Archive for May, 2011
OK, so not literally to have the odour of a dog because let’s face it, dogs are pretty stinky most of the time. But have you ever noticed how intently dogs sniff and smell their environment? They can easily spend a minute or two or five on the same spot taking in every possible scent they can detect. It is estimated that a dog’s sense of smell may be a million times more sensitive than that of a humans.
As humans, we simply aren’t wired to get significant information through smell. We typically don’t even notice odours unless they allure us or repulse us. Something either smells good or smells bad. We simply don’t satisfy our curiousity through smell and it’s probably because we just don’t smell that good.
I have been reading the book “Inside of a Dog; What Dogs See, Smell, and Know” and it is definitely giving me some insight into dogs but interestingly, also about myself and humans. I have been spending more time paying attention to my dog’s behaviour and how I might learn from her. (I have always said that if I could come back as any animal, it would be as a dog).
What smelling is to dogs, I have learned, seeing is to humans. We as humans, have the capacity to take in information about our environment through vision as a dog acquires information through smell. But when do we actually spend the time to really take in our environment through our eyes?
A week or so ago, I walked with my dog, Chobe, in downtown Winnipeg for over an hour. I have never walked with her downtown, thinking she prefers a more natural environment. But I very intentionally wanted to give her the opportunity to experience something new through scent and I couldn’t think of a better place to do that than a downtown area of a large city. The other intention I set for this walk was that every time my dog stopped to smell, I would stop to see.
What an amazing experience! Sometimes we stopped for thirty seconds and sometimes we stopped for two minutes. Sometimes we only progressed two or three steps before a new scent caught Chobe’s attention and sometimes we went for a hundred meters before any stop. But each time, I really focused on what I was seeing. The texture of the sidewalk, the colours in a sign, the movement of people and cars, all seemed new to me. I looked in all directions and there was never a point at which I had absorbed all the information available to me before Chobe chose to move on. Rarely do I spend this much time really looking around in my typical way of being. It was so joyful and so simple. I was experiencing Chobe’s pleasure because I was not rushing her along for the sake of just exercise. And I was fully experiencing my own pleasure.
There truly is something to slowing down and paying attention. We have been gifted with many senses and for the most part, we don’t take full advantage of them. I will continue to learn from Chobe and remind myself everyday that I want to smell just like a dog!
How many “shoulds” do you have in your life right now?
- I should lose weight
- I should get more fit
- I should have a cleaner house
- I should eat more vegetables
- I should grow my own, organic vegetables
- I should preserve those vegetables for the winter months
- I should read more
- I should write more
- I should save money for retirement
- I should sell my car and exclusively ride my bike or take the bus
- I should meditate
- I should volunteer
- I should take my dog for longer walks
- I should be a better parent, partner, daughter, son, sibling, employee
It can get completely overwhelming if we believe we really should be doing all those things in order to feel successful. And realistically, it’s impossible to do all the things we should. So, when we are unable to do all the “shoulds”, we are left with a feeling of emptiness and failure.
Think about when you hear the words “you should…” or you say the words “I should…”. Take a minute to actually imagine what that feels like. Do you feel tight in the chest? Do your shoulders rise up a little? Do you feel a weight on you? A very natural response is to become resistant to being told that we should do something and then we either don’t do those things or we do, but with resentment.
Now, imagine hearing the words “you could…” or saying the words “I could…”. How does that feel? Light? Free? Still able to breathe normally? There is no fear, then, in giving something a try. It’s so much easier when we are internally motivated to take action with a sense of confidence.
It seems unbelievable that a simple change of a couple of letters, not even a whole word, can have such a significant impact. But think about the meaning behind should. It has expectation, obligation, and judgement. It creates a measure of doing or not doing; failure or success. Should doesn’t even have to have a valid reason behind it. Most often it’s a suggested behaviour because other people are doing it. We get to the point that we don’t even ask why we should do something.
Now the word “could”, implies choice .You could or you could not. The choices seem to be more evenly weighted and there is no judgement attached to the choice; it’s merely on option to act a certain way or not. And there is significant power in saying “I could…” or “I can…”. We automatically become capable of doing something if we put our mind to it and it’s really something we want to achieve. It then becomes a of matter of putting the steps into place.
Could takes ownership and responsibilty. It is power and freedom. It requires intrinsic motivation.
Should is wishful and expectant. It is about duty and obligation. The motivation behind a should action is extrinsic and typically not long lasting or fulfilling.
In 2005, the term “nature deficit disorder” was first coined by author Richard Louv in his book “Last Child in the Woods”. Although not a formal diagnosis, what the author intended was to provide a term to describe the change in the amount of time children spent connecting to nature and the consequences associated with the decrease. In his book, Louv links the lack of meaningful contact with nature to the increase in childhood obesity, depression, and attention deficit disorder. You can read more about NDD here.
I became aware of this term several years ago and I was pretty sure that nature deficit disorder was not exclusive to children. From my own experience, I know how different I feel (depressed, disconnected, and just overall blah) when I don’t get outside for a day. I know many people who have not truly been in contact with the natural world for years.
Well, Louv has just this year released the book The Nature Principle that confirmed my suspicion; he proposes that adults need nature, too. “A reconnection to the natural world is fundamental to human health.” He asks, “What would our lives be like if our days and nights were as immersed in nature as they are in electronics?”
