Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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A Fallow Period-Coming Back to Myself Through Spirituality

It started when I made a small twisting movement that Friday morning. As soon as I moved back to a neutral stance I could feel the muscles in my back tighten from top to bottom. “Oh crap,” I thought. “Well, this has happened before and it usually works itself out by the end of the day.”

So I took some Advil and went on with my day. My back was stiff and sitting for any length of time wasn’t pleasant. I stretched as best I could and put on BioFreeze.

When I got up Saturday morning, my back felt much better. I had been taking pictures of the February blizzard the day before and went up to the studio to take another picture out the window. I bent over to take the picture and when I tried to stand up, pain shot through my back and brought tears to my eyes. “Quick, sit down and catch your breath,” I told myself.

A warm shower, more gel and Advil provided very temporary relief. I was in tears as I slo-o-owly walked to the kitchen slightly hunched-over and looking like Tim Conway’s old man character from a Carol Burnett skit. This flippin’ hurt and it scared me.

I spent most of that weekend on our couch alternating ice packs and the heating pad. At least the snow was pretty to look at. Lord knows I wasn’t about to go very far.

I began to think about why this intense pain had struck me. I’ve had back pain before. I’m prone to sciatic nerve pain and muscle tension. But this was different. It ran deeper. It literally stopped me in my tracks.

And then it hit me. All the emotional upheaval of the past 10 months- the death of a friend, my Mother’s death, my Mother-in-law passing, another friend’s spouse dying, my brother’s terminal cancer-all of it had culminated in that one moment that Friday morning. The Universe missed kicking me in the ass and hit me square in a weak spot. All the emotion, the lack of self-care, the pushing forward, the grief came to rest in my back.

Son of a gun.

Laying on my back, I slowly came to this realization that I had to stop the pushing. I had to allow myself the time to grieve. I had to learn to receive. A large hole was forming inside-a void that needed to be filled. My spirit was being crushed under all this grief and crying out.

The Word He Uttered Was...

The Word He Uttered Was…

Spiritual Community

You know how some things come to you just when you need them? A few weeks before my back pain started, I noticed an e-newsletter appearing in one of my in-boxes. What made this unusual is that this particular newsletter was previously going directly into a designated folder. So much for email rules.

Abbey of the Arts, the sender of this e-newsletter, was offering a class on a 13th century mystic, a woman named Hildegard of Bingen. Never heard of her.

Yet my desire to fill a void in my spirit and to find a spiritually based community was strong. So, without even knowing why, I registered for the class. It was a blessing in disguise.

Each week, we received daily readings from one of Hildegard’s books, followed by questions to contemplate. I learned about Lectio Divina, how to use physical movement to express myself, and found my voice in chanting. One of the best parts, as a component of Lectio, was expressing myself through creativity, specifically mandala-making.

For the better part of 40 days, I created a drawing, painting, or photograph in response to the words I read. It was magical.

As this art came forth, I rediscovered my love of drawing, of painting with watercolors, and of connecting with my spiritual side to express myself.

What had once been a fallow period was now greening with new life.

Bloomed In Your Branches

Bloomed In Your Branches

What I learned during this time is that my spiritual side-reading inspiring words or passages, taking time to meditate or chant, being in nature, being silent-is something I cannot neglect. It is part of who I am. And it is part of what defines my art.

This is why I withdrew from many aspects of my business and why my blog fell silent. I had to find myself again before I could be present here.

Discovery of my Voice

Discovery of my Voice


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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-The Wind

Can you believe we are now entering the last quarter of the year? Welcome October! In another several weeks we will have completed our mindfulness practices and finished Dr. Bays’ book. Remember how awkward this all felt back in January? Okay, some of it still feels awkward. Know that you are making progress.

Last week, we were asked to become more aware of things we might be overlooking, such as sounds, colors, smells. Those things we typically don’t pay attention to because we are focused on one singular event or task in front of us. How did you do with this practice? Did you notice a bell that chimes almost every morning just before 8am? (There is a private school not too far from our home. A bell rings in the morning and we can hear it if we listen hard enough.)

How about a dog barking in the distance? Or a train whistle? With the cooler weather I’m also becoming more aware of the smell of fires burning in fireplaces. And you?

This Week’s Practice-Become Aware of the Wind

Now you might think this week’s practice is rather obvious. Of course I’m aware of the wind, you say. I feel it blow across my skin when I go on a walk. And you are correct. That is one form of this practice.

But what about the less obvious occurrences of feeling the movement of air? In this week’s practice, we are asked to become aware of the movement air, from the obvious, such as the wind, to the subtle, such as the breath.

There are several ways we experience “wind”-by feeling its touch, by feeling a change in temperature, by seeing it move other things, and by hearing it move through other things.

All of these experiences represent change-change in what we see (leaves moving), change in what we feel (cool skin), change in what we hear (a howling sound.) So you could say when you become aware of the wind or air, you are becoming aware of change.

As with many of these practices, this week we are once again called to pay deeper attention to actions in our daily lives. Instead of moving through life on auto-pilot, this mindfulness practice asks us to be present, to notice, and to embrace change.

This week, we are asked to become aware of wind or movement of air. Notice your breathing and how it changes in various situations. Notice temperature changes and how your skin reacts before you feel air move across your skin. Can you feel the air as it moves around you when you walk? How about when you blow on a hot beverage or sniff?

Want a real challenge? Sit quietly and try to become aware of your breath at the nostrils. Can you feel the subtle change on the skin just above your lips? Are you becoming aware of the subtle changes that make up the fabric of life?

Reflection: All things are embraced. Within the universal mind. Told by the cool wind. This morning. -Yamada Mumon


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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-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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