Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Word of the Year 2009: Renaissance

Renaissance (noun): A rebirth, revival.  A period of revived intellectual or artistic achievement or enthusiasm.

I’ve chosen the word Renaissance as my word for 2009.  Perhaps it is because I started reading Diane Dreher’s Your Personal Renaissance: 12 Steps to Finding Your True Calling on Christmas.  However, that isn’t completely true.  The word renaissance has been bouncing around in my head for more than a week.

When I hear the word renaissance I think of dedication to one’s chosen vocation or avocation; to approach one’s work with passion.  During the past year I’ve found my interest in some aspects of my art work waning.  Periods of boredom and monotony are nothing new.  It can come with the territory.  Yet the last few weeks of 2008 I felt some sort of urging, a desire creeping up inside of me; a voice telling me, encouraging me to pursue the art that comes from my soul, my spirit.

Stepping out of a comfort zone is never easy.  It can be downright scary.  But stepping out of that comfort zone is something we all must do at one time or another.  Eckhart Tolle (and others) have said if we are comfortable living with and accepting change, then we are truly being and living.  And so with those words in my head I look forward to creating some change in the direction of my art and business.

The following are some renaissance principles as outlined in Diane Dreher’s book:

  • Your daily choices shape your life and inform the world
  • Detach from the noisy world around you to follow the deepest values of your heart
  • You are here to discover your gifts and use them to fulfill your destiny
  • Discernment means following what inspires you and releasing what diminishes you
  • You excel by focusing on your strengths, not dwelling on your weaknesses
  • Small actions over time produce monumental results
  • When you reach out to follow your calling, the universe supports you with a world of possibilities

Along with choosing the word renaissance, I’m also focusing on another word: discipline.  In some ways, to me at least, renaissance and discipline compliment each other.  In 2009 I intend to be better disciplined about my studio time, goal setting, marketing, and networking.

To that end I am starting a Mastermind group with a few local friends, artists and those in other businesses, during which time we’ll share our goals, accomplishments, and road blocks encountered as small business owners.  We’ll offer each other support and brainstorm solutions.

This first day of 2009 is beautiful in MA.  It is sunny and windy, with clear blue skies and a fresh coating of snow on the ground.  I opened and hung my new calendars, which I love to do in January because fresh, new calendars seem to hold so much promise for the coming year.  I feel enthusiastic about the coming year.  Perhaps the wind is blowing a renaissance my way.

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A New Earth-Chapter 10 The Final Webcast

Each person’s life-each life form, in fact-represents a world, a unique way in which the universe expresses itself.

Yes, this has taken a while to post. It sat in draft form for several days and before that in my head for a couple of weeks. This last installment has been one of the harder webcast posts to write. Perhaps because it represents the end of a remarkable series of webcasts. Perhaps because it only marks the beginning of a journey that many of us are traveling.

Throughout these webcasts with Eckhart Tolle and Oprah Winfrey there ran several consistent themes: to live without the ego, to live in awareness of life around us, to become comfortable with change, to realize that the first step to awakening is to reflect on our inner selves, for we are the ones who hold “the key” to our fullest potential.

Eckhart refers to this awakening as a return to consciousness and a move away from form (ego). In our society, this awakening of consciousness typically happens as we approach death or when faced with a tragedy, illness or loss. At times it is only when these issues confront us that we become conscious and experience a spiritual awakening. In our society, we are more focused on the DOING, not BEING. And in our often frenetic DOING, we tend to avoid BEING because we fear a return to our spiritual nature.

This does not mean that DOING doesn’t have its place. It does have its place. And we can honor the DOING aspects of our lives if we are present while DOING them. And when we are present when engaging in the activities in our lives, we step into BEING. (Does this sound circular?)

As we increase our awareness, ego begins to drop away. Unfortunately, it is our collective egos that have contributed to so many problems in our history as human beings. We are intelligent beings. However, as Eckhart states, our intelligence is often very stupid. That is, on the one hand we are very intelligent but on the other hand we are very stupid with our intelligence.

