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: 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-Appreciation

Namaste dear mindfulness readers…and all readers, of course.

Last week we started again with our mindfulness practice. We restarted with listening-listening like a sponge. That is, being completely present for the person speaking. Leaving distraction behind-not reading email while someone talked, not texting, not watching TV, and most challenging, not letting our mind wander while someone talked to us.

How did you do with this practice?

I think this is a very important practice and a very challenging one. We have become so used to doing more than one thing at a time that it is very difficult to set all things aside except for one task-to listen completely.

This Week’s Practice: Appreciation

This week’s practice is another favorite. This week we are asked to stop what we are doing during the day and take time to appreciate one thing in that moment. It could be something about yourself, another person, the environment, etc. The task is to consciously identify something, anything, that we appreciate in that moment.

This exercise is different from writing affirmations and reciting them. Affirmations are a good start to creating a more positive outlook. But, personally, I still find them to be a bit, um, unbelievable. They can feel “hokey” to me. And believe me, I’ve been working with affirmations for several years. I “get” what they’re supposed to do. I’m just not sure how much I believe in what I write as an affirmation.

With appreciation, or gratitude, if you prefer, you are investigating. We stop for a few moments and have to look, listen, and feel. What is cause for appreciation in this moment. (As I sit here, I’m really appreciating my repaired laptop that is now working much better than it did a few days ago.)

It is easy to appreciate positive experiences, such as having food in our belly. But what about when someone we dislike or are jealous of is given something that we want for ourselves, such as an award or public acclaim? Can we feel joy in their joy? This is not so easy. I personally continue to work hard on appreciating another person’s success or recognition.

This week, stop what you are doing for a few minutes and take time to appreciate. Take time to be grateful for one thing during that moment.

Reflection: We have no right to ask when a sorrow comes, ‘Why did this happen to me?’ unless we ask the same question for every joy that comes our way. -Unknown

We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have. -Fredrick Keonig


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A Year of Mindfulness-The Earth Beneath You

Hello fellow mindfulness practitioners. How did you do last week in becoming aware of hot and cold temperatures? Here in the northeast we are beginning to experience the shift from summer to fall-cool mornings and evenings. It is refreshing and also a bit sad. I think the sadness comes from my inner child. She senses the end of summer which means the end of lazy days and lots of sunshine.

On the other hand, I embrace the fall for its glorious colors, wearing warm sweaters, and the physical and spiritual acts of turning inward. Fall reminds me of a warm, loving embrace.

This Week’s Practice: The Great Earth Beneath You

This week, we are asked to become aware of the great earth, Mother Earth, below our feet. We are reminded to become aware of the earth not only through touch via the bottom of our feet, but also through sight and smell.

In How to Train a Wild Elephant, Dr. Bays shares a wonderful practice that she used at the monastery to honor the earth: Each morning, after you get out of bed, immediately kneel and touch your forehead to the ground.

In this act of kneeling and touching the ground with our forehead, we express our humility and gratitude to Mother Earth.

Think about it. We walk, drive, and run across the surface of the earth without even thinking about the ground beneath us. Yet what if we suddenly lost touch with earth? What if gravity stopped and we were no longer “attached” to the earth?

The earth grounds us, literally. Yet when we live “in our heads” and are distracted, we are easily pushed off balance. Grounding ourselves to the earth can be deeply comforting. It helps to keep us rooted, feel more solid and less swayed by thoughts, emotions, or unexpected events.

This week, become aware of the earth beneath you. Practice grounding yourself to the earth. Extend your attention from the bottoms of your feet down through the earth and to its core.

Reflection: Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find resources of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. -Rachel Carson


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A Year of Mindfulness: Saying Yes

As we continue our journey in mindfulness, we were asked last week to let our hands rest. This practice resounded with several of you, especially those of you who use your hands every day as part of your job. As I write this, my right wrist is starting to ache. A good sign that I need to take a break and give my hands a rest. Because we use our hands frequently during the day, it is easy to forget and neglect them. So be mindful of your hands. Be kind to your hands and let them rest.

This Week’s Practice: Saying Yes

Hmm, I’m already finding this practice a challenge. This week we are asked to say yes to everyone and everything that happens. The purpose behind this practice is to recognize if the impulse to disagree is really necessary. Is it possible to simply nod or be silent and pleasant?

How often do you take a stance that is negative or oppositional? When someone is speaking, are you aware of your thoughts forming defenses and counterarguments? Can you resist the desire to disagree if the issue is not critical? How often do you automatically think “Oh no” during  a typical day?

When you are asked a question or are having a conversation with someone, become aware of your body language (tensing muscles, crossed arms), thoughts (“I don’t agree with….”), speech (“That’s a stupid idea”), or actions (rolling the eyes.) These may all be automatic, negative responses or reactions. Can you turn these around into positive reactions? Or perhaps no reaction (ie: the “silent and pleasant” comment above.)

