Nature Meditation – ARE YOU A CHEETAH OR A LION?

“… the speed is the problem because it prevents us from reflecting where we want to go and how we want to get there.” Christian Seelos, author of “Innovate and Scale: A Tough Balancing Act”

This animal is pure beauty! It is truly a phenomenal feat of Nature’s engineering. Everything in its body has evolved following one simple logic: how to maximize the intake while minimizing the losses, so that it can deliver the quickest and fastest output. Its large nostrils increase the oxygen flow. Its lungs and heart, size for size 3 1/2 times that of a lion, work together to move and process oxygen more quickly and efficiently. Its bones are light, legs are fine and elongated, chest deep and waist narrow. This creature’s entire anatomy is built around one purpose: powerful bursts of speed. Within 3 seconds, the cheetah can reach 60 mph (96 km/h). Its maximum speed is 75 mph (120 km/h), the fastest for any land animal. Watching this majestic Felinae in action, zooming across the savanna, leaves any witness stunned with admiration. Its delivery of power with such agility is simply magnificent.

But this evolutionary strategy has come at a tremendous cost. For the sake of speed, the cheetah has had to position itself into a survival niche that is extremely fragile, has little room for error and comes with serious side effects. Its hunting strategy, while quite extraordinary, can’t be sustained for very long. With so much energy focus on one prey, there isn’t much room left for plan B. Its compact and undersized muscle mass makes it hard for the cheetah to go after large prey, instead focusing on the smaller ones. When successful in its hunt, the wild cat is so tired that it has to wait up to 30 minutes before eating, putting itself at risk for other more powerful and opportunistic predators. Hunting at such speed also makes collaboration challenging so, consequently, most cheetah hunt alone. Sight is their predominant sense making them diurnal hunters – as scent is not the most efficient of senses at high speed. Finally, with all the energy in one basket, little is left to defend itself, so it is no surprise that the cheetah is the more productive breeder of all the big cats, counting on a high number of cubs to assure at least one survivor. Within the family of Felidae, the cheetah is the most vulnerable species and the least capable of adapting to new environments.

The lion, on the other hand, has opted for a more social and balanced strategy: social structure being at the core of their evolutionary survival. They are not the fastest runners but they can defend themselves. They often hunt alone but will gather in a large group when needed. When they do, their communal hunts are organized and strategic. Their sight, scent and hearing are equally sharp, giving them the advantage at night. Being social, lions are known for their wide range of communication. Not the best at one thing, but great at so many, it is no surprise that the lion is culturally known as the “King of the Jungle.”

The cheetah and lion’s comparison is greatly insightful when we apply it to our modern and post-industrial society. Technology is all about speed, innovating at an exponential pace leaving us in a constant state of catching up. Elevating the individual over the group, we feel isolated. We complain about having no time and convince ourselves we need to go faster, do everything faster and live faster. While the benefits of living such a life are enticing and exciting, we are putting ourselves into a vary narrow survival niche that has little room for error.

This week, let’s meditate on the pace on which we live our lives. Am I, are you, are we a Cheetah? Or a Lion? Do our values protect and nurture a slower, more balanced and social lifestyle? Or a lifestyle of individuality and speed at the expense of everything else?

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Nature Meditation – UBUNTU

… a person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are.” Desmond Tutu

Sitting on a log, with my head slightly tilted forward, I noticed an ant on the ground moving among the pine needles; the same needles that at some point resided on the tree. Once, they fed a wooded giant by collecting sunlight and capturing the air; now, they create an obstacle of monumental proportion to a species 2,000 times smaller than me.

The beauty in the moment was filled on a total different level; when alive and green, these coniferous leaves were the benefit of one organism; now dead and brown, they were finding a new purpose. Fallen and released from their host, their collective shear number covered the ground and acted as a blanket that kept the heat trapped under. The heat was necessary to energize the micro organisms that fed on organic matter, needles included. Decomposed and turned into nutrients, these needles were now feeding the soil, the same soil in which the tree was rooted, the same soil from which the tree fed itself from.

