Rhythm & Respiration

Rhythm & Respiration
Reflecting on nature-based therapy, learning, well-being and value-added life ...

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Picking peaches and the Narnian chronicles

Picking peaches and the Narnian chronicles

Although picking peaches takes effort, to me it is not ‘work.’ Rather, each peach that makes its way into my bucket is a small, fragrant, sun-kissed miracle. A peach tree in my back yard seems almost a stolen pleasure from the warmer, drier climate where we, as a family, vacationed most summers. Most years we would bring back a big cardboard box of peaches that we would enjoy while helping my mom preserve them in large Mason jars. On the years we did not travel to the Okanagan, an extended family member or friend would be sure to share a few peaches with us from their trip to the Interior of BC. Now, in the rain forest of the garden niche of the Alberni Valley of Vancouver Island, our small peach tree flourishes and produces buckets of sweet and juicy seasonal treats. A little miracle growing against the south-east side of our home.

Every year I am in a race to ‘whiff’ the peachy aroma that allows me to recognize the moment the peaches are ready to harvest. Not just because I love peaches so much, but to pick them before we are visited by our resident black bear. He loves peaches and tasty miracles, too. I’m not sure if in the Island Black Bear great annals of history there are references to peaches, but if there were not, there are now, as our black bear is a meditative, reticent soul, who loves his food, appreciates nature, and in all likelihood is a poet and vegetarian. He has been known to rest in my neighbor’s plum tree, after a good long snack, and have a quiet snooze while my neighbor’s steers rest below him and chew their cud with contentment. It is not inconceivable that he holds small audiences of recitations of his newest work, which I’m sure comes after only the finest of forages.

As I type this, the peaches that are still waiting to be preserved into the gold-tinged, shining nectar-treat unstunningly known as ‘canned peaches’ are in two buckets on the counter, giving off that peach perfume that truly is a signature scent of summer. I almost feel sorry for our bear. But seeing how in one night he nearly picked clean the Damson plum tree this year, I remain hard-hearted.

Peaches, to me, are one of those deep childhood connections

to summer. Another closely aligned summer ritual is the reading of the Narnian chronicles. For years, I reread C.S. Lewis’s stories every summer, lying on a blanket under the nut trees, or sitting in a deck chair under the apple trees, or lying on the grass and clover carpet of our horse field beside my grazing ponies. When the rainy days came, and they often did on Canada’s Pacific coast, there was more time to read and many places in our sprawling farmhouse to get lost in another world between pages. I read the stories of Narnia in chronological rather than publication order. The origin of Narnia, those shining green and yellow rings worn by Digory and Polly, the quiet pools in the woods between the worlds, dull red sun of Charn, that was how I began my Narnian journey every summer. And every summer I dreaded the Last Battle when Narnia flamed out of existence; but in a bracing, clear, vision that was panoramic in scope, I saw how time was a small reflection of the True Eternal that flowed, unquenchable, constant, Real. That Love and Truth were much more than ideas and aspirations, and that we what we see now is not much more than we can by peeking through a keyhole on a dark night.

Much from the Narnian Chronicles has echoed for me this summer of Covid and chaos. But one image in particular arises for me again and again. It is from the Last Battle, that final story Lewis wrote about Narnia. Throughout the stories of Narnia, the Dwarfs are a stalwart group. They are called ‘sons of Earth’ and are known for their common sense, faithfulness, bravery, hard-working nature, and kind ‘salt of the earth’ hearts towards others. In the Last Battle, they are manipulated by a false king who has enslaved the land and they become bewildered, angry, disillusioned and lose their faith in Aslan and in goodness. They begin to draw away from their fellow Narnians and become cynical about anyone trying to help rally a response to stand up to protect the creatures of Narnia and free the country from its Calormene oppressors. In the final battle, they take up arms, but instead of fighting to free Narnia, they fight against everyone: the Calormene army as well as the Narnian freedom-fighters. Their battle chant is: “the Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.”

The sentiment doesn’t last long, though, because they also begin to squabble with each other. But, misery loves company and while they are nursing their own bumps and bruises, they say, “Well, at any rate there’s no Humbug here. We haven’t let anyone take us in. The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.” After trying numerous ways to wake them to the realization that they are free and safe and in Aslan’s country, they remain unable to see or feel the sunlight, meadow, picnic-banquet of food and wine, warm and clean clothes that are given to them. Aslan’s response is a sorrowful, “They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.”

