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I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out until sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.  –John Muir

Can you imagine taking a nap in water? Let alone water you couldn’t touch the bottom of? Impossible. And yet, that’s exactly what my family and I witnessed a few weeks ago at Little Manitou Lake.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Little Manitou, it is a small spring fed lake about 120km from Saskatoon, Canada. The water is particularly high in potassium, sodium, silica, iron oxide, and magnesium, so high, in fact, that the salinity is approximately half of the Dead Sea and is one of only 5 lakes on earth that have such a mineral content. The mineral composition makes it particularly easy to float and while the area is rather quiet, there are countless anecdotal accounts dating back to Indigenous and European contact of visitors being healed of various ailments by the curious and usual waters.

Across the street from the lake is a full service spa and pools (hot and warm) filled with the lake water. This is where we found people napping in the pool’s deep end.

It’s a strange sensation to be forced to float. And when they say it would be difficult to drown here, it is remarkably true. Each of us, with our various swimming abilities, needed some time to get used to navigating the water. It is both harder and easier to move. Eventually, we all settled on just comfortably floating. Truth be told, there isn’t really a choice.

A couple of hours immersed in the warm pool has a profoundly relaxing effect, I am sure due in no small part, to the chemical makeup. But there is also a trust that this place compells. There is an undeniable and unusual support, an unmistakable message to be found in these warm, almost womb like waters. We are all supported by nature, we always have been and always will be. Though the message is so obvious in this particular place, we can access it anywhere. Across time and space in this wide world, there is nature waiting to support each of us, we simply need to be open to connecting with it.

If you feel called to share how you connect with nature, I would love to read it!

Paradise

Paradise has never been about places. It exists in moments. In connection. In flashes across time.    —Victoria Erickson

How many of us live with a sense that paradise exists? We understand that media is heavily curated and the craft of advertising is insidious, and yet, several of us routinely find ourselves tangled in the web of seeking something better, something more.

Upon chatting with family members who just returned from the Maldives, a destination that represents paradise to many, I was reminded of the fact that there are problems everywhere. In this case, plastics in the sea. Don’t get me wrong, my family was grateful for their trip and remarked on the beauty of the islands. But it was a good reminder that an unspoiled destination cannot exist in this world and the pursuit of one is damaging. Of course! This doesn’t, however, preclude us from buying the illusion. Restaurants, resorts, shops offer up dreams for a price. Any image being packaged for sale is carefully created, the opposite of reality, and still, there is something in us that wants to believe perfection exists somewhere.

This is the thing, in these moments where we long for elsewhere, we block the beauty of the moment we are in. Paradise doesn’t exist anywhere. If you’re looking for it, stop. But idyllic is everywhere, if that’s how we choose to see things (and hopefully we do).

What is perfect? Nature. The grandeur and beauty is often obvious, but biodiversity, nature’s sheer force and scale as well as its wisdom, all of it is perfect. There is also some sort of perfection in authenticity, realness, what transpires between us and others when we aren’t holding back. Being natural.

Perhaps next time we feel that familiar tug toward seeking something impossible and elsewhere, maybe we can find what we need by simply sinking deeper into where we are.

Let Go

She used to tell me that a full moon was when mysterious things happen and wishes come true.    –Shannon A. Thompson

As the moon cycle reaches its monthly apex, people around the world prepare to do the work of releasing what no longer serves. We routinely clean possessions (tidying our homes and laundering our clothes, etc) but what about cleansing ourselves?

In our journey, we gather things, some quite deliberately and others entirely by circumstance or accident. Regardless of how we accumulate our experiences, they are collected, each of them inscribing us with something. While we may not be skilled at being intentional about what we allow into our experience, attention to what we are willing to carry around with us, or not, can help us balance that out.

As the moon reaches fullness this weekend, it is time to shed. Take a few moments to check in to see if there is anything you may like to let go of. If there is, make a list and rip it up, breathe it out, or share around a fire with some friends. It’s that simple. Just let go.

And if you find there is nothing there, maybe walk outside after sunset and take in the moonlight, just basking in the glow, grateful to have been here on this planet for another cycle.

Forest Bathing

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When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.
                                                                                                                              -John Muir

Every forest is different and every forest is the same, but each of them is one of earth’s great treasures. A network at once so breathtakingly complex and simple, we can only begin to experience the power of the forest when we are guided into feeling it. Imagine what it would feel like to submit to the wild hum of a beautiful sunny forest for an afternoon? It can change you.

In a world that can trend toward the complicated and overwhelming, if you are drawn to connect with nature find your way to the forest, you cannot help but slow down and recharge. Regardless of whether you are well versed in nature and mindfulness practices, or not, connecting with someone who is experienced and willing to lead you in Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) is such an immense gift of self care. Shinrin-yoku translates to ‘taking in the atmosphere of the forest ‘ and was created in Japan in the 1980s as a way to counteract a lifestyle of ever-increasing stress. It has become a regular practice in Japan and South Korea to forest bathe, for both preventative purposes and to convalesce.

While each of us has an intuitive sense of the power of the forest, how great we feel when we are there, a permanent knowledge of the smells, the sense of laying on a mossy creek-bed in dappled light, listening to water burbling, the sounds of birds calling and insects humming, there is so much more to learn. As science begins to uncover trees’ capacity to communicate and share with each other through a vast network of mycelia (white stringy fungus) and live together in families that care for each other in ways not so dissimilar from humans, we know there is ancient knowledge that has been too long overlooked.

