Why do we love the horizon so much?

Why do we love the horizon so much?

Why do we love the horizon so much?

Ahh… the horizon.

Is it the beauty of a fiery, pink-hued setting sun that draws us in? Or is it the gloriously glowing orb that rises to a new day that captivates us most?

In the sunset, we see accomplishment, a toning down, a calmness. In the sunrise, we see a newness, a cleaning of the slate, a gateway. Do we need to see the sun at all to be lulled and soothed, or made hopeful and energized, by the horizon? What about a starry skyscape melding into the shadows of the gently curving outline of our orbiting Earth?

What does a view of the horizon awaken in you?

The sight of the horizon makes us feel things. It rouses in us the pain or pleasure of embodying our emotions: a fluttering in the belly, a sighing release of breath, a rush of adrenaline to our fingertips, goosebumps, a welling of tears… and then, through awareness of such embodiment, the horizon has shown us a new way of being and learning.

The horizon is steadfast. We know it is always there, waiting, being… observing.

When we have a clear view of the horizon, through contemplation we might embody a heightening sense of abundance… a physical experience of limitlessness, of infinity…

such that we might lean forward into forgiveness,

self-compassion,

generosity, understanding,

… and in this, the creation of a wider perspective… an expansion… an opening in the fog… a wonder-inspiring awakening, a deepening inner revelation, a breathtaking, broadening of experience—

is the greatest potential for renewed connections, fresh outlooks, and new beginnings that we never have thought a possibility just moments before.

Oh, the horizon, how it makes us dream.

When we catch welcome glimpses of it… say, through the flickering openings shimmering white between a dense wall of tall trees or beyond the rolling contours of dark and majestic mountains… where, far away, is the teasing of a clear blue sky laid flush against the straight edge of a grassy meadow… or a deeper shade of charcoal-blue storm clouds blending into an endless plane of purply blue sea…

We

feel

alive.

We feel a part of something

big…

something

important…

something

we could sink our teeth into if only

we understood it better.

Ah well, no problem… we think.

We will keep staring at the horizon,

contemplating it…

painting it,

describing it with our earthbound words.

And, in this way, we will get closer to it, closer to its secrets… closer to the untouchable mysteries that lie beyond it. Maybe.

Oh, the mysteries of the horizon.

In them, there is wonder and awe.

And in awe,

when the horizon beckons us,

there is freedom.

Why do we love the horizon so much? You tell me.

Why do we love the horizon so much?

Learn how to recognize and understand your map of life

About two weeks ago, I was taking part in a short, guided meditation. During it, the speaker asked participants to imagine the turning points in their life… and suggested visualizing these moments as the connecting dots of an upward trajectory—and the creation of “the map of your life so far.”

For many of us, one or two or more of these turning points involve challenges and experiences so painful that we are not sure we can face them again—and certainly not with our eyes wide open.

A movie in my mind’s eye

While I had much joy in my life, about a decade ago, this is how I felt. And yet, now, for me, the experience of visualizing the turning points in my life, joyful or painful, was like watching a fast-paced, yet smooth progression… a movie in my mind’s eye… one that indeed revealed an upward trajectory.

I am not so sure this upward progression would have been obvious to me had I tried this exercise years ago.

I will never know. The “movie” might play, but I think I might have become stuck within three or more of the turning points because, in real life, I truly was stuck.

What happens when you’re stuck?

When stuck, the links in my map of life became obscured; the connections became severed, interrupted by my unchecked chattering mind. Left unobserved, my thoughts sometimes made an abundance of painful memories become overwhelmed by sadness, resentment, confusion, fear, or anger.

Back then, to me, my map of life might have resembled a crumpled piece of paper that when unfolded revealed a scribbling of detached lines going in all directions.

Now?

Now, things are different, and pleasantly so.

I have done the arduous work. I poured the results into my novel: REASONS Three Lives One Soul.

I have looked inward and scraped the darkest shadows for substance and definition.

