Do you struggle with internal dialogues? Do you have recurring fear based thoughts that bring up anxiety, worry, negativity, anger or judgment that cycle endlessly? Thoughts that are not related to what's happening in physical reality currently but are based upon past experiences or fear that they will be repeated in the future?
Here's a tool to snap out of their grip [yes, the grip of the ego] and to stay above ground, before descending into those rabbit holes. [After all, Rabbit is the totem animal of fear!]
First, stop. Be aware that you don't have to continue to think the thought or continue its scenario. Remember that you control them and not the other way around. Choose to be present.
Next, notice. Get out of your head and be aware of the environment that you are in. Use your physical senses. Look around at your surroundings and observe and sense what is here right now. Notice that this shifted your focus. Notice that it is easier to breathe and relax.
Return to the thought, with detachment. Ask yourself - is this thought true? Although it may have been in the past, is it true now? Is it merely an assumption? Is it or was it really your thought or a thought based upon social opinion or a judgment that is invalid?
Proceed with presence. State that you release the thought and send forgiveness to yourself or anyone else involved. Reminder- most of us have spent a lifetime in non-presence, distraction and multi-tasking. Being mindful takes diligence and time, right?
Do you feel out of sync, during January and February? Does downing that extra shot of caffeine or sugary snack for more energy only leave you more depleted, with an unnamed sense of malaise?
You may be at odds with the slow, deep, unhurried rhythms of winter.
It can be easy to forget that the natural world is our primary community. During mid winter, nature invites us to rest, reflect, recharge and be receptive, to explore the quiet below the surface of increasing busyness, distractions and the demands of everyday life. If ignored, dissonance and distress can creep in. Here's a practice for balancing your internal and external worlds.
Begin, by finding a quiet space, even if it means putting in ear buds, to tune out external noise. if you can, go outside and follow this practice physically. If inside, visualize.
With soft eyes, gaze upon the tree in the picture above, or at a tree, outdoors.
Breathe slowly, exhaling and inhaling deeply. Focus upon your feet and notice that they are connected to the floor or earth. You are grounded.
Walk towards the tree, noticing that in your approach, all noise decreases, until you are in deep silence, that the snow has muffled all sound. Notice that there is complete stillness, not even a breeze. Sink into the quiet.
Place your hands upon the tree and close your eyes. Feel your breathing in alignment with the slow energy of the tree. Sense its aliveness. Notice its roots as they spread into the frozen, dark ground. Notice its branches, as they reach toward the light of the sky.
Focus upon your hands, as you feel your heart rate and breathing slow. Allow yourself to absorb relaxation and to experience timelessness , being completely present and out of the constraints of time.
Continue to focus upon your breath and enjoy the stillness and peace, becoming recharged and rejuvenated, to the core of your being.
Know that the natural world will continue to inform and support you.
Intend to bring newfound calm and balance back into the outer world, knowing that you can revisit this place in the future, in times of stress and overload, by imagining that you are there.
Open your eyes. Give thanks for this experience. Turn and walk slowly back into the place where you began.
Mandala for 2020
At the onset of 2020 , we are in a time of ramped up change and deconstruction. Old structures are fracturing, but new energies are rushing into the crevices, allowing for new growth and and evolution. Fear is escalating, but so is love .
It is helpful to have tools to navigate through chaos and negativity while imagining, intending and engaging in new ways of being. Here is a mandala to view in a meditative way, to accelerate clarity through inner sensing.
Suggestions for interpretations of some of the symbols: They are meant to have individual as well as collective significance.
* The central triangle/pyramid represents focus and access of higher consciousness, for seeing and being with greater perspective, coming from the heart. The cornerstones of the pyramid represent compassion, forgiveness and love.
*Emerging from the center are green tendrils of new growth, reminding that we are responsible for our thoughts and actions. Do we proceed in trust, optimism and openness or remain ensnared in old, outworn thoughts and beliefs? Do we take responsibility for our thoughts or continue to judge and blame?
