Last week I was on a family vacation at Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks. I was really excited, because for as much of a city mouse as I am, I LOVE nature. And this is some serious nature! The Seqouias are HUGE. We went to Muir Woods, where they are taller, and then Sequoia, where they are so wide that it took more than twenty of us, arms outstretched and holding hands, to complete the “circle” we were standing in, that was an outline of one of the tree stumps.
Like, this big
(that would be my teenage niece in the pink running into the tree.)
It was, literally, awesome. I was in awe.
And: I had no cell service. The hotels in the parks supposedly had “wifi” –the quotes denote that they called it wifi, but I experienced something barely resembling wifi. Those little curved lines were there, but alas, I was not online. And NO cell signal. Couldn’t even text my family if we got separated.
So no calls, no texts, no emails. For a few days.
Sidebar: I recently became a certified facilitator for a program called SHINE through the Center for Mindful Awareness. I’m actually embarking just this week on my first formal gig after an 18-month training process, co-facilitating a 10-week group that offers mindfulness in practical, everyday ways to underserved populations (This one happens to be at a shelter). The founder of CMA, my teacher Amy Bloom Connolly, came up with her signature nine “keys to mindfulness”. Each one is not only a stand-alone, easily mastered practice, but they come on key tags so the participants can easily remember to use them.
And one of the keys is called “STOP”. It’s an acronym for: Stop, Take a breath, Open and Observe, and Proceed. It’s a great one-super helpful, when you can remember to use it. Of course it can be especially hard to remember, often, when you might need it most. You know, those times when we get mind-less, when thoughts and stories and emotions take over. When the fight-or-flight kicks in, and we are anywhere but the present.
So….back to my trip. I was feeling torn. Really stoked to be among these amazing HUGE trees in this breathtaking place. The smell of eucalyptus was literally intoxicating, and the sky was so clear, that we did a star-gazing night where we laid on the ground and looked up at a sky…. so devoid of unnatural light, so brilliant with stars, that I felt like I was at the planetarium. I had to remind myself: the planetarium is a freaking MOCK UP of THIS.
And, really anxious about not being digitally connected. It’s ridiculous, really, but I’m as guilty of it as anyone: I missed checking my email. (which really means, I missed deleting a bunch of emails from lists I should no longer be on, and reading non-essential things like there’s a new Meetup Group or an essay on a blog I follow.) And don’t even start me on Facebook. I’m too ashamed. Anyway.
After a full day of looking up at trees and walking THROUGH trees and taking panoramic pictures of trees and just feeling so completely full of fresh air and history and nature, I came back, and immediately re-commenced ruminating about what I was missing because of the “wifi” (not wifi). The ruminating continued on my walk back to my room to get ready for dinner.
And then I looked up and saw this.
And I did.
I stopped walking. I took a deep breath. I chuckled to myself, and I thought of STOP in SHINE: Stop. Take a breath. Open and Observe. Proceed.
And so, I did just that. I stopped, took a nice deep breath-inhaling the wonderful mountain air, felt my heart open, and observed: “hey doof, you are on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation in an amazing place!” and then proceeded….to walk to my room and get ready for dinner.
The Universe is always looking after us. We just have to notice the *signs*.
(looking up at the sky in Sequoia National Park)
photo creds: EBWexler