What I learned about resilience from hiking in the desert

What I learned about resilience from hiking in the desert

I am always looking for ways to find similarities between life and nature whenever I am out hiking, taking nature photos or just out and about walking my dog.

One thing that I, and other outdoor enthusiasts, can probably agree on is that nature has this glorious way of teaching us about ourselves and life.

The only difference will likely be in perspective and opinion as everyone tends to see different things — and in different places — sometimes where others may not see anything at all…. such is the remarkableness of storytelling! Such is the splendor of our natural world.

When hiking a trail every landscape, for me, seems to have a plethora of lessons. Lessons that may or may not always be immediately noticeable. Sometimes a lesson will catch you off guard right after you just turned a corner or reached a phenomenal trail peak; and at other times it is found in a sunrise or sunset, a wild creature that has just crossed your path, or something as simple as the shape, texture or color of a plant, tree or rock.

The amount of inspiration is, in my opinion, limitless and I would like to share a few of the lessons that I have learned from the natural landscape of the Joshua Tree National Park desert with you on this Wellness Wednesday.

  • Life is hard, but regardless of the conditions and situations you may be faced to live with, you can survive them. [It is possible to survive just about anything]
  • Even though the conditions and situations may seem desolate, every now and then, (usually when you least expect it), a little bit of hope and possibility will rain down on you and give you just the break that you may need to make it to the end of your trail. [With or without hope… with a little patience good things will happen]
  • The rain is necessary! That is…if you want to be able to truly enjoy the full range of the beauty of the desert. [Balance is the key to joy and well-being]
  • Sometimes it will be the trail that you least expected to inspire you that you end up gaining the most from – so try not to pre-judge or worry about the trail that you are on. [Life is always full of surprises – if you’re open to receiving them]
  • Although the flora and fauna residing within the desert may seem strong, (because they have had to endure so much harsh weather), they are actually some of the most delicate, beautiful and treasured items and should be respected and handled with great care. [Strength can be found in many places and expressed in a variety of ways – not in just the most obvious things]
  • Every trip through the desert should be carefully thought out. [Acknowledge what you must face and face it best by preparing for the unexpected – because there is a good chance of something happening that will be unexpected- safety first…always and in all things.]
  • Stunning and amazing thing will spring up from the most unexpected spaces. [Life is full of surprises…Always be prepared for a plot twist]
  • You may have to carry heavy loads through rocky terrain and challenging elevations until you reach the top of the mountain or complete that strenuous trail; but every step you take is one step closer to removing the weight from your back and delighting in pure refreshment. [Allow yourself to be transformed by things that you may find difficult to manage because there will be a reward of some kind waiting for you at the end.]
  • You can journey through the desert trails alone and make it through, but that journey is often more interesting and special with a friend by your side to share it with. [Sometimes a little support can help ease your journey and make the time go by a lot faster.]
  • Just when you thing that you have had enough of the desert, something special will happen to change your mind and you will realize that your pilgrimage through the vast unknown was a gift from above; that is when you will feel as though there is no place that you would rather be. [Accepting all facets of life allows you to remain open to continually finding gratitude and joy!]

Thank you for reading.

Until the next post…

Take care + be well.

An Experience in Late Spring Desert Soothing

An Experience in Late Spring Desert Soothing

Hello Everyone and Happy Thursday! I just returned home from a slightly extended, (and much needed), trip to one of my favorite places to visit in Southern California – Joshua Tree National Park.

It was exciting, relaxing and wonderful as usual – this was my third time visiting this national park.

I missed not going last year, tremendously, because I was deep in the throes of overcoming grief, and I didn’t realize exactly just how much I missed the desert until I was finally able to once again step foot onto the coppery, tawny hued hot sand and dirt of the very beautiful Mojave-Colorado desert inspired landscape of Joshua Tree National Park. You really have to visit this part of the earth to truly appreciate just how welcoming it is.

To back track a little bit, I didn’t go last year because it just didn’t feel right. I even made reservations twice last year, and cancelled them just as soon as I made them. So, I know deep down I wanted to go badly, but my need to hibernate at home and learn how to live without my youngest child was so much stronger. Sometimes I think that my son may have even had a hand in my not going because I was no where near ready to enjoy myself – as one should when on vacation.

My last visit was just a few months before my son’s death, so as you can probably imagine, this trip brought back so many memories of when he was still physically in my life.

This year though, I was more prepared for the adventures and physical exertion required for such a trip; as well as the opportunity to release some really heavy internal turmoil and manifest a hint of personally relevant rehabilitation. The desert offers many opportunities for reflection and healing and my heart and mind are now in a good place – a place of equanimity.

