Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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A Year of Mindfulness: Study Suffering

The Half-Way Point and a Give-Away

Here we are at mindfulness practice #26. We are officially at the half-way mark in our year of mindfulness. Pat yourself on the back for sticking with it this far. In honor of your perseverance, I’m going to have a small give-away.

Sweet.

Leave a comment about today’s post, share your favorite mindfulness practice or an a-ha moment, and you will be entered into a drawing to win one of my Love Soulful Sprites. One winner will be chosen from all comments received. Comments must be posted by midnight EST on Monday, July 2, 2012.

Love Soulful Sprite

A Review

Here are links to some of the most popular posts on mindfulness practices we’ve discussed since January.

Using your non-dominant hand

Leave no trace

Eliminate filler words

Become aware of your posture

Listen

Pause before answering the phone

Waiting

Loving Eyes

Entering new spaces

Rest your hands

Saying Yes

Last Week’s Practice: Endless Desire

How did you do last week increasing your awareness of endless desire? I became quite aware of my desire to eat sweets last week. Chocolate, cookies, ice cream. The desire for these sweets felt like a bad habit. It was like I didn’t even think about it, I just wanted it.

Then I started asking myself why I wanted to pop that cookie in my mouth. And I couldn’t come up with a very good answer. But I hope that just becoming aware will help me tame that desire for sweets.

What desires popped up for you?

This Week’s Practice: Study Suffering

I grimaced when I saw the title of this week’s mindfulness practice. Suffering. Why would I want to study suffering? Isn’t this mindfulness stuff about feeling happy?

In this week’s practice, we are asked to become aware of the phenomenon of suffering. Not just the extreme forms of suffering-death, abuse, war, but the spectrum of suffering, from mild irritation and impatience to rage and overwhelming grief. We are asked to become aware of how we detect suffering in ourselves and in others. Where is it most obvious?

Dr. Bays points out that there is a difference between pain and suffering. Pain is the physical sensation or discomfort. Suffering is the mental and emotional distress that is added to the physical sensations.

By becoming aware of suffering, the mental and emotional distress, we can restrain the mind from running amok, speculating, disaster-mongering, and blaming someone else for our misery. When we stop resisting pain, we slowly begin to stop adding mental and emotional distress to physical discomfort.

As we become aware of the many forms of suffering, we also become aware of its opposite, the simple sources of happiness.

Reflection:
May I feel safe, may I feel content, may I feel strong, may I live with ease.
May you feel safe, may you be content, may you live with ease, may you be strong
.
May we feel safe, may we be content, may we be strong, may we live with ease.

-Lovingkindness (Metta) meditation

Remember the Give-away

Remember to leave a comment in the comment box below and you’ll be entered to win one of my Love Soulful Sprites. All comments must be posted by midnight (EST), Monday, July 2, 2012. One winner will be chosen from all comments received.

Love Soulful Sprite

Love Soulful Sprite on meditation altar

 

NOTE: The Soulful Sprite give-away has ended.


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The MRI

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my chronic issues with sciatic pain. Late last week I had my annual physical and mentioned my concerns to my doctor.

After a series of questions, which left me feeling like I should’ve said “Look, I have cramping/muscle tightness in my right and left glute, cramping in the back of my right calf, muscle tightness in the back of my left thigh, numbness and/or tingling in the bottom of my right and left foot and it might happen every day, a few times a week, or some combination thereof. Spin the wheel and let’s see what combination happens today!” my doctor recommended I have an MRI of the lumbar region.

Oh, oh. I was hoping for a simple x-ray first. He explained that the best way to view the spine was with an MRI.

So I left his office with referrals in hand for an MRI for bilateral sciatic pain and for physical therapy.

The MRI took place this past Saturday.

At first I wasn’t very nervous about the procedure. Then I started to feel a little anxious after talking to people about their experiences. I wondered if I could go through with it.

I tried to picture myself in the MRI. I started calling it the “hot dog bun.”

I woke up on Saturday morning at 5am in a slight panic. My head was telling me I couldn’t do this. That I was “gonna freak out” in the tube. Great! I rolled over onto my back and laid flat for 20 minutes repeating the mantra “I am calm. I am relaxed.” Sometimes, on the inhale I’d silently say “calm” and then say “relax” on the exhale.  Eventually I fell back to sleep.  I also proved to myself that I could lay flat for 20 minutes. (I knew I’d be in the MRI for 20-30 minutes.)

