There is no heaven I'd rather have than the deep forests of West Virginia Mother Nature manifested in lush, rustling hillsides filled with life My own soul disguised in blushing red and gold and the dark, faithful hues of evergreens a swelling awe that overwhelms the senses and speaks to the divine seed inside us all Burning billion year old lights engulf the sky every night humbled and held in the vastness of this existence how could I ever leave this perfect, peaceful pocket? what more could I ask for than this majesty? Winding roads I know so well echo with all the heartbreak I've hurled into the mountains to be absorbed and transformed into new song The very best parts of me are interwoven into the dark earth and dirty rivers profound connection can be felt in every glance outside my window Home has never been a house with four walls it is here among the dense, ancient trees that tower all around me and offer shelter from the harsh realities of human life I am so grateful that I am able to intimately know this earth of mine and recognize its soft, subtle sighs as I allow her wind and water to carve into me
Early morning mountainside enshrined behind a gentle mist fog rising from cool air as it meets the hot earth How many other moments of awe have already slipped beyond the veil of impermanent, imperfect memory sudden piercing pang of vague loss I run my fingers over the fading pictures I've placed in holy alters of the heart pleasures made sweeter by the stitches of pain weaving outward from the past Is it wrong to endlessly revive old joys should I put effort into slowing the inevitable erosion of time or would it be more kind To allow old days to disappear and someday no longer know what wonders I've since lost along the long, winding way Will holding on make me strong enough to face the many difficulties ahead or will a tight grip leave me too weak to embrace the life I've yet to live
the smallest dose of ancient medicine breaks down the walls I build around myself letting the world in once again a reminder of what is the tether of the present moment pulling me along through time the curiosity of the child inside waking to a wonderful world that's been here all along the sheer beauty of bird calls as I add my own joyous song the deep knowing of connection that binds me to all beings in this mysterious adventure of unlikely existence the realization that I am here a vessel to fill up with love and awe by witnessing the miracle of reality gratitude spills from my eyes in salty streams of sacred serenity thank you, thank you, thank you
Reading about all of the microscopic intricacies of what is going on behind the scenes every second inside of our bodies has given me an entirely new perspective on just how much I have been taking for granted all these years. Our bodies and the trillions of cells that they are made up of are truly our dearest and most valuable friends in this life. It is absolutely staggering the amount of vital functions being performed rhythmically, silently, efficiently, and without thanks within each of us at every moment.
Our bodies are tirelessly defending us even as we sleep, completely unaware of their endless efforts to protect us and keep us healthy. The body must simultaneously perform so many different functions with precision and diligence from directing immune cells, to transporting oxygen through our bloodstream, to identifying good vs. bad bacteria in our gut, to forming new neurons, to storing memory, etc. Many of these necessary tasks are carried out despite us having little to no understanding of how or why the body does them in this way. Even in our dullest moments, there is an entire world of activity going on just beneath our fragile skin.
Really contemplating these facts, it becomes clear to me how ludicrous it is to spend so much time criticizing my body and mind for not being they way I want and expect them to be. Can you even imagine, making a cake from a molecular level, concocting everything yourself down to the very atoms that it consists of, only to have it criticized for being the wrong color or being too round or too flat? That is the rough equivalent of what we do when we judge our bodies and their worth/value to us based solely on appearances. It’s laughable when you think about it.
My body is not just what I see in the mirror. It is a fucking miracle. A perfect and awe inspiring gift from the universe crafted from eons of evolution, built on the backs of all the living organisms that have come before me. It’s an absolute crime to think I have spent most of my life hating this body for what it’s not instead of shouting my praise to the heavens for everything that it IS. And not only this body, but this mind of mine as well.
