I adore life's moments that make you grateful. Those moments that make you stop and think things like "Is this really my life?", "Am I really seeing this?", "How did I get so damn lucky?"--all good thoughts to have in a largely negative world.
This feeling hits me often, whether it be in a moment of laughter with a starry-eyed friend, or while gazing upon my sleeping dog, contently curled on a plush cushion, utterly enjoying just being (as dogs do). It hits me in differing moments of both chaos and stillness, both noise and silence. Moments like these leave me tip-toeing on a higher vibration.
I've found this feeling can be most easily found while immersed in our natural world, exploring organic environments that came to be all on their own. I found that feeling in repetitive, riveting waves this past summer in the landscape of Portland, Oregon.
I travelled to Portland with a friend of mine with no real expectations. We barely had a plan other than exploring the city's eclectic downtown, drinking 12 coffees a day and eating copious amounts of tacos. On a whim, we rented a car and decided to travel outside of city to take in some of Oregon's natural terrain.
While downtown Portland is certainly beautiful, swimming with culture and real-to-the-feel, energetic people, we found the parts of Oregon that man didn't make to be the most rewarding. We stumbled upon countless spaces of healing, soaking them in and often gaping in awe at the views before us. Oregon certainly stirred those sacred moments of gratitude we all sometimes feel, the often overwhelming beauty around us cleansing whatever negativity, stress, and anxiety we brought with us.
Below are some of the photos I took in these sacred spaces of Oregon...get ready to see your earthly home in a whole new way:
Flying into PDX, I was greeted with a view of Mount Hood (an active volcano) from my window seat and immediately knew I was landing in one powerful place. That's one fiiiiine mountain.
We fell into this view while driving aimlessly with no destination around Cannon Beach and made sure to pull over and gaze for a while. Stellar.
Multnomah falls was certainly a nourishing space. Gazing up at a 611-foot-tall wall of water has the power to make you feel so very small and insignificant, but also completely connected to everything around you. An ego-eradicator for sure.
The surrounding forest and trails of Multnomah held even more magic.
The towering Haystack Rocks of Cannon Beach taught us a lesson in enjoying the moment. Our phone batteries both flatlined right as the sunset was its most brilliant, allowing us to fully experience the view without worrying about capturing a memory for later. Although worry we did, because like...Instagram, but in hindsight the dramatic iPhone death was certainly for the best.
I think my face says it all.
Oregon certainly delivered on the views, leaving me with a distinct recognition of the pure brilliance that exists in the natural world and a deeper respect for the natural environment around me. I think I'll seek spaces like this for the rest of my life...the wild spaces that heal, uplift and cleanse the worse-off parts of ourselves. Until next time...
I certainly care about the physical planet we live on. My heart aches when I see news stories of toxic chemicals accidentally released into freshwater rivers, PSAs on the negative impact of drilling for oil, and I cringe every time I watch someone toss a Styrofoam takeout container into the section of the trash elegantly labeled "LANDFILL".
I recently began to consider that our minds themselves are an entire environment of their own: a maze of connections, cells, and systems that somehow work together to keep us functioning. Close your eyes and you can visualize entire forests, valleys and mountains. You can imagine situations, conversations and create entire plot lines right in your head. Your mind is the source that allows you to form relationships, create art, and begin positive change. Everything we do begins in our minds, but many of our minds relate more closely to a ragged, litter-filled shoreline complete with decaying, bloated fish than a pristine private oasis of turquoise water and healthy, tropical fish. So many of us are plagued with negative thoughts, always jumping to the worst possible conclusions and berating ourselves 24 hours a day.
This. Ends. Now.
Each thought, positive or negative, can release a series of self-made chemicals and hormones into our body. We can choose negative thoughts, releasing a poisonous cocktail of stress hormones, or we can choose positive thoughts, increasing our dopamine levels and sought-after happiness hormones.
I’d like to propose that we all start practicing some major mental environmentalism.
The pollution of my own mind dawned on me with a single intrusive thought. I was walking down a busy street, engrossed in my iPhone and gravely unaware of my surroundings. I suddenly felt my foot stop dead, caught on the ledge of a poorly laid slab of sidewalk, but my body kept moving. This spun into a dramatic arm flailing in an attempt to keep myself from slamming face-first into the sidewalk. I caught my balance, although flustered and embarrassed, my ego screaming that everyone was staring right at me.
Immediately and without warning, a thought popped into my head:
“You are so stupid.”
Whoa, whoa, whoa....relax. What happened to all that self-love we were working on? As laughable as it was, it was also deeply concerning.
Would I have said this to a friend I was walking with if they had tripped on the same random, uneven chunk of concrete? Not a chance. I would have told them that no one saw, to just brush it off, they looked great.
But oh how much harder it is to be nice to ourselves.
We’ve all done it; that immediate “I look terrible” upon looking in the mirror early on a Monday morning. That quick, mean-spirited “Oh please...NOT today,” that pops into our mind when we unexpectedly see an old acquaintance coming towards us from the other side of the street.
These thoughts may be quick, but over time, intrusive thoughts like these could have a very negative impact, wreaking havoc on our bodies and leaving us stressed, disconnected and dejected. It’s time we sweep the dusty corners of our minds, pick up the candy wrappers and tattered plastic bags from the shoreline of our psyche and start thinking more positively.
Instead of ignoring these thoughts when they rise up, honour them. Accept that they’re there, but don’t let yourself believe them. We must examine the dark, murky waters of our brain in order to understand them and to keep ourselves from drowning in their rapid currents. There is no stopping them once they’ve come, but they certainly aren’t invited to stay. I’ve found immediately replacing them with a positive thought can be incredibly helpful and healing over time.
When you see the charity representative making a beeline for you on the street on your way to a meeting, avoid going to the dark place (where I have certainly been) of “I really can’t deal with this right now.” Instead, try smiling, taking a breath and thinking, “May they be safe, may they be happy, may they be loved.” They're trying their best, just like you. Instant energy shift.
When you find yourself dropping a stack of papers on your way back to your desk, avoid the instantaneous “Why am I such a mess?” Instead, consider what you’d say to a tearful child in the same situation, bracing themselves for the ridicule they’ve learned to expect. Let’s go with: “It’s okay darling, we can get this cleaned up.” Onwards and upwards.
As ridiculous as it may seem, this work can be deeply transformative. Acknowledging your negative thoughts allows you to see how untrue they actually are and eventually you'll learn to simply laugh them off. Burning toast does not make you an idiot. Just because your hair isn't sitting right today doesn't mean no one will ever love you. Crafting positive thoughts from your turmoil in turn allows you to be more relaxed about stressful or disappointing situations, allowing you to realize how insignificant many of our daily pitfalls actually are.
Positive thoughts are the environmental activists of the mind. Use them and feel the life flow back into the rivers of your consciousness, free from the toxic waste you once allowed to seep in. Plant them like trees, and watch that garden grow.