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Earth Day

It’s been said that human life is about relationships. This has not rung true in my heart. Yet, I am old enough to know that my understandings and feelings and beliefs are always changing. So, rarely do I oppose a rational idea, especially when delivered by someone I trust. Neither though, do I take things for truth without being able to feel them in my body as such.

Plato said “As youth fades and time brings changes we may change many of our present opinions. So let us refrain from setting ourselves up as judge of the highest matter.” Who can argue with Plato?

So, there I was walking in the woods with my dog considering relationships as the reason I’d come back into human form. I have lots of favorable relations. Yet, if that was the reason I came back to earth, why is it that I so hugely adore being alone? Or at least away from humans? Surrounded instead by trees, birds and four legged animals. For it is there that I feel the most alive, the most in tune, the most welcome. There is a purity to trees for they do nothing but be true to their own nature. The same for the wild animals. Even my domestic animal friends. While they will use manipulation techniques for something they want, attention or a treat, they do not fake who they are. They are willing to adjust their abilities and behavior to better communicate with me, they’d never think to be something they are not. Additionally, trees and animals have no desire to change me, use my energy for their gain, or act in a sweet spiritual way to cover up their fear that they aren’t worthy of life. All of which, accurate or not, I have felt other humans do. I have been known to fall in love with a stone at first sight. Not because of what I’ve read it can do for me but based on its shape, the smoothness of its outer, visible layer or the way it fits in my hand.

Years ago, there was a story I’d started to write about a maple that wanted, felt compelled to, find friendship with humans. This tree was always trying to woo people as they walked by on the path he lived next to. The humans never heard this tree’s whispers, too much were they in their heads. Trees don’t speak to thoughts, they speak only to hearts. After years of pushing with no reward, Tree pulled into himself, staying there for years—sad at his lack of success. Eventually, long after his discouraging release of an agenda, a woman came and sat next to him with her back against his trunk. Her heart was broken, for the man she adored had fallen in love with someone else. This woman did not hear the tree because he was currently silent, but each of their broken hearts responded to the other in their silence. The woman then started talking to herself out loud. Tree was still somewhat asleep, but with time he began to feel her presence and eventually understand her words as well. He sat quietly with her while she spilled her heart out, believing no one could hear but herself. The deeper the girl went in to her heart, the more awake Tree became, until eventually they were both aware of the communication between them. So began their long-term relationship. The actualization of two dreams took place the moment each dropped their agendas for other people. It was then that they found the relationship they longed for, though with a different species. Both hearts became full of and open to love.

In one of their daily conversations, Tree told Woman that the biggest shift in humans was the invention of the mirror. For it was at that time they started to experience life from outside of themselves. Imagine for a minute never having seen an image of yourself or a representation of someone else other than their actual being. You know the human form, as you see others, but have no idea what your nose looks like, your eyes, your smile. Really experiencing what that would be like may lead to the greatest shift in modern human behavior. For it could lead to living from the inside out. Connecting, relating perhaps, to that force that animates your body just as the wind blows the branches of the trees. How would doing that change your life expression?

In one moment I saw the symbol of the cross to mean the cross section of divine energy, which comes down the vertical line and the physical matter which is the horizontal line across. The vertically growing tree would not be able to stand without horizontal stability of the ground that covers its roots. Different and unified. The same is true for each of us and the cross section we create between divine energy and physical matter. We are no different than the tree other than our personal expression of the unity. Please do not go proving your worthiness by spewing your specialness. Rather exalt your pure divine nature by expressing it as only you may, knowing that you are always doing so from the cross section of spirit and matter. Your being alive is proof enough that you are worthy of expressing that unity. It is my greatest guess that that is the relationship we have returned to experience.

So, on this Earth day in the company of human friends, I call on you to remember your relationship with life. And by life, I mean all life—that which animates you from inside out, as well as that which lives outside you in any form—a tree, a bush, a plant an animal. For we are all individual expressions of the lifeforce. All different, all equal.

To end, here’s a poem I wrote a couple years ago…

A Wood Thrush’s View

Is there anything as heartwarming as being looked in the eye by a wild animal?


I ask this after having just had the experience with a Wood Thrush.


Perhaps not what the mind conjures when hearing the title “wild animal.”

A little bird to look at, a big bird to listen to.
Its voice haunting in its beauty.

What does a bird think or feel when it sees me?


Is it only sensing a potential threat?

Or could it be seeing in me, what I see in it?

A beautiful being that enhances the world simply by being alive,

singing its song from inside out?

As I finish writing that sentence, the very bird gives a vocal salute.