I am so harsh with my mind, sometimes even more than the rest of my body. I feel sorry for myself for suffering with anxiety and depression, for not being able to control and subdue my emotions. Yet I should know better than a lot of people how well my mind actually works in comparison to others. How many nights I’ve wasted wishing my brain worked differently. I never stopped to consider that it is actually not one I’d likely trade for another if given the chance. My brain may offer me anxiety more than I’d prefer, but it is still amazing in so many ways. For one, I have been gifted with an impeccable intellect that I cherish more than most things about myself. On a simpler and more important level though, my brain consolidates an avalanche of sensory information each second and compiles it into an understandable and accurate portrayal of the world around me. This may seem trivial. After all, that’s what the brain is supposed to do, right?
I’ve seen first hand that many brains are not up to this monumental task. Quite a few of my former clients suffered with severe mental illnesses such a schizophrenia. What a terrifying and disturbing thing it must be to not even be able to trust what your own mind is telling you. We all have slightly skewed perceptions of ourselves and the world, but for the most part, we feel confident that what our brain creates in our field of vision is actually there. What sounds we notice, come from outside of our heads, and are true vibrations being picked up by our ears. These details seem so simple, but we cannot forget that so many people would react with undying gratitude if their brains did the same things that ours do without us even noticing.
So no matter what you may think of yourself, the way you look, or the way you think, take a few moments today to be grateful for being here at all. Understand that even when you don’t love yourself, each one of the trillions of cells in your body do. They are fighting every moment for you. They are protecting you and healing you and giving you information to keep you alive and healthy and hopefully happy. We are all unimaginably complex miracles. Just consider that today, and if you can be grateful for it too.
Growing up in Christian household, I never quite understood the reverence and awe people felt in the presence of religious iconography. My grandmother had crosses, rosaries, and paintings of Jesus all over her house, but I never fully understood why. Even in the Eastern religions which I am now more familiar with, I never quite grasped the purpose of the shrines people make with pictures of their gurus or other’s they admire and aspire to embody.
At the same time, I knew that similar rituals and symbols were very meaningful to all different types of religions all around the world. Many times I have been tempted to make my own little yoga shrine, but never have because I don’t know whose portrait I could possibly add to it. I don’t really have a guru or any particular religious or spiritual figures that inspire strong emotion in me. If anything, anyone that I could imagine adding would just make me feel awkwardness and embarrassment instead of admiration. It always felt like there was something important about this that I was missing out on though.
Finally the other day I was presented with an interesting alternative way to spark feelings of awe, connection, and wonder. The comparison was made between religious feelings and the feelings some of us get when we immerse ourselves in nature. Nature! Why hadn’t I thought of this before? The forest can be my church, the plants and animals my gurus and teachers. Now that creates meaningful emotion for me. Not the image of some imaginary demi-god or revered old man. I can’t believe I didn’t make the connection sooner.
Nature is what humbles me and fills me with wonder and awe, not human beings. Why would I admire a human being when I can admire mother earth instead? I don’t need a religion. I don’t need gods or gurus. All I need is the natural world all around me. Nature is what I honor and respect, what makes me feel connected, not mankind. Especially when all my life, humans have come off as proudly separate from and even above nature. Whereas I have never felt special or superior for being the species of animal that I am. In my eyes humans are more of an abomination than a miracle of nature.
I thought it was a beautiful idea to replace the ritual of church on Sundays with a weekly morning nature walk. I want to make more time for quiet reflection in the woods, alongside the river, or even just in my backyard. I want to meditate on the feelings that fill my heart when I watch the sun setting or listen to the soft cadence of rain. What could be more beautiful? What could be more awe inspiring than the miraculous mystery of this Earth? Instead of placing pictures of spiritual leaders up in my sacred spaces, I can add acorns, rocks, dried flowers, etc. These items fill me with much more joy.
I thought I’d share this idea with anyone that may also be interested in actively incorporating more reverence and awe in their life, but who doesn’t identify with any particular religion. Let me know if you decide to give this a try or if you have any other things you use to stir up feelings of connection and wonder.
