Nature Is The Ultimate Living Teacher

I just have to point you to this beautiful article, written by my dear friend  Stacey Hinden. She writes so profoundly on ideas I’ve tried to express time and again over the years (if you’ve followed my blogs), and goes further than I have, I think,  in pulling them together.

You can read her article here: Nature Is The Ultimate Living Teacher

Plain and simple, we human beings are designed to be fully alive in ourselves when we are in relationship with nature.  Our brains work better.  Our hearts and  souls do too.

But don’t take my word for it.  Discover for yourself.

Go outside, open your senses. Defocus your vision, allowing your eyes to take in a wide area. Allow them to become “owl eyes”.   Just sit or stand in one place, take in your surroundings with your wide-angle vision, without moving your eyes or head.

Then, put on your “deer ears”– listen in every direction. What is the furthest sound you hear? The closest? The loudest? The softest?

What do you smell? If you had a “dog nose” what information might come with to via scent? Take in deep breaths, deep whiffs.

Let your fingers have “raccoon touch”. Be like a raccoon, touching what’s around you, noticing textures. Feel the air on your skin — the weight of it, the moistness or dryness.

And if you are familiar with the plants around you, and know that they are edible and unpolluted, you can nibble on them. Or, if you’re uncertain about what you can eat, or don’t trust it, then just imagine how they might taste. Might they be sweet? Salty? Bitter? Aromatic? Spicy hot? Another taste? Might they make your mouth water, or do you feel your mouth drying up? Or might some other sensation suggest itself to you?

Now, try to experience the world around you with all of your senses engaged — or even just three or two. It may seem impossible, but honestly, it isn’t. It’s what we humans are designed to do — to experience our surroundings profoundly and deeply. Our experience of the world and our surroundings shifts dramatically when we open our senses, as you no doubt know from various instances in your life.

Go on outside, see/hear/touch/taste/smell/notice.  I invite you to share your discoveries right here!  And let me know too what Stacey’s article inspires for you!

Weaving Beauty: Discovering Grace In Times Of Despair

Trillium In Bloom

Trillium In Bloom

When we are in extended suffering, due to our own crisis or a loved one’s, it can seem that blessing and inner peace are words with no meaning. Such a state of clarity and nourishment seems entirely out of reach, an impossibility in the face of our internal storm.

In other places and times cultures crafted entire practices and ceremonies to help restore an individual to a sense of harmony within his or herself, to a sense of grace with all of creation. And in that restoration to harmony with self, community, nature, the cosmos, and God/Spirit — with all that is — the sufferer gained a sense of wholeness and peace — an understanding and felt knowing that she is part of a great weaving that truly cares for and loves her.

The reasons for the despair and suffering may still continue, but the ability of the individual to weather the winds of Mystery shifts as a result. She finds that she has a place of rest and connection that fuels her spirit, and gives her the strength to continue. She finds herself able to discover gifts hidden in this painful yet exquisite experience of the preciousness of life.

In my healing arts practice I strive to offer my clients an experience of the blessing and beauty woven around each of us in every moment. I use my harp, love of the natural world, song, and offering of healing energy (Reiki) to ‘make visible’ the music and coherent harmony I experience of you. All of us are amazing expressions of life. Our bodies perform innumerable miraculous functions in any moment without our even having to think about it. Our minds pull ideas together, or follow paths of dream. Our emotions speak a language that responds and reacts, creates entire Universes and release them. We are far more grounded in the earth of ourselves than we think.

When I offer music and healing, or point out the magic of birdsong in the moment, a flower opening, or recognize a kindness offered to you or by you to others, I am really offering a reminder of something your body, heart, and soul already knows: the poetry of you. You are an astounding gift to Creation, to each person around you, to the nature that exists outside your door.

Being on this good earth is an astonishing blessing indeed, and though times may be messy and chaotic and wrenchingly painful and sad, pathways exist to uncovering the wholeness that lies within these tumultuous layers. We can find our way, or even just ‘a way’. And in that discovery, shifts happen throughout our minds and cells. Stress, tension, and confusion may ease, griefs lighten or at least become bearable. Our minds may clear and we may come to breathe more easily, our organs begin to function in a restored rhythm. Any experience of blessing reminds our bodies, minds, hearts, emotions — our whole self — of the harmony that exists in every level of we are.

Where does beauty and blessing exist in your life today, right now, where you are? Take a moment to breathe in the fragrance of the Universe, to hear the sweet song of life that is you. Can you hear a bird singing outside your window? And what of the wonder of our minds that has created the house around us, the furniture, the technology that serves us? Where have you experienced a kindness, a warm hand, a thoughtful word?

And if it is too much to attempt to identify blessings, just surrender to the possibility that blessing exists and is here, right now, surrounding you, enfolding you.

Anything that we can truly experience with wonder can weave beauty around us that makes all the difference in how we — how any of us — face each day.


Jane Valencia helps spirit-centered men and women who feel disheartened and depleted to receive replenishment of soul, a renewed perspective of their situation, pain relief, and an experience of grace. For more information contact Jane here.


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A Little Bird Told Me ….

