And still, I return to you ~

Today, like every day, I woke up and there was light. This morning is particularly bright and crisp. From the window I can see dew on the grass and the last standing vegetables in the garden. Our local groundhog has been feasting on our winter crops this past week but I can see that the kale has regrown and looks fresh, bright and vital once again.Sunflower focus small

I’m awe struck by the constancy of Nature, as well as its continual renewal. Every day the sun comes up and when it sets, the moon and stars grace the sky. Every day roots grow, rain flows and winds carry seeds. No matter if I’ve been loving or unloving, full of pain or joy, wrapped up in my own story or wide open to the world, there are amazingly wonderful works going on around me and inside of me in every second.

When I can see this gift and appreciate it, I feel such hope and faith. I can rest here and know that I am part of a living community. I can remember that my true nature is the same as Nature’s ~ repetitious and upward. Nature’s energy moves in pulsation and vibration and so does mine. Yes, I am part of something so utterly magnificent and brilliant that I know without a doubt that I only understand a small fraction of this mystery.

Yes, I falter and stumble. Some times I am not kind. I forget. I don’t always do the ‘right thing’. I’m impatient and narcissistic. And yet I can always be reminded by nature’s example that these states pass, the light returns and there is renewal.

It’s during these most tender sacred moments when I hear the sigh of the sun, the moon, the earth and the wind calling out to me in their merciful voices saying “and still… I return to you.”

Life is such a miracle, such a gift.

“And still, I return to you.” ~ I hear the whisper of the voice beyond.

I rest here.
Come join me.

If it feels right, bring this return into your heart and remember that the sun will rise tomorrow, the birds will sing, the clouds will roll by and the breeze will gently pass you.  You are a vital part of this community no matter what you say, do or think.

Take refuge in Living Nature my dear friends. I’ll meet you there ~

 

Spiritual mentor Deb Vail will often become ecstatic over her dog, a simple flower, violin music or a southern Appalachian handcraft. Communing with a subtly boisterous forest brings her joy difficult to contain. Deb, the founder of Sacred Living, has created a service for those with serious illness to find comfort, ease and bit of wonderment.

Friendship

We shared a meal with friends and family in the Chapel Hill area and I am reminded of the value in the simplicity of connection with good friends. Nothing is comparable to the luxury of the smile from a familiar soul especially when you are not feeling well and need companionship. I believe friendship ~ the familiar touches, looks and words is an often overlooked part of weathering a storm.

I’ve known this couple for nearly 15 years and have gone through so much of life beside them – birth, death, marriages, hospitalizations, simple shared meals, walks in the woods and travel – including getting lost! I doubt that there is much that my friend and I don’t know about each other. To me, this kind of shared intimacy is the heart of living.

I know there is a great truth in being in the present moment and yet, I know that when I have a history with people and places I connect throughout all time and space. This is a grace ~ a great gift of our consciousness. It’s the difference between going into the forest for the first time to explore and walking the same path behind my house every day aware of the plants, insects and animals that cohabit this mountainside with me to create a great play of life together. Each is beautiful. And yet, when I’m not feeling well, the steadfast enduring friendships offer the most meaningful interchanges.

Perhaps you would like to reach out to a dear friend today?

 

Spiritual mentor Deb Vail will often become ecstatic over her dog, a simple flower, violin music or a southern Appalachian handcraft. Communing with a subtly boisterous forest brings her joy difficult to contain. Deb, the founder of Sacred Living, has created a service for those with serious illness to find comfort, ease and bit of wonderment.

There’s No Place Like Home

I need to remember that everything I’m looking for in my life is right here inside of me and inside of my relationships with others ~ including the forest behind my house.

Thinking back it’s almost as if, for most my life, I was a dog chasing my own tail. I was searching. I was self righteous about the ‘proper’ way through life. I was looking for peace by doing intricate spiritual practices. I was even using mindfulness as a way to avoid feeling at times. My constant ‘spiritual’ busy-ness blunted the pain of being alive ~ the sadness, anger and deep grief.

At one point, I came to a breaking point. It crept up on me through the years ~ like how the forest takes over a field, little by little. But I couldn’t hold back the wild any longer.

I had perceived what was coming into my well-intentioned clear-cut ordered field as weeds: something that needed to be destroyed so I could live. But I was wrong: everything that came into my field was a gift. Every emotion that I had held at bay was my medicine.

When I stopped the chase I found Spirit rising in me in ways that I never expected. In some ways, you could say that I allowed the forest itself. I allowed it all and honored it by learning from it. Anger is passion. Sadness is mercy. Grief is truth.

