Arts and Health, Sisters is devoted to exploring creative problem solving and coping strategies in our world, especially the links between artistic expression and personal and spiritual growth. It is also dedicated to honoring the value and power of women.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Teen Boy Devastated by Shake!!!

Today, a thirteen year old boy suffered from acute cognitive dysfunction after learning that he was not going to have his usual twice a week chocolate milk shake. This horrible mental attack was marked by irritability, distraction and sudden loss of all mathematical facility. As a consequence he was unable to complete his summer math homework.

The surprise arrival of cookies seemed to alleviate some of his symptoms and he was able to successfully work on his current math assignment and smile again. He  reflected thoughtfully on the unfinished summer math, "If I get all 102 out of 150 problems I did finish correct that will be about 70% and I'll still pass the assignment."

This was today's tempest in a teapot.

Somewhat longer meditation

Today I started a longer sitting meditation practice. Twenty minutes. It was amusing because at the end just when I couldn't make myself wait any longer, I opened my eyes to look at my timer just as the alarm rang. Ironic. Overall I felt very happy, when I wasn't bored. I also felt relaxed and constantly was distracted by 1001 worries, then brought my attention back to counting my breaths. It was interesting to notice that most of my worries and plans are things I've been worrying and planning for months, so it was really a bit much to be thinking that any of them were so important that twenty minutes would make any difference. Now, a scratchy throat? That's something that can't wait, cough, cough.

I'm happy I've been able to keep doing this and hope I will continue, or at least if I drop it, refocus and pick it up again.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mindfulness in Action

The last 10 days of meditation have been about combining mindfulness sitting meditation with mindfulness while engaged in activity. I continue to find meditation works better for me in the evening more so than in the morning, when I am more rushed. I suppose when or if I become more mindful the morning will also work just as well!

These are some activities I find I can use mindfulness and find a sense of peace in the moment:

-Washing the Dishes: The water, the soap, the bubbles. The visual and sensual aspects help me find this chore somewhat soothing. Being aware and curious about my thoughts, I have the urge to rush through. But is there really something more urgent than having clean dishes right at this moment? Am I berating myself for having delayed doing the chore? Am I expecting a certain outcome (this will take too long, for example)? It offers an opportunity to practice mindfulness and to get to know myself better, to observe myself with a gentle curiosity and then return to what I'm doing, and as a bonus have more clean dishes at the end.

-Knitting or Drawing: These activities also have a physical and a tactile focus. The pull of the yarn around the needles and my fingers, noticing how tight or lose I hold the yarn and the needles. Watching how I react when I make a mistake. In knitting I like noticing that I can take the stitches out when a stitch or a pattern doesn't work out, and start again. In drawing I can learn to alter what I've drawn into something a bit different than I had planned, or simply put my effort aside and start again. Life doesn't offer "do-overs" so frequently. Yet it is possible to shift my focus from the "mess-up" to gently start again. And also to keep in mind that the bigger pattern of life is not in my control.

Blog Struck Down By Internet Outage!!

I had a temporary set-back with my 30 day plan when lightning struck and I lost the internet for a few days. Now all is well after many frustrating attempts to get re-connected. Ultimately the cable guy came and put things to right. Tempest in a teapot story of the day.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Day 10

Today I didn't meditate until just now, when it is almost tomorrow. The focus was a body scan shifting from one part of the body to another repeatedly and paying attention to my breathing. This was extremely relaxing, perhaps in part because the day is over and I know I don't need to go anywhere, I can't really be late for anything, so that sort of distraction is much less. I also liked getting in touch with what sensations my body has been having which I have ignored during the day. I could tell that my sinuses are congested, that my lower back has a twinge on the right side. All these things which had been distant from my awareness. So often I ignore some mild to moderate problem whether physical or not, like a parent might ignore a whining child. However sometimes the child actually does have something to whine about, so it is worthwhile listening. Even just to acknowledge the fact that there is an ache or pain somewhere, without doing anything but noticing, something shifts.

