Thursday, April 30, 2009

Live Your Life Well

Mental Health America recently published Live Your Life Well, a website designed to assist visitors to more effectively cope with stress and create a more satisfying life by providing 10 research based tools that promote well being and facilitate resiliency. You can also sign up for their free monthly living well email list.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I frequently encourage my clients to walk, and sometimes I invite them to walk with me during our session. Frank MacEowen in "The Mist Filled Path" describes walking as "a poetic and sensual experience ... a spiritual act... an art form, a dynamic communion with the landscape... a special time to connect with another person..."

MacEowen quotes Soren Kierkegard who cautioned, "Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness that would have me; I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thoughts so burdensome that one cannot 'walk' way from it."

Walking on a regular basis is therapeutic on a number of levels. It releases endorphins (the 'feel good' chemicals in your brain, and natural pain killers), reduces risk factors related to obesity, hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol, improves mood and relieves stress.

Following are some helpful links:

Walking in Nature to Promote the Health of the Mind, Body and Spirit

Healthy Maine Walks

Best Walking in Maine

Lewiston/Auburn Trails

Monday, April 27, 2009

Listening to Your Life

In "Listening to Your Life: Daily Meditations" Frederick Buechner writes, "Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and in the pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch and taste your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace."
How might our lives be different if we held them lovingly, recognizing each moment as sacred, each life a precious gift...

You can listen to an interview with him entitled, "the stewardship of pain" here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Preparing for "Honoring The Sacred in Nature" this Sunday

In preparing for this coming Sunday's event here at SagePlace, "Honoring the Sacred in Nature: Honoring the Sacred in Ourselves," I came across a book filled with wisdom and beautiful imagery entitled, "By Monomoy Light" written by North T. Cairn. In it she wrote,

" I have spent most of my life exploring the hinterlands of the hidden self, and when the time was right, I made the north – the mythological direction governing birth and death; the body and nature; growth, creativity and silence – my own.”

She also wrote, "Still, the last decade of the millennium was more for me the beginning of ten years of wandering in a small wilderness, and it would change me for good. It is not that I found myself in the sparse wilderness of Monomoy, but rather that I lost myself there, in the intricate elegance and uncompromising energy of nature.”

For me, Maine fits her description of the North perfectly and offers us opportunities to be both lost and found.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What is Depression? An Overview

WebMD has a very good slideshow available online that offers an overview of Depression including its symptoms, impact on daily life, whose at risk, causes, diagnosis, and treatment. You can view it here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day Meditation: At Close Range

On this earth day I am reflecting on the tremendous amount that has been written about the value of encountering the natural world (of which we are a part)close-up. Winifred Gallagher in, The Power of Place, quoted James Swan, an environmentalist and psychologist who advised that his prescription for inner conflict was spending time alone with no activities or distractions in a natural setting. Swan observes that as we spend most of our time indoors, we become estranged from "the vast mine of meaning, art, metaphor, and teaching that we evolved in."

According to Gallagher, signs exist all around us suggesting that we long to reconnect with our natural environment. In exploring our growing attraction to nature-based activities, as well as the benefits of such endeavors, Gallagher cites a study conducted by Stephen and Rachel Kaplan who concluded that nature has a profoundly positive impact on both mental and physical health. Acts as simple as listening to a bubbling brook, feeling a gentle breeze ruffle your hair, lifting your face to the sun, following the flight of a butterfly, each of these experiences can be soothing and restorative.

Psychologist and researcher, Marc Fried, found after identifying the significant factors that enhance the quality of our lives that while the strongest predictor of life satisfaction was a good marriage, the immediate surrounding (the natural environment in particular) rated as the second strongest predictor. Not everyone is graced by a garden in the backyard, a beautiful view, or a park nearby. However, most of us can bring some degree of nature home by including live plants or fresh flowers in their living and work spaces.

