“How do you know but ev'ry bird that cuts the airy way
is an immense world of delight, clos'd by your senses five?”
— William Blake

One of the greatest challenges resulting from the unnatural pace and lack of connection inherent in contemporary society is finding balance. We are bombarded daily with lights, sounds, technology, information.

A recipe for one of the most pervasive modern-day maladies: chronic stress.

Chronic stress is thought to be one of the most common causes of adrenal fatigue and endocrine imbalance. Recent studies documenting the effects of stress on the body highlight the sensitive nature of our body~mind connection:

• Chronic stress reduces the number of neurons in the dentate gyrus (the part of the brain associated with the formation of new memories), and also contributes to cognitive problems.

• In the hippocampus (which play a role in long-term memory and spatial navigation), chronic stress causes neurons to undergo remodeling of dendrites. Dendrites act as part of the brain’s communication network.

• Stress-induced remodeling of the hippocampus can be at least partially reversible with the removal of the stress.

• An insufficient amount of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), is thought to be at least partially responsible for remodeling the brain under stress. Experiments have found the brains of mice with an inadequate amount of this protein look similar to those of normal mice that have been under stress for long periods. BDNF enhances the adaptability of neurons in the hippocampus.

• Chronic stress effects the functioning and mental flexibility of the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain involved in working memory and decision making. The prefrontal cortex is also involved in overcoming distorted learning (think trauma and phobias).

Those of us who have learned nature’s tonic know how restorative it can be to spend even a few minutes out of the turbulence and in the flow of wilderness worlds. Nature models resilience; buffers stress. Time absorbed in nature is one of the best antidotes for imbalance – and sometimes nature and technology combine to make accessible to us something delightfully magical that feeds body~mind~soul.


Wide Angle Vision and Fox Walking for Balance


To experience wide angle vision, spread your arms out as far as you can and look straight forward. Now keep your head straight and adjust your vision until you can see the fingers of both hands moving at the same time. If you maintain this vision, you will be highly sensitive and alert to movement. Similarly, by expanding your vision, the rest of your senses follow and your entire awareness expands to a much greater sphere all around you.

Next practice Fox Walking as described below at this site:

http://www.easichi.koshareyrhythms.com/

It’s all about placing your foot on the ground BEFORE you put your weight on it, so that your center of gravity is in your hips. This influences you to take shorter strides.

With foot and eye strengthened you’ll now be able to enhance your balance. Most important: be patient with yourself and HAVE FUN! It takes most people a solid month of practice before they really "get it" and are able to walk on a beam or line on their own. Once you have mastered the skill of line walking, I believe you will find that walking through the woods is a completely different experience because your new found balance will give you an ability to walk quieter than ever before.


Listening to Birds
There's something about walking through a forest that makes a person happy. The smells, colors, and sounds all s peak of the wild exuberance of life, reminding us that we're alive and that we too are a part of nature.
Sometimes we forget. They also serve as a reminder of how much we have to lose and how fast we're losing it, with wildlife disappearing at a rate of something like 50+ species a day.

The voices in the wilderness are calling out to that part of ourselves that we haven't yet paved over — the wildness within each of us that we are in danger of losing as “civilization” encroaches from all sides.

Listen.

The wilderness is trying to tell us something.

Have you ever awakened at dawn to a chorus of birdsong and wondered what all the fuss was about? Ever have a bird “talk” to you? Chances are it was an alarm call with a distinct rhythm.

Sally Roth, author of The Backyard Bird Lover's Ultimate How-To Guide, outlines three kinds of birdcalls every body can learn to distinguish, no guide required.

All you have to do is listen, Roth says: “The more you listen to your birds, the more you'll understand."

Here's some easy calls to recognize:

Dominance. This is the most common and recognizable of the calls. A bird will repeat this song to claim his territory throughout nesting season. The robin's is a lilting tune that sounds something like “cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up.”

Alarm. A bird will use this call when chasing off a predator or intruder. Though the noise will differ depending on which bird is sounding the alarm, the call is less melodic, sharper and more abrupt. “Once you start listening, you'll be able to hear the panic or scolding in the voice,” Roth says.

Love. When courting or singing to a mate, birds will occasionally sing a “whisper song.” Roth describes it as “a quiet, intimate piece of music that's utterly romantic.” But you may have to listen long and carefully for this one, because it's usually sung in private.

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Comment by Suz Lipman on September 21, 2010 at 1:31pm
Hi Randy! Thank you for this informative and wonderful post! It's very relevant as far as stress and the need to retrain the body/eyes/mind. As far as birds, my family is fortunate to have owls (Northern Spotted) living on our property right now in some redwood trees. They have been calling at dawn and dusk lately. It sounds most like your "alarm" call, I think - a long tone and then a very short one. Someone told us that this might be a call to gather the young. That these would be warning sounds make sense, as well.

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