At Ease In Nature

1 (5)There is a figure who has been a symbolic guide through the entire process of moving from a typical American lifestyle to one focused on Earth-centered living. She has emerged in guided meditations, shamanic journeys, stream of consciousness writings, and as the author of letters from my future self. She is an archetype of me at the point when I am living the life that is most fulfilling and congruent for me. I call her, Woman on the Mountain.

One of her key characteristics is her total ease in her life and in her setting. There is no tension or worry, no watchfulness or feeling of being unduly challenged by life. She is calm, confident and relaxed in her place within the natural world.

I was trained as a “problem-solver,” and for me, all of the world is a problem to be solved. I have been an “uncertainty” junky. I still sometimes define my life by what challenge or potential challenge is holding my attention at the moment. It can be in my own life, the life of someone I love or the general dis-ease in our shared experience on the planet.

To move from where I am now, to being Woman on the Mountain, will require dropping some of my old ways of seeing the world. Conditioned thought habits, based in the language and structure of my culture, have formed a cataract-like lens before my eyes. They fog over the creative flow of change and the beauty of diversity. They leave visible the shadows of self-doubt.

I have made a number of life transitions through the years. I have moved from basing my spiritual practice in Christianity, to Zen and now to Shamanic journey. With each transition, there has been the need to incorporate new rituals and language while following the deep common light that moves through them all. This transition from being uneasy to being at ease will require a similar shifting of lenses and ways of talking about the flow of my life.

For now, I am immersing myself in a new way of experiencing the world. I am focusing on what connects me with the sights, sounds and rhythms of nature. I hope to learn the wonders and wisdom of the plants, animals, streams and mountains that surround me.

To learn this new language, I am spending more time listening to all the living beings of the land where I live. I want to learn both their sounds and their interwoven connections with one another. I want to sit quietly and hear subtle difference between the sound of wind in the cedar fronds and among the pine needles. I want to sense the direction of a breeze by where it touches my face. I want to sense the seeping of water into the earth and imagine its course around rocks and into the roots of trees. I want to notice when the small birds and other creatures around me are aware of a change in their surroundings, so I too can be alert to something new.

It will take time. It will take a shift toward discovery and away from problem-solving. It will help to relax and allow many imagined troubles to float on by unnoticed. I will gradually learn the language of the land and the living beings who share it. Slowly, like the emerging light of a new day, I will sink into my appropriate place within nature. One day, I will find that in my cells and in my soul, I have become Woman of the Mountain, at ease with my place within the web of life.

How Can I Live This Way?

IMG_5994This is a question, sometimes spoken, sometimes projected onto others as they walk into our 30-foot long, 16-year-old motor home. It is not what you would expect for a couple who have lived most of their lives in rental houses with three or more bedrooms and usually two full bathrooms. My response, “How could I not live this way?’

This morning as I watch the colors of the sunrise play through the clouds outside my window, I think of the billions of other people who share this sunrise experience with me every day. Some step out of high-rise apartment buildings onto busy city streets, rushing to get to work early and get a head start of the day. The lucky ones take a moment to look up at the sky before being sequestered for the day in a building that controls both temperature and light.

Others, emerge from under tin lean-tos or out of huts built with branches and scrap. Some come out of tents in refugee villages or climb out of wonderfully warm sleeping bags along the Pacific Crest Trail. These first moments of the day, when the night darkness is giving way to the light of the day, are a sacred passage open to us all.

My living situation is wonderful luxury in comparison to the lives of the vast majority of human beings on this planet. It is compact, but solid and warm. I have electricity, a water supply and simple furnishings. I have the extra comfort of the cabin nearby, with a fireplace and kitchen, a wonderful man for companionship and a shower with hot water.

I am more fortunate than those who live in the noise, confusion, pollution and stress of large cities. I do not have to work long hours at a job that numbs my mind and steals my inner purpose. I am not a slave to a mortgage, a student loan, or even credit card debt. I can walk out my door, onto an open piece of land with wonderful views and a wealth of living trees, grasses and creatures. I can step immediately into my place within this tiny corner of the web of life and feel at home.

