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Posts Tagged ‘Nature’

There are so many ways to connect with and receive guidance from Spirit. A favorite of mine is to go on a medicine walk. While we can receive insights on any walk, a medicine walk is an intentional walk for guidance where we open up to our connection to All That Is for information. The closer to Nature we can get, the better, but urban walks can work as well. The key is to create sacred space beforehand as you would before doing any kind of ceremony or healing work to distinguish it from ordinary reality.

 
So to begin, set your intention for the question you would like information on, and create sacred space in your usual way. For me this includes greeting and welcoming the directions, my helping spirits, my highest self, and the land where I’m working, and allowing my body / mind / spirit to shift resonance by rattling, drumming, singing / etc. Once sacred space and intention are set, basically everything that happens during the walk can be considered part of the answer to the question that you are asking, as in journeying.

A medicine walk is a way to bring out your own spirit’s wisdom and to connect to Spirit’s wisdom, to be supported by the other compassionate beings around us who are available to offer their perspective, healing, and wisdom. Pay attention to anything unusual in your surroundings, anything that catches your attention and strikes an emotional chord. Pay attention to your body, to memories, to thoughts that wander through. Sink into your heart as you walk and invite Spirit to connect with you. You are loved and supported. Listen. Breathe. Feel yourself shift into sacred space.

Hold what your experience lightly, perhaps asking as something catches your attention, “If that were an answer, what would it be?” Let it unfold in its own time, which won’t necessarily be instantaneous, although sometimes we do experience the grace of immediate revelations, whose meanings may continue to unfold long after we take off our walking shoes.

I recently went for a medicine walk into the Angeles Mountains to gain some clarity around a difficult relationship. After about a mile along the trail, I turned a corner and, even though I’d been seeing the results of fire damage all along, I had to catch my breath at the particularly profound destruction in this one area. I found myself weeping at the sea of charcoal surrounding me, ashes where pine trees used to rise healthy and green. As I stood on the trail trying to compose myself, a hawk flew from a burnt limb on a closeby trees to a burnt limb on another, and I caught my breath again, this time with joy. I love hawks, and actually don’t get to see them often in this area of the mountains.  I stood still and heard the thought, “Wait… wait…” After a few minutes, the hawk’s mate flew over, and the pair rose out of the trees and circled low over my head for several minutes. I found myself crying from sadness and joy all at the same time.

I had my answer about the relationship – it was about sadness and the joy – not one or the other.  It was about ALL OF IT. It’s about holding both at the same time in my heart.

That was a piece of what I was shown on the walk, to give you a sense of how a medicine walk can work.

It’s important to end your walk in some way other than just getting in your car and going home. It’s a ceremony, and effective ceremonies need a beginning, middle, and end, so make sure to offer gratitude to the beings that supported you on your walk. Thank the directions, the land, Spirit, your own highest self, and any other helpers who worked with you. If your habit is to offer corn meal or tobacco, make an offering, or you can sing, offer a prayer, leave a strand of hair, or offer gratitude in whatever form works for you.

Nature is always speaking to us.  We ARE nature. A medicine walk just opens up the portal of communication between ordinary and non-ordinary reality so we can hear more clearly what Nature is saying.

 

Happy Walking!

Hawk in Burned-Out Tree, © Lynda Skeen

Hawk in Burned-Out Tree, © Lynda Skeen



Hawk and Mountains, © Lynda Skeen

Hawk and Mountains, © Lynda Skeen

“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.” Pema Chodron

Hawks Circling Overhead © Lynda Skeen

Hawks Circling Overhead
© Lynda Skeen

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This time of year can be especially stressful for those of us prone to free-floating anxiety.  One of my strategies for coping with anxiety is simplifying my to-do list, which is one reason I haven’t been updating my blog much lately.  But I thought it might be helpful to collect and share my thoughts about what works for me to ease stress.  Please note that these are just my two-cents; I am not a medical practitioner; these are just my personal experiences, observations, and suggestions.

When we’re in the throes of feeling panicky, whether it’s a full-blown panic attack or the precursor stages of your brain freezing up and your palms sweating, it’s a little late to do any prep work.  So I’ll start by offering some suggesting for triage, things that have helped me get back in my body and functioning again.

