Nature Meditation – CLIMBING THE MOUNTAIN

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“You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.” Rene Daumal

The backpack sits heavy on my shoulders. In front of me the mountain stands tall. Beyond its peak, a cloudless sky foretells the added struggle the sun will bring to the ascent. It is amazing how something so desirable can become so detrimental. On any other day I would welcome this bright star shining down on me, but right now, my mind is filled with fantasies of giant clouds rolling in from beyond the horizon, spreading themselves over my head and taking away this sunny encumbrance. I close my eyes and dream of shade. Its cool and refreshing embrace which would boost my endurance and somehow magically make the load on my back much lighter.

I take a deep breath and murmur: “It is what it is! Tonight, I will be closer to the stars, sleeping at the summit, with a breathtaking view of the valley and a front row seat for sunrise tomorrow.”

The beginning is always treacherously easy. My body is full of energy and my mind swimming in optimism. The trail is wide and the inclination barely steeper than a regular hike. From down below, the climb appears as an imaginary line traced over a terrain that makes no difference between a solid slab of granite or a loose patch of igneous rocks.

Another deep breathe, another murmur: “It doesn’t look too difficult. It should take me about 3 hours”

In reality, as much as I want to believe I am in possession of all the information I need, as much as I want to predict the outcome, my knowledge and understanding of the endeavor is simply speculative. The truth is that I can only prepare myself for the expected and be ready for the unexpected.

Over the next 4 hours, I will trip twice. I will stop to rest more times than my pride wants to admit. I will wonder on several occasions why I thought it would be a good idea to go sleep at the top of the mountain. Five times I will look at my watch and ask myself how much longer is it going to take. In the last hour, my mind will repeat over and over: “Just one more step, I am almost there.” During the entire ascent, I will analyze mentally the content of my backpack, inside out, and wonder what gear I could have left behind to shed some weight, or what I could have done differently to alleviate the challenge.

But as I reach the summit, my sight is suddenly free to fly across the valley and my feeling of struggle disappears. Exhaustion and pain become something of the past, and all this released tension slingshots back, filling me with pure exhilaration and a deep sense of accomplishment. “I made it!” – a whisper escapes my lips.

Barely rested and refreshed, I look in all directions and rejoice at the view with all the new possibilities laid before my eyes. Today’s goal might have been about completing this ascent, but for my desire in seeking new experiences, it is only an episode. For my relentless curiosity and unwavering need to learn, today’s challenge was a simple lesson about myself and life.

This week, let us reflect on the places we want to go, the things we want to achieve, the goals we want to fulfill. Are we focused only on reaching these destinations or are we fully aware and connected with the process of moving forward. Are we open to the lessons and discoveries that will present themselves to us, in sometimes the most unexpected ways? Do we truly understand that these goals, these objectives, these places we want to go are only the gateway to other new adventures?

“For life–which is in any way worthy, is like ascending a mountain. When you have climbed to the first shoulder of the hill, you find another rise above you, and yet another peak, and the height to be achieved seems infinity: but you find as you ascend that the air becomes purer and more bracing, that the clouds gather more frequently below than above, that the sun is warmer than before and that you not only get a clearer view of Heaven, but that you gain a wider view of earth, and that your horizon is perpetually growing larger.” Endicott Peabody

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

Nature Meditation – TE NO UCHI

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Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Albert Einstein

It is a stormy day. The winds are blowing hard from the Pacific. The sky, which was blue and limitless yesterday, is now obstructed by dark clouds that loom over my head in a threatening manner. The ocean, which was calm and smoothing only 12 hours ago, is now pounding on the rocks with fury and in a thunderous crash. Amidst this chaotic landscape, sea gulls and terns glide with ease; a tip of a wing there, and one bird zooms across only inches above a breaking wave. These creatures have truly mastered the art of moving through the air, riding the invisible currents with finesse and grace.

Far out in the open I noticed a cargo ship pushing its way through — probably heading for a long ocean crossing — delivering goods to Asia. This beast of steel is defying the elements. Its immense volume is keeping it afloat. At its stern under water and hidden away, petals of metal are propelling it forward, while at its bow, the hull is clashing with the waves; steel against water, solidity against fluidity!

