Tag: Eco-Spirituality

Being an Instrument

Being an Instrument

I stood within the ancient fort atop a 700 foot cliff on the Atlantic Ocean. Metal pipes, drilled with holes for chain-link fencing, lined a small area of the site. A strong wind coming across the ocean caused the pipes to sing in otherworldly harmonies. As the strange sounds filled the air I thought, If we can be open and surrender, be still and silent, the energies of the Universe can then move through us and use us in beautiful ways.

The thunderous roar of the sea pounding on to rock walls reverberated in my heart like a drum and opened the inner door wide. As I walked around the 3000 year old fortification, all of my walls crumbled and I became an open channel for Spirit to move through–a flute for the winds of heaven to play and bring forth beautiful music to the world.

I remembered this experience from Ireland after a dream I had a few days ago. In the dream, I was a stringed instrument and a bow was drawn across me. I felt the vibrations within me, the deep tones and movement of sound throughout my body. The same reminder I received during my experience in Ireland came–be still and open and allow myself to be an instrument.

The past few years have been incredibly frustrating. In previous years I have produced videos, photographs, books…all good…but I feel that deeper work is yet to come and is yet unknown. So I wait and listen and try to be patient. The world is hurting so much and I know that I have contributions to make…but how?

I keep wondering–What is my purpose? Why am I here?What am I to do? Perhaps those existential questions are lifelong puzzles that haunt some of us. The answer I have received for many, many years is to deepen with Nature. And still…those same questions repeat, perhaps so much so that what I search for is hidden beneath the chatter of my mind.

Why is it so difficult to be at peace in that unyielding space of the Unknown?

All I know to do is to lean into the Invisible and be still and silent and listen…and call upon the strength of purpose that came with me to this life…and go outside and connect with Nature.

If we are the instrument we were born to be and are open to being played by the energies of the Universe, we powerfully stand in the space where our gifts and talents meet the needs of the world and that is a place of pure magic.


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Walk Open

Walk Open

There’s a guy where I bike and hike that walks with his palms facing forward. We usually walk with the back of our hands facing out so this unique difference captured my attention and I began experimenting.

What I noticed was my entire body opened as I simply rotated my thumbs outward as I walked. It felt as if I was unlocking an inner door. Such a simple act yielded appreciable results.

As I practiced I felt an immediate receptivity at my core. I began to sense a beautiful eye within my heart. The green of the trees was greener. The sounds of rushing water became more musical. Birdsong was sweeter. It felt like a more natural state of being…to walk exposed with mind, spirit and body.

Now as I’m walking, paddle boarding, sitting in my car or doing whatever I can simply think of opening my core and feel the connection to all life…to everything.

There are reasons we close ourselves. Good reasons. Trauma. Abuse. Emotional overwhelm. Meanness. Fear. We don’t want to walk around totally unprotected from behavior of strangers, friends or family.

As I child of maybe eight or nine years old, I was watching a Disney program. There was an old mountain man who lived in a one-room shack. He had a mule. He saved for a long time to purchase a pane of glass for a window he had kept shuttered. He wanted to bring light to his cabin. He finally was able to purchase the glass and immediately after installing it, his mule kicked a bucket and broke the glass. My little heart broke open and I started crying. My dad looked at me and laughed and asked, “Why are you crying?” “It’s sad,” I replied. “It’s only a show,” he said. It didn’t change the fact that I felt sadness and compassion for the old man. But I learned that it was risky to feel those things. I could be made fun of or judged.

We learn to close down to our emotional truths. We are ‘taught’ how to do this our entire lives by how others witness and respond to our emotions. It’s a painful process. And sadly, they teach us how to close down but rarely does anyone teach us how to open back up.

To live with emotional intelligence is to gently close when we need to take care of ourselves but to open again to feel the beauty of life when it’s safe. And that’s the problem. When we close ourselves we don’t feel the abuse or pain emotionally but when we remain closed we don’t feel the beauty…we don’t allow anything to affect us.

