GUEST BLOG POST: Exploring Mindfulness

Today, I’m a guest blogger on Choices with Madeline Sharples, sharing my thoughts on…

EXPLORING MINDFULNESS

I. A Meditation on Bugs

I hadn’t walked five minutes up the trail before they ambushed me. A swarm of gnats dropped down in front of my face like a thin, black veil. Two flies laid claim to my ears—bzzzzzzzzzzzzzing in stereo. Their siege left me breathless—afraid to inhale.

My swatting—swat, buzz, swat, buzz, swat, buzz, buzz!—was moot.

By coincidence, I had recently watched that scene in the movie Eat Pray Love in which the Julia Roberts character successfully sits in meditation for a full hour despite an enthusiastic swarm of bugs and thoughts. She lets the small annoyances pass and finds her way to stillness.

I’ve had a hard time with that kind of mindfulness—still sitting, mind clearing. A few years ago, I tried a guided group meditation. A kind and creative soul gently guided us for an hour. We floated through the sky, over the ocean, into the stars—okay, THEY floated. I spent the entire hour imagining myself running after them, trying to catch up!

My mind and I are usually running after something—the next project, the next errand, the next idea. Lots and lots of thoughts…like the lots and lots of bugs around my head!

In her book Stop the Pain: Adult Meditations, my dear friend Dale Carlson explains that there are many ways to meditate: “If your nervous system is the result of an active gene pool or you are personally too frayed to sit down right off, begin with a walk.”

In my own explorations mindfulness, my walks have become my meditation, but this day in the woods with the bugs was particularly challenging. I wanted to find my way to quiet. I tried to just be with the bugs. I walked (swat), I listened to the birds (buzz), I looked up at the trees (swat), I heard the leaves rustle (buzz).

Over and over again, I tried to bring my mind back to the present—to “pay attention” as Dale often reminds me—walking on a trail, drops of rain on my head, the smell of damp earth. And over and over again, my mind would run after the bugs.

Slowly, I am learning to let these annoyances pass over me. There are days when the bugs stay with me, buzzing their demands and nipping at my spirit for the entire walk.

And then there are days I walk with great ease—my breath is free, my mind is clear, and everything around me glows.

II. With Eyes Cast Down

My mind was busy as I walked to the trail. It was one of those days. Should I go left? Should I go right? I am always indecisive when my mind is occupied otherwise.

On this day, I went right—instead of left—and found my way along a narrow, woodland path. Up a hill. Across a small, spring stream. Into the quiet of the woods—I was breathing again.

There, in front of me, a patch of new ferns congregated along the edge of the trail, and I paused for a moment. Down on one knee to look closer, I realized I was no longer worrying about the worries that were worrying me. Funny how that happens, isn’t it?

“It turns out meditation is not separate from daily life,” writes Dale. “It is taking time for walking or sitting in silence so your life can be reflected in the pool of that silence.”

Right there, I gave myself an assignment: Look down, be quiet, pay attention.

And there they were. Small clusters of wildflowers, patches of delicate ferns, bright colors, and playful shapes. New spring life, all along my path.

I never would have seen them. Look down, be quiet, pay attention.

III. Being One With

I knew right away it was a magical day in the woods. The gorgeous 50-degree afternoon was accented by a bright blue sky and a soft breeze that sang through the trees.

I saw a trail I’d never seen before, followed it to the edge of the pond and sat for a while. Sat. Quietly. I’d been invited to do so by the turtle who was on the log but disappeared as soon as I sat down. I waited for him to return, but he never did.

So I made my way back down a familiar path until I heard the distinct rustle of a hawk landing in a tree just up a hill. I stood silently for five, maybe ten minutes, watching it perched up high. But, when I decided to get a closer look, he took off into the tops of pine trees nearby. As I continued on my way, he flew above me, casting shadows on the path—he was watching me now, and we both knew it.

A squirrel stopped when I called to her, but dropped her acorn from the startle. “Go ahead, go back and get it,” I told her, then stepped gingerly back a few steps to allow safe space. She scurried down the tree, snatched up her meal, then glanced my way as if to say thanks.

A carpenter bee was busily moving about when I came upon her. I watched for a while as she crawled in an out of her burrow—spring cleaning, I wondered?

Walking further and further down the path this way, I could feel peace settle in. If I closed my eyes and breathed, I barely existed—except to feel the breeze on my skin and hear the whisper of trees. My footsteps, my heartbeat, my thoughts were so far away, they sounded hollow and unreal.

