Sunrise

Sunrise

There is something magical about watching the light of a new day spread its fingers across the sky as the horizon changes from black to dusky pink to tangerine orange to glowing yellow.  Maybe it’s the ancient rhythm that persists despite increasing human impact.  Maybe it’s the spectacular color show that sometimes comes with it.  Maybe it’s the opportunity to live another day on an incredible planet.  Maybe it’s witnessing something that is infinitely bigger than we are, but of which we are still a part.  It’s probably all of those things and more.  Living on a small lake with a view out the kitchen to the east has afforded me plenty of opportunity to reveal in the first new colors of the day.  I am grateful for the daily opportunity to put myself in the way of beauty.  After all, it’s going to show up whether I notice it or not.  I think it’s better to notice.

As Cheryl Strayed once wrote, quoting her mother:

There is a sunrise and a sunset every day and you can choose to be there for it. You can put yourself in the way of beauty.

Continue reading “Sunrise”

Fire Starters

Fire Starters

Act in ways that make you feel what you want to feel. ~Danielle LaPorte

I started listening to The Fire Starter Sessions a few days ago.  I was already familiar with Ms. LaPorte’s take on aligning your actions with what she calls “core desired feelings,” but listening to these audio sessions has been a good reminder to actually take that advice.  I spend a lot of time as a wellness coach asking about what underlays a desire to lose weight or stop smoking or get in better shape.  In a corporate coaching world, sometimes it’s like pulling teeth to get people to pick up the telephone for appointments, much less talk about what they truly desire for themselves.  But sometimes we go there.  Sometimes people are willing to look deeply into what is driving them to want something different. And it’s always a feeling. Continue reading “Fire Starters”

5 Ways to Foster Health, Happiness and Innovation

5 Ways to Foster Health, Happiness and Innovation

The following post originates at We Are Wildness, an online community dedicated to helping improve the health of the planet by inspiring people all over the world to reconnect with Nature.  There’s an online challenge going on right now and through the summer that is designed to foster a deeper connection with the natural world for the humans who take part in it.  Check out the Rewild your Life 30 Day Challenge if you aren’t already involved, and join the rewilding movement.   Embrace your inner wildness and let nature into your day to day life in a way that reminds you of what matters.

You may have read the recent article by John Haltiwanger that points out how recent research has indicated that spending time in a natural setting provides a plethora of benefits; from lower blood pressure to strengthened immunity to an enhanced sense of well-being and happiness. I’m inclined to agree with the conclusion that “people who appreciate nature are happier, healthier and more innovative.” It’s hard to hold onto the tension of a hectic day at the office when you are laying in the grass looking up at the sky. Spending time in natural light helps the body take in vitamin D, an essential building block of human health. And turning away from the computer screen to gaze at the horizon as the sun sinks into the westerly hills reminds us that we are part of something bigger and more profound that our everyday worries. We remember that there is beauty in the world outside our urban jungles, consumer economy and man-made innovations. Continue reading “5 Ways to Foster Health, Happiness and Innovation”

Subtle Acts of Healing

Subtle Acts of Healing

Buddhist teacher Cynthia Jurs spoke in my Space Between Stories class last weekend.  She spoke of acting from the subtle and how important it can be to stop and breathe in the midst of the chaos that seems to punctuate our world more than we want it to.  She spoke of focusing on the space that is between where we are and where we want to go.  She said it’s that space that allows new things to come into being and that it is important not to rush out of the unknown into a new story.  It’s important to rest in the space that’s in between.  From that space we can see and start to recognize our gifts, and we can offer those gifts out into our communities, our workplaces, our families and the earth itself.  She reminded us that it is from our gifts – those gifts that are unique to our own being — that we can affect the “powers that be” in the deepest way and contribute to the healing of the world.

Cynthia shared the story of how her life’s work came into being, and without telling the whole story, (You can read more about her work and its origins at Earth Treasure Vase: A Global Healing Project)  her vocation essentially took shape from living out of her deepest prayerful question: How can we bring healing and protection to the earth?  Of course, there have been no easy answers, and it took her awhile to embrace the mission put forth to her.  But by living in accordance with her deepest prayer, she has helped invite waves of healing and hope into the midsts of people all over the world. Continue reading “Subtle Acts of Healing”

Ground Yourself: Tap Into The Earth’s Intelligence

Ground Yourself: Tap Into The Earth’s Intelligence

Spring has arrived here in Minnesota. Though the trees remain bare and the ground is still mostly brown, there is a fresh resonance outside — there’s an energy to the ground when you walk that wasn’t there just a few weeks ago. The frost has moved up and out, and the soil is regaining warmth. The moss on the shady hillsides is starting to come to life will new delicate light-green growth, and the silver maple trees are starting to bud. Things are waking up. Birdsong fills the air from dawn to dusk, I can hear the newest members of the beaver family barking to each other as they learn the lay of the lake, and the ice-free water sparkles with every breeze that ruffles its surface. I can sense the re-forging of winter dormant connections as the days progress and the sun regains power.

