Bearing witness to the lessons of nature

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 11.04.01 PMI admit it: I’ve been a bit of a voyeur this past week. A friend sent me a link to Explore.org, where you can watch one of several webcams strategically placed for an unobstructed, secret view into nature. My productivity has suffered as a result of this find but my spiritual satisfaction has definitely improved.

The Brooks Falls Brown Bear & Salmon Cam allows us to peek into the hunting habits of bears in Katmai National Park in Alaska. It’s really quite incredible. For hours on end, these magnificent creatures wade into the cold water to grab a bite to eat. If you’re a nature lover, I highly recommend a look.

After hours of study, I’ve come to recognize specific bears, each with a unique identity and personality. It’s fun watching their hunting tactics: some sit on top of the falls, waiting for the spawning fish to jump up into their mouths while others prefer the deep recesses of the bottom falls, trying to dive in and catch a mouthful of the Alaskan delicacy.

There is something deeply spiritualistic and fulfilling watching this spectacular sight.

The bears are not encumbered with the same spiritual concerns that we are. They don’t create vision boards with pictures of tasty Salmon. They don’t create daily goals for how many fish to catch and I doubt they spend much time sitting quietly visualizing a successful hunt. I also have serious doubts that they spend even one minute of time examining their beliefs about attracting abundance into their lives.

Obviously, there are differences in the types of consciousness of humans and bears so we have different priorities. And I’m not bashing the very spiritual tools that I write about so frequently. Instead, I think there are some things we can learn from these furry creatures that apply to our own conscious creation efforts.

Expectation

Bears know where the Salmon are located. One look at the webcam and you’ll see exactly where the spawning fish jump up the falls. Once they get into the river, the bears know they’re in the right place. From there, they simply expect that they’ll catch a tasty morsel. They’re not thinking about what happens if they don’t catch any fish. They’re not concerned about whether their hunting methods are better or worse than their friends’.

Expectation is an extremely important and necessary component of conscious creation. Our expectations create the very reality we experience. So when we want to become deliberate creators, we must drop a lot of our preconceived ideas about life, the environment, and ourselves.

Instead of lack, we must expect abundance. Instead of failure, we must expect success. Instead of roadblocks, we must expect cooperation. It’s time to stop judging others and ourselves and time to turn our minds in the direction of the things we desire. It’s not easy to do, but it’s imperative that we learn this crucial lesson.

Expectation runs in the background of your mind, so it can be tricky to readjust it if necessary. Upbringing, past experiences and beliefs all contribute to your expectations so it’s important to first become consciously aware of your expectations and determine if they are serving you well or holding you back.

Patience

It’s hard to be patient when you’re hungry—just don’t tell the bears. Patience is another crucial ingredient in the conscious creation mix and it’s one of the most common reasons we don’t reach our goals. Impatience is a focus on lack, specifically on the lack of goal achievement.

In conscious creation terms, we become frustrated if something doesn’t manifest when we want it. And when we don’t get that treasured “something,” we feel like we’ve done something wrong. In absolute terms, we’ve stopped expecting that we’re going to receive what we desire and begin to doubt the process.

Expectation needs patience in order to work. A patient mindset tells the universe (and yourself) that you know you’re going to receive your desire. But when you introduce impatience into your reality, you’re telling the universe that you doubt it will deliver the goods. And thanks to the law of attraction, your new thoughts of doubt and lack will bring you more of the same.

Patience keeps your thoughts on par with your goal and allows the universe to set into motion all of the necessary ingredients that are needed to manifest that goal. Don’t get caught in the trap of becoming impatient. It will happen.

Impulses

Impulses come from deep in the psyche. They are the driving force behind our daily lives—urging us to action on anything from eating a sandwich to picking a different route home from work. Unfortunately, we’ve trained ourselves be distrustful our own impulses. We’ve come to rely primarily on the intellect to guide our actions and all too often we ignore the very basic and primal calling card of the inner self.

It’s hard to see on the webcam, but our bear friends rely on impulses, too. Watching the bears, I am fascinated by one sow in particular. She stands in a part of the river with fish jumping up straight in the air in front of her. With little effort, she can easily catch plenty of fish in a five-foot circle around her. Yet frequently, she stands up and moves to another part of the river that doesn’t look as active. Within moments, she’ll dunk her head under water and pull up a big catch.