I cannot help but see an echo in various groups of salt-of-the-earth good people who have become cynical and are entangled and mired in one conspiracy theory after another. Facebook memes, Twitter retweets, Youtube video shares have become modern assault weapons battering at common sense and straightforward simplicity. The casualties are not the right or left, conservative or liberal, rather they are our careful processes of learning, such as scientific method, unbiased ethics committees, and peer review. These ‘humbug’ bombs are aimed at our own hard work to enlarge our thinking to hear others and recognize where are structures have minimized the voices of others. They batter our actions and stymie our work to tear down and rebuild systems that have doors recognizable as open to everyone. They distort measures of considerate care of neighbor and cast doubt on earnest attempts to promote health and wellbeing. They have normal, hard-working and loving people questioning if their leaders are poisoning children with vaccines, or if a virus was constructed with alien DNA to ‘take out’ a segment of the population. Or that a bit of cotton in front of our noses and mouths causes hypoxia.

Conspiracy theories are so damaging to our thinking that even contradictory beliefs do not trigger normal curiosity and rigorous thought. For example, in ‘Plandemic,’ there are two origins of the current Covid virus: that it was recently created in Wuhan, and also that it is from previous vaccines, so we all have it already and that ‘mask wearing’ activates it. Both cannot be true: vaccines were saving lives from polio and small pox long before Wuhan had a lab. Following the random spiraling of conspiracy theory is a deeply distracting and crazy-making. The only rational end to conspiracy thinking is that no one is trustworthy. Better you than me type thinking; “the Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.”

These conspiracy assault weapons do not discriminate; their casualties are collectively all of us. Distrust and suspicion always hurt everyone. We are meant to stand together and figure things out side by side, voice by voice, thought by thought, vigorously and whole-mindedly. Sharing passionately in conferences, papers, and in discussions with leaders who have earned their stripes with unabashed openness and through making mistakes and publishing studies that contradict their own earlier studies. That is the way learning happens. That is the way mature leadership develops. As Maya Angelou said, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” That’s science. We do better with the humility that comes with knowing your own study will likely, at some point, give way to a better study down the road. That the road to knowing is honest toil and unhesitating transparency in peer review under the watchful eye of stringent ethics boards. That better studies are designed from the vantage point of previous studies.

I want to live in the simple sublime summer of peach-picking and recognize that when it comes down to it, I choose to stand by the simple sanity of science and trust simple hearted folk who want to build up instead of tearing down. Who refuse to lob conspiracy theories like Molotov Cocktails through the instant Internet world. Who don’t have time to fear mask-wearing because they are busy living, laughing, loving, and learning. Who pull people out of burning buildings, patch people up in ERs, hold people’s hands when they are dying, laugh a little and restock that toilet paper shelf again, who are in their gardens and fields growing food, and designing lessons at midnight for their students. Who are doing the quiet good neighbor things, who say sorry a lot and mean it, who stare at the stars, eat peaches, read books, and who vote for a leader who is a listener and a learner.

How about you? Are you with me, Narnians? 


Lewis, C.S (1950-1956). The Chronicles of Narnia, currently published by Harper Collins

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Popsicles and Numeracy

Popsicles and number sense

One of my projects this summer has been to put together a short course on calculating medications for care givers. This on-line course is meant to help prepare pre-nursing students and others to safely prepare medication doses based on prescribed amounts and drug labels. Why is this needed? I hear repeatedly how anxious nursing  students are about the math  component of pharmacology and medication administration. I also hear from parents, adult-children, and other family care givers that there are often moments of confusion and concern when preparing doses for their family members. Many very capable people experience moments of anxiety or self-doubt when required to use math. 

I have had my own angst about math that began during those dreaded classroom drills in grade six and seven pushing mental calculations and memorized times tables. All done from a well-meaning teaching perspective, but to me, mentally paralyzing!  By high school, I was identifying myself to others as ‘hating math,’ or, ‘not a math person,’ but to myself as, ‘not smart enough to do math.’

