January 28, 2010

Meditation Inspiration: Rumi, Part 1

I am going to try to make this a weekly feature - a poem or text excerpt that is inspiring me in my meditation or contemplation.

Rumi's poetry has inspired me again and again over the years. You know how some texts are best the first time you read them and then disappointing when you read them again years later, while others are just as fresh every time you come back to them? I put Rumi in the latter category. Even a poem I thought I had gotten all the meaning out of can suddenly give new insight when seen from the perspective of new experience. I am calling this "Part 1" because I will definitely post more Rumi in the future.

The core of masculinity does not derive
from being male,
nor friendliness from those who console.

Your old grandmother says, "Maybe you shouldn’t
go to school. You look a little pale."

Run when you hear that.
A father’s stern slaps are better.

Your bodily soul wants comforting.
The severe father wants spiritual clarity.

He scolds but eventually
leads you into the open.

Pray for a tough instructor
to hear and act and stay within you.

We have been busy accumulating solace.
Make us afraid of how we were. 

~From The Essential Rumi, translations by Coleman Barks with John Moyne 

Lost an Old Friend - A Tree Falls Down

A big old maple tree came down Monday morning in a windy rainstorm -- it was really damaged a decade ago, during a storm with tornado strength winds. That's when the treehouse that Alan built for Rebecca landed intact about 200 feet from the tree (Alan builds solid!) and the tree started its slow demise. The wind did the rest of the task this week.
Alan has been out with a chain saw, cutting it up for firewood.
Although we have a number of smaller young trees, I always feel sad when we lose one of these elders.

January 23, 2010

Meditation Tip: Minimizing Distractions

Like my mom, I too often experience "monkey mind" when meditating. While I don't have any special hints for dealing with distracting thoughts, other than just continuing to meditate, I do have a few tips for minimizing other distractions.

Checklist for before you meditate:
  • Let your partner/family/roommate know you will be meditating, how long, and that you would like not to be disturbed
  • Turn off your phone and any other electronics that may beep, flash, etc.
  • Adjust the thermostat to a comfortable level, drape a blanket or shawl over yourself if needed
  • Put on lip balm and lotion
  • Pull your hair away from your face
  • Make sure you are wearing comfortable clothes - nothing too tight or that digs in
  • Remove any jewelry that may bother you or make noise
  • If you have time, do some stretches or gentle exercises before sitting
  • Take a moment to notice whether there is anything urgent you need to do floating in your mind - if so, take the time to jot these things down on a piece of paper so your mind will be less likely to keep coming back to them during meditation
  • Set a timer - I use the timer function on my watch - and make sure it is working
  • Experiment (over the course of several days) with finding the best sitting position - in a chair, on the floor, on a small cushion, large cushion, or no cushion, etc.
I also recommend that when distractions come up during your meditation you experiment with which distractions you can sit through and which need to be dealt with. I have noticed that an itch will go away if I continue to sit and focus on my breath, whereas if my foot falls asleep, it will continue to become more and more uncomfortable until I shift my position to correct the problem.

What are the distractions that challenge you, and how do you respond to them?

    January 20, 2010

    Reusable Menstrual Products

    Have you ever considered how many menstrual products the average woman disposes of in her life? Or how much she spends on them? Reusable menstrual products are a great way to cut back on or even eliminate the waste and the expense.

    I tried the Keeper (a reusable rubber menstrual cup) several years ago but never really felt comfortable wearing it, even though I know other people who loved it. I am considering trying the Diva Cup or Moon Cup (silicone reusable menstrual cups), but at $35, I am holding off for now.

    I also got a cloth pad from Glad Rags many years ago. I recently rediscovered it and started using it again. Chatting with a friend, I found out she just started making her own cloth pads, so we had a sewing date to make some together. There are lots of patterns online, but we used my Glad Rags pad to make our own. We finished one each, and cut out fabric for two more, but will have to get together another time to finish them. My goal is to make enough to make it through my period, plus hopefully some to give away to friends.

    I also want to make some of the less bulky cloth pantyliners I have seen recently, like this one from Glad Rags.

    If you're not up for making your own, there are plenty of places to purchase them online. I recommend going to Etsy and searching for reusable menstrual pads. They have a great variety from many indie crafters at reasonable prices.

    Oh, and in case anyone is wondering about washing, here's what I do with mine. I rinse or quickly wash it by hand in cold water as soon as possible (same day or next day), which gets the blood out. I let it air dry, then throw it in with my regular laundry.