An expert in the forest can open your perceptions in ways you have yet to experience, stretching you and linking you. There is such a deep level of embrace waiting for you, if you choose to be led in this way. The trees are willing to offer you entrée into the universe. And if you feel safe enough to explore as deeply as you can, there is connection as profound as you can fathom. You will feel you, me and everything else there is; a belonging of a kind that exists nowhere else. Who doesn’t want to feel that?

Celebration

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photo by David Zawila

When you celebrate, the whole existence participates with you. Only in celebration do we meet the ultimate, the eternal.  –Rajneesh

Sometime last year, upon receiving a wedding invitation, I decided that from here on in whenever someone requests I participate in celebrating something, I am going to do whatever I can to be there. This is a massive shift for me. I am introverted, so gathering in large groups, even with the best of intentions is often not particularly appealing. Without even realizing it, I’d begun to treat celebrations as less important than they are and started to believe that another reason to get together would come again. I was really taking one of the most spectacular parts of life for granted. The truth is, other opportunities to celebrate do present themselves, but another truth is that I’ve made choices that have led me to miss out on things I will never have the opportunity to show up for again, and it has hurt me and taken away from people I love.

I’m not exactly sure what happened the day I received that particular invitation, but I am certainly grateful I feel differently now. Making space to celebrate sets the tone for your life. It affects how your home feels, whether you have room for laughter and play. It defines and characterizes your environment and relationships. It tinges your perception (are you annoyed by the summer storm? Or excited to watch it unfold in its magnificence?) Gathering to celebrate gives our relationships such a positive shared structure, an imprint of joy to hold onto when things are more challenging.

I was at a wedding recently. It was exactly what everyone wants a wedding to be, a beautiful and personal expression of the two making this sacred commitment. This couple is very much in love and very much beloved, the community surrounding these two is big. When we show up for this kind of thing, we both help to create and plug into something profoundly joyous and shared by all in attendance. It happens once, never to be recreated and is a special kind of magic. There really is nothing like gathering with others in celebration, be it our nearest and dearest or acquaintances, to mark something together. And this is why: at its most basic, when we are present with each other, the goodness we co-create passes through each of us. It affects us for the better, lifting us up and reminding us that life is good and life shared with others is even better, even if you happen to be an introvert.

It doesn’t matter if you are part of an elaborate event planned for many months or an impromptu dance party in your living room that lasts the length of one song, both can satisfy our deeply human need to celebrate. The important thing is to be open to revel in joy and feel the rightness of your life just as it is. We all have access to that if we agree to it. Celebrate!

Take Up Your Instrument

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My throat often hurts. Not in the scratchy, I am sick kind of way, but in a way that I have come to realize means I am not adequately expressing my voice. If I ignore it, the feeling progresses into my chest and I feel a weight that wasn’t there before. My breathing becomes a bit more laboured. Once I begin to write, this tension in my body dissipates.

Just like everything living, the human body carries innate wisdom. Our bodies know when we are practicing right living and let us know when something needs to change. To be clear, I am not talking about illness or chronic pain here, but the individual bodily feedback each of us has the opportunity to listen for day to day.

If this idea is new to you, scanning your body, the practice of getting comfortable and then becoming aware of your body from head to toe is a great way to begin developing this skill. At first you will notice certain feelings and sensations, but the more regularly you practice this check in, the more you will start to see patterns and understand what your body requires more or less of.

Move more. Take up your instrument. Rest. Time to stretch. Breathe the outside air. Hold someone’s hand. Eat. Make love. Take your shoes off and touch the ground. Lay down in the sun and feel the warmth. Laugh more. Swim. Blow bubbles. Do what feels right. Honour what your body is requesting of you, and through that, the divine wisdom of the universe expressing itself through you. You are being called.

Surrender

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The long unmeasured pulse of time moves everything. There is nothing hidden that it cannot bring to light, nothing once known that may not become unknown. Nothing is impossible. –Sophocles

It can be disconcerting to not know what’s coming next. I mean, we never exactly know what’s coming, that type of control is an illusion, but not having a coherent plan can feel strange. And that’s where I am at right now, in between. I embody transition, passage, but even that, I am not completely sure of.

This year I’ve started living my life differently. Prompted by a shift in my perception of time, something switched in me and I simply stopped using time for things not meaningful to me, or those close to me (come on, I’m not that solipsistic). I used to hear musings on the passage of time and reflect, but now, something in me is aware that while I still may have significant time to live, I need to be more engaged and present. I need to really be here. I feel like I have things I have to do.

It seems contradictory that I am simultaneously more invested in living my life and less conscious of where it is going, doesn’t it? Strangely, I feel more sure of my direction than I ever have. The funny thing is that this experience mimics my creative process entirely. Since I have been small my writing process goes like this: I get restless (this is how I know something is coming and/or or if I have not been practicing enough), snippets of ideas are revealed (and I feel compelled to start recording them), I get moody (this is how I know I can’t resist it anymore), and finally, I take up the practice of gathering the pieces of ideas until the larger vision reveals itself. Ideas come to me and through me, and for many years as a writer, I have trusted them. Now I am being called to live my life this way and it feels like a little bit of magic.

Though I have never been a terribly patient person, I find myself okay with not knowing all that I do not know. I am content with the space where I can wait quietly, open to receive whatever is coming next. I don’t feel the need to chase anything. There is work to do, but right now I find joy in even the most mundane of it. This won’t last forever, nothing does, but as I feel myself both witness and participant, creatively connected and in service, as only someone who has lived into adulthood can, I feel grateful. So far, this is what’s illuminated.