Reflecting on earlier moments with math, I did not have that dread or negative reaction as a kid. I remember how amazing Arithmetic was in grade one. How the ‘aha’ light bulb went on while playing with Popsicle sticks at the big Arithmetic table. Heaps of single Popsicle sticks, rubber-banded bundles of ten Popsicle sticks, counting ten of those bundles out and stacking them in a pile: 100 Popsicle sticks!
One bundle of ten and three singles: 13 Popsicle sticks! Okay, so I admit to this very day that I love Popsicle. Especially the orange ones. Maybe that is because of the big, round, orange sticker I got from Miss Mudry for my good work at the Arithmetic table.

It is true though, that after the dreaded mental math drills, it took a while until I had another math-related Popsicle moment. One lazy summer afternoon, eating Popsicle, I was idly throwing dice up in the air and catching them after playing a table game on a blanket in the backyard with my brother and sisters. A lovely breeze played through the hazel nut trees and the dappled sun through branches sifted and shifted light as leaves fluttered. My mind went back to
those dreaded mental math drills and before the walls of shame had time to rise, the light and shadow, playing on those dice showed me how the whole was made up of parts … how 5 was made up of 2 and 3 and if I recognized the patterns of the dots—each dot a part of the whole—I could more quickly arrive at an answer. Simply by visualizing patterns in the parts making up a whole I could visualize the whole. Extrapolating from that popsicle moment, I realized that I could ‘think in 10’s.’  I could move parts in and out to add in fives and tens to estimate and calculate bigger numbers that were more difficult to add, such as 27 and 58. I realized by adding 30 and 60, which was easy, and then taking away 3 and 2, or five, was easy too. Suddenly grouping, or what I recognized as seeing patterns of the parts making up the whole, made sense. Number sense! Yeah for Arithmetic! Miss Mudry would have given me another orange sticker.

Preparing to write the Calculations for Care givers course, I went on a hunt and scanned educational studies on developing number sense, or numeracy, in the era of math anxiety. I came across Dorothea Steinke’s work. Steinke understands the foundation of numeracy to "be part-whole thinking, which she defines as the ability to deconstruct quantities, keep track of the parts, put the parts back together in a different way to solve a math problem, and know that the answer makes sense" (Steinke, 3). Whatever numeracy was, I seemed to at least have an A, B, C understanding of it, thanks to a lazy afternoon throwing dice on a blanket in a nut orchard.

Numeracy, I learned, was a different way of looking at numbers from the math my high school and college profs represented. Their approach was to do their utmost to prepare me to understand higher levels of math thinking—abstract conceptual math. Utterly beautiful but requiring a discipline and passion that I was not able to give to it. Instead, numeracy is the ability to work with numbers in the context of their purpose and use. Numeracy focuses on a working relationship with numbers that are allies and colleagues in providing what you need to know to do your job or live your life successfully. For nurses, this would be the ability to calculate dosing safely and accurately. For my other life with the horses and goats on Fox Song Farm, it is the ability to figure out how much hay I need to get through the winter and determine if my barn has space enough to hold that number of bales. It is also figuring out if I can find
the money in my skinny bank account to pay for it. By the way, the magic hay number is 10 tons, and yes, full up to the top, we have just enough room to store the equivalent amount of  small bales that make up 10 tons of breakfast and dinner for our horses and goats (for 120 lb bales: 167 bales, rounded to 170 bales because I like round numbers). I'm still working on the bank account numbers.

Although I admire the mental athletics of mathematicians, I am a lazy-pants math person and prefer playing in the shallow end of the pool, yes, with popsicle sticks at the Arithmetic table. Numeracy—number sense—is how I approach problems requiring calculation. And, instead of seeing numbers as alien species with inscrutable habits, I now greet them as representatives of a specific quantity of something tangible. Counters. Containers of the ‘thing’ I am trying to calculate.

A light-bulb moment I have witnessed in students is when they recognize the simple truth that ‘1’ is made up of all the points on the ruler from 0 to 1. ‘One’ becomes substance, not mere label. For in numeracy, we are concerned with the amount of something very real and meaningful. If I can reframe a person’s understanding of number from an abstract non-entity to the thing being measured itself, that person’s math anxiety greatly diminishes.

