THE LISTENING SEED
I used to live in the city. I rode my bike everywhere I went, unless it was snowing or icy. Then I’d walk. And when I needed to get out of the city, when I needed to reconnect to what really matters, I would ride miles and miles to get out.
This is what we would do, on a regular basis, my love and I. We’d hop on our bicycles and tear through the streets. Like a rushing river, we flowed through the traffic with ease, seeing the whole scene at once and staying in line with each other the whole way.
We’d make it to the bike path and take the trails along the river, winding past the parks and taking bridges over railroad tracks. Less and less people we passed on the path; more trees, more insects, more space in between.
We’d begin peeling eyes to find the spot. A new spot most every time. A place to be hidden. A place to see no people, no structures, no trash. A secret hideaway for lovers of wilderness.
We were that. We were lovers of wilderness living in the center of a city and we did whatever it took to get out into nature because we needed it.
All humans need wilderness, no matter how civilized they are.
When we found our spot, we’d lay the bikes down in the tall grass, or against a tree. Sometimes we’d tie up the hammock. Sometimes we’d lounge on the rocks. And sometimes we’d go walking along the river.
Always, we would explore.
Whether sitting with eyes closed or climbing a tree, we would study. We would pay attention, we would be there for it.
I would sit on a boulder in the river and listen. I would let the sound of water wash my mind. I would stand silent and still, watching a bird hop along the thicket floor, scratching in back-jumps to uncover tiny bugs. I would gather fallen leaves, or little stones, or found feathers, and I would admire them in their simple and complex forms.
When we go to nature, the simplest things become the most profound.
What is simple is the line a thin branch draws arching across the sky, like a delicate bridge leading directly to the very tip of a mountain peak in the distant horizon.
What is profound is how that line only exists for the one who stands just so, on just a day, with awareness just exactly ready to receive that precise perspective.
Photograph by Brea Fisher
Try sitting by the river, or walking in the woods, swimming across a lake, or hiking in the mountains. Try running through a meadow or leaping waves in the sea. Try lying in the sand, or the grass, or the earth, with the sun on your face and no buildings in view, with the sound of only birdsong and breeze, with nowhere to be but there.
Try being, really being out in the natural world, and see where your mind takes you then.
I doubt you’ll be thinking about the comments on your social media feed, or what you’re going to say in response to an email you’ve been delaying. It’s unlikely you’ll be fretting about the cost of gas or the latest upset in current politics.
And yet, if you are thinking about any societal mind-snatching things while out in nature, I would be willing to bet that you would have a different perspective on those matters than you normally do while in the thick of the civilized world.
When we go to nature, we remember what is real.
And it is not always well-mannered.
A moth trapped in the web of a spider creates waves of flailing desperation that give its captor an even stronger sense of resolve.
A baby bird falls from the nest before its wings are ready to catch flight.
A lightning bolt strikes a tree.
When we allow the wild world to impart its treasures of beauty and brutality, of tranquility and tragedy, of grace and chaos into our hearts, we reconnect to our own wildness.
When we go into the wild natural world, we remember that we are nature, too, and that all expressions of nature are part of the great cycle.
“But then I went outside, and I stood very still in the night, and I looked at the sky, and knew some day I’d die, and then everything would be all right. It’s all right.” —Bonnie Prince Billy
Go outside. Get away from buildings and traffic and people.
Even if you live in the city and you don’t have a bike, or a car, or a way to get far away, go to a place where you feel surrounded by the natural world.
Find a spot with plants and no concrete. Find a place you can be without anyone able to see you.
If you live in the country and have the blessing of being surrounded by nature most of the time, this may be equally challenging. You must peel back the veil of normalcy. You must dive deeply into it as though experiencing the natural world for the first time.
Immerse yourself in it. Look around. Really look. Really Listen. Touch a bed of river stones. Smell flowers or tree bark or grass. Taste the air.
Sit or walk or swim or climb. Take your time. Be there. Be out there a while.
Let yourself rest in the medicine of the natural world.
Please do this. Please do this for yourself. Please do this for the world.
Spring began on February 3, 2017, according to the Chinese seasonal calendar. Those of us in the Northern hemisphere are now in the second phase of the season, called Rain Water. As the increase in rain and sun begin to stir the seeds within the ground to start their journey up and out into the world, we’ll have more and more opportunity to get out into the natural world, too.
No one can describe these spring stirrings better than child prodigy, Opal Whitely, who grew up in the forests of Oregon’s Willamette Valley in the early 1900s. Her mystical childhood diary gently and powerfully puts forth the truth of wilderness into poetry that we can all understand.
I’ll leave you with a quote from The Singing Creek Where the Willows Grow, the newest publication of Opal’s childhood dairy with a biography and afterward by Benjamin Hoff. Opal, at the age of perhaps eight here, writes:
While we did have waiting at the bend of the road, I saw a maple tree with begins of buds upon it. I did walk up to the tree. I put my ear to it, to have listens to the sap going up. It is a sound I like to hear— there is so much of springtime in it.
May you, too, listen to the sound of sap within a maple tree. May you, too, hear the words of the wind and the answers of the plants.
May you find yourself some wilderness and restore your glad feels.
How do you get your nature dose? Your comments are always read, responded to, and absolutely appreciated.
Know someone who needs to read this? Sharing The Listening Seed with those in your circle is one of the best ways to support my work, and I have overflowing gratitude for all the times you may do it.
