Friday, March 16, 2018

Rooted in Earth & Touching the Sky

This photo of robins so perfectly posed on the limbs of a leafless tree in early spring was an unexpected moment of joy.

Trees offer boundless metaphors to our lives, beginning with The Tree of Life. “There is seen to be an immanence about such mighty entities (trees), and they are more than mere tangible living things. They possess a cryptic power, which singles them out over all other objects in nature for a special kind of holiness. Their trunks reach upwards from roots that penetrate deep within the world of the earth, while their topmost branches touch the sky and the heavens,” wrote Michael Jordan in Plants of Mystery and Magic.

The contemplation

Like a robin in early spring I will lightly go out on a limb to rest my soul in the bounty of the tree with branches that touch the sky and the heavens. Gently, patiently, this limb from where I rest, rises into the light. Illumination becomes the gift that I have always sought. With each inch of inner growth, I better understand why seeking inner light and peace is a wise choice, even when the metaphorical forest below seems to crumble. 

I understand that each of us can rise above a failing environment — both within and without. I understand that my positive action will make a difference. But I must first go out on a limb.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Seek Strength -- A Gift from Trees

"If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you'll come to understand that you're connected with everything," wrote the philosopher, Alan Watts.

Not only are trees essential for life, but as the longest living species on earth, they give us a link between the past, present and future.

Historical references to the sacredness of trees fills volumes of poetic works. Taliesin, a 6th century Celtic bard used what some academics claim as the secret language of trees to express and exchange ideas with those with need to know, “without anyone there being any the wiser.”

Los Angeles’s Tree People lists the “Top 22 Benefits of Trees” to include:

  • In one year an acre of mature trees can provide enough oxygen for 18 people.
  • Trees absorb odors and pollutant gases (nitrogen oxides, ammonia, sulfur dioxide and ozone) and filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark.
  • Whether as houses for children or creative and spiritual inspiration for adults, trees have provided the space for human retreat throughout the ages.

Will we lose this connection as deforestation continues destroying an estimated 18 million acres (7.3 million hectares) of forest a year?

Throughout history trees represent wisdom and strength. Each time we linger among the trees we are offered their gift of strength.

The contemplation
I can’t physically be in nature at this moment, but with my eyes at rest I let my imagination see an acorn in my hand. I caress this seed with love and watch it sprout forth with life. As it reaches toward the sky and into the light, nature’s peace spreads through my body like the leaves of this young oak tree that I hold in my hand. 

Each new leaf is another element of the peace that grows within me. I give gratitude to the trees for giving oxygen to breathe. I silently sit and let nature’s song among the trees sooth my soul.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Connection to Whales

Have you ever looked directly into the eye of a whale? Smelled a whale's exhale? Touched a whale's flesh?  Should you have this special encounter, it could be life-changing.

From "Connection -- A Book of 48 Natural Contemplations," a work in progress to help us in our busy lives to take a moment to connect to nature's beauty. 

Further encounters with humpback and blue whales have each brought a special feeling of connectedness to them. They have looked me in the eye and I felt a buzz and a wisp of a universal language. 

Despite the above, Daniel Cressey, wrote in Nature magazine, “World’s Whaling Slaughter Tallied,” the following:  “The first global estimate of the number of whales killed by industrial harvesting last century reveals that nearly 3 million cetaceans were wiped out in what may have been the largest cull of any animal — in terms of total biomass — in human history."  When I’ve encountered these great beasts, I sense their will to continue on and without malice toward humanity because we are all on this great swim together.

The following meditation brings me special peace:

I know that we have hurt you. How can I say that I’m sorry?  How do I know that you care?  Your eyes tell me that you understand and that you have oceans of forgiveness based in some unseen universal wilderness that I can only begin to grasp. With that, I cradle in the moment when you and I looked at each other, like long ago lovers that were lost by means outside of ourselves. You vibrate peace. You exude strength. You do not judge. You continue to survive. Thank you for reminding me of life’s elements. You seek neither palaces nor gold. They are meaningless to your ancient knowledge. Thank you for helping me understand. 

Gratitude fills my lungs and pulsing blood with each breath I take, knowing that your home is life-giving on every level.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

"We are of the sea"

John Zachary Young concluded in his textbook Life of Vertebrates, that “Living things still retain in their ionic makeup characteristics of the sea.”

We are of the sea. Magnificent! Life sustaining! Forever!

