Monday, February 19, 2018

Knowing When To Bud

I just finished re-reading the 25th anniversary copy of "Living in the Light" by Shakti Gawain. Years before Louise Hay taught us the power of our thoughts, Gawain was already a pioneer in the field of personal development and conscious living. One of the chapters that I always find myself drawn back to is the one on the subject of intuition.

Each of us has a knowingness that lives deep inside us. We call it intuition. It is a place that we can access when we need inner guidance. Gawain believes that our intuition is how we contact the higher power of the Universe in order to tap into its wisdom. The better we get at learning how to tap into, and follow, this inner wisdom, the more we find out that most of our problems are actually caused by not following what we know to be true.

I was giving this idea some thought the other day when we had what I call a" hint of spring" kind of day. The air was warm, the breeze was refreshing instead of bitter, and the birds were singing their hearts out. My usual practice on days like this is to check out the little tree that stands on the neighbors' front lawn to see if there is even a hint of a bud poking it's head out of the bare branches. One part of me longs to see the buds appear, and the other worries that, as it is still only mid-February, if they come out now, they will most likely not survive the cold and snow that March always brings to these parts as its last hoorah before surrendering to the next season. I began to wonder: "How does the tree know when it's safe to start blooming? How does it know the difference between a "hint of spring" and the real thing? Could it possibly be that nature, too, has intuition?"

Well, of course, nature has access to intuition, too. We are, after all, a part of nature, a fact we tend to forget. If I remember correctly, nature came first when the world was created. We came a long, long time after the trees, the mountains, the rivers, etc. If nature didn't have intuition, how would it know to bloom in the spring and summer, let go of what it no longer needs in the autumn, and rest in the winter? I don't think the tree came up with this all on it's own. So it stands to reason that if all of nature has been tapping into its intuition to grow and thrive since the beginning of time, and doing a mighty fine job of it, I might add, how come we humans have such a hard time believing in ours?

In the course of human evolution we somehow let our rational mind take over. We were taught that our "inner knowing" is something we need to keep a tight rein on, and we constructed authoritative rules about behavior that dictated what was appropriate and what wasn't. When we lost our connection to our intuition, we lost our connection to the wisdom of the world. Lucky for us, nature didn't suffer the same fate. She kept her connection open and clear - why fix what isn't broken? If nature has been able to survive for a few billion years, she must be doing something right. Maybe we should pay less attention to what the "experts" tell us, and more attention to what our intuition tells us. If it works for Mother Nature, who are we to disagree?

Shortly after our "hint of spring" day last week, the overnight temperatures dropped sharply and there was snow on the ground by morning. This week they are predicting temps into the 60's ... followed by an icy mix by the weekend. I'm pretty sure that at this stage, nature may be the only one who really knows what's going on. I'm betting her intuition will once again prove to be more accurate than ours, so I'm not putting those boots away any time soon!

And so it is.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Faith In A Seed

(Please note: Flower Bear is feeling a bit under the weather this week, so we are sharing an essay from our very first book: "Staying Rooted: Learning and Growing Through the Seasons Of Our Lives," a collection of our most popular Flower Bear's Garden blog posts. Enjoy!)

The other day I was standing online at the bookstore waiting to pay for my purchases. As always there were plenty of things displayed to snare the unsuspecting customer with last minute items they didn't know they needed but now had to have. I was no different. There on the counter was a stack of tiny pink boxes that said: Friendship Garden Starter Kit. Each box held a tiny pot, a tiny peat pellet, and a tiny bag with a few seeds in it. I had my choice of primrose, forget-me-not, and a few others. However I was intrigued by the name of one I had never seen before: Love In The Mist. The picture on the box was of a pretty blue flower. I stared out of the window of the store at the grey, cold winter day, and then back at the box. I picked it up and held it in the palm of my hand. Holding it there, I knew I had to have it.

Right now it is sitting next to me as I write this post. We on the east coast are bracing for what has been described as a serious blizzard. They have changed the ETA of this storm several times. The latest is that it should be starting this afternoon and will reach its peak overnight. It is so grey and foreboding outside my window. The bird feeder is blowing back and forth in anticipation of what it to come. There are no birds anywhere, not even the crows who are unusually hardy around here. So I think maybe now is the perfect time to open the box and start my seeds. I need to feel spring in the palm of my hand.

Henry David Thoreau wrote these words: "Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders."

I, too, have faith in a seed. For all the years that I was fortunate enough to have a large, homey garden to play in, I knew that if I did my part - preparing the soil, pulling the weeds, watering and feeding - the seeds I held in my hand would fulfill their promise to grow and bloom into something beautiful. Now that I have my little apartment-size garden on my front porch, those seeds are even more precious to me.

I believe the same thing about our dreams and intentions. If I do my part, if I plant my seeds in good soil, feed and water them, and pull out the weeds that represent those thoughts and ideas that no longer serve me, I am prepared to expect wonders. There is nothing I cannot do which includes creating a postage stamp-sized garden. I can grow a new career, a new hobby, a new relationship. I can grow wonders. 