Does it really matter if I am wrong in believing it is the latter?

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The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? The land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

Every part of this earth is sacred to my people – every shining fine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.

We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. we are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our bothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man, all belong to the same family.

The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred. Each ghostly reflection in the clear water of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water’s murmur is the voice of my father’s father.

The rivers are our bothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So you must give to the rivers the kindness you would give any brother.

If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So if we sell you our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers.

Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth, befalls all the sons of the earth.

This we know: The earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood which unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

One thing we know: Our god is also your god. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator.

Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? The wild horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted by talking wires? Where will the thicket be? Gone! Where will the eagle be? Gone! And what is it to say goodbye to the swift pony and the hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.

When the last Red Man has vanished with his wilderness and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forests still be here? Will there be any of the spirit of my people left?

We love this earth as a newborn loves its mother’s heartbeat. So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children and love it, as God loves us all.

As we are part of the land, you too are part of the land. This earth is precious to us. It is also precious to you. One thing we know: There is only one God. No man, be he Red Man or White Man can be apart. We are brothers after all.

 

Above is the only known photograph of Chief Seattle, taken 1864. This was found on Wikipedia site about Chief Seattle.

The other day I read Chief Seattle’s letter to the president from 1852. The whole letter can be read here. 165 years ago wasn’t that long ago for how much has changed. This letter has been quoted often in short bits; the full-length version is amazingly touching and poignant. The following paragraph really caught my heart’s attention…

“Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? The wild horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted by talking wires? Where will the thicket be? Gone! Where will the eagle be? Gone! And what is it to say goodbye to the swift pony and the hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.”

That last sentence especially intrigues me; “the end of living and the beginning of survival.” For the modern human, this may seem preposterous. Aren’t we thriving with our conveniences? Weren’t the primitive Indians focused only on surviving? Yet, what if the opposite is true? Would this explain why so many people are afflicted with depression, lack of satisfaction or addiction today?

After that last big snowstorm, I did a live Facebook video while trudging through the snow (I do this outdoors every Thursday to flood Facebook with nature. If you want to come along find me there). My friend, Virginia, asked “no snowshoes?” It’s true that I was not wearing any and my feet sunk deep with each step. I have snowshoes—thought I needed them back in Vail, Co where I lived through my 20s, as everyone there did. I also really liked gear at that time. Today I’d prefer having my feet unencumbered of metal shoes. Boil down the why of that and its my preference for direct experiences. For instance, I want to be with horses, not watch them on a screen or literally be and touch a lion, not see them through bars. In this scenario, it means I want to have my feet directly on the ground not with a snowshoe in between.

This is also true in my spiritual practices. I like them simple and direct. To muddle them with techniques feels less sincere for me. I say, “To complicate is human, to simplify is spirit.” This is not true for others, which is what makes the human species interesting—our differences. Plato said, “As youth fades and time brings changes we may change many of our present opinions. So let us refrain from setting ourselves up as judge of the highest matter.” Whatever creates a feeling of love, life, peace, or connection is our best spiritual practice. Whether that’s sitting in the woods alone, or chanting with a thousand people. We are in the time that Chief Seattle spoke of; let us stay true to what fills us with life, as a swift pony and the hunt did for him. The key is to be genuine to our inner impulse, for it is that self-organizing life force. No one else can dictate what this will be for us as individuals,.Nor will we know what it is by simply thinking our way to it—it takes action and discernment. Think of it as an adventure in harmony between our distinct Soul and the collective of life.

Trust and enjoy, Katrina

ToComplicateIsHuman

‘… release all desire for specific agendas, befriend nature, open our hearts to a new kind of love, and see what happens.’

It is said that winter exemplifies the art of letting go, leaves have fallen and blooms not yet active. “Let go” is often referenced, yet what does it really mean? To find a definitions, I googled it and the lyrics to a song from Frozen were all that came up. For me, conditioned or true, the phrase has a painful feel of loss to it. Perhaps, it’s the word ‘go’ which sounds as though everything will take leave. I’ve come to prefer the word release. It implies an opening, a freedom. If we release that which is still appropriate for us, it doesn’t go anywhere, it is simply no longer tethered to us by invisible clinging. Back to the tree analogy. A tree releases its leaves, so that when the time is right the leaf does in fact fall, yet it typically lands just above the roots to decompose and nourish the tree’s future growth.