I am more fortunate than those who are struggling for survival each day and those who have been forced from their homelands and families. I have healthy food to eat, a car for transportation when needed, and all the clothing and warm layers needed for the winter. Nothing is in the way of me opening my heart and allowing my deepest gifts to emerge.

If I live here, in this simple home, I reduce my contribution to system which is destroying the balance of the planetary environment. Even more important, I am free to experience connection with all living beings. Loving all of the creative expressions of nature and all of the forms taken by the Life of this world becomes my primary work. It is from this love and the relationships I form with land, water, air, fire and spirit that my way of living emerges. This is not keeping mental rules, but a visceral response of gratitude for being within this amazing expression of Sacred Love, Life and Light.

I am deeply grateful for my home of wheels. I am grateful for my life on this land. I am grateful for the call within my heart to find my appropriate place within the energy dance of this beautiful planet.

How can I live this way? With Joy.

Looking Through the Wave

WaveAs I stand on the threshold of this new decade, an unexpected joy and spaciousness greets me. For days my focus has been on how pivotal this decade is in terms of the Climate Crisis. If we fail to totally change the way we fuel our lives and our economy within this ten years, we will pass the crucial tipping point in global warming. The resulting cascade of environmental changes could lead to an Earth that can no longer support human life. So, why is there hope and joy bubbling up from my core?

It comes from an understanding of my role, and the task for all of us who are committed to living an Earth-centered life in our later years. We are called to become the Elders of our culture and to serve as spiritual elders have for centuries, as those who see in that darkness and look through to the light.

Here is what I experienced in a recent shamanic journey:

I was standing on a beach as an old woman, wearing a simple long dress, with a shawl draped over my head and shoulders. I was facing out to sea. In the near distance was a 500 foot standing wave.  It was a solid wall of water, which had paused for a moment before crashing into the shore where I stood.

I was not afraid, and there was no urge to turn and run. There was nothing I could do to stop or change the wave. I was asked to look straight at it and on through it to what exists beyond. What I saw was a vibrantly alive forest and a pristine, thriving Earth. There were many varieties of plants and animals in the undergrowth.

When I asked about humans, I was told that they no longer live in big concrete structures. I was shown a gathering of small hut-like homes made of natural materials. The people emerged from their dwellings, walked out into an open meadow and began singing their love for all of the gifts of the Earth and stars. I was told that the People had rediscovered the heart of gratitude and harmony.

The general message was to stay calm. Look through the noise, confusion and chaos of these times. Hold in focus the Web of Life returned to vibrant health and balance.

It was a call for us to serve as the Wise Elders of our culture. We are here, to do deep spiritual work to aid the transformation of the relationship of humankind to the natural world, and to the Sacred Source of Life. The changes needed in our outer lives can only be empowered by a renewed love for all living beings. When every expression of the natural world is a dear member of our family to be honored, served and cherished, we will rediscover our appropriate place within the Web of Life.

This is a huge challenge, and we are those who are here at this time, and at this point in our lives to meet it. There is no panic, no hurry, only the clear gaze of those who can see through the wall of water that separates us from Life. We stand together, looking into the future. We focus on the Earth beyond, in which our children’s children to the seventh, the fourteenth and the twenty-first generations will find joy and peace.

To honor our common spiritual journey of the healing of Earth and Her Children, I am now offering one-on-one Spiritual Direction. This process of bringing all of life into focus around the sacred nature of life is open to people of all spiritual traditions and practices. For more information, follow the link above or contact me at earthcenterednancy@gmail.com.

Happy New Year !

Winter SolsticeHappy New Year! In the flow of Nature, today is the first day of the light returning to the Earth in the northern hemisphere. I find it a great time for a new beginning in the flow of my own life and in relationship to the world transformation we are experiencing.

Yesterday, we celebrated the Winter Solstice in two phases. First we released the past and any habits/beliefs that we do not want to carry into the new year. Second, we received wisdom for our way forward with the question, “What do I need as I live from my deepest gifts and life purpose?”

