iRest: Loving Kindness

iRest Loving Kindness Meditation.

Listen or Download

The attitude of Loving Kindness is oLoving Kindnessne of the pillars of the Yoga Sutras and Buddhist teachings. I invite you to rest back and experience this heart-based iRest meditation focused on connection, communion and tenderness towards all sentient Beings. This includes ourselves! Enjoy being guided in this 35-minute iRest practice into your loving spacious essence.

 

Free Download

Feel free to listen, download and share these imperfect, unedited, live iRest practices recorded during my weekly group sessions.  I trust they will benefit all of us as we navigate times of uncertainty and change. 

DONATIONS WELCOMED

Winter--A time for dreaming a more conscious life

Dreaming a More Conscious Life in Winter

Now that holiday celebrations are over, it’s time to put those New Year’s resolutions to work. Start the new diet, exercise regime, marketing tactics, job search, new business or work strategies, find a mate. There is no time like the present! Well—maybe not. And, maybe the Omicron virus is telling us to take a break, stay safe and take time for dreaming a more conscious life.


Turning Inward

What does nature do during winter? With the sparseness of the nurturing sun’s energy, nature turns inward and retreats. It becomes cold and dark. Creatures hibernate, plants submerge their energy into their roots and ponds harden into ice. Nature doesn’t go to the Bahamas for fun in the sun! Nature doesn’t push its high-energy button, because there is little energy to spare. If nature closes down its work during winter, why don’t human beings do the same? For most of us, work and economics runs our lives, and a hot sunny island may seem like the only way to retreat.

turning inward for Self-reflectionWith the increasing disharmonies we now face in the world, isn’t it time to rethink what governs our lives? Isn’t it time to learn how to live our lives with less effort and more ease, rather than with great effort and dis-ease? Isn’t it time to reflect on what is really important in our lives, contemplate our spiritual nature and how we fit into the bigger scheme of things? The work of winter is to store away and shut itself inside. It conserves until spring when the energy rises again. When nature retreats, an ideal time for self-reflection emerges.

 

Connection with our journey

Chinese medicine associates this time of year with the element of water. Water is essential to life. We are born in water and it comprises 78% of our bodies. Water can be forceful or serene, refreshing or murky, fluid or stagnant. Water connects us with our journey—our past, our ancestry and our destiny. It seeks truth, virtue and honesty, and reveals the hidden mysteries of our unconscious. Our thoughts and feelings are filled with secrets about our life, often deeply negative and self-destructive.

The emotion associated with water is fear. We fear change, failure, hurt, the unknown, loss, and abandonment. At the deepest level, we fear our very own death. In many ways, winter is a time of death, as parts of nature wither away. Water imbalance in the body may cause us to identify more deeply with our fears, outwardly expressed in un-ease, worry, tension, and phobias.

 

Surrendering to life

Surrender and releaseThe kidney is associated with the water element. Its function is to extract from fluid waste what is pure for recycling and send the impure to the bladder, its mate, for elimination. The bladder receives, holds and releases. Its true nature is adaptability, going with the flow. When we urinate, we surrender and release, yielding to the flow of life.

The kidney is considered the storehouse for the vital life essence—the very root of life. It regulates the amount of water in our body and all the organs depend on it. It does the work of warming, moistening and regenerating—lest we become cold, rigid, degenerate, or fearful.

 

Acceptance

Fear is governed by our ego, which holds onto patterns from earlier life. When we resist letting go of the toxic waste of our past, those dark secrets rule our lives. But these patterns are not part of our authentic self. When we learn to accept the past, release its power, dis-identify with the ego and live more fully in the present, we surrender to the freedom of being in the flow of life. When our life path is flowing well, it is like the flow of a river that adapts to the changing course. When it is not, it may feel like a quagmire in which we feel overwhelmed or in despair.

“When you surrender to what is
and become fully present,
the past ceases to have any power.”

