Nature Teacher: We’re All in this Together

We knew the storm was coming and wondered how their fragile bodies would surviveWere there any still alive in these frigid 3 degree temps?  Topping off the bird feeders, we later fell asleep to the hush of heavy snowfall then awoke the next morning to more of the same — nearly a foot of snow and more still falling.

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A flurry of birds lined up on the tarmac of tree branches, each waiting their turn for food — the mysterious cardinal whose been pecking at the windows for a year, the usual tiny chickadees, a tufted titmouse or two, and a pudgy new family thought to be dark-eyed juncos (although they may have been plump simply to stay warm).

 

 

The feeder was nearly empty by noon…

 

 

…but my heart overflowed with gratitude

for taking time to care.

 

 

 

 

 

What are we doing?

A young friend, who is a talented musician and new father, shared his disappointing Christmas with me.  When asking his brother if he would like to hear the latest song he  recorded, his brother’s response was, “Sorry man.  I can’t.  I have 10 seconds until the tournament starts.”

My friend then revealed to me that his brother is addicted to gaming.  “He’s usually stockpiled in his room, stacking empty dishes of food my mother brought him because he can’t tear himself away from the game.  I’ve told him he’s disgusting, often not showering for three days,” my friend said.  I shudder in the realization that this technology problem is much bigger than I surmised and a grave concern to what we are doing to our society.  Isn’t the opiod crisis enough?

skeleton pc

My young friend continued, “You remember Jack at my wedding?  We use to talk on my drive home from work and had big plans for recording together.  Then he told me he bought a gaming system and wanted me to get one too.  He doesn’t return my calls anymore.  He won’t even pick up the phone.  I know he’s addicted to gaming too.”

My friend, at age 30 is already a wise old soul.  I was proud of him when he announced he gave up his cell phone because he was texting while driving.  And when he fired the babysitter because she placed an I-phone in his infant’s hands, I felt more pleased.  “I want my son to experience life,” he said.  “I want to take him cross country to see the beauty of the land and meet different people.”

I then shared with him a startling conversation I had with my older and over-weight brother in-law during the holidays.  His wife (an I-phone and Candy Crush addict) proudly told me she could start her oven with her I-phone.  “Why would you want to?” I asked.  My brother in-laws response?  “So you don’t have to get off the couch.” I felt stunned.  We already have an obesity problem in America and now technology is helping people stay inactive, indoors and isolated.  What are we doing?

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I understand gaming rehabs are some of the most expensive and that a gaming addiction is as difficult to treat as bulimia.  Drug rehabs are big business and a revolving door of profits.  When will humans wake up to realize they are giving up free thought and subsequent health under the guise of convenience but the truth of corporate profit?

game over

Addictions — whether drugs,  technology, gambling, food, shopping, etc. — would doubtfully be so overwhelming if people tempered their device with the wisdom and beauty of Nature.  Nature is free and it’s everywhere, reliably standing by, willing to offer peace and insights for living life.  Take a hike.  Plant a garden with your child.  Walk the dog and say hi to the neighbors.  Get off the couch to cut your own grass, and turn on the oven yourself.

It all begins with one conscious choice.

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One Gift to Return

Have you noticed how many smiles you see?  Or don’t, in this overly busy time of year when buzzing around making returns, shopping, doing errands, or whatever tasks need to be done.   I counted only one smile today.  And it was a wide one as another customer and I passed each other at the store.

One priceless gift to return is take one second and smile — at whomever you encounter.  It’s a gift to yourself as well.  You don’t have to say anything, although a pleasant word is a bonus.  As is a smile returned.

 

When you smile, your face muscles trigger a release of endorphins.  Helping to reduce stress levels, they are responsible for making you — and others — feel happy.

So the next time you see someone, offer up a smile.  Like a breadth of fresh air in a weary day, notice how much lighter you feel too and it didn’t cost you a penny.  Just one…second…of conscious…thought.  A gift you can be happy to return.

It’s true.  Smile and the whole world smiles with you.

 

Set the energy in motion…Let it begin with you.happy dance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Presents

Madison Avenue says Christmas is about presents. Lots of them.

christmas presents galore

I say that’s a typo.  It’s about presence — lots of it.  Be present with yourself, loved ones, and each moment you (hopefully) come in contact with someone.  Well, anyone for that matter.  This is more than sitting next to someone while staring into a device.  It’s about being mentally present, focused on your interaction with that person.  Giving someone your attention is as true a gift as it gets.