The snow is starting to fall lightly and softly, almost like a mist. How appropriate as I open the box that says, "Love In The Mist" and hold the seeds in my hand. The time to grow is at hand.

And so it is.

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Courage of Our Convictions

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'Twas the morning after the Super Bowl and all through the house (okay, it's an apartment, but you get the drift), not a creature was stirring ... because they knew that there would be no more football for 6 months and they were sad about that (well, maybe not the cats, but their mistress was bummed). Then she was reminded that when one thing ends, something else begins, often something quite wonderful, and wonderful it is - the Winter Olympics begin this week!

I am a huge fan of the Olympics, particularly the Winter Olympics. There is something breathtaking about watching someone glide across the ice with the grace of a swan, or manifesting quadruple jumps like it was nothing, or conquering a mountain by flying down its snowy slopes on two thin pieces of wood. It isn't even so much about what they do, however, as it is why, and how. For each of these brave Olympians, their hero's journey began way before they took to the ice or the snow. It began in their hearts.

I believe that champions are those who have a dream, believe in that dream with every fiber of their being, and make an unbreakable commitment to themselves to see it through.  They are willing to face adversity and physical pain over and over again, yet still telling themselves every minute of every day: "I can do this." Some of the most remarkable examples of courage I've ever seen came from people like Olympic Gold Medal skater Scott Hamilton who fought cancer, not once but several times, and still laced up those skates to start again. I see it in Olympic Gold Medal skier Lindsey Von who overcame what to any of us would have been a devastating injury so she could fly down the mountain again. These are people, ordinary people just like you and me, who were willing to give up everything to make their dreams a reality: all those early morning practices before the sun was even up, all those hours in the gym building muscles and stamina with nothing but pain, blood, sweat, and tears, all those times they fell down and simply got up again and again. They believed in themselves and in the power of infinite possibilities. Anyone could end up on that podium, so why shouldn't it be them?

On Friday we'll watch the opening ceremonies where the athletes from all the nations of the world will march into that stadium proudly wearing their colors and carrying their country's flag, knowing in their hearts that come what may, all of that grit, grime, and faith in themselves has gotten them there. No matter what happens going forward, they will remember that moment for the rest of their lives, that moment when they knew deep in their hearts that they were already champions. It was their courage and their faith in their dreams that made them champions. Watching them makes us believe that we can be champions in our own lives, too.

And so it is. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

Is It Spring Yet?

I awoke the other morning to a sound I haven't heard in a few months: bird song. I sat up in bed and listened motionless, afraid I was simply dreaming. Wait, there it was again. It was not the usual call of crows and blue Jays that normally greet me on cold winter mornings. In fact, it has been so bitterly cold overnight that I haven't even heard those kissing cousins lately, but a warm front had moved in and, believe it or not, the overnight temperature had hovered around 40, a miracle for the end of January in the northeast.

I got out of bed and peeked through the curtains. I could not see my little song bird but his chirps were coming from above my head, probably on the roof. Intellectually, I knew it was still winter, but my heart just had to ask: "Is it spring yet?"

Often when the world of human chaos gets to me and I swear I can't make it through one more sub-zero day, I hold on to my faith in the natural cycles of nature. Spring will come, the birds will return, and the sun will most assuredly rise tomorrow, whether I can see it through the cloud cover or not - that, too, I have faith in. Faith in things unseen is the most miraculous faith of all.

My little song bird has moved on, but I know he will return when it is safe for him to do so, and he will bring his friends with him. On that morning, when I am serenaded by a chorus of birdsong, I will know that my faith in nature has been rewarded at last.

And so it is.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Verticle Thinking

Pensive Female, Woman, Window, Staring

After the gift of four glorious days filled with sunshine and warmer temperatures, the greyness of winter returned this morning with rain and fog. Mondays are hard enough, and like the song says: "Rainy days and Mondays always get me down." At this time of the year I usually get through this dormant season by excitedly awaiting the arrival of my yearly seed catalogs in the mail, and then spending countless hours pouring over them for new products and new ideas for the coming spring. This year, however, there won't be any springtime arriving in my mail box. Allow me to explain.

Last spring my daughter, sensing that I was suffering from gardening withdrawal after moving to my little studio apartment, offered me her yard to play in to my heart's content. I tacked the long neglected landscape like a general planning D-Day. Sadly, this time the enemy won. The soil was so badly depleted, the weeds had roots so deep that they would require a backhoe to get them out, and the ground water, I later discovered, was questionable from years of  chemical dumping from a long abandoned commercial dry cleaning business nearby. I tried growing in pots and containers, but the only thing that grew with any success were the weeds - even the container plants failed to thrive. Since my daughter was renting the house and property, I didn't think it was a wise use of money and resources to tear the whole thing up and try again. Needless to say this gardener was heart-broken.

My daughter, trying to make me feel better, made me a tiny fairy garden to sit on the table next to my desk. The light from that big picture window worked magic on it, or maybe it was because it was my favorite spot in the apartment. Love can grow anything, and my tiny green world grew by leaps and bounds. I have pruned and re-rooted twice since last summer and it all thrives. That's when I started to ask myself if maybe I needed to think "outside the garden box." Perhaps, if I didn't have room to grow outward, I had room to grow vertically. So I started what I came to call vertical thinking. I started researching on the internet and, lo and behold, there is a ton of information about vertical gardening, especially indoors.  With just the addition of a larger table top and some vertical plant holders, I can not only expand my fairy garden, but put in some herbs and flowers as well.

