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Why nature is my physician

My love of nature started in childhood as my parents insisted their three children play outdoors as much as possible. While we weren’t allowed to run wild, (you never wanted to hear my Mom’s frenetic bell ring because you were somewhere you weren’t supposed to be), we were given the freedom to spend hours rolling around in the grass, climbing trees, dancing in the driveway, or playing a mean game of tug of war.

Perhaps it was because my parents just wanted us out of the house, or maybe they knew intuitively what scientific studies reinforce today: Nature is a powerful ally and healing force for our mind and body.


nature is good for us

We know that spending time in nature makes us feel good, but does it measurably affect our well-being? Study after study has shown the answer is yes.

Studies show that being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, stress, and increases pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, but also contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones.

According to health researchers Stamatkis and Mitchell, nature not only improves the quality of our lives but the length of them as well. And a study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology in 2018 found that spending as little as five minutes outdoors was linked to a significant mood boost.

Research conducted in hospitals, offices, and schools has found that even a simple plant in a room can have a significant impact on stress and anxiety.


nature is our happy place

Our affinity toward nature is genetic and deep-rooted in evolution. For example, have you ever wondered why most people prefer to book accommodations that have a great view from the balcony or the terrace? Why patients who get a natural view from their hospital bed recover sooner than others? Or why we crave downtime in nature when stress takes it’s toll on our zen.

“Study Nature, love Nature, stay close to Nature.
It will never fail you.”

Frank Lloyd Wright

Nature’s Impact on our Health

Who would have thought that a little time with the flowers and trees can actually improve your memory? The University of Michigan conducted a study that revealed students who regularly went for a nature walk actually had a better time retaining information.

  1. Nature improves short term memory.
    Nature also helps us cope with pain. Because we are genetically programmed to find trees, plants, water, and other nature elements engrossing, nature can distract us from pain and discomfort.
  2. Nature reduces stress hormones.
    In a world flooded by screens, sometimes just taking the time to unplug and go outside can do wonders for reducing stress. Nature has a calming effect on our brains, even if it means going outside for just five minutes each day. As an added bonus, outdoor exercise, like going for a walk, hiking, and so forth, gets the blood flowing and heart pumping, another way to lower stress levels.
  3. Nature increases our levels of Vitamin D.
    Sure, too much sun can damage the skin and possibly lead to cancer. That being said, studies show that getting between 15 to 20 minutes a day of sunshine will allow your body to absorb vitamin D, which helps strengthen bones and reduce the risk of cancer, type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.
  4. Nature improves our immune system.
    Research has shown that going outdoors and getting enough sunlight can help boost the immune system. Make sure to take a little stroll outside or enjoy a bit of fun outdoors to help fight disease and stay healthy.
  5. Nature reduces inflammation.
    Inflammation in the body can lead to all sorts of disorders, from depression and cancer to autoimmune diseases. A study demonstrated that participants who spent a bit of time each week walking in the woods experienced lower levels of inflammation in the body.  
  6. Nature inspires creativity.
    Nature comes in so many colors, from orange-sky sunsets to seafoam green waters and rose-colored gardens. Spending time outside gives a chance to get inspired by all the gorgeous sights, smells, and sounds of the outdoors. Science backs that up, too, showing that spending time outside actually helps get our creative juices flowing.
  7. Nature improves vision.
    We spend a lot of time looking at screens, which can damage eyesight. Going outside gives our eyes a break from staring at a computer, television, or smartphone. Australian scientists even found that children who spend time outdoors reduce the risk of developing myopia later in life.
  8. Nature improves our sleep.
    Spending time in natural light helps our bodies better regulate sleep patterns. When the sun goes down, our brains will release the right levels of melatonin to help get a good night’s sleep.
  9. Nature increases feelings of happiness.
    You can find all kinds of different activities outdoors for all fitness levels and preferences. Whether it means going for a swim in the sea, taking the dog for a walk in the park, or mountain biking, finding outdoor activities that we enjoy will boost your mood and help you to feel happier. Plus spending time in nature promotes mental well-being.
  10. Nature can open the door to a deeper sense of spirituality.
    A long walk in nature on your own gives a chance to clear the mind and can even count as a type of meditation. Spending time in nature helps us live in the moment as we breathe in the air, listen to the sound of the birds chirping, or feel the grass on our feet.