I wish for you, my friend, the peace that comes from accepting all that comes to you and finding the medicinal properties of all your emotions in your embodied presence.

Come home to yourself.

 

Spiritual mentor Deb Vail will often become ecstatic over her dog, a simple flower, violin music or a southern Appalachian handcraft. Communing with a subtly boisterous forest brings her joy difficult to contain. Deb, the founder of Sacred Living, has created a service for those with serious illness to find comfort, ease and bit of wonderment.

The Path

Sometimes when I walk in the woods, it’s as if the whole world opens up to greet me. Today, I crossed the barbwire fence to enter the forest above my house and made a prayer to the plants that I wanted to collect to make into flower essences. As soon as I did, I saw a set of three rocks that looked like a staircase waiting for me. When I got to the top, there was another stepping stone to cross a little creek. On the other side, the light came through the trees and made a path visible so that I wouldn’t step on any of the little plants peaking through the leaves. There were thousands of spring beauties for me to collect for my essences but I collected them carefully and made an offering when I finished.

I started on again but nothing was quite clear enough to make a distinct next step. I started anyway and then a huge wind came whipping up and I stopped, realizing that I had either gone the wrong way or I had missed something. I looked down right beside where I stopped and there were three of the first blooms of hepatica for the season. As soon as I spotted them, the wind calmed. Beside them was some bloodroot. I took their pictures and went on.

This time the path was clear: it was as if the plants had left just enough room for me to walk without stepping on any of them. They led me straight to a tree with a very unusual base that had one single spring beauty beside a rock. It was a beautiful display of God’s perfect garden.

I sat beside the tree and prayed. My dog came next to me and sighed out in peacefulness. In the calm, I could hear the voices of nature crying for all of us who fail to see the beauty that is around us and fail to trust that all is provided for us on this earth if we leave it in its original form, live simply, share and are kind to each other. Nature’s cry was very loud and the winds picked up again almost sending a shiver through me. We sobbed and shuddered together.

My prayer for this world is that we slow down enough to listen to our inner promptings while also paying attention to our surroundings and having great respect for everything on this great earth. When we do, we are not only shown the way, the path actually opens for us.

 

Spiritual mentor Deb Vail will often become ecstatic over her dog, a simple flower, violin music or a southern Appalachian handcraft. Communing with a subtly boisterous forest brings her joy difficult to contain. Deb, the founder of Sacred Living, has created a service for those with serious illness to find comfort, ease and bit of wonderment.

Abundance

Abundance is the ‘in’ word these days. Everywhere you go, you’ll see long articles about how to create it and bring it in to your life but I believe we are missing something: we don’t need to create abundance ~ we need to acknowledge the abundance that is already present in our lives.

We are very rich indeed. No matter how much money you have in your bank account, you’ve got millions of cells working together in your body along with miles of veins that bring blood to your heart. Your heart works unceasingly. Your breath is constant and needs no attention from you to support your life. You may also have legs that afford you the possibility of walking, running, dancing and swimming. Perhaps you have arms and hands that gift you with the ability to do millions of things. You may even have eyes and ears, a tongue with taste buds as well as a nose that all work together and separately to bring you an infinite amount of tactile sensations. And your largest organ, your skin allows you to feel this whole world and be in constant interaction with it at all times.

And here we are in this body with a plethora of emotions that brighten the rainbow of our existence. We feel a range so vast and complete that there are not even adequate words to express the possibilities.

Beyond this personal existence, we are planted here on the earth with an infinity of plants, trees, rocks, birds and animals as well as all of the elements of fire, water, air, earth and metal. They are all here stewarding us, feeding us, sustaining us, giving us medicines for our bodies and our souls.

We are standing in the middle of paradise asking for abundance and yet we don’t even see that we already have it! We are already millionaires!!! We are all billionaires!!!

Instead of looking for the next thing for you to create or do to fulfill yourself, allow yourself to be filled up by receiving the infinite gifts that surround you in every moment. Take the next five minutes to sit in silence just being aware of the miracle of you! Take the next hour to look around you at all the gifts that surround you and acknowledge them all!

Listen! Open up your ears! Look around you! See! Feel everything!! Experience it all!

Give thanks!! And yes, please give thanks! The heaven that you are waiting for arrives in every moment if you chose it. The abundance you are seeking has already arrived! You are alive! It’s all path! It’s all love!

Receive it!! And give thanks!

