The Magic of Awe and Wonder

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It’s hard to be depressed and anxious when you’re in awe and wonder and wonder is a verb as well as a noun. Not much surprises me anymore but I’m often in a state of amazement. I used to be surprised by the learning curves in life that came along which didn’t fit into my beliefs at the time. My reaction early on began to lose its punch as I accumulated more life experiences… good and bad. I became jaded to what I often saw play out on a basic, fallible human level. My surprise gradually became indifference as my idealism lost touch with the reality of what human nature and the world around me was actually capable of.

It’s at this point of wearing down the psyche that so many find themselves in a state of depression and anxiety, the two culprits at the core of almost every mental health issue we face from PTSD, OCD, Bi-Polar, Schizophrenia to name a few. The national U.S. statistics claim 34 % of the general population suffers from these two problems but I’m hard-pressed given my own observations, to believe the actual number isn’t much higher. There’s a lot still hidden in the closet because so many suffer in silence.

A multitude of factors exist which contribute to our angst and feeling of hopelessness. A growing number of people are coming to the realization that our food sources play a much bigger role than we ever imagined. We can’t “re-design” Nature and not expect consequences. It’s simply cause and effect after all. We also can’t pollute and ravage our environment without biting the hand that feeds us, gives us air to breathe and provides the water we drink.

Throw in government corruption, the economy, the dark side of the pharmaceutical industry, etc. on top of it as well and it can be overwhelming for anyone. With all these factors looming menacingly over us, it’s not hard to understand why it’s easy to lose sight of an even more expansive picture. Complacency and indifference are protective mechanisms that don’t solve anything. They only allow it all to continue as the status quo.

There are also genetic predispositions many of us may have to these states of lower vibration and yet even this has a much broader picture attached to it which may very well be rooted in our ancestors. Issues they may have had can roll down through the generations unless they’re recognized and addressed accordingly.

It’s difficult to live down here among all these factors in our everyday lives and not become more than a witness to it all but great beauty also exists among the darkness. It’s easy to forget this is the much smaller picture compared to all that’s truly out there. At one point in my life years ago, I began to see the vision of what my future could look like in this regard. I had witnessed many of my own extended family members, not to mention friends and acquaintances struggle and succumb to the pain of serious depression and anxiety and all that entails and there were times I felt myself beginning to slide down that same, slippery slope.

Whether by my innate nature and my own purpose here or not, I was able to grow into a higher, wider picture of things and I’m convinced that’s what saved me. My curiosity was my vehicle for hope and of escape. Stepping outside our comfort zones creates a lot of fear in people. In reality, they’re nothing more than boxes and they come in all sizes. They also become limitations when we aren’t willing to push ourselves beyond them.

The only way to gain clarity in a situation is to shift our perspective to “empower” ourselves to view it from a bigger picture. EVERYTHING is connected in some way so “when we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.” Staying stuck is a human condition but there’s actually a MUCH richer part of each of us that is more expansive and aware than many people realize. Just because our linear brains may not remember this doesn’t mean that inner wisdom doesn’t exist but we have to get curious enough to be willing to look for it. It’s always been confoundingly hard to wrap my mind around the boredom of having no curiosity about life and oneself. Where does the wonderment of our childhood go? It was there at one time.

INTENT and DESIRE are the first stepping stones to waking that part of ourselves up. This is precisely what people refer to as an “Awakening”… a “Spiritual Awakening”. Our thoughts have much more power than many realize. Taking our curiosity beyond our everyday lives and looking out into the world surrounding that… the Natural World… the Cosmos… and inward as well to the science of our own bodies is a good place to begin. These are the places of true magic where miracles take place all the time. It just doesn’t look like a rabbit being pulled out of a hat. It looks more like a rabbit hole into a place of wonder and awe and I’m here to tell you, it’s more real than one can initially imagine. The good news is its open to anyone who seeks it with sincerity.

Part of the amazement is that the Universe in its vast wisdom, uses synchronicity to guide us. We just have to have the courage and desire to pay attention to the signs and to trust our own instincts. They’re our gift and our personal radar and the more we use them, the stronger they become. It extends far beyond our linear intellect into our hearts and our gut instincts, where the real wisdom lies beyond the knowledge. It begins with baby-steps… “light-bulb moments” that flow in with a trickle and gradually become a river of awareness and perceptive magic

Children are born with natural sense of awe and wonder. One great way to open ourselves up is to simply sit and watch children play or better yet… play with them. Because they have more recently been exposed to what lies beyond here, they’re more in touch than adults with what’s actually possible. They don’t know things “can’t be done” and therefore, they approach life with open-minded enthusiasm and joy. Never underestimate the profundity of simplicity.

