Category: Peace

Peaceful Morning with the Manatees

Peaceful Morning with the Manatees

SimoneLipscomb (17)Today’s encounter with manatees was nearly silent. There were few people and those present were quiet and respectful. For nearly two hours I floated on the surface, watching manatees sleep on the bottom. Occasionally, one by one, they would surface, breathe and slowly sink back to slumber.

SimoneLipscomb (8)To get a good photo or video the interaction can be the sought-for experience; but today I found pleasure in observing respectful humans take care around the sleeping manatees…and this made my heart happy.

SimoneLipscomb (16)The scars nearly every animal carries from propellers…even the babies…remind me how fragile the balance between humans and manatees.

SimoneLipscomb (9)In the quiet of the springs, surrounded by dreaming manatees I too dreamed of a global awakening to care, to love and respect all life. There are no stories of boisterous, curious, cuddly babies this night. Just the story of how humans and wildlife can interact peacefully, respectfully if humans grow into the peaceful, compassionate beings I know we can be.

Muddy Toes…Happy Heart

Muddy Toes…Happy Heart

simonelipscomb (3) copyAs soon as I stepped onto my SUP board, a large shadow passed overhead. Wings gliding through air were so close the rush of air through feathers sounded like soft music. I watched the pelican navigate upriver as I turned my board around to head down…down river.

Those first few paddle strokes felt amazing. Weeks had passed since my last visit with the river and so I found myself unable to resist her call after my Pure Barre workout. A hearty breakfast and I was out the door after grabbing my cap and waist-wrap PFD. It only took a few minutes to strap the wheels on my board and begin the short walk to the water.

photoBliss began to fill me as my mind expanded through the sky reflected in the still water. And then, having paddled less than 100 yards, a large tree blocked my progress. At some point during the past five weeks a maple tree fell from the eroding bank and blocked the narrow passage of the Magnolia River headwaters.

Not to be deterred, I turned around, exited the water, re-strapped the board to the wheels and walked further down river to another put-in point. It wasn’t the white, sandy beach I am used to but it worked.

SimoneLipscombThe black mud oozed between my toes as I gingerly walked my board over submerged tree limbs. It wasn’t ideal but finally…ahhhh….I was free.

The wind picked up so once I was into the Cold Hole it gave me an immediate challenge. It didn’t really matter. I felt like I was getting reacquainted with an old friend.

The new floating dock in the Cold Hole had been whitewashed by grateful pelicans who discovered it as the perfect perch from which to sit and hunt. All the way past the bridge and onward the splashes of pelicans dropping from heavenly realms created wondrous music that blended with the steady dip and splash of the paddle blade as it sliced the surface.

Osprey...image taken in Florida last winter

An osprey cried overhead as I disturbed her morning’s reverie in the high pine tree just before Devil’s Hole. Cormorants swam and pattered on the surface of the water as they gained momentum to fly.

heron7Another large bird flew beside me with a large branch in his beak. The great blue heron flew up and over my head to the pine tree where he and his gal had raised a baby last year. Patiently waiting on the new nest was his mate.

Because the wind was quite brisk I hadn’t planned to go very far but the river was like a magnet for my soul and I was unable to resist her attraction. So on I went.

Past the snowy egret….past the snag where I saw the bald eagles last autumn. Past the double tree snag that was now filled with buzzards…past the last house and into the place where the river is wilder, more feral. My turning point would be the bend in the river where the sandhill cranes mesmerized me with their haunting calls during the migration last year. I wanted to peek around the bend and see marsh grasses further on…those sacred rushes where amazing nursery habitat for so many fish and sea creatures hugged the banks of the widening river.

SimoneLipscomb (2)Clouds grew darker and began to organize into layers of gray-blue puffy formations. It was the nudge I needed to turn homeward. With the wind pushing me now, I paddled steadily back to the muddy beach but my mind was lost in geometries of elongated ovals of dark blue ringed with purple, reflections on the surface, distorted by wind.

SimoneLipscomb (6)Too soon my board nosed into the submerged limb and the black ooze welcomed my toes as I stepped over otter footprints and climbed the sandy bank with my board. Some of my human friends are hunkered down for another North Carolina snow storm. Another is recovering in a hospital after being hit by a drunk driver and air-lifted to a trauma center. Other friends are recovering from serious surgery and on the list grows. So today…on this beautiful day…I feel blessed that somehow grace has touched my life and given the gift of the river.

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What Love Can Do

What Love Can Do

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Lately I’ve been asking the question, How can we really make a difference? Actually, for several months now I’ve been walking with this prayer in my heart and mind. I breathe it in the morning….walk with it during the day….rest my head on my pillow at night with this koan echoing through my spirit.

