Restoring our lost intimacy with nature

As many of you know, I have been struggling to understand and express here how living close to nature changes you. Since moving into big sky country over four years ago, I have changed tremendously, to the point where living with a brain injury does not effect me half as much. Why is this? Because nature is slow and deliberate. Nature is in no hurry to explain or understand itself. Nature is so not like the predominantly human world.

This week I read an amazing interview with writer Barry Lopez in the December issue of “The Sun.” Here he explains myself to me well. As someone who grew up in small to medium-sized cities, I rarely experienced the wonder or intimacy of living close to nature. I experienced instead the loneliness and lack of opportunities for true intimacy in the human-made world. I did not even appreciate my own need to reconnect with the natural world completely until my husband Mike talked me into moving to a wide-open space in the high desert of southern Colorado.

As soon as we moved here I felt different. I felt myself slowing down and appreciating each moment much more completely. Each astounding new view took my breathe away. Slowly I began naturally letting go of my past and my future, feeling less alone than I ever have. Nature is deliberate and can be trusted unlike most experiences in wholly human culture. The beautiful silence outside my door each morning provided me with authentic contact with the harmony in a world outside of human existence. Living in such beauty awakens a sense of gratitude for all there is to experience in the natural world. There so much here that most will never experience directly.

Barry Lopez believes that if you asked anyone walking down a sidewalk in a city, “What is it that you really want?” Many would say intimacy. But “you can’t gain intimacy without vulnerability, and you can’t have vulnerability without trust.” Barry finds this lack of intimacy and vulnerability in human culture to be manifested by our lack of intimacy with the land itself. Cities create a kind of competition and divisiveness that can not be found outside of them in the natural world.

Sometimes I think about the darkest moments in my past, moments of depression and hopelessness. I now realize that if I had known enough to escape from cities at those times, I would have found the kind of meaning and peace I needed to find new hope for meeting my next future.

But then we are all on schedule to learn what we must to discover our best life. Trust in that!

How unreasonable love is!

Yesterday I was struck by exactly how unreasonable love can be. What is this feeling that often goes against all reason and just is?

As far as I’m concerned, the definitions of love are completely inadequate. One definition is: “an intense feeling of deep affection.” Another is “a great interest and pleasure in something.” Or “to feel a deep romantic or sexual attachment to (someone).” How inadequate is that?

Reasonable is taking into consideration your own interests first, something most of us do unconsciously and continuously. “What in this for me?” I learned early to notice how so many people I met consider what they can get out of a new friendship before they jump into it. These people are very fair weather friends. I tend to avoid them.

I spent my first few years of college at Colorado College, a very expensive private school in Colorado Springs. There I met a number of very wealthy kids who first wanted to know if your family had a condo in Aspen BEFORE they decided to like you. Who knew there were such people in the world?

That’s when I learned to be much more careful in choosing my friends. Then, for young women, there is always the question whether the men liked you for sex and nothing else. Unfortunately that took me quite a while to figure out. Who knew some men are just pigs?

At age 64, I have known so many friendships, and most have not lasted very long. These experiences left me doubtful whether any of these “friends” ever really cared for me at all. In other words, I don’t expect true love and loyalty in this lifetime. I have experienced too many disappointments in this department.

Then yesterday I had a very frank conversation with Mike on this topic. We have been together for almost fifteen years now and still I doubt. We have been through serious, debilitating illness with Mike in our early years, and the same with me recently. I wondered why he would choose to sacrifice to be with me when he could certainly do better at this point in life. His love and loyalty astounded me. Finally I have found a lover and friend who actually loves me…in sickness and in health.

Love and integrity are so hard to find. If you find them in your personal relationships, return them in full force…

Feeling the losses & the gratitude

This fall I am feeling my losses fully. My recent tumble in my garden surprised and confused me. My balance is so not what it used to be and I must accept this fact gracefully. In fact I am now realizing that I can no longer do more than one thing at once, and that includes breathing! I have always been one to take off in a rush to get things done. This has only gotten worse because I now feel I must do something before I forget what I’m doing! But this simply will not do for me anymore. My damaged brain (one TBI and three concussions) and my inability to breathe deeply now creates a situation where I MUST TAKE THINGS MORE SLOWLY.

