Cats, birds, and nature don’t always – or maybe ever – mix. We get busy and distracted in our important lives – starting a new practice, entertaining and improving my level of fitness and oops. Right now I’m grateful to a tiny baby bird, who reminded me about the courage to begin again and again, to make space for practice.
Here’s what happened
Two days ago, a baby bird came into our lives and reminded us about moral clarity. I was pulling weeds in my garden, stood and came around the corner of the house and there it was – a naked egg-shaped baby bird between the paws of my two-year-old cat Bandit. Clearly alive. Clearly struggling.
My beloved and I live atop a hill overlooking an undisturbed field (no spring cut). There are too few uncut fields anywhere these days. A type of bird in New England nests in fields – I don’t know its name but I can show you two of them right now, perched in the tall grass courageously watching their nest and babies – I believe they are endangered.
I scooped up the hatchling so it would not be eaten alive, showed Craig, brought it inside, and made a little nest out of cotton and leaves in a flower pot. I thought I would just make it comfortable as it died and I tried to forgive myself for said death. I googled, made calls and started to find my way to people who could help with information or maybe even save this little one. That might take me off the hook for this possibly endangered bird that my cats have been feasting on while making me feel as though I was doing my part – check!
Fearless fighting Freddie lives
I found out that you can feed them softened cat food. It was clear this little one was not going to die immediately, his neck strained and little beak opened wide for the dropper. He grabbed that dropper and sucked with force. Wow. Impressive.
Through that first night, with (fearless fighting) Freddie cheep-cheeping every 45 minutes, and me rolling over to feed it, it was clear that 1. he might actually live and, and 2. we needed to – as every bird-oriented wildlife person will tell you – keep the cats in to give the other babies a fighting chance. Maybe weeks. Or forever.
Freddie dies but lives on
Freddie died the next day after a valiant effort – he spent much of a day and a half in that upstretched open-mouthed position that is so cute. He/she died for a hundred possible reasons including that he was too warm/cold/over-hydrated/underhydrated/had internal injuries/the wrong food/or handled too much. I loved that little bird. I could recognize his/her voice cheep-peeping every 45 minutes. Craig loved him too – we decided, after he made it through the night, that we would roll him into the family – do what we had to to take care of the little fellow. This in spite of the mess and stink and the fact that I really do not like bird-pets. We also have 3 cats.
Through the experience, we were reminded that once in a while doing the right thing comes and smacks you in the face. We have to keep the cats in, regardless of how cute they are as they scamper to the door when we make the slightest move in that direction. Maybe for weeks. At least until those two parents are no longer guarding their nest. Maybe indefinitely.
It reminded us, too, that as conscious beings we have to practice – we can’t just wander on and let nature and life take its course. We had a lot of house guests around the time Freddie came into our lives and had stopped practicing. We were less connected to nature than usual. Tending the land comes with responsibility – now that we know those birds are there, we can’t let the cats out. If a little Freddie shows up because we didn’t know or weren’t paying attention, we try to rise to the occasion. Peep peep!
Now what? The answer is always practice
Freddie is now resting-in-peace near his nest. I am grateful to that little fellow and to the practice of mindfulness that allows me to slow down enough to learn from all the crazy things that are unfolding around me.
A good reason to think about joining our online group – to begin (or begin again) to practice mindful living.
Hi, I’m Annie
I’ve been a clinical nutritional biochemist for over 20 years, a yoga teacher and therapist for 15, and a student of the psychology of how people change and of consciousness for all my career.
Through my years of helping groups and individuals improve their health through lifestyle, I have seen hundreds (maybe thousands) of people who want to eat a healthful diet that supports who they are, but don’t.
It’s Tough to be Healthy
They can’t get started, can’t sustain it or get sidetracked by things that don’t work. It can be nearly impossible to eat well in our current (nutritionists call it toxic) nutrition environment.
Our modern culture is filled with mixed messages about food, weight, and how we should look and feel. The same is true for other aspects of healthful lifestyle – we want to be physically active yet our worlds are set up to be sedentary. We want to practice mindful resilience and stress-management yet we don’t have time because of the 24/7 culture of work, family, life.
Where I Fit In
I am an unapologetic proponent of spirituality as essential to health. Mind body and spirit have been fractured in our modern culture, and re-uniting and fully occupying our multidimensional selves in balance with the earth is the path forward that resonates for me.
One of the gifts of living right here and now is that we have the potential to be the re-integrators. We have at our fingertips the modern health sciences, and we also have new and accessible interpretations of ancient wisdom-sciences such as shamanic plant work, Ayurveda and tantra. Many practices from these wisdom traditions are proving to be effective modalities for addressing the mind-body-spirit split and toxicity of modern life.