*The number 2020 can be reduced to the number 4, which is a number of stability, structure and foundation, symbolized by the four spheres . In addition, 2020 can be reduced to 22, a master number for the manifestation of higher good. Notice twenty two of the dots in the mandala.
*The geometric shapes surrounding the mandala represent ideas in the thoughtstream and higher dimensions that may be down - loaded or received through meditation or any form of stillness or quieting of the mind.
Feel free to share your insights and interpretations!
Lately, I've been noticing how time is experienced in our society and how time is often referred to in a monetary sense. We “make time ” for what is valued and perceive time as as being “used”, “spent”, and “wasted”. What would it be like if in a lifetime time was deeply experienced as something to be in, rather than primarily as a commodity? What could it be like to be fully in time in relationship to nature, with the phases of the sun and moon, the seasons and the weather, as within indigenous cultures? How do discarded objects describe and mark time?
As I played with these concepts, I started rummaging through the tangle of saved [hoarded?] objects in my studio and began this piece. Junk or traces of worthwhile pursuits? Maybe both. I incorporated pencils worn to stubs, time and time again. I attached a cast iron stove top grate to represent endless meals cooked and shared. The remains of paint in tubes and cans were applied. Added were watches worn and worn out while being “on time” and late, in the flow and while watching the clock and feeling that I was running out of time. Here's a comical image, envisioning “running out of time” as a person bolting out of a clock or calendar and chasing time, by minutes, weeks, years...
Perhaps the most important aspect of being in time, is sensing timing, intuiting when to do or be, act or wait, be more internal or external, and whether to speak or listen. Becoming more conscious of timing rather than time allows for listening to inner guidance and imagining to shape outward occurrences, resulting in synchronicity, arising opportunities, connectivity, compassion and more.
Hmm. I'm finding that sensing timing and being stressed out don't co-exist. Sensing timing is a portal into being in the flow, where time becomes silent rather than like loud traffic noise, harsh, agitating and distracting. High time to pay attention, right?
The more that I garden, the less I know. Except, to expect the unexpected, just as in the rest of life.
If you want a reminder that you're not in control, do some gardening.[Or, farming or ranching, right?] Besides the usual challenges: variables of temperature [too warm or cold], moisture [too much rain or not enough], weeds and damage from visiting rodents, my heel is broken. For me, gardening this summer, except for watering and pulling an occasional weed or two on crutches, is pretty much about neglect. But, there have been some very good surprises.
First, my guy. Bless his big heart and newly green thumb. He is doing some of the planting , mulching, weeding and most of the watering, in the garden. Wow- gardening goes on without me. Second, a riot of columbines! Columbines that have come up from last year's seeds, taller and way more prolific than ever, in a variety of colors that have not been here before. There are reds, magentas, lavenders and blues ! Varieties of purples, yellows and pinks! A wild, cacophony of color, as the wind spins the blooms around.
Back to the unexpectedness of a broken heel and my current, sedentary life. Two months and one to go, of non-weight bearing. Being still for hours on end is taking and teaching me patience. I'm experiencing summer and life, in new, inner-directed ways. To practice further what I preach. How many times have I advised clients to go within, to slow down, to be introspective?
I'm learning to take life day by day, in small steps, yes, without walking, although I dream of it every night.
Sudden, unexpected life changes can be loaded with disappointment, fear, and loss. Despite ongoing frustration, I'm seeing mine as a sort of unplanned sabbatical, a time away to close some doors, release outworn beliefs, review priorities and deepen appreciation. To imagine and intend for the future, while being at peace within the constraints of the present. To remember that tenacity, embracing uncertainty and meditation are ways through. And, as I look at the columbines, I'm reminded that there will be unexpected, good surprises to come.
Still life, stopped life. Life, interrupted.
During a sudden, irrevocable change in 'life as usual', a first response is often, “Why me, why now, why any of us, at this time?”
