mindfulness and meditation

Lessons from the Nest: The Wisdom Hidden in 100 Paper Cranes

I am a goal slayer. If you cast me in Game of Thrones and put me against Jon Snow and the goal was to kill a white walker, I’m pretty sure I’d win. Goals have always been my thing.

1000 origami paper cranes? Poof-done in a week. Or so I thought.

100 cranes and two weeks in and there are three main truths that I have discovered…

My mind is a toddler that got into the 5 Hour Energy and there are no baby gates or locks on the doors in this house.

Everywhere I turn ‘mindfulness’ and ‘meditation’ are touted as the new Holy Grail and I want some of that new-aged Koolaid. So while the crane project started as an endeavor to explore creativity, I have realized it is also tuning me into the conversations happening in my head. And there are a lot going on in there y’all.

The ‘mindfulness’ has already been present in my sabbatical days. I do not watch any television during the day or explore social media for more than 30 minutes per day. This protects the hours I have for caring for myself and my family and my friendships from time wasters.

I am mindfully observing my health and have employed the 80/20 rule because 20% of the time I am going to need to skip yoga or eat Mexican with the girls or snuggle up on the couch with my hubby and an amazing bowl of pasta. I can also see how over the last few years I inverted this rule and let stress fueled lunch counter decisions under nourish my body. Bad food is not a remedy for feeling out of control – it only adds to it.

So I am mindfully discarding those years of undernourishment in exchange for a good, cared for body. Being remade from the inside out because the muscle is getting stronger under the flab and the flab is slowly losing its battle to hang on. Mindfulness is impacting my outer shell.

So will meditation give my mind a new figure? Well I tried it and it’s crazy in there. My early attempts were short lived and I did not feel enlightenment or a serene calmness channeled from Buddha. Not at all. I recalled a passage from Eat, Pray, Love

“Like most humanoids, I am burdened with what the Buddhists call the ‘monkey mind’ – the thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit and howl. From the distant past to the unknowable future, my mind swings wildly through time, touching on dozens of ideas a minute, unharnessed and undisciplined” (p. 132).

When all you want to do is clear your mind, it can be maddening to realize the light speed that grocery lists, Groupon deals, conversation replays, etc. can lap your brain while you are chasing after them yelling, ‘can you just sit quietly in your assigned seats?’ You made cute name cards for them for Pete’s sake, the least they could do is cooperate.

But the mind is a tricky place and like a toddler needs structure, I am realizing the paper cranes are the perfect activity to focus my attention. Each colorful creature gives my hands and my heart something to hold.

To push me further into the land of meditation, I knew I needed a specific thought to accompany the physical activity of folding so each crane now has a message inside. Some are prayers for people in my life; cancer, heart disease, back surgery – it’s all a nasty business. Some are affirmations that I want to instill in our children or lessons that presented themselves to me that day. Some are just lyrics from my favorite songs. They are my cranes and my thoughts and I want them to be focused on all the good stuff – love and gratitude and grace.

Creativity could be stored in a box marked “Random Stuff” and shoved to the back of the closet.

My pre-sabbatical plan would have been to attack the crane project and race to 1000. Check. Done. Whew.

Now on to being busy with the next thing. I was addicted to the one thing I said was driving me nuts. Unfortunately that was the only speed I knew and I couldn’t seem to change lanes.

But people will wear busyness like a trendy coat that wouldn’t keep a menopausal woman warm in the middle of a hot flash. It makes no sense but everyone else has one and we want to fit in. Maybe everyone else knows something we don’t.

Busyness isn’t life-giving or nourishing. It is Doritos and Dr. Pepper. It is fried Twinkies and Twizzles. It may count as food but you’ll be left feeling empty…

Art, music, theater, good food, new perspectives, fresh ideas – that’s what fills the seats. People will stand in line for three weeks to get the newest innovation from Apple. We will spend our children’s college fund to see Chris Stapleton or Chris Martin from the front row. We will walk 27 miles around the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa. The beauty that comes from authenticity and wonder fills us up. Not completed to-do lists.

Creativity is in all of us; we just need to know where to look, which box to unpack. When meditation takes the clutter of busy to the curb, creativity gets its own room.

Arianna Huffington’s book, Thrive, makes a compelling case for the impact of meditation through the experiences of some of our greatest minds…

Steve Jobs, a lifelong practitioner of meditation, affirmed the connection between meditation and creativity: ‘If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things – that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before.” (p. 47)

Creativity has come to visit me in forms I didn’t anticipate and I am embracing it; writing and journaling, origami and art, photography and painting. You may not stand in line during a tropical storm to see my creations but that is not the point. Chasing away ‘busy’ in favor of curiosity is vital to life, business, relationships, gratitude; it matters immensely and I want my guest room to be ready when it stops by for a visit.

I can redecorate and let all the old furnishings go to Goodwill.

Somehow the slow, methodical pace of creating a focus and then using my hands to bring a crane to life is calming my mind. By letting the lists and emails and conversations go, the space is now available for new, better, cozier couches that invite communion and rest.

If I think back on the worry and negativity that I allowed occupancy, I can see how quickly meditation and mindfulness has already transformed my living space.

Apologizes that were never given by people I trusted and who let me down are no longer needed. I set that expectation down and it no longer gets a seat at the dinner table.

The qualms over job titles or hierarchies have moved down the street to someone else’s neighborhood. Others do not define me. I give my own performance reviews now and I am on my way to earning an exemplary rating.

The amount of the direct deposit every two weeks does not define my worth. If I never earn that level of pay again, my value does not change. I am opening up rooms for welcomed guest like generosity, creativity, and gratitude. My stock is measured in goodness levels not profit gains.

So I may not be the same goal slayer as before but I am slaying my old life built on sticks and sand in favor of a mindful house constructed from the longest lasting materials.

Only the well-behaved toddlers get to run around in this house and I have some delicious new-aged Koolaid to serve them when they get thirsty.

3 Comments
  • Leigh Leigh
    Posted at 22:28h, 14 September Reply

    Geeeesh. Why do I always cry at your posts? I wish I knew this Jess three years ago but your past has brought you here for a really specific purpose. God is using your words for good and hopefully allowing others to see the clear, bigger picture in smaller “crane-like” ways.
    Much Love,
    One of your biggest fans (not in a creepy way though)

  • Lau
    Posted at 10:52h, 19 September Reply

    LOVE!! Enjoying following you and your journey and getting guy checks now and again!

  • Lau
    Posted at 10:53h, 19 September Reply

    That was supposed to say “gut checks”, silly auto correct

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