Feeling Down? Get UP!

I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.

― Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Hocus Pocus patiently waiting while I take her pic during our afternoon walk

 


Note: This blog post is available as a podcast. You can 🎙 listen to it here. 🎙


 

That’s my girl.  My sunshine.  My Smile.  My whole heaping heart.

When I am down, she lifts me. When I am frustrated she waits for me to become clear.  When I am sad she feels it.  When my boundaries are out of bounds, she reflects this back to me.  When I need space, she gives it.  When I grieve, she is near.  When I need a nudge to get out of my own way, she gently pushes. When I am stuck in the muck of my mind she pulls me out of it.

We walk.  We run. We explore. We laugh. We play.  We let go.

She is a light in the dark. She is a rock when I need rest.  She is unconditional love when I am forgetting to love. She is an angel disguised as a dog.

But most of all, she is my Joy.

I share this with you because we all need someone or something in our life who gives us these gifts.  We all need moments of levity, laughter, and love … 24/7.

Especially now. 

We need to remember there are beloveds by our side who are always holding space for our well-being.  These beloveds – if we let them – can help our mental, emotional, and physical health, especially during these trying times.

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The little conversation, well is over very soon
And I watch in admiration from my corner of the room
And they shine on you with starry eyes and they rain a friendly storm

“Little Conversations” by Concrete Blonde

Little Conversations and Invitations 

That persistent nudge; the constant chuffing; the incessant meowing; that annoying winning; the gentle tugging; those pleading soulful eyes … they are all an invitation.

We often dismiss these behaviors or label them as irritating, annoying or distracting, but what if these behaviors attempting to get your attention are more than what they appear to be?  What if sometimes they are an invitation to get up, move about, rethink, readjust, reevaluate, shift our energy, or get out of our own way?

What if these behaviors were reflecting back to you, what you need in that very moment?

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What do you think Hocus is asking me here, while I am working in my office?

Sure, it could just be a singular desire or need our animal family members are exhibiting:  Maybe he has to pee.  Maybe she’s bored.  Maybe he’s frustrated.  Maybe she’s hungry.  Maybe he wants the cake you left on the kitchen counter.  Of course, these are all perfectly logical explanations for various behaviors.

But what if sometimes, it’s also you, their guardian?

What if our furry, feathered, and scaly friends and family members are more in tune with us than we can possibly imagine?  What if they can read us like an open book? What if our behavior, emotions, and energy are a beacon to them?  What if our sh*tty mood is a shout-out? What if they instinctively and intuitively knew what we need in that moment?  What if they truly wanted the best for us always?

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Mr. Beaux at my desk … What do you think he’s asking me?

If you knew this was true, how would you respond?  What would you do?  Would your choices be influenced?  Would your behavior change? Would your emotions change?

It’s worth considering.

And it’s  worth questioning everything. –Every thought. Every belief. Every emotion.

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“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. Never lose a holy curiosity.”
― Albert Einstein


New Perspective

All philosophy set aside, we have incredible beings by our side who are ready, willing, and able to pull us out of the swamps of sadness.  We have loved ones who may annoy the crap out of us sometimes, but there is a method in the madness.  The only thing we need to do is open the invitation we’ve been given.  Just being willing to look at something from a different perspective can change our worlds.  Our furry family members (and Mother Nature) have helped me to better recognize when I need to shift my mood, my mind, my thoughts, and my behavior.  Sometimes I have to get pulled hard by them, dragging and screaming, but eventually I see clearly.

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Atreyu doing all he can do pull Artax, his beloved horse, out of the Swamps of Sadness

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Other than the incredible colors of Autumn, like many people, I really dislike the time change.  As the days get shorter and the long, dark nights of late fall and winter settle in, many folks find their mood getting darker, too.  As someone who dealt with depression for two thirds of my life, I have incredible empathy for souls who get sad.  And at this time of year we see more of it.

Did you know ….?

  • Globally, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression.
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide
  • It’s a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.
  • More women are affected by depression than men.
  • Over 16 million people in the U.S. (6.7 percent of the pop) experience more than one episode of major depression during a year.
  • A further 5 percent live with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or seasonal depression.
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my husband and I might have had this exact conservation

The symptoms of SAD are so similar to those of depression that it can sometimes be hard to distinguish between the two.  SAD, also known as winter blues, typically affects women. In fact, 4 in 5 people with the condition are women, and the reasons for this predisposition are likely to be genetic.  However, while some people are genetically prone to the condition, they resist the environmental factors that might trigger it.

