One of my most profound learnings from decades of leading retreats and workshops is the power of the circle. The content of whatever the offering may be — the “excuse” that got people into the room — is valuable of course, but the magic is in bringing people together in a climate of love and support. We heal through being present with one another: through sharing our insights and our pain, through witnessing and being seen, through compassionate connection. I have experienced it again and again. It is humbling and beautiful and powerful. So powerful, in fact, that it transcends even physical separation. During the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, unable to gather physically for retreats and healing circles, we have been able to replicate this sense of communal connection via Zoom. We invite people to be present with one another in a wholehearted and authentic way, as we witness each other’s faces, homes, stories, hearts.
Community extends beyond our human family. We are part of the community of Life — of Nature and Spirit, ancestors and coming generations. Just as we can receive care from other humans, we receive it from Nature through the mutuality of relationship. We are surrounded by so much love, yet we are most often unaware of it.
I grew up amidst the concrete and asphalt of New York City, but even there, were trees and grass and clover and dandelions in the park. And near one place we lived, the Hudson River. Every autumn the leaves were painted with color, and a huge chestnut tree dropped its treasures for eager children to gather. The summer I turned ten we moved to a suburban town about an hour outside the city by commuter train. It seemed to me like the middle of the woods. I found refuge following a creek to a place hidden from sight. Sheltered by trees and surrounded by skunk cabbage, I would sit for hours writing poetry and listening to the Earth, the Water, the Wind.
My mother planted a small vegetable patch and I tasted raw peas for the first time, picked right from the vine — each sweet green pearl pulled from the pod by my own ten year old hands. The idea that one could actually grow food and eat it was almost beyond imagining! As a city kid, food came from stores — in cans and little cardboard freezer packages — not backyards, not the Earth. It was magic to me.
Even today my backyard gardens, however small, are my sacred sanctuaries. I walk in my urban neighborhood attentive to the warmth of the sun or the moisture of the fog, the movement of the air, the fragrance of any flowers or herbs growing in street-side patches of soil, the cycling of seasons. My relationship with Nature and especially with the Elements, and what I experience as the wise and loving intelligences within them, has become central to my spiritual life and practice, and to my healing work with others. Nature offers profound spiritual medicine — medicine especially needed in these times of layered daily and generational trauma, of intense despair, pervading injustice, and apocalyptic revelations.
I have heard it said that in Nature exists the medicine for every human ailment and illness — even the ones that haven’t manifested yet. The cure is already there awaiting the need. This healing lies in both the specific chemical compounds found in plants and the spiritual energies of Nature. Perhaps for the soul sickness of humanity, the medicine is already in us to treat it. We are part of Nature, after all.
PLEASE JOIN US FOR AN ONLINE HEALING RETREAT, Saturday Jan. 28, 2023.
Info & Registration: bit.ly/SSS-retreat-jan2023
This post is an excerpt from my book-in-progress.
[Photo by Liza Rankow: Buddha and rose petals in the garden]