Posts Tagged ‘Walking’

Climbing the Mountain of Life

Living in the mountains of Western Maine offered several delightful memories including breathtaking vistas all year whether verdant spring greens, a dramatic pallet of fall colors, or white cotton snow.  After living near oceans, in the subtropics, and the desert southwest, my favorite place to call home remains among mountains, now the mountains of western North Carolina.  DSCN1735.jpegOther geographical sites offer their own beauty, but the mountains… they offer a splendor, ofttimes beyond words.  We can observe the weather-worn peaks of our mountains close-up or far away, each one with its own unique beauty.     

    Observing these magnificent mountains generates a deep sense of appreciation, climbing them takes us to other peaks of gratitude, including respect, joy, exuberance, satisfaction, and maybe fear. Doesn’t traveling through life offer those same levels of recognition?  So then, climbing a mountain could equate with moving through life, not only on the cited levels but many others.  No wonder wise sages, philosophers, poets, screenwriters, and many others use the analogy of climbing a mountain when contemplating life.     

    My good friend and mentor, Ken Two Feathers, compared life to climbing a mountain. “We’re all climbing the same mountain.  There may be different paths for different people, but we’re seeking the same summit.  We all have our own path, and the path we choose is the one that feels right to us.” Not everyone has the same path.  That is an essential truth.  Someone may not be doing the same thing as you or I.  It may be entirely different from our way of thinking.  As long as no one and nothing is being hurt as they climb their mountain, who are we to criticize?

    As a path is chosen to scale a mountain, it is determined based on our own abilities and limitations.  We decide to hike a particular way because it suits us.  It fits us.  Others may follow, but they will not experience it in the same manner.  We can even show others a route to take, but they have to hike it to experience it.  We cannot walk it for them.IMG_3201.jpeg

    When obstacles block or complicate the hike, we may choose to walk around, climb over, or even temporarily seek another route to avoid the obstacle.  No one else can hike it for us.  We must place one foot in front of the other and continue to move forward.  A guide can point the way, but it is we that must make the journey to learn.  Even if we follow someone else’s lead, choices remain, to continue, rest, or quit. Screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski once said, “Never follow somebody else’s path; it doesn’t work the same way twice for anyone… the path follows you and rolls up behind you as you walk, forcing the next person to find their own way.”     

    When you think about climbing a mountain from this perspective, living life takes on a deeper meaning. In life, it is easier to follow someone else who’s been there.  That is an excellent first choice, but at some point, we must move ahead on our own to learn our own life’s lessons.  The juvenile fledgling will never learn to fly until it leaves the safety of the nest.  Sometimes the parent pushes it out because she really does love her offspring.    

    So how do we create our own pathway as we scale the mountain?  The answer is simple.  The action may not be.  As we walk our path one step at a time, gather and evaluate information from our friends and mentors.  How does their guidance relate to us and our own needs and circumstances?  Some advice may fit well while another may not.  We must choose.  When we falter, don’t give up.  Stop.  Evaluate. Choose an alternative, and move on, one step at a time, then another, and so on.  We may still seek wise counsel on how to proceed from the same people or new ones we meet along the way, but they do not walk the path for us; we must walk the trail on our own.  We may even strike out and blaze a brand new trail.  Move forward.  Keep moving.  Seek rest when needed.  Make sure to take what you need along the way and above all, enjoy the journey! That’s the way we climb life’s mountain path.

    Our reward, like climbing any mountain, is the elated sense of accomplishment we claim, for our own, when we view the world from the summit of life’s lessons.

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Your Still Small Voice Within

FocusThat still small voice, the spirits, inner vision, gut feeling, sixth sense, or a hunch in my gut told me to do it.  Regardless of how we refer to this phenomena, it can aid our lives in so many ways.  Nurturing this gift can be very beneficial.

Over the years, I’ve learned that sometimes these feelings or voices can take on different meanings.  Allow me to explain.  Sometimes directions can be quite clear to do this or that and circumstances, people, or nature may confirm the feelings within to be true.  These directions may affirm that we did the right thing.  Often, that feeling, usually emanating from our solar plexus, simply confirms what we did was “right”.  Then there are instances when these feelings may be just tests to see if we are listening to the inner guidance as we should.  At times, we may not even know if we averted a negative experience or mortal danger, to which I would say, does it really matter?      

