There was a post this morning on an email list I belong to, and it was one of the most beautiful, insightful emails I’ve read for a very long time. Within questions the author asked, lie powerful, powerful questions for all of us to be asking. He was asking how to get through those difficult final moments of a kriya (yoga practice) when you just want to give up and quit, and no one is looking to keep you in line. He asked…”what keeps you going?” He asked about the power of working in a group, working in nature, doing devotional practice. I add my response to him in my blog today…because I’ve not posted this story here yet. May it be helpful to someone else somehow…
I am new to the KY path, but have been aligned to practice in the forest for many years. I can tell you from my experience in nature, that the energy of the forest is profound. I “woke up” to the power inherent in the “forest people”…the souls of the trees, plants, animals with one experience I can tell you about…I can tell you what I felt out there.
Years ago, I was apprenticing with a Celtic shaman, who sent me to the woods with an assignment to meet a nature spirit, ask it it’s name, and have a dialogue if I could. I was very skeptical, not having ever done anything like that before…but I went anyway.
I spent hours sitting, meditating, waiting to be approached by something…some “nature spirit”…but nothing happened. As I walked back toward home, I stopped at my favorite cedar tree…the largest in my forest…and just looked up at her…it was misty outside and I noticed how she just stood there day after day with her “arms” wide open to Infinity and to everything that came day after day…wind, snow, rain, sleet…difficult times and warm sunny times. I noted that this is what I too must learn to do…keep my arms and my heart and mind open to every experience I face day after day, just like the cedar tree…all of life…sunny and wintry alike.
So I stood there and opened my arms wide to the sky…and I chanted over and over again, “Bring it on, bring it on, bring it on…” asking for the fire of transformation so that I might become a worthy servant of Love to humanity and our planet.
After what must have been five minutes of chanting, I felt a surge of electricity run through my spine from feet to head and back down again, and along with it, the urge to move toward the tree. I walked to her slowly and embraced her and just stood there with my arms wrapped around her. A part of me felt silly…but I did it anyway…following the “urge.” I started to giggle and asked in jest out loud, “Are you my nature spirit?”
From deep within the earth, an energy flowed up and through my body, into hers, and back through me again…it was a flowing electrical feeling…the color light blue…flowing round and round, back and forth, like a dance. Then, I “heard” communication from my beloved tree…an acknowledgment of sorts. Nervously I asked the tree if it had a name (my assignment from the shaman).
I “heard” the laughter of a thousand voices, and then again felt that energy flowing through me and with it came the same thousand voices all saying a different name all at the same time, with the laughter…beautiful, melodious, loving laughter…like a mother would laugh at a child’s innocence. It was the most beautiful, blissful moment I’ve had, next to the experience of childbirth.
I was supposed to ask how to contact my “nature spirit” in the future, so I did and felt silly with that question. She “said” to me…”you must go back…and teach them…give them the gift of time…our time…no time.” I did not understand the message then, but I think I am beginning to now. “Them” is humanity…the gift of “our time” is the gift I am learning through my sadhana practice.
Then it felt as though she turned me around so my back was to her, pressed up against her strength and bark. She “showed me” myself…on the trail walking past her…hurriedly going to my assignment…lost in thought…lost in time…lost in my busy mind. I could see how busy my mind was as I walked by her. She reminded me to slow down…slow way down…stop and say hello to her on my way by.
She showed me her friend…her long time friend…another cedar who had stood by her for many, many years…witnessing the logging that had happened on our mountain…and before that…standing over the indigenous peoples who lived and fished here. She showed me how, years ago, her friend gave up his “tree” existence to lay down in front of her and become fertilizer for her roots, nursing her children (seeds) to life. I sobbed. Then, she told me it was time go.
Reluctantly, I broke away from her and turned to walk home…tears streaming down my cheeks at the incredible, unexpected experience I had just had. I felt as though something had opened for me…a gift of understanding…of the energies in nature…the gifts we are given, unknown to us…while we sit with the tree people, the plant people, the forest people, etc…an energetic, spiritual, medicinal gift…a silent gift, flowing into and through us. I felt like I had been blind, and all of a sudden, was sighted.
When I reached home, I turned slowly to bid farewell to the forest for that day…very reluctant to go into the house. I just stood there, and from nowhere came this sound…I’ll never forget it…this rhythmic, syncopated percussive sound…a thousand tiny hands clapping…a thousand fairy drums beating all at different times…I’d never heard anything like that before. I shuffled my feet to check my sanity…to hear something else to see if I was just making up that other sound. But no…it was still there…going on and on. I did not know what it was. And then…the voices were there again…the voices of the trees…and they laughed and laughed and told me this was a standing ovation…for me…for showing up for my lesson that day in the woods!
Again, tears just streamed down my face as I stood there in total and utter disbelief. My body was overwhelmed with warmth flowing through it…pure Love. The bliss of that experience lasted for many hours, and the memory, and my connection to my beloved cedar tree is just as vivid today as if it happened this morning.
This is my motivation when there is still 3 or 11 minutes left in my kriya and my thoughts get loud: that there is more going on than I understand right now…that there are energies and gifts and “spirits/angels” helping me, assisting me in ways I cannot fathom at this time…so I just keep going, knowing those invisible forces are there working with me. It is bigger than me…I must keep going for reasons beyond my comfort…somehow, I really do effect the world.
I believe I was given a real gift of grace that day…a tiny peek into the realm of the unknown for me…so that I might hold that memory like a candle in the darkness of my own ignorance and non-understanding…in moments when it would appear easier to just give up…to not get up. I remember in tough moments that this isn’t all about me…my practice is much bigger than me…life isn’t about me at all…it’s about what I bring to the whole…the whole planet of family that I am a part of…the whole of the universe…the Whole that is Infinity.
This is what keeps me going…by my small contribution…by those last 3 minutes of practice when I want to quit…somehow, by not giving up at those difficult times…by pushing through that…I am acting on that power of grace and silently, invisibly affecting all my brothers and sisters on this planet….just like my friends the trees do with me, when I walk busily through the forest.