Worshiping at the altar of busy

It's funny, I was talking to a good friend about my crusade against the word "crazy-busy" and this idea of everyone telling everyone else how busy they are all the time, like it's a badge of honor. And surprisingly, she said, "Do you know how embarrassing it is not to be busy?  What are you supposed to tell people?"

Oh. Right.  That's how we show that all is well in our culture.  A packed calendar, a list of accomplishments - a whole lot of doing, doing, doing.  We're fine - we're  just so busy!

Me - I'm starting to rebel against this kind of thinking. For the past bunch of years, I've been slowly chipping away at this concept. Now when people ask, "How are you?  Really busy?"  I've stopped saying, "Oh, yeah. Things are just so busy." Because I really don't want to live that way anymore.

Sure, sometimes I'm still busy, and sometimes my days are super-full.  But I'm not all proud of it anymore.  In fact, when my calendar gets too stuffed, I get honest with myself about what's going on that's led me to pile up so many appointments or commitments.  I get really curious.  Especially if I'm saying yes to everyone but myself.

I know what you might be thinking - that you don't have any choice.  That there's absolutely nothing you can do to escape the modern scourge of busyness.  Or that if you do elect to be less busy, that you'll be excluded, ostracized, shunned. And God forbid you don't sign your kids up for every available sport, activity, party, etc. Really - if we weren't busy with all of this stuff, what would we post on Facebook?  Pictures of us finally getting enough sleep???

If you are craving a weekend of less busy and more you, with time to think and reflect and perhaps create a new reality for yourself by figuring out how to say yes to what you really want and no to what you don't,  consider joining me for my Clarity and Connections retreat in beautiful St. Francisville, LA, July 27-29.  A small group of women gaining clarity about what we really want and connecting with nature, ourselves and each other.  With waterfalls included!  Check out the details here.

I've designed it for me - what I mean is that it's exactly what I want when I'm craving  a weekend to press my own internal reset button.  There will be plenty of Wordlessness à la Martha Beck, plus free time to lounge and reflect, along with some powerful tools that will give you major clarity, fast, even if like me, you're already sold on the idea of backing off on busy.

$99 reserves your spot, and there's still time to get the early bird rate! Click here to go to the information page.

And I'd love to hear your thoughts about busyness.  How are you dealing with it in your daily life?

Calling the animals part II

In between the wild pigs and the owl, things stayed interesting.  I completely surprised a raccoon who was gorging on holly berries just two steps from the trail.  Poor thing had to splash away when I walked by, there was so much water everywhere.  I didn't have a chance to snap a photo, but I do have evidence of his meal!

Then I strolled a little further until I encountered two squirrels crazily chasing each other along the boardwalk.  They were running at top speed toward me, completely oblivious until the first one came within about three feet of me and froze. Then the other one froze.  Where to go?  Into the water? Past me?  Back the other way?  The three of us stared at each other with quiet curiosity, the squirrels still breathing heavily from all their running.  I slowly reached down for my camera and broke the spell.  They spun around and dashed back down the boardwalk like lightning.  I laughed out loud.  It was like watching Chip and Dale.  Seemed like we'd all shared the joke without talking.  How many other ways would the universe surprise me?

Well, with bunnies.  Adorable bunnies who were rather damp as they had probably been swimming or at least wading.  One watched me calmly as it munched on poison ivy.  I guess bunnies can eat it without harm. And then there were the sunbathing squirrels.  I mean, wouldn't you lay out on the boardwalk if your fur was wet from swimming?  I so hated to disturb them (I saw two!) so I walked very slowly to give them time to find a tree to hop to and skip leaping back into the water.

I breathed deeply and smiled.  And then I drove home with gratitude in my heart, looking forward to returning the very next day for more wild, precious, utterly free gifts.

Calling the animals part 1

The animals I called for my wordless walks two months ago were the deer, and it's funny - while I rarely used to see deer when I went to the swamp, now they come.  Almost every time.  I saw six or seven two days ago.  I still don't really believe it works, but it's a fun game and I enjoy making "oneness" connections with the animals, even if it could all be chalked up to coincidence. This time, I didn't call anyone in particular.  I sort of sent a "surprise me" sentiment out to the universe.  And almost immediately a great blue heron lifted off and flew gracefully through the trees.  I whooshed in a breath of wonder.  Then as I walked a little further, I heard what sounded like dragons.  I am not kidding.  Turns out that they were a passel of young wild pigs, some all black and some tan with black spots, like something out of a children's' story. They ran off too quickly for me to get a photo, but I heard and saw them twice, snuffling and grunting and snorting and splashing through the flooded forest.  What a cool surprise - I've never ever seen pigs at the swamp!

I waded through shin-deep water for over a mile, relishing my Amazon-like adventure, and noting that I'd need to choose a different trail for my wordless walk the next day. I wondered where the armadillos had gone - there was so much water and so little high ground.  I'm sure they know what to do and had taken refuge somewhere.

Eventually, I headed to a less remote, far more civilized, fully boardwalked trail, and even a small portion of it was under water!  I walked amidst myriad lizards and snakes.  I surprised two small alligators who splashed off the boardwalk- I don't know who scared who, it happened so fast!