It has been windy here on the Mount Shasta property. The huge pine trees, with there nearly bare long limbs with tassels of long needles at the ends, have been dancing and bobbing wildly the past few days. The wind has been the energy to wake me in the night to do shamanic journey work, and the one who called us outside yesterday to receive wisdom.

Walking around the property, feeling the wind and listening with my heart, I was guided to release the following things:

1) My focus on the mundane aspects of living this life with its specific challenges. I can not let my days be about the logistics of living an Earth-centered life in a motor home with the support of a warm cabin. It is time to just live with no special thought required. This is my life now.

2) My obsessive anticipating, calculating and carefully parcelling out our monthly income to pay our bills. There is a flow of resources which is sufficient for our basic needs. It is a flow I have experienced throughout my life, and it does not require my repeated attention to sustain us. Focusing of this only distracts me from the creative flow of offering the gifts that are mine to give.

3) My myths of not having the discipline, determination, motivation, stamina, or connection with creativity to complete the book I am writing. If I do not release these mental anchors, they will slow the unfolding of the words, pages and chapters of the book I want to let emerge into the world.

Returning indoors, I wrote these out. We then held a ceremony to feed these into the flames in our fire place and released them with the smoke to be transformed.

The second phase was to move directly into drumming and journey to see what ways will open before my feet. I received wisdom from the embodiment of my future self, who I know as Woman of the Mountain. I will share some of what she told me.

What you will share does not come from within you. Instead, the work that you are doing flows through as the culmination of the sacred work done by those seven generations, fourteen generations and twenty-one generations ago. They tend the well-spring of creativity which is the source of your words and creative work. Your task is to come with gratitude to these helping ancestors and to allow your work to move through you as a gift to the generations that will follow you.

I also asked for wisdom about the Spiritual Direction work that I will begin offering in 2020. Her response was:

Again, do not think of this as something of your own intellect and experience to be given to others. Instead, let yourself sink into the sacred relationship of trust and honesty as you experience it in the Unseen canyon lands. This is the container needed for both listening and companionship along the inner journey.

In deep gratitude for the ceremonies and wisdom of the Solstice, I step into this New Year.

Over the next few weeks, I hope that you too will take time to release all of the past that clings too heavily, and to find the deep well-spring to fuel the living of your life’s purpose in the year ahead.

 

Joy to the World

jump-for-joy_0Joy is one of the most sacred, healing and enlivening energies in the universe. It is at the heart of many of the celebrations of this season. It is also easily overshadowed by the cultural expectations, emotional investment and economic drive of these last days before Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I want to call us back to this transformative flow of joy as the best possible gift to both give and receive this season and throughout the coming year.

Why do I cling to my barriers to Joy? I, along with many adult humans, have learned that there is something dangerous about this illusive force. There are some powerful myths that we seem to take in with our mother’s milk and never question throughout our lives. One of these is that if you allow yourself to feel joy, with every cell of your being, that the next experience in your life will be one of tragedy and loss. We have been conditioned to believe that joy is a gift that at any moment will be snatched from our hands and sent crashing to the floor, to teach us never to reach for it again.

As a defense, our mind calls joy a “soft emotion,” appropriate for small children and elderly relatives. Those of us with any common sense know that it is dangerous and not to be trusted. But that is only because it is so very powerful in transforming our perception of the world, and therefore the quality of our lives.

Joy rises from that place of mystery, between unseen energy and visible expression in the world. When joy emerges, it comes as an irresistible force, almost volcanic in power, bursting forth from deep within. Joy is what makes the sprout push upward through the soil into the sunshine. It is what drives the beat of the drum and the soaring of the music. Joy makes the flames of the fire leap and dance. It is joy that wells up within the human dancers, fueling their exuberance and movement. When it breaks out from the core of our being, it changes everything we see, hear, taste, touch, intuit.

Consider the truly joy-filled people you have encountered in your life. You have surely met at least one person whose whole being shines with light, love, and peace. These are not naive or feeble-minded individuals. They have lived life fully, experiencing both happiness and sorrow, illness and health, gains and losses. They have also learned the secret to overcoming the fear that joy will lead inevitably to grief. They have discovered the power of gratitude. Gratitude for what brings them joy, but also gratitude for everything that occurs in their lives.

