Raised in an anxiety-ridden home, it was stressful to live in the “now.” Far better to prepare for “what’s next,” I thought, even with its own undercurrent of anxiety.
A friend recently invited me to a year-long meditation but the voluminous information and instant marketing hype quickly drove me away. Unsettling. Like when I attempted meditation years ago in the standard seated position. Arduous. As soaking in a tub. Has this happened to you? Meditation offers many benefits but feeling stressed is not the goal.
Far more agreeable to me, are movement meditations such as hand drumming, walking, or being in the moment with Mother Nature. Fixed on berry picking, the smell of sun-ripening tomatoes and basil brushing my arm, or the infinite colors and textures of nature are far more relaxing and in-the-moment experiences for me.
One size doesn’t fit all. In many things, but meditation too. Giving myself permission to discover what works for me is key. Don’t know where to begin? Try leaving the cell phone behind and taking a walk outside. You may be pleasantly surprised by the calm in connecting with Mother Nature.
Worlds Away Savoring outdoor time during my recent reprieve in the temperate Caribbean, I hoped the warmth would cradle me through another 72 icy winter days back home. Mother Nature’s wizardry transformed the oppressive grey I left behind into sparkling and vibrant blue, a welcome relief in this world that seemed worlds away.
Lounging on the balcony at night with vast stars washing over me, I felt an incredible sense of wonder. This feeling continued through daytime gazing on a tryst of blues from sea to sky, the all-embracing horizon suggesting I was worlds away. And in some aspects, I was.
The Andromeda galaxy at 2.6 million light-years from Earth is visible with the naked eye. With one light-year equaling nearly six miles, I find this almost incomprehensible — that I could indeed be seeing a world trillions of miles away. Viewing the horizon at three to four-and-a-half miles — or even 30 miles at night, dwarfs in comparison. But when considering that mileage in terms of traveling from my hometown to the next one, I’m still awash in wonder.
Waleba mengi komenzi genyanza Awe-inspired, I pondered how long have humans contemplated the sea, the sky, the vastness to a place far beyond imagination? My search revealed this Longo (Tanzanian) proverb: Waleba mengi komenzi genyanza. Translated into English it means: “The water of the sea is only to be contemplated.” A worthy proverb and so apropos to the universal social issues of today, but not exactly the information I was seeking.
Many philosophers, however, regard the universe in similar terms of human insignificance. They feel loneliness and worry. I felt none of that. Completely opposite, actually.
The Whole Package Viewing vastness soothes me — whether ocean, sky, stretches of white sand, even fields of green grass, rolling hills, and mountain ranges at home. Their expanse is an aspect of a power greater than ourselves, offering an infinite abundance of support, a glint of life everlasting.
A blanket of peace and calm is only a blink away. Let Mother Nature freely wrap herself around you. Go outside and wander in wonderment.
“Exploration is in our nature. We began as wanderers, and we are wanderers still. We have lingered long enough on the shores of the cosmic ocean. We are ready at last to set sail for the stars.” — Carl Sagan in Cosmos
Seeing these rounded hay bales in expansive green fields began to stir something deep within a few years ago that felt strangely comforting.
I hadn’t observed this prior to practicing Qigong where I first felt a gentle, circular energy flowing between my hands. The movements soon enriched my gardening activities and evolved my thinking about continued life which led me to the Tao and a spiraled understanding of nature and our connectivity to the universe.
Yin-yang‘s circular energy symbolizes life’s continuum and oneness; that nothing is 100% black or white, right or wrong; we need one to have the other. Hours accelerate around the clock transforming day to night through the calendar of winter to spring, summer to autumn, season to season, year to year, era after era, wrinkled newborn to withered senior. This energy of oneness incorporates ourselves, others and the universe.
It is said that with Qigong (or Tai Chi) practice, you begin to view all of life as part of this circle. I have and am grateful for it. I see the circular trees, the ever lasting round sun and moon, the flowers that know to return year after year, the rounded hay bales at harvest. I use to fear death as a finality of life. But Qigong, gardening, and being in nature have taught me otherwise. This freedom from despair over my eventual death or that of loved ones is healing. Perhaps that is why the hay bales are like Mother Nature’s hugs, offering a soothing kinship with nature and all that is around me.
“What will people think if they see a mature woman on them?”
“Do you really think someone is going to arrest me?”
