Tag: Humpback Whales

Let It Go

Let It Go

While cycling yesterday I put my iPod on shuffle of all songs on it. I do that sometimes as a way to let the Universe choose my inspiration for the ride. David Wilcox’s song, Let It Go, really touched me…

I watched it sinking down…the treasure I’d almost found is gone…I had been holding on so long I had to let it go….I wagered my heart and soul, all of that weight in gold and dreams….the woman I thought I should be, I had to let it go….High above the broken opening I see the light of love is spoken, welcoming me…Now that I remember how this love can be, full of my surrender emptying….Into the deep blue sky when it’s my time to fly away I can release this weight, now I can let it go, now I can let it go….all of this love I’ve saved, I get to let it go.”

This seems so appropriate for the place in which I find myself. Letting go of the woman that I thought I should be. Who was she?

That question is so wrapped in expectations…of family, culture, institutions…my interpretation of what was expected and what I expected of myself.

The past 18 months have been a deep journey into all of these expectations and as I begin to move from this long threshold moment in this life, I gain perspective of what has been happening.

Today I listened to an interview with a guy who does some truly inspired work and he said he had gone through two major awakenings in his life. One led to his first spiritual opening where he moved more into alignment with his path and was very happy doing the work but eventually he began to feel called to deeper work and wasn’t sure what was happening. He related that his intuition, his guidance that he had grown to trust, disappeared and he felt as if he was stumbling in the dark. It went on for a few years until finally he came through that long period with guidance that was specific about the next phase of his work. He had no idea how it would work out but he listened and the result is simply amazing.

This resonated so deeply with me as I have been very happy in the work I’ve done over the past decade or so. Photographing underwater wildlife, writing about the connection with Nature and sharing with others has been amazing but my guidance is taking me to different work. And no matter how much I question and wrestle with the direction, in the end I completely trust it.

For many, many years–even when I lived in the mountains years ago– I have heard guidance to go outside each day and connect with Nature. I didn’t know what that meant…not really. I meditate and do yoga and even when I cycle I’m tuning into Nature. What exactly was this guidance telling me?

Over the past few months, as I have started to come out of the threshold and begin the first tentative steps to the other side of this transitional period, the meaning has become clearer. There’s a different level of opening that occurs when we take our wholeness into Nature and sit simply with the intention to connect.

For example, if I (personality self) connect with my soul self (higher self) and allow that soul self to expand into its proper ‘size’ I notice an inseparable connection and flow with Nature….complete Oneness. Nature and this expression of life known as Simone exists in the state of Oneness with all life….trees, insects, bats, dogs, cats, grass, stars, you, the homeless woman, the wounded child, the cow in the pasture.

That experience helps me deal with the insanity happening all around the planet. Nature is teaching me how to be balanced while it seems everything in the world is falling apart. And this is key to being present with this mess and not going crazy. It seems the answer lies in realizing Oneness.

I believe the solution to the problems of the planet begins within each of us. And it seems that recognizing Oneness and experiencing it is the first step. Perhaps our only task is to stand in conscious awareness of Oneness with Nature and all life. What if we all did that? There would be no war, no hate, no pollution or destruction of our planet, no fighting…imagine.

I’m not suggesting that we stop everything we are doing to help make a difference and just meditate (well, not really) but I am suggesting we take a few steps back and clean up our own emotional, spiritual, mental and physical selves and find our own experience of Oneness so that the actions we take come from an egoless intention. Sometimes the rhetoric of the ‘good folks’ is as scary as that of those committing the atrocities.

My work is unfolding from this shift in focus, this beautiful place of connection. The animals I have worked with through my photography and travels are encouraging me, from inner guidance, to take the work deeper and share what I’ve learned from them with others. The first stage of this is through a course of study called Deepening with Nature. It’s a thirteen lesson self-study course in which animals guide participants through 28 days each lesson with exercises and meditations to deepen the relationship with Nature and thus the self. Each lesson is guided by a wisdom keeper animal spirit. It begins with a Humpback Whale. Lesson two is a Wolf…three is a Dolphin and four a Bear….and so on.

The other way the work is unfolding is to consult with individuals wishing to gain insight on their current life path. I do this through intuitive consultations via phone or in person. This is unfolding quite beautifully. The synergy that occurs expands the process of healing and wholeness.