Many year ago I was visiting the Alabama coast while I was residing in the Greensboro, North Carolina area. Things had been really tough for me. Very difficult. I was on the beach and was talking out loud to the Universe: ‘Why do I even bother to heal my life? Nobody cares. Most people never even bother to look inside and try to improve themselves. Why am I putting myself through such misery? Why even bother? Can’t I just forget being conscious and go back to blissful ignorance?’ Suddenly the sunset sky turned lavender and orange and I heard a voice within say very clearly: You clear out the inner blocks to being open so you can really see and experience moments such as this fully.

If we walk open, we invite life to touch us. We risk being affected by what we experience. I wonder if the root of the world’s problems doesn’t begin with refusing to allow anything to impact us.

We have all witnessed ourselves and others say, If it isn’t happening to me, I’m not concerned. When I worked in a retail outdoor clothing store near the Gulf Coast I expressed concern about a hurricane that was heading into the northern Gulf of Mexico to a customer. She said worriedly, “Oh, NO! Where is it going to hit?” I replied, “It’s east of here by about 100 miles.” Her reply, “Then I don’t care. It doesn’t affect me.” That storm was Hurricane Michael. It did horrendous damage but it didn’t touch her life so she didn’t care. But she’s not an exception. Unfortunately this seems to be the norm with far too many.

After documenting the Gulf Oil Spill for a year, I was completely shut down. Before the oil arrived on Alabama beaches I remember driving down the Fort Morgan Peninsula and seeing booms anchored in the saltwater marshes. I photographed the small, floating lines of buys and got back into my car. An unearthly scream erupted from my depths. NOOOOOOOO!!!! 

I sobbed and wailed. From that moment through the following year, I had to shut down emotionally to document what I felt called to witness. The inner voice that called me was so strong I couldn’t look away; but, to be there I had to shut down a feeling response….except for anger. I felt that strongly. It’s like rescue workers who extricate people out of car wrecks or collapsed buildings…they have work to do and later can deal with the trauma of witnessing such horrendous and sad events.

I can’t remember who referred me to Joanna Macy, but spending a week with her and 30 other people, after my year’s commitment to the coast, opened me back up in a safe environment where my peers and I held space for each other to grieve and feel the depths of our emotions.

It took me a very long time to reopen to joy and pleasure. The most amazing healers for me have been wildlife…manatees, humpback whales, sea lions, dolphins. Photographing them in their environment became profound sessions of healing and deep connection that opened me to love at a level to which I had never known.

As we open to beauty around us–receptive and exposed–we begin to see the beauty of our own presence as we come into deep communion with Nature. We discover ourselves to be part of the amazing whole. In our wisdom, we closed ourselves for protection so our psyches wouldn’t become overwhelmed. Now, let us remember what it feels like to be open…present…in profound compassion for ourselves and the world, which is really the same.

Rumi wrote, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Walk open, dear pilgrim. Walk open.

 

The Sand Ledge

The Sand Ledge

I was second in line as a small group of us walked across a huge sand ledge that was only two feet wide. On the left, a drop of 700 feet into a lake. On the right, a drop 300 feet into a calm sea. The sand was soft and as I watched the woman in front of me, I realized that one misstep could erode the edge and a fall would be fatal.

A fall 700 feet, no chance to survive. A fall 300 feet…maybe live through it but there was no way to crawl back up as the soft sand would just erode and fall away.

I stopped, nearly in panic. I heard a loud, clear voice say: You can turn around at any time. Trust yourself to make the right decision.

So I asked the group to turn back. We did, with no protest.

Back at the airport I was weighing my bags, preparing to fly back. I was grateful to have made it.

I woke up this morning with this dream strongly in my mind. The visceral experience of standing on a soft ledge, towering over two bodies of water far below still echoed throughout my muscles and even my breathing rate.

