Lessons in Mindful Living Using Illustrated Journalling

These days of Covid’s 2nd wave are teaching me lessons that I need to learn, many of them for the ump-teenth time. I am very fortunate to be healthy and comfortably retired, so I am not trying to balance working from home with childcare, eldercare or health concerns. And I am not worrying about where my next rent payment will be coming from. Thus, I have the privilege of time to read and ponder. And so I do – read and ponder.

Lately my reading has taken me through Christophe Andre’s beautiful book, “Looking at Mindfulness”, (photo in last post). Now for the pondering: When a book strikes a chord in my heart I am eager to absorb its message rather than let it just flow over me and then disappear. For me, the most effective method that I have found is illustrated journaling. 

Here’s my method:

  1. I read a chapter, underlining the words that seem to express the idea best. I stay alert to the messages that are there to help me on my journey.
  2. I transcribe those underlined passages into my journal, commenting and summarizing as I go. I use a large-ish journal with lots of room and without lines so that I feel free to doodle, underline, add arrows and circles, diagram or draw – whatever comes to my mind or my hand. I write and draw with a pen or pencil that I love. As I write I try to focus on each word, enjoying the feeling of forming the letters carefully, and the feel of the pen on the paper. This is a mindfulness practice of its own. Of course there are also times when scribbling and scratching is the right thing for the day.
  3. If an image presents itself to me I will sketch out the idea, looking for a way of illustrating the concept. Then, when I am ready, I will copy the sketch onto better paper and dab in some watercolour paint. 

By the time I have been through this process, I have usually absorbed the concept pretty thoroughly. Now, through this blog, I have added a step as I post the sketches and then write about them. 

My hope is that these postings will help to make the ideas more accessible to others, especially for the visual learners out there. I expect that this new collection will be a future resource for me, and perhaps others, when in need of reminders of lessons learned. I am very sure that I will need reminding.

(My previous illustrated journal- Life Lessons- can be found at Croneschronicles.com.)

Addicted to Interruption

Lately I have been reading this lovely and inspiring book – “Looking at Mindfulness” by Christophe Andre. I’d like to share some of the ideas he writes about, because I think he has so beautifully clarified why we need mindfulness so badly.

Christophe warns of the pollution of the mind that we are all exposed to in our contemporary world. He calls it “psychotoxic materialism”. Our attention is the number one commodity for sale today, and bids for it are everywhere. Ads on buses, windows, billboards, cellphones, Youtube, Facebook, notifications, bells, alarms, and a thousand other interruptions.

What is all this racket doing to our minds? Our attention is constantly being stolen from us- captured, drawn away, interrupted, segmented and fragmented.

And worse: we become addicted to this flashy, noisy and easy to digest messaging. We become unable to have anything but the shortest of thoughts of our own; especially thoughts that require introspection and sustained attention. YIKES!

The results of this polluted mental environment are stress, mental fragmentation, anxiety, boredom and circular rumination.

The antidote? Calm, slowness and continuity.

Christophe advises us to “draw on the healing powers of simplicity, calm, and single tasking…

*act calmly and gently

*do one thing at a time

*restore yourself with a dose of doing nothing

*unplug as an act of freedom”

Such simple advice and yet so challenging. That is the nature of addiction.

I have come to realize that I am almost always doing two things, or even 3 things at once.

Reading a book while eating a meal. Listening to the radio while I drive. Sewing while I watch a show. It’s like I’m afraid of what my mind will do if left without being spoon-fed with external material. God forbid that I might experience some quiet, rest or ( horrors)…boredom!

So I’ve decided to start an experiment. Sundays will be single-tasking days for me; kind of like an old fashioned Sabbath. I tried it out last weekend, with mixed success. I’m hoping that the dose of calm will give me a taste, and draw me towards wanting more during the week. I guess we’ll see.

Living for Today

Inspired by Matthew 6:25-34 (…consider the lilies of the field)

What kind of life do you want? 

Are you willing to trust in the goodness of the Creator? 

Are you willing to surrender your relentless pursuit of perfection?

Are you willing to stop imagining all of your possible future troubles?

Today will unfold as it should, and so will tomorrow, so why not let go and enjoy the ride?

______

Consider the mystery of the birds in the sky. 

They live for today. 

They sing and play and work and live; according to the instincts with which they are created.

They sing the songs they were created to sing.

