Winter Feast for the Soul 2017: Day 4 Tools

I’m not a handy person in any way, shape, or form. I’m even cautioned when cooking after sharpening the knives because I’m a bit clumsy; so I keep a box of band-aids close to my cutting board. Tools, at least in the conventional sense of the word are related to things you build with and that’s important to keep in mind because whatever your building it doesn’t just appear, there’s a process.

The process you engage in to create isn’t always methodical or planned, but foundations are important upon which you will build your structure. In my world, having a foundation in traditional quilting was the beginning of my evolution to art quilts. I needed to learn the basics in order to grow and become more daring because in the end I had something I could always return to, like a base camp for those climbing huge mountains like Kilimanjaro.

I began thinking about tools today because the pair of scissors I’m using for the first phase of my mediation art is a pair of cheap craft scissors. If I were cutting a piece of paper in half of a couple of shapes it would be sufficient, but I’m cutting forty minutes a day around some small curves. I’m ill equipped for the process and that creates a bit of struggle, self-imposed of course. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the first thing I’m doing tomorrow is buying a good pair of scissors.

This idea of having the correct tools can be your greatest friend or your greatest enemy. I’m in the midst of recreating one of my websites and I’m storyboarding the various aspects of the community I hope to build. My toolbox consists (over the past few weeks) of listening to Jane Pauley’s audio book, “Your Life Calling”. It discusses ideas for the next phase of life for those in transition. I’ve also been listening to various podcasts because I always learn the most when I hear people’s stories. It humanizes the process and allows me to see how those stories parallel the stories and lessons I need to learn, or can share.

I’m collecting bits and pieces for my toolbox so I have choices. I believe that having options allows my creative process to bloom. It allows me to try new things and those that work I can expand and those that don’t I can discard. Who knows as my toolbox begins to fill, it may come to the point that I graduate to a tool shed. I guess I can put that on my aspiration list. I’ll keep you in the loop and let you know how things progress.

Winter Feast for the Soul 2017:Day 3 Legwork

There are times when a tedious activity can be relaxing. I’m in the preparation phase of the meditation piece and it’s all about cutting out shapes. It’s not super creative, but it’s a necessary step in the process and I’m all about process. Taking the time to get all my ducks in a row will make the next phase easier and move me forward on my journey. The other good thing about work that is repetitive is that there’s no problem solving or decisions that need to be made; I just have to do the legwork.

Another benefit of repetitive actions is the space it creates in my heart and mind. I’m free to allow thoughts and ideas to enter and leave at will and that makes the daily meditation truly a go with the flow endeavor. I’m free to wander or as I like to say it allows me to “follow the energy”.

Today’s meditation focused on people both past and present. I learned that the mother of a friend of mine from college had died right before Christmas so I made a call to connect and offer my condolences. Last night was a meeting of Front Range Contemporary Quilters, an art quilt guild I’ve belonged to for twelve years. At the meeting I had the opportunity to connect with those I haven’t seen in a while. It’s definitely an ebb and flow of people and energy as those I haven’t been in touch with are entering my sphere like a wave crashing on my shores.

Like the repetitive actions of cutting the fabric, today’s legwork, it’s time to do the legwork with maintaining and further developing my connections. There’s a place of comfort and support from those who are and have been a part of my life.

I have two favorite movies, “Same Time Next Year” and “The Color Purple”. At the end of “Same Time Next Year” Alan Alda’s character asks Ellen Burstyn’s character to marry him, but she’s already married. He encourages her to leave him and her response is, with her husband she shares all the same memories from a twenty plus year marriage. It’s those memories shared with others that serve as the palette of our lives. They are the times and experiences that have colored and shaped our lives. These are the connections that provided the building blocks for our identity.

So today I have started doing the legwork on the connection portion of this program. Who knows what I’ll encounter but every day that I do the legwork is work the energy whether or not it reaps any rewards. The reward is the legwork and keeping me moving forward no matter the destination.

Winter Feast for the Soul: Day 2 Breath

I prepared my meditation space with the material and a pair of scissors. I started the music, set the timer so I didn’t have to keep looking at a clock, and I sat at the table and got myself centered. The first cut into the fabric is always the most fun because it’s a beginning. It tells me that the process has begun and there’s no turning back.

