Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Living Mindfully August 5, 2011

A few days ago my friend Elizabeth Cohen led a day of meditation for a dozen people at our mountain cabin. Knowing we would spend time outdoors, I wondered what I would learn about my own nature from meditating on Mother Nature. My question was based on many synchronistic experiences which have taught me that these two natures are intimately connected.

In our everyday lives we are usually unaware of this connection.  In fact, feeling separated from our maternal Source and inner self is the price we pay for ego consciousness: what Jungian analyst M. Esther Harding calls, “the taint of mortality, which is division within onself.” Yet experiences of mystics from every religion as well as recent findings from quantum physics point to a reality of Unified Oneness which runs beneath ordinary awareness.

Our ability to connect with Oneness is not a function of religious belief but of our psychological awareness, which, in turn, is a function of the way our brains are made and how we use them.  For a scientific explanation of the brain’s role in experiencing oneness, watch this extraordinary video of brain scientist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor describing the unified state she experienced during a stroke. Fortunately, we don’t have to wait for a stroke to receive this knowing but can approach it through the practice of mindfulness. This was the focus of our day of meditation.

“But,” you might ask, “why would I want to be more mindful? Experiencing oneness simply isn’t an important goal for me.” An excellent question! In fact, the benefits of mindfulness are not just about feeling a spiritual connection, but also about psychological, social and physical well-being. For example, living mindfully can reduce fear, anxiety and stress; lower blood pressure; strengthen the immune system; ease depression; strengthen self-esteem; build trust, compassion and peace; and create healthier, more satisfying relationships with food, our bodies, our work, our daily lives, nature and other people.

Elizabeth led us through several mindfulness meditations about different aspects of our lives. One redirected our negative self-talk into a kind and gentle self-acceptance. Another activated the love and gratitude we feel for special people and expanded these emotions outward like ripples toward friends, acquaintances, and even people we dislike. A third brought greater appreciation for every part of our bodies, beginning with the toes of our left feet and rising up to the crowns of our heads. One of my favorites was an exercise in mindful eating.

All of us gained something of value from this day. My biggest insight, and a good example of the deep connection between our inner and outer lives, occurred during an outdoor walking meditation. Our instructions were to walk very slowly with full attention to every movement and physical sensation. As one who does many things fast — walking, talking, cooking, cleaning up, driving — I found I could not do this without losing my balance. Then the metaphor spoke to me: Has rushing through my life been a way of escaping awareness of my personal imbalances? I think that for me it has. Since that epiphany, being mindful of the option to slow down has stuck with me and had a very satisfying balancing effect on everything I have done.

Whether our goal is spiritual oneness, psychological wholeness, or to live with more balance and happiness, living mindfully brings maturity into every dimension of our lives because they are all connected. How have you benefitted from practicing mindfulness? I’d love to know.

 

A Meditation on Our Mother: Nature August 2, 2011

As I write this I’m preparing to host a day of meditation for a dozen people at our cabin in the mountains.  Unless it rains, some of that time will be spent outdoors. At an altitude of about 3,300 feet, we’re situated in an enchanted womb of a valley encircled by densely wooded mountains, most of which are named after animals or natural formations resembling familiar shapes. What will we see or hear as we meditate near the house, in the woods along the trail, or in the nearby national forest? What will we learn from our mother and the mother of all life?  How will she inspire and change us?

Our cabin is visited daily by several varieties of birds, including kingfishers, red tail hawks, hummingbirds and crows — or perhaps they’re ravens; I’m not sure how to tell the difference — squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons and rabbits.  Occasionally we see wild hogs, hedgehogs, turkeys, a great blue heron, deer, or black bear. Last week a glittering large — at least five feet long — black snake glided up the front porch steps, then, possibly deterred by the horrified energy emanating from a few frozen humans, veered off to the left and slithered down into the thick groundcover.

The pond has trout, and, apparently, a large turtle who sends intermittent pillars of bubbles to the surface.  Water skaters, dragonflies and other insects flit and flirt near the surface. Last night we saw fireflies. During the day we are serenaded by birds, bullfrogs and cicadas; at night by crickets and tree frogs.  We awaken and are lulled to sleep by the music of cool, rushing, boulder-skirting, rock-splashing water.

It’s impossible to take a walk without finding something that fascinates. Dead branches dotted with mounds of pale green ruffled lichen or shallow-bowled orange fungus beg to be picked up. Hornets vacate papier mache’ nests the size of cantaloupes. Discarded feathers, some alarmingly big, elicit excited cries of, “Oh, look what I found!” Cicadas, butterflies and moths abandon their husks on tree trunks, fence posts and porch railings. Daddy longlegs stalk the deck and scale the rocking chairs. Spider Woman awaits her lunch in shimmering webs beneath the eaves. We’re convinced there are fairies at the bottom of our garden.

When our grandchildren were here we talked about the perils of mushrooms, poison ivy, chiggers, wooly adelgid (a furry white parasite that’s killing our hemlocks), honey bees, yellow flies and stinging nettles. We identified the fern which emits a spicy-sweet earthen aroma we associate with this place. We picked and ate raspberries, blackberries, tomatoes, squash, and zucchini. We discussed when to leave a bird’s nest where it is and when it’s okay to add it to our nature tray. They waded in the icy cold creek, slipped on mossy boulders, captured tadpoles and crayfish. They left some of their treasures — shiny sheets of mica, sparkly rocks, buckeyes or feathers — in a tree hollow used by fairies as a post office.  By the end of their visit the fairies discovered these gifts and left treasures in return.

It is impossible not to be awed, enchanted and enlightened by Mother Nature’s magic, yet how often we forget to notice the miracles she leaves for us just outside our doors. Lauren Hutton has said, “Anything, everything can be learned if you can just get yourself in a little patch of real ground, real nature, real woods, real anything … and just sit still and watch.”

We’ll open our inner doors to real things tomorrow. What will we learn about our own natures from meditating on Mother Nature? What have you learned?

 

 
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