Little Joys- Signs of Spring

Garden Gnome keeps watch

I am not the only one watching for signs of Spring.

Celebrating the Earth

This year’s Spring vacation was actually a “stay-cation” and I couldn’t be happier.  I spent a glorious week noticing the daily subtle changes in my own backyard.  Every day is Earth Day to me and every moment of every day has it’s own, never-to-be-replicated beauty.  From a gathering of bluejays to a spectacular sunrise, blink and I miss it.  Gaia calls us to be fully present to experience her rich bounty.

Daffodils in my Garden

The daffodils in my garden lift their joyful heads to the sun.

I celebrate the early spring color palette with each new blossom and blade of grass.  Blink and I miss the brilliant yellow daffodils in my garden lift their joyful heads to the sun.  The yellow forsythias wave their arms in greeting.  The white, delicate lace flowers of the serviceberry act as a veil between me and the clear blue sky.  “Everything is holy now,” Peter Mayer wisely wrote.

A veil of serviceberry blossoms against the bright blue sky

“Everything is Holy now” wrote Peter Mayer.

Blink and I miss the yellows and whites make way for the purple of lilac and hyacinth and the delicate pinks of cherry and dogwood.  Each has it’s own cycle within the greater cycle of transformation that forms the wheel of the year.

Blink and I miss the little place in my garden where a rabbit is preparing a nest for her young.  One day, I noticed the mulch in a flowerbed pushed aside.  Soon, dried grass and straw appeared in a neat little pile.  Then, this little nest materialized.  As I write and look out my window, the nest is completely hidden from view by a mother who instinctively knows what to do for her young ones.  How much wiser would we be if we were more attuned to Nature?  What do we know that we have forgotten?

Rabbit mother prepares for birth

Mulch and soil are pushed aside as a mother rabbit prepares a place for her babies.

Ok, confession time.  At the time of the Winter Solstice, I hung a wreath by my front door.  Amazingly, it stayed perfectly green through December, January, February, and most of March.  I should have taken it down but procrastinated.  By the time I thought about it again, I noticed a bird flitting back and forth from the wreath to wherever she needed to go for food and… you guessed it… building material for her nest.  Well, what could I do?  The wreath is brown and brittle but she loved the location and gave birth to three wee ones.  When they fly the nest, I’ll toss the wreath.  I promise.

Mother bird chooses a safe place for raising her young.

A winter wreath becomes the birthplace of three birds.

Honoring the Earth

I could sit in reverence all day every day, observing the beings in my yard live, grow, and eventually die.  The cycle of birth-death-rebirth is the natural way of things.  I know.  But Mother Earth calls me to action.  It’s not enough to take, I must give back to stay in right relationship with Her.

I honor Her by vowing to be a steward of the land entrusted to me for as long as I live here.  Ancestors of bloodline and ancestors of place are with me as I cut back dead raspberry canes and clear the space around my grapevines.  I hear my grandfather’s voice echo in my heart, gifting me with his wisdom of flora and fauna.  I see the rainbow of jars in my grandmother’s root cellar- her connection to the land made visible.  I sense the presence of those who tended this plot of land long before “my people” even set foot on the shore of North America as immigrants in the early 20th century.

So I garden without herbicides and pesticides.  I hang prayer flags and make offerings.  I grab a lawn chair and my watercolors for a quick plein air session with the tulips and squirrels.  I pick up every bit of trash that blows into my yard.  It’s heartbreaking to see a birdnest with trash woven in among the grass, straw, and twigs.  I plant native species and compost as much as possible.  I do what I can the best I can.

Most importantly, I sit in silence and listen to her many voices– the wind, the rain, the birdsong, and my own contented sighs of belonging.  Call it prayer, call it meditation,… I call it CONNECTION.

Being in Relationship with Mother Earth

I love them all… all of the beings on our beautiful planet.  My view of “beings” has greatly expanded with my awareness of indigenous cultures and earth-centered traditions.  Trees, streams, oceans, plains, mountains, polar bears, glaciers, bees, wolves, … do you get where I’m going with this?  We are all connected.  All life is one.

