Fears at the Threshold

I am deeply grateful to be part of a monthly drumming circle led by Della Clark at Spiritwalker Retreats here in Mount Shasta. Led by Della’s drum, we journey into the Unseen World to find guidance on whatever question we want to explore to help us face the challenges of lives. When the drum leads us back into this tangible world, we share the images and messages we have received from our helping spirits. Often we find that there is an echo that moves among the messages which further feeds our understanding of how to live more fully from soul and heart.

I am at the threshold of a new expression of my soul’s work in the world. It is time for me to help others embrace and integrate their experiences with the Unseen mystery into their daily lives. I know that everything in my life has prepared me for this and that it is time to integrate and share what I have to offer. But I have been frozen here, uncertain about the descriptions, frameworks and practical elements needed to birth this into being.

In recent days, this process has led to a growing dread and fear. During last night’s drumming circle, I journeyed to find a way to work with these fears. Sharing it with the circle last night and with you now weaves it more fully into my daily experience.

As the drum beat carried me I went down through the floor of the ocean and into a deep cave. The walls had many crevasse like the open work of lava. I was aware of a presence of luminous light in the midst of the cave, but I was not sure where to find the fears I was looking for.

“Look in the corners and in the deepest crevasses,” I was told.

There, each huddled by itself, tiny arms through over heads to avoid being seen, were my fears. They were small and helpless creatures, cowering away from the light.

“Why are they hiding?” I asked.

The luminous one smiled gently and told me,

They are afraid of me. They believe that they will be revealed as unworthy. They are afraid that they will be met with judgment rather than with acceptance and love. Most of all they dread being seen as they are.

I thought for a moment, and then asked the luminous one if there was another form it could take.

The light swirled in the air and floated to the floor as lovely, soft, fragrant rose petals. They were white with pink edges and soft shades of yellow. Some remained suspended in the air carried on a gently spiraling current.

One after the other, the tiny creatures of fear came out of hiding. Soon they were all bouncing in the petals on the floor, flinging them up over their heads, letting them rain down all around them. A few lay on the ground and buried themselves in the sweetness of the scent. The fears closed their eyes and I watched the scent and color, vibration and joy of the petals move in and through their beings.

When they opened their eyes, each and every one of these tiny fear beings had transformed into a being of dancing light. They joined hands and moved in a circle dance, looking at and being seen by all and finding themselves cherished.

“Are you ready to go back up to the surface?” I asked.

All agreed and the rose petal spiral current strengthened and lifted us all up to the surface of the ocean. There we enjoyed floating in the sunshine, feeling the fresh breeze and the supporting water. Then we went to the beach to dance and play until the drum called me back to the room where my journey began. As I returned, all of these transformed fears nestled back within my being, taking their place among all the feelings and emotions of my life.

I know that these fears will sometimes separate out to grip and stir within me. But now I know where to go and look for them. I have a hint about how to free them from their belief that they are separate from the rest of life and must stay hidden.

As I wrote about this journey, I told these little ones again that I will not leave them alone. I will always come to find them and bring them back home within me because we share this amazing world of solid being.

I do not know what is unfolding in my life’s work. I have hints and ideas about what it means to stand on the shore of the Unseen Mystery and add my voice to invite people to discover this feeling of being deeply interwoven with all of life. It is my hope that within the next few weeks you will find a new website with invitations to join me in answering the call of the Source. It has been calling every one of us since before we were born. It is beckoning us into our way of living for the highest well being of all within the web of life.

I will keep you posted.

Peace and Joy,
Nancy

My Full Bön Chant Practice

Each morning, I spend 25 – 30 minutes with my Tibetan Bön Chant practice. Those who have used this chant for personal healing and transformation know its power and beauty. It weaves together sound and mental image, energy and spirit. I have been sharing this practice with you piecemeal and it is time to unfold it fully.

There are five syllables I sing: AAH, OM, HUNG, RAM, DZA, which come from the traditional Bön Chant, as taught by Tenzin Wangyal.