It’s easy to “buy” some thing and hand it to someone or the more recent scenario of leaving it on someone’s desk or at their door.  How many obligatory gifts have you received that were a pre-packaged something-for-anyone that you didn’t use? same gift Note:  “re-gifting” was created for a reason.  Yes, some will say, “It’s the thought that counts.”  I counter, “How much thought was there?”  A sincere kind word or sentiment means more.  At least to me.

More precious and worthy than material gifts, giving time is a gift so large it can’t be wrapped in any box yet overflows the heart. Ask a soldier being deployed or a dying patient.  Ask your spouse.  Do they wish they had more time?  Do you feel overly stressed that there isn’t enough time?  Stopping the distraction and being present is the most generous gift of and to thyself.  (Hard lesson learned — see prior post “Meager.”)

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You can give yourself the gift of time by being in Nature.  Whether planting the season’s garden or trekking through the woods, time seems to slow without the constant pings of phones or e-mail.  The stillness of  Nature’s tranquil beauty reaches the soul.  Gift your time by being present with others this holiday season.  Play with your children.  Visit an elderly person.  Smile at the store clerk.

Feel the isolation and loneliness disappear as you put down your device and look into someone’s eyes when they speak to you.  Listen to what they have to say.  Offer something in return.  Maybe it’s just a hug, or thank you to Nature.

 Time – The Perfect Gift for You and Everyone on Your List white-male-1740707_1280

 

Daily Prompt: Meager

There they were,  in plain sight — my car keys laying on the driver’s seat and cell phone plugged into the charger.  In the midst of holiday shopping, with several more stops to go, I wanted to get home before heavy traffic stole more time.  Oh well.

The biting cold stung my uncovered ears and head — my hat lay on the passenger seat too.  Walking back into the dollar store, I asked the cashier if I could use the phone because I locked my keys in the car.   The skinny, high-school looking girl asked her manager if I could use the phone.   I dialed home.  Busy.  Now what?

girl looking up blurReading my anxiety over tieing up the store’s phone and her time, the girl’s colossal black olive eyes looked up at me, “Do you have Triple A?” she asked.

“No.  No, I don’t.”  I didn’t tell her I gave it up years ago when the price kept increasing and they appeared more interested in selling travel plans than providing road side assistance.  Instead, I’d obtained the same service through my car insurance but alas, that information was also in my locked car.  Sigh.

“Well, I do.   You can use mine,” she said while reaching for her purse under the checkout stand.

“I don’t want to get you in trouble.”

“It’s okay.  I’ve been through this.  I know what it’s like,” she smiled, her teeth jutting  from sunken cheekbones confined by strands of fine hair barely warming her bony shoulders.  Pulling out her AAA card, she showed me the account number and phone number to call.  I felt surprised and relieved all at once.

Someone finally responded at Triple AAA and after I provided the required information, told me they would arrive in 45 minutes to an hour.  The young clerk told me to just sign her name when the serviceman arrived but that I should wait inside the warm store.  I don’t know if I was more stunned by her blind trust in me or her thoughtfulness in today’s self-involved world.

“Thank you.  Thank you for your kindness.  I so appreciate it,” I said.  She waved off my offer of a $20 bill even though she most likely earns a $7.25 minimum wage.  I insisted, “Please.  You’ve been so generous in helping me.”  Her wide smile reappeared, and I walked away thinking…

Isn’t life interesting how our needs are met?

grateful help outline

via Daily Prompt:  Meager

Featured image:  unsplash-logoMitchel Lensink

Original image (modified) of girl:unsplash-logoAlexander Mils

Taming the Holidays

“Ping!” my car doors locked as I headed toward the grocery store, dodging rush hour cars veering into tight parking spots then carts barreling into the entrance.   No one was smiling. Including me.

For years I’ve dreaded the Christmas holidays and for nearly as many years, I’ve sought to santa headache-1understand why.  Dysfunctional Christmases of my youth reveal anticipated Norman Rockwell (virtual) holidays severed by the reality of family arguments and chaos.  Young adulthood in a city several hours away still felt the angst of coming home for the holidays. By midlife when stores began pushing Christmas before Halloween and then Labor Day, I felt so weary of Christmas that I too jumped ahead, seeking spring’s relief (post Easter Bunny).

Wise counsel lessened the Christmas Madness.  “Make the holidays what you want them to be,” my friend said, “Not what others think you should do, or just because it’s always been done a particular way.  Create your own tradition or celebration.  You decide how much and what you want to do.”  Wow!  What a life changing concept.