This trip was quite different from my previous trips to Joshua Tree National Park in that it was less about reaching a specific peak, enduring a strenuous trail, or taking a lot of pictures so that I could post them to Instagram. In fact, for the first time ever while traveling, I gave extra attention to avoiding my smartphone while away. I wanted to make sure that I would be fully immersed in my trip, and that required me to be fully present in every moment so that I could obtain the most from my experience with nature, and the culture of the area, while there. Trust me, it was by no means easy, and I was tempted to get on my phone a few times to post photos on social media and to create a post here on Salubrity and Soul, but I didn’t and I am glad that I was able to keep my promise to myself and to ensuring that I would be able to have the best possible connection to my trip experience.

I did take a few photos eventually though, because I had to have something to remind me of my trip besides the Joshua Tree t-shirt that I bought. I just made sure that capturing photos from my trip just so that I could let everyone know what I was up to at the moment was not my main focus – or a focus at all.

This trip was was less about physical activity and more about becoming one with nature, more specifically, the desert – and and allowing it to teach me about surviving, overcoming, adjusting to harsh conditions and thriving while in that state.

I love being in the desert and I figured if anything was going to propel me to another level of healing in my bereavement it would be within the lessons learned from watching the example of resilience from the delicate but oh-so-mighty desert.

One of the first things that I noticed was the abundance of plant life and wildlife at Joshua Tree National Park this year. It was obviously more green and more bright with colors from a variety of plant species that were dormant during my last visits – (and my 2017 visit was pretty exciting as far as seeing color and running into fauna was concerned, so that should give you a little hint to the eye-catching changes that left me in awe.) I concluded that my increased sightings of lizards, birds, insects, desert rats and rabbits were the result of the increased plant life which undoubtedly was the result of the fact that the desert had received quite a bit of rain earlier this year. This part of my trip was something that I enjoyed witnessing as it made my trip even more pleasurable and in a lot of ways – more spiritual.

Joshua Tree National Park emits such a deep, raw energy within its boundaries that I would describe as being very cleansing. Maybe it has something to do with it being a high desert, or maybe it is because when you are out there it is almost as though you are visiting another planet, or because the desert holds a great deal of “fire energy”, or perhaps it is due to it being a vast land once inhabited by ancient natives and still feels like it.

Whatever the reason, many people, myself included, love to visit this desert public land for the visual aesthetics, the physical activity offerings and the spiritually stimulating opportunities.

Had I decided to go last year, I know that I would not have enjoyed myself as much. It would have been a very solemn and mentally draining trip and I don’t believe that I would have been able to even entertain the thought of going out for a hike each day; or try new restaurants in the area like I was able to while on this trip. It feels very good to be able to open up myself up to new experiences once again – and in a place that fills me with so much joy and peacefulness.

Have you ever gone on vacation only to return home feeling as though you now need a vacation from your vacation? I have, but that never happens to me after visiting Joshua Tree.

I am grateful for every moment of mindfulness along the trails that I hiked and every awe-inspiring view that captured my attention and my heart. The connection that I receive with every visit here never fails me. This time is no different. Right now I feel transformed, invigorated and inspired to share the lessons of resilience that I learned from the desert.

Thanks for reading!

Until the next time,

Take care + be well

10 Ways That Suffering Can Help You Grow Spiritually

10 Ways That Suffering Can Help You Grow Spiritually

Well…we have survived yet another Monday my friends! Happy Tuesday! Today on “Talk-about-it-Tuesday” I would like to discuss spirituality and how suffering can contribute positively to personal growth.

“Don’t put your soul in the wrong hands, mindset, or environment.

– Lalah Delia

Spirituality means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, and my intention with regard to this particular blog post is not to focus on the different types of spirituality or get into the topic of religion; but rather to look at how it (spirituality) can be beneficial in the instance of grief.

One thing that I have noticed is that all spirituality carries with it is the ability to bring us back to our “center.” Back to our “home base.” Back to a phenomenal place where we’re able to develop a deep connection with something that is many times greater than ourselves, and perform rituals that make our spiritual practice (whatever it may be) special and meaningful to us.

“Spirituality is a supreme inter-communication between you and everything.”

-Bryant McGill

Spirituality is often the thing that we’re reaching our for when we experience loss because that is a time in our lives when we tend to really seek answers to the most perplexing questions about life… and death.

