Plant Communication

IMG_1004I have always been fascinated with the thought of plants communicating with each other and us. Thanks to quantum physics we have moved from a reductionist look at life to the reality of our interconnectedness with all living beings human and non human. There are three stories that have always touched me that demonstrate the communication of plants.

The first is one that happened back in the late 1990’s. It is about a young woman named Julia Butterfly Hill, who took up residence in a 1,500 year-old redwood tree for 738 days to protect it from Pacific Lumber Company. Pacific Lumber had been hired to down this entire grove of redwoods. Julia was supported by a group of activists who set up a pully system to send her food, etc., as she was able to send down waste. She affectionately named the tree Luna. Pacific Lumber Company tried all kinds of legal maneuvers to get her out of the tree. Finally out of frustration they decided to take all the trees around her and leave her and the tree. As soon as the chainsaws started, Julia said that Luna began emitting sap, not just a little, but amazing quantities pouring over her and her platform. Luna had not emitted any sap in the days of living in her shelter. Julia was convinced that Luna was crying for her partners in the grove. Was Luna crying? No one can know for sure. I choose to believe she was, as she began to witness the destruction of her family.

The second story comes out of the University of Arizona. Its science department was doing research on plant life in the desert. Again, this was the late 1990’s. What they found truly surprised them and started them on a completely new path of research. The Arizona desert is filled with wild pigs called Javalenas, or commonly known as Collard Peccary. They observed that as a Javalena was eating the berries from one shurb, the shrubs surrounding this one were being left alone by the other pigs. As they researched this phenomenon they discovered that the shrub being attacked sent out distress messages to the plants through its root system warning them of disaster. Receiving the message, the plants developed thorns preventing the pigs from eating their berries.

The last study study is the findings that trees talk to each other. Scientists have found they communicate via pheromones, hormone like compounds that are wafted on the breeze. When one tree is being attacked by insects, gypsy months, or beetles it sends out distress signals. The downward trees catch the drift, sensing those few molecules of alarm. This gives them time to manufacture defensive chemicals benefitting the entire grove.

Plant life survives through unity and communication, protecting each other from harm.  We humans do the same thing. It seems hard to believe at this time of deep divide. I

IMG_1012know that if I were stranded on the freeway a majority of those passing would stop and help. They wouldn’t ask my political allegiance. I write this post as a reminder to me, as well as others, that we do stick together in times of crisis. Our country seems so divided, flamed by hate-filled rhetoric, that it sometimes feels there is no hope. I return to the simple belief in kindness. I see it every day when I pay attention.

May we pay attention to acts of kindness we receive and give each day. This is our way of caring for each other, maintaining hope in a world that seems to have gone array. We need it more than ever at this time in history.

Transitions

IMG_1126Life is a balance of holding on and letting go. Rumi

What better time to write about transitions then when fall is slowly turning to winter. I’ve always used the seasons as a way to look at my own growth. In fall I love walking in the crisp air and seeing the vivid colors that tell me fall is in its prime. I watch the leaves let go and fall to the ground, and ask myself “What do I need to let go of.” I mourn the slow loss of my roses, dahlias, and other summer plants. I watch them die away, going dormant, preparing for the rest winter offers for renewal. I ask myself, “What is dying within me?” “What wants to be birthed?” These are questions of transition. Questions many of us ask, and often want quick answers.  I turn to Rainer Maria Rilke’s quote reminding me to be patient:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

It is often hard for me to “live the question.” I let the questions free float as I do walking meditations. I make space for the answers by slowing down and listening to what comes forth.

May you find the time to be patient and “Live the Questions” of your life.

 

An Epidemic of Loneliness

The Worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself.   Mark Twainbacklit-bench-lonely-1280162

A sense of separateness comes from feeling disconnected from community, families, friends, and our own selves. Lion’s Roar, a bimonthly magazine recently had a full section on loneliness.  The introduction showed the number of research studies that are currently being done on loneliness. There are commissions on loneliness and campaigns to end loneliness. The United Kingdom  has a Ministry for Loneliness. Loneliness is a hugh societal issue. We are connected to our phones, computers, and virtual relationships, but no longer look each other in the eye or have actual conversations.

