Sauntering integrates resonance, rhythm and rejuvenation – a walking meditation connecting us to our environment. As Lady Bird Johnson said, “My heart found its home long ago in the beauty, mystery, order and disorder of the flowering earth.”
When we flow in rhythm with the trail, awakening our senses to the life around us, we are rejuvenating. In gratitude, we share healing energy with the earth. Spring flowers become dewberries in the fall, reflecting the organic process of unfolding and ripening that also applies to projects and resolving problems.
This wild onion springs forth from a hole in the rock – undaunted, zesty, pink, flourishing – resilient.
I felt resilient, resonating with the color and fragrance of so many, gorgeous wildflowers.
These tough cacti pushing bright green shoots from their dry, winter skin speak to the power of regeneration. Resonating with the vibrant energy of Spring brings joy in the transformation of browns and grays into rainbows of red, green, blue, pink, white, yellow, purple and orange flowers.
As temperatures rise, our dormant friends come out to play. Athena the owl returns to her nest at the Wildflower Center to raise her owlets. To everything, there is a season.
Grateful for this beautiful, sunny day after the vernal equinox. From blooming Huisache trees, turtles and egrets to baby blue-eyes and columbine flowers, the hike and bike trail remains the heart and soul of Austin for me.
I described the 5 benefits of mindful walking in my prior post, which were: 1) a settled mind, 2) an appreciation of nature, 3) a chance to breathe deeply, 4) problem solving moments and 5) gratitude. Mindful walking unfurls the senses and allows the imagination to roam. Sauntering embraces nature with respect, love and joy. Respect is both the requirement and the outcome of a caring practice.
When I resonate with the life around me and begin to feel gratitude, sauntering begins. My body falls into rhythm, flowing with the energy of the earth. Resonating with light and shadow, warm and cool, the scent of grass and trees and vibrant textures of sound and color. Connecting with the “flowering earth,” as Lady Bird Johnson liked to say, helped me discover the 3 R’s of sauntering .
Resonance is generally defined as 1) the quality in a sound of being deep, full, and reverberating and 2) the reinforcement or prolongation of sound by reflection from a surface or by the synchronous vibration of a neighboring object. In sauntering, resonance occurs by realizing our mutuality and connection with life. It reveals beauty in humble and unexpected places, like these unassuming wood sorrel flowers. The way the light, shadows and color resonate illuminates their modest beauty.
Rhythm invites the body to join in the dance, as we sway with the movement of the trees and grasses, the flitting birds and butterflies. It helps the mind drop its concerns and open into being. Connecting with the rhythms of nature brings the world alive. Feeling the energy of the earth through the swing of your hips, tapping into the flow of life is joyful. Rhythm can complement resonance in composition, creating vibrant, dynamic impressions.
Rejuvenation arises by grounding resonance and rhythm in Nature. The many benefits of being in nature include building brain plasticity and reducing stress. Releasing your body mind from accumulated toxins, inactivity and too much indoor time is an act of self-care. Sauntering tells children of all ages that it’s okay to play.
Sauntering walks at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center integrate nature, art and health, mindfully. Being in nature and experiencing the body as an antennae for the energy of the earth is to be well, a part of life rather than apart.
After a year of retirement I have – a different relationship with time, a few projects that are bearing fruit, and the realization that building a new social network requires more patience and finesse than I anticipated.
Having my time back feels good, really good. It shapes itself to me in new ways, rhythmically, like a long, slow wave. Synchronicity has been peaking my imagination and leading to new people and opportunities. This is probably the most liberating aspect of having so much time on my hands
I miss the great conversations with my university colleagues, one of the things I treasured most about my job. Fortunately, there are new projects to develop, another favorite pastime from my years as a program coordinator. Completing my training as a docent at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center put me on track to create and implement a sauntering tour and workshop. It was time for me to define what I mean by sauntering and to share it with others.
The program’s architecture, its design emerged intuitively, as I asked myself what I really meant by sauntering. It was the first time I set about describing the act of walking mindfully, aesthetically. As I sauntered the lovingly cultivated trails at the Wildflower Center, the process became clearer. I discovered three principals of sauntering: resonance, rhythm and rejuvenation.
A settled mind – By staying open to what’s around you, you will begin to feel more peaceful. It may be as simple as recognizing what is around you, but walking mindfully may also allow your mind to open and see things more clearly.
