Some (not so) Squirrelly Advice for Pleasant Holidays

Mixed Nuts
What do you think about when you think about squirrels?  Ravaged bird feeders?  Acrobatic acts?  Rabies?  The park?  Nuts?  Well, yes, nuts.  That also comes to mind when I think about the December holidays.

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Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash

Not just the type of nuts we eat — like roasted chestnuts, walnuts on that sumptuous apple pie, or honey coated peanuts in the snack dish, but nuts as in gathering frantically like a squirrel, and nuts as in foolishly excessive holiday behaviors.   It’s a bountiful season for sure, but will it fill us up or leave us feeling exhausted, robbed and empty?

Filling Up More than Stockings
Each of us can choose to step back and celebrate in simpler, more meaningful ways.  You can create a holiday celebration of choice and one that enriches, rather than depletes, you or loved ones — physically, emotionally, and financially.  Take time to think about what Christmas really means to you.

  • Is it that important to try and create the perfect Christmas of yesterday, or a happier one now?  If so, dig deeper and ask yourself why.
  • Will taking on additional activities amidst an already crammed schedule affect your ability to give others your undivided, in-the-moment attention…or leave you feeling distracted, tired and resentful?
  • Is it worth it to over-spend, searching for an ideal gift when expectations and disappointments often cancel out efforts of holiday goodwill?
  • Are your actions obligatory or from the heart?  Compulsory sentiments and gifts noticeably lack holiday cheer for both the giver and receiver.
  • Will you honor your self-care with adequate rest, nutritious foods, exercise, asking for help, and being financially responsible?  Or will you set yourself up to sour your holiday mood?

Do your actions make sense?  Do they seem a little nuts to you?  Be honest.

Enlist Creativity
If you own a bird feeder, you’ve witnessed a squirrel’s analytical creativity accessing it — including those supposedly “squirrel proof” feeders.  Be as innovative.

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Photo by Anthony Intraversato on Unsplash

If others are involved, ask each person to select the one thing about the holidays that makes their heart sing.  Avoid the inner critic’s beleaguering to add just one more thing then another because you’ll be right back to the overload you tried to lighten.  Determine what is absolutely necessary then sew those pieces together to broaden smiling faces around a more joyful holiday.   You may be pleasantly surprised to discover it’s not a holiday of lack but one of overflowing abundance from the spirit within.


Apply Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh‘s sentiment to the holidays… “Once you identify your deepest intention, you have a chance to be true to yourself, to celebrate the kind of holiday you’d like to have, and to be the kind of person you’d like to be.”


Trudging through Tradition
Several years ago I happily exchanged some traditional activities for what means most to me.  Quieter gatherings, tuning in to nature and the gifts she generously offers day in and out, gladden my spirit.  (This is not to say I don’t host or attend holiday parties.  But I keep them manageable, not falling prey to Madison Avenue’s message that I must decorate my house with a thousand lights, bake cookies, and overextend my bank account purchasing lavish gifts.)

A friend, looking frazzled and slumped in her chair, told me yesterday how overwhelmed she felt filling out 300 Christmas cards!  Three hundred cards?  Who wouldn’t feel overwhelmed?  But, was it really necessary?  It’s important to connect with others and tell them how much they mean to us but if it adds a layer of stress it doesn’t make sense to me — it’s nuts.

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Photo by remi-skatulski on Unsplash

All in a Nutshell
Make the holidays what you want them to be and create cherished memories.  Don’t worry or fret.  Otherwise you may become like the red squirrel whose coat turned grey from stress.   🙂

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Photo by Arthur Rachbauer on Unsplash

Get More Social

By now, you know my feelings about the overuse and addictive characteristics of social media, particularly as it hampers one’s interest in human to human communication and experiencing the natural environment.  I offer Christina Farr’s article in the hopes it will help those of you trying to detox and return to a more serene, content and manageable life.  As a society, we do have the ability to take back our lives.  Have you noticed a recent wave of people saying, “Enough is enough” and unplugging to stop the progression of anxiety, depression, chaos and confusion that social media has introduced into their lives?

While Christina offers her personal experience of attending a formal camp to unplug, you can reduce stress and create a more rich and satisfying life by asking yourself a few introspective questions like:

  1. What is truly important to me?  Personal time with friends and loved ones, or how many likes I’ve received?
  2.  If I had one day left on this planet, what would I do — would I post on social media or respond to that inner nudge to do something I always wanted to do like mountain climb or learn to play a musical instrument?  What have I always wanted to do but spent my hours on social media instead?
  3. How do I feel inside when taking a walk in nature, looking at someone in the eye and seeing their smile versus hearing constant pings on my device?
  4. Is my time better spent helping someone through volunteer work or trying to impress and compete with the virtual lives of others?
  5. What makes me feel content?  What makes me feel anxious or depressed?

Make a list if you need to.  Let it look you squarely in the eye and you’ll know what you need to do to truly live a meaningful life.   Here’s how Christina handled her social media addiction:

Social media detox: Christina Farr quits Instagram, Facebook

Christina Farr used to spend 5 hours a week posting and interacting with friends on Instagram. She quit cold this summer, and her life changed dramatically for the better.

Source: Social media detox: Christina Farr quits Instagram, Facebook

Nature’s wRest

Gold Leaf Landing

Everything

needs

a place

to

land.