I’ve had to let go of the direction I thought life would unfold and allow it to organically blossom into a deeper expression of my heart’s profound love of this planet. Years ago I made the commitment to be a bridge between humans and nature and envisioned it would be through me connecting with Nature and then sharing photographs, videos and writing and that would be it. Now I see the depth of the work I am called to and it’s quite humbling. I’m being asked to go much deeper in helping people connect to Nature, not just from a superficial level but to the real core of it all.

All the energy invested in the previous direction, all the love for what I was doing, I can release and allow it to guide me deeper…and help guide others deeper into relationship with Nature, with themselves.

When we open our hands and hearts and let go, we can once again receive.

 

Letting Go of Hope

Letting Go of Hope

It’s a relief to give up hope. Then I can focus on the here and now. I think Catherine Ingram wrote this in her article, Facing Extinction. Or maybe that’s what I thought while reading it. Or perhaps it was Dahr Jamail in his book, The End of Ice. It felt as if I was finally letting go of something very heavy and when I gave myself permission, it was freeing.

Nearly ten years ago, after documenting the BP Deepwater Horizon for a year, I was emotionally spent, exhausted and had no ability to allow joy or pleasure into my life…how could I while Nature was suffering so? I spent a week with Joanna Macy which helped me heal the deep wounds generated by what I witnessed.

While my eyes and throat burned with the smell of hot diesel fumes erupting from the Gulf of Mexico, people living only a few blocks off the beaches refused to believe the beaches were heavily oiled. That taught me how denial works in the human psyche. Something so unimaginable and painful is perhaps simply unacceptable in the human mind. As soon as the well was sealed, the attention of the masses was off to the next media circus leaving me angry and in disbelief. How did this not wake up the entire world, I fretted.

Since that time of photographing, writing and videoing seven areas along the Alabama and Florida Gulf Coast for a year, I have struggled with trying to maintain hope…that people will wake up and care and do something!

One of my mentors told me during the year I worked at the Gulf that there was a reason I was being asked to witness such devastation. I knew then I had never witnessed anything so traumatic. Watching sea creatures die on a daily basis, birds suffering, beaches heavily oiled while humans walked in bathing suits or frolicked in oiled waters was a living nightmare where reality was warped. Two worlds collided every day as cleanup workers dodged beach-goers and families let their children run and play in the toxic water.

So yes, I know crazy. I know denial. I know grief.

After working on the oil spill I decided to start documenting beauty and began writing about encounters with humpback whales, dolphins, manatees, sea lions…the Ocean itself and other sacred places. Surely, I reasoned, this will help people see the preciousness of our planet and maybe it will encourage them to action as protectors and champions. “This is what we risk losing!!!” I seemed to shout through my prose about my whale friends or the dolphin who seemed to adopt me into her pod or the adorable sea lion pup who played hide and seek with me.

I was still in a place of hope.

In the last decade, the reality of just how bad the climate crisis is has escalated. I thought the grief I felt over the oil spill was intense. Now, every day the grief deepens and yet, thanks to Joanna, I refuse to turn away from that which saddens me. As Dahr Jamail wrote in his new book, “I am committed in my bones to being with the Earth, no matter what, to the end.”

And the grief many of us are experiencing is anticipatory grief. We know what we are losing every day and we know the outlook is very grim. Catherine Ingram wrote, “For those of us who cannot look away, we carry the anticipatory grief for those who cannot bear to look.”

Why am I here? Why did I come to the planet at this time? I suspect, if we have a choice, it was intentional. The deep love I feel for this water planet and all life here is worth being here as a witness to the beauty and kindness and compassion….the capacity of humans for greatness. And yet with that capacity comes the other side of human behaviors that are selfish and plow through life with the profit-at-any-cost mindset.

I suspect that many of us who came here at this time did so to offer our love and compassion in a time where that is greatly needed. As empaths it’s not easy to do because we feel it all….not only human grief but that of all life. I don’t think we would have come if we didn’t have something to offer.

Over the past couple of years a major shift in my work has been taking place. I have had clear guidance that one phase is ending and another is beginning. It feels like a bell is ringing in my soul, calling me to step forward and begin. It’s like the first 59 years of my life was about laying the foundation and now, the deeper work begins.

I know that I can’t be in a passive role any longer. I cannot ignore the sound of the bell calling me to work and gradually the vision is getting clearer.

