More Life Lessons from an African Safari

No other place in the world has brought me such a feeling of closeness to life and the earth as when I was in Africa.  There was a feeling of connectedness to land and life in its beginnings.  It was the simplicity with which all creatures lived their lives.  Being on safari, I learned a few lessons from several of the animals.   *Click on the pictures to obtain larger images.

1.  Zebra.  I remember a pair of lions that were crouching in the grassy brush, plotting an attack on a herd of zebra.  They each scoped out a different direction.  I had to put my camera down and trade it for my binoculars to observe this rare opportunity.  To the dismay of the lions, the intuitiveness of one of the zebra pulled the herd in another direction and they all ran off.  There was no way for the zebra to actually see the lions from where he stood.  He just sensed it as I saw his ears twitch, his body contract and his face become more alert.  The lesson:  Don’t discount the power of your intuition.  Sometimes, that is the only guidance you receive to make a smart decision.

2.  Lion.  Though the example above showed how intuition can help guide one species, it shows the perseverence of another.  I doubt the pair of lions decided after that defeat to give up hunting.  Once again, it is survival of the fittest.  They must continue to try again in order to live.  The lesson:  Success only comes from perseverence.  Failures are the catalyst, or the fuel, that we can use to our advantage if we choose. 

3.  Cheetah.  The cheetah is a solitary animal, meaning it hunts and gathers on its own.  Though it is one of the fastest animals, it is also the most vulnerable.  If it gets sick or injured, it will likely starve to death.  The lesson:  You may think you can fly solo in life, but allowing others to lend a helping hand on your journey can make the flight smoother.

4.  Elephant.  The African elephant is the largest land mammal in the world.  When I looked into the eyes of these soulful creatures, I saw peace.  They are herbivores and pretty much stay out of the way of other animals.  And because of their size, they are rarely preyed upon.   Despite weighing between 6-7 tons, they walk quietly and are not aggresive animals.  The lesson:  No matter how powerful you are (literally or figuratively), true respect is earned through humility.

5.  Leopard.  We were lucky to see leopards on our safari, as they are usually camouflauged in trees in a distance.  They use trees to their advantage, as they are able to see an aerial view of the surroundings below.  They can take inventory and decide when to make a move.  The lesson:  Have a vision, do the research, and then act.  Your life depends on it.

I think animals have a lot to teach us.  So many of our wellness concepts are interwoven in them.  We may be more advanced from an evolutionary perspective, but sometimes there is much to learn from our primal predecessors.

Nourish the Mind

Every situation, if you think about it, is an invitation for you to react in a certain way, but being mindful gives you the chance to decide how to RSVP.”

—  Catherine Price
 
 The thing about our minds is that we get to choose what we put inside.  We always have the choice to fill them with postive or negative thoughts.  Think of it as a bank account.  What can you deposit into it to create the highest rate of return?  In other words, what types of thoughts and reactions to outside circumstances will bring you an optimal sense of wellbeing?  What kinds of beliefs do you hold?  Are you exercising your mind with laughter and holding a visual image of the scene of the life you wish to live?  Remember, before anything can physically manifest in your life, the seed of it is planted in your mind.  Nourish those thoughts, and you will grow a garden full of your own unique treasures!
 
I want to thank Sharon Hohler for her contributions to our site this week!  Have a great weekend!

They Call It Visualization

Another great way to exercise your mind is through visualization.  I do this often.  Visual imagery is a great way to relieve stress – especially if you can’t physically get away.   Though we can’t always go somewhere in the body, we can always take ourselves anywhere in the mind.  Just read Sharon Hohler’s post below, as she takes us through a visualization exercise.   I can already feel the warm sand on my feet!  Enjoy!
 
 

courtesy of Sharon Hohler

See this picture.  I’m ready to kick back, relax and watch the ocean waves crash onto the beach.  But wait, I’m at home, landlocked in Missouri.  No ocean for miles around. 

 
But I’ve got a good imagination.  I invite you to stop for a few minutes, read this post and then imagine if you will:  we are sitting in these comfy chairs and looking at the Sea of Cortez (between the mainland of Mexico and Baja peninsula).  It’s early morning and the sun has popped over the horizon with a blaze of sunshine.  It’s quiet except for the deep bass rumble of waves crashing on the beach.  The ocean breezes are gently blowing across our faces.  We sit quietly and sip our first cup of coffee for the morning and take a few big deep breaths of clean, fresh air.  Niiiice.
 