 

 


grav·i·ty
/ˈɡravədē/
noun
The force that attracts a body toward the center of the earth,
or toward any other physical body having mass.

And a time to rest.

The frozen pond

bare branches

and ice encrusted grass.

Nature’s Circle of Comfort

Seeing these rounded hay bales in expansive green fields began to stir something deep within a few years ago that felt strangely comforting. 11-2-18 004 hay bales

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.images

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.

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Remember 11-11

Can you see the number 11 as an upwards arrow pointing to ascension and light, as perhaps global leaders have throughout the years?  Any idea why the major hostilities of World War I were first ended in 1918 at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, or why Israel and Egypt signed the first Israel and Arab agreement for peace in 24 years — on 1111 in 1973?  What is the significance of the number 11?  Just coincidence you say?  Numerology begs to differ.

In numerology, the esteemed master number 11 symbolizes immense physical and mental power.   According to Numerology.com, 11 has the potential of “pushing the limitations of the human experience into the stratosphere of the highest spiritual perception; it is the link between darkness and light, ignorance and enlightenment.”

Eleven is associated with calmly handling complex situations, steadiness, adaptability, a sense of order, mature thinking, understanding others and their problems, and doing everything possible to create a feeling of goodness.  Other qualities associated with the number 11 are:

  1. Higher spiritual insight
  2. Empathy
  3. Loving and seeking freedom
  4. Respect
  5. Joy
  6. Kindness
  7. Friendship
  8. Helping others
  9. Inspiration
  10. Enlightenment
  11. Immense ability to see others more deeply
candle-11
Remember the power of 11 as two candles of light

Can you envision the number 11 as two candles — the first one showing the brighter side of life and helping others, the second candle as the receiver of light?

Emotions and vibrations create our reality.  Hate begets hate.  Understanding begets compassion.  Two candles are brighter than one.  I beseech the power of 11 to lighten our global environment today.

Mother Nature’s Autistic Summer

Summer 2018
Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Flooding.  Scorching heat.  Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Flooding.  Scorching heat. Bugs extraordinaire.  Make me run inside for shelter.  AC.  A spurt of sun appears.  Some tomatoes wear tough rain jackets, many others split on the vine while unlucky peppers turn soggy rather than red and basil’s aromatic gifts are non-existent this year.  The grill waited to be fired up but the fire and enthusiasm in me drowned out.

What to make of this autistic summer?  Although many people disagree on the “causes” of autism and of climate change, they both exhibit blatantly foreboding signs:

  • Climate change – an increase in the frequency and strength of extreme events (storms, floods, droughts) that threaten human health and safety.
  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) characteristics –  social-interaction difficulties, communication challenges, and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors.

Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Flooding.  Scorching heat.  Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Flooding. Scorching heat. Bugs extraordinaire.

Six full days at best I could work in the yard this summer, and grill on two.  Tall grass is as unkempt as the autistic’s personal hygiene.   Weeds are poised to take over.   They know I will not be tugging at them in the rain or with mosquitos biting my neck.  Arms.  Legs.  Scratching for relief.  Scratching.  Scratching.  Where is the relief?  Summer use to be a break from the long, cold, stressful winter but Mother Nature’s fighting, hitting, kicking, biting, throwing objects from her autistic corner.  Does she feel cornered?

Autistics struggle with severe anxiety, sensory dysfunction, and deficits in social  communication.  Half are considered aggressive toward others, and nearly one-third of autistic adults are unable to use spoken language to communicate.

I hear the thunderous banging and wailing.  Her words trail behind the clouds…the rain, and tears of desperation.  I see her utter frustration.

Fish in the Grass

Heavy rains make weeds grow freely

but

also easier to remove.

Rainstorms

flood the pond.

Fish are swimming in the yard.

Not so lucky for them

but the heron is happy for food

and the grass will be fertilized.

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Photo by Tyler Butler on Unsplash

This is my gardener’s perspective on a Chinese folk story called “An Old Man Lost His Horse – Sai Weng Shi Ma.”

From Taoism to Shakespeare’s, “Nothing is good or bad.  It’s thinking that makes it so,” the lens widens as the circle of learning continues.

images

Misfortune, that is where happiness depends;

happiness, that is where misfortune underlies.”

 

Have You Seen the Rose Bush?

The whole is some of everything

if we but open our eyes to see.

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Growing pains

do not require suffering.

Pruning

encourages growth.

Endings

are beginnings. 

Instead of shooing away challenges

welcome the fortitude of character

as an expansive, cleansing belly breath.

Out. In. Up. Down.

We are the sum of everything —

life experiences,

thoughts, feelings, paths taken.

The Prickly Fine Print

I often viewed challenges as problems, headaches, when in reality my narrow perspective was the constricting chokehold. My limited vision obstructed a panorama of possibilities in what appeared a seemingly bleak situation.

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Photo by Benjamin Balázs on Unsplash

 

Hearing someone say they were so busy looking at the thorn that they missed the rose, wiped the spattered looking-glass for me.  Working in the garden and studying the Tao pryed open the door to a scopic reality.

 

 

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While I now see both the roses and the thorns, I am learning to not judge either as good or bad but as a unified connection, one simply needing the other in life.

 

 

 

Original feature photo by Jess Watters on Unsplash