Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Swamped By Sentimental Email Clutter

My name is Amy and I have a problem.

I am a collector of sentimental emails and I am swamped by sentimental email clutter.

And you?

This realization hit me yesterday when I looked at the number of emails in my inboxes (yes, I have multiple inboxes.) As I started to whack away at some of the email clutter and moved some things to one of many folders, I asked myself, “Self, are you REALLY EVER going to go back and look for that email?”

For a moment all I heard were crickets. The silence of guilt.

Then I snapped back, “No, probably not, but I MIGHT listen to that audio recording again.”

Yeah, right.

It seems in our digital age, we moved our clutter from the desk top to the, um, desktop, if you know what I mean. Where we used to collect newspaper articles and shove them into scrapbooks or binders, now we’re right or left clicking and moving electronic stuff into folders.

I’ve set up “rules” for certain emails to direct them into specific folders. Then I rarely go back and check that folder and stuff simply accumulates.

I’ve unsubscribed from some newsletters, only to join others in their place.

Buy something, get put on their mailing list, unless you un-check that request. (Tricky aren’t they. You’re automatically signed up unless YOU tell us otherwise.)

Mark an email as “unread” so you can go back and read it later. Only later turns out to be weeks or months, instead of hours or days, because that email has slipped down the queue.

Go on vacation and the email insanity multiplies exponentially it seems.

Where does the madness end?

Seriously. How do you manage your email clutter?


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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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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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A Year of Mindfulness-Being Present in the Face of Death

It is the women of our families who keep the traditions, preserve the memories, and hold us close.
-Unknown

My last mindfulness blog post was nearly three weeks ago. The topic was This Person Could Die Tonight. At the time I said that this particular practice was resonating with me. It was hitting too close to home as I had three ill people in my immediate family.

Shortly after uploading that post I traveled out of town to be with two of those ill family members. Little did I know that for one family member, it would be my last visit.

On Wednesday, August 15, my Mom, Anne Butler, passed away peacefully after a short illness. It was the most heart-wrenching event I’ve experienced in some time. It was also the most spiritual.

Mom had been sick since the middle of July. Each episode that played out over those early weeks seemed to resolve and then something else would appear.  In the end she developed pneumonia that her body could no longer fight.

During the final days I spent with her I kept reminding myself to be present to the situation. To be mindful in the face of death. I was constantly reminded of my last mindfulness post. How the hell could this be happening?

They say that being present with a loved one during their final days is one of great honor. I honestly couldn’t see the honor when the process began. It was gut wrenching.

You want to respect the wishes of your loved one. You want them to be free of any pain or fear. You don’t want them to struggle. You want to help them make the transition.

You realize that you can only take them so far on this journey. At some point, you understand that your loved one must make this journey on their own. The timing, the decision, is entirely up to them and nature.

We come into this world screaming. We hope to leave this world with peace and dignity. A few days before Mom passed, I remember saying to myself that “it” was getting closer. I could feel the inevitable around the perimeter of her room. Tendrils would touch her and then pull back. It wasn’t time. But it was coming.

Later Mom rested comfortably. Her breathing was less labored. She slept deeply. Her skin was warm to the touch. During a moment when I whispered into her ear, she snored into mine. It made me laugh.

My Mom was a very good swimmer. She taught me how to float and then how to swim. One morning before she passed, I had a vision. Mom and I were in a body of water and we both wore white. This time our roles were reversed. I stood in the water with my arms outstretched. Mom lay in my arms floating on the water. I was helping her to float. No words were said between us. We simply enjoyed the coolness of the water as I gently held her.

Mom passed a few days later at 9:30am in a lovely hospice facility. She did not leave this world alone as family was with her. Each of us took part in assisting her on this final journey.

My heart has been full of sadness. I’ve literally felt it break as the anguish flowed down my arms. Yet I’ve also had a sense of internal peace and calm. I know Mom passed as she wanted. In peace and with dignity.

Mom and I (1994)

Mom (2009)

Shrine for Mom (2012)


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A Year of Mindfulness: This Person Could Die Tonight

Sniff, sniff…how did you do with last week’s practice to become aware of smells? I loved that you shared some of your favorite scents and the memories attached to them. If you continue this practice throughout the year, notice how smells change during the year. I’m thinking of wood burning in the fireplace in the winter or the scent of apple cider in the fall. Or one of my favorites, the smell of spring.

This Week’s Practice: This Person Could Die Tonight

I remember earlier in the year when I flipped through How to Train a Wild Elephant and saw the title of this week’s practice. It gave me the creeps. I knew this practice would cross my (our) path at some point. And now here it is. The appearance of this practice comes at a moment in my life when I am dealing with three ill family members. In all three cases we know that the inevitable will happen, someday. In all three cases the thought that it might happen sooner than later has also crossed my mind.