What “works” for each of us is as different as we are from each other

Some of you might be ready to stop reading. I get you. I understand. Once, a therapist, recommended to me by a good friend, pulled out a scarf from her desk. She held one end, passed the other end to me, and asked me to pull on it as hard as I could.

Nope.

Not for me.

Fine for someone else, but not me.

My pain was deep, and I was so far from it, I did not know what it had in store for me then, and past then. Still now it holds mysteries.

Yet through all the flux, my map of life was growing and making connections, anyway. It did not need my permission.

The creation of your map is unique to you

This post, however, is not about my healing journey. I tell you a bit about my experience with pain because it is important to say that I know this journey well—and like many of you, the creation of my map formed from personal experience with both joy and pain—and not an assumption of what they might be like.

Besides, this healing journey of mine? I am still on it.

The remarkable change for me over the years is that I no longer fear my journey. Instead, I am grateful for it. Yes, that too might trigger eye-rolling. But, for me, my journey is a path to the truth; it is a path to my truth.

My journey has expanded my perspective, and for that, I am deeply grateful.

Okay, back to the map of life. Your map is unique to you. And, yes, my map is unique to me.

When the visualization suggested by the speaker unfolded in my mind, I saw myself in these fleeting yet obvious moments of my past. There I was as a child, as a teenager, as a young adult, as a woman forging her career, as a sister, a daughter, middle-aged—all coming and going through triumphs and failures, through trauma, through deaths of this and that… and of friends and family…

And yet.

And… yet.

A thread runs through it

There, whirling about these images, threaded throughout them, tying them all together into one long flowing line, was an underlying peacefulness, a rising joy… an opening up and unfolding of me.

And the thread? Well, that ‘essence’ was… is… who I am: the witness.

I discovered, no, I continue to discover that as the witness… I remain whole and true… as I have always been from the beginning of my existence.

During the meditation exercise, at the time to my surprise, in my mind’s eye, the visions of past to current turning points literally and effortlessly ran in an upward trajectory—like dots on an upward pointing arrow… with me the essence that breathed life into the whole of the movement.

The map of my life, so far, has led to authenticity, integrity, self-compassion, forgiveness, self-love, acceptance, letting go of what is not in my control… and so much more—while all the while clarifying that the unknown path ahead, even in the certainty of impermanence, has an infinite quality to it.

Now you have an idea of how to: Learn to read your map of life.

The wonderful benefits of 42 days in isolation:

Before I tell you about my experience being sick, my heart aches for every person affected by this pandemic. For every life lost, I feel profound sorrow. For every person who is sick or recovering or long-hauling this thing… well… I hope you get better. I hope you come out the other side of this thing without lingering issues. I hope you are well now, as you read this. Most importantly, to all who have lost a loved one or a business or an income or anything I miss addressing… I’m deeply sorry.

I wish you love and healing.

Despite eighteen days of physical distancing, with my husband being the sole shopper and going to no more than one grocery store per trip (two trips per week if prescriptions were needed), I developed symptoms of some kind of virus.

It could have been a regular cold, but it felt different.

Although we had cleaned our reusable bags, had been persistent and hyper-vigilant about wearing masks, washing our hands frequently… sanitizing surfaces, cleaning taps, handles, door knobs, tv controllers, smart phones, keypads, dials, mouse(s), flash drives and so forth… we did not start cleaning our grocery purchases until about ten days into lockdown.

So, it’s possible that I picked up something from the grocery purchases, or from the mail, or from a trip to the local hospital for a pre-scheduled medical test. I’ll never know. My husband had been home from his place of work since March 20… and gratefully, was showing no symptoms at all.

My first day of isolation was April 7.

For me, the virus showed itself in the form of a sore throat, then body aches, then lots of nasal mucus. I soon also experienced heavy sweating and headache. But no cough. No trouble breathing, and no headache. One day later, and on came chills and a low-grade fever of 99.48 F (my normal temperature is 97.7 F to 98.42 F). My sore throat worsened and I developed a hoarse voice.

