by Meg Beeler
Your body “knows” connection with nature when you hike, garden, watch the moon rise, or collect stones and shells. Your heart remembers your own and your children’s joy in climbing trees, swimming in creeks, catching polliwogs.
Yet you’ve mostly forgotten how to sustain your relations with mountains and trees from day to day. You may be culturally hesitant, being drawn to indigenous people but not fully believing you are a relative of earth and sky, deer and snake, mosquito and fish.
Even when you love the earth, your personal and cultural separation from nature can be a major source of dissonance and alienation. Yet there’s hope. When you work with intent and focus to strengthen your connections and repair what’s broken—just as in any relationship—you will become empowered and energized.
?In developing a relationship with a specific creature, plant, or place in nature—using your experience and direct perception rather than your ideas about something—you experience the world differently, with deepening intimacy. You nurture your sense of wonder, becoming re-enchanted with nature. In building a relationship over time, you open yourself to deep conversation. The aliveness of the land engages with you. Your compassion, empathy, and heart connections expand. Blending nature (the physical) and spirit (the mystical) together, you develop filaments of connection that weave into your life in mysterious ways.
When you develop relationships in nature, you start with where you are. You might start with a single tree in the neighborhood, a city park, a creek or a boulder, a hillock or a prairie. It might be a place in your imagination, one you’ve visited or wish you could visit.
The point is to learn how to connect and exchange energy with the other living beings who have inhabited this planet for 3.5 billion years: who else has this track record of wisdom and survival?
You spend every day of your life on the earth; she’s always with you. When you develop a relationship with the earth and her creatures, you are never alone.
Connecting, Filling, and Opening to the Earth
When you touch earth, the earth touches you. Your intent to connect paves the way.
Mother Earth, as she is called around the world, supports our feet, our cars, our homes, our water supply. You spend every day of your life with her; she’s always with you! Shifting from taking her for granted to calling on her and connecting with her is simple; the energy you can draw upon to do this is profound. Indigenous peoples take in energy from the earth; you can too. What I have discovered is that the more I connect to the earth, the less alone, isolated, and disconnected I feel.
When you are tired after a long meeting, three hours of conference calls, or running around after some five-year-olds, you can use the practices in this book to release the fatigue and draw in energy from the earth, opening to her support and power. When you do this regularly, you will notice a stronger and stronger connection developing, along with a changed sense of self and ego.
You Are Nature
You have to spend time outside—observing, listening, being—to sense the environment as your extended body. Being outside with a specific tree gives you a “perceptual” or experiential sense of the feeling of its bark, leaves, and shape. Being outside offers you direct experience of the smell of wet earth, the feel of the wind, and the shifting colors of your favorite lake. The more you are outside, deeply filling yourself with such sensations, the more you become an embodied part of the whole.
Imagine you are walking through a forest. Your habit is to look at the trees and enjoy the views. Maybe you identify the birds or native plants; possibly you notice the relationships of a particular species to the environment. Maybe you can even name most plant, animal, insect, and reptile species in the ecosystem. All these skills and habits come from information about the forest; they come from the mind.
What if, noticing a bobcat, you slowly, very slowly, approach it? What if the bobcat stops and watches you? Suddenly you are paying attention to sound, movement, breath, and footfall; you are shifting out of mind. What if the bobcat lets you approach? Your heart hammers, and your body becomes very still. What if the bobcat lets you sit and share the forest, even lets you sing to him?
Now you are in your body, your senses; now you are feeling the connection with the bobcat. You have moved from looking at to being with. You’ve opened your resonant heart to engage with the living energy of this other being.
Deepening Your Relationship with One Place
Establishing a relationship with the natural world is like nurturing one with a human: it takes care, time, intent, and mutual exchange.
I read about a man in Arizona who took the same hike in the mountains around Tucson every day for ten years. His deep familiarity let him know the seasons, the effects of drought on the creatures and plants, and changes over time. Many cultures have practices like this: a Zen Buddhist monk is assigned a nine-year, daily cycle of circumambulation; a young Masai warrior is instructed, as part of his initiation, to go into the bush with nothing but his spear until he kills a lion. Luckily, lion killing is not part of our culture, and there are other ways to practice deepening by establishing your relationship with place.
Return to one place—a single tree, a lake, a stream, a mountain, a trail near where you live, a corner of the park—regularly. Experience it with all your senses—feel the breeze on your face, taste the warmth of the sun on your skin, let the sounds vibrate into your cells, and notice when the energy changes. The more you know it, the more you deepen and expand your awareness of who lives there, how the season change, what plant beings thrive there. With this understanding, your perception grows and grows, as does your connection. Out of connection flows reciprocity.
