Follow me on Twitter for inspirational and empowering quotes, events and links to my book.

Follow RangerMartin on Twitter

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Life is Intent. Matter is a mirror.

Here is a link to a great series of audio / video representations of The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz read by Peter Coyote.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cultivating Bravery

"A man with inner courage dares to live."
— Lao Tzu

As a spiritual warrior, one dares to live. One dares to live with authenticity in a manner which enables courageously facing life's constant change and perpetual motion or flow.

Chogyam Trungpa defined Bravery as:
“The act of both personally and socially manifesting”

–Chogyam Trungpa

One might want to sit with this, contemplate this and note any observations you see within in regards to this definition and your life.

How do you wish to live?

What is your Vision?

When living your Vision becomes your Intention you will be presented with many opportunities to choose or Allow it to manifest. Being present enough to notice these and act spontaneously with inner courage exemplifies the spiritual warrior concept of abruptness. We can define this interpretation of Abruptness as the ability to act suddenly, and a willingness to leap bravely beyond our habituated patterns.

The ability to shift from habituated mind to awakening to the present moment takes us from living passively with indecision and fear to pro-actively or co-creatively through authenticity and clarity.

This ability to shift is something we as spiritual warriors can cultivate and is aligned with our intention to live life with bravery, forward into the future with vision in continuity with our character and life goals.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Ripples in the Flow

The River has been whispering something to me on my morning runs.

When we notice ripples on the surface of our physical, emotional or mental states, often reffered to as our PEM, we can be sure that they are caused by something deeper, an obstruction or issue under the surface. The issue is not the water, the issue is not the ripple...the issue is some deep, old energy we must work on within ourselves to erode and flow over time.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Contemplative Running

Running. It’s never been my thing. As a child I ran around in the woods at play, but the kind of running for exercise many adults do I simply never really enjoyed. I found it to be hard work, sweaty and honestly rather boring. Recently, however I have found an amazing way to incorporate it into my life in a contemplative, meditational manner. I have begun to go on these runs several times a week, often earlier in the morning to avoid the heat of the day. It has helped tone my body, burn stored fat and pretty much get everything inside circulating and moving and flowing. The body is a living eco-system and things are meant to be hydrated and moving on the inside. But of course, we are more than our bodies and there is much in our mental and emotional bodies which need to flow as well.

I began running one morning when I realized that although I was an Environmental Educator and hiked throughout the week, as much as nearly five miles a day at times, it was not enough exercise for me and I needed to work on more cardiovascular and upper body exercise. I do not belong to a gym or go to the YMCA and it isn't in my budget currently. In a moment of frustration, I decided that none of these things were going to stop me from doing what I needed to do to meet my health intentions. I put on some shorts and a quick-dry shirt, filled my camel-back with water and headed out onto the street.

Living in the Mesa Junction part of town has many advantages for sure, close to the Public Library, local family owned restaurants and coffeehouses, local potters and artists, a historic tavern and even a small community garden. The building I live in is about a block from the Historic Downtown which has many small shops, galleries, salons, coffeehouses and pubs. It is also close to the Arkansas River.

I walked downhill toward the Union Street Bridge, increased my pace a bit and began to focus on my breathing. Arriving at the bridge I made my way over to the stairs and did a few preliminary stretches utilizing the railing and concrete blocks nearby as aids.Then down the stairs I went to the River Walk which runs the length of the South Side of the Arkansas River section which flows through the downtown area.

I began to jog along finding a comfortable pace and watching my breathing harmonize with the pace. I began to notice the steady beat of my feet and the rhythm of my breath over it and thought of it as a kind of music. As many poets, dj’s, and lyricists have pointed out, music can set up the initial patterns of thinking in the mind. Often, if there is a beat or a musical phrasing, a lyricist or writer can begin to put words in. I find this is true for me. As a poet I have used music a lot in this fashion, and at times the words just seem to fall into place. It was the same with the music I was experiencing kinetically from the physical movements of my body; the steady beat of my feet, the rhythm of my breathing and the swinging of my arms. Words began to fall into place; they were simple and positive at first, repeating simple inspirational phrases. Something like “when things are tough” thump-thump “I keep going” thump-thump “I don’t stop,” but as I went the phrases began to get more complex. I began to think about the fact that I was being the person I wanted to be right now, not intending to live a healthier lifestyle, but that I was DOING the thing that needed to be done to manifest those intentions. I was running toward my dreams by actually choosing to be as similar to my dream as I could in the moment. I was burning stored calories which I began to see as essentially ridding myself of the past which was lingering and moving or transforming my body and self toward the healthier, fitter and more vibrant being I desired to be.

