nature as guide

IMG_0804over the years, as i have continued to traverse through more and more transitions, i’ve found the one thing that always works to bring me back to center: Nature. while there are other resources that bring me relief and peace and guidance, nothing speaks directly to my soul the way Nature does. when I’m lost in the storms of change i can rest in the arms of Mother Earth, knowing she’s supporting me, my lighthouse in the hurricane, always with a sense that whatever is happening is happening just as it should, as it must.

when i’m stuck in a place, whether it’s a place of confusion or grief or despair, when i can eventually drop the story and connect with Nature’s energy i’m able to grasp something much bigger than whatever is happening in my tiny bubble. i can see, almost viscerally feel, that the strife and pain and hurt is just a part of the package. there’s a sense that yes, life is difficult, yet so, so beautiful in it’s challenges all at once. this is what i hear, “look what we go through in order to survive, to thrive. look beyond the stuff of the human world and watch the trees moving in the wind, recognizing that some have become casualties to a force stronger than their roots. look how green the grass is after a good rain.” the beauty and the pain hold hands.

lately i’ve been pondering Nature and all its wisdom. what has bubbled up are these 5 teachings that have been helpful little reminders:

1. The wind is no compass (we can’t follow our feelings)

*If we were to use the wind as a compass we’d be lost who-knows-where. The wind can’t guide us; it can inform us of what’s happening on the planet, in our worlds. The wind helps us know what’s going on, but it’s always changing. The wind (our feelings) provides information, but the wind (our feelings) will never be a reliable compass.

2. The weather is all over the place during seasons of transitions (change is messy)

*Transitions are messy. When winter shifts to spring, one day it’s warm, the next it’s snowing. Some days consist of rain, then snow, then it’s suddenly sunny and then warmer at night than it was in the afternoon. The weather is messy, and we expect it to be. This is true for our inner transitions, too, and we need to expect the same mess that we tolerate (however begrudgingly) with the weather. Some days are going to be better than others and some are going to a whole complicated mess. Such is the nature of transition, of life. When we can see it for what it is – that things are just shifting and recalibrating – we can soften to the experience and allow change to happen.

3. A frozen ground thaws (our hearts naturally open after closing)

*The Earth freezes because the Earth freezes; it’s just what happens. But when it does eventually thaw, as it always will in time and with patience, we find life. Flowers bloom, insects and earth creatures make their way through the soil. The same is true with our hearts. We go through periods of being frozen, closed. But when we eventually thaw and reopen, we find what comes out is what’s been there all along, just waiting.

4. Change is happening, even when we can’t see it (trust the process)

*When flower bulbs are planted, the Earth is different than it was before the addition of the bulbs. Something has been added, and yet there are no visible signs of change on the surface. Before it even reaches the light of day, the seed breaks open, moving toward the sun until it eventually breaks ground. This is how it works for us, too, when our inner landscapes are changing. Seeds (little inklings of new thought patterns, beliefs, habits, etc.) are planted deep into our psyche. Nothing on the outside is different, yet there’s something new present, something that wasn’t there before. In time, what’s been planted will grow. What’s been present for much longer in the deeper, hidden layers will bloom on the surface.

5. Dress for the weather (wishing for things to be different than they are is what creates suffering, not the situation itself)

*Fighting against what we can’t change creates suffering. So often people wish for heat when it’s snowing, wish for sun when it’s raining. We complain. Moan and groan about how we want things to be different. Yet all the complaining in the world won’t part the clouds. All it’s good for us making us miserable. The weather will do what it does; it’s how we adapt that makes all the difference. The same is true for our inner worlds. When something is off inside we can either try to will it away or put on our metaphorical raincoat and welcome the downpour, maybe even, eventually, dancing in the rain. Instead of willing our thoughts and feelings away we learn to be with them, trusting that, like any weather system, our moods will eventually shift. Misery is born from fighting what is.

to know that life, Mother Earth, is supporting us no matter what, that She goes through much of the same as we do, i hope provides some relief. she’s not always the most gentle in her teachings (hurricanes, tornadoes, etc), but she’s always wise. it’s easy to feel lost in this crazy world, but when we can find that ever-present wisdom available to us at any moment, we can rest knowing we’re not doing this thing called life all alone. for me it’s Nature, for you it might be something different. either way, this wisdom that lives within and around you is probably much closer to the surface than you might believe.

