What to Take on a Nature Walk

 

New experiences and old memories of beautiful flowers and pine scents make nature walks magical. It’s of course not that way for some, bad experiences like the one shared with me involving M&Ms and raccoon tent invasions do leave unsuspecting people wondering if it’s worth it.

I say, leave the tent behind until you feel more confident and can take on shelter building. Let your feet do the walking through the woods and paths filled with wonder and delight. It’s a way to belong. A way to find solace and feel accepted after all nature doesn’t care what your hair looks like or how much your jeans cost. It’s too busy taking care of business. It’s too busy being nature.

My suggestion is to forget all expectations and become a part of your green space, or whatever color is appropriate for your surroundings, now’s your time to reach out to the flowering plants, towering trees, or animals that call you home.

Here are few tips to keep in mind:

  • Don’t take people who don’t like nature on a nature walk it’s a distraction
  • Wear comfortable shoes, sneakers, or hiking boots that are broken in
  • Check the seam on your shorts or pants if it’s rubbing you between your legs take them off and put on something else
  • Grab a map of the park, GPS may not work in some areas
  • Pick the right season one with fewer mosquitoes and some cool breezes

If you need more help find a nature/walking club, park ranger, sports store, or an app.

3 Nature books you must have in your library

 

There are three beautiful books that I would recommend to anyone that has a love of nature.

The thing is they’re not conventional, and so I hope you give them a chance to bring some amazing light into your life.

The first one is “The Tracker “ by Tom Brown Jr. This book is the one that began my spiritual journey and has shown me the value of the natural world in my life. Trained by an Apache elder named Stalking Wolf Tom’s book is his biography of an extraordinarily skilled survivalist who transcends the physical skills and opens the door to spiritual awakening.

The training that Tom received wasn’t just focused on traps and hunting but also on the sacred skills that bring you closer to nature.  It’s a fun adventure into the woods with a twist.

“What the Robin Knows” by Jon Young dives deep into the world of the winged.

It’s a book with a DVD you may purchase separately.  This book is not about bird calls but bird behavior and communication.  What do birds say to each other?  What do they tell us? Is it worth being immersed in this spellbinding tweet fest?  I learned a lot from Jon Young’s portrait of bird speak.

“The Journal of Henry David Thoreau 1837-1861” Thoreau is a legend in the world of naturalist after all he began a movement that still thrives in this country today.

He was a gentleman of his time interested in science and literature traipsing through the woods gathering specimens and tucking them into his stove top hat. He also had poetry in his heart and a love for justice.

In his Journal we are treated to his poetic and scientific mind with the turn of each page.

The Sweat Lodge

I stand in the moonlight barefoot in my swimsuit, a towel around my waist, watching the sacred fire heat up the stones. The fire is controlled and powerful as it was meant to be. I pause to look into it and remember my reason for being here.

My grandmother stands beside me as I remember the sacred fires made by my ancestors. How they carried the earth’s knowledge and blessing. They knew the healing herbs and the best time to plant and pick the wild plants. They walked barefoot staying connected to the earth and were made fun of for their devotion. I’m here to heal that shame.

The idea of building a lodge was Tom’s suggestion. He’s a member of our Healing Society. We were all sitting at Vin’s kitchen table. We’d been together as a group for over a year. We learning and worked with healing techniques Vin shared with us.  We took requests from friends and family and then worked out a plan to heal the person. When we needed to tackle difficult healing, we stopped, learned something new did the healing.

You know how sometimes you really don’t know what you’re getting yourself into but you can’t stop yourself from doing it? This sweat lodge project was very much like that. The Creator had tapped us on the shoulder and made a request, so we went for it.

I was familiar with the basic sweat lodge ceremony. Now, I wanted to help construct the lodge and prepare the materials. There were rocks, saplings, and firewood to gather. We needed saws, tobacco or cornmeal for offerings, and a car. The car would get us to and from the lot we were gifted to use for the ceremony. The tree harvest became a crucial learning for me.

The sweat lodge is a ceremony that takes a lifetime to master. However, most of us had never built one.  The decision to undertake this task was going to challenge us all. It’s one of the most powerful tools the Creator has given us. It’s about cleansing and sweating out impurities. Its purpose is preparation for more serious and powerful challenges.

My mind drifts to the conversation I had with a fellow traveler a few minutes ago. She pointed out a young woman in shorts and a t-shirt, telling me that she’s a cop. We were changing in the shed and she was watching us. I don’t know why the police were interested in our sweat lodge ceremony, but I had more pressing matters to take care of before the ceremony. I was in charge of greeting the guest taking part in the sweat.