So why would we need to become mindful that any person in our life could die tonight? Certainly it causes us to consider our own mortality. Something we might tend to do anyways as we get older. Having spent several years working as a Speech-Language Pathologist in nursing homes & rehab settings, I had to accept death and my own mortality early-on. The first time you have a patient die, you tend to reexamine life.

What happens if you consider that the person you’re talking with on the phone could die tonight? Does your heart open a little more? Do you pay more attention to what they’re saying? We’re all a bit guilty of talking to people but not really listening to them.

When speaking face to face with someone, how often do you look past them or look down at something else? If you knew that person were to die tonight, would you be more inclined to look directly at them when speaking?

This week’s practice, as depressing as it sounds, helps us break through our own denial that human life is fragile and that death could come at any moment. This isn’t about filling your head with anxious thoughts about mortality. It is about improving your awareness of impermanence and cherishing the people you encounter every day.

This week, instead of talking “to” someone, bring presence to the encounter. Realize that you, too, could die tonight. Be more present and more alive in your life.

Reflection: The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time. -Mark Twain


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A Wednesday Full of Woody

My deepest heartfelt thanks to everyone who left a comment on my post Preparing to say Goodbye. I appreciate your kinds words and compassion. My friend passed away peacefully on Friday. It was an honor to know her and to have been a participant in her life.

Mr. Woody is recovering and is progressing in the right direction. A change in antibiotics for an underlying infection seems to be working, along with sub-q fluids to keep him hydrated. He must be feeling a bit better because he has carried his toy mouse from one floor to the other and back again.

And I’m back working in the studio making art and working on the business side of my art. A return to some form of normalcy.

I hope to get back to some regular schedule of blogging in the near future as well. Until then, enjoy these pictures of Woody taken over the past few weeks. (Click on a picture to enlarge and to scroll through each image.)

What can I say. The cats are my kids. Spoiled and they know it :-)


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Preparing to Say Goodbye

The spirit of death weighs heavy on me this week. A friend who has been battling cancer for nearly 3 years has entered hospice in preparation for her final days. At home our dear, sweet oldest cat also appears to be preparing us for his last days. I am heartbroken. We knew these times would come. Someday. Yet all the mental preparation in the world really doesn’t prepare you.

Run

I want to run. I want to run hard, fast, and away from the pain that grips my heart. I feel it ache and tears well-up in my eyes. I want to scream and push the pain aside. I want to tell death to F.O.  And then I find a moment of calm. My heart relaxes and relief washes over me. I don’t like this roller coaster. I want to busy myself with something else. I cannot. I must embrace my fear.

Time is Precious

I look back on the days when I would visit my friend. A group was formed after she returned home from surgery. We would take turns visiting, providing food, conversation, helping around the house. Whatever we could do to be of service. It was a bit hard at first. What will I say? What will we talk about? There were good days and not so good days. Months of good health in spite of the situation. Laughter, jokes, walks, and ice cream. Sharing of art. Sharing of spirituality. On the days when I really didn’t feel like going, I was glad I did.

At home, I find myself missing Woody cat, even though he is just one floor below me curled up on our bed. He has fought kidney and thyroid disease for more than a year, but less than two. So many blood tests & pills to give. Through it all he has been our Zen kitty. So tolerant. So accepting. I wonder how I would’ve put up with all he’s gone through. Changes in his health were mostly gradual. And then one day you notice something isn’t right. This latest change happened over last weekend. It is the one I’ve dreaded.

Preparing

How does one prepare to say goodbye? I honestly do not know. This isn’t like “goodbye, I’ll see you later.” This is the final goodbye. I know you won’t be coming back. You tell yourself you’ll be alright. That this is the circle of life. Then you tell yourself that is a bunch of BS. The pain grows stronger inside. The grief. It swells and then I burst.

I’ve spent most days this week in silence. No music. Some TV. Meals are quiet with some conversation. A pall hangs over us. This has been a pretty sucky week. Sometimes it hurts to be a heart-centered person. I know my heart center is large and it absorbs much of the pain and sorrow around me. That is why my heart breaks so easily. I feel it down into my hands and all around my chest.

I wake each morning and thank the Universe for another day. I thank the Universe for bringing my friend and my pet through the night. I spend time thinking of good memories and the joy these two beings brought into my life.

I don’t know if I’m truly prepared for what comes next. I only hope that when it comes, I can let it wash over me. Welcome it. Then let it go.

Woody

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