Images of Springtime

I wanted to share with you some pictures of Springtime at our home near Mount Shasta. This time of Stay-at-home has allowed us to move from late winter into glorious springtime, which invites us to work on some projects, tend the land and enjoy the life and beauty of this place.

Rock Garden BillOne of Bill’s projects has been constructing a rock garden near Salvia in Rock Garderthe cabin. He loves interesting rocks and this is the kind of space he enjoys creating. With the addition of a few flowering plants from the back meadow, there is now more color at our doorstep.

 

Bill Qi Gong 1We had long known of Qi Gong’s roots in Taoist practice, but recently learned, that its origins spring from shamanic dance. It’s slow, flowing movements enhance the movement of energy through the body, and connect the heart and mind with all of nature. I love doing my afternoon Qi Gong under the trees and feeling rooted to the earth and lifted by the sky.

Nancy Holding up the sky

We had a week of good rain and now that the sun is out there are tiny wildflowers among the grasses. I feel like there are a dozen expressions of life volunteering in the Water can and flowerscorners of the yard and throughout the meadow-like field.

Grasses and Flowers

But of course, when the rains and sunshine mix, there is also the need to cut the grass. Mower BillThis is Bill celebrating the arrival of a new electric lawn mower. It is much easier than the old push mower. It may be hard to keep him from trimming the lawn every few days.

Stay well. We send our love to all of you.

Bill and Nancy Martin

Congratulations to Michelle

Letters to Write

Writing a LetterWe are living in a time of amazing opportunities and great discomfort. As our pace of life slows and we wear through the distractions within our own homes, there is a great deal of our deeper life that is bubbling up to the surface. There are the places of mystery and wound which we have kept hidden away, which are now seeking to emerge into light to find love and compassion. There are interesting ideas and possibilities which we have not had time to consider. There are the life stories – ours or those of people we love, which have never been told.

One response to this upwelling is to write the letters we have always intended to write. These come in several forms.

There are letters from and to our earlier selves. This opens the flow of all that is arising from the past that needs our attention. We have been living such busy lives, rarely free to listen to our deepest desires and true needs. There may be old wounds and limiting thought habits that form barriers to finding joy in our lives. There may be wonderful energizing dreams and latent talents that want to surface and become part of our lives. Our present compassionate self can bring healing to the wounds and fears of the young ones within us lovingly listening to their words. Those youngsters, in return can give us the gift of imagination, creativity and playfulness that opens new doors for our future.

There are letters from and to our future selves. These open us to the resource of wisdom and perspective from one who has passed through this immediate crisis and emerged into a new way of living. Imagine a future self who knows everything about you and is delighted to help you find the most fulfilling path for your life. Letters from a future self can show us current strengths and skills to develop that can move us toward this future image of confidence and peace. To imagine that there is one who can look back at all of this as an important adventure that opened our life to new possibilities can lift us out of our feelings of isolation and limitation.

Then there are the letters you have always meant to write to other people in your life. These open us to share the important things that we do not want to leave unsaid in times of uncertainty. Their function is not to thrash or punish or push others ways. Instead these are letters from our highest and most compassionate being that create new connections with others. They are the admission that we have not understood one another as deeply as we want to. They ask to hear the inside story of the lives of those who we love, even as we share our inner story with them.

One of the wonderful things about letters is that they allow us time and freedom. We can let things pour out onto the page and decide what is for our eyes only and what is meant for others. As we write, things come to light that we did not know were in our heart and mind.

Those who receive our letters have the ability to digest them at their own pace. There is no immediate response needed as our words and images flow to them. They have time to consider what they are ready to share with us and then write their own letter, or decide that they need to do some writing to themselves first.

I have begun this process, writing to one of the most important people in my life, my sister. As other people come to mind, I will be writing to them. In the meantime, I am having fun listening to the exuberance of a very young self who thinks that the best response to all of this is to go outside to dance, spin and sing.

Can I Do It?

