I Heard the Ponderosa Pines

by Susie Amundson

Ten years ago the pines spoke to me. (You’re right. I don’t want to share this with just anyone).

I had been struggling at work. My childhood identity of responsibility clung to me like a tight dress that didn’t look so good in adulthood.

It was hard for me to say ‘no’ to work assignments when they were so doable or interesting. And yet after 5 years of ‘yeses,’ profits over people, and workplace distrust, I was touching burnout. Well, honestly? Sizzling from the inside out.

Burnout? You know the three signs. Cynicism (I’ve perfected that one). Ineffectiveness, as in a reduced sense of personal accomplishment. Exhaustion. No explanation needed.

So although it might have been a surprise to my tall beloved when we talked on the phone the evening the trees whispered, it wasn’t a huge surprise to me.

It wasn’t a big shock when I woke up in the morning, looked out at the majestic ponderosa pines, and heard their whispers: “You need to quit your job.” And the pines reassured me “There’s something you need to do.”

And then the whispers stopped. Whoa Seabiscuit!

Recently, It Got Me Thinking

It got me thinking about how we find our own inner wisdom. How we tap inside ourselves to find our truths. How we make decisions that are aligned with our body, heart, and mind.

Some people call this intuition and yet, I think it’s more than that. Intuition is more of that gut feeling right out the gate. Someone says something and your gut reacts to it.

My intuition (I’m crediting my mom) has been a bonus to me. Even when I was 8 or 9 years old and strangers or neighbors would squeeze my cheek, lean in 6 inches from my face, and spurt out “you’ve got the cutest little dimples,” I knew something was wrong with these people.

Tapping Your Inner Wisdom

I quit that job 3 weeks later. True to the coherence of my heart, mind, and body that decision was spot on. It followed a host of others: Moving to Alaska. Divorce. Moving out of Alaska. Shifting from a nationally recognized pediatric OT to a start-up organizational consultant.

Many thought I had my head screwed on backward for that last one (and they maybe were right). But my knowing said “yes” and I launched forward.

The last one was definitely not in line with the outside world’s definition of success.

Underrated in our society is the connection to one’s own wholeness. We’ve got a society girded in consumerism and viewed in comparisons of just about everything. Miles run. Hours worked. Salaries earned. Recognition applauded. Berries picked. Invitations received. And sadly, Facebook likes.

When we use society’s determinants of success, we typically mask the rudder to ourselves. We miss that inner compass. And then go sailing through life crewed by self-doubt, angst, false ego, numbing, and anger.

LISTEN: Calm the Body. Warm the Heart. Clear the Mind. 

It sounds so simple to lean in and listen to our inner whispers. And yet there’s so much ambient noise in our lives, primarily in our heads, it’s hard to hear anything that’s subtle.

How do you quiet your mind? Two steps: Calm your Body. Warm your Heart.

Drop Into Your Body

I can’t say this enough to my clients. Give your overactive mind a flippin’ break. Move your attention to your body. Show up for your visceral experience. What does the feeling of irritation feel like in your body? Where does sadness live? Get to know these places within.

When you shift from your own dramatic movie in your mind to your body, the sensation may be uncomfortable. Stay there anyway.

Personal Movement Practice. It can be tai chi, a mindful walk in nature, yoga, gardening, or some gentle hula hooping that works for you. The main piece is keeping your mind attending to the body. Practice a few minutes each day.

Breathing with Long Exhalations. You can use a breathing practice such as Soothing Breath or one that regulates or calms down your body. Just remember, the exhalation needs to be longer than the inhalation if you want your neurobiology to work with you.

Hum, Sing, or Play Wind Instruments. Attentive long exhalations – this is the key to calming the body.

Warm the Heart

Step 2 brings oxytocin and kindness to your inner landscape. Oxytocin is a neuropeptide connected to social bonding and is incompatible with angst and anxiety. Bring it on inside.

Well Wishes. Offering yourself and others goodwill and warm-heartedness will shift you to a more kindred place in the world. And once there, you can observe how your perspective changes. Or how your mind clears.

Three Good Things. Many of you know this is one of my favorite activities. Each night as I lay my head on the pillow, I think of the three best pieces of my day. It can be holding the tall fellow’s hand during a movie. A funny conversation with a friend. A bird eating honeysuckle berries. Simple. See how it works for you.

‘There’s Something You Need To Do’

Ahhh, I kept wondering what those ponderosa pines were cooking up for me in the future. And in about 6 weeks, I discovered what it was.

And in about 4 weeks, I’ll let you know the whisperings too.

In the meanwhile, honor your wholeness and inner wisdom. Calm your Body. Warm your Heart. And Clear your Mind. And then. Listen.

May your life voyage be blessed with your inner wisdom.

Susie