A July 2014 article in the Stanford Report referenced research conducted by a Stanford anthropologist, Tanya Luhrmann, citing some interesting results of a study.  This report explained that “voice-hearing experiences of people with serious psychotic disorders are shaped by local culture – in the United States, the voices are harsh and threatening; in Africa and India, they are more benign and playful.”  The study addressed people who suffer from schizophrenia in the United States, India, and Africa.  The article elaborates that most Americans associate hearing voices as a negative experience or even considered as a symptom of some form of psychosis. Conversely, those from Africa and India experience hearing the voices of their relatives or others actually stimulate positive compassionate enlightenment.

I have experienced similar positive events over the years.  I’ve also noticed when I am most focused on the day to day events, the “voices” are virtually silent.  Monkey MindSome Asian views would suggest that focusing on truly less important day to day events would be listening to the Monkey Mind. When Monkey Mind is silenced, the inner voices, wisdom, even intuition, flow. I would add here that, in my own experience, the voices I hear, never suggest or imply anything that would potentially harm myself or others. I believe the same to be true for others as well.  In fact, they usually encourage, teach, and uplift me. They also keep my inner child in line! 

Speaking of my inner child, I recall an experience that illustrates listening to the still small voice within.  I had simply planned to go see a movie.  No big deal, I don’t go to the theatre as much as I used to, but one had come out that caught my interest.  I was all set to head out when I couldn’t find my keys.  After several minutes of searching, I gave myself a goal. If didn’t find them in a certain amount of time, I would just give up on the plan.  Five minutes before that set time, there they were!  I found them! But then, the gut feeling, the solar plexus squeeze came into play indicating I shouldn’t go.  That’s when the internal dialogue commenced, “Well, I don’t need to go.” Almost immediately came the childlike side’s reply, “But you found them with five minutes left to spare!”  I thought for a second.  “Well, that is true.  I did find them within the prescribed time frame.”  So, off I went to the movies!  “Yay!”  Then the opposing voiced its opposition, a voice I established a relationship with years ago, very specifically stated, “You don’t need to and should not go.”  “Oh boy, I haven’t heard that voice with the associated sense of guidance in a while.”  The dialogue continued for the next several minutes as I continued on toward the theatre.  The uneasy turmoil also continued to roll in my solar plexus during the debate.

Finally, the guiding voice won.  My solar plexus relaxed immediately.  I ran an errand instead while I was out.  On the way back, curiosity kicked in and I wondered if I had done the right thing. 

Red Tailed Hawk in flightA red-tailed hawk flew in front of my car which, for me, was a clear indicator that I had made the right choice.  What’s a red-tailed hawk got to do with this story you ask?  I developed a close spiritual relationship with red-tailed hawks many years before.  I learned through this relationship when circumstances demanded my attention, hawks would come across my path.  When they did, their presence either indicated I needed to pay attention or I had made a proper choice in a given set of choices.  How would I know?  Timing was the indicator for me.  When I made the proper decision, they would present themselves within moments of my query, such was the case this day.  Was a personal disaster avoided?  Did I avoid an accident by listening to the still small voice?  Or, was it just a test of spirit?  For that matter, does it really matter?  No, if I need to know, I’ll find out and that’s okay.

It’s important to listen to the facts, weigh the evidence, and make decisions based sound reasoning and logic. But, sometimes you just need to listen to the voice within.  Go with your “gut” feeling.  The gut decision may or may not involve hearing voices, seeing hawks fly in front of your car, or having someone say just the right thing at just the right time.  Being mindful, is just that, to be filled with awareness, not allowing everyday physical events (The monkey mind) to overshadow the unseen or “unheard” voices of the soul that can prompt and guide our spirits on toward a life in balance.  

Silent Walking

 

 

It all comes down to this, walk aware.  Walk in such a way that you are aware of not only the elements present in your physical surroundings, but also the non-physical world around you.  So, walk aware, feel your gut, reconnect with your inner self, and listen, listen to your still small voice within.