I weep for the fact that we live in a time where we have to march to protect our planet.  In less than three centuries, we have littered the world with plastic, fossil fuel pollution, and chemicals.  We have killed more species than I can fathom- extinct, gone,…forever.  We continue to threaten all life with our choices and this breaks my heart but I’m hopeful that we are raising awareness and more of us are doing what we can to help the environment… for all of us…and I do mean ALL OF US.

I pray that we can educate and enlighten the ignorant.  I also pray that love, light, reverence, and stewardship quickly replace greed, hatred, destruction, and domination.  May we each do what we can to protect our home… our Mother.  I hope you take part in one of the marches around the world next Saturday.  Raise your voice for those who don’t have a voice.

Mother Earth, Mother Earth,

Take our seeds and give them birth.

Father Sun, gleam and glow,

‘Til the roots begin to grow.

Sister Rain, Sister Rain,

Shed your tears to swell the grain.

Brother Wind, breathe and blow,

Tell the blades so green to grow.

Earth and Sun, Wind and Rain

Bring to life the living grain.

Waldorf Song for Children (Writer Unknown)

 

 

 

Wisdom from My Garden: Meditation on a Blueberry Bush

Picking blueberries in my back garden in the coolness of the morning is both a meditation & a prayer of gratitude for me.  I planted the 8 bushes that line one side of my yard, nurturing them over the years so they can produce flavorful berries that nourish me, my loved ones, & the local wildlife (which I also consider my loved ones).  The act of gardening is a spiritual experience, connecting me to all that is.  It also allows me to quickly disconnect my overactive mind & fall into a gentle easiness that a familiar task can bring.

There is no need to analyze or worry for I know from a lifetime of experience that all I must do is pluck the plump berries that fall easily from the branch.  If I have to tug at the berry to get it to fall into my pail, it’s not ready& all I gain from forcing the situation is a hard, sour berry that is unpleasant to eat.  I’m finding life works in exactly the same way… if I have to force it, whatever “it” is, it’s most likely not going to work out the way I’d like it to.  Yes, I must show up & invest wholeheartedly in the moment, but it’s equally important that I willingly surrender to the natural flow of things.  We’ve all been there & we all know the difference between when something feels right & when something feels forced.

Blueberry Bounty

Blueberry Bounty

I have also learned that if I look at the bush from one perspective, I may think I’ve seen all there is to see, missing out on the bounty that may be tucked under some leaves or hidden around the back of the bush.  Shifting my perspective allows me to see  a treasure that wasn’t visible from my own narrow viewpoint.  I can carry this lesson into my daily life & relationships… acknowledging that my point of view is just that– one point of view– and that there are other perspectives I can consider, opening my soul to understanding, compassion, & empathy.

There is wisdom in books, gurus, & retreat centers but there is a simple yet profound wisdom gained by being still, being present, & being authentic.  This I can do in my own back garden, among the blueberry bushes.

Distant Healing Circle

When dear friends shared the stunning news of their son’s serious health challenge, I reacted the way you probably would by saying “I’m so sorry.  Is there anything I can do?”

Instead of the expected “No, but thank you.”, his mother said, “Yes, actually there is.  Let’s form a healing circle for him.”

A healing circle is a gathering of people who combine their individual power to send intense healing energy to the person in need.  While we set the intention for our desired outcome, we surrender to the knowledge that healing takes many forms & the outcome is not ours to control.  In the ceremony, I often say a prayer that includes a sentence such as- “May this healing energy be used for the person’s highest good.”  Under no circumstances do we imply that this replaces medical care of any kind.  Energy healing complements medical treatment but does not replace it.

When designing a distant healing ceremony, I ask several questions including–

  1. Does the person give us consent to perform the ceremony?
  2. Is the person willing to attune to our efforts on the specified date & time?
  3. What do I need to know about the person to facilitate the healing session?

I ask these questions because, first & foremost, the individual has to want the healing.  Second, the person has to be an active participant , doing everything in his/her power to affect change.  Third, details about the person give us a single-minded focus for the work we are about to perform.

