Do No Harm (As Best As You Can)

 

I am teaching a yoga class at my house this week, when out of the blue comes a “thud.” I know immediately a bird has just flown head first into one of our windows. There is nothing I can do in the moment, so I continue teaching; hoping against all hope that it is not dead, while equally knowing that based on the force of the thud, it likely is dead.

After class, I look out the window to see a beautiful robin, the very harbinger of Spring itself, lying dead on the ground. I decide to let it be where it is, thinking (hoping) that an animal will come by in the night to take it away so I don’t have to be the one to do it. As fate would have it, the robin is still there in the morning.

This is mine to do.

As I carry it towards the woods looking for a place to lay it down, I am connected to two things. The first being the childhood memories that start popping into my mind. How when I was a kid, I would find dead birds, mice, the desiccated turtles that had escaped our aquarium only to be found months later, along with the kitten that died on my birthday and more, that I would bury under the giant pine tree in our backyard.

In honor of that “random” memory arising right at the moment I have this dead bird in my hand, I look for a pine tree.

The second thing that comes up for me is that even when we as humans are trying not to do harm, we do. Like building a house in the middle of a huge open space that serves as the flight path for many eager birds building their nests at this time of year. We did not do it with the intention to harm. But it brought harm nonetheless. As evidenced by the robin in my hands, and all of the other consequences to the natural world through our choice to build something.

I do not say this to beat myself up, or even to say that we should not have built the house. That would be a waste of time, and an exercise in a guilty indulgence that takes us nowhere. As in, if I feel bad enough about this, it somehow balances what I did. It does not.

I say it as a point of fact. Everything we do has consequences to everything else around us.

There is no getting around this reality. And yet, we try. We pretend what we’re doing doesn’t matter. We ignore the consequences of our ways. We deny we have anything to do with the devastations going on all around us. We kick lots of cans down the road despite the impact it will have for the generations to come.

Or, as happens in so many segments of the culture (like the area I live in), we endlessly beat ourselves up, ever-guilty about every single choice we make. Frozen in our ability to feel good about being alive because we cannot choose anything without feeling remorse. We then we go on to judge and accuse others of not doing enough to save the planet. Of not caring enough. Of not feeling ashamed enough of our very presence.

It’s all exhausting, and it all misses the point. Everything we do has consequences to everything around us. Now what? Without hiding behind guilt, fear, or denial, now what? It is an absolute fact that we bring an impact to bear upon the world by the very nature of our existence here.

What if we started with that knowing, and lived from there? But this does not fit neatly into a definitive answer, and therefore does not sit well with us.

Do no harm, as best as you can is what I say. What might that even look like? In my view it is far less about the specific actions we take (although they matter a lot), and more about your level of awareness. A kind of consciousness that says I know I walk heavy here, how can I see that and still live in relationship with everything around me?

How can I honor all Life while living here as fully, responsibly, and joyfully as I can?

This is far more difficult to do and be with than guilt, or manmade rules. Which is why we likely opt for those approaches rather than a deep exploration around how we are here. If we were deeply contemplating our existence here, it would mean looking into the closed eyes of all the dead robins we have ever had a hand in.

Without turning away. Without beating ourselves up. Without blaming someone else, or feeling like we were entitled to something. What if we just saw that to be human in modern times is so very, very complicated, and that the very best that we can do, is to do the best that we can do.

What Will You Resource?

 

I am in practice this morning setting an intention for the month to come. Here in this moment, everything seems so doable. So clear. So full of possibility. And yet, I also know that when I meet up with the ways of the world, along with my own personal habits and limitations, I will have a choice to make. A choice that will feel far more difficult out there, than it does in here on my yoga mat.

That choice being: Do I do what I always do? Or do I do something else?

It is never easy “to do something else.” Our brains have a proclivity to default to the past to decide what to do. So whether it is your own personal past, or the evolutionary past of your reptilian brain, when challenged, you will always go to what you did in the past, as your first go-to. This makes good sense. Of course our brains would reference a past challenge to see what we did, and then go from there.

The problem being, that as long as we are still alive, our primal, default system believes that what we did in the past must have been successful because we’re still here. This part of our brain does not take into account the emotional and spiritual suffering we are experiencing by doing the same unsuccessful things over and over again.

There is no fighting with the most primitive parts of us. They need what they need. However, we can appeal to Something Else. For me, that always comes in the form of the Natural World.