I would invite you to consider this simple opening to joy:

Each morning, as my day begins, I sing my gratitude to the elements of nature and all the living beings who share the beauty of this place. I ask to live in harmony and balance. I offer my thanks for my life, this land and the man I share my life with.

As evening comes, I offer gratitude for everything that happened during the day. Everything.  Sometimes it is a new awareness of how petty and self-absorbed I am, and how I let anger and fear take too much of my day. Other times wisdom or friendship have taken me to a new place of understanding. Whatever has happened, I welcome it as a gift to help me see my unique human experience on the Earth. All that is revealed adds to my willingness to question the barriers I carry that keep me from living in freedom, simplicity and joy.

In this season, may we all follow the lead of the little ones and old folks who laugh freely and sing playfully. May we enjoy those who are openly light-hearted and shine their love into our lives. May we find joy infectious and irresistible.

In the words of the song from Three Dog Night:

Singin’ joy to the world
All the boys and girls now
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
Joy to you and me

 

Adapting to Our First Winter

IMG_6041There is nothing like a blizzard, bringing a general coat of 2 feet of snow and drifts of 4 feet, to bring the reality of winter home. Unless perhaps it is the second storm in the same week making that level 4 feet with a 6 foot berm from road edge to rear of Subaru. We weathered this first pair of storms well, but it has made clear that living in this close relationship with nature calls for adaptation and flexibility in our plans

Brego, our Winnebago, is 30 feet long and requires a good sized circular drive in the back field in order to turn around to nestle back in to the electric hook-up and the wind shelter near the cabin. That means that taking him out to empty the holding tank, or to refill the built-in propane tank would take major snow clearing. From the vantage point of a gentle fall season, that seemed like a simple matter of waiting for a break in weather, and using the snow blower to clear a path.

When the snows came, we found that the snow blower starts, but has little enthusiasm for moving in any direction. It lacks a reverse gear and seems to lean all it’s considerable weight into the ground when you try to push it up any modest incline. So, it basically refuses to work beyond clearing level paths between cabin and trailer porch (where our extra wood is stored) and Brego.

Our first instinct, rippling up from our past life, was “Of course we need a new, lighter, efficient snow blower. That’s obvious!” But, recognizing all the expenses of the fall, and using some adaptive thinking we discovered that we really don’t need it. The berm calls for shovel work. Working on it gently, we cleared an opening for the Subaru in two days. We have all we need to be snowed in. There is no place we need to go. So, a snow shovel and whatever modest help this old dear snow blower can give us will do just fine.
.
IMG_6042We are approaching the propane question two ways. We will check to see if the local delivery service will wave their minimum fuel amount if they top off our tank when they are delivering to neighbors. We are also leaning into the availability of electricity to heat Brego with space heaters to the levels I am accustomed to (See my blog “Preparing for a Winter Flow). It took me a few days to realize that I do not need to leave the motor home at ice box temperatures to conserve fuel and keep the electric bill down. I just need to be conscious about when I need heat and when the warmth of bed or an extra layer of clothing allows me to turn the heater down low. We did buy a simple heating pad to warm the foot of my bed before I crawl in at night, and I celebrate that luxury.

In preparing for the first drop of temperatures into the single digits, I have added to Brego’s internal insolation. There are various materials up under the dashboard to block the air flow from around the gas/brake pedals. Over the four main windows, old blankets  provide a fourth layer, and drape down to the floor. There are rubber-backed mats along the aisle way, a heavier curtain on the doorway, and there are pillows tucked up in the ceiling vents. I can’t think of much more that I can do to keep the heat in and the cold out.

In terms of the holding tank, there is also a duel solution. First, I have begun using a night bucket as much as possible. That experiment is going well. With my aging knees and hips, it is not quite as easy as ten years ago when a night bucket was standard equipment for the hermitages at the Zen Practice Monastery. I am grateful for the experience of all those retreats that makes this seem more natural now.

