Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Bowling; the 10,000 breads

I am not a good bowler.

Otherwise, had a very nice time going out on Sunday night. In other areas, my life has been a bit chaotic and stressful recently. In trying to explain this, I thought of a story. (What's the yarn spinner without a yarn?)

When I taught religious school, I used to lead services with lots of music for kids. This was one of my favorite things to do, and at the beginning of every school year, I had to teach kids some prayer basics. This did not involve how to learn prayers; kids absorb those and learn about prayers all the time. This involved learning to be ready to pray or how to find a personal prayer space.

Imagine you're in a room with 15 -100 wiggly kids. Age range 5-10.
OK, everybody. I want you to move away from the people next to you. No touching. (Dario, stop touching Rachel. Janey, that's enough) OK, now, close your eyes. No peeking. Imagine your favorite place. It's a playground, or the beach or your backyard. Everybody have a place? (dozens of little faces screw up in concentration, eyes shut.) Your friends and family are near you, but not touching you. No touching! Focus on how special that place is. How inviting it is. How comfortable you feel there. Think about the good experiences you have there. Is there where you learned to go down a slide? Go swimming? Play with your dog? How do you feel in this place? Happy? Peaceful? Quiet? Loud? Ready to think about important stuff? (shh. no talking to anyone else about this.) This is your place. You're alone here, to talk to G-d.

OK, everybody, open your eyes. When we pray together, that's exactly the place you want to get to. The still, special place, where you feel good and where no one is bothering anyone else. Everyone ready to go back to your special place? Now we're ready to start praying.

Why do I mention this? As an adult, I bypass this little exercise and head right into my appropriate "prayer place" when I go to synagogue or recite a blessing. Most prayerful people of all faiths, as adults, know how to do this. On a daily basis, though, we often need to step away from the stress, the tension and the anxiety dreams. (I've had some whopper anxiety dreams. Whew!) Today, for the first time in a while, I tried to stop and think of my special place. What is it, these days? You know, I don't know what it is.

The last one I can remember, several years ago, was sitting and spinning on the front porch of my old house in Durham, NC, with Lucy, my first dog. Lately, I've been baking a lot of bread. I find this calming, and since the No-Knead Bread Recipe changed my bread making life, I've been making all of our bread at home, not just the challah.

I am still tense. None of the anxious stuff in life just floats away easily. The special place? Well, if you took the feeling of bread baking, and then multiplied it by, say, 10,000 loaves, that might be it right now. 10,000 breads. Hmmmm. Fidget. Bread place. Trying to calm down. It's not working yet, but I can smell the bread baking in the oven, in my mind...

So, how do you take a step away when things are stressful? Any hints?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful bread!

I like to think of the ocean. On the beach all by myself. I can hear the waves and the seagulls. I can feel the sand between my toes. I can hear and see the waves coming in and going out.

I've only seen the ocean a few times but it has had a profound impact on me. Someday I'd like to live closer to it.

January 31, 2007 at 3:48 PM  
Blogger Joanne said...

Thanks for another image to calm down with, Lisa! I just spent a while on the couch, knitting, and felt a little calmer. Maybe I won't have to think about as many loaves of bread this way?:)

January 31, 2007 at 4:03 PM  
Blogger sarah said...

I'm rubbish at relaxing in that sense, whatever I do. There are so many things I want to do, so little time...
The Pilates instructor uses 'sinking into warm sand on a tropical beach' as her key image. I struggled with this before realising it didn't work for me because I'd never experienced it. Anyone in the northern seas I knew had a life expectancy measured in minutes :-) So I use the first snowfall. Sitting on grass beside still water, a birch tree with a scattering of bronze and gold leaves silhouetted against something dark.. a hedge? woodland? I gather silence in my mind and watch as the snow drifts down from a heavy sky. Flakes land on my eyelashes, on my sleeve, build into lace on the interlacing grasses, disappear into the dark water, etch the outline of the birch branches against the sky. Everything is calm, silent, waiting for winter.

Incidentally the bread is rising downstairs even as I type!

February 1, 2007 at 4:38 AM  
Blogger CatonsvilleCats said...

I knit. Knitting is one of the few things that I can do that sort of clears my head. After Emily is in bed and the house is silent I just burrow into my chair and knit and it's quiet.

February 1, 2007 at 7:16 AM  
Blogger Angela said...

Difficult crossword puzzles do it for me.

Lace or Fair-Isle or complicated Arans that have a good rhythm.

Playing piano used to work, but I haven't done it in so long I am afraid it would be more stressful than relaxing.

February 1, 2007 at 6:22 PM  
Blogger e's knitting and spinning blog said...

Joanne your article in Knit It was wonderful. Love your hair in those pics!

I have a very time stilling my brain to pray. I'm still working on it:-)

February 1, 2007 at 7:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was in high school I was pretty much grounded the whole time. I wasn't allowed to go out with friends, in fact, I wasn't really allowed to have friends at all. But I WAS allowed to go to the library. Now, the main library was downtown, so I had to take the bus, and once I was on that bus I was pretty much free. For some reason it never occurred to me to lie and say I was going to the library and then hang out with friends. Since I hadn't been allowed to have friends, I didn't know how to make any. But I just loved the feeling of freedom that getting on the bus gave me. To this day, riding the bus downtown eases my tension.

February 2, 2007 at 3:20 PM  
Blogger Brenda said...

Hot Chocolate is my "destressor". Is that a word? But you HAVE to put 7 marshmallows on top or else it won't work.

February 2, 2007 at 11:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really need to find myself a quiet space. When I had to have an MRI years ago, I went back to the first trip I took to Ireland and remembered every detail I could pull up. It was very effective - I really went back to that time & place. But I don't have a place I go to for daily or regular peace.

When I'm upset, I tend to clean house - I think because it's something I can control, I can make it better. Or I sing - because singing is so centering for me - it's a way to release emotion and just go be with the songs, the words, the notes.

February 9, 2007 at 1:27 PM  

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