  1. The very first thing to do is BREATHE.  Take a deep belly breath.  Then another.  If you have the bandwidth for it, do some left-nostril breathing, or even better yet, some alternate-nostril breathing (one exhalation and inhalation through one side of your nose, then the other side; continue for several rounds or several minutes – this will reset your left-brain-right-brain connection and does wonders for resetting your body’s anxiety level).
  2. Acknowledge that something is going on that needs to be addressed – maybe not at this very moment, but at least give it a nod and let it know you will pay it attention when things are calmer.  Like all emotions, anxiety has something to tell us, so it’s a good idea to listen to it, not just try to squash it.  While hypersensitivity to stress might be a genetic predisposition, we can still learn from it, even if we need to treat its effects.  Later on, if you know how to journey, journey to your anxiety and ask it directly, “What are you trying to teach me?  What are you trying to say?”  You can also do this through meditation.
  3. Step away from your computer or from whatever you were doing.  Go to the rest room or walk around outside if you can.  Stretch your body.  Feel your feet on the ground.  Continue to breathe, deeply.
  4. Essential oils can be very helpful.  I like to deeply inhale peppermint essential oil when I first feel myself start to tailspin.  Lavender and rose are also soothing.
  5. Step away from the coffee pot and other caffeinated drinks.  Caffeine revs up your system, makes your heart beat faster, simulating fear in many ways.  Nothing wrong with having a cup or two, but know your limits.  Know what your triggers are.  Switch to chamomile tea.
  6. There are some very effective homeopathic remedies such as Calms, Calms Forte, and Nerve Tonic that can help.
  7. Try to pay attention to one task at a time.  Practice mindfulness rather than future-tripping.
  8. Give yourself mini-breaks throughout your day to stretch, breathe, offer gratitude, come back into your body, and pay attention to your thought patterns.   Try setting a timer on your computer or phone to remind you to tune in to yourself.

Here are some things I’ve found helpful to keep from getting to the triage point:

  1. Have a regular meditation / journey / prayer practice.  Connect to Spirit on a regular basis.
  2. Spend regular time in nature.
  3. It’s ok to say “no.”  We don’t have to commit to every project or appointment that we are invited to participate in.  And it’s ok to unplug and unwire yourself, to take a break from constant information input.
  4. But do make sure you find time for your family and friends!  Build community.
  5. Have some kind of relaxing hobby, whether it’s gardening or playing Candy Crush.  Extra points though for doing service working on behalf of animals, the environment, or other people!
  6. Surround yourself with beauty and images of what brings you joy.
  7. Anxiety is a sign that something is out of balance, so it’s important to pay attention to that.  This might mean something needs to be released from your life, or that something is lacking in your life and needs to be brought in.  It might be as simple as needing to throw out a pile of old magazines, or as profound a shift as trading in perfectionism for compassion.  Sometimes it’s a good idea to talk with a professional counselor to help sort this out.
  8. And sometimes medication can be a wonderful thing.  It can help break the cycle of anxiety and panic while you sort out the underlying causes.
  9. Nurture all aspects of yourself – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual.  Create an “emergency kit” to keep with you for future “triage moments” – some peppermint essential oil, a book that centers you and connects you to the sacred, a smooth stone, some soothing music on your ipod, a note that reminds you to breathe…
  10. Regular healing work can do wonders – energy work, massage, acupuncture, etc.

So, those are a few things I’ve found helpful.  One or two will be useful to you, especially during the holidays, which can be especially stressful.  I’ll leave you with two photographs that I find soothing, and a quote from Mark Twain that helps me keep things in perspective.

“I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”

– Mark Twain

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Beautiful wood shavings from my husband's woodworking shop; © Lynda Skeen

Beautiful wood shavings from my husband’s woodworking shop; © Lynda Skeen

Winter sunset at Venice Beach with my brother; © Lynda Skeen

Winter sunset at Venice Beach with my brother; © Lynda Skeen

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We want to help.

We want to watch the news and participate in world events, to assist in whatever way we can to ease suffering and right wrongs.

But it can get to us after awhile.

We need to make sure we are tending to our own needs as well as those of others.  If our vibration has become heavy, depressed, and toxic, we’re not going to be able to help anyone else, and might even cause more harm to them or ourselves.  Like the now-cliché instruction on planes, we need to put on your own oxygen masks before attempting to assist others.

It’s ok to take a break from watching the news, to reduce your exposure to things that are stressing us out that you have no control over, to block people from our Facebook newsfeeds who are ambushing us with negativity.