While the cargo ship and sea birds couldn’t be more different and representing a total opposite philosophy of moving through life, the two are actually relying and operating on the exact same core fundamental “tension”. Neither would exist without it. The ship would sink. Its steel would liquefy. The bird would fall. Its feathers would disappear. It is tension that keeps them together. It is tension that makes them move.

Just like the tree that stands tall, the sail that holds the wind, the rock on which I am now sitting, the legs that carry me, the beating of my heart, the sound of my voice, the neurons firing in my brain, the light that comes in through my eyes, the caress of a lover, a helping hand, or even this planet that hosts me and this sun that warms me; each fundamentally exist out of tension, at an intersection, a place where a particular force ends and another begins.

Tension is Nature. It is Life. It is the DNA of everything that is. It creates energy. It is movement and resistance. It is creation and destruction. It is a pause through which life emerges. And the absence of it is Death.

Life is a dynamic journey filled with endless forces. Some of those you will see coming, others will leave you in shock. The goal is not to avoid the resulting tensions but rather to move with them, accept them, embrace them, flourish with them. Understand their necessity and power of transformation.

The Japanese have an expression – Te No Uchi, which originates from finding the perfect sword grip, one that is strong enough so that it can resist a blow, but light enough so that it can be agile and responsive. Today the words are used to express the mastery one has in maintaining the right amount of tension, independently of the forces at play.

This week, whether at work or while doing a headstand, lets take a moment to meditate on the tensions that surround us. Am I a bird? Moving with ease and grace, going with the flow, and using the least amount of energy. Or am I a cargo ship? Plowing my way through, strong and steady but demanding great effort. In this era of change, how can we maintain enough tension so that we can sustain any upcoming challenges while at the same time be flexible enough so that we don’t crack under pressure?

Stillness is not the absence of tensions but rather a harmony within them

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


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Nature Meditation – BREATHING IN, BREATHING OUT

“Our bodies have formed themselves in delicate reciprocity with the manifold textures, sounds, and shapes of an animate earth – our eyes have evolved in subtle interaction with other eyes, as our ears are attuned by their very structure to the howling of wolves and the honking of geese. To shut ourselves off from these other voices, to continue by our lifestyles to condemn these other sensibilities to the oblivion of extinction, is to rob our own senses of their integrity, and to rob our minds of their coherence. We are human only in contact, and conviviality, with what is not human.” David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous

My diaphragm contracts creating a vacuum within my lungs that sucks in the air, bringing in the molecules of oxygen on which my survival depends. These two organs, each the size of a football, protected under my rib cage, contain more than 1500 miles of airways. This intricate system of organic conduits in various sizes carries the Earth’s gas all the way to 700 million plus microscopic look alike broccoli head called alveoli. These anatomical structures, in turn, perform an action that has defined the very nature of life since the beginning of time: they take and give back. Oxygen is stripped away from the air, and carbon dioxide is returned. As my diaphragm relaxes, it forces the lungs to release a breath of equal proportion but now of a different composition. My exhale will feed a different kind of organism which will proceed in a reverse manner; delivering oxygen while absorbing carbon dioxide.

The output of one is the input of another. And the output from the other is the very same input to the first one.

Every time I inhale, every time I exhale, I am reminded of my interdependence in a reciprocal cycle that has been going on for millions of years. Each molecule that enters my body, has been recycled billions of times, breathed in and breathed out by living and past species for eons, and will be for eons more.

My lungs are the embodiment of this reciprocity. Their main purpose is to connect me with the universe, and with nature. To take from it and give back. As much as one would want this to be a one-way relationship, it is simply impossible to exist without participating. Breathing in is taking from nature, and breathing out is giving back to nature. The more I breathe in, the more I breathe out. The more I take, the more I give back.

“There is one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life — reciprocity.” Confucius

In our existence, if our bodies are a product of reciprocity, what then will happen if we isolate and disconnect ourselves from the natural world? If the brain has evolved in face of challenges to solve, if our capacity to learn exists only because of our necessity to adapt, then what will we become if we let technology do everything for us? If we forgo the sensuous realm of our senses, are we consequently setting the stage for their disappearance?

