Trail Magic

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What do you get when you blend a seasoned guide; 12 novice female backpackers; 30 pound backpacks (including a few luxury items); 100+ continuous hours in nature; sunlit tree canopies; starry skies; fierce rain, thunder & lightening; campfires; bearscat pudding & lots of chocolate; a magical fairy forest; nurse trees; interesting thru hikers such as XL, Stoke, Legolas, Kyle, Forest & Flow (who carry musical instruments & a hula hoop); skinny dipping in a mountain stream; hiking 25 miles over varied terrain up to over 5000 feet elevation; discovering local fauna such as hawk weed, mountain laurel & tiny strawberries; learning how to hang a bear bag, heat ‘hot water’ and filter water; yummy dehydrated dinners; ponies; fern pheromones & dewy earth smells; fresh air; vistas of the mountains as far as Tennessee; shelters at Mount Rodgers, Hurricane & Wise; privies with a view & duff; camaraderie; a Ridge Runner; two truths and a lie & celebrity games; slip knots; creating trail names; chanting the Trail Goddess mantra; navigating Fat Man Squeeze and Rhododendron Gap; pack explosions; lots of rocks; penguin dancing; encouragement and tons of patience? It’s called Trail Magic. That was my recent experience with Adventures in Good Company‘s Intro to Backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail. Just as advertised, I feel confident to hit the trail again solo or with some of my companions on this path. Already looking forward to my next adventure and more ‘magic’.

Do You Do The Yoga

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Another snow day. Drove through the wintry mix to teach class this morning and no one showed. Always a good thing to take cues from mother nature, stay put and go inward. Instead of being irritated I chose to “do the yoga”. Had the entire room to myself. My practice now feels like a favorite piece of clothing, well worn & comfortable. My body knows what to do intuitively, without too much thinking mind. A daily drop into a pose(s) is not a burden, more of a gentle love tap & reminder that my essential self needs to be tended to and reset regularly.

Never know what I will find when I wander onto my mat from day to day. But this simple ritual teaches me to pay attention & tailor my movements to whatever is going on in my life in this moment. Over time this awareness now accompanies me, like a silent companion, off the mat & into my life providing a deeper wisdom for my daily round. So while the flakes continue to fall outside, instead of cursing the weather, try a quiet pose or two and bless the opportunity to be still, look inward and take advantage of this end of winter gift. Spring will be here before you know it along with increased activity and less opportunity to hit the pause button.

With A Grateful Heart Cont'd

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“You Can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need”    –          Mick Jagger

Grab a cuppa, a cozy wrap and hang the do not disturb sign up so you can settle in on this cold winter day to read a little story, my love story……

When I close my eyes I can travel back to the winter of 2010. I was now four months into this still unfamiliar estrangement period and learning to navigate solo. Made it through the holidays and knee surgery. The climb out of this black hole my life had fallen into had begun. Little did I know that in less than two months my marriage would be mending. By January my husband had realized that the chapter of his life with his old love needed to close. The harder question for both of us to face now was whether he wanted to be married or not.

In the meantime, I was tapping into my toolbox that had been filling up over the years with skills acquired as a psychotherapist and my practices of yoga and meditation. Following my knee surgery, when all my physical practices (yoga, hiking, nature) had been taken away all I could do was breathe. When strong emotions would well up, I let them come, always coming back to my breath. Inhale, exhale, repeat was my practice. Tears came a lot during that dark time and I did not stop the waves of anger, grief, sadness and loss when they crashed to shore. When the waves retreated, however, I consciously chose different ways to be in the present. In spite of my anger my heart kept pointing towards compassion. Don’t get me wrong. I had a few Carrie Underwood, baseball bat to the headlight thoughts. Just chose to redirect them.

Somewhere along the way I learned about the giving & receiving practice of Tonglen (something the Dalai Llama did to cope with his own exile and annihilation of his people & his homeland). Tonglen is a beautiful practice that teaches us how to be present for our own suffering and the suffering of others. Frequently when my emotions were too much to bear I would breathe in any suffering my husband was experiencing and breathe out compassion for him. I knew my husband was a beautiful man wrestling with many issues of simply being human.

During my sitting times and attempts to move these boulders that had fallen onto my path, books were a comforting companion. New perspectives allowed me to shift my view of life and open myself to a deeper understanding of love. The Myth of Monogamy, A Grown Up Marriage, Undefended Love,and The New Monogamy taught me that humans are not biologically hard wired for monogamy; infidelity is very, very common; marriages can survive affairs and we can love more than one person. Most importantly a marriage can be re-envisioned and the sacred contract of matrimony can be renegotiated. Ultimately acceptance of my circumstances (not agreement with) became my new companion on this untraveled road. Sarah Ban Breathnach says ‘accepting and blessing our circumstances is a powerful tool for transformation’ and ‘ illuminates reality so that we’re better able to see the next step’. 1 Another practice, gratitude still washes over me as I remember with fondness all the support I received in person and from a distance. My parents would call to check on me and often simply listened to my tears from the other end, holding space for my grief. Friends were always close by to listen and be a loving presence for me as I figured things out.

As Joseph Campbell says when you say yes to the call, guides will appear. Many guides (I think some of them were earth angels) did appear as beacons of light to help me find my way in the darkness. One of them, without ever meeting her in person, gave me the wisest council on how to view this unasked for event. She taught me that sometimes obstacles are for our own spiritual growth and not because we had done anything wrong. Obstacles are the path says an ancient Japanese proverb and how we grow. Shifting my perspective and how I viewed what was happening changed everything. Without any proof, I just chose trust vs suffering. The choice to trust has made all the difference in my life.

