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Archive for December, 2017

Tears for Trees

Tears rolled down my cheeks as the trees I have visited most every day for the last 18 years were being torn down with heavy machinery. These trees have witnessed my tears, heard me sing, soothed my fears and given me a sense of belonging that the human world has not. They are my friends. I use the wood products these friends will be made in to; so who am I to be against their death? Mother Nature also gives the death sentence; it is the cycle of life. Additionally, I do not doubt that the remaining trees will benefit from the openness and sunshine. So, what exactly does make me so sad? With contemplation, I find it to be the lack of reverence for life and the community these trees live amongst. Trees have been proven to communicate and help each other grow through an underground network of fungi. Not having words or tears does not equal an absence of compassion or community.

The first week of cutting, the birds were silent. Later, not so much, as they flickered around not knowing where to go. Same with the deer who were wandering down the side of the road, wondering where to take refuge. I haven’t heard a peep or sighted the porcupines that move slowly among these trees—what are they doing? And the Barred Owls I’ve run into regularly, how have they been affected? This forest is personal for me, as I know it intimately. Yet, the tears that roll down my cheeks are not just for these specific trees and animals, but equally for the condition of our culture. We live in an artificial and disposable society that believes itself to be real and important. Money for instance is a human construct, yet it has become equivalent to our life force. In America, we seem to groom kids for winning more so than good character. In this situation with the trees, the falsity is that we need to “manage” the forest for it to thrive. This is only potentially true, because of the damage humans have done over the last two hundred years interfering with the natural growth cycle of trees. No matter what, life will go on—for the forest, for the animals that call it home, for the men doing their job and for me. The real question is; will we have reverence for that life as it continues? Will we be mindful of the others, humans and non-humans, we share our home with? Will we recognize that the tree’s life does not depend on us. Instead, we depend on the trees, as they produce the oxygen that allows us breath. Thank the good lord they are willing to share. How are we reciprocating?

Thich Nhat Hahn suggests;

“We need to change our way of thinking and seeing things. We need to realize that the Earth is not just our environment. The Earth is not something outside of us. Breathing with mindfulness and contemplating your body, you realize that you are the Earth. You realize that your consciousness is also the consciousness of the Earth. Look around you–what you see is not your environment, it is you.”

So, my question turns inward as well—will we have reverence for our own personal nature? Another favorite quote was spoken by Howard Thurman;

“There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.”

One of the great tragedies of our time is how hard it is to hear our genuine voice. The “strings” come from everywhere—the greater whole, advertising, our families or that one person we most love. Their ‘sound’ is often loud, perhaps rational and appears real. Meanwhile, our true guide is quiet, humble and when heard sounds too much like ourselves to be taken seriously. To hear it takes silence and subtle listening, as well as a belief in our deep self. None of which are strengths of our busy, noisy, outward-focused society. Additionally, I sense that because our culture lacks a function of unconditional belonging, there is a fear that going inward to meet and know our own self, will further separate us from the world—from others. My senses also tell me that the opposite is actually true. To go inward and revere our own nature will ultimately show us our connection far deeper than blindly following society, someone else or an ideology. When we are true to our genuine voice, we have no desire to attach strings from either end—the controlling or the following. Such an appetite is the result of weakness and insecurity. It is worth noting that a poverty of strings does not mean pure solo flight, rather that we have self-responsibility within the whole.

This essay may seem hard on our society, let that be no reflection on the beautiful people within it. Culture is a structure in which people live, not the people themselves. However, it is up to us as individuals to create the change we want to see within it. We have reached a turning point. I feel it, my guess is you have too. While, we may differ in what we want, it seems most of us sense a need for transformation. I personally and whole-heartedly want to see a world that is genuine, true, and reverent for what is wild and alive. I want to see love for our inner and outer environment and to know that we belong. I want mindfulness and questioning to bring us to what is real. Mostly, I want humans to feel the connection that exists between the earth and all that live upon her; those with two legs, four legs, wings, and roots. To do all that starts with loving oneself. Not love based on personal achievements, but for the divine fact that we have been given the extraordinary gift of life. Let us choose wisely how we use that gift.

