Fellow poet, Jennifer Payne, welcome to Choices today!

That I love poetry should be no surprise to my readers here, so it pleases me to no end to host the author of the book of poetry, Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, today during her WOW! Women on Writing blog tour.

Jen has also provided us with her thoughts about meditation, something I’ve dabbled in over the years and always feel guilty about when I don’t do it. I thank Jen for her guest post below.

 Exploring Mindfulness

by Jen Payne

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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

 ***

Book Summary:

Would God floss? Do spiders sing? Can you see the Universe in your reflection? Find the answers to these questions in more in this new book by Connecticut writer Jen Payne. Her poems in Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind investigate the human condition and its folly, the beauty of our natural world, and the possibility of divine connection. 80 original and vintage photographs include a series of discarded dental flossers that inspired the book’s title.

ALA Notable Book author Dale Carlson calls the book “a brilliantly incisive commentary on our simultaneous human sense of beauty and waste and loss.”

Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind speaks to the common heart that beats in you and in me, in the woods and on the streets, across oceans and around this planet. It asks us all to consider the effects of our actions and how they influence everything else in the Universe.

Paperback: 180 Pages

Genre: Poetry

Publisher: Three Chairs Publishing (October 1, 2017)

ISBN-10: 0990565114

ISBN-13: 978-0990565116

 

Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind is available in print on Amazon here and at Three Chairs Publishing, and her Etsy Shop.

Praise:

“The poems in Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind are a brilliantly incisive

commentary on our simultaneous human sense of beauty and waste and loss.” — Dale Carlson, ALA Notable Book author

“In Jen Payne’s exquisite introduction to Evidence of Flossing, she provides the purpose of this book: to illustrate, poem by poem, the very fraught relationships which define us, human to human, human to earth and animal, and human to the unifying spirit, which may or may not be her lower case “god.” She is sober, admonitory, enraptured and antic by turns, her illustrative photographs always a source of pleasure or irony — often both. This is a most unusual book, richly thoughtful and sorely, sorely needed.” — Nancy Fitz-Hugh Meneely, author, Letter from Italy, 1944

“It’s uncanny how Jen Payne grabs hold of seemingly ordinary strands of life — then surprises us with new meaning. A master at storytelling, Jen brings us to the realization that the stories she shares are actually ours. An engaging, thought provoking and masterful reflection on our collective legacy in this world.” — Mary O’Connor, author, Life Is Full of Sweet Spots and Dreams of a Wingless Child

About the Author:

Jen Payne is inspired by those life moments that move us most — love and loss, joy and disappointment, milestones and turning points. Her writing serves as witness to these in the form of poetry, creative non-fiction, flash fiction and essay. When she is not exploring our connections with one another, she enjoys writing about our relationships with nature, creativity, and mindfulness, and how these offer the clearest path to finding balance in our frenetic, spinning world.  Her creative efforts can be found on her blog, Random Acts of Writing, www.randomactsofwriting.net or on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/findrandomactsofwriting/)

Jen is the author of LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness, and the new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, a collection of 73 poems and more than 80 original and vintage photographs, including a series of discarded dental flossers that inspired the title of the book. The poems cut a path through our human folly – politics, religion, development, technology, consumerism – to a more divine connection with our natural world. It starts a brave conversation about change and how, as philosopher J. Krishnamurti explains, “to transform the world, we must begin with ourselves.

You can read more of her writing on her blog, Random Acts of Writing.

  

Jennifer can also be found online at:

Website

Facebook

Twitter

 

Since it is unusual for my WOW! guests to be poets, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Should I invite more poets here or leave our guest book as is?  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Hi Madeline. Thank you for providing the space and time to talk to your readers about mindfulness. Finding our way to mindful moments is especially important during the holidays. I hope this post encourages folks to get outside…nature is a waiting salve. Kindest regards…

    • Madeline Sharples says:

      You are most welcome, Jen. I found your piece on mindfulness quite inspirational. I walk to the beach a lot from my home, it is a perfect salve for me. All best and huge success on your book.

Speak Your Mind

*