A Girl and a Deer: Cultivating Patience

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Who can wait quietly while the mud settles?

Who can remain still until the moment of action?

Observers of the Tao do not seek fulfillment.

Not seeking fulfillment, they are not swayed by desire for change.

-Tao Te Ching, Verse 15

 

 


One late summer day last year, I had a profound experience involving one of our deer friends. We typically get a few deer-friend visitors every day, and we go out and feed them some flavored corn or an apple. There have been many times I have sat by them and watched them crunch and munch. And I’ve taken lots of pictures from all angles. Yet, that one day, something shifted in me.

There was one lone visitor that day, and I chose to go out to feed her. After pouring some flavored corn into the usual spot right outside the garage in our backyard, she immediately starting making her way down the hill. Fluffy tail happily flicking, she took a few steps, stopped, watched me, and repeated until she felt uncomfortable coming any closer. I showed respect and chose to head back to the house. When I started to head down the stairs back toward the house, she came a bit closer to the food pile. I took two steps, she took two steps. I paused, she paused. An invisible magnet between us.

I changed my mind, and chose to crouch down on the grass when she approached the corn and began to eat. We were about 5 feet apart. Pretty soon, a cloud of gnats congregated around my head and executed their usual routine of bouncing off my face and aiming for the eyes. My legs began to feel uncomfortable due to the way I was crouching. These are the things that normally would have prompted me to get up and go in. Yet this time, I took note of those thoughts, and just let them go by. I wanted to enjoy being in the presence of this beautiful creature. And I did just that. I sat still. Quietly. Focused on my breathing, my energy. I listened to her breathing in and out with small snorts as she crunched on the corn…little bits falling from her mouth or getting stuck on her nose every now and again. Her large, deep eyes looked up at me from time to time, and when I made eye contact, I made sure I held the space of calm and peace so she’d feel it, too. As I looked at her eyes, I noticed her forehead and all the little bugs that were taking advantage there. I saw her long lashes and for the first time, noticed that her pupils were rectangular! I never knew! In this moment, I truly felt I was bonding with the deer; we were one. I sat there for maybe five minutes soaking up the blissful feeling. My wooded surroundings faded, and it was just the deer and I living in harmony. I made sure I thanked her both silently, and out loud.

Eventually I had to get up and go inside. When I stood up, she backed up a bit and then when I made my way down, she decided to head back up into the woods. When I got back in, I suddenly felt different- a sudden shift. Before I knew it, I was crying as I told Dave about the experience. He told me he was watching and didn’t want to disturb me. At first, I wasn’t sure why I was crying…was it the energy? The bond? I think it was both. Yet more importantly, it was my realization that I had been completely, wholeheartedly mindful and…patient.

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Patience doesn’t come naturally for me. I’ve been exploring my impatience lately, contemplating its roots in my childhood. Perhaps it’s because of being an only child? I’d often spend a lot of time in my head, and then suddenly want interaction. I’d go ask my dad if we could do something…go outside and play catch, go for a bike ride, play a game…anything! If he was hesitant, soon the asking turned to begging (with a hint of annoyed whining). Not having a lot of friends to just call up or walk to their house compounded the issue. And let’s not forget there were countless days I’d be sitting at a table next to a bar, or just down my aunt’s house wondering when it was time to leave, not understanding the concept of consuming alcohol. (Like, just chug it! Come on! I want to go and do something and I don’t want to do anything alone!)

I asked my Gram recently if I was exceptionally impatient when I was little, and she animatedly told a story about how I couldn’t stand losing a game like the classic Chutes and Ladders or Old Maid, and how I’d stomp my feet and tell her mid-game it’s not fair. Got it Gram. Thanks for the reminder.

As an adult, in the past four years or so, my deeper impatience would kick in when considering my purpose and comparing myself to Dave and Dave’s friends who of course are very much 10+ years older than me. Their skills, talents, etc. outnumber mine like tenfold. Naturally, I want to hurry up and be like them! I want all the skills! Yesterday.

When I really think about it, actually it’s pretty obvious, that I’ve come a long way since moving in with Dave and starting to discover myself. It’s been a process, as it should be, everything in its own timing. I have learned more than I ever thought I would. I have a skill that I turned into a job that I love and am consistently making money with. Everyday! And with that, I am still searching for another skill, something in the metaphysical realm that I potentially turn into a service for others. This desire probably has been arising more strongly at this point because a) I feel I have hit this personal plateau of inner transformation and b) I am constantly surrounded by people who have numerous skills and have created one or more businesses out of them.