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Deer Wisdom

The other day I was with Tom, my horse, in a low section of the farm where the grass grows lush. It was twilight and peaceful. While Tom was grazing, there was a group of birds flitting around. With the low light I was trying to identify them by their quantity and movement rather than by sight. My attention was soft and taking in all that surrounded us. While listening to the small birds, I heard the leaves rustle off in the woods. This was obviously not any of the birds, so I slowly turned to locate what the originator of that sound and found a doe. She was standing still on the edge of the woods quietly gazing at us. Not wanting to startle her, I subdued my excitement and nodded a hello. Tom continued to graze, while the doe and I gazed at each other. It was an honor to be seen by such wild beauty. After about 5 minutes of this open exchange, more leaves began to rustle behind the doe. I could not see who was therebut for whatever reason Tom started to get antsy. While he is a laid-back guy most of the time, he can get riled up in certain circumstances and that was beginning to happen. I was already holding his lead rope; because when in this area he is more susceptible to fear (elsewhere on the farm, I flip the lead rope over his back and give him freedom.) By now, he was jigging around me while the doe continued to simply watch. Wildlife is less fearful of humans when a horse, another prey animal, is with them (why I’d love to do an African safari by horseback.) So, even with Tom trotting around, the doe continued to be unconcerned by us. The doe eventually bounded through the open space, slowly and gracefully to what seemed a predetermined place 20 feet away. By then, Tom had had enough and continued to tell me he was ready to leave, not desperately, but with conviction. Regardless of being hesitant to leave the connection with the doe, he and I began our walk up the hill. Luckily he was willing to slow down for me and my short two legs. A study in dissimilar species working out their differences.

The next day the sun was setting while I was driving home from the barn. I love capturing the sun in pictures and was frustrated to be driving and unable to do so. I had stopped earlier to take a few, yet as the sun continued to lower it got increasingly intoxicating. So, rather than turn down our road, I kept driving in hopes of finding a place to pull over to photograph its beauty. No luck, it kept going down while remaining behind the trees in the places available to pull over. When the sun was totally set, I turned around to go back home. As I pulled back out onto the road, there was a buck on the left. He was stunning with 4 points. I was already going slow, but came to a stop and as I did he ran across the road, bounding into the woods.

Then this morning, my dog Z and I were walking down the road on our way to the woods. Z doesn’t walk on a leash and was off to my left. I had my head down, not paying attention to what was ahead. On walks my awareness always includes Z, so when she stopped in her tracks and got focused, I looked up. As my eyes followed her gaze there was another doe staring at us.

On their own, each of these experiences is enough for me to feel touched by the deer. While deer are not uncommon, being “touched” by one—any wild animal—is a grand experience for me. So, while doing a meditation that asked me to think of an animal encounter, the first deer came to mind. The doe then told me; “Do not live in fear. Instead, allow fear to be inspiration to take action. When deer feel concern, we run. That’s it, nothing more to it. When you feel fear, allow it to communicate that something needs to be done. When we run from a threat, it’s simply a response to the situation at hand and when it’s over we let it be over. We urge you to do the same. Act when it feels right to, or stand and eat when that feels appropriate. Beware not to get stuck in either in the movement of change or the stillness of peace. Simply act according to the circumstances at hand. Use all your senses along with your thinking mind. Humans have forgotten how intelligent their bodies are and rely too much on their thoughts. Meanwhile the self-organization of life runs through and communicates with their bodies, so humans rarely hear the voice of the All. This is the root cause of their excessive disconnection which is evidenced by behaviors and emotions that are negatively affecting the Whole.”

Hmmm…. Interesting. I have often felt prickled by the idea of living fearlessly. To do so, would suggest we need to shut down our most natural emotions. Yet, I’m not sure that I’ve listened to it as a sign to take action. More likely I get the feeling and simply wait it out, knowing ‘this too shall pass.’ And funny enough, it does. However, I suppose that is what Doe meant by getting stuck in the stillness of peace.

Do you listen to the “self-organization” of life? Or are the thoughts in your head too loud? Thinking is certainly useful. However, if we quiet ourselves enough, the song of the connected world may sing loud enough for us to dance with it.

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