer over our food.

For the most part these were just rote words I learned as a child. Words that were to remind me to thank God (or the Universe, or Buddha, or Allah, or whatever deity you might believe in) for the food on my plate.

I was reminded of these very words because this week’s mindfulness practice asks us to look deeply into food. That is, to consider where our food or drink came from; the people who harvested the food, the driver who transported the food, the farmer who grew the food, and so on.

When I was a child, my family grew some of our food in a small urban garden. Mainly tomatoes and corn which were the easiest to grow. As an adult, I carried this trait with me and have had a vegetable garden for many years.

But for many in society, there is no opportunity to grow food. And the further away we are from the source of our food, the easier it is to forget all that is involved in bringing food to our table. This lack of awareness was the basis for some localvore movements.

Yet beyond the understanding of where our food comes from and all the people (and animals) involved in bringing it to us, when we become aware of food, we awaken to our complete dependence upon the life energy of many other people. This awareness gives new meaning to the idea of having communion with others. That is, each time we eat or drink, we come into union with countless beings.

This week as you eat or drink, look more deeply into your food. Become aware of the source of your food and all those countless beings who contributed to bringing these items to you.

Reflection: The life energy of many beings flows into us as we eat. -Dr. Jan Chozen Bays

Bean seedling - Version 2


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A Year of Mindfulness: Mindful Driving

Mindful driving. Does that sound like an oxymoron? Can one be mindful when driving? Where does Dr. Bays come up with these practices?

All those questions went through my head when I read the title of this week’s practice. But the real purpose of this practice is to open up your beginner’s mind. That is, to switch from driving on autopilot and to return to awareness. Awareness of all the movements involved in driving.

(For those who don’t drive, bring your awareness to being a passenger in a car, bus, or train. Or bring your attention to riding a bike, if that is your mode of transportation.)

Think back to when you first started driving. How did it feel to sit in the car as a new driver? What was it like to feel the car move beneath you? How did you feel when a large truck passed you on the expressway and the car wobbled a little bit in the draft?

Do you notice any of these things now when you drive?

Take a moment, right now, and picture yourself in the driver’s seat of your car.

Ready?

Okay. So tell me, what is the first thing you do when you get in your car?

Which hand do you use to put on your seatbelt?

When you grip the steering wheel, where on the steering wheel do you place your hands ?

Are you sure?

I had to stop and think about this myself because getting into and driving a car is second nature to me. I’m sure it’s that way with you too. It is something we do automatically without really thinking about it.

That is the point of this practice. Becoming aware of what we’re doing.

And then there are the emotions that show up when we’re driving. The way we react if we get behind a slow driver. What we say if someone tailgates behind us. What we do when someone cuts us off in traffic.

Mindful driving requires relaxed, alert awareness. This isn’t about daydreaming and drifting off. Its about being aware of your surroundings and how you react to situations within that surrounding.

Mindfulness requires us to exam all aspects of our life, to become aware of habit patterns we’ve acquired, and to be willing to discard those patterns that no longer serve us.

This week, become aware of driving and your driving habits. Are there any patterns that you can begin to leave behind?


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A Year of Mindfulness: Awareness of Anxiety

As the year draws to a close, our final mindfulness practice for 2012 focuses on anxiety.  Curious timing.

Anxiety is defined as a state of uneasiness and distress about future uncertainties; apprehension; worry. Though we move into the new year with hope and a fresh start, it may also be a cause of anxiety. With each new year comes potential change-something we cannot predict or control.

Anxiety is a constant companion for many of us.

How does anxiety show up for you? Does your heart race or your breathing become shallow? Maybe your stomach tightens or your hands tingle.

What patterns or events trigger anxiety for you? Do you become anxious when watching the news? Does it happen when you get to work or school? Perhaps it arrives even earlier, as soon as your alarm clock goes off.

As with our previous mindfulness practice on impatience, the seeds of anxiety are often planted during childhood. Was there any particular event that happened when you were a child that contributes to your anxiety as an adult?

Anxiety is often accompanied by thoughts-negative thoughts, worrisome thoughts, fearful thoughts. These thoughts can give rise to our anxiety as well as escalate our anxiety.

When you become aware of anxiety, counteract it with deep breathing. Become aware the thoughts that trigger your anxiety and flip the thoughts for the positive.

If watching the news causes you anxiety, turn it off. Dial down your exposure to the negative.

This week, become aware of anxiety, what triggers it for you, and how your thoughts influence the anxiety. Take a deep breath when anxiety creeps in. Be truly present and let your worries drop away.

