Glittering Rays of Hope

When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it—always. – Mahatma Gandhi

100 foot tall Guanyin statue on Putuoshan

Many years ago, when my wife and I were still getting to know each other, we traveled to Putuoshan (Shan – mountain). It is a sacred island of Guanyin the Bodhisattva of infinite compassion. Guanyin is revered across Asia. In China the island is considered to be Guanyin’s “bodhimanda” – place of awakening. Putuoshan is one of the four sacred Buddhist mountains in China. And so there is an abundance of sacred energy around the island. If I could sum up our time there in one word, I would say “hope”. Since we were still getting to know each other we still had doubts about the future of our relationship, but hope for the future far outweighed the doubts. Guanyin is known across Asia as the goddess of mercy who listens to peoples’ prayers. We both prayed for hope that all our years alone had ended.

jade amulet of Guanyin given to me by my wife many years ago

Hope is what made me first write to “Happy Hong” – her screen name on the old MS Messenger program. I like how she used the word Happy to describe herself. I had been through some terribly rough times, and just wanted someone to write to. I simply introduced myself and asked her to look at my profile and write back if she liked. On New Years Day 2005 she wrote back, and those initial hope-filled steps led to a remote relationship and over a year later to a face-to-face meeting. Hope has been a foundation stone of my life. Hope leads to trust and to love and so many positive emotions. We went to a temple market, and as is a Chinese tradition, I bought her jade Buddha amulet, and she bought me a Guanyin amulet. These are meant to protect one another when you are apart. I never took my Guanyin amulet off once she put it around my neck, until I moved to China over two years later. Whenever I travel, I wear Guanyin, and kiss the figure as a talisman of hope. In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. – Albert Camus

Altar to spot where Guanyin left a footprint in the stone on the way to enlightenment

t is said that Guanyin stepped on Putuoshan as the Bodhisattva reached enlightenment. There are “footprints” in the rock where this occurred. This is a matter of faith, and not created by the government tourism ministry (which published the magazine I edited and wrote at that time). Hundreds of faithful believers light incense and pray at this site. Many people come to Putuo to pray. There are many Buddhist pilgrims and monks. Some perform arduous rituals as they approach the various temples. Hong and I lit incense and prayed at every temple as we walked around the island. There are no private cars allowed on the island, so it is very pleasant to stroll around. Hope has been a kind of magic for me my whole life. And I have always looked for signs of what others might call the “supernatural”, but for me these transcendent moments are glittering rays of hope. All that is gold does not glitter, / Not all those who wander are lost; / The old that is strong does not wither, / Deep roots are not reached by the frost. J.R.R. Tolkien

The ancient cultural aspects of China resonated with something deep inside me. I often felt there were spiritual energies flowing around me. My mother-in-law and I shared these feelings, and she told my wife I had a connection with the more metaphysical realms. In ancient Chinese folk beliefs, moths represent the spirits of the ancestors. If a moth come into your house, it could be the spirit of one of your ancestors come to visit. I found several moths on our journey around the sacred island. Some people may say this is just magical thinking, or half-crazy ideas – maybe. But would you want to live in a world without magic? Some spiritual beliefs are meant to give us hope. Hope that the days up ahead will be brighter. Hope that benevolent gods and spirits are walking beside us. Hope that one day, love will come around the corner and the world will change forever. Reclaiming the sacred in our lives naturally brings us close once more to the wellsprings of poetry.Robert Bly

temple guardian statue

Have faith in what you believe in your truest heart. Do not question the magic of hope – embrace it. Hope can build worlds from shattered dreams. Let hope guard the gateway to the future. Lift your spirits with hopeful prayers. Know that the divine Universe is listening. Light the beacon of hope for yourself and for those you love. Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. LaoZi

Three Keys to Thriving

Be Present. Open up. Do what matters

If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s. Joseph Campbell

Philosophy is concerned with human existence and is associated with “schools of thought”. Western philosophy is rooted in the ancient Greek and Roman thinkers and Judeo-Christian beliefs. Eastern Philosophy is grounded in the Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Part of who we are is forged by where we are from. But the core of our self-image is flexible. We can change who we are. First we must reinvigorate ourselves. Vigor comes from eating well, exercise and getting enough sleep. In order to thrive, you must get control of your health to the best of your abilities. Thriving goes far beyond endurance. Now is the time to not just survive but to flourish. Three basic keys of thriving are: Be Present; Open up; Do what matters

