She did not distance herself from the world but embraced it with the deepest part of herself, experienced it, and its living organisms, as kin. And she did so because she approached the world with the part of her that felt more deeply, her childlike self. - Harold Buhner on Nobel Prize winner Barbara McClintock
The second post of a four part series on participating in the unearthing of your very own innate wisdom, communicating with nature and the rich practice of attunement with wildflowers.
::A note before we begin::
As a result of growing up in Western culture with its Cartesian dualism, the idea of communicating with non-human others is, at best, the stuff of Disney films and at worst, sure to elicit withering skepticism. Unfortunately, we each have internalized this skeptical voice, some more than others, and it LOVES to pop up when we venture outside mainstream thought. There are many compelling reasons to take the daring leap beyond our sanctified linear and logical mode of thinking into what Naturalist and Earth Poet Harold Buhner calls "the metaphysical background of the world". But dear reader, I cannot provide adequate proof in a blog post nutshell as to why the skeptic might not be the know-it-all it deems itself to be. Indeed, each time I try, I find myself multiple paragraphs into an essay that is terribly heady and tangled and Muggle-ish and honestly, so very boring. Maybe someday I'll still do that post. For now, I offer you the opportunity to try something new, to experience yourself out of the ordinary. The proof will hopefully be in the metaphysical pudding. You don't have to lose your religion of science, either. I'm a naturalist, I love science. It's just not a complete model of understanding. And even if you are like Fox Mulder and you want to believe, but you have a hard time getting out of your own way, don't despair. Because you are human and your capacity for deep perception is part of your ancestry and evolution. Our current state of amnesiatic disconnection is an ill of modern times.
Come, let's find our way back.
You will find at the end of this post the following meditation broken down into bullet points. I offer the explanatory bit here as a way to get oriented, but you don't need to keep track of it all. In essence, this is a very simple practice, but our heads like to complicate things.
If We Could Talk to the (plants and) Animals, Just Imagine It!
Go for a walk. It doesn't have to be someplace special, but it helps if there are little patches of privacy where you can go off path or sit on a bench without being interrupted or intruded upon. This does not have to be a day hike, nor does the following meditation need to take long. Giving yourself spaciousness and time to slow down is helpful (I'm a big advocate for slowing down) but if all you've got is your lunch hour, go for it.
Before setting out, take a moment to check-in. Notice your breath and with a light focus, pay attention to three full cycles of inhale/exhale. Notice your body (remember that old thing?) and become aware of what you are experiencing...tensions or pain, emotions and/or energetic sensations. Especially notice if you are feeling grumpy or resistant. That's ok. Just notice what it feels like in your bod. Take a second to notice your breath again. Now notice the feeling of your feet on the ground. Ready? Set off.
Beginning to walk, remember what it feels like to be curious. Notice where you feel curiosity in your body. As you get curious, you can even add a little prayer-like thought, such as "I wonder where you are?" or "Here I come!". If you are struggling or suffering with an issue in your life, you can also ask for guidance or to come into contact with what you most need. Don't worry about who you're saying that to, the important bit is to craft a sense of openness and receptivity as you walkabout. The questions serve to begin a process of discovering something that attracts your attention, pulls your heartstrings and with which you can come into relationship.
As you walk, begin to look for a flower, plant or tree that you feel drawn to. (I particularly recommend a wildflower, as they only visit for a short time, and it will also be a good transition into the next two posts). Be relaxed about it. It's not a scavenger hunt and you don't have to worry about finding the right one. Trust yourself. You'll know it when you find it. As a matter of fact, you may find yourself drawn in through your own interest before you realize...oh, perhaps it's you! If you get frustrated, pay special attention to that moment where you give up. Probably your new friend is right next to you. Look around with new eyes.
When you find this other being, take a seat next to it (taking care not to completely destroy any other little beings around it). Introduce yourself, literally. Say hi, say your name, just like you would to any new person. And then...STFU. Humans like to babble, but in order to drop in, you're going to need to stop the chatter. Notice your breath again. I recommend using ujjayi breathing as a way to tune out inner dialogue and relax into this present moment.
Come into contact with the world around you. Notice your environment in terms of its qualities...the temperature of the air or sun, the way the light looks, the texture of the ground, the sounds and smells. Bring this same type of attention towards your new friend. Notice their qualities. Size, shape, color, texture, scent, movement etc. There is nothing to figure out, your only job is to notice. Now, offer another heartfelt thought along the lines of Who are you or I would like to learn from you or How do you feel. Be humble. Most beings on this earth have DNA that was around long before humans were. You are surrounded by your ancestors and elders.
Now sit back and continue breathing. And notice what happens. You may have unbidden images or thoughts pop into your head. You may feel a new emotion or sensation in your body, or the increase or lessening of a feeling that was already there. Memories may surface. As you remain in a curious, open, relaxed state, you may find that your mind begins to have what I call "revelatory thinking". Almost like daydreaming, but where your consciousness begins to see patterns or interconnectivity. You may even have little A-ha! moments.
If you find that you are checking out and wandering away in the land of "What's for lunch?", recognize that you meandered, and come back to noticing. Eventually you will feel complete. How will you know? That's up to you to understand. Say goodbye and thank you to your new friend. If you felt compelled to pick anything, it is good manners to offer something back. A song, a drink of your water, a heart full of gratitude.
But I thought we were going to have a conversation! you wail. You did, but communicating with non-human others is very subtle. It is the rare individual who has full blown discussions with plants (Oh, how I wish I were you!) Our extra-sensory perceptions pick up information that is often below the surface of our every day consciousness. There are pheromones you smell but don't smell, there is the way your feeling state interacts with the feeling state of the other beings around you, there are cues and bits that your unconscious is noticing but you remain oblivious to. The neat thing is, there is a part of us that puts it all together...call it intuition or clairsentience or empathy or supersecretmagiccrystalpowers...whatevs...you can trust that you received the message. If it's not obvious during your meditation, pay attention to your dreams for the next few days, including your day dreams, since understanding will sometimes surface in this way. Symbols, images, non-linear stories, inklings and feelings...the universal language is the language of dreams and synchronicity. It's fun to try to understand these things with the logical brain but even if you can't, know that your body and heart already get it.
And don't make it too complicated. It truly can be as simple as a warmth in your heart.
Here's the meditation in bullet points:
- Do a pre-walk check-in. Notice your breath, sensations in your body, the feeling of your feet on the earth.
- Begin to walk and get curious. Call out with your heart to whatever wants to meet you in your path.
- Keep breathing and noticing. Eventually you will feel drawn to something. Go to it.
- Introduce yourself.
- Quiet your mind with breathing, notice the qualities of your environment.
- Notice the qualities of your new friend.
- Ask your new friend a question or express the desire to learn.
- Keep breathing and noticing. Be relaxed, open and curious.
- Keep breathing.
- Know when you're done.
- Say thank you and offer gratitude.
What do you have to lose? If nothing else, you just went for a nice walk.
Soliphilia is still open for registration, but is beginning to fill up! Won't you join us?