From the flirting of birds in the trees to the surprise of late-spring wildflowers come early, the forest was brimming with life and spirit…and suddenly, so was I.

“In silence, oneness with everything is possible….” — Dale Carlson

>>CLICK HERE to read the whole post.


This post is part of a month-long, nationwide blog tour for my new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, hosted by Wow! Women on Writing. Buy the book today!

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Writer David W. Berner Reviews Evidence of Flossing

“The French poet and novelist, Victor Hugo, wrote, ‘The reduction of the universe to the compass of a single being, and the extension of a single being until it reaches God—that is love.’ Jennifer A. Payne expands on those words with an unflinching account of our unshakeable relationship to the modern world around us, God, nature, and ourselves.” — David W. Berner

>> Click here to read the full review.


This review is part of a month-long, nationwide blog tour for my new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, hosted by Wow! Women on Writing. Buy the book today!

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GUEST BLOG POST: Finding Inspiration

Today, I’m a guest blogger on CMash Reads, sharing my thoughts on… FINDING INSPIRATION When I told a friend last spring that I was writing a poem a day for National Poetry Month, she asked me how I found the inspiration for 30 poems. “It’s like rummaging around in a junk drawer,” I told her.… Continue reading GUEST BLOG POST: Finding Inspiration

Local Shops Supporting Local Authors

Doing some holiday shopping this weekend? Stop by these fabulous local shops for copies of Evidence of Flossing plus many distinctive gifts for everyone on your list!


Martha Link Walsh Gallery
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Rock Garden
17 South Main Street, Branford, (203) 488-6699
www.rockgarden.com


Seaside Home & Gifts
172 Thimble Islands Road, Branford, (203) 481-1177
www.seasidehomeandgifts.com


INTERVIEW: Bookworm Interviews Author Jen Payne

BOOKWORM is participating in another blog book tour courtesy of WOW (Women on Writing). Today’s guest is Jennifer A. Payne, author of Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind. Today I’m posting an interview, Q and A style, that I conducted with Ms. Payne so that you can read her thoughts about her calling, her choice of direction for her writing, and her thoughts about mindfulness. I’m also posting a review of her most recent work “Evidence”. Enjoy. (Click Here to read the interview and book review!)


How long have you been writing/ what made you decide to write?

I don’t know if I had a choice, really. Writing is how I’ve always communicated with the world. My earliest memory is writing letters to my Dad when he was away on business trips when I was young.In grade school, I used to write short stories, but I also had a dozen pen pals I kept in touch with regularly. I wrote for my high school newspaper, and studied journalism at UMass. My first job was writing press releases and advertising copy, before I started my own business doing the same. I published a zine in the early 90s, and graduated to blog writing about 10 years ago.

I’ve been writing all my life!


What made you take this direction for your writing/this work?

I think those early days of communicating real-life stories and experiences to my Dad and pen pals have kept me pretty firmly rooted in non-fiction writing. You can see that on my blog Random Acts of Writing (http://randomactsofwriting.net). Over the years, it has hosted everything from my food writing, travel journals and book reviews, to photo essays, social commentary and poetry.In the past couple of years, I’ve been writing more poetry, mainly because that is how my muse has been talking to me. But also, I was invited to join a local poetry group, the Guilford Poets Guild, and they have inspired and encouraged me a lot!

Both of my books, LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness (2014) and the new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind are direct results of my work on the blog. LOOK UP! includes essays, poetry, a collection of quotations by philosophers, naturalists, and famous writers, plus 100 of my original color photos. It’s a journal, really, that narrates my own journey from working 24/7 to reconnecting with our natural world, finding balance and mindfulness in the simple act of going outside. Evidence of Flossing is a follow-up to that concept. It features 73 of my poems and 80 original and vintage photos that continue a conversation about our divine connection to nature, and how important it is to find our way back to that.


What is it about mindfulness that interests/fascinates you?

By day, I run my own graphic design and marketing business. By night (really in the pre-dawn hours of the day), I do my creative work. My brain and I work at a very frenetic pace – as you can imagine – but somewhere in all of that, there has to be some downtime. Some quiet. Some peace.