 

Spiritual mentor Deb Vail will often become ecstatic over her dog, a simple flower, violin music or a southern Appalachian handcraft. Communing with a subtly boisterous forest brings her joy difficult to contain. Deb, the founder of Sacred Living, has created a service for those with serious illness to find comfort, ease and bit of wonderment.

Sacred Death

I love to notice how nature responds to our ponderings and lately, I’ve been pondering my death.

Five days ago we found the remains of a deer killed by coyotes at the foot of the mountain behind our house.  It was a fresh kill on top of fresh snow – guts spread out everywhere, the rib cage exposed and empty, almost all the muscle had been consumed and most all of its skin was torn off its one side.

Seeing this natural wonder deeply affected me.  It was the first I time have seen such ravage – just an hour or two after the coyotes had their feast. The hawks had already joined in as well.

We thought the neighbor had removed the carcass and we wanted to avoid it on our hikes so our dogs would not pick at it too, but yesterday, we found the remains further up the mountain: a full skull connected to its spine all the way to one leg.  There was only a bit of skin left around its hoof.

Even though I’ve done hospice volunteering and been with many as they have died… and even though I lived in Alaska and I am now in the mountains of North Carolina and am at least a bit ‘wild’, this incident showed me something that I haven’t witnessed quite in this way ~ the natural process of the life force moving between us in a very immediate intimate way.

It is such a stark contrast to our human experience these days ~ except, perhaps when a woman gives birth.  We shield ourselves from blood and guts in our every day existence and yet we watch it again and again on the media, TV and movies so we are viewing and interacting with pseudo processes instead of with life itself.

As strange as it seems, there was comfort in finding the carcass and a few days later only it’s straight skeletal remains.  It touched something raw and real and it humbled me.

I’ve been reading a lot of Stephen Jenkinson’s work and am deeply touched by his honesty and outspokenness on death. He gives me courage to express my concerns and deep grief. If you are interested, you may want to watch his film “Griefwalker” or read his newest book “Die Wise”.

“Drink enough of the sweet, strong mead of grief and love for being alive

and it isn’t long before you’re sending a trembling, life-soaked greeting out

to everything that came before you and to everything that will follow,

a kind of love letter to the Big Story.”

~ Stephen Jenkinson

 

Spiritual mentor Deb Vail will often become ecstatic over her dog, a simple flower, violin music or a southern Appalachian handcraft. Communing with a subtly boisterous forest brings her joy difficult to contain. Deb, the founder of Sacred Living, has created a service for those with serious illness to find comfort, ease and bit of wonderment.

Nature

When we enter the woods, we enter sacred territory. Nature is alive.  Its’ presence is palpable and yet we only glimpse a small part of it’s mystery until we draw closer.  Here, we begin to find meaning and patterns in nature’s relationships and cycles. Here, we find infinite worlds inside the energy of creation.  Here, we are struck by awe and reverence for life itself.

Nature is a mirror for our own soul.  It gives us messages of rightful living and relationship. It shows us qualities of generosity, equanimity, balance, harmony and peace.  It shows us that even destruction bears gifts.

If we dig deep and examine the intricacies of nature’s miracles we begin to realize that we are never alone – that we are constantly supported by billions of living particles of grace and love.

Traveling this sacred path is a new paradigm in the western world and yet it is as old as time itself.

Become united with the beauty you see and receive it unto yourself and then, once again, give yourself back to it.  You are the sun, the moon, the ocean ~

~Interbeing~
The Sun has entered me.
The Sun has entered me together with the cloud and the river.
I myself have entered the Sun with the cloud and the river.
There has not been a moment when we do not interpenetrate.
But before the Sun entered me, the Sun was in me –
also the cloud and the river.
Before I entered the river, I was already in it.
There has not been a moment when we have not inter-been.
Therefore you know that as long as you continue to breathe,
I continue to be in you.

~Thich Nhat Hanh~

 

Spiritual mentor Deb Vail will often become ecstatic over her dog, a simple flower, violin music or a southern Appalachian handcraft. Communing with a subtly boisterous forest brings her joy difficult to contain. Deb, the founder of Sacred Living, has created a service for those with serious illness to find comfort, ease and bit of wonderment.

The Journey of Place

Harry and I walked our favorite circle – up the road, up the hill, across the empty pasture, through the woods and then dropping down to the backside of our property. I do this loop often because I have such a growing love for this place.

We’ve walked this path so many times now that as we go by, I naturally look for and acknowledge familiar plants, trees, ponds, cattle and the tremendous view that takes my breath away. I’ve become so partial to it that I can’t imagine ever moving from this house.

