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Space & Time for Your Wellbeing

Archive for the ‘Mountains’ Category

A trip to infinity

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Sacred mountains

I’ve come to the mountains to escape the idea of the last day. In the ancient mountains there are no last days, as the mountains go on forever. As we drive up, the giant spruce tower over us on either side of the road like attendants at the portal to this land of infinity. Their size should make them initimidating in the rapidly darkening skies, but it doesn’t. Their white coats of snow make them look like sad angels, overgrown children tasked with standing together and greeting newcomers at this entrance to the land that never ends.

From my cottage window I can see the sacred mountain. It gets in the way of progress, they say, because no one is allowed to build on it, over it or around it. One becomes quite ill climbing up this mountain, and one wonders why since, like most of the Swedish mountains, its altitude is not remarkable. Perhaps that is because its very being clashes with our need for speed; our inclination to divide life into the old and the new. On the mountain, old and new dwell together; they are a part of the same whole and change is constant.

In the nearby village it’s the time of peak business; time for excitement, hustle and bustle. Yet, the manner of speaking of our local hosts, the townspeople, remains constant. While happy to see us, the shop attendants find our ecstatic lowland approach to New Year’s puzzling. They’ve put out the fireworks for sale for our petty amusement, but the mountains will continue at the midnight chiming of the clocks and time will go on.

Out on the cross-country tracks, which are themselves an endless white, it occurs to me why it is that I long to escape finality and the ideas of old and new this year. It isn’t as simple as ageing. The challenges that we face today seem so final that opposites don’t matter any more. Young, old, this, that matter decreasingly as we begin to wake up to the fact that we’ve used up the earth. In this dark thought I come to an even space, as even as the land that stretches between the low, undulating Swedish mountains: when finality becomes great enough, contradictions and opposites seem to collapse. Old and new become time, time and infinity become the universe and, most importantly, you and me become we. My skis keep moving me forward in space and time through the white, but I hold onto this thought which seems so deeply entrenched in the spirit of the mountains.

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Learn more about Julie Lindahl’s books and other projects at www.julielindahl.com and www.storiesforsociety.com.

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The devil is in the discipline

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

Spring cleaning in the mountains

As the snow melted and the water began to trickle through the crevices this Easter, I could feel it running out of me. The stress of winter which had been created by dark days and nights of sitting in front of my computer squeezing in as much as possible now began to subside as the light season of outdoor play returned. To encourage this process, I decided that I would live for several days without connecting to the Internet (I pray that the Editor of The Local will forgive me). During all of the time that I have used the Internet – say, the past couple of decades – I had never felt that need but more recently my mind and body began to show clear signs of requiring a break.

It wasn’t that I lived without a computer. Rather, I continued writing my contracted book each day. The difference is that I didn’t hook up to the Internet. This leap into the unknown was encouraged by the fact that I am in the mountains where you have to stand on the right mountain to get your mobile broadband to work. I guess I am standing on it so that I can post this blog entry, but the slowness of doing almost anything on the Internet up here eased the decision to break with it for a few days.

As usual when you give yourself some space and time, perspectives which can lead to change and personal growth emerge. The conclusion I came to during these Internet-free days was that the web is one of the greatest anomalies of all time. It is at once the most important contribution to the wellbeing of all people AND the greatest threat to the wellbeing of all people. The sharing of knowledge and information not only for survival but a better standard of living is unparalleled. Lives have been saved because of the Internet. At the same time, the threat it poses to the physical and mental health of active users is an issue that we have brushed over until now but that we are going to have to face quick smart.

Over the years, I’ve dipped my toes into the rather thin and highly-polarized debate about the effects of Internet use on our minds and bodies. Some argue that since the means by which we access and use the Internet are developing so quickly, it is hard to say what effects it is having. Others, in particular those who are in touch with what happens to children and teenagers as they interact with the Internet (see my previous blog entry about Facebook and youngsters), conclude that clear limitations need to be placed on our Internet use if it is truly going to be of any use to us. Some researchers have even concluded that either we are all going to suffer from some form of ADHD or our brains are going to have to evolve to handle the bombardment of stimuli that the Internet delivers. In a few decades there won’t be anyone to award the Nobel Prize to, one researcher argued, since no one will have the focusing capacity that is required of a Nobel Laureate.

Personally, I think this is a bit extreme. This is not the first time that the devil has been painted on the wall when it comes to new technology. At the same time, I see a need for a new discipline around Internet use which we might have to formalize as education. People are burning out, running into walls, starting to look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame and becoming overweight because they don’t know how to control their relationship to bytes. Up here in the mountains during the spring it feels easy to let go of the Internet for a few days and then return to it with greater judgement. However, it’s back in the everyday of our working world where e-mails and urls surround us that we might need help to get a grip.

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For further interesting discussion and links about the Internet and us see my blog entry The worst predictions don’t come true. If you’ve got any interesting information on health and the Internet please do share!

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Mountain Spring

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

No sooner than the tulip leaves are small folds of green making their way out of those bulbs that have been waiting all winter for the light and warmth, my family decides that it’s time to head back to the winter. It’s always two against three at Easter time. Lucy the dog and me against everyone else. In families minorities still don’t seem to win although they seem to be doing so elsewhere these days. So here I am away from my two islands, in a mountain cabin noticing out of the corner of my eye that we have got a snow storm underway. A phone call with my mother who lives in sun-baked Florida tells me how happy I should be that the little chocolate eggs I will be hiding outside on Easter Sunday for the annual hunt won’t become mushy blobs wrapped in foil that has been pecked open by birds.

The snow storm subsides and the sky blanket of grey begins to thin.  Lucy and I step out for a stroll. She stretches her long white body and sniffs the air. Something is underway. In a few short minutes the mountain sun is reflecting the pristine white so that every cell feels as though it is being recharged after all of these months of darkness. We continue onto the cross-country tracks with no one on them for miles around. Lucy pricks her ears, cocks her head and adopts that prize-winning retriever stance that surprises her mother (yours truly) who has always treated her as a floppy, immature child.  A ptarmigan (willow grouse) trying to escape our gaze with its whiteness realizes that it has been spotted and rushes across the snow.  We look and listen more carefully. The spring is underway in the trees here too. The towering spruce chirp with birds hopeful for a good new season.

Then suddenly I hear the flow of water; not just a trickle but the steady flow of a proper stream. It is a thrilling experience to hear the strong flow of water when all you can see before you is ice and snow. Just when everything seems that it is the way it is, if you are watching and listening closely change is underway. I shut my eyes and think about this. Sometimes I think I can learn more by shutting my eyes and listening to a stream in the snow than I can learn from all of the books in the world. So, perhaps coming to the mountains in the spring isn’t all baloney after all.

I have often thought that we should have meditation spots in cities where people can stop and just notice the water trickling or some such. Of course, there are the parks but I was thinking of land marks that are more deliberate. Everyone would feel more satisfied and I am sure that we would have less violence. Until then, close your eyes this spring and listen to the trickling water, the chirping of the birds and feel the warm light of the sun. There is nothing more important that you could be doing this Easter.

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