So here’s where the universe is nudging me; patience has to kick in. Here’s where I feel I’m supposed to be meditating more, being still, silent, searching for whatever answers are within me. Yet another step along the path of growing, developing, transforming. In essence, there’s never really a plateau. Life is about the journey, not the destination. There’s nowhere to get to and nothing to be. We need to just…be!

And so, right now, I am creating that possibility of being patient. In all situations. No matter the circumstances. Without excuses. I know my mind and my body will thank me for it! And I know I’ll be able to tune in to nature with brighter clarity and discover.

When you get to the top of the mountain, keep climbing!

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Lighthearted Musings

20170224_142215It was 73 degrees out today…closing in on the end of February…a definite first for me in PA! I took the opportunity to go for a long walk with my Dave. We walked along a path carved out next to power lines that run for miles in two directions. Despite a lot of mud in some spots, it was the perfect hike. Once away from the road, just the sound of wind in the tall grass mixed with a few birds, and occasional trickling water sailed through the air.

It’s in moments like these I tend to feel completely at peace. Sometimes, it’s nice to just be. In the moment. Completely. Letting all worries melt away…letting go of the disheartening notions of the earth heating up more, and glaciers melting way up north. Letting go thoughts of those so-called leaders running the country…letting go of smaller worries…letting go of everything! It feels incredible to just appreciate the simple things…really see, and feel them for all of their simple beauties…

Leaving our trail of footprints in the mud as we held hands and walked. Picking up tiny pieces of white quartz in small streams crossing our path. Running my fingers through the cold water, grazing the soft, fine silt that rested in the bottom. Seeing mountains miles away from the top of the ridge, one mile from the road. Smelling sweet ferns, still shriveled, yet prevailing alongside the path. Molding reddish clay into a sphere, letting it dry on my hands. 20170224_141859Discovering princess pines popping up in the midst of purpled tea berry leaves, surrounded by moss. Feeling the sun’s warmth spread on my back through my t-shirt. Taking deep breaths of fresh air while observing the blue sky, winds pushing puffy clouds along.

Discovering an old spring house during our descent…wandering over through marshy grass…finding all the places where water was appearing, then disappearing again into the earth. Drinking from a pool of bubbling spring water a little further up, letting that 20170224_144728piece of nature, that moment become part of me. Stepping on deteriorated fallen trees, feeling the wood compress under my sneakers. Observing the peeled “eyes” in some trees where a foreign fungus had taken over. Looking up to find dozens of birch polypore’s poking out from a long deceased, branchless tree.  Seeing rocky, dried up trenches where water once flowed and connected to larger streams. Appreciating the bright green, plushy moss that crawled along the forest floor as we carefully made our way back to the car.

20170224_145122Take in the beauty that surrounds you every single day. If you don’t think there is any, take a look. Take a closer look. You will find it. It’s in every step you take…within every knotty tree you see…upon every smooth stone you turn over in your hands. The presence of God is woven into every atom, and particle that makes up nature.

Feel revived and fully alive.

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Shifting in Season: Poem

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The darkness comes once again

To greet us when we are already

Searching for something brighter.

Standing upon earth’s yearly sacrifice

Under clouded sky, we weep

For our own personal sacrifices—

Ones that brought us joy

And ones that brought us pain

Throughout the year.

Sometimes we believe we can

Live up to every expectation

Of a loved one, friend, mother or father,

Yet, reality speaks a different truth:

It says to have no expectations

As nature has no expectations

On its growth, its demise, its surprises.

It is in nature’s imperfection that

We can discover ourselves.

We are not perfect and our

Sacrifices should be made to better

Ourselves, one another, those loved ones.

We cannot honor any one living thing

Nor many, if we are living

In constant denial.

We are always at fault with something,

Always searching for that better way

To love, live, breathe, walk.

The tiniest oak does not seek

For the bigger, brighter of leaves.

It is content being small

And living in itself, it waits patiently

To ascend to see above other trees.

And it does.

In this season,

Let us welcome what we’ve

Never welcomed before—

The vision of seeing beyond

The suffering and sadness,

The faith filled with intentions that

One life can be transformed.

