Insights From Nature as Spiritual Practice

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

So, I was perusing the spiritual section at the library and came across this made-for-me book and quickly checked it out. Nature as Spiritual Practice. Yes, yes, yes!

I am so excited about this book!!! Out in the counterculture, there is much written about nature and it's connection to the metaphysical. This is where I always end up landing somehow when I'm trying to find articles and insights about connecting to nature. But the metaphysical and magical don't interest me. I'm always on a quest to find something that aligns with my beliefs. Nature has always intuitively been something that I've wanted to explore on a spiritual side. We had a Bible study at church about finding your purpose, and nature kept popping up for me, but I wasn't sure how to merge my spiritual life with nature. Now I am equipped to do that, and take it so much deeper!

After reading the first chapter and exercise, I immediately put this book on my Amazon Wishlist...and shortly thereafter, let's just be real here, I bought it, along with its companion field guide.

I hadn't even gotten past the "How to Use This Book" section before I came to some overwhelming, mind-blowing realizations. This book was exactly what I didn't even know I was looking for!

Every leaf and flower bear the marks and give witness to their Creator...Perception of this reality requires contemplative attention, the eyes of the heart, and the wonder of a child...It is a book that assumes that the glory of the Creator is discernible in creation's ecological material, sacramental, and spiritual realities.


Creation speaks, and the language of creation shapes, forms, and transforms relationships. Our human/creation relationship is born of our common parentage, the relationship is realized in practice. Still pulsing through the lifeblood of this human/creation connection are common genes--common genes whose function seems to be the nurturing of mindful attention, wonder, and shared longing to return to their Creator. Through the eyes of the senses and the eyes of wisdom and the eyes of faith, we behold the Easter in the ordinary, the mundane in the sacred.
And this!

Nature is Christian practice: she is the teacher and she is material and she is spiritual--the everyday and the sacramental.

So much this!!!

I'm reminded of Romans 1:20: "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." All these little miracles in nature are evidence of God!!!!

I can't wait to explore more of this book and dig deeper. I especially can't wait until the weather changes to be more conducive to this life-bearing exploration.

What are you reading? And what is it teaching you?

Weekly Food and Fitness--And the Easiest Pumpkin Turkey Chili Recipe Ever

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Hey there, I thought I'd bring back my rundown of my weekly workouts and menus to perhaps inspire others to prepare in advance for a week of healthy eating and give you menu and training ideas. Now that I have more of an established schedule and all, it's easier for me to organize.

I have been doing at least 30 minutes of exercise every morning, 6 days a week, alternating strength training and cardio. And for cardio, I've been alternating steady state and interval training.

Workout Schedule
Monday: 30 min FlashFit (workout series designed by me!)
Tuesday: 30 min interval run
Wednesday: 30 min Supreme 90 Day total body
Thursday: 30 min steady run
Friday: 30 min Tracy Anderson workout
Saturday: 35 min interval run
Sunday: Rest

On the menu this week:

  • Breakfast: My favorite Shakeology smoothie, Greek yogurt and egg whites with spinach.
  • Lunch: Pumpkin turkey chili {below} and my own version of peanut butter balls
  • Snack: cottage cheese with chickpeas (you've got to try this combo!!!)
  • Dinners: Mini pizzas, turkey/green bean casserole, crockpot chicken, etc.

Here's a quick recipe for the chili I made for my lunches. It is adapted from several of my favorite chili recipes in one. I took ingredients that I loved and were super easy to assemble (mostly canned--still healthy) and came up with this:

Easiest Pumpkin Turkey Chili
1 can black beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can pumpkin
2 lbs lean ground turkey
your favorite chili seasonings (I used garlic powder, chili powder and cumin)

  1. Brown the turkey, drain the oil.
  2. Dump in the rest of the ingredients and warm through.

Yes, that simple!!! I also would've added one diced onion if I had remembered to pick one up. The pumpkin may sound weird, but it really makes the chili so rich and creamy without any added cheese or sour cream. I actually went with a 15-oz can of pumpkin rather than the larger can shown in the picture. You don't really taste the pumpkin taste either, but do you know how brilliant pumpkin is for your health? You should definitely look it up!