Part of my regular contemplative or meditational practice involves a journal or a workbook in which I write out the lists of things I want to do or experience as well as lists of things I am grateful for or ways I would like to think of my life. I use a lot of Intention, Gratitude and Positive Affirmations in my personal work especially when transitioning through major times of change. I find that the focused clarity and frequent attention to these things can have a dramatic effect on the quickness and accuracy of my ability to shift from one kind of energy to another.

Before I knew it my mind had turned its attention on the areas of my life experience I wanted to shift or attract as well as areas that I wanted to expand into or allow to flow through and away from me.

It was at this point in my run that I came to the bridge just east of the Santa Fe and I-25 overpasses where the River Walk crosses the River.

I stopped in the center of the bridge and faced the oncoming flow of water which was a very apropos image for the interior work I had just been doing.

I began to watch the water and recount aloud the many things that were flowing to me in life or that I intended to flow to me in life, things I wanted to increase. It seemed to just flow out of me, specific items from many areas of my life. The things I loved about my perfect loving relationship, the abundance and financial opportunities that were flowing to me, gratitude about many dreams and goals I had achieved in the last few months. I began to get a very elated feeling of joy which I recognized as very good energy to resonate with and it inspired me to deeply feel the feeling of joy as I imagined all the things that were flowing to me in my life and many that I intended to flow to me.

When I had exhausted this listI turned and faced the river in the opposite direction to see the water flow over a small spillway and on out East towards Pueblo’s Historic East Side and further to the agricultural lands of the Mesa and beyond. Focusing on this image of the river flowing away from me I began to list the things in my life that were flowing through me and away, old patterns, old emotions, old ways of coping with challenges. I recounted anything I could think of that was appropriate I recognized as something which may or may not have been effective or advantageous or truly loved and enjoyed but which no longer had a place in the person I was in the present moment and the future self I was creating.

When I finished with this I knew I was done with that work and turned to continue my run. I was elated at the use of the natural flow of the river as a visual and contemplative aid in doing personal inner work. I felt I had found a new method of exercising that was invigorating and important to my overall health, a way to run and work to improve the body, mind and soul. I continued to run on around the Runyon Lakes behind Runyon Field, past a nice frog pond.

After a bit of time watching the ripples of large and mysterious fish in these ponds and checking out the frogs along the bank, I continued running and decided to keep left and head back around the lake with my eventual goal being to run to the Historic Union Avenue area.

The trail crosses a few small bridges and it occurred to me that this same flowing meditation could be practiced at any of these bridges or any stream. It even occurred to me that depending on ones environmental limitations one could make use of trains or the flow of traffic along a highway to do the same flowing meditation.

The trail crosses a land bridge between two lakes, one large one closer to Sante Fe Avenue, and behind it another smaller one closer to the confluence of the Fountain Creek and the Arkansas river.

On the North/East side of the lake I was surprised to encounter a stone-lined labyrinth. It is part of the Mahatma Gandhi Peace Garden which is not very well maintained or used as far as I can tell, however the paths are fairly weed free where people walk and someone had watered the few plants and cacti in the stone beds.

I decided that I should walk through this circular maze with its winding pathway toward center and out again. I knew there were therapeutic properties to the walking of labyrinths, things having to do with the right and left brain and possibly some deeper things dealing with psychological flow, but I was no expert, so I simply walked the labyrinth and got back on the trail to run some more.

The River Walk continues on alongside the larger lake and as it heads toward a parking lot for those visiting by car it passes another frog pond full of frogs and cattails and wonderful reflections. After making it's way through the parking lot it returns to more natural settings again as it runs along the creek which flows into the lakes. This path is lined with many flowers and birds are everywhere at this time of year.