In the lodge, a ladle full of water is poured on the stones. At first, the water is at odds with the rocks, dancing above them. Until they burst into steam that fills the small structure. The lodge mimics the womb. We sit in the warm, misty, moist fragrance of steam coming from ancient stones and herbs. I close my eyes to feel and breathe in the moisture. When I open them, I see the others shifting to make themselves comfortable on their blankets. I’m touched by my neighbor’s knee and reach out to her for comfort.

The close quarters are starting to affect me. I’m tense. The familiar panic that accompanies an anxiety attack is threatening to overtake me. My throat is closing and I know I won’t be able to breathe in a few seconds. I look toward the door for a way out. I begin to talk myself out of the panic. I helped construct this lodge and I know how to exit through the wall if I lose all control and scramble for the nearest exit. All I can think of is fresh air.

Vin’s leading the ceremony. I haven’t told him I’m claustrophobic. If I need help, he’ll help me. If I need to run out of the lodge he’ll understand. I’m sitting furthest from the door. I guess I didn’t think things through before coming into the lodge. I ask spirit for help.

The stone people are ancient. They have seen many things over time. Their wisdom is sought by many. In this ceremony, they share their knowledge with the travelers. They share what they have seen. They will give up their lives for the people in the ceremony.

I remember the Saturday we jumped into 3 cars, bursting at the seams with people. We were on a mission. We drove for about 30 minutes and wound up with a lot filled with saplings. Our car doors flew open and we spilled out onto the pavement. We gathered around Vin for final instructions and were given a few extra saws. I had my own folding saw from my days as a civilian park volunteer.

We would have to connect with our inner vision to select the 14 trees that would make up the lodge framework. Each sapling would have to be communicated with and an offering given for its sacrifice. I had made offerings before, but this time, I felt an urgency and commitment I hadn’t had in the past. This time, the ceremony was for a group of us, not just me.

The lot belonged to Roy, a traveler, and friend.  He was happy to let us have the saplings. I remember the sun shining down on hundreds of young ailanthus trees. Ailanthus trees are an invasive species and these were struggling for space, each one casting a shadow on the other.

I move carefully and gently between the trees. I find a few that are willing to come with me. I give my offering. As I cut the trees down, I feel a physical release, as if they are saying, “I’m okay. I will sacrifice for this ceremony.”

I stop to take a break. My eyes are drawn to 2 dark trees with rough bark. I realize they’re sassafras trees. They’re not invasive but they want to come and be part of the ceremony. I’m torn.  This is not the plan. I struggle for a while and ask a traveler working next to me what he thinks. He shrugs. I take a deep breath and take the 2 trees.

We load the saplings onto the pickup truck Julian is driving and head for the ceremony site. We walk into the woods and find a large clearing. The site is mapped out and the measuring begins. The circle for the lodge is marked off using string and a center pole. The pole holes are marked with an x. Then we begin to dig.

In the lodge, it’s time to make a decision. Do I run out of the lodge? I hear myself say, “How much do you want this?” A feeling of calm reaches me. I begin to feel peace enter my body. My thoughts return to my hopes of healing the shame of poverty infused into my family history. My grandmother’s shame of walking barefoot on the muddy trails, of being hungry while others shoved food in their mouths.

When another ladle of water touches the stones, I remember that I’m not here for me. I’m here for my people. I feel pieces of doubt, jealousy, and shame sink into the earth. The rest evaporates into the mist.

The saplings go into the ground, we begin to see the structure appear. Julian and I grab the saplings and bend them to meet in the middle and tie them together. The rest of the saplings are joined and a dome forms.

We continue working on strengthening the walls of the lodge. In about an hour Vin declares the framework finished. He stops and asks if we have one more sapling for the entrance pole. It’ll hold our personal items as a declaration of our commitment.

The only saplings left are the young sassafras trees. Julian takes one and attempts to place it in a hole but it breaks. The hole is deepened and the second sassafras tree goes in without effort. I feel satisfied that I honored my inner vision and selected the 2 trees at the lot. I was listening to my ancestors and honored their request to include the sassafras trees.

We had many sweat lodge ceremonies that year. Before one of them, I remembered to ask about the policewoman that came to our first sweat. Julian leaned over to tell me he thinks. “She was with us because our lodge is built behind the Arthur Kill Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison. On December 1980, two inmates tunneled out of the prison and escaped in a car – John Nappi, 26, and Daniel Chiarello, 29.” I guess the police wanted to make sure we weren’t going to help anyone escape. She did stay for the ceremony but she never came back.

During one of our meetings, we decide to include the prisoners from the prison in our prayers at the next ceremony.

