Travel Challenge – Day 6

A big thank you to my friend Jyothi at Travel Explore Enjoy for nominating me for the 10 Day Travel Challenge!

The rules of the challenge are very simple. Post a favorite photo from your travels without explanation for each of 10 days, and nominate & notify 10 other bloggers to participate.  Be sure to link back to the person who nominated you!

Today, I nominate Dan at Danventure Travels.

Travel Challenge – Day 5

A big thank you to my friend Jyothi at Travel Explore Enjoy for nominating me for the 10 Day Travel Challenge!

The rules of the challenge are very simple. Post a favorite photo from your travels without explanation for each of 10 days, and nominate & notify 10 other bloggers to participate.  Be sure to link back to the person who nominated you!

Today, I nominate Jane at Jane Lurie Photography.

Travel Challenge – Day 4

A big thank you to my friend Jyothi at Travel Explore Enjoy for nominating me for the 10 Day Travel Challenge!

The rules of the challenge are very simple. Post a favorite photo from your travels without explanation for each of 10 days, and nominate & notify 10 other bloggers to participate.  Be sure to link back to the person who nominated you!

Today, I nominate Tina at Travels and Trifles.

Travel Challenge – Day 3

A big thank you to my friend Jyothi at Travel Explore Enjoy for nominating me for the 10 Day Travel Challenge!

The rules of the challenge are very simple. Post a favorite photo from your travels without explanation for each of 10 days, and nominate & notify 10 other bloggers to participate.  Be sure to link back to the person who nominated you!

Today, I nominate Pam at I Choose This.

Travel Challenge – Day 2

A big thank you to my friend Jyothi at Travel Explore Enjoy for nominating me for the 10 Day Travel Challenge!

The rules of the challenge are very simple. Post a favorite photo from your travels without explanation for each of 10 days, and nominate & notify 10 other bloggers to participate.  Be sure to link back to the person who nominated you!

Today, I nominate D.S. Chauhan at Travel and Share.

Travel Challenge – Day 1

A big thank you to my friend Jyothi at Travel Explore Enjoy for nominating me for the 10 Day Travel Challenge!

The rules of the challenge are very simple. Post a favorite photo from your travels without explanation for each of 10 days, and nominate & notify 10 other bloggers to participate.  Be sure to link back to the person who nominated you!

Today, I nominate Kelly at Compass and Camera.

Does “In All Things Give Thanks” Apply to These Times?

Trail following the Snake River, Wyoming

This was my fifth ever blog post, written in April of this year. For Christmas, I have dusted it off and polished it up for reposting. Have a wonderful holiday.

It’s amazing how drastically things can change in a short period of time. When this year began, we lived a “normal” existence, but, as you know, since the inception of covid, life has been anything but normal. With the many reports we hear of death, disease, job loss, and an expectation of this trajectory to continue, the idea of gratitude might not be hitting a lot of folks’ radar. In the frighteningly grim existence that we now find ourselves, should we be giving thanks, as the Bible verse suggests?

Before the world changed, I went for a hike on a beautiful trail in northern Arizona. The sun was warm, the trees majestic, and the giant boulders seemed contemplative. The longer I hiked, the more profound my thoughts became, until finally, I arrived at a deep sense of gratitude. I found myself expressing love and appreciation for every tree and boulder I touched. This went on for a while until my heart seemed to overflow, and an intense feeling of tenderness engulfed me. Have you ever been overwhelmed with joy by a simple experience?

“. . . One who forgets the language of gratitude can never be on speaking terms with happiness.” ~John Robbins

According to a very long list of studies done on gratitude compiled by UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine, the expression of gratitude has many benefits. These studies show that an individual expressing gratitude can benefit from lower blood pressure, better cholesterol levels, feeling more socially connected, experiencing less anger & anxiety, and better sleep. Bonus: some studies show that more gratitude also results in less materialism. Have you experienced benefits from expressing gratitude?

Hiking high in the mountains of northern Arizona

In the documentary What the Bleep Do We Know?, you may recall the water experiments done by Dr. Emoto and his team. Water from a single source was encapsulated in different vessels & “given” messages. The water that received messages of hate & other negativity resulted in crystals that were ugly, but those exposed to messages of love and gratitude were absolutely beautiful. That result causes me to consider how water in our cells must respond to expressions of appreciation from both ourselves and others.

