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!

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.

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…

Finding Health in an Unhealthy World

In a world filled with glaring contradiction, unfairness and stress, where can we turn for comfort? Too many of us turn to food, pharmaceuticals and other forms of self-medication. The possible distractions are endless, but many are unhealthy or even self-destructive.

New research is showing another alternative:

Spending a minimum of 2 hours in the great outdoors (parks, green space, your own backyard) every week boosts both your physical and mental health.

What roles do nature and exposure to natural surroundings play in improving our health? We know that spending time in nature makes us feel good, but does it measurably affect our well-being? Study after study has shown the answer is yes.

In fact, social determinants of health—including where we’re born, live, work, play and age collectively have a far greater impact on our health outcomes than the healthcare delivery system. Healthcare services account for just 10% of longevity, while social and environmental factors account for twice that at 20%, your genetic makeup accounts for 30%, and lifestyle choices and behaviors a whopping 40%. 

Ever since I left suburbia and moved a lot closer to a natural setting, I have been changing. My mental health has improved with ever increasing mindful meditation and peace. My vigilance and fear have gradually diminished, and yet I struggle to explain how this move has changed me. I only know when I return to cities I notice a difference between me and those who struggle with traffic, congestion and overpopulation every day.

Now we have new research proving what I have learned on my own. Sure, this may all seem like a no-brainer, but if you are looking for a new form of tranquility, accept the obvious and find comfort in nature. It’s free and clean!

Are YOU ready for the country? A Review of “The Biggest Little Farm”

When I first heard about this DELIGHTFUL new film about moving to the country to start a farm, I knew I just had to see it. Mike and I moved to the country ourselves five years ago and we’re just getting settled in. After seeing this documentary, I would say the line from Variety best describes it:

“Like fresh air for the soul!”

This film is refreshing like nothing I have ever seen! It makes you laugh and cry all at once. The narrative and descriptions of finding a whole new way of life are right on, and the cinematography is scrumptious.

That is not to say that all is goodness and light on the newly established Apricot Lane Farm. They started from 200 acres of desiccated land north of Los Angeles with the goal of learning enough to transform their land into a fully balanced and sustainable organic farm. This film chronicles eight years of that process, with all the traumatic ups and downs. I think I observed as much death as life in this film, that is how new farmers learn how to grow in harmony with nature.

Apricot Lane Farm eight years later!

In the end I learned a lot myself about living in harmony with nature instead of fighting it, and I felt so glad to have shared this experience with Molly and John Chester.

How our definition of “success” changes throughout our lifetime

I am sure most of us have been in search of ways to “succeed in life” ever since we became conscious human beings. What a great goal, and yet we have been constantly trying to hit a moving target. How many times have you re-defined success in this lifetime?

In my 64 years on this planet, this re-definition process has divided into three main stages of life:

In our early years we are simply busy learning all that we can to be able to succeed in traditional ways like finding a dependable mate and a career of some kind. This stage tends to error on the side of self-consciousness and appearances, focusing too much on what others think we should do.

In our middle years we develop our career and perhaps a family, maybe buy a home, and strive to feel well-established and secure.

Midlife Crisis: I for one experienced a major midlife crisis around age 49. The bottom fell out of all my best-made plans, with a divorce and then job/career loss. Other forms of midlife disillusionment may include serious illness, the death of a loved one, or some combination of these various misfortunes. This may compel us to question many of our previous assumptions about how we have defined our own life success. At this point we might ask:

Will I feel like a success in my life if I continue down this path?

Will I be content in the end if I maintain these priorities?

Aging is nature’s way of answering these questions for us, slowly but surely. For me, my emphasis on career fell away quickly when I realized that my highest priority was finding one genuine, honest, loyal love in this lifetime. After that I became a writer and author, best known as the “Midlife Crisis Queen” online. Then my husband and I decided to choose an entirely different lifestyle by moving to rural Colorado, away from most city stress.

After five years of quiet meditation in the peace of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, I find I have learned much more about how easily I was convinced to live someone else’s life in the past, making many mistakes in my previous priorities. Now I know, the best things in life aren’t things. And, in the end, it all came down to this:

The hardest battle you will ever face in life is to be no one but yourself, in a world that is trying its hardest to make you like everybody else…