Last night Z, my dog, and I were walking down the driveway in the dark. The road was pure ice. Z had gone running off in excitement because we were headed to the neighbor’s where her ‘bffs’ live. I heard some scuffling and thought maybe Z and slipped on ice. I continued walking and also to hear the shuffling, so I turned on my phone’s flashlight and asked Z if she was ok. As the words came out of my mouth, a huge bird flew off the branch just above my head. It was slow and had food in its talons. Being that it was dark, my guess is that it was owl, which we have plenty of in the neighborhood. That said, it certainly wasn’t silent—as owls usually are, so perhaps a hawk. Either way, it brought me a great sense of honor—the kind the human world rarely does. Why? I don’t totally know the answer. It does touch a primal aspect of me that is deep and old. This facet of self is the one I hope to inspire awakening, for it knows the truth that humans are simply one part of a whole organism we call Earth.

In 2011, I did a month-long solo road trip. Solo meaning alone in the car, not alone the entire time traveling. I went to a conference and camped among 100s of women, having the pleasure of meeting some lovely ladies whom I’m still in contact with. While I had freeze-dried coffee to make wherever and whenever, I also went in to the coffee shop of most towns. The perfect way to get a feel for what a place is about, especially reading the bulletin boards. (Since then, I’ve had the idea of traveling the country stopping at coffee shops each day. Somehow weaving a story about the variety of people met along the way—similarities, differences and that one common thread.) Also, I met up with friends—new and old. Additionally, there were long stretches of time when I was my only company. That time was spent mostly writing, partly visiting the idea of fiction. Doing so intrigues me, yet I’m not sure of my patience and dedication to work through the large quantity of bad stories needed to reach a level of competency that feels worthy of my taste. That aside, for a week I sat and slept next to the Intercoastal Waterway, just north of Charleston, SC. This whole trip was spent sleeping outside; no tent, just out under the stars. Photo below shows where my sleeping bag sat during this stop, where upon waking I opened my eyes to witness extraordinary sunrises. During the day, I sat next to a tree that hung out over the water (also in photo) and started a story. It was about a maple that wanted, felt compelled to, find friendship with humans. This tree was always trying to woo people as they walked by on the path he lived next to. The humans never heard this tree’s whispers, too much were they in their heads. Trees don’t speak to thoughts, they speak only to hearts. After years of pushing with no reward, Tree pulled into himself, staying there for years—sad at his lack of success. Eventually, long after his discouraging release of an agenda, a woman came and sat next to him with her back against his trunk. Her heart was broken, for the man she adored had fallen in love with someone else. This woman did not hear the tree because he was currently silent, but each of their broken hearts responded to the other in their silence. The woman then started talking to herself out loud. Tree was still somewhat asleep, but with time he began to feel her presence and eventually understand her words as well. He sat quietly with her while she spilled her heart out, believing no one could hear but herself. The deeper the girl went in to her heart, the more awake Tree became, until eventually they were both aware of the communication between them. So began their long-term relationship. The actualization of two dreams took place the moment each dropped their agendas for other people. It was then that they found the relationship they longed for, though with a different species. Both hearts became full of and open to love.

I had forgotten that story. Then during two workshops I facilitated in January, it came up unplanned. Perhaps it is time to revisit—my own writing of it, as well for us as a collective. Are not many hearts breaking in today’s modern world? Perhaps not for an unrequited love, but for the death of what we thought was real and valuable. Maybe it is best to release all desires for specific agendas, befriend nature, open our hearts to a new kind of love, and see what happens.

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sunset

 

A Trip to Africa

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Africa. How do I tell about my trip to volunteer at a lion conservation program in Zimbabwe? Was it all I expected? Yes and no. Because I am a romantic, I had visions of it being a place vastly unlike here. That’s not the case. However, a fundamental difference I found was the perception of time. Westerners tend to believe that time is limited—making plans based on efficient use of it. For Africans, time is unlimited. Their plans seem to have a loose schedule. During maintenance projects, their approach caused frustration. However, during tasks when the lions were the time-keepers, such as lion walks or cubsitting, we all moved at lion speed (usually slow and often at a standstill) without question or desire to improve it.

Capturing a moment in a photo, that would have otherwise gone unnoticed, is something I adore doing. So it was with excitement that I packed my camera and three lenses to Zimbabwe. At the end of my first full day there, the camera could no longer read memory cards. A film crew was at the park filming a series on the lion program (to be aired in the UK starting Jan. 1). Their cameraman looked into my camera and disappointingly discovered one of the pins that reads the cards was broken. Something fixable, but not in Zimbabwe. So there I was in Africa—on what seemed like a three-week photo shoot—without a working camera. Truth be told, there was quite a bit of self-pity. But what this circumstance allowed me—forced me—to do was simply and fully engage in the moment. Instead of striving to better an image already taken, I was simply enjoying the experience of sitting with a lion, walking alongside an elephant, or watching zebra and giraffe from horseback. Meaning I was more in ‘Africa Time.’

