Spirit of Dragonflies, LLC

Kripalu Mindfulness Outdoor Experience Guide & Life Coach – Get Outside. Go Within.


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Into the Forest – One Step At A Time Finding Inner Peace

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity” ~ John Muir ~

One need not go into the woods to hike or even walk very far to enjoy the benefits of nature. You only need to slow down and listen to the leaves crunch under your feet, smell the fresh scent of trees and earth, listen to the birds and the rustle of leaves in the wind to become connected to the natural rhythm of life.

“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.” ~ Henry David Thoreau ~

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Stop, breathe and look around. Do you see the tiny flowers peeking out below you.

Do you stop to converse with the trees? Stand for a little while and wait for an invite from one of the trees. Of course they will not speak so you can hear them however you may feel an energy from one or two trees tug at you more so than others. Those are the trees you should spend time with. What kind of bark do they have – smooth or thick and rough? Are the large roots on the ground around the tree or are they hidden under the soil? What does the bark feel like? Touch it for a few minutes to see if you can feel the water running up from the roots to the branches above. Imagine how many years this tree has stood in this spot. Imagine all of the people walking through who may never have taken the time to enjoy its company. Imagine what experiences this tree has witnessed. If it is an older tree think of the possibilities – Native Americans, droughts or floods, insect infestation, fires, deforestation of other trees . . .

“I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.” ~ Henry David Thoreau ~

Sit down on a rock and listen to the waterfalls or the birds singing in the trees. Is it cooler in the woods that it was on the road traveling to the woods? Can you distinguish the different types of birds that are singing? Maybe you can hear an owl hooting in the distance or another bird signaling that there is a hawk in the area. Is it quiet near the pond or can you still hear traffic in the distance? What colors are you noticing? I love to notice all of the shades of green to yellow.

Sitting taking in the reflections on the water is my favorite. Last weekend while visiting Yaddo Garden in Saratoga Springs, NY, I slowly walked around the gardens – which are not in bloom yet – and spent some time standing near the pond listening to the small waterfalls across the road. The highway is nearby so there is a constant roar of car wizzing by on their way north and south of Saratoga. Once you overcome the constant drone it becomes easier to hear the bird’s songs and the peace in the wooded area. I stayed with one of the trees a little longer than the others and meditated for a short time in the peaceful environment.

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

Stop and take notice of the beautiful green moss growing on the trees and rocks. Lean down and touch the cool, moist surface.

“We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home, in towns and cities.” ~ George W. Sears, writer & conservationist ~

You don’t have to be in the middle of a thick forest to enjoy nature, you can benefit from sitting on a bench under the shade of a tree in your own yard or in a local park. In the spring you have the pleasure of magnolia blossoms, lilacs, Lilies of the Valley, and many other treasures to enjoy.

“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.” ~ Frank Herbert, novelist ~


Flowers and buds are blooming along streets everywhere. It is beneficial to take time and notice how life continues. From the decay of the winter months new growth appears giving hope for the future. Colors, birds singing, there are smells of earth, flowers, trees in the air, different textures can be seen from tree to tree, leaf to leaf, flower to flower. We just have to open our senses to the beauty and diversity all around us.

“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread.” ~ Edward Abbey, novelist ~

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As the sun is setting, notice above in the tree line how some trees are still capturing the sunshine while others are beginning to fall into the shadows.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” ~ Henry David Thoreau ~

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Sometimes while traveling for work I’ll pull along the side of the road and get out of the car to stretch and take a nature break. One never knows what they will find along the road and taking the back roads is my favorite because there are ponds, lakes, rivers, forests, and parks along the way. My camera is always sitting on the seat behind me however I do not always carry it when I get out of the car. Sometimes it is nice to just walk along slowly and become one with nature.

“Now I see the secret of making the best person, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.” ~ Walt Whitman, poet & writer ~

Do you stop to enjoy nature on a regular basis? My goal is to be in nature daily with longer visits on the weekends. At the end of summer I shall be traveling across southern Utah to enjoy sleeping in a tent under the stars with my cousin. One thing I truly look forward to witnessing is Dark Sky when the night will fill with stars that cannot be seen from where I live. It will be magnificent with everyday bringing a new adventure and beauty to take in. In the meantime, Spring is here and there are so many treasures to enjoy at this moment that I look forward to what lie ahead every day.

Love and Light!

 


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Live a Proactive Life – Open To The World Around You!

The media warned of a snow storm. People panicked and I’m sure the shelves in the grocery stores were emptied in anticipation of what was to come. It is one thing to let people know that this is possible and to take necessary precautions but to make it out to be a pending tragedy – was it necessary to cause panic.