Tribal, indigenous cultures live in ways that also often don’t think in terms of what modern culture considers “impossible” either. Up through time, we still carry that same cellular wisdom but we have to tap back into it. It’s in our DNA.

Our sentient Natural World is our other profound teacher. Spend time with it. Closely observe it… the trees… the water… the wildlife… the earth beneath your feet and all the life teaming within and without it… microcosm/ macrocosm. It’s creativity at its best and the finite way our ecology is set up to work in concert is both humbling and profound. The good news is its right at our fingertips. All we have to do is pay attention!

 We all came here with natural imaginations and creative energy which gradually grew weaker as more tough life experiences come along. We have to push beyond ourselves and our rigid beliefs to “re-member” and re-embrace that and open up to the possibilities which have always existed and are just waiting to be discovered. That has never changed.

                                        Get Curious… Wonder… Remember…

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There Are Reasons and There Are Excuses…

Whenever I hear someone say… “Yes… but…” I automatically realize that person has no intention of changing their mind on that particular subject. From that point on, the wall goes up & the open-minded listening ceases to exist.

At the end of the day, every single one of us has the power to be our own jail-keeper… or not. Even a prisoner in shackles has the ability to choose his attitude & our thoughts absolutely create our realities. I remember times in my own life as a still-dependent kid when I was (op)pressed at such a level that I would say to myself… “You may be able to control what I do & where I go but you will NEVER control my thoughts! Nobody can take that from me.” Survival…

Every moment we have choices and the cause & effect of those choices puts us squarely where we find ourselves at any given time. This is by a much bigger design and unless we can sincerely own our own stuff, we remain stuck in an endless cycle of dysfunction. The requirement for breaking free is insisting our egos take a backseat.

There will always be reasons for everything & as inconvenient & untidy as it can sometimes be, there’s often more than one for any given issue. Humans tend to prefer neat, tidy, black & white packages but the world we live in is a spectrum of shades of gray… always. This is where the realist & the idealist part ways. In the end though, it’s a lot less stress to lean toward being realistic because we can waste a lot of valuable time sitting there staring at a rock and wishing it was a flower. Sadly, some people waste a lifetime that way.

The definition of a “reason” is a judgment of what is right, practical or possible; in essence, common sense. An “excuse” is defined as a release from a duty; an attempt to lesson blame. I’ve always found the TRUTH lies somewhere in the middle each time which requires us to first look at our part in it, own it, learn from it & then let go of the rest. The ONLY thing we really have control over is ourselves. It is & always will be an inside job!

 

                                                                             

                                                                                            GET CURIOUS… REMEMBER…

Experiencing Life Through the Perspective of Another

 

On my second trip to Ocho Rios, Jamaica with a humanitarian, dental, non-profit organization called Great Shape/ 1000 Smiles, I again found myself working in a remote, jungle community called Walkerswood at the local school… in fact, the only school. It was a series of small, run-down, dirt-floored buildings joined together by sidewalks, metal bars in the glassless windows & surrounded by a rough-shod playground.

The kids, who ranged in age from 5 through 17, were more than curious as we hauled in box after box of dental equipment & chairs. They couldn’t wrap their minds around our odd ways either, whether it was petting or talking to the myriad of poor, starving dogs everywhere or wincing at the sight of bug-covered food that they would eat without a second thought… bugs & all.

Although the principal & staff cared greatly for these children, they were very strict about manners, obedience & the effort they put into their studies. I was even asked to speak at their monthly PTA meeting! The parents initially had a difficult time believing we would actually volunteer to take  time away from our own jobs & families & pay our own airfare to come there & not want something in return. Their own survival had always depended on having to hold so tightly onto anything they could get.

It was also an expectation throughout the community that if someone’s child was caught misbehaving, whichever neighbor happened to see them could take it upon themselves to mete out punishment which often included hitting them… the old “spare the rod… spoil the child” mentality.

