how to connect with nature: a meditation on the four elements

it’s no real secret if you peek around here on my website that i’m a nature lover. it’s also no secret that i’m a lover of meditation too.

nature has been a huge part of my life for as long as i can remember. from family holidays at the beach to camping in the woods on a mountain top to just running around in a backyard. the wide open sea, the wind in my hair, a campfire crackling at night, and a walk through a magical forest all touch my soul. nature connects me to myself, to others, and to the world around me. i see the cycle of life in nature, and i learn what it means to live an authentic, spirit-filled life from the trees and the flowers.

summer is the time when we have the joy of being outside the most – though i’d argue that all seasons are the perfect time to be outside. immersing ourselves in nature + exposing ourselves to the weather we remember what’s important. we remember to slow down and to soak in everything that is around us.

to say that i need nature like i need my breath would be an accurate statement.

for me, simply being in nature is meditating. there’s no need to plop down on a pillow and light a candle to meditate. just slip on some flip flops or stuff your feet in some boots, and take a walk.

observe + breathe. that is meditation.

meditation-four-elements

sometimes, though, it’s nice to do a meditation on nature. to gather some materials and symbols of nature, ponder them, and reflect on how nature inspires and nourishes us – physically + spiritually. and sometimes, we just can’t make it outside to meditate.

so, i’ve created a short meditation that you can use at any time. anytime that you miss being outside or need to connect with the physical planet. or any time you just want to honor mother nature and all of her glory. this is not a pagan, buddhist, christian, or any other religious meditation. it’s just one that i have created on my own to help me get back in touch with my inner flower child. so, if you are interested… here you go:

the four elements: a guided meditation
what you’ll need:

· pillow or mat. or a chair.

· create an elemental altar:  something that symbolizes a bird or a feather to represent air (i used a tiny paper crane). a glass or bowl of water. a candle to represent fire. a plant or a flower or fruit/vegetable, hopefully something with some dirt from the earth.

·any other religious or spiritual symbol you like to have around you when you meditate.

· instrumental music, if you wish. or you can sit in silence.

· a journal + pen, if you would like to write during or after.

what  you’ll do:

simply put, this is a meditation about the four elements: air, water, fire, and earth. it’s a chance to just sit and bring awareness to each element. one at a time. it’s a chance to let ourselves ponder each element + feel each element, noticing the things that we most likely take for granted every day. slowing down just enough to notice the sacred in the ordinary. it is a chance to reconnect with our selves, through nature.

the idea is not to empty your mind (cause that almost never happens to me!), but to simply still your mind. to slow down and to pay attention. and to let whatever feelings or revelations come + go as they wish.


Get present

first, find a good place to sit. either a chair at a table, or on the floor. or even outside, if you wish.

make your altar: place your symbols on the table or floor in front of you. line them up or make a circle. whatever feels right to you.

now, close your eyes and begin to breathe deeply + slowly. just sit there for a few minutes and let yourself land. leave behind all of the other busyness of the day and just simply be present. right here, right now. feel that you are getting in touch with yourself + with your surroundings. don’t try to empty your mind, but let your thoughts come + go, like watching a parade go by outside your window. just breathe. give yourself the gift of slowing down right now. of turning inward and tuning into your inner voice.

air

now, open your eyes and pick up your air symbol. hold it in the palms of your hands. look at it briefly, then close your eyes again, still holding your air symbol.

how does the symbol feel in your hands? what does it represent? keep holding it. feel the lightness of it. the lightness of the air all around you. do you feel any breeze? do you feel your breath moving in and out of your nostrils, filling your belly and your lungs?

perhaps air reminds us of freedom. and inspires us to fly as high as we can. where would you fly to if you could fly? how would it feel to you to soar way up in the sky?

perhaps the air can even inspire us. did you know that the word “inspire” comes from the same word that spirit comes from? and that the hebrew word ruach means breath, wind, spirit. they are all one in the same.

the air is inspiration, it is the breath of the spirit. it is the wind that keeps us alive and sweeps us up in its breeze, soaring high above where we ever thought we could be.

how high can you soar? where will the air carry you? what possibilities and dreams do you have out there?

just ponder. and breathe. let the wind carry you. the the air fill your lungs.

when you are ready, return your bird or feather back to its place.

water

now, pick up the bowl of water that you have. dip your fingers into it. submerge your whole hand, if you wish. maybe even pour some of it out on your hands or feet. interact with it.

hold the bowl in your hands. keep one finger in the bowl, if you’d like. close your eyes. and just breathe for a moment.

when you feel the water on your skin, what does it remind you of? what thoughts or memories come to you? what does water mean to you? do you enjoy being in water, or does it frighten you?