As a child we would be informed of the possibility of a storm, and did we have some powerful snow storms, but my mother never panicked because she was always prepared. Today with all the technology it seems they miss the mark more often than they did during my childhood. If you live in the northeast, or anywhere that can expect snow and ice storms in the winter, be proactive. Always have water on hand, extra food in the pantry/shelves, candles, matches and flashlights, if possible a second source of heat like a Kerosene heater or plenty of extra blankets, and some good books to read. If you have to travel, place a flashlight, blanket, candle and matches, flares, snow shovel, protein bars/nuts, potting soil and water in your car. If you can stay off the roads during the snow/ice storm – stay off the roads. Let the snow plows do their job. You can avoid a store for a day or two. Maybe you will learn something new about yourself when you are captive at home.

Some things to do at home when stranded in a snow storm. Meditate, dance, make a blanket fort in the living room, play cards, and/or put together a puzzle. If the power is off, light candles or turn on a flashlight and have a puppet show on the wall. There is an endless number of activities. Maybe even take a nice nap.

It is snowing today – a slow steady snow. It’s not too bad but we will probably accumulate a couple of inches, I hope. I’m looking forward to snowshoeing on the weekend if there is enough accumulation. While home, I decided to pull out my camera look for shapes, patterns and colors. I was happy that I purchased flowers the other day as a reminder that spring is around the corner. This is what I discovered while looking around the house, camera in hand.

Ice patterns on the porch window

Ice patterns on the porch window remind me of turkey prints

As you can see, in the photo above I focused on the ice formations, in the lower photo on the trees.

Trees and birdbath outside icy window

Trees and birdbath outside icy window

Living in an older home with original windows provides a daily art show in the winter months.

The crystal hanging in the window is greeting crystals forming on the window

Crystals forming on the window compete with the crystal.

Looking at the world around us with fresh eyes.

If we live a proactive life, we will not be caught off guard.

Be open to the world around you. Live life to its fullest in your everyday so you may continue to expand and grow. Turn off the television – listen to music you’re not familiar with. Touch the material on the ordinary items in your home as if for the first time. Walk across the floor barefoot to open your senses. Touch the material of the clothing you wear – place your nose into the material taking in the smell. Does wool smell different than cotton? Do you hold the soap close to take in the scent when bathing? What about the food you eat, do you take in the smell before placing it into your mouth? Do you try new recipes or spices? When you walk into your home do you stop to smell the air as it greets you at the door?

Open your senses to something new on a daily basis. You never know what will come your way as you open your senses to new thoughts, feelings, smells, tastes, and emotions. Dance from room to room in your home, don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself. Be silly at least once per day. Look in the mirror and tell yourself how wonderful you are!! Life is meant to be lived, it should be enjoyable. Take out your camera or cell phone and shoot some photos of the ordinary so you may see it with new eyes. Focus on what is working in your life because what we focus on we attract more of. We all have things in our life that aren’t pleasant but when we focus on what we don’t want we get more of it. So why not focus on what you do want and attract the life of your dreams. I would love to hear what you do when the weather restricts travel so please share.

Love and Light,
Sandy


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Hidden World of Senses

When thinking of our senses most people think of five – sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. There are many more senses than what was taught in school. What about equilibrium (keeping your balance), proprioception (know where your body parts are relative to other parts – close your eyes and touch your nose), hunger (body detects when you need to eat) and many more.

The reality is if you want to expand your senses you first have to be aware of them. This allows you to see your world in a new way on a daily bases. Start small and build until we are open to the world around us. Many times the chatter of our televisions, radios, sounds of our man made environment all of which result in noise pollution drowning out our natural awareness of our other senses. When eating most people eat on the go while in the car or grabbing fast food and quickly eating in front of the television. How many people sit down at a table and eat at a slower pace noticing the color, texture, smells and sounds of the eating experience. How many people stop to feel the temperature of the food as it touches their tongue? The experience is quite different when you slow down and eat in a mindful manner.

Think about when you have an itch on the bottom of your foot, you can reach down and scratch the exact spot on the foot without even looking. What about thermoception – your ability to sense hot and cold. Your brain is responsible for this sense as it monitors your inner temperature letting you know when to throw a blanket over your body, put socks on or remove a sweater. We unconsciously know what to do.

When listening to your environment we ignore many sounds due to the vibrations that we become familiar with in our surroundings. Sound is really only the body interpreting the vibrations in the world around us. Just think of people living near a railroad track, a busy highway, an airport, a busy city – they eventually ignore the loud sounds in their environment. I live near a train track. When the Amtrak train roars across the track my floor, doors, china cabinet shake for a few seconds as it speeds past. After living here for over a year I no longer notice, even when it travels late at night and the vibration passes through a quiet house. Yet, when someone visits me, the loud train rambling on the tracks makes them question how I can ignore it. I don’t ignore it because it no longer is on my radar. Just think about the sounds in your own environment, do others bring it to your attention? Stop and listen to your home with no other distractions except the sound of the refrigerator humming and possibly the furnace or air conditioner. What do you hear? Is there anything that you notice now that you have blocked out over time? Does this mean that we are not affected by the sounds, not necessarily. They could be affecting our unconscious and causing us to be a little anxious or tense without our awareness. Maybe this is what we really need to pay attention to. Just a thought.