According to Sam Keen, in Hymns to an Unknown God, the organization of the human soul reflects the world in which it is contained. He observes further that most of us have been cut off from our natural environment, working at desks and confined to artificially cooled and heated buildings for much of our lives. Keen believes that in order to sustain spiritual health we require expansive views, close contact with the elements of nature, the wind, water, the sun, lightening storms, and "the reassuring sight of something that grows from seed to maturity."

On this beautiful, warm and sunny Earth day in Maine I prepare to head outside to count my blessings...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth Healing the Mind

"the world is sick; it needs healing, it is speaking through us, and it speaks the loudest through the most sensitive of us."
Sarah Conn

Following are quotes from the book, " Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth Healing the Mind."

"...the trauma endured by thechnological people like ourselves is the sytemic and systematic removal of our lives from the natural world: from the tendrils of earthy textures, from the rhythms of sun and moon, from the spirits of the bears and trees, from the life force itself. This is also the systemic and systematic removal of our lives from the kinds of social and cultural experiences our ancestors assumed when they lived in rhythm with the natural world."
Chellis Glendinning

"Our enormously productive economy... demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption ... we need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced and discarded at an ever increasing rate... "
Victor Lebow

"Psychological evidence shows that the relationship between consumption and personal happiness is weak. Worse, two primary forces of human fulfillment - social relations and leisure - appear to have withered or stagnated in the rush to riches. Thus many in the consumer society have a sense that their world of plenty is somehow hollow - that, hoodwinked by a consumer culture, they have been fruitlessly attempting to satisfy with material things what are essentially social, psychological, and spiritual needs."
Alan Thein Durning

Friday, April 17, 2009

Eco Spirituality and Cross Currents

I came across a wonderful collection of articles some time ago collected and published by Cross Currents, a publication and global network sponsored by The Association for Religion and Intellectual Life. You can view these articles online here . They include:

Trees, Forestry, and the Responsiveness of CreationBrian J. Walsh, Marianne B. Karsh, and Nik Ansell

The Greening of Buddhist PracticeKenneth Kraft

The Gaia Hypothesis: Implications For a Christian Political Theology of the EnvironmentStephen B. Scharper

Islam and EcologyMarjorie Hope and James Young

Ethics and Trauma: Levinas, Feminism, and Deep EcologyRoger S. Gottlieb

Christianity and The Survival of CreationWendell Berry

Eucharistic Ecology and Ecological SpiritualityBeatrice Bruteau

Mountains Made Alive: Native American Relationships With Sacred LandEmily Cousins

On The Wings of a Blue HeronPaul O. Ingram

Re-conceiving God and Humanity in Light ofToday's Ecological Consciousness: A Brief StatementGordon D. Kaufman

Global Requiem: The Apocalyptic Moment in Religion, Science, and ArtJack Miles

The Ecotheology of Annie Dillard: A Study in AmbivalencePamela A. Smith

Green Lap, Brown Embrace, Blue Body: The Ecospirituality of Alice WalkerPamela A. Smith

The Green Face of God: Christianity in an Age of EcocideMark I. Wallace

And the Earth Is Filled with the Breath of LifeArthur Waskow

Most of the above articles are written in sophisticated language and are not simple reading however, their messages are worth the time and energy expended in absorbing them.
These messages include but are not limited to:

1. The need for us to recognize and address what Thomas Berry has defined as our "cultural autism" and to develop an ability to 'hear' the voices of creation once again.

2. The significance of the Gaia hypothesis and it's implications for our culture.

3. The earth's crisis is fundamentally a spiritual crisis

4. Many of us are traumatized by the growing threats to our world

5. The view of our earth as a eucharistic planet (the true presence of the divine) has existed in almost every culture in the world in one form or another and reclaiming this view is essential for the protection of our world.

6. Learning about Native American religious traditions can help non-Natives as they offer a model for developing a spiritual relationship with the land.

