Letting Nature Be with Me

A few weeks ago some friends of mine came to visit from the Midwest and we took them rafting on our beautiful Deschutes river. It was so fun to share the beauty of Central Oregon with them and for all of us to be outside for several days, rafting, camping and enjoying the outdoors.
I feel so connected in nature. In nature, I seem to remember to stop more often and simply appreciate where I am. I remember to look around and take in the scenery in a way I just don’t as I move around doing all my tasks each day. It is the place where I naturally breathe more deeply and relax more fully.
Except when I don’t.
On the trip I felt at peace and completely connected to the land, the river and the wind until I got super focused on my tasks and making sure everything  and every body was okay. I worked so hard to make things go well. And they did. It was a lovely trip. Still – I noticed myself getting tense a few times, worrying and trying to control what was going on – in those moments I was disconnected and not feeling the joy of being where I was.
 It would take a conscious effort to again look up at the canyon walls, or watch for a few minutes the river flowing by, or stop and be awed by the 100’s of little orange butterflies flitting about and without much effort nature could bring me back and I would remember that all my little concerns were not big enough to allow them to overshadow the immensity of joy and connection that nature was supporting for me. But then, there were tasks….
I watched my friend, Helen, who is 12, in that nature environment and I was so inspired by the sense of freedom and joy that she exuded. We cooked dinner together – it was a task of connection and wonder. She was completely present in making all the little decisions we had to make to cook stir fry for 8 on a camp stove!
One morning she was chasing butterflies – completely unconcerned with all the drama of adults packing up camp. Actually it was an adult who labeled it “chasing”, but butterflies were also surrounding her and even alighting on her. She walked around camp for the longest time with this butterfly on her finger – free to fly away but content being with her.
I wondered – what would it be like if I could not only be inspired within nature but be so totally connected that nature would seek me out?
What if I was so present that nature was just always with me? What if, like my friend Helen, I could just let go and exude the joy I so often feel in life, all the time?
What if I never let the tasks take me away from that?
What would happen in my life, and in yours, if we could learn from Helen? Leave me a comment and tell me what you think?
                                                                                                                         Namaste’,
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The soothing balm of Nature

20170415_113447A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit Oregon’s Painted Hills and the Fossil Beds at John Day. I was last there almost 20 years ago and am so happy I went back!
As we were traveling I was thinking about how nice it was to be heading out to explore nature for the weekend and get away from some of the other things that consistently occupy my mind. I was looking at having some time to connect to things that are bigger and more important than my everyday concerns.
As I arrived at the Painted Hills I certainly felt like I could melt into the amazingness of nature. I also became very aware that the trip was not just about getting away or distracting my attention but about really experiencing a bigger picture.

These hills were created over 35 million years ago. Not only that, they are still here. There is something about being in the presence of land that has such history and little touched beauty that is awe inspiring.

But they are here because as they became more known and visited- busier-, we committed to taking care of them. To respecting them. To changing our behavior to ensure that these hills would last. And that is the only reason we get to enjoy them now. Otherwise, they would have been explored to extinction; walked on and eroded. The color would  have faded and at some point they would have no longer been special.
But we ARE capable of deep respect and reverence. My question for you is, do you recognize your own specialness? Do you see your distinct color and feel your vibrancy? Do you respect it? Do you revere it with great care so you can sustain and enjoy it for all of YOUR time?
And when are you going to do something that is just for you? Something that takes you away from those everyday concerns long enough to remember? Remember that YOU have something great to contribute and so much to love!
When are you really going to own how amazing and awe inspiring YOU are?

Leave a comment and let me know!

Lastly, I want to leave you with a thought from one of my favorite poets and philosopher farmers, Wendell Berry. It feels especially pertinent in this time of political unrest and so many people talking about “resistance”.