 –Eckhart Tolle

Authentic conscious self

The surface of a lake may appear still as though nothing is happening. Yet, submerged is an incredible depth of conscious aliveness. This conscious aliveness takes place when we are dreaming during sleep.  When our true source or identity is never truly grasped, we experience doubt and insecurity, which stimulates fear. But truth is the absence of fear. When we go beneath the surface to the depths of our being where truth resides, we connect with our authentic conscious self, our gateway to the Divine.

Dreaming a more conscious life

dreaming of rebirthDeath is not the opposite of life, but of birth. The true work of winter is to go within, to gestate, germinate, and conserve essence. It is preparing for rebirth in the spring. Surprisingly, when we conserve our energy resources in winter, shed toxic patterns that no longer serve us, we are refreshed, renewed and ready to implement a better life plan when the elevated spring energies return to support us.

So, allow yourself to slow down and examine your life path. Use water for purification with baths or long showers. Contemplate your essence, life’s meaning and purpose. Dream, meditate, journal, brainstorm, visualize, create affirmations and goals. Engage your body minimally, such as with walks or gentle movement. Economize your energy essence. Preserve and regenerate your resources. Retire early and rise later, when you can. Spend more time in the warmth of friends and snuggle with loved ones. Live in sync with nature and surrender to the flow of the precious aliveness of life in the midst of dreaming a more conscious life.

Check our my free classes of iRest Meditation and Hanna Somatic Movement, a gentle movement practice.

Keeping Love Alive in the Darkness

Most holiday greetings include words like “joy,” “merry” and “happy” in their text. Yet, consider that we are called tokeeping love alive in the darkness celebrate cultural and religious traditions with family and friends – during the darkest time of the year. This darkness manifests in our lives in many ways that can not only make it a challenge for us to be happy and joyful, but also cause us to forget the essential teaching of this season--keeping love alive.

“Ancient traditions remind us that we have come to this world for one reason….to love and to find a love even greater than any known by the angels of the heavens.”
–Gregg Braden, The Isaiah Effect: Decoding the Lost Science of Prayer and Prophecy”

Legacy of love

Trees and plants go dormant or die in winter. Their essence is preserved in their seeds and roots for rebirth and rejuvenation in the spring. Whether nature or humans, we all have an essence that lives on after death in the energy of the cosmos, in nature and in the legacy we leave behind and pass onto others. This essence is love. Divine love permeates the Universe. It is the core energy that connects and holds everything together—the stars, galaxies, planets, moons, everything on Earth.

Keeping the charge of love alive
is an essential teaching of the holiday season.

Darkness and Diminished energy 

At this time of year the sun, our natural energy charger, is busy sending its rays to other parts of the planet, leaving us with short, dark dreary days. We in the North are supposed to be hibernating like the rest of nature. Instead we’re typically out and about trying to be merry, stressing our bodies–and often our relationships. It’s not uncommon for heated arguments to ensue at family gatherings. Now with our current political climate and the continuing stress ensued from the Covid-19 pandemic, the charge of love has seemingly diminished.

keeping love alive in the darkness

Perhaps we can learn something from our earliest ancestors. They feared that the life-giving sun would disappear at this time of year. So they performed rituals they believed would prevent this from happening. Eventually, they came to embrace this season as a womb or seedbed of life to come. They saw the Winter Solstice as a time of death, a passing away of the old pattern of the year—the old sun, old habits, beliefs and structures—and birth of a new sun, new patterns and possibilities. It was a time of healing and transformation.

Changing traditions

Our traditions are filled with memories of the past and the love we’ve shared with others. But traditions change when people’s lives change. Children grow up and move away, relationships end and loved ones pass on–and even pandemics emerge. We keep love alive when we adapt to change, like nature, even creating new traditions and bringing new people into the fold. This helps heal losses and create new possibilities.

Keeping love alive: Winter Solstice ceremony at Jacqui'sEach year on the solstice, I host a gathering of special people. We sit in sacred darkness as I lead a special ceremonial ritual drawn from ancient native traditions. A friend plays the Native American flute which is accompanied by the soft beating of a drum resembling the heartbeat. Candles are lit and the flame is passed  to another as we each share a story of how we moved from darkness into the light during the past or recent years, or something that lit us with joy. We end with a hearty laugh and a wish for new possibilities in the coming year!