An appreciation of nature – Many studies have linked being in nature with a sense of well-being. In your mindfulness walk, you can notice the things that nature provides us and appreciate them in a more complete way.
A chance to breathe deeply – Unlike yoga or guided meditation, mindfulness walking does not urge you to breathe deeply. But it’s likely that as you begin to walk, you’ll naturally take deeper breaths, which has several benefits. You can slow your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, reduce tension, boost energy and improve your mood.
Problem-solving moments – Sometimes, insights occur when you’re walking mindfully. And sometimes they show up afterwards. Offering yourself time to come back to your center often frees us to think outside the box. Mindfulness walking can be a process of self-discovery and self-care. Mindfulness supports us in many ways to go toward wholeness and healing.
A sense of gratitude – Many studies have shown that feeling gratitude is a great antidote to stress. Mindful walking can stoke your feelings of gratefulness.
I’ve developed several sauntering guided tours for the Wildflower Center, which I will describe in my next post. Lady Bird Johnson remains my inspiration and a guiding star for everyone who visits our oasis of native plants and habitats. Her spirit infuses the gardens and their caretakers with a deep love of nature, a premier destination for naturalists and saunterers everywhere.
“Some may wonder why I chose wildflowers when there are hunger and unemployment and the big bomb in the world. Well, I, for one, think we will survive, and I hope that along the way we can keep alive our experience with the flowering earth. For the bounty of nature is also one of the deep needs of man.” Lady Bird Johnson
I’m lucky. I retired from a community I loved when I was ready to with a basic monthly stipend. After 21 years at the University of Texas (thirteen managing the graduate program in the Sociology department) I can now grow a business that I already started developing. This gives me direction, an opportunity to explore new social networks and collaborations (skills that I honed in my former job and the part I liked best). Will I be as staunch an advocate for myself as I was for others? We’ll see. In the meantime, I am two weeks out and slowly unfolding in the immensity of space and time.
The day after I retired I was sitting on my back porch staring into a meadow of swaying, native grasses and tall clouds sailing across a bright blue sky. I was facing north, in the direction of the university and felt I was in a vacuum, like a tree that had been uprooted. I imagined my mind’s projections into all the relationships and collaborations, the structure of the yearly cycle, as roots torn from the earth. I had a frantic last few weeks, but this feeling of being bone tired was heavy with a feeling of loss.
So much of our identity is framed by “What do you do?” Loss of income, status and relevance can follow quickly, and suddenly we are no one. While some cultures honor their elders, the good old USA values productivity, not wisdom. Extended family and friend networks help a lot; feeling useful is good at any age.
But why rush through an existential moment? The feeling that I’m a raft floating in an ocean of time will go away soon enough. I can let synchronicity be the current my raft will follow. That spirit animated my youth, led me down many light and penumbral paths, to dreams that would foreshadow events or people who offered advice or an opportunity. With intuition as my guide, I can once again become a pilgrim in search of the wholly spirit.
I had such a moment while visiting the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center the other day. Part of my plan is to encourage people of all ages to saunter, a reminder to see the beauty in the things that often go unnoticed. Clearly, it’s something I go on and on about, so no problem making this my mission. Connecting with the earth, resonating with the vibrancy of life in simple ways promotes well-being. Engage a child’s sense of discovery and let them lead the way. The fox boy I met on the trail agrees.
Synchronicity led me to the wildflower center, the first place I’ll volunteer. It was not my plan, just looking for a good place to walk in Southwest Austin. My camera and I are headed west in search of . . . ? Let’s see what Portland and the Oregon Coast will bring.
While I walked through the aspen trees and the cottonwoods at Ghost Ranch my hips swayed, moving my belly from side to side like a basket rocking rhythmically on ocean waves. This motif continued throughout the wisdom circles, gathering together the treasures from our journey. Some of my companions have written about their experience, which I add to our basket of wisdom.
A few weeks ago, a remarkable group of mostly liberal women, I among the 450 or so, journeyed to Ghost Ranch to participate in a Wisdom Sharing event. Gloria Steinem, Alice Walker, and Dr. Chung Hyun Kyung shared the meaning they garnered over the years and the hopes they harbor for women and for humanity. Though there was some new content in their presentations, the wisdom that became palpable among us emanated from their years of moving the message forward in the face of monumental historical forces; the life changing work that amplified their spirits. We understood how they changed their own worlds and while doing so changed much of ours too. Perhaps the most salient message was the warm, collegial, and spontaneous way they engaged each other. These womens’ and our vastly different lives were woven together by efforts to seek freedom, respect the struggles of poverty and disadvantage, refine honest assessments of the things that matter most, engage with curiosity and compassion, and disclose the transformative nature of equality. They offered essential teachings when those gems would enhance or challenge our values. Their personhood as well as their presentations conferred truths while they modeled a kind of leadership that will long be remembered and emulated.