This week, lets meditate on our breath and its transcending dynamic. Let’s reflect on our senses and their reciprocal existence. Are we breathing in more than we are breathing out? Is it time for us to let go of our breathe and give back?

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


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S2 = C + P

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The beach was made of this creamy white sand – powdery granules made of crushed shells and limestone eroded over millions of years, moved with the tides, currents and wind, slowly and gradually pushed back against the shore, grain after grain, and now forming the soft cushion I was resting on. This quiet little place located on the westerly side of Isla Espiritu Santo, just outside La Paz in Baja California Sur, was tuck between two long cliffs made of a multitude of volcanic ash layers, a product of the Miocene Era. Just like a pair of blinkers on a horse, these mineral fingers that advanced way far into the water, protecting this tiny oasis, were also preventing me from seeing the vastness of the Gulf of California, restricting my sight of this interior sea to just a sliver of emerald water. But that didn’t really matter since darkness had fallen and now my gaze was looking up, laying on my back, my hands behind my head, my eyes lost in an ocean of stars.

I was contemplating a world that was beyond my comprehension, a reality that was bigger than me, a universe that hold more secrets and treasures than I could fathom, and this reigning serenity was the perfect way to end the day.

The morning started with a gentle breeze, as the sun peeking above the horizon began its ascent into a cloudless blue sky, flooding the air with warmth, fueling invisible particles of oxygen and nitrogen with heat, causing them to move and swirl faster and generating the wind that would later slow my progress. This transition from darkness to light, this dance between the Sun and the Earth was affecting everything – the air, the ocean, the animals, the plants, and myself.

This planetary movement was intricately linked to the complex biological process that was happening in my body as my eyes were opening after longs hours of sleep, a ritual that has been fine tuning itself for thousands and thousands of year. The level of melatonin in my blood was decreasing as the presence of cortisol was going up. It is believed that this event is linked to the hippocampus in preparation of facing stress during the day. My lungs were expanding with more vigor, flooding my blood cells with oxygen, waking my muscles back from their comatose state. The same muscles that would later push against the wind.

Every part of my body was awakening. Slowly, I was becoming more in tuned with my surroundings. My existence on this planet was connected to the Universe. These carbon atoms of which my body is made of were affected by a star millions of miles away, by the gravity of the moon above me and by the unknown forces that controlled the solar system. How is it possible that we believe that Life revolves around us?

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With every paddle stroke, my thoughts, my worries, my wishes, my struggles, my joys and my pains are stripped away, leaving me naked but with clarity and perspective.

After cooking breakfast, sipping yerba mate and packing the gear into the kayak, I walked into the sea pulling the kayak off the beach. With a quick jump, I maneuvered myself into the cockpit and started to paddle. Looking back one last time, I offered my goodbyes to an imaginary host – a customary practice I do every time I arrive and depart a location, paying my respects to a place which doesn’t belong to me, honoring the hospitality I humbly received. In the same manner that I always ask the Ocean permission every time I travel its realm. It is not a religious belief but rather the understanding that my future is in the hands of nature.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Henry David Thoreau

The clear blue sky had become swamped with hundreds of white smudges, much like the freckles on a summer skin. The peaceful clarity of the morning had left and in its place was some kind of an orchestrated chaos. The pelicans were flying everywhere and diving on bait fish while being harassed by sea gulls that trailed them like leeches. Rays of all different sizes jumped out of the water mysteriously, giving me the impression that the sea had turned into a giant Whack-A-Mole game. Frigate birds high in the sky keeping an eye on passing-by blue-foot boobies, waiting to steal their catch. Turkey vultures gliding effortlessly counting the days for the nearby carcass of a sea lion to reach its perfect decomposition state. Bouncing waves from the cliff with the current running around the island, plus the waves coming from the open sea and the head winds were creating this tempestuous surface that made me feel like I was sitting on a mechanic bull. And that was only what I could see. I am sure that if I poked my head underwater, I would discover another world of madness. All this energy, these whirlwinds of life, this pool of bouncing atoms, was creating heat, moving up and feeding what were now giants puffy monoliths.

