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.

Deepening into Nature & Self: A most curious experiment of self-discovery

An idea came to me recently that caught my attention.  The thought was inspired by my moment spent with a massive old-growth oak tree near my home. A question was roughly as follows, "How would I be affected by spending at least 10 minutes a day in sacred communion with nature and then writing about the experience?" I was excited to think of doing this yet also mixed with trepidation of the question, "Will I stick with this idea or will fizzle over time, like many times before."

Then I thought that I could blog my experience with photos as a gift to others who may read my posts and also be seeking a deeper connection with nature and self.  I've no idea at this point what's going to happen as a result of this peculiar experiment.  I just know that I am gifting myself 20-30 minutes per day to connect and reflect with Nature.  I also intuitively feel that this will benefit me in many ways.

Once the quest was accepted, guidelines fell easily into place. I just need to find 10 minutes each day where I have a human experience with another living being or even a picture, figurine, or piece of art.  It could be a blade of grass, a tree, a flower, the sun, the river, a bug, a mountain, or even another human.  Connecting in a deeper way with another human requires a greater degree of vulnerability and I see myself possibly doing this later in my process. I already have a heart-felt connection with nature so I feel quite open to doing this.

I will follow an intuitive process for choosing with whom I will commune on any given day.  I was first led to a rather large oak tree near my home while day two drew me to a nearby creek.  I will continue to be mindful of what shows up and will trust and follow what feels significant to me.

I chose ten minutes because I wanted a reasonable time and I knew intuitively ten was right for me.  I feel very open to the idea that I can at least give myself ten minutes, even if I don't get the writing done.  I also always have the option of sitting out at night and taking in the moon, stars, or planets.  No excuses!

As far as what to do with my time with nature, I am committed to being in a state of curiousity and  experimenting with how to be present and engaged.  So far, I've noticed a sacred feeling about doing this ritual and have experienced greater degrees of peace with a heightened awareness.  I check in with  my different senses, thoughts, and feelings.  I give myself permission to be playful and authentic with no boundaries to my imagination and discoveries.  I allow to be fully in the moment, as best I can, and have a meaningful experience of another.  

I look forward to sharing my experiences through this blog.  I am very curious about where this journey will take me.  May the medicine I receive benefit all.  Aho.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Sacred Act of Becoming

The Sacred Act of Becoming

What hurts the Soul?
To live without tasting the Water
of its own Essence.

When viewed from a holistic perspective, we always exist in a state of wholeness. Like the magical transmutation of the caterpillar to the butterfly, we mature through developmental phases that compel us toward a fuller expression of our authentic nature.  Albert Maslow, the founder of humanistic psychology, referred to this innate drive as “self-realization”, where one is motivated “to become everything that one is capable of becoming”.  Yet, each stepping stone is valued and necessary in this process. By realizing our fundamental nature, innate gifts, and relationship to the whole, we are
motivated to strive for our full potential.  

Core to our spiritual nature, we are endowed with vital, intangible life forces that move within and around us, assisting our journey to authenticity.  These forces are not unique to humans but are woven within the fabric of the universe. I simply know these energetic entities as Body, Heart, Spirit, and Mind. None is more divine, relevant, or powerful than another but rather, each is a fundamental part of the collective oneness. When we harmonize our thoughts, feelings, and actions to their rhythms, our consciousness expands and we transcend into a more integrated way of perceiving ourselves and the world around us.

Body is the essence of Mother Earth whose life-giving energy feeds and nourishes us.  We share her creative powers and through our bodies, we have the potential to birth beauty, harmony, and love into the world. Heart carries the essence of the moon, the living waters, and the Divine Feminine. Heart flows naturally with compassion and gratitude and pulls us deeper into life’s great mysteries. Spirit is the essence of the heavenly realm where a vision of unity and fulfillment is actualized, waiting for us to step further into this truth. Mind carries the essence of fire and the Divine Masculine, as embodied in our sun. Mind illuminates darkness, within and without, and provides wisdom to navigate the obstacles and challenges present in our lives.

The Center, our Soul, is our sacred place in the universe. It is where we infuse Body with Spirit and balance Heart and Mind. The Center is where we remember our inherited divinity and the interconnected nature of all life. The Center is where we release the identities and preconceived notions that no longer serve us and compassionately heal  the old wounds that weigh heavy within us. The Center is where we become empowered to be a student of life rather than a victim of our circumstances. The Center is where we give freely of ourselves and express gratitude for all we receive. The Center is where we live without fear, allowing love to define our reality.

There is no greater gift we can give ourselves than to awaken the beauty, love, and fullness that resides within each of us. For when we do, we begin to see our world with new eyes and welcome into our being a newfound sense of freedom, joy, relatedness, and inner peace. In the words of Carl Jung, “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”

The Sacred Act of Becoming was first published in the August 2013 issue of WNCWoman.