About the author:
Meg Beeler M.A. is an internationally known author, shamanic healer and Energy Alchemy™ expert. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley and Antioch College. Meg lives on Sonoma Mountain in the San Francisco Bay Area. http://www.megbeeler.com
by Leah Guy
“What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.”
A resounding YES is a mighty, magical thing.
Commitment to a decision shoots positive vibrations throughout the body and buzzes in the heart. This wild energy of YES creates change, but change – even a small change – can be scary, exhausting and triggering. Even when we want positive and new experiences in our lives, most of us still fear change. Ultimately, it’s a fear of death that keeps us saying no. The fear that we will never again have what we are leaving, even though what we say yes to may possibly bring happiness and new energy to our life. We’re more afraid of loss than we are of gain.
Four years ago, I stood shuddering on the divide between a frightening YES and a safe NO. One of my dreams was to open a healing center and retail boutique. I’d thought about doing this for over 15 years. But the fear in my mind had always won the internal war as I spat out a stream of endless NOs.
NO! I don’t have the money to spare.
NO! I don’t have a perfectly clear business plan as there was no market for this industry.
NO! I don’t want to fail.
But there was a twitch in my gut that wouldn’t settle down. This feeling told me to go deeper and explore the root issues that were at play. What did NO really mean to me? After time and reflection I realized that resisting my dreams was really me staying stuck in my low self-esteem. If I didn’t take the risk, I wouldn’t have to face the failure, or prove myself wrong with success.
I decided I need to spend some time thinking about what YES might bring – how saying yes might change my life, as well as the way I relate and value myself. In this meditative space I dreamed about the possibilities.
Did the community want this and also need this? YES.
Would I survive as a person if the business failed? YES.
Do I trust myself to work hard and give it my best? YES.
The healing center opened in the fall of 2014. It has sustained itself financially since day one and has provided myself and the city with a strong sense community and connection. I have never regretted the decision.
YES vs NO
The conflicting energies of YES and NO can be felt, known, separated. Absorb your focus into the body between the collar and pubic bones. This is the core energy center of the Solar Plexus Chakra. It’s the energy where our self-esteem, identity and self-value comes. It’s the place from which we build trust in ourselves and exert our healthy ego. Imagine being asked an important question and answering with a strong, loud YES. Now imagine responding with an equally strong NO.
Feel the difference in your body? In your energy and emotion?
An honest YES feels fantastic and kinetic. A true and resounding YES feels like forward movement. You may even feel a tug in your heart or gut. A NO can feel heavy, perhaps a feeling of withdrawal as the energy shrivels then stops the flow. As a response to fear, NO is a protective intuition but unchecked it scares us away from following dreams, taking on challenges and opening our hearts.
Is that NO a rational alarm protecting you from real peril? Or an irrational fear keeping you from enhancing your life?
Practice distinguishing between your mind and your core identity, your intuition. If you are someone who says “I think” in response to questions, you may be too much in your head. Instead answer with “I feel” and watch what happens. Connect with what your higher self knows instead of the fear-based story your mind wants you to believe.
The more we practice listening to ourselves and following our gut, our intuition and our dreams, the more we strengthen our will-power and determination. Strength grows by applying strength. Courage is what shepherds us into new possibilities and happiness.
YES demands a leap outside the pampered comfort zone. It asks you to put your fears and your past regrets momentarily aside just long enough for you to reach out and embrace the unbridled and perhaps unfamiliar possibility of joy. Fear paralyzes you in a space that’s easy, but lifeless. To move beyond this stifling, suffocating fear is to go deep into your body and silence the trepidation and worry. We can achieve this with mindful presence.
Showing up to your fears and difficult emotions is as simple as sitting down and being quiet. Stillness allows time and space for the often supressed emotions to come forward. As thoughts and emotions surface, we don’t need to chase them away, but instead give them a safe place to just be. This space allows us to trust ourselves and own our authentic feelings as well as learn how to listen, and tame, the chatter of the mind.
When was the last time you said YES to something you were excited about? A YES teeming with sparkle and spirit? A YES that moved you forward?
That last YES you shouted still holds healing, happiness and growth. Draw from it now as you sit and be present, as you listen for guidance and stay open to possibilities.
You don’t have to say YES to everything. NO is a reasonable answer to something not right for you. But realize that NO doesn’t resolve personal issues such as time management, self-care or deeper intimacy in relationships. NO can be an excuse to cover fear. It’s up to you to discern if the next move is one that deserves action or a pass.
Ask yourself why you are slamming on the brakes. Is it a rational reason? Or are you afraid of change?