Today I thought it would be fun to write a bit about the people in my life that I most admire and why I admire them. Working with at risk populations and disadvantaged children has made me realize just how lucky I have been to have the people I’ve had in my life. Often when we’ve been raised in a healthy environment, surrounded by privilege, it can be hard to realize how different the lives of others may actually be. For most of my life, I took the incredible adults in my life for granted. Even worse, I didn’t acknowledge how great they actually were. Instead of being grateful for all that my parents have done for me, as a teen I was quick to judge and dismiss all the good things about them in favor of focusing on the imperfections of their parenting.
Now when I look back, I have to laugh at how naïve I was. I was expecting my parents, and frankly all the adults in my life, to be perfect, and was angry with them when (of course) they weren’t. It was only after becoming an adult myself that I realized the impossible standard I had been holding people too. Today I wanted to explain exactly why the adults I’ve had in my life growing up were not just adequate, but phenomenal, especially compared to the parents I meet everyday at work.
In the last decade, I have done a complete 180 when it comes to my opinion of my mom. As a teen I blamed her for all of my issues, rather than giving her credit for the advantages she has given me. I considered her a “bad mom” because she was always too busy. How exactly I felt that was her fault, I don’t know. She was raising two children and working full time with little to no help from my father. Of course she was busy. There were a few times I recall her actually having a mental breakdown in front of my sister and I when we were little. I was shocked and appalled even at the time. “This is not appropriate behavior to display in front of children,” I thought. Looking back, I genuinely can’t believe she only had those few incidents. I would be breaking down every single day if I was in her shoes now.
My mother is one of the most incredible people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. She is so patient and gentle and intelligent and humble. She’s a saint in my eyes. She has always made sure that my sister and I had everything we could have ever needed or wanted. She has always shown me respect even when I was a small child. She has always been there to listen to me, no matter how busy she may have been. She had so much on her plate for so many years and still hardly ever complained. She never gave up on me, even when I tried to shut her out. Her love has truly been unconditional. I couldn’t imagine having a more ideal mother. I am so lucky to have her in my life, to have been raised by her, to have been able to learn from her example. I am forever grateful.
My grandmother on my mother’s side, has also been an essential influence in my life. I am so lucky to have always been surrounded by such strong, intelligent, loving women. I owe everything that I am today to the women who raised me and taught me by example all the values I now hold so dear. My grandma raised me just as much as my mother did. She was always there to greet me when I got off the school bus and was my only baby sitter.
This woman is truly selfless, much like my mother. She has been an example of strength, independence, contentment, equanimity, and love. Nothing ever seems to bother or overwhelm this woman. She has been through so much in her 91 years on this earth. She has instilled in me her love of reading and her connection to nature. I will always cherish the memories I have of her reciting fairytales to me before bed and exploring the woods together with her and my sister. I’ve never heard her raise her voice. Neither she or my mother ever raised a hand to me either. The steady, sturdy presence of these unbelievable woman has allowed me to be the person I am today.
It may seem strange that the Scott I’m referring to here is actually my coworker and not my father, who is also named Scott. However, my father, while always being a part of my life, has never really made much of an impact on me. He always remained in the background. It is sad to say, but I’m MUCH closer to the Scott I’ve only known for two years now, than I am my own father.
That being said, Scott is an incredible man. I feel overwhelming gratitude that I am able to spend so much time with him. I genuinely think of him as a father. He represents to me so many qualities that I aspire to cultivate within myself. He is intelligent, charismatic, interesting, funny, dedicated, humble, easy-going, and much much more. He emanates passion in everything that he does. He does his job well, with diligence and skill. He is selfless almost to a fault. He would do anything for his family, friends, and the children that we serve every day.
I even love his imperfections. I admire the fact that he came from a complicated background. He grew up with an alcoholic, largely absent father. His mother hit him on many occasions. He saw some messed up things as a young man. He stole. He did drugs. He certainly hasn’t always been the outstanding citizen he is today, and that makes him all the more endearing to me. Despite all that he’s seen in his personal life as well as through his line of work, he still always manages to see the best in people. He has an unwavering faith in humanity that I envy. I can only hope that I can be more like him some day.