Reflection: This we can all bear witness to, living as we do plagued by unremitting anxiety . It becomes more and more imperative that the life of the spirit be avowed as the only firm basis upon which to establish happiness and peace. -H.H. the Dalai Lama


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A Year of Mindfulness: Impatience

This week’s mindfulness practice is indeed timely now that we are in the throes of the holiday season. This week, we are asked to be mindful of impatience.

Impatience is a common experience in our lives. When we sit in traffic, we wait impatiently for it to start moving. When we wait in line at the store, we tell ourselves that we got into the wrong line.

Impatience takes different forms. For some it appears as finger tapping on the table. Or maybe it appears as loud, heavy sighs. For others it may be verbal as a slew of words or phrases are stated under their breath. In myself, I notice I get a little agitated. I may look at my watch or the clock. My stomach sometimes feels knotted.

How does impatience appear for you?

We learn to be impatient. It can come from our parents who may have shown their impatience with us or others. It can come as we sit in class with a teacher that we find boring. People who are impatient may interrupt another person as they speak, finishing that person’s statement because they can’t wait for that person to finish.

Impatience is our mind’s way of moving things into the future. Of trying to make things go faster.

In Buddhism, impatience is one of the three “poisons.” (The other two are clinging and delusion.) Together, the three “poisons” contribute to suffering, making us mentally & physically ill.

Impatience is a form of aversion. It represents our desire to get rid of something. Impatience is also a form of anger. And hidden under anger is fear.

When you feel the pull of impatience, ask yourself “Why am I in a rush to get X over with?” If your answer is to “get onto the next thing,” ask yourself then what? Are you simply rushing through tasks and, perhaps, rushing through life?

Ask if there is fear underlying the impatience. If so, what is that fear? Fear of not having enough time?

This week, become mindful of impatience. Notice the feelings that arise during moments of impatience. When those feelings arise, take a deep breath and bring your awareness to the present moment.

Reflection: Learn the art of patience. Apply discipline to your thoughts when they become anxious over the outcome of a goal. Impatience breeds anxiety, fear, discouragement and failure. Patience creates confidence, decisiveness and a rational outlook, which eventually leads to success. -Brian Adams


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A Year of Mindfulness: The Tongue

The tongue (n): a fleshy, movable, muscular process on the floor of the mouths of most vertebrates that bears sensory end organs and small glands and functions especially in taking and swallowing food, and in humans, as a speech organ.

This week’s mindfulness practice is rather curious. This week, we are asked to become aware of our tongues. Yep, to become aware of our tongues.

It’s okay. I scratched my head too when I read this practice.

Consider the definition I shared at the top of this post. “A fleshy movable muscular process.” Now how often to you think about your tongue in that way?

But isn’t that what our tongue really is? A muscle that moves around in our mouths. It helps us to move food around in our mouth. It helps us to form letters and produce words and sounds.

The tongue is also a sensory organ detecting the flavors and temperature of food.

So try this. When you’re eating, see if you can stop your tongue from moving. Now try to keep eating without moving your tongue.

What happens? How does it feel?

Awareness of your tongue is a great example of the power of mindfulness. Focusing a quiet mind on anything opens up and reveals a new universe that was always there but somehow hidden. There is your tongue, hidden right under your nose, carrying out many tasks.

You may notice that your tongue operates better when it is left alone. This mindfulness practice reminds us that things often function better when we get out of the way and try not to control them.

For the most part, our tongue functions on its own without us paying much attention to it, unless we hurt it. This serves as an example of the many ways we are supported and cared for in life that we do not notice or appreciate.

This week, become aware of your tongue and the many blessings in your life.

Reflection: The tongue has its own wisdom. Like most things, it operates better when we don’t try to control it. -Dr. Jan Chozen Bays


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A Year of Mindfulness: Procrastination

Now this is an interesting mindfulness practice following last week’s practice about being on time. Perhaps one is related to the other in some way?

This week’s mindfulness practice asks us to become aware of procrastination.

Procrastination is putting off something that needs to be done. With this practice we are asked to look at procrastination in two ways: the method we use to delay doing something and what we do about it. Other aspects to consider are what leads us to procrastinate and the strategies we use to modify or overcome the procrastination.

Sometimes we procrastinate because our inner critic appears just as we attempt to complete an activity. That negative voice speaks up, criticizes us, and we put off the activity.

Sometimes we make up excuses, such as telling ourselves if X or Y wasn’t getting in the way, we’d have time to do the particular activity. Yet if we look at how we are using our time, we’d be surprised (or not) that we’re really wasting time.

