Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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A Year of Mindfulness-Listen Like a Sponge

Namaste dear readers. I apologize for not being present these past few weeks. After my last post on 10/5/12, I dove head first into intensive art show preparations. When I am in that mode my commitment to blogging often falls to the side. That is what happened here. My mindfulness practice was focusing on creating art. And, quite frankly, I am not very skilled at multi-tasking any more. When I direct most of my energy to a specific project, it stays there.

So, let’s begin again and pick up where I left off. Our last mindfulness practice focused on the wind. This week we are asked to practice listening.

This Week’s Practice: Listen Like A Sponge

Oh I do enjoy this practice, especially when our lives can be dominated by technology, especially mobile phones & iPads.

With this practice, we are asked to listen to other people as if we are sponges, soaking up whatever the other person has to say. This means to not just give someone your full attention when they speak. It also means that you not form any responses in your mind until a response is requested or needed.

Uh oh, that means keeping your mind quiet when someone is talking to you. Something that does not come naturally to most of us.

Seriously, how often does your mind wander when someone else is talking to you? Be honest. You might be thinking about the speaker’s hair cut, the clothes they’re wearing, or how you wish they’d speak faster because you need to get home.

And with mobile phones and iPads, how often do you find yourself twiddling around with either device when someone is talking to you? Are you really giving them your full attention if you’re also reading your email?

Listening like a sponge is also known as “absorptive listening.” You have to make the mind and body still.

It is quite normal for most of us to “check out” when someone else is talking. Observe yourself when someone talks to you. How many times does your mind drift? Make a mental note of it. Then try to catch yourself when your mind drifts and bring your thoughts back to the speaker. You can be aware of your own thoughts but try not to be disturbed by them and let them take over.

Consider as well how you feel when someone is listening to you like a sponge. How does it feel to be witnessed by someone else?

This week, listen when someone is talking to you. Truly listen. Absorb their words like a sponge. Give them your undivided attention.

Reflection: We shall practice listening so attentively that we are able to hear what the other is saying-and also what is left unsaid. We know that by listening deeply we already alleviate a great deal of pain and suffering in others. –Buddhist recitation for invoking compassion

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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: 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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Solopreneur Wednesday: You Gotta Spend Money to Make Money and Fighting Limiting Beliefs

Do you have limiting beliefs about money?

You know what I did with mine today? I ripped them up , set them on fire, and then drowned them.

Fighting Limiting Beliefs About Money

Last week I revisited the moola making chapter in Jennifer Lee’s book, The Right Brain Business Plan. Though we’re already half way through the year, it’s never a bad time to reassess money making opportunities in your business. Of course, if you’re reassessing where you’re making money, you must give equal time to where you’re spending money.

Ick.

Money is, for many solopreneurs, a double-edged sword. You have to spend money to make money. But sometimes it is hard to spend that money if you don’t know when you’ll make back the money that you just spent.

This was the limiting belief that hit me square in the head last week. It has been following me around for quite a while too.

Limiting beliefs. Quirky little buggers. Especially when it comes to money.

Where do these beliefs come from? Some of them most likely form when we’re kids. We pick up on these beliefs from our parents or other adults in our little kid life. We observe how our parents handle money-both the saving and the spending aspects. We take a little from that time period, form our own ideas as we get older, have a good experience or a bad experience and then the whole mess gets mixed up in a great big cauldron called our mind.

Groovy.

Until it starts to bubble and froth and spews forth at any time while trying to run our small business.

Make a List. Check it Twice. Then chuck it.

I’ve been in business for several years. And my beliefs about money aren’t nearly as overbearing as they were at one time. But there are still some that rest in those dark recesses. And when it comes to looking hard at “the numbers,” guess who pops up?

Right.

Before being able to move forward with setting new money making goals, you need to understand what is holding you back. You may not know why, but at least giving those limiting beliefs a name can help.

Set aside some time to do this task. Get a pad of paper and a pen. I like to put on some instrumental music. But maybe you’d prefer something a bit more head-bangy metallic? Take a few deep breaths. Ask yourself what your limiting beliefs are about money. Ask yourself why the thought of spending money in your business gives you the heebie-jeebies. Ask why the thought of accepting money for your product or service makes you feel light-headed.

And then let ‘er rip. Write it all down. Don’t worry about good grammar or spelling. Just go with the flow. Keep writing until those negative thoughts stop or slow down to a trickle.

