How to Train a Wild Elephant (Book review, or something like that)

I am reading How to Train a Wild Elephant by Jan Chozen Bays, M.D.  It’s a great book from a Zen perspective.  Each 3 – 4 page chapter has a special nugget of wisdom on simple daily mindfulness practices.  This week I am focusing on the first four chapters:  Use Your Non-dominant Hand, Leave No Trace, Filler Words, and Appreciate Your Hands.  I have played around with the first one quite a bit over the past several years, getting quite good at left-handed writing.  This morning I posted a small yellow sticky note on the bathroom mirror reminding me to use my left hand for other daily tasks.  Leave No Trace refers to functioning in one’s home, not the usual reference to visiting the wilderness.  I will place my focus on doing the dishes, and trying to leave no trace each time I exit the kitchen. (I need a lot of work on this one.) Filler Words are those such as: um, you know, like, really, seriously, so, kind of, sort of.  Dr. Chozen Bays mentions that the first step to addressing this one is awareness.  It might mean enlisting the help of others, who may be better at catching those pesky little habit formers than the one speaking the words.  After recognizing when the words are uttered, then comes the hard part, eliminating them.  I love this practice as it will help me cultivate right speech.  Sometimes I don’t know what I’ve said, until I’ve said it.  Cultivating mindfulness carries over into all areas of life.  I need to take this practice into my written words as well.  Much pruning is needed in when working on the final draft.  The fourth chapter, Appreciate Your Hands, speaks to me as an artist.  My hands have often been my subjects, patiently posing for me.  They are beautiful, with fine, intricate lines. Some claim these lines can tell us things about our lives and the future. Hands are also a major focus in my Qigong practice.  As they cross over the mid line, tracking them brings calmness and clarity.  A delicious hypnotic quality that keeps practitioners coming back.              
That’s all for now.  I’ll keep you posted on how I’m doing and fill you in on upcoming chapters!

I would love some company while putting these mindfulness practices into play each day.  Send me a comment if you decide to join my little movement! (prompted by Dr. Chozen Bays)

About Suzanne

I write poetry, flash fiction, quotes and personal essays. Words flow forth like a river that cannot be dammed. Writing is my soul.
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