A few days ago, I slid down a ladder and slammed my right heel into the floor, fracturing my calcaneus[heel bone]. My plans for the summer came to a screaming halt. I didn't scream outwardly but did inwardly, at the thought of being injured at this time of year. Fears scurried through my head. My garden hasn't been planted! Fences haven't been fixed! No hiking! Not to mention, work to be done and the deepest disappointment of all, no riding horses for awhile.
Kelly Warndorf, executive coach, describes such so-called setbacks well:
“None of us are immune to intense health or emotional crises that stop us in our tracks. "
"The origin of the word crisis means ‘a turning point’ or ‘to decide or discriminate’ and ‘to sift and separate’, which is exactly what a crisis provides — a chance to shift from one place to an altogether different place inside ourselves. Though terrifying and painful, holding it with the respect and nobility it deserves allows us to embrace the possibility that life is conspiring to do us well, to teach us what we need, to become the people we are called to be .”
I know that setbacks are really steps forward, not just detours around what we think we want, but opportunities for soul growth. These are times that initially, what our egos and souls wish to attract seem very divergent, indeed. In time, wisdom ensues, right?
So. I am counting my many blessings. After decades of skiing and being bucked off of horses, I have remarkably remained unscathed. I am truly grateful that this injury isn't worse. I will recover full range of motion. I have an amazing and caring man and circle of friends and family that are exceedingly generous in helping out. Yes, I agree to be still for awhile, to intuit what I need to hear, to start a new chapter in my life, one that for awhile, I have sensed is coming about. Inward and onward!
Springtime in the mountains is a crazy dance, a push and pull, between winter and the upcoming, short lived summer. Here, outwardly, spring is a riot of melting snow, intermittent sun and snow flurries, clouds, mud, rain and emerging grasses.
Early spring's unfolding is visceral. Barely visible, but tangible and electric, as wind stirs, energies surge, sap rises, and birds return, piercing the quiet with songs and exchanges. Awakenings arise within all beings, whether furred, feathered, plant or human. Spring fever is fueled by the element of Fire, urging us to shed it, shake it up, clean it out, start afresh.
While being outdoors, I feel the wildness without flowing within me, deepening the immediacy of nature. Gusts usher in unpredictability, restlessness and excitement. The desire for change, new ideas and new beginnings are enticing, as the element of Air relates to thought and our mental selves. Change is truly in the air!
With wind tangled hair, dirty hands, horse hair coated jacket and sun creased skin, I am renewed and reluctant to go inside. I am filled with questions that I will take into my studio, such as what secrets do the seemingly empty spaces in nature hold? What conversations occur, between rock and aspen tree, melting snow, river water and land, migrating birds and willows? What do surrounding mountains and clouds share? What do the nature spirits and devas of place wish to impart?
This assemblage is an affirmation that despite constraints, disintegration and loss, there is always renewal and new growth, no matter how hidden or unseen. The old and broken can be the foundation for new forms, that there is always room for optimism and what can become, for evolutionary, higher purpose, no matter how hard won.
Internal and External Actions to Take, During Turbulent Times.
Like many Americans, I am taking political action. I am making calls to politicians and sign petitions from political organizations every day. I am grateful for the work that they do, to create forums for rallying and change. But, I question continuous requests to“ fight against” policies and policy makers. Why not rephrase calls to action to be more affirmative? What about being and doing for, which shifts intentions to empowerment, stewardship and creating new paradigms, as issues and challenges are being addressed?
As fear creates divisiveness, it is easy to devolve into judgment, criticism and blame. Like others, I am struggling with disappointment and loss of respect for and trust in family members, acquaintances, community members and especially friends, whose political views and values that I don't share. These are people that I love. I want to bridge these chasms before they widen further. What does it take to emerge from the eddies of anger, frustration and despair? I'm finding that internal, spiritual action is necessary, including contemplation, forgiveness and imagination.
Internal, Spiritual Actions.
