TREES TALK: Have You Listened?
A friend, Sally Churgel, shared this experience on a walk, and later wrote it down.
You can talk to the trees. Well, you can talk to anything. But trees will answer back. It’s true. However, you will have to quiet your mind enough to listen.
That’s what I discovered at the top of the steep climb to Richardson Grove State Park, Northern California. I stood about ten yards in front of the massive girth of an old growth redwood tree that had captured my attention. First, I asked permission to approach. I heard, or felt, a yes. All conversations with trees can be done silently in the mind. Holding my arms out as though sleep walking, I slowly approached. When I felt a slight resistance in the field of energy between this magnificent being and my hand, I stopped. It felt like a request to stop or a sense of needing to stop. I waited. I asked if I could step closer. The sense that I was being held at bay and needed to stop disappeared and I proceeded. I repeated this action three times until I could touch this living being.
I turned my back and leaned into a nook. I felt welcome and fully received. The first message I sent was a thank you for its willingness to talk to me. I then asked, “Is there anything you need from me?” The answer came immediately, “Ground yourself.” Actually, it came as an image. I saw my legs, or the energy of my legs, drop down and down, well below the widespread solid roots of the Sequoia. It felt like an invitation to root myself deep into the earth.
“What can I do to find relief from my current irritation?”
I had been grieving the recent death of my father. The approach of Mother’s Day gave me a pang as it has every year for the past decade. The loss of my mother and the additional sorrow at not having had a child hurt fresh again. Even the current amazing transition I was in had raised many fears. I had just ended the era of an abusive marriage and subsequent decade of singleness, and completed my first month living with my beloved. I was fearful of repeating old patterns and in constant irritation from the weight of my grief and fears.
The tree sent me an image that I understood immediately. It was a memory of a peak spiritual experience I had in my early 20’s. I had been mediating on the hard porch floor of a little wooden cabin in the redwoods. The rain had just stopped. Drops were continuing to fall from the branches in a rhythmic rate, a slow drum beat thrum. The sound of my heartbeat. My mantra fell away and all I heard was pit-a-pat on the roof of the cabin.
Suddenly, I felt the sense of “I” expand. I was at the top of the redwoods. Or I was the treetops. The gray clouds had given way to blue sky. Then the blue sky gave way to a brilliant white light.
I was looking at the light.
I was inside the light.
I was the light.
For a lifelong second, I hung suspended in this blissful moment. My oneness with the light contained no thought. No sensations of the body. Light and peace and I was all. And then an excitement filled me. A thrill. “Wow.” The thought brought me instantly back into the “I” that was sitting on the hard floor in front of the wooden cabin in the redwoods with rain drops dancing on the eves.
That moment has never repeated in all the hours I have meditated since.
The Sequoia, at Richardson State Park, showed me one last image. The white light flowed down to my heart to meet the upward reach of the dark loamy earth. It seemed to say:
Let the root of the earth and the light meet in your heart. Ground the reality of your day to day life with the mystical union of all that is. Your fears and sorrow will rest in the earth and your heart will be lightened. Remember the truth of life. We are one with all. We think we are separate. We think there is an “I” that is meditating, that is different from the I that is part of, and the same as, the white light.
The experience I shared with the Sequoia reminded me that I wasn’t any different from it or from the light. There is a place in my heart to rest between my damp sorrows and my cold fears. The place that contains, and is, earth and light.
You can read her own account at this link.
My ears fill with
drops, although it’s
June in California.
The light gray sky
without a break
drapes over redwood
peaks and oaks.
A whisper of leaves
among red-leafed plum,
catkin strands, wild
swaying oats, rain-soaked
CHILDHOOD MEMORIES & THE SACRED
I was reminded by a friend that we all have childhood memories of connection to Earth and to each other. For example, I remember standing on a step by the kitchen sink, being shown by my mother how to shell peas. The newspaper they were wrapped in, the smell of the peas, the running water, my mother’s presence, feeling so proud to be her helper, all these are vividly engraved.
Please share your memories and experiences by sending them to this link. They may seem trivial, but they often belong to a world of oneness that can reconnect us to that place so needed in these times.
It is with tremendous pleasure that I share a few tidbits from Joanna Macy’s recent interview with Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee, titled Widening Circles. The interview is featured in the newly created Emergence Magazine (at this link). Emergence is aquarterly online publication with videos, photography, stories, essays, and poetry, as creative, life-giving responses to “the desecration of our lands and waters, the extinguishing of species, and a loss of sacred connection to the earth.” I especially enjoyed Lyla June’s dynamic hip-hop lyrics that include the line, “Fighting for children whose names I will never know”, and Jim Enote’s work with Zuni artists creating maps that bring the indigenous voice and perspective back to the land, called Counter Mapping. By good fortune, closely related to last month’s Earth-Love newsletter article, Trees Talk by Sally Churgel (at this link), Emergence also describes a practice for “Befriending a Tree”.
Joanna Macy (JM): I would like to begin with just centering a minute—and a grateful prayer. Beloved mother, father, lover, earth, our larger self, our greater body, we’re so grateful to be granted a human life right now at this time when such anguish, turmoil, and so much suffering and loss are occurring; and we’re so grateful to be given human identity and a human voice, so we can take part in human councils. And help us to be evermore fully aware of the blessings of being part of your intelligence. So be it. Okay.