Beyond this stretch, the path
makes it’s way back into the more urban areas and reemerges to interfaces with Pueblo’s urbania by running underneath I-25 and then safely over Sante Fe Avenue via the Faye’s Crossing pedestrian bridge and then connects to the Historic Arkansas River Project River Walk. I ran along the neatly manicured greenbelt park and around the new Veterans Memorial Bridge and on into the Union area before heading back up Union Street, past all the shops and over the bridge back up to the Mesa Junction neighborhood of Pueblo I now call Home. I was greatly inspired by the beauty of the opportunities around me to not only meet my fitness intentions, but that there was more nature very near my neighborhood which I had never really explored.

I have been running this trail for over a month now and have seen Deer, Hawks, Fish, Frogs, a red Coachwhip snake, Swallows, Sparrows, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Mallards, Cormorants, a pair of Osprey fishing even what I believe to be a Beaver swimming in the lake near the creek It's good to break the mold, get out there and do it!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Accepting What Life Brings

Last night I arrived just below treeline on Greenhorn Mountain just as the swiftly moving mists overtook me, turning the blue gloaming into a dark downpour. I made my way as swiftly as I could into the dark of the forest and began to pitch my tent. I was feeling that it was not going to go well, that pitching my tent in the rain was going to be a miserable situation. I feared that I and the inside of my tent and my sleeping bag would get wet before I could get the protective rain fly up. I had brief notions of a cold, wet, sleepless night atop a mountain.

I knew that the rain was going to pass through the mesh netting of its roof and so I would need to work swiftly and with single focus. I spread the tent out and covered it with the rain fly while I ran the poles through their sleeve tubes. This is not easy and the tent was getting wet, the material resisting against the progress of the poles a bit due to the new friction of it's wet weight and the weight of the wet rain fly on it.

The breeze moving this misty cloud through the forest was cold and my clothes were getting soaked. I had decided to forgo spending time on getting my rain gear out in lieu of getting my shelter up as quickly as possible. I could always change into dry clothes once inside.

Once the tent was up and I was inside changing out of my wet clothes, I realized that the intensity of setting up the tent in this swift manner had lent the moment a focus and a calm to the situation. I had not been worrying about the rain or the cold or how wet my clothes or the tents insides were getting, I had been completely focused on the mechanics of the process. I found that with this single pointed focus I had achieved a meditative state where all of these factors were known or acknowledged, but without all the complicated and fearful thoughts. In fact I felt a bit elated. The challenge of the rain had made the event almost a game for me. I laughed in the dark at the thought that I had been having a rather joyful time through the whole "ordeal."

Hours later, I heard the rain stop hitting the rain fly. I unzipped my tent door and scooted out into the vestibule of the rain fly and unzipped its door. The thick mist of that mountaintop cloud was still moving ghostlike through the forest. I got out to experience it. The air was fragrant with the smell of a rain drenched forest. The evergreen scent, the earthy smell of the ancient humus beneath my feet. I could smell mushrooms out there growing in the moisture of the dark.

The mist began to thin as the cloud was sweeping over the mountain now. It dragged the tail-end of it's ragged tendrils through the narrow alpine firs and as that floating wet blanket slipped across the treeless summit, the dark expanse of the night sky was revealed. At this elevation above any artificial lights of the towns below, the amount of stars one can see is stunning. I realized that the cloud moving across the sky had been like a theater curtain, as it swept over the mountain the revelation of the night sky had a very dramatic effect. It would have been a completely different experience had the sky remained clear at sunset and the dark slowly gathered and one by one the stars slowly became visible. I realized that my experience of all that cold rain and mist was essential to the joyous experience I was having in the present moment. For a moment, here was no real distinction between the discomfort of pitching my tent in the rain and the pleasure of looking out into the glorious stars of our galaxy. There was only joy and gratitude. All that had happened was the path to this deep felt and timeless moment of bliss.

I hadn't been dwelling on how I wished the situation had been different, I was too engaged, too focused for thoughts like that. Accepting life as it is, tensions disappear, discontent disappears; being able to accept life as it is, one starts feeling very joyful for no reason at all!

When I saw the night sky fully opened cup with those innumerable stars in the nearly liquid black of space and the misty cloud dissapearing over the treeless sumit of the mountain, I was overcome with it's beauty. I felt grateful.

