Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Day 14: A grove of trees

I find myself sitting on a bench in a neighborhood park, encircled by a grove of oak, maple, and pine trees.  These old trees are magnificent beings that reach to towering heights with massive branches.  I sit near a pine tree and breathe in its sweet odor.  I take a few more deep breaths and bring greater focus to my meditation, emptying my mind and becoming more still.    

The most recent heavy rains brought colder temperatures reminiscent of autumn.  The morning air is crisp and I feel a light cool breeze brush across my face.  I look up at the tops of the trees and notice the sky's beautiful shade of blue that completes the view.  

I sit quietly taking it all in, drifting between my presence for this moment and the constant stream of random thoughts.  I recognize the importance of focused attention and putting forth effort to stay with my intention.  I am a daydreamer by nature so mindfulness does not come easy.  I remember not to get hooked into judgments about my inadequacy as a meditator and instead commit to doing my best in the moment.  

A bustling squirrel awakes me from my thoughts.  The squirrel is carrying an acorn in its mouth, scampering from one large oak tree to another.  He moves cautiously across an open space, keeping a watchful eye on me so as to be prepared to dart should I  become a threat.  Yet, the moment passes without incident and the squirrel nonchalantly climbs upwards towards its nest in the upper branches of a tall oak tree. 

I appreciate beginning this day with nature. My energy feels lifted among these trees.  The timer sounds after 10 minutes and I add another 5 minutes, not wanting to leave just yet.  I take a deep breath and continue feeling in to my surroundings, being with what is or at least my sense of what is. The time flies by and I leave behind a little gift, a simple strand of hair, as my closing ritual for the meditation.    

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Day 13: The French Broad River

For those unfamiliar, the main stem of the French Broad River, which runs through Asheville,  is 117 miles and provides drinking water for over one million people.  The Cherokee first named the river, "Long Man", and its many tributaries the "Chattering Children".  The earliest European settlers called the river "French Broad" because it was the broadest river in the French territory.

Today, I sit on a concrete bench along its lush riverbank and take a few deep breaths to begin deepening into the meditation.  I first notice the added swiftness of the moving water.  Unusually heavy rains over the weekend caused flooding all about the mountains and the river's dark brown color is the result of the extra run-off of soil.  The water gurgles and turns, coming against unseen rocks and vegetation below the surface.  An occasional yellow or brown leaf floats by in the current, hinting of the coming fall.

I am struck by the sheer power of the river and imagine myself getting swept away in its mighty currents.  The water is relatively flat where I sit and wonder how the river has changed downstream where there are lots of rapids.   I imagine big sticky holes, turbulent eddy lines, and large frothy waves.  I look forward to someday kayaking these sections, getting to know the river in a much more intimate way.

I notice shadows casted on the river's surface from the large trees that live on the river's bank.  The shadows give the appearance of having depth and create an unusual interplay of light and darkness.   I take in the random patterns with curiosity, relaxing my vision to take in as much as I can.  Nothing jumps out at me beyond the overall beauty of the river.

I continue along with my meditation, drifting between a presence with the river, my flowing breath, and my random thoughts.  I am thankful I took the time to nourish me, my soul, by spending time with the French Broad.  AHO.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Day 9: Poplar tree with three trunks

Today I decided to stay close to home, drawn to be with an unusual poplar tree with three towering trunks connected to one base and root system. Al of the trunks are equally developed, reaching about 70-80 feet in height. I am amazed at the strength of the tree to remain rooted in the earth while holding up such a massive amount of weight. The trunks bend slightly away from the center, forming an isosceles triangular shape that creates a natural balance. An engineer could do no better!

My thoughts turn to the varied differences between the trunks, particularly the location where branches sprout out. Despite their shared history, each trunk found its own path to gain access to sunlight. The innate intelligence of life to continuously adapt to its changing surroundings, to make the best of its given situation, to always be reaching for the light.

This triparted tree evokes feelings of beauty, grace, and strength within me. How blessed we are to live with trees and how they enrich our lives in countless ways! I feel a warm sensation near my heart chakra tha confirms my connection with this grand being.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Day 6: Recommitment & the French Broad River

In the busyness of Labor Day weekend, I missed my daily 10 minute meditation in nature on Saturday and Sunday. I'm not surprised this happened given my history of many times making a commitment and not following through for one reason or another.  And in many times past, this became the reason I stopped altogether, telling myself that it's too much, not the right time, or I'm not ready yet.  I "believe" that my life is too full, sometimes overwhelming and chaotic, to possibly take on another thing. Does that sound familiar for others?

I am choosing, however, to not allow this minor slip to be the end of my "experiment of self-discovery" with nature.  I instead choose to recommit to my practice of 10 minutes a day spending time with an element of nature. I am very drawn to this idea and how it will shape me over time.  I am already beginning to recognize a call for a greater degree of self-discipline, lightheartedness, and relaxation to facilitate deepening in to the practice.  If I am to take full advantage of this experiment, I want to repriortize my time and activities so I am free to take full advantage of my time with nature and writing, cultivating sacred space for the daily ritual.   