In the wild, lions move around only a few hours a day. Preferring to lounge in the shade, groom members of their pride or sleep. Over the last fourty years the African Lion population has decreased by approximately 80-90%. I can’t help but recognize that over those same forty years, our culture has seemingly lost touch with our ability to slow down, enjoy our families and experience simple lifestyles—the very characteristics lions epitomize. I wonder how the lion population would be affected if our society was able to embrace lion behavior and remember to relax and appreciate the art of leisure? I’m willing to give it a try, are you?

Know Self

During volatile times, it is tempting to become one-sided, creating further division between ourselves and those who don’t see life the same way—even if unintentionally. Recently, I have witnessed friends with admirable openness and intellect become close-minded,judgmental and a bit fanatical. The two issues on my radar are the presidential election and Standing Rock. With the rise of social media, and changes in media in general, we hear much news in sound bites. This often bolsters opinions, while leaving other facts out. That is perhaps even more dangerous to a society than not having any information at all.

No matter who is president or what happens with the pipeline, let us not forget personal responsibility. If the earth is important to you, make actions that honor her. The government make regulations, humans carry out actions. If health is a priority, take care of yourself in body, mind and spirit. The government’s healthcare doesn’t give out health. If human beings are your thing, treat every one of them with kindness. The government has no way of stopping this no matter which side you sit. If you oppose the pipeline, keep in mind the reason they want to build it is supply and demand. It is out of alignment to oppose the transportation of oil, but not consider the gas mileage of your car or to use plastic without thought (plastic starts as crude oil, natural gas or other petrochemical derivatives.) It is wise to remember the earth is 4.2 billion years old and she has an order of her own. We are simply a part of that system. When we tap into natural order, we find peace, belonging and harmony at its root. Government is a construct of humans. If our goverment began with the same root system as nature, and I believe it’s possible that was the Founding Father’s goal, it has swung out of balance. The following is worth meditating on… “While our ancestors have been around for about six million years, the modern form of humans only evolved about 200,000 years ago. Civilization as we know it is only about 6,000 years old, and industrialization started in the earnest only in the 1800s….” Compare that to the planet’s 4.2 BILLION years and consider the intellect of experience.

As a lifelong participant of the personal improvement era and healing community, I have become weary of seeking problems to solve within myself and others. Instead, it feels important to know who we are under all those supposed problems and act in alignment with that essence or soul. Sages and mystics have given guidance on this for mellennia. Still, this morning I contemplated how to know who we are beyond the mind labels in my own way. This is not a linear method; rather a commitment to experiencing self as itself. From there we can make the changes desired with this essence awake. Is self nature or nurture? Both.

Here are my five suggestions to get to know self.

  • Spend time alone every day. This is the greatest commitment to you. It can be for as little as 15 minutes, so long as it is intentionally alone quietly focusing on you.
  • Do whatever allows you to feel the most intimate with your inner world. Writing, meditating, walking, sitting by a tree, and dancing are a few of my ideas. Additionally, I and others offer personal and group meditations which focus on inner experience. There is no right or wrong, whatever works for you.
  • For periods of time drop any sense of improving upon yourself or your skills. If writing, just write. Do not work on creating a final draft. If walking, don’t compare your distance to a different day. Just be in the moment intimately with your self as is.
  • Engage all your senses. We spend a lot of time THINKING and analyzing. Take time off from these responses and explore other areas. Sense the energy that animates your body. Do not pay attention in order to find problems (that is the mind), listen with your cells instead.
  • Last but not least, continue to come back to this energy. When out and about in the world and around others in everyday life experiences, flash back to your time alone and bring up that same feeling—the one you know as your personal frequency. As human beings we are integrations of a variety of facets; soul, spirit, body, ego, thought, etc…. While we are all Divine, we are also individual expressions of that Divine. The energy you are “dating” during your alone time is your unique recipe of above facets plus more. The “parts” may work harmoniously, or they can go off in a variety of directions—leaving us fragmented. It takes awareness, not willpower, to bring them in to collaboration.

Go forth and express your personal recipe and ALWAYS remember to act in alignment with your deepest beliefs. It is not enough to think them or post about them on social media. Henry Ralph Thoreau said “simplify, simplify.” A profound way to do this is by taking actions in alignment with our souls. Simple, not easy. However, it is a way to find peace inwardly, which will then express outwardly. Exactly what the world needs now.