    Nature can even teach valuable lessons and reveal metaphors to help us connect with our spirituality. The changes of the season reflect the peaks and valleys we go through in life. Meanwhile, a coursing river reminds us of our need to “go with the flow” and navigate the waters of life, so to speak.

    Nature’s generous lessons are all around us when we slow down enough to take notice.

“A walk in nature walks the soul back home.”

Mary Davis

take a walk, skip the pill

A walk in the fresh air, the sun on our skin, bare feet in the sand: spending time outside can bring so many small pleasures, making us feel refreshed and revived. Whether it means sitting in your backyard garden sipping a cold iced tea or going for a thrilling white water rafting adventure, time in nature has the power to heal, inspire, and guide you daily.

The B Bar Ranch in Montana

Need some nature?

Join Tina Sprinkle and Lisa Looy for an amazing adventure on their WILD IN MONTANA Retreat. Daily meditation, guided hikes, horseback riding, and more. Space is limited so don’t delay! This retreat will sell out.


What is Metabolic Health?

Understanding Your Metabolism Is A Key To Better Health

Even if you’re in the middle of a deep sleep, or quietly reading a book, your body is always active. It never quite “shuts off,” because it’s always storing and consuming energy (from the food you eat) – and building up and breaking down molecules necessary to maintain your health.

This always-on process is called metabolism, which literally means “a state of change.”

Your body relies on metabolism to carry out all its functions – whether it’s storing or burning fat, regulating sugar levels, or keeping your neurons firing – so metabolism has a huge impact on your health.

When your metabolism is working as it should, you’ll have much more energy throughout the day – you won’t feel so sluggish and fatigued. You’ll also find it easier to gain muscle mass and lose fat because your body will be sending the right hormone “signals” to your metabolic system. Even your mood will be brighter if your metabolism is well-balanced. On the flip side, scientists have discovered that metabolic disturbances are linked with major depressive disorder – a testament to the mighty effect metabolism can have on all aspects of your well-being.



Not surprisingly, then, your body tightly controls its metabolism. It does this through swarms of small-but-powerful signal molecules known as hormones – which travel throughout your body in different amounts. So by checking in on your hormone levels, you can get a good gauge of how healthy your metabolism is – and, ultimately, how healthy your whole body is. This is why understanding your metabolism is key to better health.

If it weren’t for metabolism, all the good nutrients you eat wouldn’t do your body any good. Metabolism is how your body turns the nutrients in a delicious casserole or a tasty smoothie into energy – and into the raw materials your body needs to build muscles and repair tissues and organs.

Since metabolism has such a powerful impact on your body, you may be wondering what affects your metabolism. What factors can cause shifts in your metabolic health?

Without a doubt, your diet is one of the most important things that can alter your metabolism.



Because many nutrients serve as the building blocks for the hormones that regulate metabolism, if you have a well-balanced diet – you’re getting the nutrients you need and in the right quantities – then your metabolism will most likely function properly. But say you’re eating lots of foods that are high in sugar. This excess sugar will disrupt your metabolism, and put you at risk of developing metabolic diseases.

Exercise, too, has a profound effect on your metabolic health. In fact, some research suggests that long-term physical training makes your metabolism work more efficiently – so you burn more calories even when you’re not being active.

Something else that affects your metabolism is your age: your metabolism “slows down” as you age, so your body accumulates fat more easily. Certain behaviors can also cause changes to your metabolism. For example, if you’re not getting enough sleep, then your metabolism will be negatively affected – which can contribute to weight gain.



You may recall that earlier we said that metabolism is controlled by signal molecules called hormones – and that you can gain insights into your metabolism and health by understanding your hormone levels. Hormones tell your metabolic system when to store or use energy – and when it should build or break down important nutrients. While your body produces many hormones, there are 3 hormones in particular that can give you incredible information about your health. These three hormones are the thyroid hormones, testosterone, and cortisol.

THYROID HORMONES

Nestled at the front of your windpipe is a gland called the thyroid. And although it’s small – only a few inches in length – it plays a big role in the body’s metabolism. This gland is responsible for secreting two important hormones: T3 and T4.

These two hormones travel through your bloodstream and regulate your metabolic system in many ways (for example, they let your cells know when to either break down fats or store more fats). Production of thyroid hormones is controlled by a tiny gland situated in your brain – the pituitary gland. This gland squirts out a hormone of its own – the aptly-named thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).