The second day there, I met a teenage girl, Dana… 15 years old… who lived nearby. Her developmentally disabled brother attended the school & although she was no longer a student there herself, she could often be found helping with him or just hanging around. Her mother was a local healer… a very spiritual, church-going woman who was well-liked & respected in the community.

As we struck up a conversation, I asked why she wasn’t in school. She had attended previously & had actually been a very good student. At some point though, she’d come down with an auto-immune disorder which slowly robbed her of her ability to function. Often exhausted, she would ask the teacher to be excused. Her mother, being very concerned, had taken her to various local healers with no luck. She was finally able to get a clear diagnosis from a medical center some distance away.

Unfortunately because of the culture there & a lack of understanding, that explanation wasn’t well-received by the school staff. Assuming she was just being lazy, her teachers became so hard on her she eventually dropped out of altogether. Fortunately by the time we met, her symptoms had begun to go into remission & her strength & energy were slowly returning.

Since we were short-handed, this seemed like an ideal opportunity to have her work with us as a team member & build her self-esteem at the same time… a win-win! She seemed to have a natural aptitude for dentistry & before long she was performing a number of tasks quite well. The change in her demeanor was palatable & it did my heart good to see her confidence in herself grow.

Each year as our trip came to an end & we prepared to go back home, there was always a dinner back at the hotel to say “thank-you” to everyone who had participated & give them a chance to say their good-byes to so many they had developed strong bonds with. Everyone shared how much it had meant to them to really be able to help but they also felt they’d received so much more in return.

Our team invited Dana to come spend the night at the hotel in my room so she could attend the dinner & with her mother’s permission, she excitedly agreed. I knew this would be a great experience for her but I had no idea what an adventure it would be as well… for both of us…

She arrived carrying a change of clothes and an old, ragged towel in a paper bag. I explained it wasn’t necessary for her to bring her own towel as the hotel supplied them for their guests. I then told her to go ahead & feel free to take the first shower. She headed into the bathroom as my roommate & I took that time to kick back after a long, hot day.

About 20 minutes later, out she walked… tears in her eyes… red blotches all over her skin. Surprised & concerned, I asked her what was wrong. “I tried to stay under the spout” she said “but the water was just SO hot, I couldn’t stand it anymore!” To my dismay, I realized she had never been in a shower with hot & cold running water before.  I thought about how naïve I’d been not to realize that. Most Jamaicans shower in rainwater they trap in vats on their roofs. It’s a tropical climate so water heaters aren’t used, even though there are days I’m sure it’s chilly. They simply can’t afford the electricity or plumbing.

I apologetically explained the situation to her & helped her get ready for dinner, all the while trying to ease her extreme nervousness.  By the time we got to dinner & seated ourselves, the poor thing looked like she was going to pass out!

As our dinners were served, I noticed one of the Jamaican waiters standing by the wall near our table, quietly & quickly came over to her, placed her napkin in her lap for her & showed her the silverware. Once again, I realized she had never been to a restaurant… never experienced the nuances of having her glass filled with water or ordering from a menu. Again, I felt like I’d failed her in not being aware enough of the circumstances she came from. No wonder she was so anxious!

There are many people who live in the U.S. who also go without these things as well but even more Jamaicans do. So many of us in this country are so blessed to have enough to eat, a place to sleep, a chance for an education, clothing, charitable organizations who are available to make up the difference & opportunities for some type of dental & medical care should an emergency arise at least. We can’t know what we haven’t yet learned & sometimes it’s easy to forget to appreciate what we haven’t had to go without.

Gratitude is our gift to ourselves & to the collective because if we can’t see our own reasons to be grateful, we’re not near as likely to be there to support & empower others.

                                                 GET CURIOUS… REMEMBER…

 

 

 

 

