Individuality in Nature

I am always delighted to both see and hear a variety of creatures when I walk in nature. Some are repeat visitors and others, well, it can be difficult to tell.

The black squirrel pictured above is one of my favorites. Why do I favor him over the other neighborhood squirrels? Because he is different! I know it is him when I see him. It’s like he is oozing that “over here, look at me, I stand out in the crowd” kind of vibe.

Shouldn’t we all have that vibe? Why try to blend in when we were clearly created to stand out? I am unique. I am the only human being who can be me. You are also unique, one in 7.3 billion (give or take a couple) and the only human being who can be you.

Let’s start celebrating who we are instead of hiding it. Being a little different (or a lot), isn’t a flaw, it’s a blessing. You are the amazing miracle of you. No one else can do that job. It is all yours and always will be.

Smiles and Hugs.

 

6 things cats know about mindfulness and awareness

I have loved and been owned by cats my whole life, starting at age two. I have come to some conclusions after all these years of studying their antics.

I think we humans can learn quite a bit about living life to the fullest from the cats we share our homes with. Cats are truly mystical creatures and seem to have mastered the art of just being.

They seem to know that their presence in the world is enough. Their only responsibility is to exist and share their glory with the rest of us.

So here is my list of six things cats know about mindfulness and awareness that we humans have yet to learn:

1. Cats know how to live in the present moment.

Cats aren’t worrying about their futures or reliving their pasts. They are present, right here, right now, in this precious moment. The only moment that really matters.

Cats eat when they are hungry, sleep when they are tired and are perfectly content to be still, quiet and simply observe life as it is.

Cats know how to receive love. They are blissfully there, in the now, revelling in the act of receiving your touch. They are not afraid to show you how wonderful it feels for them. What if we could that?

2. Cats know how to forgive.

Cats don’t hold grudges. I have never known a cat to withhold her love from me because I went on vacation that one time and didn’t invite her to go along. Or because I forced him into that little crate and made him go to that place where they poke him with needles. Or because I forgot, that one day, to scoop her litter box.

Cats forgive and forget. They have the ability to move on with enjoying life because their own pleasure is important to them. What if we could do that?

3. Cats always follow their joy.

Cats love to play and amuse themselves and they are capable of creating fun out of nothing at all. They don’t require expensive toys or other beings to enjoy themselves.

A cat will chase a shadow, jump at a flicker of light on the wall or hunt and capture a scrap of paper found hiding behind the chair. They never grow out of this playful nature. Cats love to play throughout their entire lives.

If you have ever spent time watching one of these incredible happiness machines in action, you know they give their all to every playtime they create and they couldn’t be enjoying themselves any more, in that moment. What if we could do that?

4. Cats trust their instincts.

Cats do not spin their mental wheels pondering what their next move should be. They instinctively know and they immediately act on those instincts.

The mind of a cat is not cluttered with thoughts of “I should” or “what will the other cats think about me if I do that?” A cat knows what he wants, in that moment, and he goes for it.

A cat has no ego, she can only be her truest, most authentic self, by instinct. And so it is.

5. Cats know the benefits of spending time in nature.

Many pet cats these days are “indoor only”, meaning they live exclusively indoors and are not allowed to go outside. There are many reasons for this, including keeping them safe from motor vehicles, if you live in the city, keeping them safe from predators, if you live in the country or keeping birds and other wildlife safe from them, which has become a concern for some.

My cats do spend most of their time indoors, however, I find it important for them to have time outside as well, sometimes to the dismay of my neighbors.

Cats are considered to be domesticated, but I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that cats are their best natural selves when outside enjoying all that nature can offer, just as we are.

My cats are not allowed to roam whenever they want and I am diligent about having them inside after dark, but they know that even a short spell outside can contribute to their overall happiness. And they are not shy about asking for it.

6. Cats embody the concept of self-love.

Cats know their worth and demand that the world take notice. You will not find a cat with self-esteem issues.

The one-eyed cat acknowledges his beauty is equal to that pure bred Persian down the street. The three-legged cat knows his power to be equal to the four-legged felines next door. And the stray, homeless kitty knows she is just as worthy of love as the pampered pet inside your home.

Oh what we can learn from our feline friends. I hope you enjoyed this post.

Smiles and hugs.

Lift each other up!

One of the things I love about my nature walks is the row of cottonwood trees along the gravel path. The slightest breeze makes their leaves sing. The first time I experienced the sound, I thought it was running water, but the creek is in the other direction. It took a minute for me to discover it was the trees themselves producing this glorious noise. Now whenever there a breeze, I look forward to hearing those trees sing to me on my walk.

