If your idea of meditation is sitting comfortably on a cushion in a softly lit, quiet room, with an hour-long recording of Tibetan singing bowls streaming on your tablet while incense smoke curls around you, sitting with squirrels is not the practice for you. If you are ready to be fully present to what is true now, even if what is true is that a squirrel has buried his head in your coat pocket to grab the last peanut, than maybe it is time for your meditation practice to get out into nature.
When I first started on the Shamanic Reiki path, I could not figure out how I was supposed to be standing next to the Reiki table, paying attention to my client, and simultaneously journeying to connect with helping spirits, the elements, or the client’s higher self. There was too much to keep track of at once, and I was often disappointed that I was not able to be “shamanic” enough in my approach.
The instruction I received for developing those shamanic, two places at once skills?
Get out into nature.
Seriously, going outside and spending time in nature, without an agenda or expectations, was part of our Shamanic Reiki Master Teacher practicum. In Llyn Robert’s book, Shamanic Reiki, she talks about connecting with nature repeatedly. After many years, I believe I understand why.
First, nature heals. Yes, it sounds trite, but fresh air, nature sounds, and a brisk walk can reduce the effects of stress without much in the way of an investment. The natural world is available even in the biggest cities, evident in the plants that sprout in sidewalk cracks and the pigeons that perch on high-rise balconies. All you must do is stop paying attention to where nature is not and open to where nature is showing itself.
Second, being in nature is an opportunity to practice being in two worlds at once. If you have ever taken a long hike, you have most likely experienced moments of being lost in thought while following the trail and managing to avoid tripping over at least some of the roots and rocks in the path. You can, in fact, walk and chew gum or, in this case, daydream at the same time.
Third, Spirit speaks through nature. The stone or feather that catches your eye, the appearance of a frog or a snake at your feet, or a hawk overhead, are signs that nature is communicating. I cannot tell you what the signs mean, but your inner wisdom knows.
Sitting with squirrels
This brings me to sitting with squirrels. Behind my house there is an imaginary line drawn somewhere in the woods, but the squirrels do not care if they are in a tree on my land or the 30 undeveloped acres on the other side of that line. This makes my home an ideal place to release the squirrels I have raised as a state-licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Most of the squirrels spread out into the woods or beyond, but a few have stayed close to raid the bird feeders and beg for peanuts.
These squirrels have become my meditation partners. Every morning I plop down a split log and practice becoming grounded and centered, watching my breath, and being mindful of my senses and thoughts, while having a peanut at the ready for a fast-approaching grey squirrel. The squirrels are a delightful distraction that keeps me alert to their antics while also shifting my consciousness to the detached observation of my response to them.
I have heard it said that shamans stand with one foot in each world. By sitting with squirrels, I am learning the art of being here and also not here, in my morning meditation and in my Shamanic Reiki practice.