Thursday, October 1, 2015

Taking a Pause - Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. - Lao Tzu

Autumn....a favorite season of mine.  A closing of the summer and a turning to the inside.  Inside our homes, inside our familial and friendship ties and inside our hearts.  Yes, it is also a very busy time as well, as people return to school, and the summer growth is preserved and the circle of life continues. 

For me it is a very busy time as more classes are taught in the colder months and more art work is created for myself and others. I have so many lists in my head. So yesterday I escaped!

I had a million and one things on my to do list that HAD to be done and I had just finished a spell of errands on the east side of town.  The day was warm for this time of year, the sky mostly blue, not to be squandered.  I calculated that if  I just left town right then I could be sitting on our sailboat in about an hour with a stop to pick up lunch on the way.  In the space of driving a block I had an argument in my head about rest vs. getting things done!  What a battle!  In the end the call of the interstate exit was overpowering and off I went. As I drove I could literally feel the anxiety of responsibility shed off my skin.  Then when I got to the lake, it was quiet and soft. The minute I stepped on the dock, I was a new person.

Artwork by Loretta West completed for traveling the world journal
On the previous weekend, I talked with a couple of girl friends while out kayaking about the effect of water on the soul.  What a balm just floating can be and how cares just drift away as if the water is a wonderful barrier between our true relaxed selves and the outside world. A remembrance of the womb, perhaps. Contrary to many beliefs the doing task driven self is not who you truly are, that's just what you do.  It is the relaxed self that is your true self.   I think that down deep we all know this and crave the peace that relaxation brings.

By the time I got home in the evening, I felt refreshed and able to focus on my tasks in a more relaxed way.  Concentrate on what was most important and let the rest of it just fall away....most was just add on noise anyway. 

So how we find these pauses or breaks throughout the day when we can't escape as I did?  It's kind of like exercise.  If you look at exercise as having to find the time to put in 30 minutes per day in one chunk, many folks can't find the time, but if you do it in increments then it becomes available.  Just like Zentangle which is divided into small areas and can be completed in small increments, so can relaxation pauses throughout your day.

We are similar to a computer in some ways.  Ever try to do too many tasks too fast on your computer and it gets stuck or crashes all together because it's overloaded?  We are the same, we have limits and when we are overwhelmed by too many tasks we can become stuck and anxious or depressed. Here are some other tools besides tangling that I have found useful over the years when I have been snowed under by tasks. 

1.  Do small things greatly.  That is to say, make the daily tasks a mindful experience.  For example, when you head to the fridge, think about every step you take to get there, how does your foot feel on the floor when it lands?  Can you slow it down and really feel it? When you reach for the fridge handle, can you really feel it with your hands and slow down the action to feel the force that you are pulling against?  When you open the door really take a moment to feel the coolness of the air, maybe even the smell? Ewe?.... Maybe not that bit.  You get the picture.  When I am in a hurry which is a lot of the time, I try very hard to slow myself down and do things with this mindful approach. It helps.  It also prevents me from breaking dishes, or loosing my keys, or wondering what I am doing in this room?  When you eat, just eat, don't read, don't watch a screen, just concentrate on every bite as it if it were nectar the of the Gods!  Savor it.

2. Take mini breaks.  You can put your Zentangle tools in a spot in your home or work space which you pass and when you pass by sit down and tangle a few minutes, take some deep breaths and then carry on. Create a little Zentangle relaxation station of tiles, pencils, pens and step outs in the break room at work so everyone can try it.  I also keep my supplies in my car so that I can tangle when I am stuck in traffic or waiting for a train and the time flies.  Even taking a couple of minutes to look out the window at nature can help you.  You can also place little cards or post it notes around that simply says the word: BREATHE.  This will remind  you to pause and do just that.  A few deep breaths can be refreshing.

3. Walk in nature.  When I worked at a very high pressure job, contrary to my co-workers who ate lunch at their desks while glaring at their computers, (then at me as I left the office); I decided that it would be much better for me to get out!  So most lunch hours (notice that...I took a whole hour!)  I would eat my lunch and then head out for a walk.  Though it was an urban setting I found nature as much as I could from the birds flitting overhead to a blooming tree. Those walks were life saving!  You can also use this time as a contemplative walking meditation. Here's a link to what we know about the benefits of walking in nature:

4. Take three breaths.  I am a big reader and love the writings of the gentle Thich Nhat Hanh.
No matter what your beliefs, you can glean something from his wisdom.  One of his teachings involves taking three breaths before you do anything.  So as an example: you hear the phone ring and instead to picking it up right away take three mindful breaths and then answer it.  You will then be ready to listen to the other person. 

5.  Try a bit of meditation.  Like Zentangle, meditation helps us to relax and concentrate, to become our true relaxed being.  I like to do a bit of tangling in the early morning when all is quiet and then sit for a short meditation. I find this is a good marriage, as the tangling helps to quiet my chatty mind and readies my mind for a deeper meditation.  Try it for just five minutes at first or even one minute and slowly increase the time.  It's like a little vacation for the mind and so refreshing!  I love this app on my phone which allows me to take my meditation practice anywhere even noisy places with my earbuds.  You can do guided or non guided meditation, when you start, the guided ones are helpful.

6.  Yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong.  All of these are mindful practices and a meditation for body, soul and mind.  I love to practice them in the morning or evening and mix them up, as I like variety.  I love to do the shortened yoga practices at my desk, here's a link:

For a gentle longer practice you may like Yin Yoga which is also downloadable on Amazon:

I also love Qigong and here is a link to a video you can download which is long, but you'll feel so refreshed after that you won't regret the time!  You can just do it by segment; a few minutes at a time.  It's downloadable from Amazon.

7. A friend told me about this gal, Donna Eden who deals with energetic healing and self healing.  I like to do this short 5 minute sequence when I feel warn out and have to keep going. It really is a boost!

8. SIT AND DO NOTHING!! When is the last time you did that? 

If you would like to try Zentangle as a tool for relaxation, then please join me this winter!  I have a number of introductory classes I am teaching through the Spokane County Libraries and a Holiday Workshop coming up in December.  If you click on the Classes Link you can find out more.

Also, be sure to check out the ZENDALA exhibit completed by Zentangle participants through the Spokane Public Library.  It's on the Second Floor of the Main downtown library for Create Spokane in October 2015!!

Hope to see or hear from you soon!!