I had my entire house clean on Saturday and my entire work week of food prepped by Sunday afternoon. I proudly read and relaxed the rest of Sunday after this was all prepared, for the first time since we moved. I haven't done that in a loooooooong time. Ever since we've moved, the projects and piles have prevented me from even wanting to relax. So, this type of simple food prep really helped get me to the point where I actually felt like I could relax and read.

How about you, what does your week of food and workouts look like?

A Nature Poem

Friday, January 29, 2016

Would You Rather
I’d rather trip over spindly tree roots
than a box on a concrete floor.
One more reverent and warm
than the parched other.
The birds and pinecones soften the fall
instead of the plastic wrapped around a
ceramic statue that signifies
the profitable violation of a holiday.
The same sky holds them in place,
but the difference is between
tender or tethered.
When crackling twigs break my fall,
when I’ve finally gained my footing on the
tangled outcropping in fertile soil,
I still leave unguarded.
I still leave with an unbroken spirit.

1 Minute Work Meditations

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Hey Guys, I am jumping into the world of YouTube videos right now, and I'd love to have you check it out and tell me what you think!

So, I came up with two one-minute exercises that you can practice at work. They seem really simple and shruggable.


Let me give you the lowdown on the profound, far-reaching benefits of mindfulness meditation:

  1. Addresses muscle imbalances (that you might not even realize you have): I specifically designed these exercises to stretch the chest and work the back and combat that hunched upper crossed syndrome that desk workers usually have. Here's a really good article if you'd like to read more about this chest/back imbalance.
  2. Oxygenate: deep breathing exercises increase blood oxygen levels. If people with asthma can benefit from deep breathing, then that's really saying something.
  3. Energize: at the same time as your blood oxygen is rising, your energy is increasing, but it's a calm energy, not a frenzied one.
  4. Anti-anxiety: I have struggled with anxiety-related issues and one thing that kept coming up for potential treatment options was mindfulness meditation. I thought, huh, what's that gonna do? Then, I saw it over and over and over, and with my arms crossed, I thought "fine, I'll try it." Turns out, it's a pretty darn effective treatment, especially for OCD. It lowers your threshold for anxiety, provides an alternative to rumination, dampens fight-or-flight mode, and keeps your body in a much more relaxed state on a regular basis. The root of anxiety often is bad thoughts (something's wrong with me, I'm not good enough, etc) that have too much power, and mindfulness meditation reduces that power. But you don't have to have an anxiety disorder to benefit as it reduces stress and frenzied thoughts.
  5. Increased work productivity. Seriously, a regular meditation practice can restructure your brain! Don't believe me? Read this. Benefits listed in the article also include improved attention, reduced stress, more compassion, and on and on. These mind-clearing exercises should be boss-approved.
Do you get the idea? I could go on... Meditation might sound new-agey, but it's becoming more mainstream, and for good reason. If you're still not sold, here are 100 Benefits of Meditation. If that doesn't convince you, I don't know what will.

There's no reason you can't reap some of these benefits in one minute! However, you'll get a more profound effect if you practice longer, regular meditation.

Here are my brand-new videos. I would appreciate it if you'd ever so kindly check them out, subscribe to my channel and/or leave a comment and let me know what you think. 

Let's Talk About New Years' Resolutions

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

But it's only December 15!!! Right?

Well, I propose that you start drafting your new years' resolutions right now. In fact, I propose you even consider starting on them right now. The reason is simple: ANY DAY is the right day to start following your dreams.

What is the direction that you want your life to go? That is the most important question you could consider when it comes to exploring your life's purpose. And the question takes a lot of consideration and brainstorming to answer.

So, get out a pen and paper and start. Give yourself a solid 30 minutes to 1 hour to really dig in. Write out a list of the things that you value most: your family, God, your home environment, helping people, etc. Write out what your goals are as they pertain to each of your values. Your goals and values should be aligned so you're not just starting new projects arbitrarily. In other words, don't adopt another goldfish if your life's ambition is to travel and don't spend an extra hour at "work lunches" every day if your family life is a priority for you to cultivate.