On the way back, I thought - ok - I would love to see an owl.  I sent a request for an owl, wordlessly.  I don't even know quite what I did.  And then I dropped attachment and kept walking.  Sure enough, a few minutes later, there was my owl.  As I crept closer, she glided silently away through the cypresses further up the trail.  But when I quietly rounded the next bend, there she was, perched and watching me, then turning to gaze down into the water.  I did my best barred owl call and I can only describe the owl's expression as bemused - like, "Really?  You expect me to believe you are an owl??" But she didn't fly away.  The owl ignored me and stared down into the water, perhaps eying her next meal.

Whether the heron, pigs, deer and owl came for me or for themselves doesn't really matter -- I'm just so glad I had the gift of a moment to enjoy watching them. Give it a try next time you're outside.  Call the animals and see if they come.  You can read more about wordlessness and oneness and techniques to connect to the natural world in Martha Beck's book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World.  And watch for announcements- I'm going to start up a new Wild World virtual book club soon!

Also coming soon: More animal calling stories and shared wordless walks from some of you!  It's not too late to send me stories or pictures from your own wordless walk - I'd love to hear!  Email me at .

Lastly, tomorrow (Monday) this blog is going to move to self-hosted so I have a little more ability to do some cool things with it.  My only worry is that I won't know how to do said cool things, so if anything seems a little wonky for the next while, you'll know why.  I'm hoping for a super-smooth transition, but I know I have some skills to learn too.  Wish me luck and I'll hopefully be checking in again very soon!

Wild, wonderful wordless walk

The deer came.  The woodpeckers came.  An armadillo surprised us. We were quiet for a couple of hours, but the woods around us were full of sound.  Robins, doves, frogs, hawks, chickadees, creaking trees, whooshing wind and skittering skinks provided an almost musical backdrop for our stroll, and the peaceful greens and browns of the winter swamp soothed our eyes.  For a little while we didn't have to do anything but be present and enjoy, and it was lovely. Yes-- today I hosted the my first monthly Wordless Wetland Walk on a beautiful woodland trail in Jean Lafitte National Park.  Before we even began, the deer came. This seemed special to me, because I'd asked the deer to please come. They weren't close--  way down the road actually, but one stood a long time watching, then eventually walked away, its white tail flicking coyly side to side.

Our walk was wordless to help us be present.  We wouldn't be chatting or making small talk, or even trying to find out the name of that bird or the species of this tree.  We wouldn't be talking about how pretty the woods looked or how good the wind felt. We would just be quiet, and look for the stillness in our own souls.  We'd use our senses to help us stay in the moment.

We walked to the base of one of my favorite trees and sat for a while, perched or nestled among its moss-covered roots.

We gazed up at the Spanish moss swaying in the wind.

We peered close up at leaves, acorns and dropped maple flowers,

We looked far at clouds and sky and treetops full of birds.

We didn't speak, take photos, or even gesture much.  We just walked quietly, looked, and sometimes stopped or sat.  (These photos are from my scouting walk yesterday.) We spread out for most of the time, so each of us had our own space in the woods. Toward the end of the walk we clumped up and watched an armadillo for quite a while - they don't see or hear very well, so I don't think this one even knew we were all about 6 feet from it.

We softened our gaze, slowed our steps, and breathed.  We forgot concerns or worries, at least for part of the time.  We marveled, noticed, appreciated, and most importantly, just existed.  Sound good?  Want to try it yourself?  Tomorrow I'll be writing some tips on enjoying a wordless walk anywhere.  And if you're in the NOLA area, check the Happenings tab above to see when I'm hosting the next wordless walk!

May as well give up now; try again in 2013...

Wow.  We're halfway through the first month of 2012.  Half way!  If you're like me, it feels like perhaps someone put you in a time machine on New Year's Day and you emerged two weeks later, dazed and confused.  Perhaps you're a little freaked out because that's 1/24th of the year already gone, GONE!!!  And such a long list of things that were going to be different or fantastic about this year - what's been checked off? - what's been accomplished? - what new habits are fully in place, little stickers on the calendar marking their completion?  Yoga, breathing, eating, exercising, being nice, not cursing, going to bed at a decent hour, no more time-wasting on YouTube/Facebook/Twitter/Hulu.

No yelling, instead being like the Dalai Lama, a walking paragon of peace and equanimity, never even thinking an angry thought.  Magically having time to live, work, make healthy and delicious meals full of fruits and vegetables, plus enjoy quality time with spouses/friends/family/children/neighbors/pets.  While we knit/sew/draw/photograph/paint beautiful creative pieces.  And keep the place clean - don't forget that!

Do you- on this holiday to honor a wise and fabulous man who saw the big picture, even if he was still a human with his own foibles - do you look around and wonder where the heck January went?  Did your stickers fall to the wayside on January 4th? (Or 3rd, or 2nd?)  Are there dust bunnies lurking in the corner?  Have you had fast food?  Or an angry thought? Or perhaps a screaming match with a loved one?  Do you want to throw up your hands, dive back under the covers and say, forget it - I'll try again in 2013?

Well, I'm here to tell you (and myself) to settle down.  Take a breath.  Look out the window.  Even better, go outside.  Even if it's cold.  Just step out there and breathe the air and remind yourself that you're alive.  Drop your plans.  Ask the little part inside you, the one that maybe doesn't get to weigh in often enough, what one thing you'd most like to do today.  And just do that.

Me?  I didn't make any resolutions this year.  I was too immersed in wordlessness and oneness.  My plan's been to approach things a little more openly this year.  Stay present.  I know I'll get things done - I always do!  And I have a lot more energy to make things happen if I'm not beating myself up for the 37 items on a too-long list of goals and plans that didn't get done.  I'll keep you posted about how it goes.  So far, so good!