No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even bored solitude in the wilderness, finding himself depending solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strength” Jack Kerouac

The tent was up and the dinner was cooked. Pelicans were still feeding, picking the last of the survivors of what had been earlier in the day a bait ball of probably in the tens of thousands. But the way they flew and dove looked heavy and lazy. Even the sea gulls had giving up pestering them, instead floating on the water or resting on a rock nearby screaming like young spoiled brats – Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine! I was reminded for a second of what we must look like after a Thanksgiving dinner, stuffed to the ears and still reaching out across the table grabbing one last piece and managing swallowing it down only with a deep breath. Who said we were different from the animals?

After its daily journey across sky, the sun was about to disappear behind the horizon, painting the sky with deep hues of orange, pink, red, and purple. Had there been no clouds but a perfect empty sky, the sunset would have still been enjoyable but would have lacked panache. It would have been simple, humdrum, kind of stale and monotonous. There wouldn’t have been any deep hues and many colors. There would have been only a general fading of the light accompanied by a possible green flash and some orange leftover at the end. It was all this energy, this chaos, this frenzy of everything this world is made of, that this sunset was feeding on and giving it back to everyone to see in the most spectacular show ever produced. Beauty was literally rising from the depths of madness.

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The wind was barely rolling over the water and the round fluffy silhouettes up above were moving away. The night was taking hold and bringing along with it its posses. Venus, Jupiter, Vega, Arcturus, and Regulas were the first to show up but give another hour and the room would be filled with billions of others. As much as this place was buzzing with noise just hours earlier, now silence was of order.

It seemed to be a necessary ritual that he should prepare himself for sleep by meditating under the solemnity of the night sky… a mysterious transaction between the infinity of the soul and the infinity of the universe.” Victor Hugo

Laying down on that beach, I let the world sink in. I let my thoughts disappear. I let the silence take over. I am staring at this night sky filled with stars and know that, like earlier, looking out and seeing only a sliver of the sea, I am seeing only a tiny fragment of what we call the Universe. There is so much out there. How can we think so much of ourselves in front of such inexplicable beauty and mystery? Why are we so insecure about our evolutionary identity? Why can’t we find comfort in the knowledge and humility that there are things that are bigger than us? Having no meaning in the big scheme of the universe doesn’t mean we have no meaning in life. It just means that ultimately, we matter for a moment, for the ones around us. And that is important. But in the end, the atoms that we borrowed are returned. And the only things left are memories and legacies. Even those, unfortunately for the ones who have past but to the benefit of the ones who will come, will fade away with time.

The cacophony of life is necessary. The buzzing and frenzy of our culture has a creative purpose and we shouldn’t underestimate its value but more importantly, clarity and perspective happen only when silence and solitude are present. In our culture of multi-tasking, every hour filled with endless distractions and finding ourselves relentlessly connected to our technology devices, these alone times are becoming rarer and rarer leaving us with an incapacity to delve and think deeper, stuck in the shallowness found within 140 characters. More than ever, we must find the time to STOP. BREATHE. RELAX & LISTEN.

S2 = C + P (Solitude & Silence = Clarity + Perspective)

In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in an clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness.” Mahatma Gandhi

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#ThePowerOfNature

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Stories unite us and nature heals us. It is for that reason that I have decided to start a new Facebook Page focused on YOUR storytelling relating to how NATURE has changed your life, and how it has helped you become a better person.

This page is for everyone to post. Feel free to share your experiences, your inspiration, your moments of bliss, your lessons learned, your insightful hikes, your peaceful paddles, your challenging backcountry explorations; share any story that highlights the power of nature to restore our human spirit.

Nature is more than a destination. It is a teacher, a meditation, it is food for the soul and the body, inspiration for the arts, a healer, a mentor, a lover – what is Nature for you? Tell us!

Please use the hashtag #ThePowerOfNature when posting on Twitter, Instagram and Google +. Every month we will award a signed print of my work to one lucky winner, among the ones who posted throughout all social media platforms (Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Google +).