Keeping love alive

The holiday season typically ends with an appeal to make New Year’s resolutions to help us call in the light and create those transformational possibilities. Perhaps it’s to take better care of body, mind or spirit. But resolutions can be empty words unless we imbibe them with energy, passion – and love. As the sun shifts into a new pattern it invites us to do the same. I invite you to take a moment to light a candle before the New Year. Feel Divine love energy alive within helping you to create resolutions that you can implement with joy and ease in the coming year–even in dark times. You might ask yourself:

  1. What am I willing to release–habits, patterns, beliefs, or something else?
  2. How do I want to show up in the coming year? 
  3. How will I keep love alive this year? 

    Keeping love alive imbibes you with the courage to stretch to new possibilities.

Check out my classes of Hanna Somatic Movement and iRest Meditation.

 

Cultivating kindfulness

Cultivating Kindfulness

As you might have guessed, the word kindfulness is a hybrid of kindness and mindfulness. On its own, mindfulness is simply present-moment nonjudgmental awareness, often practiced in meditation. The dictionary says kindness represents the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Brought into meditation, these qualities can enhance what might otherwise seem dry or even self-centered. An act of kindness involves connectedness—with oneself as well as others. There’s a lot of research that confirms the benefits of kindness and mindfulness to our overall health and well-being.

MindfulnessMindfulness needs kindness to help befriend the fragmented parts of ourselves—especially the parts we don’t like, parts that may feel limited, separate, or unworthy. The practice of mindfulness brings you into a state of awareness of the need for kindness. Mindfulness can intervene when you are about to react with fear or anger. It provides a pause or an opportunity to become grounded and gain a different perspective. Like the partners of yin and yang or shakti and shiva that play and dance together, cultivating kindfulness can transform meditation into a moment to moment everyday lived experience.

Suppose you are about to encounter someone whose actions in the past have enraged you. Pause and mindfully step back to observe and assess your feelings—with kindness. The result may enable you to act with compassion rather than wrath.

Mindfulness helps you become aware of stress in your life that may show up in your body—as tightness in your stomach or shoulders, headache, a racing heart. These are all messages that something is out of balance. Kindness offers comfort; it may help you find ways to reduce or eliminate stress and the damage it does.

 

Kindness’s side effects

David R. Hamilton, PhD, is the author of numerous self-help books including The Five Side Effects of Kindness,” which has this “caution” on its cover: “This Book Will Make You Feel Better, Be Happier & Live Longer.” He writes that a “side effect occurs alongside what’s intended. When we intend to be kind, we may not expect anything else to happen, but many things do happen.” These are the side effects of kindness that he discovered. It 1) increases happiness, 2) is good for the heart, 3) slows aging, 4) improves relationships, and 5) is contagious.

Hamilton says that humans have two ages: chronological (years since birth) and biological (apparent age of our body). Only about 20–30 percent of our longevity is determined by genetics. Science has shown that by regularly performing acts of kindness, we can slow processes of aging such as muscle degeneration, reduced vagal tone, weakened immune system, and inflammation.

It’s well known that mindfulness can relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. It can also lower blood pressure, reduce pain, and improve sleep. Performing acts of kindness—as well as being the recipient of such acts—has similar benefits. But in addition—like most pharmaceutical antidepressants—kindness stimulates the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter and one of the feel-good hormones that calm you down and make you happy. Your brain’s pleasure and reward centers light up when you are being kind to another person—and when someone is being kind to you.

Another feel-good hormone, also called the love hormone, that is activated by kindness is oxytocin. Oxytocin helps lower blood pressure and improve overall heart health; it can also increase our self-esteem and optimism. We are wired to help one another as part of our human survival. The uplifting feelings we get from being kind are often referred to as the “helper’s high.”

 

Practicing kindfulness

practicing kindfulnessI am likely to offer help (or kindness) to someone who has a clear need when I know that I have the capacity to fill the need. I use mindfulness to go inside myself and quietly, nonjudgmentally reflect on my inclination to help. If positive feelings arise (which can happen instantly or after a considerable amount of time), I know I am doing the right thing. And when I don’t find clarity or positive feelings, I can back off from trying to fill a need and simply be kind. You can never go wrong with kindness.