AAH, I envision moving from the middle of my head, deep within my brain and located where a line down from my crown and in from the center of my forehead meet. It carries the feeling of spaciousness and openness. Picture a broad open sky.

OM is at the level of my throat. Its image is light and I envision the growing light of dawn flowing over a hillside.

HUNG is at the heart. It represents loving kindness and compassion. The images that accompany this vary, but it is often waves of iridescent shimmering pastel colors moving outward in all direction.

RAM is at the naval. Its energy is “joy which feeds the well-being of all.” Joy bubbles and swirls, plays and scampers as it move outward.

DZA is at the level of pelvic bone/sacrum. As I learned the traditional chant this is associated with manifestation or bringing to birth. In my thoughts it has become, “The full expression of the highest well-being of all.” This reflects my personal sense that when all beings are free to thrive, harmony and unity are remembered as keys to life.

Over the months, I have moved beyond the traditional four repetitions of each syllable to a series of 7 at full voice and 5 whispered. The phrases I use to describe my focus for each tone shift and change, but generally represent interwoven aspects of the tangible world and the world of mystery.

At this point the repetitions follow this pattern.
At full voice using a pitch that is comfortable for me:

  1. Everything that is above
    Here I focus on the tangible expressions: mountains, sky, stars, clouds and birds.
  2. Everything that is below
    The earth and soil, the creatures and plants that live in and under the ground, the water that flows below, and all that provides a solid place for my feet.
  3. Everything that is all around
    The landscape, trees, grasses, buildings, animals, insects, air, water and all the visible expressions of the tangible world.
  4. Every aspect of who I am
    body, mind, spirit, soul, energy field, mental habits, ego, emotions and consciousness.
  5. The Being of Humanity and the collective consciousness of humankind
    All human beings everywhere and all the thought forms, beliefs, values, myths, illusions, dreams and perspectives that form our self-understandings.
  6. All elements, energies and vibrations of this cosmos
    This includes everything we experience on this planet: fire, water, air, minerals, the chemistry of life and the vibration of light and sound and all the forms they take.
  7. The Web of Life
    This overlaps all of the others including animals, plants, fungi, microscopic beings and humankind… This is a way of blessing all of the expressions of life that we experience.

Whispering brings a sense of the unseen mystery to my chant:

  1. Throughout the Unseen World
    The energies, mysteries, wisdom, spirit that exists outside our ordinary reality. There are many unknown forces in the Unseen World, but as with all living beings, my intention is to bless them all.
  2. Throughout the soul and collective consciousness of Gaia
    For me this affirms that the planet that births us all has a soul and intelligence of Her own. The collective consciousness of Gaia includes Her vast wisdom as well as that of every species of plant, animal, microbe, mineral, and molecule… of this world. I find joy in blessing a consciousness informed by elephant and tree, stone ancestor and microscopic web of life.
  3. Throughout the entire evolutionary unfolding of humankind
    This blesses all expressions of humankind from the beginning of our time on this planet until we reach the fulfillment of our journey here and move on. As the vibrations of the chant move through, they are forces of healing that help us remember who we have always been within the web of life.
  4. Throughout all time, space and dimension of being
    This provides the broadest image I can hold at this point. This is my hearts way of releasing the blessings of the chant to anything, anywhere, in any form in or beyond time. I sometimes envision a starburst moving freely in all directions.
  5. Throughout the process of creation of all of life:
    This idea takes my imagination to the Void out of which everything emerges into form. All that is about to come from energy and formlessness into tangible existence is here. All that is moving through the process of taking form is here. All that has fulfilled its existence in tangible form and is returning to energy is here.

As I chant, my thinking mind boggles and my heart soars. I enter an alternative way of perceiving connections and relationships within Creation and beyond. This is my way of nourishing the inner garden of my soul with openness, light, loving kindness, compassion, joy and the experience of the highest well-being of all life. It reminds me of who I am within this astounding complexity of reality.

