Standing Rock: This is Not a Rehearsal

I knew of the DAPL desecration of ancient graves and brutal attacks on unarmed water protectors; the ramped-up arrests by the Morton County sheriff’s officers; the lies being spread through the local media about the resistance to the pipeline. I knew of the paramilitary equipment that was showing up against the front-line water protectors’ actions. But nothing could have prepared me for the shock of seeing the steady parade of law-enforcement vehicles on Rt. 1806 past the camp, or the surveillance helicopters and planes that circled many times each day. It was clear: this camp was at the border of a conflict zone; a psy-ops campaign was underway to wear the people down.

It is a strange feeling, being a white middle-class woman, a clicktivist, letter-writer, and subtle activist but not a direct-action protestor, walking into such a situation: the adrenaline immediately starts to flow, the nervous system goes on hyper-alert, and the slightest thing can seem to be a danger signal. I was awed at these people, survivors of 500+ years of attempted genocide, who lived day-in, day-out under the strain, strong, watchful, and outwardly cheerful, with a constant thread of ceremony weaving through their life together. walking peacefully to stand in the face of the paramilitary forces that seek to destroy their land, culture, and sacred places.

Still, it didn’t take long to start hearing warnings and rumors. I’d just set up my tent and come down to the central drum circle  to hear Dennis Banks, co-founder of the American Indian Movement, welcome a busload of middle-school students from Duluth, MN, when a woman hurried up: “Have you heard? They’re saying the governor’s going to call in the National Guard to evict us all, any day now.”  Mark Lesser, the firekeeper who had helped me put up my tent on the first day, pooh-poohed the rumor when I asked him a little later. “That’s been going around the camp for months. This land is off reservation territory,” he told me. “According to treaty, it still belongs to the Standing Rock Nation. However, it’s Army Corps of Engineers land, and yes, any of us could be arrested for camping here. If you want to be safe, you should go and camp at Sacred Stone, that’s private land.”

I chose to stay, but took the lesson: live lightly, set priorities, be ready in case of eviction. Everything except the barest necessities stayed in the car. The phone stayed with me at all times unless it was charging at the solar station at the top of Facebook Hill.

The real wake-up moment came as I was standing at that charging station at the highest point in the camp, hearing the buzz of a DAPL airplane overhead as I talked with NoDAPL activist Deborah Gaudet of New Mexico. Nearby, journalists interviewed Dennis Banks, and security guards rode past on horseback, surveying the camp perimeter. In that charged moment of communication and watchfulness, shortly after I’d learned of the eviction risk, I saw the bright yellow of a front-end loader rolling past the security station and into the camp.

Had it begun already? A black SUV followed the heavy equipment, and I thought of the unmarked black vehicles that had accompanied the police cars on their last pass. What to do? Frantically weighing options, I gave increasingly distracted responses to Deborah, until she made her farewells and moved away. I headed downhill for the security station.

The young guard there – Larry, who had greeted me on my arrival – smiled easily as I approached. No sign of alarm there. Feeling rather foolish, I stammered, “I, er, saw some heavy equipment coming into the camp just now…ummm, is everything OK?”

He glanced down the central avenue, lined with the flags of the nations represented in camp, and nodded. “Oh, that’s just to help with building the yurts for the elders,” he said. “The building materials arrived a while ago and we’re getting ready to level the ground to put them up.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. “I’m so glad,” I said. “I’d just heard that the National Guard might be coming to evict us all in the next day or so.”

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Sweatlodges in camp

He frowned. “You’ll hear stories like that all the time. The police and DAPL are trying to scare us, put us off our balance. Don’t let it disturb you. After all, what’s the worst that could happen? You’d go in spirit to see your relatives. Don’t let them shake your prayers. Stay in prayer, sister.” He smiled reassuringly, held out his arms and gave me a big hug; I smiled at him in gratitude.

It was the first of many times I would be reminded of the source of this camp’s heroic strength.

 

Arriving at Standing Rock: Checkpoint, an Escort, and Welcome

roadsidehills1806After the final AirBnb evening, I was off on the last leg of my outward journey, with a slip of scrawled directions from the NoDAPLSolidarity.org site in my hand and the little remaining space in my car stuffed with firewood for the camp. It was a glorious day for travel: the miles of rolling brown hills, studded with oases of cottonwoods and shrubbery, rolled past, with hawks and buzzards circling high overhead; the breeze through my open window was brisk and scented with the fragrance of water and living earth.

A long stretch on ND state road 1806 was the last bit…a stretch marked by a sudden eruption of weathered rock “badland” formations, private homes and rich river valley groves where the road parallels the Cannonball River. And then….came the signs for an “information point.” It was the roadblock I’d been expecting – originally erected by the Morton County sheriff’s department, then taken over by the ND National Guard, ostensibly to protect the drivers and pedestrians passing by the camps (censured by Amnesty International and protested by the water protectors, the block was finally removed on 10/18).

