Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit

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A Year of Mindfulness-Overlooking Something?

Namaste dear mindfulness friends. How did your practice of noticing dislike turn out? For me it was a time to notice the small triggers, such as grumbling about the morning alarm, the ache in my lower back, or my resistance to exercise (ugh, do I have to do that exercise again?)

Most often, for me, becoming aware of dislike makes me realize that many of my dislikes are pretty insignificant in the bigger picture of life. I try to find the positive in what I’m grumbling about-like realizing that half way through my exercise routine I actually start to feel better. (I’m still working on the positive about the alarm clock.)

This Week’s Practice: Are You Overlooking Something?

This practice dovetails nicely with last week’s practice about dislike. Why? Because often when we’re complaining about something that we don’t like, we end up missing the good stuff. In other words, we fail to notice what else is around us.

As we have learned through many of our mindfulness practices, we tend to have a narrow focus as we move through our day. We only pay attention to what is directly in front of us. The items on our to-do list, whatever is on the TV or computer. Often, we only widen our attention when we are jolted out of our narrow focus by some unusual occurrence, such as a loud bang.

When something unusual occurs, we become alert. We stop what we’re doing and look around or look up. Maybe we get up and move around.

So why don’t we spontaneously stop what we’re doing and enlarge our sphere of listening and seeing? Must we be forced to notice our surroundings by some outside occurrence?

Take a moment to stop reading this blog post. It’s okay. It will still be here when you return.

Turn off the music or TV in the background.

Sit a few minutes in silence.

What do you hear? Are you missing something?

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t focus on the task at hand. Maybe you’re working on a term paper. You’ve got a deadline coming up for a project at work. Certainly we all have situations where we need to intensely focus.

But much like knowing you should turn your eyes away from your computer monitor to give them a break, so should you give your mind a break.  Notice what is around you without any internal dialogue, criticism, or judgement. In Zen practice this is called “not knowing.” A very wise kind of ignorance. Because when we rest in not knowing, many possibilities open up.

Reflection: For a pause that refreshes, at least once a day, stop trying to know and do. Open your awareness and simply sit in “not knowing.” -Jan Chozen Bays


A Year of Mindfulness: Loving Eyes

Last week we ended the first quarter of the year by attempting to take a media fast. No email, Facebook, Twitter, TV, books, newspapers, radio, etc. Were you able to take a complete media fast? How about a reduction in media usage?

This practice was very hard for me. I pretty much failed at it. I tried to reduce my media usage but by the end of the week even that attempt was suffering. This practice is very hard to do at home. It is almost easier to do it when I’m on vacation and the last thing I care about is being fully connected. Curious.

This Week’s Practice: Look at your surroundings with loving eyes

This week’s mindfulness practice is to use loving eyes when you look at things and people. It feels a bit like the companion practice to using a loving touch. Much like using a loving touch, with this practice we are asked to observe what happens when we look at our surroundings with loving eyes. It is easy for us to use loving eyes when looking at a baby, our partner, or a cute animal. Yet how often do you look at a stranger with loving eyes?

Most often, we look at people and objects in our environment with neutral eyes. Or we may look at them critically, or in anger or in a negative way. To look at people and things with loving eyes requires a level of intimacy and that makes us uncomfortable.

We use many different “eyes” to look at the world: personal, impersonal, anger, critical, kind, loving. The “eyes” we use colors our perception of the world and how we see it. Often, the beings we’re looking at are sensitive to the “eyes” we use. This affects our own happiness and the happiness of those being looked at.

Reflection: When our eyes see our hands doing the work of our hearts, a circle of creation is completed inside us. The doors of our soul open and love steps forth to heal everything in sight. -Anne Jones


A Year of Mindfulness: Use Your Non-Dominant Hand

Around Christmas I started reading the book How to Train a Wild Elephant  by Jan Chozen Bays, M.D. This book had crossed my path a few times over the past few months, showing up in email newsletters and catalogs. When I saw it on the shelf at Willow Books, a locally-owned bookstore, I felt like the Universe was telling me to finally buy the book.

The premise of the book is to use mindfulness as a way to reduce stress, improve health, and improve quality of life. Jan Chozen Bays, a physician and Zen teacher, developed a series of practices to help us cultivate mindfulness in our daily lives. These simple practices, one for each week of the year, are presented in this book.

Chozen Bays defines mindfulness as deliberately paying FULL attention (my emphasis) to what is happening around you and within you-in your body, heart, and mind. Mindfulness is awareness without criticism or judgment. She then explains the importance of mindfulness, the benefits of mindfulness and some misunderstandings about mindfulness.

The Benefits of Mindfulness

1. Mindfulness conserves energy by reminding us “not to fritter our mental energy away in trips to the past and future, but to keep returning to this very place, to rest in what is happening in this very time.”

2. Mindfulness trains and strengthens the mind because it helps us “become aware of the mind’s habitual and conditioned patterns of escape and allows us to try an alternative way of being in the world.”

3. Mindfulness is good for the environment. “Mindfulness involves resting our mind in a place where there is no anxiety, no fear….Relaxed, alert awareness is the antidote to anxiety and fear, both our own and others’. It is an ecologically beneficial way to live a human life; it changes the atmosphere for the better.”

4. Mindfulness creates intimacy because “mindfulness is a deceptively simple tool for helping us to be aware. We have to open our senses, becoming deliberately aware of what is going on both inside our body and heart/mind, and also outside in our environment.”

5. Mindfulness stops our struggling and conquers fear because it “helps us stay present with experiences that aren’t pleasant.”

6. Mindfulness supports our spiritual life. The tools of  mindfulness “are an invitation to bring attention to the many small activities of life.”

Week 1: Use Your Non-Dominant Hand

As I work through this book, I will share with you the mindfulness practice for each week on Mondays. Some may be easier than others. Some you may already practice. I invite you to try each practice or those that speak to you. Share your thoughts about the practice if you like.

To start us out, the first practice, as mentioned in the subject of this post, is to use your non-dominant hand each day for some ordinary task. Examples include: brushing your teeth, eating, or writing.

Reflection: To bring possibilities into your life, unfold beginner’s mind in all situations -Jan Chozen Bays