I invite you to make this practice your own. You will find your own words and images, your own way of sensing connections with form and element, vibration and spirit. May you be reminded of who you have always been and know the feeling of being forever at home.

Spaciousness, Light, Compassion, Joy and Well-being be yours,

Nancy

 

How can I help you explore this practice of energy, vibration, connection and healing? Please contact me if I can assist you as you develop your Bön chant practice.

All of Us A Living Dance

Each One A Living Dance

I will not hold you in a static form,
for you are a brilliant dance of energy,
shifting and changing in each second;
becoming more than any imagination can hold.

I will not lock you into my “knowing,”
for that is just my limited mind,
reassuring itself through the ability to
categorize and find familiar patterns.

I will not confine you in terms and descriptions,
for they speak of the past and of the surface,
missing the eternity of your being,
and the continuing transformation in all things.

I will open to your becoming.
Only your own soul knows your road,
for it alone recognizes the dream
which invited you here in the beginning.

I will embrace the mystery of your unfolding.
No other will ever carry this dance of
emerging, expressing and releasing
for it is your unique gift.

I will listen to the song of your creation.
It alone reflects the riches of your being,
singing out in the vibration of color
as well as pitch to greet the dawning of a new day.

——
I wrote this piece two years ago focusing on my circle of family and friends. This morning I applied it to the Being of Humanity and the flow of human evolutionary unfolding.

Whenever I hold a static view of my species, limited by my critical evaluation of who we are and how we live on the Earth, I suffer. All that, “I know” about humanity is based on an incredibly narrow slice of experience, within a tiny snapshot in time. I become the victim of my culture as I look to the surface and the limited patterns that filter and confine my ability to see, hear and touch a reality beyond my judgements and beliefs.

My practice of Tibetan Bon chant is beginning to shift this experience. It invites me to step into an unseen sacred reality beyond ordinary sight, and look again at everything around me. As I move through the sequence of tones, key words and images, I include “The Being of Humanity” as one of the expressions of creation I hold in my heart.

I begin with “AAH,” which is openness and spaciousness. When I envision spaciousness for Humanity the tight knots of categories that I have placed around various groups of people loosen. The same space that encircles every cell of our physical body also encircles each individual person. Each one has room to grow, change, discover, move and evolve throughout the moments of their lives. Each person flows within the Being of Humanity without jostling and bouncing against everyone else. In this spaciousness, we do not need to protect or defend ourselves. There is room enough for all, as we are.

“OM” is Light. Before I apply that image to Humanity, I have already felt its reality within every aspect of my being. The light which fills me also fills every being within the family of humankind. I remember that we are beings of light and also expressions of the sacred Light of life. Envisioning light shining from every human being, making this entire creature of Humanity shimmer, I see our species as we are beyond the illusion of separation and fear.

“HUNG” is loving kindness and compassion. In these moments, I envision a healing energy flowing to all of us, not needing to direct the vibration of “HUNG” to “where it is most needed.” Loving kindness and compassion are limitless and available to enliven everyone at every level of being. I remember the passage of Christian scripture that states, “Perfect love casts out fear.” This is how HUNG feels moving through the Being of Humanity.

“RAM” is “Joy feeding the well-being of all.” I sense this vibration nourishing the creativity, imagination, soul and life energy of every one of us. Joy generates an energy that lifts us beyond existing to  thriving. As we thrive, a wellspring of joy pours from our lives in all directions.

“DZA” is “the full expression of the highest well-being of all.” My thoughts open to the current evolutionary flow that is pulling humankind forward. As we remember that our highest well-being is supported by the highest well-being of all living ones we are at home on the Earth. My vision shifts so I see the interconnections and wisdom of the web of life.

The collective consciousness that feeds our understanding of who we are in this world is not limited to human minds. Ancient plant relatives, as well as animals and insects which existed eons before Humanity was born, are cheering us on. We are not alone, isolated, confined to old patterns of behavior. All of creation is lifting us up as we move forward in the massive shifts involved in our current evolutionary leap.