Feeling my palms sweating against the wheel, not knowing what to expect, I advanced slowly to the stop sign. Concrete barriers closed off the road to a single lane; guardsmen stood at the entrance and exit. One approached me: “Ma’am, have you come this way before?” I said I hadn’t; he nodded: “There are demonstrators up ahead; the speed limit drops a ways beforehand. Just go slowly and stay alert. Go on ahead.” He waved me through; the guardsman at the exit point nodded and smiled, and I was on my way with a sigh of relief.

Miles rolled past with no traffic or signs of habitation, and I was starting to wonder – where was the camp? Finally, a makeshift cluster of tents and shacks showed up, heralded by signs along the roadside fence: Mni Wiconi – NoDAPL – Water Is Life. I slowed, pulled over and waved; a stern young man waved back. “I’m looking for Oceti Sakowin,” I called to him, the name sounding Japanese as I guessed at the Lakota pronunciation. “I’m bringing donations.”

“Oceti Sakowin?” He was correcting my pronunciation; I noted the soft “sh” sound substituted for the C and S, the emphatic “ko”  in Sakowin. “It’s a ways ahead, not far, you can’t miss it.” I nodded, thanked him, and went on.

Seeming miles more. NoDAPL signs festooned a fence beside a gated drive; surely that couldn’t be it. I looked ahead; no sign of anything. Was this it? I turned around and headed back to the cluster of shacks, pulled over and stopped as a truck paused on the other side of the street to check in. Snippets of banter floated back to me.

Going up to the elder in the driver’s seat, I asked with careful pronunciation, where Oceti Sakowin was. He twinkled at me: “I’ll guide you there, but it will cost you…hmmm, yes, a big juicy cheeseburger and fries.” I answered his smile with a laugh:  “I have fruits and veggies and lots of clothes and blankets to donate. Will that do?”  He  reached out,clasped my hand briefly and said, “That’s for the people. Get in your car and I’ll lead you there.”

img_20161013_153952463 I thanked him, scurried to my car, turned around, and we set off. And there, just a short distance past the point where I’d stopped, was the full vista of the camp below us in a river valley. A sharp driveway opened onto a broad dirt avenue lined with the flags of the Native American nations supporting the pipeline resistance; the camp spread out widely on both sides with tipis, tents, and Army tents clustered together in loose circles. A large portable solar panel  was positioned near the entrance by a cluster of Army tents, one of them labeled as the camp school. Nearby stood a tipi and a pristine row of Spot-a-pots.

My guide turned in; I followed; and at the makeshift security station by the entry, a young man stopped me, smiling as he noted the load of bags and firewood bundles in my car. “I’m a visitor, bringing donations,” I told him, and he directed me to the dropoff point.

Bumping along the rutted dirt road past campers, tipis, tents, that’s when ihelicopter2t hit me – I am here, at Standing Rock. As I worked with several young men to disgorge the bags of donations from my car, the sounds washed over me: drumming… poet Lyla June Johnston reciting her work calling all nations to rise up…the rhythmic thwack-thump of a young man splitting wood… the drone of a surveillance helicopter overhead.

I looked around at the people walking past: most were Native American, many represented other heritages of the human family.  All the reading, all the info-sharing I’ve done on Standing Rock doesn’t touch the reality, I thought. This is so much more than anything I had expected or imagined. 

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Life and Death on the Road to Standing Rock

By the second day of travel – en route from Illinois, through the glorious foliage of Wisconsin and Minnesota to North Dakota – I was beginning to feel the energy building, the gulf between the world I call home and the one I was going to visit.

It hit me with a shock as I left the progression of cities along I-94 to enter the rolling brown hills of the high plains…and saw the rising numbers of roadkills, from small, matted bundles of fur to the deer, raptors, and – coyotes? wolves? – on the shoulder of the road. At one point I winced to see a triple death: hawk, wolf, and rabbit, all crumpled at the edge of a cattle-chute stretch of barriers.

Ever since leaving home, I’d been tossing a pinch of tobacco out of the window with a quick prayer to honor each loss, but as they multiplied here I gathered a larger clump in my fingers and released it into the wind, singing the lodge-song my husband used to sing to honor the lives of beings lost through the actions of humans.

An endless blue sky stretched above us, over the towering semis whose slipstream buffeted my Prius as we crossed the Buffalo River, WI;  the lakes dotted through Crystal Springs in eastern ND, and later the Missouri River at Bismarck. I glanced at the reflected blue of the water and the glorious rich greenery on either side, remembering the core statement of the Standing Rock water protectors: Mni Wiconi, Water Is Life.

The ecosystems of these water sources for people and innumerable beings, micro and macro, were at risk of being mowed down and potentially poisoned by a pipeline advancing as relentlessly as any semi…

Unless the water protectors, with their allies in Congress and the courts and the U.N. and – pray God/dess – the White House, could stop it.

