Animals and Nature, Authenticity, Awakening, gratitude, Mindfulness and Meditation

When all seems lost I listen to the trees

I know it may seem like a deeply creative act, that is – an act of pure imagination – to presume that I could have a conversation with a tree…but I have.

I have sat beneath Oak, Ponderosa Pine, Sugar Maple, Spruce, Black Walnut, Weeping Willow, Poplar, Cedar, Locust, Birch and Elm to name but a few — and we have silently communed.

Some of the best conversations I have ever had have been with trees and I can assert, like Bob Ross, that “there’s nothing wrong with having a tree for a friend.”

Apart from offering their grounded and immensely healing and peaceful energy, trees have something particular to say to me.  And that is that although I love my time in the forest, and I prefer to go into the forest alone (for those are my moments to commune in joy with nature and the immense design of things) – I am supposed to bring you (all of you) into the woods. “Bring the others” the trees whisper to me, over and over.  It’s like an assignment, my task, the answer to my burning desire to fulfill my purpose.

I am called to bring you outside, into the forest, to the very base of a tree. And let the trees take care of you.

And they already are taking care of you. As my friend, gifted artist and fellow tree-lover Anni Bretschneider  reminds us: “There’s strong growing evidence that trees communicate through their root systems. It’s a thriving community network that includes Mother trees redirecting resources to younger saplings. Trees provide fruit and flowers, food, protection with their canopy, medicine, seeds, temperature control, shelter and habitat for animals and birds. Their roots absorb excess water, provide flood protection and reduce soil erosion. Trees provide the raw materials to build the tables we eat on, the chairs we sit in, the fires we burn and the homes we live in. Your very life and our ecosystem depend wholly on trees to survive. It is a reciprocal relationship where trees filter our air and keep it clean by exchanging CO2 gases and oxygen. And, as a community, trees give us tremendous beauty through captivating forests.”

Science has discovered so much about trees and their role in regulating temperature, weather and climate on the earth. I would like to believe that our salvation lies in science…but I find it easier to believe that salvation can be found in the forests and jungles of this sweet earth.  And I feel that if we do not know and love the woods and trees of the land that holds us, we will not care if it burns.

And if we cannot know the woods and trees of the land that holds us as OURSELVES…we won’t care when it’s all burned down, when nothing is left for our children or grandchildren or their children.

And so many of us are lost.  Not lost in the woods like the children in fairy tales but lost in a wasteland of our own making, relentlessly attached to our technology which pulls us ever further from the calm, healing love of the natural world – a world where we are perfect just as we are – thin enough, smart enough, good enough…enough.

We have forgotten who we are…but the trees know.

They long to bathe us in their love and remember us back into being.  They live, in part, to let us know that we belong in the woods, with them. Although the outdoors may feel like foreign, even hostile terrain to us, gritty with dirt, biting bugs, heat and cold and mud and pollen, and even bears, we belong there.

It’s time to get lost in the woods again.

How can we connect with and have gratitude for trees? Hug one – yes, be a tree hugger. Or at least place your hand on one and feel it’s bark.
Drink in it’s shimmering beauty with your eyes.
Talk to one.
Sit with one.
Paint one.
Write about one.
Love one.
Listen.

And if you will not or cannot go outside and sit by a tree, then at your Maple desk or Pine kitchen table or Mahogany bookshelf, feel that wood grain under your fingers, the vibrant grooves, the way it meets your energy softly, returns your touch in a way that steel or cement or glass never can. Because that wood – it was once alive.

And all that’s left now is for us to be grateful, for all that has been given.  For all we stand to lose.

So will you go outside now and stand with the trees? Will you listen?  Just listen and breathe and be thankful.

For the Oak, she keeps asking me “Where are the others? Bring them and gather here in the forest, beside me. Let us breathe together and be together, again. All the lost children of earth, come to me now and be found.”

 

 

 

Animals and Nature, Awakening, freedom, Joy, Mindfulness and Meditation, Mystery and Magic

This is why I walk barefoot in the woods

Today on my walk I did something different.

At the start of the trail, I took off my arch-supporting runners and my sweat-wicking, odour-controlling socks and walked barefoot through the woods.

