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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Winter Feast, Day 4, 5, and 6... and 7... and 8...

I suppose I should not be treating the Winter Feast for the Soul as a study in all the various ways I should and should not meditate. But, my little Ravenclaw heart cannot help itself.  The opportunity for research shall not be forsaken!

Day 4... was a total miss.  It just... didn't happen.  But the good news is, Day 5 I didn't just let it go.  I climbed back on the Meditation Wagon and tried again.

Day 5 has been one of my favorites so far.  Day 5: I meditated with my prayer beads.

The Unitarian Universalist Association has helpfully, in their Tapestry of Faith curricula, published this helpful post on developing a prayer bead practice.  I made my prayer beads years ago, before Tapestry ever existed.  They were purple, white, and green, with some lovely hematite moons and a real pearl from my grandmother's necklace (which broke years ago--I didn't break the string to get the pearl) and the end piece was a cloisonne six-pointed star earring (I have its companion moon as an earring even now).  Tragically, the string took a ride through my washer and dryer.  I managed to find a few of the beads sitting under the dryer vent in my yard, but most were gone, including the pearl.  The star never even left the dryer, and there were some mother-of-pearl peace doves that also apparently couldn't fit through the filter.  I harvested what I could and went to buy more beads.  I got malachite and purple tiger's eye, and some rose quartz, and a few white and purple pearls.  I made the strand on stretchy thread thinking it would be less likely to break.  They look like this:

Prayer Beads 2.0
 And today (day 8) I re-strung them on very much less stretchy jewelry thread, and I used my new crimping tool to fasten it so I don't need the clasp.  It looks a whole lot like the picture above, except I turned the doves right side up.  And I didn't even lose a single bead! I was rather proud of myself.

For my bead practice, I hold one bead between my fingers, and breathe in, saying "As I breathe in, I breathe in peace."  Then I move to the next bead and say, "As I breathe out, I breathe out love."  I go around the strand either once or twice, focusing on my breath and giving myself a bead to ground me to the moment.  I have now done this practice twice as part of The Winter Feast, and it is extremely satisfying.  It does not take me an entire trip around the strand to move into a meditative state, and there's none of the mental fussing and fidgeting I get when I just try to sit.

Knitting as meditation,  on the other hand, does not work for me.  My brain is too engaged, even in straightforward knitting, to make this a meditative practice.  One of my wonderful friends, ShaylaMyst, says she uses her spinning wheel as a sort of meditation--and I can see how that would work for me, except that I don't have a wheel.  Spindle spinning is far less meditative and, for me anyway, involves quite a bit more swearing than one would expect in a meditation practice.  So I think I'm going to have to give Mindful Crafting a miss as meditation for the remainder of my spinning-wheel-free time on Earth, despite my deep desire to have it work.  It just doesn't.  Gotta let it go.

I'm learning some things about myself in this practice.  In Savor, Thich Nhat Hanh talks about 'knots' our psyches develop knots of frustration and anger if we don't allow ourselves to experience, identify, and work through our less pleasurable feelings.  I'm very sure I have psychological knots.  But I also have two very real physical knots--one in my shoulderblade, which may or may not be bursitis, and the other in my--I think of it as my hip, but it really isn't.  It's deep within the muscles that surround the place where my leg sits inside my hip bone, and therefore it's basically in my rear end, and it causes me daily pain.  When I read the passage about knots, this is what spoke to me: that my physical knots are the manifestation of psychological pain.  I have, I believe, identified the shoulder knot.  It is my perfectionism.  It gets tense when things aren't going the way I planned them.  I have been poking at this knot quite a bit, both with a tennis ball against a wall, and by seeing my way inside it with my mind's eye.

The knot still hurts.  But I think I will be able to deal with it.

I don't know the name of the other knot, but I know it gets me out of physical (and probably emotional) balance.  I don't stand with equal weight on my right leg or sit with equal weight on my right sit-bone.  I am going to keep exploring this knot to see if I can get to the bottom of it.

Last, I'd like to leave you with this blog post, which is simply wonderful... so very YES! I want to do yoga with other Fat Girls too.

And, I learned tatting this month.  Look, it doesn't suck! And this was a brand new and very not-comfortable thing to learn, but I stuck with it, and now I have snowflakes!

And, I made an owl.  The owl is extremely cute, but I don't know if he's a match for SadieLou's Dread Pirate Roberts owl.

I think he's a little quizzical, don't you?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Winter Feast for the Soul Days 2 & 3

Tonight I completed Day 3 of Winter Feast for the Soul meditation practice.  Tonight I put on my Plum Village Meditations audiobook and actually sat for 15 minutes.  It was a fairly good practice for me... I was gratified to find that although I'm a bit stiff and sore and inflexible, I wasn't that fidgety.  My brain, of course, did a fair amount of twiddling, as always, but it wasn't frustrating twiddling, if you know what I mean.  I noticed that I was thinking, and then I tried, at least for a few minutes, to think of my breath instead, or the bell sound.  And then my brain would go off again and I would gently redirect it to the breath. But I didn't feel that sense of failure to do this!! that I used to get when I was younger.  I'm guessing this is a sign of maturity.  I can sit still.