Can you feel the peace and quiet for a few minutes?  Do you feel the tension drain away from your body as you relax?  Take a big deep breath, hold it for a few seconds and release it, letting your muscles relax.  Thanks for enjoying visualization (my imaginary vacation) for a few minutes.  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. 
 
 
Enjoy reading more of Sharon’s articles on healthy living at www.livingthehealthylifewehavechoices.blogspot.com

The Value of Laughter

I am thrilled to introduce Sharon Hohler to Wellness Kriya this week as our guest contributer!  Sharon will be contributing to the kriya of EXERCISE THE MIND AND BODY this week.  I loved her angle on the value of laughter…..I’m certain you will, too!

The Value of Laugher, by Sharon Hohler

 

Have you laughed today?  We all know that laughter is good for us.  But how? 
The Healing Power of Humor, by Allen Klein gives us good insights.  Humor gives us power; it can be used to overcome fear.  When a person talks about and makes jokes about a situation which frightens him, the situation becomes less frightening.  As his brain hears the scary words over and over, the fear diminishes.    
 
Mr Klein makes this comment on page 5:  “Often we are powerless against the events in our life; sometimes there is little we can do to stop the things that upset us.  We can, however, minimize the hold that these upsets have over us by finding some humor in them.  Humor can help soothe the rough edges of our day and the most trying moments of our life.”  
 
Laughter increases our ability to cope.  We all experience life events such as flat tires, traffic jams and screwed-up schedules.  How do we react?  Do we take it seriously and stress out?  Do we see the humor in the situation and laugh?  Author Allen Klein says “adding humor to our difficult times can be one of the wisest things we can do to help us cope with them, stop worrying about them, and get on with our life.”  (Klein, A, The Healing Power of Humor, pg 10)
 
Humor/laughter provides physical benefits.  Laughter decreases physical tension and stress.  As stress hormone levels drop, our immune system cranks up and makes infection fighting antibodies and immune system cells which means better health.  Laughter, especially a good belly laugh, exercises our heart and lungs.  When we laugh, our blood vessels dilate and carry more blood to our body.  Laughter releases endorphins, our feel-good chemicals.  Researchers have found laughter relieves pain. 
 
The psychologists at Helpguide.org offer more suggestions on how to develop your sense of humor and add more laughter to your life:  “take yourself less seriously…laugh at yourself…attempt to laugh at situations rather than bemoan them…surround yourself with reminders to lighten up…keep things in perspective…deal with your stress…pay attention to children and emulate them.” Laughter is the Best Medicine at http://www.helpguide.org/life/humor_laughter_health.htm
 
Sharon Hohler is an RN and a writer.  She has published several magazine articles and is currently completing her second book.  Check out her website at www.livingthehealthylifewehavechoices.blogspot.com 
 
More from Sharon Wednesday!  Stay tuned!
 
 

 

A Spiritual Connection Within

This evening, I ventured out to try a new yoga studio.  I have been in search of a vinyasa practice that would be a good fit for me.  The minute I walked into the studio, I immediately felt a certain energy in the room.  The class had not yet begun, but I just knew that this was going to be the place for me.  I certainly used my intuitive sixth sense on this, and I was correct. 

Yoga has been a part of my life, exercising the mind and body, for some time now.  As we discuss the topic of SPIRIT this week, I thought about the strong link between spiritual connection, or enlightenment, and yoga.  Through yoga practice, we strengthen our spirit by bringing our energy inward, starting with an awareness to our breath.  It is the first kriya, or action of our soul.  By turning inward, we can access that part of us that connects to something greater – that intuitive energy we discussed, the divine power that resides within us, and our authentic selves. 

The path to spiritual wellness can take any form.  It can involve prayer, meditation, affirmations, and/or any specific belief system you espouse.  The important piece is that you find purpose and meaning to the flow of your life.  Although yoga is my conduit for this flow, being mindful does not have to come only through yoga.  You can easily start your day with an intention, just as we do at the beginning of yoga class. 