I had to really concentrate on where I was going, to really look at the dirt of the path, the rocks, find the patches of still tender green grass on the side, avoid the roots and mud.

The difference to walking with shoes was both dramatic and subtle.

Because I could feel every part of the path with my feet, and I had to slow down, it was as if I was seeing this forest and this trail for the first time.

It felt…different…because for the first time the soles of my feet were greeting this landscape. And when I paused, I could sense a subtle change in the way this forest, this beautiful piece of nature reached out to me; no longer disconnected by the insulating rubber barrier of my runners, I felt recognized and yet at the same time undetectable, almost invisible.

As if I had become part of the forest,

a rock on the path,

a fly in the air,

the dancing leaves on the tree.

Birds seemed to startle at my quiet barefoot approach in ways I hadn’t noticed when I walked (probably faster and more stridently) in my shoes.  I had to slow down.  The bugs, the squirrels, the blackbird all got a good look at me.

Near the end of the path I was slow and quiet enough to notice a pitter-patter on the long grasses and low bushes next to me.  The sky was blue, cloudless, and I could see that it wasn’t raining…so I peered closer…and discovered that it was in fact raining caterpillars, from a nest high in the tree above.  I laughed, for this felt like a perfect ending to my barefoot roaming, the fuzzy brown tent caterpillars, in their cozy fall sweaters, free falling and dreaming of flying again, with white wings in the autumn breeze.

I share this because all of my barefoot walks, but especially this one, continue to show me how nature is not for me, it is part of me and more importantly I am part of it.

I am learning to listen when it calls, to walk the forest paths barefoot when I can, so I can slow down, so I can be found again. The forest tells me I belong here, just as I am.

Her dirt is still between my toes, and on my heels, now on my kitchen floor, I feel young and alive and somehow free.  I have found the way home, it’s right outside my door, it’s right outside your door.

My bare foot prints in the dirt are an invitation answered, a longing understood and redeemed, a deliberate stepping into the great cathedral.

Won’t you join me in the woods?

Walk barefoot in the fields, by the river.

Let yourself be found.

 

 

 

Animals and Nature, Authenticity, Awakening, courage, freedom

Self-reliance and the powerful medicine of the heron

Twice this week we have been gifted with the arrival of a magnificent great blue heron on the shore of this small lake.

We watched him walk through the fog on long legs, we saw him swiftly spear for fish, we watched him fly away on huge wings, flashing blue, a regal spirit-bird disappearing across the lake into the mist.

We were in awe, seeing the soul of this beautiful bird that came to our shore, a visit from a winged messenger.

I know now the art of connecting the appearance of a bird or animal with an issue I have been wrestling with.  On my mind these days has been a reworking of the expression of my authentic self, of letting go of aspects of myself that just aren’t true for me anymore – those things I do not want to take with me into the future.

So as I gazed at the heron I found myself remembering this: in past careers, I have been lucky to have had a boss or director who saw potential in me and wanted to develop it.  On at least three occasions I had a boss who wanted to groom me for promotion, who beat the drum for me, gave me opportunities, planned my upward trajectory with me.

And while this is something I was and still am very grateful for, when I look back, I see a revealing pattern. In each case, the person with the pom-poms was removed from the picture before the vision for my career leap had taken form.  In one case it became clear, after many years, that the person whose job I was being groomed for was just never going to leave that job, one director was let go due to corporate “restructuring” and another left for work in another city to be closer to family.

And in their absence I was left to wrestle with the fact that I didn’t really want for myself the dream they had for me.  I didn’t doubt my ability to accomplish it, I just didn’t really want it.  I didn’t hunger for it.  Without their enthusiasm behind me the dream just fizzled out.

And I think that’s why, each time, my mentor/promoter/boss was removed from the picture…to help me stand on my own and figure out where my true path lay.

To show me that I had to bring my own pom-poms and that to do the work required it had to be for something I was truly excited about, something I wanted to reach for.

Which brings me back to the heron.  It’s keynote message for me is about self-determination and self-reliance.

