Tag Archives: mindful attentiveness

Seeing Red: Lesson from the Birds

Apple Blossom Tree Berries, December, 2016

December 12: Boston Globe headlines: CIA finds Russia Worked to Aid Trump: secret report sees ties to hacked DNC e-mails given to Wiki-Leaks.

Upon lifting the shade, I notice three red plump robins leaping about on the branches of the evergreens outside my bedroom window. The fact of their plumpness in early December, the question of what they might be foraging to feed such ampleness, gives me pause. The morning is chill-bone cold, the result of the Polar Express winds roaring through. The garden, the pond, the soil are frozen.

Within minutes, I notice more birds— blue jays in fast flight, their striated wings propelling them across the line of evergreens and back towards the front garden, out of my vision. Soon, there are more: grey and black chickadees, a small flock of black birds, all hurried, appearing excited, fleeting towards and away from the evergreens.

It is the lone red cardinal, on the ground, in flight across the evergreens to my neighbors yard and back again to the front garden, that propels me to a front window. He joins the fat robins, lights on a limb of the apple blossom tree loaded with small, fleshy red berries thawing in the low sun.

I am grateful to delay reading the stories behind the headlines, to resist flocking to the maelstrom surrounding the Putin/Trump bond, Trump’s cabinet choices.

I am grateful to focus on the wisdom of birds, their attraction to acts of nature for their nurture. According to Mother Nature Network, birds are attracted to fruit bearing trees and pick fruits that persist on the tree; the smaller the fruit, the easier it is for the bird to eat.

I dress, grab a coat and my I-phone. I am compelled to see the red berries, the branches, close-up. I face the sun, click on a hazy image, walk more slowly, the sun at my back, to take three more shots. The last, close in, is the best. I want to show the red wet, spongy flesh, like the cranberries I simmered in a wine sauce for Thanksgiving dinner.

In due time, I return to the headlines and delve into the stories. All day long, I flitter in and out of the news, attracted to the possibility of Russian involvement, its meaning in terms of the election, the electoral college, the authenticity of the results. I have lived through red scares—McCarthyism, the Cuban missile crisis, the Cold War and now, the Cyber-insurgence, the war of undo influence.

This morning, the birds have flown, the evergreens are quiet; the grey squirrels are back. I am grateful for the lessons learned: to pay attention to the unusual, to take the time to pause, to notice, to dig for meaning. Sometimes, there is delight in red.

 

 

 

 

I Will Continue to be Grateful, Regardless

Kousa Dogwood, Fall, 2016

Kousa Dogwood,
Fall, 2016

Five days before the presidential election of 2016, I am anxious, eager for closure, a resolution to the intense, verbal barrage of words—all framed to influence my vote.

I am a Hillary supporter—have been, hope to continue, long after November 8th. I am grateful for her spunk, her dogged effort to pursue her aspiration, her fortitude and persistence. If she wins, I will be ever-so-much-more grateful for all her effort and the efforts of all who have worked to support her. And, if she does not, I hope to continue to seek, focus on and attain a sense of gratitude.

I have found that gratitude can be accessed and noted every day. Gratitude is present if one pays attention. In this media based society, so focused on the input of news and opinion making, it is challenging but necessary to step back, shut out the media/Facebook/tweeting and shift into the quest for quiet and paced reflection.

There are so many levels of gratitude, the choice evoked by attentiveness to an immediate resonance— a heartfelt memory, a meaningful encounter, the promise of satisfying effort. I learned to slow down while collecting limpet shells on the Maine shoreline. Nowadays, I slow down to collect moments of gratitude in my garden, in my everyday encounters, in my reflections as I shower.

At a recent women’s group meeting, I heard anxiety in the discussion of my close peers. How alike we are in our anxiety over the fate of our nation and especially with regard to our children and grandchildren’s future. Yet, in spite of the worrisome undercurrents in our circle, because we zeroed in and narrowed our range of concern and interest, each of us was able to focus on aspects of gratitude in our lives.

I spoke of my gratitude for my writing practice, the opportunity to pursue multiple options, the struggle to attend to one or two pieces and bring them to completion. In a month, I will have published 52 gratitude posts on my blog.

But what of November 9th? If my candidate loses, will I be able to focus and seek the kinetic attachment, pen to paper, articulate the gratitude experience at a gut/visceral experience, find the words to seek the balance basic to my mantra: Gratitude is as Gratitude Does?

The answer is as always—onward. On the drive home from the meeting in Lowell, there were four of us. Claudine, an artist, commented on how, in her urban environment, she had thought the fall colors had waned but that on the highway, she noticed an abundance of orange/yellow trees in full array. I was grateful for her observing eye: the many shapes and designs, the glorious display, which heightened my sense of being.

I offer this as metaphor— for all of us in the aftermath of November 8th, to notice the ever-changing landscape, to seek what attracts and resonates, to articulate what makes you grateful, to express thankfulness in word or deed.

 

Soul Tracking: A Tool for Living Well

soul-tracking-flowerjpg

When I soul-track, I am most fully conscious of myself in the environment. What is soul tracking, you might ask? Soul tracking is an active form of meditative walking. It involves searching for a natural object that attracts and resonates with the self.

I am deeply grateful to Cindy Krum, an environmentalist and former colleague, who introduced me to the practice. For several years, during the late eighties, she and I worked together to introduce soul tracking to a few of my clients.

I did not know then that by stepping out of my office into a safe environmental space, that I would adopt soul tracking as a bane against the psychologically painful stories I dealt with on a daily basis.

Cindy and I took great care to choose a quiet, safe, walk-able space in nature for our sessions— a woodland path near a riverbed where fallen trees jutted into water, a path adjacent to rock ledge, a marsh filled with tall reeds and soft grasses. In my instructions, I told clients to walk slowly, to note what is there, along the path, in front of you, to notice what draws you. Stop to touch, to smell.

One client was drawn to the green moss growing out of a stone outcrop. Silent on the wooded path, she burst out with delight when she bent to touch the soft new growth. That shared experience reminded me of nature’s potential to enrich our well-being. This was not new information. Thoreau spent a year in the woods sauntering, noticing, and writing about the benefits of nature at Walden Pond.

My client had little softness in her early life; she was hard on herself. Moss, its moisture on her fingertips, resonated with her younger self, the part of her that longed for gentle touch and a loving connection. As my client’s guide, I asked, “What about the moss appeals and resonates within you? Her hand caressing the moss, her mind quiet, she was able to focus and tap into her longing and the attraction to a small, contained, tender part of herself.

With time and focused attention in a natural habitat, one can easily attend to what draws you. Often, these buoyant, bright fall days, I take a mini walk in my garden. I move into a semi-meditative state. The other day, as my eye swept the garden, I was drawn to a four-foot brilliant yellow zinnia plant. A giant outlier in the midst of my low growing orange zinnias, it had “shown up” in the spring flats. All summer long and now into fall, it sends up tall, firm stems with thick, lush and rich heads. Taken inside, each flower lasts up to two weeks.

Daily, I am grateful for the yellow beauties on the kitchen counter; they make me smile. When a flower dies off, I cut the blossom off, turn it upside on newsprint until it dries. My hope is to save the seed heads over the winter and replant in the spring.