Fear & Limitation

“Hang on tight… You never know what might happen if you let go” …. Brian Andreas
What are you afraid of…? I mean what REALLY scares you? You can’t count anything you might worry could happen to a loved one… this one is just about you and only you. Have you ever really thought about it or ask someone you’re close to about theirs? You may be surprised at the answer.
Each year I try to pick something that “scares the hell out of me” and I do it anyway. I’m never short on subject matter! Although this may conjure up visions of possibly jumping out of an airplane 2500 ft. above the ground, many of my own, personal roadblocks have tended to revolve much more around that “P”-word most of us are likely more intimately acquainted with than we’d like…. “procrastination”. Having experienced both of the above types of fear numerous times, I found the fear of not meeting expectations… mine or someone else’s… MUCH more frightening than sky-diving!
I eventually came to understand just how much of a limitation FEAR plays in our lives… right down to the small, seemingly insignificant ones. There seems to be a lot of confusion about what its true purpose really is. Despite its intended design which is to keep us alive, it’s been heavily over-used….
On a trip I took to Yelapa, Mx. A few years ago for a yearly sacred, women’s retreat I have been participating in, I was particularly aware and often amazed at the amount of fear I witnessed in many of the participants. This is a very small, fishing village that can’t be accessed except by boat. Although quite comfortable, our rooms or palapas were made of thatched palm leaves for the roofs and had no walls or glass windows… quite rustic & open to the jungle life except for mosquito netting around our beds..
For someone like myself, who feels most at home in nature and the trees, going to sleep each night to the sounds of the secadas and other vibrating insects, in unison with the rhythm of the waves lapping against the rocks on the beaches only yards away, always sing to my strong shamanic connection to the earth. Waking up each morning to the sounds of the jungle and the songbirds coming to life again to start a new day absolutely fills me with gratitude for the gift that it all truly is. That’s MY perspective anyway…
The first day begins with a quick overview of some interesting local facts about the indigenous culture there and a few cautionary suggestions for avoiding bites or stings from some of the critters that call the area home, one being scorpions. The point is always made though, that the actual incidences of this happening are pretty small as long as they know to be aware.
Out of the 10 women who came on this particular trip to experience the adventure and connection outside their normal comfort zone, many were very nervous about the scorpions and other wildlife, some were afraid of what might be in the water or climbing out of a small boat in choppy water, etc. but the one who stood out the most was a woman who was petrified of heights & trees!
Of all the palapas, she was assigned the one with the best view at the edge of a beautiful canyon and right in front of an ancient, enormous banyan tree. I could feel the energy coming from it as I stood there gazing in admiration and feeling a little envious of her good-fortune at being able to sleep there.
The next morning, as we all gathered for breakfast, I was surprised to see this same woman walk through the kitchen door, her puffy, red eyes belying the fact she hadn’t slept a wink all night. We agreed that a healing session might be in order and later that day as we began working in energy, she explained to me that she had always had a deep-seated fear of trees along with a lengthy list of other phobias. We eventually uncovered the reason for her fear of trees, which she explained was based on the worry they could fall over on her.
She spoke about being raised in a military family, the oldest of four kids. Their lifestyle required frequent moves which meant she had to continually uproot her life, leave her friends behind and begin again…over and over.
Because emotional expression was neither modeled nor encouraged by her stoic parents, her normal feelings over all this went unaddressed. As the oldest, she just naturally assumed the responsibility of watching out for her younger siblings, which left her with little time for her own self-nurturing.
As I worked on her, I suddenly felt and saw the connection. “It’s not the tree you’re afraid of.” I told her. “It’s the fear that the “roots” will give way and it will topple.” That was where her fear of it falling came from! “Roots” are what she never could seem to hold onto throughout her childhood & even at times in her adult life as well. Never being able to stay in one spot long enough to feel safe and connected had taken its toll. We worked together to release that belief and incorrect fear which in turn gave her new insight.
The next morning she walked with a smile on her face and a much different and more empowered look and attitude. She said she was amazed at how peacefully she had slept throughout the night… right in front of that beautiful old tree elder.
But the news she was most excited to share was that as she was awakening, she opened her eyes and looked straight at the tree. There in front of it, she clearly saw a very old, aboriginal man. He said nothing but looked at her and smiled.
With a catch of emotion in her voice, she said she knew he was there to tell her she had done good work. I explained that he was one of her guides and I pointed out to her, if she had not been able to step out of the fear, she wouldn’t have had the clarity to be able to see him and the gift he gave her of support & wisdom.
As the week progressed we worked to recognize where each fear became locked in and with a concerted effort of support from everyone there, she was able to empower herself to overcome them…one at a time. The shift in her entire being was palatable by the end of the trip and it was a true inspiration and lesson to everyone there.
She had to come to truly understand at a deeper level that because she saw something as scary didn’t mean everyone else did. It wasn’t the “thing” that changed…only her perception of it. Finally gaining the courage & support to actually face them set her free or put her well on her way. Our imagination is often much worse than the reality of a given situation.
GET CURIOUS… BE COURAGEOUS… REMEMBER