I see this today as I make my intention, and then feel the uncertainty of being able to hold to this intention when challenged. At that very moment, the most poignant of questions arises: “When I am challenged, what will I resource?”

Instantaneously, a bird flies across my line of vision. As big as a crow, but not flying like a crow. I lose it as it lands in the trees. I find it again as it begins to beat out its rhythm. The telltale sound of the Woodpecker. I burst into tears as I realize I always have a choice as to what I will reference. Whether that be the same old unsatisfying ways or, though experienced as risky by my “past,” new ways that are more in alignment with the rhythms of my soul.

So, here’s the question: As you step forward in this day, will you resource a past that has kept you alive, or will you resource what allows you to thrive? 

The Dark and The Light

 

My husband and I have been walking at night in the dark. It started for me because I wanted to be out under a vast and full moon night sky. We say that we are strengthening our night vision, and that it is a great way to talk and move after dinner.

But that’s not why I do it.

I do it because it puts me in touch with the rhythm of the season and of the light and dark cycles. I do it because I always feel more alive. And because every time we go, something wonderful happens.

Last week, it was cold. My husband, having just come in from being out all day, was reluctant as we were at the eve of the coldest day to date. But when I went out to close the chickens up, the sky was so clear and the air so clean and crisp, I  knew I just needed more.

I sometimes have to make deals to entice my husband. Mostly, that we will only go so far. Because I usually want to keep going, I don’t say anything when we get to the designated and previously agreed upon turn-around place. This night was no different. This is our dance: We go past the agreed upon spot without either of us saying anything. I’m silent because I’m angling for more. He’s silent because he does not want to be the one to call “uncle.”

But on this night, he let me know that he had made a deal with himself that when we got to the place down the road where it was darkest, he would signal the time to turn around. Only, each time we got to the darkest place, the light was still on us. So no matter how far we travelled, we never got to the darkest place.

What a metaphor, huh?

That’s why I love it out there. The natural world is filled to brimming with guidance, inspiration and support. It’s always there. Always waiting wordlessly for us to come and be with Her. More to the point, be with ourselves; in all of our light and darkness.

We are running a great risk these days that we allow ourselves to be seduced by the light coming off the screen devices with its messages of darkness. Only, the darkness of the technologies in no way reflects the darkness of a night sky. And the dogged and un-evolved light of the screen devices in no way reflects our most powerful and infinite light. Not even close.

How many of our woes, fears and anxieties would just naturally evaporate were we to learn to break loose from artificial sources of light and dark. But don’t take my word for it. Try it for yourself.

Across & Between Species

 

I am talking with a friend who lives in the Southwest and she is telling me of the powerful encounters she is having with the wild horses who abound there.

With every word she speaks, instructions are being offered for how it is that beings who inhabit very different realities can stand side by side one another with not only a sense of decency but more importantly, Reverence. If even for just a moment, transcending, or at the very least bridging, the “apparent”differences. Communing, if you will, beyond the distinctions.

With these wild and majestic animals, there are no command performances. No demands to be placed upon them to acquiesce. She cannot “get” them to bend to her will or agenda, no matter her intention. Wise woman that she is, she does not even try. Choosing instead, for a far less egocentric way of being with these magnificent creatures by “merely” allowing a side-by-side existence.

She is alert for, present to, and allowing of, their right to take the lead. What a concept given the knee jerk dominance the human mind can slip into. That place where we believe that we are in charge. Of course we are in charge. For we know best. We always know best.

At times the wild ones I speak of are so immersed in their own experience that they have absolutely no interest in her. She lives with that, despite what her own desires of the moment might be. At other times, they intensely seek her out. Literally demanding that she be with them on their terms. No distractions, they seem to say. And absolutely no imposition of her will on the exchange will be allowed.

For it is They, and Some Deeper Intelligence that is in charge here.

It takes a lot, she says, of her and she believes, of them, to be in such open and close proximity to such a vastly different being. Such vastly different experiences, sensibilities and needs present in these encounters. And yet, in these rare and precious moments, there is a leaning into being both open to something more, while simultaneously remaining sovereign.

There is no entering this threshold, this “time out of time” space in the typical ways of the human mind. There is only a kind of being with that makes an opening such as this even possible.

Could we not take a page from this scene in our dealings with one another? Could we not recognize the tremendous effort, respect and awe it requires to be with another person where their unique experiences are honored, while we remain sovereign to ours?

