It is impossible not to grow in awareness and fondness of nature in general, and birds and plants specifically, while living in a town like Ann Arbor. I’ve been learning things organically, without a need to study deeply, or have a specific interest in plant life (which I admit I don’t). We lucked out with a house that has a huge backyard with many trees, a small pond that hosts a snapping turtle I’ve seen only once in the eight years that we’ve been here. Ignorance got me close enough to get this photo of her.
What’s for food? Where to next? Believe it or not, these two questions roll through my mind each and every day as I search my mind for ideas for my next delicious meal, or my next far-off adventure. Appetites for both, insatiable. Food and travel, the fabric of my being. And, as it turns out, the subject of my little passion project.
by Barbara Newell
When Laura Cowan interviewed me for her cover article in the current Crazy Wisdom Journal, we touched on the two main avenues of practice for cultivating mindfulness in everyday life. Ms. Cowan wrote candidly about the parent’s classic dilemma: wanting to enjoy the proven benefits of mindfulness in relating with herself, with her loved ones, and all the ups and downs we all encounter in life, yet feeling stretched too thin to add another item to the to-do list. The avenue of finding small ways to be more present right in the midst of what’s already happening throughout the day came naturally to the forefront of our interview.
The other avenue is the one commonly referred to as “formal practice.” It doesn’t have to mean sitting in the lotus position at an altar with incense burning (as lovely as any or all of these things can be). It simply means setting aside some minutes in which we don’t do anything else except reconnect, again and again, with our “home base” of mindful presence.
For many people, this home base is following our breathing; others find a different anchor works better for them. In it we give ourselves full permission to let go of our agendas. Every time we notice our mind has wandered off (as human minds are wont to do!), over and over again, we bring the mind back to this home base of spacious, kind presence. It seems so simple – which it is – and yet countless people have found it really makes a difference.
One well-known, busy mom I know made herself a deal one day many years ago now. She vowed that henceforth she would meditate every day – and - she gave herself what she calls the “back door” that it didn’t matter for how long. There were times, particularly when her son was quite young, when it was just taking a few conscious breaths and saying the briefest prayer at night, on the edge of her bed, before keeling over; yet her promise to herself made a real difference.
These two approaches to cultivating mindfulness very much support each other. When we take a few dedicated moments to really pause and reconnect with wakeful, caring presence to our own heart, it’s much easier throughout the day and week to take the micro-pause in a challenging moment - even a single, mindful breath - that gives us just enough room to check in with ourselves and respond to the situation instead of habitually reacting to it in a way we may regret later.
Similarly, when we do take short windows of opportunity to resource ourselves throughout an active day - how about just enjoying a few refreshing, conscious breaths when we’re at a stoplight, instead of looking down at our phone for the hundredth time? - there will be less accumulated restlessness when we do take those dedicated minutes to come back to the miracle of our living, breathing body, here in the present moment.
Recently I recalled a brief exchange that took place nearly 25 years ago, when I was quite new to meditation. I was just meeting a woman living with metastatic, stage 4 breast cancer. Within a couple minutes we somehow discovered that both of us were meditators. Suddenly her dark-brown eyes bored intently into mine, with a fierce gaze from which life’s trivialities clearly had been burned away. She got straight to the point: “When the mind is in the present moment... there is no fear.”
My mind came to a complete stop. It was beyond question this woman knew what she was talking about. I knew that I needed this practice.
I am grateful to her.
You can reach Barbara Newell at Grove Emotional Health Collaborative’s office on Main Street at www.groveemotionalhealth.com or by contacting her at firstname.lastname@example.org and (734) 224-3822 x113.
To learn more about Barbara, read Crazy Wisdom Kids in the Community—Mindfulness with Barbara Newell, Joy Aleccia, and Anique Pegeron from issue #73.
Very often when the subject of meditation comes up, people cock their heads, sigh, and wince with an air of self-judgment. They might say something along the lines of, “I know I NEED to start meditating,” or “I’m not good at meditating.” While there have been many studies on the benefits of meditation, many of us still find it challenging to develop a daily practice. We know it’s good for us and can make us more relaxed, kinder, and happier. So what gives?
I make work that is political because I cannot help it. I tend to make work that reflects my life experience, and, as the saying goes, the personal is political. This phrase, which was popularized during the feminist movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s, means that there are connections between my own personal experience and the larger social and political structures which tend to dominate, exploit, and oppress minorities in our politics, society, and culture.
I have been paying close attention to our backyard for many years now, and know which tree will be the first to turn green (the little willow by the pond), which wildflowers will bloom first, how much progress the moss has made in its fight for territory over the grass. Because I am unable to convince others let alone my husband that our attachment to lawns is not the best idea, we have plenty of it in our backyard, but due to our lack of chemical warfare against Mama Nature’s preferences, moss and some clover types are beginning to make their claim
Birds and other animals are fully "plugged in" to the energetic world around us, in all its unseen complexity; and this permits instant communication among them. It also helps them pick up on our energies, especially our emotional energies. They can easily perceive when they're being watched by humans, especially when that attention is magnified by the unblinking "eyes" of binocular or camera lenses.