Some acts of kindness might be viewed as selfish or as having ulterior motives that help the giver more than the receiver. But who’s to say who benefits most? Inspired by my gardener mother, I honed my own gardening skills by kindly offering to cultivate gardens for friends who couldn’t do it themselves. I get “high” fulfilling my passion, while they get a lovely garden. Mindfulness also plays a part in my gardening; tenderly nurturing the growth of flowers and beautifying a small part of Mother Earth are a meditative experience for me.

 

Seeds of kindfulness

I love the idea that kindness is contagious. Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip, said, “Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” Sometimes a seed sprouts far away from where it fell carried by the wind or a bird. This reminds me of a popular saying in environmental circles: a butterfly flapping its wings can impact the weather halfway across the world.

Paramahansa Yogananda said: said: “Kindness is the light that dissolves all walls between souls, families, and nations.” What if we practiced kindfulness not just with people we perceive are in need, but also with people who are unkind? It might soften a sharp edge of their unkindness. Realizing that everyone experiences life challenges, we can reframe our perceptions of unkindness. In 2008, researchers started bringing Tibetan Buddhist monks to MIT to see how the discipline of meditation had changed their brains. When one monk was asked how he handles things that happen in his day, he said he re-narrates each circumstance. To the question “What if someone cuts you off in traffic?” he responded that he would imagine that in the backseat of the offender’s car there was a woman delivering a baby.

As American philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote: “Kindness can become its own motive. We are made kind by being kind.”

Harvest Moon reminds us to harvest our blessings

Harvest Blessings and Cultivate Gratitude

Fall Equinox

Since ancient times, the arrival of spring and fall has been celebrated around the world at the equinox—a time when Earth’s day is split almost in half. This year the autumn equinox arrives on Wednesday, September 22. This is a time for us to get in synch with the seasonal energy. It invites us to cultivate gratitude and harvest our blessings as we enter an introspective and reflective phase of the seasons.

On the fall equinox, the amount of daylight from the sun has reached a midpoint of decline. With diminished photosynthesis leaves lose their vibrancy and begin to change color. As sunlight decreases, nature prepares itself for the winter season ahead. Abundance of color is everywhere to be seen. Leaves, asters and chrysanthemums burst with colors of red, purple, orange and yellow, and pumpkins and squash rest in fields ready to be harvested. In spite of all this abundance around you, you might be reflecting on what’s lacking, undone or missing in your life. However, instead of the glass half empty—why not appreciate the progress you’ve made, what you’ve learned and how you’ve grown.

“As you turn inward and fall in love with the truth of who you really are, you become whole, despite the brokenness.” – Chloë  Rain, Musical Artist

Shifting focus onto your blessings can help you integrate all the experiences of the past year, even those you wished had been better. The fall is a good time to cultivate acceptance for what is and what has been. Then you can tend to the clearing out or releasing what is no longer needed make room for the love, truth and wholeness to be realized.

Second spring

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”—Albert Camus, French Philosopher

I like the idea of autumn being a second spring. Even though the sun’s energy is waning, the cooler fall days can have an energizing effect as you prepare for the end of another year and the long winter ahead. Why not take advantage of this energy to inspire you to make a plan and complete what is unfinished.

The shift between light and darkness can spark an inner shift that can, in the words of theologian Meister Eckhart: “And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.”

“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.” – Louis L’Amour, American Novelist

Harvest blessings with the Harvest Moon

The Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the fall equinox. Watch for its brilliance on September 20 this year. Symbolically, the harvest moon represents a new beginning, coming after the hard work and dedication of the past year.

“It is the Harvest Moon! On gilded vanes and roofs of villages, on woodland crests and their aerial neighborhoods of nests deserted, on the curtained window-panes of rooms where children sleep, on country lanes and harvest-fields, its mystic splendor rests.” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Enjoy this time of grateful harvesting, completion and beginning.

peace in themidst at Crab Tree Nature Perserve

Peace in the Midst

How can we find peace in the midst of difficult times? It’s been 20 years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, yet we continue to live through turbulent times. American poet, environmental activist, and farmer, Wendell Berry wrote a poem in 1968 during another turbulent time in American history.