There are three ways in which to bring awareness, or presence, or consciousness into the DOING:

Acceptance: While we may not enjoy what we have to do, we can accept that this is what we have to do. In this sense acceptance means that for now, this is what this situation, this moment, requires us to do and we do it willingly. Performing an action in the state of acceptance means you are at peace doing it.

Enjoyment: Sometimes, when we accept that we have to do something that we don’t enjoy, we may actually find ourselves enjoying it. When we make the present moment, (not the past or the future), the focal point of our lives, our ability to enjoy what we do, and the quality of our life, increases.

Enthusiasm: This is highest level of vibration or energy in increasing awareness. Enthusiasm means there is a deep enjoyment in what we do. This may also include goals or visions that we work toward. However, if we become more focused on arriving at the goal rather than enjoying the process, then we become stressed.

So after reading the book and watching the webcasts, what did I get out of it?

I’ve learned that spirituality can be separate from religion. One does not need to be religious to be spiritual.

I’ve learned that God-like or Goddess-like qualities are found within ourselves. One does not have to look outward to find the goodness within.

I’ve learned that if I can clear my mind of that internal voice, even for a brief period of time, I can better focus on the task at hand. And when that voice pops up, I don’t have to listen to it.

I’ve learned that if I pause and take one deep breath during the day, I can return to stillness and feel centered.

And I’ve learned that this is a process that doesn’t happen over night. I work on it every day. And some days are definitely easier than others.


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Finding Who You Truly Are: A New Earth Webcast Chapter 7

Periodically while reading A New Earth I found myself pausing and asking “what does he mean?”  Usually I would have to read and re-read the particular sentence or passage before the words sunk in.  I found this happening with more frequency when reading the last few chapters of A New Earth.

Eckhart begins with the phrase Gnothi Seauton which means “Know Thyself.”  These words are posted at the entrance of the temple of Apollo at Delphi, site of the sacred Oracle.  History tells us that people would visit the Oracle to learn what destiny had in store for them.  However, before asking what destiny has in store for us, Eckhart reminds us that we must first ask “Who am I?”

As has been discussed in previous chapters, we often identify ourselves by our names, jobs, positions, physical attributes, and so forth.  These are external attributes and roles and attachment to our roles can impede our ability to live in the present moment.  In other words, it is okay to identify ourselves by our roles but we shouldn’t become so attached to the role that when that role ends (e.g. such as leaving a long term job position) we don’t know who we are or what else to do.

According to Eckhart, when you realize who you are NOT, then who you ARE will be revealed.

Hmm, okay; big pause here. 

This realization may occur when something we identified with is gone.  This loss could be through death, disaster, or even loss of social position.  When this happens we have two choices: resist or accept.  When we resist, we fight the present situation; we are reactive and confrontational.  When we accept the situation, we go through the suffering and increase our awareness.  We accept the present moment.

Another way to understand who you truly are is through abundance or acknowledging the good that is already in your life.  Too often we think that WHO we are is how we see ourselves treated by others.  We aren’t respected.  We don’t receive recognition.  We aren’t loved.  Our needs are not being met.  We believe we have nothing to give or that people are withholding what we need.  “Poor me.”  Instead of acknowledging the good already in our lives all we see is lack.  And acknowledging the good in our life is the basis of abundance.

This is where gratitude comes into play.  This was an “a ha” moment for me because “gratitude” was the word I chose for myself this year.  And these words in A New Earth really hit home:

Whatever you think the world is withholding from you,
you are withholding from the world. 
You are withholding it because deep down you think you are small
and that you have nothing to give.

In other words, if you don’t let flow whatever it is that you think the world is withholding, you won’t know that you have it already within you.  Outflow determines Inflow.  Or “what you give, you get.” Tell people you appreciate them.  Praise someone for a job well done.  Say thank you more often.  Smile at a stranger.

When you acknowledge abundance, when you express gratitude, when you see the fullness in life, you send out positive energy, you begin to live in the present moment and in that moment you may find who you truly are.


