I take a deep breath. The cool, moist air of this verdant, cloud-covered forest rushes in, filling my lungs and all the cells of my body. I feel my muscles relax as I exhale the stress, tension and grief in my body. My body hurts. It’s tight and has been holding on to so much. Being Mama to my beloved son, Orion is a miracle and blessed gift, and mothering is a 24-hour, 7-days a week gig. Also, my concern and grief for all the changes, destruction and loss of life on our Earth continues to build and I feel it in my bones.
Both are asking me to learn a new way, a new way to flow, unwind, trust, open to more love, and feel my own support beneath my feet. My Earth Mother is here always. I can always come to Her, even and especially with all the changes. And indeed, I am a part of Her. I am an expression of Earth and all Her glorious and wondrous elements through my blood, bones, muscles, breath and luminous spirit.
On this cool, cloudy day in our river valley, I have a couple hours to myself and I head straight for the magical forest across the calm north-flowing waters of the Snoqualmie River. My heart knows. My medicine is the Earth, Her wild places, and being in Nature.
My first steps into the trees bring exhilaration and relief, openness and expanse in my heart. I LOVE our forests!!! My Nordic ancestry lives strong in my bones as I feel most at home in the trees with the diverse shades of green, multilayered canopies, and the fragrance of earthy moss mixed with the cool, cloudy air to breath.
As I walk further in, I smile greeting my familiar tree friends, sacred circles of old cedar with their graceful curving branches adorned with their mystical cedar frons. Ancient yet new skunk cabbages grow by the stream and new vibrant sword ferns joyously reach with fresh life to the sky. I hear the water of the “Fairy River” down the way (it’s really a lovely stream but in my imagination it is a grand Fairy River! :-)).
I continue down the path and, mixed with this immense joy, I also begin to feel concern and grief arise in my heart. Another giant cedar….down. Several large Big Leaf Maple trees fallen and even more old Douglas Fir friends down. As I look amongst my trees friends, those living and still reaching tall with their glorious new leaves, I can sense the strain. For the first time, I also noticed all the licorice ferns are dying.
Even here in the Pacific Northwest, land of Water, the global climate change and imbalances of heat, fire and changing patterns of weather are having a drastic impact on our ecosystems, the ability for young trees to grow and flourish and the older ones to continue on. While the forest, the rivers, the mountains, wild places are a continual source of refuge and nourishment for me, my soul and for many, with our changes, I also feel deep grief for the loss of precious, sacred life. The beauteous web of life that connects and sustains us all.
I continue on my wander while wondering how to find my balance and harmony within? I realize this harmony and aliveness I seek to nurture within IS the same I so desire to see and feel in our larger web of life. I have this grief in my chest, as well as daily stress of Mamahood in my body, and yet I also have this well of love in my heart that continues to pour forth to the life around me.
What is my/our new way?
I slow down. I open. I listen. And the forest begins to show me.
Silently, I hear the whisper of the trees, and I step off the path. I see a glowing light from the ferns and the luminous soft rustling leaves of an old growth maple in the distance. I follow this enchanting glow as it sings to my heart and enter further into the forest and over to the edge of a ravine. A spring emerges from the hillside and the Most Sacred (the native name for Devil’s Club) shine and radiate aliveness, power and resilience as it stretches tall. I find and greet this giant big leaf maple that drew me in to this spot. I then turn and,….gasp.
Across the wooded ravine stands a glorious grandmother Cedar. Healthy with all her fronds twirling and curling, spiraling alongside her to the forest floor, I cried in joy for her beauty and presence.
Again I take many deep breaths. The cool, moist forest air again rushes in and fills my lungs and all the cells of my body. I feel a relaxing and an opening. I feel the silence of the trees resonate with a silence within me.
It is here I begin my practice.