“Heron reflects a need for those with this totem to follow their own innate wisdom and path of self-determination. Follow what is best for you, rather than the promptings of others.” Ted Andrews.

I can see now that I am not traditional in my life roles. I don’t want to be.

I want to stand in my uniqueness, with joy and power, dignity and grace, and follow my own path, unapologetically.

Even aggressively if needed. The editing voice in my head says that the word “assertive” would be better received here, but the way the heron catches his fish is aggressive poetry in motion.

Because the heron, when he aims for a fish, is not messing around.  He is spearing with precision and speed, grasping the opportunity presenting itself, while strongly standing in the water.  He is not apologizing for who he is, he is simply his magnificent self.

He stands on his own.

This is his message to me about self-reliance, his medicine so gracefully given.

From out of the mist I hear him, on blue wings he tells me:  stop apologizing for who you are, stop explaining, stop holding back.  The way you want to live is not for everyone.  Shed the burden of others ideas of who and what you are or could be – for this muddies the waters.  To do this work you will have to stand on your own, root yourself into the earth and balance in the currents of life to recognize and seize the opportunities that are truly yours.

An opportunity he immediately taught me to grab is to share the healing medicine of the natural world with my daughters.  My youngest is as transfixed with animals and birds as I am, she has a natural way with them, and may she always treasure this gift.

And so I take this opportunity to be my authentic self, to stand strong in the swift flowing waters of life with the ease and confidence of a heron, that my daughters may hear their own inner wisdom coming forth and know how to answer it.  To help them unravel the medicine and mysteries of all the plants, trees, insects, animals and birds of this sweet earth.  While they are still receptive, before the noise of the world closes in.

My deepest gratitude to the great blue heron who has shared his powerful medicine with me, and sends me forward with more strength and determination and greater clarity than before.

Truly your sweet arrival through the mist was a gift.

Xo Shona

 

 

how to claim your destiny
Animals and Nature, Authenticity, Awakening, Mindfulness and Meditation

How to Claim Your Destiny by Aligning These 2 Energies.

When I was younger, I was an avid reader of horoscopes and numerology.  I would go hunting for daily, weekly and yearly astrological predictions, even going to astrologers for more precise readings based on my specific time and place of birth.  I wanted to understand myself better and get a glimpse of my future.

All of this was (and still is) fascinating information to me. I bring this up now because I have come to realize that after these astrological sessions, although I felt excited and enlightened and even armed for the future with the information I needed, something was missing — and the missing piece was me.

It was written in the stars, wasn’t it?

I can remember at least twice receiving the prediction that I was going to have a great year, a year of “harvest” in which all my past efforts would bear fruit and I would be showered in abundance and recognition.  Or I would reach my career pinnacle and be presented with new opportunities and promotions. Undoubtedly, I told myself, fame and glory would be mine, I just had to watch it unfold as the years went by.

As you may have guessed, this never turned out quite the way I was anticipating.  And now, with the benefit of hindsight and a lot of self-reflection, I can tell you why.  I was sometimes literally sitting on the couch waiting for opportunity to knock.

I figured I just had to sit back and let the abundance/promotions/accolades roll in because it was written in the stars.

It was my destiny.

So what happened to all that potent possibility?

I didn’t go out to meet it.

I didn’t step out into the work that is required for the universe to move through you and manifest as reality.  I forgot (or I suspect I just never really understood) the important role that I played in “my destiny” – because although it may be written in the stars, your destiny can only be yours if you claim it.

You have to show up and meet your destiny along the way.

We must meet the universe half way with our attention to detail, our effort, our courage, our focus, our willingness to do what needs to be done in the present moment, with trust that the future will unfold accordingly.

I let my lust for outcomes distract me from what needed to be done to achieve those outcomes. I wasn’t honoring what I was seeking, I wasn’t honoring myself or the dream in my heart.

I explored another side of this theme in There is No Way to Push the River, about the fine balance between going with the flow and the dangers of stifling the flow by feeling that we need to be in control or force things to happen.

And as quiet meditation and self reflection helps me peel away the layers of this habit I can see that my experiences with astrological predictions are asking me to meet and address another layer of my story.

