Gratitude in Action

“I am so incredibly grateful that you and your car got us from Portland to this trailhead safely,” my friend Mary stated.

And now it was my turn...”I am so incredibly grateful that I have a refrigerator and cupboard stocked full of healthy foods.”

Another steep part of the hike was upon us, we both went back into the solitude of our minds until we reached flat land again.

I am so grateful for the household that I live in,” Mary said.

I am so grateful that I have my health to be able to do this awesome hike,” I said.

My friend Mary and I have been on many hikes throughout the Pacific Northwest together since I started hanging out with her almost three years ago.  A few weeks ago we ventured on a hike and came up with a new way of hiking. Each time we came upon a new incline to hike up, we had to each think of something near and dear to our heart that we were grateful for and then once we reached flat land again, we’d share with each other what we were thinking. We did it in some back lands behind Silver Falls in Silverton, Oregon.  The trail had many inclinations and there were no other souls around.  I felt so light and as if my body was buzzing throughout the hike.

I have always known the power of gratitude as I have seen it work wonders in others’ lives and my own.  Meditation has helped me to further integrate into the wonderful energy of gratitude. By being so completely present in the moment, everything seems like a miracle.  Of course, the monkey mind comes back quite often (dang it, I’m still human!) But for the most part, ever since starting my meditation practice half a decade ago, everything…a spoonful of delicious soup, resting my body on a comfortable bed, or having a meaningful conversation with a dear friend  have all become moments of gold.

A couple different spiritual teachers that I have been listening to lately have inspired me to start a new daily practice, I made up my own term for it, I call it “3 and 3.”  It’s super easy, doesn’t take a lot of time and is incredibly powerful.  I either do it at night or in the morning when I’m having my coffee.  Basically, I list three things in which I am grateful for, but honestly it’s more than just listing them…I actually try to really feel how deep my gratitude is for them.  Then I list three intentions that I have for that day (or if I’m doing this at night, I list three intentions for the next day.) I have found this to be a very powerful practice because more often than not I reach almost all of those intentions that day.

If that seems like a lot of extra activity to your already packed world, maybe just try to do it for the week.  So before the week starts, list three things you intend to get done that week and three things that you are in gratitude of from the last week.  I have found that actually writing them out, with pen and paper really seems to make it happen.  Do whatever works for you yo, I just hope you do give it a shot and see for yourself!

Peace out!

Synchronicity

I planned on doing a solo, dinner hike this evening after I got out of work.  It is quite lovely that even though I don’t get home from work past 6pm, I still have three hours to get a good hike in at the Columbia River Gorge, with the sunset not happening until a little past 9pm.  As I took the train home from work, I had my head buried in my Smart Phone investigating a new sunset hike in the Gorge that I haven’t tried yet.  I decided on Latourell Falls, a beautiful waterfall hike that I have done in years past, but have never done at sunset.

After I got home to my apartment from work, I rushed things.  I dropped out of my scrubs into hiking threads, whipped up a quick dinner on the stove and tossed it into a plastic container.  I grabbed my headlamp, water bottle, notebook, pen, pack and rushed out the door.  I cruised along I-84, took the exit to the historic highway and must have took a wrong turn because after driving for miles, Latourell Falls didn’t show up, but the Wahkeena Falls trail head did.  I didn’t fight it, I turned my vehicle into the lot.  It was nearing 8pm and I was hungry, drooling as I thought about the stove cooked meal still steaming in the plastic container I packed away.

As I walked up the beginning of the trailhead, my ego still fought the fact that we weren’t walking up the Latourell Falls trailhead.  “But this hike is laaaaaammmmeeee, it is half the hike that Latourell is and there are tourists every where….look!” My ego whined, but I didn’t acknowledge it, I just kept walking up hill.  Wahkeena Falls showed up in my vision ten minutes later.  I sat down on a bench kitty-corner to it, pulled out my newest book about lucid dreaming (given to me as a birthday present recently 😊) along with my stove cooked dinner and chilled out on the bench, smiling hello at a few passersby that walked by waving at me.

image3 (1)*Wahkeena Falls*

I filled my tummy up, read a few pages of my book, and then continued on.  I decided that I would follow the trail past Wahkeena Falls for at least half an hour, so that I could get a full hour-long hike in.  It turned out that twenty minutes past Wahkeena, one of my favorite view points was up ahead, I didn’t remember the name of it. I just remembered it vividly from when a friend and I meditated on a couple large boulders by it a few years prior, with rain pouring down on us.  I then realized that I wasn’t too far from another set of falls because I remembered that my friend and I were embarking on a hike to Fairy Falls on that day that we meditated.  My ego started to get happy that we would do a longer hike than just Wahkeena Falls.

image1 (3).JPG*The majestic Fairy Falls*

After reaching the majestic Fairy Falls, on my way back down, I kept thinking “I need to write down the name of that viewpoint that is on the way to these falls.”  Earlier on I had noticed that there was a plaque on one of the boulders that my friend and I had meditated on years ago, but I had never read it.  I just felt that it would be something good to know, especially when my fellow kindred hiker-co-worker would inevitably ask me where my most recent hike was. Also, on the way back from Fairy Falls, my monkey-mind was all over the place and a thought came to me about how when I was five years old, I announced that when I grew up, I wanted to be either a “writer or a teacher.”