Next time you are faced with a difficult or exciting decision pause before you answer and investigate what YES might inspire. Take a mindful moment to explore your emotions and intuition. Listen for the answer deeper inside your body, not just in your mind. YES energizes and motivates. YES green lights a move forward to find joy and connectedness.
Could this be the season of YES for you?
About the author:
Leah Guy is author of the new book The Fearless Path: A Radical Awakening to Emotional Healing and Inner Peace. She is also a transpersonal healer, survivor and media personality. For more info visit www.LeahGuy.com/book
By Serge Mazerand
In a world of massive disruption and distraction, of obsessive connection to the internet and to our devices, ironically, we have come to lose the most important connection: the relationship with our essential self. In subtle and less subtle ways, this disconnect creates significant stress and anxiety that often lead to illness.
So, how do we reconnect?
The key is awareness. It is also called mindfulness, consciousness, vigilance and often, more simply, paying attention. However, it is far more than that; it is a way of being. Awareness could be compared to an embedded antenna that allows us to effortlessly scan our inner and outer environment. Being a musician, I call it the art of listening to the subtle music that plays within.
Awareness is the first key, one that plays in synergy with all others and allows us to truly become the composers and conductors of our lives. The biggest challenge to awareness is that most of us live in “autopilot” mode, meaning that many of our thoughts, words and actions are created by our subconscious mind. We think one thing and say something else. We say one thing and, again, do something else entirely. Sound familiar? Thoughts, words and actions create subtle energies which, when not aligned, generate dissonance and therefore inner conflict.
Awareness allows us to produce coherence and to implement a convergent strategy of self-care throughout the four essential sections of our “orchestra”: the Physical, the Mental, the Emotional and the Spiritual. Self-care isn’t about being selfish or self-centered in a narcissistic way. It is about nurturing and empowering ourselves with self-love, self-respect and self-esteem. If we don’t love, respect, and care for ourselves, chances are we won’t be able to care for others either.
How does a strategy of self-care unfold in day-to-day life?
Physically, we become aware of the “information” we take in through food, drink and any other substances that we ingest (drugs, medications, etc.) Everything we absorb has a specific frequency that interconnects with the frequencies of our cells, creating either harmony or dissonance––hence the importance of carefully listening to our bodies. Thus, we become aware of our internal rhythms, of breathing deeply, of balance between movement and rest.
Mentally, we also learn to become mindful of the “information” we absorb: the junk news, the manipulative news, the false news, the trivial and the many ubiquitous distractions we are tempted with, every day. We learn to filter what comes into our mind, in turn creating clarity and coherence.
In the emotional section of our “orchestra”, we attune to the energy of our feelings. Ignoring them or repressing them creates subtle energy blockages that often lead to the onset of psychosomatic illnesses. Emotions are like waves in the ocean. They can smash us to pieces or carry us to bliss. Rather than suppress them, we need to express them, yet manage them by tapping into what is called the “heart intelligence.”
Lastly, in the spiritual section––the section of the heart and soul––we learn to assess the validity of our beliefs, many of which are acquired by conditioning. We become aware of who we are at the core and begin to live in authenticity. We learn to trust and believe in ourselves and to harness the inner powers that lie within us.
These four sections are all interconnected in holistic fashion. What happens in one affects the others. Our health and wellness and ultimately, our happiness, are shaped by how mindful we are in creating and implementing this strategy of self-care.
About the author:
Serge Mazerand is the author of 7 Keys to Serenity: Creating Harmony Within . He is an improvisational pianist and composer of healing music. He records and writes under the private label and brand, Keys to Serenity®.
Mazerand is available as an inspirational speaker and musician to set the tone at conferences and events that focus on health and wellness, spirituality and self-empowerment.
by Joyce and Barry Vissell
When I think of a spiritual retreat, I imagine a lot of meditation, quiet walks, no computers or media, listening to gentle music, and withdrawing from the busyness of the world. Several weeks ago, Barry left for eight days to raft the Owyhee River in very remote Southeast Oregon. He had wanted to raft this river for a long time, and had just found out that this year the abundance of rain provided enough water for a spontaneous late spring trip. Typically, every year, Barry leaves for a week doing some kind of an adventure by himself. I am generally OK with this, and plan on having a spiritual retreat for myself.
Even though I had work planned, I cancelled it and planned to have a spontaneous spiritual retreat. I thought I would work in my garden as that brings so much pleasure to me. I imagined myself meditating long periods in the day, reading my abundance of spiritual books, going for long swims at the gym, and sitting peacefully on the garden swing on the deck Barry made for me. I pictured turning off all media and going within for a beautiful retreat. Some of that happened, but a different type of spiritual retreat emerged.
