More Reflections on Slow Time

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As I slowly read and journal my way through the book “Slow Time, I am at week 4, the chapter on “Night and Day”. In times past, humans rose with the sun and then went to bed when it set. Our biological rhythm followed the day and night cycle. Today most of us stay up long after sunset and are exposed to artificial light from lamps, television and computer screens. In effect, we have created an artificial day and our bodies react at varying levels to this environment. I know that I feel like hibernating at this time of year when, because of the holiday season, it is actually one of the busiest times of year. I can feel this tension in my physical body at times as it works hard to get everything done. It’s important to allow time to just “be”.

The internal rhythm in our body that is directly affected by the day and night cycle is called the circadian rhythm. Most people become aware of this rhythm when it becomes imbalanced from traveling between time zones and experiencing “jet lag”. There is a cluster of cells located right behind our eyes that regulates this rhythm.

Studies have identified another biological rhythm, the ultradian rhythm, that cycles every 1 1/2-2 hours throughout our day. There are 4 parts to this rhythm: an arousal, a peak performance, a stress period followed by a rest period. Do you ever feel that you need to take a break from a project or task? You’re probably in the “stress” part of your rhythm. Taking a break for 15-20 minutes is refreshing and you can return to your task rejuvenated. It is when we work against these natural rhythms that imbalances can occur. Interestingly enough, around 3-4pm each day both of these rhythms, ultradian and circadian, are at their lowest points. Ever feel draggy at that time of day? It’s a perfect time for an afternoon tea break. Or better yet, a siesta.

If you ever have problems falling asleep, it could be because of all of the artificial light stimulation experienced at night. The best thing to do is to limit your artificial light exposure and do something relaxing and soothing for the couple hours before your bedtime. Turn off the television and computer. Light some candles, listen to soothing music, take a warm bath, drink a cup of hot de-caf or herbal tea, meditate, write in your journal, do an activity with a meditative rhythm like knitting, crocheting or beading. These activities gently prepare and open you up for a restful sleep. Sweet dreams!

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My October Journal Page

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My October page took its own long, slow time to unfold. A candle image started teasing into my imagination during a meditation several months ago. I meditated some more on this candle image and it grew into thoughts on illumination and wisdom. I originally wrote about the candle illuminating and unmasking my Higher Self but this changed as I beaded the page.

November was a busy month with preparations for my jewelry show and then Thanksgiving not even a week later. So, finding time to bead was a challenge. When I actually sat down to bead, my mind was crammed full with all of the things on my “to-do” list. An inner voice kept droning on and on that I should be doing this and I should be doing that. My gremlin voice. Hmmmm… As I let my mind settle around all of these thoughts, I began to imagine my illuminated candle, not the figure, as my Higher Self. The figure represents my gremlin. Though she looks serene, almost like she is sleeping or meditating, she is always there, a ghostlike figure, watching, waiting for the perfect moment to find my cracks. She feeds on what lies in the cracks of my psyche, my guilt about not being “good enough”, a good enough artist, a good enough mother, a good enough friend, a good enough partner, a good enough person. She tells me about all of the things I should be doing and, if I don’t do them, I am a failure. I cannot get rid of this gremlin because she is a part of my psyche, my inner critic. Instead, I let the light of my Higher Self, who I truly am, illuminate her and unmask her for what she is. And then I embrace her as a part of me.

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This page was a struggle for me but it also brought me deeper into myself while I was beading it. My gremlin voice tells me that I am behind with my beading. My Higher Self tells me that I am not too far behind and it will all come together in its time.

And now I turn my attention to starting my November page which marks the halfway point on this wondrous journey.

Saturday Morning Tea

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As the full moon set on this frosty morning, I rose out of bed and wrapped myself in a big fluffy robe to greet the day. A perfect morning for something spicy to warm me up, I simmered some Chai in a pan on the stove while I made breakfast.

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Masala chai is a traditional Indian blend of black tea and spices – cardamon seed pods, cinnamon pieces, clove, ginger and black pepper. An Indian gentleman once told me that they would add the black tea leaves to the sweetened milk and then go to their spices and throw this and that in to simmer. So, each family had their own recipe and that could vary from day to day.

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I used Chai Spice blend and added a couple of spoonfuls to a cup of organic 2% milk. I simmered this mixture for 10 minutes and then added sweetener to taste. This results in a very spicy cup so it is one of the rare occasions where I will add sweetener to my tea. It smooths out the sharpness of the spices, especially my extra spicy version. Demerara sugar is unrefined with a high molasses content and works especially well.

Mmmmm, delicious!

Japanese Tea Ceremony

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Last Sunday I had the honor, along with 3 of my work colleagues, of attending a Japanese Tea Ceremony at the Kaji Aso studio in Boston. Excitement was mounting all week as we eagerly looked forward to our visit. The studio is located right off of Huntington Ave. so it is very easy to find.

Jane, one of the tea apprentices, greeted us at the door as we arrived. She was beautifully dressed in a silk kimono and obi. We were graciously shown into the front room gallery of the brownstone, where the students display and sell their work. Rows of shelving on both sides of the room are filled with beautiful tea bowls, plates and ceramic vessels, created in their studio. After we looked around a little, we were led down a flight of stairs through the ceramics studio and out into the backyard. As we carefully stepped along the worn stone path, I felt my body and spirit relax and slip into that moment in time. I was already getting into “tea mind”.