(If the thought of writing this down causes your brain to freeze or you draw a complete blank when you look at your sheet of paper, try doodling or making little symbols on the paper. Perhaps single words will start to trickle out and then an avalanche of words and phrases. There is no “right” or “wrong” here. I believe the act of writing can be cathartic. Something about getting your hand moving across the page. But if you prefer to type this out on your computer, that is okay too. Do what works best for you.)

When you’re done with your list, look it over. Read it. Then set it aside.

The Turn Around

Now you don’t want those limiting beliefs to sit there and stare at you. No way. Now you need to turn them around.

Yes, this can be a little tricky because you want to make a negative into a positive. (Don’t worry, no funny math or physics formulas required.) Take another deep breath, look those limiting beliefs in their beady little eyes and flip the words into a positive affirmation.

I mentioned that one of my limiting beliefs is “I’m afraid to spend money because I don’t know when I’ll make back the money that I just spent.”

My turn around for this: “I make more money than I can spend.”

Now, on a clean piece of paper, write down a positive statement for every negative, limiting belief you wrote on that other piece of paper. When you’ve written all your positive affirmations, set that piece of paper aside.

And that sheet of paper with the limiting beliefs? Get rid of it! Shred it, burn it, flush it down the toilet, or put it in the compost bin. Make a fun ritual out of it. Just don’t keep it around for long because you don’t want the negative energy from those limiting beliefs to sit and fester.

A Brand New Day

After you get rid of that negative, limiting belief sheet of paper, make sure you keep your positive affirmations in a spot where you can read them every day. Maybe you read them two or three times a day. Whatever works.

How do you feel?

Will this bring money flowing through your door immediately? Probably not. However, I do believe that great things happen unexpectedly. Putting that positive energy out into the Universe can be a good thing.

You still need to do your work, make your connections, sell your product or service.

But understanding your limiting beliefs and how to turn them around can make this solopreneur gig a lot easier.

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Leave a comment below and share how you confront limiting beliefs.


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Soloprenuer Wednesday: Business Values

So you’re working along at your little business, maybe it’s just a hobby, maybe it’s just a great idea. And someone asks you “why are you doing that?” Or perhaps they say “You want to do what?” (And why is the emphasis always on the last word?)

Have you asked yourself why you’re doing this little business you’ve started?

Dreams and Visions

In my last Soloprenuer Wednesday post, An Introduction, I ended with it by saying I had no idea what I was doing when I sold my jewelry to my first customer. I was stunned that someone wanted to buy my jewelry when I hadn’t planned to sell anything. Guess I was just in the right place at the right time.

So I made up a price on the spot (or shortly thereafter when I brought more pieces for her to look at.) I certainly didn’t know much about how to correctly price a product back then. But I’ll save the pricing discussion for a future post.

After selling a few pieces of jewelry to this person, she asked me if I could make something for a friend. Sure, why not. I can do that. Toss out another price. Isn’t this cool, my ego tells me, you’ve got your first customer who thinks your work is great and you’ll do anything to keep selling stuff to her.

Sure, great, but where is this taking me? Did I really enjoy making all this jewelry?

And what do I do now with all these extra pieces when my first customer tells me that she’s being laid-off and can’t buy my work any more?

My ego was very disappointed.

Having an idea of what I wanted to do with my art might have prepared me a bit better.

Visions and Values

It’s possible that had I mapped out a plan before landing my first customer, it would’ve been quite some time before I sold a piece of anything. It’s possible that if I waited for perfection, I might never sell anything. I’m not saying that what happened in my case is the wrong way to do it. Serendipity has a way of presenting itself whether we’re ready or not. I am suggesting that having an idea or vision about why you want to sell your art (or whatever your product is) can make life a little easier.

How do you do that?

One way to understand why you are jumping into this little business of you’ve started is to think about values-values that are important to you and in a business. This can include any number of things from loyalty to honesty, community to connection, good customer service, hard work to happiness. Look at companies you admire. What values do they promote?

Think about times in your life when you felt fully alive. Who were you being in those moments? What was going on around you? How can you bring those elements into your business?

Make a list of all those values. Are there any themes you notice?

Knowing your core values helps you make better business decisions because those values are honored in the decision making process.

Lessons Learned

Reflecting back on those early days, I think my only value then was to make as much money as possible. However the luster of making money wore off at some point.

Why?