Especially when we believe different things and cannot find our way to understanding.

If Only I Had Known

 

My husband and I are walking through a section of woods that has been logged over the past year. Where once I could have followed the trail blindfolded, I have no idea where I am. Or how to get from where I am, to where I want to be. It’s disconcerting.

I find myself saying, “If only I had known this was going to happen, I would have paid attention in a different way.” The magnitude of that statement stops me cold. For how often have we all said, across all times and spaces, some version of, “If only I had known…” 

In hindsight, with the evidence already clearly laid out before us, it seems a no-brainer. As in, How could I have missed this? How could I have not seen or known?

Herein lies the great dilemma around what is within our power of observation, and what is beyond it. I think much of the time, we have no idea. Instead, we muck around in places we have no control over, while simultaneously abdicating the power we do have. We dump all of our precious attention into worries, distractions, obsessions and fears; getting so outside of ourselves and what is actually there, that we, in effect, become blind.

We do not want to see things as they are. We want other people to be other than what they are. We want the world to be other than what it is. And we want our bodies, our lives and our relationships to be other than what they are. In the meantime, we miss the Truth of the landscape that we are currently occupying, and moving through. In so doing, we become disoriented, losing our way.

The Truth is, you will never know what to do next, or how to get to where you most want to go without first knowing where you are. Whether that is in the woods, in the world, or in the forest of your own mind, body and soul. We cannot be trying to get somewhere without first knowing exactly where we are. But that requires courage, and a willingness to admit when we have no idea where we are, what we are doing, or where we are even going.

It is hard work to be with where you are in any given moment. Harder still though is to live with the unintended consequences and the lost opportunities of waiting for hindsight to give you 20/20 vision.

Waiting To Be Born

 

I know things are hard for many of us right now. I know the world feels like it is burning. And I know that many of us wish it was not so.

But it is.

I realize that sounds harsh, and maybe even heartless, but if we can see that there is meaning, or at least the possibility of meaning in all of this, than we can choose to make it so. What am I talking about? I am talking about that when everything is in ruin, when it feels like there is no way out, something is waiting to be born. Something that has never been allowed before is trying to get in.

Something is painfully wanting and seeking our attention.

I keep having an image of myself as the one giving birth to something, as well as the one being born, as well as the one in attendance. I am the birther. I am the midwife. And I am what is being born. It is all so very, very trippy. And all so very, very timely. For who could deny that the time is here. The time is NOW for everything that stands before us. There is no other time than now to address what needs our attention.

But only if we can see it as so. Only if we can understand that the excruciating pain we are all experiencing are birthing pains; the necessary signaling to us to stop, pay attention, and get ready.

I don’t know about you, but I am done. I am done squandering my life force and my happiness in my attempts to live according to some standard that does not include me. I am done pretending that what the world is doing is okay by me. I am done being part of a system that does not value Life.

And I am not the only one who is done. The Earth herself is done. She has had it. And rightly so.

I do not say this with doomsday reports. I say this in a “Way-To-Go-Mother Earth” kind of way. I say this from the perspective that she will be just fine without us. That she does not need our saving. Nor will she wait for us. Instead, we need to catch up to Her Reality, for she will most assuredly go on with, or without us.

Do you know what it is that really needs saving though? Us.

Harder than managing a climate crisis, or any other global event for that matter, is the recognition that everything that stands before us that needs doing, is an inside job. How could it be anything but? Our thoughts, behaviors and choices are what have gotten us here. So it will only be the awareness of this, and the changing of what we are doing, that will shift anything.

Quelling the onslaught of pollution or climate change, or any global issue, pales in difficulty, as great as it is, to what it takes to turn one human mind from unconsciousness to Grace.

In the end, saving the Earth is a natural outgrowth of saving ourselves. We have it all backwards whenever we begin outside of who we are and what we do. I think we flip things as a distraction, and because we have been conditioned so. For as intense as the suffering can be around all of the world’s ills, it is far easier to be with that, than changing old and outdated mindsets.

A Higher Perspective

 

Last weekend I created a self-guided retreat for myself in the mountains of New Hampshire. While I was not sure how I would spend my time overall, one thing I knew for certain: I needed to get out on the trail and into the mountains at daybreak.

So it was so interesting to watch my mind go from an intuitive certainty and excitement, to fear. It was dark. I didn’t know where I was going. I had no idea how long the hike would take, or what I would encounter. What if I got hurt?