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Break Free from the Pain-Body: A New Earth Webcast Chapter 6

Of course the natural follow-up to learning about the pain-body is to learn how to rid yourself of the pain-body. 

The first step in breaking free of the pain-body is to realize that you have a pain-body.  The second step is to stay alert and present enough to notice the pain-body in yourself because when the pain-body is recognized, it no longer has power over you.  When you don’t identify with the pain-body, it cannot control you or your thinking.

So how do you recognize the pain-body when it emerges?  Consider your reaction to the situation that has triggered the pain-body.  Is your reaction out of proportion to the triggering event?  (Remember, it isn’t the situation but how you react to it.)

Try to become aware of your reaction as it arises.  Initially, you might realize what you said or did after the fact; an hour later, a day later.  You know that realization when it hits.  The “oh crap, did I say that or do that?”  It can be a major dope-slap moment.

But give yourself credit for recognizing it.  The fact that you recognized it is a start.  Over time, the space between the emotion, the reaction, and your realization that it is happening will decrease.  As your awareness increases, you begin to feel the emotion as it starts and then you can contain the emotion by being present.

Christine Kane had a great recommendation for putting that space between you and the reaction.  Whenever someone says or does something that triggers you, before you respond, pause and say “Hmm” (yes, it may be more of a “harrumph” but at least you’re pausing before reacting.)

It is also important not to supress the pain-body, the negative emotion.  Supressed pain-bodies are more toxic than openly active ones because repressed negativity equals negative energy.  You may pick this up on this energy when you meet certain people.  You may feel it in people you know.

When you feel the pain-body, the emotion, the reaction starting to rise in you, don’t start to think that there is something wrong with you.  Know that the emotion, the reaction, is happening and follow the knowing with acceptance.  By accepting, you allow yourself to feel whatever it is that you are feeling in that moment.  That is part of being present.


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The Pain-Body: A New Earth Webcast Chapter 5

Two Zen monks, Tanzan and Ekido, were walking along a country road that had become extremely muddy after heavy rains.  Near a village, they came upon a young woman who was trying to cross the road but the mud was so deep it would have ruined the silk kimono she was wearing.  Tanzan at once picked her up and carried her to the other side.

The monks walked on in silence.  Five hours passed and as they approached the lodging temple, Ekido couldn’t restrain himself any longer and asked “Why did you carry that girl across the road?  We monks are not supposed to do things like that.”

“I put the girl down hours ago,” Tanzan replied “Are you still carrying her?”

The discussion about the pain-body, the hurt from our past, was probably the most anticipated webcast thus far.  Through our pain-body a voice in our head develops.  The voice in our head has a life of its own and many of us are possessed by that voice.  The voice in our head tells a story that the body believes in and reacts to; those reactions are emotions.  Our emotions, in turn, feed energy back to the thoughts that created the emotion in the first place.  Now we find ourselves caught in a vicious circle between thought and emotion.

Imagine living life like the monk Ekido; someone who was unable to internally let go of situations and who continuously collected “stuff” inside his head.  Think about how many of us live carrying around burdens of the past in our minds.

Eckhart describes the pain-body as an accumulation of old emotional pain which we carry in our energy fields and feed through the voice in our head.  I know that voice pretty well; the one that tells me I’m lazy or unattractive or boring or whatever other little jewels it can come up with.  I’m sure you’ve had a few discussions of your own with the voice in your head.

And how does one deal with the pain-body and the voice in the head?  First, you must become aware of that voice in your head and recognize the negative talk.  Often times that negative voice is due to some trained thought pattern or action that we were exposed to as children such as “People can’t be trusted,” “I am not appreciated,” “I’m not worthy of love,” “You’re overweight and sloppy,” “You’re lazy,” “There is never enought money.” 

As children we are very sensitive to strong negative emotions.  Strong negative emotions that are not faced and accepted and let go of are carried with us into adulthood.  This can include not only childhood pain but also pain experienced in our teen years and into adulthood.  And when we feed into this pain and the negative talk, it may manifest itself outwardly as anxiety, anger, overeating, unhappiness, addictions, and drama.

