Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Fully Aware

Because I have spent so much time outside this past year, I have gotten very aware of my surroundings. I am always looking for birds, insects, spiders, clouds . . . whatever the day may bring. 

I have also been attending virtually a birding festival: For the Love of Birds Festival.  There are three days of "bird sits."  I have watched one of them so far.  The focus was on being fully aware of your surroundings, the sights, the sounds, the colors, etc and looking all around you. 

I eat my meals outside whenever I can. Yesterday, I sat down to eat my lunch and watch my birds.  As I was surveying the sky around me, I saw something very interesting. It was a swarm of tiny white insects.  The night before I had seen something similar above my head near the pond. Those had been brown and I knew they were gnats, also called midges.  Today, these were white and glistened in the sun.  My camera was ready, but I was doubtful I would get pictures. How was my camera going to focus on something so tiny? But, I have learned to be disciplined with my photography.  Take the shot regardless and hope.   Checking the screen, I had something in some of the shots.  When I magnified some of them in the camera, I became even more hopeful. So I kept adjusting the amount of zoom and hoping it would focus and I took a number of shots.  Once again I checked my images. There were some that WERE picking up detail, enough to see it was definitely small winged insects, most likely midges. 





So . . . When I came in and looked on the computer, yes, I had something. Probably not enough to identify to species level, but enough to post a few places and get some ideas.  The first place I went was to the Facebook page: Entomology.  I got confirmation that yes, these are Chironomidae, midges.  And I learned that this was a mating swarm that occurs in warm sunlight. OK, it was bright sunlight today, but not so warm.  They will also move to be above your head, called hilltopping, which indeed they were doing about 8-10 feet above me.  The midges from the night before had also done that but close to me. 






This was the most detailed image I got.  Beautiful, dainty, and amazing.  These were high enough above me that if I had not been in the habit of being observant, I might have missed them. And my practice of attempting to capture what I see with the camera gave me something new to marvel.

Monday, February 01, 2021

Meditation: Life's Blinders


I go outside almost every day to spend time in nature and spend time soaking in my surroundings, reading Bible, praying, meditating, and observing the nature (usually birds) around me.  This morning was cold.  

While it was in the 50's, I knew I needed more than just my wool sweater, so I grabbed this jacket with hood, and I immediately put the hood over my head to conserve body heat. 

I immediately discovered that it was strongly affecting my peripheral vision.  I could not detect the movement or moving shadows that help me notice the birds around me and above me.  Even pulling it back a little still left me without the full range of vision I am accustomed to.  I knew I was missing things. I was not getting the full view of the world around me this morning. It bothered me. 


As is often the case, my mind immediately thought about how this applies to other parts of my life.  We all have things that are "blinders," that hinder us from seeing the full picture in our world.  

The first thing that came to my mind was news sources.  It is so easy to read our daily news sources that support our own political beliefs.  But, that may blind us in seeing why other people see things differently. It may also prevent us from seeing important news that our favorite sources may not report. I have worked over the last several years to have a Facebook feed that does show me news articles both from "main stream media,"  from more liberal news pages, and from conservative news sources.  I also look at Facebook pages from Christian newspapers, Christian writers, and my Christian friends.

What else can we have blind spots about?  

We can be blind about our personal strengths and weaknesses.  Throughout my life it has been easy for me to dwell on my weaknesses and my failures without giving equal time for my strengths and my victories.  

We can be blind about sins in our life.  We all have the things that we know that we need to do better in our walk with God.  But, I suspect that we also all have sin in our hearts that are hidden from our own sight.  The pschological concept of the Johari Window (https://www.habitsforwellbeing.com/johari-window-we-dont-know-what-we-dont-know/) has 4 "windows."

1. Known to self

2. Known to others

3. Not know to self

4. Not known to others

Conclusion: My time spent outdoors in observation, reflection, and meditation helps me be more aware of some of these things.  My time reading inspirational and scientific things to develop understanding of how my intellectual and spiritual self works also helps me be less blind. My time on Facebook where I truly look at what other people think and why, where I read news articles that both support my beliefs and but also look at news that may not support my belief.  I have to be careful to study and discern whether the news sources I read accurately portray what is going on in the world around me so I can reduce my blind spots.  This is very difficult right now.  It is why I read my news from a wide variety of sources.  It is why I analyze my news sources here: https://www.adfontesmedia.com  This is their methodology and why I trust their analysis:  https://www.adfontesmedia.com/how-ad-fontes-ranks-news-sources/

What blindspots are there in your life? 







Thursday, January 28, 2021

Be Still and Know I am God . . . Nature Meditations





 In today's modern world, we are always "busy."  Productivity is highly valued.  Sitting quietly and seemingly doing nothing can feel like a waste of time.  





From scripture:

Exodus 14:14 "The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still."

Nehemiah 8:11 "Be still for this is a holy day."

Psalm 37:7 "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him."

Psalm 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God."

The dictionary definition of still is "deep silence and calm." Another dictionary adds the word "tranquil." Other definitions:  "Not moving or in motion.  Free from disturbance, agitation, or commotion."

A couple of years ago I was introduced to the concept of "forest bathing."  No . . . this is NOT taking a bath in the forest, rather it is a methodology of being still and fully aware of your surroundings. It is a process of slowing down and becoming emersed in God's natural environment.  It is taking time to tune in to the smells, textures, tastes and sounds around us. Nature sounds, the scents of the flowers, the sight of sunlight hitting the hillsides, the fresh smell of rain, and the sounds of morning birdsong affect our body in positive ways. They comfort us and reduce our stress and our worries.  For me, it gives me a sense of joy.  It also helps us relax. More importantly it helps us to think more clearly. Time spent emerged in the  nature that God created restores our inner tranquility, gives us energy, washes our weariness away, and rejuvenates us for our other daiy tasks.  

I also find that when I take the time to do this type of meditation, that I often receive life lessons from the experience, insight that is very useful. 

I will be doing a series of posts with some examples. 

For today, I encourage you to find a place near you to go spend time outside.  It could be your backyard, it could be your local park.  Perhaps there is a creek or river near you.  The first time you do this it may seem difficult, but practice doing this.  Once you have found your place, sit or stand quietly for 10 or 15 minutes.  Notice what is around you. Notice the breeze on your face, the clouds moving above you, the water ripples, the textures, the natural sounds around you, and any scent on the air.  Resist thinking about all the things that you need to do or the problems that you will face later in the day.  Keep your mind centered on the nature around you.  It may be difficult for you at first.  I believe that this is a mental and spiritual discipline that will be very rewarding for you as you practice it.