 

Journeying to Standing Rock

When I named this blog SoulPaths/the journey, I had no idea of the literal journeys that would be involved in this particular soul’s path. In the past two years, Ecuador, Findhorn…and this week, a pilgrimage of support to Standing Rock, ND.

Why am I going there? I’ve written of the resistance of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation to the Dakota Access Pipeline that is slated to run across the reservation land, crossing the Oglala Aquifer and – many times over – the Missouri River. I touched on how they are being joined by a virtual United Nations of supporters from Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures from around the world. And I’ve touched on my gradual progress from timorous waffling to starting a group for subtle activism, to a drive for donations.

It didn’t end there…while I was raising awareness online and at Friends Meeting, I was also wrestling with a heart-response to a calling to come to Standing Rock. It seemed purely out of the question at first – an action for brave activist sorts, or groups to go out together – but as the awareness of approaching winter grew, I felt a growing urgency: if I did not go, NOW, and help in whatever way I could, I would always regret my inaction. The parable of the talents haunted me: how in these days am I using my talents for the greater good? Clicktivism and Facebook consciousness-raising were nowhere near enough.

It all came to a head three weeks ago, when I was out in the garden, clearing away spent morning glory vines from the fence and hedge: an inner voice was saying insistently, I am dying.

Wha-at? I asked who was talking – the morning glory vines were certainly giving up the ghost. Was that it? No – that could not explain the edge of gut-wrenching grief that accompanied the words. It viscerally recalled my husband’s last spoken words – Let me go – as he lay swaddled in burn-medicated wrappings after losing 85% of his skin to a reaction against the antibiotics he’d received following the implantation of an experimental device intended to keep his heart functioning until a transplant was found. It was Christmas Day; in an effort to bring holiday spirit and some level of sanity and family tradition to an unthinkable situation the kids and I had decorated his Intensive Care room with ornaments, lights, and a tiny tree the day before…but he was so deeply sedated that he could only rouse himself to voice those three words when we gathered around his bed.

I could not bear to think of the ultimate meaning of his request: the doctors were saying that this horrific, extreme situation was just a bump in the road to his ultimate healing!  Fighting my instinctive knowing, the shock and grief at my core, I started asking him for clarity – am I holding your hand too tightly? Are the bandages hurting you? I have no idea how I could find any other meaning than the obvious, but somehow I did – I kept asking, but there was no response; he’d spent his energy and was unconscious. Fighting tears, I turned to the nurse: this is what he said, but he couldn’t clarify…what do I do? She responded: unless you’re absolutely certain that he wanted you to pull the plug, you can’t do it. He can recover from this; if you ended it now, you’d be haunted by the doubt forever.

They called at 1:30 a.m. the next morning: he was having a respiratory crisis and they needed to do a tracheotomy: would I give permission? And so those three words were his last. The doctors told me a month later that the antibiotic cocktails were achieving no more than chemical reactions; effectively, he was already gone. They pulled the plug on January 28, 2006.

As I stood in the garden ten years later with dead leaves in my hair and spent vines in my hand and I am dying echoing in my mind, I balanced on a similar edge of denial. Am I dying? I asked – I had no knowledge of having any life-threatening medical condition! The knowledge came: you are replicating your father’s denial of life as you work in your house behind your computer screen. If you do not get out into the world and take real-time action, yes, you will die inwardly. But no, that is not what is meant here.

I knew the answer, of course: it is the biosphere that is dying of human’s unceasing assaults: deforestation, oil spills, the Tar Sands, the pumping of the aquifers and poisoning of the waters, pesticides killing the pollinators – all the litany of rape and destruction of our planet. Ecosystems are collapsing, climate change ramping up, a sixth great extinction taking place…yes,  I am dying was the voice of life on Earth.

The grief doubled me over: hanging onto a fence post in the yellowing garden, I wept, screaming soundlessly.

Once the worst of the pain had passed, there was a clear realization: the time for hiding behind a computer screen was over. I needed to show up and take personal action to support the causes I valued. And there was no doubt about the cause that took precedence: the water protectors of Standing Rock.

The connection went beyond their historic stand – the union among nations – the support across cultures and causes and spiritual traditions.

More than 20 years earlier, my husband had been a Sun Dancer, first on Rosebud Reservation, then at Santee, Nebraska. For two of the four years he’d Danced, I went along to support him, and witnessed …I can only call it a different reality. Here were men and women so heartfelt in their prayers that they were willing to dance without food or water for four days under the blazing sun, some of them following Spirit’s guidance to undertake extreme physical ordeals that lent power and urgency to their prayers. At the close of the ceremony, they channeled the Divine grace they had received as healing for the community, and received the community’s honor and gratitude in return.

This was the ethos that undergirded the water protectors, I knew: an ethos of radical self-giving for the ongoing life of the Earth and the People – i.e., all beings, all the peoples of every race, nation, creed, species, and sort – animal, vegetable and mineral. An ethos grounded in conscious connection with the Earth as a living, sentient, sacred being, an embodiment of the Divine. A way of being centered not on consumption of the planet’s resources, but on conscious interaction within the web of life.

