Category: Practice Tools

Art helps you see things differently

Crystal Bridges museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, has been open since 2011, and on my “to visit” list since then. I finally got there earlier this week. I had very fortunate timing for unseasonably warm weather and the special exhibit  (The Art of Dance in America).

This is a great museum in a lovely location in the Ozarks.  I could go on about the collection, the building, and the grounds.  Go for a visit!  Most of the museum is free, but the special exhibit cost $10 — a bargain.

I noticed that all of the art I looked at in detail triggered new viewpoints for many things. The more art I saw, the more things looked different.


What am I Feeling? Yes, I do have to ask

number five

days without pirate attack

I’m persisting in bringing myself back into today; I keep slipping into next week when I potentially have jury duty — wondering what it will be like? Where will I park?  How will I get lunch?  Can I work while I’m sitting there?  Should I work while I’m sitting there?  It’s a great opportunity to practice awareness exercises, especially the Avatar Compassion Exercise.

This week I started doing a Vipassana-like query of myself after each meal and answering myself.  It’s been interesting.  When I am done with the meal I ask myself, “Are you full?” I answer back (so far every time has been affirmative), “I am full.” I ask myself then, “Are you satisfied?” I’ve been able to answer, “I am satisfied.” I focus my attention on my stomach, throat, mouth, and then go out from there to see how my body feels.  I end with “What else are you feeling?” These answers have been all different.

No matter whether the answer to the last question has been a ‘negative’ or ‘positive’ response, I have been able to keep an observer viewpoint while feeling that feeling.  It’s been informative and keeping me from the desire to eat compulsively.  For this current meal.  It’s been good.

Stop Lookin’ at Me!

Wednesday a red-tail hawk landed on a tree nearby as I’m walking to my car in the work hawk at workparking lot.  It fluffed out its wings several times, so the movement caught my eye, and I took the picture.  Yesterday a hawk swooped between my house and the neighbor’s, right near where I was sitting on the deck.  Today I look out the window and one’s on my neighbor’s roof looking at me.  I was on the phone, so it was easy to get a picture. When does something you “see” become a “sign?” hawk on roof

According to Ina Woolcott on

The hawk’s gifts include clear sightedness, being observant, long distance memory, messages from the universe, guardianship, recalling past lives, courage, wisdom, illumination, seeing the bigger picture, creativity, truth, experience, wise use of opportunities, overcoming problems, magic, focus.

The Hawk represents a messenger in the Native American culture. It often shows up in our life when we need to pay attention to the subtle messages found around us, and from those we come into contact with. As with all messages received, it is important to recognise the messages underlying truth. We will be taught to be observant and also pay attention to what we may overlook. This could mean a talent we aren’t using, a gift or unexpected help for which we haven’t shown our gratitude for, or a message from the Universe. As there are so many hawk varieties, the messages vary and can affect all levels of our psyche.

Beliefs and meaning can be personal, cultural, or universal (as far as human perspective of the universe…).  I’ve used the hawk to remind my self to use my tools, like the hawk uses the air currents to circle in the sky while it searches for food.

I’m still debating if I’ve just seen these hawks or if they’re signs.


Focus Out

Driving into my garage Friday after work, I caught my mind in the middle of a story.  Its favorite activity.  I reminded myself (verbally, out loud, again) that that was a world all encompassed within the eight inches between my ears.  I noticed my perspective shift to size that space compared to my garage, then my front yard, my street and on out.  Yet that interior world was so compelling and seductive, I almost slipped back into it.

geraniumsI started watering the pots of flowers on my front porch (90-degree temperatures require daily heavy watering).  I noticed the white geraniums and remembered an Avatar tool the intent of which is to intensify your attention on an object.  I put all of my attention on the flowers.  I noticed attributes of the flowers I hadn’t before:  the amount of buds, the bend of a stem, the browning flowers past bloom, the spicy smell, the curves of the leaves, the different stages of each bloom, and more.  Not only was I no longer in my head dancing with that story, but I couldn’t even remember what the story was.  Bliss…

This is such an easy practice tool to do in the summer.  There’s so much blooming and changing quickly.  I stopped the car on the way home from errands Saturday morning just to notice the grasses and flowers (weeds?) on the side of the road.  What a huge variety! What a joy it is to focus on everything around me and not my little idea of me.



Middle of the Night Ah-ha

Two days with not enough sleep.  I’ve been slogging my way through recognition that my mind’s critical voice is my dad’s and the fear that came up that if I let go of that he would not love me (he’s dead, but that doesn’t matter, does it?).  That fear was truly kicking my butt.