And when it rains, they rest.

_____

The birds are intimately tied to the cycles of the earth – 

The life that comes from the Creator. 

You, too, are a part of the stream of life.

And yet you resist, grasp, worry and second-guess – 

All in an effort to control your fear of not having enough or not being enough.

_____

Why be anxious? Will it help? Will it keep trouble and pain at bay? 

No – it may even draw them closer! 

Breathe and then focus on the next step before you. 

Holding your breath will only deprive you of oxygen.

Keep breathing and stepping – 

The rest will unfold, come what may.

_____

Consider the wild flowers that grow where they are scattered – 

In the field, sometimes in between the rocks, and even through the cracks in the pavement. 

They are each beautiful and full of life; 

Each carrying within their seed, everything they need to fulfil their destiny. 

They grow underground, then burst forth in their season, 

And die back into the earth, only to bloom again next year. 

This ebb and flow is a part of our lives too. 

It is the rhythm of Creation. 

_____

We are all beautiful in our natural state, be it child, adult or elder.

You are created uniquely beautiful, so do not compare yourself to others.

Love your body and take good care of it.

Do not fret about aging – it is only natural.

Why not accept it as gracefully and joyfully as you can?

Try to be grateful for each day.

_____

Surrender your fears and anxieties. 

Your constant worry will not satisfy your needs, it will only amplify them.

Instead, open your heart and mind to the goodness of Creation.

Open your hands to receive and share the blessings that come to you, big or small.

Open your eyes to the little miracles that come your way, illuminating your path.

_____

Make the desires of your heart known to the Creator and then let them go.

Live in the present moment, and take a small step in the direction of your dreams.

Be present – right here, right now.

Now is where you can put your energy.

Now is where you can affect the future. 

Stop spinning your wheels on tomorrow’s work. 

Tomorrow exists only in your imagination. 

It will be real enough when it arrives.

And when tomorrow becomes today,  

You can practise being present to the day, all over again. 

Photo by Sebastian Sammer – courtsey of Unsplash

Living for Today – part 8

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez – courtesy of Unsplash

Make the desires of your heart known to the Creator and then let them go.

Live in the present moment, and take a small step in the direction of your dreams.

Be present – right here, right now.

Now is where you can put your energy.

Now where you can affect the future. 

Stop spinning your wheels on tomorrow’s work. 

Tomorrow exists only in your imagination. 

It will be real enough when it arrives.

And when tomorrow becomes today,  

You can practise being present to the day, all over again. 

Living for Today – part 7

Photo by Chungkuk Bae – courtesy of Unsplash

Surrender your fears and anxieties. 

Your constant worry will not satisfy your needs, it will only amplify them.

Instead, open your heart and mind to the goodness of Creation.

Open your hands to receive and share the blessings that come to you, big or small.

Open your eyes to the little miracles that come your way, illuminating your path.

Living for Today – part 6

Photo by Ekaterina Shakharova – courtesy of Unsplash

We are all beautiful in our natural state, be it child, adult or elder.

You are created uniquely beautiful, so do not compare yourself to others.

Love your body and take good care of it.

Do not fret about aging – it is only natural.

Why not accept it as gracefully and joyfully as you can?

Try to be grateful for each day.

Living for Today – part 5

Photo by Annie Spratt – courtesy of Unsplash

Consider the wild flowers that grow where they are scattered – 

In the field, sometimes in between the rocks, and even through the cracks in the pavement. 

They are each beautiful and full of life; 

Each carrying within their seed, everything they need to fulfil their destiny. 

They grow underground, then burst forth in their season, 

And die back into the earth, only to bloom again next year. 

This ebb and flow is a part of our lives too. 

It is the rhythm of Creation. 

Living for Today – part 4

Photo by Jimmy Chang – courtesy of Unsplash

Why be anxious? Will it help? Will it keep trouble and pain at bay? 

No – it may even draw them closer! 

Breathe and then focus on the next step before you. 

Holding your breath will only deprive you of oxygen.

Keep breathing and stepping – 

The rest will unfold, come what may.

Living for Today – part 3

Photo by Jindrich Samec – courtesy of Unsplash

The birds are intimately tied to the cycles of the earth – 

The life that comes from the Creator. 

You, too, are a part of the stream of life.

And yet you resist, grasp, worry and second-guess – 

All in an effort to control your fear of not having enough or not being enough.