Sometimes we procrastinate by spending time gathering materials for a project or waiting for the “perfect” moment to begin.

Do you see yourself in any of these examples?

For myself, I sometimes procrastinate out of fear. Fear of taking that first step. Fear of failing. Sometimes I procrastinate because the task at hand is something I really don’t want to do. In my head it feels easier to put it off. Unfortunately, it sits on my to-do list for several days taunting me until I deal with it.

What is the antidote to our procrastination? Simply doing it. That is, taking responsibility for the task and getting it done. Put it at the top of the to-do list and deal with it first thing in the morning.

As with many of the topics of past mindfulness practices and those things we avoid, procrastination causes us to suffer. Think about how you feel when you put off a task for days at a time. The dread you may feel about doing a task only gets worse the longer you put it off.

This week, become aware of the tasks you put off. Become aware of what causes you to procrastinate. Then consider how you can break that cycle.

Reflection: Procrastination is the bad habit of putting of until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday. -Napoleon Hill


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A Year of Mindfulness: Be On Time

Good Monday dear readers. Here in the states we are preparing for the Thanksgiving Holiday this week. A time for gathering with family or friends, giving thanks for all that is abundant in our lives, sharing good food, and enjoying some football games.

It is rather ironic that this week’s mindfulness practice focuses on time-being on time. Thanksgiving Day can be a day of rushing around, driving to our destinations and scarfing down too much food. Heck, just the run up to the big feast day can be fraught with anxiety as we gather ingredients for recipes, wine or beer for the celebration, and coordinating all the activities.

But what if we practiced being on time this week? What if we were mindful of not only our time but others time as well?

Here are some things to consider with this practice:

  • What does “being on time” mean to you?
  • What arises in your mind when you are late?
  • What arises in your mind when other people are late?

We all know people who are always on time for events or arrive before an event starts. And we all know people who are “perpetually late” for everything. Some people prefer being on time and grow irritated with those who arrive late. Some people arrive late because they don’t like to wait for an event to begin or they feel awkward if they are the first person to arrive for a meeting or party.

Though this week’s practice relates to time, it is also about mind-states and habitual patterns. What Dr. Bays’ refers to as the “constructed self.” If we think highly of ourselves, we may begin to think that our time is worth more than other people’s time. So we’re the last to arrive because “we have so many important things to do” and don’t want to waste our time sitting around and chatting.

Or maybe we’re terribly shy. We arrive late so we don’t have to look people in the eye, find a place to sit, and initiate conversation.

And then there is the favorite response “there is never enough time” or “I need more time.” Well, how much time would be enough? How much time would be too much?

When it comes to time, we divide our life into chunks-chunks called time. Time of the future, time of the past.

What about-you know what I’m going to say-the present moment?

When we are not thinking and are simply aware, the present moment is all that there is. Time becomes irrelevant. When we live in more awareness than in thinking, time seems to adjust so that there is exactly enough time for each thing to be accomplished.

This week, practice being on time. Practice being in the present moment-for the present moment is all that there is.

Reflection: In the present moment, there is always plenty of time. -Unknown

And, of course-I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date. No time to say hello, goodbye. I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date. -The White Rabbit


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A Year of Mindfulness: Signs of Aging

Okay, so I’m here I am feeling a bit old just thinking about writing this week’s mindfulness post. Achy hands, achy back. Is that a new gray hair on my head?

I’ve read through this chapter in Dr. Bays’ book a couple of times. Once again it seems to dovetail with last week’s practice on appreciation. While we complain about how old we feel or look, we must also appreciate how we feel or look right now. For being mindful about the signs of aging teaches us about impermanence. So we need to appreciate how our bodies are holding up in this moment because in a week, a month, or a year, something will change.

It is curious how we marvel at the life process, the aging process of a plant. Think about how exciting it is to plant seeds in the garden. To witness the tender shoots as they push through the dirt, burst forth in the sun, and blossom into flowers or fruit or vegetables.

Then, in the fall, we handily pull out the old, dead growth, thank the plant for what it gave us, and put the garden to bed for the winter.

We accept that life cycle.

But when it comes to our own aging process, egads, don’t go there. We miss our days of youth; the smooth skin, the full head of hair, the limbs that moved freely without creaking. And then we get all bummed out. We bring about our own suffering.

This week, consider how you’ve aged. Recall that wrinkles were once considered signs of wisdom, that gray hair was a sign of distinction. Consider how your life is reflected in your aging. The good times and not so good. Appreciate all your body has given you and what it still has left to share.

This week, be mindful of the signs of aging.

Reflection: Resting in this moment, we have no age. -Unknown

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