In the animal kingdom, we refer to this as “instinct.” We label the bears’ ability to successfully hunt as an unconscious assimilation of evolution and intuitive know-how. Yet the bears are simply following their own impulses—a deep urge to move to another part of the river. They don’t second-guess those impulses—they act on them. Impulses are designed to lead you toward your greatest fulfillment, so learning to recognize and act on impulses takes you one step closer to successfully reaching your goals.

Living in the present moment

Have you ever absorbed yourself so fully in something that you lost track of time? If you have, then you’ve had a taste of living fully in the present moment. Living in present time doesn’t mean you need to stop and meditate, although it’s a nice, refreshing thing to do. It means giving your attention fully to the task at hand, whether you’re washing the dishes, paying your taxes or feeling at one with the universe.

Our bear friends are masters at this, hands down. Watch them and their attention to the hunt. For extra detail, pay close attention to the sea gulls that circle the bears while they hunt. The gulls gladly clean up any discarded pieces of fish and they frequently walk or fly within inches of the big furry creatures. Yet the bears are not distracted. They look intently into the river, placing their attention on the fish below, patiently waiting for the right time to act.

Enjoyment & Gratitude

In between meals, it’s not uncommon to see the bears playing on the riverbanks. Sometimes they’re splashing around in the shallow water, other times they’re rolling around playfully with each other. It really looks like they’re having fun and that’s an important takeaway.

Life is meant to be enjoyable. It’s the intellect and the ego that usually cause us to cease having fun. We become encumbered with too much thought. We get caught up in thoughts of the past or worries of the future and we miss the opportunity to have fun in the present moment.

When you set your intention to have fun no matter what you’re doing, you set up a vivacious environment for yourself and the universe. The world can’t help but respond with more things to enjoy—perhaps even more fun than what you’re doing right now.

Finally, an attitude of gratitude seals the deal on that wonderful environment you’re experiencing. Gratitude broadcasts a feeling of thankfulness, peacefulness and abundance that the universe then sends right back to you. Gratitude is a given for the bears; their contentment from a great day of fishing is natural. But when we as humans lose our own natural sense of gratitude, it’s important to take a moment and reconnect with it purposely.

For now, I’m grateful to this wonderful website for allowing me to watch these fuzzy creatures splashing around in the wilderness. It’s like Salmon for the soul.

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Stop feeding the bears (metaphysically speaking)

Stop putting energy into things that can harm your spirit

Some things seem like a good idea until we have more time, distance and understanding behind us. As in nature, we must stop feeding the things that unknowingly harm us so that we can grow and develop.

The photo above is one of my favorites from my dad. In the late 50s and early 60s, this was a common occurrence in Yellowstone National Park. Visitors would often stop along the road to gawk at the local brown bears and be amused at the way they begged for food. Not wanting to disappoint them, visitors would feed the bears anything handy: sandwiches, potato chips, cookies—you name it.

While this practice seems innocuous, it’s actually rather harmful to both the bears and to humans. The bears became dependent on the handouts from park visitors. They developed a hankering for human food and would flock to the roadways to wait for their next meal. They would go into campgrounds, searching for food left in coolers and on tables. In time, bears were getting killed on the roadways. Cars were broken into and destroyed. Some campers were even injured because of overzealous bears looking for food.

So what does all this have to do with spirituality and self-development?

We all have symbolic bears that we feed. Sometimes the bears are entertaining; sometimes they’re a little more ferocious. In either case, it’s important to recognize when we’re feeding something that doesn’t serve our higher purpose. It’s critical to withdraw the food source to help set us (and the bears) free.

I became sensitive to this topic recently by watching activity on Facebook. Since this is an election year, Facebook is often full of comments, links and commentary from both sides of the political fence. I’m happy to have friends who are passionate about politics; I feel we need activists to help advance certain causes and people. Make no mistake, it’s not my thing, but I’m glad they’re around nonetheless.

A number of friends and acquaintances, however, are feeding the political bears. Rather than promoting a favorite candidate or cause, they spend all of their time bashing the other side. They’re feeding the negativity around the other person or the other side of the issue and they’re causing it to come back again and again.