SAD is defined as a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter.  Symptoms of the “Winter Pattern” of SAD include:

  • Low energy
  • Hypersomnia
  • Overeating
  • Weight gain
  • Craving for carbohydrates
  • Social withdrawal (feel like “hibernating”)

I laughed out loud when I read those symptoms, because who doesn’t feel like that in the winter?!?  Hell, I feel like that when the temp drops below 60! 😀  I mean, come on. Who wants to eat a carrot stick or bowl of broccoli when it’s cold and rainy?!  And who doesn’t love to hibernate in the winter?!

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Hocus Pocus hibernating in our bed on a cold morning

All creatures want comfort when we are cold.  We all want to feel good when we feel bad.  And everyone has various methods for curing their ailments.  The point is, it’s important to recognize when we are feeling down, and then do something about it. We gotta address the “down”.

daylight savings time meme


Don’t Stay Stuck!

Wildfires, geopolitical insanity, and the fear-mongering the media sells, are all testing our resilience.  But so can seasonal changes.  Whether or not you’re affected by the weather, many are.  So if we become aware of these seasonal challenges we can help others.  There are four medical types of treatment for SAD:

  • Medication
  • Light therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Vitamin D

Those are the medical treatments, but there are other tools, too!  I used to take meds (which helped), but I weaned myself off of it many years ago.  Instead of the meds, I replaced big pharma by meditating twice a day, began to question my thoughts, went to Energy Medicine school,  got into acupuncture, discovered tools for Empaths, began taking Clearing Baths, practiced more self care, discovered why alcohol made my depression worse, increased my exercise, played more, created art, laughed more, became kinder to myself, and made sure my “tribe” was tight.

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Empaths feel things first, then think, which is the opposite of how most people function in our over-intellectualized society. – Dr. Judith Orloff

Even if you, your family member, coworkers, neighbors, or friends are not a HSP or an Empath, we all have emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental challenges. But we also have fabulously effective tools to Get Up and Get Out of our funk!  If each person began practicing just one of those tools I listed above we’d feel better.

I promise.

Here’s a helpful fact … Seasonal depression is caused by insufficient daylight, making the condition more widespread in countries that are farther from the Equator.  A new study in Copenhagen, Denmark,has discovered the power of daylight as a natural antidepressant. (You can read the details in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology.)

Daylight is effectively a natural antidepressant. Like many drugs currently used against depression, more daylight prevents serotonin from being removed from the brain.

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soaking up the sun with my best girl pal

So what does that research quote tell you?  To me, it says that one of the most powerful (free) tools/resources we have to feel better, stay healthy, and increase our mental and emotional health is something we have access to every day … the sun.  We all need to be outside more. We all need to play more. We all need to soak up the sun’s healing rays.

I wish we all would.  Everyone.  Every day.

Thankfully, our beloved Hocus Pocus and Mr. Beaux don’t let a single day go by without going outside. -Even when it’s the last thing I want to do :/  But after I do go outside and have an adventure with them (even when it’s cold-as-all-get-out), I am so damn happy that I did.  I am so unbelievably grateful they pulled me away from work, or out of my comfort zone to get outside and play.  My energy and mood shifts completely.

And because We Are One, so does theirs 😉

Below is a video I was inspired to create after I had been in a heavy funk.  Hocus, as always, (and unlike no other) once again, pulled me out of the muck of my mind with her puppy-like persuasive ways and means …

All I needed was the love you gave
All I needed for another day
And all I ever knew
Only you

-Yaz


From Suffering to Joy

We all have natural healing tools available around the world.  It’s quite true that “Nature Heals”.  Our animal friends know this.  Our bodies and brains crave daylight; this energy not only allows the body to release the “feel-good hormone”, serotonin, but walking outside during the day (even when it’s cold) will give you vital sun exposure.

And on an energetic level, it’s important to recognize that nature exists in a constant state of nonresistance.  Mother Nature feels like home to many of us because her vibration is pure. 🌊 Our energy is most aligned to its highest and pure essence when we are immersed in nature. We are most grounded in nature.  So are our animal friends.

They know this. They feel it, too.

But have you noticed that we also feel this way when we are in the presence of our animal companions?  They are the embodiment of Unconditional Love!