In the cloud of dream this morning, an insistent chip! chip! cuts through, sifts through my sleep: Wake up, wake up!  It is the first bird of the morning, moving from near my second story bedroom window, to the side of the house, to … for all the world like a mother nudging family awake to get them ready for school.

So I get up, fox-walk downstairs (that is, I step smoothly down the wooden stairs, setting my feet down gently so that the floors don’t make a sound).   Since we homeschool, and my husband works from home–well, the downtown cafe is his office, really–no one needs to be up by a particular time, so why not let everyone sleep. I enjoy this dawn quiet, the secret of this hour.  And so I slip out into the backyard.

I settle at my Secret Spot — (or my “not-so-secret spot”, as I call it to my family, since everyone knows where it is).  My Sit Spot is a sandstone slab on the earth, with the towering incense-cedar tree to my Northwest, the pruned roses arrayed before me, and a lovely view of my little backyard.  I press my hands into the moist ground, with its intricate layers of old cedar needles and bits of leaf and twig in disintegration, returning to the earth from “whence they came”.

Twigs And Earth

What My Student Told Me …

Yesterday, as we sat out in the garden opening our senses to the natural world and to the fullness of who we are as human beings, my Reiki Level 1 student commented that a holistic practitioner he knew recommended connecting physically with the earth every day, perhaps even for as long (or as short!) as a half hour, as a way to bring oneself into balance, to reduce stress.  From my own years-long foray into nature connection and nature awareness I know this to be true.  I was both delighted and awed by how we all carry so many bits of wisdom, gleaned from our encounters with the right people at the right time, from our own seeking, and eventually we bump into the truth of what we carry again and again, so that we finally come to believe and say ‘yes’ to it.  The wisdom goes into our bones.

It was that way with my student yesterday, as he told me what his friend had said about connecting with the earth, and about how cultures have taught their people to give their anger or grief or pain to the earth and that it’s okay.  Mother Earth is not hurt by this kind of energy we give to her.  She feeds on it, composts it, and something good grows from that humus.  I nod, thinking of a succession of times I pressed my hands to the ground in the past–or even lay on the ground, begging my Mother to please take that pain away, and then feeling that shift, and knowing myself to be cradled by the earth.  The pain might still be there, but it was changed, smoothed, and soothed.  Made bearable.  And eventually I could get up, press my hands onto the earth once more, pour my love and gratitude into that ground through my hands, my feet, my whole being, and … move on.

My student spoke of actually laying down on the ground, every day.  Why not, I think now.  What would happen if I did so, each day?   Okay, let’s be realistic and gentle with myself — how about each week?  Or even just on the New Moon (which happens to be today).  Or once on a Blue Moon.  Maybe it could be for me like receiving Communion growing up as a Catholic.   Rain or shine … lay down on the earth for a time, and just be.

What might change for me, inside?  How might my sense of self twist and stretch, and my comfort zone (“but it’s muddy! There’s chicken poop!  I’ll get my hair dirty, and my clothes … and what about those worms?”)?   If I really believe that restoring our intimacy with nature can transform our culture, heal it and ourselves, then what might happen if I tried this one thing?

Chickens in the garden

Lord Firestar, Egglantine, Lady Sandstorm, and Yellow go barefoot everyday …!

A Story I Heard

I recall hearing about a girl who came from a village in Africa, where she was always barefoot, to America, where she now wears shoes.  She says that we have eyes on our feet, and that she feels that it is now as if she were blind.  She used to see through her feet.

If I lay on the ground once a week, or every few days, or every day, what might happen if I walked barefoot into the yard? This would not necessarily be so challenging–the weather is incredibly mild where I live right now.   I don’t think we’ve even had a frost yet this winter!  What might I discover if I closed my eyes (even for a second or two) as I walked, and opened the eyes of the souls of my feet?   What if I saw with my hands, drank in my surroundings through my nose, tasted the garden in the air–maybe like some kind of sense-of-taste/smell/sound/touch echolocation?  Can I do those things?  Is it possible?

I’m inside the house at my computer, asking these questions.  I’m curious about the answers, and maybe … next time I step outside … I will even try to find out the answers.  Or begin the adventure of finding out.

All of these ideas awakening, coming together, just because I listened to what a little bird told me:

Wake up, wake up! A new day dawns! The world is new and so are you!

What Will You Tell Me?

How about you?  I’d love to hear about your own ways of connecting with the earth, the natural world.   Do you connect by way of a beloved animal companion?  (“Oh my gosh, what critter is my dog chasing now?  I had no idea we had mice in our yard!”)  By way of your children and their exuberant curiosity?   (“Ulp, how high are you climbing that tree?”)  Or through your own spiritual questing and connection? (Opening to the heart opens you to the soul of the world …).  Through poetry? (Ah, those Mary Oliver poems ….!)

What bits of wisdom about connecting with earth, sea, birds, trees, the animals do you carry and live out in small and large ways in your every day — or even every once in awhile?

And the next time you hear a bird, I invite you to stop a moment and listen, and connect with what’s in your heart.  What do you think that bird is telling you,  inside?   And where might that bird be leading you?

Please share your discoveries below!

Sweet Joy by Jane

 Sweet Joy – watercolor/colored pencil art by Jane, created for Valerie



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