One author recommended completing the sentence; Loneliness is a child….  Without consciously thinking of my own childhood I finished the sentence with the first thought that came to my mind. My sentence stated, “Loneliness is a child, in the midst of a family,  feeling not seen nor heard–feeling invisible.” After writing this I realized this was my childhood. Much of my adult life has been spent yearning to be seen. I also know that I often feel more lonely in groups of people then by myself. I invite you to complete the sentence without forethought. Write what pops up for you.  Write the sentence several times. An interesting exercise to give yourself insight to when you feel lonely.

Natalie Goldberg wrote a piece in this section sharing her sense of loneliness. She states, “Loneliness has followed me all my life……but no one every dared mention the dreaded word loneliness or utter its experience. Did only I feel it? That’s what loneliness is, believing you are alone in the whole world.” Loneliness is something we don’t talk about with others. We often believe we are the only one that feels lonely.

Martha Beck states, “Loneliness is proof that your innate search for connection is intact.” It is when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to share our sense of loneliness with another that we begin to feel connected. Taking time to be alone helps us get to know who we are beneath the cultural norms that say we need to do more, have more, be more. Solitude gives us the silence needed to let go of what is not working for us.

May you find time in your days for quiet heartfelt conversations and the stillness silence brings so you may get below the layers of societal expectations.

photo credit, Jeswin Thomas

 

Miracles

70404619_2413056612106815_8560608121511215104_n.jpgThere are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is to see everything as a miracle.     Albert Einstein

I have lived in both worlds. I now choose to see everything as a miracle. Living as though nothing is a miracle creates a darker world. I lived in a world of cynicism, distrust, anger that shaded my interactions and experiences. A wonderful definiIMG_1084tion of a cynic is “One who is a disenchanted idealist.” That was certainly me. Coming of age in the sixties I believed anything was possible. For a decade I thought we could change the world. Becoming a cynic protected me from the reality that change is slow and one step at a time.

Today I believe that everything is a miracle. I still have my moments of anger as I live in a world that is deeply divided and hate-filled. Instead of raging I feel deep sadness and know that this too shall pass. I know that my presence can make a difference through kindness, a smile, a word of encouragement. Bringing a smile to another’s face is a miracle. One step at a time is all we can do.

When I notice myself getting down, I walk outside and let nature renew me. How can I not see the miracles of a rose unfolding, or a flicker bathing itself in my bird bath? These are small everyday events and true miracles. Taking a hot shower each morning is a miracle. There are so many hands that help bring the hot water to my home. I know how blessed I am, as so many people in our world don’t have this luxury. Miracles are in front of us every day.

These are two of my favorite quotes that speak so simply to life as a miracle.  “If you are bored, you are not paying attention.” Fritz Perls, and “Stay close to anything that makes IMG_1122you feel alive.” Hafiz.

May you feel the aliveness of miracles throughout your day.

 

Living without Shoulds

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Free to Be Me

Have you noticed your self-talk is often accompanied by the word “should?” When I use the word should, such as, “I should,,,,,,,,,,,,.” I am telling myself that I am lacking in something. Most of my life I have had a script in my self-talk that repeats “I should” for any number of reasons. I should lose weight, I should try harder, I should do more, I should spend more time___________, fill-in the blank.

All these “shoulds” create a since of not doing enough, not being enough, or not having enough.  We live in a culture that continually tells us that more is better. The advertising industry is based on prompting us to buy more to be happy. The cycle is never-ending. We try to be more beautiful, successful, kind, spiritual, or put the words that you strive to be. Whatever your answer my guess is you have a lot of “shoulds” that follow you’re thinking.