Joy is our true state of being; all else is an illusion we’ve bought into. There’s nothing inherently “wrong” with this illusion, but is it how we really want to feel?  Do we want to live life feeling down every day or do we want to be free?

I choose freedom.

I choose to remember that my beloveds want this for me, too.  The ones we often take for granted are doing their best to help us.  We can wake up from our funk when we start to realize that feeling joy, gratitude, and love, and being playful is our inherent nature. We can choose a new way of being every moment of the day.

We can get up and get outside.  Right Now 😉

Be well.  Be Kind.  And be Good to each other.  Stay open to miracles in the mind and remember to laugh and play, friends!

“She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom.” 
― Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

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Exploring the Redwood National and State Park with Hocus

“The art of living… is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging to the past on the other. It consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive.” Alan Wilson Watts


Recommended Reading:

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Be Kind.

Kindness in giving creates love. ― Lao Tzu

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An artist’s impression of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, built c. 300 – c. 280 BCE and one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

 


Hello Bright Light!

I hope this finds you well in all ways.  This will be a short post, as I have much to do today.  This topic is important, which is why I am creating time to share the message with you now.  Let’s get to it!


🔱
Most of us are acutely aware of our own struggles; we are preoccupied with our own problems.  On our best days we sometimes sympathize with ourselves because we see our own difficulties so clearly.  But Philo of Alexandria, a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher who lived in the Roman province of Egypt in the fist half of the first century BCE, compassionately reminded his community, “Let us be kind to one another, for most of us are fighting a hard battle.”

I find it interesting this statement is still true today.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
— Philo of Alexandria

When we feel into this sentiment and accept its truth we allow ourselves to open our heart, to see through the lens of compassion, empathy, and love.  When we accept this statement we allow our self to set aside judgement of one’s behavior; we become the compassionate observer.  We recognize we couldn’t possibly know the path one is on and how arduous it might be at the moment.  We admit one could never know all of what’s happening behind the scenes.

Everyone is struggling on some level; physically, mentally or spiritually.  This includes strangers, coworkers, Mother Earth, friends, family, plants, wildlife, lovers, and animal companions.  Everyone.

Underwater City Baffles Archeologists
Underwater City Statue in the Mediterranean Sea

 

Not only are we in a world that’s not our True Home, but we all have internal and external troubles; some evident, some hidden.  Regardless of the form or lack of, we are all in need of kindness.  Always.  In this regard we are all the same; we are not separate.  We all share the need for kindness.  This is just one of our commonalities.

“Kindness Created me kind.” — A Course In Miracles

I love the photo of the Lighthouse in the image above. It reminds me that when all the world around us is in a fog, darkness, or mists of confusion, we can be the Light for others. We can extend love and light just by being kind.

But here’s the catch:  To exclude one being from our inherent kindness is to exclude All.

Every Day It’s Helpful to Ask:

🔱 Am I being kind to myself?
🔱Can we be kind when others are being unkind?
🔱Can we extend kindness to ourselves?
🔱Can we be kind to ourselves when we notice we are being unkind?

🔱 Kindness IS contagious.🔱

We cannot fathom the unimaginable consequences of being kind to our self in every moment. Then extending that kindness out; the ripple effects could be life-changing for countless souls.

Be Kind.  We’re all in this together. 🌊🌟✌🏼

Be Kind_Kindness Quotes__Philo of alexandria_be kind hard battle_Conscious Companion_

 


P.S. If you’re into cool ancient civilization history, check out the 3D Animation of The Grandeur Of Ancient Alexandria, From Its Library To Lighthouse

Where are you?

mindful dog walking


 

Few of us ever live in the present. We are forever anticipating what is to come or remembering what has gone. ― Louis L’Amour


 

I Faked It.

When I was working at Audubon Nature Institute my coworkers and I used to lovingly joke about a “rambling” coworker.  One of our colleagues had a tendency to ramble on and on for what seemed like an eternity.  And those of us on the receiving end of the ramble would totally zone out.   I mean, we would completely check out.  Gone.  We would mentally leave the situation. But we were clever enough to appear as if we were listening;  we would chime in with a word or nod every few minutes and say something along the lines of “Oh”, “wow” , “huh”, “really”, or “yeah”.  We faked as if we were there, but we were mentally checked out.


 

Do You Fake It? 

