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Study after study has confirmed that
meditation is good for mind, body and spirit.
It decreases stress and increases happiness.
It lowers blood pressure and raises immune response.
It improves focus, memory, and patience.
But – I’m going to be honest here –
many people find it hard to start and harder to continue.
SO: I was delighted to be introduced
to a slightly different form of meditation
by my sister-by-marriage while our family was together on the Gulf Coast.
It involves drawing patterns on small paper tiles
(or in a sketchbook, or on a napkin, or a handkerchief – anything handy).
You can work for a few minutes or for hours
(as the mood strikes you).
There are thousands of named patterns (called tangles)
that one can learn from a class, a book, a friend, the internet.
Or, if you are at the iconoclast end of the spectrum,
you can make up your own.
If you would like to try a new practice,
I encourage you to pick up a book at the library and check it out.
I can’t begin to tell you how relaxing and releasing I found it.
And my 88 year old father was able to still his shaking hands
to create a beautiful piece.
[The technical name is Zentangling, but that is a registered trademark.]
Trying not to ‘Dis’course
I have noticed that a frightening number of us
are on a hair-trigger these days.
I had an encounter on the Highline Canal near our home two days ago.
It was pretty shocking in person,
but the man throwing epithets at me
was shouting into his cell phone as he did it…
so the person on the other end of the line
suffered his vicious language right along with me.
When I got back to the privacy of my own house
(deep breathing all the way)
I remembered a quotation by Goethe
that I come back to in situations like this
when I am in danger of saying something I don’t want to say,
doing something I don’t want to do,
being someone I don’t want to be:
‘Treat people as if they were
what they ought to be,
and help them to become
what they are capable of being.’
Isn’t that how I want to be treated, after all?
Yesterday I was out
gathering (visions of) autumn abundance
to feed my spirit and inspire my creativity.
(Yesterday was the Feast of St Francis
so it seemed an appropriate time to
commune with nature…)
As I was absorbing October glory,
I happened on a newly installed bench
along a path I walk infrequently.
It was in memory of someone in the area
and the quotation on it was,
Together is my favorite place to be.
I don’t know who originally said it,
but it seemed like a gift from the universe
in a time of division and anger and fear.
There is nothing wrong with being tribal.
We just need to understand
that our tribe
is the earth
and all that lives in it, under it, on it, above it.
I tend to worry about my mistakes –
sometimes, I even obsess about my mistakes.
You may have someone like me in your life.
So, I was heartened to discover that,
according to the ship’s log,
on 7 October 1492, Columbus changed course
and managed to miss Florida.
On 12 October, he found Watling Island in the Bahamas instead.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with the Bahamas,
but for someone to miss an entire continent the size of North America
puts my mistakes into a comforting context.
This has been a wretched year for growing things.
I’ve gone through three sage plants and
the same number of rosemary plants
before I finally gave up and
tried to be grateful for a lot of oregano.
I managed to kill petunias, for heaven’s sake…
So, imagine my surprise when
I was cleaning out my planters,
to discover that my sweet potato vine
(planted purely for aesthetic purposes)
had produced three sweet potatoes.
Sometimes the universe blesses us in the oddest ways.
I passed the blessing along to the local wildlife
and smiled at the wonder of it
for the rest of the day.
Beams and Splinters
We can be outraged – and, yes, I am.
We can be horrified – and I am that, too.
We can be self-righteous – that one is harder to admit.
But then we need to learn something about ourselves…
or all the rest of it is just a lot of hot air.
There is a saying about casting beams and splinters out of eyes.
I know that I would benefit from paying attention to that proverb.
It is far too easy to ignore my own stereotyping
by focusing on someone else’s.
It is easy, for instance, to ignore the sexism I was trained up in
(dumb blonde/brunette/redhead jokes are sexism)
while being offended by Donald Trump’s.
I am not as crude about it as he is,
but (if anything) that makes my words more powerful
because they are so much more covert.
Can we all learn from this election cycle,
to be self-reflective and accountable
before we inflict wounds on the body politic
that we cannot easily heal?
Text © 2016, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2015, 2016 Immram Chara, LLC