Beyond taking a break from stressors and removing things that no longer serve us, it’s important to bring in more of what nurtures and sustains us, to create a healing environment around ourselves that we can entrain ourselves to.  Of course it’s best to take care of ourselves along the way, but we should also have an “emergency self-care kit” for difficult times.

Take some time to meditate, pray, or journey to your helping spirits about ways that you can simplify your life of toxicity and bring in higher vibrations.  Consider the physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional aspects of your life, and engage all of your senses.

I recently journeyed on this for myself, asking my helping spirits for help with detoxing and clarity about what to bring in to my life.

Before I even journeyed, I was reminded about the importance of gratitude.  I spent a few minutes writing a gratitude list, planning to write 50 things I was thankful for.  By the time I got to 25, my heart was soaring, and I was ready to journey.

My helping spirits helped me to release some energies I was holding onto, and reminded me of some things I needed more of in my life:

  • time in nature
  • playing (and not just competitive on-line Scrabble games!)
  • certain colors, like a string of cobalt-blue glass beads to catch the light, or golden sunshine
  • particular fabrics, scents, and music
  • the element of water (a shower, a glass of water, a walk on the beach)
  • more journey time on my own behalf, not just for clients

I was also reminded that I’m not the first person to have a hard time dealing with the heaviness of this plane, and I won’t be the last.  Being reminded that I wasn’t alone helped in itself.

So what makes you clearer, energized, peaceful, more present, more loving?  Get out of the fray, collect yourself, and then you’ll be able to be of service.  I’d love to hear about what makes your heart sing!  Feel free to leave me a comment below, or to private email me.

Here are some photos I took when I spent some time playing out in the woods after my journey, which nurtured me on all levels.

IMG_2131 turtle in woods2 - face

© Lynda Skeen

IMG_2132 turtle in woods3 - eye

© Lynda Skeen

Image

© Lynda Skeen

© Lynda Skeen

© Lynda Skeen

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I recently returned from two nights of camping in Joshua Tree National Park, a very frustrating trip that was like trying to camp in the middle of a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant.  Kids ran through my campsite whacking nearby cacti with sticks; parents played techno-trance music and 90’s rock as the Super-Full Moon rose between the Joshua trees.  On my way to hike outside of the campground, I passed a small child busily smashing bugs with a rock.

It’s hard to find space in the wilderness unless you can backpack out into it, which most of us can’t.  And although I’m glad people go into nature in whatever capacity they are able (after all, nature is what we’re made of; we are nature), I miss having the opportunity to hear sounds other than those made by other people.

For this post, I’ve decided to share a poem I wrote a couple of years ago after an encounter with a bobcat in Joshua Tree.  On this trip I write about in the poem, I was able to get a bit closer to the sights and sounds of nature despite being in a campground.  I re-read this poem to remind myself that camping in California isn’t always as loud and busy as it recently.  I hope you enjoy the poem, which is a bit longer than those I’ve posted in the past.  I’ve also posted a couple of photos from last weekend’s trip.

Joshua Tree Full Moon Rise, © Lynda Skeen

—————————————–

Joshua Tree Bobcat

Words to address you are as elusive
as sightings of you
darting in and out of shadows,
merging with wordless, formless space.
I have been smitten by you and your landscape,
and baffled why I continue to choose another life
even after staring into your spotted face in the bushes.
The final gift on the final day of my desert camping trip,
you crossed the road.
I stopped my car and followed you into the brush.
We stared at each other.
I held my breath.
Neither of us ran away.
Now I understand that the gift you gave me
was choice, and a memory that can bring you back
even in the middle of my life here in the city.

A creature living without an instruction book,
as sure of itself as the sun of rising,
as the rain of falling,
you remind me of my own Nature.
Remind me to take the time to be reminded,
to pull back the curtains and embrace my own Wildness.
Your beautiful spotted face helps me remember
the crunchy warm sand that feels good beneath my feet,
the night sky full of stars and mystery
that humbles me into awe.
How wealthy I feel under the desert’s lavish sunset.
How magical to see what’s usually hidden –
the orange-red flames of the cactus’ first bloom;
dark caterpillars soon to emerge as something other
than what they were;
baby jackrabbits close enough that I can see the
red marks on their ears.
It is my aesthetic – my palette.
Sandstone and cactus flower.
Empty skyline.
My outsides and insides finally in synch.