A great deal of alertness and presence is required to not be drawn into our own drama (that voice again) or into another person’s drama.  To step out of the negative thought pattern, you must recognize it for what it is-an inner voice, your ego, trying to get your attention, trying to drag you into its drama through a trained thought pattern.  When you recognize that voice for what it is, when you come into the present moment through deep breathing or by focusing on another object such as a flower or by listening to external sounds such as birds chirping, you step out of the negative thought pattern.

Things that were said to us in the past, perhaps repetitively, become lodged in our minds.  By bringing presence to these thoughts now, by realizing that these are old thoughts, and nothing more than old thoughts, then these old thoughts no longer have power over us.  Accept the negative emotion (anger, sadness, etc) that comes with the thought, accept it in the present moment, and become aware of it.

Remember too that our parents only acted at their level of consciousness.  They did the best they knew how to do at their level of consciousness.  Blame them if you must; but know that you are the only one who can dislodge the past by raising your own level of consciousness through awareness and presence in the current moment.


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Role Playing: A New Earth Chapter 4 Webcast

The Chapter 4 webcast dove further into the ego with a discussion on role-playing.  When I read the title of this chapter, the first thing that came to mind was acting; that is, pretending to be a character, another person, an image of someone, real or imagined.

When it comes to role playing in relation to the ego, the act of pretending is sometimes very real.  There are roles we actually play and roles we’d like to play and roles we pretend to play.

There are roles and labels that we use to identify ourselves (mother, father, housewife, artist, performer, etc) but when we become completely identified with the role, we become trapped inside the role. 

And what does it mean to be fully identified with that role?  It means that when the role ends, you cannot relinquish the role when it is not required anymore.

I think of the male relatives in my family; men who were so completely identified with their occupations that when retirement came or when some external change happened that ended their job, they didn’t know what to do with themselves.  They began to question themselves and ask “Who am I?”

I think of the job changes in my own life.  My first career was as a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP).  I remember several people in the field who insisted that their “title” was Speech-Language Pathologist not Speech Therapist or Speech Teacher but Speech-Language Pathologist.  You could even tell who was an SLP in certain settings by the way she dressed.  We identified ourselves not only by our job titles but by our clothing as well.

When I left that field, or should I say when external forces created an environment such that many of us lost our jobs, I, too wondered what I would do.  In some ways I was fortunate that I was at a point where I no longer desired a career in healthcare and did not feel that I had to carry-on as a Speech-Language Pathologist.  I was ready for something different.

As a Technical Writer, I felt a little more anonymous.  My role as a tech writer wasn’t identified by what I wore but more by my ability to craft sentences and put together a cohesive statement in order to get a message across.  I enjoyed my role as a writer (and still enjoy writing to this day) but I don’t think I fully identified with the role of technical writer.  I guess that was a good thing because 13 months into that job (and several months past 9/11) my role as technical writer ended.

And now here I am in yet another “role” as an artist.  Oddly enough this is the hardest role to identify with because it is hard to call oneself an artist.  It is a role I am enjoying, however, I sometimes wonder if I will continue this “role” in the future.  I sometimes think “What would I do, what would happen, if I could no longer work as an artist?”  I find this is a fair question to ask, to “test” myself on my attachment to this role.

Another way we identify with our roles is in everyday conversation.  When you first meet someone, it is very common to ask “What do you do?”  And sometimes we then make an unconscious decision as to whether or not what that person does fits into our world; into the little mental compartments that we put people.

Consider also how you speak to and act around people.  Do you speak differently to the housekeeper versus the CEO at your company?  Do you adjust the way you act when you’re around these people?  Observe this in yourself as these “adjustments” may be an indicator of your attachment to a role you play.

Our ego plays roles because it feels that it is not enough (“I am not enough”) and that we are not fully ourselves.  When we don’t play roles, there is no self, no ego in what we do.  When we can release ourselves from a role when it ends, we release ego.  When we give up defining ourselves, we come to life. 

And don’t worry about people who try to define you; they are limiting themselves and its their problem.