For me, resistance feels, as the Borg told us over and over again, futile (I love Star Trek) – but, not because there is nothing we can do, but because resistance sets us up to be more reactionary and potentially creates a much bigger divide!
I don’t want to resist or agitate. I want to activate and enlighten.
And to do that I need to soothe the fear in me and find ways to retain my sense of love and inspiration and to explore my curiosity so that I feel alive and vital. Then when I take action, I don’t feel like I am resisting – I am persisting and I am creating the world I want to live in.
The Peace of Wild Things
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.
Wendell Berry,
from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry
Namaste,
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What will you do with all this light?

crocus-318291_1920Today is the Spring Equinox – the time when the sun is aligned with the earth’s equator making the day and night equal in duration…….

It is a time of balance and awakening!
 

We see this in the light in the morning sky, the extended length of each day, the increase in activity of the creatures all around us and in the burgeoning stems of crocus and daffodils and the buds popping out on the trees.

We may also feel it in our own sense of energy and desire to grow and expand. Perhaps you feel inspired to get more active again, to exercise, take a class, get out and meet people…. We can see it as a reminder to come into balance within ourselves.

But at the same time you may also still have a sense of darkness. This can show up in many areas of life but the one that is most present in my awareness is in the ongoing turmoil of our country’s political climate. If you are paying attention at all you know that there are so many people who are angry, confused, sad and there is a feeling of deep divide.

Do you, like me, feel the urge to be more active?Have you been taking action but each thing you do feels so small and inconsequential? Or are you doing all you can but the number of issues and sheer vastness of what needs to happen are overwhelming? Do you feel out of balance?

Remember, everything you do to enhance the light helps it to flourish. And you need to focus as much or more on the light in you as around you. In this way, you can be the light of awareness and change.

Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world.
Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.
                                         Rumi
 

I love this quote by Rumi. It reminds me of balance and the truth that unless I am focusing on my own growth, well-being and transforming myself, I have very little power anywhere else.

I don’t believe that absolves me of any responsibility for external action but rather that I need to ensure that my actions help support the light – my own and how I bring it into the world. Spring is an amazing time to really feel into that and to help me, and you, to determine how to spend energy, how to bolster enthusiasm and how to be the brightest lights in the world we can be.

Being aware not just of what the actions are but also how you are taking them, the kind of thoughts you are spending time with, the people whom you choose to act with is all important. These impact greatly the difference in whether you get overwhelmed and burned out or feel vital and positive in the difference you can make. Doing things that help keep your mind and heart light and spacious will support you in seeing through all the specifics can that bog you down and into the end goal which is life, connection and love.
Isn’t it?

When I remember that, the specific actions take less importance and the way I feel gets more attention. I ask myself, “What is the one thing I can do right now that will make me feel good about creating the world I want to live in?” “What can I do right now that will bring people together?” “How can I be a light to help someone to see a way to connection and away from divisiveness?”

The answers are varied. Sometimes it is calling my representative, who does not see things the way I do, and telling him a bit about how I see the world. Sometimes its in active, non-violent, life affirming protest. Sometimes it is reaching out to people who agree with me and getting validated. Other times it is reaching out to connect with someone who has different politics than me but also shares a lot in common. And always it is from a place in my heart that sincerely wants the best for everyone and is willing to accept that I may not actually know what that “best” is.

More Rumi:
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”
doesn’t make any sense. 
                                  Rumi
 
As the days continue to lengthen and the light seems more enduring, take time too to go lay in the field…hike in nature, gaze at the sky, enjoy flowing water, move your body, refresh your mind! Let, as Mary Oliver says, “the soft animal of your body love what it loves”. And take consistent, positive action to align yourself and help to transform this world into the one you want to live in!

Leave me a comment below to share your thoughts!
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We need to talk….

Like me, you may have noticed what a crazy place the world seems right now. If you listen to the news or are on social media you are bombarded with information, images and opinions… you may feel sad, angry, helpless, hopeless and even, as one of my students lamented recently… confused about human nature.

 

I feel all of these things too.

 

And I feel compelled to stay engaged and keep doing all the small and large things I do to live a life of purpose and service. In those moments that I begin to feel helpless about how I might be able to make a difference in relation to violence and hatred, I remember that by living and being the opposite, I am making an impact.