Nature is an endless cycle of dependency and duality: the needles wouldn’t exist without the tree and the tree wouldn’t exist without the needles. The soil wouldn’t exist without the trees and the trees wouldn’t exist without the soil. Nothing in the world exists by itself, everything and everyone “is” because of its relationship to another, or to others. This understanding of life is at the core of the South African philosophy, Ubuntu – “I am because of You”, “I am what I am because of who we all are.”

While it’s true that Africa is a harsh place, I also know it to be a place whose people, animals and ecosystems teach us about a more interconnected world…” Boyd Varty

It is hard to look at what happened in Paris last week and see that our lives are not only deeply connected to the ones who perished in the event but also to the ones who committed the crimes. Without taking away the severity of the atrocity perpetrated mercilessly, we must surrender to the reality that these actions happened only because they are part of a bigger, connected, and an unfortunate vicious cycle, one in which we all participate.

“You are who you are because of me.” “They are who they are because of us.” 

Understanding the reciprocity of life is crucial if we wish to learn how to prevent future condemnable acts of extreme violence. And the place to start is within ourselves. This week, lets meditate on the past, moments in our lives where we felt attacked, disrespected, or accused; moments of anger, frustration and impatience. If the world is in reciprocity with who I am, if my surroundings is a mirror to my being, am I then a source of love and compassion? Am I inviting kindness and forgiveness or am I creating the exact monster I am now battling?

“So Ubuntu — for us it means that the world is too small, our wisdom too limited, our time here too short, to waste any more of it in winning fleeting victories at other people’s expense.” Bill Clinton

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Nature Meditation – SEEING WHAT WE WANT TO SEE

“Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.”Arthur Schopenhauer

I am standing atop a mountain, looking out, mesmerized. The landscape upon which my eyes are feasting is an  intense dynamic sea of clouds. There are clouds below  in the valley rising up, as if the ground was boiling. There are clouds above in the sky that grow exponentially and create an unexpected optical illusion, like fractals  expanding continuously, yet occupying the same space. Then there are clouds in front of me, blanketing the horizon, covering the slopes of countless mountains, their peaks appearing and disappearing like floating islands playing hide and seek in an ocean of cotton balls.

Staring and contemplating, I am reminded of the fog in San Francisco, a living entity that rolls over the hills, blown from the Pacific and playing tricks on the Bay’s inhabitants. Its magical powers are undeniably formidable. Its mastery in the art of illusion is irrefutable. Some days, it manages to make the entire Golden Gate Bridge disappear. On other days, it hides the city of San Francisco, one of America’s largest cities, behind such a thick opaque white curtain that for anyone sitting on the shores of Marin County or Berkeley, nothing can be seen except for a giant wall of nothingness.

On such a day, imagine what it would mean if you knew nothing of this area. Passing by, driving north or south on Highway 80, your experience of this location would be reduced to seeing a seemingly boring landscape, nothing more than a white horizontal veil spreading in all directions. When in fact, behind the fog lies one of the most powerful and iconic cities in the world.

Every time I see clouds, or fog, I think about all the treasures, worlds of wonder, truths and realities that remain hidden, away from our existence, away from our consciousness. Not because they are unreachable and unattainable, but only because we let ourselves be blinded by something that is nothing more than a smoke screen. Over the course of my life; through my ups and downs, successes and failures, gains and losses, I have come to understand how this insight from nature is at the core of my life journey and the foundation to my happy life. What we choose to believe, what we choose to see and hear, is only a perspective of a much bigger reality. A perspective that is defined by our chosen beliefs, values, and fears. In other words, what we see is what we want to see. We believe what we want to believe.

Yet these narratives we create are like the clouds that magically take away mountains, bridges, and cities from our visual realm. The limitations and boundaries we perceive are nothing more than an illusion, a perspective relative to a wide range of pre-conceived notions.