Because I eventually learned that if my values were not reflected in my work, then my work lacked meaning. I got tired of making functional art items. I didn’t enjoy making.

I realized that there was more to running a business than just making money.

It would’ve taken quite a bit for me back then to say “I’m sorry, I’m not selling my art at this time” or to turn down a commission piece. Now I know better because I make those decisions in conjunction with my values.

What values are important to you in running your small business?


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A Year of Mindfulness-Desire

Can you believe we’re half-way through the year and almost half-way through our mindfulness practices? To be honest I don’t think I would’ve realized we’d come this far had I not looked at the calendar and then at the chapter number in Dr. Bay’s book, How to Train a Wild Elephant. Give yourself a pat on the back. You’re doing great!

How did your practice go last week? Were you mindful during at least one meal or snack to take one bite at a time? How did it feel to eat slowly and mindfully? I know it’s a hard habit to break, especially if you’re doing something else while eating…like watching TV (ahem, me) or reading or talking to friends.

Sometimes practicing mindfulness reminds me of having two characters (little Buddhas?) sitting on either shoulder. One will remind me to engage in my practice. The other will tell me to just keep doing what I’m doing. Usually the tiny mindfulness Buddha wins.

This Week’s Practice: Become Aware of Endless Desire

This week’s practice is to become mindful of the arising of desire. Now, now, this isn’t what you think. Yes, I thought it too when I first read the title. Desire = sex, love, food, pleasure. Certainly that form of desire is part of what we’re aware of. But this practice is about more than shall we say carnal desire. Consider this example:

Your alarm goes off in the morning. What might be the first thing you wish you could do? You might wish or desire more time to sleep.

You walk into your kitchen. What do you do you desire, tea or coffee or a cinnamon bun?

Get it?

Now, there is nothing wrong with desire. Desire keeps us alive. If you didn’t desire food or drink, you’d starve and die. Yet where desire can get the better of us is when we cling to its pleasure. So, if you desire ice cream and you eat the ice cream and then tell yourself it was so good you deserve another serving, then desire starts to control you and direct your behavior.

Becoming aware of desire helps us to make conscious decisions about whether following that desire is wholesome or not. Desire can be pleasurable. Satisfying your desire can also be disappointing. It is the disappointment that causes us to always look for the next great thing. You see what kind of circle we get ourselves into. It is this restlessness that causes suffering and dissatisfaction.

This week, become aware of desire. Observe your response to desire. Does it control you? Can you simply let it go?

Reflection: Manifest plainness, Embrace simplicity, Reduce selfishness, Have few desires. –Lao-tzu


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A Year of Mindfulness-One Bite at a Time

How did you do last week observing and becoming mindful of the empty space around objects? Even though I’m artist I found this practice to be rather challenging. My week was busy and I didn’t slow down very often. So this afternoon when I took my walk, I observed the space around the trees and tree branches. The sky did seem more vibrant and the blue more intense. In fact, I think this may qualify as practicing three of our mindfulness tasks-seeing blue, observing trees, and observing empty space.

This Week’s Practice: One Bite at a Time

This week’s practice, to take one bite at a time, reminds me of being told as a child to “chew each bite of your food 37 times” (or whatever that number was-30 something.) Being told that as kids we were lead to believe that chewing a bite of food for 30 some odd times would improve our digestion. All it really did was destroy the taste of the food and make me impatient.

Taking one bite at a time, however, is more practical. In this practice we are asked to take a bite of food or a sip of liquid and then to put down our utensil or cup. Why? Well, how many of you practice eating by the shovelful? You know, take a bite, chew a little, take another bite before finishing the first bite and so on and so forth. Our go-go-go time pressured society doesn’t always encourage us to enjoy our food.

But isn’t that the point of having a nice meal? To eat slowly. To savor. When we eat slowly, we feel full sooner. When we feel full sooner, the better we become about the amount of food we eat.

The other aspect of this practice is becoming aware of impatience. Eating quickly may be considered an example of impatience. If eating quickly is a frequent occurrence, in what other aspects of your life are you impatient? And if you’re impatient in many areas of your life, do you need to ask yourself why you’re in such a rush to get through life?

When the mind is absent, thinking about the past or the future, we only half-taste our food. When our awareness rests in our mouth, we are fully present as we eat.

Reflection: There can be no party in the mouth if the mind is not invited to attend. -Dr Jan Chozen Bays