Being Present

The word mindfulness can summon up: visions of yoga, meditation, pastel colors, soft lighting, trendy workshops. But the underlying concept of mindfulness concerns being in the present. This doesn’t mean abandon your memories or ambitions. See the beauty in your life. We all have experienced moments when we are busy being busy. All those around us are buzzing like bees with busyness. All this expenditure of energy can produce great anxiety and stress, which are toxic to health and well-being. Living in the here/now grounds you and connects you to your real life. Sometimes that can be difficult because so much of society is geared towards the past or the future (advertising, upcoming meetings, social media…). To be more in the present devote less time to considering the past and future. Savor the moments. To get yourself back into the Here/Now focus on your breathing. Take an awe-walk Learn to hit Pause and Refresh once in a while.

Opening up

It can be difficult to trust others. Trust is earned, but at the same time, we have to be open to believing in others. Hope is the catalyst for trust. I had a friend I worked with in China who told me I trust too much in the good intentions of others. That trust was not easy to cultivate after the world-shattering revelations of my first marriage. But being a father taught me that life is not about always protecting yourself. Cultivate being less self-conscious. Yes, it is true one has to stay safe, but everyone should know how to open up to others. Too much joy is loss when people try to protect their inner world from emotional mistakes. Be honest. Honesty is a key to becoming self-aware. No one is perfect. It can be difficult to be open to others, but in any relationship, those who grow together stay together. Open up and let the sun shine in.

Doing what matters

To thrive requires getting proper perspective on your life. What matters to you? I don’t think money is the most important thing to you. You wouldn’t be reading this far if you were motivated by greed. Because greed is what motivates weighing everything on a scale of monetary gain/loss. I was very close to someone who measured everything in terms of how much? How much can I give and get more in return. She died years ago, and none of that money did any good, in fact the constant measurement of time versus expenditure hasten the end. The phrase, you can’t take it with you, kept ringing through my mind. Life changes are possible every minute. Start getting perspective on your life. What truly matters to you? Lesson One: Life is about CHANGE. Lesson Two: Choose what matters to your heart and not your bank balance. Lesson Three: Love yourself and those around you – unconditionally.

You can thrive and flourish. Get healthier. Get moving to release tension and stress. Take time and get away to gain some perspective. See where you are going. Broaden your horizons. Take an inventory of the “things” in your life and de-clutter. Clutter decreases creativity and increases stress and anxiety. Get out into nature and be nurtured by the present moment ever-unfolding all around you. Have some fun. Get some quiet time when nothing is going on, just being. If you are going through changes in your life, take time alone. Solitude opens the mind to increased possibilities. Trust yourself. “As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.” – Goethe

Awe Walks Boost Well-Being

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper. W.B. Yeats

According to a scientific study published September 21, adults who took short fifteen minute “awe walks” just once a week reported measurable improvements in their positive emotions and a decrease in their daily stress. According to Virginia Sturm, PhD, one of the researchers, “What we show here is that a very simple intervention — essentially a reminder to occasionally shift our energy and attention outward instead of inward — can lead to significant improvements in emotional well-being.” The study showed a remarkable connection between engaging with nature for even a short period of time and an improved quality of life. Awe is an uplifting emotion which is triggered by being conscious of being part of something larger than yourself. The researchers discovered an increase in so-called prosocial emotions such as compassion, gratitude and humility. Regularly taking an awe walk (in nature or neighborhood) can have enormous benefits to your quality of life.

As we age, our minds can begin to tilt towards negative thoughts. One aspect of this is what doctors call emotional contagiona tendency to mirror the emotions of others. If those around you, and the people on TV programs you watch, focus on the negative side of life, some people begin to mirror those emotions. According to the researchers, Negative emotions are self-focused states with detrimental effects on aging and longevity”. The study showed including an awe-walk in your routine decreases self-interest and increased the positive thoughts that would benefit others more. This decrease in self-interest can lead to helping the environment, volunteering at a school, donating to a worthy charity, etc. All of these further increase ones sense of overall well-being.