I'm grateful for re-learning this and also that I've kept up with this practice.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Day 9 sleepy again.

I didn't sleep well last night and thus most of my meditation was dozing. My focus was on breathing in something I wanted more of and breathing out something I wanted to let go of. So "Friends" in and "Resentment" out. And lots of zzzz's in between!

This underlines the need for a more regular schedule. I'm feeling more in balance, so I believe it will be easier to get back into a routine. It's like a routine can be a springboard for opportunities in life.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Day 8

Today the focus of meditation was "scratch lip". The idea was to scratch my upper lip with my fingernail and then focus on the sensations and on my breath. What I notice when I focus on my breath is that it is difficult for me to let my breathing be, I keep wanting to judge it or control it. I wonder if that's just the human condition or if being asthmatic complicates the process? I guess that's why these meditations which offer something to focus on besides my breathing seem more relaxing to me. When I think about it though, I would usually never judge that I was feeling an itch too much, I simply decide to ignore it or notice it, scratch it or not scratch it. How is it that whatever the quality of my breath is, I  think it's too deep or too shallow, too fast or too slow? Interesting.

I was glad about meditating today, because I got very upset about an unexpected bill yesterday and stayed on edge, sulky and resentful (ok I'm still sulky and resentful) until this afternoon. Someone told me some jokes and that helped me lighten up a bit. You never know how much you might be helping someone in some way. Life is nice like that. Full of surprises, well I could have skipped the bill surprise, but not the rest.

Day 7, belated

Yesterday I did meditate. Hooray for Monday. The focus of the meditation was itches and tickles. I had overslept and had errands I had to do. Still it was relaxing and since it ended up being a tough day, meditating probably helped me cope somewhat more calmly than I would have otherwise.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Oops, Day 6

Yesterday I missed meditating. However I am now living under a newly shingled roof. It rained hard yesterday evening after it was finished and no leaks! Plus the house looks a bit more like someone cares about it. I could have meditated, just decided not to with all the banging and so on.

Today I went to Friend's Meeting and after I got home meditated again. If I'm troubled or tense I often bring something with me to Friend's Meeting for example today I brought some knitting and a book. I was quiet, listening expectantly for some of the time and the rest of the time I did some knitting and read a chapter of the book, then took a break back into waiting expectantly. What I like about Friend's Meeting is that sitting quietly in a group like that brings an intense feeling of peace to me, even when I'm troubled and remain troubled, it's like I'm troubled in a pool of calm.

The short solo meditation today focused on breath and the feeling of fingertips of one hand on fingertips of the opposite hand. My mind was all over the place as usual, but after a time I had some of the peaceful settled feeling, especially in my hands.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Day 5

Today I meditated to the incorrect guided meditation tape (or should I say MP3 file). It was very difficult to stay in a detached state of mind... because they delivered the stuff to fix my roof!!!! Right during meditation!!!

My not too sturdy roof of my little house started leaking after the amazing hail storms this Spring. So by tomorrow I should have a new roof and not find myself stepping into little puddles when I get home from work!!

I'm so happy and so grateful that insurance is helping to pay for it.

At any rate I was listening to sounds again today. And I did get myself calm enough to sit til the end of the meditation time before getting up to look through the blinds and see the roofing supplies on a trailer truck right outside the house!!!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Day 4

I overslept. I meditated. But due to oversleeping couldn't blog til now.

The meditation was focusing on sounds today, which seemed easier than counting breaths. The main sound was the refrigerator running and after a minute or so sounded like music in some odd way. When my mini-meditation was over at 5 minutes I actually wanted to sit a bit longer, so I did, but not much longer as the obligations of the day were upon me.

