Perfectly imperfect, or is it imperfectly perfect?

Over the last year, I’ve been able to lay out my values (which I also call my “standards of integrity”) about how I want to show up in the world on a daily basis.  This isn’t a to-do list, but rather a to-be guideline that I mentally review each morning (setting intention) and then again each evening (course correction for the next day).  For each area of my life, I have laid out three “guiding lights” that inform my thoughts, choices, actions and words.

Today, I discovered that this is all well-and-good to live a value-based life; to show up as my most authentic self; to continually do my best, but it smacked just a bit too much of being perfect.  Yes, I wanted to show up as “me” but it’s in the imperfections, the mistakes, the humanness that others can relate to me more.  For in those “less than” moments (what I call my wabi-sabi moments) there’s a heart-to-heart connection (“she’s real!”) rather than a head-to-pedestal connection (“she’s great at …”).

So here’s what I’ve added to my daily to-be list:  1)  Each and every day be sure to ask someone for help (real help that is, not fakey help); 2) Each and every day be sure to screw something up and realize that it really doesn’t matter to others or to life itself; and, 3) Each and every day do just good-enough on things that don’t really matter so that there’s energy and time for the things that really count.

So here’s my wish – that I show up as my wabi-sabi, authentic self each and every day.

011512 stump, moss, collection

Meditation Walking as Contemplative Head-Space

They say that we have 60,000 thoughts a day – and most of them are the exact same thoughts that we had the day before.  Our heads whirl around-and-around and over-and-over in the same spin cycle.  And, most of these thoughts wouldn’t really be considered “contemplative” – they’re mostly time-travel of a sort: regrets from the past or worries about the future.

Through meditation walking, I have learned to open myself up to whatever questions appear that are not connected to day-to-day living – what I call “contemplative head-space.”  These thoughts appear instantly in the crevice of space opened up by meditation.  Similar to Bill Cosby’s booming-voice conversation between Noah and God they arrive with noise and flash.  These are my “zing moments.”

About 3-weeks ago: “ZING” – are you really sure we’re living in 3D space with time added in as the 4th dimension?  Perhaps the 3D is time (past, present, future) and space is a single, 4th dimension.  This was followed by thoughts of how we construe dimensions in our current world – we take 2D movies and add special glasses external to this to give the appearance of 3D; and, we take 2D Wii interactive games and add an external sensor device to allow us to become part of the screen as though it’s 3D.  If we can manipulate our perceptions of space using technology, could we have not have done this with what we consider to be our real 3D using our minds?  Meanwhile, other walkers went by talking about troublesome issues with their partners, schools and recipes.

Then, about a week ago: “ZING” – if there is really reincarnation, why is it that we assume/believe that someone comes back fully as a whole-being … as 100% another person (or perhaps, 100% some other animal)?  Why do we believe this to be true?  How about a person coming back in 3rds – with three future beings having a piece of their soul/essence (and the soul/essence of two other people as well)?  Wouldn’t this make more sense in terms of getting it “right” the next time around?  Meanwhile, other walkers went by focused on walking their dogs and talking on their cell phones.

So this is why I enjoy meditation walking in nature – to open myself up to thinking that goes beyond the instrumental tasks of life and the ordinariness of the day.  It’s like being immersed in a mystery story, but the mystery is here-now and the story is real life, my life.

Umstead - Fall 13 (self shadow)

You never step onto the same path twice …

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man” – Heraclitus

… for the path is never the same, and you are never the same.  I have walked (i.e., meditation walks) two sets of trails near my home hundreds (perhaps thousands) of times and have never once had the same experience.  Not only are there the changes that occur with the passing of time, there’s the intersection of my internal here (What am I thinking, feeling and sensing that either amplifies the experience or interferes with the experience?) and the external now (what is happening around me?  What has been changed by man/nature?  What role does the season or the weather play?).

