This week I worked with students in the Mosaic program with Kim Leddy and Steve Shapiro. We wanted to provide students with an introduction to mindfulness and mindful creativity while also introducing the themes of transformation, identity and change.
Before I came into the classroom, Kim and Steve had used a variation on this mindfulness lesson (originally for teachers and staff) to introduce neuroplasticity and mindfulness to students. In the lesson, they also had students write metaphors for their brains. Student responses ranged from “a runaway train” to “Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.”
This lesson prepared students by providing opportunities to think about what their brain is like now, and what they might want it to be like in the future with the understanding that they can make changes with focused attention. It was a great lead in to some creative, messy work.
“For just that moment of speaking, whatever you say is there, briefer even than the taste of gelato or the light on the frescoes at San Marco.”
– Angie Estes, “Want” in Poets on the Psalms
A most powerful insight that has developed for me over time is this: words, rituals, do in fact have power over humanity- power to heal and power to transform- perhaps only in the moment, perhaps over a lifetime.
I recently wrote about the power of ritual to harness our both intention and attention toward honoring the moments of our lives. Because this topic of ritual has been on my mind, I used the inspiration to create a writing prompt for my writers group made of amazing women whom I know through either the Columbus Area Writing Project or the Pages program.
“The power of ritual is profound and under-appreciated. Mostly, I think, it’s because we live in a time-starved culture, and ritual is time-indulgent. Who can afford the luxury of doing one thing at a time? Who has the patience to pause and honor an activity before and after we do it? We all should.”
-Peter Bregman, “The Value of Ritual in Your Workday” in the Harvard Business Review
I am not a superstitious person. And yet. For some reason lately the concept of ritual has been swirling around in my brain- beautiful and shrouded in mystery, they seem a powerful component of life and humanity.
Peter Bregman in the Harvard Business Review states, “Rituals are about paying attention. They’re about stopping for a moment and noticing what you’re about to do, what you’ve just done, or both. They’re about making the most of a particular moment.” This makes sense to me. What ways do I find to celebrate the joys in life- small and large? In what ways do I honor the difficulties? Maybe ritual is a way to honor a moment. To see that I am perceptive and open to noticing the stages and transitions of my life and the lives of others.
As part of my participation in an Artist’s Way group, I am obligated to spend two hours alone doing something that fills my “creative cup” once a week. I have been pining for a photography trip in downtown Columbus, so that’s how I used my “artist’s date” time on Sunday. Here are some of the images that caught my eye.
Photo by Brandi Lust taken at Glean in Columbus, Ohio
Photo by Brandi Lust taken at On Paper in Columbus, Ohio
Photo by Brandi Lust taken at Posh Pets Boutique in Columbus, Ohio
Photo by Brandi Lust taken in the window of Glean in Columbus, Ohio
Photo by Brandi Lust taken in the garden of Haiku in Columbus, Ohio
Photo by Brandi Lust taken in T. David in Columbus, Ohio
While I took some photos of the large-scale art installations downtown and some of the other classic street views (the North Market signage, for example), my favorite photos ended up being the little bits and pieces that are probably more particular to what I find uniquely special- a tiny Buddha in a mint box; delicate white paper flowers; smooth, dark stones in the garden of a sushi restaurant.
Other juicy little treats from my creative date included sipping a spicy house-made ginger ale from the North Star Cafe while I walked, and my personal favorite, getting a fortune from a quarter machine that said, “Keep your goals away from the trolls.” Good advice…
Have you ever been photo walking? If so, what caught your eye and why?
“Expressive movement reaches its pinnacle in free play. It is observed in many mammals and all humans and is individualistic. It can consist of the spontaneous leaps and gambols we see in sheep, horses, and wolves. It is seen in humans as free associative movement that unfolds not through any external dictates, but motion that arises from a deep immersion in direct experience, following the moment to moment stimuli of the senses, of feelings, of images.”
-“Life Dancing Itself” by Christine Caldwell, from the On Being blog
As mentioned in the Beautiful Moments post, my friend Melissa inspired the “Why Not?” practice as an outcropping of “Beautiful Moments.” The basic idea is this:
There are things that are very possible and would bring us joy, but we often don’t do these things. Why not just do them and see what happens?
The classic example the two of us often refer to is walking through the grass in bare feet. She has a lovely story where her four-year-old daughter imparted this wisdom to her one day in the back yard:
“There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”
–The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Thornton Wilder
Flowers and I have a long history soaked in sadness and beauty. For me, flowers are linked to death, linked to joyously being alive, linked to the connection between the two.
My flower story begins with my beloved Grandma Rose who passed away last October. We were very close, and I had the fortunate experience of living with her throughout most of college with my oldest son and also of being a close partner with her as she traveled through her death experience.
“Sensory deprivation tank.” It sounds like a torture device. To be deprived of something certainly has negative connotations, and senses seem pretty essential. Obviously the people who originally named these things were not thinking of marketing opportunities.
Now, most spas that use them call them “float tanks.” I would say this is a far more accurate description of the experience: floating weightlessly, timelessly in empty space. Probably the closest I will ever get to being in actual space, which is sort of what it feels like. In a float tank, you are shut off to sound and light, and there is body-temperature water saturated with epsom salt in the bottom of the tank. The salt makes you buoyant- to the point that you can literally nap in the tank with no worries. Because of the temperature of the water, there is the sensation of “floating” in nothingness. Here are some pictures of the tank.
The On Being post features The Burning House, a project where people submit photos of what they would take with them if their house was burning down. This inspired me to do the same. Of course, I am too wordy to just list things, so there is a description, too.
“Having a creative classroom means that the teacher takes risks on a daily basis and encourages his/her students to do the same.”
—Pann Baltz, 1993 ATA Teacher of the Year as quoted in The Creative Classroom Project by Harvard’s Project Zero
On the last day of the Pages teacher workshop on Mindful Creativity, we spent some time talking about how mindfulness can be implemented in the classroom. There was some talk about the specific strategies, but what I ultimately ended up coming back to was: do it yourself. In order to teach mindfulness, it begins with experiencing the practice, benefits and struggles as a personal experience.
This is the one thing I liked most when I first started researching the teaching of mindfulness: part of teaching it, the main part, is doing it. Mindfulness is about transforming personal experience. Facilitating the process in others strengthens my own understanding of what it means to be present and to connect. In my opinion, and in the opinion of other experts whom I have read, this is really the way it is supposed to work.