my teachers

Originally published July 9th, 2019 in P.S. I Love You.

We left the hot, dusty inland freeway and headed west towards the coast. As we drove, we entered a tunnel of trees. They pulled us in and surrounded us while they reached upward, a cathedral of beings. As we drove through, I could feel the spirit, the beauty, the health of this forest of beings.

Green ferns in patches of bright green at the foot of tall reaching shafts of dark bark. Up, up, a community with their own meaning. I had stepped into their world, a small visitor traveling through the winding road at the bottom of these beautiful giants. There are some things that you can just feel. That is how you know what they are. Like stepping into an empty church and feeling the vast and peaceful energy. It is a privilege to step into another’s world, to experience their grace and beauty. I felt lucky to do so.

Under the trees are the roots. A community of roots nourished by a community of fungi — the mycorrhizae. These unseen beings support the community of trees.

I love how each tree stands tall, reaches up to the sky, a heroic quest, while the roots entwine, and are supported by an interconnected community below. Isn’t this how it is with humans? Don’t we rise up and grow because of the interconnections with and support of others? Are we so full of hubris that we cannot see that we are all a family?

I do not believe that I could be here, on earth if there were not beauty; if aspects of life were not like a cathedral with the feeling of some kind of beauty, love, truth or perhaps even god. I could not be here if I thought that what was here is all that is possible. I need to know that there is more. That it is possible to create more. Perhaps what I envision will not occur for a millennium, long after I am dust, but it is the possibility that feeds me.

I was told a story once of someone who rescued a dragonfly. It was trapped in this man’s house. He managed to get it out. Later sitting in the hot tub, that same dragonfly, a fluorescent copper came and visited. From the outside, it was just another insect. But this man felt it say thank you. He experienced a communion with this being.

If we could see inside each of us, we would see a universe that was vast. Yet from the outside there is just a person, an animal, an insect or a tree. But inside there is a universe as large, as complex, as beautiful as our own galaxy full of stars, every expanding, moving. We are worlds within worlds, yet do we even know this? Are we aware of this? With every in breath and out breath a universe moves through me, changed by me. Do we know how big we are, how big it all is, how rich? Do we forget, or are we simply blind? With every act we take, we alter our world. The forests we chop down, the beings we eat, the music we make, the love we spread. Can we make each action we take positive, and can we recognize the incredible power that we have?

Yesterday I ate a Dungeness crab for lunch. He was large. I imagined him as a granddaddy of a crab, an older, bigger, and perhaps wiser crab than most. As I pulled him apart, his top shell off and cleaned out what use to be his insides, I was very aware of him as a fellow creature. He had a face, body, and legs. He had had a life. I felt a sense of gratitude towards him, for sacrificing his life for me. When we buy ‘meat’ in the grocery store, it is easy to miss that it came from another being. The problem is less with the eating of this ‘meat’ and more with the disconnection from recognizing that another made a sacrifice of his or her life for me. When I realize the sacrifice, I am in touch with the root of life.

For a long time, I have believed in the concept of guidance. I get messages, am directed in specific directions, and sometimes just ‘know’ things. I am aware that there is an unseen community that is also supporting me (all of us). I am ever grateful for this. It is the not knowing and acknowledging of this that is at the root of one of the biggest problems that we have… the idea that we are alone, that we are not part of, or responsible for the well-being of our entire community.

A while ago, as I was meditating, I was not happy about the noise from the leaf blower interfering with my peace. Then as I shifted my thoughts to the man who had to spend part of his day in the middle of that noise in order to survive, I felt myself loosen a little. I felt more compassion. It is not just about me. Yet the designers of such machines, are focused on getting the job done, not on the experience of the people who have to operate these machines or those who have to listen. This limited point of view creates enormous problems in our world in many scenarios. A more expansive awareness of the inner space and needs of all, coupled with compassion, would cause us to end much of the suffering that exists on this planet.

We live in a world of enormous possibility. One of the freedoms that we have is the freedom to think and imagine, as well as the freedom to look at ourselves and apply our thoughts, dreams, and imaginings.

Recently, reading, I came across the idea that the four elements — Water, Air, Earth, and Fire — are conscious beings. Although I am somewhat familiar with the Indigenous Peoples’ ceremony of giving thanks to the four directions as beings, I had never really thought about it like this.

These four archetypal beings, meaning beings that are at the root of our consciousness and the structure of our world, hold space for us to live in this physical reality. This is somewhat similar to seeing humanity as vast beings that hold space for the gazillion microbes that exist within us. If the fabric of our very world and being is alive and conscious with intention, then that changes how we relate to our lives. We are held by others. And we hold others.

As I pondered upon this idea, I could feel the grace in it. All of a sudden, everything was alive. Everything was conscious. There is meaning and intention in everything. I carried this idea with me. It comforted me somehow.

A few days later, in a conversation, I mentioned the idea of making only decisions that will be good for those of us who are living seven generations from now — another idea from the Indigenous Peoples. Another idea that if taken seriously, would completely reform our world. Every action would be contemplated as part of a web of intention, leading to specific wanted or unwanted results — to our future.

If those four elements are conscious and alive, holding space for me, can I hold space for those who follow me? What choices will I make? Which ones will I change?

The pressures of our world dictate choices for living quick and easy. Fast food, fast lives, decisions to make a buck today. When did we fall away from life as sacred?

How are you focused on your life? Do you feel the aliveness in the mountains? In the mist, the sun, the sky? When you eat an apple, do you feel the crunch, smell the aroma, taste the sweet sourness? Do you feel the energy of the apple flow through you? Do you think about how you are impacting not just the now, but also the future in each moment and every choice you make?

This is a big place to stand, and it is hard to shrink it down to each choice in each moment. But if you did, what would you change? How would you feel differently? What would you honor differently?

When you lost it and screamed, scaring your child, would you be able to say to yourself, I need to find a way not to do this anymore? Would you choose to get the help you need? Or just push away your feelings and allow this cycle to repeat?

It is easy to forget about the trees. Easy to forget about these other worlds. For there are so many different worlds. We tend to fall into our own insular routine.

It is in honoring our connection with others that we genuinely become whole and spiritual. As Brene Brown says, “Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment.” This energy is spiritual in nature. It is of the heart and love.

Relationships and connection are at the root of everything. Relationship to self, to others, to the world. When two halves come together in an empowered way, the new whole is something more. When we stop and take notice of others with respect or honor, of their beauty, joy, or suffering, we expand our world.


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