By evening of the second day of illness, I was noticing shortness of breath upon mild exertion. All of these symptoms, plus a stiff neck and swollen glands in my throat… lasted for many days.

I had a fever for thirty-four of the forty-two days I spent in isolation… reaching no higher than 99.86 F. I started to feel better by day thirty-seven.

I left isolation (my bedroom) on day forty-three, after virus symptoms had subsided, and seventy-two hours had passed without a temperature.

My husband remained healthy. He was my biggest worry. We were very careful. I missed hugging him. I love him so very much. We make a great team. We developed at routine pretty quickly. Some things were awkward at first: making meals, cleaning dishes, single bathroom use and such. But, by the time two days had passed, we had a solid routine in place.

My bedroom became my sanctuary. I was content, mostly because my isolation kept my husband safe.

On day eighteen of my isolation, I was tested for COVID-19. About seventy-two hours later, my results came back negative. A representative from our local hospital had called to confirm the negative result. I told her that my symptoms were still persistent and unlike anything I’ve had before… seventeen days of throat irritation, swollen glands, chest heaviness, fever and so forth. I was concerned about a false negative test—because I was very worried about infecting my husband.

The nurse told me that she’s heard of many other people saying the same thing. She advised me that the test itself is not faulty, but if it is not performed well enough to get enough mucus on the swab (from the back of the throat), then the test can miss the virus. So… well, what do you do with that information? Very little. Just one day at a time.

So, yes, I was nasty sick for many days, and I’m not certain that I did not have COVID-19.

Today, I could buy an antibody test, but apparently COVID-19 antibodies are hard to detect after four months have passed since infection. I left my isolation on May 19 (almost eight months ago).

I’ll never know for sure whether or not I actually contracted COVID-19. Nevertheless, I don’t regret choosing to isolate. And as the title of this post suggests… during those dreadful sick days, I also experienced the wonderful benefits of 42 days in isolation.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for your patience. I want to tell you about the extraordinarily peaceful moments I experienced during my days in isolation.

I want to tell you about the people I met, and the lessons I learned.

When I learned about living mindfully… part two

Part two of two:

It’s time to pay attention.

When I learned about living mindfully, my life changed profoundly. After my first time sitting formally in meditation, almost immediately I noticed a sense of calm ‘rightness’ within me… a soundness deep inside that I’d not felt for a very long time.

This sense of stability and wholeness, a quality that seemed both familiar and revolutionary, may have been a wee spark at the time, but it was there, and I had definitely embodied it. 

Now, having said that, sitting formally for the first time, and for the first few attempts that follow… many of us can feel as if we are somehow “doing it wrong”. This initial reaction is common.

We think we’re failing because we can’t stop thinking, our nose itches, our back hurts, and every second seems a struggle.

If this sounds familiar to you… give yourself a break… and some loving kindness and compassion. Keep at it. Be patient. Keep practicing. There’s no right or wrong way to meditate. There’s nothing to fail.

Just sit quietly, breathe with awareness, leave judgement aside, and as your practice grows, so will you.
It’s time to pay attention.

Now, here’s something else I learned early on. Let’s say after cultivating your mindfulness skills you realize just how much you love meditating and you want to tell everyone about the benefits of mindful living. Not everyone wants to hear about your mindfulness experience. Matter of fact, in my case, no one did. And that’s okay. Well into my practice, I discovered that most of the top mindfulness experts advise newcomers to keep their mindfulness journey to themselves. They don’t suggest this as if you are to keep some kind of deep, dark secret. They give this advice because taking it helps you to stay focused on your well-being.

The people who are close to you will see the benefits of your living mindfully just by experiencing how you conduct yourself. And that’s how you spread the positive news.

And that brings me back to how living mindfully has profoundly changed my life. Although I very quickly realized the benefits of meditation from the first time I sat, a lot of time would go by before I recognized just how much the practice had genuinely changed me. So, what is mindfulness anyway? And what is it not? Let’s start with the latter question first. And just so I’m clear, although I’ve read a lot about mindfulness, and listened to many experts, I am not an expert. I’m only sharing what my experience has been.