This is what I call my here-now experience that comes fully alive when I focus on being present to what I see, hear and feel on any given walk.  Of late, I’ve started writing down one thing about each walk that stands out – sometimes it’s an external “wow” and at other times it’s an internal “a-ha.”  The metaphors and symbolism are then considered in the bigger picture of my life.

Here’s a sampling of my different path, different me walks [and the questions that came to mind]:

* A squirrel was running ahead of me in a serpentine pattern, leading the way down the greenway for more than 75′ then jumped off at the point on the trail where my favorite tree had been taken down.  [Where do I need to be open to pathways that lead me to where I need to go, but aren't the straightest or fastest paths?  Where do I need to pay attention more to the journey rather than the end-point?]

* The red crepe myrtles let go of their petals, creating a red shag carpet on the cement.  [How do I open my eyes to see beauty in those things that are discarded or aged?]

* The blue heron stood alone by the edge of the pond – similar in form to the trees that stood near the water.  [I have since learned that his partner died in a winter storm and he spends his time going back and forth between two ponds.  [Where am I playing too small?  How is it that I blend into my surroundings - in ways that are positive or negative?]

Kildaire Farms trail, lake, blue heron




* I found a hardware, metal nut on the ground and added it to my “things found” collection at home.  [Where do I need to lighten up in my life (i.e., be more of a nut)?  Or, is there someplace where I need to be building/creating something more?]

* Seven large black crows greeted me at the end of my walk.  [Thinking of crows as a totem animal - where in my life do I need to be more flexible, adaptable, or fearless?  How do I need to transform?]

* Someone chalked in a “Squirrel Crossing” path across the sidewalk.  [LOL - seriously, a squirrel crossing in a straight line?]

Hinshaw sidewalk, squirrel crossing



* The red fox crossed my path for the 3rd time – this time crossing a small creek to give me space, then joining me in a mutual admiration staring contest.  [click on the link to get a better understanding of the red fox saga]

* I came up with two great ideas for my counseling work … yes, two separate “a-ha” moments on two different walks.  [FYI - when ideas come to me while walking, they are instantaneous "zaps" of creativity rather than long-and-hard thought processes ... I trust these right-brained flashes to be more valuable than my left-brained plodding logic.]

* A snail was slowly making its way across the sidewalk to get to the other side.  [OMG - what parts of my life are moving along at an unbearable slow speed?  And, what parts of my life are moving along at full-speed ahead that need to be reined in?]

061314 Pirates Cove, snail by park



I then take these into my day (similar to how I might ponder a dream and its meaning), and in an open-ended way ask myself “what is it I need to know?” to see if there are any hidden truths to help me see my life differently.


Anatomy of a favorite tree …

A few months ago I was walking at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve when I came upon a young boy trying to re-find his favorite tree.  I so got having a favorite tree!  Although I couldn’t help him reconnect with his, I was able to have a full-out discussion about the importance of having such a tree — finding it each time; seeing it in the different seasons; noticing changes brought about by storms or infestations or life itself.  And, I couldn’t help out by sharing my tree; or, by mentioning another cool tree that I knew about — it’s a personal thing why a given tree “rings true” for an individual.

At another location, on the Hinshaw Greenway, I of course had yet another favorite tree for that stretch of the woods.  Having walked area greenways for 20+ years it’s more of a full-out tree relationship with the magnitude of “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein; and, similar to the shifts and changes of Portia Nelson’s “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters” — except that my tree had three short chapters — life as a work of art, being marked for take-down (similar to the Scarlett Letter “A”), then leaving behind it’s essence in the remaining heart-shaped stump.  So here’s the story of my tree – in three short (photo) chapters:

Chapter 1:

Hinshaw Greenway - Favorite Tree, Sky

Hinshaw Greenway - favorite tree, knobsHinshaw Greenway - favorite tree, arty knot

Chapter 2:

Hinshaw Greenway - favorite tree, marked for cut-down





Chapter 3:

Hinshaw Greenway - Favorite tree, stump