I still tend to stay calmer during the day when I do even this little bit of meditation in the morning. Plus, it gives me more incentive to go to sleep earlier!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Day 3

Well, I did it. Meditation. I'm counting breaths and usually find my mind wandering about doing something else around breath 5. When I do count up to 10 breaths, a small cheer leading troop arrives does a pyramid and a few throws and by the time the celebration is over I think I might be at breath 3, but I'm not sure so I start over at 1.

There seems to be a battle about this in my self. But at least it is a battle fought with humor and possibly some affection. I can imagine some teen-aged aspect thinking, "Ooo, if we sent in a troop of cheer-leaders when ever she manages to focus until 10 breaths, then she'll lose track for the next 'set' ". So maybe there should be a super-Westernized meditation book for weight-lifters... Ten Sets, 100 Reps ... Enlightenment!.

I suppose seeing and mocking the competitive process equals some type  of awareness.

The cheerleaders also reminded me of being at a youth camp, where I was asked to lead a group meditation. I was a bit puzzled that I was asked, but was enough of a ham to go for it. We all sat in a very large circle cross-legged or whatever lotus legged we were able to do. I quietly intoned what I thought a leader of a group meditation ought to say. It seemed, amazingly, to be going quite well. Then I opened my eyes because 3 of my friends (including my best friend) had been hiding behind a couch snickering and they started saying "Yams!" very loudly as in "YAAAAAAMMMMMMSSSS" with an upward lilt at the end. They were much like cats, expressions of smugness on their faces, meowing "yams". I was very annoyed with them, but, if memory serves, managed to keep my poise through what was now less of an ego trip and more a battle of wills. However a battle fought with humor and much affection.

 So in a sense I very happily have my old friends back, this time mocking me with cheerleaders instead of root vegetables. And I gently mock them back, using an imaginary can opener to open this imaginary can of cat food... or is it yams?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

29 (or is it 26?) Days of Meditation

OK, let's say second day of meditation and be more accurate. Since I am not counting on this being 30 days of eating on a dollar a day and then being done with it.

Today my short meditation on my breath did not involve sleeping, although perhaps there was some dozing. I was very occupied with solving problems in my life and seemed to come up with some brilliant ideas, which of course I don't remember clearly right now. I kept losing my place in counting my breaths and at times that even became a bit amusing. Unfortunately I didn't come up with any brilliant ideas on convincing everyone in Congress that raising the debt ceiling would be a most sensible thing to do. I'm sort of relying on the multi-national corporations to do that for me. Hey, that attitude got me through Y2K with flying colors!

I did notice yesterday that I was focusing more on one thing at a time and felt calmer about dealing with whatever crises came up in the day, more able to gently re-direct myself to whatever I'd started and finish that up before rushing off to the next crisis. I was a bit more focused on being kind to myself.

I do have to admit that even for the minimal effort the meditation was going to require that my adolescent self was sulky and somewhat resentful about the whole thing. However, like so much in life that attitude too did pass.

Monday, August 1, 2011

30 days of meditation

I'm doing thirty days of meditation and am going to post on my experience. I'm old enough to have experimented with this in the past. I've never had a really regular practice before. I'm using material from the Morita School of Japanese Psychology, meaning that I've come from this with more of a desire to explore Japanese psychology techniques than meditation.

It turns out that they are about the same thing, with the Japanese Psychology being specifically oriented meditations and helpful for independent use as well as use with a counselor. I find it especially interesting that Morita Therapy as practiced in Japan is associated with a week alone in a "hospital room" (don't know exactly what that means), just to be by and with oneself. How often does that really happen in day to day life now, anything approaching that, with facebook, twitter and so on at our fingertips?

Anyway, today was actually day 4. The first few days involved reading, in which I kept thinking I hadn't read parts of the readings, or hadn't listened to parts of the lectures. Then I'd go back to the reading or the audio file and find out that I had listened or read and actually remembered what I had experienced. It was a perfect introduction to today, when I kept falling asleep.

Which taught me two possible truths. Maybe I need to get to sleep earlier. And I have very interesting dreams when I'm sitting trying to count my breaths.