7. If we look at hell as a metaphor then, "hell is land that has no spirits to claim it." (Mamie Salt)

8. Religious life and the earth's ecology are inextricably connected.

9. The importance of a biohistorical perpective of being human , one that emphasizes "our deep embeddedness in the web of life on planet Earth." (Gordon Kaufman)

10. The very real possibility that humans might become extinct sooner than anyone imagined offers significant opportunites for spiritual and artistic growth.

11. "In the deepest origins of Jewish life, the most sacred relationship was the relationship with the earth." Arthur Waskow

12. "Earth itself has become the nigger of the world...While the Earth is poisoned, everything it supports is poisoned. While the Earth is enslaved, none of us is free .... While it is `treated like dirt,' so are we." Alice Walker

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Earth Day Meditations: Remembering Dam Pond

It's my spirit that most remembers sitting in the middle of Dam pond at dusk. I am gently cradled and rocked by the water's rhythmic dance beneath me. The coming twilight will be my nightlight. The music of the loons, the bullfrogs, the yellow warblers, and the tree swallows my lullaby. I am at peace. My spirit is soothed as I meditate. I gaze at the reflection of the pines upon the water. I glance up at the blue and white and pink sky. I silently greet the magnificence of all that I do not see; the miraculous and countless entities beneath the pond's surface, and the magic and the mystery of the very universe. Here and now there is no yearning, no searching, no struggle. I am surrounded and enfolded in the arms of God. It's that simple.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Jim Staltz and a Walk in Beauty in Auburn on April 19th

Jim Stoltz "a Montana Folk Singer and traveler is bringing his multimedia show, "Forever Wild" to the First Universalist Church of Auburn. In his preformances, Stoltz takes his audience into the wilderness using photography, musc and stories. Named Walkin' Jim for the 27,000 miles he has traveled in the wilds of North America, his lyrics convey his deeply held respect for nature. The show will begin at 1 P.M. and tickets are $10 for adults, free for children. Make reservations by calling (207) 783-0461 or at "

In an article by Zachary Hecht-Leavitton in the College Media Network Jim explained, " "In my show, I combine photography and music and put them together to create a real double-whammy. Art plays to heart. Getting more than one sense working makes for a stronger message and touches people in a more powerful way."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

We are not strangers here...

Recently I listened to a young man lament that for much of his life time he didn't feel as if he belonged -- he didn't belong in his family, at his school, in his neighborhood or at his workplace. I asked if there was any place that he was able to experience a sense of belonging and he responded that he felt connected and at peace when he was in the woods or in his canoe. I was immediately reminded of the words of Alan Watts who observed, "you did not come into this world, you came out of it. You are no stranger here."

How many of us find ourselves at home in the natural world, and how great of a price do those of us who find ourselves estranged from it pay?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility

Tonight at 7:00 at Gilsland Farm Audubon Center in Falmouth there will be a discussion of an essay and a book, "Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility." The Audubon website offers the following description:

"Three years ago Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger lectured to environmentalists that their movement had outlived its usefulness and must die so that something new could arise. The essay angered many environmentalists, but ignited a much-needed debate over the fate of the environmental movement in the United States. In this follow-up to the original essay, the authors give us an expansive and eloquent manifesto for political change. What Americans really want, and what could serve as the basis for a new politics, is a vision capable of inspiring us to greatness. Making the case for abandoning old categories such as nature vs. market, and left vs. right, the authors articulate a pragmatism fit for our times that has already found champions in such prominent figures as Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama."

It should be both an informative and inspirational evening. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Count Down to Earth Day

For the past five or so years I have made it a practice to begin counting down to earth day starting April first by making a point every day of reading something, visiting some place, attending a lecture, watching a movie , etc. that celebrates nature. It just occured to me that it might make sense to share a quote, talk about a local activity, lecture, movie, etc. each day leading up to Earth Day.

Today's quote:

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
- -- Henry David Thoreau quoted in "Promises Ahead: A Vision of Hope and Action For Humanity's Future by Duane Elgin

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Looking for a 'Green' or Socially Responsible Job?