This Spring – Take a Natural Break

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Natural Path

We who live in the North Country can honestly say we “survived” the last winter.  Records for snow accumulation and low temperatures were broken.  Now that spring is finally beginning to reveal itself, many of us find ourselves going outside to dig into and work with dirt in various ways while taking a natural break.  There are so many benefits from connecting with the outside natural world.

Have you ever noticed how refreshed you feel after being outside and working with the earth?  How about walking around in a nearby preserve to witness new growth in the surrounding flora?  It’s so refreshing.  There’s actually evidence that identifies positive results from connecting with nature.

In an article published by the American Society of Landscape Architects written by Jared Green, Green identified research that shows taking a stroll through a natural setting can boost performance on “tasks calling for sustained focus.” “Taking in the sights and sounds of nature appears to be especially beneficial for our minds.” The same article goes on pointing out a fact, Dr. Marc Berman and fellow researchers at the University of Michigan found that “performance on memory and attention tests improved by 20 percent after study subjects paused for a walk through an arboretum. When these people were sent on a break to stroll down a busy street in town, no cognitive boost was detected.”

As a massage therapist, I see many cases of injuries caused from repetitive motion, no matter how insignificant the action may be, including moving a computer mouse or texting on a smart phone, not to mention repetitive heavy labor or work outs.  What’s fascinating is repetitive activities in the office place can also create other forms of stress.  Jared Green cited Michael Posner, professor emeritus at University of Oregon who studies attention, saying that our brains get fatigued after working for long periods of time, “particularly if we have to concentrate intensely or deal with a repetitive task.” Taking a break may or may not help deal with stress during high-pressure times. What’s crucial is the type of break taken: According to The Wall Street Journal, taking a stroll in the park “could do wonders” while drinking lots of coffee will just be further depleting.

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Community Vegetable Garden

A 2008 article on “Gardening as a therapeutic intervention in mental health” in Nursing Times, originally written as a study by Matthew Page, MSc, unveiled the positive results found from gardening.  For example, “quantitative studies have found a significant reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety following gardening-based interventions. Qualitative studies have provided insight into service users’ experiences of gardening-based interventions, with a range of potential benefits highlighted, including enhanced emotional wellbeing, improved social functioning, improved physical health and opportunities for vocational development.”

How can some of these examples be implemented into our lives?  The answers and solutions are quite simple when you think of them.

Have lunch in a natural setting.  Take your lunch in a natural setting wether brown bagged or purchased as a take out.  There are probably more “green areas” than you realize that are much closer to work than you think.

Create a raised bed garden.  Creating a raised bed garden accomplishes so much.  You get to connect with the earth!  You can raise your own veggies.  There’s nothing quite like the faste of food from your own garden.  Connect with family members too by making it a family project.

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Enjoy Nature!

Take the dog for a walk in a park or preserve.  Preserves are popping up nearly everywhere these days, so find one nearby and walk Fido there.  Make sure to take a small plastic bag with you too by the way.  You get exercise outside along with your K-9 companion.  You may even find some new places for the future to relax on your own.

Spend time with your yard, roof top garden, or community garden.  Opportunities to get outside are limitless when you explore the possibilities.  Have you noticed?  Gardens are cropping up everywhere – from prison yards to retirement and veteran homes.  Even apartment dwellers now have alternatives for getting their hands in the dirt through indoor gardening with decorative plants and even growing vegetables.  Raking leaves in your yard takes on a different meaning when it’s viewed as personal time and a way to reduce stress.  Regardless of your own circumstances, get outside!

Taking a walk in a natural setting or gardening as examples of connecting with nature can really  enhance our lives.  It reduces stress, provides exercise, reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety, and enhances our over all well-being.  So, take a natural break whenever you can for yourself.  Consider it a spring time gift to you!

Natural Path – photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/51866462@N07/8954971567″></a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Community Vegetable Garden – photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/42647587@N06/3935703108″>Stars Complex Urban Garden</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Enjoy Nature – photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/32008328@N08/4095380295″>HAWAII NOV-09129</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;