For example, I met with a student who was having difficulty recognizing when a calculation in pharmacology (medication dosage) was incorrect. The usual teachings about estimating an answer first and comparing this to the solution, or double-checking her answer by using the ‘is this reasonable?’ question, or backwards solving the question was not working for her. Without thinking, I said, “Okay, from the label know that you have 4000 mg in the bottle total. Let’s say instead that it’s 4000 beans you have in
there. Given the drug prescription you have been given, how many beans are you going to administer to your patient?” 
This time, she was able to recognize that with her wrong answer, she was going to be giving WAY too many beans! That student later soared through her calculations final, getting the required 100% of questions right in record time. “It’s all about the beans,” she said to me. “When I begin to get anxious, I ask myself, ‘how many beans!’”

Many of us with math-terror need a new way of visualizing numbers. If thinking of beans helps, so be it. In Stanislas Dehaene’s book, The Number Sense, he mentions that many
people often attribute a sense of personality, or identity, to specific numbers, especially the integers. For example, many people see a specific color when thinking about a specific number. Dehaene cites studies demonstrating associations between numbers and colors: “most people associate black and white with either 0 and 1, or 8and 9; yellow, red, and blue with small numbers such as 2, 3, 4; and brown, purple, and gray with larger numbers such as 6, 7, and 8” (Dehaene, loc 1646). What a rainbow an intricate calculus problem would be! 

Other than ‘4’, which I do see as a pale red rather shy fellow beside the flashier ‘5’ who wears a herringbone suit with a wide tie, I don’t see colors when I work with numbers. I do, however, in solidarity with many primary school children, see the shape of numbers as demonstrating a sense of personality. For example, ‘8’ is clearly googly-eyes set sidewise, an obvious snoop who is trying to be sneaky about it, and ‘0’ definitely looks like the Kool-Aid man who similarly intrudes into most large numbers that are just standing there minding their own business.

I think I may include time in the course for students to air their feelings about numbers. It will probably therapeutic for me, too. I might have some unspoken animosity toward ‘O.’ On the other hand, I quite like ‘3,’ who is peaceable and always open to things.

When it comes down to it, although math can be intimidating to many, numeracy—numbers—are etched in the gray matter of our fingertips. They are a part of how we order our daily lives, but more, they are intimately connected with the way we think. We are, ultimately, bean counters in the nicest possible way. We measure things: with our tools, our hands, our eyes. We count on our fingers and on each other. We weigh broccoli in the grocery store as well as the worth of a politician’s words. Number sense lies in uncovering the reason behind our search for the representative set of numerals, reasoning out what we need to know, and allowing our words and numbers to slide together.

I guess that is the starting point—as well as the final anticipated outcome—of my little course. For students to uncover their own natural number sense so they recognize what makes sense number-wise, and are thus safe, safe, safe when calculating medication doses.

Beans. Popsicles. Dice. The Kool-Aid man. Here’s to our collective movement from math terrors to visualizing a rainbow of happy integers.


Dehaene, S. (2011) The Number Sense: How the mind creates mathematics, 2nd ed. 

Steinke, D. (May, 2008) Part-Whole thinking. World Education. http://www.ncsall.net/fileadmin/resources/fob/2008/fob_9a.pdf

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Milestones and wellbeing

There’s nothing like a school-age kid daydreaming in class to the droning of a teacher, seeing in her dreams sun-drenched beach days, or snow-deep toboggan days, or lazy sleep-in mornings. We learn, from early on to measure our work time with fun time; that the cycle of days includes periods where fortitude means constrained effort toward goals that aren’t necessarily our own, as well as cycles of days where our inner and outer beings are more aligned to the whim and whisper of our own heart-minds. Summer vacation, Christmas holidays, Spring break: don’t they still strike a feeling of bliss in you when you say them? Each one like an island sanctuary beckoning to us during those long school days when the effort of structured learning seemed interminable. They functioned as milestones all along our 12-year journey. “The summer I first went to camp and had a huge fight with my best friend.” “The spring break we went to Disneyland.” “The Christmas we were snowed in and I broke up with my first boyfriend.”  School: our first community journey that culminated 12 years later in that final milestone recorded by family photos of you in a gown with a funny hat.