In the storms of distractions

That will follow, let us

Hold our ground, create roots;

Darkness is only allowed in

Where we allow it to be.

A Blessed Cleansing

About a month or so ago, I felt deeply moved. I’m not sure by what or who, but inside me stirred a yearning to be cleansed. I’ve done small cleansing ceremonies before, either with gemstones, or sage, but this time, my soul was being pulled towards water. Water is my element. With it I feel complete, part of it and in awe of it as it is both a creator and a destroyer. There’s a small stream across the street from our house and that’s where I decided I wanted to be cleansed. Dave came with me and we performed a beautiful ritual. He brought sage, and a turtle shell that he got from a native american powwow. Before I stepped into the chilly, trickling water, I was smudged…the smoke from the slowly burning sage blown across my body. Then once in the water, I carefully chose my intent of what I wanted to gain out of the little ceremony. Dave and I had been talking about a lot of different things, and some from the past, so one of the things I wanted to be freed from was those attachments. I desired to be free of the emotional attachments to my family who I recently surrendered in trying to create any kind of positive outcome with; I knew the time had come that I could no longer cling to memories, or heart-aching attempts to have them in my life or to get them to understand my life. So, with a scoop of cool, gentle water in that turtle shell, Dave poured it over my head as I declared I wanted to be free. It felt so amazing to symbolically solidify my intentions. After that, I chose a couple other things I wanted to be released from, and again, the water came over me with grace. With every wash, I could feel the “dirtiness” be rinsed away and carried far beyond me. Finally, the last thing I wanted to be cleansed of, was my sexual past. All that I’ve done to myself and to hurt others. With being with Dave and slowly reclaiming my innocence, in that moment, standing in a stream not too far from the street, I wanted to completely reclaim it. I returned to innocence in that time, when Dave and I hugged and cried and then when he poured, once more, the water over my head. I felt it trickle down my entire body, I felt it seep into me and my soul. I wanted that water to reach every dark part of me and eradicate any traces of darkness that were left. And that, I believe it did.

I proceeded to cleanse Dave afterwards, as he had some things he wanted to be freed of also. Overall, it was a beautiful, sacred, and moving time. But, it was also a time of enlightenment and joy…freedom and bliss. We spent time after the cleansing searching for special stones for each other. Appropriately, Dave found for me a pure white one. For him, I found a white one as well. It was a simple gesture that held so much meaning.

I would suggest this type of cleansing for anyone who is going through an emotional struggle. You may think that it wouldn’t have an effect, as you could pour water over your head at any given time…but if you truly believe and set the intention that whatever you want to be washed away is being washed away, then so shall it be. What you believe is real.

I am free and hope you can be too! Happy cleansing!

The Guidance of Nature

A fifteen minute hike over a windy, hilly moss-covered path- weighed down pack straining my shoulder blades, tautly rolled sleeping bag slug around my front, and an insulated blue bag of cheese, wine and silver chalices- this was my initiation to camping. Now, I don’t know about you, but I had the notion in my head that most children, or even teens would embark on this journey either with their parents or with their friends, typically year after year and would find it an exhilarating adventure. (Minus the wine of course). Whether my mental construction is true or not, I can say that I had never before had the pleasure of heading deep into the woods to do this…camping thing. Once, when I was little, my dad and I pitched our nifty largish tent with a little front porch on it in the backyard, just so I could at least experience what it’d feel like sleeping outside all night. Back then, I remember liking it, being mildly freaked out, and then becoming absolutely annoyed at the early sunrise, so when my dad got up at five in the morning to go to work, I headed out of the tent and back into the safety of my warm bed. Since then, until the other night I’ve never been in a tent.

Since being with Dave, he’s often talked about camping, showed me pictures and explained thoroughly that he loved it. Of course he offered to take me early on in our relationship, yet, to be unashamedly honest, I was terrified. Black night, a decent distance from the house, deep woods immediately behind the tent, potential threat for a 300 lb. bear to come stomping by…otherwise creepy rustling leaves in this blackness. Nope. Wasn’t having it. To make a long story short, in order to go camping, I had to overcome all of these fears. I guess the biggest one was feeling vulnerable. Spending the night in a seemingly flimsy tent completely isolated from civilization didn’t feel too reassuring to me.