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Several decades and layers of understanding later, I realize I can be free of holiday chaos and not be a scrooge.  Each year, I reassess my participation and focus on what is most important, what stirs my soul.  Baking cookies went by the way side.  Too many calories, too tempting, and too time consuming.  Besides, by January my regret would weigh as much as the extra pounds.  I reduced one hundred Christmas cards with personal messages to only contacting those farthest away or the elderly.  This year, those Christmas cards evolved to “giving thanks” cards in November — a more relaxed time to express heartfelt sentiments. Once I consciously chose to ignore marketing’s mantra to buy-buy-buy, and the stigma that Christmas should look like XYZ, I felt more free.

Back at the grocery store, a woman’s cart blocks the bread aisle.  Politely offering, “Excuse me,” I attempt to push past, discovering she is mid conversation on her phone.  Others wheel through the aisles, their eyes downcast to the left or right.  I wonder if they’re taking time to reflect what Christmas is supposed to be about or if they are consumed with get-get-get, then how to pay-pay-pay for all of the (mostly unnecessary) stuff.  Flashing Christmas lights and blinding glittery ornaments compete with well-worn carols and shopper specials blaring through the loudspeaker.  Rows of cash register dings punctuate long lines of overwhelming chatter and ring tones ranging from sirens to barking dogs.   No one smiles.

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I recall recent blog posts and news stories on Smartphone and social media addiction.  Unhappiness.  Loneliness.  Accelerated rates of depression linked to the number of hours on a device.  I see it on the faces around me.  And while my participation in these things is little to null, the over stimulation of Christmas is magnified for an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) like me.

Do you have a hard time with the Christmas holidays?  Are you one of those persons who hear the shotgun start at Thanksgiving, rush breathlessly to Christmas, then drop across the finish line of New Years?  How do you cope with this season?  Do you wish you could blink your eyes and the holidays would be over?  (Not to rush your life, but…)

You have more control over this than you think you do.  And once you let go of the shoulds and obligatory traditions, engagements and gifts, you set yourself (and often pocketbook) free.  Consciously choosing to make the holiday manageable equates to a more enjoyable time for you and everyone around you.  Try it.  You may be pleasantly surprised.

stress-relax

 

 

Daily Prompt: Coincidence…

via Daily Prompt: Coincidence

…is a word I’ve replaced with synchronicity mostly after working through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way book.  Before that, I viewed coincidence in the sense that there are no coincidences, meaning God has a hand in everything.  And I’m not referring to God of any particular religion but God as in a Higher Power.

When my thinking evolved toward synchronicity, I continued to view things in a spiritual way.   Like manifesting my dreams.  I became more aware and more in tuned to the little things that were helping me along my way.

My most recent synchronistic experience relates to my lifelong dream of visiting Scotland, along with some other recent nudges.  Since practicing Qigong the last few years, my thoughts of God and the Universe are directed toward nature which has led to an interest in studying the Tao.  Participating in World Tai Chi & Qigong Day (WTCQ) has also been on my list but scheduling conflicts prevented me from taking part in this annual international event.  (It’s always held at 10AM on the last Saturday of April.)

But, this year I was free to drive an hour-and-a-half to participate in WTCQ Day with a group of seeming strangers in a lovely rolling green park dotted with blooming cherry blossoms.  (A favorite springtime site that takes my breath away.)  Imagine my delight when I heard the announcement, “We have a monthly discussion group on the Tao.  If anyone is interested please see me for details.”   Wow!  Did I hear that right?  Two dreams come true via one event.

A month or so afterward, while perusing Dr. Elaine Aron’s website for Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs),  she discussed spiritual pilgrimages and the varieties to choose from.  Hmmm.  I began rethinking my trip to Scotland.  I never travel as a typical touristy tourist and having a loose framework of where I want to go, this concept appealed to me.

Then, when I first attended the Tao discussion meeting in July, I learned that one of their mutual friends runs sacred travel pilgrimages in Scotland.  Woo hoo!  Synchronicity at it’s finest, I’d say.  A week later I ran into a fellow yogi I hadn’t seen for a while.  “I  just got back from Scotland yesterday,” she reported.  “Already I can’t wait to go back!” She smiled and I smiled too.  Another confirmation the Universe was guiding me toward satisfying this long time desire.

Coincidence and synchronicity are mystical experiences for me.  My thinking has changed over the years from too good to be true to believe in the magic.   Awareness is the key for so many things, and particularly for unlocking the gifts of this phenomenon.  I believe synchronicity is happening all the time, I only need open my eyes and see.  Then, I open my heart in gratitude and smile wide.jongjit-pramchom-211559 cherry blossom