I begin the day with a spacious gratitude for all living beings. I practice connecting with the unseen and timeless realties to find wisdom and see broader possibilities. I practice Qi Gong and feel the flow of the energy of the universe pouring through my being. I am full of light and love, and allow it to just pour through me in all directions.

Then, in a flash, I am wondering if the grocery store will have rice and pasta, veggie butter and fresh produce. I go on line and read the statistics and projections about COVID-19 and feel as though someone has pulled the pug on all of my energy.

I feel as though this is the moment in history for which I was born. My whole life has been preparing me for this season of transformation. I have no control over what the human species will or will not do. It is my own evolution that is in my hands.

The question is, “Can I do it?”

MetamorphosisThe caterpillar has the innate pattern to metamorphose into a creature of bright colors, wings and flight. This does not depend on the caterpillar envisioning what it feels like to fly or to know what a butterfly looks like. Its whole life experience is of being soil-bound and all its energy is taken with finding food. The caterpillar has no choice, no control and no independent responsibility in the process. It is drawn to complete its soil-laden life and spin a shelter away from the outside world. It does not have to try to let go or to change. It will simply happen. The leap is made for it by its very nature.

What if it is the same with me? I do not need see what life will be like in a month, six months or two years. I do not need to know what my life will become as a result of this crisis. My familiar way of life is dissolving around me and my understanding of who I am in the world is metamorphosing with it. I do not need to understand the process of transformation in and around me. I am not in charge of this roller-coaster of experiences which is remaking me in the dark of my cocoon.

Instead, I can let my inner nature lead me. I will journey to touch the unseen world and find wisdom and compassion there. I will do my Qi Gong for my body and spirit. I will focus on living in a loving and purposeful Universe which is filled with creative energy and possibilities.

Then I will pull out the sewing machine and make cloth masks to wear when I go grocery shopping. I will wipe down the kitchen and bathroom surfaces with the most gentle cleaners I have. I will stroke the dead needles off one branch of the pine tree and another will brush the jangled thoughts from my mind as it brushes my hair. I will dance and sing my gratitude to the Earth.

There is a bridge to the highest expression of my being that will take form below my feet. The cross beams are practical matters. The planks are connections with nature and my own inner being of light. Many more boards and supports of friendship and laughter, compassion and creativity are being added continually. Each day is a phenomenal blend of all the gifts of the Earth. Everything of stone and water, air, fire, energy and spirit are coalescing  to lead each one of us toward the fulfillment of our lives.

As you explore your own unfolding, please share what you find arising to provide ground beneath your feet. (For you are here at this time and place for a reason.) I will do the same. We will each discover our unique ways through this uncharted territory. As you share your light it will naturally make my path more clear and less fraught with uncertainty. As I share mine, I trust that it will do the same for you.

Letter from Jean Houston

Hands and HeartDear Friends,

Like all of you, the epic scale of the Coronavirus threat has humbled me with its power and is collectively asking more of us than to just stay at home.  All of my life I have been dedicated to encouraging the potential that every person carries within them.  I’ve taught about our innate depths, our possibilities, and our purpose.  Now, however, it’s time to live out the promise that we all carry, to become noble, kind and compassionate people.

This week on television, I witnessed the best and most fearful sides of our natures.  On the one hand, I saw violent videos of shoppers fighting over toilet paper, and also experienced indiscriminate generosity while shopping at my local Costco.

Customers who knew the gravity of the challenge we all faced stepped aside for each other in the aisles.  If one item was left on the shelf, they asked the person behind them if they would like it.  The obviously overworked employees were never too busy restocking the shelves to share a smile and ask how they could help.  Strangers looked at each other — really looked at each other — and bonded in that momentary glance.  There was a pervasive energy of collective caring that will never be reported by the media.

Tonight on the news, I saw restaurant owners and chefs in New York who were transforming their empty restaurants into soup kitchens of a sort and creating food for those who might be hungry in their neighborhoods.  Families in need were brought to tears with the unexpected kindness of these people.

Yes, my belief in our potential is vindicated as neighbor cares for neighbor and plans are drawn up for feeding children who can no longer go to school.