Hike around Park Lake near Helena, Montana

Everything in life is vibration.” ~Albert Einstein

You may have heard the idea that whatever you focus on increases. According to cell biologist Bruce Lipton, PhD, author of Biology of Belief, “Quantum physics acknowledges that the observer is a participant in the creation of (her/his) world.” Worrying or focusing on negativity reduces our personal vibration, which then infuses our creations with low vibes, resulting in unhappiness and unhealthy experiences. Researchers at the HeartMath Institute have proven that the regular practice of expressing sincere gratitude raises our personal vibration. Which then is followed by the desired outcome of higher vibrational creations and experiences.

Northern Colorado trail

Although it can be tough to switch into gratitude mode right now, maybe the verse “In all things give thanks” was given not as a religious edict, but as a practical way to bring light and hope into dark and difficult times. Express gratitude for the personal benefits. For your family. For your community. For the good vibes you can bring into our suffering reality. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change that you want to see in the world.”

One of many “Urban Trails” in Flagstaff, Arizona

Blessings for Gratitude,

Lisa

Gifts of Nature

Seaside Christmas decorations

Happy holidays!  I hope the season is one in which you find great delight, even with our current covid limitations.  It can be an exhilarating time of year, with colorful decorations, extra-special meals and treats, and fun gatherings with loved ones.  And gifts, of course!  

Gift-giving has been a popular custom for hundreds of years.  Initially, small gifts to help the poor were given at this time of year across many religious traditions.  Unfortunately, this compassionate practice that epitomized holiday spirit has been all but lost; somehow, receiving gifts has become more important than giving.  It is my prayer that this perception is changing as a result of the plight of those who have lost their jobs or homes due to covid.  (Approximately 4 million Americans have been out of work for at least 6 months.)  The winter holidays are a perfect opportunity to share the love in our hearts with everyone we know.  By tapping into Nature’s abundance, we can give extraordinary, heartfelt gifts to those in need as well as friends and family without breaking the bank.

Scenic drive near San Diego

Experiences, in my opinion, are so much better than things in most cases.  Give the gift of fun!  Take a long, scenic drive together, an epic hike, a trip to the local arboretum or state park, take a picnic lunch and go fishing at a nearby lake, visit a butterfly garden, or create an itinerary for a post-covid trip!  Camera and binoculars in hand, this might just be the holiday gift that never stops giving.

Let’s fish here!

Home-cooked meals and baked goods make lovely gifts.  Although I was expecting the opposite due to the pandemic, fewer and fewer folks seem to be preparing their own meals.  Home-cooked dishes are superior in quality and taste to frozen, pre-made, and oftentimes, restaurant food.  One of the delights of the holiday season (in normal times) is going home for a meal made by Mom or Grandma, right?  I’ll bet you know someone who seldom – or never – eats a home-cooked meal.  What could be a better gift for them than a prepared-from-scratch soup with some freshly baked bread?  

Bok Choy soup

Another beautiful food gift is a home-assembled fruit basket.  Dress up a reusable basket with ribbon, glitter, paint, or whatever you have, and fill with your choice of oranges, pears, apples, wine or mineral water, small bags of nuts, cookies, or good-quality chocolate.  Wrap it all up in cellophane (or don’t!) and remember to include a card!

Nature photo gifts are a winner, as well.  Create a calendar, make some greeting cards, or put together a small photo album or scrapbook of a natural area your loved one wants to visit.  Collect actual photos and cut-outs from online sources and magazines, including the articles, and add quotes and colored stencils to jazz it up!  A great way of communicating heart-to-heart without speaking a word.

Finally, the best-smelling gift: a chai simmer pot kit!  Gather the aromatic ingredients for chai, add a beautiful, fat orange and some fresh cranberries for color, print out the recipe (or write on a small card), and tie it all up in a clear bag with a festive bow.  The tea tastes marvelous, and the kitchen will smell like the holidays after it brews!

