Just a short drive from the overdeveloped madness of South Florida , is a state park called Highland Hammock. The drive and the surrounding town, are not spectacular, but as soon as you enter the park, you enter another world.
Highland Hammock is one of the oldest state parks in Florida. There are trails all around the park. And all of the trails are so different. So beautiful. So healing. There are Oak trees that are estimated to be over 1000 years old. Cypress swamps, and wildlife, we saw so much wildlife.
Some of the park feels very prehistoric. Especially the Cypress swamp. Early in the morning on a hike, I spotted a cottonmouth, a very venomous snake, swallowing a large fish. We watched in fear and amazement, as the snake unhinged its jaw, and swallowed this fish.
We camped in one of the primitive campsites. As the sunset, with the clear sky, and the new moon, the stars were bright and beautiful. I saw a shooting star. I made a wish.
The whole trip was so restorative. We hiked slowly on the trails. We gazed up at the stars. We hugged trees. I did Restorative yoga everyday, (which my son called “sleeping”), and we ate good nutritious food.
My daughter trying her hardest to do YOGA
We saw deer, pigs, hawks, osprey, owls, turtles, alligators, snakes, opossums, armadillos, and even two river otters.
Being in nature is so healing. Like a soul shower. We feel balanced.
Nature is the best teacher. We can never have enough nature.
A few nights ago, at sunset, I taught yoga on the beach to my very dear friends.We started class, soaking our feet in the water. (Partially because of an injury to my foot. A very sharp piece of wood stabbed through my shoe and straight into my foot, two days ago, and it hurt and was beginning to look infected). We put ocean water in our mouths, to taste, to feel, to cleanse, to connect. We “washed” our bodies, rubbing magical ocean water on our arms, shoulders, face, third eye. Feeling both the vibrations of the setting sun and the rising moon, we did the first part of class,standing in the water. The waves were strong and splashed up on us, forcing us to balance with strength and flexibility.
There was a powerful energetic intensity to that class, it felt like a huge energetic upgrade. That sensation of floating between two magnets.Physically our practice was soft. Energetically, so strong. The wind blew with purifying force. I felt so free, at peace, energy pulsing. We all shared wide grins. Our energy was so open, so connected. We were absorbing the magic of the sea..
We celebrated the Full Moon in Scorpio. Earth Day. We went to a Drum circle, dancing with the moon as she rose over the ocean..
It seems like most people I know are going through some heavy stuff. Emotional basket case time. Detoxing. Cleansing. Processing the reality that this life is temporary. And it goes by so fast. We are all receiving big lessons, along with subtle little messages, reminding us of our true purpose, path, mission. We are being challenged to make changes in how we live. We know there are many problems in our world right now. We have to try as hard as we can to begin to live the solution.
“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” … Roald Dahl
The other day, I had one of those happy, healing, restorative, magical days..and I needed it.
With the encouragement of the hot sun, I jumped into the water of Sao Lourenco. I put on a mask and snorkel, and instantly saw I was surrounded by fish. I saw several small flounder, camouflaged and swimming right above the sandy bottom.. Then I saw an octopus, moving, dancing its graceful dance, from one rock to another. It was a small octopus, but beautiful and just incredible to watch. I saw a cuttlefish too. So much life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I came up, swam back over to our friends, and shouted “I saw the prettiest octopus!!!!” My sweetheart smiled and started asking questions.. My sweetheart shines so brightly whenever he is in the ocean.. He knows the rocks, the reefs, the fish.. He knows the seaweeds, the tides, the currents, the moons.. Being Portuguese, raised on an island, and raised by a fisherman, he has so much ocean knowledge.
Our friends said, “You two go snorkeling together, we will watch the baby.” And with that, our underwater date began.. Holding hands, we swam out far into deeper water.. The colors, the plants, the fish, It was like we were surrounded by hundreds of underwater rainbows.. Schools of small fish, schools of large fish, swaying plants,urchins,anemones, coral.. we saw another octopus, A HUGE OCTOPUS!!! I don’t even know how to describe how magical it was..