With great gratitude I was thankful for the cloud and the rain and the mist. I was grateful that I was spending a night with no other lodging than a tent; otherwise I would be sleeping under an ordinary roof and I would have missed this blessing--these stars, and the whispering retreat of this misty cloud, and this silence of the mountain, the utter beauty of this mountaintop night.

It was a great lesson, a lesson in the value of a focused meditational state in challenging times. A lesson in remaining calm in adverse conditions. This direct experience of nature had powerfully demonstrated to me a lesson in accepting all that life brings, with gratitude.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Stones in the Path.

"When the trail gets muddy, it is the stones in ones path which become the path."

We are living through times of great change. Many friends of mine lately are struggling with aspects of themselves which seem to be chronic and persistent. These things range from physical illness to life long issues which seem to keep arising. Challenges which present themselves over and over again. I have found that if I allow things to flow instead of attaching ones identity to those things, they disappear. Embrace them as part of your experience, they are part of your path taking you where you want to be; at times it is only a shift in perspective that we need.

Having spent several seasons hiking in the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, I can tell you that after (or during) the rain or in seasons of snow-melt runoff, all those trails through the deeply forests mountains and lowlands become tiny streams. The whole area becomes saturated and moist. It becomes evident when in the forests of the raincoast, that the moisture which can be annoying, uncomfortable and at times an obstacle is also the very reason why it is so lush here. This water feeds and sustains everything. All of the fauna around one is water being held and used to increase life.

For a year I lived above 9,000 feet in the Indian Peaks Wilderness of Colorado. It was a beautiful place and my job at a mountain resort allowed me to be in some of the most pristine country around every day. I had the opportunity of walking out my tiny cabin door and walking straight into the forest. Even my walk to work took me on dirt roads through the forest. One day, while I was hiking one day below Longs Peak on the trails around Brainard Lake, I had a realization.

It was Spring time and the snow was begining to melt. At times, the trail would get so muddy that I had to switch over to stepping from stone to stone instead of the space between and around the stones which I usually thought of as the trail. It was a natural switch, this stepping out of the mud to dance upon the rocks. As I laughed to myself about what it was I was doing and how I had so easilly shifted my perception and that shift had made my way along the path so much easier. These stones in my path were no longer what I had previously thought they were. I had the realization that at times, it is the stones in ones path which are the way.

Later in my meditations on this aphorism, I began to draw other metaphors from it. Often the times the trails are muddy is when there is much water around. I already knew that the water was, of course feeding the life around me, however, what started to materialize was the process and how it related to my life. Often the wet times in nature come in the Spring, which is a time of great change. The trails are mudiest when life is the newest, shoots are poping from the ground, pushing up the rich humus, trees are begining to use the water as they once again start the process of using sunlight, elements and nutrients into sugar. I saw how this mirrored my life's muddy times. Usually when my life or path gets muddy, messy and difficult to navigate without slipping, it is a time when there is much change and new growth. Of course changes in life bring stress, even "good" change still has teh mud of stress mucking things up.

When things don't appear to be going as we feel they should, or have planned them out, our first response is often to be upset or fearful. The fact that we see obstacles, challenges and difficulties often translates as "things are not going as planned" or "things are not going well" or "I am failing." I have found, however, that these times of change are usually times where the old is leaving me and something new, something more to my liking is emerging or becoming manifest in my life. Over and over again in my life, it seemed to me that things were falling apart only to later realize that things were actually reassembling themselves into something better. Times of change or stress are times of transformation, of shape-shifting; form is changing to allow energy to flow more efficiently in service to life usually by facilitating growth or through the the creation of new life forms.

At times in my life I have encountered the same problems or issues over and over again. Often I have said to myself "Why is this happening again" when facing things which seem to be a recurring pattern in my life. Usually I found that eventually there was a lesson there which I needed to learn in order to progress. Time and time again though, I would see these recurring issues as problems, as obstacles and engage them in battle. I would not welcome them, but instead despise them and feel as though my life was not going the way I wanted it to. It was only after I finally learned the lesson that I could progress in my life and not run up against the same problems over and over. I had to shift my pespective, stop reacting and judging and see what was really happening.

I was fixated on the stones in my path, usuing all my energy on them. I was so focused on them that the issues were all I could see. I was failing to notice that I was still moving, growing;and change, you see, is a sign of life. Life is change. Living things grow, they have a circulation system, they change form, they take in nutrients and combine them into new forms; they build muscle or cell walls, they heal, they eliminate waste, they engage other life forms, they reproduce.