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In a conversation about a child’s education, I briefly stated how important it is to encourage creative expression rather than competition. It was not a well-thought-out statement at the time, but it brought a flood of thoughts afterwards. It became clear that to me creativity is not only the arts, but also the way we think and how we live. Creativity allows us to be more adept at problem solving, building business, articulating emotions and even sports. While competition tends to foster comparison and separation, true expression focuses on personal experience and authentically sharing that with the world. I do not believe competition is inherently bad, but in my opinion it is best approached as a journey of self. It seems that if we emphasized expression to the young, they would more likely approach competition this way in the long run. It might be worth noting that my competitive drive is strong. So much, I shy away from competition as it brings out facets of myself I’d rather not nurture. Meanwhile, making music or dancing brings out great amounts of love for life. My soul is satisfied so long as I lose myself (read ego) to the music. Meanwhile, when there is the potential of winning or losing getting ‘lost’ seems too large a task for me. That said, others such as tennis player Roger Federer, seem brilliant at using sport as their canvas.

 

Throughout my life there have been times when my heart hurts so much it is overwhelming. The pain has hit at times of great loss; a breakup, the death of a dog, not getting the part I wanted in a play, or whatever…. Other times the sadness was brought on by no outward circumstance at all. This morning I was flooded with this latter kind of deep feeling. I have done enough self-development to know that ignoring these spells—and I use that word purposely—is futile. For 1. There is nothing wrong with feeling deeply regardless of our society’s distaste for it. 2. Outrunning an internal experience rarely works for the long run. 3. Intellectualizing emotions actually pushes them deeper and they can come out inappropriately. 4. Discomfort of this kind is usually the first sign of a major wake-up, and in this day and age we need to wake up regardless if it’s painful.

 

So, I walked into the woods along with my dog and my sadness. Deep in, I sat down among the hemlocks in the arms of my beloved sun. At first I just sat and allowed the sensation of silence to wash over and through me. Then, not knowing what else to do, I spoke out loud saying “Greetings Mother Earth and Sibling Trees. I have come to you in sorrow, its source I cannot discern. I come to you now to ask for help in healing this wound regardless of its origin. If instead of needing healing it has a message, please then help me to hear.”

 

Now I hope not to lose anyone with this, but I received the following response; “Katrina, thank you for honoring us with your truth and asking for our help. We are always hoping to be heard and used for our wisdom not only our bodies. What you are feeling is an excess of emotions. You are labeling it as sadness because it has overwhelmed you, but it is not exclusively that. In addition, not all of what you are feeling is yours, some of it is ancestral and some universal. Avoid the temptation to run for cover, and allow these emotions to take place just as you would a thunderstorm. You don’t try to stop a storm, instead you watch it move through knowing it will end, the sun will shine and all that remains will thrive because of the rain. Do not banish any specific emotions forever, for just as more storms will come, so too will feelings. However, by expressing, healing and releasing them as they come through, they will not stagnate and interrupt your life flow unknowingly. Allow what will happen to happen as it will. That is the way of nature; and you, our dear, are nature. Sometimes the strongest tree falls, yet the forest remains. Any death will be shocking at first but frankly what grows lives, what doesn’t dies. It’s very simple, yet humans tend towards preferences and judgments, while clinging to never-ending goals that they believe will satisfy their true longing for peace and love. Emotions are a blessing of the human experience, yet they are not necessarily connected to truth and will often muddle your perception. Be mindful of that as you move with your flow. Don’t get fooled in to believing that you will feel only joy and bliss when on your path. Being vulnerable to pain is an indication you are open, free and natural—which is true strength. We thank you for being courageous, authentic and honest. Continue your balanced dance with paradox, knowing that you are the only person in charge of your story. You have been given the gift of life, use it wisely.”

 

With that there was silence again. Deep within there was a true sense of belonging to this world. After sitting in the quiet for a spell, I remembered again the thoughts about personal expression and saw that at its core there has to be this sense of belonging in order for us to feel safe to show ourselves. Hence, I emphasis the importance of being with nature or whatever helps you feel your strongest connection to the world. From there, it is possible to fearlessly express yourself creatively in whatever way most fulfilling—writing, caring for animals, making films, teaching or whatever. As Howard Thurman put it “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” There is no need to prove that we belong by creating outer success or receiving the approval of others, although both may come naturally. The simple fact that we have life coursing through our hearts has already proven our inclusion and value. Everything we choose to do with our life is simply a way of honoring the gift. Perhaps in the end, that is all that is meant by creative expression—articulating the life that animates what would otherwise be just a pile of bones. So I end with a question in the words of Mary Oliver, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”  No matter your answer, may it be sourced by the song that is yours alone.

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