In my day job as a health coach, I talk to all sorts of people who work for large companies around the country. I talk to linemen who work in oil fields, coal miners, executives, sales people, secretaries, teachers, call center workers, managers, nurses, even the occasional big ag farmer or chemist….there are a lot of jobs and professions that are controlled by the corporate world today. And as I talk with this wide range of people, the theme that comes out is that there is not enough time for, well, anything and spending time outside in a natural setting is either a luxury for the weekend or something to be avoided unless it is sunny and 78 degrees. Even the farmers spend a fair of their time inside – or in the cab of a climate controlled piece of machinery. People are generally stressed out, have too much going on and spend most of their time working on their daily tasks indoors or commuting to the places where they need to be. Of course, there are exceptions to this generalization and not every person who works for a corporation fits into this description. But overall, I have witnessed a huge disconnect in corporate culture between people and the natural environment.

The problems with this disconnect are many, but the one that I want to focus on today is that due to this “people as separate” approach to life and the ways that we literally disconnect our physical bodies from the bare earth, we are setting ourselves up for lowered immunity, increased inflammation in the body, and a less than desirable sense of wellbeing. Continue reading “Ground Yourself: Tap Into The Earth’s Intelligence”

The New World of Winter

The New World of Winter

This winter started early with a foot of unexpected snow mid November, and then 13 days later temperatures in the 40s and 50s invited the ground to turn dry and brown again.  Then a few weeks into December, the temperature dropped below freezing, and it snowed just enough inches to cover the ground in bright white.  We got a few weeks of ice skating on the rink that my husband likes to clear on the lake, skied some loops around the field in shallow tracks, and our two year old took her first runs down the sledding hill through the wisps of grass that poked through the snow cover.  Then it got bitterly cold, and we woke up to wind chills of twenty below zero for a week straight.  And now, at the end of January, the temperature is 36 degrees, the sun is out and the snow is succumbing to the heat once again.  We made a snowman, and he’s shrinking as I type this.  I’m not sure he’ll make it a full week.  My skis are languishing by the back door, despondent in their respite from use.  The snowshoes are sitting by the door, waiting to be needed. doclist Continue reading “The New World of Winter”

Weaving With Invisible Thread

Weaving With Invisible Thread

The first person I called after four weeks of training to be a corporate health coach was a gentleman named *Charlie.  The appointment was at 7pm on a Tuesday in April, and I had literally all day to prepare and worry about how it would go.  When the witching hour finally rolled around, I dialed the phone, had my paper at the ready to take notes and half hoped that he wouldn’t answer.  He did answer, and at the end of the conversation, he had a goal to play basketball once a week and eat one less serving of pasta when spaghetti was on the table for dinner.  (No easy feat when one is Italian and spaghetti rules the meal plan.)  And I knew that he had a six year old daughter going through treatment for leukemia and that he felt powerless in the face of something so important that was outside of his control.  In twenty minutes I learned what made this person who I’d probably never meet get up in the morning and what drove him to take care of himself.  I learned about some of his challenges, and I learned of his struggles to stay on track.  I asked him what his vision of a healthy life was, and he told me it was to be his best self so he could give his daughter the dad she deserved.  Most of his story I’ll never know, and he didn’t have to tell me the parts that he did.  But he chose to share, and I chose to listen, and now our stories will forever be intertwined. Continue reading “Weaving With Invisible Thread”

A ‘Wild Dare’ for Thanksgiving

A ‘Wild Dare’ for Thanksgiving

 Here in the northland, after a lovely lingering fall, we have encountered the chill of winter, with days hovering in single digits, and winter clothing quickly pulled from summer storage. It’s also the week before Thanksgiving, which probably holds as many different expectations and feelings as there are people. What’s in common, though, is the suggestion of thankfulness. Of taking a moment, in the midst of all that fills our days, to share a meal and so share our thanks for all that graces our lives. 

~Chris Heeter

Ms. Heeter, in what she calls a wild dare, invites us to stretch beyond the usual things that get said around the Thanksgiving table:

See what you find, with an open heart and mind when you explore thankfulness. Notice the feel of sun on your face or the gift of words in a good book. See how deep you can go in your gratitude, not because you are “supposed to,” but because it’s intriguing, a daring and Wild thing to explore.

Of course we are thankful for good health, family, friends, and food, if we are fortunate enough to have those things.  But what goes unnoticed, even for those who are veterans at practicing gratitude?  Maybe it’s the feel of a warm oak-plank floor as the wood stove gets going late in the evening.  Maybe it’s the contrast that a chaotic barn provides to an extra clean house when you go out to feed the chickens before the holiday guests arrive for the long weekend.  Maybe it’s the gasp of frigid air into your lungs that pierces your attention and reminds you how extraordinary it is to experience life on a living earth that is full of change.  Maybe it’s the vivid red of a cardinal against a backdrop of pure white, framed by the boughs of an old evergreen.  Maybe it’s a heart that beats, a mind that seeks clarity and the presence of something bigger than yourself that carries you through the days and reminds you that you aren’t alone, no matter how many others say grace with you at your table.

may you see grace
wherever your eyes land.

May you need not look far
to feel the humbling knee-buckling delight
in being alive.

