Tag Archives: healing

Finding My Zen

In the midst of all the hate-filled rhetoric and fear going on right now in this country I have found a greater need to spend time out in nature in order to ground myself and find peace.

My goal is to share the beauty of nature with others so that they too might find that same peace and be encouraged get out and commute with nature themselves.

So, here are a few of my favorite Zen moments from my journeys.

All photographs ©Tracy J Thomas, 2016. All rights reserved.


Zen Moment 3 – Connecting With the Gifts That Nature Gives Us

  

** Raccoon wading through the wetlands, Yolo Wildlife Area, Davis, CA. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved. **

“When you touch one thing with deep awareness, you touch everything.” – Lao Tzu

I am constantly surprised by nature’s little gifts. A few days ago I went on a walk at the Yolo Wildlife Area and chose to head up the gravel road I have walked dozens of times. There are wetlands that hug each side of this road and it provides a great view of a wide variety of waterfowl and shorebirds.

It was a typical Spring morning where I spotted and photographed Egrets, Blue Heron, American Coot, Mallards, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shovelers, Ibis, Stilts, and Avocets. I walked and stopped every now and then to capture another photo and marveled at the chorus of birdsong and the beauty of this oasis so close to the city where I live. I felt grounded and thankful that I was able to begin my day in such a wonderful way. 

While lost in the moment, I caught a sudden movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned towards a tall Thistle plant on the edge of the water and was amazed to see a Raccoon slip into the water and begin to wade towards a small island of reeds. In all my trips out there I have never come across a Raccoon, especially not in daylight since they are nocturnal creatures by nature. 

I stood there amazed at the scene as it unfolded before me. The Raccoon was equally amazed to see me standing there and for a moment we held a silent vigil as our eyes locked on to the other. I raised my camera slowly and took a few photographs and video of this amazing creature and tried to reassure it through my relaxed demeanor that I meant it no harm.

My original intent that morning was to get some exercise in with a nice brisk walk, alas, the Universe had a different plan for me. This unexpected gift found me standing there for a good hour just watching and waiting as the Raccoon waded from island to island and searched the reeds for Crawdads to eat. Every time it would finish its search it would peek out at me from between the reeds then enter the water and make its way towards the next island.

The entire time I stood there watching I felt a smile spread wide across my face. There was nothing else but me, the Raccoon, a Hallelujah chorus of birdsong, and my giant smile. Any stress I felt at the start of that morning was dissipated. It was exactly how nature intended it to be. The two of us, lost in the moment of our surprising communion as we danced our pas de deux to the music of this magical Universe.

** Click to purchase Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature on Amazon. **


Zen Moment 2 – Go With the Flow

  

 

“Flow with whatever may happen and let your mind be free.” – Chuang Tzu

I have always been drawn to water. Whether the reflection of the clouds in a calm lake, the peaceful sound of a trickling brook, the hypnotic repetition of waves hitting the shoreline, or the breathtaking sight of a waterfall as it cascades down the face of a mountain, water relaxes me and clears my mind of all the clutter.

Water cools, refreshes, both gives and sustains life. The human body is more than 60% water. Without it we would die. For many, water symbolizes emotional energy, the subconscious, growth, and creative potential. For me it represents the rhythm of life. Water ebbs, it flows, it sits calmly, it roars, it carves canyons out of solid rock, it falls gently from the sky and touches the petals of a rose. 

Whenever I have the chance I make my way towards a body of water and I watch and I listen. The song is never the same. The message always different. At times it feels as if it passes right through me, renews me, saturates the parts of me that had dried out from neglect. 

If water were to serve as a metaphor for anything in my own life it would be one of change and growth. My most life-changing decisions and moments of growth have occurred when a body of water was present. Whatever water may mean to you, I hope you make the choice to incorporate it into your life on occasion. Walk along the beach and watch the ocean stretch out before you. Put your bare feet in a cool creek and feel it run over and through your toes. Listen to the magnificence as it roars down the side of a mountain. And more than anything let it set your mind free.