I asked myself, “What would my life be like if I did away with all “shoulds?” The first thing that came to my mind was freedom. I would be free of:

–worrying about what other’s think about me,
–attempting to meet unrealistic expectations of myself or others,
–doing it right the first time,
–rehashing past conversations, or rehearsing future conversations.

As I wrote these different ways of being, it felt wonderful to allow myself to make mistakes, be spontaneous, and not worry about things out of my control. One might say we need those “shoulds” to keep us from hurting ourselves or others. I trust that most of us know right from wrong. We don’t need a should to tell us not to rob a store. The key is to not try to be what you are not. It is about accepting who you are and allowing yourself to be different. Marlo Thomas, wrote a song back in the 1970’s for children titled, “Free to be Me.” When I am fully at ease with myself, there is no need for “shoulds.”

I invite you to make a list of “shoulds” that seem to dominate your self-talk. Behind every should is a sense of lack. Allow yourself to look at what you fear if you don’t follow that “should.” Enjoy the journey, it is about coming home to your true self.

 

What’s Next?

As I grow older, I seem to have more questions then answers. What is my deepest yearning? How do I want to spend the next part of my life? Where am I being called?IMG_0447.jpeg Many doors have closed, some by my doing, some due to my age, and some I’ve had no control over. Yet, new doors don’t seem to be opening up. As a friend once said, “It’s the corridor between the two that is the real b__ch.”

My life has been filled with “doing.”  I have always been an active, task-oriented person. Filling my life with pushing through obstacles–pain, life—proving and achieving. As a driven person, I seem to be constantly planning. When will enough be enough? Learning how to be at peace with the slower pace of my life is hard. I am still healthy and active, my slowing down is more of a spiritual slowing down than a physical one. My struggle continues to be between “being” and “doing.” Doing is a hard task-master.

What I do know to be true is when I quit creating stories about “I should be doing more,” the questioning stops. The trick for me is to remain present to each moment. When I am able to see the beautiful birds that grace my feeders I am fully present with a smile. I feel awe more often at the beauty surrounding me, aware of the grace and beauty in my life.

Maybe this next phase of my life is about slowing down so I can show up. Learning how to let Spirit pull me, instead of feeling the need to push through. For me it is a practice of trusting that what I need comes my way. I just need to pay attention and be present. Perhaps it is not about waiting for another door to open, but recognizing that being here now is the open door.

Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life.                Eckhart Tolle

 

Be Astonished

Mary Oliver speaking at a gathering in San Francisco, told the audience, “I want to speak to the young people in the audience.” She said, “Pay Attention
Be Astonished
Tell Someone.”

These three instructions have stayed with me. Being astonished evokes a sense of awe within me as I am pulled out of myself and  feel connected to something greater. With the daily headlines shouting out climate destruction, mass shootings, and hate filled, divisive rhetoric, I find myself retreating to the beautiful seven miles of nature trails out my back gate. I am blessed to be so close to an old growth forest.

My garden is another refuge. Watching the flowers slowly opening to their amaIMG_1084zing beauty. Watching and listening to the various birds that grace my feeders brings me joy and peace. I often think of Wendell Berry’s poem, “The Peace of Wild Things” where he says,  

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in this beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things

Research suggest that the sense of broader connectedness and purpose evoked by awe can help relieve negative moods and improve happiness. Evoking feelings of awe may be especially helpful when people are feeling bogged down and disconnected. Doctors are now prescribing walks in nature over medication. Abraham Heschel defines awe as a “Sense of transcendence, for the reference everywhere to mystery beyond all things. It enables us to perceive in the world intimations of the divine…..What we cannot comprehend by analysis, we become aware of in awe.” He further states, “Awe is the beginning of wisdom.”

My teacher and mentor Matthew Fox once said, “You must fall in love at least three times a day.” Yes!!! I practice falling in love, being astonished, with the beauty that surrounds me daily. It helps me move out of a sense of despair and into awe and wonder.

May you fall in love at least three times a day, and be astonished with the mystery of our universe.