I invite you to read the poem again, holding in mind the Being of Humanity as its focus. I find that it opens my heart to my species and reminds me again of who I am within the complex beauty of creation.

May all Humanity Thrive,

Nancy

Sixth Chapter: The “AAH” of Me

In this sixth chapter, of what will eventually coalesce into the a book The Stories My Drum Told Me, we return to the Bön Chant and the wisdom of The Woman of the Open Sky.

While I use other characters in sharing images from my shamanic journeys, I seem to come back to the first person when I write of my experience with Bön Chant. I begin my mornings with this chant and find the vibration and the images they bring both intimate and universal.

In The “AAH” of Me, I share the feeling of spaciousness and open sharing of energy that come when I sing this syllable focusing on my physical form. It is wonderful to sense that I can stop “holding myself together,” and allow all of the space within me to also connect me with all of the life that surrounds me.

If you are intrigued by the images of this chapter, I hope that you will explore; Tenzin Wangyal and the 5 Warrior Seed Syllables practice. Through months of practicing this chant, I have come to expand the number of times I repeat each syllable. As I sing each tone, I let my mind focus on a specific image. This chapter introduces four of these: All that is Above, All that is Below, All that is All Around, and All that is Within. Future chapters will share my experiences when I focus on other aspects of the seen and unseen worlds.

You may want to revisit the first chapter: Earth Breathing at the Beginning of the Day where I first introduce The Women of the Open Sky and the tone “AAH.”

I hope that you enjoy The “AAH” of Me, and that it invites your to explore the use of vibration and chant to touch the mystery beyond ordinary reality.

Peace and Joy along your path,

Nancy

Fifth Chapter: Canyon Lands Healing Ceremony

In this fifth chapter of “Stories My Drum Told Me,” Grace is invited to a healing ceremony in the Unseen World Canyon Lands. When she arrives, she meets Koktswea, who helps her release the feelings of shame, failure and regret that she had been carrying within her. As the ceremony unfolds, Grace learns the connection between her willingness to let go of her suffering and the beauty of desert canyon walls.

May you feel the compassion and joy of Canyon Lands Healing Ceremony

You will find links to my earlier chapters: Stories My Drum Told Me.

I hope you are enjoying these stories drawn from my shamanic journey practice. I offer them in love and joy.

Nancy

Fourth Chapter: Tending the Being of Humanity

In this fourth entry in “Stories My Drum Told Me,” Maya is invited to join The People who use song and vibration to nurture the very young Being of Humanity. Her guide explains how difficult it is for the human species to find our place within the web of life, because we are so very young, not much more than toddlers among the ancient life forms of the Earth.

“Every time a new voice or a new instrument is added to this song of blessing, it becomes more beautiful, and more powerful,” Maya was told. “The Being of Humanity will experience the richness you add.”

I hope that you enjoy reading: Tending the Being of Humanity

Peace and Joy,


Nancy

Third Chapter: Reclaiming Energy That Harms

The third entry in “Stories My Drum Told Me,” is about a ceremony used to reclaim projections, assumptions, judgements and other thought energies that we send out toward others without thinking about it. The practice described here helps each of us take personal responsibility
for these thought arrows and call them back from anywhere they have interfered with another person’s well-being. As the energy of these thought forms returns, it is transformed back to its pure form to nurture both our own life and the life of the planet.

I hope you enjoy reading, Reclaiming Energy That Harms. 

You will find links to my earlier stories on the page: Stories My Drum Told Me.

Peace and Joy in the unfolding of your life,

Nancy

Do Not Save the Structures

“Do Not Save These Structures. Save as Many Lives and As Much Beauty as You Can.”

That is the sign I want to put on the front fence this fire season. It is partly because the structures here are old and weary, and are far beyond their prime. It is partly because I don’t want anyone to risk life or health in a building that might let a foot slip between the boards or the ceiling drop from above. Even more, these human-made shelters and the collected stuff that they hold are trivial. The lives of families, friends and neighbors, creatures and trees are much more precious.