We swam for a very long time, until I realized how cold I was.. my hands were numb…and they took a while to thaw out.. but I was feeling recharged, happy, blessed.
I have spent a lot of time in the water, snorkeling in Hawaii, Florida, The Keys, Washington, California, and even here in the Azores, but this time, this trip, well, it was something I will never forget.. It was an ocean blessing..
This morning, my daughter and I were lazily resting on the couch, reading a picture book. When we turned to a page about fruit, there was a picture of an avocado. I said “avocado”, and right away, my daughter sat up excitedly. She put her fingers on the picture of the avocado, and started rubbing. I looked at her with curiosity. After she rubbed her fingers on the picture, she put her hands on her face and started softly rubbing the skin under her eyes, pretending she was rubbing avocado on her face, while saying a blissful “Ahhhh.”
Without ever intentionally teaching her this, she learned. Nearly every time we eat avocado, I use the leftover avocado, and rub it softly on my face, and often, i quietly sigh a happy “Ahhhhh”.
There are many things that I do regularly, that my daughter copies, including yoga, dancing, and stopping to smell nearly every flower.. It is so cute. But there are things i do, i hope she never copies.. 🙂
With our children, we have an opportunity, a responsibility, to teach them well, they often follow our lead.
“We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
In the late fall of 2008, I got sick. Very sick. Stress was undoubtedly a huge contributing factor. I was teaching high school History at a Title 1 school, halfway through a very demanding year-long yoga teacher training program, raising my son, and to top it off, I was newly married and walking on eggshells, suspicious that my (now ex) husband had some sort of severe mental illness (which was absolutely heartbreaking and terrifying).
Needless to say, it was too much for me to handle, and my body let me know. One morning when I was teaching, i felt a stab of burning pain in my right shoulder and chest. In pain and panic, I left the classroom, got a substitute and headed to the Dr. The pain I felt was so intense, burning, stabbing, unrelenting torture. After many days and many different Drs, a rash appeared, and a neurologist finally informed me that I in fact had shingles. He said it was very uncommon for anyone my age to develop shingles unless they were under severe stress or had a compromised immune system. He scheduled an MRI, and said it was possible I had some sort of autoimmune disease. He mentioned lupus, rhemetoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, MS, and even lyme disease.. The MRI revealed I had some lesions on my spine, and the Dr said it was possible I had multiple sclerosis. There is supposed to be a link between shingles and MS. I was put on 8 weeks of medical leave, and given several medications, with strong side effects.
The rash came and went fairly quickly, but the pain I felt from the Shingles was constant agony for months. If my hair brushed against my shoulder, I cried out in pain. The only thing that I can compare it to, is childbirth. I understand i had a very severe case of shingles. Months later, I still was in pain. The neurologist explained that I had in fact developed PHN, and would likely feel the pain in those affected nerves for a very long time.
During that time, I got skinny, and i mean really skinny. I lost nearly thirty pounds and weighed a whopping 90 pounds. During that time,there was a point where I realized it was up to me to heal. I started juicing regularly, eating more fruits and vegetables. I quit my job teaching, and started focusing more on my yoga practice.
It was also during that time, that I became more aware of how certain foods affected my body. I noticed that when I needed to sleep or was fighting some sort of cold or infection,my right shoulder would start hurting again.
Even now, many years later, when i feel run down or eat junk food, the first place i feel it, is in my right shoulder. My right shoulder serves as an alarm, a warning bell, letting me know it is time to load up on herbs, vegetable juices, healthy food, vitamins, and REST.
It has taken me years to truly love and respect my body. It has scars, cellulite, thick black leg hair, and some chin hair too. But it is beautiful. It is my temple. The place where my soul resides.
It is up to us to pick up on the signals our bodies send. It is up to us to discover what we need to heal. It is up to us to go inside and LISTEN.
Self Care and self love.
With much gratitude for my temple and my right shoulder alert system. -Tiff