If you have elevated TSH levels in your blood it’s very possible that your thyroid isn’t making enough hormones. (Your pituitary gland releases more TSH to send a strong signal to your thyroid that it’s time to make more thyroid hormones. When your thyroid hormone levels are too low – which can be caused by diseases of the thyroid gland, for instance – then your body starts making more fat than necessary. You’ll start gaining weight, and you might also experience fatigue and hair loss.

What happens if your bloodstream is flooded with way too much thyroid hormones? As you may have guessed, in this case your body will start rapidly breaking down fat. A healthy body requires some fat, but if your thyroid hormone levels are too high, then your body will eliminate too much of its fat. The result? Weight loss – along with some other not-very-desirable effects, such as higher blood pressure and sleep problems.

TESTOSTERONE

Though many people think of testosterone as only a male hormone, it’s incredibly important for healthy metabolism in both men and women. Testosterone is crucial to well-balanced fat metabolism and muscle production. In fact, lower-than-normal levels of testosterone prompt your body to increase its fat mass.

On other hand, if a man has too much testosterone coursing through his body, then he may be more irritable and have a lower sperm count – among other negative consequences. Women with too much testosterone may gain more weight, have excess acne, and even male pattern baldness.

Testosterone also helps regulate sleep and mood, so for all these reasons (and more) it’s important that your testosterone levels are within a normal, healthy range.

CORTISOL

Cortisol – dubbed the “stress hormone” – is released into your bloodstream when your body senses a threat or emergency. Cortisol causes your body to dump glucose (sugar molecules) into the bloodstream, providing you with the fuel you need to respond to the perceived threat. For example, if you’re out hiking and you suddenly encounter a fearsome predator – a bear, perhaps – then cortisol sparks a surge of glucose that gives you the energy to “fight or flight.”

But what if you’re always under stress? Maybe deadlines are always looming over your head, and the traffic congestion en route to the office doesn’t help matters. In situations like these – where you’re always stressed – cortisol will continue pumping you full of glucose. (Cortisol, after all, can’t distinguish the difference between a bear and an important deadline.)

Since your body won’t use all this excess glucose, it’ll turn the glucose into fat. Thus, chronic stress can lead to unhealthily high levels of cortisol – and result in weight gain.

Since your metabolism underpins so much of your health, it’s important to get a good understanding of how well your metabolism is functioning.

My upcoming Metabolic Reset will give you the support and plan to help reset your hormone balance and heal your metabolism.


Sign up here for your FREE 6-WEEK Metabolic Reset Hormone Balance Email Series.


What do you want in 2021?

I came across this reading in a mindfulness group that I am part of led by Sean Fargo. I am a little jaded on setting resolutions myself since I have not only set so many myself that fizzled, but watched countless clients do the same.

Reading how a “resolution” is different than an “intention” changed my perspective enough to want to share. Perhaps it’s just my current place in life, but setting an intention for this new year feels more intuitive and grounded than setting a challenge or resolution. What about you?

Here’s the article.


Setting new year’s resolutions is something that many of us do as the end of December approaches. In truth, however, we can set resolutions for ourselves at any time of the year. We need not wait until January rolls around.

But what is a resolution? And how do resolutions differ from intentions? The difference may seem to be semantic, but new year’s resolutions and new year’s intentions hold important distinctions. 

New year’s resolutions are often:

  • Clearly defined
  • Quantitative
  • Goal-oriented
  • Specific

For example: “I resolve to exercise four times per week in the new year.”

On the other hand, new year’s intentions are more typically:

  • Energy based
  • Qualitative
  • Progress-oriented
  • Nuanced

For example: “I intend to cultivate more self-compassion in the year ahead of me.”

This example highlights the qualitative nature of intentions versus resolutions. By focusing on the quality or energy we long to embody or experience, we open ourselves to the many ways this might manifest. 

Resolutions and intentions each have their place. At certain times of life, we may feel more drawn to one or the other. Take a moment’s pause now to consider:

What type of new year’s practice makes most sense for you in this moment?
Do you wish to set an intention, a resolution, or some kind of hybrid?


What do you want for yourself in 2021? Please share in comments below or on my FB page!


Goodbye 2020

Maybe it’s because I’ve been in the fitness industry for 40 years, or maybe because I’ve been on the planet over sixty, but I’m not keen on New Year’s Resolutions. Wanting to be a better partner, parent, co-worker, or steward of world peace is admirable, but why wait until January 1st to begin?

