In the stillness I looked inside and saw the wound laid down within all of us… The wound that comes from believing we are alone amid dead uncaring nature. And then I took a breath and began to share stories of a time when the world was young, when everyone knew that plants were intelligent and could speak to human beings… A time when it was different.
In vivid dreams and the oldest stories, birds perch on our shoulders to speak to us of the morning’s events, the mushrooms on the forest floor murmur an answer to a question we have yet to ask, and the scarlet mouths of morning glories open to shower us with vision to heal an emotional wound buried under years of addiction. In the real world, the one right here under our feet. In the real world, beneath illusions we have trained ourselves to see, between rapid-fire moments of rushing from one task to the next, above the wailing roar of our minds, the earth still speaks to us. Though we have struggled to free ourselves from the integral spirals of time, death and dirt we remain inextricably connected to every being, to life itself. It’s not that we’ve left the fairy tale, it’s that we’ve closed our eyes, shoved our hands in our pockets and turned up the ipod.
Before speaking, listen. Listening begins with feeling, by plugging into our larger self, defined by a particular grove of trees, this specific watershed, a bioregion we call home, the country and the planet as a whole. When we come back to here – to the moss beneath our fingers and the leaves falling from the sky, we then better remember our origins and source. Once we are stripped down to vulnerable, feeling flesh we hear more clearly the cool mutter of the Cottonwood and the excited whispers of the Redroot. We sense in a more intense way our connection and relationship to plant and animal as kin. As family. As self.
At times it can feel as if blockages are impeding upon our sense of perception and ability to listen. We wonder if there’s something wrong with us, if we’re mortally wounded because we can’t hear the plants and rocks and animals speaking to us in clear, coherent language. Or in some ways worse, we remain able to hear their tempting whispers but never loud enough to make any sense of it or to participate. As if the earth was going about her daily life, speaking to her children and listening to their songs and stories without us. As if we were cut off.
We’ve all been told to listen to your gut and follow your heart. And it’s true that we would do well to heed our deepest feelings and instinctual urges. Yet one of the greatest tragedies of our world is that many of us have lost touch with our own feelings, we don’t even know what our gut or heart is telling us anymore. This happens through the sensory numbness that accompanies the common overstimulation of rat race living and the deep emotional/spiritual malnourishment of a people with few ceremonies and little value placed on experience, ecstasy and personal revelation.
Sometimes it’s the scars of the life we’ve lived and how we’ve learned to deal with pain. Running away to deep inside our selves every time our parents scream at us, every time our spouse pulls away, every time the news comes on the TV. We’ve learned to cope, to step back, to shut down. And yet healing requires just the opposite of us: engagement, participation, intimacy with the world in every way.
Imagine having the nerves in our hand cut, suddenly we can’t feel or move our fingers. No matter how hot the plate or how silky the fabric, we just can’t feel it. There is a disturbing absence of sensation. If the nerves begin to heal back together, then we have pain and nerve sensations that jump around, burning like electricity and sometimes seeming to originate from a part of our hand different than where we were actually touched. This is how it is with our connection to our feelings, instincts and intuition.
One of the therapeutic approaches to restoring feeling to a numbed limb is to spend time with Stinging Nettles. The painful sting has a miraculous way of assisting in the restoration of feeling. So then, one of the ways we can begin to restore our own deeply feeling selves is to be open to the life-giving properties of acknowledging and experiencing our pain. As long as we stuff down the hurt of our wounds our self and our greater self — of the pavement, the difficult, unresolved divorce, the species gone extinct, the baby that was never born, and the fatigue we can’t seem to recover from — we’ll be cut off from ourselves, separated by a vast sea of unresolved emotion and unfelt sorrow. The point is not to wallow in the pain, but to deeply acknowledge and experience the pain in a ceremonial way so that we can feel it and then let it flow through us and into the ground to be integrated rather than forcing it into an isolated pocket of despair and depression.
As humans, we are earth’s celebrants, joyful expressive beings that can dance the rapture of budding trees and birthing stars. When we daily celebrate the awesome beauty that surrounds us we’ll find ourselves closer to our own beauty and source. On a physical level, we would do well to peel off our shoes and wiggle our toes into sensual soothing grass, to stumble over sharp stones and to sink to our ankles in the sweet decay of rotting leaves on the forest floor. To take off the waterproof jacket and feel the rain and wind in all of its messiness, discomfort and ecstasy. To sleep outside without the nylon sheathing of a tent or even the star-obstructing shelter of a tarp, and for one night to feel the ground beneath our body, the breeze on our cheek and the animals that move around us as the stars spin through the sky and we open ourselves to the cellular reality of belonging, connecting and communicating with the inspirited earth we are always a part of.
By removing the physical and emotional barriers to the world, we open ourselves not just to discomfort, but also to the bliss and delight of communion with the world around us, with what we have always called other, but is really a larger part of our own selves.
We take these strippings away of numbness and old skins as the first step towards a greater listening, the first step in the ancient dance between human being and plant.