These are a few that I'm exploring:
Contemplation. When judgment comes up, I'm checking within. I'm observing- what are my biases, prejudices and assumptions towards those that I disagree with? What is resolution around this?
Contemplation leads me to gratitude. I'm expressing gratitude more frequently. Gratitude builds optimism and pierces through fear and dense, overwhelming cultural divisiveness and negativity.
Forgiveness. Who do I need to forgive, despite opposition to their beliefs, bigotry, and hatred, all fear based reactions? I'm choosing to exercise compassion towards those who do unintentional and intentional harm, even when I'm not feeling it fully. Fake it till you make it, right?
Imagination. Imagination, the first step towards intention, is a powerful, often disregarded tool. It is not synonymous with pretending! What becomes physical reality is first imagined, for better or worse.
We each have the ability and responsibility for imagining what is and what can be. Why not replace habitual blame and negative thinking with imagining the highest good, for humanity and our planet? What do we, individually and collectively choose to envision that is based upon the spiritual truths in every tradition? What could happen?
I'm attempting to embrace the uncertainties and instabilities that arise with deep turbulence, remembering that they are precursors to change. At least complacency has receded. May turbulent times result in planetary changes that are long overdue.
In the bizarre winter of 2017, I had a few firsts. One was cross country skiing in the rain, while wearing a raincoat. What! Rain, here in January and February, near Gunnison, often the coldest spot in Colorado and sometimes in the nation? Second, so warm that one day in February I post holed through [sunk into] thigh deep snow, on the pathway to my studio. I've never shoveled in hip waders before, but they were appropriate attire.
The winter of 2018 is equally strange. A serious shortage of snow and unseasonably warm weather prevails. I'm wondering how the trees, plants and wildlife will fare this summer, if the drought continues. How many wells will be dry? How alarmingly insufficient will irrigation water be? How scarce, the wildflowers?
What to do, to navigate the weirdness of non-winter? To bring some balance to the elements? Some practices:
-Appreciate the weather, no matter what. Welcome the wind as a carrier of clouds. Where there are clouds there is hope for precipitation, right?
- Unplug, go outside and breathe. Slow down, notice and have gratitude for anything that is alive, that catches your attention. Feel how our bodies connect to the natural world, how our bones are like those of animals and birds, that we breathe the same air and need pure water, for life.
-Imagine nature being in balance, with enough moisture and sun. Envision your environment thriving and full of energy. Like people, nature responds to love and presence. Yeah, fellow tree huggers. Skeptics? A deep experience, if you're intentional about it.
I continue to chop wood to heat my studio and carry water for painting, but do very little shoveling, to get in the door. [Isn't being an artist glamorous?] Here's to some snowfall and knocking the dust off of my shovel. Here's to environmental balance and healthy eco-systems.
Snowmaggedon. That's what this epic storm is being called locally. 92”, up at the ski area and counting, and at least 5 feet here, in a week. It may be a record breaker. Fences are disappearing and even the magpies are silent, waiting it out. In time, its intensity may be forgotten, but, for now, its immensity is all encompassing.
Up on a roof top, my feelings circle from being a bit bad-ass, [hey, look at all the snow I've moved!] to dumb-dumb, [why am I still shoveling roofs!?] to overwhelm- the snow keeps coming at about an inch per hour.
An eagle glides overhead, straight above me. I say a silent hello and am filled with gratitude, for this gift.
Snow slows everyone and everything down, except for the foxes, that run lightly across feet of deepening snow without sinking. I am reminded that control is a human construct, that nature can change things in an instant, creating avalanches, collapsing buildings and causing unexpected accidents on the roads. Nature teaches vigilance, awareness and non-complacency. A choice- to be flexible or to struggle against it?
I take some deep breaths and begin to shovel again. I imagine every scoop as not only clearing away snow, but to remove the weight of the emotional and mental baggage that I still carry. My body feels stronger. The sun will come out again on some tomorrow. I'm ready.