My Little Walk on the Prairie, Dog

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I went on a nice hike today. I got bundled up and took a long walk down a beautiful path leading up to a ridge off in the distance. I made the decision to make it to that spot before turning back. Along the way, I had time to take in the breathtaking mountain range in front of me and listen to the rustling of the hundreds of prairie dogs making themselves busy all around me.

Most of the time when I hike or spend outside where the mountains are in such plain view, I focus on their majesty and let my mind wander and dream. But today, I was far more focused on what was immediately surrounding me and all that was happening along this nature’s path. Being new to Colorado, I’m not very used to coexisting with prairie dogs and I started to think about how amazing these creatures actually are. They symbolize an invigorating community spirit and how much can be achieved by working together. They instinctively know what takes many people years to learn, if they ever do at all. They know somewhere in their little doggie guts that there is strength in numbers and they are most likely happiest and feel safest when they are surrounded by others like them. I love to see them standing together in the sun or kissing, cuddling and grooming their little furry loved ones as they come up from their cozy homes to get some fresh air.

Their underground wonderland that I will never see makes me realize how much can lie right under the surface even if you never know it’s there. I imagined them scurrying through their elaborate tunnels beneath my feet preparing their next meal or caring for their young. I imagine they take great pride in their surroundings and take the time to do the maintenance necessary to accommodate for their extended family so everyone feels comfortable. They seem to understand that a strong sense of family and a bit of self-nurturing and hard work can be rejuvenating for the soul.

Eventually, I had walked long enough to reach the ridge only to realize that there was another ridge beyond it off in the distance, but instead of worrying about what was over the next ridge, I decided to turn back and spend some more time with my little friends on the prairie as I walked back down the path.

During my hike I felt surrounded by so much beauty and love. Today I got out of the house to remind myself what I wanted more of at home.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

Connecting with Butterflies

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Interpreting animal symbolism is a powerful way to connect with nature, and learn lessons from her creatures. Cultural lore honors the butterfly as a symbol of transformation because of its impressive process of metamorphosis. Imagine your whole life changing to such an extreme you are unrecognizable at the end of the transformation. Herein lies the deepest symbolic lesson of the butterfly as well as the benefits of yoga.

Learning and living yoga means surrendering to both your body’s potential and limitations at the same time. The butterfly asks us to accept the changes in our lives as casually as she does, and in the right time. A butterfly represents a need for change and greater freedom, and at the same time it represents the courage to carry out the changes necessary in the process of growth. The butterfly is a symbol of new life, letting go of old cycles and finding your true inner expression, much like yoga.

The journey from chrysalis to butterfly is a meaningful passage. The ultimate goal of doing yoga is to have a relaxed mind. With a relaxed mind we can begin to enjoy a relaxed body and a heathy balanced life. Often yoga practitioners use inspiration from our friends in nature to share the benefits of yoga with children and their families, but the idea works just as well for adults feeling ready for transformation. We can adapt the symbolism of a butterfly, and other creatures of nature, to understand these changes within ourselves. There is much to be learned when we slow down and look to nature for inspiration. To begin this metamorphosis through yoga as a child is a gift, to begin the journey as an adult is a gift you give yourself.

The Human Animal

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We are animals, but we are also human. This divergence in our collective identity is something I think about often.  “Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve.” – Erich Fromm

We seem to be disengaging as a whole from our essential connection with nature even though we come from nature and it is all around us. Humans have drawn some sort of line between themselves and their roots. Our children are spending less time in nature and more time where they can plug in. This disconnection with our natural ties concerns me. Within the world of psychology exists an entire field of study called Ecopsychology which explores the synergistic relationship between how we as humans relate to nature and how that relationship, or our lack of meaningful emotional ties to nature, has a direct effect on how we exist on our planet. There is scientific evidence proving that your level of happiness can be directly affected by the level of your nature relatedness.

When you reconnect and establish a meaningful bond with what you are meant to feel connected to, it may feel as fluid and undeniable as a key in the right lock. Realizing that your body, mind and spirit are all connected to nature could potentially catapult you toward a more calm, peaceful existence. Nurturing that connection can lead to more happiness. So what are we gaining from this disconnect and how can we work toward getting back to basics? There is so much to gain by getting back in touch with nature.

Since the beginning, people have used figures of nature to teach lessons and explain our surroundings. Humans apply unnecessary characteristics to natural things to help us explain the unfamiliar and assimilate our developed distortion. Within these myths and legends, a fox is sly and an owl is wise even though those creatures are unaffected and uninterested in the process and reasons behind the anthropomorphism. An owl is not interested in being the most wise of it’s parliament. We put upon that owl the trait of being enlightened. Instead of just admiring an owl for the beautiful creature that it is, we have to assign meaning to it and figure out it’s usefulness. Relax, it’s just an owl and owls are beautiful, that’s enough. Now more than ever I feel a need to release all this chatter and superfluous meaning and just find my own connection with nature and remember how simple it all really can be.