I was nine when I started going for the summers to my grandfather’s farm…
And it was never more than a third of the year at the very most—usually just a quarter of the year—that was intense enough to give me imagery and a heart connection, a felt resonance, an emotional resonance, that has been a touchstone for me for…almost eighty years.
I have a lot of grief for what we’re doing to our world and to the future. But I know at the same time that whatever happens, I won’t—there’s nothing that can happen that will ever separate me from the living body of earth. Nothing. It’s who we are, and that is so vast.
I feel such awe that at this very time that we’re landing ourselves in such a pickle as humans on this planet, or as life on this planet, that there’ve been two great rivers in the human journey, spirituality and science—and in our early days, they were interwoven, but they’ve been hideously separated over the last centuries, and we’ve been torn apart by that—and now, in our time, they’re flowing together, and the promise of that is huge. In every major religion there’re these voices, but it’s coming so strong from the indigenous ones—[saying] that the earth is alive, and the earth is sacred. That follows, because if the earth is all we have, then we’re totally dependent on [it], and then that is sacred to us; and [it follows] that we wake up in this time to the sacred that we’re living within and nourished by, the sacred living body of earth and its intelligence, her/his intelligence. And not only that, but I feel that in this time, the dangers we face are creating a huge evolutionary pressure on us to wake up to our true nature. We gotta wake up to that or we’re toast, bigtime.
Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee (EVL): You’ve had a rich, to say the least, life and experiences that led you one after another to deepen this exploration, deepen this journey, deepen this conversation with the earth, and awaken something in you which prompted you to awaken something in others. And your work has done that in so many ways for thirty years. But I’m always left with this question–because I too feel this emergent possibility and the crying out of the earth to be recognized again and to be heard and to be listened to. I also wonder how people can learn to listen again. Sometimes it can take a lifetime to learn to listen. I guess the big question is, how do we learn to listen if we don’t have the time to go on a journey like you have or go into the work that you have offered to so many in a deep way? But what are the ways we can learn to listen?
JM: What a wonderful way to begin, in a way, because that’s the question: How do we learn to listen? I feel—I sense a hunger and thirst in people to be present, and I—there’s no question in my mind that our presence in our world is the greatest gift we can give it. Curiosity is a beautiful path, and we can walk the path of how we listen and how we help each other listen. Sometimes I see the path we’re on as having a ditch on either side that we could fall into; and one is paralysis, just shut down in fear, and the other is panic, social hysteria, turn on each other. And learning to listen a little, for either one, calls you back.
Joanna Macy has loved Rilke’s poetry since the 50’s. She has translated with Anita Barrows Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems To God. At one point in the interview she speaks about the realization that “…a natural maturation of the human is toward widening fields of relevance and caring, and that your self-interest expands from being just what affects you inside your bag of skin to what expands your family or tribe or country to what happens to earth.” Here is one of Rilke’s poems that has so inspired her.
I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may never complete this last one,
but I give myself to it.
I circle around God, that primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?
JM: I had thought that I’d failed on my spiritual path. I thought my spiritual path was a linear one, that it would go like Pilgrim’s Progress through various stages of learning to the heavenly city. [But] to “live my life in widening circles”? I said, “Oh! I can own that.”
We’re so lucky to be alive now aren’t we?
EVL: We are indeed.
JM: At this moment, where anything we’ve ever known how to love, and everything we’ve ever learned—how to seek courage and connection—can serve.
A QUIET STRENGTH
Walking along the high street, my attention was drawn to a painting of a woman surrounded by red-winged blackbirds.. The focus of her wide-open eyes seemed to be turned inward, as did that of her ears. It’s named Listening to Music.
I entered the artists’ co-op and among the delightful paintings and prints found others titled Listening for Wisdom, Listening for Advice, and Listening for the Truth.
The artist, Teri Sloat is also an accomplished children’s book illustrator and author. Intrigued, I asked Teri about her Listening series. She responded, “With all the good of social media there is chaos as well and noise, and in the last couple of years so much sharing of political chatter. I stay active on social media but needed to start a series of what I saw as I listened to my own voice. I most often find my true direction in solitude and in nature.
I am sitting right now on a small lake in Northern Minnesota, enjoying quiet times, often filled with humor shared with friends as we watch the antics of loons while kayaking. I can hear myself think here.
I think it is important for all of us to find the places where we hear ourselves.”
Teri’s exhibit is called, A Quiet Strength. I see the “Quiet Strength” of both the person―a mature woman in touch with herself, and Earth‘s life forms. And I also feel that she depicts the strength and power of the receptive activity of listening. This vital feminine quality comes so alive in her paintings! That’s my penny’s worth. What’s yours?
Please share your viewpoint. Make a little space to jot down your responses and send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. That way we all grow.
You can see more of Teri Sloat’s work on her site at this link.
Listening to Music
Listening for Wisdom
We are currently accepting submissions of your Earth–Love experiences to be published in an upcoming issue. Perhaps you could take 5 minutes to jot down one of your experiences or send a photo with a short commentary to this link. Thank you so much.