So now, instead of looking for seed catalogs in the mailbox, I'm looking for inspiration online. I'm not only thinking outside the box, I'm thinking the sky's the limit. What I've learned from all of this is that nothing is written in stone about how to accomplish your dreams. If it's something you're passionate about, open yourself up to the idea that there are infinite possibilities within each and every day, and within each and every situation. Think vertically! Reach for the stars!

And so it is.

Monday, January 15, 2018

What The Trees Don't Know


I swear it's like waking up to a different season every morning. In a week's time we've gone from 61 degrees, to freezing rain, to -1, and now we're back to pushing towards 20 degrees. Trying to keep up with it all is starting to tax my already overloaded little brain! After all, we need to know what's going on out there every day so we can plan accordingly ... don't we?

I was thinking about that very thing as I sat at my writing table this morning with a hot cup of my favorite coffee in hand, greeting my giant neighbor next door - a pine tree that must be 50 feet in height if not more. There are times I simply marvel at this magnificent creation. Since I've lived here, it has taught me so many valuable lessons about life. Today, it is teaching me about time.

Trees don't know anything about time. They do not measure the day, the seasons, or even the length of a weather event, like snow, rain, sleet or heat wave, the way we humans do. They just greet the new day as it arrives and adjust accordingly. They don't start worrying about whether they need to start planning in January for when to bud in April.  They don't check the Weather Channel for extended forecasts. Each day unfolds, one moment to the next, as it's supposed to. One day a few months from now they will wake up to a feeling in the air that spring is coming and start sending nourishment to the tips of their branches. When the time is right, the little green buds will begin to burst forth ... one day, one moment at a time.

There are many spiritual practices that tells us to surrender our need to know everything, at every moment of our lives, not only this moment, but what will unfold in the next hour, day, week or even year of our lives. By surrendering to what is, and letting each moment take care of itself, we give ourselves so much extra space to just embrace this new day and do with it what we need to do. If we wake up and it's raining, we'll grab the umbrella if we're going out. If we wake up to sunshine, we can lace up our sneakers and go for a walk. If we wake up to -1 degrees, like today, we can make ourselves something hot to drink, wrap ourselves up, and do what needs to be done.

Obviously, what the trees don't know doesn't seem to bother them. On the contrary, they seem to be doing just fine, and have done so since long before we humans showed up. Maybe we need to spend more time with them, sitting in stillness and silence and listening to their wisdom.

And so it is.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Learning To Make Do

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Up here in my neck of the woods we are finally coming out of the Artic deep freeze that has kept us cloistered for over a week. While 27 degrees may not sound like a heat wave, it is considerably better than -15 degrees with a wind chill of -35. I spoke to someone this morning who said that at this rate, with a forecast for 45 degrees by Thursday, she may dig out her shorts!

Having to stay indoors for that long a period of time has its challenges. At first, the idea of being able to just huddle up with a stack of books or movies, a warm blanket and a supply of hot chocolate may sound like paradise. After a few days, however, it does start to get redundant. Also, once you have raided the cupboards and the frig for several days in a row, your supplies start to dwindle and you have to ask yourself that all important question: "Do I want to risk frostbite just to go to the store, or can I make do with what I have until it warms up?" I, of course, being of sound mind and possessing the ability to adapt when faced with the threat of physical discomfort, opted for the latter. I just take my cue, as always, from nature. Nature has mastered the art of making do.

The animal world that stays around these parts in the winter, rather than following the migration of birds, animals and humans to warmer climates, spends the Autumn stocking up for occasions just such as these (as a side note: those folks who went south got hit with more snow than we did and temps almost as cold - so much for migrating south). They make do with what they have and wait it out, knowing that no storm, or cold snap, can last forever. The same holds true of those things in life that feel very much to us like getting hit with a massive storm, ones that seem to last forever: unemployment, a death, an illness, financial woes, you name it. Trying to "go south" and run away from it doesn't help. That's like saying that as long as you ignore it and put your focus somewhere else, it doesn't exist. The flaw with that logic is that, sooner or later, you'll wake up one day to a foot of snow and frozen water pipes. Nope, the best advice to facing the storms of our lives is to stock up on the essentials - faith, forgiveness, affirmations, intentions and commitment - and make do until spring comes when we get to take part in the rebirth of ourselves and our beautiful world.

As for me, I went online and found new ways to use chickpeas in very imaginative ways, and make it okay to have veggie burgers for breakfast when the oatmeal, fruit and toast ran out. I also discovered, digging through my tea cupboard all the way to the back when I ran out of my favorites, that I had several varieties of teas I didn't even know I had, and was pleasantly rewarded for my efforts with a nice pot of something new and delightful! As for running out of books, seriously? Flower Bear has enough books to open her own library, both physical books as well as digital. After all, you just never know when the next deep freeze might come along!

Stay warm and well!
And so it is!