Category: consciousness

Taking It In

Taking It In

The beauty was absolute. I found myself struggling to take it in: gray boulders; clear, cold, rushing water; soft, green moss; trees standing naked in their late-winter/early spring anticipation; intense, crystal-clear, blue sky. 

I breathed and opened my heart. It was it challenging to create a space large enough, within myself, to receive such profound and amazing beauty.

I sat and allowed my mind to still. As I scanned my body, I discovered something akin to pain as I attempted to take in such bountiful beauty. In stretching on the inside, and releasing whatever blocks kept me from receiving, I moved deeper into communion, into Oneness.

So many times we expect our growth must arise from dark, difficult times. But what if inner growth can happen just as powerfully from experiencing good things, beautiful things. 

For many years I’ve asked Spirit, What can I do to make a difference?, I received the same two words: GO OUTSIDE. I challenged the answer, doubting the significance of how that could make a difference, yet it hasn’t wavered. I follow that direction more often as I have discovered that Nature draws me into deep communion with all life and helps me be grounded and present. If distractions keep me from the friendship with Nature, I get out of balance quickly.

Today, as I melted into Oneness, I felt intense grief arise for every moment I’m not in deep communion with Nature. I was in my natural state of being…in wonder and awareness of Oneness. I wasn’t separate from the water, rocks, trees, sky…until my mind took me out of that harmony and I felt that deep longing for home.

It reminded me of a story a teacher once told. He said he walked along the sea and saw millions of fish swimming, crying out in desperate need,  Water, water, water, water!!! Sometimes we mourn separateness while the only thing separating us are our thoughts. It’s here, in front of us, within us, all the time. Can we recognize it? Can we feel it? Can we take it in?

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To dive deeper into Nature and the path it offers to wholeness, I invite you to pre-order my new book, Book of Nature. I opened myself for Nature to speak through my photographs and words as It guides us into deeper relationship with Spirit, ourselves, and all life. If you pre-order you’ll get free shipping and a matted 5 x 7 photograph from the book. Send money to a friend ($18 each) to my PayPal email: [email protected]

My two editors….
Rock in the River

Rock in the River

One of the reasons I enjoy fly fishing is experiencing the deep connection I have to water. In particular, wading the mountain streams creates an opportunity to be totally present and viscerally connected to the clear, cold water.

With moving water and slippery rocks, it’s imperative to pay attention. A wading staff helps as does regular yoga practice, but it’s still very easy to succumb to gravity and the constant force of moving water to become more viscerally connected than I want. Wading with intention.

It’s not just intending to stay upright. It’s also purposefully noticing each rock, gravel bed, root, overhanging branch, movement under the water, insects hatching, and rising fish kissing the surface. Every part of who I am becomes engaged in the process known as fly fishing.

But to be honest, the time spent in the creek never feels complete unless I sit on a rock in the creek just to observe and breathe. Those are the sweet moments when I can let go and be present—meld into the elements and recognize the Oneness of all life.

This past Christmas day I delighted in several hours of visiting my favorite little mountain creek. At one point, my back began to complain and I felt compelled to sit on a rock. After securing the fly line and hook, I found a nice rock and commenced to enjoy true stillness of body and mind. As if often the case, a teaching began to emerge.

I noticed the rushing water swirling around the boulder, around my booted feet. How long have you withstood the force of rushing water? Look how connected to Earth you are. You let everything just go around you without being moved. You are an amazing rock!

My mind needed that lesson. Too often I allow the calmness and stillness I practice cultivating within my mind to be interrupted by thoughts that come and go. Ever since then, when I find my mind distracted or going down some ridiculous rabbit hole, I ask myself, where is the rock? I laugh and report, way back up the river. It’s a way to monitor the mental chatter and multitude of times that old habitual thoughts and worries take me far away from being grounded and centered; take me far away from myself.

The rock in the river has become a touchstone, pun intended, to see if I am present with myself or if my mind has wandered downriver to some swirling eddy filled with debris. 

Barbie on the Rocks

Barbie on the Rocks

“WOW! Did you see that Barbie on the rock and there was a timber rattler right under her!” The young man ran up to me, sweaty, flushed, with wild eyes. The young woman with him looked calm. “Man, it was so cool.” 

I figured it was probably a garter snake. Or a stick on a ledge. And Barbie? Probably a fairy vision brought on by ingesting a white-spotted red mushroom…the ones that make you fly. But I thanked him and walked on up as they walked down the trail.

Didn’t see Barbie or a snake on these rocks.

Of course, the entire walk was spent looking for Barbie sitting on a rock and naturally, a timber rattler. Even though the trail is very wide—wide enough for a large pickup truck to drive up as it’s an old roadbed—I kept a close watch for the snake.

