Friday, April 8, 2011

Weekend Reads: Monk Mind

To say this has been a weird, trying, sometimes difficult, bewildering, roller-coaster ride of a week might be an understatement. I can't even wrap my brain around the week I've had, let alone to equal weirdness that my friends have also experienced (you too?).

It's a good time for a monk mind: a slowed down, present, mindful moment to tune in and refresh. Time to restart. What follows are some of my favorite mind-slowing tools and tricks - I would love to hear some of your ideas as well!


Into Great Silence (by Philip Gröning), a documentary about monastic life in the French Alps is a completely transporting, quieting, and alternate experience to any movie you've ever seen. The film's summary echoes my sentiments exactly - it is "more a meditation than documentary, it's a rare, transformative experience for all".

You may not be able to get through the whole film in one go - and that' perfectly acceptable. There is no score, no voiceovers, no grand author presence, no crew, no artificial lighting - but the bareness allows in an incredible amount. If you need to take a break, doze off, whatever, allow that, accept it, but I do highly encourage you to watch through to the end. If you do watch a trailer I encourage you to watch the one featured on the film website - other trailers reveal the rewarding element that makes watching through to the end so fulfilling and satisfying.

On the opposite end of the film spectrum, but still documentary style, is Sprout (by Thomas Campbell) - a completely stylized, but equally transfixing surfing movie. Sprout explores styles of surfing, music, art and processing in a wholly organic, thoughtful, alive with possibility and yet go-with-the-flow manner. It is spontaneous but planned - and plays upon juxtaposition without discord. If you aren't in a place to go really, really deep into your mindfulness and quietude, or, Into Great Silence is too much for you, this is the place to start.

The soundtrack (above) is worth a listen.


I wasn't sure what to expect with Haiku Mind, by Patricia Donegan. I went to the library with a list of books I wanted to spend time with but this was the only one that came in - I'm glad. The book is a collection of 108 haikus (or very short poems), each with a topic, a very short discussion, and a small bit of info about the author. It is a short, digestible meditation on an emotion, time, or space – manageable, reflective, and approachable – perfect for a short pause to calm the mind.

Some of my favorites (and their topic areas)

Trust and hope
the packet of seeds,
asking, are you still alive? (Kiyoko Tokutomi)

Words and Dialogue
He says a word
I say a word:
autumn deepens (Kyosli Takachama)

Everyday Chores
for everyday clothes
an everyday mind –
peach blossoms (Ayako Hosomi)


Reading the last haiku mentioned reminded me of one of my favorite poems of all time - From Blossoms, by Li-YoungLee. You can read the entire poem here. If you like it I encourage you to pick up the book where it is published, Rose. I think you'll find the opposition in the poem on the facing page to be interestingly insightful and some of the other poems equally reflective.

With Father's Day approaching you might also want to look for Words for Worry, also by Li-Young Lee - an excellent poem (which you can find online but I'm remiss to link to site without permission to reprint the work).

If you enjoy Li-Young Lee's writing his lyrical, mesmerizing book The Winged Seed is meditative, poetic, and profoundly interesting. While some of the topics are not necessarily calming, the manner of searching and digesting is, in its condensed manner, quieting and calming.

I also really enjoy Bindu Wiles - her interviews, videos and reflections are always worth a read. I've never read or watched something with, about, or written by Bindu that I didn't take away a big lesson from - spend some time with her.

Are you someone who does their best reflection while moving?

Try the Detox Yoga Routine from Whole Living.

A runner? Try meditation while running.

There is always walking meditation.

Create. If you are crafty check out all the fun project links at The Lettered Cottage or get inspiration on CraftGawker - be mindful while creating. Stack and collect rocks - a very zen practice!


When you are done with your yoga practice, or during your meditation try using an eye pillow to center your practice: listen to your breath, your thoughts.

This lovely, my lavender and flax seed pillow from Raw and Repurposed is filled with good stuff: repurposed and organic materials, calming lavender, and a perfect weightiness for my reflective time. It's a great price too, might I mention - and the seller, Jessie, is about as nice as they come - it's good to know things come from a good place.

Do you find yourself calmed by the sounds of nature? Try mixing your own unique combination of sounds at Nature Sounds or, funny enough, turn on the Redwood Creek site and click around.

Take some time for yourself this weekend. Disconnect and reconnect, be present and absent, let go of the crazy week and begin again.

What are some of your favorite tricks and tools to cultivate mindfulness?


e'clair said...

I so enjoyed this post, especially since I have been thinking about the same thing recently:
It is reassuring to know that there are others who look to cultivate the same values: thank you so much for taking the time to compile this inspired post.
Have a wonderful weekend!

Brandi {not your average ordinary} said...

I can't tell you how badly I needed this post right now. I was suddenly feeling wildly overwhelmed by all I have to do. I really need to slow down and breathe and find that mindful, relaxed place. I'll definitely have to try the meditation while running tomorrow. Thank you, Tricia.

Krystal said...

I hope everything is ok my friend. And thanks for all of the wisdom and recommendations in this post!

Jessie said...

Thank you so much for your wonderful words about my eye pillows! Your pictures are amazing! I absolutely love Sprout and the sound track! I watched it several times the summer it came out. His new one is equally as good, "The Present". I love his narrations and jokes. Peace be with you and all that you do. Take care

Ashley said...

I don't know much about the concept/practice of mindfulness, but for sure, parts of this post resonate with me.

Disconnecting with the meaningless and focusing on the meaningful is something I need more of, most of the time.

Finding silence is something I don't do enough of. Funny - I'll admit something "out loud" that I never have before. Coming from an adolescence/young adulthood where my peers and I were very into music & live-show culture, I used to be very tied up in an identity of what I was into musically, and the lifestyle of someone who was Very Into Music.

Think John Cusack in High Fidelity. Except with less credibility. :)

I used to be proud of never allowing silence in my life - anytime I could turn music on, I would.

Now, though, I need silence, and crave it. I haven't turned my back on music, but sometimes when I just want/need/look for silence, I feel guilty, like I'm betraying music.

I've got various parts of my old self that I'm slowly recognizing and evaluating - hang onto it or let it go and become new in some way? Or acknowledge the new me I've already become and stop feeling guilty about it?