What do you hope to give of yourself today?  What answers are you seeking today?  Where can you find peace today?  When we intend something, we are connecting to that higher power and we are believing in it.  We are believing and having unwavering faith that  something larger exists within us and for us.

Nature’s Balance

photo by Bill Dan

I remember taking a walk along windy Crissy Field in San Francisco when I stopped to take in something miraculous.  No, I’m not talking about the breath-taking view of the Golden Gate Bridge peering out from the fog.  I’m talking about the “rock-stacker” or “rock-balancer”, as he is referred to by the locals.  Bill Dan has been defying gravity (or what it appears) with his ability to perfectly balance rocks on top of one another without glue, magnets, or any other assistance.  He has an innate sense of creating balance by the shapes and sizes of rocks found alongside the water.  It’s as though they are suspended by a force coming from the sky. 

It got me thinking about balance.  In the theory of the balance of nature, it states that our ecosystem is usually in a stable equilibrium.  And when a change occurs to a particular parameter, the system will attempt to correct itself to restore its balance.  Think about what happens if you stand on one foot.  Unless you lean toward the other side and right yourself, you will fall.   It’s like Newton’s Third Law of Physics: “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction”.  In our worlds, we are all trying to maintain some level of balance – whether it is with work and play, calories ingested vs. calories expended, inner peace and outer noise, we all want to restore our equilibrium.  Just as the above rocks will fall if not in alignment, we will tip toward one end of the spectrum if we don’t equally feed our souls when we feel emotionally or physically depleted. 

This weekend and week ahead, think about what you need to restore your balance.  Do you need to commit to exercising your mind and body at a certain time each day?  How about trying a new, healthy recipe?  Maybe you need to reward yourself with a massage or pedicure.   Or, perhaps, you just pause and take note of the people in your life that love and support you.  We may not always feel like the perfectly, balanced rocks  that Dan stacks, but we can certainly create a shift in our spirits.

Deepali’s piece of wellness:  Sometimes, taking a moment to reflect on what is good in your life may be all that you need to create some balance.  Remember to be grateful.

Happiness in the Blue Zone

Research shows that our inclination to be happy is only 50% dependent on our genes.  So what if you weren’t born with the happiness gene?  The great news is that the other 50% is largely dependent on external factors and circumstances.  It is true that we can’t control everything that happens in life, but there may be a way to lean into a happier life. 

New York Times best selling author, Dan Buettner has been gaining a lot of publicity recently with his new book release, THRIVE: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way. 

Buettner has teamed up with National Geographic to research some key happiness contributers and their relationship to longevity.  It has led them to areas known as the “Blue Zones”, where people are reporting a high level of wellbeing.  The team found that there were essentially six life domains, or thrive centers that were common denominators for life satisfaction.  They include the following:

1. Community – the places people thrived most were those that made them feel safe and those that provided opportunities to walk – cities that had large sidewalks, outdoor cafes, parks, and gardens (way to go, San Luis Obispo, CA! – noted to be the happiest place to live in the U.S.)

2. Work – Do you enjoy your work?  Do you work close to your home? Do you regularily take vacations?  Turns out that all three factors contribute to your wellness.

3. Social Life – I once read that you become the average of the 5 people you surround yourself with most.  If that were the case, wouldn’t you want to surround yourself with positive people?  Having a close knit of dependable friends is crucial for wellbeing, according to Beuttner.

4. Financial Life – apparently, the old saying “money can’t buy happiness” may be true.  According to the research, after the basic necessities of life are met (food, shelter, health insurance), money will bring about only short-lived happiness.  The key to long-term financial wellness is to “save mindlessly and spend thoughtfully”.

 5. Home – Creating an environment that is clear of clutter, planting a garden, and surrounding yourself with items that hold meaning to you will all facilitate a happy demenor.  Beuttner also recommends creating a room where you can engage yourself in challenging, yet meaningful activities/hobbies. 

6. Self – This takes us back to Monday’s post.  It is incredibly important to know your own strengths, values, talents, and passions.  Turns out that the people that were happiest in life knew what made them unique.

I think Beuttner’s book gives us a lot to think about.  It shows us that happiness is something that we can lean into by making a few adjustments in our life.  I can’t wait to read the whole book!