If the fires do come, they may bring the gift of emptying, so that something new can enter in. I have learned “Letting go into emptiness” from the Moon. She is in a perpetual cycle of emptying to her New form and then being filled to Full Moon glory. It is an irresistible pattern, like the waves crashing into the shore and then receding back into the sea. It is like the movement of tides within the ocean and the flow of blood in our bodies. The heart pumps itself empty, moving the blood out to the furthest cells, and then the blood returns to fill the heart and be renewed.

I have experienced times of selling and giving away much of what we owned to open the way for the next stage of our life. When we left Arizona it was in a truck with a camper shell and a small U-haul trailer. I let go of my life as a United Methodist clergywoman and we headed to a small town on the Oregon coast. I became a student of holistic health and worked at the front desk of a bed and breakfast for a year. Oregon provided a pause time while we waited to see what would emerge next.

About ten years later I did it again. I walked away from co-leading The Still Point Zen Practice Center which Bill and I had started in Chico. I knew it was time to let go of the roles and tasks of teaching and guiding others. I spent hours walking the trails on nearby wild hillsides. Nature was all that made sense and the relationship with the earth held me as I waited to see what was next.

What opened up was a major shift to bookbinding and book repair. I took courses in Telluride, Colorado and developed a small business working with my hands. I enjoyed the experience of reviving old books and binding Bill’s published writings. It was creative and different. I followed instructions, measured carefully, learned skills with specific tools and created beautiful books.

Then, four years ago, it happened again. We realized that it was time to make the next major step in simplifying our lives. We left the three-bedroom house we were renting and move into a motor home. In preparation, we held a Potlatch-style sale in which we accepted any offer made for any item. We let everything go, down to what would fit the Subaru and headed to Arizona to find our house on wheel. We kept a small storage unit for the year we were gone, but it held mainly my bookbinding equipment that I was not yet ready to release. When we settled back here that was all donated to a college.

Having experienced these cycles, of willingly letting go of as much of my stuff as possible prepares me for the inevitable times when I will lose everything when I least expect it. I know how it feels to be empty. I know the pause when there is only open space and uncertainty. I recognize the thrill of simple things moving back in, whether new tasks or new clothes.

I have packed three boxes of my own things to grab if we have to evacuate due to fire this summer. I look at the rest of my possessions to consider what I release to the thrift shop and what to take to the dump. There are also the things I enjoy having, but do not have to have. I will appreciate them more knowing they may be temporary gifts. I can willingly release several more boxes of things just to practice holding everything and everyone I love in soft open hands.

Then, I can know that whether of not there is a sign on the fence, the time may come when everything here will go or stay, not by the will of the fire department, but by the movement of the wind. I do not know how empty I need to be at this point in my life. I do know that all that matters are the people I love, our neighbors both human and creature, and the freedom to flow with the natural unfolding of this wonderful land.

Fluid By Nature

(This part of the collection of “Stories My Drum Told Me.” Over time these will come together to form a book.)

Amy enjoyed her early mornings, walking the half mile from her home down to the beach. On this early spring day she bundled up in wool pants and a sweater, knotting a woven scarf around her neck to keep out the chill.

She often found the beach deserted at this time of day. The fisherman were already out in their boats, and people in the village were preparing for their day of work. It was good to get away from the growing tension in her little community. It felt like every few days there was a new challenge to deal with. Visitors stopped coming and shops closed. Farmer’s market items became rare as larger towns claimed the area’s produce for themselves. The elders were finding it hard to cope with the rate of change in the outside world. The young just wanted things to go back to normal.

Amy’s body braced against every conversation, creating a knot in her throat and an empty feeling in her belly. She shared the feeling of just wanting all of the changes to stop for a while so she could catch her breath. That was why these walks were so important to her. They gave her the chance to rest in a soothing connection with the sea.