I have found so much comfort in discovering and implementing the guidance that I’ve received from my spiritual practice(s). They have brought more peace, tranquility and inspiration into my life making it easier for me to heal.

Suffering can be as lonely as it is painful; and it feels wonderful to have something in my life that I can do to alleviate the pain and loneliness that can also be practiced in very personal and intimate way without infringing on anyone else’s personal comfort level. I can express what I am feeling without any worries because I know that I am in the company of a power that understands my grief, and who is ready to assist me in performing my soul work and growth.

“Part of the spiritual work is remembering who you are – when triggered.”

– Lalah Delia

I have compiled a list of 10 ways that suffering has helped me to grow spiritually. I believe that this list could help you too.

  • Suffering makes your appreciation for life more profound because you get to observe closely just how precious every single moment is. You get to see it’s worth up close and personal.
  • You learn that life comes with limitations – and you learn to accept that reality.
  • You learn that no matter how much you think that you have control over your life… you do not.
  • You gain a greater understanding of the gift of vulnerability and you become more fearless and courageous as a result.
  • It can help you open your heart and mind to the gift of “storytelling”, authenticity and self-expression.
  • It can help gain insight of your life purpose and find meaning in life.
  • It helps you remain focused on the important things in life and you become more grateful for everything.
  • It can help increase your interest in fostering an intimate relationship with a higher power.
  • It can help you prepare for and manage life’s ups and downs.
  • Suffering teaches you to have more compassion and empathy in all of your relationships.

If you have any thoughts about this post please share! I would love to hear all about it!

Thank you for reading!

Until the next post…

Take care + Be well

Grief Rituals

Grief Rituals

Hi Everyone! I hope that your week is off to a wonderful start! I also hope that you had a great weekend. Well it is Monday, which means that it is “Memorial Monday” here at Salubrity and Soul.

Memorial Mondays are days that I will discuss topics related to grief and loss, and on this first Memorial Monday I’d like to begin this series by discussing healing rituals for grief and loss, or “grief rituals”.

A ritual, (although it may sound like something having to do with witchcraft or something), is actually just a task or activity that is performed, and is considered proven to be personally effective as a means of helping the bereaved move through their grief.

“If you have lost someone you love this year, or if it’s the anniversary of their death, you can celebrate their life by creating a ritual that is meaningful for you.” – Dr. Margaret Rutherford

After my son died I began stocking up on candles because I found that lighting a candle every Friday night beginning at the last hour that he was physically at home, until the hour that we received word of his accident helped me adjust to losing his physical presence within our home. It also helped me to gently process losing our mother/child, mother/son relationship and connection.

That was almost two years ago, and I still practice that ritual, but now instead of lighting a candle every Friday evening, I now light one every evening after dinner at which time I call out my son’s name and declare that this candle lighting is for him and then I go on to say a few words to my son and close with a prayer or some other wording that holds special meaning. I then end each nightly candle lighting by blowing out the candle and then telling my son “good night”.

Another ritual that I have is that I watch, (or rather continue to watch), my son’s favorite television shows. There are several shows that my husband, son and I used to watch together regularly and we would have in-depth conversations about each episode afterwards. That was really hard to adjust to losing by the way…

Continuing to watch those shows helps to remind us of his opinions, perspectives and personality. He used to have his own special spot on the couch and now when we watch those shows it is healing because it’s almost as though we can still feel his presence.

“All healing is first a healing of the heart”. – Carl Townsend

I guess I would probably also include my journaling practice as being one of my grief rituals as well since the writing that that I do for my grief is within a journal that is reserved specifically for expressing my personal feelings about my son, how his loss has affected me – and our family. It is also another way that I speak to my son as well.

The ritual examples that I have just discussed are daily and weekly rituals. However, there are also grief rituals that can be performed monthly or yearly as well; such as memorial rituals. I will talk about those next week so if you are a part of my fellow bereaved tribe, stay tuned for those other helpful ideas.

There are many things that can be done to ease grief. Grief rituals are just a part of the many ways to do so. What makes these rituals so special is that they are often quite personal in nature, and can be created to be very unique representations of the relationship that we had with the person we lost; and our connection to them. So much so, that it can become a way for us to continue feeling that connection – even after they have passed on.

Grief rituals can be helpful in providing, us, the grieved, with some sense of of normalcy during a time when everything seems to be out of control. I like to think of them as a way of “making the burn sting a little less” when you’re needing the world to just slow down a bit because your grief is making it so hard for you to keep up.