Perhaps this year, when all we want to do is put the misery of 2020 behind us, we can be forgiven for wanting to indulge in something hopeful.

When I think about my own transformative beginnings, not a one sprang from resolution, new year’s or otherwise. If that sounds tragic, it’s not. My beginnings usually came in the form of divorce, job loss, death, and illness. They were difficult, messy, and painful. My reactions, denial, resistance, or feeling victimized made no difference. Spirit has taught me the only way to transform an ending into a beginning is a one-day endeavor called “allowing.”

At 10:32 am on Wednesday, May 17th, 2017, one of those opportunities literally dropped from the sky.

Our neighbor’s 120 foot oak tree chose that precise moment to come crashing down on our home.

I was in the kitchen, in the center of our little house, when I felt something resembling a train wreck.

I ran outside to find my dog Jack staring back in alarm. It was a bright, sunny, windless morning so we were both confused.

“It must have been a transformer,” I explain to Jack, who’s already forgotten it.

When I went back inside, I noticed the front of the house was weirdly dark. I went to the front door and opened it. A swarm of neighbors rushed towards me.

“Are you okay? Is anyone hurt?” They all said at once.

I just stared at them. “Yeah, I’m okay. Why? Did you hear it, too?”

One of them waved uncomfortably for me to turn around. “Uh, that,” she said.

Somehow, I’d missed the air thick with dust, the bedroom door blown off its hinges, the mangled metal air vent, and the gaping skylight created by the limb now piercing the roof.


For context: 2017 was a shit year for Herb and me. He got very sick, very fast with mysterious and scary illness. This necessitated moving to a hotel for three months to have our home remediated for mold. And this day, after celebrating just three days back home, our bedroom, the last oasis, was destroyed.

I choked and coughed, stomped my feet and pumped my fists, “Okay God! I’ve had it with you! It’s God (3) and Tina Zip! That’s not fair! That’s not okay! What the hell is WRONG with you?”

The next few days were surreal. In shock, I could only manage the most necessary tasks: deal with the insurance company, go to the grocery, get Herb’s medications.

But by Friday I’d come out of the ether in an extremely hateful mood. Angry and indignant, I looked for someone, anyone, to knock the chip off my shoulder just so I’d have the excuse to clock them. I cussed and swore at stupid drivers on the road. I glared at strangers in the grocery store. I flipped off a bus driver and honked at an old person. I was rude to friends who sought to console me.

And I thought GOD was the asshole!

As it turns out the tree had root rot. You’d never known it took look at it- tall, regal, strong, full with leaves. But all it took was a strong gust of wind on a sunny day in May to send it toppling, and me along with it.

It took me a while to upright myself and longer still to regain faith in my roots, but through a circuitous route that took me to a jungle cabin in Belize, I stopped finally stopped shouting long enough to listen.

I made some hard decisions in that cabin, decisions that were unwelcome but needed which lead to larger transitions built solely on faith.

“Allow,” Spirit coaxed, “then, act.”

Now, nearly three years later, my life feels like an open door, beckoning me to a delightfully unknown future.

As we look forward to a promising 2021, I sincerely hope a tree doesn’t fall on your house. But, if it does, be sure to look for the sunlight streaming in through the ruins.


Nine Mindful Eating tips for the Holidays

Mindful eating is deliberately paying full attention to what you are eating or drinking, without criticism or judgment.”

Jan Chozen Bays

Mindful eating isn’t about making a list of rules. It is not about judging ourselves for what we consume, nor is it about following a certain ‘healthy’ diet. Instead, consider these simple tips for mindful eating this holiday season:

1. Savor the flavors.

Be fully present to the wonder of your tastebuds. Let the attentive mind join in on the festivities as you note the sweet, salty, spicy, bitter, sour, and pungent notes in the foods you consume.

4. Practice gratitude.

Cultivate thankfulness by offering gratitude for your food. Note all that there is to be thankful for on your plate: the food itself, the seeds, the soil, and the hands that helped along the way from farm to fork.

5. Practice self-compassion.

Over the holidays, many of us indulge a little more than we normally do. This can stir thoughts of guilt and self-judgment. Notice where you might be judging yourself and see if you can tend to yourself with loving-kindness instead. Consider mindfulness exercises for self-compassion to help you  Here’s a great meditation to honor our changing rhythms and cycles from Insight Timer.

