Wednesday, February 24, 2016

I Remember

I live ten minutes from the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP).  I admit it.  I have always said that if I become rich and famous I am going to promote the heck out of northeastern Ohio.  The Akron/Cleveland Metro Parks System is one reason and the national park is the other.
I have been blessed to use the massive CVNP trail system to hike, bike, and horseback ride for years.  Don’t even get me started on my other “favorites” such as the towpath, train, farmer’s market, blue heron rookery, ledges overlook, covered bridge, beaver marsh, and the whole town of Peninsula.
The Covered Bridge where we hike, bike, and horseback ride

And of course I can’t help but boast that my husband Joe and I, along with our dogs Abby and Wali (who just passed his test today!!!) are proud members of the CVNP Paw Patrol—an innovative program that serves as a model among all of the national parks throughout the country. Paw Patrol dogs act as park “ambassadors” of good will to visitors, while showcasing the park’s unique welcoming policies for leashed dogs.
Joe with our CVNP Paw Patrol dogs Abby and Wali

But all of this is just background to what I most want to express.  Beyond the accessibility of the CVNP, beyond the incredible beauty, and beyond all of the many fun activities available—what I love most is that every time I visit, I REMEMBER.
As I enter this sanctuary and listen in the silence of nature I remember what it’s like to:
  • Feel connected to something greater than, clearly grasping that someone or something far greater and grander than we humans put this whole thing together;   
  • Be in a place and space without judgments or expectations;
  • Realize that the “barking dog” distractions of life don’t matter as much as I thought;
  • Feel at peace, merely by the acts of listening and breathing.

Most of us understand this as some level, although we may not articulate it as such.  We just know that after we visit a place filled with nature, we feel a lot better when we return home.  Deep in our core we understand that we have tapped into the most natural and sacred part of not only the universe, but ourselves.

Gordon Hempton, an internationally recognized “acoustical ecologist” has spent a lifetime experiencing and recording this “silence of nature.”  He has authored many articles and books, as well as having produced award winning recordings of nature sounds from around the world.

One of the many things that appeals to me about Gordon’s work is that he believes that when we are in “the silence of nature” we develop a deep ability to listen—to oneself as well as others.  

He claims, and I completely agree, that it is important to become experienced in listening to the silence of nature while in a state of observation and non-judgement, and only attending to the sounds of such things as birds, running water, or the wind rustling the leaves as you walk.  

Gordon also believes that the more skilled you become at listening for the sake of listening while in nature, the more attuned you will be at listening to people, to be able to truly capture the essence of their message without judgement or preconceived ideas.

How exquisite--the practice and skills you develop while in the silence of nature appears to not only be good for the soul, but also good for those you interact with every day.  What a perfect example for taking inner listening and moving it outward into our daily lives.

Take a walk in a park.  Step out on your porch in the early morning.  Sit around a campfire.  Purchase a CD with the sounds of nature.  Do whatever it takes, even for a few minutes to tune in and listen, and above all REMEMBER.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Expanding Possibilities

Over the years, especially in difficult times, I’ve had a one-sided conversation with God that starts with a basic question, followed by pleas, and topped off with down-right demands and threats.  It goes something like this:

Me:  Where are you God?  I am hurting and I need to know you are with me.  I need your help, if I’m going to make it through this.  

What I hear from God:  Silence

Me:  Please God, please help me.  Give me a sign.  I’m listening.  It’s getting pretty rough and I don’t think I’m going to make it.

What I hear from God:  Silence

Me:  Okay—the truth is that I’m getting pretty sick of this crap.  Are you going to help me or not?  I don’t get it.  What kind of God are you?  If you’re going to make me or my loved one suffer, the least you can do is toss me a bone or a scrap of something.  Give me a freakin’ break here.  I need a sign to show you care!

Alaska--One of My Favorite Places to Listen
I’m not proud of this type of communication, in fact I am actually ashamed.  But fortunately in the Divine Classroom of Life, I think God cares less about shame and more about unconditional love and learning.  

So in that respect, I think I’m in better standing with the Divine than I originally thought—for during my most intense years of The Listening Project, I had a heap of lessons about those very things.  I observed, I documented, and after beating my head (and ego) against a brick wall a few times, I grew in my ability to access and listen to Spirit.

The bottom line lesson was simple: 

If I wanted to hear God, I had to be still and look around.  Divine   guidance was at my fingertips and endless if I didn’t limit my possibilities.

The Sound of Waves--Pure joy
That insight really got me thinking. . .I started reflecting on the times, while in the midst of a difficulty when I felt alone and isolated from God, I received just the right phone call from a friend or just the right check amount in the mail or ran into just the right person who could give me the love and support I most needed.

And then I started digging deeper within myself, and I discovered that the more I let go of my narrow concepts and assumptions about how I might experience Divine presence, the more a whole new world of listening opened up to me, and the more my listening opportunities grew.
Once I shifted my thinking from limitations to possibilities I saw how journaling, dreams, friends, family, strangers, nature, music, and animals all offered opportunities to hear the voice of God. The universe was literally “popping” with Divine messages and guidance.  My job was to pay attention, look for the synchronistic events or experiences, and to discern their relevancy.
Discernment was a critical piece, for just because some event or experience occurred, I still had to interpret and determine if it was something I should pay attention to or if it was merely one of the many “barking dog” distractions that often occur in our daily lives.
We have to be so careful about taking time for this internal review. Otherwise, we will be at the mercy of our external world. Anytime information comes in—always, always, always sit in your own throne to determine meaning and relevancy.

For example, the day I ran eyeball to eyeball with a giant black snake wrapped around a tree, I paid attention.  I was in the midst of great loss and wondering how I could ever climb out of the hell I was currently experiencing.  I asked myself, is the presence of this snake an opportunity to learn something that will help me at this point in time?

Snake symbolizes transformation—the shedding of one’s old skin, allowing new ways of being.  That experience, combined with other unusual animal sightings helped me understand that I was on the move. . .mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually and that most importantly, I wasn’t alone.  The message fit, offering hope for the future, and guidance for how to navigate the current difficulties.

I imagine God and the Holy Helpers sitting on the Other Side shaking their heads in wonder, not knowing whether to laugh or cry at what they were witnessing. Similar to the hummingbird I found repeatedly beating his little beak against the windowpane in our garage trying to escape, I too failed to realize that if I would just look beyond my current focus, I would see that my limited thinking prevented me from seeing the wide open pathway to freedom—the open doorway that was available only if I shifted my perspective.  With great humility I discovered I just needed to dynamite my human assumptions and let the light shine on other listening opportunities.
A Teacher of Wisdom
I can’t help but be continually amazed at how simply these Divine listening opportunities present themselves to each and every one of us.  But God can only do so much.  The rest is in our hands—more specifically our choices.
Choose to become a better listener by thinking about how and when you currently are able to access Divine guidance.  Now, kick open the door and take a look at other opportunities.  The possibilities are everywhere.