This week in Spritual Practices class, we covered Eating Meditation and Walking Meditation.
I was having an awkwardly laid out schedule, so I was starving just before class started and was eating pizza during the chat at the beginning. I’d forgotten it was Eating Meditation day and people were looking at me strangely as I gulped down my food.
For eating meditation, you practice eating slowly and mindfully, savoring each step of eating. First you “eat” with your eyes, taking in the color and shape of the food. Then you “eat” with your sense of smell, savoring the smell of the food you are about to eat (we were eating grapes and guess what? grapes don’t really smell like anything.). If it’s something more solid, you could “eat” with your sense of touch, feeling how the item feels under your fingertips. You could “eat” with your sense of hearing if it was something like fruit that you could thump or tap. Finally, you put it into your mouth and feel it with your tongue and the roof of your mouth. You chew slowly, taking in the texture as it is chewed. Eventually you swallow it and feel it going down.
The whole process makes me giggle a lot. I’m not sure why. 🙂
We were also supposed to do walking mediation, but since this is a pandemic and we were on Zoom, that part was hard to do online. So we just talked about it and our leader shared a visual about how to hold you hands while you walk (think of what the kids did with their hands in the Sound of Music while they were singing, it’s sort of like that.) We talked about where there were local prayer/meditation labyrinths for walking. There’s one quite near my house (that I know about thanks to the Pokemon Go group that I joined one day last year).
I’ve been doing mine longhand, but it’s about killing my hand after three pages in the morning. Today’s task has us writing a personal narrative and I’ve had to write another six handwritten pages in the afternoon. Our class calendar gives us three days to do 10-15,000 words of a personal narrative and I just don’t write that fast, especially not longhand. What to do, what to do?
Fortunately, some of the writing I have already been doing for BYOB dovetails nicely with some of the questions suggested by Julia Cameron to answer, so I do have some of that kind of thing written already recently. I’ve also had two decades of blogging about my life to draw from, so I have some things I can go back to here to kind of look through for inspiration. I may just not be able to do all of it by hand. Typing or dictating is much easier on the hands.
Before I knew I was going to be running behind on my BYOB project, I’d already signed up for this writing class/workshop/book discussion group covering Julia Cameron’s The Vein of Gold. I have done a book by Julia Cameron before, many many years ago, called The Artist’s Way, and then several years ago, I also went through her book Blessings. So I was pretty sure I was going to enjoy this when I saw it come up as an option on one of my book groups.
Today’s the first day the group is meeting (and coincidentally also the kids first day back to school). I just discovered that, sadly, I’m already a little bit behind. Apparently a calendar went out over the weekend when I wasn’t paying attention to the group yet, starting daily personal activities last Sunday. Ah well, it looks like it should be pretty easy to catch up, as I actually already have a Morning Pages and Daily Walk habit. I just have to catch up on the very small amount of reading. 🙂 I cannot wait to get started!
My posts for BYOB have not turned out to be daily. I have been having health issues again, the same brain and blood issues that I had last year and the year before and the year before. It always seems to get worse this time of year. You would think I would be used to it by now, but I am not.
So, I am up to day three now with my posts and today is the thirteenth. I don’t imagine that I will catch up, but I did have a phenomenally productive day yesterday with writing, so there is still hope.
In week four of our UU Spiritual Practices class, we covered prayer. From a UU standpoint, prayer is not necessarily to someone or some being, it is a way of being conscious of what is active in your heart. Basically, every day ask “Where is my spirit?” and pray from that answer. If you absolutely cannot think of anything, some things to pray about could be: what you’re thankful for, what help you need, what amazes you.
A book was suggested: “Prayers for people who don’t think they can pray”
We did model prayers together. Some of my prayer started like this: “Thank you for my family and friends who are like family. Thank you for a safe home and enough to share with others. Help my friends to feel like they are enough and that they are not so alone with their burdens.”
Bits of prayers from others that I plan to incorporate into my prayer life:
“Help me listen to the many different sides of everyone’s stories and needs.”
“Help me remain open to the knowledge and wisdom of others, even if I think they’re wrong in some things.”
Another one of Julia Cameron’s big things is taking yourself on an Artist Date. Julia describes them thusly: “The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic”– think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy.”
A bajillion years ago when I did my first Julia Cameron experience, I had no kids, I lived in a big city, I wasn’t immunocompromised, and there was no pandemic going on. So there are big changes in the here and now version of my life.
I’m really not leaving the house much these days. I go on walks around the neighborhood, the grocery store occasionally, and Wal-mart even less often than that. Not much more than that. So Artist Dates are hard to imagine right now. Fortunately, the group I’m doing this with is awesome and came up with a list of alternate ideas for artist dates, some of which I’ll share below:
Virtual psychology: Happiness Lab Podcast: It is interesting how so much of the “what you think will make you happy really won’t” relates to writing. Because that’s exactly what our plots teach our characters. It’s the first time I’ve heard agency applied to actual people — but it makes the importance in writing make sense. Done by a Harvard professor. https://www.happinesslab.fm/
Virtual: Virtually visit a city in your WIP, or one you’ve always wanted to go to. Put the city name in to search YouTube and you’ll likely get hours worth of travel videos, history clips, etc. In advance, look up CITYNAME recipe and find a recipe to make on your virtual visit.
Virtual: She said that watching a good film can count as a date. Kanopy has incredible foreign films. You can watch 6 free films a month, and can sign up with google or with your library card. Kanopy.com
For this week, I did an Artist Date with my youngest son. We painted “pawtraits” of some local rescue cats as part of a charity fundraiser to raise money for O’Malley Alley Cats in Tyler (the group we fostered for this spring and summer).
So this week in Spiritual Practices class we covered “Keeping the Sabbath.” If you know me well, you know the phrase “keeping the Sabbath” weirds me out. I spent a long time trying to shove my big round self into the little square hole of my husband’s religion and “keeping the Sabbath” and “keeping the Feasts” where big phrases in his church community. It really makes me shudder.
With the Unitarian Universalists, keeping the sabbath seems to be an easy affair. It can be done any day or any time. It doesn’t even have to be all day, apparently.
What is a Sabbath practice? The Hebrew root of Sabbath is a word that means “to cease.” So the big question here is: What do we want to turn off in our lives to make a Sabbath? What do we change from our regular lives?
For me, a Sabbath looks like turning off a lot of my responsibilities. I don’t do PTA or volunteer work on a Sabbath, nor do I attempt to get any serious writing done. If a great writing thought comes to me, of course I’ll write it down, but I won’t sit in front of my screen with my mind on my plan and my plan on my mind.
In thinking about it a while, what I realized is that I need more than just not doing things, though. I need things to do. So I thought about it a little more and decided that the things I could do that would make the Sabbath a little cozier were adding in good music, making gratitude lists, reading from my spiritual books, and spending time on self care that I don’t usually get to during the main part of the week (like fun nail polish or teeth whitening or other spa like treatments).
What are some things you do to make your Sabbath a great experience?
Over the summer, both of my critique groups faded away to until it was just me and one other person, so we advertised for new writers to join us. I’ve been doing critiques this afternoon and am so happy with the first half of our new members (we got so many we split into groups of four that send submissions every other week). I could just cry. Such good writers!