Here’s How I see Health
Practicing an integrated life (imperfectly but regularly) maintains wellness and supports dynamic well-being. For a variety of reasons, most people don’t or are not able to sustain regular practice. Enjoying a plant-based diet, moving, taking time for rest and contemplation, and connecting with family like-minded people are components of a life that keep things in dynamic balance. Your unique variation on that lifestyle fuels your life force – healing is a feeling. But life, for nearly everyone, inevitably becomes imbalanced. It is our nature and indeed the nature of life here on earth to become imbalanced.
I also think that feeling bad about ourselves is overall the largest chronic health problem. Please please don’t feel bad about the choices you make. It’s the critical first step to change.
The opportunity of imbalance is to learn more about who you are and why you are here.
You can become a discerner of the array of therapeutic options from evidence-based and wisdom realms, or find others you trust to help you sort it out. You can become a students of who you are – each of us are unique, and what works for someone else will not necessarily work for you. Then you can become a thoughtful experimenter of what works.
With time, life comes into a (often new) balance. Dynamic, changing balance that requires ongoing tending and practice.
It’s a long-term project and a lifelong dance. The alternative, for many, is to get sick before your time. You can do this. I’m honored to share what I know to show you how.
What’s your health philosophy? What’s most important for your health and well-being? I want to know!
I’ve always be a goal-oriented gal. Every year-end I love to reflect on the year that was, integrate the lessons and vision what may be.
I’ve noticed, however, when working with people who are trying to change, that setting goals can trigger anxiety. Goals don’t always seem to support happy change, and we can get a little reductive and crazy around them – push push push. Goals also suggest an endpoint.
When it comes to lifestyle change, there isn’t an endpoint – there are ongoing choices and adjustments. There is practice. Rather than goals, how about milestones – points along the way that can let you know you are on the road you intend. Rather than push, how about flow.
Words are important – they do nothing less than create our world. So, let’s re-think the language surrounding goals – particularly if goals make you anxious.
Rather than goals, think about shift (I call them milestones). Rather than relapse, it’s life (I bow down to my teacher-friend Aruni for that one!). This language feels more real and relevant. When I use allowing and flow language in a workshop, I can see people relax and focus on what really matters – bringing their lives a bit more in alignment with who they are.
The yogis say that change is a dance of being and becoming. Of embodiment and right action. Here in the West, we focus so much on the action phase, but really not at all on the quieter embodiment side of practice. Of walking your talk, and acting as if you understood how sacred the process can be.
Today, life is moving so fast, and is so open to limitless possibilities and is so unpredictable that setting goals seems…not so relevant. I like the idea of getting clear what you are interested in bringing into your life, and the practice doing that – experimenting with the many ways you can walk your talk, and take the right next step.
Did you make goals for 2018? Have they made you a little anxious? How about giving yourself a break, and softening your goal language into shifts, milestones, and practice?
Here are a some other articles on supporting shift and intentions for this new year.
Intention in Action – New Year’s Intentions
Intentions Can Last – Here’s How
Gather Ye Guides
Despite being at this game of health for decades, I continue to fascinate myself with my own resistance to…well, just about anything. I need help sustaining healthy change, and you probably do too.
I’ve been reading lately about the power of implementation intentions. There’s good research behind it as a strategy to help us move through our day and respond to the inevitable hitches that come up. When we get challenged, we remember what we are trying to do – “I intend to enjoy healthful eating,” and have a few if-then contingency decisions we pre-make every day.
If my husband isn’t home I’ll go to an extra yoga class. If my mom wants to come to Thanksgiving, then she’ll do the turkey.
Turns out that when set intention and we pre-make these decisions, we are more likely to carry them out.
Here are a few that may be helpful:
- If I’m hungry after work and it’s not dinner time yet, I will have an apple.
- If I don’t have time for lunch, I’ll grab a couple handfuls of nuts.
- If I’m tired, I will move anyway – but it will be gentle and enjoyable.
- If I work late and can’t get to yoga, I’ll take 10 minutes to unwind and meditate before leaving work, then another before going to bed.
- If I haven’t eaten vegetables yet today, I will double up at dinner.
I find that having three if…thens on a given day do the trick for me. If you can take a moment in the morning and visualize your day, and create three if-thens for your day that help you set an intention to be balanced. If…then.Pinterest
If I see you today, then I hope you say hi.
After Labor Day, things swirl a little faster, everyone’s at their desk type type typing away, and off we go. Fall. It’s back to school, back to work.
I love Fall – the color in nature here in New England, and every year I do have a few back-to-school flashbacks, thinking of my Disney-bus lunchbox that smelled of old bread and peanut butter. Jelly!