This isolated patch of beach was a feast for her senses. Out beyond the breakers the sea shimmered with the light of a million stars. The white caps sprang into high plumbs, splashed upon the shore and scuttled back outward revealing cinnamon-colored sand. Within each wave swirled the colors of life, the water and sky blending into a rich blue-green. The tendrils of kelp and the swimming forms of fish added accents of gold.

The air was a mixture of moisture and salt. The seaweed added the tang of something old to the sharpness of the sea spray. The ground beneath her feet was a perfect sponge of cool water and warm sand. The wind ran its fingers through her hair, tousling it affectionately. She smiled, remember how her grandmother ruffled her curls when she was little.

She was captivated by the sound of the waves. It had an uneven rhythm that reminded her of a heart-beat. There were pauses between the long, loud, “CHAAA” of a wave breaking against the shore and the low “Shhh,” of the sea pulling it back home.

As she watched, one wave stopped at a few hundred yards from where she stood. The outdrawn ebb of the next wave joined it and climbed on its back. The next wave stopped there as well, not a ripple reaching the shore. In a few minutes, wave upon wave had come to a halt and climbed the crest of this single wave. It seemed fifty feet high and stood absolutely still, frozen in time with just a hint of a curling at its top edge.

Amy’s heart raced, but she could not tell if it was terror or wonder that held her anchored in place. Her mind told her that at any moment this curved wall of water would come to life and crash down upon her, and then sweep away everyone and everything in the village beyond. She watched the very crest of the wave, waiting for the first hint that it was about to break. But the minutes went by and the wave stopped growing, now content to hold the new waves out to sea behind it.

Finally, a deep resonate voice spoke from within the wall of water:

I am water in wave form. I flow where the energy around me tells me to go. I am shaped and formed by air and earth, warmth and wind. My being is not expressed in the same way twice. Every wave and every current are unique. In the midst of all of this change, I remain true to my own fluid nature. I move and shift, filling and then emptying, rushing in and then ebbing back, wave into ocean and ocean into wave.

I am showing you the energy that your mind claims to want. This is what it looks like when change stops and life stands still. A wall forms when emptying does not follow filling, and life energy is withheld rather than given. One whose nature is to be fluid and flowing becomes rigid and threatening. It is uncomfortable and you might even say, “Wrong.”

You have forgotten that you are as fluid and flowing as I am. You are created for constant transformation. You are releasing cells and creating new ones; letting go of old ideas and discovering broader ways of seeing. The surge of discovery and amazement rush into the opening of “I have no idea!” You are always evolving, changing and being made new. This is the deeper nature that we share.

When you are afraid of the changes in your world, do not go stiff and rigid. Remember your fluidity.

As these last words floated away on the breeze, the wall of water began to release its form. Rather than crashing to the shore, it allowed the pull of the ocean to reclaim it. In the rhythm and pattern of ordinary waves, this impossible counter-tide reduced the terrifying wall of water to a normal swell. Amy watched this, delighting in the playfulness of the Mystery. She swayed to the gentle motion of the waves on the shore, feeling her mind and body relax. When it was time to go home, she bowed deeply to the ocean, thanking her wave friends for the gifts they had shared.

Earth Breathing at the Beginning of the Day

In these days of transition and transformation, many of us are focusing on the world we want for our grandchildren. For me, it is a life of freedom, joy and harmony within the human family and throughout the web of life.

Drawing from my shamanic journey practice, and my use of the Bön Chant, I weave my stories with images, wisdom and grace from the unseen and timeless world. Many times I feel that I am receiving support, love and guidance from my helping Ancestors and beloved Descendants. These stories are my gift back to them. I envision them being told by a storyteller as, “Stories My Drum Told Me.”

(Author’s Note: The Women of the Open Sky appear in a number of the stories in this book. They are amazing teachers about the unseen, Ultimate reality that exists just beyond the range of our ordinary perception. They are the Elder Women, who abiding in that reality, express it in their thoughts and actions throughout the day.)