Homemade gifts are often appreciated beyond measure.  Pouring your love into something for the benefit of another is what giving is all about.  This holiday season, show your heart to your neighbors in need, friends, and family with simple gifts of Nature that communicate the true reason for the season.

Hiking in Sedona

Holiday Blessings,

Lisa

Let’s Go to the Beach!

Oh how we’re missing our annual winter trip to the beach.  Cool, early morning walks in the surf.  Breakfast and lunch on the balcony surrounded by palm trees and overlooking green water.  The moon and clouds playing hide-and-seek late at night, a brilliant shine reflecting intermittently on the sea.  We always look forward to the trip, as it’s a balmy, breezy respite from our regularly scheduled winter.  It also helps clear our heads, recharge our biological batteries, and reset our perspectives on life.

Ft. Lauderdale

This year, thanks to covid, we are visiting the beach via our imagination, and we’re happy to have you join us. Studies show that actions we imagine can seem real to our minds, “tricking” the brain into providing us benefits as if we were performing those actions.  Many athletes utilize this technique, called visualization, to attain their specific goals.

San Diego

Ok, ready?  Got your beach bag?  We close our eyes, breathe slowly & deeply, and . . . smell the salty sea . . . picture clumps of seaweed in the gently lapping surf . . . notice the wet sand between our toes . . . feel the sun and wind on our skin . . . hear the forlorn cries of seabirds . . . and taste the salt on our lips.  Be sure to wear your lip balm!

Seaweed art on the sand

Let’s take a walk along the water’s edge and soak up the recurrent, grounding sound of the waves.  According to an article from the University of New Hampshire, Is Being at the Beach Good for Your Health?, the beach can relieve stress fast.  The heat of the sun, the sound of the waves, and your feet in the sand, the article says, are the reasons for this happy result.

Coronado, with a storm approaching

While we’re absorbing the sun’s heat, (making sure we don’t overdo it) we are improving our health: increasing Vitamin D levels, helping prevent autoimmune disorders, and reducing our risk of certain cancers, according to Environmental Health Perspectives’ article Benefits of Sunlight: A Bright Spot for Human Health.  Maybe we were designed to enjoy the feel of the sun on our skin for these reasons.

Northern California

Enjoying the ocean air?  Breathing the air at the beach can enhance overall health by diversifying the microbes in our guts, says Dr. Zach Bush, one of the few triple-board certified physicians in the US.  The microbiome of most Americans, due to the standard American diet & overconsumption of antibiotics, includes a very small percentage of the 20,000 – 40,000 species of bacteria that constitute a heathy gut.  Breathing in diverse environments can help in a big way.

Dogs love the beach, too!

Has your heart rate increased?  We’re burning extra calories!  Walking in the sand requires more energy than walking on, say, a sidewalk.  If you’ve walked or jogged in the sand before, you know it’s a great workout.  And if we’re going to indulge in those yummy vacation sweet treats and cocktails later, burning extra calories is a must! 

Seaside, Oregon

Are you beginning to feel more of a connection with Nature?  Wallace J. Nichols, marine biologist and author of Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do, says, While in the restful, contemplative state associated with observing or interacting with water, it’s also common to experience feelings of awe.  Awe, he continues, increases our sense of connection with all that is.  

Northern California

Have you worked up an appetite?  Ok, ok, we’ll go for lunch!  I’m famished too!  There’s a great little open-air Mediterranean cafe within walking distance . . .

St. Maarten

Some day soon, we’ll resume our physical visits to the beach.  But for now, our imaginations take charge, engaging our senses and prompting an array of health benefits.  Thanks for joining us! We hope you had fun & feel rejuvenated!

Beach Blessings,

Lisa

Six Small Actions That Will Change You

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. ~Annie Dillard

And . . . we’re in December.  Wow.  This year will soon be a memory, to the relief of many.  The pandemic, now in its second wave in some countries, has presented a great number of us with unprecedented challenges.  We have been forced to change our habits, and for most, the majority of those changes have not been positive, affecting our perception of ourselves and the world in general.  It is said that about half our actions are not conscious, but a result of our habits.  I would like to share a few small actions that, when practiced consistently and made into new habits, can change you for the better.  What’s more, they will change the way you feel about yourself.