All aspects of the healing circle are created with a combination of intuitive insights & good old-fashioned hard work & planning.  On the surface, I design & facilitate rituals & ceremonies.  On a deeper level, I co-create them with those involved, making each experience beautiful, meaningful, & extremely personal.  Customized rituals & ceremonies alter the participants in profound ways– inspiring, connecting, & reaffirming the inherent worth of each of us.

Ceremonies & rituals honoring our special moments should be as unique as we are.

My First Kirtan

Music unites people in a way that no other form of communication can.  The rhythms & emotions cross all racial, ethnic, religious, & political lines & I wholeheartedly celebrate that!

“One Love” gets it.   This 4-person band uses kirtans to repeatedly chant names for the Divine that cross all faiths.  The night I attended their performance, I soon learned it wasn’t a “performance” at all.  The band & audience members joined to chant various names for Source, including Espiritu de Dios, Allah, Krishna, Sita, Ram, Red Tara, Ganesha, Kali, & Sarasvati.  One Love believes that “each repetition of the Name is a sip of that sweet nectar that is the Divine Presence.  The interesting paradox is that through chanting the Names, we deepen into the experience of the Nameless.”

Before joining their global ecstatic chant last weekend, I did a little research to find out “kirtan” is call & response chanting.  It is a Sanskrit word meaning communicate, celebrate, & praise.  These hymns or mantras are accompanied by a variety of instruments from guitars to drums & flutes.  I found it sublime.

My personal favorite was a chant inspired by a Navajo prayer…

Beauty before me

Beauty behind me

Beauty beneath me

Beauty above me

Beauty beside me

And all around me

Beauty encircles me with love.

I loved being in the company of like-minded individuals who value the interconnectedness of all things & respect spiritual traditions from cultures around the world.  For a couple of magical hours that night, we deepened our connection to the Divine & one another.  It was a profoundly beautiful & unifying experience.

Please check out One Love’s website… http://onelovechant.com

Prayer Flags

One evening last week, I participated in a non-denominational discussion about Prayer.  The conversation swirled around questions such as “Do you pray?”, “To whom or what do you pray?”, “How do you pray?”, and “What is prayer?”.  Gatherings, where open-minded people can express differing views in a supportive environment, nourish my spiritual growth more than I can ever express.  I am so grateful for these opportunities!

While I heard a variety of answers to these questions, I soon realized that despite our differences, one thread connected us– we all yearn for a relationship with something greater than our Selves.

Transitioning from the discussion to an activity combining prayer and creative expression, our facilitator shared what she knew about prayer flags– their symbolism & intent.  Several of us were already familiar with them & looked forward to making our own, using art supplies including felt, paint, yarn, metallic ink, images from magazines, and bits of fabric.

prayer flags

Image from prayerflags.tumblr.com

We made ourselves comfortable so the facilitator could lead us in a guided visualization, allowing our minds to receive words & symbols to incorporate in our flags.  As I breathed deeply & settled into the experience, I heard a version of the Buddhist prayer, Loving Kindness, whisper in me.  That prayer was my inspiration.

Prayer Flag Me

May I be free from danger,

May I be free from fear,

May I be healthy,

May I dwell in peace.

pryaer flag you

May you be free from danger,

May you be free from fear,

May you be healthy,

May you dwell in peace.

Prayer Flag all

May all be free from danger,

May all be free from fear,

May all be healthy,

May all dwell in peace.

An Unlikely Labyrinth

When is a labyrinth not a labyrinth?

When it’s the sidewalk I travel while walking my dogs.

While there is a beautifully-designed labyrinth in a serene setting within 20 minutes of my home, it’s not always convenient to go there when I need a contemplative walk.  Labyrinths, unlike mazes, have one clearly marked path leading in to the center and back out again.  I enjoy walking them because they allow me to focus on the journey rather than the destination.  Isn’t that ultimately something we all want to do… enjoy our journey without worrying about where it’s leading?

If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you know that my earth-centered spirituality means I hold every place in nature sacred– my backyard can be just as holy a place as an ancient stone circle or burial mound.  That broad view of the sacred led to my next question… Can any walk be a labyrinth walk with the right intention?  I immediately answered yes, as long as I’m not preoccupied with where I’m going.