After reading Berry’s poem the other day I decided to visit my favorite place to hike, the Crab Tree Nature Center. Crab Tree is a place where I can lose myself as I savor the wildness of the rolling, glacier-formed landscape and trails traveling though forest, savanna and wetlands. Yesterday the open fields were ablaze with yellow daisies (photo above), goldenrod and purple asters. The wildness of it all brought me great peace. Borrowing Berry’s words, I drank in the ‘grace of the world’ and felt totally free.

Later I read that the color yellow is associated with the qualities of confidence, optimism, happiness and friendliness, all qualities that are so needed now.

May you, too, find peace of mind and optimism during despairing times.


The Peace of Wild Things
Wendall Berry
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water,
and the great heron feeds.I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief.I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light.For a time I rest in the grace of the world,
and am free.


“Always have something beautiful in your sights,
even if it’s just a daisy in a jelly glass.”
~H. Jackson Brown, Jr., American Author

Join me for free Sunday and Thursday meditation.

Harmoniously,
Jacqui

Stress response to Covid-19

Under Stress? Why Not Tend and Befriend?

It’s all too frighteningly familiar: A man walks into a workplace and starts shooting, leaving many people dead and others injured. News reports later reveal that he was angry for being fired from his job or under great personal stress. In one scenario some six years ago, the owner of a sausage factory in California, who had complained about being harassed by the government over health violations at his plant, shot and killed three meat inspectors who showed up to examine the facility. A friend of the assailant commented, “He was a good man, but pressure, pressure—everybody blows up under pressure.”

But does this tendency to blow up with anger and aggression truly lurk in everyone? I’ve always wondered.

Classic responses to stress

At the core of our existence is the need to survive. Meeting this basic need requires a minimum of food, shelter, and safety. Lack in any of these can trigger fear and anxiety, which puts significant stress on our nervous system. From the earliest times, humankind has responded to stress in relatively predictable ways. In the 1920s and ’30s researchers described the two best-known reactions: lashing out or running away, also known as “fight or flight.” When threat is detected, the sympathetic branch of our autonomic nervous system kicks in, producing stress hormones that activate glands and organs to help us defend the body against attack. Glucose is released to give us energy. Blood flows to the muscles and brain; heart rate and blood pressure increase; blood flow for digestion decreases. When the threat subsides, the parasympathetic branch, known as the “rest and digest” system, calms things down.

Freeze response

Freeze response

Another, less well-known, more recently recognized protective response to fear is “freeze”—like a deer’s response to the glare of headlights from an oncoming car. The freeze response most often occurs when neither fight nor flight is a viable option. We don’t fight or run away; we become immobile. The response is a form of “playing dead” in the face of danger, which often manifests as an inability to communicate or take necessary steps for self-preservation and may include feelings of apathy, detachment, and numbing. Freeze may occur when we feel paralyzed by survivor’s guilt or are overwhelmed. Like fight or flight, freeze is not a conscious response but one that occurs deep within our nervous system.

Tend and befriend response

The bulk of research on fight or flight has focused on male subjects. More recently, however, expanded research has identified a very different response in females. Compared to most males, females tend to respond to stress with less intense physical and emotional aggression. Instead, they may first gather and tend their offspring and move close to other females for social support and comfort. This response, dubbed “tend and befriend,” has the effect of calming the nervous system.

As research revealed that women are more likely to respond to stress through tending and befriending than men, scientists wondered whether there is something else at play beyond maternal instinct. The answer appears to be linked to the pituitary hormone oxytocin. Both animal and human studies have demonstrated that oxytocin, also known as the feel-good or love hormone, is released when females engage in nurturing behavior, and that inhibits sympathetic nervous system activity seen in fight-or-flight reactions to stress. Females’ estrogen enhances the effects of oxytocin, while male androgens inhibit its release.

