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My love of all things wellness and healing began at a young age. I chose to attend my first ‘self-improvement’ weekend workshop just after graduating college. Without stating how many years ago that was, I’ll just say more than half my life has passed since. Even as a child, I often preferred sitting in trees pondering life rather than playing with other children. Contemplation has never been something I do occasionally, or when there’s a problem, instead it’s a way of life. The early workshops increased my understanding that everyone is going through something. Everyone. As well, it quickly became clear that workshops were for sharing knowledge and perhaps even more about the feeling experienced during the time together in a group. That may be a sense of belonging, joy, peace or any variety of sensations that seem to be missing from our regular life. I’ve heard over and over from people who are inspired at workshops, then find it hard to maintain that feeling once home. Simply put, a weekend is not a lifetime of practice. It’s similar to an exercise class. The first one is often inspiring because it feels great, was tons of fun, and a joy to be around new people. Yet, one class does not actually change your body. You may go to a few more still inspired by the newness. Then old habits start to creep up again, bringing back the energetic feelings we are used to; heaviness, stress, chaos, worry or fill in the blank. This is neither a sign of failure or weakness; it is the way cycles go. Real change may be closer to permanent if we anticipate this cycle. As with exercise programs, each time we come back—while inspired and while not—the more ingrained the behaviors become. The practice is no longer a separate activity we strive to continue, but an integrated part of our life. Our spirituality, for instance, is not something we only play with in meditation, or during a workshop, it is a constant way of experiencing.

For a new project, I have been reading my journals from 2006. One entry requests “Great Spirit, another thing I ask is for You and the many spirits that surround me to bless every being involved in The Healing Springs Journal —the readers, writers, and advertisers. Please share Your Grace with each person that touches any issue of HSJ. Show me how to best use the journal as an effective vehicle for wholeness. I have learned through it how to get my personality/ego out of the way. I feel now a time to create greater waves of healing both in this region as well as around the world.” On the day of writing this particular entry, my best horse friend at the time was being put to his final rest. My heart was breaking from saying goodbye to him. Yet, knowing that I was serving the community by providing empowered choices to the readers bellied the deep sorrow. This can illustrate the reciprocal nature of life. While what we do for others comes back to us, it may not be directly from the same person with whom we interacted. Also, rather than coming from another person, the ‘return’ may simply be in our own behavior. As with the feeling sense experienced during workshops, our motives or the energy we feel around our actions are what keeps coming around. We spread whatever that feeling is through the reciprocity some call karma. For this reason it is important to be ever mindful of why you are doing what you’re doing. Do you find yourself in the energy of obligation? Joy? Love? Anger? Grace? Fear? That question sounds black and white—the answer typically is not. Sometimes we are obligated to do something, yet because it is for a daughter (mother, father, friend….) we are in the energy of love. That said, there are often underlying ‘feelings’ ruling our behaviors. Let us consciously align them with what we want out in the world and what we would like repeatedly returning to us. Doing so may be considered a lifelong experiment in mindfulness, as well as our greatest contribution to the world.

A Carolina Crow

 

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  1. Life is about living your experiences, not thinking them.
  2. Words are only a tool, real communication happens through energy.
  3. We are always connected through our heart centers.
  4. Saying goodbye through death is sad, yet it doesn’t erase the memories or the love.
  5. There is no replacement for each specific animal, so its ok to supplement the sadness of goodbye with the joys of new relationships.
  6. Animals want humans to engage with them rather than micromanage them.
  7. Happiness is not something to strive for but something you simply are.
  8. Humans have a hard time letting go of the notion that their way of understanding and being is superior to animals. Through this, they tend towards wanting to convert animals into little humans (or large humans, depending on the species.)
  9. Animals interact with the world quite differently than humans, and that’s ok.
  10. Humans dislike fear and often cover up that they feel it by trying to control, name, label and instruct others.
  11. Animals have strong problem-solving skills. Without them they would not have lasted through harsh winters, droughts, or predation. Hence, their ability and need to think clearly without being told how to respond is much greater than humans believe or trust.
  12. We are all animals, humans included. With that, our basic needs are the same, both physically and emotionally. The ways in which we meet these needs is all that differs.
  13. Every animal and relationship is different. What works for one, does not work for another. We animals are always adjusting, humans often don’t notice.
  14. Animals are hardwired to have and make choices. This has been taken away in most cases of domestication. Please allow us to decide some things for ourselves.
  15. Relationships are animal’s lifeblood. Humans are wise to remember this in every interaction. We are always aware of your feelings.

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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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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?