I tried traditional methods of meditation – sitting on pillows, candles, oms, guided groups, recorded sessions. But nothing really “stuck.” I remember one group meditation…there were 10 of us in a small, candlelit room. We did some breathing exercises, and then the facilitator guided us on a meditation…down a path, into the treetops, up into the sky. I spent the whole meditation frantically running to catch up, because I couldn’t breathe right, couldn’t visualize right…couldn’t get out of my own way!

About that same time, I had started taking regular walks in the woods. There is a nature preserve near my house, and I can do a nice, easy 2-mile walk in a space that feels very far away from everything. I remember this one day very clearly. I’d been walking for about 20 minutes with lots of busy thoughts in my head. But then it was suddenly quiet. All I heard were my footsteps on the pine needle path. I wasn’t aware of my thoughts or my body, just the sound of footsteps, like a heartbeat, and breathing.

It was brief and wonderful.

I think of it now as my “ah-ha, so this is meditation” moment.problems, inspirations for my writing, connections to some mystery I wouldn’t have had time for if I wasn’t allowing myself to disconnect from busy and reconnect with nature. It’s that simple…and that complicated, I suppose. Perhaps that’s what so fascinating about it, and why I write about it. The difficult part of mindfulness is getting there—stepping away from our busy-ness, allowing ourselves that time to reconnect. But once we do, it’s really quite simple. It’s really quite amazing.


Use this space to give yourself a shameless plug?

I was at a workshop last week, and the hostess came over to me and pointed to a copy of my book on her coffee table. “I keep your book here,” she said. “In a place of honor. That way I can pick it up and read something from it whenever I want. Which is often. I just love it.”

She’s not alone. People seem to really connect with these books, with the writing and the photos. I think it’s because they talk about our collective concerns about our society in a way that is heartfelt and thoughtful. They’re smart books that you can skim for meaning, or dive into for a deeper understanding as they apply to your own philosophy and spirituality, your own experience. But they are both easy reads – you can read an essay, read one poem, open to a page and meditate on a photo or quote. They allow the reader to take that moment of mindfulness, to stop and consider…maybe…a better way to move about in this world? I hope.

This post is part of a month-long, nationwide blog tour for my new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, hosted by Wow! Women on Writing. Buy the book today!

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BOOK REVIEW: Beverley Baird Reviews Evidence of Flossing

“These are definitely poems to ponder, with words and images to reflect on. Payne gives us poetry that moves us, challenges our perceptions and inspires us to look deeper into our place in the world and what our legacy can or should be. Evidence of Flossing is well worth the read – and one you will revisit over and over again.” — Beverly Baird

>> Click Here to read the full review!

This post is part of a month-long, nationwide blog tour for my new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, hosted by Wow! Women on Writing. Buy the book today!

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GUEST BLOG POST: Everything is Connected

Today, I’m a guest blogger on Create Write Now, sharing my thoughts on…

EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” — John Muir

In a dream once, I saw the fabric of the Universe. It was clearly laid out in fine strands of translucent white dots, as if one were standing inside a room full of beaded curtains.

In the first few moments after waking, I understood clearly that everything is connected: how, if I touched one of the rows of white dots, that touch would reverberate along the whole system of dots; if I breathed or sang or wept, that too would make waves along those strands.

My understanding of all of that was as fleeting as my ability to still my mind, as transient as my understanding of god. And yet, the image of those dots has remained for me a divine illustration of how it is.

Everything is connected.

Some of our basic tenets as humans remind us of that: “for every action in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction,” and “as you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Remember the Golden Rule? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” What if that applies to everything?

It is not such a foreign concept. We know that everything around us is made up of atoms. That there is no real separation between you, me, this book, my cat. John Muir wrote about it that summer day in 1869: “One fancies a heart like our own must be beating in every crystal and cell.” Carl Sagan called it starstuff. “It’s an astonishing thing,” he said, “we’re so tied to the rest of the cosmos.”

My new book, Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, is a book about starstuff. It’s a collection of poems that speak to the common heart that beats in you and in me, in the woods and on the streets, across oceans and around this planet.

Part social commentary, part lament, the poems are, at their heart, love poems to the something greater within all of us. Their investigation of the human condition and its folly — politics, religion, development, technology, consumerism — is juxtaposed to a series of poems about our natural world and the possibility of divine connection. Together, they ask the reader to deeply consider the effects of our actions and how they influence everything else in the Universe.

>>CLICK HERE to read the whole post.


This post is part of a month-long, nationwide blog tour for my new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, hosted by Wow! Women on Writing. Buy the book today!

buynow