When my husband was in his last two years of Dancing, the Intercessor was closing that particular ceremony to non-Natives: they could finish their four-year cycles, but they could not return. The American Indian Movement was a strong influence on the Dance in the two years I attended, and as a very obviously non-Native-looking woman I fielded my share of questions: who are your elders? Where are your holy places? At the same time their questions led me to question my own presence there, even as a Dancer’s wife and supporter, they also sent me on a search for the shamanic roots of my own heritage: a search that led to the Baltic pagan tradition Romuva and the Graeco-Roman ritual dance tradition of Tarantelle. After my husband’s passing, I went on a lengthy path of self-rediscovery and reinvention, staying away from any appearance of cultural appropriation.

That all changed this summer when the world began flocking to Standing Rock. I’d been feeling angry, out of step, and deeply alone in this culture – longing to do more than marketing restorative businesses, practicing animal Reiki, and raising consciousness online, but not knowing what to do. The public invitation from Standing Rock spokespeople – to come and witness and support the Earth-nurturing ways being demonstrated in the support camp of Oceti Sakowin, and for those who felt called, to take nonviolent direct action in the Sacred Stone Camp and Red Warrior Camp – hit with a direct appeal t0 my heart. And that was even before the spokeswoman with whom I was corresponding told me that she remembered my husband from his last two years of Sundancing.

So – with support and prayers from Patapsco Friends Meeting, financial donations from family and friends, and bags upon bags of donated clothing, blankets, and other items for the water protectors as they prepare the camps for the brutal North Dakota winters, I set out yesterday on yet another journey: to Oceti Sakowin, to spend three days helping in whatever way I can. I’m writing this post from an AirBnb host’s guest bedroom midway across the continent, just before geting back on the road.

The journey continues.

An Ecosystem of Support for the Water Protectors

EcoWatch reported the heartbreaking verdict just the other day:

“A federal judge in Washington, DC declined Tuesday to order the halt of all construction on a portion of the contentious Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) route that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe had recently identified as sacred tribal burial ground, a site that was bulldozed over the Labor Day weekend by pipeline construction crews….

The tribe has been locked in a legal fight against Dakota Access and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over a pipeline that would cross sacred sites and potentially affect water that the tribe depends on. The DAPL pipeline’s full path extends across North and South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois….

The tribe had filed an emergency motion on Sunday, Sept. 4 for the temporary restraining order to prevent further destruction of sacred sites….

Tuesday’s order isn’t the end of these legal battles. Federal Judge James Boasberg is expected to rule on Friday on an injunction that would halt all pipeline-related construction near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

I have been following this story for a month now, thanks to the Facebook updates by environmental lawyer Carolyn Raffensberger,  executive director of the Science & Environmental Health Network and leading expert on the Precautionary Principle, and ecologist/activist Linda Black Elk, both taking part in the peaceful prayer actions.

And the words have been piling up in my mind, escaping through click-shared news articles, finally through a Facebook call for concentrated energy-sending on Sunday, September 4 – the day the bulldozers plowed through the burial ground while dogs tore through the unarmed men, women and children. The call touched a chord, connecting a number of us who are watching and grieving from the outside.

Carolyn Raffensberger wrote on her public FB feed after the verdict:

This morning it is unbearable to know that Dakota Access will continue forcing its pipeline into the Earth, through waters, through the lands of Indigenous peoples.
The judge yesterday said he didn’t have jurisdiction to stop the pipeline from destroying sacred sites. When one of the most powerful voices in government says he doesn’t have power to stop evil, you know we have created a systemic monster.
Rachel Carson said we have lost the capacity to foresee and forestall. We will end by destroying the Earth. Carson
was partially right, we can foresee the destruction. What we have really lost is the ability to forestall. We built a system by and for capitalism and now the Black Snake is loose and devouring the future.”

I have been crying, sitting with this, asking: what can be done? The water protectors – the largest gathering of  Native American tribes in the past 100 years, supported by civil-rights activists, environmentalists, celebrities, and representatives of churches, covens, mosques, and representatives of Indigenous peoples from as far away as Australia, Ecuador, and Scandinavia – have been putting their bodies on the line, bolstered by multifaith prayers and ceremonies from the U.S. and abroad, world-class attorneys in the courts, even censure by the U.N. against the Obama administration for its silence.

But an understanding of the forces arrayed against the people, the land and the water is beginning to take shape, thanks to indefatigable coverage by Democracy Now: a new investigation has revealed that more than two dozen major banks and financial institutions are helping finance the Dakota Access pipeline. And the DeSmogBlog has revealed that Continental Resources — the company founded and led by CEO Harold Hamm, energy adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and potential U.S. Secretary of Energy under a Trump presidency — has announced to investors that oil it obtains via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale basin is destined for transport through the hotly-contested Dakota Access pipeline.

