What would it look like to dance with a mountain? To be so attuned to the natural world that you could two step or swing dance with an ancient pile of rock and earth? To live so fully in your own wild nature that you could communicate with the world in a way that makes the sky weep in understanding and the plains shiver with anticipation of what is possible when life chooses harmony over dissonance? To figure out how to identify the part of ourselves that is akin to rivers and hilltops and soil and trees and holding that as our center point? Continue reading “To Dance With Mountains”
Do you remember when there were shootings in Paris? You probably do, it wasn’t all that long ago, and the world watched as the city of light went into lockdown and mourning. Do you remember when a high school in a Colorado town gasped in astonishment when one of their own kids turned on his peers? You probably do, because the world watched as the school went into lockdown and the community into mourning. Do you remember all of the other tragic, rage-filled violent events that filled in the years between then and what has once again happened, this time in Orlando? You probably do, at least vaguely, unless you were directly affected, in which case, you probably think about it more than you want to. It’s not easy to forget things that are so far outside of normal life that they just seem like movies or bad dreams.
But back to…
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Part of my day job is calling people to schedule coaching appointments. Usually people are polite and respectful, and even sometimes downright kind hearted and pleasant to talk to. Which is good news, since I’m calling them to put them on my own coaching calendar, so we’ll be talking again. It’s helpful to start the relationship off on a positive note.
But today I called a gentleman who wasn’t any of those things. Quite the opposite, really, he was quite mean and disrespectful. I asked if he wanted to set up a call, and he responded with sentences that tended to start with “you people” and “do you even realize” and so on, punctuated by sarcastic chuckling. In short, he made it personal and he wanted me to acknowledge that I was in the wrong. I was the enemy, and he was going to let me know it. Usually I am good at being able to internalize the fact that everyone is dealing with a plethora of issues that I do not know about and that are quite probably very challenging, resulting in unfriendly behavior; and hey, maybe this man was just having a tough day, or week, or year. His energy is absolutely the product of our broken culture, and at the end of the day, he needs love, too. But today when he was essentially scolding me for not being able to meet his expectations, all I could hear was “you aren’t good enough” and “this is why it’s doing me a disservice.” I felt like the bad child who doesn’t measure up, and I found myself apologizing and trying to hold back tears. Which is really interesting, as 1. I did nothing “wrong” and 2. I was quite kind, professional and offered what I had to give. He just didn’t find it acceptable. When on the call, I knew intellectually that his issues and his anger were not about me at all, but in the moment his energy triggered a response that I couldn’t control. I had to hang up the phone. Continue reading “The Other: Crumbs of Despair”
Guest post by Melissa Kirby of Wildfire Wellness
Tonight at the health food store where I work, I had a random conversation with a stranger about chocolate (imagine me, imagine that). Her eyes were beautiful, her cheek bones piercing. She couldn’t have been more than 80lbs. She physically ran to the store, which meant she was limited with what she could purchase because she had to be able to carry it back home. Through our conversation, it was evident that she was struggling with a number of things in life, yet she hung on my every inch of chocolate wisdom. She complemented me on my hair and then she said, sighing, “You are so pretty – you make me feel so ugly. Thank you for helping me. Thank you for listening to me.” Speechless and somewhat shocked by her words, all I could do was give her a hug as we parted ways in gentle tears. I found myself thinking back to looking in the mirror that morning; I had joked to myself that my…
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The following was shared with me recently by a fellow wellness coach, and it’s an adaptation of a story that was shared with her by one of the individuals she’s been working with over the last few months. It’s a story of new beginnings, of being truly present in the moment, of accepting what is, of finding resilience in the midst of chaos and of letting negativity wash away as gratitude fills in the empty space left in its wake. Continue reading “Let the Rain Fall”
Right now the garden is thriving. Every leaf is reaching its leaves toward the sky, and every root is nestling deep into the soil, drinking up the ample nourishment that comes with abundant rains and enough organic compost. The sunflowers that were a foot high two weeks ago will soon be taller than me, and their flower heads follow the sun as it arcs across the sky, ending the day gazing toward the westerly hills. There are cabbages as big as my fist, canopies of kale providing shade for the vole who munches the beets, and if you were to stretch all of the winter squash and zucchini vines out in a line they would reach down the road and around the corner. Bees and hummingbirds are buzzing about, happily drinking up raspberry and oregano blossom nectar, doing their important pollinating work. The scarecrow is earning his keep as the peppers, tomatoes and eggplants stake their claim and the potato plants are starting to lean over in hopes of harvest. Eva, the resident three year old, likes to dart between the staked rows with bare feet and hide behind bouquets of wildflowers. Like I said, everything is thriving. And when I can remember how much life and abundance and beauty and breath catching astonishment exists just outside the door, I thrive, too. Continue reading “Let Wildness Find You”
Stress. It’s something that every living being experiences. From animals to plants to humans, stress is a part of life on this planet. A zebra experiences stress when a lion springs from the bushes: that rush of adrenaline and cortisol that fuel the instinct to flee keeps the zebra alive for another day. A plant in the garden experiences stress when the weather is hot and windy or cold and too damp: the resiliency that is built due to these conditions helps the plant to thrive when conditions evolve. Much like in the zebra’s story, a human can experience stress when life is physically threatened whether that threat comes via a gunman, a grizzly bear or an icy road. The heart races, palms get sweaty and all we can think about is the crisis at hand. We react. And that reaction to a life or death threat is necessary for survival in such cases.