Mindfulness is not meditation, but meditation is a wonderful way to cultivate awareness.

Additionally, meditation doesn’t always mean sitting still on a cushion or chair. It can be done while walking or eating or washing the dishes or gardening or, well, you get it. And even though mindfulness was taught by the Buddha, it isn’t a religious belief or system. Mindfulness is not about sitting back and relaxing and it isn’t always easy. It takes commitment and perseverance, and constant gentle reminders. And finally, mindfulness is not about shutting down or stopping thoughts. It’s quite the opposite of that impossibility…

Mindfulness really gives you some remarkable insight into how your mind works. Oh boy, the things you can learn about yourself!

Mindfulness doesn’t mean you won’t feel sad. In the same way mindfulness brings awareness to your thoughts, it brings awareness to your emotions… all of them, the good, the bad, and the neutral. And it brings awareness to your bodily sensations too.

Here’s what mindfulness is to me. It’s bringing caring attention to the present moment without judgement, just observation of what is. This doesn’t mean that I don’t ever have an opinion. I do. I just try to state my opinion mindfully… aware of my thoughts in the moment, aware of my bodily sensations in the moment… noticing them… letting them go… over and over and over again… while being present for whoever I’m talking to, listening mindfully, trying not to interrupt (which is quite the learning curve for some of us).

Mindfulness is being present even if the moment isn’t pleasant.

Practicing mindfulness has helped me to find acceptance in things as they are. Again, this doesn’t meant that I don’t make changes in my life if I feel that I need to improve upon something, especially when it affects my well-being. Practicing mindfulness just means that I do so from a more peaceful place of compassion and insight… and if I’m lucky, maybe even a little wisdom.

Living mindfully has helped me to make decisions with true awareness… without being mindlessly led by the ongoing chatter inside my head.

And mindfulness helps me to pay attention to the sensations in my body, the telltale signs that show me how I’m managing health-wise. For most people, the relationship between thoughts and decision making is fairly clear, but bodily sensations… not so much. And yet, when we’re nervous we get ‘butterflies’ in our stomachs. When we are stressed, we experience headaches or belly aches. When we are in pain, our muscles tighten and our bodies hurt.

So, it’s time to pay attention, don’t you think?

Well, there you have it. That’s enough, I think. Go find out for yourself. See what you can learn when you bring living mindfully into your way of being.

When I learned about living mindfully… part one

Part one of two:

My life changed in a profound way.

Before I practised mindfulness-based living, I moved through each day with little to no sense of what was truly happening inside my head, or what was unfolding within my heart, or what was occurring inside my body. I lived unaware of the constant chatter dictating my thoughts, and the emotions influencing my sense of well-being, and the bodily sensations clamoring for my attention. In time, I grew tired.

And as we are learning, or at least some of us are, the cost of mindlessness is health and contentment. And yet so many of us don’t bother to stop and evaluate why we are struggling. We don’t take the time to find out why we feel overwhelmed and exhausted. Don’t we care to know how to feel better? Instead, many of us just carry on tearing through the day, collapsing at the end of it, and wondering why we feel so unsatisfied.

I get it. I did the same thing… for a long time.

But when my health began to pay more than it could afford, I finally took notice. I stopped in my tracks and took a good look around. And in that moment of observation, I began to see and hear and feel things I hadn’t been aware of for a really, really long time. I heard the obsessive chatter in my head. I noticed the longing in my heart. And I felt the butterflies in my belly and the tension in my muscles.

Ah… here I am, I thought.

Here I Am.

And soon thereafter, I began to research a mysterious practice I’d heard about… a practice called mindfulness. I read books and magazine articles. I investigated the various forms of practise, even making time for bringing it into my life. But, it wasn’t until I finally transitioned from an intellectual discernment of what I thought mindfulness was, to an embodied experience of what mindfulness is, that… my life changed in a profound way.

There’s a story in every Thing.

All true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of no-mind,
from inner stillness.”
Eckhart Tolle