There is a part of me that wants to wail and cry, dive under the covers and hide from the monsters destroying the world. Every morning after my quiet meditation/journaling time, I sit inwardly shaking and protesting against leaving that safe and sacred space to read the daily news. Every morning I breathe and quiet the terrified, grieving child at my core…the one who first experienced All That Is as alive, aware, and interconnected when I was 10…who still takes pleasure in checking in with the energies surrounding me as I walk the woods. Who, as my mother once did, grieves on seeing woods clear-cut, hears the screaming of a tree when it is dismembered and logged. Who dissolves in total overwhelm at the thought of the indigenous people who have held the land and water sacred from the beginning are savaged by dogs and their sacred places bulldozed to make way for a pipeline that will almost certainly poison the nation’s largest aquifer and last remaining clear tributary system.

I shared these feelings at Friends Meeting on Sunday, breaking down in tears as I spoke. A Friend came up to me afterward and said – I hear you, and I am grieving with you. And it is your light and love and connection to Spirit that will make the difference. Your depression and anger can paralyze you. Stay connected to the Light and act from the Light. 

It took me a long time to hear his message.

So I continued asking: What can be done? And the inner answers begin to arise: the sending of prayers, meditation, energy, magic, ceremony/ritual –  subtle activism  by a critical mass of people, can help to turn the tide: concentrated prayers, energy, meditation, ceremony/ritual. So I created a FB group, Subtle Activism for Standing Rock, as a gathering place for news posts and sharing among those who hold this issue at heart. And people are responding.

What does it mean? Maybe nothing, my 21st-century skeptical self says. Maybe the people who join the group – due to busy-ness or emotional overwhelm – can offer only good thoughts in this direction.

But even if they are, we all start somewhere.

I am receiving the nudging again and again: the more prayers, energy, focused ceremony/ritual, magic – and good wishes – are put out into the ether, the more awareness is raised, the better supported the water protectors will be. As Starhawk told me – every action has many levels of participants: those who take the front lines; those who support them directly with press releases, food, legal representation; those who pet- and house-sit while they are in action, those who run GoFundMes and petitions and other online support campaigns; and those who send gifts, whether material, financial, or energetic.

It is all part of an ecosystem of support; everybody plays a part; and some move from one level of support to another as they gain inward strength and conviction. The more we can give or do, of course, the better – but we all start somewhere.

I remember going to Lakota Sundances at Rosebud and Santee, supporting my husband: how a tent city of hundreds of people gathered to support the Dancers and the ceremony: running supply errands, cooking, building the arbor, pouring for sweatlodges, doing security, fetching sacred herbs from the surrounding plains….and dancing under the arbor, making prayers for the men and women doing giveaway under the blazing sun. Everyone had a way to serve, no matter how small.

We are all related. We share one heart.

Quoting Arvol Looking Horse, 19th Generation Keeper of the Original Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Nation of the Sioux:

“Each of us is put here in this time and this place to personally decide the future of humankind. Did you think the Creator would create unnecessary people in a time of such terrible danger?
Know that you yourself are essential to this World. Believe that! Understand both the blessing and the burden of that.
You yourself are desperately needed to save the soul of this World. Did you think you were put here for something less?”

If you want to support the action against the Dakota Access Pipeline, here are some things you can do:

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REBLOG: Earth Mother’s Message on Chaos, the Grid of Energy, and need for Calm.

From Mare Cromwell’s For the Earth Blog

Reblogging  this powerful and important channeled message from Earth Mother, transmitted by my longtime friend, Gaia mystic and author Mare Cromwell… she provides a little of her story and her many credentials at the beginning, then starts to deliver the message at 4:12.

Just a few of her key points:

CALM DOWN. Too many of us are getting pulled into the drama of these times. Our collective subconscious feeds an energy grid encircling the planet; some of our actions feed Earth Mother; most don’t. So – yes, feel the emotions, process them, and release them; don’t numb them out or get stuck in them or lash out in anger and hatred at others.

ENERGY FEEDS ENERGY. Hatred and anger build more hatred and anger. There are positive energies pouring into the planet – Cosmic Christ energy, Buddha energy. Pray, send positive energies into the grid. Create prayer circles, do ceremony – the Earth needs this all the time now.

CHAOS IS OVERWHELMING. And it is necessary; a new world is coming in. Native peoples have predicted this. Don’t feed the chaos with reactionary drama. Negative energies are served by our unconsciousness, numbness, reactivity…their time is limited and they are fighting hard to hang on.

WE EACH HAVE A CHOICE: To get sucked into the drama, or not. Facebook is a prime example of the addictive cacophony, the energy hooks us immediately when we login and too many of us are venting there. Step away from the computer, go outside, stand barefoot on the Earth and give our angst to Mother; she is hardwired to heal.

MOTHER LOVES US. More than anything, she wants us to know this. Mother loves us and wants to help and heal us. And she asks us to be present with her, listen to her, love her back.

There’s much more – much more – in this long message, and I urge you – please listen to it all. This is the real deal, and it’s important for all of us to hear it.