spend a few moments just soaking in your feelings and thoughts about water.

we need water in order to survive. it makes up about 70% of our bodies and about 70-75% of the earth’s surface. there’s no denying its importance. it nourishes us.

but, water can also teach us a lot about life. it is alive and flowing. think of a river, and how the water simply flows, making the adjustments it needs depending on the environment. sometimes it’s slow and lazy, sometimes it’s powerful and dangerous. but, it keeps moving forward towards its destination. it’s a never-ending journey, for once it reaches the ocean, it is then re-evaporated in to the clouds, falling once again to earth, and then flowing right back to the sea.

what can we learn from that? is there a destiny, a calling that you have? is there a purpose, or a way to live your life more authentically, true to your nature? what nourishes your dreams?

when you’re ready, return the bowl of water to its place.

fire

carefully pick up the candle and hold it in your hands. depending on what kind of candle you have, you may want to keep your eyes open. it won’t matter… staring into a flickering flame can be quite powerful and mesmerizing.

just breathe. deeply. and slowly.

imagine the flame that burns within you. the thing that is your passion. the person that you are burning to be.

for me, fire can represent our individuality. we all have a light burning within us. it is a light that connects us to each other, and yet, it is unique within each of us. this light is what transforms us, and shows us who we are created to be. it is the deep love of something or someone, the thing that sparks our soul.

what do you love? what are you passionate about? just sit with that for a while. let the answers arise from within you like the flame rising from your candle.

when you are ready, return the candle to its place.

earth

pick up your plant that represents the earth. if you have dirt with your plant, stick your fingers in it. put some in your hand.

close your eyes and hold your plant/dirt.

as much as we need to fly and be free in the air, flow like the water, and feel the passion of fire within us, we also need to be grounded.

dirt is getting back to basics. it reminds us to stay rooted. to be strong and firm, like a tree that is planted in the earth, that stands strong , even in the midst of the storm.

the earth helps us to remember our own roots, our organic and natural ways of being. this is authentic  living at its best. perhaps that’s why many of us love camping or gardening so much. we get our hands and bodies dirty. we commune with nature. we simplify and return to the earth.

feel the dirt in your plant or in your hand. breathe deeply. remember that who you are is exactly who you are supposed to be. you are strong, alive, and have everything within you to grow tall and to reach for the sky.

take some time to ponder: do you feel grounded? are you living your life true to yourself, stable and attached to your soul? do your roots go deep?

just be with yourself. reconnect. touch the ground. feel the energy pulsing in the earth. it is from here, all things grow.

when you are ready, return your plant to its place.

closing your meditation

close your eyes once again and just breathe. in and out. deeply. slowly. let the images + thoughts swirl around inside you. feel the energy that nature brings to you. and give thanks for the inspiration that you have felt.

when you are ready open your eyes and gaze at the symbols gathered before you. let them that be reminders of this meditation. but, more importantly, let them be reminders of who you are and who you are called to be.

before you return back to you daily activities, i invite you to close by rubbing your hands together vigorously so that they produce heat, then place them together in front of your heart, against your chest. breath in + out, deeply three times. then bow your head, giving thanks for this time that you have taken for yourself.

finally, enjoy this video/music as you move from meditation back into your regular routine:

if you feel like it, journal or blog your thoughts. take a photo of your little elemental altar that you used during the mediation and share it on instagram (use #fourelementsmediation). if you would like to chat further or have any questions, please email me at liz [at]belovelive dot com or leave a comment below.

i truly hope that this meditation gave you a chance to slow down and to reconnect with yourself, inspired by the wonder + beauty of nature.

namaste.

onwards + upwards! xoxo

// sing to the mountain lyrics //

Let the fires burn tonight
Let the jugs of wine get drunk
Let the truth be known tonight
Don’t go let yourself hide

Go and sing to the mountain
Go and sing to the moon
Go and sing to just about everything
Cuz everything is you

Listen to the rhythm
Of your heart play like a drum
Listen to the night call
Singing songs from all around

Go and sing to the mountain
Go and sing to the moon
Go and sing to just about everything
Cuz everything is you

And let your voice go
Let it pierce through your soul
And let your voice go
Let it pierce through your soul

celebrating summer

this weekend is the first day of summer for those of us in the northern hemisphere. *doing a little happy dance* the longest day of the year is upon us – a day filled with light (and hopefully sunshine!). a day where we celebrate the joy of the warmth, glow, and life that the sun brings us. it’s the kick-off of the season of relaxation, joy, free-spiritedness, laziness, and slowing down. i love this season, and everything that goes with it – especially the chance to be outside and enjoy moment after moment with friends and family. we throw caution to the wind, act just a little bit crazier and bolder, and remember the importance to balance our lives. for just a little while, we may set aside our schedules and routines to participate in the act of just being and living.