Bob Hanna, PhD is a psychologist in private practice in Asheville, North Carolina.  He provides holistic integrative psychotherapy to adults, couples, and parents who desire to live more fully in their lives and to move beyond anxiety, stress, depression, low self-esteem, anger, trauma, addiction, conflict or unhealthy behaviors.  Dr. Hanna is mesa carrier of the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition, a Peruvian shamanic practice with cross-cultural applications, rooted in the Peruvian spiritual methods of sacred relationship with the Earth. Visit to learn more about Dr. Hanna or to schedule a session.  

Friday, June 28, 2013

Running to Wellness

A holistic approach to wellness means attending to the "whole" of who we are. Within this paradigm, we actively care for our bodies, keeping them strong and healthy so as to support our ability to live from our center. An active lifestyle builds core strength, fortifies the heart, and fosters healthy posture, balance, and flexibility. We come to feel more focused and energetic, which allows us to step more fully into our authenticity and feel more connected with the world around us.

Along with yoga and eating well, my regular practice of self-care for my body is running. I have ran, off-and-on, for most of my life, appreciating its affordability, convenience, and simplicity.  Like many though, I've typically lost motivation after a brief time. I become too busy with the many demands of life or get bored with running's tedious nature.  It is only in the past year or so, that I discovered a way to love running, feeling a newfound sense of joy and freedom, that keeps me coming back for more.  

My commitment to running began with my decision to train for a marathon, feeling that 26.2 miles was the right distance to meet my physical goals. By registering and paying the race fee, I made a contract with myself to do the training necessary so come race day, I was ready to go. I easily found a training program with the necessary structure, resources, motivation, and self-care that gave me the best chance of crossing the finish line feeling strong and successful. Although completing a race is extremely satisfying, I experienced the greatest rewards from the countless hours  of training each week where I  ran with more ease, lost weight, ate healthier, and felt generally happier and more energetic in my life.

Core to my running is the practice of Chi-Running ( which took my running to a whole new level. Prior to Chi-Running, I never thought much about  how I ran or that there might be a better way to run that would make it more enjoyabe, not to mention reducing my chances of injury. Chi-Running provided me a focus on how to efficiently use my energy, or “chi”, with proper alignment and fluid motion while also showing me how to use gravity as the main energy source to propel me down the road. Much more than a running technique, Chi-Running is an integral part of my spiritual practice as I am called to show-up, to be mindful, and to discover what is available to me in the moment so I can run with greater relaxation, clarity and joy.  

I believe there are many who seek greater physical health in their lives but have yet to figure out a way to make it happen. The combination of a signing up for a race, following a training program, and Chi-Running, I am elated to say that I finally discovered how to take my physical health to the next level. In addition to feeling stronger and losing weight, I enjoy greater mental clarity, self-confidence, emotional stability, and renewed energy in my life. In choosing to make this investment in ME, I am thankful and amazed by the many gifts I am receiving and the ways I now give in my life. I offer this story to inspire others to believe that they too can achieve greater physical health that opens many doors to living a more full and joyful life.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Ocean Within

The ocean swell rocks me gently back and forth 
and drags me, unwillingly, into a surging wave.  
I tumble over and over in her churning froth, 
Releasing, letting go. 
Over time eternal, my jagged edges smooth and soften. 
Her sway pulses through me, 
a reminder of dark forces stirring deep within. 
The haunting song of a distant whale asks 
who am I?, how am I connected to you? and to life?  
With boundless appreciation, 
I am open to discovering you, 
embracing you, 
loving you. 

I am blessed to have spent my childhood days living near the ocean.  I feel a sacred bond with her.  I am entranced by her spacious nature. Her buoyancy and fluidity elevates and enlivens my spirit and her cool water is rejuvenating, offering temporary refuge from heavy burdens. Her briny aroma lures me deeper and deeper into her mystical essence.  I delight in her great mysteries that every so often ascend from her murky depths: a pod of dolphins frolicking in the surf; a humpback whale breeching high upon the horizon; or an exhausted sea turtle struggling to return to the sea beneath a full moon.

The ocean reverberates deep within the core of all beings. The ocean calls us to remember that we are but one sacred part of a greater whole. The ocean is the genesis for all life and our ancestors spent eons of time evolving within her womb. The ocean’s presence is strong within us and within right relationship, a great source of compassion and wisdom from which we can invite into our lives. The ocean is not simply a body of water that exists separate from us.  She is alive in each of us,  centered in our hearts and experienced through our feelings.  We only need the honest desire to know her in our hearts.

The ocean, as with all nature, asks only one thing in return for her gifts, we love her unconditionally.  We speak of her with reverence and gratitude; we honor her within our sacred rituals and ceremony; and we treat her and the infinite number of beings who live in her sanctuary with great respect and care.  Each of us must learn to live in sacred reciprocity with the ocean and protect her from the deadly consequences of humanity’s collective actions- global warming, pollution, overfishing, and the loss of biodiversity.  By doing so, the ocean will care and provide for us and for countless generations of living beings yet to inhabit our Earth.