Peace cornerIn addition to the work I do I know that having meaningful conversations is also vitally important. I need to talk to people and be with people who also care about the state of the world and who can share resources. I love the conversations we have in my yoga classes. One student shared about the Washington County Stand for Peace that happens every Wednesday from 6 – 7 pm at 5th and Hall in Beaverton. I am attending whenever I can and encourage you to consider attending soon!!

 

But, not only do I need to listen to and talk to people who are like me and agree with me, but to voices that express differences too.

The other day on Facebook someone posted that she wished people would not post about politics – “its too personal a subject”….I could not disagree more. We need to be talking to one another, helping one another be more informed and we need to be willing to listen to viewpoints we don’t agree with in order to better understand what’s going on. Only through these conversations will be ever be able to break down the walls and divisions between us. Sometimes those divisions can seem insurmountable, but I can’t see how we can ever come together if we can’t even talk!

 

Help keep up the conversation… leave me a comment about what you are doing to make sense of the world around you!

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Get Strong by Being Soft

Strong, Supple AND Soft! That’s what possible with the right kind of yoga practice!

Yoga can be a very balanced exercise routine – given the right approach it can even be cardiovascular! But often times those very practices that get your heart rate up, also stress your joints (not to mention your nervous system!)

And many people never approach yoga as a cardio exercise at all and so need other cardiovascular activities like walking, running or other sports they enjoy to feel fully fit.

In the same way, many people approach yoga more as a stretching routine than anything else and so seek out other exercises to help build strength, both in muscles and in bone. But given the right approach, yoga can also be extremely helpful in strength building!

In yoga, you use the resistance of your own body weight to stress both your bones and your muscles, which is how you strengthen. Although you may not be adding weight or external resistance, yoga can be especially effective way of addressing strength when you skillfully use both isometric (static) and eccentric (lengthening) contractions of your muscles as you move. The issues come when you either don’t know how to effectively engage your muscles, for example if you work too hard or not hard enough; or, if you have chronic tension patterns or weakness that don’t allow you to engage appropriately.

Chronic tension and over-efforting are probably the most common issues I see that keep people from feeling strong and resilient. Even in the case of weakness, students often over-work in some areas and so never fully access the strength they have, much less build it!

One of the most common recommendations I find myself making, to students who want to build strength, is “quit working so hard”. Over-efforting causes you to tense needlessly, to restrict your breath and it stresses your nervous system. If you really want to build the kind of supple, resilient strength that yoga is so good at providing, you may just need to learn how to relax and soften your effort!! 

Believe it or not, relaxation postures and breathing are important even if your primary goal is to build strength. Then, once you know how to relax you can work on strength.

Yoga can help you build overall balance of strength and flexibility which makes your body function at its best. One of the very best ways to do this is to get a personalized yoga routine that specifically addresses YOUR body. Group classes are great for a lot of things but there just isn’t a way for your teacher, in a group class, to really see what you are doing and give you the instructions that are most helpful for you. At best, a good teacher can give generalized instruction that is mostly helpful but she can’t really watch you individually to see how your are executing that instruction and what might be limiting you.

If you find you are often sore or even injured after exercising (even after doing yoga) or you are having a hard time finding a yoga class that really seems to meet your needs, consider doing a consultation with me to see if some private instruction might be of benefit.

In addition, there are a number of other approaches that can help you in creating the best balanced routine possible for you. One of the things I love about being at Jade River is the collaborative approach we take to helping our clients be their very best.

Here are a few things to consider including in your exercise and healthcare regimen to create the most balanced, supple, healthy YOU!!

Get a massage – massage can help to reduce tension in overworked and tight muscles. It supports better blood flow and can relax muscles so that they can work more efficiently.

Try acupuncture – if you’ve never had acupuncture, you may be leary of the needles, but don’t be scared! Acupuncture really doesn’t hurt and it can be so relaxing! It is a great way to balance your vital energy and your nervous system which again, allows all your other systems to function more at their best!

There are many other great energy and body work techniques that can also help to restore energy and balance; like, craniosacral technique and reiki which I often provide within private, therapeutic yoga sessions. In addition we have other practitioners at Jade River who are specialists in Reiki, reflexology and skin care – all of which can be soothingly relaxing and supportive.