** Follow the “Zen in the Garden” YouTube Channel for more “Zen Moments” here. **

** Click to purchase Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature on Amazon. **


Embracing Those Zen Moments

  

Sunday morning I went to church. But this was not your typical preacher at the pulpit, dressed in our Sunday finest, we seek forgiveness for our multitude of sins, here’s five percent of my paycheck, followed by breakfast at Denny’s type of church. It was instead my personal choice of places to go when seeking communion with the Divine. My church of choice is Nature.

I grew up in those traditional houses of worship, but as an adult I find them uncomfortable and often filled with hypocrisy. Please don’t get me wrong, I do not harbor disdain for those who choose a traditional church as their place of worship, but I personally have been unable to find my own peace there. 

When I walk in nature with my feet planted firmly against the earth, embraced by the breeze and serenaded by bird song, I become instantly relaxed and at peace. In those moments I feel closer to a God than any other time in my life. Everything makes sense to me as I walk along and see the beauty before my eyes.

Yesterday I had one of those little “Zen Moments” where I felt connected to everything and found beauty in the simple things. My hope for each of you this week is you will find your own Zen moments as you navigate this noisy life.

** Follow the “Zen in the Garden” YouTube Channel for more “Zen Moments” here. **

** Click to purchase Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature on Amazon. **


For Every Ending There is a Beginning



** A Dandelion flower in the fall as it begins to dry out and die. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014-2015. All rights reserved. **

I have been thinking a lot lately of endings and beginnings. I suppose my reflection is motivated by several events that have occurred in my life. My age for one. The older I get the more contemplative I become as I slither towards that inevitable ending with this dance on earth. Yet I do realize life can become extinguished at a moment’s notice and not necessarily at the point when one is old and wrinkled and worn out. 

The second motivator has been my health challenges over the past two years. First it was West Nile Virus followed a year later by treatment for skin cancer. Both were stressful physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Illness brings you face to face with your own mortality and changes you in ways you could never imagine while in good health.

When friends die or face serious illness or debilitating accidents, especially when they are younger than myself, it causes me to pause and take a good hard look at how I am currently living my life. Over the past month one of my friends and former Aikido Sensei’s, Denise, died from a sudden illness. She was eleven years younger than me. This was followed by the news of my friend Julie’s accident that has left her locked in a coma. Two very valid reasons why thoughts of the precarious balance between life and death have been brought to the forefront of my mind.

Nature is the perfect reflection of endings and beginnings. Within it there are many. It is the place to come to an understanding of the fluid nature of life. When you take a walk in the forest evidence of the cycle of life is everywhere. Out of the decomposing duff created by a fallen tree, wildflower and tree seedlings spring forth. The end of one thing makes possible the other. And on and on it goes.

Spring approaches quickly and the evidence is mounting. That which has passed before has allowed new life to arise. People die and babies are born. A flower wilts and another opens its petals to the sun. One door closes and another one opens. Life continues and ends right in front of us every single day. Whether or not we live the moments we are given fully, is our own decision. Whatever our choice, there will continue to be endings that turn into beginnings and beginnings that come to an end.



** Lupine growing near Bassi Falls, Eldorado National Forest, California. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved. **

Click here to purchase Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature on Amazon.


A Dance in the Spring Rain



This morning I woke up to a cleansing Spring rain. Unlike the east coast, things have been extremely dry here in California so any bit of moisture that falls from the heavens is welcomed with open arms. 

So in the spirit of my little book “Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature,” I decided to start my morning off by donning my rain boots and doing a little puddle dance. It was so refreshing to stand in the rain and feel the drops fall on my face. I immediately felt more alive, awake, and cleansed.



For me the rain makes a perfect backdrop to focus on my writing. The remainder of my day will be spent working on one of several companion books to “Zen in the Garden.” The first one I am writing is about growing and harvesting herbs and spices for health and healing.

I will of course take many breaks throughout the day to stand in the rain, take photos of the new blooms in the garden, Look for the rainbow, and refresh my soul. My hope is each one of you will find a bit of time for yourselves today to sit quietly somewhere in nature and renew your souls.