  1. Read something inspirational each day, even if it’s a simple quote.  After reading, close your eyes and savor it, focusing on how it lifts your spirit, opens your heart, or motivates you.  This savoring acts on the brain in a similar manner as the concept of muscle memory in strength training or stretching.  The more you do it, the easier you’ll find it is to access those good feelings throughout the day.

Change your thoughts and you change your world. ~Norman Vincent Peale

  1. Speak of your blessings and express gratitude daily.  Even if nobody is around to hear you.  I am so blessed to have food on my table.  I am super grateful that my family has been safe from coronavirus.  I am so fortunate that I am able to work from my home.  Gregg Braden, five-time New York Times best-selling author, scientist, and international educator, says, Just the way sound creates visible waves as it travels through a droplet of water, our “belief waves” ripple through the quantum fabric of the universe to become . . . the healing, abundance, and peace – or disease, lack, and suffering – that we experience in life. And just the way we can tune a sound . . . , we can tune our beliefs to preserve or destroy all that we cherish, including life itself.  By reinforcing beliefs that we’re blessed and grateful, we tune ourselves into more goodness.

Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success. ~Swami Sivananda

  1. Practice little acts of kindness daily.  Let a car merge in front of you; send a text or card to an out-of-touch loved one; give a small hand-made item to a neighbor.  Do these things without expectation of reciprocation or even expressions of gratitude.  Most folks will respond favorably, but not always.  The first couple times my acts of kindness were not acknowledged, I was hurt.  But then I realized that the recipients could be so busy with the sometimes overwhelming nature of life that they simply forgot.  Giving is the part that will make you feel good.  Hold on to that.

  1. Leave all your devices inside and get outside for (at least) a few minutes a day.  While outside, allow your attention to be captivated by wildlife, trees, flowers, and the sky.  Why did that tree grow in such an odd manner?  That cloud looks like Snoopy!  I wonder what kind of bird that is.  Look at that incredible moon!  These wildflowers are gorgeous!  Placing your full focus on Nature has numerous health benefits and helps you remember somewhere deep inside that you are a part of it.

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. ~Albert Einstein

  1. Spend a couple minutes each day working on some small action that you find difficult.  I have done yoga for decades, and until just recently, I was always embarrassed in class during balancing poses.  I was never able to hold the poses as long as most others without falling out and resetting.  Because I’ve learned the hard way that unaddressed issues have a tendency to get worse over time, I decided to do something about it.  So, a couple years ago, I started practicing half-moon pose (Ardha Chandrasana) every day.  As a result, my balance has improved tremendously, and my embarrassing falls are in the past.  I also have a sense of pride for conquering a limitation!
Moonlight over Lauderdale Beach in December of 2019

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant. ~Robert Louis Stevenson

Our morning smoothie contents
  1. Get more fresh organic or non-GMO fruits and veggies into your diet to upgrade your microbiome, lose weight, and improve overall health.  (You might also find, like I did, that this helps increase athletic performance.)  If your doc gives a thumbs up, replace one meal a day with a smoothie made from 1 part fruit, 3 parts veggies, and coconut water to your preferred consistency.  (For example, 1 pear, 3 stalks of celery, a beet, and a couple handfuls of spinach.  Or 2 fruits and 6 servings of veggies, if you need more to fill you up.  In addition to the coconut water, I like to add cinnamon and cacao powder, and top the smoothie with goji berries and unsweetened flaked coconut.)  I also suggest learning to prepare a few quick and easy meals.  Brown rice with green lentils topped with chopped red onions, cherry tomatoes, and cilantro is possibly the easiest meal I prepare, and it’s delicious.  A simple stir-fry with rice is always a good choice.  Also, check out my Bok Choy Soup recipe.  You can easily substitute another leafy green or a different bean in the soup while keeping the other ingredients and utilizing the same instructions.

In these strange times that have forced change upon us, it’s more important than ever for each of us to bring beauty and positivity to our days.  Our daily experiences, after all, compose our lives.  The small actions above can go a long way in changing a negative mindset, and, once habituated, changing your life.

Blessings for Happy Changes,

Lisa

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