Posts Tagged ‘meditation’

New Beginnings Painting

“New Beginnings” – Acrylic painting to be auctioned at the Charleston Art Walk April 17 to raise funds for the WV Children’s Advocacy Network

Last year at this time I was insistently resisting the label “artist” (See: I’m not THAT!). This year when I received the “Call to Artists” email, asking for donations of art to be auctioned at a fundraiser for a West Virginia non-profit, I excitedly began thinking about making a contribution. Yesterday I awoke at 4 a.m. having just finished the painting in my dreams.

I picked my way through the dark woods to the cottage and happily assembled my supplies, all the while trying to recall the details of the dream painting. I sketched it out quickly on the back of a things-to-do list, made a few notes, and then started painting. This morning I declared it finished because it brought a smile to my face.

Last year’s agony of creation is gone; today I was so absorbed in the joy of painting, I completely forgot to drink my coffee! Now, that’s seriously absorbed!

In this moment, I’m feeling happy and proud of myself. This past year, I’ve willingly worked through a lot of painful memories and purposefully healed those wounds. I’ve butted up against some major barriers, including “I don’t know what I’m doing!” and “I’m not good enough.” Patience, kindness and self-compassion have gradually reduced the size of the barriers. Although, still big enough to be recognizable, they have gradually become small enough to step over. Finally I find myself in a valley of contentment with feelings of satisfaction, freedom, delight, and whimsy. There is a sacred flow that happens now when I paint. It has become a time of communion with my higher self–a peaceful meditation. Lost in time and space, I become childlike, curious and delighted with the colors and shapes. It isn’t about getting certain results, it’s just about the fun of dabbling.

I long to more regularly feel that sense of freedom that comes from releasing attachment to outcome. I wonder what it would be like to approach every task in my life with playful curiosity and delight. When I think about where I was artistically just five years ago (couldn’t even draw a stick man) to where I am today, it makes me believe anything is possible. Yes, it does require a conscious desire to create something new as well as focused effort, but if it results in more connection, freedom, and joy, then count me in!

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Painting of Flowers

“Imaginary Flowers,” acrylic on tile by Barbie Dallmann

I’m reading a book, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, that is stimulating a lot of thought. In the book, imaginary friends are only capable of doing whatever their children imagine they can do. For example, the subject of the book is capable of walking through closed doors, but he cannot walk through walls. He doesn’t sleep because his child imagines him keeping an eye on things all night long. Each imaginary friend is limited by his child’s imagination, and it can be very frustrating for the friends at times.

I think in a sense we are all our own imaginary friends, limited in our abilities because of some default operating system dictating what we can and can’t do. If I “can’t imagine myself ever doing that!” then chances are, I never will. But through the magic of visioning, I can begin to open my awareness to new possibilities.

I have noticed, too, that often other people can more easily see our potential than we can. After all, they don’t have our fears blocking the view. What does it take to trust the vision of others? To step out on a limb, spread our wings, and fly because several other people imagine we can?

A couple of weeks ago, some friends told me that I should teach an art class. Quickly I responded, “Oh, I could NEVER do that! I can’t imagine ever being good enough to teach!” But even as I said those words, I realized that it wasn’t the first time I’d said them. At least twice before I had been urged by someone to create a class to help those who are afraid to paint. When prompting nudges me from three unrelated sources, I have a tendency to take a closer look. For me, that means meditating on the possibility. I create a vision, and walk around in it for a while, sort of like trying on a new pair of shoes. How does it feel? Is it a good fit? Could it work?

And the next thing I know, an opportunity presents itself. This one popped up the very next day. And guess what? This coming Saturday I’m leading a workshop in compassionate creativity for art-timid adults.

So, while it’s true we are limited by our own imaginations, it is also true that we can tap into the Collective Consciousness and download a new paradigm. Why not pay more attention to the possibilities that enter our awareness? Why not try on some new ways of being? Why not sign up for an art class?