A Deep Peaceful Slumber



A dear friend of mine who I have known for close to twenty years is entering her fourth week of a coma following a serious auto accident. She was the passenger in a car when the driver fell asleep. Apparently the car hit a guardrail and careened off the highway, then slammed into a concrete drainage ditch nose first.  Julie’s head was slammed so hard against the door frame that it knocked her unconscious. 

Long before I knew her, when she was in high school, she was in another tragic accident. A car she was riding in with several other high school friends overturned on the Petaluma bridge. It threw several of them from the car. From what I remember at least one of them died. Julie suffered major injuries including a broken neck, back and head. Her survival from that harrowing experience at such a young age changed her, I am certain.

The one thing I know and admire about Julie is her strength and determination. She has always been so full of life, a ball of eminating energy, a true force to be reckoned with. Her laugh is immediately recognizable and can move a room filled with somber, angry people to break out into laughter at a moment’s notice. Physically, Julie is a sleek powerhouse. A bodybuilder and fitness trainer, she has continued to work hard into her 40’s to maintain her health and her strength. She is truly an inspiration.

Like a lot of us, Julie has struggled with her own share of ugly demons in this life but has continued to face them in order to be there for her beautiful daughter whom she loves dearly. I am so proud of her for fighting the battles she has faced. I know in my heart they have not been easy battles. As her friend there have been many days I wished I could have been there for her when life became so difficult. Even though I wasn’t there for her in person, I know she understands in the quiet spaces of her heart I was always there for her in thought and in prayer.

As she lays there in her hospital bed in her deep, peaceful slumber, I often wonder if her spirit is aware. Can she see and hear her family who love her so dearly as they keep a vigil at her side? Does she reach out to touch them ever so lightly on their cheeks from some unseen distance in an effort to comfort and bring them peace while they wait? Is she strolling through a peaceful valley picking a boquet of flowers to give to her mother and daughter when she returns? Can she see her life play back in a slow motion review and finally understand now what an amazing human being she truly is?

Wherever you are right now my friend, whatever you can see or hear or feel, I hope it is nothing less than peaceful. You deserve peace. You deserve rest. You deserve to understand the arms of those who embrace you with their love are not going to leave you. They are there for you and are waiting for you to open those beautiful blue eyes so you can meet the true gaze of their naked, loving souls.


Walking in the Forest With My Eyes Closed



Have you ever stood still in the forest for a moment to listen to the whisperings of all that surrounds you? Have you ever closed your eyes while walking on a trail for a few steps then opened them to see something new you had failed to see just moments before? If you haven’t, I suggest you try it. If you have, then I think you will agree it is a great way to “see” and experience things differently.

Our days are filled with noise pollution and visual stimuli that tends to overwhelm our senses and shut us down to what surrounds us. A self-preservation mechanism that can backfire by blinding us to the beauty that also exists in our everyday environments. In our busy world most of us have lost touch with ourselves and the connection we each had to the earth when we were children.

The simple joy we felt as children has been replaced by mounting stress. The willingness to explore our natural environment with inquisitiveness and a feeling of wonder has diminished over time and been replaced by the shallow demands of life. How sad that we become so lost as adults we forget about the beauty that exists right in front of us.

Life should be about living. Life should be about happiness and joy. When we take a few moments each day to discover and reconnect with the beauty that is in nature we can begin to change our perspective. We can find balance and a renewed sence of peace. It can really be as simple as walking out your door and smelling the flowers for a few minutes before you climb into your car to head off to work. Take a short walk at lunchtime and make a point of finding one beautiful thing in nature that you haven’t noticed before. You don’t have to be in the middle of a forest to find it. You can even find it in the middle of a busy city. Feel the cool breeze on your face, smile at a puffy white cloud in the sky, breathe in the fragrant smell of a flower bed, be inspired by the flowering weed that has pushed its way up through a crack in the sidewalk. It is all around us every minute of the day. So go on. Enjoy!



This is the last day to download the Kindle version of my little book “Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing in Nature” on Amazon. You can download it here: http://amzn.com/B00TN2GQHM

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Writing is Good for the Soul



From an early age books swept me away to better places where magical things happened to innocent children. Where mean giants were slain, frogs turned into princes, and even a poisonous apple was not enough to keep love from prevailing over evil. 

