The Importance of Stretching

I’m writing that title knowing that it has (at least) a double meaning. The importance of stretching in life is also related to the importance of stretching out our bodies every day, and to remembering to take breaks to stretch our minds when doing desk work (like I am now).

I am a Certified Yoga Instructor but these days I am enjoying just keeping it simple. The important thing is to be regular and consistent in your stretches. Simple neck stretches, chin tucked, back of the neck lengthened, and feeling my spine stretch up from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet is a good basis to start from. Paying attention to what feels out of whack and listening for what will help. Following your body’s cues for what feels better when you do it. The simple remembering to tune into your body’s wisdom and act on it can make a huge difference. A recent client was so stressed out that it was greatly affecting her relationship with her horse and their ability to compete well together. One aspect we often neglect in looking at why our animal friends are not going well, is our ability and willingness to care for ourselves. This will then affect our ability to relate to our animal partners and color the world in a corresponding way. Our animals are extremely empathetic to our feelings and our physical state, and this affects everyday interactions. If you want the best from your animal friends, start by taking good care of all aspects of your health. Being present is the first step in Animal Communication.

For a start, while your reading this right now, stop and take a moment. Tune into your physical body. Ask, “what do I need, right now”? Wait for the answer, and don’t rush or predict what it will be. It may very well be something as simple as “take a breath” “slow down, sit down and look around to enjoy this place” or “I need a drink of water, I”m really feeling thirsty and didn’t even notice”, or something simple like that. Do it! Don’t wait for your body to have to scream at you. It might also be something for your emotional body. ” I need to write in my journal to get these stuck feelings out” “I need to have a good cry so I can move on” I need to be silly and express how happy I’m feeling inside” or ” I need to mark this good feeling so I will remember it tomorrow” or something else.

The point is, to listen to the still, small voice. It is a peaceful powerful voice that always points you to greater health and contentment. Whatever you do, feel better in the doing of it. And in feeling better yourself, you inadvertently, or directly, help your animal friends feel better and be better able to do their jobs. Whether that’s sitting purring on your lap, walking through the park helping you to get some exercise, or carrying you around a Grand Prix course with finesse and style.

Good luck! And have fun!

Photo by Laila Klinsmann on Pexels.com
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May All Beings Have Happiness and the Causes of Happiness

MAY ALL BEINGS HAVE HAPPINESS AND THE CAUSES OF HAPPINESS.

MAY ALL BEINGS BE FREE FROM SUFFERING AND THE CAUSES OF SUFFERING.

MAY ALL BEINGS DWELL IN EQUANIMITY, FREE FROM ATTACHMENT AND AVERSION.

MAY ALL BEINGS NEVER BE PARTED FROM FREEDOM’S TRUE JOY.”

~from David Nichtern’s “In Praise of…”  lyrics based on Metta practice in the Buddhist tradition

These words that form the practice of Metta also known as Lovingkindness practice in the Buddhist tradition are a great comfort to many when focused on as part of a daily practice of training the mind.

I was thinking of how much suffering I put myself through by worrying and stressing about all the ills of my life and in the lives of animals and the environment. While meditation on Metta is a great way to release some of that worry, I think another great thing is when we can turn worrying into action, and then let go of the results.

I recently heard a conversation about one of the more sensational and horrifying news stories here in the US, and the people I was with assuring each other that it was the karma of the people involved to be part of this horrific act of torture and violence. While I trust that the people speaking were well-meaning and kind people, I have to disagree with this outlook, or at least the result it seems to have, which is to then dismiss the entire situation as out of our hands and not our responsibility.  Instead of the tendency to generalize pain out of our awareness, because it hurts too much to think about, we do have a responsibility to look at suffering and see what we each can change in our lives or ways we can help in individual ways to relieve this suffering. This is one reason I went to Thailand and volunteered with the Elephants, why I contribute to environmental and animal rescue groups, why I admire people who walk their talk every day in their work and personal life. I wondered if the only way that people who abuse animals for instance can do so, is to see them not as individuals, but as objects or groups over which people  have control. So would it help to see some individuals in the animal world? I’m going to include a few pictures of individuals at Elephant Nature Park, which I find very beautiful, and I hope you do too. These have been saved from a life of suffering and are some of the lucky ones. Each of us can take small and big actions to help more individuals become free of suffering, especially ourselves. Because would you ever hurt another unless you were suffering yourself? Each time we help heal another, we help heal ourselves. And if you are now in too much pain to help another, hopefully someone will reach out to help you out of your darkness.  This is what we can do to make the world a better place, one step at a time. We help each other, even when we don’t understand why the world is the way it is. In this way we help ourselves out of our own pain and misery.

blueelewater elephanteye DSCN1183Iwalkingele

babyeleNew life, new hopes, new dreams in this little one, baby Dok Mai was born a week before I arrived at Elephant Nature Park, born into a free life.

May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.

May all beings be free of suffering and the causes of suffering.

May all beings dwell in equanimity, free of attachment and aversion.

May all beings never be parted from freedoms true joy.