Although participants only took a fifteen minute awe walk once a week, the positive emotional impact were long-lasting, and increased with practice over time. Participants were surveyed each time, and their answers showed a marked gratitude for their life. The inspired sense of awe increased individual’s understanding of their self in relation to the greater world. This is called the “small self” The title of the research paper was “Big Smile, Small Self…” Psychologist would define the small self as a diminished sense of self and the significance of your goals. In Zen the small self is: the I that says “I am Chuck”.; to which the master asks, “Who is this I?” The small self is the ego – the sense of attachment to personality. By gaining an understanding of the small-self you expand your consciousness to a more compassionate, grateful point of view. This small self is not bad, but it limits the individual’s view of the greater world around them.

Some people associate the word awe with grand peak experiences, such as seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, scaling a mountain cliff. Abraham Maslow defined peak experiences as “joyous and exciting moments in life, involving sudden feelings of intense happiness and well-being”. Reading the word awe conjures up images of mountains, oceans, canyons, but awe just as easily come from: noticing ripening vegetables, the twirl of savory greens on a round plate, the sun glinting off dew drops, a vine reaching towards the light. Awe can spring from the appreciation of a poem or work of art, the splendor of a marvelous song, a brief flutter of wings outside your window.

As Emerson said, The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child. The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of adulthood. (*Note: I changed the last word “manhood” to “adulthood)”. This is a simple low-cost way to vastly improve brain health in adults as we age. You can boost your emotional well-being throughout the by simply gazing out the window for a few minutes or summon your small self to consider the way water flows down the drain while doing the dishes. There are so many miracles dancing around your life every day. Take a little awe walk and be grateful for life’s charms. Peace.

Wisdom From Three Masters

Lessons from three ancient masters: Laozi (LaoTzu); Kongzi (Confucius); Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu)

Life is about learning. Education is the key that opens millions of doors. Maybe because my mom had to leave school when she was twelve to support her family, she instilled such a drive for knowledge in me. And my father took great pride in being the first in his family to graduate from high school. I think we all are wholeheartedly lifelong learners. Great teachers can come from every walk of life: artists, musicians, philosophers, writers, cooks, …We all can learn something from everyone we meet. In that way, we all have had thousands of teachers in our lives. So, today I want to introduce one basic lesson for today from three ancient masters: Kongzi (Confucius); Laozi (LaoTzu); Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu).

A few years back, I was excited to read a book about the DaoDeJing (Tao Te Ching) by a famous self-help psychologist. I thought maybe he could make things more understandable for a Westerner. He went on at great length about his understanding based on various translations. But mostly he seemed to superimpose his spiritual thoughts atop the ancient writing of LaoZi. I felt that was okay up to the point in the book where he mistranslated the meaning of LaoZi as “Lao (old) Zi (man). I stopped reading. Lao (old) is correct but Zi – means master, revered sage. How could you profess to be an “expert” and not know that one very simple basic fact?

There are several ways to write Chinese with a western alphabet. Tao is the most commonly translated spelling, but I prefer to use Dao. That is closer to the way the word is pronounced, according to the hundreds of Chinese I have asked. I have been interested in the Dao for four decades. I think though, I was probably interested as a child in the ideas of The Way (Dao) even before I knew of the word. As LaoZi wrote in the DaoDeJing “The Dao that can be told is not the eternal Dao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name.”

I hope you can relate these lessons to your own life. Out of respect, I will start with the Old Master Laozi. Like Socrates, some “experts” say that Laozi was not a real person. Nonetheless he was the founder of philosophical Daoism (Taoism). It is said that Laozi become so disgusted with the country’s government he packed up and left. As he reached the final western gate, he was stopped by a guard YinXi. The guard asked Laozi to write down all his teachings. And that is where the origin of the DaoDeJing. One of Laozi’s greatest lessons for today’s world is:

Simplicity, patience, compassion. These are your greatest treasures. By being simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being. Have patience with both friends and enemies, by doing this you act in accord with the way things truly are. Being compassionate towards yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world.