welcome the chaos

not too long ago i read an article in a parenting publication that IMG_0736got me thinking. the format was more question/answer, the question coming from a distressed parent seeking help from the expert. the mother wrote about her 2-year old son who was getting fussy every time he’d go down for his usual nap. she said he seemed resistant, and couldn’t figure out what was going on for this boy. it was stressful and challenging, and just didn’t make sense. i loved the expert’s response.

the expert wrote back saying that her son was likely going through the process of letting go of one of his naps because he no longer needed it. the fussiness and resistance to the nap was her son going through a process of disorganization as he naturally opened himself up to a new schedule, as he let go of one of two (or more) naps and adjusted to a new way of being in the world each day. things needed to fall apart a bit before being put back together. he had to go through the inner turmoil to once again reach a state of peace.

and isn’t this what we go through anytime we’re making a change of any kind? it feels like our world is falling apart, we feel out of control and messy and disorganized and don’t understand why. we torment ourselves because we think we’re supposed to keep ourselves together, that change should somehow be neat and tidy and orderly. but it’s not.

change is supposed to be messy. let me say that again: change is supposed to be messy. and perhaps most important: THE MESS IS A SIGN OF CHANGE! we’re supposed to metaphorically dump our bag out so we can see what we’ve been carrying around all this time that’s been causing us pain. and sometimes the contents of our bag need to sit on the floor for a while. maybe that big ‘mess’ needs to just take up some space. we can learn to live amongst the chaos. it won’t last forever. it’s only when we know what’s been in our bag that we can consciously choose what we want to continue holding. 

our problem is that we judge ourselves, tell ourselves there’s something wrong with us for not being able to hold it together. imagine if we naturally entered our chaos, like the 2-year old, and allowed ourselves the full expression of all we feel during times of big transition. if we cried when we needed to, pounded a pillow, let ourselves fall out instead of staying strong and proud.

we must trust the duality of life. that we’re self-organizing creatures that will naturally return to a state of peace, that at the very least we long to return to a state of peace. just as there can’t be day without night, there can’t be chaos without order.

when we find ourselves in the chaos, it’s our natural inclination to want to escape what’s painful. but when we can be in the chaos (with the use of tools like mindfulness, compassion, etc.), open to the swirl of thoughts and feelings, even physical mess in a home, we can learn to be with a different side of life that has just as much value. this side of life offers us the opportunity to really release what is too heavy, even completely unnecessary. we can relax our defenses and our shoulds and know that life will take care of itself. that the natural process is to move through disorganization back to organization, and that there’s not much we have to do to enable the process other than allow it to unfold naturally.

embrace the stillness

thstillnesse snow rests like a pillow for our thoughts.
it sits with arms open, the soft “shhh” whispering from its lips,
guiding us to sit next to it in gentle silence.
the snow guides us into hibernation, into our warm spaces we call home
where we do the hard work of turning inward during the
season of darkness.
the snow says, “embrace the stillness. be quiet with me.”

it’s during this season, the season of darkness, that we can come
into contact with the places gone hidden. it’s a bit ironic that
it’s only when we shine our lights in the dark can we see what’s been
there all along.
that it’s really in the dark we begin to uncover. to see. to know.
to embrace.

and in order to embrace, we must grow still enough to
hear the plant growing, the spider crawling, the snow falling.

may you allow yourself this time during this frenzied pace that has
become the holiday season. may you learn to embrace the stillness all
around and inside you.

delayed gratification

earlier today i was outside plantingIMG_0702 some daffodil bulbs and was struck by how so much of this healing work is related to gardening. as i was digging the holes, putting some bulb food into the hole, placing the bulb, only to cover it all up again and then water the soil, i thought about the healing process. how we dig and dig, plant a seed, and then it seems we just wait. i personally know how frustrating that can be because we just want to feel better. we want the relief now. sometimes even yesterday.

perhaps what’s interesting is that if anyone were to look where i just planted it doesn’t look any different than before i planted. at least not on the surface. what’s important, though, is that i can remember what’s now in the earth that was never there until i put it there. the work, now, is to water the soil and then protect it as it gets colder and colder. i protect those little bulbs by putting leaves over where they’re buried. i’ll leave the snow there to insulate as well. and then the long, hard waiting of winter. while it looks like nothing is happening, new life is incubating so it has the strength to push through when spring comes. there’s a process without it looking like much of a process.