Mothers tending to her children increases oxytocin A study found that at the end of a highly stressful workday, a mother’s response is increased nurturing of her children, which stimulates oxytocin, thereby reducing stress. In addition, women are more likely turn to others for support—e.g., talking on the phone with friends or relatives. By contrast, fathers are more likely to withdraw or have interpersonal conflicts.

Enter COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a long and challenging time for everyone, and it has taken a huge toll on our nervous systems. As we feared for our lives and those of our loved ones, our stress levels naturally heightened. Mandatory lockdowns exacerbated our stress. Those who could hunkered down in their homes, while others literally risked their lives working in “essential services.” Then additional events—most notably, widely publicized deaths of Black people at the hands of white law enforcement officers—exploded into social and political unrest, resulting in more fear and anxiety and more people pitted against each other.

Throughout this pandemic we’ve experienced a loss of connection. Everything is unfamiliar, unpredictable, and often uncontrollable. We’ve had to choose safety over love and belonging. All this has occurred because our nervous system has detected that our essential survival is at stake. During the pandemic, the “fight” response has been most in evidence in health care workers fighting for their patients’ lives. These workers coupled their fight with compassionate tending and befriending.

Reawakening connection

We need to tend and befriend our connectionsOur desire for connection and nurturing at this time has never been greater. What would we have done without delivery services, phones, and computers, Zoom, and Netflix? People have asked me, “Don’t you miss seeing people, besides on the TV?” Sure, but Zoom has been a blessing for me in the work I do and connecting with friends. Whether it’s one-on-one or with groups, talking face-to-face with real live people has saved me. Meditation and Somatic Movement have helped me stay connected to and in harmony with myself. But living alone, I do long to be physically present again with people—and especially to be held by my favorite tango partners and move in sync with the music! Though, sadly, I will miss the ones who succumbed to the virus.

I believe COVID-19 has awakened us to our collective vulnerability. It’s also stimulated the tend-and-befriend response in many people—not only female. Caring for ourselves and those close to us has been number one, yes. But hasn’t it also revealed the truth about our interconnectedness? As we consider ourselves part of a larger “us,” we realize that protecting ourselves also protects others. We are not separate and we really do need one another. We’ve seen this play out across the world with ordinary people joining together to help and protect the most vulnerable in their community–cultivating “tend and befriend.”

Creating space to tend and befriend

The renowned neurologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, author, and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl said: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Within all the limitations that have been imposed upon us during the pandemic, haven’t we learned that we can still find ways to shape our lives, find space for what is important? Creating space for compassion—for ourself and others—can help us choose how to respond to events rather than be driven by fear and anxiety. Creating space helps us get out from under whatever we’re feeling as we move forward with our lives.

Space for compassion to tend and befriendChristine Runyan, a clinical psychologist, professor, and mindfulness teacher at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, cofounded Tend, a clinical consulting practice focused on preserving the mental well-being of health care practitioners. In an interview for the podcast “On Being,” she talked about the power of pause, gratitude, and savoring. She recommends developing reverence for our bodies and our nervous systems, for seeking whatever releases oxytocin in us and creates a sense of wonderment and curiosity.

I leave you with some words from other wise teachers:

“I go to nature to be soothed and to have my senses put in order.”—John Burroughs, American naturalist

“The muscles used to make a smile actually send a biochemical message to our nervous system that it is safe to relax the flight or freeze response.” —Tara Brach, meditation teacher

“Even wearing a mask, others can see the smile in your eyes.” —Karen Ross, hypnotherapist and life coach

 

Earthrise

Earthrise

Earthrise

Dedicated to Al Gore and The Climate Reality Project

On Christmas Eve, 1964, astronaut Bill Anders
Snapped a photo of the earth
As Apollo 8 orbited the moon
Those three guys were surprised
To see from their eyes
Our planet looked like an earth-rise
A blue orb hovering over the moon’s gray horizon
with deep oceans and silver skies
It was our world’s first glance at itself
Our first chance to see a shared reality
A declared stance and a commonality
A glimpse into our planet’s mirror
And as threats drew nearer
Our own urgency became clearer
As we realize that we hold nothing dearer
than this floating body we all call home