Kongzi’s family name was Kong and so his name means Master Kong. I taught a little boy in China, with the English name Henry, who was the 77th great-grandson of Kongzi. Henry was a smart little turd. But many people know Kongzi by the name Confucius. The name Confucius comes from Kong (family name) Fuzi (Grand master). Confucianism is about social and political order, moderation and reciprocity. His book The Analects contains many of his teachings. Just as with the teachings of Jesus, Kongzi’s Analects are thought to have been written down by his followers. Some of Kongzi’s teachings are little dated for the present world, but many of his ideas on morals and moderation stand the test of time. One of his clearest lessons for today would be: Fix your mind on truth, hold firm to virtue, rely on loving kindness, and find your recreation in the Arts.

And, saving the best for last, we come to ZhuangZi (Chuang Tzu). ZhuangZi was a real person. His name was Zhuang Zhou 莊周, and he lived in the 4th Century BC. There are historical records of his life. I like Zhuangzi’s playful humorous, casual approach to teaching. I had success as a teacher by having a sense of humor and keeping things informal for the most part. Zuangzi, whose book is called The Zhuangzi, uses analogies and dialogues to teach. For example, Zhuangzi is walking with a friend, and he says the fish show they are happy by jumping around. His friend asks, since you are not a fish how do you know the fish are happy? To which Zhuangzi replies, you are not me, how do you know that I don’t know what makes fish happy? I know the joy of fish through my own joy. And I can intuit their happiness. And so the joyful fish story illustrates one of Zhuangzi’s greatest lessons: Learn to think intuitively. This is the understanding that comes from not knowing.

In all these stories from the three great masters, we can find one simple lesson: Be true to yourself and trust in your heart.

It is said that the ruler of the Chu kingdom wanted to give Zhuangzi a position in his administration. Zhuangzi said, “I know the King has a very ancient sacred turtle which he keeps wrapped in a box in his temple. Now do you think that turtle would prefer to be dead and honored in that way or be alive and dragging his tail through the mud?” The official said the turtle would prefer to be alive. Zhuangzi told him to go away so he could continue to drag his tail through the mud. So, be yourself and keep dragging your tail in the mud. Keep safe. Stay healthy.

New Videos from my time in China

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This is a photo of an amazing lady pulling a giant hand cart loaded with practically a store worth of furniture. Women in China work incredibly hard.

I am posting videos to YouTube of my time in China. I am writing an extended piece on Medium called: My China Journal: Letters from the Flip Side. It covers my time living in China for twelve years.

I spent five years in Hangzhou China. Over the years, I was the top foreign lecturer in my college. I was the managing foreign editor and lead writer for a monthly magazine and weekly newspaper. I convinced my wife to marry me while living there also.

In the winter, locals hang meat outside to dry. I noticed this when I was going to work at the magazine and saw hunks of pork hanging with little girl’s underwear.

Above is a video from the Taoist God of Luck Temple on the Jade Emperor Mountain. The temple was near my magazine’s office. The old lady dance group were part of a club.

My wife and I joined one of my editors for a Lantern Day Festival/Food Festival/ Chinese Opera evening. Lantern Day is the official end of the Chinese New Year. I captured the perfect 12 seconds of audio visual to typify China – fireworks, car honking, people shouting and alarms going off – incredible cacophony. The amazing young woman I worked with at the magazine is a great person, and she and Hong got me to try Stinky Tofu for the first time – terrifyingly awful.

One of the dishes we brought home was – Beggar’s Chicken – a whole chicken wrapped in a giant lotus leaf. Frightening.

Chinese New year fireworks outside my university apartment window. Hong went home, and I wandered the city alone.

I was interviewed by the local TV news. I reported on the ribbon cutting for the China International Animation Festival for the magazine. The boss made a deal for advertising money by promising I would write about the event. My reputation and modicum of ‘fame’ are growing according to my fellow editors. The other day, I interviewed the Vice Minister of Propaganda – Nice ominous title for a rather pleasant middle age woman. I covered the 4th Annual Animation Festival as a reporter. My wife told me to pose with the coplayers so she could take the photo of me with my press pass.