I did my Gratefulness journaling as well tonight.  I was still a little fuzzy-headed from the sitting--perhaps I should have journaled first?--and so I kept sort-of nodding off as I wrote.  But I'm taking that as being in a meditative state, not simply an exhausted one.  I listed about 40 things before my allotted time ran out... and I think I really would have fallen asleep if I'd continued.  I really am grateful for a lot of things in my life.  I have no idea why I wrote number 19, "I am grateful for cheese" but I know exactly why I wrote "I am grateful for fondue." Fondue and all it symbolizes.  I wonder if others would think it odd how many of the things on my list are people I've never met... I forgot to write "I am grateful for Jayannell" but I will go add her now, because without my Accountability Partner I would never have done this exercise in the first place.  Is it strange that I am grateful for Peck, my Wee Tiny Owl, who in real life is a pompom animal wearing a bow tie, and in The Tower is a Spirit Guide who hides under my hair and gives me strength and courage?  The semi-fictional life of Ravenclaw Tower is a remarkable and real place to me... listening to Talk of the Nation today, there was a story about the blog "Tuesdays with Dorie," which is a baking thing... Dorie Greenspan, a cookbook writer, told of her experience of a group of bloggers who wanted to cook their way through her entire book.

She said, "But what's been so interesting is how kind and generous and wonderful. I got really lucky with "Tuesdays with Dorie." They're a wonderful group of people, and they formed a real community. Real friendships have been formed through this group. People had helped one another. Careers have changed. It's been a remarkable journey and one that - as I said, I never could have imagined this would happen."  This, of course, resonated with me--my career has changed , I have formed real friendships, as a result of Ravelry and the House Cup.  And then she added, 

I've watched hundreds of bakers go from being scaredy cats to becoming really, really good bakers with confidence in your skills. 
And the letters that I've gotten from people who've said that learning to bake, which was something that's frightened them, that they did kind of - you know, with self-improvement. You said a New Year's resolution, but many people do take up baking as a - at New Year's - when they're not dieting. But I think that people who started without the skills had become so confident of what they can do, and it's gone to other areas of their lives, that this has really given them - I think of this as the power of baking, the power of community. It's really given them the confidence to do other things. It's been so exciting.
And again--this resonates for me.  Learning to knit really well, to be fearless in just one thing, has led to some fearlessness in some other areas of my life, and ultimately to a career change.  I still have fears... but so many fewer than I did a year ago, let alone 2 1/2 years ago when I joined the House Cup.  So... being grateful for it and all its imagined and half-imagined population and locales makes perfect sense.

Today on the radio I heard this, which I think will be my next journal exercise.  Reclaiming my Personal Story... I think that sounds very therapeutic, don't you?

Last night, on Day 2, I did a lot of mindful knitting... which maybe wasn't as mindful as sitting or journaling, but was still more mindful than when I watch a video or listen to an audiobook while knitting.  I got a lot done on my OWL (talk about developing fearlessness--I'm designing this one, and if all goes right, it'll be a project in a book of designs I want to write.  If you'd told me a year ago that this would be in my personal cards, I'd have said you were nuts.

Exercise: not so much today.  The time I had planned for exercise went to a work phone call.  But it is all good.  Tomorrow I am stuck at home all day with no car as my car gets a check-up, so I will plug in the Xbox then.

Hmmm... knitting pictures...

I didn't get to show these off before because the Barbie was a gift.  She's wearing a dress made of hand-dyed yarn... which I dyed with ice cubes, mind you, just because I had to try it.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Winter Feast, Day 1

Last night I started my Winter Feast for the Soul practice by journaling for 40 minutes.  I wrote 3 pages (handwritten in a book).  I thought about ending with a five-minute sitting practice, but I chickened out.  I have sat before; I don't know why, exactly, I am so hesitant to do it.  I think tonight I'll set my Plum Village meditation for 15 minutes on my iPod and sit.

Writing for that long went by quickly.  I admit I was surprised.  Later in the evening I read some more of Thich Nhat Hahn's book Savor, about Mindful Eating.  This is the thing I most wish to do... and yet I resist it as well. I just had some crackers and hummus.  I ate while sitting at the computer.  I can barely remember them.

The book talks about all the seeds in our consciousness, and how we can encourage the ones that are healthful and good to grow and stop watering the harmful ones.  We can tend the seeds for courage and mindfulness and love, and let the drama and malcontent seeds wither and die.  I think many people--including me--water the harmful seeds much more than the helpful ones.  I am not entirely sure why that is, though I do have ideas.

Tonight my writing practice will include listing the things in my life I'm grateful for.  I tend to resist this kind of practice, because... I don't know.  Do I think it's trite?  Probably.  Yet I know people for whom this simple practice is powerful and moving.  I think I'd like to be that sort of person.

I made slippers to keep my feet warm. They have bees.