Outside Matches Inside

It’s a snowy day here in Colorado, the second snow of the week.  I decided, as soon as the snow started to shop for dinner so I could remain in the house the rest of the day.  Once I got home, the snow started falling quite heavily, covering the driveway in a short period of time to a white, smooth blanket.

I started my meditation in the studio.  I turned on the space heater because during the winter, my studio is very cold.  It sits above the garage, faces north, and has lots of windows.  In this instance I deliberately don’t want the outside to match the inside.

landscape photography of mountains covered in snow
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I do want my internal state to match the quiet and calm of the outdoors.  Sitting at the table, hand stitching my meditation piece, I stare out the window witnessing the snow falling.  The snow is heavier than anticipated.  It’s building upon the snow from earlier in the week.  What I find so comforting (even though I can do without the snow) is the feeling of wiping the slate clean.  The idea we get do overs.  The relief I get when I don’t have to focus on mess and can imagine what’s possible with a new start.

It’s interesting how Mother Nature can punctuate our internal states.  I’m in a state of wonder when I can connect the natural world to my inner life.  I’m blessed to experience the opportunity to place new stitches on my meditation piece. I’m grateful to be given another day of meditation to explore what’s necessary to live a good life.

I’m continually amazed at the impact meditation has on all aspects of my life.  It provides me an outlet for my negative emotions.  It provides me a sense of freedom to explore my beliefs, opinions, and actions.  I’m intrigued as I finish today’s meditation what is in store for me tomorrow.

To me, this is the definition of evolution and process.  See you tomorrow!


Peel Back of Build Up?

Life is full of contradictions.  Depending on who you read, follow, or believe the advice we receive isn’t one size fits all. I’ve been thinking a lot about this as I progress through the Feast for the Soul.  I’ve got various roles and activities in my life and there are many paths to peace and happiness so exploring them together is part of the practice.

As a psychotherapist, I was taught we work with clients to peel back the layers, unearthing patterns, revisiting earlier events and learning to reconcile so we can lead productive and healthy lives.  Peeling back the layers, at least in my own psychotherapy experience, was a long process. It required commitment, trust, and a desire to dig deep.  There were times I felt like I was on a hamster wheel with little progress, and then the peeling process unearthed something leading to great process.

closeup photography of stacked stones
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My meditation practice is a stitch meditation.  I started with a white piece of fabric and began the journey.  The first phase was to die the fabric.  I changed the color of the piece from white to shades of red.  I needed to increase the length of the piece, so I cut the excess off the sides and sewed them to the top and bottom, building up the size.

Once the size and initial color was in place, I moved to printing the first design.  I found a piece of cardboard I could use as a stamp and laid down the first layer of printing.  I allowed the paint to dry and moved on to the next layer.  I decided to hand stitch various sizes of circles on the piece from top to bottom.  It was time consuming, but the feel of the fabric as I pulled the thread through was glorious.  I finished the circles and moved on to the next layer, reverting back to paint.  I stamped a new design over the top of the work in various shades of gray.  Now I’m building up more layers by stitching on top of the newly stamped designs.

You may wonder why I went through this elaborate process.  Each layer I add to the piece changes my perspective.  It provides me with opportunities to face my own decision-making processes as I seek to work on improving the work.  I’m hoping to improve the piece from an aesthetic point-of-view, but also how I react to the creation, how it impacts my mood, and how it encourages me to continue on the journey.

I guess what I’m saying is peeling back and building up can both work.  We need to know what the goal is on any leg of the journey.  That decision in and of itself will give you clues which method will yield the best results.  Try it both ways if need be and see what produces the outcomes you desire or need.  Until then…I’ll meet you on the journey!

Turning A Frown into a Smile

I’m back on track…this is actually the post for day seven of Feast for the Soul.  If you’re traveling with me on this journey, you’ll know I painted on my meditation piece yesterday altering my usual routine.  What I didn’t mention in the post was my derailment went beyond the routine.  The derailment happened in the design of what I was creating.