I had to ride a bus for an hour several days a week to go to most of my university classes. I took this photo from my classroom of a traditional ox plow.

These ancient statues are part of a long gone temple. I will be posting more photos and videos of my years in China. Peace.

Be Alive in the Glorious Now

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this. – Henry David Thoreau

Each day, upon waking, the sumptuous banquet of exquisite moments manifests before your eyes, and are often promptly ignored. Time is limited you tell yourself. I have to do: A, B, C, … Commitments and obligations block the Way. All the while, everyday miracles tantalize the real, unadorned you. You come to believe the life unlived with its heady perfume and sensuous silhouettes has to remain an unrealized dream. But that does not have to be. You can rediscover that lost land of youth. The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it. J. M. Barrie

Do not live to work; work to live. In physics, work is force times the distance through which it acts. You are paid to expend energy over work-time. If you have to force yourself every day to do that work the job is toxic. If you mentally carry that job with you outside work, you need to refocus your priorities. Do not allow the payment of money for your time to bleed off your life-energy to the point you feel deflated and hollow. A job is simply a means to an end, and it should not be the end of you.

Of course you should take your job seriously, and perform it to the best of your ability. But, unless you are the owner of the business, the job is not your life’s work. It simply is not. Part of your life’s work is appreciating the miracles of: you, those you love, and the miraculous world around you. Miracles abound in this world of ours. We separate ourselves from them – not them from us. This glorious now is life. There is no equivalence between the importance of work and the significance of life. Miracles are not contrary to nature but only contrary to what we know about nature. – St. Augustine

Now is the time to live. Living in the real world does not have to mean setting aside your true nature in order to accept the artificial creation of the workplace. The eight hour day is a creation of the Industrial Revolution. People worked fewer hours hundreds of years ago. For instance, in medieval Europe peasants worked from dawn to dusk, (16 hours in summer and 8 in winter). But their day was interrupted by: breakfast, lunch, afternoon nap, dinner, plus morning and afternoon refreshments. And a third or more of the year was given over to holidays and merrymaking. (The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure, by Juliet B. Schor). Drop the pretense that your stressful schedule benefits you in any more ways than financially.

So many people have extended their work week, and never take the vacation time they are due. Slow down the frantic, rushing pace from here to there. There will always be more to do. Pull yourself back from the hurry and the worry. Remind yourself of what is truly important to you. Reclaim the splendor of living your life. Reclaim the bounty of happy miracles. There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.Albert Einstein

The Weight of 200,000 Souls

In just over six months, the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of over 200,000 people in the US. That is more than the American casualties in: World War One, the Korean War, Vietnam War, Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Stop and think about the frightening scale of this ongoing covid pandemic.

I had an awful dream the other night of a highway lined with graves. Since then, I have been trying to visualize the size of covid pandemic’s enormous death toll. In the US a standard grave is 8 feet long. If the graves of America’s Covid-19 victims were placed end to end, the graves would stretch more than 1,6000,000 feet or 303 miles. That is the distance from Washington DC to New Haven Connecticut or Youngstown Ohio. The average casket in the US is 84 inches long by 28 inches wide. A casket is fourteen square feet in area. And sadly, 200,000 caskets would cover 2,800,000 square feet in area. To put that number into perspective, the White House is 54,900 square feet in area, and so you would need about five White Houses to hold the number of coffins necessary for 200,000 funerals. But what is the emotional weight of 200,000 souls?

The first official US death from the covid-19 virus happened at the end of February. The covid virus however had been spreading in the US and around the world before that. Now, seven months later, the official number of deaths attributable to the covid-19 virus has reached 200,000. This covid pandemic death toll is without a doubt inaccurate, but it is certain that at least two hundred thousand people have died from the pandemic. As a way to honor those who have died, I have been marking the numbers each day and saying a prayer every night for those who died since March.