I was in a city, surrounded by a crowd of bustling people, when suddenly we were all struck with the immediate realization that our planet was being invaded by a hostile alien species.
In my dream I looked to the sky and knew, hearing a message in the language of my heart:
“We must be like the ants!”
I used this message to bolster my courage, knowing that the full power of ants is in their solidarity, their ability to overcome obstacles by sticking together.
I turned my gaze from the sky to the scene around me, seeing in slow-motion. I expected to find my fellow humans standing firm behind me with the same wisdom in their hearts.
Photograph by Brea Fisher
What I found instead was absolute pandemonium; people were screaming frantically, scattering away, running to hide, to protect themselves alone, and leaving me in the street.
At that point I knew we were doomed; and I woke up before the demise came to pass.
We must be like the ants, standing as one massive entity in support of one another, and that is how we will make it through times of great challenge.
Not only were the people in my dream disbanding in absolute fear; they were doing so in a fit of hostility toward each other. Shoving, shouting, stealing, and general ill-will for others filled the scene.
When you feel the pull of fear leading you to suspect the worst in those you need most, you have a choice:
Choose to react; or choose to respond.
Fear is not the cause of suffering; it’s our reaction to fear that opens us to detriment.
The 2014 film, Pride, depicts what happens when people move beyond their fear-based reactions and instead, respond with love.
Wikipedia summarizes this movie as the true story of the “lesbian and gay activists who raised money to help families affected by the British miners’s strike in 1984… The alliance was unlike any seen before and was ultimately successful.”
Both groups were “treated with hostility from the public and the government, and the subject of a smear campaign by the tabloid newspapers.”
Many of the British LGBTQ community had suffered verbal or physical attack from miners, specifically. Even so, the founding members of the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners group knew the best way to overcome the obstacle of the majority was to come to the aid of their fellow fighters for basic rights.
I cannot recommend this film highly enough for these times. The specifics are not the same, of course, but the spirit of standing together is so very important right now, for the US, and for the whole world.
When we are divided we are weakened— easily vulnerable to attack.
When we create alliances with those around us, releasing our judgements about what those others may believe, it strengthens the whole.
When we work together it forms a bond that goes beyond our beliefs.
When we stand together in alliance, regardless of our personal opinions, we create a stronghold for cultivation and protection of our common interests as human beings.
Regardless of what you think about the current state of US and global politics right now, we cannot let our opinions create a chasm too deep and far to traverse. Those on the other side of the split are just like you, underneath all those “beliefs.”
Abraham-Hicks calls beliefs just thoughts you have been chronically thinking. What makes us all alike as humans is our desire for health, happiness, and freedom.
“The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too.” —Rose Schneiderman
This line inspired the title of the song, “Bread and Roses,” and in the movie, Pride, the women of a small Welsh miner community sing this song. The scene moved me to tears.
As humans, we all seek the basic resources for health, as well as the dignity of happiness and freedom.
Bread and roses are our rights as human beings.
This is a challenge well worth committing to. It isn’t easy, but it is essential right now.
For every time you disagree with another, the challenge is to let go of your fear, loathing, and hostility toward that person.
I’m not asking you to stop believing in what you do. I am not suggesting you try sharing the opinions of those you oppose.
I ask you only to “show concern, not contempt, for the wounds of those who [hold beliefs counter to your own].”*
The above quote is from an article by Andrés Miguel Rondón, published in the Washington Post last month. In their original form, they refer to “the wounds of those who brought [Donald Trump] to power.” As a Venezuelan citizen who was born and raised in that country, he has experienced firsthand what can happen to a country when its people are divided.
Rondón eloquently describes the challenge of the times in an effort to persuade us to form alliances with the very people we may see as our enemies:
“Your challenge is to prove that you belong in the same tribe as them — that you are American in exactly the same way they are.
“In Venezuela, we fell into this trap in a bad way. We wrote again and again about principles, about separation of powers, civil liberties, the role of the military in politics, corruption and economic policy. But it took opposition leaders 10 years to figure out that they needed to actually go to the slums and the countryside. Not for a speech or a rally, but for a game of dominoes or to dance salsa — to show they were Venezuelans, too, that they weren’t just dour scolds and could hit a baseball, could tell a joke that landed. That they could break the tribal divide, come down off the billboards and show that they were real.”
*Rondón, Andrés Miguel. “In Venezuela, We Couldn’t Stop Chavez. Don’t Make the Same Mistakes We Did.” The Washington Post, 27 Jan. 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/01/27/in-venezuela-we-couldnt-stop-chavez-dont-make-the-same-mistakes-we-did/?utm_term=.bd265fbc22e2. Accessed 5 Feb. 2017.
Whether you believe in the current president’s ability to lead the US well, or— well— not, your opinion does not strip you of your desire, your need, your right to health, happiness, and freedom.
This is what runs true in us all.
Please hold this truth in your heart when you face those whose views differ from your own. Deciding they are wrong, ignorant, or dangerous does not protect you from those things your fear.
Take care to focus on the truth that everyone is trying desperately to ease their own suffering, and in this, we are the same.
The aliens have come. Do not turn and run. Do not scatter in fear. Do not fight your neighbors.
We must be like the ants now. Let us stand together.
This is by far the most difficult challenge I have asked of you yet. And possibly the most important. Please share your thoughts, even if they differ from mine. I welcome that; I welcome you, whatever your beliefs may be.