Well, needless to say my fears were erased as time went on. We have hiked many times since my first encounter with the camping thought, and I’ve seen the exact location many times as well. Finally, I realized I could just trust Dave and that it would be fun. He assured me there were no bears on his camping experiences, no threats, nothing bad, nothing to worry about at all. I took his word. We planned the trip.

The campsite we stayed at was right on his mountain, so it’s completely private. To get to the woods, we take a short drive about half a mile down the road if that, and then get out and hike up the mountain for about fifteen minutes. In that short of a time, we arrive near the top of the mountain, the view- astounding. The entire valley below, far in the distance. Beyond the wide-spread valley, more hazy mountain ranges that appeared to be delicately layered on top of one another. You can see eye to eye with these far off mountains at least 60 miles. Thankfully, we’re not staying right in the heart of the woods, we’re in a nice open area, the ground made of huge, flat slabs of stone that probably were born out of the glaciers that once inhabited the space. There’s a small fire pit that Dave built out of loose, large rocks on one side of the flat rock surface. And at the back of this space, opposite of where we emerged out of the woods, there’s a flat, grassy patch where we placed the tent.

Pitching the tent wasn’t as tedious as I had imaged. I couldn’t be happier we tested out the whole tent-putting-up method before we set out as I had no idea how to put a tent up. Before doing so, I had crazy, cartoon images in my mind, you know, where a group or couple gets to their desired camping spot that stumble, trip and fall over each other attempting to erect a temporary shelter made out of fabric and metal. And of course that classic image came to mind of the tent being finished then as someone walks away looking all smug and satisfied with hands on their hips, comes crashing down with a puff of dust arising from beneath it. These were all of course folly. I learned quickly that tent setup was like nothing. For this, I was grateful.

The next step was gathering some wood and kindling for a fire. That wasn’t too painstaking either as there was an abundance of dried out sticks, twigs and logs to choose from. What I was dying for was the euphoria of placing a warm, crusty and browned-on-the-outside and gooey-on-the-inside marshmallow on top of a decadent Hershey bar piece in between two sweet, crunchy graham crackers. UGH. I could NOT for the life of me remember the last time I had this God-given delicacy that someone dubbed as a “s’more”. Soon after the fire was crackling and dancing towards the darkening, golden sky, Dave and I found perfect marshmallow sticks and engaged in the art of roasting.

Too soon, the spectacular sunset that set the sky ablaze with profound depth and beauty of gold, red orange, mixed with wispy white clouds melted into the horizon. The transition of day to night was breathtaking. Stars began to reveal themselves against the dark blue blanket and the moon slowly arose to the south illuminating the landscape with a surreal glow. Dave and I stargazed through binoculars and he pointed out constellations and single stars that were remarkable. After, we turned in to our tent for some late night, outdoor Yahtzee playing accompanied by Asti sparkling wine, Adams Reserve Cheese, and Chex Mix.

When it was time to sleep, I had the most difficult time finding a comfy spot amongst the lumpy grass clods beneath. I managed to wiggle myself into a decent space with my butt resting in a dip and my head against my pack. It was a rough sleep, but it worked out. In the morning, I couldn’t wait to get up, actually, I was hoping I was going to be able to move since my back felt like it was completely locked up a few times. Around 7 o’clock an extraordinarily loud bird began repetitively chirping a distinctive chirp. Over and over again it called out to the mountains and valley below. I had forgotten my earplugs and most certainly was not ready to get up yet. I carefully rolled over to Dave who was half asleep. He asked it I wanted to see the sun, which replaced the moon behind us, and cast a magical glow all around, but I was still in my half slumber, and declined.

When I finally did arise out of the tent that following morning I felt refreshed. Not because of a good night’s sleep, but because of being in the purity of nature. Dave and I took a short walk to a small adjacent meadow to look around, then headed back to pack up and make the hike downhill. I was a little sad leaving, as my first camping experience was truly wonderful and beautiful. I am thankful for my Love who owns the property and who was excited to take me. I am grateful for nature and what it told me while spending the night. It told me to relax, to feel safe and not to worry. The sky and full moon comforted me and the trees stood guard and held us tight. Even the birds we heard taught us something. When we were building the fire, Dave decided he wanted to call for a whippoorwill since they were around still, (he has an amazing ability to mimic these tiny creatures) and alas, when he did there were two of them that called back almost immediately. Their energies were blended with ours. What a magical, fun experience! I cannot wait to go camping again to feel the seclusion, closeness to nature and overall magic. 🙂