My own inner work has taken me into deeper relationship with Nature. Without a doubt, the healthy way forward is to expand our individual and collective connection with Nature. As part of my work I will be offering opportunities for individuals and groups. There will be multiple opportunities for Deepening with Nature…a regular, outdoor circle to build community; day retreats; weekend retreats; sacred travels and individual consultations. This will be enhanced by my move back to the mountains of North Carolina.

We must re-learn how to listen to Nature and slow down to fine-tune our ability to hear our own heart’s voice. Dahr Jamail wrote it perfectly, “Grief is something I move through, to territory on the other side. This means falling in love with the Earth in a way I never thought possible. it also means opening to the innate intelligence of the heart. I am grieving and yet I have never felt more alive.”

I am releasing the dark visions of the future so I can remain present and be of service to this planet and those wishing to deepen their relationship to Her. I will use every talent I have to be present with all life here, whether it is connecting with a whale in the ocean or holding space for someone to feel their grief.

Dahr poses this question that I pass along: “How shall I use this precious time?”

 

 

 

The Underlying Current

The Underlying Current

“The spirit of Walter Anderson thanks you.” This comment, while I was documenting the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2010, meant more than any other. It fueled me to keep going when the fumes, death and poisoning of sea creatures weighed me down with unbearable grief.

Part of mural from The Little Room, by Walter Inglis Anderson

Having a background as a state park naturalist and lover of the natural world, Walter Inglis Anderson’s words, drawings and paintings inspired me to connect deeply with elements of nature–not just animals, land and sea, but spatially through geometries of light and shadow.

Decades since his book, The Horn Island Logs, was published I have written and photographed many wondrous places and creatures in nature but more importantly, I have interacted with mountains, coasts, humpback whales, dolphins, sea lions, waterfalls, trees…I connect with much more than form, on a deep level.

I’m not concerned with only the technical aspects of a good photograph. I want to connect with the essence behind form. When I am in nature…underwater or in a forest….I simply show up and ask to be shown the light behind the physical manifestation. I have no agenda other than to be an observer wherever I find myself…with a camera, notepad or stripped of anything but my heart and mind to receive whatever gift is offered.

A while ago someone sent me information about an application for an exhibit at Walter Anderson Museum of Art. I’m not one to apply for exhibits and competitions, but the intention of the exhibit spoke to me so I applied. The subject was the human connection to water and I knew the exact image I would submit.

A small group of us were on a photography trip to Bimini to photograph  a friendly, resident pod of spotted dolphins. At some point during one of our days with the pod I stopped, as is often the case, to drink in the beauty of color, light and form. My friend Susan was preparing to photograph approaching dolphins. The reflections and light were surreal and I lifted my heavy, underwater housing and fired off one shot. The dolphins were so fast and Susan was swimming fast so there was one chance to capture what I felt as I communed with the sea and Her creatures.

That shot now hangs in the Water, Water exhibit at Walter Anderson Museum of Art (WAMA).

I was excited for it to be chosen yet it felt almost destined. Even as I applied I fully expected that image to be part of the exhibit…very unlike my usual low expectations. But the real magic for me was when I delivered the print.

Mural painting by Walter Inglis Anderson in Community Center, Ocean Springs, MS

When I dropped off the print,  Bea–one of the museum employees– invited me to look around. I went to the Community Center, attached to the museum, that was filled with a mural painted by Walter Anderson many years ago. It was as if the spirit of Walter swept around me and I begin remembering how deeply his work influenced me over 30 years ago, when I first viewed the room.

Mural painting by Walter Inglis Anderson, Community Center in Ocean Springs, MS

Tears filled my eyes as a part of me seemed to slip back into full embodiment of this life, this present moment where my art somehow interacted with his art and a circle was closed…like everything finally made sense.

Mural painting by Walter Anderson, The Little Room

During the two-night opening of the exhibit I listened as John Anderson, Walter’s son, shared about his relationship with his father and about his dad’s work. I was taken to a greater understanding of myself as I listened and was able to chat with John and share how his dad’s work influenced me.

John said his dad was shunned, a sort of outcast in the Ocean Springs community because he isolated himself and lived on Horn Island. It resonated with me. So deeply am I connected to nature and the energy behind it all that I rarely feel as if I fit in with this consumer-driven world. I could happily spend my days and nights exploring woodlands and shores, climbing trails on mountains…so profoundly does solitude appeal to me. It’s only in the quiet and solitary ways of observance that I feel home in my skin.