As I wrote about the experience and let the meaning unfold, I realized that it was a perfect example of where we are now in our country and in many countries on the planet. There’s no need to list the grim reasons we find ourselves in the precarious place. Readers, you know well so fill in your own list that makes up this ledge.

We are reminded that it is possible to turn around, to collectively turn from this dangerous place in which we find ourselves, to start again on a new path, in a new direction. The choice is ours. What will we do?

Antlers

Antlers

As I was walking down the mountain this morning I thought about the little herd of white-tailed does that live here. It’s always a joy to see them. Once I was standing under a tree watching a hooded warbler sing and heard a sharp and powerful snort and foot stamp. I turned in time to see a big doe bound off through the woods.

As I continued walking this morning my mind wandered to the bucks and their antlers and then to the elk that live nearby and their gigantic antlers. White-tailed bucks begin growing theirs in late March and continue to grow them until August. They have the fastest growing bone, some growing 200 inches in 120 days. And then…they fall off in January or February.

As I thought about that process, I felt a sort of kinship with those guys. Growing, growing, growing…then bam. Gone! Then start over…growing, growing, growing. It seemed all too familiar for the cycles of life humans grow through. Not so much the physical but the emotional and spiritual cycles. Relationships…double ugh. Talk about cycles.

It was a bit depressing thinking of the continuing, spiraling cycles of growth. Seriously. What’s the point if we keep repeating the same lessons and re-visiting the same old stuff? The same questions revolving in and out of our minds…blah, blah, blah.

I was walking along a gravel road where I live, surrounded by green…trees, wildflowers…and mountains. And as I paused to be present with all the bountiful beauty, I heard clear as a bell, The cycles in Nature are the point. Being present with the cycles is the entire point of it all. Not going anywhere in particular in life but being present with whatever is happening.

So…there’s no destination. Nowhere to be. Nothing to escape from or go to. Every morning awaken, arise, live, rest. Really?, I asked.

How are you present with yourself in every moment? With the regular, day-to-day existence. Without the need to escape or numb out or run…this is where you find the point of power and mastery. 

Antlers…who knew they held such wisdom.

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writing and photographs copyright Simone Lipscomb

Deepening with a Sense of Place

Deepening with a Sense of Place

There are over 500 hiking trails within an hour of where I live…or so I’ve read. At first, the stay at home order challenged me as I was walking or mountain biking nearly every day at Deep Creek, part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was a very short drive and the waterfalls, creek, forest…a wonderland of beauty. I missed that.

But then, as I walked the quiet little mountain where I reside, I began to make friends with it and the wildlife and trees here. I know where the hooded warblers hang out. The northern parula has one little area he inhabits and loudly proclaims his territory. The wood thrush lives near me.

And now, since I’ve started flying the drone most every day, I have come to know the mountains and valleys here, in this little dot on the planet. There are two places I fly. One near my home in a meadow and the other is my driveway. The driveway is a straight-up and down flight. And sometimes I want to explore further yet every time I fly up, I see my friends. The mountain ridge across the valley…national park, Clingman’s Dome…those big friends. But the smaller ones here are showing me their secrets.

For instance, one particular mountain–just northwest of where I fly from my driveway—seems to attract fog. It seems to send out the call to the fog tiptoeing upslope. Today, the mountain valley in front of my home had a small rainbow or fogbow. There’s something very sweet about knowing the place where you live. And perhaps, to truly live in a place there must be some level of intimacy that develops.

The park is open again but I haven’t visited. I don’t want to miss a morning walk here…are the hooded warblers still in their respective places? Is the northern parula still here? Oh, look! There are now three fire pink flowers shyly peeking out from the lush green foilage and only two days ago there was one. These are my friends. The mountains and valleys are my pals. There is a deepening sense of Oneness within my heart as I really open myself to this green dot on this blue planet.

I’ll return to ride and walk in the national park. But first, let me deepen my acquaintance with life here in the place I live.