It's all connected

This morning, as I sat outside for my daily nature meditation I was delighted to be joined by one of our resident box turtles. This is a wild turtle that happens to call our yard home, and it's always such a treat to see her being her wild self. The only way to even know she was there was to hear the slight rustling in the dew-covered plants. Then I saw her head pop out from under some lily leaves. 

She was feasting on tiny snails for breakfast! She would collect them with her tongue and crunch away. It took me a moment to figure out what she was eating - I could hear the crunching and at first I wondered, "Is she eating some kind of seed?" I kept watching and finally figured it out.  Click on the link below to watch a short video of her gathering her breakfast - if you turn up the volume you can hear the tiny crunches!

Once I wrote a blog post, "Have you Fed your Snail?" It was about taking time in nature to notice the tiniest things.  Today's could be called "Has your snail fed you?" at least from the turtle's point of view. Turtles and snails, they come to me regularly to remind me of what's important.


It's all connected. The turtle and snails and I are sharing more than the yard. We are breathing the same air, some of which has blown from thousands of miles away. We're relying on the trees and grass around us to put oxygen back into that air. In countless other ways we are all reliant on each other.


I think about that so much, especially as we humans have such an appetite for so many of Earth's resources. I've been paying attention for a long time, and consciously trying to make decisions that lighten my load on the planet, but there is so much to consider. Even loading this little turtle video requires it now to be stored (forever?) on some server that belongs to YouTube, sucking up electricity - I've read that it won't be long before 20 percent of the world's electricity could be used for data retention. That's a lot. 

This month is plastic-free July Today at the dentist (no cavities, yay!) I took the toothbrush and toothpaste samples and gave back the little plastic pencil case that they came in so they can refill it with samples for someone else. It's the smallest thing; there's so much more to do.

It's all connected.  I just read about a Fox who walked thousands of miles, from Norway to Canada.  I want her to have the chance to live a good life and raise her own family. I want that for all the living beings who share the planet.

We have to figure out how to live in a world that is changing quickly. We have to figure out how to live in accordance with our values.  I find that often when clients come to me most distressed, it's because their daily lives have grown distant from what they most believe in.

The same thing can happen to me, and I need to return over and over to what is most aligned.  I'm simplifying my summer and setting intentions for walking lots of places, using the library to get my books (I was lucky enough to get a copy of City of Girls - just sitting there on the new release shelf - how serendipitous), feasting on much local food (especially peaches and blueberries), and sitting in nature a lot, whether it's in the front yard with the turtle and snails, or camping out under the stars for multiple nights.

Does it count?

Have you ever told yourself, "Well, that doesn't count," when working toward a goal?

I’m fascinated about what we consider to "count" when we're keeping track of a goal or intention.  I hear this phrase, "that doesn't count" from clients regularly - so it might be something you're saying to yourself too.

When I was hiking the Appalachian Trail, the only miles I cared about were trail miles. I knew I had over 2000 miles to hike and I wanted to preserve every bit of my strength for hiking those miles.  During town stops, resupplying my food and doing laundry, I hated having to walk any distance further than I had to, because those miles "didn't count." I remember at the time thinking this was so silly, how my mind only saw the trail miles as worthy and valuable. If I wasn't careful, this line of thinking would keep me from taking a half mile detour to a beautiful overlook. Eventually I learned to appreciate miles that "didn't count" when there was something beneficial to me, whether it was an ice cream stand or a waterfall just off the trail. I needed to teach myself that those miles counted just as much; they were part of my journey even if I couldn't officially record them in my accumulated mileage toward my final goal.

Failing to "count" things can happen in regular life too. For example, every year I prioritize taking walks to immerse in and appreciate nature. Some days, when I'm walking short distances through beautiful New Orleans neighborhoods past blooming camellias and stately oak trees, on the way to a meeting or running an errand, I tell myself, "Well, this doesn't actually count - I didn't purposefully set out to take a walk in nature."  

Isn't that silly? Why not allow these small walks to count? Then I could marvel at all the wonders I might normally wait to notice on a longer "official" walk. I could tune into the quality of the light, the tiny ferns growing on tree trunks, the smooth texture of the crape myrtle bark, and the mosses living in cracks between the bricks. I could greet the sparrows flitting through the maple branches, the crows perched high in the water oak, and the squirrels chasing each other in the cypress tree, all in the few blocks between my car and the coffee shop. I could breathe deeply and gain the joy in the moment that I'm seeking from longer walks in nature.

What in your life are you not allowing yourself to count because it seems too insignificant? Is there a way you can give credit to pockets of quiet meditative time that might not look like "official" meditation? Or quality moments with family members that aren't formally scheduled? Or ways you move your body or care for your health that your fitbit might not be recording?

How might your internal state change if more of your daily life "counted"?  You'll find yourself doing spiritual practices in the grocery store (a great place to send lovingkindness to strangers) or stopping to see pollen-laden honeybees in the flowers, like this one in the camellia that I saw yesterday on my "unofficial" nature walk. 

 

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It's probably not too late.