The benefits of defining your goals right now is that you'll have a head start come the new year. You can get all the details prepared, you can "test" out your resolutions and refine them, you can narrow your focus, and you can build up your excitement and motivation.

I would also strongly recommend going through Chalene Johnson's 30 Day Push to refine your goals. It's a free online program that will push you toward your life's goals. It will help give aim to your ambitions.

Now, if you have fitness goals for this year, please contact me and I would love to help you reach them.

Stick Chest Stretch

New Family Tradition: Jesse Tree

Friday, December 4, 2015

So, in years past, I have put together a fun Advent calendar for Kayne to make the countdown to Christmas meaningful and intentional. You can see some of our activities HERE and HERE. This year, I didn't know if I'd be able to maintain that level of involvement with our big move and everything. We'll still do a lot of those activities anyway, calendar or not. I was also thinking about how to make the countdown a bit more meaningful to the reason for the season.

So, I hopped on Etsy and typed in "Jesse Tree." My final decision came down to this set of ornaments. I just LOVE them. They came all wrapped up in a burlap sack with a printed scripture guide.

We've been sitting down every night, reading the verses in the guide and discussing the themes. Then, my son will place the ornament on the tree wherever he wants.

I can't wait to keep this tradition going. I'm thinking of buying the kids each their own set and tucking them away for when they move out of the house. I'm hoping that this is one of those traditions that they take with them for their own families and find comfort in the familiarity of the "back home" tradition.

Does your family do any sort of countdown to Christmas traditions? I love hearing stories about them!

Blessing Our Family's New Home

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Guess what??? We moved!!! Well, if you couldn't guess that from the title of this post...

We found a country home where I know we'll be closer to where we really were meant to be. Hubster and I definitely do not feel the calling of the city in our bones, we feel the openness and organic nature of the country. We feel like we will be in a much safer, calmer place. We will be in a much more closely connected place.

A photo posted by Jessica Collins (@boun_seejess) on

I will save the details of the home for another post, but I'll just tell you we are very blessed and it was definitely meant to be. When we were putting our offer in, I prayed that if it was meant to happen, it would happen. And it happened, so I am at peace with it.

I felt a strong stirring to pray a blessing over our new home before moving in. I just think that God needs to be the first person to occupy it, to set the standard for our new place. We are just stewards of this home that is really God's. When we got the keys, we took a truck- and camper-load to the house and I planned to take some quiet time to pray over our new space.

In order to give my prayers a sense of permanence, a way to reuse them, and a way to reference them later, I wanted to put them in writing. So, I gathered a group of Bible verses that spoke to me about our new home the most. I printed them up in a document, cut them out, pasted them to some scrapbook paper that I had on hand, and tied them together with a piece of yarn. On the back of the scrapbook paper, I wrote a note or two about what the verses meant to me.

For example, "peace be to this house," not only means having our home protected by the Spirit, but it means a peaceful environment, one filled with warmth. I am hoping candles, blankets, artwork, and elements of nature will make our house feel like a haven. I want my home to be peaceful for my family in as many ways as possible.

If you would like to use my printable for your own home blessing, feel free to print it HERE. The very last page is where I hand wrote what I wanted to pray about.

This was the starting point of my prayers:

Lord, please
Bless our new home.
Bless the walls that hold our children and keep us safe.
Bless the memories that we will make here.
Bless our neighbors and our relationships with them.
May this be a place where people feel welcome.
Let every person that walks through the door know you are in our midst.
Lord, be where we are. Your presence is welcome and desired at all times.
Help us to honor you in this home as we start fresh in a new place.
Help our children grow in their knowledge of you here.
Help us raise them under your care and guidance.
There are reminders of your presence all around us here, inside and out.
Help us to really "see" them.
Help us to see you when we see your treasures in our backyard and inside our walls.