Blah. Blah. Blah.

One of the things that I love so well about being in the woods alone, especially if it is at all a strenuous endeavor, is the way that my mind reveals itself for what it is. That being, a fear-mongering machine. And then, what I love most, is the way that the Presence of the Natural World offers me a clear reflection of reality. If I so choose.

There are so very many ways to be afraid these days. Some legitimate, but far too many exaggerated, fabricated, and even, intentionally generated.

So how are we to know? How are we to distinguish between what is real and what is made up when it comes to the fears that come out of our own minds? In modern day living, at least initially, this is a moment to moment observation of, along with a challenging of, what pops up that terrifies us. It is a commitment to discovering when it is that what frightens you, has no merit. And then making the choice to intentionally steer clear of what that is as often as you can.

For instance, I know there are many who would say that it is inherently unsafe for a woman, maybe even an older woman just coming off an injury, to be alone in the woods. To be somewhere where literally not another soul knows where she is. And perhaps they would be right on any given day. But that would just be speculation based on fear and a mindset that says the woods are a risky and dangerous place, and that a woman alone in the woods is automatically problematic.

That one perspective alone would be more than enough to stop me, and if it didn’t stop me, at least enough to ruin a perfectly good walk in the woods. You see, it is all a matter of perception. We will always find exactly what it is that we are looking for. From one state of mind the woods are a perilous place filled with ticks, slippery river crossings, predators of the human kind, and wild animals seeking to harm you. Or… It can be a place of absolute solace, inspiration and Mystery.

The choice is always ours.

Sadly, many of us never even get this far because we have been trained and brainwashed into believing that we cannot trust our animal instincts. That we are separate from the woods; having been spoon-fed on outrageous and distorted images via a screen that disconnect us from our truest Nature, and leave us terrified of what we cannot control. And then, we go on to erroneously believe that holed up in our control based lives, we are safe.

Never seeing that we are only half alive.

Personal Power

 

I am on Cape Cod as a storm blows through. Thunder and lightening. Heavy rain. High winds. When I wake and hear the storm, I am compelled to go out to see the ocean before She calms. As I make my way to the bluffs I pass a man, who in our brief exchange, informs me that, “the ocean is angry today.” While I recognize that assessment is as close as he can get to something about what he has seen, I also know deep in my bones that that is not an accurate description.

The ocean is not angry. She is unleashed.

Depending on your relationship to personal power, Nature can be many things; angry, awesome, terrifying, inspiring, life-giving, life-taking. You name it. How we feel when we see Nature at her fullest says more about us than it does about Her. It says more about our relationship with raw, uninhibited, and unapologetic power than it does with any misstep on her part. How we see the natural world exactly parallels our relationship with our own experience of personal power.

For instance, if we are needing to control and manage the elements, expecting Mother Nature to get in line with our comfort levels and expectations, it means we do the same to ourselves. And to others. It means that we allow that same level of imposed and artificial containment to be done to us. One way or another.

Look at all the things we do, every single day, because we feel like we should. Because we believe, and are told, that this is what makes us a good person. I know, I know, we do it for others. We do it because this is what society expects and needs from us. That without us containing our power, society would break down. But here’s the thing that many of us never, ever, investigate: Where is the truth, and the line, around being yourself, and being a contributing member to the community? So while there is an argument to be made for the necessary and vital tension required to balance the needs of the individual and the needs of the group, is it actually true that we need to tamp down and tame ourselves in order to belong? In order to do good?

If you are interested in exploring personally where that line is for you, learn to pay attention to the conversations in your mind around what you need to do according to others. What it is that you have made to mean what good is. What you have convinced yourself of what it is that you must do in order to fit in. To be thought well of. And then, wonder to yourself, “What would the power of the ocean have to say about that?”

We are not here to acquiesce to the distorted demands of a world that has confused what real power is. We are here, instead, to express the fullness and the totality of who and what we are. To do anything less is a lie. An error of judgment. A case of mistaken identity and misplaced allegiance.

Raw power. Unleashed. Unapologetic. We interpret it as unsavory and unwanted because we have forgotten what it feels like to be free. Wild. And unencumbered by falsehoods imposed from within and without.

Universal & Natural Alignment

 

We have chickens, and at the moment blueberries, peaches, elderberry, and now apples, all ready and waiting to be picked. Every morning, I make my rounds of picking fruit, gatherings eggs, and talking to the chickens. I love this time of year for just this; a daily reason to be outside that starts my day on the right side of Life and living.