In this case the story of the balance between a totally hands-off “what’s mine is coming to me” approach versus “it’s right to have a plan, to write some goals, to work towards them, to have a dream you can create with your own hands and then to trust that the dream that has been placed in your heart is one that you CAN achieve”.

So the essence of this fine balance, between source and the physical, between what is dreamed and what is manifested, came pounding into my life by way of the buffalo.  For this is the gift that buffalo brings.

We can learn from the essence of the buffalo. 

When I started taking the first few steps towards my dream of serving as a holistic healer, I knew I wanted to create a circle where women (and men) could gather in a safe space grounded in love to explore their inner life and connection to the present moment through meditation.

Once I took the first few tentative steps in trust, I was haunted by buffaloes.  I dreamt of buffaloes, I heard buffaloes running in my dreams and one morning awoke convinced they were stampeding through the bedroom.

Around that same time I went into a café I had been to several times before, except that now there was a massive painting of a buffalo on the back wall and I was seated in the booth right next to it where I could see it from my seat.

And so I paid attention.

And then I knew Buffalo was not just here for me, he was here for the group, for the circle I wanted to create.  I came to know that the buffalo would guard and guide the work of our circle.

He would not only help me to manifest this circle but he would bring love, strength and direction to everyone there and allow us to take our visions and insights and dreams gleaned in a circle of love out into the world, to take action and manifest a better life for ourselves and a better world for all.  He would show us how to not just survive, but how to thrive.

Ted Andrews writes that the essence of the Bison or Buffalo is “manifesting abundance through right action and right prayer.”

He goes on to acknowledges that the buffalo was (and remains) a symbol of sacred life and abundance to the Lakota people and that he teaches how to pray for and bring forth abundance.

You do not have to struggle to survive if the right action is joined to the right prayer, meaning that by uniting the mundane (the physical aspects and work of everyday life) with the divine (our dreams, our thoughts, our prayers), all that is needed will be made available.

The buffalo’s massive shoulders suggest that it is through our own hard work, in shouldering our responsibilities and making an effort that we will be rewarded.

We must meet the universe half way.

Alignment vs. Hustle allows you to step into your destiny.

When we join right action with right prayers, the path is not difficult and the way/the path opens and flows easily. This also speaks to the important but subtle difference between “hustling” (pushing for sales, advancement, achievement) and “aligning” to your true work/desire/nature.

This work of aligning with the universe should not feel difficult, for the buffalo is very powerful but he forces nothing.  Like water, the buffalo herd finds the easiest path across the plains.

And so buffalo aligns what you are doing with what you are asking for – without the hustle.  He aligns the prayer and the path, the work and the reward, the life in the present with the promise of the future.

All things will happen in the time, manner and means that is best for us if we allow it…and nothing, not even time, is wasted.

One of the most powerful ways to access buffalo medicine is through gratitude. 

In the past, instead of being grateful for all that I had (for my job, my family, my home, my health)  I was busy distracting myself from the real work by looking for predictions of my future, longing for outcomes that could only be mine if I used what I had, if I showed up to the work right in front of me, if I started with gratitude for all that had already been gifted to me.

If you hear the call to align rather than hustle, or if you suspect that you are not meeting the universe half way on the path to your destiny but aren’t sure what to do next, then I can help.

Join me in circle or work with me in private as we uncover your destiny or what you are being called to bring forth into the world, and how the lessons of the buffalo can assist you in manifesting your most fertile dreams and stepping into all your magnificent possibilities.

I’m ready when you are….

Xo Shona

 

Buffalo

is thundering love

slow pulsing energy

of the earth is the heart

the bringer of gifts

the mighty roar of hooves

the pounding, dusty rush of energy

shifts in the heart

the roaming guardian of the circle

the protector of presence

the smoke in the pipe

is power beyond measure

is truth

is proof of the “I am”

rides the plains in power and claims the big skies

sings of blood and bone, victory and longing

strength in the dirt of the work

how nothing is wasted

how we must stand in the ground where we become

where we become

the blood and the bone and the dust of our labour

where we are one

with the drumming heartbeat that calls

the potent power that breathes

that charges

into your slumbering intentions

Animals and Nature, Authenticity, Awakening, Mindfulness and Meditation, Mystery and Magic

Why your own unique way of being in the world is so important now

When I walk outside, whether it’s in the woods or just down the street, I make a point of noticing what animals show themselves to me.  I thank the many squirrels and sparrows and dogs I meet on the path daily, and although they might seem like mundane, run-of-the-mill creatures, I still acknowledge and am grateful for their presence and their message.

