Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Bear in Mind

Living in a small, rural town I am reminded on a regular basis of the special experiences that are available naturally. . .that is if you're paying attention. Today was a great day for incoming inspiration. 

First of all, my husband experienced a bear sighting on his walk to work. At 6:15 this morning he took a short cut down a hill that intersects two streets, one of which that leads to the woods. As he walked the route that he has covered countless mornings, he became aware of an unusual sound to his left. Instead of continuing his trek, he stopped and saw a bear dragging a garbage bag up the hill, probably going home with breakfast for the family. Based on the story of The Three Bears, he told me this one probably represented the size of momma Bear. 

He considered himself very fortunate to be able to witness this wild animal in an act natural for it, but not usual for him. He related that it took about ten minutes for the bear to manage to get the garbage bag un-snagged from trees and brush until it reached an open space to the finish line. Although we occasionally see bears living in the mountains of Pennsylvania, this observation was a special treat. 

I also had my own little glimpse of nature. After returning home from my daily walk, I was going through a variety of stretching exercises on my living room floor. As I relaxed into a back bend, I notice a bird, perched on a branch leaning against the window. It caught my attention, so I took a closer look and noticed it was standing over a nest and was feeding two babies. 

What is interesting to me is this nest, momma, and babies have been within easy sight for sometime, but I didn't see them. I'm not sure where my mind was, but apparently it was not on my immediate surroundings. 

Although I was grateful that I was tuned in today, as was my husband, I wondered how many things that escape our attention each day that are potential sources of unique delight and wonder. 

I am reminded to not allow myself to always be caught up in thought of what is next on my to-do list. I am reminded to breathe and to stay present to what is around me. I am reminded to bear in mind that I am always surrounded by things of nature and people that deserve my attention. 

I am reminded that if I am not paying attention, I may miss a priceless opportunity to enjoy what is right before me. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Trust Fall

An old, dusty dream of mine was awakened after a thirty-five year nap. The dream was born when I was eighteen years old, soon after I graduated from high school. It appeared at a time when I realized I wanted to live an adventuresome life rather than an ordinary one. 

As I brainstormed experiences (which were essentially a Bucket List, long before that term became popular), skydiving was high on my list.  In spite of my having a great fear of danger, and in fact, even hesitant to ride on a roller coaster at an amusement park, I still longed to have thrilling experiences in life.  I'm not sure why or how, but something deep within my heart seemed to know my childish fears would some day disappear and I would meet this dream. 

Although the desire to skydive originally came from the source of a young woman’s thrill-seeking adventure, when it popped back into my consciousness a few years ago, there was a different source stimulating the desire. At that point in my life, well established in middle age, minus many of those old fears, and quite open to new challenging experiences, a skydive epitomized the opportunity and actually the challenge to feel complete trust. 

I realized what I needed was to experience surrender in my body and especially my spirit, trusting all is well, no matter how a situation may seem and no matter what the outcome may be. To me, this feeling of totally letting go, leaping into space and being at peace unconditionally, regardless of the outcome, was going to be my teacher. 

I also knew my trust fall would be an opportunity to experience complete peace, even when in the face of potential danger or harm. I longed to feel safe as if in the palm of God's hand, no matter where I was or what I happened to be doing.  

With so many elements of trust blending together, this skydive was intended to be a life changing experience. The intended change in my life would be to feel peace rather than fear, no matter what I happened to be facing. 

On a sunny, breezy Sunday morning in June, after prior research for a competently run skydive center, I showed up at OZ Homestay in northern Pennsylvania to finally live out this dream. After signing the waivers and learning what was required of me, to complete my free fall, I was ready. 

Prior to boarding the plane, I noticed I was feeling unusually calm and present. A feeling of complete peace filled me as the plane took off and climbed to an altitude of 10,000 feet. After about 20 minutes and reaching the optimal altitude, I received instruction to prepare for the jump. I followed the rehearsed routine of making my way to the open door and positioned myself at the edge of the plane with my legs dangling in the air. As I looked down there was no sign of earth beneath me. There was nothing to hold me up, yet I was not in fear and trusted all was well. 

I will never forget the feeling of surrender when I physically let go of the wing and fell away from the plane. In spite of being battered by wind during my explosive descent,the paradoxical feelings of calm and exhilaration filled me. Once the parachute opened, the free fall rush at 120 miles an hour shifted to quiet peace around me, matching what I felt within. 

Once I softly landed on the ground, I knew I had changed. My physical experience of complete surrender and trust rather than fear-based attempts of control, showed me this was possible in anything I choose to do .  .  . even when both feet are firmly planted on the ground. 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Peace Without Apology

I periodically notice some people exhibiting signs of annoyance with me, and in some cases, even agitation, when I choose not to join the band wagon of complaints, worry and attack of a perceived enemy in reaction to local and world events. It seems, my positive attitude and approach can be disturbing to others that choose a different path. Although I notice the reaction of some of my friends, I will not apologize for being at peace. 

Thankfully, how we each deal with the issues of life is a personal choice. My preference is to stay aligned with joy and sustain peace "within" regardless of what may be showing up in the "outside" world. When I have been hooked by anger and then acted out with righteous indignation (even in cases when it appeared I was victimized) my negative emotions never improved the situation in question. What is especially true is that acting out in anger has never....repeat... NEVER made me feel better. I understand some of my fellow humans are convinced that their anger spurs them on to correct a set things right, and that vindication and revenge feels good. Perhaps that is true for them. I just don't choose to roll like that. 

What I find to be a particularly interesting comparison is that I may even choose to take the same steps that those on the fist pumping side of the line may take when an injustice occurs. I make phone calls, write emails and sign petitions to inform my elected officials of what I believe, although what I say in a letter may differ from others. I don't sugar coat situations, but I avoid attacks. I write letters to the editor in support of that which I want to see more of, rather than complain about what should stop. I donate money to causes that support peace rather than destruction. I read articles that support peaceful solutions that are in alignment with my beliefs, rather than feed myself with more news and reports that stimulate hateful actions. Although many of us may take the same stand and in some cases even actions, how we feel in the process of creating change can vary greatly. 

Although I understand when people get hooked by an issue many are looking for others to join in the fight believing there is power in numbers, I am very careful with whom I will stand. Watching how the political parties work in our country are a great example of how fear is used to create a movement against the enemy (enemies vary depending on the issue). Bottom line...I resist jumping on a wagon that is destined for perpetrating a movement fueled by fear. 

What I have trained myself to do instead, is to keep my intention on creating a positive outcome. Rather than keeping my focus on battling a wrong, I simply keep my vision on what I want to see created instead. I have heard the story that Mother Teresa was once asked to march in an anti-war rally. She informed the activist inviting her that she would not rally against war, but she would be happy to rally for peace. This simple statement has been a tremendous  inspiration for the way I choose to live.

So which perspective is most productive in the end? The good news is we each get to decide. I will continue to choose a peaceful response since I know my creativity in problem solving, my effectiveness to create positive change and my ability to encourage others to show up at their best occurs when I stand in the light not the dark.