The night before Barry left, while he was busy packing up, I opened my Facebook. The first thing to appear was a short talk given by our friend, John McClean, a Unity Minister in Nashville, Tennessee. The subject of his talk was “Tidying Up,” from the book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” As you can imagine, that short talk by John slowly became the center of my spiritual retreat.
As Barry was driving away, I looked in our garage to see what I could throw away. We have a habit, which I have insisted upon, of throwing away something from the garage every Tuesday when the garbage goes up the hill to be picked up. You would have to see our garage to understand why this is so important. The first thing I noticed was something I notice every time I enter the garage … the corner! The corner holds boxes of random tiles from the building of our house twenty-five years ago. I have often wanted to throw them away, but Barry insists that we should keep them to replace broken tiles. Well, twenty-five years have passed and not one tile has needed to be replaced in our house. We both agreed to donate them. I called Habitat for Humanity and other places, but no one wanted the tiles. So there I was on a Tuesday evening once again staring at the dreaded corner. Each tile was very heavy, but I got the idea that if I carried perhaps a few at a time to my car, I could drive them to the garbage can. One hour later, the tiles were in the garbage can. I then totally cleaned twenty-five years’ worth of dirt from the area and was thrilled to see the concrete floor once again. An absolute thrill of joy passed through me. I skipped around in the garage I was so happy. I then stood outside in the sunset and felt a warmth of spiritual presence around me, like I had just meditated for hours. My joy was bursting from me.
My next adventure was the closet in the room that used to be our oldest daughter’s bedroom. I used that closet to store wedding presents that were given to Barry and me forty-eight years ago. These were expensive things, crystal candle holders, silver trays, delicate candy dishes and an assortment of exquisitely decorated bowls. Forty-eight years later, I have still hardly used any of this stuff. I brought it all out and ran it through our dishwasher. The pieces shone magnificently. I was tempted to put it all back as it looked so pretty. But I didn’t!! We have an upscale secondhand store named Caroline’s, named for a young girl who died of cancer. Her mother started this store, and all the employees are volunteers. Last year they gave over a half million dollars to children’s cancer research. I know the prices they probably would charge for my items, and I added it all up to $300. The next day, I took my precious wedding gifts to Carolyn’s store. As I drove away, a thrill of divine joy again passed through my body. It was as if I heard the angels singing, “Yes, you did the right thing.” I felt so happy and so proud of myself.
And thus it went, day after day that Barry was gone. I took a huge volume of stuff to Carolyn’s store, the Goodwill and lots went into the garbage. Each time my joy was increasing.
I did swim at the pool every day and I did take quiet walks. But I only meditated a little and spent no time just sitting in the garden, nor did I read one spiritual book. The joy of getting rid of things was addicting to me. I was having so much fun. I visited my cleaned-up areas every day, and the thrill of seeing them so clean continued to delight me.
When one of my uncles died, his sons found forty years of various farming magazines stored in his basement. What a mess to clean up! And when my grandfather died, we found twenty years of brand new birthday and Christmas presents, all with the tags on them and rewrapped up. There were maybe sixty brand new flannel shirts. He liked his old ones the best. As I look around our house, I keep thinking, do I really want our children to have to deal with all this stuff or can I get rid of most of it before we leave this world?
I had a beautiful spiritual retreat. It was different than planned, but very fulfilling and joyful. As things left our home, I felt lighter and, in the process, the light of God seemed closer than ever before.
Here are a few opportunities to bring more love and growth into your life, at the following longer events led by Barry and Joyce Vissell:
Oct 11-17 — Assisi Retreat, Italy
Feb 4-11, 2018 — Hawaii Couples Retreat on the Big Island
Jul 22-27, 2018 — Shared Heart Summer Retreat at Breitenbush Hot Springs, OR
About the authors:
Joyce & Barry Vissell, a nurse/therapist and psychiatrist couple since 1964, are counselors near Santa Cruz, CA, who are widely regarded as among the world’s top experts on conscious relationship and personal growth. They are the authors of The Shared Heart, Models of Love, Risk to Be Healed, The Heart’s Wisdom, Meant to Be, and A Mother’s Final Gift.
Call 831-684-2299 or write to the Shared Heart Foundation, P.O. Box 2140, Aptos, CA 95001, for further information on counseling sessions by phone or in person, their books, recordings or their schedule of talks and workshops. Visit their web site at SharedHeart.org for their free monthly e-heartletter, their updated schedule, and inspiring past articles on many topics about relationship and living from the heart.