Walking barefoot in the grass, fending off mosquitoes, listening to the sounds of the birds, encountering something unexpected or beautiful, all do what nothing else can: Remind me of who and what I am, and What it is that I am connected to. Outside, in the Presence of Nature, the pettiness, the greed, and the ugliness of this world recedes and becomes right-sized. Ceasing suddenly to loom so large in my psyche and on my heart. Ceasing to be the most important show on earth.

At the very core of all our troubles, both personal and collective, is that we have forgotten we belong to Something much greater than the distortions and demands of the times. Something much greater than our personal strivings and short-comings. And we have forgotten that in our forgetting, we separate ourselves from the Guidance and Support that is available to us when we take our rightful place in the order of things.

Find a reason, every day, to start your day outside. It can be anything. A garden. A morning walk. A bird feeder. A commitment to step out your back door and take a few deep breaths. While you are there, intentionally observe and sense what is around you. Something that is both you, and so much more than you all there for the picking. How can you align with This? Humble yourself to This? Learn from This?

While we often believe that the issues we face as a people are enormous, complicated and unsolvable, I will tell you that in the Presence of the Natural and Universal Truths that play out right before our very eyes, right under our very noses and feet, and right within ear-shot, lies the answers to Everything. Sound naive? Sure. To the modern day mind this way of existing appears foolish. But I ask you, how much more foolish is it that we continue to destroy ourselves, one another and the planet as we drift further and further away from these simple Truths?

P.S. Did you know that spending time outside in the morning sets your biological clock to the natural rhythms of light and dark? Meaning that you naturally balance your hormones, shift your metabolism, while offering you innumerable benefits like a better night’s sleep. Indispensable in a world where we get too much of the wrong kind of light (screens), and not enough of the right kind of light (Sun). Yet another example of the natural healing and balancing effects offered by Nature Herself.

 

As Within, So Without

 

Years ago, when I was first studying shamanism, we were working with the concept of “as within, so without.” A basic tenet of not only shamanism, but many, many religious and philosophical schools of thought. In a nutshell, it is known as a fundamental law of existence, where whatever is within you, can be found playing out in the world around you.

This was an enormous shift for me to begin to explore how what I harbored within me in terms of fears, resentment, anger, and imbalance was being expressed in my outer world. That it wasn’t being done to me. This challenged the victim in me. The one who got to both bemoan the atrocities of the world and stand separate from them somehow; believing that it all was someone else’s doing. Believing someone else was at fault. Believing that if the world of people would just get their shit together, everything would be better.

During the same time period I was exploring “as within, so without,” I heard a story about a village that was in desperate straits; suffering through season after season of drought. Finally, they called in a shaman to help bring the rains to their failing crops. He took a hut at the outskirts of town to stay in, and holed up inside for week after week. The people began to get agitated and restless for they could not see any change in their circumstances. To them, it appeared he was doing nothing.

Finally, when the villagers could take it no more, they sent one of their own to check up on him. To call him to task for the reason he had been called in. That being, to bring the rain. When the villager confronted the shaman with the lack of progress, the shaman took a long pause looking deeply into the man’s eyes, and said, “Before the outer world can bring the rain again to you, your village must come to balance within itself. I am bringing back the healing and the balance within all of you and among you that you have turned away from. That is why you have no rain.”  

This is where we stand now with the Earth. She will go on with or without us. And whether or not we go on is up to us, but perhaps not in the ways we believe. For what if everything that you can see outside of you that you find unbearable, horrible, and excruciating is yours to do? From the inside out.

This is not the same as going on a crusade about what you want to fix in the world. This is the opposite of that. It is instead, going within yourself to find what you cannot bear, or are afraid of in the world, and locate it within yourself. And then, work to bring that into balance. For the Truth is, what we do to ourselves, we do to the Earth. However we violate our own precious Nature is exactly how we violate the precious Nature of the planet.

The real problem here is: We do not value Life. Not ours. Not others. Not the Planet’s. For if we did, there is much we would never, ever do. It is a deep and ancient knowing and practice to take on that level of accountability within yourself; doing what is yours and only yours to do.

If this resonates with you, watch your thoughts around what is happening to the Earth; your fears, your anger, your apathy, your blame. And then, look to find it in yourself as a direct path to bringing balance, peace, stability and harmony back into our world.