I know. I’m not the first person to discover this limitation of injury and aging, but I see now I am taking things too far to my own detriment. I need to move slower and do less even when I’m anxious to do more. I get angry with this situation, but this is my reality now. As always I come back to my own truth:

Acceptance releases everything to be what it already is.

I have always pressured myself partially because I was taught to be more and contribute. I now also see the flaw in that way of thinking. I am merely another human trying to find some truth and meaning in this life of mine. I am not worse or better than the rest, because in the end most of what we do does not matter. That is why I now laugh when I see this:

So I am letting go like so many do as they age, and as strange as it may seem, I sometimes see the benefits of my present circumstances. My head injuries have caused me to slow down, something I needed to do so I can appreciate each moment more. For example, I have loved Stephen Levine’s “Meditation on Letting Go” for decades, ever since I met him back in the 1980s in Boulder. But it is only now that I can fully appreciate its meaning.

So this Thanksgiving I give thanks for the life I have right now and can finally slow down enough to fully appreciate.

Help & humor: Facing divorce later in life

No, this isn’t about me… A close friend of Mike’s is facing this now in his sixties, and that got me thinking. For many boomers, divorce has not been so uncommon. And now, in our 50s and 60s, it is still quite possible. You are NOT alone!

D-I-V-O-R-C-E

Among U.S. adults ages 50 and older, the divorce rate has roughly doubled since the 1990s, according to a Pew Research Center report. Statistically speaking we’re healthier and probably going to live longer — possibly thirty years longer than our parents or grandparents did. The surge in later-in-life or “gray divorce” is possibly an unintended consequence of how long we are living today.

When I think back to my first marriage, which ended in 2001, it was quite clear to me after seven years that this union had no chance of going the distance. One way I knew was that I could not possibly imagine my husband taking good care of me in sickness and old age. The genuine, abiding love and loyalty just wasn’t there. Yikes! It was time to try one more time to find that kind of enduring love before it was too late.

At that time I enjoyed the phrase: “DIVORCE IS EXPENSIVE, FREEDOM PRICELESS!

I was 46 then and still feeling vibrant enough to be willing to take on the risks and possible rewards of dating again, but only after a few years of contemplation and mourning. In fact, I started my own local dating service in 2004 and it was LOTS OF FUN! I named it “Intriguing Possibilities!” I figured after losing my last job and a divorce, I needed a job and a date! Long story short, that is how I met Mike, and I’m so glad I did.

What a lucky day that was! We lived only ten miles apart, but would not have met without Match.com. We knew very soon that this was no ordinary love connection, and fifteen years later we never speak of divorce. We know that we’re going out feet first & together! And so I now have a very tough time imagining being single in my sixties, although I do know that ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN AT ANY TIME.

But during my own unique version of a midlife crisis in my mid-40s (I lost my husband, my career and almost my home), I found that I had also lost my faith in love, completely! It was time to do some work on myself to change that situation.

For further explanation of what worked for me in my 40s, please check out my second book: How To Believe in Love Again: Opening to Forgiveness, Trust, and Your Own Inner Wisdom

I also know now that the older you are when you choose your next partner, the more likely you will be able to choose wisely. Without the distorted lens of sex appeal or surface stuff, finding an appropriate life partner becomes about how much you enjoy spending “quality” time with your new love. My advice: stay picky and hold out for a deep and abiding love this time. They’re still out there!

Postscript: In my twenties my Mom kept asking me, “What do you have against men with money???”

Things you may discover as you age…

Here’s my list. Have some fun creating yours!

I love feeling loved and married.

Just feeling no pain feels GREAT!

Breathing can be such a pleasure.

Pets are a blessing!

Sitting in the sun on a cold winter’s day is heaven!

Even small towns can be FUN.

Good friends are very hard to find.

Gratitude is everything!

Being in ‘reality’ and escaping it are both fun and necessary.

Finding purpose and meaning are both overrated: Enjoy yourself!

Letting go of your past is the first step towards enjoying your present.

Silence is GOLDEN.

Letting go of judgment and replacing it with compassion sets you free!

I LOVE harp music.

The U.S. has wasted valuable time in researching the benefits of CBD and psychedelics

I hope you were all able to see the CNN Special about CBD products, and the CBS 60 Minutes piece this Sunday on how psychedelic drugs are helping patients with depression, anxiety and addiction. I believe the point of all of this information is that we as a nation have wasted decades, when we should have been researching exactly how these substances work and how they might benefit all of us.