I began to focus on the smaller things – the sound of the leaf as it drops to the ground,  the dripping of water as it hits the ground, the sound of the wind rustling the leaves which reminds me of the faint sound of chimes, the sound of snow or dried leaves crunching under foot. Recently I began to record the sounds to add into a meditation video. The sounds of our environments are individual. Birds chirping in upstate New York are not the same sounds as birds chirping in the Amazon. How would we know if people in other areas did not make these sounds available to us or if we didn’t visit other locations. Even though I focus on mindful living, I know I am limited by where I have visited and my surroundings. My body and mind are capable of so much more awareness. This is also true of the people I meet and learn from and this is why I reach out to people all over the world to broaden my own knowledge and perception of the world.

Edward O. Wilson speaks to this in the YouTube video below.

If you are like me after watching this video you will begin to wonder what else you are missing around you and want to pay attention to the world we share with plants, animals, and all of nature. Add some play into your life, remember how in inquisitive and interested as you were when a child.

Becoming one with nature

Becoming one with nature

What can you do today to open up your senses to become inquisitive to the expansive universe around you? Can you turn off the television and sit in the natural sounds of your environment for five minutes, fifteen, twenty? Walk barefoot to open up your senses in your feet? When you sit down for your meal sit at the table, take in the color, scent, texture/shape of your food. As you place the food on your fork/spoon listen for the sound of the different items – soft versus a piece of meat, hard item. As the food touches your mouth – feel it on your lip, tongue, roof of your mouth, teeth as you chew. As you swallow take a moment to appreciate the nutrition this food provides to your body. This can be one of many new ways of viewing your world. After trying it at dinner, why not try the same process when walking – touch a tree, feel the ground under your feet, listen to the sounds of the forest. What about when showering – feel the water flow over your body, the silkiness of the soap on your hair, the feel of the water rushing over your feet, the warmth of the water, the sounds of the water as it flows from the shower head. This is only a small part of what you can do to slow down, appreciate life and your senses to include those you weren’t even aware of.

I think to live life to its fullest and enjoy the journey through the natural ebbs and flows, we should learn to appreciate our intricacies of our bodies, our environment, and the natural world around us. Then we can live a life of full of appreciation, we can open our senses and become the actively, creative individuals were were meant to be.

Light and Love,

Sandy


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Kiss the Earth with Your Feet

 

“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”

“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”

Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”

― Thích Nhất Hạnh —

Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

I love walking barefoot, it is a way of connecting to the earth. I believe this is a step toward living mindfully, connecting to that which supports you. Many people I know are afraid to walk barefoot outside as well as inside. This is so foreign to me because I have walked barefoot my entire life except in situations where shoes are required of course. Kicking off my shoes at the door allows me to keep the floors of my home and the knees of little ones crawling on my floors free from being soiled. It makes me wonder if by releasing this one fear it would open the doors to releasing other fears.

As a teen mom, I was pretty observant. After visiting some friends or family members homes with my little son I would become upset that his little knees and the tops of his feet were filthy. Sometimes the filth was so embedded that his new clothes could not be cleaned. This prompted me to set a sign in front of the door to my home “Please Take Off Your Shoes.” Some people complained but it was my home and I didn’t care. At the time I didn’t know that this is the norm for some cultures. My little son was more important and we didn’t have money to replace his soiled clothing. Little ones in my home could enjoy crawling and toddling around without worry of what they would pick up or soiled clothing. This is still a practice that I continue even though my own children have been out of the home for over ten years. When you visit my daughters, know you will be asked to shed your shoes. We do provide slipper socks.

That being said, most of the time when outside we don’t wear shoes either. My children learned to enjoy the feel of mud squishing between their toes, soft grass underfoot, coolness of a stream of water traveling along the walkway after a rain storm and the enjoyment of jumping in puddles. Our feet want to touch the earth below us, to sense the temperatures, textures, and connect with that which supports us.

When inside the feel of the cool hardwood floors or the softness of carpet under foot can keep us present in the moment. My little grandson, in the picture above, is shoeless as well. He is learning to enjoy the same freedoms that his mother enjoyed. When teaching mindfulness to my clients, one thing they do is take off their shoes and walk purposefully so they can learn to live in the moment connecting to the world around them and get in touch with their senses.

I am not sure if this is what Thích Nhất Hạnh was speaking of but this is how I interpret this quote. When walking, whether barefoot or not, be mindful of the movement of your body, the way your arms swing out, the stretch in your stride as you walk, and take in the beauty around you. Open your senses. For a few moments be present, live in the moment and connect with the Earth.

Love and Light,

Sandy