The nice surprise for me was the different voices and opinions that were heard ( starting with the 3 main speakers). I liked their similarities, but most importantly their differences. People listened to each other with respect and were not afraid to talk about setbacks and opportunities for growth. I really liked the incorporation of politics and spirituality. The word that resonated the most for me was “interconnected.“ Yes, we need each other. We will grow together. It provided more fuel to hope, the creativity and energy to keep searching for ways to work for a better “us” for a better word (and to have fun in the process). The experience was greatly enriched by the leadership of the Native American healers in the wisdom circles.
Licia Berry writes about Gloria Steinem at 80 in her blog post excerpted below.
She’s 31 years ahead of me, and at 80 years of age, a seemingly tireless crusader for women’s equality in the world. But when I spent 4 days in her company at the Wisdom Sharing Retreat at Ghost Ranch last month, one of the things that Gloria Steinem said was, “It is okay to be tired.” Wow.
As an artist, visionary, cultural commentator, author, educator, speaker, advocate, mother, wife, woman, and human being in the 21st century…I have also been tireless in my (much less significant) efforts over the many years I have been doing the work I do.
The title above is linked to Licia’s full post, well worth a visit. I’m wrapping up the Ghost Ranch series now and wondering what comes next. The connections on so many levels, with wonderful women I now call friends continues to inspire and energize me for new adventures. And for now, let’s keep dancing.
There is an international indigenous council of 13 Grandmothers who travel the world to bring healing prayers to the earth and her inhabitants. I met Hopi Grandmother Constance Mirabal in 1998, which I’ve written about in my post Magically Real and took part in a wisdom circle that Grandmother Florademayo led at the gathering. There were a number of indigenous women leading wisdom circles, which is a testament to the many programs at Ghost Ranch that honor our sacred connection to the earth. The opening prayer was led by Florademayo, who prayed and wept as she entered into spirit. Tears flowed often from our native presenters, sometimes as they felt personal grief and always on behalf of the divine mother. I’ve been in sweat lodges, sun dances, pow wows and meetings with Native American medicine people. I have witnessed the ways in which they enter other dimensions when the visions flow. Some of the dream symbols Florademayo shared with us were the healing power of triangles (shout out to Bucky Fuller) and her vision of the coming renewal of humanity, symbolized by the birth of the golden baby. The baby is a cross-cultural motif seen by people the world over. Florademayo’s passion for collecting seeds is another part of the renewal and the protection of heritage plants. The blue corn pictured here is a symbol of the Hopi people. There is a compassion, directness and humor about many of the indigenous people I’ve met. There is also a reservoir of sorrow, released in tears that often flow in healing ceremonies. For those of European descent, white guilt is no stranger at these gatherings. We had moments when it was the elephant in the room and others when it was on full display. It’s hard to avoid – the collective unconscious is burdened with pain and unspoken apologies for the sins of our fathers, which continue to this day. When she was asked by Hyun Kyung how she dealt with the anguish of her peoples’ genocide, Florademayo said, “You accept the past, move forward and quit looking back.” Perhaps our only hope for our planet and our humanity is to come together in healing for our past, our present and thus, our future. The collective shadow is in dire need of integration. It can no longer be projected onto the other, for we are all other and we are all one. Our world needs us to become the humane beings we really are. I shared my poem, these tears of joy with Grandmother Florademayo, affirming our connection to the beauty of the living light. May we continue to heal in love.