Here's a link to a list of job boards that focus on social and or environmentally responsible jobs.

How Can We in Lewiston / Auburn Save the Environment AND the Economy?

In this six minute video Van Jones talks about how the break down of our economy and the peril to our planet can lead to a break through offering tremendous opportunity. While watching the video, I found myself repeatedly thinking about how wonderful it would be to bring "the green for all" movement here to Lewiston/Auburn.

The folks at Green For All would like those of us in cities and towns across the country to know and then act on the following: " Between now and June, your Mayor and local officials must come up with a plan to secure and implement President Obama's Economic Recovery funds. Does your Mayor have a plan yet? Do you know what that plan is? This may be the most important opportunity you'll ever have to bring green-collar jobs to your community." You can read more here

What are Mayors' Jenkins and Gilberts plans?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The L/A (Lewiston/Auburn) Time Bank

The L/A time bank is a wonderful gift to the Lewiston/Auburn community. How does it work? "Time Dollars are a type of community currency that anyone can earn by using their time, energy, skills, and talents to help others. One hour of service provided to another human being or to the community earns one Time Dollar. You can spend your Time Dollars on any number of services." To join or to learn more about the program, call 207-782-5783, ext. 1607.

You can also pay a visit to The Hour Exchange in Portland to learn more about Time Dollar programs in general

Monday, April 6, 2009

National Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and the Child Welfare Information Gateway has a number of resources to offer parents and other caregivers at their website. A good resources for residents of Maine is The Maine children's Trust and a resource that offers information regarding activities and happenings in Maine of interest to parents is Raising Maine

Friday, April 3, 2009

Creative Illness and our Collective Quest

What comes to mind as you read the following questions: ” “How bad is it?” “How bad will it hurt?” “How worried should I be?” “How much worse will it get?” “How much time do we have?” “How did this happen?” Do these seem by any chance like questions that someone who has just discovered that he or she is ill might ask? And does it seem to you that these kind of questions are getting asked a whole lot these days? It does to me. One definition of disease is 'a lack of ease,' and the escalating threats of a dying planet and seriously ailing economy are most definitely making many of us more than a little uneasy (and leaving some of us quaking. )

In “The Discovery of the Unconscious,” historian Henri Ellenberger described a process whereby illness in addition to being painful, debilitating, and frightening can also be evolutionary and transformative. He called this phenomenon, ‘creative illness.’ Serious Illness and dis-ease often lead us to confront issues that we haven’t truly faced before, and to ask the kind of questions that seldom (if ever) have easy answers. Today, many of us are earnestly asking questions that we’ve long avoided such as, “what will we need to do differently, more efficiently, sustainably and now as we face global warming?” and, “how must we behave, think, and live differently in order to survive the harsh new economic realities?” Ready or not, we have been launched on a quest -a quest that threatens, challenges, and frightens us.

Quests by definition are initiated by questions, some of which have the potential to distract and overwhelm us, particularly those that are all too often accompanied by complicated and even contradictory answers. Poet Rainer Maria Rilke advised us to love questions, while another poet, Mary Oliver, suggests that there is ultimately only one question that we need to ask ourselves and that is, “how to love this world?”

It’s my belief that the outcome of our collective quest will have a great deal to do with the quality of the questions that we ask ourselves along the way, and I am dearly hoping that through the questions we ask and the courage and integrity required in not only seeking, but then living the answers, we will in the end be stronger, deeper, wiser, and more creative, and that through our questing we will be both transformed and redeemed.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Guide to Getting Through Tough Economic Times

The US Deptartment of Health and Human Services recently created a guide that can be viewed and downloaded online to assist folks in getting through tough economic times. The guide provides information regarding the effects struggles with finances can have on both physical and mental health and provides advice on the following:

Possible health risks
Warning signs
Managing stress
Getting help
Suicide warning signs
Other steps you can take

You can read the full guide here