almost all of the past 4 or 5 years i have spent in sweden during the summer soltise, otherwise known as midsummer. i’ve spent the day celebrating a traditional midsummer celebration with traditional midsummer activities filling our day, such as gathering flowers, making crowns from those flowers, dancing and singing around the midsummer pole, eating strawberries, and staying up as late as the sun = practically all night because the sun doesn’t really set before it begins to rise again.

i’m going to miss those celebrations this year. but, we will be celebrating in the best american way that i know possible – for this first weekend of summer, my family (most of us) will gather at atlantic beach for our annual reynolds family beach week! it’s a crazy, hilarious, relaxing week filled with sun, sand, and surf. all we do is eat, drink, swim, chat, sit, sip, and laugh – a lot. so, if i can’t be in sweden celebrating midsummer, then arriving at the beach to celebrate and begin our 30th year of the reynolds family beach week is exactly how i want to spend the weekend.

in honor of the sun, at some point in the next few days, i will turn my face toward the big, golden ball in the sky and offer up my own prayers of praise and thanksgiving. i will soak up all of that energy and light, and harness it, using it to continue to work to make my dreams come true. on the first day of summer i will pause to reflect on the beauty and amazingness that the light brings to our life. and i will laugh, and dance, and love.

my summer gift to you is this little collection of photos from my american & swedish summers past, and a few favorite summer quotes to go along. slow down, read them, and receive these summer vibes – from me to you!

lina ocean

singing

my love on a bike

“I fell for her in summer, my lovely summer girl,
From summer she is made, my lovely summer girl,
I’d love to spend a winter with my lovely summer girl,
But I’m never warm enough for my lovely summer girl,
It’s summer when she smiles, I’m laughing like a child,
It’s the summer of our lives; we’ll contain it for a while
She holds the heat, the breeze of summer in the circle of her hand
I’d be happy with this summer if it’s all we ever had.”
― Maggie StiefvaterShiver

archipelago

sunbathingview

ego me tree hugger

“summer, after all, is a time when wonderful things can happen to quiet people. for those few months, you’re not required to be who everyone thinks you are, and that cut-grass smell in the air and the chance to dive into the deep end of a pool give you a courage you don’t have the rest of the year. you can be grateful and easy, with no eyes on you, and no past. summer just opens the door and lets you out.”
― Deb CalettiHoney, Baby, Sweetheart

relaxing washington square park

breakfast

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
― John LubbockThe Use Of Life

stuga

“Maycomb was a tired old town, even in 1932 when I first knew it. Somehow, it was hotter then. Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon after their three o’clock naps. And by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frosting from sweating and sweet talcum. The day was twenty-four hours long, but it seemed longer. There’s no hurry, for there’s nowhere to go and nothing to buy…and no money to buy it with.”
― Harper LeeTo Kill a Mockingbird

flowers summer

ocean

“Sweet, sweet burn of sun and summer wind, and you my friend, my new fun thing, my summer fling.”
― k.d. lang

wedge beer outside summer

chairs

“I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days – three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain.”
― John KeatsBright Star: Love Letters and Poems of John Keats to Fanny Brawne

midsummer pole dance

beach family

“Summer afternoon – to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
― Henry James

rooftop empire NYC

central park nyc

“New York is strange in the summer. Life goes on as usual but it’s not, it’s like everyone is just pretending, as if everyone has been cast as the star in a movie about their life, so they’re one step removed from it. And then in September it all gets normal again.”
― Peter CameronSomeday This Pain Will Be Useful to You

happy summer! soak it up! xx

from the mountains to the sea.

hey folks! today i’m writing from my parents’ beach house. specifically their deck which overlooks sea water. yay!! that’s right, after two very long years without the north carolina coast, we are finally back. back to one of the places that i consider home. one of the places that has remained a constant in my life, when everything else around me has changed.

we left the mountains yesterday morning and made the 7 hour drive across the state, stopping several times along the way. sometimes out of necessity, and sometimes just to soak in the moment.

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we almost ran out of gas at one point (i was over confident), but our trusty navigation system took us on a little countryside tour to find a little country gas station in the middle of nowhere just in time. we literally rolled in on fumes. oops.

20130730-115528.jpgwe stopped at a roadside stand to buy fresh, local fruit and veggies. which, i’ll be cooking for lunch very soon!

20130730-115551.jpgand we stopped at the famous wilber’s barbecue in goldsboro… a family and downeast favorite for bbq and hush puppies. deeeelish!

20130730-115610.jpgwe made it to the beach just in time to see this amazing sunset. eat dinner. and then snuggle up in our cozy little room. i can’t believe we made it to my parents’ place… after all the dreaming and longing to be here for two years.