Since the shift in Brego’s mobility came as a surprise, I have also learned that I can empty the holding tank, one bucket at a time. It took about an hour, and six trips to clear his tank from being 35% full. But I now know that if it is necessary, I can care for that need as well.

And today, five days after the snows stopped, it is warm and rainy. Who knows, we may be able to get the motor home out just fine. We will wait and see how things look the next time we need to move him. So, adapting continues, as a breath-like expanding and contracting. We see what is possible in the moment and remain grateful through it all. All we need flows into our lives and we are learning how powerful it is to live in this intimate relationship with land, weather and life.

(Our deep gratitude to those who have given us regular support through our Patreon pages. It makes a world of difference in our lives.)

 

Seeing Through the Holiday Season

OXmrpWOur eyes, minds and nervous systems have been deeply trained to follow the surface patterns of our culture in an exaggerated way as the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays approach. It is as though a switch is thrown and we go unconscious to our usual self-care, balance and common sense. We are swept into overindulging in food, entertainment, buying, gift giving and family/friend gatherings. We push our energy to the limit to meet some inner standard of what we should be, and lose sight of who we are and what has meaning in our lives. In short, we run head-long into the prison of our economic system and end up carrying debt, extra physical weight, exhaustion, and heavy emotional fallout that keep us overworking and distracted well into the new year.

Instead of falling into this trap, we can set our intention to see through all of this illusion and unhealthy conditioning. I invite you to walk away from the noise and confusion of the cultural norms and into the spaciousness of the unseen spiritual mysteries that fill our lives.

The secret: We must remember who we are and that what is true of us is true of all human beings. Before, through and beyond this Earth-walk existence, we are beings of light – expressions of the amazing love and infinite creative energy which has formed our universe and beyond. The playful, powerful, wondrous, imaginative force that births all the living beings of this planet, brought each of us forth as an unique embodiment of life.

Each of us is a creative soul who knew the purpose and path through this lifetime before it ever began. That we have been distracted from that path and lost sight of that purpose is natural given the noise and confusion of our current world. Our loss of focus does not mean that we do not remain beings of light who possess the energy of love, creativity, and the gifts of self we came here to share.

When I look at all the people in my life, near and far, I remember that we are all made of the same elements of earth, air, water, fire and spirit. The spark of life the enlivens us, also animates all living beings – not only flesh creatures, but mountains and streams, trees and shrubs, physical buildings and automobiles. We are all beings of the same stuff, here honor and support one another.

When I carry this perspective back toward the holiday season, several things emerge:

1  No living being is truly honored and celebrated in vast amounts of food and drink consumed, or in the mountain-high stacks of presents under a tree. The inherent beauty and natural gift of each is lost. One taste overpowers another. Another glass of “holiday cheer,” adds to the depression of body and mind, and separates us from one another. Package after package of new toys, gadgets, trinkets or treasures dulls gratitude for the deeper gifts of life, love, friendship and connection.

2  When I see all of the people in my life as beings of light, I know that there is no “thing” they need from me. Whether they are near of far from me, it is my willingness to hold their inner being in focus throughout the year that seems the greatest gift I can offer. If I can remain open to the creativity, unique perspectives, their individual path through challenges, and their capacity for it all clearly in my heart, every encounter becomes a celebration.

3 Winter is an inward and reflective season. In this hemisphere, the whole outward rush of November and December pushes us straight against the pattern of the natural world around us. It is as though we are so afraid of what the quiet, inner journey will reveal, that we run out into a world of light, color, sound, party, and tradition, to avoid discovering our own light. It is not that we all need to become introverts or go into hibernation mode when the days shorten and the weather grows cold. But this season does invite a different tempo and focus for our creative energy.

May you find your own ways through this holiday season, which honors the light of your being and with wisdom of your soul. May you see through the distractions of the season to discover the deepest and richest gifts of joy, life and light in your life and in the lives of all those you love.

(I had hoped to post this a few days ago, but a winter storm captured my time. May your celebrations of gratitude be filled with joy.)