And so the dialogue went between my inner critic and the lure of a childhood thrill when seeing a swing set in a new neighborhood last Sunday afternoon. Quickly, it reminded me of this photo (appearing in my last post) and my carefree, youthful feelings of riding as high as I could on the swings.
Looking around to see if any neighbors were out — no one was, I walked up the hill toward the swings, paying attention for any signs indicating “adults not allowed.” The trodden, bare ground under each of the six swings stared up at me. Oh, yes, I remember now — stomping down the grass, pounding to push-off and ride higher and higher.
I sat down. Good, the swings can hold me. (I’m not overweight, but I’m not a slight child either.) I began to push-off. Again and again. Higher and higher. Soon my hair blew freely behind me, like the woman in the photo, cooling the perspiration off the back of my neck from a hearty walk through this new neighborhood. Gosh this felt good. Exhilarating, like when I was a kid.
As previously mentioned (Busy Body Meditations), I do better with movement meditation than attempting to force myself to sit still. Swinging on those swings was an in-the-moment, mindfulness meditation for me, unleashing pure light-heartedness.
Is there an activity you loved as a child but seems long forgotten? Have you given yourself permission to feel the thrill once more? Go ahead, tickle yourself with that sense of delight and see how much lighter you’ll feel.
Every now and then my passion for gardening and appreciating nature is punctuated by technology’s increasing thirst to control our lives. To me, these cold and calculating ways are the antithesis to nature’s infinite beauty and serenity. That is why this topic pops up on my blog now and then (no pun intended).
I bumped into an old friend recently who said her eldest child is retired (at age 35). After making and investing his millions as a technological entrepreneur, he and his wife now live in an Airstream, traveling cross-country to hike and explore nature’s magnificence. “He meditates quite a bit,” she added.
This gave me hope that those so addicted to devices will realize the hours they’ve wasted not living real life, or freedoms they’ve willingly discarded by allowing technology to think for them.
My concerns about the ethical crises in technology were confirmed by best-selling author Yuval Noah Harari, and executive director of the Center for Humane Technology, Tristan Harris who explained how people, corporations and governments are using technology to hack human beings. (Harris previously studied the ethics of human persuasion at Google.)
In their When Tech Knows You Better than You Know Yourself interview, these philosophers raised the question: “Whose best interests should technology be serving — individuals or corporations? Should apps be as successful (and profitable) as possible which equates to addiction, loneliness, alienation, social comparison…”
“There’s a reason why solitary confinement is the worst punishment we give human beings. And we have technology that’s basically maximizing isolation because it needs to maximize the time we stay on the screen,”Harris said.
Think about that. Really let it sink in. So many have imprisoned themselves with technology. Remember, a prior post on my friend whose brother is addicted to gaming and barely leaves his room anymore?
Instead, I discuss the Tao and hand drum with friends, attend Tai Chi classes, concerts, live theatre and art exhibits. At home I’m nurturing flower and veggie gardens while playing with my beloved border collie or practicing Qigong. Experimenting in the kitchen and reading a great library book enhance my time. Yes, I love those page turners (literally and otherwise)!
I was thrilled to find Blogtasticfood.com where Nick’s mission is to “post super awesome recipes and get peoples butts in the kitchen.” I love it. Real cooking feels (and tastes) wholesome and nourishing to me. I’d much prefer devoting my time to creating a delicious meal than being consumed by social media, texting or the internet (while eating packaged preservative-laden processed foods). Tactile, personal connections mean more to me than an addictive device.
Frankly, I don’t want Amazon to know right before my light bulbs burn out (so they can sell me more). And I don’t want them to deliver groceries to my door so that I can isolate, and not get any fresh air, exercise, or interaction with my external environment. “Don’t use it, you lose it,” still rings true.
However, as much as it sounds like I detest technology, I don’t. It’s the addictive aspects and loss of privacy and relationships that concern me. I agree with Harari that, “The system in itself can do amazing things for us. We just need to turn it around, that it serves our interests, whatever that is and not the interests of the corporation or the government.” In that regard I can understand Amazon delivering food to an immobile person who lives alone.
To reduce the risks of your personality being hacked, Harari suggests first getting to know yourself better and exploring your choices more deeply. Of course, someone who meditates two hours a day and doesn’t use a smartphone is less likely to be hacked than someone addicted to their device he says. Then join an organization of activists for a more powerful voice in making society more resilient and less able to be hacked.