On March 23, 2020 I began to keep my own record of the covid virus numbers. This first page of my record was simply to try and understand the infection rate and death toll of the pandemic. Looking at that first scrap of paper now I see poignantly how I marked the first day the daily death toll reached 100. As the days rolled on, and the death toll rose above 1000, and then above 10,000, the numbers began to show just how frightening this pandemic had become. My wife and I tried to reorganize our lives in order to prepare for self-quarantine. We had been following the news from China since January and knew covid-19 was going to be terrible. We had no way of knowing just how terrible it would become.

For 180 Days – nearly half a year: Several times each day, I have marked the numbers down and said a prayer every night for those who had passed away that day. The growing, monumental scale of death sent a chill up my spine. The marking down of the numbers became a meditation on mortality. But soon it became apparent that the numbers in the US were being manipulated to show lower rates. There was an insane push-back against preparation and basic public hygiene. It is maddening that some people still do not give a damn about their fellow citizens. The numbers continue to rise higher and higher. And I dutifully continue recording the numbers and saying a prayer day-after-day. I’ve filled two dozen sheets now – front and back. But the terrifying toll of the pandemic is about so much more than a tally. Every single case is a life destroyed, a memorial held, and countless people left grieving.

The other day, I was looking through some photos and found my high school yearbook photo of my best friend Greg. I vividly remember the first time I talked to him in 2nd grade, and we made each other laugh. We became best friends as easily as a leaf falling from a tree. We were blood brothers and so much more. Our lives were interconnected to the end. He served in the Navy, and I went to college. One awful day he told me he had leukemia. He struggled mightily for months but succumbed to the disease. Four decades later, I still carry the weight of his death in my heart. These days, as the pandemic death toll continues to rise worldwide, I continue to ponder the emotional weight of 200,000 departed souls. And I would have to say, the Earth itself could not balance the scales for even one unique person gone but never forgotten. We all must do what we can to remember them and to stop this wretched pandemic. Please stay safe and take care of each other.

Finding Hope

All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope. – Winston Churchill

Hope sustains life. To live is to hope. Hope, is the freedom to believe or trust that one’s desires are possible. But how does one preserve the freedom to hope in such a time of chaos and cataclysmic change? Hope will not be delivered to your door. Hope will not come from a store. Hope is generated by faith and love. Hopefulness is an ever-renewing power. Embrace hope and overcome.

Each of us is adapted to our environment. Adaptation is a characteristic of life. Most life forms have physically adapted to their habitat, like this sand dollar, or sea cookie. Many of us know the five-pointed petal design on the exoskeleton found on beaches around the world. But none of us would want to live like a sand dollar slowly grinding away burying ourselves in the sand when trouble comes. Human beings live hopefully. We must be hopeful in order to adapt to the current transformation of our human civilization. Hope is the lighthouse we must steer by.

One of the glories of human life is to believe in hope. Yesterday is known. Tomorrow is unknown. Today is unfolding. We must gather the strength together to set things right. There is far too much desperation and gloom these days. In a way, this is a valid short-term adaptation to dealing with so many problems simultaneously. But the darkness will pass – have hope. While many difficulties are external, the barriers to hope are internal. Look within and seize the day away from the night. Look around at the true beauty of the world. Appreciate the life you do have. We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon. Franklin D. Roosevelt

In the grand scheme of the eternal universe we can appear to be little more than an ephemeral blob. Here today and gone tomorrow. But we are here today. As I wandered this morning, I chanted to myself with different emphasis each time. Be here, now. Be, here, now. Be, here now. The words leapt into my head like a discharge of static electricity. Something in the dynamic moment whispered a prayer and revealed a new mantra of hope. An invocation of hope arose.

Life must bridge the chasms. Otherwise there is no path to the other side. We must span this time between the world we lost and the world we create anew. Reach out towards the shining light of hope. Grasp the hope-filled meaning of your life. Stoke the fires of hope, and find the courage to forge ahead. Courage is like love; it must have hope for nourishment. – Napoleon Bonaparte

3 Health Benefits of Regular Walks

Exercise benefits health. Everyone knows some of the healthy benefits of exercise. But do you know some of the amazing ways regular walking exercise can improve overall health? The health benefits can include: stress reduction, weight loss, lower blood pressure, improved mood. But there are so many more health benefits from walking. Let’s look at a few of the ways regular walking can increase cardiovascular health, reduce weight, and enhance well-being.