For more of Mare’s channeled messages from Mother Earth, see her books, Messages from Mother – Earth Mother and The Great Mother Bible (or, I’d Rather Be Gardening). 

After Findhorn: What Now?

We’ve all had the experience: going to a powerful workshop or retreat, having a “mountaintop” experience, then returning home….and the working-day world engulfs us. How to keep that high-altitude clarity, much less implement it?

So what has been happening in the months since I went to Findhorn?

On the most superficial level, the work I’m already doing has kicked into high gear, with a strong nudge from Spirit to polish up my Reiki attunements to turn longtime casual energy work for animals into an actual practice (set to launch September 1); and approval to participate in the Pachamama Alliance’s GameChanger Intensive. On a private level, I am continuing my permaculture work, integrating the Findhorn experiences of nature-spirit communication.

It’s all arising from the Findhorn experience of the planet and all her beings as alive, aware, and interconnected…the drive to be in service to them all…and the driving need to have a bigger picture, a deeper mission, into which all of these pieces can fit.

And today, a “heat dome” is baking the continental U.S. This morning’s intensive watering of the garden has evaporated like mist, and the poor plants are drooping…with Baltimore’s heat index at 109 degrees F, going outside is like walking into an oven. And we’re slated to have more of the same tomorrow. And this isn’t even the highest temp – Northern California and the TX/OK border are at 105, and New Mexico is registering 115.

I can’t get away from the awareness that this is a preview of coming attractions in a warming world where we have already pushed past the limits set in the (farcical) Paris summit. I look at my efforts to Partner the Water and wonder if next spring this will seem like a sad joke.

Yes, I’m sliding down that slippery slope into eco-despair again, feeling the plants gasping for water in the brutal heat.

There are no easy answers here.

Findhorn: Conversation at the Crossroads

There’s been quite a lapse of time since my last Findhorn post, mainly out of an awareness that to this culture’s underlying mindset – that everything non-human is therefore nonsentient – what I am writing about communicating with plants and nature spirits may sound quite mad.

I’ve seen a dear friend, a nature mystic with decades of experience, wrestle with this worry, and come to resolution through the endorsement of recognized Indigenous elders and medicine people. By comparison, I’m at the bare beginning of my path in the practice of communicating directly with the awarenesses of nature…but rooted in a childhood vision, verified by interspiritual study and by having been the wife of a Sun Dancer, witnessing and directly experiencing the truth that all beings, and the Earth herself, are alive, conscious, inter-aware, and interconnected by the Divine light of consciousness.

I’d seen my husband teaching sweatlodge participants to tune in to the trees used for building the lodge and the stones used in the ceremony, had seen their faces light up as they made connection…I’d experienced connection in that ceremonial state, and profound connections with nature awarenesses on sacred land elsewhere…had led a circle of my own and seen the attenders make their own first contact.

And if those experiences had taught me one thing, it was that everyone has the ability to hear and communicate with the awarenesses of our brother and sister beings – that this is not a paranormal, superhuman, mutant personal “power” but our birthright as beings of this planet, part of its web of life. And that is what I, in my stumbling way, want to communicate in these posts: I’m not special, I’m Everyperson.

These stories are my steps along the path; yours will differ, but anyone who seeks connection with Our Relations and Mother Earth can eventually find it, if the invitations are made with love and the desire to learn and serve the greater Whole. And I believe – pardon the soapbox, but I do believe that this loving conscious connection is critical to our survival and the survival of life on Earth in these changing times. And I am not alone in this belief.

So…where were we? I had just encountered the nature spirits of the Power Point at Findhorn, and had my first conversation with them.

After that, I couldn’t wait to get back to the Power Point and seek further conversations with its entities…but due to wild weather and structured days, it took a little while. Finally, on a wet, clammy afternoon, I slipped out in full rain gear, passed through the gateway arch and rang the windchime, bowed as I passed the earth altar, made my way to the beginning of the spiral path….

and realized that the path forked: one side cutting straight up the hill along a property fence, the other swinging wide into the spiral. And the left side, the straight uphill side, was flanked by a slope of oxalis with its dark, clovIMG_20160426_092128383erlike leaves and nodding white bells, all of it shimmering with energy. 

I caught my breath: if I’d walked into a glade of dancing fairies, I couldn’t have felt the energy of the nature spirits more strongly. Dropping into seiza on the muddy path, I quieted my mind in greeting and gratitude, and remained in meditative silence as I felt my energy body being scanned. My thoughts ranged over my life and work: how would these beings see me? To my relief, I felt general approbation: they saw that I’d dedicated my life to serving the planet and her beings. My relationships? Struggling, in process, but authentic. My relationship with the land I tend? Insecurity burst out of me: what can I do about the problems in my veg garden – yellow spots, aphids? 

The response startled me: stop digging your anger into the soil.

