Tag Archives: Balance

Getting Unplugged

Connect with nature, Cure Nature Deficit disorder

“People are meant to connect with natural places. It is good for the human soul for people to explore their relationship with the places where they live.”

There was a time not too long ago that I felt more connected to my iphone than to the wilderness. At work I spent my time on the phone providing tech support, or hunched over my computer keyboard designing logos for hours on end until my neck and back were on fire with pain. My obsession with my TV shows, tech gizmos, and structured “play” activities made it harder for me to truly allow for free time. Something was always demanding my attention, distracting me, offering the promise of cheap, quick and effortless entertainment.

Connected

I grew up in a different world. I was three when we moved back to the family ranch. We had no TV. I spent my days outside. I played as much with sticks and stones as plastic toys. I knew only knew about town life from short resupply trips.

We were always outdoors. My older brother and I built dams in the stream near the house; making our own swimming holes- then destroying them a few days later just to watch the swirling power of the water take everything away. We climbed the oaks for lookout posts, built forts in the trees and bunkers in the brush. It made me feel proud that we had made these things together. We had built them ourselves. They were somehow ours in a way that things simply given to us were not.

I was always in touch with and learning about the world around me. My father took me out and showed me the local snakes, animal tracks and scat. He told me how to tell them apart by what they ate, how they moved and how their lives (and ours) followed the seasons. I learned to look before I placed my foot, watching the ground and surrounding brush carefully for threats. I learned to respect my environment in its power and beauty. I felt connected.

In Girl Scouts we would stagger up the trail under the weight of old fashioned tents on multi-day camping trips. We were often short a tent and I discovered I loved sleeping outside under the stars. The cold wind would bite my cheeks as I stared at the night sky. I remember my first view of the stars from the mountains up near Idyllwild. The Milky Way was a brilliant white splash. I would lay awake for what seemed like hours making up my own constellations.

I felt like I was part of something bigger. Like I had a purpose.

The Disconnect

As a child I had run free with a light heart and an inquisitive mind. My relationship with nature as a young adult became gradually more structured and constrained. Although I never completely stopped my outdoor activites, they took on a different tenor. With my new University and then job obligations I felt I had to make an effort to spend time in nature. Living in the city, it seemed all so far away and harder to get to – any outing had to be planned- and it seemed I never had the time.

I rarely approached my now brief journeys into the wilderness with the same completely open and accepting attitude I had as a child. I had learned the ways of modern distraction. I was often thinking of the other things I had to do. I filtered my experience through my camera, by listening to music, by looking for connectivity with my “smart” phone to check my email.

It took me a while to realize that most of the barriers that kept me from connecting with my wilderness were of my own making. I had made the choice to make these limitations and barriers part of my life- and I also could make the choice to let them go.

Home Again

In the last couple of years I’ve looked back on my childhood relationship with the wilderness and resolved to restore our free and easy bond. Finding ways to connect despite my busy life have been key. Working with the Forest Service as a Volunteer Wilderness Ranger, with Search and Rescue and the Sierra Club as a WTC intstuctor have been critical to reconnecting me with my love of nature, with my love of life itself.

I believe that a life without a connection to nature becomes more sterile, somehow blander. It robs you of basic skills of self-reliance, creativity, spirituality, of a feeling of connectedness with the cycles of life.

Away from the easy distractions of technology you not only can, but are forced to hear the ebb and their flow of your own thoughts and become comfortable with them. Without this inner ear you are likely to become disconnected from your own sense of self and goals in life. You are more likely to float on the surface of life and less likely to truly live.

 

The Yin and Yang of Things.

Yin and Yang

It’s all about balance really.

I don’t just mean the everyday concept of balance- of ‘everything in its time, of learning to not overdo things’, but the dynamic set of balances between pairs inherent in any living system.

Consider the amazing pairing of balances in our own biology. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are engaged in a breathtakingly beautiful dance, deftly maneuvering to ensure our survival. If we must fight, the sympathetic shifts its weight forward and readies us for an energetic burst. If we need to rest and digest, the parasympathetic calms us and sets the right mechanisms to into smooth motion.

At every level, sets of intertwining pairs work in a dynamic balance to regulate our every breath, every sigh and every blink of our eyes.

Each firing of even a single neuron is regulated by slight shifts in homestatic mechanisms in our cells.  Sodium and potassium ebb and flow in opposition in and out of the cells, allowing for transport, volume control and the action potentials that enable our neurons to transfer the very energy of our thoughts and sensations.

As we examine the moving parts, we suddenly realize that these individual pairs are tied together with other partners in the ever-growing dancing web that somehow smoothly regulates our life.

Calcium is not only paired with Phosphorus in a dance that keeps our blood pH in a precious life preserving range, but also partners with Magnesium in myriad ways. Calcium makes muscles contract. Magnesium is necessary for muscles to relax. Calcium is lauded for its bone building abilities, but without Magnesium to partner with far less bone will be built.

It makes you think- where else can we see these relationships in our lives? Where else do we see the eternal dance of balanced pairs?

On Drive(ing).

The other day I was driving along, maximizing my learning time by listening to a iTunesU podcast on Pathophysiology when I realized that my brain was just stuffed. Full-up. Literally jam-packed. It wasn’t going to take in even one more tiny scrap of information no matter how I tried to push and shove it down that convoluted funnel into my brain.

Don’t get me wrong- I’m studying for a second degree in health and nutrition and I absolutely love it. But, I’ve been focusing so hard for so long on learning, I’d forgotten that every system in our body needs time for rest and regeneration. Non-negotiable rest.

My drive to move forward had become blinding to all else and I was chugging interminably forward- consuming every spare moment with purposeless productivity at the expense of everything else. I couldn’t even carry on a conversation that didn’t have something to do with nutrition. I was driving my boyfriend crazy and some people had started crossing the street to avoid me (maybe a slight exaggeration, but only slight!)

With my blind drive, I had shoved aside the concept of balance, of regenerative relaxation and instead enshrined “being productive” as the all encompassing goal. I listened to podcasts on my latest obsession as I drove, trying to fit in as much time as possible in a panicky ‘sponge’ mode: ‘I must soak it all in- hurry! There’s not enough time to get it all! You must move on or you’ll never keep up! HurryHurryHurry!

Thinking about this while driving I came upon a sudden realization:

“Girl, that’s NOT healthy”

Yes, in order to get things done you do need to prioritize, but first you need to understand why and if these things are truly important to you. I’ve gotten so caught up in the motions of being the “best” and most productive that I forgot why I wanted to do these things in the first place:

“I want to be healthy and help those around me achieve a healthy ….balance…. in their lives”… hmmmm… maybe I should re-evaluate.

So I pulled over, parked the car and went for a walk- a loooong walk. Without my iPod, without my books, without all of my tools and all those busy thoughts. And you know, the world didn’t end. In fact, just that little break helped me clear my mind and reset my priorities and get back to actually enjoying what I was doing without that ever present element of panic.

I think that we all get caught up some times in trying to be productive- especially in an area we love. We feel a duty to ‘make the most of it’- and that can often get in the way of our best work.

Breathe. Step back and relax.

Put down your fabric, your shears, your paints, the tools of your trade, push away from your computers, stop listening to that podcast. Go, walk outside, take a deep breath, take one step and then another and let your mind just flow along without an agenda. Trust me, you need it- and you’ll enjoy your work again and be a whole lot more productive later.