Another new exhibit at WAMA focuses on Walter as Artist, Naturalist & Mystic. Yes! was the only word that came to mind as I reflected on my own life.

I remembered a morning surrounded by humpback whales in the pre-dawn darkness anchored 90 miles off the Dominican Republic. Fishy exhalations of the whales were illuminated in the moonlight and kissed my skin as they drifted in the warm air. As I did morning yoga the whales came closer and closer to the boat. I felt myself open to the Universe, ocean and whales–there was no separation, only perfect communion.  Since then I have known that communion to be as sacred and holy as any experience. It is my touchstone to purpose and presence here on this magnificent Ocean Planet.

There was no conscious memory of how Walter Anderson influenced me, but as I reflect back after viewing his murals and sketches from Horn island, it was as if he was a silent mentor riding an underlying current with me on the journey with whales, dolphins, sea lions, manatees. It is like he has been encouraging me simply from his audacity to do what called him to life.

Who knows how this life journey works. Something guided a friend (can’t remember who) to send me information on the exhibit. And the entire process brought me full circle to a place where I felt the spirit of Walter Anderson saying, “Well done.”

Mural painting by Walter Inglis Anderson in The Little Room

To have such deep love for the planet and all Her creatures and witness the destruction of so much is nearly unbearable. I only hope my work–through words, images, painting–helps connect human animals to that which they are part of–even if they have forgotten. May we all remember…and fall back in love with that from which we come.

Unaware my friend ‘Auntie’ Eydie was taking my photo, the unposed, pure love of his work shines through…in The Little Room.
The Intelligence Behind it All

The Intelligence Behind it All

Recently I was listening to a talk given by Eckhart Tolle about being present with nature. He said to think about the stillness of trees and then the Intelligence behind the stillness….that Intelligence is the connection we want to make. Something about that really stayed with me.

Since then as I cycle on the back country trails of coastal Alabama, I set the intention to connect with that Intelligence behind the trees, the swamps, the stillness of nature at sunrise. As I pedal, I feel the attention I give to that Intelligence reflected back to me as amazing ‘bigness.’

On my first trip to Ireland in September 2017 I spent a couple days alone on Inis Mor, an island off the west coast, and had an experience that has been challenging to understand. It was my last day there. The next day I was to begin my journey back to the USA. I sat on the rocks overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and poured my heart out, sang and generally expressed gratitude for the wild elemental spirits that awakened me to a deeper connection with nature….with myself.

As I stood to leave, I felt a presence with me that followed me down the hill, past the chapel ruins, onto the small street, back to the bed and breakfast….and even settled into two open seats on the flight back over the Atlantic the next day. I wrote an e-book of ‘fiction’ about it called The Stone Hut but still ponder what it was I felt…and still feel.

After giving attention to the Intelligence, while outdoors and through meditation, I suspect that it was the Intelligence of wild nature found on the western Irish coast. Some might even try to label that Intelligence….God…Universe…Great Spirit…but for me, labeling diminishes It. Without a doubt, it was an immense presence that was easily palpable. And now, as I tune in closer to nature, I find it here…everywhere. I feel it everywhere.

Recent meditations with the Qabalah seem to parallel the experiences I’ve had in nature. To help illustrate here’s a bit of Qabalah info for context.

The Tree of Life or Qabalah has three pillars and ten sephirah or spheres. The diagram, to me, is the best map we have of the process of manifestation into the physical realm of existence. And perhaps the absolute best psychological model of the human experience we have.

In meditations of late I have been working with the Tree via the path of the Lighting Flash of manifestation, or the descent of power… and sitting with the energy of each sphere to see if it has a teaching for me. While I don’t want to get into the depths of Qabalah, as understood from a western esoteric philosophy, it might help to offer a simple explanation…and hopefully tie into the original storyline of this writing on the Intelligence behind nature….behind everything.

The yellow line in the diagram above represents the Lighting Flash or the path of creation. In the most simple terms, Kether is unmanifest potential or as I think of it, Cosmic Soup, where every possibility exists. The image I think of is a gigantic cauldron filled with star dust, stars, galaxies and we take our hand and scoop out an idea, something we wish to create. Kether might be compared to the Tao, where everything exists before it divides into duality.