I feel a cool breeze and the outside world slowly slips into my thoughts as the lodge door opens. I wait my turn to crawl out and back into the moonlight. No one is speaking yet. The steam is lifting from our backs as if feathered wings were forming. We’re the travelers, willing to walk a little-known road to freedom.

 

Healing and Choice

The concept of choice is very Christian, but within the depths of Niasziih Healing, it’s a fundamental component. Caroline Myss takes us through the looking glass of history and mysticism to find the modern relationship we have with the concept of  “choice” in healing. This way she gives us a glimpse into this newly awakened healing modality that employs “choice” as a way to form new perspectives.

 

What Can We Learn from the Bushmen?

The “horse girl” with an interdimensional understanding of horses that includes storytelling, information gathering, and feeling knows how we can learn and relate to each other. Can the Bushmen of Africa help us remember how to connect with the earth and each other? Can we tell a new story by using them as a role models? The answer is yes. Jon Young tells us how.

Walking in the Woods: Slow Down and Relax

Stalking and fox walking are two ways to walk in the woods to better connect with nature. It’s precise soothing and relaxing all at once. Tom Brown III (of Sigma 3 Survival School) is the son of Tom Brown Jr. the famous survivalist, author, and teacher who runs The Tracker School. He is your teacher in this video, lucky you. If you’d like to come closer to the natural world, it’s important to shift your thinking and let your body do the work. Your body remembers the old ways and can take you on great adventures, but a good teacher can’t hurt. Enjoy the video and practice your stalking it’s a great way to slow down and relax.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s a Shaman?

 Recently at a dinner party, someone asked me what a shaman is? What a complicated question and one I could only answer by opening my heart to my experience but first a little history.

The Shaman was born from observing nature, developing survival skills, and the people’s great need to survive. In every land, shamans work to keep the people alive and healthy. Shamans are a necessity of traditional cultures even today. In our modern world, they are bringing their tried and true skills honed over thousands of years, to the communities in which they live.

Shamanism is not a religion but the root of religions like Buddhism and Christianity. The role of the shaman in ancient society was one of healer, psychologist, sociologist, and priest. Traditional shamans train for many years beginning their schooling in their youth. They learn to be a herbalist, work with energy, see the future, and travel in the spirit world. They’re survivalist that know the land and all that it has to share with us.

The shaman lives in two worlds, the physical world of the flesh and the spiritual world. She travels between these two worlds to bring information and energy to her clients. She journeys awakens visions in others, shifts and balances life. These healings occur during ceremonies or private sessions.

In my practice, I feel that the work I do with my clients is for “the good of all things” not just the two of us working together in a room. The call of the shaman is particular to the love of nature and the well-being of the people. It’s filled with learning songs and stories that teach and open doors to new perspectives.

Today’s Shaman has the same challenges, to keep the people alive and well. We as a modern society are in need of healing that encompasses not just our physical but spiritual lives. So it’s no surprise that mothers, fathers, cancer patients, those with heart disease and chronic illnesses are reaching out to shamans for help.

Shamans today live among us in schools, universities, grocery stores, and auto repair shops lending a hand when needed and they also have offices, spas, and centers where they work with clients on a one on one basis. A shaman hears the call of spirit then trains to sharpen the skills needed to help her fellow man/woman.

Tree Benefits Podcast 001

 

The value of trees is remarkable and leaves me stunned in this podcast all about the benefit of trees.

“We find that having ten more trees in a city block, on average, improves health perception in ways comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $10,000 and moving to a neighborhood with $10,000 higher median income or being seven years younger.”

http://www.nature.com/srep/2015/150709/srep11610/full/srep11610.html

 

AMW The Benefit of Trees Podcast 001

“The findings suggest therapeutic benefits for direct capacity attention from an early intervention aimed at restoring attention in women with newly diagnosed breast cancer.”

http://journals.lww.com/cancernursingonline/Abstract/2003/08000/An_Environmental_Intervention_to_Restore_Attention.5.aspx

 

Tree Friendly Organizations

National Arbor Day Foundation
www.arborday.org

The National Arbor Day Foundation’s mission is to help promote tree care and conservation and to educate people on tree issues in the USA. To do so, they have developed nationally recognized programs like Rain Forest Rescue, Trees for America, and the Arbor Day Farm. Find tips on planting and caring for trees, educational tools for teachers and kids, and conference and workshop announcements.

National Alliance for Community Trees
www.actrees.org

Through collaborative endeavors of a spirited membership, ACT is a vigilant advocate for local communities, states, and the nation creating a positive, action-oriented presence for the member groups. Membership will have grown to include virtually every tree group in the country as a result of substantive benefits and services that strengthen individual member groups and their leaders. 

Thanks to http://spiritoftrees.org/organizations for their list of tree organizations.