I had an idea, an actual design plan for this piece.  I went to the basement to begin painting and after I applied the first layer, I got stopped in my tracks.  The outcome, somewhat unpredictable, didn’t match the idea in my head.  I finished painting, let it dry, and brought it back to my studio.  A big sigh…I didn’t like it.  The printing seemed a bit off.  I didn’t get the definition in the stamping I had planned.  Alas, I can’t control everything.  Talk about bursting my own bubble!!

graphing paper
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Once again, I came to the fork in the road.  Should I discard the piece and start from scratch, or forge ahead and make the best of an unplanned situation?  I decided to continue working on the piece because it’s about the process, not the product.

I began my ritual, lighting my candle, starting the music and threading the needle.  I began mark making with the thread and all of a suddenly I felt lighter.  I was in the midst of a happy accident.  What I thought was a mistake and a hindrance had become a unique design element I couldn’t have planned if I tried.

I felt my spirits lift, and my momentum increase as I progressed through my meditation.  The deeper I entered my meditative state, the lighter I felt, and the piece has begun taking on a life of its own.  It is guiding me in the design process teaching me as I stitch along.

I left my studio this morning feeling lighter.  I felt a renewed sense of openness.  I experienced a letting go allowing me to loosen my grip on my own life.  Not bad for a day’s meditation!!

Veered Off Course

I meditated yesterday but didn’t get to write the post.  Why you may ask.  My meditation is a stitch meditation.  I’ve been working on a piece since the beginning.  Yesterday I realized as I was getting ready to do my stitch meditation, I needed to add a layer of paint before the next phase of stitching was to begin.  I was directed to switch my method of meditation from stitching fabric to stitching yarn…knitting.

I sat down and brought my knitting out front and center.  I looked at the pattern, looked at my record so I would know where I had left off.  I began knitting.  When I got to the end of the row, I lifted the pen and approached the paper to make a tick mark for completion.  Uh Oh! I thought I was on row five and in reality, I should have knitted row one.  In that moment I had two choices.  I could continue and throw the pattern into chaos, or I could undo the entire row.  I’ve made mistakes in the past so undoing the row was time consuming, but necessary. After undoing the row, I got back on track.

aromatherapy bamboo basket candlelight
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Everything about my meditation was different.  I usually meditate in the morning, but I was meditating in the afternoon.  I meditate by stitching on textiles and I was now working with yarn.  I usually have a freer flowing stitch course I follow and now I was following a definitive pattern (not very successfully).

Why am I sharing my derailment?  Because I was able to regroup and correct my course.  Once I took a deep breath and grounded myself, I was back on track with an ease, comfort, and calm.  It gave me a moment to experience self-compassion.  The committee in my head wasn’t judgmental but accepting.  I didn’t get annoyed at myself, but chuckled because it was a calamity of errors, how could I not laugh?

Everything can’t be planned and flexibility can lead to happy mistakes and teachable moments!

Got a Light?

One of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver, died yesterday at the age of eight-three.  I’ve been reading her work since I was introduced to her talent in graduate school.  I’ve been deliberate to follow the release of her new work to add to the collection of her books.  I’ve been mesmerized not only by her poetry, but what she represented as an artist. She was a conscious, thoughtful, and feisty woman.

 I remember listening to her on the podcast On Being with Krista Tippett.  Oliver was smoking during the interview emphasizing her self-directed, stubborn, and living life on one’s own terms mentality.  She was simple and complicated.

lighted candle
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I think a lot about lighting a candle to honor those who have died and in the same breath thinking about their death as their flame being blown out.  Why do we go to fire for the life force?  What is it about a flickering flame that holds our gaze, while holding our consciousness hostage in the mystery of something we can get close to, can’t touch, can warm us and burn us, can light our way or burn everything down creating a blackout?