However, in our modern societies today, we generally experience significantly less life or death stress than our hunter/gatherer ancestors did. For most of us, stress arises when we perceive a situation to be stressful and when we let our perception hijack our response. There are challenges galore in a human life – that goes without saying. Schedules are tight, communications with loved ones or colleagues or neighbors are strained or non-existent, traffic is bad and there are too many bills to pay. But are they life or death situations? Usually not. Yet they often trigger the same fear or stress response: Our hearts race, palms get sweaty and all we can think about is the crisis at hand. We react. But in this case, our reaction is not helping us to survive: in fact, it might even be causing damage to our health in the form of elevated blood pressure, chronic tension headaches or inability to get quality sleep. In today’s modern culture, particularly in the corporate workforce, values of more, better, faster have invited everything from chronic stress to burnout to a general disliking of Mondays. When we view the world as an emergency room, our stress levels soar. But when we can really see what’s going on, we regain a sense of control and peace. Continue reading “Own Your Story: Managing Stress in Three “Easy” Steps”
I want to grow carrots not because agribusiness is a filthy, greedy, heartless beast, but because rooting in the dirt is fun, worms are groovy creatures, and you can’t buy the sweet satisfaction of a fresh carrot at any price. I want to live a simple, rooted life not because a place of privilege feeds on other people’s poverty, but because meals of venison, potatoes, and berry pie fill our kitchen with gratitude-crazed grins. I want to leave the car in the driveway not because the carbon spilling from the exhaust will tip the planet into an inferno, but because a bike ride puts wind in your face and birdsong in your ears. It pumps blood through your veins and reminds us that life is a dizzyingly splendid idea.
I heard activist Cynthia Jurs say the words be in the conversation, not the fight earlier in the spring, and I think that they can’t be said enough. The destruction left behind by big Ag and the fossil fuel culture, as well as the premise of living simply so that others can simply live are all great reasons to change our ways. But Hank speaks of living true to his values because of the joy he feels because of his actions. He acts from beauty and a love of life, not from fear or anger or revenge. He is in the conversation, to be sure. But he’s not in the fight.
What if we discovered that changing our ways could lead to more beauty and more joy than we thought possible? What if life really is a dizzyingly splendid idea? I wonder what would happen if more of us grew carrots and felt the wind on our faces and let birdsong be the soundtrack to life.
In the late fall of 2012, my daughter was 8 months old and didn’t care for the practice of sleeping. She wouldn’t take a bottle, and I was her only source of food and often times, comfort. The daylight hours were getting shorter, and the news headlines were getting more unsettling. Work days were tiring even without the extra challenge of never sleeping more than three hours at a time. There was plenty of anxiety, despair and disappointment to be found in all sorts of places if I wanted to find those things. I needed something to remind me of the good that underlays the challenges of life. So I started forcing myself to acknowledge the little slices of joy, even in the midst of struggle. I dusted off an old journal and began writing down those little slices.
Looking back at the entries now, some days sounded pretty routine: “Witnessing the baby notice the world around her.” Some days included events that will probably never be duplicated: “Watching a black bear cub ramble by my home office door and scramble up a dead tree and across the ravine in the back.” Some days were more challenging: “The contrast provided by people who see the world differently.” Most days celebrated the way a body can move: “Yoga. The way the combination of movement and breath brings focus.” And all days were punctuated by the vibrancy of the natural world: “Tangerine skies and evening shadows hinting at possibilities yet to come.” Continue reading “Tangerine Skies”
How beautiful can life be? We hardly dare imagine it.
― Charles Eisenstein
I’m taking an eCourse over the next six weeks called the Space Between Stories. It’s being put on by author Charles Eisenstein and will include guest speakers as well as the opportunity to connect and process the materials and ideas put forth with other course participants via online forums. I’m not sure exactly what it will be like, and I don’t really have any expectations going into the experience, but Charles’ writing and verbalization of ideas has resonated with me over the last few years so it feels like an important thing to participate in. The course calls the “space between stories” the time when the old story of who I am, what is real, and how to navigate life has broken down. It is the time when my familiar ways of making meaning are no longer relevant. I don’t know who I am. What had seemed so permanent, reliable, understandable and real is revealed as an illusion.
In The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible, Charles makes the case that we are currently stuck in between two stories: the old story of Separation and the new story of Interbeing.
You might already have an inkling of what the old story of Separation is all about. It’s about achieving success in life by doing well in school, getting a well-paying job, contributing to the growth of the economy; basically, it’s about following the rules of society and relies on human advancements to keep everything continually moving forward. It’s about getting more, doing better, and “making things happen.” In Chapter One, Eisenstein writes about his childhood,
Life made sense. If you worked hard you could get good grades, get into a good college, go to grad school or follow some other professional path, and you would be happy. With a few unfortunate exceptions, you would be successful if you obeyed the rules of our society: if you followed the latest medical advice, kept informed by reading the New York Times, got a good education, obeyed the law, made prudent investments, and stayed away from Bad Things like drugs. Sure there were problems, but the scientists and experts were working hard to fix them. Soon a new medical advance, a new law, a new educational technique, would propel the onward improvement of life. My childhood perceptions were part of a narrative I call the Story of the People, in which humanity was destined to create a perfect world through science, reason, and technology: to conquer nature, transcend our animal origins, and engineer a rational society.