We’ve known That we’re caught in the throes
Of climactic changes some say
Will just go away, While some simply pray
To survive another day
For it is the obscure, the oppressed, the poor
Who when the disaster is declared done
still suffer more than anyone
Climate change is the single greatest challenge of our time
Of this, you’re certainly aware
It’s saddening, but I cannot spare you
From knowing an inconvenient fact, because
It’s getting the facts straight that gets us to act and not to wait
So I tell you this not to scare you
But to prepare you, to dare you
To dream a different reality
Where despite disparities
We all care to protect this world
This riddled blue marble, this little true marvel
To muster the verve and the nerve

To see how we can serve
Our planet. You don’t need to be a politician
To make it your mission to conserve, to protect
To preserve that one and only home
That is ours, To use your unique power
To give next generations the planet they deserve
We are demonstrating, creating, advocating
We heed this inconvenient truth, because we need to be anything
but lenient With the future of our youth
And while this is a training
in sustaining the future of our planet
There is no rehearsal. The time is
Now Now Now
Because the reversal of harm
And protection of a future so universal
Should be anything but controversial
So, earth, pale blue dot
We will fail you not
Just as we chose to go to the moon
We know it’s never too soon
To choose hope. We choose to do more than cope
With climate change We choose to end it—
We refuse to lose
Together we do this and more
Not because it’s very easy or nice
But because it is necessary
Because with every dawn we carry
the weight of the fate of this celestial body orbiting a star

And as heavy as that weight sounded, it doesn’t hold us down
But it keeps us grounded, steady, ready
Because an environmental movement of this size
Is simply another form of an earth-rise
To see it, close your eyes
Visualize that all of us leaders in this room
and outside of these walls or in the halls, all
of us change-makers are in a spacecraft
Floating like a silver raft
in space, and we see the face of our planet anew
We relish the view
We witness its round green and brilliant blue
Which inspires us to ask deeply, wholly:
What can we do?
Open your eyes.
Know that the future of this wise planet
Lies right in sight:
Right in all of us. Trust this earth uprising.
All of us bring light to exciting solutions never tried before
For it is our hope that implores us, at our uncompromising core
To keep rising up for an earth more than worth fighting for.

– Amanda Gorman, Youth Poet Laureate

 

Earth

What We All Have In Common

Celebrating Earth Day 2021

I recall a poet I once read who said that the Earth delights in us! This makes me smile. In my desire to honor this day, I began browsing through a number of quotes from a variety of people who have had something special to share about the Earth—our home. Their words address the importance of protecting and caring for it, learning from it, and ways it can feed our spirit—not just our bellies. This inspired me to do some jottings around their words.

American novelist and environmental activist Wendell Berry said, “The earth is what we all have in common.” We live on it, sleep on it and eat from it. The earth is our home and its abundant air, water and bounty keeps us alive.” We all share this planet with all its species and abundance. But in our busy lives and challenges it’s easy to forget this and take it all for granted.

 

Call for hope

wild flowersFormer, First Lady of the United States, Lady Bird Johnson said “The environment is where we all meet; where all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share.” She was an advocate for beautifying the nation’s cities and highways, especially with wild flowers—of which she wrote, “Where flowers bloom, so does hope.”

Hope is something we need desperately today. Hope for a healthier environment, society and world for our children’s future. A Native American Proverb says, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” But hope is not enough. We need to care for it, and take appropriate action where we can while there’s still time to save our precious habitat from depletion.

HimalayasThe Earth received significant benefits during the past year as we sheltered at home during pandemic. Air pollution plummeted around the planet. Surprisingly, people living in Northern India saw the Himalayas 100 miles away for the first time in ‘decades,’ as the lockdown eased air pollution. As people spent more time outdoors, at safe distances and often alone, the Earth also benefited from our visible presence walking on it and enjoying its beauty—even if only in our neighborhoods.