Health benefits of regular walking poster of long shadow on road

Regular Walking Improves Cardiovascular Health

Getting your body up and moving will increased cardiovascular and pulmonary (heart and lung) fitness. The modern sedentary lifestyle is partially responsible for the increase in so many diseases, especially cardiovascular and pulmonary illnesses. Regular walking can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. The heart is a muscle and as such it can be strengthened through proper exercises. People suffering from high blood pressure can lower their levels through regular walking, This is especially true in a natural setting where the fresh air and soothing scenery relieves stress which in turn lowers blood pressure. Find a lovely place to walk, even if it is in your own backyard. One strong-hearted WWII veteran offered hope and good cheer to the world this summer. 100 year old Captain Tom Moore knighted by The Queen for raising money for charity by walking in his backyard. The fundraising hero walked 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday, he originally wanted to raise just £1000 for charity. He ended up raising over £32m for NHS charities.

Health benefits of regular walking for health long shadow on sidewalk

Regular Walking Helps Reduce Weight

Research has demonstrated that taking a walk regularly will aid in any weight management program. Although a thirty minute walk only burns around 150 calories, walking will increase an individual’s metabolism. Regular walking also helps the body respond to insulin which can help reduce stubborn belly fat and body fat overall. Walking is a fantastic way for overweight people to get back into the swing of exercise. The pace does not have to be brisk to enjoy the benefits. And there is no need for an expensive gym membership or bulky exercise equipment. It is not necessary to set a goal of a certain distance, number of steps or to establish a fast pace at first. Work your way up to numerical goals. Just get walking. The best part is you can start today.

health benefits of regular walking long shadow on beach footprints around

Regular Walking Enhances Well-being

Regular walking has been shown to actually change the nervous system. Walking in nature is especially beneficial for reducing stress and increasing positive well-being. Interacting with nature improves cognition and affect for individuals with depression. National Institute of Health. If you suffer from seasonal depression, getting out for a walk in nature will have a very positive impact on your mood. Regular walking can boost your overall creativity which in turn increases self-realization. According to a study published by the American Psychological Association: Four experiments demonstrate that walking boosts creative ideation in real time and shortly after. You don’t have to wait for sunny days to brighten your spirit. Get outside and get in touch with nature and improve your peace of mind.

This post is the first in a series about the health benefits gained through regular exercise walking in nature. For many months I have been discovering the vast benefits of regular walking to my physical, mental and spiritual health. One thing the covid-19 pandemic has made crystal clear is we all have to strengthen our immune systems and find ways to shine a positive light into the world around us. It’s as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. It doesn’t have to be anything too elaborate. Have fun. Enjoy your walk.

Slow Walking the Apocalypse: 1

Slow walkTo delay a request or command, to drag one’s feet, to stall, to obstruct, to drag out a process.

Seeing the photos of the massive fires, or frightening smoke levels on America’s west coast has had a profound impact on me. I asked my daughter in LA to describe the situation in one word, and she said “hellish”. My other daughter who lives across the river from Portland said the air is “Sh*t”. Our air quality has been identified as “Hazardous” the highest level of warning. We are one hundred miles or more from any of the larger fires. But there is still quite a bit of smoke in the air coming from forest fires in Washington and Oregon. We had incredible winds and strange skies over the past few days. I went outside for a few minutes to take photos of the town and the beach. These terrifying fires are a direct result of conditions created by climate change. Although I will remain an optimist, I believe the powerful forces will continue to prevent the reduction of emissions below a profitable threshold. We are witnessing an inevitable decline of our home planet’s health. To protect corporate bottom lines and through negligence and greed, the powerful have been slow walking the climate apocalypse.