These are the three people that I admire and look up to the most. There are so many other amazing people I’ve been lucky enough to have in my life, but even if it were only these three, it would be more than the majority of the kids I meet everyday have. Even if you only have one decent person to admire in your life, be grateful. You would be surprised how many people have absolutely no one worthy of being a role model. And if you are one of those people, my heart goes out to you. I hope that someday we can all become someone worthy of admiration for someone who needs it.
When I was a younger, even friends wouldn’t hesitate to let me know that I was a “know-it-all.” At the time, although I understood this was an insult, I couldn’t really comprehend why. I interpreted it as jealousy or an envious lashing out against my superior intelligence and knowledge base. (Exactly what a know-it-all would think.) What’s wrong with being smart, I often wondered. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized that “know-it-all” wasn’t a comment on how intelligent I was. It was a comment about my attitude.
Being a know-it-all doesn’t mean you know everything or even that you know more than the average person. It simply means that you think you do. Intelligence is curious, open, and observant. A know-it-all is self-assured, closed, and domineering. An intelligent person knows that there is always more to learn and there are always people that know more about something than we do. A know-it-all, well, thinks they already know it all. They have nothing left to learn. There is no one that knows more than they do.
Even though I still fall back into my know-it-all tendencies quite often, I’m learning more and more about just how much I don’t know every day. One of the more important lessons that my experience with LSD has taught me is that I don’t know everything. Not only that, but there are aspects of life, reality, and the universe that I can’t even hope to conceptualize. There is so much knowledge out there that I couldn’t even absorb it all if I lived a thousand lifetimes. Not only is there mountain upon mountain of empirical data, there is also the unlimited ways we can interpret that data. Despite all I pride myself on knowing, somehow I still learn more all the time. I couldn’t be more humbled by or grateful for that fact.
I absolutely love to learn. It is one of my greatest joys to find and spread new information. After learning about the mycelial networks helping trees to communicate and send nutrients to one another, I’ve been telling anyone that will listen. I firmly believe that anxiety is a byproduct of an intelligent, but under stimulated brain. My brain is constantly devoting all it’s unused energy to make predictions about the future based on what I know. It is a great comfort to me when I realize that these predictions are not very likely to be accurate given the amount of unknown factors at play. Reflecting on this leaves me feeling a lot less urgency around tending to my anxious thoughts.
Growing up a Christian, I remember being so pleased that after I died I would finally be able to talk to God. I couldn’t wait to ask him all the endless questions I had. I couldn’t wait to one day learn everything about the universe, how it began, and why. Now an atheist, I’m pretty upset that isn’t going to happen. Then again, I don’t really know what is going to happen. Perhaps my consciousness will meld back into all of existence and in a way I will have access to all the answers I’ve been seeking. Maybe the not knowing, maybe the mystery is part of the fun.
It’s quite a depressing thought actually, to imagine really knowing all there is to know. What a dull life that would be. Curiosity, mystery, discovery, wonder, these are all parts of life that make it worth living. It is such a joy to know these experiences will always be available to me. There will always be surprises awaiting me, new mysteries to puzzle over, new discoveries to be made, breathtaking moments of wonder and awe.
We are especially fortunate to live in the time that we do now. With the internet, we can easily find out more about anything we’d like to know. At any moment there is the potential to learn something that completely changes the way we see, interact with, or understand the world. Isn’t that an incredible notion? We tend to get weighed down by the monotony of day to day life and lose sight of that fact. It’s helpful to remind ourselves every now and then. I find that the concept of not knowing is enough to spark curiosity, creativity, excitement for what’s to come, as well as gratitude for what is.
As you move through your day today, try to take notice of moments that surprise you. Savor any new knowledge you’re able to gain. Contemplate how “not knowing” plays an important role in your life. Reflect on the times in the past when you learned something that completely changed the way you perceive yourself, others, or the world. Let the mantra for today be, “anything could happen.” Then allow yourself to be curious, excited, and open to whatever does.