A Visitor in the Night

I don’t have pictures for this blog. You’ll understand why later.

The other day, after a glorious summer’s day of hot, sweaty, herb gathering and chicken tending, followed by a relaxing evening watching a favorite show with hubby, I decided to take a delicious shower before finally settling into a well deserved rest late at night.

As I stepped out, clean and wet with just a towel on, I noticed the bathroom door wide open and my nearby bedroom door was shut. Unusual. We have not closed the bedroom door in 17 years due to roaming German Shepherds who like to sleep with us, and in the past, a kid who might come and go in the night. I figured the door was open because of aforementioned Shepherds who like to check on my safety while I’m showering. However, the closed bedroom door was definitely odd.

“Why is the door closed?” I called out as I toweled off,  to my husband, thinking he was inside.

“There’s a Bat in there.” I heard from downstairs.

“Oh. My pajamas are in there.” I said.

“So is the Bat” he deadpanned.

As most of my friends know, I love bats. For many years while I earned my living as an Environmental Educator, I taught classes on the many benefits of living in harmony with them, and their documented social intelligence, economic and environmental boons.

However, late at night, naked, and half asleep is still not the ideal way to renew acquaintances.

Sigh.  I slipped into the bedroom, speaking softly to the still invisible Little Brown Bat. I knew s/he would probably have found a quiet little nook to re-evaluate this unfortunate turn of events. He didn’t want to be there any more than I wanted him to be there. I also knew it was likely a juvenile who was confused and most certainly this bat was more worried about me than i was about it. Important to remember when having to interact with another species is how dangerous that other species thinks you are. Hence, the quiet talk. The slow easy breathing and thoughts of how my only wish was to gather him up and gently escort him outside to the night.

Bats are vital – economically  and environmentally world-wide.  In 1994 (publication of the nearest book on Bats that I reached for off my bookshelf) more than 300 economically important plant species, producing over 450 commercial  products, were known to depend on bats for pollination in the Old World alone. For example, the Durian fruit contributes $120 million each year to the economy of Southeast Asia. (1994 data from my Golden Guide to Bats of the World).  This estimate has surely gone up since then. I invite you to look up current facts on Bats and all they do for us, and the current challenge they are facing. In our part of the world, bats are insectivorous and indispensable to maintaining insect balance for our crops and comfort.  Even the Vampire Bat (who only lives in South America) benefits humans by  having a component of their saliva that prevents blood clotting that may be used to prevent heart attacks in humans. Guano is not only a valued fertilizer but has bacteria in it that is used to treat  chemical wastes and in the production of gasahol and detergents.

I remembered that the Little Brown Bat doesn’t have a mouth big enough to bite me very easily with. Still, I don’t take chances, and I use common sense when forced into a situation of interaction. Having handled many of these while assisting Bat Conservation International with an Autumn Species Count many years ago, I still vividly remember late one dark cool night, being surrounded by hundreds or thousands of various species of bats as they darkened the stars behind them with their sheer numbers. They were having their last night or two of “partying” before hibernating. Swarming in a dense cloud, feeding on bugs to store up fat reserves for hibernation, making love, being social, and doing as yet not understood activities as they prepared for the long winter ahead, I was in complete awe of them. This time is important as the prepare themselves to make it all the way to Springtime without eating again or moving much.

We stretched a net nearby to interrupt the flight of what we hoped would be a representative count. All of us Naturalists then set to work gently extricating tiny bat feet and claws from the net, then sexing and identifying the species in our hands before setting them free. I started out with big leather gloves because I was a newbie then, and was a bit nervous. It soon became apparent that gloves were extremely awkward and just frightened the bats, as you really had to manhandle them to extradite them. So, off came the gloves. What I soon realized was that if I was calm and moved slowly and gently, the bats of whatever species would be placid and almost appeared tame. If I appeared nervous or hurrying, they would also often become agitated and sometimes even try to defend themselves from the giantess who was interrupting the party/shopping trip.  In a cloud that darkened  the moonlit sky considerably, as I stood among them, I marveled at how not even one ever bumped into me, though they swooped all around and close to me, catching bugs and doing who-knew-what.

Back to the present. Once I  had on some clothing, I evaluated my options. Having 35 years as a trained Naturalist and Wildlife Rehabilitator, a deep appreciation for the scientific order of Chiroptera, and being inoculated against Rabies, gives me a real advantage in such situations. I still do not handle bats (or any wild animal) with my bare hands. This is called common sense. My most used options are a box and stiff cardboard to sidle him into and carry her outside, or a towel to place over her and gently pick him up with wings pinned while carrying to the open window.