I learned to read books about “Green Eggs and Ham” and as a four-year-old pondered the question “Are You My Mother?” Later in my pre-adolescence Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Chronicles of Narnia, the Lord of the Rings, Little Women, and Watership Down became my goto books for validation of a better life outside my mini-Universe.

These books stirred something deep inside my soul that felt like a perfect fit. I secretly longed to be a writer that would make a difference in someone’s life. For years I wrote in the confines of my private space, rarely sharing my words with others. These words were an integral part of me and who I am. I was terrified at the thought of releasing them for others to read. The idea left me feeling vulnerable. In ways it was as if I was offering up my soul on a platter to sacrifice for anyone who dared.

Jump forward to three years ago when I was handed an opportunity to contribute a piece to an anthology that was going to be published by Seal Press. I was asked by one of the Editors, Hollye Dexter, who had become aware of my writing through my blog, through the writing community of She Writes, and a few other places where I had become brave enough to post. I was humbled and blown away to be asked. The topic of the anthology was shame. God knows I have had plenty of that in my life. Haven’t we all?



The book “Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the Stories That Kept Us Small” was published by Seal Press in 2012. My piece shares the pages with some extraordinary women. 0Being a part of that book has lead to some amazing opportunities for me like becoming a member of the faculty and speaking on the “Women Write Their Lives” speakers panel at the San Miguel Writer’s Conference in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico in 2013. But the best thing to occur was my newfound sense of confidence in my ability to write.



** From left to right: Samantha Dunn, Brooke Axtell, Sarah Stonich, Laura Davis, Amy Ferris, Hollye Dexter, Suzanne Braun Levine, Tracy J Thomas, Brooke Warner. “Women Write Their Lives” speakers panel, San Miguel International Writers Conference, 2013. Photo by Jon Ware. **

I definitely don’t strive to be the next literary genius nor to make it onto the New York Times Bestsellers list with anything I write. Those amazing writers are few and far between. My only hope is to entertain and help others through my words. That alone is my greatest reward. Although of course I would be happy with any royalties that roll in so I can continue to pay my bills :).

I was thrilled this morning to find my little motivational Kindle ebook, “Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature” had moved up into the top 100 in the Kindle paid store for three categories on Amazon. It was perched at #32 in “Spiritual Healing,” #68 in Short Reads “self-Help,” and #78 in overall “Self-Help.” I am fully aware these rankings are precarious and go up and down on an hourly basis but am still giddy with excitement every time I see these numbers.



Whoever said “writing is good for the soul” was correct. Whenever I write I am immediately transported to my happy place and my soul feels renewed and quite often vindicated when I give it a platform on which to speak. My photography is on an even plane with my writing in regards to the cleansing of soul. Whenever I have the opportunity to combine the two I reach that elusive state of Nirvana. 

If you would like to download “Zen in the Garden” you can do so here: Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature.

I welcome any reviews and would also love it if you would gift it forward if you feel so moved.


At Times Like This…

"Chi" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Chi” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

It’s at times like this when our country is left with the resounding question “why?” that we are reminded life itself is fragile and the moment of our death is unpredictable at best.  We have no control over our future and can only hope for the safety of our loved ones and ourselves as we journey along our paths.

During these moments it’s easy to dwell in the collective outrage that begins to surface and crowd our puzzled psyches.  It’s hard for the majority of us to understand how a human being can possibly be so evil.  We feel helpless.  We swell with sadness and anger and our wish is justice for those innocent souls who were injured or met with such an untimely and violent end.  We relish, at least for the moment, the fact that our own loved ones are still safe and within reach for us to embrace, to cherish, to love.

"Love" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Love” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

What we often fail to remember during these heart-wrenching times is the amount of beauty and good that still exists within our world.  When we contrast that with evil, it is easy to get swept up in the dark shadows that lurk along the edges.  But when we place our focus on the light, it’s harder to see those shadows and so much easier to heal our broken world.