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We entered the vestibule of the “House of Flower Wind” tea house by way of its beautiful garden, complete with koi pond and bamboo water fountains. We were instructed to remove our shoes before we entered the teahouse. A beautiful calligraphy scroll on the wall translates to “One moment, one life” or “One moment, full of friendship”. This principal of tea ceremony expresses the relationship of tea & Zen.

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One at a time, we entered the teahouse on our knees, bowed to the teamaster and sat down on the soft mat. We quietly watched as Kate made the tea – dip the bamboo ladle into the water kettle, pour, rinse and clean the tea bowl, spoon the powdered matcha with the bamboo scoop into the bowl, dip and pour the water, whisk the tea into a froth. Her movements were like a graceful dance, so mesmerizing and calming to watch. This first tea was prepared lightly with small sweets to enjoy before drinking the tea. The sweet is a nice balance to the pungency of the matcha. Before the stronger second tea, we had a pastry called “ohagi”, sweetened red beans over sweet rice sprinkled with soy powder. We also had a sweet rice rolled in ground black sesame. These delectable treats were served in 220 year old black lacquer covered bowls. Each tea was served in a tea bowl over 1000 years old. As each one of us in turn quietly drank from each bowl, we felt the ancient venerable energy infusing our tea experience. The tea tasted fresh, clean and delightfully pungent.

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Kate, Jane and Jennifer were delightful hosts, each taking a turn to make and serve the tea. We enjoyed chatting with them, during and after tea, learning about the tradition and history of the tea ceremony and about Mr. Aso and the studio he created. We are truly grateful for their kindness and hospitality. They created an amazing experience for us, one that we will never forget!

“I thought I saw you but then the moon hid behind the clouds and I lost you.” -Murasaki Shikibu

Thanksgiving

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I got up early this morning and the outside world was shrouded in fog and mist. While I busied myself with making a coconut pie and preparing the turkey, it brightened and cleared and the sun is now shining brightly.

When I began my blogging experience 8 months ago, I felt much like the misty world this morning. I couldn’t see very far. I didn’t know what to expect. I was unsure about how to do this. Despite all, I took my first tentative steps and started writing and sharing. A most wonderful thing happened. I discovered a community of people like myself who were all taking the same steps. A community I wouldn’t normally have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. It has changed my life and I want to extend a deep gratitude out to each and every one of you who have come to visit and read and share comments. It has meant more to me than words can say.

I have made connections with you and also with myself on this journey. It is not a journey without its frustrations (with the computer) and its fear (of writing, of sharing myself) but it is an authentic path that we are traveling together.

I am so grateful to get up every morning and greet the day. To live fully in each and every moment with a wonderful family and friends and furry beings.

Thank you, dear friends, for all the gifts you have given me. Have a happy Thanksgiving filled with sharing and laughter. And lots of good food!

Saturday Morning Tea

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Pouchong tea. Is it a green tea or is it an Oolong tea? Technically, it is described as a slightly oxidized, or fermented, green tea. Well, so is Jade Oolong tea lightly oxidized. Hmmmm, isn’t it interesting how we as humans always like to put things in a category? Give a label? I like the idea of this tea being in its own little group, its own little tribe. The leaf is very large and twisted and pleated. I had fun arranging the wet leaf in a curling pattern, one leading to the other. The dance of the leaf tribe.

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Pouchong tea is produced in the Fujian province of China and also in Pinglin Township near Taipei, Taiwan. This tea is often used in scented tea such as jasmine. It doesn’t have the vegetal quality of a green tea but is more floral like a green Oolong.

This morning as I get ready for my show, I am sipping a Formosa Pouchong tea. The liquor is light and fragrant and the aroma of flowers gently drifts from my cup. The floral quality is also apparent in the taste with a light honey note. It reminds me of Jade Oolong but not as heavy sweet. A perfect cuppa to start the day as I venture out to my show on this cold clear morning!

Slow Time

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I’ve recently started working with a book called “Slow Time” by Waverly Fitzgerald. I had first become acquainted with Waverly’s work when I used to subscribe to SageWoman, a magazine devoted to Goddess lore and Earth based spirituality. I was fascinated by her thoughts about the cycle of the seasons and her words resonated on a very deep level within my soul.

The book is set up in a 12-week format and it is filled with exercises and questions that help you explore your relationship with time. Speaking of time, I have been busy getting ready for my annual jewelry show tomorrow so I haven’t exactly been following it by a weekly schedule. I am reading and absorbing and exploring in my own “slow time”.

The subtitle to the book is “Recovering the Natural Rhythm of Life”.

As I was reading Richard Bode’s “Beachcombing at Miramar” last night, these words jumped out at me.

“I believe there is a clock within me, a living clock, and it keeps pace with the beat of the world. I hear the slow ticktock of the planet when I stand in a salt marsh or walk the sands of Miramar, and I lose it the instant I slip behind a steering wheel. The moment I exceed the speed at which I was born to move, I lose the tempo of the natural world and become like a singer who has lost the rhythm of his song.”

This passage stayed with me long after I had read it. As we move through our days faster and faster, here, there and everywhere, work, school, errands, etc., are we losing our natural rhythms? The speed we were born to move? I wonder about these things.