6. Be mindful of your needs.

It’s equally important to be mindful of our needs. What foods don’t sit well with us? How do different holiday beverages impact our sense of wellbeing? Become mindful of what nourishes you, and what distresses you. Use this awareness to guide your choices.

2. Play with all your senses.

Beyond savoring the flavors, you can tune into the food you eat with the other senses. What does the food look like? What does it smell like? What does it feel like? The full spectrum of your senses brings a richness to your eating habits.

3. Eat slowly.

When in doubt, slow it down. Take your time to really savor this wonderful meal that has found its way to your plate.

7. Be mindful of your mood.

Mood and food are inextricably linked. Since the holidays can stir a range of feelings such as anxiety and frustration, mindfulness of our emotions can help us to address these moods most optimally. Note how different foods affect your mood.

8. Notice your hunger and fullness cues.

Often, we let our mind dictate our eating habits rather than listening to our bodies. So, it can be helpful to consider: What does it feel like to be hungry? What sensations tell me when I have had enough? When it comes to feelings of fullness, eating slowly can support our ability to notice these cues.

9. Observe your body – and don’t forget to breathe.

During the holidays, our digestion needs extra support. One of the best ways we can do this is to notice where we are stressed or contracted. Coming back to the breath through mindful breathing help. Here’s a quick breathing meditation from insight timer.

Source: Sean Fargo, Mindfulness Exercises


Need a little more help to navigate the Pandemic Holiday?

Get my FREE Holiday to Holiday Guide.


Thanks all and have a happy, safe and healthy holiday season! Tina


WILD IN MONTANA WOMEN’S RETREAT – SUMMER 2021

August 20-25, 2021
The B Bar Ranch,  Gardiner, Montana


Escape to the rugged beauty and solitude of the Montana wilderness to reclaim your inner strength and calm. Just minutes away from Yellowstone National Park, the magnificent B Bar Ranch is the perfect spot for wild repose, restoration, and reflection. We’ve reserved the entire ranch.



On this retreat, you’ll learn healthy ways to nurture yourself beyond cravings, convenience food, alcohol, and overindulgence.  Delicious farm to table meals, daily morning movement, guided meditation, and outdoor adventure will challenge your body and restore your soul.  Come learn mind self-care practices that you’ll embrace long after you return home.



Celebrate new friendships as you connect with women seeking the same fun and freedom you are! How better to bond than sharing the beauty of nature,  transformational rituals, fabulous meals,  and thrilling adventures!  The friendships you make on retreat often endure for a lifetime.



Hike, white water raft, ride horseback, and explore the wonder of Yellowstone National Park together!  The memories you make and the lessons you learn on this retreat will inform your choices, decisions, and the way you move forward in life. Time away from the daily demands of life is not only restorative, it’s transformational.



Wake up early to enjoy the breathtaking sunrise. Greet the day with a steaming mug of fresh-ground, organic coffee while sitting in a rocking chair on the big porch of the lodge or curled up in front of the stone fireplace.  This is just the start of your day.  Every day on retreat is an opportunity to savor nature, stillness, and the possibility of presence.



We’ll circle around the campfire, under the full moon, to perform a traditional Medicine Wheel Healing ritual. Based on the Four Directions of Native American culture, this rich, nurturing practice and sacred communion is an experience you’ll carry in your heart, every time you look at the moon, for years after the retreat.


Early Bird Registration Opens January 15, 2021
Schedule a call with Tina to learn more!



The time for letting go of what no longer serves you is now!  It’s time to claim and relish your wild, audacious spirit!  Life is happening~ join the adventure!  Reserve your spot in this amazing retreat! Get Updates!


A Different Holiday Season

Our first (and hopefully last) Pandemic Holiday Season!


My usual concerns, like how many places we can fit around one table, how much I’ll eat, and what my thighs will look like come January 2021, seem trivial now that the holidays are overshadowed by the pandemic, rising COVID cases, and a country so divided.

Oh, how I long for the simple joys of pumpkin pie and belly fat.

My name is Tina, and each year, as a gift to my clients and friends who share my desire to remain healthy through the holidays, I create a Holiday to Holiday Handbook.