Flier for art workshop

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Here I am during my teenage years … I really thought I had life all figured out. The pieces seemed to fit together so very nicely back then:

Soul 4

This is me in my late 20’s, married to a great guy, starting a business, things were really coming together. There had been some bumps in the road, but I was pretty sure I finally had it all figured out.

soul 11

Here I am in my roles as wife, mother, business owner, and spiritual seeker. Life was feeling settled, like everything has fallen into place.

soul 7

During our son’s teen years, I felt so scattered! I was so confused, looking for answers in the four corners of the world. Maybe from the outside things looked ordered. Inside, I was definitely searching!

soul 10

When mid-life hit, it all fell apart! I was disconnected, uncertain, and lost. Not only had I lost the answers, I was losing my grip on the questions.

soul 5

Here I am as I began to look inward for the answers, and even though it seemed like there was a lot missing, I started to feel my inner world coming together for the first time.

soul 9

This is me during the Coach Training Program. Pieces I had never really gotten to know were beginning to line up. I was asking some good questions and starting to see new possibilities.

Soul 3

This is me starting my day in prayer and meditation at the cottage, feeling whole and connected to the universe.

Soul 13

And here I am on a typical day: connected, scattered, clueless, and yet certain. Certain that I can rearrange the pieces without losing myself. Certain that there is still so much to learn. And certain, finally, that I will NEVER have it all figured out. And that’s okay.

soul 6

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Yesterday was an awful day. I had a case of “morning brain” that lasted all day long. I’m talking about brain fog so dense, I couldn’t see my way through the simplest mental challenge. It didn’t help that yesterday held a demanding workload. It took me three times longer than usual to get through my tasks. It was an uphill battle, and I finally surrendered around 4:30, thinking I’d get an early start in the morning.

But I woke up with a massive headache, so I quietly made my way to the cottage, hoping meditation, solitude, and coffee might help. Two hours later I returned to the house with the startling realization that the headache was the result of not breathing!

Through journaling and a willingness to look at the truth, I saw clearly just how stressed I’ve been lately, not just the last couple of months, but all the way back to late last summer when Britain first talked to an Air Force recruiter. Since then, life has been a series of well-meaning assurances, like “we’ll know something for sure next week.” I remember deciding to wait to send Christmas cards until we knew something for sure. They never got sent.

Then the uncertainties really started piling up. What will happen to the Ford Institute for Transformational Training now that Debbie Ford is no longer with us? Today was Dannie’s Radiation Treatment #16. Will he have a bad reaction today? Tomorrow Britain is supposed to go to Beckley for the Army physical exam. Will he be signing papers before the weekend?

It’s no wonder I’ve been holding my breath! What’s gonna happen? What’s next? When will I know something for sure? I’ve been waiting for months!

This morning I decided it was time to stop waiting and start breathing. I removed every single non-essential activity from my calendar and spent the day deeply breathing my way through a series of spontaneous activities. I went for a ride in the convertible, singing along with Jimmy Buffett. I grilled steaks and invited my family to an impromptu picnic lunch on the back deck. I watched a training video and then tried my hand at clipping the dog, followed by a bath, where we both got soaking wet.

Yes, I know it was a “work day,” and as soon as I finish writing this, I’m going to carefully schedule my priorities for tomorrow. No missed deadlines.  No one will suffer because I found some BREATHING SPACE. I knew those words were on my Vision Map for a reason!

And just so you know … headache’s gone, brain is clear, and I’ve decided to make some permanent changes to my Things To Do List.


Breathing Space

Just a little piece of my 2005 Vision Map. I’m still working on it!

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A strand of 24 beads

“Breath Beads” – Made for me by my friend Amy Williams

My friend Amy gave me these beads when we had breakfast together a couple of days ago. She didn’t call them “prayer beads”; she mentioned using them for deep breathing and centering. So, I’m calling them “Breath Beads.” I counted them. There are 24 on the strand, not including the face bead, which doesn’t have a mouth . . . to remind me to stay silent once in a while (I made up that last bit, but it sounds good, doesn’t it?).

This morning I decided to observe the process of using the beads. I thought I might slip into a nice meditative state. Instead, I noticed my typical pattern with anything new. I immediately slipped into a nice analytical state.