It’s not just my friends who do this; our media are to blame as well. All too often the media spend a disproportionate amount of time covering the negative characteristics of a candidate or issue rather than all of the glorious supporting evidence. The media—and my friends—are handing over their sandwiches to the bears and the bears are getting bigger and hungrier.

Some of these energy bears hide under the guise of entertainment. For example, a friend of mine likes to point out every news article highlighting the foibles of a particular political candidate. His comments to each story seem innocent enough: “Can you believe this guy?” “Wow, and I thought he couldn’t get any more stupid!” or “This has now become entertaining!” My friend thinks he’s sharing information that makes his chosen candidate look better by disparaging the opposition. But in reality, he’s giving energy to exactly what he does not want. His attention is locked on the opposing candidate and he’ll quickly find that there will be more irritating stories to post and laugh at.

When we feed anything with our thoughts, attention and energy, we’re giving life to it. The more we think about an issue, the bigger it becomes. The more we obsess about a person, the closer we draw them to us. The more we focus on the negative aspects of something, the more we create of those same annoying aspects.

Too many times, we’re purposely stopping the car on the roadway to gawk at the bears and give them something to eat. It’s time for a different approach.

Don’t stop the car

As amusing as those little energy bears can be, it’s best to keep on driving. The bears (opposing issues, candidates, causes) will continue to exist whether you stop the car or not. When you detach your attention to these things, they lessen their impact on you. By purposely deciding to keep moving forward, you acknowledge that the issues or people exist but you don’t need to give them your undivided attention. You are consciously withdrawing energy from them.

No sending postcards, either

Just because you don’t see the bear in person doesn’t mean you can’t feed it. Every time you see a story that you find amusing and want to send to your friends, think about what kind of energy you’re sending out into the world (and back to yourself). If your motivation is to pick out the stupidity of the story or attack the subject, you’re feeding the bears. Every time you find yourself relaying a story at the water cooler about these issues or people, you’re feeding the bears.

Becoming vigilant about your attention will help you realize when you’re venturing into bear feeding country. If you can catch yourself in time, don’t forward the story or continue to tell it. Or, look for something that glorifies the person or issue you support. Tell that story instead. Keep your focus on what you want rather than on what you don’t want.

Find something else to amuse you

If you’ve ever driven through Yellowstone, you know there is an abundance of beauty to hold your attention. The bears aren’t the only interesting things on the side of the road. Buffalo, Elk, wildflowers, majestic mountains, open meadows all vie for your attention. The same is true in life. When you open your eyes to the magic of the world, you’ll find plenty to smile about. You’ll find new things to ponder.

As you turn your attention toward these beautiful new things, those pesky energy bears will fade away into the background. You might catch a glimpse of them in the rearview mirror. Smile at them, release them from your attention and turn your head back to the road ahead. It’s glorious from the driver’s seat.

 

 

 

Reacting or responding?

Your choice to react or respond can affect your health and your spirit

There she was: one hell of a big brown bear. At least I assumed it was a ‘she’ since I didn’t want to be caught between her and any cubs that may be hanging around. She was busy gorging herself on some unseen bush about 15 feet in front of me and my dogs were enthralled with a ground squirrel that had just disappeared into the Earth. None saw the other.

In one of those ultra-calm moments, I slowly walked toward my dogs and attached their leashes to their collars. The entire time I kept my eyes on the big bear that was close enough to lurch toward me and tear me to shreds. Slowly I walked backward with the dogs, distracting them with a quiet pat on my legs. We walked slowly in reverse until I was sure we were out of view of the mama bear. Then, we took off. And by took off, I mean we ran full speed up the mountain toward my house. It’s a steep climb and one of my dogs was having a hard time with his arthritic legs, knees and the altitude. Still, we didn’t stop till we got home and locked inside. Then, the panic of the situation kicked in and I collapsed in relief on the porch.

This story jumped into my head this afternoon as I pondered a question from a reader on my Facebook page. Karl was responding to a post about living in the present moment and my advice to “react only to what you are seeing in your present experience and let the rest fade away.”

Karl’s question: “how about responding instead of reacting? Big difference.” It is a big difference, as long as you’re not splitting literary hairs. I immediately understood Karl’s question and felt the validity of his response. All too often we do react instead of respond to events in our lives and the variance can make a big change to our bodies and our spirits.