As I walked, I thought about his suspected hallucination and how it seems our society is living a massive hallucination. What if what we think really is our reality? Then the dude was actually seeing Barbie and a rattlesnake even if I never saw her or her slithery friend. But there was nobody to join in his hallucination so it was relatively harmless. But the bigger hallucinations—those can get scary and bring a lot of chaos or maybe we could all dream up calm and peace.

No Barbie or snake here.

It wasn’t the most relaxing walk. I was picking up beer bottles, plastic wrappers, cigarette butts and while the flowing water was clear and clean and beautiful, I kept thinking about Barbie and her fanged-friend.

No snake or Barbie here either

How much time do we spend on fear generated by someone else’s hallucinations? How do we, as a society, become so sure of things that perhaps aren’t even real? And what makes them real anyway? Maybe something is ‘real’ only if enough people believe it in their minds.

I have no answers to these far-out questions. For late afternoon, there were many people out walking. A mushroom eater (?) and a lot of larger groups who refused to yield the way. I could step off the trail and fall down a very steep slope or worse step on that timber rattler or I could clear my side of the trail. So I started swinging my bag of trash like a priest swinging an incense censer to cleanse a holy place. It worked. I don’t need to explain any of the similarities.

It became quite obvious, by the end of the walk, why I prefer to walk at sunrise…before the crowds and kooks arrive. And by the way, I’m super-disappointed that I didn’t get a photo of Barbie and the monstrous timber rattler frolicking.

Reflections

Reflections

SimoneLipscomb (22)I sit drinking hot tea while listening to bowhead whale song. It touches that place in me where wildness resides, where instinctual wisdom is present. Deep, deep in the inner waters that remain still, untouched by external chaos, global destruction, and consistent attempts by humanoids to pave over anything if it creates profit, I find peace.

This week has been profoundly healing, immensely wonderful. It has been a time of coming home to myself and refocusing my life’s work. And it all came about because I followed my intuition and opened my heart to doors that are open and waiting for me to walk through.

SimoneLipscomb (21)The 30A Songwriters Festival in Santa Rosa Beach gave me a nudge to make my yearly pilgrimage to visit manatees in south central Florida. Since I’d already be two hours in that direction I decided to go. But this time rather than arrange everything in advance, I allowed the entire trip to be fluid.

In the interim of trip planning and the festival, our area of Magnolia River had a manatee rescue by Sea World so I decided to ask Sea World if I could visit our gal while she is in rehab. Wouldn’t it be neat to see her and be able to report back to our community?

SimoneLipscomb (86)All plans remained open. I hadn’t received a response from Sea World but decided to leave a day early anyway and simply head south. When I weighed the two departure dates it was obvious which day would be best. And it made all the difference.

As I neared Crystal River a huge rainbow appeared. The arch was steep, a circle of rainbow light over my left shoulder. I stopped at a traffic signal and glanced at the name of the street: Follow Your Dream Parkway. At that point I knew the trip took a deep dive to other levels of experience–the realm where spirit resides.

SimoneLipscomb (97)I signed up for the early boat trip on the way down and was one of only four people on the trip. A true rarity in Crystal River during peak manatee  season. Also on the trip was a marine biologist from Australia. As we talked it felt as if we knew each other and were picking up where we left off at some other time and place. He is pursuing a PhD in Marine Education so our conversation was immediately on track to expanding ideas and sharing concern and grief over the status of our Ocean.

SimoneLipscomb (74)While the water was murky when we arrived at the site, it was for a good reason. Manatees were so thick in Three Sister’s Springs I refused to enter. They were stacked on top of each other sleeping. It’s illegal to swim over a sleeping manatee so the only option was to quietly exit without entering the main area of the springs. Well…my only option. It’s more important to allow them rest and quiet than for me to get a photograph. When I enter their realm it is with a sense of respect and awe….reverence. Their world is a cathedral, a holy place. I listen to their whistles and squeaks as holy choruses that strike deep chords of harmony within my soul.

SimoneLipscomb (8)The following day Rich, the marine biologist, and his wife Deb and their beautiful two year old daughter and I hired a guide in Homosassa to take us out on the water. While the water is greener there, the experience of absolute quiet with no other humans in the area was amazing. We all share a deep respect for wild animals and simply laid still in the water, away from each other, and allowed any curious animal a safe, respectful encounter with us.

SimoneLipscomb (2)Immediately after entering the water I had a large animal swim under me and start rolling around on the bottom. With each roll he would stop and glance at me and pause while I took video and still photographs. I could feel ripples of love and light flowing out from my heart as I remained motionless, an observer in awe.

SimoneLipscomb (14)Two juveniles played around me, coming to my camera housing and butting noses on it. They would get hungry or miss mama and would squeak and swim off to find her. I remained floating where I was and in a few minutes they would return. With the limited visibility, it was as if a phantom gradually appeared from the green depths and slowly changed from verdant algae tint to gray as it approached.