now, i’m not encouraging to just sit back and do nothing. no, that’s not it. what I am saying is that sometimes, most times, we have to trust that the seeds have been planted and live inside us. when we go through years and years of believing false beliefs and acting from a place of fear and the need to protect/control, it’s going to take time and patience for those processes to be replaced with love. just like with the bulbs sometimes we have to wait, we have to trust that new life will come in the springtime (which can happen any time of year when it’s our internal world growing). we have to nourish and care for the bulbs, seeds, potential life inside us. we have to trust and allow the process to work on us after we’ve done the hard work of digging and planting new life (replacing false beliefs, challenging fear, etc.).

it’s an ongoing and nonlinear process; there will be periods of deep digging as well as periods of sitting and trusting, seemingly waiting for what feels like forever. but then, it happens. when there’s enough time, patience, space, and love, those little green shoots poke out of the ground and reach for the sun. and so, too, will you grow. you already are. keep trusting. keep nourishing. keep incubating. keep growing.

all it takes

IMG_0511

imagine yourself here. what do you see? smell? hear? this is your space of solitude. your space surrounded by all that one can find in nature. you’ve come to contemplate…what? find something to connect to, to love. these waters are you, the clouds adrift across the sky are your clouds. this is you, you are this.

within you lies the beauty of a thousand sunsets. within you lies the stillness of a million lakes on a windless day. within you lies the truth – that you are beautiful beyond words. even your ugliest parts are worthy here. because they’re just parts; not the you you.

breaking the surface of the water we find the inner, unseen depths. the stories gone untold, the ones working so hard to bob to the surface. again and again we push it down. that’s okay. one day we’ll part the waters and lift the story, wet from years of submersion. we’ll place that story on a blanket, wrap it in our arms, pour love and warmth onto and into it, and then listen. maybe it’s only a few short words that have been longing for voice; maybe it’s an epic tale that wraps and winds its way around us. either way, it’s our story. it’s us. and it needs our voice. it needs our attention. it needs our love.

and when you look up across the stillness of the water, you’re different. you know now that you can never go back. and so you paddle on, keeping your story held tight, giving it all the space it needs to just be. it can rest now, and, having listened without judgment and with compassion, so can you. that’s all it takes.

the beauty of becoming

IMG_0060as we journey toward reconnecting with ourselves at the deepest levels, we must go through a process of becoming. this becoming doesn’t happen overnight, for it’s a process. one in which there is no prescribed timeline, no map, no how-to manual. i felt this process working itself on me the other day, an opening of a moment in which i could feel the layers peeling back, see the painful years for what they’ve been, and allow all that is to permeate. it was a beautiful moment, one in which i knew i wanted to write about, and yet so fleeting it’s hard to put a name to it, difficult to translate in a way that i hope makes sense. it’s what i wish for everyone, always. to be able to bloom.

the beauty of becoming wouldn’t be the same without what we could say is the ugliness of despair, resistance, and fear. i only use the word “ugly” to make a point that there is duality in all things. light/shadow, love/hate, beauty/ugliness. but, when we can set aside our judgment that thrives on labeling anything, we can sit with both sides of the coin and know they are both equally valuable ingredients necessary for the creation of love.

when i was in the throes of my darkest dark night to date, i was soaked in hatred and resistance. covered in it. couldn’t get away from it. which is probably why it hung around for so long – i was doing anything i could think of to avoid being with it. this is why i say that these darker feelings are so crucial. i’ve learned to believe that they’re indicators of growth, of monumental shifts in thinking and ways of being, a sign that the foundation is trembling, making way for something greater to emerge from deep within.

it’s the bulb pushing through the frozen ground, poking its little green head through the dirt to peek around at the remaining snow mounds. it’s time. it’s not waiting until the perfect conditions, and it’s not going faster than it can go. no. and the bulb next to it? while it may be making headway, it still has a ways to go before it reaches daylight. but daylight it will find. in it’s own time.

this is also true for us when we embark on any healing journey: where there is resistance there is growth. yes, resistance is fear. but there wouldn’t be resistance if there was nothing to be afraid of: new territory; leaving familiar ground (physically and/or emotionally); and especially stepping into your own power, pushing through your own frozen ground to find the light of day. so, when resistance is rearing up and working to knock you down, let’s imagine for a teeny second that it’s the coach pushing you to fight harder, to push through the discomfort and connect to the place of raw emotion, of pure presence. it’s working to help you grow stronger. let’s just pretend it really does want you to be all that you can be, despite how convincing it is otherwise.

when i speak of resistance, it may seem i’m saying that the work is to do more despite feeling resistant. the work may be to do less. if resistance likes to make you feel bad for resting, then that’s the work – to rest. it really comes down to tapping into what you’re needing and then pushing through that voice to make it happen.