That is what grief rituals have done for me. They helped me to re-frame my thinking by making me feel as though what has passed; hasn’t completely passed and it gave me the chance to view my loss in a more positive light by helping me remember that there are so many things that I can still be grateful for within my experience with loss.

One important thing to remember during your grief ritual is to let yourself feel whatever you need to feel, and don’t feel bad if you find that you need to express any anger, or need to cry. Just let it out because that is going to help you get through your pain – even though it may not feel like it. If you don’t find that you need to express any emotion that is fine too. There is no right or wrong way to feel during a grief ritual – or through any aspect of grieving.

Here are a few daily and weekly grief ritual ideas:

  • Write in a grief journal daily.
  • Visit your loved one’s burial or accident site weekly.
  • Light a candle daily or weekly during a specific time of the day to remember and honor your loved one.
  • Watch your loved ones favorite shows, sports or movie.
  • Create a playlist of your loved ones favorite song(s) and play it during a specific time of the day or week.
  • Put fresh flowers in their room weekly.
  • Say a daily prayer for them or recite their favorite quote or other reading.

Do you have any thoughts regarding daily and weekly grief rituals? If you know of any additional grief ritual ideas please feel free to share them with me. I would also be very interested in hearing any stories telling how you were helped, (or not helped), by a grief ritual.

Thank you for reading!

Until the next post…

Take care + be well

Breaking Away

Breaking Away

I have a confession to make. I jumped the gun. About a month ago, I became so overwhelmed, (or should I say that I allowed myself to become so overwhelmed), that I almost gave up. I almost gave up on Salubrity and Soul. Yes, that would have been a terrible thing to do! Especially since (as anyone who has followed my story knows), I waited so long to start it. But, what’s even worse than that is I kept feeling that I would be letting not only myself down, but my son down as well.

So instead of giving up, I decided to just take a nice long break and get back to everything once I feel better prepared to add blogging; and all of the added social connecting that comes with it.

I wrote about “unplugging” once before in my blog post 10 Things A Digital Detox Can Do For You”, but for some reason this time I needed more than a little digital detox. I was burned out and needed something a little more serious. What I needed was a sabbatical – a blogger’s sabbatical. Which is not a real term to my knowledge, but I think it has a nice little ring to it – don’t you?

“Rest is not idle, is not wasteful. Sometimes rest is the most productive thing you can do for body and soul.”

– Erica Layne

I cannot deny that the holidays, memorial event planning, awareness projects, work, overcoming the surprises acknowledged after finally gaining closure after losing my son over a year ago and an unexpected health concern all took a huge toll on me. The writing was on the wall and all I had to do was make a decision. Was I going to try to control and conceal it? Or was I going to take my well-being into my own hands and handle it in a healthy way? The healthy route, obviously, attracted me more.

“Self-care isn’t always manicures, bubble baths & eating healthy food. Sometimes it’s forcing yourself to get out of bed take a shower and participate in life again.”

– Meredith Marple

I knew that there was really only one thing to do, which was to bring everything that I was doing to a grinding halt, and just immerse myself in a sea of self-care. What’s more healthy and wellness minded than that? To notice the signs of burnout and potential additional bereavement issues and then heed to them. To care for yourself when you need to.

There is no shame felt here. Just gratitude and grace. There is no guilt here either. Just a sizable amount of self-love and a sense of contentment. Knowing that in all of my struggles suffering and vulnerability, I still have the faith and courage to keep moving forward – even if that also means that I have to slow down a little bit as well.

On the humorous side, one great thing about this “sabbatical” is that I didn’t have to obtain permission to take it. My only requirement was to seek inspiration, offer myself patience with regard to writing, and to rest and take really good care of myself. Which I did by doing a lot of meditating, a lot of healing baths, nature walking, journaling and changing some of my eating habits.

“Be you, love you, All ways, always.”

Alexandra Elle

While the payoff for taking this “sabbatical” is that I have been able to apply greater focus on enhancing my skills and creativity, assess my needs for engagement and productivity; but in a much less frantic manner. That is a complete win-win in my eyes.

Taking a break isn’t a weakness. Neither is taking as many breaks as you need – especially when you are in the process of healing. It may be the only thing standing between your failure and your success; and at least a break will energize you a little better than any attempt to just continue pushing on through.

Until the next post,

Blessings,

Take Care + Be Well.

Carol

Gratitude

Gratitude

“Gratitude soothes and heals the soul.”

– C.c.m.

Some days won’t be as good as others, but there will always be something good in each day. The key is to keep looking up!

