The rainforest in Central America taught me a wonderful lesson: if you can quiet yourself and truly focus your attention on your surroundings, you will see a multitude of things that were seemingly invisible. To view the wonders that the rainforest offers takes increased attention and awareness. The obvious analogy to life is that heightened awareness will gift us a life that offers to intrigue us, to expand our horizons and offer new sources of joy.
The rainforest by tauntingpanda.
My two teenagers and I traveled to Costa Rica recently for a 10-day vacation filled with adventure and discovery, not to mention a break from the routine. I had arranged the trip with a wonderful tour company so that we had a personal guide with us for the majority of the trip.
Our trip had all been pre-arranged and included a tour of the capital, a visit to a butterfly farm, four days on the majestic Pacific coast where we snorkeled, paddled an outrigger canoe, went deep sea fishing and scuba diving and travel to the Arenal Volcano where we explored the rainforest by hiking and zip-lining on a canopy tour. These were but some but not all of our activities.
The guide who really opened my eyes was a sweet, cherubic Costa Rican named Constantino. He picked us up in his van at our hotel on the coast and spent four days traveling with us to the area of the Arenal Volcano and then on to San Jose, the capital city.
Constantino has a deep respect and sense of awe at the nature that surrounds him. He has kept the delight and wonder of childhood alive in himself. His knowledge of the land is immense. He seemed to know all there was to know about his country and its history as well as everything that makes up the natural world in Costa Rica. He regaled us with stories. His life lessons were endless but the one that stands out the most for me was his lesson of awareness while in the forest.
The creatures that we had discovered on the Pacific coast were both new and amazing but I told the kids that in the wet forest (all the forests in Costa Rica are so-called rainforests but some are dry and some are wet) we would see even more. We had been in the wet forest in the Arenal area for a day or so when they mentioned to Constantino that they really hadn’t seen much wildlife at all in that dense jungle. That is when our man in Costa Rica gave us his very wise insights on awareness.
Learning Awareness in the Rainforest
What he said to us was this: you can walk through the rainforest for an hour and think that there is little or no wildlife there but that is far from the truth. The forest is extremely deep and dense and many of the creatures that reside there are camouflaged for their own protection. You need to concentrate your attention and stop to really look.
A butterfly looking just like a blossom on a tree, shot by fuzzcat.
For instance, as you walk you could be totally unaware of the howler monkeys scurrying through the treetops. It is only when you stop and listen that you will hear the sounds that they make jumping from branch to branch. Even then you need to fix your gaze intently on the canopy of the forest to notice their presence. When you do, suddenly you become aware of the life that exists on the roof of the rainforest. Monkeys everywhere!
As you walk, you might not see what is happening on the very ground you tread upon. Upon closer inspection, we see a poison dart frog sitting at the root of a tree. Gigantic ants are carrying leaves ten times their size to build a nest and their anthill looks to be the size of a small village. Butterflies dart amongst the trees and plants. I even spotted a tarantula by simply fixing my eyes on the ground.
If you can sit quietly and concentrate, you might see the tree sloths that inhabit the forest. Birds are suddenly everywhere when we stop and focus out attention on their cries. Toucans appear. With an increased awareness and focus, the jungle that had seemed bereft of creatures comes alive.
Constantino’s wisdom became even more apparent as we set off for our canopy tour, where we rode a sky tram to the very top of the rainforest and flew from platform to platform on a zip-line! Constantino told us that we would be able to discover the forest from an entirely different perspective, much like the monkey’s experience. We would be seeing it from the top versus the bottom and this could open up a very different and new vantage point.
He was right of course. Looking down at the rainforest gives you a new understanding. It is almost like two separate worlds. There is more light which gives the forest a different look and feel altogether. The view is a panorama of treetops, almost like green clouds. You see things on the top that don’t exist on the bottom. You are also viewing the wildlife that live in the trees at eye level which gives you a new perspective, most evident with the birds and monkeys. It is the angle of sight that changes and reveals them to you differently.