This month I’m in the swirl of fall energy. New business, different business, I’m reaching into new places. As a small business owner (rather than my full-time job as Lead Nutritionist at Kripalu, which I left in January [they won’t be replacing me anytime soon, sorry integrative nutritionists]- though I still teach there a bit) I am learning my own way of marketing – how I inform those I serve of what I offer, finding my way toward having income and expenses balance out (they can balance out, right?).
Fall has some challenge to it. The cold winds begin to blow, aggravating our Vata (an Ayurvedic constitution embodying movement, cold, and dryness. Our whole culture, some say, is Vata deranged, meaning we are over-stimulated in a certain way). We are prone to colds and flu now – and here comes the first round!
I need to remind myself, in these busy days of September, to take time to be still.
To practice – perhaps bowing down to Ganesha, the tantric mascot of new beginnings, good friends, and family bonds. This month I follow his lead, being in the dance of joy and work-life. I’ll remember to enjoy the sweetness of this life no matter how absurd or challenging or ironic the universe seems.
So I practice. Practice wonder and work. And I care for myself in that fall flu preventing way. Here are few ideas:
- Eat Nutrient Dense. Especially antioxidants. Citrus, dark greens, brightly colored vegetables. Squash and tomatoes are your energy-rich yet calorically light friends.
- Tend Your Inner Garden. Remember that the vast majority of our immune system is found in the gut, and more specifically, in the collection of bacteria we tend in our large intestines. This is an excellent time to pick up a jar of fermented sauerkraut or kimchee, or, if you are not one for fermenteds, try a good quality probiotic. Look for one with a nice high CFU (colony forming units) number – more than 1 billion per dose is what you are looking for.
- Take Time to Be Still. As time passes, I am more and more convinced that it is what’s inside our minds that makes us well or not-so. Find a mindfulness group (yes this is the plug! – Check out my weekly online Mindful Presence Group). Or find a local one.
- Consider the Fine Art of Abhyanga. Through the winter, I rub myself with warm oil each morning, and actually, it’s fantastic oil at that. I either make my own – Ashawaghanda in sesame oil, or I get a nice fragrant (and expensive!) oil from the Kripalu shop for a treat. Each morning I warm a bit, and take a few of the waking moments to take fantastic care of myself. It has literally transformed my life! My Ayurvedic brothers and sisters do it in a particular way – and it depends upon your constitution, which way is just right for you. But, just the warm oil on my cold fall and winter skin. Heaven.
May you navigate the transitional season of fall with nary a sniffle. Be well, love your life and stay in touch.Pinterest
This month, I’m launching a telehealth private practice. Very exciting. You can now work with me individually online. I’m beginning with Tuesday and Thursday afternoon/evenings for privates and going from there. Wednesday at 6:30 PM EST is an online Mindful Presence Group.
One of the reasons I am partnering with the platform that I am is the capacity to do online groups – we can cyber-gather to meditate, brainstorm, collaborate. The first one that I’m launching is a weekly Mindful Presence Group. I’m launching that one first because I think that it is a powerful basic structure that supports our becoming more of who we intend to be – it supports change. It helps manage stress, forms community, and nudges us along the practice of mindfulness meditation. To paraphrase from my meditation teacher:
Meditation practice helps us quiet down, lets us catch up with ourselves. It leads us to and allows us to gently rearrange, the center of our being. No one else can do this work for you. Only meditation can unlock these doors.
While it does not replace face-to-face connection, it is easy and cost-effective (about $20/session) to practice.
Here is more about the practice:
Mindful presence eases you into meditation! The practice of presence – when we get clear about what is going on, and speak it, particularly in a supportive group, helps us understand that we are not alone and that life is…beautifully imperfect. For everyone. We witness another’s experience silently, with open hearts. Being heard by others in this way can make it easier to move with confidence into a deeper appreciation of life.
Each group is limited to 12 participants.
Outline for the 60-minute call:
- Annie: Welcome and meditation (10 min)
- Each participant speaks for 2-3 minutes (Annie will facilitate – it’s easy AND speaking is optional…you can just listen if you prefer)
- Annie integrates and offers a follow-up question or deepener
- Group members share as desired, time allowing (Annie will facilitate)
- Annie closes with a brief meditation
Basic ground rules of conscious communication:
- Statements come from your experience: “I am experiencing…”, “I am feeling…”
- Resist the temptation to cross-talk. While something someone else says may resonate with you, resist saying “I agree…” or “That reminds me of…”
- When someone has the floor, we are silent witnesses to their report. We simply hold space for one another.
- You don’t have to speak – you can pass. Too, when you are complete, let us know by saying “thanks,” or “that’s it.”
Give it a try!
It is a group meditation and conscious communication practice rolled into one.