One of the trees lost its footing in a recent storm. It surely would have fallen to the ground if not for a neighboring tree that caught it and is now providing support for the injured tree.

I couldn’t help but think about all that nature can teach us. As human beings we can learn to lift each other up, support each other when we fall and sing our songs for strangers.

Smiles and hugs!

How to live a happy life – 13 actions you can take today

I originally intended for this article to be a list of fifteen actions you can take today to live a happier life, but with today being Friday the thirteenth, I thought a list of thirteen might be more appropriate. Enjoy.

1.  Practice Gratitude

It is so easy to take the beauty in life for granted. It seems sometimes that we are built for negativity. Practicing gratitude can be a powerful way to realize how wonderful your life already is. It’s not always easy to feel authentically grateful, especially if things aren’t going your way. The good news is that gratitude can be learned. You can fake it until you make it.

I challenge you to practice gratitude for thirty days. Start a gratitude journal and each morning, for thirty days, list three new things in life that you are thankful for. It can be something huge like divine guidance or something small like warm socks or anything in between. If you would like to see my gratitude journal, it will be posted weekly, for a limited time, on this blog. At the end of your challenge, I would love to know if this practice improved your life and how.

2. Practice Forgiveness

Forgiveness will set you free. Holding a grudge only hurts the person choosing to hold it. Why spend your precious energy all worked up over something you can’t change. The past is done, there is no undoing it. You can’t change the fact that you have been hurt and you can’t force anyone else to change their mind or behavior. What you do have some control over is your own thoughts and actions. Rather than wallowing in your own hostility, why not change the way you think about the situation. Wish your adversary love. Pray for them.

The most important person for you to forgive, is you, and this is often the most difficult task to accomplish. If you can forgive and love yourself, you will find it much easier to forgive others in your life as well.

One good way to get started is to send love and blessings to one person or thing that is irritating you each day. This can be yourself, someone else or not even a person at all. I list mine right after the three things I am grateful for in my journal. Repetition is encouraged on this practice as it may take some time to truly forgive the hurt that runs deep. You will be training your brain by doing this practice daily and it does work.

3. Write your stories.

Start a journal. Writing can be a very powerful tool for healing. Spill your emotions and fears onto the pages in whatever way feels therapeutic to you.  Write poems, write stories, write letters you will never send. Try writing a letter to God, the Universe or your higher self. If you can’t take the chance of someone finding your written words, feel free to burn the page when you are done. What is important is that you release what is bottled inside of you.

4. Learn to say no and yes.

It is time to start saying no to people, events and things that drain you of your life force. It is not your responsibility to deal with other peoples issues. Take care of yourself first. Ask yourself “Am I doing this out of love or out of fear?” For example, are you doing someone a favor because you love them and are happy to help or are doing it because you are afraid the person will think less of you if you don’t? Choose love.

It is time to say yes to your life. Yes to contining to learn everyday. Yes to new experiences. Yes to change. Yes to the things you love. Yes to your intuition and yes to the power of believing in you!

5. Meditate

Start a daily meditation practice. I cannot tell you how much this has helped me to be present, see clearly and remain calm. We spend most of our time either dwelling on the past or looking to the future. The past is over. The future doesn’t exist yet. Now is all that matters. Meditation can teach you to focus on now. A large commitment of time is not required. You can experience the benefits in as little as ten minutes a day. There are many phone apps available for guided meditation. Play around and find something that fits your style. Give it a try.

6. Get out in nature

Go for a walk, or a run or maybe just sit under a tree. Feel the force that connects everything on this planet. Look with wonder at all that you see. Get grounded by walking barefoot on the sand or the grass. Get your toes, or your hands, wet in the stream or the lake. Listen to the wind, the birds, the gravel beneath your feet. Drink it all in. Unplug for just a little while each day. It will be worth it.

7. Do nice things for yourself

Make your happiness a priority. It isn’t selfish to take care of you for a change. In fact, I think it’s necessary if you want to stay healthy. Take the time you need to do the things on this list. You are worth it. Treat yourself to a massage or a little gift, something you’ve had your eye on. Take a class or go out with friends. Indulge in a bit of self-love.

8. Give

It is better to give than to receive. It has been proven that people tend to feel better about themselves if they give to others in need. I personally believe that the more you give, the more you get. The time is always now, even if you feel like you don’t have enough to spead around. No matter what my situation is, I am generous with what I have, there is always someone else who needs more than I do. So donate your money, your time or your stuff. Feel those good vibrations!