The special on CBD spent an hour explaining how almost nobody knows what CBD is or why you would even consider using it, especially why anyone would want to inhale it. Since there is no regulation nationwide, like there is here in Colorado, criminals are passing off just about anything as a CBD product. I’m sure even they couldn’t tell you what it is for. They just hope to make money on idiots who will try anything once. I’m so glad this program included the work they have been doing in the UK for decades to understand and regulate CBD products. They are taking a much smarter approach to studying this substance. Why haven’t we done any research like that?

We all know why psychedelic drugs have been illegal forever in the USA. We can thank Richard Nixon for that. In the meantime research like that described on 60 Minutes this week is finding solutions to depression, anxiety and addiction. It is obvious now how we might have saved thousands of lives by knowing more about the uses of psychedelics in a controlled environment. Too bad so many Americans have died from opioid and heroin overdoses, often seen as suicides.

Our fears of unknown substances prevent us from researching their chemical compounds and understanding how these interact with our brains. Now that research is finally happening in the USA and other countries, psychedelics are providing new hope to those with horrible addictions to deadly substances.

It seems the Native Peoples who used these substances in ceremonies for centuries had a far greater understanding of the power of these plants to wake us up and help us explore far beyond the mundane day-to-dayness of life, to dig deeper into our own consciousness. I found one statement from the 60 Minutes piece essential to understanding deeper levels of ourselves. One man said that by taking mushrooms, he felt like he could get beyond so much emotional armoring and his sensitive ego. The experience helped him to discover his true Self beneath it all. I believe this to be the genuine work of our lives.

That is why I have devoted so much of my life to researching the uses of different types of therapies and learning experiences in search of true Self. That is why I attended an alternative graduate program like Naropa University to study counseling psychology. That is also why I wrote my books.

Getting beyond the extremely limited boundaries of the rules in our head and simple, fear-based ways of being in the world, is the first step towards the freedom of self-compassion and healing. This is my goal before I die.

One of my favorite reminders on the wall above this computer:

First have the strength to meet Self. Then have the strength to let go of Self.

Do Stereotypes About Aging Influence You?

Now that I’m in my 60s, I find adjusting to how others see me can be pretty tough at times. I still feel like the same 40 or 50-year-old inside, but looking in the mirror is sometimes shocking.

The first time a waiter at a restaurant turned to Mike and I and said, “Would you two like the senior discount?” I thought, “Is he talking to me?”

The way these internalized attitudes about aging affect us physically is a focus within a growing field in social psychology called “mind-body studies.” In the next few months, the World Health Organization will publish the results of a global investigation of ageism — discrimination toward elders, similar to racism and sexism. This report will address how we might fight ageist discrimination and prejudice. The report will also outline the myriad ways that ageist attitudes can and do affect the health and well-being of us and our elders.

I find research in this area fascinating! For example, researchers have found that “words used to describe older people, found in a database of historical American English, have become increasingly negative in the past 200 years, possibly because aging has come to be seen as a medical condition.” Positive words like wise, sage, accomplished, learned, creative, insightful have increasingly been replaced with declining, dependent, senile, dying, decrepit and incompetent.

When these negative age stereotypes are used against an elder population, subjects show a decline in performance in memory tests and other areas. Those exposed to positive age stereotypes showed improvements. On so many different tests, findings suggest a strong correlation between exposure to positive stereotypes and an improved view of Self as we age.

This reminds me of one of my favorite lifelong sayings:

“Language is practical consciousness.” -Karl Marx

Carefully analyze the words we use to describe ourselves and others! The way we honestly see ourselves and others has meaning. How do others refer to you? Does that impact how you see yourself?

As any wordsmith will tell you, WORDS DO MATTER.

As Psychologist Becca Levy put it:

“Stereotypes about aging are so pervasive. They can easily be assimilated from the surrounding culture, become a part of an individual’s self-definition, and ultimately affect how that person’s body operates — a process called “stereotype embodiment.”

Dr. Levy has linked negative aging attitudes to such measures as walking speed in elders, a greater likelihood to develop dementia, and even a reduction in life span. Want to learn more about this important area of research?

http://www.sciencenewsdigital.org/sciencenews/august_3__2019/MobilePagedArticle.action?articleId=1507169#articleId1507169

A LITTLE BUDDHIST HUMOR…