Nurse logs as nature's innovators

I used to refer to my daily outings in the woods as walking the dogs or as getting exercise.  A couple of years ago I realized that my walks in the woods were really about me finding ways to regularly access the extraordinary wisdom of nature.

Every walk in the woods is a first.  It does not matter how many hundreds of times I've covered the identical terrain or the same old path; the opportunity to experience the brand new unfolds.

And yet, as I spot newly carved spaces and contours along familiar tracks I am mindful that nature's path through change shows no anxiety, no fretting.  The forest is alive and dying in the same moment.  It is light and dark and whole in its non-duality. 

Lovely is the only way to describe the sweet comfort of nature's divine reliability.

It's in the woods that even negative sentiments invite a positive re-framing.

I mention the epic beauty of the nurse log in the post title because lately I am fascinated with the pageantry of lifeforms thriving atop of nurse logs I spot along woodland edges.

The nurse log plays dead when in fact she is facilitating the emergence of delicate and determined lifeforms.    

The paradox of the nurse log is her stillness; it is in stillness that she activates her ultimate reinvention.   

I am not convinced that a nurse log's capacity to facilitate wildly different life forms is an inevitability of biology.  It seems more an act of consciousness with a corresponding one-of-a-kind outcome.  

Next time you walk the woods, take a look at a nurse log and notice for yourself her wildly creative innovations:

Consider her a healing symphony; the song dormant within all of us life forms.


The shape of me and other stuff

One of the most beloved health communicators of all time was (and will always be) Dr. Seuss.

Long before going green was fashionable and we understood the social determinants of health, he gave voice to big ideas in such tales as The Lorax and The Sneetches.

Today, in the supermarket discount bin, I discovered yet another sweet classic Seuss tale:  The Shape of Me and Other Stuff.  It's a book celebrating the differences between forms; human, inanimate and otherwise.

I wish it were longer... With just eleven stiff board book pages to turn, one can hardly scratch the surface of body image narrative diversity.  And yet, in the single illustration to the left, one can notice how Dr. Seuss subtly subverts boy-girl pairs.
Dr. Seuss stood for the truth and that is why he could say,  

Just think about the shape of strings ... and elephants ... and other things. 

That is why he ends his book elated, saying:

  Hooray for the shapes we're in! ...


A simple story about shifting work and family balance

I was cruising along with a singular focus on my professional development when BOOM my soul reminded me to pay attention to a deeper idea.  I heard:

Wake up, lady! This year isn't JUST about professional development.  

You've embarked on a Master Class in Heart Awakening too. 

What? A Master Class in Heart Awakening?

Haven't I been caregiving with compassionate focus?  Haven't I made strides as a mother, as a friend, and as a humble soul making its way on the planet?  I really hate to appear overconfident, I argued in my head, but since I just earned Professional Health Coaching credentials from Duke Integrative Medicine, I really want to capture the momentum and get to work.  But now you're saying that it's Master Class time?  Sheesh.

Hold on now.  You will take the next steps with ease.  In fact, we envision great adventures and a wonderful health coaching career for you, given your capacity for compassion and healing.  But advancing to your fullest expression will still require you to embody what we call, "self-fullness".

Oh good, I thought, at least I don't have to stop this momentum!

Then I asked about self-fullness.  Is it similar to #gratitude? 

No, it is not gratitude.  It is about acceptance and taking steps towards big goals without striving.

Self-fullness is a state of being; a state that energizes and activates a rewarding professional life while also protecting you during challenging times.  Do you understand?

Yes, so I kept listening: 

We think you have the courage and influence to make a difference supporting the lives of others but we want you to start by giving yourself much more support. Unconditional support.


You must learn to make commitments from your heart, health and soul, not from your head.

That made sense to me since my head is often ahead of my heart.  What's the first step?

We want you to practice saying No to people you care about when saying Yes hurts your heart, health and soul.  It's simple but it is not easy for most women.  Especially women like you.

You mean it isn't easy for women like me to disappoint people?  And that we often say yes when we mean no?  Guilty.  But won't it be selfish to practice saying No to people I care about?  

A long time ago when we valued groups over individuals we viewed a No from a woman as selfish or as some kind of violation of the social order. Now we know better.

We understand and teach that it is only a woman who is self-full that is able to contribute to the health of a group (a marriage, a family, a community, a nation, planet, etc.).  