The remarkable thing is that this isn’t the government that is rolling out a highly budgeted plan; it’s individuals. As one restaurateur said, “I’m asked how long I’ll be offering food. I guess it’s until I run out of money.”  My hope today is that we allow this crisis to evoke the best of us.

We can hunker down in fear, or look for the opportunity to care, each in our own way.  Our kindness is a light.  The more we extend it, the brighter it becomes and the more darkness we illuminate.  We can give without any expectations until goodness flows from our depths, presents new possibilities, and expands our sense of purpose.

The benefit is not only for those we touch but is also like my Costco experience, where our generosity of spirit can create positive energy that permeates the very air we all breathe.  It creates a powerful new vision of who we are and what we can accomplish together. We must hold fast to that vision until it becomes reality.

So, my dear friend, I invite you to create a new virus of caring, of a nobility of our humanity that becomes even more contagious than the one dancing in the headlines.

This is our time.  We can choose to surrender to fear or we can show the world what it means to be thoughtful, to be generous, and to be proactive in helping friends or strangers alike. Perhaps this is an initiation of sorts in which we are invited to step into a new experience of our interdependence and empathy.

Former Vice President Biden, during the most recent debate, announced his intention to create programs that would “make us whole.”  As we extend ourselves into the well-being of each other, we return to wholeness as the family of humankind. Self-serving actions and the illusion of separation can transform into a collective strength that is more encompassing than divisions of race, economic status, gender preference, or political party.

It can be as simple as a smile, an encouraging word, a “window visit” to an elder care home, or a letter to someone in prison.  Your words of encouragement are constantly influencing our perceptions and worldview.

Take all the precautions that are recommended, and at the same time be bold in your love, and constant in your faith that together we will pass through this challenging time.  On the other side of it, we will look back and realize that we were part of an epic time in history when caring triumphed over fear, and goodness prevailed!

Bless you dear one, now and always,

Jean Houston

She says it so well and so lovingly. I hold each of you in the light and glory of the highest expression of who you are. Thank you for being lights in my life.     Nancy

(You can learn about Jean Houston on the Evolving Wisdom site: Evolving Wisdom  going to faculty. Her courses (including some free presentations listed there under Life Purpose and Personal Power.)

 

DOORWAY TO NEW POSSIBILITIES

hand-opens-empty-room-door

In the days and weeks following the shock waves of sadness and fear of 9/11 there was a doorway that swung open. There was great fear and apprehension, but for a short time, there were also acts of deep compassion and solidarity. Hearts went out not only to the families who lost loved ones, but with those who were now hated for their religious beliefs and the contours of their facial features.

We looked in the wrong direction for the true wisdom and guidance that might have led us to an evolutionary leap in our self-understanding as individuals and as a nation. We had the chance to fan humility and honor to discover compassion and creative alternatives to life as usual. In the face of great fear, we drew back to “normal life,” as quickly as possible … and we went back to sleep; credit card in hand, marching forth to the shopping malls which we were told would be our salvation. It was familiar and felt safe… we slammed the door shut.

We have had nearly two decades to regret that missed opportunity. Some have become watchful, knowing that we live in a loving and purposeful Universe and that the doorway would open again. Now it has.

This time the threat is global. The flow of two planetary threats are converging to form a mighty river of momentum toward transformation. Earth’s climate is shifting in a natural progression to a return of balance throughout the web of life. Healing from the poisoning of earth, air, and water is essential for the survival of all living beings. Add to this a virus, inviting us to all work together for the sake of those we love. We have challenges which are hard to sleep through.

How do we seize the opportunity and avoid the tendency to lean our weight as far onto our haunches as possible to resist change? Much is happening to shake us loose. Schools are closing pouring children back into homes and neighborhoods. Sporting events and community gatherings are cancelled, letting us draw back into our own homes and let go of a fevered pace of getting young ones to five events a week. People are encouraged to work from home and not travel great distances, freeing hours on the roads and in the air for us to discover new uses for that time and energy. Many are being shaken loose from our ordinary routines. The secret is not to dive into our comfortable hiding places to wait it out until we can get back to “normal life.”