A squirrel just hanging around having a snack, taken by Michael Scheltgen.
This concept of focused attention and awareness turned a horseback-riding jaunt into the discovery that a tree might not just be a tree. My guide and I had been riding for nearly an hour, our horses running up and down the hills. We were very isolated and there was simply not a soul in sight for miles and miles.
We rode past a large tree much like the others in Costa Rica that spread their limbs in a horizontal fashion when I heard Luis gasp. There nestled in the branches of a tree was a coyote, something I never would have seen had it not been for Luis’ fine tuned attention and eyesight.
Connecting with Awareness
It wasn’t only the rainforest that revealed itself to me. I reconnected with my two teenagers as well. What with my work and their school, social life and teenage drama, the talk between us at home seemed to revolve more around the mundane details of daily life than true communication. Too much going on and not enough attention on the things and people that matter.
The change in locale and the absence of everything that distracted us at home made for a renewed ability to be with each other. I noticed the little things that had evaded me at home: watching Jake and Sylvie walking with their arms around each other filled me with joy. Having conversations that opened them up reminded me of their intelligence and depth. I had a renewed sense of who they were and how blessed I was to have these incredible human beings as my children.
It is the lack of awareness and focus that robs of us so much in life. Something as simple as the art of listening to another person is a prime example. All too often when we are in a conversation, our minds are elsewhere and we miss out on most of what is being said and felt.
In my training as a Life Coach, listening is a skill that is highly emphasized. We are taught about numerous levels to listening.
The first is where we listen but don’t really hear. Our minds are elsewhere or thinking of our next response.
In the next level, we focus out attention directly on the person without distraction.
It is the third level that can reveal the most to us about the other person because not only are we focusing on what they say but we also are deeply aware of their presence, which allows us to tune into their total geography. This is where real communication takes place.
The same can be said about our own bodies. How many of us don’t recognize the signals our bodies attempt to send us because we are just not tuned into ourselves? Suddenly it seems we have a full blown cold when all along our bodies were trying to tell us that one was coming on. Lack of attention to a strained muscle erupts into a full blown crisis.
How to Become More Aware
The world, our lives and the people in them will open up and explode with revelations if we only pay them more attention. Take the time and make the effort to be more aware. Here are a few ideas:
When you become frantic, you lose your ability to focus. Simply noticing that you are in a heightened state of activity is the first step. Stop and take a few minutes to practice deep breathing. Everything will come back into focus. Take deep breathing breaks a few times a day.
You may be handling ten things at once but you sacrifice quality with quantity. Studies reveal that focusing on one task completely will result in much better results.
Listen to Your Body’s Signals
You might be able to bypass an outburst of anger if you notice the signs that precede such an outburst such as increased heart rate and a tingling feeling.
Take Time for Nature
Very little in life is as soothing and inspiring as an encounter with the natural world around us. A simple walk in the woods can be the recipe for a renewed sense of wonder, serenity and the necessary energy to plow onward.
Perform your everyday task with a sense of mindfulness, which might be translated as being aware of the present moment.
On that never ending to-do list, what really need to get handled today?
Listen with Mindfulness
Learn to Meditate
It increases your ability to concentrate, focus and be aware. Even ten minutes a day is highly beneficial.
Life is short but sweet. Take the time to taste all the sweetness. The old adage about stopping to smell the roses is fitting but being fully aware of that rose is even better yet! There is more to that rose than just its scent. Don’t rush through life and miss out on all it has to offer. Cultivating awareness yields huge returns, all of them good.
You can live a life that truly works and you can achieve peak performance in all areas of your life via Life Coaching. You can not only survive life’s unexpected changes and transitions but also thrive. Powerful change is possible. Learn how to create positive change in your life. Visit http://www.changecoachshelley.com and take your free customized Life Quiz at http://shelleyblog.changecoachshelley.com Contact Shelley Stile at email@example.com today!