That sounded true to me so I kept listening: 

Self-fullness is not selfish, it leads to a greater awareness that all of life is precious and worthy: yours, others', the world's.

Self-fullness is that quiet, subtle shift in energy; a stance with roots underneath that support and grow the blooms up above. 

 . . . As you learn how to experience self-fullness you will be growing the muscle of compassion and the strength of a rooted soul. 

And that's when I realized that this Master Class in Heart Awakening was going to be both exciting and highly challenging at times.   There would be a need to stay connected to gifted teachers and friends as I worked through professional goals with an open heart. This gentle reminder brought a lovely sensation of alignment and I realized with an Aha! that I had been preparing to be invited into this master class my whole life.  I knew that there would be no turning back, so  I exhaled then heard the teacher say:

Well done with the first lesson ... now for Lesson Two. 


Mindfulness and a skin biopsy

Have you noticed how your own emotional reality creates ease or obstacles when a health concern comes up for you?

I am learning about this topic first hand, again, even and in spite of years of mindfulness practice and a thorough knowledge of "the benefits" of early intervention.   I am riding a learning edge related to how the emotions of vulnerability and surrender can help healing.  Here's the story:

In late November I spotted a reddish dot on the side of my nose.  It was ugly but painless and flat. It concerned me only when I noticed it growing gradually.  At first I attributed this red dot to wearing glasses all day long.   As my concern upticked -- and I felt that I should call for an appointment -- I noticed how easy it was for me to keep NOT calling.

Selfie with skin spots and biopsy, February 2015

Somehow, I felt safer protecting my not-knowing than opening up to a new-knowing; the newness of illness.

This internal process carried on mostly sub-consciously for six weeks or so.  Whenever concern about the dot showed up, I drew on thoughts and stories (or actual cover-up!), telling myself:
  • I have a ruddy complexion full of freckles, flushing and other fun stuff so there was nothing to worry about (FALSE);
  • That indoor-outdoor temperature changes of the cold winter were causing capillaries to expand and contract and making the dot more pronounced (FALSE); and
  • That as I aged and hormones shifted, it was natural to expect skin changes like a growing red dot (FALSE).
Finally, I called the dermatologist.  She is popular so I expected a 3-week wait for the appointment.  Instead, as a sign of Divine Right Timing, the receptionist said she had just received a cancellation for the same week.  My heart sank right then, however; I was so scared to learn more about the red dot that I secretly planned to have the whole three weeks to build up my courage!  I joked then shared my fear about coming in with the receptionist who said she understood.  She hurried to confirm I would take the appointment, blessed woman.  I've since thanked her for that push...

I showed up for the appointment feeling nervous.  Just fifteen minutes later, reassured that the spot on my face was not a concern to the doctor, she was lazering my red dot ("hemangioma") with my eyes protected tightly.  Now the growing red dot is a much larger dark spot (visible in the selfie below) but it is not an energized problem for me. The spot will fade.

Next came the stinging-cool sensation of Cryotherapy (liquid nitrogen),  freezing off seven other spots on my sailor's face.  

These spots are now blistering or peeling in relation to how heavy the treatment was.
(You can see one spot on the selfie above, the others are hidden.) 
Lastly, I showed the doctor another mark I had noticed on my upper right chest (where the band-aid now is).  No sooner did she glance at the spot than she had injected a numbing agent into the area and got right to work biopsying.  What was of no concern to me really, is now the subject of a biopsy.  My self-care flipped; I thought it was dermatitis or eczema from a new favorite scent.

A few days of perspective have allowed me to start healing these spots and prepare myself for whatever comes next.

Would it be corny to report that I am already comforted to have received a great teaching: that fear is mastered by surrender, not courage?  I have seen this unfold for me and I feel lucky for that.

Had I waited for courage to come -- to will it up using the unskilled mind -- prior to advancing into the real walk inside of the fear of skin cancer, I could still be stuck preparing ... perhaps hosting a cancer to boot.


I am aware that I have experienced some fresh healing, even while waiting to receive the results of the biopsy.  

I have learned how healing energy is the gift of humility and surrender, the gift of Beginner's Mind and Non Striving.  I have known this through work with friends I love, but to know and understand it in myself is a great gift of health.  I feel good, even with the uncertainty and the spotted face.  I have received some help already and I am grateful.