In the frame of mind of listening and watching then, of being receptive to who or what may cross my path, it is always such a delight when I see an animal that is unusual to my regular sightings.

Twice now when I have walked to the top of a ridge covered in trees, I have seen woodpeckers.  Two of them pileated woodpeckers, as big as crows, hammering their beaks like thunder on a hollow branch, making a noise like a tree coming down.  That got my attention!

They flew off then, and I was struck by the distinct way that they fly: they “fly and coast down, fly and coast down…(the woodpecker) flies in a manner and rhythm unique to itself” (Ted Andrews).

The second sighting was yesterday; on the same ridge I was greeted by a smaller woodpecker, not tapping but calling out to me, a piping call.  The woodpecker’s red head is easy to spot but I would have missed this one as she was so high up.

I try to pay attention to what exactly I am thinking about or what issues are consuming me in the moment I see an animal, because that’s part of their message. 

And I consider the unique energy and behaviours of the animal I am with, both in general and in its interaction with me in the moment.  This is how their energy can help us and guide us when we are out in nature, seeking stillness and looking for answers.

So both times when I spotted the woodpeckers (or they spotted me) I was debating about this very thing that I am doing now.  Writing and talking about my connection to nature.  About how it might attract but also repel some people, this kinship I have with animals.  About ways in recent weeks that I had unconsciously tried to dilute it, to push it to the background, to deny it or at least deny it’s expression.

I was avoiding talking or writing about it. I was trying not to announce it. I chose not to be authentic so that I would be more accessible to people.  So that I would be liked.

So that I would fit in and be accepted.

I know this is such a trap.  It creates an energy that has no authenticity.  It creates in me a sense of inner-crying as I deny a gift that on the surface seems to have no obvious place in the civilized world.

But the woodpecker was asking me to go beyond the surface, to tap into the deeper meaning that lies beneath.

Woodpecker knows the power of her own natural rhythms, she made a lot of noise on that ridge, she thundered as she beat out her own rhythm on that hollow tree. She was showing me herself in flight, flying in her own unique way, showing me how to go forth in the world as my own true self with no apologies.

I know that if I do not accept the reality of this gift and own it and celebrate it, then no one else can.

And I know that this gift is supposed to come forth into the modern world because that’s where it is needed.

The internal response to even a small refusal on my part to let this energy flow is immediate: I start to feel sorry for myself, I feel lost and empty.  And that’s when I know I’m on the wrong track.

And I return to my path with deep gratitude for the woodpecker, who literally reminded me to fly my own way – to be authentic – how to tap out the rhythm of the song in my heart, and beat the drum loudly.

If you would like to learn more about how to discern the messages that animals and nature long to share with you when you are outside, or in moments of stillness, or in your everyday life, I can help.

I would love to hear your stories and confirm with you that all of nature conspires to love and guide us, and that every animal carries a medicine and a message for us, if we are willing to listen.  

And, it would be my privilege to help you discover how the natural world may be nudging (or insisting!) that you answer the call to be yourself, and to share yourself and your gifts with the world.

xo Shona

 

Woodpecker

She has her own rhythm
She has her own rhythm
She knows the beating of her heart
She flies in swoops
She has her own rhythm
A drumming cadence
A song in the beat
In the beating heart
In the tap tap call
The insistent crack of
Bark the breaking
Into what was hollow
What lies beneath
The real rhythm
The real me
The real life
The real love
The force of
One who is awakened
By the drum
And she knows
And she stands
To be to be the beat
My own rhythm on the drum
To follow it to the end
She drums out the beat of a
Dark red dancer
Flashing between the trees
A thunder drummer
Daring me
To be
Stand this is me
Stand this is me