As Dr. Bays states: “Not expressing opposition helps us to let go of self-centered views and see that our personal opinion is actually not so important after all. Saying yes can be energizing, since habitual resistance is a persistent drain on our life energy.”

So this week, try saying yes (if the situation is not dangerous to you or others), or nod pleasantly, or be silent, pleasant and neutral. Make note of what happens.

Reflection: If men would consider not so much wherein they differ, as wherein they agree, there would be far less of uncharitableness and angry feeling.- Joseph Addison


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A Year of Mindfulness: Notice The Trees

As we ended the month of April, we were asked to be mindful of entering new spaces. The focus of this practice was to increase our awareness of leaving one space and entering another; something that we rarely pay attention to as we tend to move quickly from one space to another.

How did you do with this practice? I failed. Dr. Bays said it was one of the hardest mindfulness practices and it is indeed. I rarely found myself pausing while leaving one room and entering another. Dr. Bays comments in her book that one reason this practice is so hard is that as we leave one room, our mind moves ahead toward the future, moving into the next room and what we will do in that new room. It happens so quickly that we aren’t even aware of it.

This Week’s Mindfulness Practice: Notice the Trees

Doesn’t this sound like a wonderful practice? This week we are asked to notice trees; their shape, their texture, height and foliage. Don’t analyze the trees. Appreciate the trees. If you don’t have trees where you live, notice the grass, the cacti, or the bushes.

What is the point of this practice? To become aware of our interconnectedness with trees, nature, and the environment. Trees are part of life. They provide shade, shelter, and filter air. You might even have a favorite tree to sit under, to climb, or perhaps it holds a swing.

I remember how much it hurt to see the tree damage that occurred from the early snow storm last October. The broken, snapped and twisted branches. And yet, this spring, many of those same trees sprouted new leaves and flowered as if nothing had ever happened. Now that’s resilience.

So this week, notice the trees when you look out your window, when you walk or drive.

Reflection:  There is always music amongst the trees in the garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. -Minnie Aumonier

I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues. -Dr Seuss (The Lorax)


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A Year of Mindfulness: Practice Mindfulness When Waiting

Here we are half way through the month of March. Spring is definitely in the air. Last week we were asked to practice loving touch as part of our year of mindfulness. Doesn’t spring time seem like a perfect time to practice loving touch? New growth is pushing its gentle tendrils through the ground and tender buds are ready to burst forth on branches.

Think about how you approach these tender new shoots when you see them. Perhaps you gently cup them in your hands or tenderly touch them with your fingertips. Definitely an act of loving touch.

Were you able to use loving touch throughout your week? I must admit that I did not do very well with this practice. Other than using loving touch in the most common ways, I was not very present when it came to other situations, like putting away the dishes. Once in a while I caught myself. But more often than not presence was not with me last week. That’s okay, however. Mindfulness comes in steps.

This Week’s Practice: When Waiting, Practice Mindfulness

Okay, this could be another tough one. The basic premise of this week’s practice is to take those moments when you are waiting and use them for deep breathing, meditation, prayer, or some other act of mindfulness.  So, instead of occupying your time with a distraction, such as texting, checking email, or getting annoyed, take this time to practice mindfulness.

This practice, like many of those we’ve already discussed, require that we return to the present moment. Waiting is one of those activities that makes many of us uncomfortable. We don’t like to wait. We don’t like to find ourselves in a situation where we could be “more productive.” Waiting implies stillness, slowing, or not moving.  In our hurry-up and rush, rush society, waiting is considered a burden. When we are asked or “forced” to wait, we don’t know what to do with ourselves.

With this practice, the phrase “hurry up and wait” may take on new meaning.

ReflectionThere is no great achievement that is not the result of patient working and waiting. - J.G. Holland

(And I couldn’t resist this one for the giggle: I took a course in speed waiting. Now I can wait an hour in only 10 minutes. -Steven Wright)


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Monday Reflection: Growth is a Lifelong Process

There’s a concept often held
by people in the personal growth movement
that it’s all pretty simple-
all you have to do is change your thoughts,
use a certain technique,
and things should clear up.
People really believe that if they just were able to
follow this particular path
or do this method,
everything should work.
Then, when that turns out not to be the case,
they blame themselves.

That belief is simply extremely naive.

We are going through an amazing transformational process.
We are delving down through countless layers.
We’re transforming the ways people have lived
and behaved for centuries.
We can’t simply say a few affirmations
or do a simple technique
and have it all be done.
Growth is a lifelong process.

-Shakti Gawain
Awakening: A Daily Guide to Conscious Living


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Monday Reflection: Compassion, Sorrow, and Kindness

Compassion is the heart’s response to sorrow.
We share in the beauty of life and in the ocean of tears.
The sorrow of life is part of each of our hearts
and part of what connects us with each other.
It brings with it tenderness, mercy,
and an all-embracing kindness that can touch every being.

-Jack Kornfield

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