One of my favorite Broadway musicals, Rent, has a song that starts, “Gotta a light?”  It’s two people in an abandoned warehouse where they’re living with no heat, not electric, and yet these two want to begin their romantic dance by playing with a candle.  The cycle of the flame, going from lighting to extinguishing will be the metaphor or their relationship throughout the show.  Isn’t that true for our lives?  We’re in the light at some points and completely in the dark in others.

As we say goodbye to Mary Oliver, I will ask you if you’ve got a light?  Do you have a recurring beacon of hope and warmth serving to provide solace during times of despair? I believe Oliver’s poems will light out way for many years.  Here’s to Ms. Oliver!

Life Expectancy…Is it an Oxymoron?

I’ve been working in the arena of chronic and life-threatening illness for over thirty years.  I’ve seen the sickest get well and those with great prognoses die unexpectedly.  I was watching one of my favorite shows This is Us(spoiler alert, although I’m a season behind) and learned how the dad died. He didn’t die in the fire as we were led to believe, he died from complications of smoke inhalation.

selective focus photo of red poppy flower in bloom
Photo by KIM JINHONG on Pexels.com

Why do we expect to live? We’re born and hopefully each day we open our eyes and take a breath we’re granted another day.  I know many couples who have experienced miscarriage, still births, or the death of infants and toddlers.  At the Colorado Stock Show, a cowboy died, age twenty-five of injuries sustained after falling off a bull.  We’re looking for guarantees where no can be offered.

What prompted these thoughts?  I took my cat to the vet because he’s been ill the past twelve days.  He’s fourteen, has cardiac problems, and now has bladder stones.  The vet is consulting the cardiologist to see if he’s a surgical candidate.  It made me wonder about quality of life versus the number. I stitched my way through the notion that prolonging life just to blow out another candle is always the answer. I live in a state where physician assisted death is legal.  It’s a topic of discussion in schools teaching future healthcare professionals. It’s a topic taught in bioethics and health humanities programs.  There’s no escaping the issue, and yet how often do we actually think about it?

I’m not equating the life of a feline to the life of a human.  I am saying our attachment to sentient beings is real.  I’m saying every day when I awake, I get to interact with my family, my pets, and creatures I can’t/don’t see.  I don’t expect life.  I do hope for it and take measures to make it more the probability than the possibility. My goal isn’t to be morose, but real.

We can pray during our meditation in hopes of altering an unknown outcome.  We can send healing energy hoping to reinforce the natural forces adding to life, but we can’t ever know if it was received or the impact it had on the outcome, so we rely on faith.

Thanks for letting me rant, reason, and ramble.

We’ll Go Round in Circles

I love the mystery of the mind.  I never know where I will go when I begin my meditation.  I light the candle, start the music, and sit down at the table.  I say a prayer, lift the needle and thread, and begin the practice.  It takes a few moments to enter a place of rhythm and calm.

The stitches progress and today I’m especially aware of the shape I’m stitching. I’m in love with circles. I have very few works of art where I don’t incorporate circles.  One of my mentors, noted anthropologist Angeles Arrien wrote a book titled Signs of Life: the Five Universal Shapes and How to Use Them.  The five universal shapes are circle, square, triangle, cross, and spiral.  Like numbers and colors, we all have a shape we’re drawn to…mine is circles.

person holding multicolored container
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

As I stich I think about and begin to experience the universality of the circle.  Our community within the Feast for the Soul feels like a circle, no beginning or end.  It feels like the communal act of meditating with those around the globe punctuates my love circles.  It also makes me feel connected to my practice and all those whose energy I’m incorporating in my practice.

The other aspect of the circle is the notion of returning to a place I’ve been before.  When I “circle” back I dig a deeper groove in my consciousness. It works to emphasize thoughts that are important or those I need to explore further.  Revisiting experiences, thoughts, and feelings provides a nest of safety and security.  It allows me to spiritually nest in comfort.

I was surprised the circle theme permeated my meditation so early in the Feast for the Soul.  It’s part of the mystery of what will bubble up to the surface!