Harari and Harris emphasize, “They’re (corporation or government) about to get to you—This is the critical moment…So run away, run a little faster.And there are many ways you can run faster, meaning getting to know yourself a bit better. Meditation is one way. And there are hundreds of techniques of meditation, different ways work with different people.
Photo by Dave Clubb on Unsplash
Photo by Ian Scargill on Unsplash
Photo by Ian Scargill on Unsplash
Photo by Ashley Batz on Unsplash
Photo by Noah Silliman on Unsplash
“You can go to therapy, you can use art, you can use sports, whatever. Whatever works for you. But it’s now becoming much more important than ever before. Protect yourself by getting to know your self.” This sounds perfectly natural to me.
One of my favorite morning activities is walking through the garden discovering what’s bloomed then cutting a basket full of flowers to become a bouquet. Focusing solely on colors, textures and scents quiets my mind while the warming sun and cooling breeze brushing my skin soothes my HSP spirit.
Mother Nature offers this gentle good morning to anyone taking time to appreciate her splendid gifts. Try meditating while creating a morning bouquet and see how you feel. Refreshed? Focused? Rewarded? At peace? Grateful?
A bit overly ambitious this morning, I now have three bouquets to grace my kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. How I love this time of year!
No surprise to me, this inspirational sentiment about a garden’s virtues. What is surprising though, is that it was written by the Persian poet Saadi who lived more than 700 years ago. Can you imagine the beauty he beheld then, before industry dominated our planet? If I find a garden breathtaking now, I wonder what it was like for Saadi to see? Could it have been even more beautiful…more uplifting, more astonishing than the way it fills my heart now?
World Tai Chi & Qigong Day sat on my bucket list for several years. With no events offered in my small, semi-rural community, I made up my mind last year to drive 1.5 hours to participate. The powerful group energy felt like a profoundly calming universal hug, not to mention the good people I met and now have the pleasure of studying the Tao with. Yes, I make the 3 hour roundtrip drive to do this monthly but it brings me so much pleasure it’s a worthy investment. Now, World Tai Chi & Qigong Day is an annual must do event for me. (FYI, it’s always the last Saturday in April at 10AM local time.)
As an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), safeguarding my own peace and serenity (aka well-being) is critical for me. Detaching from the bombardment of frenetic and frantic energy through sensationalized “news” while staying engaged with humans and the environment is key, and I’m meeting numerous others with similar observations. Like the waitress who sadly said, “I’m serving more and more families who come in and sit glued to their phones rather than talk to each other. It doesn’t make sense!” Or the fellow concert goer who high-fived me after first responding in shock, “You did what?! I’d like to give up this thing too and get my life back.”
For the record, I recognize some value in having technology like GPS or locating a restaurant in an unfamiliar city, but it’s not worth the expense to me — financially, mentally or emotionally. I just don’t need technology. My life M.O. has changed to “discarding” rather than “adding” non-essentials. I value my time more. I see how easily I could become addicted. And I see the stress — whether to the user or those around them — from constantly pinging phones interrupting each moment, deteriorating eye contact and banishing personal interaction. I see others trying to remedy their lives after their electronic financial accounts were hacked… What I don’t see is the value of turning my life over to technology.
But anyway, the point of this post is to encourage you to try World Tai Chi & Qigong Day if you haven’t already. Whether you are or aren’t engaged with technology, Tai Chi and Qigong are certain to bring a calmness into your life. And couldn’t we all use that these days?
In the same vein as my last post, I’ve begun trying different types of meditation and I’ve had a delightful experience I’d like to share with you:
Remember that just one minute of meditation can do you good? Well, during my morning shower, I keyed in to how the natural boar bristles of the body brush felt on my skin — down my arms, sides, thighs, calves…across my back and down the other side. How the hot water soothed my shoulders…and then the silky liquid soap running from my palm through fingers to become foamy lather. For these brief moments, all I focused on was the pleasant sensation on my skin.
This experience reminded me of a practice I’d forgotten – dry brushing (aka Garshana). Besides the obvious benefit of exfoliating the skin, dry brushing has been used for centuries to increase energy, blood flow, circulation and immunity. It is done before showering and in a particular circular, stroking, upward pattern.
While traditional meditation clears the mind, body brushing clears toxins from the skin. So, why not do both at the same time and get a double bonus from one effort?
Hope you’ll try it and let me know what you think.