As I began cutting I started around the shapes on the fabric I began to feel a bit uneasy. I wasn’t uncomfortable in the chair; it was a feeling in my chest. I’ve asthmatic and recognize the tightening in the chest, but this was different. It was an acute experience because it would come and go and I was puzzled. I proceeded on my meditation paying close attention to my breath.

It wasn’t long before I had this realization that as I was cutting the fabric, if I was cutting around a tight space I was holding my breath. I used to go bowling on a regular basis as a kid and this resembled when I would throw the ball, hold my breath, and wave my arms hoping that the ball heading for the gutter would be a strike. I guess we can always hope for the best.

Proceeding to cut the fabric and being aware of my breath allowed me to be more open to other sensory stimulation. I’m playing a CD of Asian Meditation music and I came to a track that sounded like water running and in that moment thoughts from my past came in like a wave.

I began thinking about friends and family from years ago and I noticed that a smile came across my face. I noticed it because I felt the muscles in my face shift and it relaxed me. It also invited me to continue with these memories as a means of trying to be with the good times and the bad in my past. It was an open space to explore the impact of those who have crossed my path and the experiences we shared. Breathing just allowed me to expand the exploration of my memories in a nonthreatening way so my soul felt safe.

It’s obvious how important breathing is, but it’s the breath that can alter your consciousness. It’s the breath that lets you know if you’re in the present. It’s the breath that creates a rhythm as you march along the meditation trail.

With An Outstretched Arm

There are times when I’m engaged in my meditation that I begin to chuckle. It’s not a common experience for many during their meditation, but some things just strike me as peculiar or comical and a little giggle emanates from my being; tonight was one of those times.

I was preparing my needle and thread for my stitch meditation. I’m a little lazy at times and use a longer piece of thread than one would most likely use for hand stitching because I don’t want to stop and rethread the needle. Tonight I cut off a piece of thread from the spool, threaded the needle and on the first stitch watched as my arm pulled the thread, extending and extending till I reached the end. I felt like I was reaching for the stars, or trying to accomplish a one-handed catch of a football like that amazing NFL play.

As I was pulling the thread all I could think of was the saying in the bible about God having an outstretched arm. Don’t get me wrong; I in no way, shape, or form have a God complex. It did get me thinking about what happens when we have an outstretched arm. Who do we want to protect or soothe with our outstretched arm? What are we trying to reach either literally or figuratively with an outstretched arm? What does it mean to me to stretch beyond what I think are my limits?

It’s these kinds of questions that pop into my head as I inhale while taking a stitch and exhaling when I’m pulling the thread through the fabric. It’s amazing what surfaces when I give myself the time and space to be with me. It’s easy to want to skip a day, and I’m sure I’ll grapple with that in the weeks to come. Today I’m grateful for this time, the fabric, the stitch, and for what’s possible with an outstretched arm!

Two down, thirty-eight to g

Do All the Lessons Have to Come on the First Day?

Today started the annual “Winter Feast for the Soul”. The goal is to get as many people on the planet meditating forty minutes a day for forty days in hopes of changing the world. If nothing else, meditating forty minutes a day will certainly alter your perspective on the life your living.

I always get excited because preparing for the feast is as meaningful, for me, as the forty days of meditating. On my day off last week I gathered all the tools I would need for my “stitch” meditation. While at work today I downloaded a new CD of Gregorian Chant music; that’s what I listen do while doing my meditation. I wrote little notes to myself in my journal this morning preparing me for this pilgrimage.

If you’ve ever wondered how do you know if your mind is wandering during meditation has never stuck themselves with a needle while they weren’t paying attention. Lesson one: pay attention. I need to be aware and present otherwise I will cause bodily harm. Aside from the little needle stick, it makes me ask myself, “Why won’t you give yourself forty uninterrupted minutes to do something good for yourself?” It only took me two needle sticks to get myself focused on the actual stitching and not worrying about something no right before me, better than in past years.

