On Textures, Trails, & Timing

The river trails lured me when I first looked out the window yesterday morning. Everything was covered in dew drops and shimmered as we moved toward the rays of the sun. The dewy blanket revealed the textures of each flower gone to seed, the velvety puffs and cushions of wildflowers, the spiky anchors of grasses, the spinning parachutes of weeds…

The sun rose over the hillside and illumined the spider webs that now looked vacant after a busy night under the full moon. The webs covered the grasses, flowers, weeds, and almost everything in the field, as if the spiders had cast nets to catch the frost.

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I’m a slow runner. I plod along for a half marathon; Monday’s average pace was 12:45 a mile. Of course, that included bathroom breaks, videos of deer, photos of deer a few times, tying my shoes, and trudging up some big hills over and over and over again (total elevation gain of just over 6,000ft). Still, I’m slow at running, and I know it. I take my time and enjoy the space. I notice a million tiny things that I want to stoop and admire, photograph from different angles, try to capture the textures and shifting light. I have to lure myself forward with the promise of even more tiny delights coming out of the earth. The fossils paint stories and each footfall finds another one, images to gobble into my imagination, so I trudge still onward, quite content with the pace and space…

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The trails on the hills offer different sights and sensations than the river trails. Beside the river, I am sometimes 3 min. a mile faster on my average running time. That’s quite a difference, and the terrain and climate create an alternative momentum. The fields meet the forest by the river in a low circular formation. Sounds reverberate off the limestone bluffs and muddy edges that create the river bank. Mossy trails offer soft cushions for my feet, and squishy mud through the small forest is equally inviting for quick progress.

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Landscapes and their textures remind me of human bodies. Or, vice versa. Form and texture create layers for both movement and the imprint of previous motion. Taking time to pause and express a form with my own body, my motion suspends for a moment—the running stalls, breath softens, body lengthens, bends, relaxes. My favorite mat has always been the earth, and my yoga mat is so dirty from practicing outside that taking it into a studio seems hilarious when placed next to the pristine and often expensive yoga mats of other practitioners. The leafy or mossy ground is a great cushion for arm balances. The drishti of tree branches, leaves, and flowers forever blooms into new gazes, new focus, and the change of nature is the meditation, staying there patterns the breath, loosens the love, even as I move again.
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Pausing to practice, to center in meditation again as I stretch, I catch glimpses of the red-shouldered hawks, a great blue heron, a cardinal, the wren making a fuss about my presence, the singing of crickets in a loud chorus that I hadn’t previously noticed, the splash of a big fish in the river, a turtle sliding into the water’s edge and the cloudy silt fluttering up to the surface for the moment and settling again.

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The Path of Selfish Giving & Meditative Techniques: Part 5 to What is Service? What is Generosity?

Photo by Felipe Hadler

Photo by Felipe Hadler

Last week, my daughter and I continued our service exploration, and I had the opportunity to contribute to some national organization about which I previously knew nothing.

Like many women enlisted as a bridesmaid, I had a champagne pink formal from a wedding, with 6-inch heels to match, hanging in my baby’s closet. I was never wearing any of that again. I googled, “prom dress donations to girls” and discovered Becca’s Closet. Plenty of girls gaga over pink would love this one-shouldered satin dress with Vince Camuto heels. I also let my friends and family members know that I would deliver dresses, accessories, and jewelry. I picked up dresses and jewelry (Days 15 & 17). My husband even picked up some dresses when I lost my car keys. And that was the biggest lesson Zoe learned from those prom dresses, keep giving and asking for help because many people will help you to give. Then I showed her the photographs of girls in dresses, and she asked, “When can I get a pair of high heels?”
Uh, yeah, lesson learned :-/

Cue the discussion about selfish giving. “I participate in it all of the time,” I admit to her. “It’s kind of the easiest type of giving for a lot of people because you get something in return and you know that you’re getting it.” I explained that I enjoy supporting the arts because I so often receive a performance or free tickets to something for giving to theater, dance, and music companies. I also explained that many of those programs receive less and less federal funding, so sponsoring the arts ensures that artists have jobs. It goes beyond that, but it’s difficult to retain a 7-year old’s attention about federal funding and such for more than 7 minutes (if that).