In my bear encounter above, I realized I responded before I reacted. Yes, I did do both and a look at the small differences between the two responses showed me how a slight change in mental and physical behavior can determine a completely different outcome. For me, that outcome meant safety, although you can substitute a number of different words: health, aliveness, survival, happiness.

Most of us spend a considerable amount of time reacting to life. We react to things we hear, see, experience and even react to things we imagine. Reacting is instinctual, automatic. Its primary job is to make the body move when the subconscious perceives threats. You react to a speeding car coming down the street. You react to the sound of a balloon popping. It allows our automatic nervous system to react on our behalf without having to think about it.

Responding is much more thoughtful, present and calculated. Responding is a choice. You get to choose a response. You get to choose NOT to respond. Responding is the result of the intellect and conscious mind making a decision to do, say or act in a particular way.

There’s a reason to know the difference between these two actions. Responding opens up options while reacting gives you limited choices. Learning to respond when you would normally react is a skill that gives some good payoffs. Look at my bear story, for example.

Since reacting is usually involuntary, I could have let my body take over at the first sight of the bear; that is, I could have reacted. Had that been the case, I may have made a lot of noise or quick sudden movements that could have alerted the bear to my presence. This in turn could have caused her to come after me, turn and run away, or alert the dogs to her presence, causing more problems. Instead, I chose to respond, calmly thinking through my options. I slowly got the dogs leashed and out of the way allowing us a smooth, easy escape. I did, however, react once I was out of view and ran like hell. Reacting first could have been fatal had there been a cub in the vicinity.

This is obviously a dramatic example of reacting versus responding. But we do this same thing every day when we live in our minds instead of the present moment. My guess is a lot of us do this frequently when we get an unexpected bill in the mail. Quickly, our minds turn to panic: how am I going to pay for this? Where is the money going to come from? What if I can’t pay the bill? These kinds of reactions force the body into fight or flight mode. We’re then filled with stress hormones since the physical body can only react in the present moment. If, instead, we choose to respond to that unexpected bill, we keep the stress hormones to a minimum and allow our conscious mind, intellect and inner self to look at other options.

Throughout the day our “future thoughts” and “past regret thoughts” can force our body into these same kinds of reactions. The result of this kind of reaction is an elevated level of stress hormones and unnecessary taxation of the body and mind.

Teaching yourself to respond rather than react takes practice—gentle practice. The easiest way to begin this change is to become aware of your thoughts. When you find yourself daydreaming or lost in thought, check-in with your body. Are you tense? Is your heart rate elevated? Is your mind beginning to race? If so, you’re emotionally reacting to your thoughts and it’s a clue to consciously shift your thoughts to a more positive and calming direction.

As you become aware of your thoughts and learn to shift them in a new direction, you can then move into situations that normally cause a reaction. You’ll need conscious discrimination here as you want to allow your body to react in situations where you need to react, i.e. when physical danger is present. But when you find yourself ready to haul off and scream at your co-worker for a stupid decision, you can catch yourself and consciously choose to respond.

In responding, it’s important to remember to honor your emotions. Yes, you may be angry with your coworker and that’s fine. You may even choose to yell at her for the mistake. But if you allow yourself that split second to bring conscious awareness to your own thoughts and feelings, you can direct your actions (speech, thought or otherwise) in a more positive outcome for both of you.

One small tip I’ve gleaned through practice is to bring my awareness back to my physical body when I feel like I’m beginning to react. When I become aware that my thoughts are going to take an idea and run with it (I’m going to scream at my co-worker), I try to find something to grab onto like a chair or doorframe. I then force myself to feel what’s in my hand: the cold steel of the frame or the fabric of the chair. Sometimes that little bit of sensation awareness can shift my mind out of reaction mode and buy myself some time to respond appropriately. It’s a small step, but it can help.

Taking those few moments and changing your response can help decrease your stress and open your mind to new options. Remember, if you don’t need to react in the present moment you can choose to respond or not. You have a choice.

This process takes discernment. It takes practice. And it takes a willingness to direct your thoughts and body into purposeful action. It seems like such a trivial point but the results can help take your consciously-created life in a new, positive direction.