I was out in the woods doing a medicine walk with a friend the other day and got that message.
The point of a medicine walk is to hold an intention or maybe a question about something you’d like guidance or some insight about. You consciously enter a mindful walk in nature opening your awareness to everything you see, hear, feel, or any messages that come to mind. You know that inspiration and knowing that comes when you’re relaxed and open and often out in nature.
I like this description of medicine walks on the Collabotio Helvetica website, “A medicine walk is a conscious time for diving deep into a specific question, to enter a state of deep listening and to be in touch with nature as a powerful mirror. You are invited to explore your relationship to nature and to your life’s journey through the medium of open time and unplanned travel in a natural place.”
“It’s quite possible to leave your home for a walk in the early morning air and return a different person – beguiled, enchanted.” Mary Chase
It happens to me every time. I realized later that I entered this walk with a focus on getting answers. I was demanding answers rather than being open and inviting them. I had been feeling stressed about writing and about my work. I’ve been feeling confined lately probably a lot like you have. Nothing is bad in my world even in the midst of this pandemic, but it does feel restricted or maybe even blocked in some way.
I’ve had this feeling of uncertainty about the future like most of us do. I don’t know what our new life will look like. I do know it’s going take some time. I know it’s going to be a process of discovering. For me, like for most of us, this is not super comfortable. I like to know where I’m going clearly so that I can layout the steps, take the actions, and complete the project. This time, however, our world is much different. The reminder is to come back to what I do know. I know where I am right this moment and I know what I’m choosing to do right this moment.
I was in the woods grasping for answers. I wanted nature to speak to me. I wanted God, The Universe, Source, Spirit to talk to me and tell me what to do. I wanted. I wanted. I wanted. I was present but only in a nearsighted kind of way. It was quite late in my walk, maybe after 4 hours, I was tired, and I was getting close to the end. I stopped among some huge trees to admire them. I sometimes get an urge to touch trees to feel their energy. I had an urge to connect with a particular tree along the trail. I put my hands on the trunk expectantly. I even had a sense, as I reflect on it now, of trying to suck an answer or comfort out of it.
I heard in my mind, “Give. Don’t look for what you can get. Give love. Say thank you.”
Bam! That hit me like a ton of bricks. I got it. All day I was in an attitude of give me… give me… give me… give me… to the world. I felt embarrassment and shame. I thought, “oh what a jerk.” My ego quickly calmed down and I completely saw the truth of it. I put my hands on the tree and flowed energy in like when I do Reiki. It felt so good and calm and grounding. I felt connected then. It was about the relationship. I felt the energy of the tree and I felt peace. I felt the reverence for that tree as a living being. I knew the tree was indistinguishable from the entire living thing that is our universe. It’s all alive.
I also was reminded that there are an infinite number of life forms.
They all want the same things as we want – to thrive and have the best life possible. They each pursue different paths toward that end. None is righter than the others whether I agree with their pursuits or not. There’s room for all of it in this universe. This is frequently hard to remember and honor these days.
This was a great reminder because I’ve been very stirred up lately in the pain, anger, and chaos that seems to be prominent in our political and social systems in the U.S. these days. I believe in the equality of all people. If I really believe that, then it must be true for the people I most strongly disagree with, too. This is hard. This is about working to loosen the grip of my own ego as I observe and react against the expression of other peoples’ egos.
Egos are fearful and react to that fear through denial of reality like those who think racism doesn’t exist or believe the coronavirus is a hoax or that violence is a reasonable solution to differences. The fearful ego also reacts commonly through judgments, feeling a victim, name calling and righteousness. My ego judges everyone and everything all the time. I’m human.
Your True self is NOT what You think.
It’s my job, as a person operating from the intention to be present and awakening, to have awareness of what is happening in my experience. Awareness of my own processes helps me tune into the truth of my experiences. That’s the grounded mind-state from which I can choose my perceptions, thoughts, and responses. I always have the option to choose. This is always an imperfect work in progress.
When we avoid the path, it grows over. Avoidance is an ego strategy as well. Usually it’s rooted in fear of either the effort it will take or the discomfort or uncertainty of what we might experience or discover. I totally understand! It took me 6 hours to finally sit down to write this today.
The most important part of the path is being present to the fullness of what’s here.
It is being aware of our aliveness, our senses and experiences of the world, our habitual thoughts, and beliefs. Mindful presence creates freedom because we’re not run by our egos and habits. Mindful awareness shows us the truth of our felt sense of the world. Then, we make choices that feel good to ourselves and others. When we are present, and deeply connected with ourselves, then we can allow room to hold others with compassion. Sometimes it’s hard to hold our own egos at bay so we can give the gift of listening to the other to find the common ground. The common ground is usually that we’re fearful of bad things happening. What we really want is to feel safe, secure, and happy in our lives. We want hope for better things in the future for ourselves, our families, and our communities.
I walked the path the other day. It was steep in places and uneven in many places. It was overgrown with wild ferns and there were frequently irritating cobwebs sticky across the path. It was not an easy path. My knees hurt. It took me 4 hours to gather what seemed at the time like boring messages until the tree woke me up.
“Give love. Say thank you.”
I give you these ideas that I hope will kindle something meaningful on your own journey.
Thank you for reading this. Thank you for thinking about it. Thank you for being as present as you’re able to be today. Thank you forest and all the forest life for being with me the other day and helping me wake up. Thank you for all the people I encountered yesterday who caused me to work with my thinking. The thank you list is inexhaustible, and in the tradition of Buddhist practice, I vow to be thankful for everything and everyone.
Be present. Walk your path. Persist with love.
“You walk the path, it becomes clear. You avoid the path, it grows over.”
What path do you need to walk today?
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