In for a Penny…In for a Pound

I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of being “all in”.  Currently I’ve got a cat who became ill on the fifth of January.  He had a physical the end of January, and as fate would have it, he began showing signs of illness a week later.  We started with updates on his cardiac problems with an echocardiogram.  After the results and changes in medication he began having other problems, until one Sunday afternoon when a trip to the emergency vet became necessary.

The emergency doc was great. She did an exam, consulted with Dauby’s (that’s his name) cardiologist, and would send a report to our vet.  A week later, with no improvement I took him to the vet for an exam.  The vet was explaining the unlikelihood of Dauby having bladder stones because of his age, he had been on a urinary tract specific diet to avoid this problem, and he didn’t seem to have any other symptoms.  Upon exam the vet said, “Hmmm, that’s strange…His bladder is small but firm.” She asked about doing an X-ray and I said, “In for a penny…In for a pound.”  The X-ray showed he does have bladder stones and that raises a new set of issues.  What I wanted to emphasize was the commitment to getting to the bottom of his problems. I joke with all my animals that if they use their college fund for medical problems, they’re on their own…just kidding.

grey and white short fur cat
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What does this have to doing with being all in?  I was watching an episode of This is Us(I’m a little behind) and Kate wants a baby and decides to go the IVF route.  Anyone who has done this knows the level of commitment it takes with the hope of getting pregnant.  It’s not an overnight answer but takes a commitment to follow the protocols with the hope it will end in the birth of a child.

The notion of commitment was front and center during my meditation.  I’m in the middle of hand stitching the piece.  I’m creating clusters of French knots.  I had to decide, before placing the first stitch, if I was willing to commit to at least five clusters of knots.  It’s labor intensive, and I stick my finger, drawing blood a couple of times during each session. I made the conscious choice to go the route of the French knots.  I’m happy with how it’s turning out, and even happier with my willingness to commit.

What do you want to commit to today?  How will making a commitment to something or someone change your life?

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Life is a Continuum

It’s amazing the lessons I learn by simply stitching in my studio.  The simplest of materials can bring forth the most complex thoughts and ideas.  I’m grateful to have the ability to explore such meaningful experiences while creating something beautiful.

I began stitching and finished my first pass of knots.  It was time to select the next thread and in my pile was a hank of embroider floss starting from white, moving to various shades of gray, and finishing with a portion of black.  It makes it easy to change colors along the way because the thread does all the hard work.

multicolored umbrella
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Looking at the thread it occurred to me, like the thread, life goes from easy to difficult, simple to complex, even boring to exciting.  Not a day goes by when I live my life on various continuums.  Thinking of how life is measured along a continuum is helpful, especially when times become trying.  I’m reminded of the possibilities that exist along the continuum. I’m given hope that times will change, and I’ll experience a different part of the continuum.

Creating the knots in no particular pattern I watch the color change and remember of times when my creativity waxed and waned.  I remember times I cried and other times I laughed so hard it brought me to tears. I reflect on moments of immense joy like when my nieces and nephews were born and immense sorrow as when my grandparents died.

The continuum allows me to strive to live life with intention.  It allows me to focus on choices and alternatives before every step of the way. It allows me to expand my horizons of life experiences.  I’m never at a loss for new experiences.  I catalog all my experiences, actions, and emotions so I can reflect on all of them with easy and use them as the basis of comparison for everything ahead of me.

What does your continuum look like?  Do you feel it helps or hinders how you navigate your life/world?

Seeking Answers but I Come Up Blank

Before I went up to my studio to meditate, I was watching the news, an action I don’t recommend.  There was a report about a shooting near Penn State University.  This is the second shooting this week (at least reported by national news) by young men. I know people will want to debate guns, gun violence, and gun control, but as a mental health provider I believe it’s such a small part of the equation.

I began my meditation and asked myself, “Why is asking for help so difficult?”  What is it about asking for help that puts us in a one down position? How does asking for help diminish our worthiness as a human?  Why do we mock those who need support?  Why is the word helpso small but hold so much stigma?

close up photography of woman near horses
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The movie 28 Days with Sandra Bullock takes place in a drug and alcohol inpatient program.  One of the therapies employed is equine therapy.  The patient interacts with a horse and during the interaction tries to lift the horse’s hoof.  It’s explained to the participants that it can only happen when the participants insides match their outsides.  It isn’t until the end of the movie (spoiler alert) when Sandra Bullock comes across a police horse in the street.  She approaches the horse, tries to lift the hoof, but fails.  Out loud (thanks to the script) she says, “I just need a little help…right now!” and she attempts to lift the hoof, with success.

I know some of us pray when we need help.  Look at many of your Facebook posts when friends ask for help and prayers during times of crisis or despair.  Consider my experience this morning with a suspicious email.  I didn’t know what to do so I called Apple support.  They walked me through the process to either validate the email or in this case, establish it as a fraud.  Every try to lift a heavy piece of furniture by yourself and succeeded?

This week’s shootings punctuate my belief in seeking help, offering help, identifying those individuals and communities in need of help.  I’ve had dark moments in my life and sought help.  I’ve maintained close relationships and created reciprocal relationships where 24/7 I’m there for them and they’re there for me.  Help shouldn’t be voodoo topic.  It shouldn’t be a profanity.  Help should be an act or thought given freely, with love, honor, and positive intentions.  Recognizing when people need help is part of our humanity.  It’s what solidifies our place on this planet as a sentient being.  Don’t be afraid to help!  You never know when you may need some help yourself.

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
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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!