That particular thought came to me because pretty soon I will be taking TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) courses in Portland and there have been lots of worries in my mind about how it will manifest…such as which country I will end up in?  I thought about how when I was a kid, I truly did know my soul path…as writing is something I have always done, pretty much daily since I was able to figure out how to put a pen to paper.  This teaching thing though, this will be coming to fruition, but not in the typical teaching way that I would have envisioned.  My monkey-mind went to all sorts of thoughts, lots of fears came up…about relocating to a whole new country to teach and what not, but then a thought popped into my mind, it hit my mind so abruptly that it was as if it wasn’t my own.

“Yeah, but Ilona!  If you are passionate about something, you will do it regardless of fear or danger–think about firefighters for an example–they do it all the time!!”

And then I got back to the viewpoint.  The sunset had the sky looking as if it were on fire.  I sat on the same boulder that I sat on with my friend in years prior.  I decided to meditate there again.  A few minutes into meditating, it felt as if I were surrounded in light, I felt so peaceful and at one with all of the sounds around me.  I opened my eyes, jumped off of the boulder and sat in front of it to finally read the plaque in front of it that I never read years prior.

In memory of Keith L. Lemmons.  Firefighter, who lost his life fighting fire August 1983.  As a native Oregonian, he was proud of the beauty of his state and was dedicated to the protection and preservation of this area for future generations.”

Chills ran up and down my body.  Many argue on the subject of signs and synchronicities. Many chalk it up to coincidences,  but the “woo-woo” in me can’t help but to think there is something more.  We are all SO MUCH MORE CONNECTED THAN WE THINK> what do you say?  I want to hear your stories on synchronicities, if you have some….please do share!!

image2 (1)*View from Lemmon’s Viewpoint on the way to Fairy Falls*

Image

Walking Revelations…

Yesterday afternoon I went for a two hour walk with a new friend at Forest Park, one of the biggest urban parks in the U.S. located right in the city of Portland, OR. Getting started on the walk, I noticed my sense of thinking forward, as in “I’m feeling kind of lazy and a little down today, I hope this is a quick walk.” Right as I noticed myself having those thoughts I snapped out of it. Noticing how vast this forest was, the happy dogs and people passing us by, I thought, “why would I ever want this to pass me by without taking it all in?” I’m truly starting to get the sense of what “being awake” really means, it’s definitely not wishing for time to speed up so that you can get to another desire, it’s not to dwell on the past and think of things you miss….it’s being fully present in the moment (even if the moment seems treacherous or daunting.)

As our walk went on, we had some of the most intense and deep life talks that I have had with anyone in a while. It was an incredibly meditative walk, the two hours actually ended up feeling like 20 minutes and we both came up with some deep realizations and revelations.

Walking, although it’s pretty simple, can do some amazing things to our body and brain. Last Friday I took a half an hour walk around the block and although I started it in the same thinking mode as yesterday, the whole “I can’t wait until I get this done with,” after just 10 minutes thoughts started just flowing and I wrote all of this down when I got back to my house:

–When something is really upsetting you, or you can’t get your mind past the worry of it, remember that you were a baby at one point….right now, who you are is only temporary….so why let something get you down when you know that EVERYthing is temporary. Don’t waste that energy, let things pass and everything will become lighter.

–If you gain control of your thinking/analytical mind and realize that it has no power over you, you open yourself up to a world you have never noticed before.

–If you let go of the ego, nothing will hurt you anymore…you will have no regrets in what you tell people.

–If you quiet that incessant chatter in your mind, you really start to notice amazing things that you, at one point, took for granted: the way a shadow looks against the sidewalk, the shine on your dining room table when the sun is blaring down on it, the way the moon appears at 3:30 in the afternoon: as if it was drawn onto the sky with a small piece of chalk.

–If you are ever in a negative funk or you feel you are alone, realize that you can never be alone because you are all that you see and every living thing is part of you.

Easier said than done with a lot of this and of course many of these thoughts have already been stated, but remaining present and realizing everything is temporary….moments don’t own you, is ever helpful to remember.

Peace and love,
Ilona 🙂

P.S. in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. day, I want to leave this with one of my favorite quotes of his:

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”