There is so much wisdom in nature and all too often we either ignore it because we are desensitized to our surroundings, too caught up in the insignificant details of an over stretched life or just disconnected to what we have a natural affinity to admire. “This we can all bear witness to, living as we do plagued by unremitting anxiety, it becomes more and more imperative that the life of the spirit be avowed as the only firm basis upon which to establish happiness and peace.” -Dalai Lama

We need to get back to nature. We need to remind ourselves of what is right outside our  front, back and side doors. Our access to more peace and nature is so close that I feel sad when people fail to acknowledge it. My favorite type of window is an open one.

A ‘breath of fresh air’, ‘stopping to smell the roses’, and ‘taking the path less traveled’ are right beside us yet we seem to find endless excuses to build a literal and figurative wall between ourselves and these marvelous gifts. Why do we do that? Why is it not a priority as important as drinking water to get out and connect with nature? What human ‘parts’ of us force us to disconnect? Brick walls such as fear, self-doubt, and anxiety keep us from experiencing this life the way it is meant to be enjoyed… with unbridled, all-consuming passion and emotion, but also with simplicity, ease and a sense of natural instinct.

A bird sitting on a tree is not afraid of the branch breaking, it instinctively knows that if that branch happens to break it has wings, yet the bird doesn’t ruminate over this fear as it sits. It is able to just be. Lucky bird.

Judgement Vista

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You spend time in nature and enjoy magnificent views. You hear lovely sounds and smell fresh, crisp air. The wonder of natural things replaces the burdens of everyday thinking and you are grateful. If just for a moment, or for the moments in between, you take in the beauty and feel the experience and naturally place a judgement on what you see. You decide that what you see is beautiful or strange or what you smell is refreshing or pungent. Nature is as varied as the opinions of those who enjoy it. One person may assign one judgement and another will see things with a different reasoning. None of that changes the ancient layout that has been growing and changing since the beginning of time. It is YOU that places a name, opinion or judgement on those things, nature will exist and grow regardless.

You are standing on Judgement Vista.

When you look out at nature, your judgements are most likely simple and sweet. You see the beauty, or not, and with all of your senses take in the moment and process how you feel about that scene. But, the scene itself is unchanged. What if we could see all of life and all people with the same eyes we use when we are in awe of those magnificent views? What if those breathtaking moments of awe could exist within us and we could learn to live on that vibration consistently?

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

When I look at nature and stand on MY Judgement Vista. I like to absorb the beauty and stand in awe that I am a part of it. I don’t mind feeling small and insignificant within it’s surroundings because it takes the pressure off of me to be bigger than life which is how I normally tend to feel in my world of caring for others. If I can take that simple, peaceful feeling that I feel in nature with me into my everyday world, my judgements may be lighter and have less ignorance. Maybe I can gain more perspective of how small I actually am in the scheme of things and revel in the simple things that make me happy. I often wish I could spend more of my time in nature instead of trying to channel the feeling, that would make me happier, but for now I will take it all in and refill my reserves.

Existing in judgement is natural, we need to judge lots of things all day long to keep us safe and healthy. We judge whether or not it’s safe to cross the street and we sniff the milk to judge whether it’s still fresh enough to drink. We need to have good common sense and reasoning to get along in our daily lives. Good judgement is a quality I hope to manifest well in my daughters. Without judgement we are in danger.

We also judge each other. We either judge from a place of necessity or negativity. I judge whether or not I think people will be nice and have things in common with me when I meet them and hope to find a friend in them. I judge whether people are devoted, committed and responsible when I consider doing business with them. I judge all the time and I make an effort to do it from a place of goodness. I am only human after all, a small piece of the nature that created judgement. I place these judgements, but I do it with care and respect.

I judge myself. I consider whether my reasoning and savvy are being put to good use and I try hard to develop the wisdom it takes to use my judgement for good. I am often hard on myself with my own judgement and I try to remember to take it easy and be kind. I am a work in progress. I aim to stand on my Judgement Vista as often as I can to remind myself the true nature of things and how I can let go of negativity and be in awe of the beauty of my life. It’s healthy for me to be reminded, gently.

Moving from judgement to admiration of people and situations just as I am when I look out on a beautiful scene of nature is what I hope to accomplish more often than not. Those same people who receive our judgement are also creations of nature and are imperfect just like us, and imperfectly perfect just like that scene in nature.

I hope I have made you as happy as you’ve made me. I hope I can judge you gently and you can see me through eyes that have visited YOUR Judgement Vista. Because if you judge me with eyes that have not yet looked out at your world with awe and gratitude, then I choose to acknowledge your judgement and release it. It doesn’t serve me and it doesn’t serve you for me to receive it.

“When you delete critics and fault-finders from your life, good things will start to happen to you, and it won’t be a coincidence.” ~Art Jonak

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