I thought about skipping it this year and diving straight into a vat of dirty martini’s but realized this year, more than any other, we need strategies to stay sane if not lean through the holidays.

So I’ve updated this year’s F#&K the Pandemic Holiday to Holiday guide to include tips for sanity, self-care, and making the most of our ZOOM Christmas experiences!


Your FREE 2020 (F#&K the Pandemic)  Holiday to Holiday Guide includes:

  • A Treasure Trove of Holiday Recipes (Vegan, Paleo, Pegan, Low Carb and Keto)
  • Tips to Maximize Your Virtual Holiday Experiences
  • Stress Relief and Sanity Resources
  • Free (30) Minute Stress Relief Stretch Workout
  • The Truth About That Holiday Pig Out
  • Booze and Fat Loss – What’s Happening There?
  • Post-COVID Relief: Retreats, online workshops, coaching, and more!

Enjoy and Happy Holidays.
Stay healthy.

Tina


 

Prayers and Profanity

I haven’t been sleeping well this week. My conscious desire to patiently surrender to current events evaporates at 230 each morning. I bolt awake, my veins coursing with a toxic mix of anger, fear, dread, and heartbreak. I don’t know whether to pray or swear at the top of my lungs.

 

 

As a fierce optimist, I choose to focus on possibility rather than pessimism, fully aware of the darkness within each of us; darkness we must confront to heal individually and collectively.

The pandemic, protests, racial and political division of 2020 have exposed the depth of those dark wounds. We can no longer ignore the ugliness. Waking up on Wednesday, I was shocked to learn that nearly half of this country voted to re-elect Donald Trump. I naively assumed the past four years had adequately exposed the cost of Trump’s narcissism, dishonesty, and abuse of power. I was wrong.

Perhaps I should have known. This Summer, as Herb and I camped around the northwest, we encountered many people we knew shared his values. They included friends in Washington state, militia like protesters in Montana, and a man sporting a swastika tattoo in an Idaho campground.

 

 

These people weren’t ogres or derelicts; they weren’t angry or threatening. The man in the campground was warm and friendly, offering us a map to better understand the region. When I glanced down and noticed his tattoo I was genuinely shocked.

“Did you see that swastika tattoo?” I whispered to Herb as we walked away.

“Yes,” he replied, calmly taking my arm.

“But he was so nice and helpful and friendly!”

“Yes, honey,” said Herb, “but we’re also an old white couple.”

“Fuck me,” I sighed. “You’re right.”

My confusion wasn’t so much in our differences, but our similarities.

We, humans, are hardwired for protection. Survival, power, and control largely drive our emotions and decisions. But empathy, justice, and compassion also inspire our choices.  It’s easy to own our better decisions, less so our base ones.

 

 

Most of us think we’re on the right side of history. I know I do.

I loathe Trump’s dangerous disregard for the truth, our constitution, and the democratic process.  But his presence has also exposed our hypocrisy, division, and need for difficult conversations.

Even as historic numbers of voters turned up to the polls, the predicted Blue Wave didn’t happen. But as the remaining votes are counted, there is a resurgent blue ripple.

I pray it is enough to retire Mr. Trump.  It’s time to get off this crazy train.

Perhaps then we can begin the process of healing in America and in the world. If we can’t immediately intuit our  similarities, I pray we regain our ability to respectfully discuss our differences.

 

 

My Socially Distanced Summer

What does a travel bug do in the era of COVID? She agrees to a road trip, roof-top tent, and, an activity once strictly off-limits: camping.

These are desperate times.

We wouldn’t get on a plane; hotels made us squeamish and the prospect of another three months cooped up at home was not an option. So, what do you do? Exactly.

Herb grew up on a farm so I had some confidence in him; not so much our twenty-year-old Jeep. Sporting over 343,000 miles, I insisted it is inspected and reinspected before we leave town.

“What if this damn thing goes belly-up us while we’re on the road?”
I implored.

“Well,” Herb sighs, “if it does, I guess we’ll get another one.”

This was our first adventure of this kind and we learned a lot of lessons.

Like, don’t stuff so much in the jeep that you can’t find anything when you need it.  Or it’s probably not necessary to put sleeping bags in huge plastic bins; and we didn’t really need to cart two bikes to hell and back on that pain in the ass carrier.

This led to some laughter but mostly cussing.

