Turn Off to Tune In

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Daily Prompt: When was the last time a movie, a book, or a television show left you cold despite all your friends (and/or all the critics) raving about it? What was it that made you go against the critical consensus?

About 10 years ago I began to shift away from mindless television and fictionalized or glamorized violence of any kind. I stopped watching the ‘news’ first. It makes me sound prudish and elitist, I know, but I’m okay with that.

You’re probably expecting me to tell you now that I’m one of those people who doesn’t own a TV. I still do. And I still watch it, but not often.

At some point I woke up. At some point I realized that everything I was allowing in through my senses affected not only my attitude but my physical being. Maybe it was an amazing book I read, a seminar, a comment overheard. I can’t say when it happened or even why, except that I woke up. And once I knew what I was doing to myself, I made different choices.

When I let go of the need for water cooler banter and chose to turn my attention to talking about expansive ideas and working on how I could become a better person in this world, a better steward of the earth and at the very least do no harm, everything shifted.

I went outside.

I looked up.

I found enchantment in the clouds – we have great clouds in Florida. The praying mantis eating a dragonfly or a spider catching a fly provided drama and a little violence. Birds are actually quite comical. And strangers are always in the midst of some love story. Overhearing snippets of conversation became  fodder for my imagination; creating lives and turmoil and surprises for these characters I was free to develop.

As I wandered with my camera, magic appeared in front of me. Every time. Hawks would pose patiently on low branches so I could snap their portrait before they flew off to capture their morning meal. Butterflies and bees slowed down as they worked flowers, it seemed just for me. Deer made sustained eye contact before returning to their foraging or bounding into the forest.

I’m sure this was always the case. The only thing that has changed is the observer. Me.

While I appreciate the opinions of others and on occasion I will take the advice of a friend and watch a show, read a book or go to the movies, I am more likely found squatting next to a tree to get a closer look at a baby frog.

This is the direction in which my preferences run. That’s just me. But then, it’s all a matter of taste.

[Photo: Taken at the Merrit Island Refuge in Merrit Island, Florida. He’s about the size of my thumb nail. Maybe. Photo credit: Me, Allison L Andersen]

21 Day Challenge – Day 15 – Good and Bad

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Is it possible, do you think, that if we are opening up to the magic and enchantment around us, our awareness of everything is heightened? Isn’t it possible that once the door is open, it is open to everything?

It is true that once the decision has been made to find enchantment, it is always easily found. But just as we’re looking for a lost set of keys and we come upon that IRS bill we forgot to mail, other things come into view.

So the question then is not necessarily about enchantment versus all that isn’t. It’s about perception.

Can you see it all? Can you experience the tiny butterfly landing lightly on a delicate branch with the same awareness as watching the vulture cleaning up a dead squirrel?

Buddhists believe there must be good and bad. You cannot know good without having first experienced bad. There must be a frame of reference. They are equally part of life and they are relational, which is to say, it depends on the perception of the individual.

It is about taking the good with the bad and being okay with either.

As a young child mud is every bit as magical as a kitten.  Enchantment is about returning to that child-like nature; experiencing everything with curiosity. In the natural world a butterfly is no better than a vulture, the acts they commit are received the same.

As humans we have the ability to discern with emotion, allowing us to ascribe human-like qualities to animals and inanimate objects and assign what is good or bad. This can lead us to perceive situations as good as someone else has the opposite experience.

So if we are opening up to all that is around us through the lens of magic we cannot discard something because it displeases us. We must look further, deeper into the maw of perceived darkness. There is always a light, there is always an upside. Sometimes it’s just being aware that our own awareness is expanding.

It is a process, this awakening to all that is. The rawness of newness. The work is in not abandoning the process. Don’t close your eyes to avoid seeing, simply turn your head and look somewhere else. Eventually you will turn your head all the way around, once more taking in the vulture and the squirrel. It is at that point you can appreciate it all. You can thank the giant majestic bird for doing what we as  civilized humas, disconnected from nature, cannot fathom doing. Accept it all, take your time with it. Wonder about it. It’s all magic.

[Photo: What’s your perception?]