When I look up to the sky, I see the clouds that hide the blue atmosphere behind. When I do see the blue sky, I am blinded of the Universe that lays beyond. At night, when I look up and marvel at the sky saturated with stars, the gargantuan and unimaginable world of wonders that exist beyond, outside of our realm of comprehension, still remains hidden to me. When I look at someone, despite being able to see them, touch them, and feel them, what is inside of them, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually is a complete mystery.

This week, meditate on what you believe in; these narratives that have come to define your life. Are they limiting your capacity for a much greater and happierlife? Are they expanding your consciousness? Are they hiding you from a world where love and compassion prevail? Are you ready to bear straight ahead, seeking what lies in and beyond the fog?

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Nature Meditation – GETTING LOST

“ “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” Henry David Thoreau

The irony of the situation is hard to miss. This week’s meditation theme is about “getting lost” and here I am, writing these lines, lost in a world of in-between, in an unwanted place, away from my tribe, struggling to find my bearing. Yesterday, my life was structured and somewhat stable; I had plans, a schedule, confirmed engagements, and I had just celebrated the passing of a major personal milestone. And today, well, all the cards have been thrown up in the air and where they will fall is still unknown. Hours ago, my compass was bearing straight ahead, steady and holding course; now I look at the needle and it is pointing to all directions, going everywhere but the place where I want to go, leaving me in a twilight zone of torment.

How many times have, each one of us, felt this way? How many times have we faced uncertainty, the feeling of powerlessness creeping from the inner depth of our insecurity? In all my years of solo wilderness expeditions and in my personal life, I have always been able to look back at those moments of feeling lost, and, with the acquired wisdom, to see how positively transforming those truly unfortunate events turned out to be; how much I grew personally and spiritually. Despite knowing in my core that it was going to be ok, that I would make it through, I had been there before and that I had all the tools and capacity to find my way again, this chaotic present is still a burden of monumental proportion. And that is ok.

Erika Harris has a wonderful quote: “It is good to feel lost… because it proves you have a navigational sense of where “Home” is. You know that a place that feels like being found exists. And maybe your current location isn’t that place but, Hallelujah, that unsettled, uneasy feeling of lost-ness just brought you closer to it.

Besides reaffirming our sense of belonging, these forced detours are always filled with treasures, if only we let ourselves be open to being able to see them. I have lost count of the times when I have found the most beautiful places, met the most amazing people, lived the most incredible moments, and discovered my most cherished possessions, more often after finding myself lost and surrendering to the moment, letting the flow of life carry me, and my intuitions guide me.

There is an undeniable sadness and anxiety when faced with uncertainty. Let’s be honest, who really takes complete pleasure in being at a point in time and space that seems to be disconnected from everything? A location that has no name, no clear direction, no obvious way out? Should I go this way? Or that way? What if the solutions are in the opposite direction? Am I making things worse? Am I walking towards a precipice or closer to home? The answers, as distant as they may seem, reside inside of us, inside our “inner fire”, that place made of energy which is connected to everything and everyone. It is that place that feeds our intuition, that whisper which only wants to protect us. My fears and doubts will often be the loudest and quickest to react, urging me to flee and find shelter. But in those moments where my sense of orientation disappears, the bearing to find my way through the heavy fog, the path that will take me back home, the clarity that will illuminate my world once again and lift away that opaque shroud, all appear when I surrender and open myself first. The key is to accept the predicament and understand that I have no power over the past but I do hold the keys to the future.

Meditate on the times in your life where you’ve lost yourself not to the events, but to your fears and doubts. In the future how can you make sure not to give in to these negative feelings? We all get lost from time to time, it is an inevitable part of life. But whether these moments make us grow spiritually, happier, wiser, and richer, is within our control.

The Power of Nature to Nurture, Awaken, Transcend, Uplift Restore, Elevate, the Human Spirit


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