SimoneLipscomb (26)After a couple hours of floating and relaxing in the watery bliss, I grew cold. As I was thinking of heading back to the boat a very large mother manatee swam up behind me and rested her head on my left shoulder. Behind her, a juvenile rested her head on mama’s back. I glanced back and couldn’t believe the image I saw. Tears of wonder and joy flow even now as I reflect on this encounter. In stillness I laid on the water’s surface and marveled at the love I felt, prompted by this rare encounter…one of the most sacred moments in my life.

SimoneLipscomb (18)On this trip I experienced large manatees swimming up to me and laying beside me, snuggling for lack of a better word. We floated side-by-side in stillness. I dared not move as I didn’t want to kick or in any way disturb them. So in stillness, in depths of silence, I was one with animals that weighed 1000 pounds more than me. There was no separation of spirit, of love. They taught me to go deeper, deeper into myself to find that place of stillness and quiet where perfect peace abides.

SimoneLipscomb (94)I struggle about writing and sharing these experiences as I don’t want to suggest that everyone has experiences such as this. I don’t want to create even more masses of humanity descending upon these endangered animals. But for those who are quiet and still and are passive observers of these magnificent animals…they can change your consciousness, alter your perception, bring out the best that resides within you. But it only comes on their terms. You must act as a manatee….move slowly, float calmly…observe life gently…open your heart.

Rich and I were discussing manatee behaviors after our trip to Homosassa. He mentioned that as soon as he wanted to ‘manipulate’ the encounter…by wanting the light to be this way or the animal to be in a certain place….the animals that had been with him left. He didn’t move but his thoughts changed. Surrender to the encounter, let go of what ‘you’ want and magic happens. Very keen observation on his part. And how true for life.

SimoneLipscomb (25)Since we cannot stay underwater forever, the real benefit of experiences such as these is how they create lasting change within us. After years of observing people observing manatees I am more convinced than ever before that these animals are incredibly sensitive to not only human behavior, but human thoughts and emotions as well.

Yesterday I observed two permitted photographers — #1 and #12 (professional photographers apply for a permit through USFW) harass a mother and juvenile in the springs. The mother moved three times to try and find a place to sleep and rest with her calf and the photographers followed and continued their pushy behaviors. They may have images of manatees but they will never understand the spirit of these beautiful animals, never grasp their own arrogant and aggressive behaviors as being the exact opposite of how these creatures live and move and have their being in the water.

Photograph by Richard Wylie...THANK YOU!!
Photograph of me with a juvenile manatee…. by Richard Wylie…THANK YOU!!

I take away from these days with manatees a simple yet profound realization: Open heart, open doors. As I keep my heart open, the open doors will be made known. I will feel my way to them through an open heart.

Everything is getting clear on the path before me and with gratitude for the teachings they offered, I wish my manatee friends safe journeys through the waterways of life.

SimoneLipscomb (20)As I reflect on the week I remember the rainbow arching over my left shoulder, Follow Your Dream Parkway and the mother manatee and juvenile that rested on my left shoulder. The meaning isn’t lost on me. The visceral connection of the teaching is working deep within me. I remember the mother taking my right hand off of the camera housing with her flipper and holding my hand within her flippers and then directing it to her heart.  How can I not experience long-lasting and powerful change after this?

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SimoneLipscomb (11)And yes…Sea World called and I got to visit Magnolia in her med pool. She is recovering nicely and being treated for deep propeller wounds along with other manatees who are injured. The rescue and rehab program at Sea World is simply amazing. Simply. Amazing!

 

 

Dancing in the Fire…Part 2

Dancing in the Fire…Part 2

 

Collage/Self-portrait by Simone Lipscomb
Collage…Self-portrait by Simone Lipscomb

A couple days ago the idea of self-transformation, dance, and opening the heart prompted me to write a post. Evidently the idea is still growing in my consciousness.

This morning brought a beautiful dream. In it my mentor from England was directing a play and I was playing the role of a young queen dressed in a lovely, lace gown. My role in the play was two-fold. First, I shared two beautiful floral arrangements with the audience and secondly, I performed a transformative dance. While there was a male partner in the dream, he was simply there as an ‘unknown’ support as I danced.

The setting was outdoors and surrounded by the green of nature, I allowed my heart to direct the dance. I leaned backwards and felt my heart opening to heaven and felt complete oneness with nature, Spirit…with who I am. This dance…this dream…was a dance of surrender and opening.

Hours later, after a day of contemplation, cycling and creative fun, I still feel the power of the dream and the surrender of allowing love to move through my heart in sacred dance. May each moment be a beautiful dance of love and may the fire of transformation burn brightly for us all.