The second lesson has to do with “perfection” or “getting it right”. I was stitching a line (needless to say far from perfect) when I thought I might run out of thread. I was making a turn and looking toward the homestretch and started to get anxious about not making it to the edge of the fabric. Fortunately my inner voice stopped me and said, “It’s ok if you don’t make it to the end, and you’ll end where the thread ends.” How simple is that, I’ll end where the thread ends. There wasn’t any judgment or feeling like I was doing it wrong, simply a release of what I believed was the “correct” way of doing the stitch meditation.

I’m well aware that these two lessons were really about giving myself the gift of this meditation. They were a precursor for what is to come and these lessons laid the groundwork for giving myself the space to experience each and every lesson. This is one of the major reasons that art heals. It allows each of us to be exactly where we are and gives us the space to be as complete as we can be in the moment.

One down, thirty-nine to go

The Seesaw We Call Life

Another early morning and once again I choose to do my practice in full view of the household.  It’s quiet except for the animals, the sun is out, and I can settle in working on my portable altar piece.  I prepare my materials as a surgeon prepares his scalpels and begin the process.

I’m particularly aware of the up and down nature of things.  I thought about the dogs wanting to go in and then out, repeatedly.  The up and down of flying in a plane.  The back and forth when I pace trying to come to a resolution on a particular issue.  The in and out of stitching through the cloth.  All of these create a rocking motion that could be soothing, almost like a rocking motion, but I get in the way attributing meaning that may or may not exist (see I did it again right now!).

It’s interesting to think that so many of us, me included, strive for balance and yet there are cultures where imbalance is the beauty.  I find it intriguing that asymmetry is what’s beautiful in art because theory says it creates more interest.  Personally I believe the beauty is in the tension the imbalance creates and it’s a challenge that the brain, heart, and soul try to resolve leading to a creative process.

I know all this back and forth, up and down, in and out can wreak havoc on all parts of my life.  I’ve become aware when I’m leaning too far in one direction, not that I’m want to get back to center necessarily, but I also don’t want to topple over…that would be disastrous.

I remember from my childhood being on the seesaw and being conscious of who was sitting on the other end.  You didn’t want to someone too much lighter than you because I’d either have to work too hard or sit on the ground.  If I had someone who was much heavier than me I had the possibility of being propelled into orbit.  So balance may not be the ideal, but there is a range that keeps me from going to far in any one direction.  A self-correction mechanism that allows me the freedom and flexibility to explore without being annihilated. 

The goal is to keep on keepin’ on.

Bring Down the Boil

It’s just another morning and I enter my studio to begin my practice period and I feel a bubble.  Not a bubble like a fizzy bubble, but more of a rolling bubble that quickly turns to a boil.  I’m ruminating over something I can’t identify.  My mind is reeling and as I stitch and try to identify the issue I start to de-escalate.

The acts of stitching are reducing the boil back to a bubble or simmer.  I keep stitching hoping to unlock the issue and as I move from circle to circle (I’m stitching around painted circles) I realize how much this mirrors what’s going on in my mind.  I’m going around and around and the only place I’m making progress is on the cloth.  That takes me down one more notch on the bubble scale. 

I’ve gone from the bubble stage to the intrigued stage.  I’m wondering why the issue doesn’t seem to matter any more.  I stitch hoping to find the answer and guess what; it doesn’t matter.  Stitching brought me back into my body instead of floating somewhere in the atmosphere.  I went from wandering aimlessly to a state of wonder and not about the issue, but about what’s happening in my body.

As I continue my practice period I finally let out the sigh that let’s me know I’ve come home.  It didn’t take that long and it’s a good reminder of how I get in my own way.  My thoughts, left to their own devices can be the biggest challenge to any issue.  What if I hadn’t tried to rein in my thoughts and allowed the bubble escalate to a boil, would it have evaporated?  Would it have burned itself out since it got so hot? 

I’m not sure because those weren’t my experiences.  Do I know that the process is changed forever, by no means can I answer in the affirmative.  I invite this process to return because it too becomes a practice.  How many practices can any one person handle?  As many as are needed to continue on the journey.