For this interview, I asked to be connected to a spokesperson for the Leprechaun folk, someone who would be allowed, and willing, to share information about his or her people.
My journey with Waldorf education began 14 years ago, when my oldest was starting kindergarten. One of the first things that attracted me to Rudolf Steiner School was the opportunity for my children to have balance in their school day. A variety of artistic activities are interwoven with rigorous academic endeavors to achieve this harmony. Bursting with joy and vitality, my children would not sit all day getting filled with information, staring at worksheets, textbooks, and various screens. There would always be a thoughtful rhythm to their day. From early childhood through high school, Waldorf students experience many kinds of fine and practical arts: drawing, painting, sculpting, singing, folk dancing, handwork, woodwork (you should see the container of hand-carved wooden spoons in my kitchen!), instrumental music, and the list goes on…
Years ago, I wrote an article about the God of Love: "Cupid is much more than a charming decoration on a box of chocolates: he is as vibrantly alive today as he has been for thousands of years. His sacred calling is to touch the hearts of mortals to help keep humanity full of love, and IN LOVE with life itself."
That's all still true, but today I'm writing an article WITH Cupid, and with a fresh approach! Hello, Cupid, thank you for agreeing to tell us about the real person behind the myths.
I’ve quite frankly found it pretty challenging to routinely bend to the gifts of quiet time. Not being much for coffee, cigarettes, or wine, it seemed I even missed the American rituals that build in a pause.
I found a pause recently, though, in a gift from a wise friend. A modern, clear, silicon hot water bottle. So handsome in its simplicity, just fill with boiling water. Then retire, cradling the hot little pillow. And let the heat creep across, from silicon to bones. Nothing one can do to rush a hot water bottle. No dial to crank up. But there is something about a capable hot water bottle that encourages sighs of release. An unwinding. A melding.
I wanted to share this to hopefully bring some lightness to our struggles with what is foreign to us, hard to pronounce, or even hard to understand. We can get too caught up in getting things right, worrying we will offend, or thinking we are not respectful if we don’t do the extra effort it takes to get it right. Consider that what come easy and natural to you, even though it veers from the original, might actually add to someone’s memory space, and enrich their lives
Like me, many of you have experienced what it's like to be different. Maybe you're psychic, or an Indigo; one of the many "clairs" such as clairtactile or clairsentient, a telepath, an empath; or you have what the Irish call Second Sight. Maybe you never talk about your special abilities, or you hide what you can do, because you're afraid of what people will think if they find out you're "not normal." But of course, these abilities are perfectly normal for humans; they've just been distrusted and demonized for a very long time.
I took my first steps on a spiritual path with the Universal Great Brotherhood. I remember my revered teacher, the Elder Brother, giving a talk during one of his visits to Ann Arbor. He looked around the room at all of our shining faces and said “Everything vibrates. I’m vibrating, you’re vibrating and, pointing to the table where his water glass was perched, even this table is vibrating. Can you see it? Can you sense it?”
I was pretty convinced that my wild woman would be of the earth, probably covered with some dirt, have long un-styled hair, and maybe, bit of a crazed gaze that warned the beholder that she is not to be messed with. That she is to be feared even. Western society has burned even the tamest of wild women (wise women and healers) for centuries to make sure there is no question that our psyches equate wild with dangerous. In fact I am bewildered more than anything that this archetype has survived and is coming through in our imagery at all given how long and hard mankind worked to eradicate it.
found this little six-inch Christmas tree at a dollar store, the perfect size for my small apartment. When switched on, it changes colors and is very soothing to look at. I've been practicing and broadening my telepathic abilities, and since the little tree was right in front of me on my desk one day, I decided to try connecting with it...
River: So, my sparkling little friend, is there anything you'd like to talk about?
As a young mom and graduate student, this shopper, now in her mid-thirties, used Double Up Food Bucks during her last year in school—stretching her food dollars at the farmers markets for fresh, nutritious produce for her family. Today, she’s a social worker in the area and a Double Up volunteer who refers others with food needs to the program.
This is the third time a dragon has showed up in one of my paintings and it continues to make me uncomfortable. The best way I can explain the discomfort is that the value of rational, scientific thinking as the only valid type of information gathering was such a central part of my upbringing that the consideration of the mythic is often accompanied by shame.
Last summer I decided I wanted to attend the Earth Keepers event in Arkansas in November. To manifest the necessary funds, I was following the Law of Attraction rules of visualization plus act-ing like I already had that money; but it wasn't working out the way I thought it should. Then I got the idea to talk to the Deva of Abundance, and I'd like to share the conversation with you...