I have learned to see changes in life as growth, as an expansion of my life, an increase of experience, and so things which at first seem like obstacles or problems in the path become steps through times of change. Once I realized the true challenge was in the way I saw things I was able to welcome the many changes of form in my life, knowing that new things were forming or coming into existence. It was just like dancing on the rocks of the muddy trail, with a shift in perspective all obstacles vanished and all that remained was the path I was on going where I wanted to go.

"Change your thoughts, change your life."
~Wayne Dyer

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Seedling Sermon: The Illusion of Failure

My brother is celebrating his new home by putting in a garden. We have been talking about gardening together now for a while since it is a shared joy. Planting a garden is a great way to expand ones dominion in ones life, of tending the flow of abundance and seeking to expand. I have always found gardening to be a way of learning about nature and about my own nature.

Recently my brother contacted me about prepping a bed for beans and such and inquired about “hardening-off” his seedlings. Young, pampered seedlings that were grown either indoors or in a greenhouse need a period to adjust to outdoor conditions, gradually exposing the tender seedlings to wind, sun and rain and toughens them up prior to planting in the garden. This transition period is called "hardening off.” It usually involves the simple method of placing them outdoors for gradually longer periods of time. Hardening-off seedlings helps prevent transplant shock. However, one must be prepared to bring them indoors if there's a late freeze or snow.

My brother’s question was “How many days to harden off seedlings before planting?” I told him that several days; perhaps a week was often sufficient. I told him to observe the changes in the plants as they harden-off, sometimes one can see a marked darkening of the green or notice a strength or an ability to stand up even in a bit of wind, or popping back up after a bit of rain.

I explained that when in doubt, leave them out to harden–off longer, the only concern being their becoming root bound in the tiny containers usually used to sprout seeds. Becoming root bound stunts their growth, so check for that and re-pot if needed.

“That’s my worry.” He said.
“Don’t worry, just check.” I said. It’s okay to loosen up the soil in the container gently and lift out the soil and root mass to examine it briefly. Knowledge is power.

One should look for root growth on the outside of the root and soil ball, roots not in soil but wrapping themselves around the soil and obviously constrained by the walls of the container. If this is the case, they should be re-potted into a larger container with more soil. This way the plant knows that there is ample room to grow and more nutrient territory to be had and it will continue to grow and expand and seek its natural full expression. Another method instead of the re-potting of the seedlings is to temporarily plant them loosely in a tray or a wheelbarrow to allow for root growth and expansion as well as providing a continued ease of moving them in and out of frost danger.

Also, one can go the “not all eggs in one basket” route and diversify your seedling hardening off techniques profile. Try a few different things in an effort to maximize ones sense sureness. Learning gardening is an opportunity for experimentation and discovery.

I have found the Path of the Gardener to be an amazing potent Wisdom Path. Rich metaphors between the ways of plants and the ways of humans become evident. There is much to be learned about the process of all living things on this path. Immersing oneself in the planting and tending, in the growth and flowering and fruiting, in the dying, composting and the eventual return to the source can greatly enrich ones life.

The part which spoke to me today was The Sermon of the Seedling, especially the part about trying new techniques, about exploration and discovery. When taking on new projects, trying new things in life, changing the form of something so that the energy flows more efficiently or more in line with our preferences there is often a hesitation, a fear of failure.

What I have found is that if I maintain a mindfulness and consciousness through the decisions to move in the direction of my intentions or dreams, I can not fail.

Life is a journey of discovery, a process by which we like the seedlings, seek expansion and growth. We like all life are seeking a full expression of our selves. Whatever we decide, whatever choice we make, we will learn and grow either way. There is no such thing as failure when doing something. The only failing is “trying” which, in the end, is simply “not doing.”

Things not “working out the way one planned” should not be seen as the marker of failure, but instead, as the path of growth. Our own life story can attest to this if we examine it. How many times have we worried about changing jobs or shifting the shape of a relationship or moving to a new home only to find that the new form and situation was just what you needed? The wisdom of our lives tells us to take a leap of faith; we will learn and grow, either way.

We never fail to succeed.