As rude as what we did may sound, it’s all too common for most people when they are bored, distracted, or worried about either something that just happened, or what might happen later.  We fake that we are listening, or we fake that we care.  We fake interest in the person, the topic of discussion, or the situation.  We fake that we are actually there with the person as they are sharing.  It’s a rare event for people to be truly present with others.  Let’s be honest:  We are faking it all the time with people.

But we also fake it when we are with our pets.


 

My Mind is Either Full or Mindful.

I am the first to admit that I can completely zone out like it’s going out of style.  My mind goes a million miles a minute.  I am easily distracted.  I get bored very easily.   I don’t enjoy doing tedious chores. (Ahem, I was in the middle of a very boring  and tedious attempt to clean and organize our house for upcoming guests right as I was suddenly compelled to write this post. ha!)

As a highly creative person, it can be an enormous challenge to be fully present.  I will get these amazing insights or inspirational ideas while someone is talking to me, or when I am doing the dishes or feeding the animals.  As great as that inspiration may sound, it’s not the best use of my mind.  It’s not mindfulness.  And it’s not helpful or respectful to the ones who are choosing to share their time, presence, or insight with me.

But I can train my mind to be mindful.  I can practice being fully present, even if what I am doing or listening to is boring or tedious.  Or I can practice being bored and distracted.  I can choose to focus on what’s right in front of me.  Or I can choose to zone out.   I can choose to be consciously aware of where my mind is, or I can choose to not care.

I have that choice, and you do too.


Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.


 

The Most Mindful Ones

Animals are mindful.  Their minds are not full.  Take a look a the image at the top of this post.  Look at what is in the man’s mind. Then look at what is in the dog’s mind. The man’s is cluttered and full of his worries, wants, and concerns.  The dog’s mind is focused on exactly what is in front of him/her.  The dog is no where else.  The dog is fully present.  The dog is taking in the sight, scents, and experience of being right there, in that field with his/her person.  Animals have the conscious ability to be fully focused, and fully present.  And they practice this at every opportunity.  It’s truly extraordinary. And we can learn from their practice and habit of being mindful.  In fact, recently, Hocus Pocus had some insights to share with me on this very subject. You can read her wisdom here!

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I’m pretty sure that Hocus Pocus is focused. Her mind is not anywhere but Right Here Now.

 

We Are Missing Out When We Are Not Mindful.

If you are asking, So what’s the big deal about being fully present?  then you are right were I was many years ago.  You are starting to at least question your behavior and thoughts.  Asking that question and learning the answer is how we start to become more aware of our presence (or lack of) with our animal companions.

Over a decade ago when I first started consciously practicing mindfulness in my day-to-day activities, I was appalled at myself.  When I slowed down and noticed my behavior and thoughts, I started to observe how frantic, chaotic, busy, and random my thoughts were.  My mind was more like a mindless monkey machine.   I wasn’t focused on anything that was in front of me.  I was anywhere in my mind, but right there!  I was missing out on life. I was not even present and absorbing all that was happening right in front of me!

Mindfulness-and-Busy-Life


 

Mindful or Mind Full Walks?

One area that I noticed I was really mentally checked out was when while walking my dog. I was dismayed to discover that I was in my head the entire time on our walk.   I found myself wandering off in my mind, thinking about so-and-so at work, planning my next day’s events, how I wish I had said blah-blah blah in that meeting, and so on.  I was pursuing my own agenda.  I was stuck in the past.  I was fixated future.

I was not fully in the present with my dog.

Eventually I noticed that while I was mentally absent, I wasn’t paying attention to my dog at all!  I wasn’t focused on what she was doing, what she was sniffing, what she was looking at, what she was reacting to, or where she was choosing to walk.  As she walked down the sidewalk sniffing and popping her head up every so often I noticed that the walk wasn’t about her at all.   The walk was about the distractions in my head.  It was about me and all the things I wanted, fretted, and worried about.  I was there with my dog physically, but my mind had left her.

She was essentially walking alone.

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“Be here now.” ― Ram Dass

Where Are You?

One aspect I love to address with clients is helping them to notice where their mind wanders.  An easy way to determine their ability (or inability) to be fully present is when they are relaxing at home.   Relaxation time is an important tool.  This tool can help an animal guardian recognize “where they are” because this is the window to where their mind goes, when they can allow themselves to relax.