Louv writes about how tapping into the restorative powers of the natural world can boost mental acuity and creativity; promote health and wellness; build smarter and more sustainable businesses, communities, and economies; and ultimately strengthen human bonds.
So how can you add more nature to your own life and that of your family? Since 2000, the Robert Bateman Get to Know Program has worked to inspire youth to discover the natural world. The website has a number of great idea targeted at kids and youth.
For adults, here are my top 3 tips to increase your dosage of nature:
1. Go for a slow, intentional walk in a green space in your community. Use you senses to identify three smells, three sounds, and three sights that you appreciate about nature.
2. Go exploring with your camera in your community to capture a photo of nature that is energizing to you. Print and frame the photo and then locate it near your indoor workspace. When you are feeling stressed, take a moment to look at the photo and imagine being at that place.
3. Make your own composition of nature sounds using this easy and fun tool. Here’s the link.
Explore Life Coaching is commited to providing opportunities for adult women to connect with nature, themselves, and each other. It’s a commitment to Nature Abundance to offset nature deficit.
The Play Passport will always include outdoor activities and there are several in May’s list of events.
Explore Your Province Discovery Your Spirit Retreats
Four retreat opportunites will be offered throughout the summer. Three days and two nights exploring some of the great natural areas of Manitoba. Join Adventure Life Coach Patti Phillips for an all-inclusive road trip to various provincial parks. What better way to be close to nature than staying in a yurt (a Mongolian style permanent tent)? Hike in a forest, walk barefoot in sand dunes, swim in a lake, sit by a campfire and reflect on the day. Connect to nature and the women you are sharing it with. Engage in personal exploration with consciously chosen activities and discussions lead by experiential learning expert, Coach Patti. To keep the retreats intimate and focused, only 4 spots are available.
- June 26-28 Spruce Woods Provincial Park (yurt)
- July 22-24 Hecla Island Provincial Park (vacation cabin)
- August 7- 9 Nutimik Lake, Whiteshell Provincial Park (yurt)
- September 9-11 Spruce Woods Provincial Park (yurt)
Additional information can be found here.
Any questions? firstname.lastname@example.org
Winnipeg weather can sure be an adventure!
* Thursday, April 29th, 2011 sunny, 22°
* Sunday, May 1, 2011 snowing, wind gusting to 55 km an hour, -15° with the windchill
One day, great weather for a jog wearing shorts and sunscreen. Just two days later, toques, gloves, and traction grips for running shoes were the typical attire. On May 1, the Winnipeg Police Service Half Marathon took place in support of the Canadian Cancer Society and despite the crazy conditions, over 1500 people showed up to run, jog or walk along with all the volunteers and event organizers.
I woke up earlier than usual on Sunday morning and looked out my window to see a blanket of snow and the wind blowing around the trees. It would have been easy (and likely) that I would have just crawled back into bed if it weren’t for the fact that I had made a commitment.
I had committed to myself several months ago that I would run in this event and do the training necessary to prepare and get more fit. I made a commitment to my relay running partner that we would participate in this event as a team. I made a commitment to the event organizers that I would honour the work that they put into making the whole thing happen. And, I made a commitment to the Canadian Cancer Society to raise funds for ongoing research.
I would dare to guess that the majority of the other participants, runners, volunteers, organizers, and even those who cheered along the route, also considered just staying in bed, or at least in their warm homes that morning, if it weren’t for the commitment they had made. I’m sure some people stayed home, but it would have been a small percentage.
It may be obvious, but I’ll say it anyway; the more committed we are to something, the more likely we will make it happen. With this running event as the example, I was fully committed to it. I had made a financial commitment, I made a commitment to a friend, I made a commitment to my health, and I made a commitment to a cause. There was also a time frame attached to this event and it wasn’t an option to put it off for a day or two until the weather improved. It was May 1 and that was that. I know for sure that I wouldn’t have bundled up that morning if I could have put off the run for another day when the sun was shining. I know I am really committed to something when it is a challenge to follow-through.
A strong commitment is often the key to keeping us on track for following our desires, dreams, and goals. However, there may be circumstances when following through on a commitment is not the best course of action.
The MS (Multiple Sclerosis) Walk was also scheduled for May 1. It was cancelled. Were the organizers and volunteers of this event any less committed that those of the Police Half Marathon? Did the participants invest less time, money, and heart? I’m 100% sure that they were just as committed as me.
But here’s where I see the difference. I was not going to be putting myself at significant risk by participating in this event. The cold was something I could easily adjust to. It was not going to cause me pain or impact my motor skills. For many people who have MS, cold temperatures can cause joint pain, numbness, and decreased coordination. Doing a walk in the May 1 conditions could have been detrimental to some people who would have been participating and therefore, the risk was too great. The organizers of the MS Walk have encouraged all those that signed up to follow-through on their walk over the next two weeks and fulfill their commitment.
So here’s the lesson about commitment from my perspective. It is a great motivator and helps us to achieve the things that are important to us even when faced with challenges and obstacles. However, we must become aware of those situations in which following through on a commitment does us more harm than good. If we are causing ourselves (or someone else) pain, it is time to review the commitment. This could relate to a relationship, a job, a behaviour, etc.
In the words of Tom Robbins;
“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.”