So, I explained by example that her Dad and I were going to a benefit concert (Day 18), and while it benefitted Nashville-area veterans and at-risk children, I wanted to go because I would get the opportunity to see some of my favorite musicians (Brendan Benson & Jack White) play music at one of my favorite venues (Ryman Auditorium). Totally selfish giving.

And in that moment of selfishness, I learned about the David Lynch Foundation and transcendental meditation.

What Brendan Benson said about transcendental meditation during the concert: “I believe it’s addressing the source. I believe If you can achieve inner peace, you can achieve outer peace.”

For one summer ten years ago, I taught literature to high school students who were planning to become first-generation college students. They were participating in a university-preparatory program. At first, we didn’t connect at all, and then I just followed my gut, took a major leap, and had them practice a meditative technique in order to try to convey the concept of symbolism to them. I had practiced meditative techniques for about five years, and I was a grad student who had been teaching writing in a developmental writing course. I teetered on the edge, waiting, when they opened their eyes. Would they call me crazy? Were they asleep? Amazingly, it worked, and they wouldn’t shut up about symbols and meaning, metaphor, hyperbole…you name it–they did get the concept. I began to teach a variety of meditative techniques in connection with literature. Every day we met, the students asked me if we would be meditating. I was in shock. They read, they wrote, they arrived early. I’ve never taught that way again, but I always knew something exceptional happened in those classes that I’ve never been able to recreate by other traditional classroom means. While I haven’t been trained in transcendental meditation yet, I do know that the practice of meditation changed my life.

The David Lynch Foundation puts transcendental meditative programs into public school as well as working with the Wounded Warrior Program and many local organizations. Meditation in schools and helping veterans–that gave me a greater feeling than rockin out at the Ryman.

And don’t read my stuff anymore right now, read theirs, read about transcendental meditation and the David Lynch Foundation.

From the David Lynch Foundation website:
Operation Warrior Wellness:
building resilience and healing the
hidden wounds of war
The nightmare of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Over half a million U.S. troops deployed since 2001 suffer from PTSD. Yet less than 20% will receive adequate care due to lack of effective treatments, fear of stigma or insufficient government resources. Half of those with PTSD won’t receive any care at all.
Left untreated, PTSD cripples functioning and places veterans at great risk for violent and self-destructive behavior, including:
Alcoholism or drug abuse
Severe depression, anxiety or emotional numbness
Family and employment problems
Suicide—today, more than 6,500 vets die by suicide every year
Creating resilient warriors
Operation Warrior Wellness (OWW), a division of the David Lynch Foundation, offers the Transcendental Meditation-based Resilient Warrior Program, a simple, easy-to-learn, evidence-based approach to relieving symptoms of PTSD and major depression and developing greater resilience to stress.
Since its initial launch in 2010, the OWW initiative has partnered with leading veterans service organizations, Army and Marine bases and VA medical centers across the country to deliver the Resilient Warrior Program to veterans, active-duty personnel and military families in need. The initiative also partners with military colleges to create a new generation of more resilient officers.
Evidence-based relief from the epidemic of mental injury
The TM-based Resilient Warrior Program has been extensively researched by over 340 peer-reviewed studies, including over $26 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health to study the program’s effectiveness for reducing heart disease. Key findings include:
40-55% reduction in symptoms of PTSD and depression
42% decrease in insomnia
30% improvement in satisfaction with quality of life
25% reduction in plasma cortisol levels
Decreased high blood pressure–on par with first-line antihypertensives
47% reduced risk of cardiovascular-related mortality
View references for these findings