Cheryl Strayed wrote a book a few years ago called Tiny Beautiful Things – It’s a book based on her stint as an advice columnist known as “Sugar” and it’s full of people sharing their heart wrenching experiences and asking advice. It’s full of stories about the things that make being human so hard, yet at the same time, can hold so much beauty if we let them. The story I’m about to share isn’t about overcoming drug addiction or sexual assault or homelessness like many of the Dear Sugar columns were, but tiny beautiful things don’t have to be about overcoming the hardest stuff of life. They just have to be tiny and beautiful.
Woodland Manitou is a book for individuals who are searching for something that they can’t quite verbalize; those who aren’t content with the state of the world but are trying to make peace with how things are; those who are unsure how to move forward in taking action to change what feels important to change; those who want to find solace in natural spaces. Reading this book provides reassurance that we aren’t alone in uncertainty, a reminder that there is beauty in the ordinary if we take time to notice and focus on it, and hope that one person’s choices can make a difference even if it’s not always apparent what that difference is.
A few months ago, I sat down with my nature-connection colleague Sean Guinan of the Environmental Pediatrics Institute to chat about “rewilding childhood.” It’s a concept that we could all do well to embrace as our use of technology expands and our children are born into a world that is vastly different from the one that greeted us. I’m in that weird “fringe” or “micro” generation, the one that includes anybody born from about 1977 through 1983. When I was in high school, my friend Jena helped me come up with my first email address. There was a class called “keyboarding,” and the computers were huge machines that took up entire desks. We did research using encyclopedias, and there were limits to how many “web” resources you could use when writing a paper. I had a cell phone in college but almost never used it since it was so expensive, and I turned in my senior paper …. on paper, and it got returned marked up in red ink. Social media was not a thing until I was well out of college, though Instant messaging had started to permeate the campus the last few years of my undergraduate days. In short, I remember what it was like to live in the analog world, and digital technology took on a ‘life of its own’ at about the same time I did. Those who share my generation, or those who were born in generations prior might resonate with the following:
If you grew up in the 1980s or before, it’s likely you spent much of your free time during childhood running around outside, making forts, chasing butterflies, or just kicking around with the neighborhood kids. You didn’t have a cell phone and the video game options were limited. Going outside was the best option. ~Wild Child: Rewilding Childhood
I’m sitting outside on the back deck, surrounded by towering basswood trees that have just fully come into their summer leafy glory. Birds are chirping, and I can hear frogs croaking down in the shallows of the lake, and squirrels chattering at each other as they race from tree to tree. Filtered sunlight is streaming down, there’s a gentle breeze keeping any bugs away, the purple flowers of the hillside Sweet William are in full bloom, and all of this combined creates a little oasis of beauty and tranquility. I can also hear the growl of heavy machinery as crews prepare to pave another section of the road and every so often there’s a loud crash as a tree comes down, followed by the buzzing of a chainsaw and the beeping of a large loader backing up. I hear a diesel truck roar by and the dust from the road rises like a massive cloud as it races by the house. There is beauty and there is destruction. This contrast exists everywhere. Continue reading “Between Beauty and Destruction”
I have been a wellness coach for almost exactly 10 years. And along the way, I have gotten thoroughly immersed in positive psychology. Which, if you didn’t know, is a fairly new field of study typically said to be pioneered by Dr. Martin Seligman in the late 1990s. It’s all about reaping the benefits that can be had from focusing on the good in life, and where you want to go in the future, rather than on unpacking all the stuff that has happened in the past as more traditional psychology models tend to encourage. I’ve see it work for plenty of individuals over the years – there’s a lot of benefit to placing your focus on what you do well already and the good things that you want to bring into being.
Right now I’m reading a book called America the Anxious: How Our Pursuit of Happiness is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks. Midway through the book, Dr. James Coyne, in an interview with author Ruth Whippman, shared the name of a lecture he was to be giving the following week. It was “Positive psychology is for rich white people.”
In my work as a coach, I recommend ‘practicing gratitude’ on a regular basis, regularly help people take ownership of their choices, and often encourage calling out the positives in life while staying present in the moments as they unfold. These strategies have made a difference for many of the folks I have worked with, so I know positive psychology has plenty of benefits.
Plenty of benefits IF you were born into privilege. Continue reading “The Dark Side of Positive Psychology”
What would it be like to dance with mountains? To sway with the majestic alpine wildflowers that dot the valleys, or to listen to the whisper of clear snowmelt as it cascades to lower ground over a bed of stones smoothed to perfection? To kiss the pine needles, to breathe the scent of ancient bedrock mystery? Or to walk in step with the peaks that have been stripped of life, or the valleys that have been clearcut and left for dead? The toxic rivers, the tundra fracked of life, the homeless topsoil that can’t hold on? How do we love our failed expectations alongside our beautiful victories? How can our defeats, our poor choices, and our monsters co-exist with our grace, our goodness, and our love? How do we embrace them all and hear what they have to say?
Dance with mountains.
Continue reading “To Dance With Mountains”
The sorrow, grief, and rage you feel is a measure of your humanity and your evolutionary maturity. As your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal.
Politics. Human decency. Disrespect for women. Self hatred. Governmental control. Fear. Complacency. Planetary destruction. Stealing. Dishonoring sacred sites. Destroying nations. The despair of the poor. The despair of the rich. Outrage. Ignorance. Brushing it under the rug. Dishonesty. Hope. Hopelessness. Wondering. Paying the bills. Running away. Feeling stuck.
This list could continue on for some time. The words that describe what’s happening on the planet earth right now are many, and they don’t always make you want to jump for joy or sigh in relief. Of course, there is goodness and that which is worthy of gratitude alongside the parts that make you want to scream in frustration or shake someone. But sometimes it’s hard to notice the good stuff. Continue reading “Broken Open”