Our first ‘real’ jobs that paid by the hour or that first pitiful
salary perhaps did not have the length and breadth of those school-year vacations, but they did have a rhythm that marked work and rest, too. Coffee breaks, lunch breaks, birthday celebrations, all helped to create a pattern demarking the periods of time that belonged to another and that belonged to ourselves. Throughout the year, springing up like jewels released only by time, stat holidays and vacation days gleamed on our calendar. Although many of us greedily grasped stat holidays to work and earn double-pay, and vacations days were meager, they still stood as days that were different and distinct from the days making up the weeks that marched on in uniform consistency. Milestones, perhaps smaller than our school year events, rippled the surface on that stream of days giving us a sense of cycle and a turning of seasons.

College-years had their own distinct pattern. Milestones were not only winter and spring breaks and semester or year ends, rather they were midterms and finals and summer jobs and internships and clinicals with specific start and end dates. They were research projects tied into budget funding that began with proposals that included deadlines. And, of course, there was that final graduation week that culminated in more family photos of you in a
gown with yet another funny hat.

Our first career jobs began the process, for many of us, that eroded the healthy, refreshing cycle of milestones as cyclical seasons signifying a beginning and an end. Career jobs demanded that sacrifices be made. If our careers were in an office, coffee breaks and lunches were often taken at desks while work went on with a minor interruption for chewing and swallowing. If our careers were in retail or service industries, coffee breaks and lunches meant quickly attending your own shopping or banking or dashing out to ferry kids. For healthcare providers, breaks were skipped altogether on short-staffed shifts, or became time to catch up on charting, collaborate quickly with colleagues, or, on night shifts, to catch a few Zzz. And not in a relaxing way but a grim “Must sleep as I only have 20 minutes” kind of desperation.  During 12-hour nights that were, likely, about to be stretched into 16-hour shifts, a 20-minute nap became a dead-serious task to be accomplished.

Career jobs, including self-employment, blur the landscape of milestones and as a result these rarely become moments of pause, reflection, change of pace or refreshment. Instead they are seen as tiny islands that can be plundered for extra time to catch up on the many tasks that the river of enterprise continues to demand. Vacations become stolen time that must, somehow, be made up on your return. The frantic efforts to clear tasks away before vacations, knowing the pile of work that will continue to grow when you are away can make any plans for vacation a herculean effort. We say we do it for the family, for the
kids to experience the pause, refreshment, change of pace. But we are exhausted. It is not unusual to witness eager rising stars turn into cynics and energetic care givers burn out and exit their profession.

Milestones are important to well-being. Not simply those event-moments of graduation, big birthdays and anniversaries and christenings. Rather, the rhythm of events that break up our flow of work; that separates for us time-that-belongs-to-others and time where our bodies, minds, hearts can listen, align, become coherent again. Where purpose and personal mission can bubble up once again to provide us with a lifeboat on the relentless river of industry and career. Sometimes we need to stop; more often, we need to re-establish a synergy with nature and ourselves that follow seasonal change, beginnings and endings, fall deluge and spring run-off, times of surge and times of withdrawal. We need cycles with milestones that signal to us that the pause button is on its way as reliable as summer vacation was to us sitting in the February classroom in Grade three.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Seasonal Shifts

Seasonal Shifts

Seasonal shifts of intention
Rise like wind-currents over snow:
You feel them before you see the rising swirl of flakes flooding sight with cold determination.

Swaying to a beat from a distant star,
I see a convoy of creatures, ear bent, heart-tuned to rhythms shy of malleus, incus, stapes.
Moving from silent stirrings of heart, they lean toward sounds and sights yet unheard, unseen.
Hooves noiselessly sink into dessert sand.
Exhaustion stills tongues.
Even the night breeze has dropped like a stone.
Only the Child within hears the roar of Spirit-air rising, readying to rush into fresh lungs;
Only the Child within hears the singing of stars, and angels discharging like firecrackers into the atmosphere.

The bones and heart—those ancient bedfellows of knowing—sense the shift long before the mind knows to surrender to it.
Body wisdom, old as Methuselah, rises and runs to Light, where eternal spirit and resurrected body kiss.
There is glory in the aged landscape of a handful of clay held at the beginning of human time. The prophets knew this and so they sang their signs.
Earth seasons know this: rumbling chants of Creation and Christmas in the unfolding of leaves and bursting of berries, the tumble of new lambs, and flutter of wise wings.