I thought back to the beginning of the garden, how my late husband had been trying to teach me construction techniques in building the fence, and how our power struggles had manifested throughout the process. How my father and husband had insisted for years on bringing over Dad’s Rototiller to till the garden, while I was choked and paralyzed with the wordless distress of the soil ecosystem as the men gouged the roaring, bucking, petrol-stinking machine through the soil, the blades slashing through tender underground bodies. How, after years of this, after my husband’s passing, my insistence on spending days gently turning the garden soil myself and crumbling the clods by hand had sparked Dad’s scorn, which triggered my angry defensiveness…oh, anger had been dug into that soil from the beginning. And even now, after my father’s passing, with the garden mine alone to tend as I tried to practice no-till permaculture and sacred gardening, that patch of land still received my occasional self-defensive soliloquys.

The response rose in my mind: You’re never alone – the spirits of your land see you, hear you, and most important, feel your pain and angerTo heal your land, you need to connect to Earth Mother’s love and send love to the soil and all the plants you tend. Remember how Peter Caddy dug LOVE into the soil to turn sand dunes to gardens at Findhorn Park. Dig love into your land and we will guide you. We know you’re wounded. We want to help you heal as your land heals. There is no division between you and the land you serve. 

There followed a wash of acceptance and love so strong that I burst into tears.

I don’t knIMG_20160426_112059896ow how long I knelt there; that was just the beginning of the conversation. I received affirmation of the practices I’d been following, insights on new ones, and guidance in moving them forward. And most important, I received the affirmation that – as much as I’d stumbled and fumbled, my vision for the property, and my dreams for my own work, were on the right track.

Finally, the conversation was over, and it was time to move on. I bowed to the spirits, the plants, the trees, the misty rain, and walked one circuit round the hill, joining the other end of the path as it led down from the Power Point. Treading carefully on the slippery moss, damp stones, and mud, I made my way down the path to the archway, ringing the wind chime in farewell, and back to join my group at dinner.

 

 

Findhorn: Learning to Listen at the Power Point

IMG_20160421_101315572I could go on and on about the adventures of our group at the Findhorn Foundation‘s Experience Week…our free-time hike to Forres, abetting one young man’s quest to try the quintessentially British diabetic-coma-on-a-plate (a.k.a. deep-fried Mars bar) and then ascending a minor mountain to mug for photos at the base of Nelson’s Tower…wading in the frigid Moray Firth…scrubbing sculleries and washing windows during Love in Action…and serving up a potluck of talent, from Wonderwall to Taize, on our last night…and through it all, through the attunements and trust exercises and service and meditation and clowning, bonding to become a close-knit international family.

It was the experience of a lifetime; I haven’t shared so unself-consciously or laughed so hard or felt so utterly free to drop my masks and public persona since I was a teenager.

…and it wasn’t until I’d stepped into my second week – Spiritual Practice Week – that my deep purpose for coming to Findhorn truly began to take shape: connecting consciously with the awarenesses of Nature. Our small group spent far less time bonding, far more time in solitary contemplation, and despite the wild weather (rotating snow/sleet/hail/rain/sun, often in the space of an hour), I gravitated again and again to the Power Point.

I spent the first few trips alternating between admiration of the glorious forest and mountain vista, and impassioned prayers: let me hear! let me see! let me shift to a new, grounded perspective, one that will last and support a deeper work when I go home! 

Yup, I was broadcasting on a pretty wide band. And remembering the words of Findhorn co-founder R. Ogilvie Crombie (ROC),  quoting the deity PanGreatGodPan in his memoir Meeting Fairies: My Remarkable Encounters with Nature Spirits:

…the genuine people who are legitimately curious about my world… would dearly love to see us. There is nothing wrong with that except that it very rarely works—they try too hard. Perhaps this is fortunate as they do not realise how dangerous it might be if their desire was granted too soon, before their bodies or their minds had been prepared and conditioned for the experience, and the right degree of cosmic consciousness had been reached. The elementals, the ones who are my subjects, belong to a different evolutionary stream than humanity. Close contact between human beings and the elementals can be dangerous if it takes place too soon, especially if the motives for seeking it are wrong.

So you might say I was protected up there…or else I was just making too much noise, asking!

And then there came the day when things shifted…

IMG_20160424_175253499I was coming down the spiral path, touching the trees and bushes in gratitude, when my eyes were drawn to a stump by the side of the path. It was beautiful, covered with moss and lichen, with delicate plants resembling tiny cyclamens springing from its root. And…..something about it, the energy around it, was different.

I slowed to a halt, squatted down, and considered the beautiful little micro-ecosystem…took out my phone and snapped a photo, and rose to go on my way…

and heard in my mind a rather irritated voice, asking, “Is that all you’re going to do?”

Whoa..what??? I turned on my heel, knelt down and apologized: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to snub you! 

You just didn’t expect your requests to be answered? That’s not unusual. 

I mentally stammered in confusion, mouth agape.

There was a sense of softening, and an invitation: Just sit down and be with us for a little bit. Let us see you. 