May this season of gratitude invite you to honor the abundance that is possible when you dare to look for it.

Shocked By The Possible

Shocked By The Possible

The first real snowfall of a newly cold season is always a little shocking.  Especially when it seems to come out of nowhere on the tails of an Alaskan typhoon. One day the ground is brown and dry, the sun is out and the corn is still waiting to be harvested…..and then next everything is blindingly white, the horizon is grey with snow-filled clouds and the memory of dry ground grows more distant with each glance out the window.  Piles and drifts of snow now cover every inch of the ground, buildings, trees and roads.

This morning as it was still coming down, I went out into the garden and woods behind the house on snowshoes.  It was eerily quiet, all sounds muted by the layer of new snow.  Even though we live out-of-town, cars can still usually be heard going by on the busier roads, planes occasionally fly overhead and people are out and about.  Not so today-it was silent, except for the thud from piles of snow that sometimes fell to the ground from the trees, or a bird calling from an unseen perch.  The only sounds I could hear were from the earth herself, relishing in the respite from human frenzy, enjoying the deep stillness, if even for just a short while.  The silence was eventually broken by a tow truck that slipped off the road and into the ditch, its lights flashing in the white expanse, but even the harsh sounds of metal clanging were overshadowed by the sense of calm.

Perhaps this sense of stillness and peace is the earth’s way of telling us to stop.  To rest.  To slow the constant push to move on to the next thing.  There are so many who may never stop to take in what is actually happening in the world.  To rest.  To be with what is happening “right now” in their lives.  I suppose that is their choice, and one that I have to accept.   I’ve been that person, too, and will probably be again.   Even on my best days, I’ve never been able to impact someone else’s free will.   And sometimes I  forget that I have my own to do with what I wish.  That’s ok as long as I remember more than I forget.   Those ‘other’ people?  They are ok, too, and they can exist how they need to.  So can I.  I can choose to acknowledge the way of stillness and peace, even in the midst of those who do not.   Even in the midst of my own inner typhoons when they start to swirl –  every storm has an eye, after all, one that provides space to remember and grab onto that peace to ride out the next wave.

So I can embrace the stillness that lives inside and give thanks for it when it is visible outside.  I can make peace with what is, what has been and what will be.  And above all, as Rumi celebrates, I can Come out from the circle of time and into the circle of love.  I can be shocked by what’s possible when I live that way.

Allow yourself to be shocked by what’s possible.

Wood Stove

Wood Stove

We put in our wood stove about a year ago, now.   One late September morning, a lanky man and his assistant rambled up to the house bearing silver stove pipes and ladders and left two hours later as we gazed at our newly installed wood stove. We got it from a guy across the river that didn’t need to have it around and was willing to let it go for a reasonable price that included dropping it off in our garage. After living for all of my adult years without wood heat, having a stove in the middle of the living room feels a bit like returning to home soil after a long journey away. I grew up in a house that was heated exclusively by a wood stove, and I didn’t realize how much I’d missed the company of slowly burning logs until I invited them back into my daily life.

And with it has come the task of operating the wood stove – something that Dad always did when I was growing up, and his administrations of which I look back on now wishing I’d paid closer attention. There’s a bit of an art to efficiently using a wood stove, and I admire the commitment my parents had to the labor and routine that is required to make such a lifestyle work.

Such a lifestyle requires chopping and splitting wood, curing the wood properly, storing it in a dry place, making sure there’s enough kindling to get a fire going, hauling the wood from the storage place into the house every day, clearing the ashes… and this is all before you even build a fire. Building the fire requires opening the damper, getting a good small fire burning, and then feeding it larger logs until the temperature and coal bed is hot enough to close the damper again to ensure an efficient use of the fuel. You can adjust the air flow too, for good measure.

As winter progresses and the air takes on more of a chill, I am thankful for the means to heat part of our home with the wood that grows abundantly in the forested land around our house. Heating with wood is, for us, part of building a life that is centered on simplicity – one of the facets that I believe to be important in living in a sustainable and life-giving way. As we move toward heating more with wood and solar power, we use less fossil fuel and take our support from the corporations that feed on our dependence to those things. We aren’t independent of them yet. But every time we make a choice that takes energy from supporting corporations that are based on profit and greed for a few, we put more energy into building a system that is based on truth and abundance for all.

This is not to say that living in a simple way is easy. In some ways, it isn’t even simple. At first glance, it seems simpler to flip on the furnace when the temperature dips, rather than going outside to split wood. It is easier to sit down with a cup of coffee and the morning news, instead of using those first moments of the day to start a fire in the stove. The culture we live in today is built on the promotion of buying convenience. Choosing to do something by hand, or the ‘hard’ way doesn’t make sense through the lens of the American Dream.

So why do it?

Because when we choose to live simply – when we see that we have enough, and usually more than enough – we live more fully and are part of the system that allows others to do the same. When we choose inconvenience over doing things the easy or quick way, we offer our work to the benefit of those who don’t have the luxury of such a choice. When we choose to accept enough, we return home. We remember what it feels like to love without boundaries and to be content with enough.

This post also appeared on enough.