Earth Breathing at the Beginning of the Day

sunrise-1362773

I woke at 4:30am and felt an instinctive pull to get out of bed and go outside. A flash of thought, “It is nearing mid-summer and there are only a few more minutes when the moon and stars will be visible,” launched me out of bed.

I put on my thick terrycloth bathrobe and my outdoor clogs and turned off the outside light. Stepping onto the porch, I let my eyes adjust to the pale light in the sky. Then, one by one, the last of the nighttime stars glistened into view. I love these moments, when all is still, just before the first birds begin to twitter and sing to the new day.

After a few minutes of drinking in the beauty and singing greetings to the moon, I went back inside. It was time for the morning rituals of washing my face, brushing my teeth and putting on outdoor clothes against the chill of the morning. This always wakes me up and lets my senses open to the wonders that surround me. But this morning felt different. There was a stirring along my spine that usually alerts me to watch for something new.

Walking toward my chair at the top of the meadow, I looked up at the ridge of hills that rise just a mile away. There, silhouetted against the first pale light of dawn, were a row of women in long shirts. I recognized them as The Women of the Open Sky. They are Elders from the distant past, who come to teach me the ancient wisdom that helps hold the world together. The sight of them always makes my heart leap with joy.

I bypassed the chair and headed straight to nearest hill. I had already passed that beautiful vale between “real life and the unseen mystery,” so it only took me a dozen steps to climb to the ridge. The woman who greeted me this morning was from one of the early North American tribes. She reminded me of the Hopi women I met when I lived in Arizona.

“We want you to see why we come here every morning to greet the new day and to celebrate the openness of the sky,” she told me. Her dark eyes were filled with playfulness and delight. I was about to be let in on a secret, and I could hardly wait.

“Just watch and see what we experience as we chant. We will only use the sound of spaciousness this morning. It will be enough,” she said, turning to face the East and the approaching light of the sun.

I heard them sing “Ahh” in a full rich alto pitch. They would breathe in together, and then release this one syllable in a long, gentle flow. Their chant was full and strong, its vibration riding the wind for miles.

At first, I didn’t notice anything but the beautiful sound of their voices. It was like hearing the ringing of an ancient temple bell and feeling the waves of sound moving outward to encircle the Earth and flow out into the Universe.

Then, as I watched, the scene before me began to shift. I noticed it first in the pine trees and oaks that fill the downhill slope to the east of the hill. They were always vague in outline in the early light, but today, every needle, every leaf and every tree seemed to drift away from one another. My attention flew to the space between the solid forms, and I was captivated by the vast openings appearing in what I had always seen as a dense forest.

I heard the women’s voices again, and watched the tone moving on the wind like waves. This rippling movement was filling the spaces around all of the rocks and trees, plants and animals to reveal a wide open plain, right there within the forest.

Then their pitch shifted a bit. I stopped being able to see distinctive leaves or needles, even on the trees closest to me. It was like taking off my glasses and having the outlines blur into soft shapes, with each form also looked bigger than it had been.

Each time the women repeated this tone, this process of growing larger and more subtle in outline continued. Then, my breath caught in my throat as my mind explained what I was seeing. Every cell and molecule within these trees were relaxing their hold on one another and drifting apart. Molecules of water and those of matter continued to hover near one another, revealing the truth that they never truly touch.

Each time the women sang “Ahh,” there was a small expanding of the spaces both within and around each element of the forest. When the women inhaled to prepare to repeat the tone, there was a minute contraction in those spaces. I held my breath, in fear that the whole forest could be scattered by a human sneeze.

“These nature beings are held in perfect balance and relationship as they always have been,” my guide reassured me. “They enjoy revealing how much space there is within and around every bit of matter and every cell of being in this beautiful world.”
“What is that tree showing you?” she asked, pointing to a venerable Ponderosa Pine. At first I saw what I was used to seeing, its upper branches waving freely and its powerful trunk and deep roots holding it firm. “Soften your eyes,” she encouraged.