So in the path of creation, we go from Kether to Chokmah, or the powerhouse sphere of active energy. We might think of this as masculine energy, a very necessary part of creating anything. And across from this sphere is Binah, which I see as a dark cave of enfolding that receives the masculine energy and begins to give it form…not a final product, but the beginnings. Binah represents feminine energy, also a necessary aspect of the creative process. As we continue down the Tree, it culminates in Malkuth…physical manifestation.

Recently I’ve been guided to begin at Kether and sit within the triangle formed by the emanations of Kether, Chokmah and Binah. In essence, I’m sitting within the Supernal Triangle feeling the early process of creation within the Three-in-One, like a Celtic knot of unbroken energy flow.

As I sit in this space I feel the immense energy of creation coming from Chokmah, the driving force that is simply force pushing toward Binah, the enfolding energy that brings order from raw power. We have to learn to sit in this place of stillness with our own unlimited and unmanifested potential. And this is not an easy task.

It feels like sitting in a pressure cooker with the intense, chaotic, raw power of unmanifested energy being hurled toward the container, Binah. As we grow in our lives, the more we are able to receive that raw power, the better we become at creating…or co-creating. But a warning here: In the flow of Intelligence, of that raw, unformed energy, there is just power. Energy. When we receive it, it infuses our talents, gifts, strengths with power….or anything we focus on including anger, fear, hatred. The energy is neutral until we ‘receive’ it and infuse it with our ‘stuff’….whatever our ‘stuff’ is. This is why in the western esoteric studies of the Qabalah I have participated in, much work is done on clearing the personality and resolving wounds and unhealed places within so when we do learn to align with that power, we do so in an ethical, helpful way.

Sometimes it is necessary to sit in stillness and connect with something greater than ourselves. No. At all times, this is necessary but most of us probably forget and jump ahead, foregoing the part where we learn to listen to the amazing Wisdom that is always, always available. Part of our work is to learn to distinguish the voice of ego or personality self from that of a higher self. It is this higher self, that we might call our true self, that has a direct connection to the Intelligence behind all things and perhaps is the ‘part’ of us that is in harmony with It…is One with It.

As I cycled today I heard that the flow of Intelligence is like a river and when we align with it we merge into a Cosmic Union. We allow thoughts to stop and simply open to Wisdom. When we can surrender our ego, our sense of separateness, and allow our consciousness to merge with the Intelligence behind all things, we experience Oneness.

The Eckhart talk on the Intelligence behind trees and these meditations of late are prompting me to reflect and listen. I’ve had visions of leading retreats in the mountains, helping people deepen with nature. I feel myself deepening with nature, with that magnificent, indescribable Intelligence behind all that is.

For many, many years I’ve been drawn deeper into relationship with aspects of nature…Ocean, whales, dolphins, sea lions, sea turtles. And now, I feel Earth calling me…deeper into Her embrace…like gravity calling me home.

Deepening with Nature….this is my personal work and the work I bring to the world. May it continue.


All photographs copyright Simone Lipscomb. Drawing by unknown source.

 

Remembering the Whales

Remembering the Whales

As I was doing my sunrise, front porch yoga this morning, I flashed back to pre-dawn yoga anchored 90 miles offshore of the Dominican Republic. The moon was still hanging low in the sky, the stars were visible even with the white light of the moon. All around me whales were floating, silent in their reveries. Their misty, fishy breath drifted across the deck as I moved through my practice.

During that time there was no doubt they were completely aware of my consciousness and intention. The words I held in my heart to connect with the Ocean, Stars, Whales were magnified with love moving between my heart and their hearts. As I type this even now I get goosebumps….more than two years later.

In my book, Cosmic Whales, I describe in detail the experience of feeling a purple flame of light surround me. “Halfway through my yoga practice, I face the port side of the boat in a wide, squat pose. White whale breath nearby is illuminated by the nearly full moon. A whale exhales close to the boat and I feel the breath drift across my face and arms. A shooting star arcs across the sky, over the whale….I am awestruck and stand in mountain pose in contemplation….It is a moving mantra of love for the Ocean. The whales respond by coming even closer to the boat….In the moonlit, pre-dawn light I hear them exhale and see their misty, white breath as it drifts across the calm, black surface of the water….I hold my hands overhead in prayer and feel myself engulfed in spiritual flames of blue, then violet.”

Moments like these can bring us joy and peace years after the initial experience. Lately, I’ve been thinking about humpback whales…a lot. They began calling me when I was just a child. And now, living far from their summer feeding grounds, I feel their insistent presence within my heart and mind. Blessed are the singers, who call me home.