Is there something you've been agonizing about - something that you wish you had done but you didn't do yet?  That your mind tells you it's too late to do? This happens to me all the time with all kinds of things. As I work on my writing, as I plan to send letters that I don't send, as I consider options I haven't taken yet. My mind cries, "Too late! Too late!" Another version of this is being "so behind." As in, "I'm so behind. I'll never catch up." It could be laundry, it could be a training or a course you're taking, it could be sharing or organizing photos, dealing with your email or planning a trip.

The thing is, telling yourself it's too late or you're behind does nothing to motivate you, and doesn't solve the problem. If it really, genuinely is too late, then let it go, with compassion. Face forward and see what's before you, and choose your path from the options that are available. If it's not too late, then take a step. Take any small step. This is the main way I get things done, with a series of small steps that occasionally bloom into a bunch of really big steps. Early this morning, just before writing this, I went out into the front yard to enjoy sitting in the grass with the cats, and there was our resident box turtle, striding across the lawn and into the petunias.  She gets far with her little steps; if you go in to get the camera, by the time you come out she may be impossible to find again! Here's a photo of her in the back yard a couple of weeks ago:

 
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Right now, think of something you've been berating yourself about - about being behind or too late with. Can you either kindly release it or take a small turtle step?  I promise you will feel better. Quiet the part of you that wants to shame you for taking this long. Instead, honor your fallible humanness, and honor all the things you have been doing instead of this particular step.

Finding reverence in a giant pile of trash

Years ago, I made a rather silly claim that when I became an old woman I would spend my days picking up trash and pointing out the moon to people. I could see myself perfectly, doing exactly that. This January, while not yet being an old woman, I set an intention to walk in nature every day and to pick up trash during my walks. There would be plenty of moon sightings as well, with the month bookended by two full moons and even an eclipse.

It was a small goal, but quite meaningful to me.  I invited others to join me and we picked up a lot of litter, especially along the Mississippi River. Litter is like laundry or dishes - there is always more to do, so you have to approach it with that mindset.  Something you cleaned up yesterday will require a clean up again today.  It's wonderful spiritual work for me, and a great meditation into finding compassion both for myself and for all the people leaving the litter behind. And for questioning how we live today and how we might live more in alignment with what we believe.  

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Do you feel that the world is at a turning point? That what we seemed to be able to get away with in the past is no longer working? That what we could turn away from before, no longer feels ok to ignore? 

I have had the word "deepening" percolating throughout my intentions and journal writings for the past couple of years, and as the new year approached, I was excited to see the word in the musings of others in my circles. We are feeling the pull towards Deepening.  What would that mean, to deepen? There's so much skimming on the surface, so much to attend to, so many distractions and requests for our eyes and ears.  What does it look like to deepen? What would that mean for you? Would it mean slowing down? Letting go of some things to focus more intently on others? Setting down the technology? Taking a stand when you're usually quiet?

Two mornings ago, I woke up with another word floating in my dreaming/waking state: reverence. Reverence. How could I frame my life around reverence? I revere wild nature, freedom, balance, sustainability, kindness, peace. How am I living life to show that these are the things I revere?

What do you revere? Take a moment to consider. 

We can find reverence as we pick up the trash - whether that's a metaphor, or a genuine action we're taking in the world. 

Fifty is the new fifteen, or how I am aging backwards by being more myself

Two days ago, I turned fifty. It seems absolutely impossible, but it’s true.

It’s completely liberating.

I’ve loved my life up until now— I’ve experienced and enjoyed so much.  When I was 21, I was living in Kenya. When was 25, I met the man I’d marry. When I was 30 we bought a house. When I was 40 we paid off that house and I quit my teaching job that had served and inspired me for 16 years. At 41 I hiked the whole Appalachian Trail. At 45 I became a certified life coach. At 47 I joined my first dance troupe. In between all those milestones there have been so many little wonders. Tons of travel, exploring, camping, learning, reading, being, dancing, playing. Of course there’s also been grief, sadness, worry and anxiety, but there’s been far more joy.

The older I get the more I’m interested in simplicity— in less doing, more being. I'm learning to be fully present in any situation, rather than constantly surveying the horizon for the next opportunity or experience.  I'm looking internally to decide what's important.

I'm writing this from the beach in Destin, Florida, here for our annual Thanksgiving trip. My friend Amy stayed with me last weekend - we have known each other for 28 years, more than half our lives. We reminisced and remembered younger, sillier and sometimes wilder days, and also allowed ourselves to feel young and silly and wild. 

I baked homemade rainbow-colored cupcakes and Amy impulse-bought me a giant fuzzy caterpillar at the grocery store.  

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It was the perfect gift at the perfect time. Amy says I still look like I'm 12 and she can't understand how that's possible. A friend wrote on a photo I posted yesterday, wearing my new rainbow flowered swimsuit ideal for a teen, (see pic below) that I looked "15 and 90 - radiant and wise." What a compliment.

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There might be many reasons for this.  One, I've been very lucky to live a relatively easy life.  I haven't been aged much by trauma and outside circumstances. And then there's something I can't quite describe or understand, but I feel young inside. I always have and maybe I always will.  I'm not much for pretense or putting on airs. I'm pretty much a truth-teller.  I used to worry that I needed to be more "grown up" to be seen as "legit" by colleagues and clients, but I'm no longer so sure.

Being myself seems most real and most genuine.  And now that I'm 50, I'm excited to step into the power of being completely me, even more.  I can't wait to see what that looks like.