I knelt down on the path, the wet leaves soaking through the knees of my jeans, feeling a sense of welcoming. While the stump looked – and felt – like a fairytale scene, while I could imagine the tiny fairies of the storybooks flitting about among the plants and reclining on the mosses, I didn’t see anything…but there was that sense of aliveness.

IMG_20160424_174936088I thought of Hildegard of Bingen’s word, veriditas. referring to “spiritual and physical health, often as a reflection of the divine word or as an aspect of the divine nature”….remembered the warnings ROC had received: that if the nature spirits withdrew that vital force from nature, humans could no longer survive.

Yes, came the response, and I began to catch a sense of a multidimensional macro-ecosystem, not only populated with interdependent physical beings of all kingdoms and species, but also with related ethereal beings tasked with caring for them and keeping the whole system functioning. I knelt there in awe, feeling myself part of a cosmos much more diverse than I’d ever imagined.

You don’t have to pound on the door, came the words, gently. You need only ask in love and openness. We’re here and we want to help you in serving the land and the people.  

With that, I felt I was released; the encounter was complete. I rose and bowed in gassho to the beings of the stump, and went on my way.

______________________________________________

Crombie, R. Ogilvie (2011-06-01). Meeting Fairies: My Remarkable Encounters with Nature Spirits (pp. 92-93). Independent Publishers Group. Kindle Edition.

Findhorn Nature Outing: Sitting in the Basket of the Trees

By Tuesday of Experience Week, our little group had gained somewhat of a feel for the grounds of Cluny Hill and Findhorn Park. It was time for our focalizers Craig and Pat to introduce us to the wider bioregion. We pIMG_20160419_095436671iled into the shuttle bus and rode past fields of grazing sheep, through glorious birch, holly and spruce forest, to the Findhorn River. We parked at a trailhead above the spectacular crags of Randolph’s Leap … a spot that clairvoyant/metaphysician R. Ogilvie Crombie (“ROC” for short), a guiding light for the growing community, had identified as particularly powerful and watched over by benevolent nature spirits. Here, Craig and Pat invited us to find a spot, settle in, and meditate, consciously reaching out to the awarenesses of the wood.

With some minimal experience of communicating with nature spirits, I was praying hard for connection here. With all my senses awake, I chose a trail that sloped gently downhill, reaching for the tingle that would tell me I’d found the right spot. Singing a Libana chant as invocation as I walked, I felt into the energy of the wood: where was the best place for me to seek connection?

IMG_20160419_102041149And there it was: a dropoff past a towering Scottish Pine, past ferns and bracken to a sandbar below. Warned by Craig and Pat of the river’s potential for flash floods, I didn’t want to go close to the water…but where to sit? Perching precariously on an outcropping of the slope, I looked to the exposed roots of the Pine, and saw that they intertwined with the roots of a neighboring Beech to form a natural nest. Feeling like a child climbing a jungle gym, surprised at my own temerity (and blessing the deep treads of my galoshes), I clambered over and hauled myself up and in.

The roots on which I rested were covered in moss, swathed in ferns and lilies growing in the dirt accumulated over countless floods.  Facing the river, the trees stood proudly on their exposed, mossy roots like Louisiana Cypresses, with their hidden path-side roots no doubt holding up the hill. I couldn’t imagine the force of floods that would sweep away earth this high – easily 25 feet up from the riverbank. But the trees stood strong, their roots and branches intertwined, IMG_20160419_102012230evergreen and deciduous.

I settled my tush, crossed legs to meditate. Just in front of me a Beech root snaked lithely over a Pine root, both disappearing down into the hillside. I felt the trees embracing in a long partnership. You are at a bridging place, a connection point, I heard in my mind. That is your work: helping to build connections between humans and the natural world. It was the beginning of a long conversation: my trepidation was met with reassurance and guidance; affirmation that despite my self-doubts I had a job to do; even floundering as I have been, a good start had been made, my good intentions were recognized. I sang, laughed, cried…felt a flood of love and connection with these Standing Beings and the micro-ecosystem they supported.

We had 90 minutes in which to do our walk, meditation, and return. I don’t know how long I sat there, cradled; it seemed far longer. As the conversation drew to its end, I saw a discarded juice box half-hidden, caught in the roots of the Beech. It summed up the culture from which I’d come: disconnected from the natural world, focused on immediate gratification, careless of the cost or consequences of its consumption. Yes, exactly, came the response. I wanted to remove it, as a token of service in gratitude, but  I could see it wouldn’t be easy – the box was well lodged, out of reach and slightly down the hill, outside my nest. I looked and found a pointed stick ready to hand, and with diligent poking, maneuvering, and prayers for balance, I edged it out and up to my hand. Yes! 

With that, it was time to go. I offered my gratitude to the trees, and asking their help in getting back to the path, found roots fanning upward like a ready-made flight of steps. A short scramble and I was on level ground, bowing to the trees, the river, the spirits of the land, and walking back to the meeting point with the juice box in my hand.