What if we choose to turn off the perpetual media updates; the reality TV programs and the streaming of countless movies? What if we step away from our virtual reality devices and our on-line shopping carts? What if we let go of the assumption that we can hold on for a month or so, and instead plan for the virus and other changes (along with their countless repercussions) to last for six months, a year, or more? What if we begin now to invent a new way of being outside the insane pace and complexity of mainline western culture?

I invite you to begin dialogues with three to five of the most creative, innovative, out-of-the-box thinking friends you have. Brainstorm about the outdoor activity options from community gardens to outdoor gyms. Share book titles of award winning children’s books and uplifting fantasy stories which feed the imagination with new possibilities. Swap ideas of what you can do as a family or in coordination among a few families to enrich your lives with music, art, dance, teaching and learning new skills.

Make your life a “No Kvetching Zone.” You may be part of those circles as well, but seek to spend very little time there. What you focus on and what you put your energy toward is what will grow and develop in your life. Be playful and joyful. Be grateful for what you have in your life and available to learning new things. This is the energy that will align you with the flow of transformation. The possibilities for personal and global transformation have never been as potent and vast. Let’s all head on across that threshold and see what adventures await us on the other side.

Go out there and create the world that will nurture
and delight your great, great grandchildren!

Partner with Trees

Shadow on trees     In addition to envisioning the return of the natural forest to the property, I am compelled to take a hand in the process. But it is an interesting balance between deciding what I want to have grow where, and listening to what the land wants its two-legged, nimble-fingered partner to do.
Yesterday I transplanted three small pine trees. I took them from the area beyond the wire fence which marks the yard of the cabin. Here a small gathering of trees and manzanita create a semi-circular curve out away from the fence. It looks like this space has been created by someone running a very strong mower over the area on an annual basis.

I found ten young pines, each one standing about 6 inches above ground level, with bushy branches in all directions. Numerous smaller volunteers surround them in small clusters. Since they can not all comfortably mature where they are, I decided to transplant one grouping of them out to the far corner of the field. My hope is that they will do better together as a young generation of siblings.
Grandmother Pine corner      Out at the northeast corner of the land, near Grandmother Pine, I discovered a similarly stunted pine. It sits out toward the open field between a large manzanita and twin mid-aged pines.  I asked their permission, and received their assurance that they will make underground connections with the new arrivals to help them join this family group.

All of that was the easy part. Equipped with water jugs, shovel, work gloves, towel, and wheel barrow, I headed out to dig my holes. I was excited when the first hole I made contained part of an old tree stump. Digging out those remains gave me a spacious place for a young tree, and left some good decaying nourishment for it.
When I returned to their present home, I found that this was going to require a lot more than shoveling up a sprout and its surrounding soil. These were established trees, stunted in size by being regularly cut down. They’d grown back stronger each time.

Tranplant Pine 1
Water and the large shovel got the general outline cut, to allow me to move a whole ecosystem of tree, grasses, smaller tree sprouts and hefty root systems. I lifted the bulk of the soil system away in blocks, since it was held together by grass roots. Soon, I found myself with my forearms braced on the ground; the fingers of both hands teasing soil from around the taproot.  Eight inches down, when the root was the circumference of my finger, I began trying to pull the tree out. That was an interesting wrestling match, which the tree easily won. My only choice was to get the large cutters and sever the taproot. I knew that there were plenty of ancillary roots, and a good length of taproot to help the tree survive, but I still didn’t like cutting it.
Once the tree was out, we made the trip across the land to the new site. I began with a tonic of water with a touch of molasses, to help develop the mycorrhizal network around the transplant. Lowering the tree’s root system into the hole, I was able to add a bit of the local soil back in.  Then the block of rich dark soil, roots and grasses from the tree’s original area went back on top to fill the hole. The tree and it’s usual neighbors remain together to make new friends.