The alarm went off at 8am. I had to be at the hospital at 10:30am. I kept repeating my mantra silently in my head throughout the morning and while driving to the hospital.

When I walked into the MRI, I was promptly greeted with “Hi Amy, they’re ready for you.”

Oh yippee, skippy. No time to sit and wait. No time to get nervous.

Actually, this is a good thing.

I’m shown to the changing room (johnnies, pants and you can keep your socks on) HospitalJohnny

and then told to wait in chair just outside the MRI chamber. I can hear the dull thud of magnets in the distance. Thud, thud, thud.

The MRI tech comes out, escorts me into the suite and asks me a few more questions. I lay down on the table and stare at the huge skylight. I’m given a set of earplugs and headphones. I opt to listen to classical music. I tilt my head backwards and see the MRI tube behind me. Small gulp. The tech puts a pillow under my knees, gives me a little rubber ball to squeeze if I need help, asks me if I’m okay, and rolls me into the hot dog bun.

I keep my eyes open briefly as I pass under the beginning of the tube. Then I shut my eyes tight and start my mantra. I’m supposed to be in the MRI for 30 minutes. Oh yes, you have to stay very, very still.

During the course of testing I think about our trip to Nova Scotia…there is a cool breeze blowing over my head. Where is that coming from? I repeat my mantra. I start thinking odd things and actually start relaxing. I am tempted to open my eyes to see what the inside of this tube really looks and feels like. I decide that probably isn’t the best thing to do.

Periodically the tech checks in via a speaker to ask how I’m doing and to tell me how much longer I’ll be in the tube. At one point there is complete silence as he prepares to take pictures from some other angle. I start to doze and then the bang, bang, bang starts again. I feel my body jolt. And then I have to keep myself from laughing! I can’t believe I started to fall asleep during the MRI.

This is oddly meditative!

Eventually the test is complete and I open my eyes as the tech rolls me out of the tube. I imagine this is what it must be like in a space capsule. The MRI tech tells me that he got “lots of good shots.” I tell him thank you and I look forward to seeing a different side of me.

I leave the hospital relieved that the MRI is finished. It wasn’t a bad experience at all thanks to my mantra.

I’ll get the results on Tuesday and see what road I go down next.


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Art As Therapy: Pain Hurts Feelings

I intended to save this piece for my 20 Hour Challenge post.  However, I am heading to Ohio to visit family and won’t have access to my time tracking notebook.  My internet access will also be limited so if you don’t hear from me it is because I am enveloped in the love and laughter of family.

The art work below was created as a result of pain. I have a fibroid that provides a level of discomfort on a monthly basis. I’ve always thought about using my art as a way to express this pain. On Sunday, when this pain raised its head, I lay on the couch and pictured what the pain looked like and how it made me feel.  In my mind, I saw a dark figure (me) crouched down on the floor in the corner.  I am cornered by the pain.  Surrounding me were various shades of red and black; the illumination of the pain.

The image in my mind was pretty vivid and I decided that I had to recreate this image as best as possible. So, after napping for an hour on the couch, I came up to the studio and started drawing, painting with oil pastels, and collaging a few images into the center figure.

PainHurtsFeelings

The working title of this piece is Pain Hurts Feelings (Cornered). The title comes not only from the three words in the center but from the idea that our pain hurts our feelings as well as the feelings of our loved ones. You know how you feel when someone you care about is in pain. You see the look on your loved one’s face when they see you in pain. Pain hurts feelings.

The choice of words was rather serendipitous. I chose them individually and didn’t recognize the phrase they created until I laid them out on the art work.

Oh, in the upper right corner you’ll notice a ball of yellow. The yellow represents hope and release from the pain. Fortunately the pain is only temporary.

Have you used your art as therapy?  How has art helped you deal with difficult situations?

Check out this wonderful post on Beadlust on Witnessing Art from the Heart and this post from Jennifer Lee on Being Big with your art and your life (take the time to watch the video too. It brought tears to my eyes.)

Okay, just had to check my studio hours up till this point: I’ve spent 12 hours in the studio on art and 11 hours on business stuff. That is 23 hours just through Wednesday. Wow. Excuse me while I give myself a small pat on the back. Maybe I should make plans to be out of town more often as it seems to have made me more driven and focused.