I spent Labor Day celebrating a special's friend birthday with a float down a nearby section of the French Broad River.  With my feet and bottom half soaking in the refreshing, cool water, I laid back in my intertube and took in the rich blue sky interspersed with puffy white clouds. I took a few deep breaths and recognize the sacredness of this moment. So much of what I love is in this moment. I feel grateful to have the opportunity to spend time with this river in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

And with my heart full. I begin to use my hands ot paddle my intertube in the direction of my family and friends.  My 8-year old son excitedly shouts at my name and with his big smile, beckons me to play with him.  Life is good today.  Aho! 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Day 3: A walnut tree

I chose the large walnut tree in our backyard. Our family has felt a close kinship with this tree that has shaded our back and provided a home for birds, squirrels, and insects. 

I've waited until the last hour of the day three to do my meditation. My body feels tired and my mind is weary. I sit on a chair on the deck and look up into the large branches, illuminated by the lights of my home.  My mind struggles to deepen into the practice, wandering randomly to various thoughts of the day.  I feel sleepy and consider ending the meditation. I then realize that this too is part of the work, another aspect of who I am, and I continue on.

I search for a deeper connection with the tree but none is forthcoming.  The darkness hides much of the tree's intricate details, leaving only a blackened silhoutte.  I look beyond the leaves, into the empty spaces, and notice the presence of stars in the sky. The tree appears even larger in this context, and gives the tree a magical quality.

I walk down to the base of the tree and touch its rough bark.  From this proximity, I feel a much stronger resonance with the tree, looking up with fascination at the upward stretching branches. My hand against the tree sends a small charge of energy pulsing through my body. I close my eyes and take in all I can with my weary body.

I find myself wondering about how much time remains in the meditation, wanting to move on to other things.  Not the most stellar of meditations but I don't give it much weight.  Some days on this journey will be like this and I realize that the state of my being, my consciousness, will have much to do with my ability to reach out and connect with nature.  I look forward to another meditation tomorrow. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Day 2: A stream

I am drawn to Hominey Creek today, a creek that flows into the French Broad River not far downstream from where I am.  The creek has a brown tint which gives the impression of impurities, tainted by human's disregard of and carelessness with toxic waste.  Yet, the color may also come from the muddy banks that give way when flooded, a common occurrence in the Appalachian Mountains.

I notice the creek's constant motion with its dynamic and changing flows.  Scanning the entirety of the creek visible to me, I can see how the water behaves so differently at different places in the creek.  A calm eddy, swift moving rapids, swirling and twisting, and small waves caused by the rocks below the surface.  I am moved by the many expressions of the creek.

The water's downward flow is responding in harmony with the natural elements it encounters- a fallen tree, a boulder, or a curve in the creek's direction.  The water adapts effortlessly to these obstacles, easily releasing, shifting, slowing.

I notice the abundant life on the banks and feel a sense of awe for the creek's ability to give and support life.  I ponder the water I carry within in the form of blood and fluid, core to my own fluidity, flexibility, and softenss.  Water is literally core to who I am and to all life.  Without it we would die within days.

My thoughts turn to the types of food I put in my body that cause my own water to be polluted and toxic.  I feel a desire to clean my river that is connected with my passion for clean, healthy water in the world.  Very compelling insight!

I am drawn to the play of white sparkles on the water's surface.  I relax into the light's patterns and how it is reflected back to me.  The interplay of water and sun.  The essentials of life.

I am reminded we are not separate from nature but rather one of an infinite number of expressions of nature, of life.  Aho.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Day 1: An old Oak Tree

I chose a 300-400 yr old oak tree located in our adjacent neighbor's yard for my first day on this journey.  I've had a love affair with this tree since I first laid eyes upon him.  I am always moved by its sheer enormity with a majestic presence.

I am immediately intriged by the tree's large circumference and rooted so deeply in the ground.  The top of tree was at least 80 feet in the air with massive branches that spread straight out, almost horizontal to the ground far below.  I feel that I am in the presence of something sacred.  I think of the tree's life span and how it was likely a young sapling in the 1700s, or even earlier, and the time its spent being with this land and all its changes.

I then did a 180 and found myself noticing an aunt scampering up the rough, brownish-white bark.  My thoughts turned to all the life that has been supported by this tree which can be further extended to a grander scale of realizing how the earth has supported so much life!  I know too that the large oak leaves are soaking in light in the process of photosynthesis, nature's brilliant way of converting carbon to oxygen.  This tree is holding space to provide the oxygen I breath.  I take a deep breath and feel the dryness of the bark.  I feel a wonderful connection with the old oak tree.  A grandfather of sorts of nature.

I turn my attention to the roots of the tree and just how deep they must ascend to support such a grand tree.  So much of the tree is not visible and the ground beneath my feet is a world undo itself.  I then do a 180 and gaze toward the sunny top of the tree, leaves glimmering in the summer sunlight.  I feel an urge to climb the tree to take in the view from its towering heights.  I want to feel the tree sway in the wind, rocking me gently back and forth.

I end with taking a moment to give thanks, leaving behind a piece of hair as a gift to honor our time together and what I was given.