Many of you know that one of my loves and passions is Qigong, a Chinese practice of breath, meditation and movement. A practice that cleanses, gathers and stores Qi – vital life energy, also translated as information. Our Mother Earth is my Greatest Teacher in all areas, and that includes Qigong. She is the greatest of Grandmasters, gathering Qi from the Cosmos, storing, cultivating, building Qi in Her center and birthing forth All Life and regeneration.
For me, practicing outside in nature is the most potent and powerful place, as I am surrounded by life, by the living, breathing pulsing life forms of all kinds. The tall trees, wind, butterflies, sunshine, flowing waters, sparkling streams, billowing clouds, swaying ferns, jubilant bird songs are all abundant with diverse kinds of glorious Qi. They provide the perfect place to train, practice, listen, learn, receive, grow and be.
So here, deep in the forest, on the edge of this magical wooded ravine, directly across this silent, luminous grandmother cedar, I practiced Qigong. I mentioned earlier that I knew from my body tension, aches, strains and grief in my heart that I’m being asked to do something differently. And in that moment I knew. I practiced in a whole new way.
I slowed way down. All of my movements became like the long, deep, continuous breath of the rooted forest floor. A breath that spreads openness, trust, life, suppleness into all the limbs of the living plants, ferns, and trees growing forth. This breath also breathed me. I became silent and still. I practiced. Or rather, the Forest practiced and breathed through me.
In one moment, a samara, a seed from a big leaf maple, started twirling down through the layered ravine canopy in front of me. This one sacred moment with the light catching on this small seed as it twirled, filled my being with peace and the wellbeing wellspring of life.
In the next moment, a soft breeze rustled through the land as I watched the intertwined vine-leaf maple leaves shimmer ever so slightly. Another wave of peace and calm flowed through my whole body. I felt the tensions in my neck, shoulders melt and my tissues fill with Qi. A butterfly flitted through the open canopy as the Pacific wren sang, and gratitude upwelled and poured forth from my heart and eyes for the immense Gift of Nature and all the other than human forms of life.
In slowing down, in opening, in stillness, I let the Earth, our Forest enter me, breathe me and show me a way, a harmony way that nourishes Life, all Life.
In that moment, I also remembered and knew again how our Earth Mother always supports me, even in and amongst all our global changes. I felt even greater awe. As a new Mama, I experience this depth and capacity of giving, pouring love and nurturance into my son each and every day and night. I am so humbled. Our Earth Mother does this for me, for each and all of us every day and night to all forms of life for millennia. I can always turn to Her and I am so deeply grateful.
I also start to reflect on a dream I had the night before. I was taught a sacred dance – where all the women learned both the female and male parts. It was a dance that inspired life in others, lit people up so bright. Later many of us women were in a line, each of us holding a berry as our teacher, a woman, came down the line. She came to each of us, pressing a leaf onto the berry in our palms, as a way to give a blessing and do a sacred reading. When she came to me, after pressing the leaf in my palm, she smiled and said I would be visited by Venus/Lotus (I don’t quite remember :)). She said my portal was still open,…and I realized she was speaking of my womb.
She instantly read my mind, as I don’t have any intentions to birth any more children, smiled and said, “This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have another child. Your womb is a portal to other worlds. And you will be taken to another world to be shown and taught some things and will come back.” I protested that I love our world and didn’t really have a desire to go to another one, but she assured me it can happen in almost no time at all.
Wow, our womb as a portal. I hadn’t ever thought of that before. And today, writing this blog, I reflect on the grand portal of our Earth Mother, bringing so many glorious, wise beings here, Trees, Mountains, Birds, Whales, Fish, Plants, Banana Slugs, Waters, Stones to share this planet as our home. I AM Grateful for our Home.
So in this practice of Qigong in and with the Trees, the forest opened me up and breathed through me, showing me a new way to practice, a new way to live, and a new depth of connected silence, breath, slowing down and listening. I have much to learn and will continue to go to explore, protect, honor, love, be with, train and practice with my greatest teacher, Mother Earth.