I hadn’t finished my first, supposed-to-be cleansing breath when my mind hijacked the experience. “What’s the point of all this?” it demanded. Then it launched quickly into calculations: “Hmmm . . . 24 beads . . . an average of 5 seconds per breath . . . this is going to take about two minutes . . . maybe more, though, since I seem to be breathing a little more slowly than usual.”

Satisfied with the timing, it next began to notice the difference in the shapes of the beads. “This one seems too big and bulky for a peaceful process . . . this one is tiny. It could easily be missed, and that would throw off the timing. If I finish in under two minutes, I’ll know I missed one of these tiny beads. Oh, wait, I like this one; it’s got more texture than the others.” My eyes were closed, so color wasn’t part of this particular analysis. My mind did, however, begin searching for a pattern, and finding none, it went straight to judgment: “A pattern would be better . . . then I would know how far along I was . . . I would know which bead was coming next. If it were more like a rosary, I think I would like it better. It would be more predictable.”

After two minutes of this, I completed my first Breath Bead Experience. And now my mind feels satisfied that it sort of knows what to expect next time. Maybe it will settle down and let me notice more than a single breath when I try it again tomorrow morning.

Silly me to expect the first time to be anything but a Left Brained Bonanza. Oh, how well I know that little scientific mathematician inside me who is ever busy making sense of the world around her. Analyze to your heart’s content, my dear. Trust me, though, when I tell you there is joy in not knowing, in simply resting in the perfection of experiences that can be neither measured nor controlled.

I know . . . I know. It makes no sense! But that’s the point. It’s not supposed to. Hey, I have an idea. What if you observe me tomorrow while I breathe, and you can analyze it all you want after the two minutes have passed. Shall we give it try?

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Spider Web

This is an old picture. I took it in my back yard on September 11, 2001, at 8:47 a.m. eastern time

[Note: During my coach training program, I embraced the teaching that “My Outer World is a Reflection of My Inner World.” Today I thought I’d share a glimpse of my outer world.]

Late to the cottage today, I’m greeted by sunshine splashing on a muddy floor. In the darkness of early winter mornings, I never notice the bits of dirt that so easily blend with the color of the cottage floor.

The sun has me on my knees . . . wet rag in hand, scrubbing the floor. My morning meditation becomes an appreciation for the many imperfections hidden by the shadows of winter.

But on this amazing sunny morning, the spider webs glisten in the shifting light, and I notice, too, the shells of dead bugs scattered beneath them, like so many empty candy wrappers carelessly discarded.

How is it that cleaning a floor can bring such joy here in the woods? In this moment, everything just feels so “right,” so “part of the natural flow.” Winter brings the spiders indoors, where we cohabit peacefully until spring. I have no urge to evict them now. And so, like the unnamed janitor, I dutifully clean up the remnants of snacks and wipe away the sagging, abandoned webs.

When spring arrives, I’ll clean in earnest. For now, I do a little, knowing that all the dust and dirt will disappear in the shadows of the many winter mornings yet to come.

[Now for the twist: Whatever you think you just learned about my inner world, isn’t about me at all … it’s about YOUR inner world. Enjoy the insights!]

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Elusive meditation

When I have a lot to do—in the office, at home, or even getting ready for vacation —I have a difficult time meditating. This morning was like that. It began with an unsettled feeling as I tried to coax my mind to join me in the present moment. But it would not be tamed.

My mind became a hungry animal, keenly searching for something to sink its teeth into, preferably something substantial that required gnawing, tearing, and lots of chewing. An idea to be explored. An event to be analyzed. A behavior to be dissected. A plan to be created in excruciating detail.

Ah! What a mind! Monkey Mind Extraordinaire, enthusiastically swinging from one branch to another, totally engaged in frenetic acrobatics. It drags me through time and space at an awesome pace, leaving me restless and dissatisfied.

Riding my thoughts gets me nowhere near the peace I desire. A deep sigh. Enough! I’ll try again tomorrow.

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