The Son rises soft. We feel the rush of Wind before we feel it. Know it in our heart-bones before mind clears and turns in anticipation of it.
Such love—a tidal wave of kindness, peace, joy as ocean-deep as it is star-tall drowning discontent and dredging arteries to new vistas.
Spirit runs radiant, over-turning sense, squabbles, and sanctimony.
Angels and shepherds, forever etched as the quintessential Christmas mob, race rampant over a startled town.

The Child. Oh, the Child is born.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Winter wisdom

      Winter wisdom      

Stars shine brighter on the coldest nights.
As if the harsh wind swollen with ice-shards, sharpens light,
Carving edges and angles until starshine gleams diamond tough.

Hard times rub raw, wearing down fleshy growths.
Daily irritants temper soft living and hone the heart,
Hammering essential character-curves that rise and dip, a roadmap of truth, receiving and reflecting Presence;
Non-essentials chipping away and flowing like sand through the artist’s fingers.
We run from pain, from any semblance of suffering, afraid of the brand it will burn
On our inner selves; we know we will be made different by one deep look at its formidable face.

Perhaps, instead, suffering is a birth of authenticity.
A laser-like burning of dross by a clean, cold scalpel.
Perhaps suffering is a Michelangelo; an eternal eye finding the
Work of art buried within our marble skin, freeing the frank and fearless soul to
Stand and deliver Joy, Love, Presence.

Like three candles bright, the Nativity in my Christmas snow globe houses
Mary, Joseph, and the Child.
Each small statue seems eternally surprised by finding itself straw-deep in a cold stable, eye-fodder for a donkey, a cud-chewing cow, and ruminating sheep.
Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus unified by space and time, each life trajectory merging into utter stillness
(Still, not static; recall that fast-moving spheres appear motionless to our eyes)
The Magnificat yes:
Yes, glory and time joining;
Yes, body and spirit merging;
A still-life surface hiding the workings of proton pathways, elemental orbits, Spirit breath.
Wild joy birthed in a moment: this moment; this eternal movement.

Only in this present moment is joy lived, breathed, gifted.
The past brings only a reflective glow of it; the future only a hope of it;
Joy springs forth in this moment, this breath, this eternal Presence of body, soul, spirit aligned in eternal motion.
To live in each moment—sorrow or not, suffering or not—soul-eyes wide and alert, is riding the eternal current:
Fathomless Presence in a star gleam;
Boundless Love in a Baby;
Unfettered Joy.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Hakalau meditation

Moving from Tiger vision to Horse awareness as a Hakalau meditation  

Ecotherapy grounding exercise

Hakalau meditation is a wonderful way to become present and grounded-in-the-moment. The practice of Hakalau is straightforward: first you choose a fixed point of focus, and then you slowly bring your awareness to your peripheral vision, while continuing to hold your attention on the fixed spot. Finally, you allow your focus to spread out to fully experience peripheral vision, still connecting to the fixed spot, but now within the broadest of visions. Sounds simple, and it is, but Hakalau medication can be powerful and profound.

Animals move between fixed gaze and wide vision throughout their day. Basic survival demands an ability to do this – a predator needs to

be sharply focused on prey … and a prey animal must maintain a soft, broad focus that acts as an environmental scan to pick up any movement of predators. As all animals need both types of vision, they must become expert in moving between these foci, and in using all their body to provide continual feedback. Herd animals—grazers and browsers—have adapted beautiful ways to read their environment; in fact, ‘reading’ is a much more organic process than reading a book! Animal ‘reading’ is much more mutual and connected, not only to herd members, but to the environment itself. For example, horses can pick up increased heart rate and blood pressure from meters away and can pick up vibrations through the sensitive parts of their hooves, too. Their large electro-magnetic cardiac field influences any creature within its wide range. Horses pick up the ‘vibes’ of their herd mates almost instantly.

Chickens and bird flocks function in much the same way. Chickens have focused gaze to see that tiny seed or the movement of a small  bug in the soil in front of them, but respond in milliseconds to a shadow casting over their area—it might just be a predator hawk after a meal. The waft from the wing of one flock mate results in the entire flock scattering. Animals and birds are truly present in their environment.

