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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15 Minutes With A Tea Mug: A Photo Essay

I recently started reading Christine Valters Paintner’s new book, Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice. Photography has been one of my pastimes for many years. What drew me to this book was two-fold: Christine’s photography and my desire to learn again how to “see” images and not just “look” for images.

The online class that accompanies Christine’s book started this week. You might be able to still sign up for the class here.

I am working through the book at my own pace. The first assignment is a wonderful lesson in seeing a rather mundane object as something fresh and new. For me, this meant seeing my tea mug, which I use almost every day, in a new way. I set the timer for 15 minutes and received over 40 images in this short amount of time. Here are some of my favorites. (NOTE: Click on the first image in each set and you can see each picture in a slideshow.)

Tea Mug in the Kitchen

Tea Mug in the Dining Room

Tea Mug in the Family Room

Tea Mug on the Deck

Tea Mug on the Grass

Tea Mug on the Rocks

What is fun about this task is that once you open your eyes and heart to the object, you truly start to see it in a new light.

What every day, mundane object in your life could you look at in a new light?


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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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