Of course, along with relaxation, you do have to work your muscles to actually build that strength. So give me a call and we can look at specifically what you need to support YOUR body!

In addition to private yoga we also have a great series coming up called Yoga and Strength Conditioning with Maddie Adams. Its a great class where you learn classic yoga postures and breathing techniques along with specific exercises utilizing therabands, stability balls, foam rollers and tennis balls. Great for strength, coordination and balance and all built on the foundation of yoga. Click here for more information!

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Healing with Trees

One of my favorite things to do is to get out and hike.                wildwood
Even in the city I can find a patch of forest and immediately
feel renewed.

There is something so healing about walking on dirt, needles and leaves and being under the cover of those amazing, sentinels of peace – the trees.

I hear the air moving in those high tree tops, birds singing and even the smallest creatures, the insects, buzzing and doing their thing. In the forest, I can get quiet enough to pay attention to such things and when I get quiet like that, I also find I begin to settle in and pay better attention to the quiet inner voice of my heart. That voice, the one that speaks in whispers and reminds me that like the trees, I am peace.

I just learned that in Japan, walking in the woods is a proven practice that has become a cornerstone of preventative healthcare and healing. It is called Shinrin-yoku or forest bathing .  The practice was identified in the 1980’s and has even been extensively researched. Studies have shown a multitude of benefits which include:

♦ boosting of the immune system
♦ lowering of blood pressure
♦ stress reduction
♦ improvement of mood
♦ increased ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
♦ accelerated recovery after surgery and illness
♦ increased energy levels
♦ improved sleep

Of course, people have recognized the healing benefits of getting out into nature well before the ‘80s but it is cool to know that science supports our anecdotal experience of being with the trees.

So this is what I have been doing, forest bathing, or literally “taking in the forest atmosphere”.  If you too are a seeker of peace you may have already found the forest as a place to reconnect. But, if you haven’t yet or you want to go deeper with your forest practice, here are some suggestions for fully experiencing healing with trees:

omgo by yourself, get really quiet; listen on purpose, experience what and how deeply you can hear

omgo with a friend, but walk without talking; listen together, be intrigued and curious

omfeel the ground under you; walk slowly and intentionally, feeling the contours of earth with your feet

20160423_101709omtouch the forest with your hands and with your eyes; look around, see the different colors of green, see the dew drops or rain drops                 glistening on leaves, see the vast variety of textures; leaves, moss,               bark – appreciate nature’s designs

omtaste the forest; forage – find mushrooms, eat berries* – salmonberries, huckleberries, those little wild raspberries – they                 don’t taste the same as our cultivated fruits – they taste more like                 nature.
             (*please be sure you know what is truly edible and eat only that! Don’t eat
               alongside the most well-traveled trails or where there is any likelihood of                              chemical sprays.)

omlie down in a bed of needles underneath low tree boughs…look up through the branches, appreciate their structure; sit awhile in an open glen – enjoy the blue of                 sky in your own secluded moment

omhug a tree…no really, hug one, or many! Throw your arms around them like old friends.

Say thank you. Ask the trees what you need to know. And send me a note or leave a
comment to tell me what you find out!

With so much love,

Leslie_Signature

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Living the Questions

french-squiggle-2-heart[1]Recently I have heard a similar query from several students and a couple of friends as well. It goes something like this:

“I just don’t know what I am doing right now. It
        seems like there is something I  should do but I am
        overwhelmed trying to figure it out”
And
“How can I figure out what I want in my life when I
        don’t have any time to even think about it?”

I get it. I have had these same questions. But the answers did not come by finding the answers…they came by looking deeply at the questions themselves and slowly understanding why the questions were even present. Transformation from overwhelm to calm came with living the questions and making incremental changes in how I was, well, living. I still don’t know the answer to the question “what is my purpose” in a clearly articulated way….but the question of purpose is inspiring every moment.

I remembered Rilke this morning; he said:

                                       “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love
                                         the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are                                            now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers,                                            which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live                                                them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now.                                              Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some                                         distant day into the answer.”                                  Rainer Maria Rilke

What might happen in your life if you allowed the questions to be unanswered and simply lived them each day?

 

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