If they are in the habit of allowing themselves to sit down and relax for at least 20 minutes a day, then we start there.  People soon learn if they are able (or unable) to maintain focus on their animal while doing something as simple as petting them, or just sitting with them.  They can start to ask themselves questions such as, While I am petting my dog or cat, am I really focused on what’s happening right here now?  Am I distracted about what happened today or what will happen tomorrow?  Is my dog (or cat) even enjoying this? Am I?  Is what’s happening “out there” more important than my friend at my side, or in my lap?  As silly as those questions may seem, they are a window to where your mind is.

That’s the answer to where you are mentally.

If we are making time for “down time” every night, we can start to look at where our mind goes when relaxing with our pets.   If you can’t even focus on your pets while you are relaxing at home, with no distractions, how are you going to be able to focus when it gets hectic or when things go awry?  How will you be able to be fully present when they are nervous, afraid, reactive, sick or injured? 10561798_10153818917353485_4302261506518738885_n

Being able to be fully present with your pet when you are relaxing is a precursor to being fully present during more challenging times.  If you can’t mentally connect with your pet on the couch, then you certainly aren’t going to be fully present and connect with her during a walk, when she is becoming anxious, fearful, or reactive, at the veterinarian, or even during a simple training session.  Your mind will wander.  Your dog (and cat) will know and feel it.  And the negative effects of this can be enormous.


 

Practice Being Present. 

It takes time and practice to become fluent at anything.  It takes a concerted effort to change our habits and our reactions.  But you can practice being present! There are a number of ways that you can learn how to do this, from mediation to body awareness, but for the sake of brevity we won’t go into all of those in this post.  Instead, I’ll mention a couple of common situations that people encounter often.  In each scenario, you get to choose how to respond.

The next time your cat/dog/kid interrupts you while you are working:

  • You can stress out and become reactive to them (because you clearly have other things to worry about, and now your kid/cat/dog is adding to your worries).

OR

  • You can take a deep breath, slow down, look at them calmly, be open, be present, and be there with them.

When we choose the latter, we are shifting from our fearful and reactive mind to our conscious and loving mind.   If you can do this you will find that in that moment there is only you and them.  There is nothing else.  They get your full focus. Then you can go back to what you were doing, but you are doing it out of love.

The next time you take your dog for a walk you have two choices:

  • You can fiddle with your phone the entire time.

OR

  • You can be full present with your dog.  You can enjoy and appreciate your time together.  You can notice subtle behaviors.  You can learn where your dog enjoys sniffing, and where your dog tends to avoid. You can discover new sights, sounds, and scents with your dog. You can walk together.

Being there now, in that moment is a choice.  We get to choose this a thousand times a day.  We get to choose where we are.  We get to decide if we want to appreciate who is in front of you.  It’s in that moment where you can be grateful for that moment with him/her.  Or you can let that moment pass you by.  A thousand times  a day. It’s a choice we all get to make.

When we are fully present we are allowing their presence to be enough for us.


 

Their Presence is Enough. 

When we are fully present we are fully engaged.  We are saying to our loved ones, “I care enough about you to be here fully with you now.”  We are saying to them, “Nothing else is more valuable than you and me right now.”  When we are fully present we are releasing our worries, regrets, frets, and concerns.  When we are fully present with our pets, we are saying that we value their presence.  And we are saying that their presence is enough for us right then and there.

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Being Fully Present IS a Gift.

As Conscious Companions, one of the most powerful and respectful things we can do is to be fully present with our animal companions.  When we make a conscious decision to be mindful we are giving ourselves and the ones we love a gift.  Mindfulness takes conscious and deliberate focus but the more you practice, the easier it gets, and the more joyful your life becomes. And I promise you: Your pets will feel it, too.

Being mindful makes it easier to savor the pleasures in life as they occur.   It helps you to become fully engaged in activities and be more aware of everything.   It creates a greater capacity to deal with adverse events when they arise.   It allows you to recognize and prevent stressful encounters, and conflicts.

I sometimes briefly look back and think about how often I was not fully present with the people and animals who I loved.  Many of them are gone now, but the ones who are still by my side will have the gift of my presence.   When I am walking with Hocus, petting Albert, brushing Knox, or listening to my husband, mother, or brother, they will have all of my focus.  My mind may wander sometimes, but I will consciously choose to come back to them.  I will remember that their presence is a gift, and my presence is my gift to them.

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The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers. – Thích Nhất Hạnh


 

Recommended Reading:

Active presence

Five Steps to Mindfulness

The physical, psychological, and social benefits of Mindfulness 

The Power of Pause

TTouch – a universal language and mindful way of making contact