Once I found the little guy, at one point  he dropped down and landed on the back of my calves, as I was kneeling on a wooden chest. The  furry little microchiroptera looked very uncomfortable and as I twisted to try to pick her up, she crawled over to my other calf. It tickled.  Bats can’t take off from the ground like birds can. Totally different wing, bone and body structure make it so they need to drop down and take off from a height. The resulting swooping around a room that happened when my first pick up attempt failed, is the result of how awkward it is to fly in a tight space where you have to land up high enough to drop down for your next take off. The myth about bats becoming entangled in your hair is just that – a myth. When I was surrounded in the darkest night at the bat hibernaculum, while they swooped around and above me, not one ever touched me in any way. I was the only one who broke the polite and real distance bats prefer between us. If you’ve ever tried to swoop around a 15 foot square room with webbed wings, well then you’ll know why it appears that bats are coming at you  – it’s almost impossible to navigate gracefully that small a space while flying, even if you do have better radio radar capabilities than our military’s best.

Finally, I was able to very gently pry him from the stone wall where he was clinging, and quickly open the towel outside the previously opened window and watch him fly into the night. A healthy, grateful bat was gone, relieved to be far away from me, and most likely wiser for the experience.

FOOT NOTE
Most bats are clean, healthy and non-aggressive to humans. Precautions should be taken as with any wild animal, and people must avoid handling or unnecessary interactions (which most are). Rabies is present in less than 0.5 % of the population, a percentage no higher than what is observed in most other mammals. Like other mammals, bats cannot carry the virus without becoming sick and dying. Rabies does not spread extensively among bats and is only extremely rarely transmitted to humans. Fewer people have died from bat rabies in the last 50 years than have died from dog bites and bee stings in one year alone. That being said, if a bat appears sick, common sense must be used and greater care taken. Anyone being bitten by any wild animal should wash the wound well with soap and water and seek medical care immediately.

Cocoon

As I typed this title thinking of one idea, instead the movie by the same name came to mind. One of my old favorites. A vision of a life where old age becomes full of joy and contentment, with a new adventure to boot. That’s my vision for Old Age.

However, the reason I originally wrote this title was because of something I saw yesterday.

“What is this?”, you might ask. When I first saw it yesterday, it was  a mere net, a gossamer sheet of threads over a florescent green, bulbous and  huge caterpillar.  There were ants busily moving in, through and around the space being created as this net was spun, seemingly a happy part of the green worm’s creation.

I didn’t take a picture then because I wasn’t sure which way it was going. Somehow it appeared that perhaps this worm was on its way out. I remember thinking – how does a caterpillar come out of the cocoon, as a caterpillar? Am I missing something?

Yes, I was. When I approached the area I found it in this morning, I realized it was almost done building a very firm abode to rest in while it transformed into its next stage.

Wow.

Talk about creating your own safety. It seems like a perfect metaphor for the necessary times of introspection, meditation, rest, retreat and inner nourishment. Winter always seems like a natural time for this, but I realize that perhaps we need mini-cocoons – shorter periods of withdrawal, more frequently. Momentary retreats where we nourish and transform ourselves. Take an unkind word and change it in our heart into a more thoughtful one so that it doesn’t fester and burn. Keeping our inner Self clear and full of Light to support this vision of an old age filled with Joy and Contentment. I love that thought.

I looked again at the safety net and saw how common, ordinary bits of the surrounding environment had been utilized to form this shining gossamer fortress. A tiny piece of leather, a withering leaf, stems of leaves long gone. This is part of the way of thinking that permaculture comes out of.  To use whatever surrounds us naturally, is already present in our local surroundings, and utilize it to help create or reinforce the cycle of  life and make it better. Or in the case of this one, protect us from the environment while we sense and change and meld with our deepest desires.  There is a sense of completeness that comes from noticing local availability, and what is literally in our own back yard,  before having something shipped across the country or the world.

I am watching this Cocoon each day to see what miraculous creature will unfold from its time of introspection, or perhaps it’s just resting and nourishing its Self with beautiful thoughts and visions of radiant mirth. More to come.

What do you love (like a honeybee does)?

Yesterday, as I watched the honeybees buzzing in my pumpkin patch, I marveled at them. It’s always exciting for me to see honeybees after they have been so painfully absent from our gardens, struggling with diseases I believe were brought on by persistent pesticides and a resulting weakened immune system.

Covered in golden pollen so heavy they can barely fly, they appeared drunk and immersed in revelry, a perpetual party of seeking out what they love and then immersing themselves fully in it.

What nourishes each of us? Conversely, what is it that slowly poisons us and therefore we need to avoid or protect ourselves from being exposed to?  What is it that we are inherently drawn to, and what attracts us because it is feeds the Core of our Being? What do we allow ourselves to get wrapped up in fully, before bringing it back home to nourish our family and friends with?

It’s becoming more and more important to me, no matter what,  to let my Inner Wisdom draw me to that which I know to be best for my Soul, no matter how it looks to a casual observer or critic who is on the outside looking in.

Can anyone else ever really know what nourishes each one of us us, and are they ever in a position to take it away from us simply with their disapproval? No.

My loved ones benefit when I am following the wild call of my Wild Heart. The critics will never be happy or smile at me, no matter how much I sing to them.

I know it’s time to pay more attention to what nourishes me, less time worrying about why people hurt each other, and then fill myself up with the nectar of life until the pollen is dripping off my sides.

Honeybees have the right idea.