We also learned some good things, like teamwork (learning to set up our tent in seven minutes including inflating the (3) air mattresses I require under the memory foam mattress); efficiency, (no need to change clothes when you’re already dirty); resilience, (who knew Herb could swing an ax like that!); and gratitude, (for nature, the stars, wildlife, backroads, blankets and morning coffee).

We had a few hiccups (a broken axel, oil changes, a leaking boot, whatever that is), but overall our Golden Goat held up for our circuitous journey.

We were just short of the 350,000-mile mark as we drove into Fairway, joking that we needed to drive to Topeka and back to make it official. I have a lot of gratitude and respect for that damn Jeep.

This was the first time in my life that I didn’t have a timeline, a schedule, or a plan. If you know me at all, you know the import of this. This trip wasn’t only an amazing adventure, it was a miracle.

But pictures say it so much better than I can.  Thanks for letting me share.

 

 

* If you’re interested in a rooftop camper, we highly recommend IKamper.  The ONLY way I’ll ever camp!

Surrender in the New World

I woke up this morning early, slipping out of bed to make coffee, meditate and get ready for a new day. The robins wake me; their song permission to get out of bed. I tiptoe to the kitchen, turn the kettle on and stare at the pot, waiting for hot water. The cups and French press set out the night before, wait too.

I pull the cream from the fridge. Pouring the water, now hot. I smell the beans as I fill the press.

I love this time of day; the quiet, the darkness, the calm space between. The time when my mind is settled and clear, and my heart, warm and squishy, open to the whispers of Spirit. This is gentle time; those peaceful moments before the inevitable distractions of dawn.

The full moon illuminates a bird resting atop the suet house. Struck by his stillness, I realize I’m holding my breath.

I breathe in and reach for my headphones to meditate. I’m hungry for guidance and grounding. I find it in Oprah and Deepak’s latest 21-day Meditation gift, “Hope in Uncertain Times.”

Oprah begins by telling the story of her difficulties learning to swim. Being afraid, she’d always fought the water. It wasn’t until she let go, surrendering to the water’s flow, that she learned to swim. “Move with the flow,” she says, “don’t fight the current. Resist nothing, let life carry you- don’t try to carry it.”

I gaze into my backyard, letting the lesson sink in. I see the figure of a woman I’ve discovered in my Aspen tree.

I realize she’s another messenger.

“Surrender,” she coaxes, “Look at me. I need do nothing to be a tree. I just am.”

The bird, still miraculously perched on the feeder, chimes in, “Look at me. I need do nothing to be a bird. I just am.”

The sun, climbing slowly, also beckons.

“Look at me.” she says, “I rise every morning. I need no justification. I just shine.”

I feel their invitation and pull it inside. I feel my heart expand, then realize I’m holding my breath again.

I smile. The water offers buoyancy, yet I insist on sinking.  Flow is as foreign a concept as surrender.

A hummingbird by nature, I focus on doing, achieving, producing, not ‘being.’  Most comfortable whirling around at light speed, I reject the very stillness I crave. I am habitually fast and flitting.

“But,” I reason, “these are very different times.  The world is upside down!”

I can’t distract myself in the same ways; my flight pattern, along with the rest of the world, has been grounded. My anxiety about the present only surpassed by my anxiety about the future.

“How many people will die? What is our government really doing to help? Will my friends and family be okay? Will Herb and I be okay? How long will this go on? What will the world be like afterward? Why is this happening!”

Ah, the hummingbird, again.

She’s not undone by the uncertainty, but by the looming certainty of a larger lesson.

Things now do not differ from how they’ve always been.  Hummingbird’s obsessions a futile attempt to order a world beyond control.

In my ear, Oprah coos, “In the words of Eckhart Tolle, in his book, The New Earth, ‘There are three words that convey the secret to the art of living.’” (Now she has my attention.) “‘The secret of all success and happiness. Those three words are: Be one with life.’”

I sit still, determined to take it in.

“Be one with WHAT life?” I say out loud. “A global pandemic?  Financial risk? Death, disease, and unknowable suffering?  Are you freaking kidding?”

This is not what hummingbirds do! We don’t allow. We don’t flow. We don’t choose. We flutter!

I look back at the tree. I look at the yellow finch and the rising sun.

“Be one with life,” they say with a knowing smile.  “Just be.”

“Can’t I just be a hummingbird?,” I ask.

“You can,” they chorus, “Surrender. And be a hummingbird.”