20130730-120000.jpgand so, this morning, i have the ultimate pleasure of sitting here, feet up, sun baking my skin, gazing out over the water, watching boats go by. and man, is it hot. and peaceful. and perfect.

20130730-114128.jpgafter a long and crazy month, we are bringing july to a close with a little vacation time. work in sweden is over, the flight and move to the states is done, and our asheville apartment (and all other practical details ) is complete. so now, it’s a week of vacay for us before back to real living in our new life.

while i’m a beach bum, i’m planning on doing quite a few blog posts, creating august’s photo journey (check back tomorrow!), riding boats, reading books, eating yummy food, and just being me. connected. relaxed. in love with life.

oh, my gosh, i’m a lucky girl.

sending peace & love all around the world (och många kramar till alla mina släkt och vänner i sverige! jag saknar er!).

 

 

 

 

full of archipelago love.

oh, how i’ve missed y’all!

but, the time away was absolutely perfect. sweden delivered perfect summer weather the entire week that we were in the archipelago. we were surrounded by friends & family, which made everything that much more fun. there were moments of solitude and silence, crazy moments of high energy and laughter. singing, dancing, walking in the woods, rowing on the sea, soaking up the sun, scratching mosquito bites, smothering our skin with sunscreen, reading in our cozy room… and i even got some work done! all in all, i must say, that this was the perfect way to spend our last full week in sweden. i could not have asked for a better week!

here come a bunch of photos… sending a little archipelago love to you:

skeppsgården i mitt hjärta (skeppsgården in my heart).

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skeppsgården

path camp

teenagers dock

summer archipelago

sunset archipelago

oar archipelago

lina rowing

time to go into the wild.

hi friends, near and far!

it’s down to the wire now. there’s not that much time left before the big move, and the time that is left, i’m gonna be a little sporadic here on belovelive. so, i’m going old school with my journaling for a week or 2. the little back moleskin notebook & a black pen will be my best buddies during this transition time. ok. my camera will be my third best buddy, of course. but, i’m gonna be checking in here every couple of days. and hopefully have a post or 2. but, you’ll survive. so will i. it’ll be good.

here’s what’s coming up (besides the move):

IMG_3238photo from last year’s camp. the one really good day of weather. when it’s good, it’s goooood.

today i am leaving for the swedish archipelago. this is an annual trip for families & church friends (the church where i work – yes, i still work there). lina’s family has been going to this particular camp for like 30-some years, so it’s a major tradition that you don’t want to miss. of course, it’s also a camp for the church, as i said before, so i’ve got duel roles going on this week. i’m the camp’s “official” minister, which means i plan 2 worship services, and then a devotional hour every day. other than that, it’s all about relaxing & enjoying the people, nature, and relaxation. and let me tell you, the wilderness, the water, and the simplicity is an amazing part of this upcoming week. and then, there’s the fact that this is a great chance to hang with important people before we jet over the pond.

so, this coming week, i’ll be on the coast on sweden, in the island/archipelago area, and there’s no good phone service, and of course no WIFI out there. this is a good thing. a chance to be off the grid and into the wild. and to just be. especially right before our move. gonna soak up every little moment i can. now, it’s just to ask the weather gods to provide us with sunshine & warmth… and to take away all mosquitoes and ticks. ewww.

anyway, i’m back on the grid next saturday sometime, and then it’s only FOUR super duper intense days until we fly! crazy!

i’ll be thinking of you… sending you lots of love & peace.

on today’s agenda.

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celebration is my theme for today. woo hoo!! got my sermon all done last night. based it on jesus turning water into wine at a wedding. wrote about learning to celebrate in every moment, because there is always, always something worth celebrating. it’s always the right time for a party. it’s alway the right time to take something ordinary & make it something extraordinary – like jesus making water into wine. and now, i’m gonna work really hard to practice what i preach. hehe. because, i mean, seriously, things may not be perfect; but perhaps i would celebrate more if i looked at what i had, instead of what i don’t have (and i’m not talking material things). life is too short to go around feeling sorry for ourselves. little slivers of beauty & joy exist even in the darkest places & moments. celebrating does not mean being dreamy, unrealistic, and naive. not. at. all. it means embracing all that is wrong, difficult, scary, and horrible in the world & in our lives, and still finding a reason to dance & laugh & sing.

so, instead of wasting my life away, i’m gonna celebrate all that there is to celebrate. and what better time than now. if not now, then when?!

there y’all have gotten the gist of what i’m talking about today at work. wanna join me in celebrating later on?!

happy sunday! throw a party! (even if it’s for yourself…. you’re worth it!). peace & laughter.