I sat in the morning sun watching the garden grow
Light glistening on spider webs
spun in moon’s rays just hours ago
Hummingbird gulped nectar
fueling its dizzy, spiraling flight
The light found me, seeping into my essence,
opening the eye that sees behind the veil
I saw the breath of the earth, rising up in radiating
needles of light, knitting the fabric of life
growing around and through me
So infused was I, witnessing this moment of creation
that tears fell softly down my cheeks
Moving beyond sorrow or joy
Naked in the presence of my Soul
The breath and the light, commingled
In loving recognition that moments
such as these are rare glimpses beneath
the endless parade of dos and don’ts
that occupy our daily lives
In the garden, sipping the wine of early morning’s light
I am moved to see what loving hand molds
This day into being
Professor Chung Hyung Kyung teaches at Union Theological Seminary in NYC, when she is not researching or talking with people around the world who are inspired by her story and her wisdom. Kidnapped and tortured in Korea as a university student, Hyun Kyung survived, emigrated to the United States and completed her graduate work in theology. She describes herself as a good Presbyterian girl growing up in Korea and has lived in a monastery in Tibet practicing Buddhist meditation, which she has incorporated into her faith and her feminism.
The Ted talk pictured above will give you a sense of her vibrant presence and how she views her Christian and Buddhist practice. An ongoing theme in her talk was breaking open – that hearts will be broken, but from that brokenness comes new life and new ways for the light to enter. She started her presentation with an invitation to forgive those who have wronged us and spoke about a series of men who were sent to torture her. Making a connection with her oppressors allowed her to postpone the inevitable torment, until she met a man whom she described as having suffered “soul loss.” Her talk was in honor of the man whose dead eyes betrayed no empathy for the young woman who had to choose between saving her lover or protecting her friends after withstanding the most violent abuse.
I spoke with many women who had been abused or even tortured. Some, as a result of government persecution and others, personally. They were all challenged to forgive what none could forget and they moved forward with courage and humor, some days better than others. Their hearts were broken and mended by an ongoing effort to live and love with respect for all. Dr. Irene Martinez was one of the wisdom circle presenters who spoke of her experience as a political prisoner in Argentina. In all these stories of abuse, the support of women for one another shined through, underscoring the intrinsically relational nature of who we are. We are partners in the dance of life, with much light to share.
Dr. Chung will lead a group of women across the DMZ into North Korea next summer. Women from the North and South have been meeting periodically to exchange recipes, talk about daily life and come to agreement that we all want a peaceful life. Our hearts are with them as they reach out in sisterhood across the barriers inflicted by war and famine in support of peace and healing.
Gloria Steinem is 80 years old, tall, unbowed and aging naturally. Her voice is strong and despite chronicling the setbacks women have faced in the last number of decades, she retains a light, dry sense of humor. Ms. Steinem took us on an historical tour of patriarchy – in religion, government and culture. Coming to the conference from Austin, TX (where women are fighting to retain control of their reproductive rights) I resonated with her statement that men control women by controlling reproduction. Patriarchy has institutionalized rape, genocide and created a capitalistic system in which fealty to God, King and husband have been legislated for centuries. She views monotheism as religious imperialism with an imperative to subjugate nature and thus, women and children. It’s hard to argue when women are still fighting the battle for fair and equitable representation in the workplace, at home and in government. What would the world look like if women were in charge?
In Texas, many of us have been struggling to get out the vote. Three of the young people in my office (students at a university) either were not registered to vote or did not know who was on the ballot. Among other important considerations, we are electing a Governor and Lt. Governor who will control the money and the laws that will represent the wishes of the people or those of powerful elites. Ms. Steinem rightly said that successful social movements are like a tree, starting with the roots and spreading upward. Our power lies in how and where we spend our money and in exercising our right to vote.
One of the most powerful stories Gloria told was the story of how Clarence Thomas eventually came to be appointed to the United States Supreme Court. In 1982 John Danforth, a Congressman from Missouri narrowly defeated his Democratic challenger, Harriet Woods, by roughly 2,000 votes in his bid for reelection. He had earlier appointed Clarence Thomas as his aide, introducing him to highly placed Republicans in Washington DC. Thomas was subsequently appointed to the United States court of Appeals by President GHW Bush. Then, only 16 months later he survived a hard fought confirmation hearing by a 52-48 vote (after Anita Hill accused him of sexual harassment). He was now the most conservative supreme court justice in the United States and has cast pivotal votes in electing George W Bush, among other decisions that have changed the course of history and will continue to do so. This is one of the best arguments I’ve heard for voting. Many people feel disenfranchised and unrepresented by their elected leaders. But I agree with Gloria; we really can make a difference by using our dollars wisely and by voting. There was a 13 year old girl at the conference who stood up on the last evening as we were summarizing what we would take home from our experience. She spoke passionately about how grateful she was to know that feminism is alive and well and that she now knew that whether or not she was considered weird by her friends, she had people. Let’s continue to fight the good fight for we are not done.