Monday, March 21, 2011

The Gratitude Box

 In her book entitled "Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self", Sarah Ban Breathnach writes,"Being grateful.  That's the first step to the path of joy."  Isn't that really what we all want?  Imagine how wonderful it would be to live a life that is filled with joyful moments.  Does that thought seem unrealistic to you?  Consider this.  What if reality is relative?  Perhaps it is possible for us to choose our own reality based on how we think and what we feel.  
Life can be as easy or as difficult as we make it. It's a choice that we make every day based on our attitude about life.  We've all heard it, time and time again, "seek and ye shall find."  Seek the good and you will find the good.  Seek misery and you can find that too.
Do you know what you are wanting? If we do indeed create our own reality based on our thoughts and feelings, then it makes sense to pay attention to what we are thinking.  Instead of focusing our attention on that which does not bring joy, we can look for the good.

For that purpose I've created a "Gratitude Box."  I took a small gift box and covered it with torn pieces of colored origami paper.  Then I embellished the box with words and phrases that spoke to the idea of gratitude.  At least in my interpretation.  To make it even more interesting and beautiful, I attached beads and ribbons.  Inside the box, I sometimes place slips of paper on which I've written things that I'm grateful for.  There is also a small plastic frog that I keep in the box.  The frog is an acronym for F-fully, R-relying, O-on, G-God.  The frog is a gentle reminder that I'm not in this alone.  God is present in me, in the people I encounter and in every circumstance of life.

The Box and the Frog are wonderful tools that I use often to keep my mind centered on the beauty and wonder of life.  I hope that you will make your own Gratitude Box, and use it often.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Fun of Doodling

Doodling is an easy and fun technique for tapping into the unconscious mind in order to nurture the creative process. It's also a fun distraction when you are sitting in a boring meeting.  At any rate, try it out for yourself.  Just take a plain clean sheet of paper, with or without lines.  Using a gel or roller ball pen start with a dot or a line and let your hand take over.  Suspend all judgment and let yourself play with the pen.  Let me warm you.  Doodling can become habit forming.  Have fun with it and Enjoy!  

This video shows a collection of doodles that I've created on small cards.  The cards were discarded library cards.  The kind used years ago that were either typed on or hand written.  I have about 5 thousand of those cards.  They were headed to the landfill when I rescued them.  The cards are the same size as playing cards, and are also great for making artist trading cards. 

I love recycling materials for the purpose of making art, or play. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Knitting as a Spiritual Practice

When I was in fourth grade my friend Angela taught me how to knit. The process was an easy one for me to grasp. For years I made head bands and scarves, because they were quick and easy to make. Gradually, I learned to read knitting patterns and my skill level increased. I found that I could sit for hours letting my hands work while my mind slowed down and relaxed.

I didn't know it at the time but what I was doing was a kind of meditation or form of mindfulness.  According to Wikipedia "mindfulness practice, inherited from the Buddhist tradition, is increasingly being employed in Western psychology to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and in the prevention of relapse in depression and drug addiction." Actually, you can bring mindfulness to anything you do, and find yourself less stressed and more grounded in the process.

I have found knitting to be a wonderful way of practicing mindfulness. The repetitive process of knitting makes it ideal for this purpose. Knitting gives the hands, eyes and mind something to focus on, but does not impose rigid demands on one's attention. While one is knitting the mind can remain alert to what is going on around it while being actively engaged in the present moment. It's similar to what happens when a person prays with prayer beads.

Once you have decided on what to knit, begin the process by gathering the necessary materials. Having done this begin your spiritual practice by deciding on a scripture, word, mantra or idea that you want to focus on. Cast on and start knitting. As you are knitting quietly repeat your scripture or mantra. Slowly and with concentration focus on the words allowing your mind to fully absorb the idea and meaning.

Practice being an observer.  When negative thoughts or worries enter your mind simply observe them.  Imagine them floating by like clouds.  This technique can quiet the mind.  Be kind and loving to yourself.  Try to suspend all judgment. Recognize yourself as being one with the Divine, worthy of kindness and respect.

Engaging in this process you should begin to relax fully into the experience. Allow your heart to open to the presence of the Divine in you. Relax and let yourself experience Oneness with all of life. Speak freely and openly as if talking with a trusted friend. Allow for quiet moments of listening for ideas or inspirations. Be grateful for the time spent in quiet contemplation, and for the opportunity to create.

Know that just as any craft requires effort so too will your spiritual practice.  As you use your knitting time to connect with the Divine your spiritual practice will grow richer. And, since you are sitting, quietly knitting anyway you may as well make the most of it.

This is an article that I wrote for  To read the original article click on the link below.

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