I gave it a try a few days ago, when taking Freyja for her walk.  We both know the route so well that thinking isn’t necessary.  I set the intention before leaving the house to respectfully walk away from my home in prayer, talking to the Divine and return to the house in meditation, listening to what the Divine had to say to me.  All relationships, including our relationship with Source, require great communication skills.  The ability to know when to talk & when to listen.  Labyrinth walking, for me, allows a balance of both.

There is a specific issue weighing on my mind so I shared it for the first half of the walk, praying silently so people wouldn’t look at “this woman” muttering to herself like she’s crazy.  When I felt I had shared my heart’s concerns fully (this took an extra-long walk), I paused & lifted up my concerns.  “This issue is completely out of my control; I know that.  Help me do what I can to improve the situation & release what I can’t for the greatest & highest good.  Blessed be.”  I took a deep breath, let it out slowly, & returned home in quiet meditation.  Among the birds twittering & wind howling in the fir trees, I heard a whisper of encouragement.  I wasn’t walking alone.

So, to answer my own question, “Yes, an ordinary walk can be a labyrinth walk with the right intention.”  It’s amazing how much better I feel when I approach ordinary experiences with a more spiritual attitude.  Walking dogs, picking berries, or even washing the dishes can be spiritual.  All it takes is a shift in focus, allowing it to be so.

Morning Dew

I have the intention of starting each day in nature, offering a prayer of gratitude or blessing, no matter the weather.  I’ve set this intention before but sometimes the bed is so cozy or the day so cold that going outside to pray takes a lot of effort.  I’m so glad I did this morning.

It was cool & foggy in the predawn hour.  Secluded & silent.  The world belonged to me, my cup of coffee, & my dogs.  I gave thanks for my many blessings then lifted my eyes to the maple tree praying next to me (or perhaps it was listening to my prayer).  I gasped with amazement & awe.  The patio light illuminated tiny, perfectly-formed droplets of dew on every blossom & twig.  It also revealed countless delicate spider webs, draping the tree like glittering garland on a Christmas tree.  Dewdrops are more precious than diamonds, in my eyes.

There is nothing man-made that can surpass the beauty inherent in nature.  I’m no poet & my words will never do justice to the magic of being PRESENT this morning.

After breakfast, I walked around my back garden, marveling at the spiderweb “hammocks”, made visible by shimmering dew droplets, nestled in the shrubs, like cupped hands cradling something fragile.  I imagine these exquisite webs to be fairy beds.  (Yes, I fully intend to keep my imagination & childlike wonder my entire life.)

This morning is definitely one of the most memorable experiences that I’ve ever had.  Others including a perfect rainbow arching over my house a month or so ago (how tempting to search for the pot of gold) & a moment in the mountains when the world was black & white like an Ansel Adams’ photograph because bare trees black with wetness contrasted so dramatically with the fluffy white snowflakes that landed on them.

What richness there is around us when we take time to see!

Prayer- For the Spiritual Journey

When I was 12, I firmly rejected the faith of my childhood.  God in the clouds– white beard & white gown, casting judgment on poor sinners didn’t resonate with my spirit.  That God was “out there” & separate from me; an impossibility because I deeply believe (even at age 12) that the Divine is in me, too.

When I asked myself, “What is God?”, my child Self gave such a sweet explanation that it has stayed in my heart ever since.  The Divine is a big bowl of cookie dough.  While the bowl of dough is bigger than me, I am a cookie & thereby part of the dough, part of something greater than my Self.  Each living thing is a cookie, unique from any other.  I have to laugh remembering this simplistic definition but honestly, I haven’t come up with one better in all these years 🙂

Since I began my spiritual journey, I’ve visited a number of churches, temples, & synagogues around the world from the United States to Europe to the Middle East.  Here’s a secret… no matter the faith, we all pray.  Our forms of prayer are as different as we are– standing, sitting, kneeling, facing east, facing a cross, hands folded, hands raised, eyes closed, eyes to the sky, quietly, loudly, alone, in a group– all is prayer.  And what is prayer?  Our way to connect to the Divine in a way that feels right to us.

This collage, the second in my “For the Spiritual Journey” series, is simply titled Prayer.

As unique as we are