 

Spiritual cleansing

I find walking through a forest or a prairie enlivens and cleanses my spirit. Digging in the garden and planting seeds and plants nourishes it as well. Watching things grow and regrow again each spring brings me great joy. The beloved environmental photographer John Muir encouraged us to “Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile…Wash your spirit clean.”

forest riverJohn Muir also said, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” Have you ever walked in nature and found your thoughts and cares dissipating as you opened your senses to everything you encountered? Moving through a difficult period in his life, Craig Foster befriended an octopus in a South African kelp sea forest. Diving and videoing his experience taught him a great lesson on the fragility of life and humanity’s connection with nature. The “Octopus Teacher,” has become an Oscar nominated movie for us all to feast on.

Henry David Thoreau wrote of a need for “the tonic of wildness” as he explored marshes and other habitats to see, hear and smell the creatures and environs. Wildness is becoming less and less available to us on our Earth and must be cherished—as Foster most certainly has documented.

 

Loving kindness

Albert Einstein’s words: “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better,” are worthy of pondering. His work took him both into the most minuteness as well as the infiniteness of the Universe. We can also take this metaphorically as another way to delve into what it means to be human in this finite life, as well as what is our essential nature.

Loving kindnessResearchers have shown that Earth’s magnetic field vibrates at the same frequency as our heart rhythm when we’re in a heart coherent state. Increasing our vibration with loving kindness increases our harmonious interaction with Earth and each other, day-to-day.

Vietnamese spiritual teacher and author Thich Nhat Hanh has shared his simple wisdom in many books. This is just one of his numerous gems. “You carry Mother Earth within you. She is not outside of you. Mother Earth is not just your environment. In that insight of inter-being, it is possible to have real communication with the Earth, which is the highest form of prayer.”

This is Our Earth. Let’s cherish its natural wonders. Let’s bring the prayer of loving kindness into one another’s lives as we move through this time of great healing is crucial.

“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the wind longs to play with your hair.” -Khalil Gibran

Embrace through the heart

Embracing Possibilities

“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” –Carl Gustav Jung

The first stage of the spiritual practice of Visioning for embracing new possibilities is to create space in our consciousness. This is also true for our lives, dwellings, etc.—letting go of whatever no longer serves us. The second stage is to embrace and cultivate the ground for eventually planting seeds of possibilities. This is best accomplished through the embrace of the heart.

I view the heart as a portal to our soul and the essential nature of our being—where lies the deepest truth or longing of our being.  The heart of love and compassion points us in that direction. Dreams and fantasies take us outside ourselves. They serve as necessary psychic processes that help reduce the rigidity of our thinking minds, and can be channeled to create sparks of inspiration. However, it can also serve as a distraction, especially when they form ruminating stories that keep us stuck or blocked in living fully. The possibilities that lie waiting on our horizon have a hard time getting through the barricades.

Tuning into the heart

I suggest taking quiet pauses in the day and tuning into the heart and ask: “What most wants to be heard, felt and lived as me.” What unfolds becomes the home ground of the highest visioning for possibilities for our life, including our life purpose. This is less about doing things in the world, but rather about a way of being. With practice the vision emerges and eventually becomes clearer. This heartfelt inquiry is a type of spiritual practice whereas we don’t manifest the vision; the vision is fulfilled through us. Yes, that’s right—the vision is fulfilled through us.

In my own quiet pauses and meditations, I regularly visit this stage, for it helps me stay attuned and in sync with my true essence. I allow it to be captured as affirmative words that I embrace as true in the moment. My current rendition is a variation of words like ‘holding space, empowering and being of service.’ As I move about my activities I ask if what I am doing or about to do in attuned and in harmony with my heartfelt intention. It’s like tuning into my favorite radio station that’s already there. Like an inner compass it reminds me when I go off course.

What must I embrace?

Once we have prepared the soil of our consciousness, it’s time to determine what kinds of seeds we want to plant. So, we ask, “What must I embrace?” This is where we explore the ideas, possibilities and growth opportunities we are receptive to welcoming. Perhaps asking: “What is it that wants to emerge through me into reality?” Then we allow the new possibility to unfold—as it is ready.

Next we’ll explore how to embody possibilities.