9. Spend some time alone

This is never a problem for me. I love my time by myself. Some of you may feel the same way. There is a trick to this, though. You need to be alone without distraction. Yep, that means no television, no texting, no social media. Most people will find it extremely difficult to just be still and quiet with themselves. The reason we are uncomfortable with this is because we will be forced to listen to our own thoughts. When you engage in this practice, be kind to yourself. Remember to practice forgiveness as you do this as well.

There is no better way to become aware of your thoughts and what is truly important to you than being alone without anyone else to influence what is on your mind. If you want to expand on this experience, take a trip by yourself. Go away for a couple of days and only do what you want to do. If this scares you, you may want to ask yourself why.

10. Trust your instincts

Many of us are not willing to act on our instincts or intuition.  We don’t trust ourselves. We may be afraid of failing or of what other people might think of what we are doing. Your intuition is what your soul wants, what your heart desires, it is your higher self giving you inspiration. When you ignore your intuition, you turn your back on your authentic self. Don’t feed your fears. Trust your intuition.

11. Embrace your demons

Have you hugged your demons today? We all have a dark side. If you have taken some of the actions listed above, you may be seeing some of yours by now. This is key to learning self-love. There are parts of ourselves that may be difficult to love, like, or even admit to.  The first step here is awareness. What are you ashamed of? What makes you angry or sad? What are afraid to talk about openly? It may be uncomfortable to acknowledge at first, but it will become easier with time.

The next step is acceptance. No one is perfect. We all have flaws. These perceived imperfections are necessary to the human experience. They are something we all share. Without our darkness, our light would not shine. To experience wholeness you must accept all of yourself.

Finally, it’s time to embrace. Release your shame, your anger, sadness and jealousy by gently trying to see it’s source. Where does it come from? Do not judge yourself. Treat your demons with compassion and understanding.

12. Chase your joy

One of my definitions of joy is watching my son grow, learn and develop in his own way. Another is being curled up with a great book, hot coffee, a blanket and a vibrating cat on my lap. I feel calm, at peace, like everything is right in the world.

What brings you joy? Once you define what that is, start using your energy to chase your joy. My home is rarely as clean as it used to be. Cleaning does not bring me joy. My time is better spent on things that do.

13. Walk into your fear

Whatever you are most afraid of, is what you should be paying the most attention to. Our conscious mind will always choose fear to block us from true awareness. Your authentic gifts can be revealed by facing what scares you. Walk into your fear. Walk into your greatness!

Happy Friday the thirteenth to you!!

Birdy Bathtime

It’s been a sunless, gloomy day filled with clouds and umbrellas. But even on a day such as this, it isn’t difficult to find an awe-inspiring sight, if you simply pay attention.

I always try to look with curiosity and wonder at all that I see. Today was no exception. While out running errands, I found it. That something special that would leave me smiling with appreciation.

My treasure for today is a puddle. Ah, but this is no ordinary rain puddle. This body of water happens to be a large and quite popular bird bath.

These little cuties were splashing around like my kid at a water park. Several birds took flight as I approached and didn’t make into the photo. This was obviously a private party, but I sure am glad I crashed it!

Smiles and hugs

Hang Gliding Hawks

It was early morning when I left for my nature walk. I was hoping to catch the sun just as it peeked over the horizon. The warm moist air felt welcoming and the wind blew strong and steady. I always enjoy watching the sun rise above the little by my house and today did not disappoint. It was nothing less than majestic, and yet, it did not end up being the highlight of this communion with nature.

The red-tailed hawks were out on this morning and they were low and visible in the sky. Beautiful and powerful birds, they are quite large and have an impressive wingspan. I was able to locate several groups of hawks in the area, all doing the exact same thing. They were hang gliding!

I have never seen anything like it before. Wings spread wide, facing the wind, gliding effortlessly without a single flap of the wings required. They were simply floating on air. How positively free they must feel. It was obvious to me that these birds were engaging in this activity with the absolute intention of doing so. They were using what had been given to them, in that moment, which happened to be a strong steady wind, to bring themselves joy.

Watching them maneuver to the wind in order hang above me, going nowhere, succeeded in bringing me great joy. I felt a profound sense of awe and deeper connection to life as I gazed upon these glorious creatures. We can learn so much from our fellow inhabitants of this world.

This was an incredible experience for me and I felt it was worthy of sharing. I hope you enjoyed it. Remember to look with wonder at all in your life and you will start to see truly amazing things!

Peace, love and connectedness