Being able to move from a narrow focused ‘predator’ gaze to a soft, broad focus of a herd animal is both a necessary skill for life … and a great way to become centered in our environment.

Tiger vision to Horse Awareness

Tiger vision: Pick a fixed spot to look at, preferably above eye level, so that your field of vision seems to bump up against your eyebrows, but the eyes are not so high so as to cut off the field of vision. If you are outside, a spot on a tree trunk is ideal. A bird nest or a knot in a fence post … whatever is in front of you … pick it and focus your tiger eyes …

  1. Tiger eyes …  As you stare at this spot, gently drop all non-essentials from your mind, giving your prefrontal cortex the job to focus all of your attention on the spot
  2. Melting tiger eyes …  Begin to melt your tiger eyes. Envision your vision-focus softening, liquifying, melting out and spreading to your left and to your right. Keep looking at the spot, but become aware of the peripheral vision pooling to your right and to your left
  3. Melting tiger eyes … Continue melting and allowing your vision to spread out right to left … but now allow it to pool down and rise up, so that your peripheral vision has four directions: left and right, and up and down … keep a looking at your spot, but more and more fully expand outward and enjoy the power of the soft vision of your peripheral gaze, broadening … widening … expanding your connection with your environment
  4. Softly disengage your eyes from the spot and enjoy your horse eyes!
This is a great practice to do throughout your day … especially when you are not able to focus, or are feeling very ‘in the box’ focused. Let the horses out …

But, be ready when tiger vision is needed in your day … we need both horse and tiger vision!

Want a pdf of this exercise? go to www.kindlehealth.org or contact me through the website if you are unable to find it.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Star gazing ... Advent, 2017

Star gazing

The summer sky is languid and light,
Boiling with stars and satellites, planets and jets.
Meteors and fireworks tour the night like paramecium in a warm pond,
Or flash in sudden sparks as from a stoked campfire,
Marshmallows exploding in an indigo sky.

December nights are different; the sun cold and cloaked by five.
Winter stars reach long fingers like narrow spears from there to here,
Brittle and gleaming: ice-ladders through the deep dusk of space.
December stars hold hard history and an arctic earth mirrors back their lore--
Written in frost and ice and shimmering rain dropping like icicles,
Sending nano-sized units of dazzling light-arrows into slow pupils.

December days are flagrant with earth-bound stars, too.
Bare branches crossed and twisted reveal organic carvings of the five-pointed stars we drew as children.
Flocks sweep overhead, murmurs of evolving shapes: round and robust, sudden star shapes flickering and sliding between the tops of trees.
Rocks, rain-clean, gleam stellar fissures, while mica and quartz wink back the winter sun.
Stars are all around and we follow them, drawn to their shape and shine.
We reach for stars as children, tracing their shape with our finger—hands high in the air or eyes bent, following a cracked line in a stone, a row of tracks crossing the good earth, a bedewed spider web, a frost-edged stand of dying thistle.
This is our child-voice rising from that deeper place where wise men watched for signs and recognized heavenly messages.

Those wise men following the Bethlehem star, held tight the wonder within like a touch stone, saw the nature-sign sketched on high and journeyed …
Reaching for the earth-edge of those silver-gold light threads tumbling from the night sky, weaving a carpet of light before them,
The language of earth and heaven understood by each clay-heart breathed into Image dei,
Moving in synchronic rhythm with star fire, earth-sign, well-deep joy, and Spirit-wind …
Crossing the earth keel-deep on camel-ships,
Sailing under desert wind through silent night, child heart calling to Child Heart.

Is it any wonder that the animals knew first? Why they are so deeply woven into the Nativity?
There is for them no self-conscious social persona, no conflict with earth-heart and soul-core, no theological wrestling with words at least a stone’s throw away from this Present Moment.
Blessed are those who live in the Present Moment, for there the Eternal is.

So be now … body-hearing, soul-listening; feel this through your bones, this star-stirring Wind-swept night, holy laughter bubbling and rushing like joyful angels;
Reach for light threads curling all around you, luminous in the night;
These ladders between heaven and earth begin at the gateway of your own heart;
Now, journey, heart-eyes wide and strong, tread deeply to the Manger,
Dove-wings like Stars all around.

Merry Christmas,