I’ve been a nature lovers since I was a little kid and my mom taught me about plants. In grade school I read Dr. Seuss’ McElligot’s Pool,which started me thinking about biodiversity. As an adult, back in 1995, I was very proud to be one of five representatives from my state for NASA’s Mission to Planet Earth’s Global Change Education initiative. For over a dozen or so years, I worked on countless environmental education projects. When I lived in China, I taught all my students, at the university and young kids, about environmental issues. My university students participated in the One Day on Earth project in 2011 and 2012. I was invited to the UN for Earth Day 2012, but I could not attend. We all have to become advocates for the environment. To paraphrase the Lorax, we have to speak for the earth.

Timeline for Slow Walking the Apocalypse

1930 population reaches 2 billion 1960 human population reached 3 billion, 1975 human population reached 4 billion. 1987 population reaches 5 billion. 1999 population 6 billion. 2011 7 billion. Currently 7.8 billion

Ancient times to 1970: “Climate change” has been known about since ancient times. The concept of greenhouse gasses can be traced back over one hundred and fifty years. And global warming has been known about since at least 1938 (Callendar effect). In the 1950s, using early computers, scientist determined that doubling CO2 levels would increase the global temperature by 3-4 C. In 1958, measurements of CO2 in Hawaii and Antarctica began and continue today. Within four years the results proved global CO2 levels were rising. 1958-59 International Geophysical Year brings increased funding for studying the climate. In 1963 experts concerned about global warming first warn about the highly likely rise of sea levels. On December 24, 1968, the Apollo 8 Earthrise photo showed the fragile beauty of our planet.

NASA Apollo 8 Earthrise

70s and 80s: The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970. In 1972 the UN held its first environment conference. At the same time in 1972 huge droughts in Africa, India and the Ukraine increased concerns about climate change. 1975 Wallace Broecker used the term “global warming” was used for the first time in a scientific paper. 1979 World Climate Research Program launched. 1981 the election of Ronald Reagan brought a tremendous backlash against the so-called environmental movement. 1981 was the warmest year on record. In 1986 there was a nuclear reactor meltdown at Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union. 1987 Montreal Protocol agreed to restrict ozone damaging chemicals. At the UN in 1989, Margaret Thatcher (who has a degree in chemistry) warns about rising CO2 levels and calls for a global climate change treaty. 1989, Fossil-fuel and other U.S. industries create the Global Climate Coalition to influence politicians and public opinion against action related to climate change.

Chernobyl 2019 Explosion Scene

1990s: In 1991 scientist discover mass extinction event 55 million years ago was directly related to incredible warming caused by massive increase in greenhouse gasses. At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro developed countries agree to reduce emissions to 1990 levels, but the US blocks serious action being taken. 1993 – ice cores from Greenland suggest great climate change impacts can occur in as little as one decade. 1995 – public grows more concerned as there are reports of Antarctic ice shelves breaking up and signs of Arctic warming. In the 1997 Kyoto Protocol developed countries agreed to reduce emissions by 5% on average by 2012.

2000s: 2000 Global Climate Coalition dissolves as corporations begin to be hit by climate change impacts. 2001 President George Bush withdraws the US from the Kyoto Protocol. That same year, in 2001, IPCC’s third report identifies greenhouse gas emissions as cause of increased global warming. 2003 deadly heat wave in Europe increases the difference of opinion between Europe and the US. 2005 Kyoto treaty goes into effect. In 2006 atmospheric carbon from fossil fuels reach eight billion tons a year. 2007 levels of sea ice decreasing more rapidly than predicted. In 2008 fifty years of data from Hawaii show a rise in CO2 levels from 315 ppm (1958) to 380 ppm (2008); by 2013 that number had risen to over 400ppm. By 2008 climate scientists come to realize that even if all greenhouse gas emissions were halted global warming would continue for thousands of years. The failure of the 2009 Copenhagen Conference signals the end of serious efforts to avoid dangerous climate change.

2010 – Today: 2011 nuclear reactor disaster at Fukushima, Japan. Researchers determined the 2015 collapse of West Antarctic Ice Sheet is inevitable which would raise sea levels by several meters. Also in 2015, many nations sign on to the Paris Agreement to set and report greenhouse gas reductions. Today: The mean global temperature is 14.8°C, which is the warmest in tens of thousands of years. The level of atmospheric CO2 is 415 ppm, the highest in millions of years.

Stay safe. Stay Healthy