I’ve always walked the areas around my homes, but most of the time I have walked on paved surfaces and viewed yards and gardens instead of natural areas. When I lived in Alaska, we would walk to Memory Lake but I was more aware of weather and moose than the plants and trees.

Being here in western NC with a diverse ecosystem has been much like unwrapping a gift every single moment. There are always surprises. And yet, now that I know one particular path and the beauties that await us, it’s more like a homecoming. As my affection toward it is growing, my heart opens more.

As we enter a pasture at the beginning of our loop, we pass over a small rushing stream. Later in the year, a field of milkweed will greet us on the left. I happily anticipate the spring appearance of the three big circles of mayapples across the big rolling field.
Then to one side of our path there is a row of apple trees (whose fruit our daughter will convert to exquisite pies in the fall) opposite a yarrow patch. Over the fence, up the well-worn cow path we stop at the nearly dead apple tree that still has one small branch alive and productive. The next part of the journey is almost like climbing a staircase and we look forward to the view from the top. Here we breathe in the expanse.

Turning around we enter through another gate and pass a small pond that is fed by small waterfalls of streams tumbling through woods from higher on the ridge. Next we pass the tulip poplar that hosted the red-tailed hawk nest last year and begin the gentle decline into the next pasture where we often meet a cattle herd.

From here, we pass the old collapsed homestead and we start heading for home through the forest. In this little patch of very wet woods, I know we are passing all kinds of native plants which will revive in spring – even native dwarf larkspur! We need to pass over the final barbed-wire fence, walk by sleeping lobelia and heal-all, past the willow and hawthorn and pick our way through the muddy swamp fed by the spring that provides our house to return to our yard.

Knowing this place has opened my heart. Is there a place that you know well? Does it open your heart?

 

Spiritual mentor Deb Vail will often become ecstatic over her dog, a simple flower, violin music or a southern Appalachian handcraft. Communing with a subtly boisterous forest brings her joy difficult to contain. Deb, the founder of Sacred Living, has created a service for those with serious illness to find comfort, ease and bit of wonderment.

Your Life is a Living Prayer

Yes, your life is a living prayer. We often think of prayer as a very specific way of addressing the Divine. We bow in gratitude or lift ourselves in supplication. There may be a specific ritual that we follow or phrase that we repeat.

And yet, is not the very act of living the ultimate form of prayer? When we remember that everyone and everything is sacred then every interaction is a prayer. How do we speak to others? Do we remember to look into their eyes? Are we aware of the wood planks that were made from the trees that are beneath our feet? When we wash the dishes do we remember that the glass came from grains of sand? As we eat, do we see, taste and smell the leaves of the greens and the fruit from the tree and remember our dependence on them?

In every minute we are giving back something to the world. Our service is much larger than our volunteer efforts or our place of work. It’s in every look, every word and every breath we take.

Could Love be that big and all encompassing?

The choice is ours in every moment ~ do we acknowledge the inherent prayerfulness of our very life and in all life forms or do we turn our eyes aside and pretend that our very lives are sacrilegious?

What prayer will you say today by your living?

 

Spiritual mentor Deb Vail will often become ecstatic over her dog, a simple flower, violin music or a southern Appalachian handcraft. Communing with a subtly boisterous forest brings her joy difficult to contain. Deb, the founder of Sacred Living, has created a service for those with serious illness to find comfort, ease and bit of wonderment.

Surrender

As the clock strikes twelve and the New Year arrives, I am aware of what I am thinking and doing because I was told long ago that those thoughts would be what my year would bring.

This year, 2015, I was reading Wendell Berry beside my husband, Harry, with my dog, Tulsi, at my side by the warmth of the fire in the light of the Christmas tree. The exact sentences that I read at midnight were “Let tomorrow come tomorrow. It is not by your will that the house will make it through the night.”

What a perfect beginning for my year – sweet surrender.

I’ve always been especially challenged because I can feel overly responsible. And that doesn’t mean that I do too much, it just means that I’m constantly thinking of what I can do, how I can contribute and how I can be a better person. And that can be a huge burden when I’m ill and not feeling well. Layer and layer of guilt and shame can accumulate and make me feel even worse.

Can I find enough trust and faith to rest, truly rest and be at peace?

May I breathe in sweet surrender this upcoming year! May I rest in “THE LOVE” that takes my house through the night.

May we all rest in peace!

 

Spiritual mentor Deb Vail will often become ecstatic over her dog, a simple flower, violin music or a southern Appalachian handcraft. Communing with a subtly boisterous forest brings her joy difficult to contain. Deb, the founder of Sacred Living, has created a service for those with serious illness to find comfort, ease and bit of wonderment.