SimoneLipscombDocumenting the Gulf Oil Spill broke my heart and mind open. It brought me to my knees in the truest sense because I saw how everything precious and sacred can be taken away by careless human acts and ongoing choices and behaviors that are centered on profit…at any cost. After struggling with emotions of anger, grief, frustration, helplessness and more I connected with Joanna Macy‘s work and traveled to spend a week with her and others committed to creating positive change in our world. Without hesitation I can say that the week spent in Massachusetts helped me climb out of the emotional hole that I fell into witnessing first hand the oil spill.

Once among the living, however, my sense of direction faded. I realized I could no longer approach my work with anger or frustration because what I felt so strongly was love…for the planet, for creatures, for humans. I couldn’t bombard people with the horrific images that had filled my nightmares any longer. I didn’t want to be in denial about what is happening in our world but focusing on the terrible seemed only to perpetuate more of it. I felt that people were grieving the destruction of life, even if they weren’t consciously aware of it. And perhaps seeing beauty would inspire them to engage, encourage them to care a little more.

Water captivates me and my favorite images center around water...waterfalls...big water...underwater.

The theme of beauty and more specifically, focusing on beauty, became the answer I began to hear each time I asked the question, What can I do to make a difference? Yet that answer didn’t give me complete satisfaction or a sense of true direction. It was a start though.

Many more months have passed and the question still pulls me to deeper understanding. It seems quite simple but how difficult it can be to live the answer I received: Love. Love is the answer I’ve been hearing lately.

It sounds cliche. It sounds so ’60’s. Yet as I’ve explored and read….listened deeply to my core…it’s that simple.

Standing in love doesn’t mean we are powerless or squishy. Sometimes love looks powerful and strong. Other times it is enfolding, soft. It seems we are at a point of powerful change in our world. It takes radical courage to live from Love for most of what is modeled in our world is power-over, squishing the competition, winning at any cost….more…more…more. To observe this way of being and step away from it, to stand centered in love and compassion is radical. And yet history  has proven that power for power’s sake never works.

Or moments of intense stillness and inner quiet.

In some philosophies there is a diagram that is helpful. In it two lines intersect. One runs up and down and is considered to represent Spirit. The other crosses it and is representative of the physical path. In the center, at the intersection where Spirit and physical meet, is the point of becoming. It’s the place where we can, in a physical experience, balance our life with the qualities of Spirit, of Love.

Wendell Berry states, “Love isn’t a feeling. It’s a practice.” He also said, “What leads to peace is not violence but peaceableness.” This leads me to conclude that what leads to love isn’t hate…it’s love.

800_1019If we really want to change the world for the better, our first task then is to clear all obstacles within ourselves that keep us from truly knowing love. This means letting go of judgment of self and others, letting go of hate of self and others. Selfishness, ego…all must go as we open our hearts to the absolute power of love. When we do this, when we have such radical courage, we will see what love can do.

A Sensitive Heart

A Sensitive Heart

simonelipscomb“I have sea foam in my veins, for I understand the language of waves.” Le Testament d’Orphee is a movie I’ve never seen but this quote from it touches me deeply. It was quoted in an article I read this morning during my hammock time with my ginger cat, Stanley. It was a piece about sensitive souls…the traits and behaviors…the feelings. As I read it a mirror to my soul seemed to open. FINALLY! There are others out there. (Deep sigh).

IMG_0002My first memory of my inner life being at odds with the outer world was when I was about eight years old. My father and I were watching a movie about an old man who saved up hard-earned money to purchase a pane of glass for the only window in his shack. He installed it and it had only been in place for a brief time when his mule kicked a bucket that went crashing into the window–which shattered. The man beat the mule. I cried and my father laughed at me for crying. He asked why I was crying. For the mule, for being beaten, of course. It was then that I begin to learn that my sensitive heart was in for a rough ride.

The article states, “You absorb sensation the way a paintbrush grasps each color it touches on a palette. The ethereal beauty of a dandelion, the shift of a season, the climax of a song, or the scent of a certain fragrance can sometimes move you to tears…Basically this means if you are sensitive, you have the ability to see colors and feel energy the way others hear jet planes.” Victoria Erickson, the writer, goes on to quote research that says sensitive souls make up about 20% of the population. People who are super-sensitive have nervous systems that respond easily to stimuli which can be overwhelming and exhausting. “Sometimes your sensitivity makes life extraordinarily painful and you want to shut down and hide your raw self from the loud chaos that accompanies this earth’s continual rotation.”

Victoria lists six ways to stay balanced….create, enjoy the company of animals, seek out water, recognize what is only your energy and emotion (its easy to absorb other’s energy), surround yourself with people that understand your nature and nurture that connection, retreat, replenish and rejuvenate. Her advice was so good that I saved the article to my desktop so I can review regularly.

After I finished reading I sat in the hammock chair with my cat buddy and pondered the eye-opening information. There have been many times I have been laughed at, made fun of, and generally put-down because I am sensitive. And I know there are others who have experienced this treatment. When this happens we close down, little-by-little. Our experience of the world narrows as we deny the very ability we have that feeds and nurtures us.