My beloved and I had met in Richmond, Virginia while working at a racquetball club. We worked, played and socialized with our club ‘family’. When we said our vows all of our ‘club’ friends were witnesses to our commitment to one another. Part of my estranged spouses’ journey took him back to Richmond that Spring to play in a racquetball tournament in the same club where the roots of our relationship were established. The memory of our beginnings began to return to him along with why we got together in the first place. During his time away we stayed in touch by phone and were still very connected energetically. One day he called and I heard the lyrics to Mick Jagger’s song over the phone ….. and I knew a shift was happening.

 

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The movie Avatar had come out the year my husband “went off the reservation” as one of his Aunts called his behavior. Loved that movie. One of my favorite scenes was when Neytiri placed her hand on Jakes’ heart and said “I see you.” In spite of everything I could still see my husband’s goodness and human essence. Even though I was ready to let him go, I kept holding onto a prayer of him coming back. Late in March my prayer was answered. After rediscovering the feelings from the beginning of our relationship while in Richmond, he turned his car around and headed home. The night he came back it was late and I had already retired for the night. When he climbed into bed I remember saying to him something silly like ‘do you come here often’. We had a chuckle, wrapped our arms around each other, began falling in love all over again and into a deep sleep. Both of us knowing a big weight had been lifted from our history and the re-envisioning and mending of us could now begin.

We never know what life will offer us, but we do get to choose how we respond to what is given. Being curious instead of fearful is much more fun. We don’t need all the answers and sometimes waiting for wisdom to be revealed can bring more joy than ever imagined. Adding practices of acceptance, gratitude and compassion can do wonders for the journey. One constant is that everything changes. When we learn to ride the waves of life instead of swimming against the tide you never know what will be just around the bend. Who knows, you just might get everything your soul desires.

1 Breathnach, Sarah Ban, Simple Abundance, A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, Warner Books, 1995

The Big Reframe

How we look at life is learned and can be unlearned. Developing practices that expand awareness and observation skills such as yoga or meditation can help strengthen this ability. Simply recognizing that there’s a forest beyond the trees is helpful as well. Perception changes everything. And the cool thing is we get to choose which lens we look through or angle we take on a subject. When the moon is full on one side of the planet, its dark on the other side. In some situations immediate action is needed, however, sometimes all that is required is waiting. Coming from a  place of curiosity is a useful way to practice waiting to see what unfolds. There is a requirement though, one need’s to come from a place of trust vs. fear in order for waiting to be tolerated.

One of the best examples of this concept is an episode from my all time favorite show, Northern Exposure. This show was ahead of its time, combining indigenous & nature wisdom, Jungian psychology, dream work & endearing characters that even after 20 years have been imprinted in my heart & psyche. Enjoy the following memorable moment when Ed is trying to make sense out of being struck by lightening that illustrates the power of perception offered by Iris Watts Hirideyo (This post is the creative work of Iris Watts Hirideyo and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. Would love to hear your comments!

Ed: Boy, Marilyn, I’ve been thinking about this lightning thing so much, I’ve gone and given myself a headache.

Marilyn: Maybe you shouldn’t think about it.

Ed: I tried that, too. When I try not thinking about it, the only thing that goes through my head is still It. (pause) Who do you think is right? Is it a nihilistic universe with no meaning, oh, other than survival, or does the enlightenment view prevail? Does the Creator have a master plan, and if so, what is it?

Marilyn: My uncle once told me about a warrior who had a fine stallion. Everybody said how lucky he was to have such a horse. “Maybe,” he said. One day the stallion ran off. The people said the warrior was unlucky. “Maybe,” he said. Next day, the stallion returned, leading a string of fine ponies. The people said it was very lucky. “Maybe,” the warrior said. Later, the warrior’s son was thrown from one of the ponies and broke his leg. The people said it was unlucky. “Maybe,” the warrior said. The next week, the chief led a war party against another tribe. Many young men were killed. But, because of his broken leg, the warrior’s son was left behind, and so was spared.

“As Above, So Below….

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…as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul…” says ancient Greek sage Hermes Trismegistus. I have heard this saying many times over the years and again recently in the movie Origins, a documentary on our environmental health. It simply refers to the delicate symbiotic relationship between the macrocosm and the microcosm or in other words, the planet and humans. The 35 contributing speakers all share their expertise on the state of our health and how it is directly linked to the health of the planet. (Movie can be seen for free until 11/22). Another recent event, the Heal The Earth, Heal The Self Telesummit shared the perspective of 22 speakers on how the wellbeing of humans is interwoven with the earth. Both programs are asking us to examine our relationship to the earth, our habits, how and what we consume and what we are modeling for our children. Claire Dakin, Founder of Tree Sisterssays “humanity is running out of time but it’s not over yet”. She says we must make our health and the health of the environment a priority.

Ecopsychologists say a large percentage of anxiety and depression is related to our disconnect from the earth and because our ways of living are out of sync with the natural world. Chara Armon, creator of the telesummit, says “caring for the Earth is inseparable from caring for ourselves.” These messages resonant deeply within me and are a primary foundation of my work, especially with women. Claire Dakin says “women are the missing link in the climate puzzle”. If you are sick and tired of being sick, tired, depressed, anxious, stressed or feeling disconnected maybe its time to reexamine one’s relationship to the natural world and the earth’s wisdom. ‘When oriented from a place of deep care our natural desire is to fiercely protect and restore’ says Dakin. Women have a natural connection to earth wisdom. Balance won’t happen though until we ‘normalize giving back’. If this blog stirs you and are feeling called to restore yourself and your relationship with the earth maybe its time to take some steps in that direction. One:one mentoring or group activities with other women are available now to find your way and be a part of the healing process ‘above and below’. Contact julie@livingbalanced.org for more information.

“Millions of us around the world are feeling a calling to reclaim the feminine, and in so doing, to awaken our authentic power to co-create the future of our lives.” – imaginecells.org