Celebrating Fall: A List

The weather has been beautiful this week. The semester has started in earnest, so I’m back on-campus in the sunshine. I feel a little wistful because I’m not taking any classes–if money were no object, I’d take more art history, honestly. The department offers Egyptian art now!–but I’m using the free time to do more freelance work, paint, and read. Some fun things worth mentioning:

  • I got very brave and entered a local artists exhibition on campus. Very casual stuff, but I’m hoping I’ll be accepted. Fingers crossed!
  • Tutoring is off to a fantastic start this semester–my new tutoring coworkers are wonderful.
  • YD has a great post on meditation.
  • I really recommend Keri Smith’s How to Be An Explorer of the World. I caved & bought it, after talking about it a few posts ago. It has dozens of wonderful exercises for art and writing projects. In Smith’s words, “Anything can be a starting place. Begin where you are.” Yogic, right?
  • Also fun: Vivian Swift’s When Wanderers Cease to Roam. I received it as a Christmas gift and just started reading it recently. Swift, an artist & writer, traveled the world in her youth with the Peace Corps & has now settled down on Long Island Sound. Part memoir, part graphic novel, When Wanders Cease to Roam is organized by month and contains Swift’s memories of interesting things in her life and quirky daily observations. She does fantastic watercolor and line drawings. You can see an excerpt here on NPR’s website.
  • In a similar vein, this review over at Bill & Dave’s Cocktail Hour has me tempted to–what else?–buy more books! Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life sounds like an interesting project. {I’m diagnosing myself with “Sudden-Onset Book Lemming Disorder,” ladies & gentlemen.} Actually, I think Smith, Rosenthal, & Swift’s books could form the reading for a really fun elective on writing and craft–the intersections of memoir, everyday life, and craft projects. How cool would that be? I could envision students making their own art/memoir journals.
  • Just saw this post on Mason Jar Cakes from Niki Lowry at The Daily Muse. I’m a little klutzy at baking, but these are SO adorable. Mason jars are nifty; I saw a DIY project that repurposed them as  painted pendant lights recently too. My inner southern girl hearts mason jars.

Meditation. Not Just for Monks Anymore.

For a long time, I’ve struggled with meditation–the idea of sitting without thinking seemed impossible. And lotus pose? My knees were all ‘Oh no, you don’t, missy.’

Which is, by the by, a pretty serious way of injuring your knee, trying to force it into lotus. Please don’t!

Anyhow, because I found traditional meditation suggestions intimidating–and to be honest, most of my meditation sessions involved the dogs crawling all over me & kissing my face—I went looking for cool meditation techniques. There are a variety of types of meditation, from “loving kindness” meditation, which involves sending out good intentions towards a particular individual, to the mindfulness mediation program associated with Jon Kabat-Zinn. Here he is, giving a talk at Google:

His ideas are interesting and thought-provoking, particularly regarding awareness and what psychology calls “metacognition,” being able to think about your own thought processes and choices. How do you think? What do you think about? More importantly, he emphasizes that you don’t need a huge chunk of time to meditate. “Make friends with your mind,” as Kabat-Zinn puts it. I’ve been mulling over the types of meditation that make the most sense to me & want to talk about a few over the next few posts, beginning with walking meditation.

Walking meditation is, most simply, the practice of bringing your awareness to the process of walking and what you experience as you walk.* It’s based on the idea that many of us hurry through over experiences and miss many interesting details. Thoreau’s Walden is the great text for nature lovers and walkers alike:

“Sometimes I rambled to pine groves, standing like temples, or like fleets at sea, full-rigged, with wavy boughs, and rippling with light, so soft and green and shady that the Druids would have forsaken their oaks to worship them….Instead of calling on some scholar, I paid many a visit to some particular trees, of kinds which are rare in this neighborhood, standing far away in the middle of some pasture, or in the depths of a wood or swamp, or a hill-top…”

No one waxes poetic about the beauty and variety of trees the way Thoreau can, but the experience of walking meditation is achievable for urbanites as well. One of the books I’m waiting on is called The Most Beautiful Walk in The World, which explores the favorite Parisian walks of authors like Fitzgerald and Hemingway. I’ve always found more pedestrian-friendly cities interesting places to walk around, because there is so much variety in a small space.  *Important note: Best practiced in pedestrian-safe areas.

When I think about the intrigue of walking, I sometimes wonder about this photograph I have. I took it in France during a trip in the summer of 2001 (ten-plus years! I still don’t believe it)  and I have absolutely no idea what it depicts. Is it Chambord? Chartres? Versailles? No clue. That’s kind of what makes it interesting–I have it in a scrapbook labeled as “Mysterious Places Somewhere in France.” I think because I was on a pretty hectic trip–lots of places, monuments, churches–that I missed this one is a reflection of how I wasn’t doing walking meditation at the time–lots of things just whizzed by.  I have some activities planned this weekend that I actually want to photograph in a more observant way, actually.

France, Location Unknown

But does anyone actually know where this is?