"Healing" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Healing” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

With a background in martial arts, I am a firm believer in our ability to reshape energy (chi) both as individuals and as a collective.  When we focus on the beauty and kindness in this world we are giving our fellow humans the most wonderful gift.  That kindness and that love begins to swell and brings with it healing and a deep sense of peace.  We might never find all the answers to the questions we seek but we have the opportunity to make this world a much better place by remaining focused on all the good that is in it.

"Peace" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Peace” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

My heart wraps all those effected by the events in Boston with a blanket of love.  May you dwell in the kindness and the comfort of your fellow humans and find healing and peace.

 

 

 


Twenty Little Angels

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved

It has been a week since the Sandy Hook shootings…

Most of us are still reeling from the tragedy and attempting to navigate a roller coaster of emotions. This shooting has been more difficult to deal with than most.

Maybe it’s the proximity to the holidays; the time when most little children are wide-eyed excited about lighting the Menorah or sitting on Santa’s lap.

Maybe it’s the reality these were little innocent six and seven-year old’s, many of them sitting in a Kindergarten classroom singing songs and reciting the alphabet. Trusting their teachers to impart the knowledge required to navigate this big and oft-scary world.

Maybe it’s simply because we are just done. Our shoulders are breaking from the burden of helplessness. Done with the continuing senseless shootings at the hands of troubled young men with automatic assault weapons and endless rounds of ammunition loaded into military-style clips.

Whatever the reason, these twenty little angels have come to stand as symbols of all that is wrong with our world.

The great gun debate has once again reared its ugly head with little talk of equally important things like mental health issues. The head of the NRA made the extremely insensitive choice to speak at a press conference a mere hour after a national moment of silence for the victims. In his speech he failed to take the stance of gun control and instead decried the absence of armed guards in all of our schools to protect our children from all the “evil bad guys” waiting in the wings to kill more of our children.

The NRA does not care about protecting your Second Amendment right to bear arms. Really, it could give a crap.

What the NRA cares about most is a $3.8 billion industry that keeps them in the money. The purpose of the NRA? They are lobbyists who represent gun retailers.

There is a ton of money behind the NRA because the gun business is BIG business. Of course they will take the stance that we need to put more guns in our schools. More guns in our schools means more gun sales for gun retailers which means more money in the coffers of the NRA so they can buy more politicians. You see how it goes…

What the NRA does not refer to in these speeches meant to rile up the NRA’s gun-toting “4 million mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters,” is the fact Columbine had two armed guards at the school during the time Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered 12 and injured 21. Or that Virginia Tech had an entire police force housed on campus when Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 and wounded 17. Armed guards made ZERO difference.

Our focus should remain on the twenty little angels who died that fateful Friday. As mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters, we should continue to shout the names of these victims. We should keep a face on the innocent lives lost whenever a military-style assault weapon is wielded by a mentally ill individual and turn our focus away from arming ourselves in paranoia against all the potential “bad guys” who are creeping around in the shadows waiting to pounce.

Violence always begets violence.

As I stated in my blog “For the Innocents Lost,” we cannot look at gun control in a vacuum. We need to keep the conversation surrounding mental health on the table right beside automatic and semi-automatic military-style weapons and gun control laws.

We owe it to the victims and their families…

Charlotte Bacon, 6
Daniel Barden, 7
Olivia Engel, 6
Josephine Gay, 7
Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6
Dylan Hockley, 6
Madeleine F. Hsu, 6
Catherine V. Hubbard, 6
Chase Kowalski, 7
Jesse Lewis, 6
James Mattioli, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Emilie Parker, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Aveille Richman, 6
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison N. Wyatt, 6
Rachel Davino
Dawn Hoschprung
Anne Marie Murphy
Lauren Rousseau
Mary Sherlach
Victoria Soto
Nancy Lanza

For twenty Fridays forward, I will create one angel piece in memory of the twenty little angels that died that day. They will be limited edition (100 pieces) printed on 12×12 metal. Fifty-percent of the proceeds are being donated to one of the Sandy Hook victim’s relief funds that focus specifically on help for the siblings and classmates of these victims. The prints can be purchased here: For the Angels of Sandy Hook.

Thank you to all who have already purchased a piece from last week’s posting.