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!!

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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!

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
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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
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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!

Escape the Trappings

Today starts the Feast for the Soul.  The day when people around the globe are asked to participate in a journey to the inner core of our being.  It’s one of the few times when people around the globe come together to stop, breathe, and reflect.  The goal of the Feast for the Soul is to have each of us meditate forty minutes, for forty days.  I don’t formally meditate but engage in activities I find meditate in nature.  It’s this time during the year when intentionality becomes paramount and the experience is communal.

If you know me and if you don’t, I’ll tell you, I like to lead.  I’m an idea guy and believe in creating community.  I take it upon myself to be a catalyst within the groups to which I belong. I find it exhilarating.   It’s a huge responsibility I gladly accept.

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The Feast for the Soul allows me to a part of a huge global community.  The organizers provide opportunities for learning, ritual, and expanding our capacity as humans. It’s during these forty days when I can be part of a tribe. A member of a group with a common goal, belief system, and practice.  I can exhale unlike any other time during the year.

As I sat in my studio meditating, I was keenly aware of my breathing.  It was slower than usual.  I felt focused which is good because I meditate doing a stitching practice (I’m a textile artist).  I focus on one piece throughout the forty days so when I sit before the cloth, I know I’m entering a place of quiet, mindfulness, and limitless opportunities. I give myself a gift by forgoing all responsibility for others and focus on my own health and happiness.

This year I’ve recruited friends to join me on the journey.  It’s a common space we can share even from afar.  It’s an opportunity for us to engage in community from afar.  It’s also adding more people to the herd looking to make the world safer, more joyful, and healthier.

POV

There are many influences in our lives. If you look at how you get your news, what inspires you, what angers you, and what challenges you, you’ll have a clue about what creates your point-of-view. One of the things I’ve been pondering given the state-of-the-world is how permeable is my being. What in the world gets through to my emotional and spiritual self?

There are a number of things that stay ever present for me. I read the posts of people I grew up with and see their Facebook posts and wonder how people who grew up with similar economic backgrounds, cultural and education backgrounds, and geographic influences can grow up to be so diverse. Life experiences once we left our protected hometown influences us and I’m amazed at the diversity that has emerged over the years.

If you watch any talent related, in particular singing, reality shows, you’ll know how important point-of-view is to becoming a success. The agents and producers are looking for what makes each potential “star” unique. The real world is a bit different because inherently we’re all unique. Nature and nurture have permeated our being and paved the road for who we become.

I was watching a broadcast the other day and the moderator encouraged, maybe even challenged each viewer to find someone with an opposing world view and have a conversation. He specifically focused on the word conversation because too often it’s a debate. The goal is to allow differing points-of-view to enter the circle. Given the current political and social climate in the United States that’s a difficult task.

It’s not uncommon for me to go from zero to sixty in my emotional life as I respond (notice I said respond) to a news report or interview. The good thing is that energy moves me to action. The bad thing is that it becomes a reflex and perhaps I should be looking for more constructive ways to resolve issues. I’m not saying opponents to my point-of-view would be willing, evidenced by my congressman’s tweets last night, but when does dialogue enter the picture?

I believe this is why supporting the arts is imperative to the health of our civilization. I don’t have to be antagonistic when I’m representing myself creatively. In the studio, I’m able to release the energy, state my message, and not be invisible. As artists we can give voice to those who feel invisible.

We’re in trying times and having a point-of-view should be cherished. When you scrape away all the crap, the least common denominator is the desire for us to be safe, healthy, and happy. The question is how do we keep returning to the least common denominator and move forward? What will you’re point-of-view add to the conversation?