    January 19, 2010


    Today I sat
    I rushed into the room to sit
    Just to check it off my to-do list – meditation, check
    Like I used to feel driving white-knuckled to go to a yoga class

    There is so much else to do
    So many other possibilities, responsibilities, distractions
    And yet I sat
    I was committed to sitting

    So I am totally experiencing “monkey mind,” a meditator’s phrase for the wild and crazy stream of thoughts we all can have, especially when we are trying to quiet our minds.
    Imagine a swarm of howler monkeys swinging from vine to vine, that is my thought pattern.
    Although I attempt not to get engaged with each passing thought, the gamut has gone from the desire to make dinner plans with friends before they leave for a month in FL to the reaction times of those surrounding JFK on the day he was shot.

    But I catch myself wandering again and return to focus on my breath
    at the tip of my nostrils and the rising and falling of my chest

    I listen to the voice of Sharon Salzburg on a meditation CD as she describes the effortless quality of mindfulness
    So glad that she offers the reassurance that one will have a torrent of thoughts, plans,images, aches and pains
    Because I certainly do

    Yet today I am less physically antsy than yesterday and the day before
    I sat still in a relatively comfortable position and didn’t fidget for a full 25 minutes
    I struggled with thinking and not thinking, with re-learning this process of stopping and being aware, of learning to be patient with myself.
    And I am pleased that I was quiet today, I meditated, alone but part of a group of other winter feasters, all creating some peace in our lives.

    January 16, 2010

    One Small Change

    I am participating in One Small Change, a challenge started by Hip Mountain Mama to encourage people to increase their positive green impact.

    Since I already use cloth bags, cloth napkins, dish towels and hankies, buy in bulk, have switched to CFLs, and bring my own container for leftovers, I was struggling to find a small-ish change to work on for this month. I decided that my change for January is to get rid of things/use things up. Being a packrat and an environmentalist, this is always a challenge for me.

    So I am looking for creative ways to use and give away some of my stuff. I am also giving myself permission to recycle and even throw away a few truly useless things. So far, I have given things away to friends and through freecycle, and have sold some items via Amazon and craigslist. I am also preparing to sell some of my handmade items locally. And I am making an effort to use the materials I already have around the house. Keeping things to prevent them from being thrown away is not positive if I'm not actually going to use them and they are taking up both physical and mental space. Also, the more organized and usable my space is, the more I am able to utilize the limited amount of project supplies I do decide to hang onto.

    One of my projects - tagging my handknits for sale with repurposed materials (gift tags, paint chips, wallpaper samples, old postcards)

    Anyone else participating in the One Small Change challenge? I'd welcome suggestions for future months (but I don't think I'm quite ready for the family cloth yet).

    January 15, 2010

    Need A Reminder??

    Be enthusiastic -- to get rid of plastic.
    Use your canvas bags intones
    Tim Minchin on his Environmental Anthem -- filmed for a BBC comedy show.
    I recommend that you be patient...the video moves from the solo droning man to a musically joyous group happening.

    Edited by Rebecca to add:
    My mom and I both carry a reusable bag in our shoulder bag/purse. There are plenty of places to buy them, but here's a great list of patterns to sew, knit, or crochet your own reusable bag.


    The Winter Feast for the Soul began today. A "worldwide event for people of all faiths" and traditions, each committing to 40 days of meditation. It grew from one woman's response to a Rumi poem and her creating a small regional event to last year's participation of over 10,000 people from 29 countries.
    The website Winter Feast for the Soul has more information including free guided meditations; I like the 6 minute video about the project.

    Rebecca and I each intend to be part of the Winter Feast -- in our own ways. Although the project recommends 40 minutes of daily meditation, I intend to sit for twenty minutes on most days. That seems manageable to me.

    We'll keep you posted on our progress.
    Anyone interested in joining us -- to give peace a chance?

    January 14, 2010

    My Meditation Practice

    My practice of meditation is sporadic... it comes and goes, waxes and wanes. I often intend to do it, but it's easy to find excuses not to. So as part of Winter Feast for the Soul (recommended by my mom), I've made a commitment to meditate every day for 40 days, starting January 15th. I will meditate a minimum of 15 minutes each day, with longer sessions on some days.

    My practice is a very simple sitting practice - no music, no chanting, no visualization, no bells and whistles of any kind. I sit on a cushion with my eyes open and I breathe and I notice the out breath and when I notice I am thinking, I label it "thinking." That's about it. It is based on the practice described in Chapter 4 of the book The Wisdom of No Escape by Pema Chodron.

    My current meditation spot in my bedroom

    For me, meditation makes space in my head for things other than the To Do lists I tend to have constantly floating around. It makes space for me to feel more inspired, creative, and productive. On the flip side, it also can feel frustrating, tedious and unproductive. It's all in how I approach it.