I love the potential for getting lost.
To lean against danger.
to get dirty and know my own scent.
Stripping off the layers and paring down to happiness.
To eat when hungry; sleep when tired.
To spoil myself with the simplicity of Enough.
To immerse myself in Darkness at night.
To close my eyes and see nothing.
To open them and see nothing but
a sky filled with stars,
potential,
silence.
To hear my thoughts,
then let them quiet.
Nestling up next to the sound of wind and flames.
To release them into the wild
to become something I cannot control.

Leaving the urban hypnosis of self-imposed to-do lists,
I am one step closer to what I’m made of,
less surrounded by what I’ve made.
In the desert, things are more connected to their meanings –
clattering of pebbles means something moved,
cave means staying dry in a thunderstorm.
One step closer to Source,
away from mind’s creations.

The desert is where I know I know these things.
When I get home to the city, they are camouflaged,
insight moving in and out like an itch
I can’t quite scratch.
An unspeakable sadness
fading in and out like light on your spotted face.
For I chose to return to the city.
I didn’t follow you deeper into the brush.
I returned to my car filled with camping gear and fresh water.
Thank you for the gift of choice,
for the memory of your beckoning face.
My memory of you, Bobcat,
is a bread crumb leading me Home.

And this, I now realize, is your gift.
I have your face to both pine for and delight in.
A face that reminds me that Nature, Wildness,
surrounds me, even here –
squirrels chasing each other in the purple jacaranda,
pigeons drinking from puddles of water at the car wash,
palm trees gently swaying in their tall wind,
white clouds in deep blue sky.
The threat of exile might keep me from climbing trees at work
or running up and down the street with my magnifying glass,
looking closely at what I can’t usually see,
but I can at least kneel over in the dirt in my back yard,
pressing my nose against the window of what the rest of existence is doing.

Sitting in the cool green grass,
beneath power lines,
surrounded by apartment buildings –
even here –
I can breathe
in
the sunset.

© Lynda Skeen

Venus and Joshua Trees at Sunset, © Lynda Skeen

Joshua Tree Landscape, © Lynda Skeen

Super-Moonrise at Joshua Tree, © Lynda Skeen

Cactus Bloom, © Lynda Skeen

Juniper Berries, © Lynda Skeen

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Hope of the Green Bough

Unless and until all the trees are gone,

all the birds have stopped singing,

and I have no heart,

I will carry this:

©Lynda Skeen

“If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird with come.”

old Chinese saying

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Today, let me remember that nothing stays still. Let me remember that the wheel keeps turning. That no matter what phase things are in, it won’t last forever. Let me acknowledge and honor all the directions and the gifts that they bring.

Let me breathe in the air of the East, the air of newness, of spring, of fresh beginnings.

Let me bask in the fire of the South, of the heat of summer, of things as they come to fruition.

Let me rest in the gentle waters of the West, in the cooling down phase of autumn.

And let me honor the deep earthy resting winter of the North, the time of pause between one thing and another.

No wheel is made of just one spoke. No trip around the sun is made of just one season. No day is just one position of the sun. No life is just one expression of a face.

And let me acknowledge and honor this ongoing cycle of impermanence with a heart full of compassion and love for all beings as we move through this mystery together.

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Start where you are.  Breathe in and thank the air circulating through your body.  The same air that circulates around the rest of the planet.  The same air being inhaled and exhaled by all the other humans, animals, plants, and life forms on the planet.

Thank the sun for its life giving fire.  Thank your heart for its life giving pulse.  Thank the fire in your belly that gets you up each day.

Drink a glass of water and feel gratitude and connection with the water that was at some point in the ocean and sky.  The same water that has been circulating around the planet like waves since it was first created.

And thank the earth that is under your feet and in your bones.

We are not separate from nature.  We are part of nature.  And when we offer gratitude, we activate our connection to the rest of the web of life, the rest of all that is.  We can feel our connection resonating.  As our heart opens, we know we are not alone.

A daily gratitude practice helps my mind to calm down and my heart to open.   A daily gratitude practice can be simple.  As simple as acknowledging the elements and directions in the morning, or saying grace before a meal to thank not only the Creator for the meal but the life forms (whether cow or carrot) whose life force you will be feeding on.

And I frequently journey just to hang out with my helping spirits and thank them for all of their support and friendship and guidance.

Gratitude grounds the cosmic concept of “all is one” into reality and opens our hearts to what that really means, allowing us to experience our connection to the rest of life, to know that we are not alone.  And that, in my opinion, is worth being very thankful for.

© Lynda Skeen

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