Privilege

I’ve been pondering lately on privilege. I am grateful for the level of needs I have met on Maslow’s hierarchy in order to be free enough to explore things like mindfulness and contentment.

That’s the one big problem that I see with so many of the self-help and mindfulness gurus that are out there. They spout their beliefs and say that ANYONE can be happy with what they have and where they are. They just have to chose to be happy.

But that simply isn’t true.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

There are other, more basic needs that must be met before we can stop and truly focus on our happiness. Who wants to be mindful of the sensations of their body, when their body is starving and in desperate need of food? Or when their body is shivering from wont of proper clothing and shelter? Should I person who must live in an environment of violence and hate be content with not being hurt or killed everyday?

Can you tell these people who are homeless, sick, famished, or fearful that they should look at all they have to be grateful for? Sure, they have things in their lives that I’m sure that give them some source of pleasure, but their focus must be on fulfilling those more basic needs of food, shelter, and safety before they can start fathoming a journey towards love, belonging, and esteem? not to mention gaining the privilege that is mindfulness.

Some people can check off those basic needs so easily, and for others it’s a constant struggle. Through struggle, there is growth, of course, but it’s never as simple as “stop to smell the roses” or “meditate daily.”

And my argument here doesn’t even begin to brush the surface of serious mental health issues like depression.

So yes, I do encourage folks to be mindful and focus on their self-care as much as possible, but I also understand that not everyone can accomplish that at any given time in their lives. I am white, financially stable, and relatively healthy (… relatively). I come at the practice of mindfulness with all that my upbringing and environment allows me, and I strive for more growth all the time. But that’s just it. It’s a journey, and people start at so many different beginnings and there is no set destination. You just keep moving forward, fulfulling each level of need until your time on this earth ends.

So take care of yourselves, my friends, whatever that means to you, wherever you’re starting from. Never stop striving for better.

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On Meditation and Corgis

I often change up my meditation routine so that the act itself doesn’t become a mindless routine. During warmer days, I particularly enjoy meditating outside. I’ll do my routine sitting on a pillow on my 3rd story back porch, overlooking the forest in the shadow of Mount Yonah, or I’ll curl up on our newly restored porch swing, surrounded by a string of decorative firefly lights, or I’ll be in one of my favorite places–lying back in my hammock.

But alas, the days have turned much too cool to comfortably sit outside with little to no movement. So my meditations have returned to the indoor world. For the past few days, I’ve been sitting cross-legged on the living room love seat with a square throw pillow in my lap.

And everyday, Beans, my corgi puppy, has been jumping on the couch and then crawling on top the pillow in my lap and falling asleep.

The first time she did this, I was unsure of the outcome–she is an energetic puppy, to be sure, lots of little piranha teeth.  But, I gave her the benefit of the doubt, and I truly believe that she’s significantly improved my meditating experience.

You see, I’ve been focusing on compassion, gratitude, and goals during my meditation ritual lately. When I take a couple of minutes to center on compassion, I have a tactile link I can explore. All of my pups illict deep feelings of love and compassion for me. So when I need to bring those emotions to the surface, I place my hands on her and those feelings are brought forth easily.

The warmth of her body. Even though the pillow is soothing, and the rhythmic motions of petting her keep my attentions on the here and now.

Of course, right now, Beans is only 10lbs. Let’s see how I feel about this habit when she 25-30lbs!

My meditation partners–Scotch beside me and Beans on the pillow in my lap (with the sock she brought with her)

 

Taking It Easy

I’ve had a tough, strange week. Aside from experiencing mild to moderate ongoin energy issues — which were not helped by the time change AT ALL — I’ve also been dealing with a resurgence of stomach-ish pains. AND my jaw decided to randomly misalign itself, so I’ve been dealing with a super sore jaw that messes with my eating. It’s been a struggle to stay awake and stay focused.

My productivity has been sorely lacking.

But, I’ve allowed myself to take it easy. Pushing won’t help, but I have to be careful to distinguish between relaxation and laziness.

Today, I improved a bit. I had energy. My abdominalnpain abated for the mist part. My jaw still hurts like the dickens, but that’s more easily dealt with. So today, the cabin got a much needed cleaning and the cupboards are once again filled with food. I not only meditated, but I also exercised for 45 minutes on my recumbant bike — taking it relatively easy, of course.

Time to reset and get back on the horse.

I Failed Today

Keeping to my routine, after dinner (and a little extra time for digestion), I donned my workout gear and headed to the basement for a solid sweat session.

