Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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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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Confronting a Wall

As the month of August came to a close, I found myself feeling overwhelmed by all that lay ahead of me this fall. This sense of overwhelm squashed my desire to write on this blog, hence my couple of weeks of absence.

In late August and into September, the Vuelta a Espana traverses the roads and mountains of Spain. This is the final 3 week race in the professional cycling calendar. While all three grand tours (the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France, and the Vuelta) are grueling events, the Vuelta has to be the hardest. In this race the cyclists will climb mountain roads with gradients of 9%, 11%, and 13%. In some stages, roads have a 22% gradient climb.

You might be able to walk slightly faster on roads that steep than someone on a bike.

Or maybe not.

Hitting a Wall

It was this feeling of overwhelm that hit me a couple weeks ago that reminded me of the riders in the Vuelta. In cycling, it is common to refer to huge, steep mountain climbs as walls.

I realized that I had hit my own wall.

The realization of “hitting the wall” came with both relief and anxiety. It explained why I was feeling this way (the relief.) It also made me confront all the stuff bouncing around in my head (the anxiety.)

Armed with this realization, I decided there was only one thing to do if I hoped to get a grip on the situation. And that was to do a Brain Dump.

The Brain Dump

When I think of doing a Brain Dump, I’m reminded of a scene in Tim Burton’s “A Nightmare Before Christmas.” In this scene, Dr. Finkelstein, the Evil Scientist, throws open his head to scratch his brain and ponder his next move.

Dr. Finkelstein (image from the book "Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas" by Frank Thompson)

Ah, how nice it would be to lift open our skulls, scratch our brains, pick out all those anxious thoughts, and pop everything back together.

Unfortunately, we don’t yet have that ability.

So the next best thing for me to do was to write a list of all the things coming up for the month of September.

Brain Dump

September Brain Dump

Once I wrote it all down, I felt much better. I actually thought “hmm, it isn’t as bad as my sometimes over-active imagination leads me to believe.”

At the top of the list is working in the studio 20-24 hours a week. My intent is to have that time dedicated specifically to making art, though there will be situations where some of those hours will be spent on the business side, such as entering art challenges, photography, e-newsletters, websites, etc. And of course there are other appointments and activities that influence how a week will play out.

Next was listing all those to-dos for the month based on my goals and what I’d already written on my calendar. In trying to get a jump on the upcoming holiday season, I’ve decided to spend 1-2 days on production based artwork. I figure it is better to get this task out of the way first, then I can spend the rest of the time on sculpting heads, making new Spirit Messengers, and learning digital art techniques.

For several items, I have to list out the smaller steps that will help me get to the overall goal. Listing the small steps is something I can easily forget to do. And that makes for more anxiety. It is so easy to say “I have to get X done” and be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of ‘X’ until you list the small steps.

Other items on this Brain Dump are weekly tasks that have become too easy to overlook these last few months as I’ve focused on new areas for my business. Example: updating the books in Quickbooks once a week now will save me time and trouble later on.

I’m also specifying on my daily priority and to-do list how much time I’ll allot for specific tasks, such as replying to or sending emails, working on my website, and writing on this blog.

I admit that this left brain approach is not always easy to implement when you spend more time living with a right brain focus. Perhaps I could be more creative in how I create my list or my daily priority & to-do list (though sometimes I use different color pens!) More important was to just get it all down on paper.


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