When I couldn’t sleep last night, I figured what the heck, let’s dig in.  I did a rundown with Byron Katie’s The Work.  It’s easy to do by yourself and in the dark. The “Turn it around” step is what does it. It took a few passes with some good insights at each level.  At the end I got up to write down the ah-ha (messy because I didn’t turn on the lights) so I could use it here.  It was about one a.m.

midnight ah-ha

Translation:  I am really angry at myself.  Family is the first, best reflection we have of our “self” or identities.  They are the first place we look to see our shortcomings and assets reflected.  I thought I was hurt by my dad’s critical voice.  I thought I was angry at my sister for what she hasn’t done. Turns out I was angry at myself for what I think I haven’t accomplished.  All stuff  I’ve been afraid to do.   The fear showed up as anger. It was all about me.

Really, how could it ever be about anyone else?  To my ego-mind no one else really exists — only I do and my needs.

It’s funny and tragic – seeing that legacy of “not good enough” passed through families like an auto-immune disease — in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.  I had never thought of my dad as being self-critical, but for that voice to come out, he must have been.  He must have had expectations of himself to accomplish, to be, to have…. Since I don’t believe there’s a heaven or that he’s “listening,” but I am.  It was late, but I had the loving, compassionate conversation with myself.

I’m Blaming This Notion On Pirate Paul (Saul of Tarsus)


This is the season to weed here in Wisconsin.  Every day I dig out dandelions by hand because I refuse to use poison.  It’s not so bad, though.  A few minutes every day (sometimes both morning and evening) will keep the flower beds free of weeds and give the flowers a chance to take hold. It seems like the most practical solution:  do about ten minutes of yard work a day and it looks good.  Not too strenuous, not overwhelming, no reason to swallow anti-inflammatory meds.

So, why can’t I accept a daily meditation and spiritual practice as easily?

Because I want the instant fix.  I still want the lightning bolt that knocks me off of my horse on the road to Damascus.  This is the story that colors my (and many others’) idea of spiritual change.  It’s the idea that once we get the ah-ha, we’re done.  My mind conveniently leaves out that Paul didn’t become a nice guy (there’s plenty of evidence in his own words to show he was a bigot and misogynist).

So, I am back to weeding.  Even though it’s been raining off and on today, I’ve dug up some dandelions and used my walking meditations as mantras while I was weeding.

No lightning, though.





in spite of my thoughts

I experienced a minor epiphany this week:  my thoughts may never change.  I  must learn to act in spite of my thoughts.

I imagine no one else has the mean, nasty, misanthropic thoughts I have.  This is probably not true, but it doesn’t stop me from working to eliminate the thoughts.  I have a lot of tools I use to stop malicious thoughts and shift.


a neighbor’s bird feeders –  including The Tin Man

However, some thoughts come so quickly I can’t stop them.  I notice what I just thought and begin judging myself.  Basically, I think, “That woman is an idiot.” “Oh, crap, why can’t I just be nice?”

I realized that my self-judgment implies that the first thought/judgment is true.  Huh.

So, that reflex thought may never stop.  Or it may someday.  I don’t know that, but I do know I can act from love even if I can’t always think from love.

postscript to a bad day

as the day winds down I learned:

  1.  I ate because I acted mean and snarky in the meeting right before.  I need help identifying ways to catch this.
  2. the whole “thing” all took place in my head.
  3. staying with the bad feelings and then the good feelings (crying, massage, moderate self-awareness) is what it’s all about.

More Tools

Since I read Thich Nhat Hanh‘s poem (below), I have used it near the end of my morning walk and at times (frequently…) of pirate attack.

I’ve heard the Plum Village monks sing it, too, so it could be called a song.  I just realized, maybe I should sing these, not just say them.  I know singing changes the brain in ways speaking doesn’t.

“I have arrived; I am home
in the here, in the now.
I am solid; I am free,
in the ultimate I dwell.”

I’ve been struggling with Step 3, so I wrote a similarly metered poem to remind me of my higher power and that key word, “decision.”

“I decide, again today
I turn over my will; I turn over my self
to love, to love.
What shall I do then, as love?”

These both work best for me done slowly in a walking meditation.  But sometimes I just have to find an empty conference room, take a few deep breaths, say it, and blow my nose.


The Observer Notices Spring


Snowdrops pushing up beneath the bird feeder.

If you live in the temperate zones, you are probably feeling the same way I am.  Happy the giant snow piles are nearly all melted and the temps are dancing around the high 50’s and low 60’s.  I’m itching to open windows and clean up the yard.  I enjoy weeding and find it meditative — that will be here soon.

Spring is my best reminder of the cyclical nature of life, whether at the macro-planet level or micro-me level.  In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reminded that moods cycle for whatever reason throughout the day and the week.  I will frequently have no idea why at any particular moment the feelings in my body and the spastic voice in my head are screaming, “Run away, run away!!”  There’s no logical reason, and I’m learning that it just doesn’t matter.

In practice, to notice the feeling, label it, appreciate it (thanks, Avatar tools) and stay in observer view is the most powerful way to get through them.  Say, “This is weird,” right at first shifts me to an observer quickly.

Sounds simple.  It is.  I just have to get over myself.


Check out my Poetiosity post today, too, and get in the mood for April – Poetry Month.