Well balls

One set of squats later, I’m doubled over, out of breath and my heart going insane in my chest. I took a short break, gathered my breath and regained normal heart function and went into the next exercise. I managed to struggle through a single a set of seven moves, taking breaks betweem each to regain my composure, but I had to l listen to my body.  A long, cardio and muscle strengthening session was out of the question without causing myself undue pain. Enough was enough. So I stopped.

With my short cool down, I did a total of 15 minutes. That’s not a lot, but something is better than nothing. Tomorrow is another day and I will try again.

So while I may have “failed” my exercise goal today, I did what was best for my health, and I will be better for it. A minor setback will not define me.

I am strong.

I am wise.

I know my body.

I will overcome.

I will persevere.

And I will be better for it.

Fall Hike: Or “Let’s go this way”

Sometimes you have to stare at Google maps and try to find a new and interesting place to go hiking. Follow the Appalachian trail north of your normal treks and you may discover a new section that has a road and approach trail that leads right to it.

That’s how we discovered the Appalachian Trail at Addis Gap. The plan was to head to the trail head at the end of Wild Cat Road and hike up to the A.T. and then go for distance.

The drive there was bordering on magical. Peak color, an undisturbed dirt road covered in yellow leaves, and even a water fall along the way. It took a solid 30 minutes to drive down the long, narrow gravel road known as West Wild Cat Rd, and it was certainly a beautiful adventure.

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After being on approach trail (the old end portion of Wild Cat Road) for about 15 minutes, we were met by a couple of cyclists, which meant we had to scramble and get the pups out of the way (we had Scotch and Beans with us). The second dude who road by let us know that more folks on bikes were coming down the mountain.

There was a race going on.

Our secluded hike was going to be interrupted by a lot of people in tight shorts, and our nerves were going to be shot by trying not to have a corgi vs. bike accident.

But we trudged on, luckily being able to see a relatively good distance along the path.

But behold! a fork in the trail. To the left, the continuation of Wild Cat Road/approach trail. To the right, though, was another old forest road, showing up on Google Maps as “Deep Gap Road.”

When we got to the fork, our decision was basically made for us. A large group of cyclists were speedily coming down the mountain from the approach trail. We took the road less traveled, and honey, that made all the difference.

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The rest of the hike was peaceful, and while we were constantly climbing the mountain, the grade was easy. So while we didn’t exactly get to the A.T. this time, we found a place where we can come back to later.

In total, we hiked five miles (2.5 in, 2.5 out). We enjoyed it immensely, and the pups did as well.

Fall Sensations: Sight

This week is peak color-change week in the North Georgia Mountains. I know this, because I read it about five times in the fifteen minutes I perused Facebook this afternoon. That means that one of the most glorious sites of Autumn has arrived – the leaf change, bringing with it my favorite color palette.

But there’s so much more to see and take in during Fall. It’s not all about the leaves!  Just last week, we were entreated to the glow of jack-o-lanterns. Kids and pets (and adults) took to the streets in the greatest of costumes, and I love looking at those pictures and seeing the creativity.

Mums of many varieties are blooming! I have a patch of white ones in my back yard, and then two other types potted around my property. They make for beautiful late-year color.

And with the cooling weather, comes a rare sighting in these parts – the migration of the Monarch Butterflies as they lopingly make their way South, only occasionally making pit stops here in the North Georgia Mountains.  I’ve seen three so far this year, and they’ve been a treat to behold!

Autumn brings the return of crackling outdoor fires, lighting up the darkness of an early dusk.

And don’t forget that Thanksgiving spread! The food not only smells and tastes delicious, it looks so very inviting and comforting.

And of course, as the color fades from the forests and the leaves slowly flutter to the ground, a new vista emerges. The mountains, hidden for most of the year, become visible once more.

Take a moment and visualize your perfect fall day. What sorts of things do you see and take comfort in?

Sunset Drive

On Monday, Greg and I grabbed some Taco Bell (What? I can’t be super healthy all the time. Beside, I love me some Fiery Doritos Locos Tacos with Diablo sauce. I live for the SPICE), and then we took a drive up Richard B. Russell Scenic highway and stopped at a couple of the roadside pull-offs. It was very chilly and the wind was not helping that fact at all. We did manage to grab a couple of self-indulgent selfies and a few photos of the splendor of the beginnings of the leave change in North Georgia.

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I love mountain views. Being up high and taking deep breaths of cool, fresh air fills me with joy. I visualize these memories when I need to calm and recenter my focus.

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That rock-faced mountain is Yonah Mountain. It’s the same mountain that I can see from my back porch, but from the other side. It’s one of my favorite places.

This quick drive, in addition to the hike the day before, was exactly what my spirits needed to feel revitalized and normal. My mood has been boosted, and I’m feeling almost human again.

I am grateful for the forests and the mountains of North Georgia.