    Transplant Pine 2I was already quite tired, and decided that one more grouping was all I could do in the day. Being an adoption agent for older trees is much more difficult than sitting on the bench envisioning the return of the forest. The second round went more smoothly, but again there was the minor trauma of clipping the taproot.
It is no wonder that I dreamed about it last night. In the dream I was in a rare plant exhibit at a museum with high security restrictions. I accidentally broke off the top of a small cactus plant. In a panic, I broke the top apart and hid it. I kept trying to avoid being discovered, and trying all kinds of things to disguise the damage. I woke with a laugh, knowing that I will need to go out and talk with the tree today.

Last fall, we walked the boundaries of this land and made the promise to take care of it and all the living beings within this space. The relationships that are growing from that vow are amazing.

New growth on Cedar youth

 

(New growth on the small cedar transplanted last fall).

 

 

 

 

Connections

DNA and Earth

Your body is the stuff of stars and of the minerals of the Earth. Your blood runs briny with the seas. The essence of the oceans spills through your veins and arteries. The sediments of Earth make up your cells.
Your genes are universes in themselves, coded with enough information to recreate the world. And perhaps these elements of earth and sky, of nature and the cosmos that actually compose your physical being are the mirror of the great nature which has pushed us to the choice points that we now face.
                  Dr. Jean Houston, Salon Lecture at Pacifica Graduate Institute 3/16/17

I have been listening to recordings of Jean Houston’s lectures this past couple of weeks and have been amazed at how they are shifting my relationships with both people and the cosmos. It is as though the images of my cells being a hologram of my body and my body being a hologram of the earth … have led me to much deeper levels of connection.

I have always been a little bit aloof in my life. I’m not sure if it was my training as an elementary school teacher or my work as a United Methodist clergywoman. It was present in my leadership at The Still Point Zen center, and even in the images of my relationship with the web of light in shamanic journeys. I have aways held myself back a just a bit – one step remote, for instance envisioning myself sending love to the web of life rather than being within it.

It has always been difficult for me to ask for help, and to feel gratitude when I receive it. It is a bad mental habit that I learned very early.  To need someone else’s support was not appropriate. Intelligent, resourceful, spiritually grounded people are not supposed to hit bottom in life. We are supposed to be better than that. We are here to be the ones who give, not the ones who receive.

Somehow there was also the message that help had to be justified, deserved, earned. If not, there was a silent wag of the head in disappointment and disapproval. Even when the money, materials, resources were given, there was always the feeling that to ask was to prove that I was foolish, childish and “needy.”

This old mindset was part of what Bill and I had to combat this past week. We have chosen a very simple lifestyle, paring down our expenses and moving through the bankruptcy process with our debts. I am anticipating part-time work as a caregiver for a fascinating elderly woman starting in March. Even so we have been spending down through our savings month after month, trying to hold on until my pension becomes available in the fall. The other day we were forced to admit that we could not pay the power bill on time and have money for groceries. It literally took hours for us to come to grips with “This is how it happens. This is how people end up with nothing in the bank and bills to pay.”

Finally, we found the courage to each pick one friend who we felt we could ask for a loan. The response from both was immediate understanding and loving support for us flowing in along with the money. We now have enough to cushion each month’s expenses and a small amount in savings for unexpected challenges. The trust it took to ask has also deepened and enriched those friendships. We look forward to the day that we can give in this same generous way to others.

I have long envisioned myself as one standing slightly on the outside, finding ways to add light, love, joy, service … to the lives of others. A couple of weeks ago this shifted to seeing myself woven into the fabric of life will all other living beings. I became a strand among millions of others, feeling the balance of supporting and being supported within the web of life.

This week, even that seems too individual. I am beginning to sense myself as one cell within this amazing organism that is the Earth. It means that as I care for my inward needs, filling my own heart and life with blessing and love, I nourish all the rest of this living system. Conversely, I am not separate from all of the resources, elements, energies of the Earth. Whatever is needed for me to thrive is also right here available to me.

I love the correlation between the sharing of love, insights, financial resources among friends and the continuous circulation of nourishment among all of the cells of an organism as complex as the world. I find myself sinking into the marvelous, briny earth soup of life. Here I am part of the pulse and flow of human beings, plants and animal, creation and all that is sacred. It is a wonderful feeling.

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