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When my daughter was born, I begin to reawaken to the part of myself I had closed off, lost even, through my childhood, adolescence and young adult life. Her arrival into my life was a catalyst that pushed me onto my spiritual path and steered me deeper into my heart. When she was born I suddenly knew what it was like to truly love someone.

Everything didn’t change overnight. It takes an immense amount of work to learn to stay open to the beauty around us and not close down when the rest of the world seems to not notice. There were many, many rocky years and times when the dichotomy, of what I knew to be my truth and what the world told me my truth was, was difficult to sort out. I carry many battle scars.

About eleven years ago I reached a very low point in my life when things literally fell apart around me. It was as if everything I cared for shattered and shifted and I was left feeling completely beaten down and also, oddly enough,  feeling incredibly open. At that time a man came into my life that helped nurture me so that I could put my life back together, in a more harmonious way. His was a sensitive heart, even though he didn’t like to admit it. The light he shined into my life helped me believe that I could be myself and live fully. At first he kidded me about talking to trees but before our relationship ended, I caught him talking to trees….although he would most likely deny that now.

I was blessed to have someone who believed in me, that stood beside me as I lifted myself out of the rubble of my life.

simonelipscomb (5)What does the world do to a sensitive heart? How do we survive the challenges, the fears, the chaos we encounter simply by living on this planet? This fragile beauty, this light within us can be so easily destroyed, snuffed out. The magnificence of a sensitive soul can be chased into hiding by the stresses of daily life. This, to me, is the greatest loss we all experience. When we lose our brothers and sisters whose sensitive hearts and souls bless this place, then truly we have lost great treasures. I know there are many whose light has been diminished or hidden by the stresses of life. May we reach out in understanding and love and stand with them as they work to find peace and wholeness.

When these lights go into hiding it’s not simply a personal loss, but a planetary loss. We need more people now than ever before who are in touch with their hearts and in communion with the beauty..and who are unafraid to show it. May we support each other always in finding and staying connected to our true selves.

 

How to Change the World

How to Change the World

Over a year ago I moved back to the Gulf Coast and at that time made the decision to delete television from my life. Unhooked from commercials and advertisements the freedom from bombarding marketing of one kind or another has been amazing. But I did want some way to watch movies, old television programs and documentaries so I opted to subscribe to Netflix.

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I enjoy a bit of mindless entertainment from time to time; however, tonight I watched a program that quite literally changed my life.

In searching the ‘recently added’ programs I found, I Am. It is a documentary film created by a movie director who was in a cycling accident and during his recovery decided to ask two important questions: 1) What is wrong with the world; 2) What is the answer?

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Many wise people were interviewed and scientific evidence was presented and demonstrated. My excitement grew as I watched. This movie answered many questions I’ve had over the past few months. I encourage interested folks to watch for themselves but here are a few key components.

First, it has been proven that our moods affect living systems around us. They showed how a person’s emotional energy impacted bacteria (living organisms) as measured by a change in electrical field. Simple organisms are affected by how we behave. I’ve been laughed at for hugging trees…of course that didn’t stop me…and now I know my love and appreciation for them is, on some level, felt. Can you imagine the possibilities? Studies done years ago about talking to your house plants and playing beautiful music helps them grow. The film showed yet another study that gave proof on how we can positively affect the world around us if we live with the intention to do so?

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Conversely, if we practice anger and hate think what we are doing to those around us…and the planet…all living systems. Learning to cultivate compassion and love has never been so important. Letting go of negative emotions and thoughts has never been so necessary.

It was also shown in the film how we are not really separate. We are all connected. Have you ever had someone in your life and you knew something was going on with them even though you hadn’t talked in weeks….months? You just knew? Or you dreamed about them emailing you and when you awaken there’s an email…after months of not hearing from them. Love connects us. We are not separated by miles or time.

Another interesting point made by the film is the fact that we are wired, via our DNA, to have compassion and be cooperative. We have the potential to be violent and aggressive; however, we are hard-wired to love and help one another. Not just humans are genetically programmed to be cooperative, but many animals are as well.

In one study scientists set up cameras on fields where a herd of red deer grazed. They wanted to find out which deer led the herd to watering holes. Over and over again they watched in fascination as, one-by-one, the deer would raise their heads and look toward a watering hole. When the number of deer reached 51% of the herd the entire herd, as a group, simply wandered to the water. Unspoken consensus. Democracy in action.

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Perhaps the most important idea I took away from the film was the fact that every act of kindness, compassion, good will we do is truly felt and therefore makes a positive difference. This is especially vital to understand as we live in a time of great unrest and fear as the ecosystems of our planet undergo intense changes due to climate change, where economic problems grow and tensions between citizens of all countries increase. Stepping away from conflict, practicing compassion and love for an animal, a place, a neighbor….it makes a difference!

Now is not the time to give up. It is the time to love boldly, act bravely through compassion and joy. This is how we change the world.

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