As I did, the tree revealed all of its inner spaces. I could see the wind moving not only among its needles, but within them. I held my breath for a moment to focus, and then as I inhaled, the molecules of needles drew inward. When I exhaled, they relaxed out away from one another. They never fully touched, but continued to expand and contract with each breath I took. The tree was drawing in what I was breathing out. Then it offered me the air it released for my next in breath.

When I turned my focus to the Women of the Open Sky, I saw that they were all breathing with the trees. But it was broader than that. The rocks and birds, grasses and wildflowers were all dancing with this same rhythm of air, inhaling and exhaling. Everything as far as I could see was moving in this basic dance.

“We all breathe together,” my guide explained. “This is the Earth breathing us all as one.”

For a long time I remained transfixed on the unity of nature breathing in harmony. Giving and receiving, floating apart and then joining in unity, all the atoms of matter looking the same and yet hinting at specific forms.

Then I felt the surge of breeze that comes when the warm air that has blanketed the Earth is released, and the chill of morning rushes in. Would this break the magic of shared breath?

The limbs of the trees did lift in their usual dance, as the wind became part of the day. The outlines undulated, but held. The deep unity of each of these nature beings was stronger than the vibration of voice or wind. Each molecule knew their inter-being with all the others in their environment. It was not that cells of a leaf were less part of the nearby rock, it was just that the relationship was slightly different. All live here in an intricate dance that helps all to thrive.

It was not until the sun emerged from the slope of the mountain that the spell was broken. The strong rays of the new day called each being of the forest back to its usual form. Leaves and needles coalesced and took on their specific outlines. Bits of dust hung in the air, and then landed on the surface of a stone. Colors and textures that I had barely noticed, came to life throughout the landscape. The day had begun.

As we walked down the hill, my guide explained:

This is our celebration of the inter-being of all living things. Seeing clearly that we are all made of the same stardust/earth soil, air, water, energy and spirit, we remember our place within nature. Breathing with the Earth and the web of life, we are renewed in our intimate connections to one another. Seeing this Ultimate and Intimate mystery of life is our service to the people.

As we sing, each morning, we envision every human being as you saw the trees this morning.

First, the space appears around and among them. Within our community there is balance and trust. The unique gifts and insights of an individual gain full expression as each one is acknowledged for what they add to the people. The solid individual boundaries can ease as each person is given room to grow. The personal outlines and identities are less sharp-edged, because they are invited to keep learning, discovering and experiencing life.

Like the needles of the pine, the unique being of each person is visible in the affinity that their molecules and life energy have for one another. We are not the solid individuals we seems to be. We are the dance of matter and energy with the empty space of that fills and surrounds us. At our most basic level, we are the same stardust and breath of life as every other being within the web of life. But there is some unique, undying essence which keeps our thoughts, emotions, creativity and physical expression interwoven, even as we evolve throughout our life. Openness allows for the constant changes of life to blow through without breaking the inner harmony.

We teach our young people how to breathe with the Earth. Inhaling, they receive love, joy, and nourishment from all of nature. Exhaling, they give love, joy and nourishment back to the Earth. In time, they learn to feel their whole body/mind/energy expanding and contracting as they are inhaled and exhaled by the Earth. This is the point when they sense in their bones that they are at home here, within the web of life. There is no separation, only unity.

It is our task, as Women of the Open Sky to live these realities, as much as we can, in our thinking, speaking and acting in the world. We renew our connection with this Ultimate reality every morning. Then we bring it back to our community and keep it visible until everyone discovers it within themselves.

As I walked along the path, I saw a new vitality and vibrancy in the trees and flowers, the birds and boulders. Each one becoming a beloved friend now that we shared the secret of breathing as one. I began wondering if it is the Earth Herself breathing us, or if we breath one another, or if something beyond us all does the breathing. As I began trying to figure this out, I noticed a shift. My guide was gone. I had stepped back through the vale, into my meadow.

I turned, looked up toward the glorious sunrise, and bowed in deep gratitude for the gifts of this new day. Tomorrow, I would wake early, go outside and sing to the spaciousness of the open sky.