The amniotic fluid in which you floated as a fetus was salty, like the sea. And, as Andrew Schafer, a professor at Weill Cornell Medical College notes, our blood plasma has a concentration of salt and other ions that is remarkably similar to sea water. And as the earth is about 71% water, so are our bodies.

So we go to the sea to find our beginnings.

With eyes closed and rhythmic breathing, find the current that takes you within. 

The contemplation

I stand at the edge of my soul and seek to capture the endless power of my connection to the sea, to the planet. Each breath opens my inner ear. The sea will wash away my concern. I let it resonate and hum a sweet song of peace in my heart.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Connect with "the givens," for well being

It's noisy out there!  The noise distracts us from turning inward and getting to know our inner self better -- from the good, the bad and the ugly. If you've had enough, then turn off and unplug noisy distractions. Find a pleasant and safe place to sit. You can sit in the classic meditation pose, or sit on a sofa or chair. Comfortably place your hands on your legs, rhythmically breathe in and out calming your mind with each breath. Contemplate.

Let nature help you find your peaceful center. Connect with anima mundi, the earth’s living soul.

The following is excerpted from a new post in the weekly publication from the Center for Action and Contemplation.

The Givens, by Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM

On spring and summer mornings, I love to go out early and walk in my little garden. If I can somehow let my “roots and tendrils” reconnect me with the “givens” of life, as Bill Plotkin calls them—not the ideas about life, but the natural world, what is—I experience extraordinary grounding, reconnection, healing, and even revelation. One hopping bird can do me in!

Many of us have a sense of self or identity that is created by our relationship to ideas, thoughts, and words. In fact, we think that our thoughts are reality. We can spend our whole lives rattling around inside of ideas, rarely touching upon what is right in front of us. Today most of us spend the majority of our time interacting with thoughts and opinions about everything. Computers, smart phones, internet, email, social media, and selfies keep us preoccupied. It is, of course, a world of our own fabrication. But we take it for reality itself.

... when people my age are still spending most of their lives focused on themselves, our civilization is surely in an arrested development. This is clearly seen in our politics, and even, I am afraid, in much of our clergy, who reflect our narcissistic culture rather than lead it forward. Robert Bly rightly called it a “sibling society.” One of the foundational reasons for this widespread immaturity is that we have lost contact with the givens, with the natural world.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

10 Arts to "Clarity, Creativity & Courage in a World Gone Mad"

Ten Arts of Democracy from the book, "Getting a Grip -- Clarity, Creativity and Courage in a World Gone Mad"
By Frances Moore Lappe

Frances Moore Lappe on fresh political approaches to finding meaning:

Art One: Active Listening 
Encouraging the speaker and searching for meaning

Art Two: Creative Conflict
Confronting others in ways that produce growth

Art Three: Mediation
Facilitating interaction to help people in conflict hear one another

Art Four: Negotiation Problem solving that meets some key interests of all involved

Art Five: Political Imagination Re-imaging our futures according to our values

Art Six: Public Dialogue 
Public talk on matters that concern us all

Art Seven: Public Judgment 
Public decision making that allows citizens to make choices they are willing to help implement

Art Eight: Celebration 
Expressing joy and gratitude for what we learn as well as what we achieve

Art Nine: Evaluation and Reflection 
Assessing and incorporating the lessons we learn through action

Art Ten: Mentoring 
Supportively guiding others in learning these arts of public life"

Friday, March 9, 2018

Technology and Youth: A Brighter Quest

We’re at a critical juncture in our children's relationship with technology. Time spent with technology can distract them, sap their attention and disconnect them from what makes us uniquely human -- or it can be used to support their health, well-being and productivity.

This was the takeaway from GENYOUth's Inaugural Youth Survey on Trends in Health and Wellness, co-presented by Thrive Global to middle schoolers and high schoolers across the nation. The survey's goal was simple: to begin to understand how young people use technology to support their health and well-being.

The good news is that the vast majority of today's youth care about their own health and well-being, feel responsible for it and want to do more to take charge of it. The bad news is that technology isn't doing all it’s capable of to boost the health and wellness of this tech-obsessed generation. This presents a challenge and an opportunity to the tech world -- bring young people into the process so technology can be used to support their well-being and truly add value to their lives.

...As we know from our survey, young people are already taking responsibility for their health, and they also want technology that supports them in taking control of their own well-being. But what our survey also shows is that this can't be done without broadening the conversation and welcoming the input of young people themselves. These kids are eager to talk to us about what they like, what they need to have a healthier relationship with technology, and how they feel technology can be improved to enhance their own lives.
---From Thrive Global