Until the next post…

Blessings, love and light,

Carol

Eating Healthy While Grieving

Eating Healthy While Grieving

One of the things that happens to the bereaved right after losing someone is that we tend to seek out things that will help us fill our recent void. Our bodies begin to crave more rest, and a host of other things – one being great tasting foods.  Grief often tends to cause our appetites to change; and while some will experience a loss of appetite, others may experience an increase in appetite as the need to gravitate towards foods that elicit a dopamine release from the brain cause us to feel all warm and fuzzy inside and completely comforted.  This is all due to the stress that comes with grief, and just as with any other form of stress we may know of our own “go-to” foods that we find personally healing.  In fact we can all probably conjure in our minds right this very moment, (I am sure), a dish or recipe that we know has the power to make us instantly happier at any given moment.  For me it’s my Mom’s curried chicken recipe or just about anything with, garbanzo beans, dark leafy greens, avocado or Italian. Those foods always go straight to my soul and make everything better. 

But, back to how grief either increases or decreases our appetite.  In the days weeks and first few months after losing my son, I lost my appetite which resulted in my losing 12 lbs.  Food was the farthest thing from my mind and I remember every time that I did eat, regardless of whether or not it was breakfast, lunch or dinner, I felt as though I was forcing myself to eat.  I was forcing myself to eat, because I knew that eating something was the only way that I was going to have any energy to keep running back and forth to the hospital, plan a funeral service and take care of all of the lose ends and important tasks that must be taken care of after someone passes away.  

Even though my appetite was not there I knew that I had to eat in order to stay somewhat healthy.  Sadly, though, I found myself in a bit of a fast food whirlwind grabbing unhealthy, easy, non-nutritious foods to sustain myself which as you probably already guessed, left me feeling even more depleted.   

Something had to change and I needed to find a way to get back to normalcy and start eating healthy again.  So, I began by gradually increasing the days that I would cook healthy meals at home instead of eating out or grabbing fast food. Starting with two days a week at first, and eventually leading to making healthy home cooked meals 6 days a week – it took me 4 months to return to my usual healthy eating schedule. 

One thing that made it easy to do was to cook in bulk so that we would have leftovers available, (either from the previous day or frozen), if something came up and I was unable to cook one day.  Another trick that I used was to pre-make healthy juices, smoothies, vegetable and fruit plates, soups and salads and I kept them at hand so they were easy to grab from the refrigerator for a quick snack or lunch.      

It is not uncommon for the grieved to receive food from friends and family after the funeral has passed, and this practice can be such a wonderful blessing when you are too emotionally and physically and weary to cook anything. I can’t stress enough how much helping the grieved in this way can mean the world anyone who has just lost someone. However, that is not something that we can rely on for the long haul. 

Therefore, having and idea of how to implement a healthy meal plan and and what to include can be invaluable not just to the bereaved while adjusting to a new way of being, but it could also be helpful to anyone who might be feeling overworked, over stressed, just plain tired or for any reason. 

During the spring and summer months we will usually feel satiated after eating just about anything light, but for a lot of people there is something about fall and winter that moves us toward craving comfort foods such as stews, hearty soups and casseroles. There is something about the cooler months that have us reaching for foods that warm our bodies as well as our hearts. The good thing is this, we don’t always have to abstain from enjoying those delicious comfort foods. 

For example, one way to still eat them and avoid adding extra pounds, or eating unhealthy, is to change a recipe so that it becomes healthier, but still tastes great. This is what I did with my lasagne recipe when I stopped making it with meat and all of the extra, delicious, but unnecessary cheese. It is absolutely scrumptious!  I will post a recipe for that lasagne this week in what will be Salubrity and Soul’s new recipe section, and it will also be posted on the Salubrity and Soul Instagram account.   

If you have found yourself in the same unhealthy conundrum and feel the need to eat healthier after loss or just prefer eating a decent home meal try:

  • Asking friends and family for help with obtaining home cooked meals. 
  • Creating your own home cooked meals by making larger amounts of precooked meals and either freezing them for later, or to enjoy as leftovers during the week. 
  • Avoid fast-food by buying pre-packaged meals.  Many of which can are now vegan, vegetarian, low-sodium or gluten free. 
  • Make homemade soups, stews and casseroles in a crock pot or instant pot to save time and your energy.
  • Order food from a good restaurant instead of grabbing unhealthy fast food and have it delivered.    

As you can see, there are several things that you can do to help ensure that you are eating as healthy as possible while dealing with loss, and I will have more tips and tricks for maintain your health while grieving in the coming weeks.     

Until the next post,

Take care + be well,

Carol