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Breathing with Trees

Breathing with trees in the AdirondacksI ventured out, alone, in my snowshoes, on a quiet trail through the woods. We had had the first substantial snowfall of winter a few days before, and I came to a part of the trail that had not been broken since the storm. I’m not experienced on snowshoes and it was only my second time out this season, but it was quiet and beautiful so I decided to push on.

Once my body started complaining, I stopped and turned back. It had begun to snow again, which was lovely to look at but made the trail more challenging. I caught myself getting short of breath as my heart rate came up and I took a break.

There was a time when I would have been frightened out in the woods, all alone, with no cell signal, my heart pounding in my chest, but now I have a relationship with the trees. Through my shamanic work I have become aware of the life energy that flows through the trees. I have seen them “lit up” with that energy. It is the same energy that flows through you and me.

Rather than panicking out in the woods, I sat in the snow with my back to a tree. I tuned into that energy. And I began to breathe with the tree. Plants and animals are the two halves of the beautiful life-sustaining oxygen cycle. Trees breathe out oxygen, we breathe it in. We breath out carbon dioxide, the trees breathe it in.

Sitting against the tree, I became conscious of breathing in what the tree was releasing. It was as if I could draw the breath right out of the tree into my back. Then I breathed out and felt the tree draw in my out-breath. Back and forth, the tree and I breathed together, until my heart rate slowed and I felt safe and held. I walked calmly out of the woods.

This simple but powerful practice draws my awareness to the interconnected web of life. While the woods are a wonderful place to experience it, I find the same sense of connection and peace when I breathe with the trees in my backyard or even my houseplants. I leave a small offering in gratitude for the breath when I can, and I always speak my thanks. I know I am heard.

Connect with Fire: Candle Gazing Meditation

English: A candle flame.

A candle flame. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In honor of the summer solstice, we rebuilt and improved our backyard fire pit, then lit a big bonfire to honor the sun at its peak. Gazing into the fire, watching the flames dance and jump, reminded me of this simple candle-gazing meditation, which can be done anywhere you can safely stand a candle holder.

Find a place where you can sit undisturbed for a few minutes, either on a cushion or blanket on the floor or in a sturdy chair with your feet on the floor. Using a table or other props (yoga blocks or a stack of hardcover books work nicely) position a lit taper or pillar candle in a holder so the flame will be at eye level. You’ll want to use a holder which will support the base of the candle and catch any dripping wax, but which won’t block your view of the flame.

Find a comfortable seated position and close your eyes for a few moments. Bring your awareness to your breath. Breathe through your nose and lengthen your breath. Notice your thoughts, then let them float away. Notice when you feel centered and present to the flow of your breath.

Gently open your eyes and gaze at the candle flame. Focus your awareness fully on the flame, letting other thoughts drop away. If your attention wavers, bring it back without judgment. Begin to notice all the qualities of the candle flame. Notice the colors. Notice the movement. Become fully absorbed in watching the flame. Blink whenever it is necessary.

With your awareness steady on the flame, notice the thoughts flickering in your mind. Acknowledge any thoughts or feelings that arise, then let them go as you bring your attention back to the flame. Sit with the flame for five minutes, or as long as you are comfortable. Enjoy your connection to the flame.

When your meditation is complete, blink a couple of times, then close your eyes and notice your breath. Take four or five slow, deep breaths, then allow your awareness to return to the room. Open your eyes and return to your day. Be sure to blow out your candle!

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