Archive for October, 2012

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. ~Kahlil Gibran

The sense of touch provides us a measure of intimacy with an object or an individual. Unlike the senses of sight or smell, touch demonstrates intention. If I want to (re)connect with Nature, I must become intimately involved with Nature’s space, I must touch the earth, the rocks, the water, and the wind. I went out twice this week to connect with Nature through the sense of touch but with two different techniques. The first technique was more intimate, laying myself bare to the connection. The second more playful with a youthful curiosity and sense of exploration. Both techniques provided moments of insight not only into Nature but into the subconscious realm of the self. I found a quote by John Muir that sums it up, “I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” Here is a restatement of the goal of this project, to (re)connect with Nature and by doing so create path of illumination to better understand and transform myself.

Technique #1 – Barefoot Walk

This first technique comes from the Earthwalks by James Endredy (see resources tab for more information). It is as simple as it sounds, take off your shoes and walk! So I went out to my favorite hiking spot and removed my shoes. I have never been hiking barefoot before, but I am no stranger to shoeless living. I never wear shoes in the house and don’t put shoes on for simple outside chores like taking out the recycle. Fall weather has arrived and while I was wearing a jacket, it wasn’t too cold on my feet. I soon discovered one of the challenges of hiking barefoot. With Fall the weeds have all dried up and dropped the thorns that house their seeds. No blood was drawn during this exercise but there was a thirty foot stretch of ground that was literally touch and go. I told Layna about my experience later and she asked why I didn’t just put my shoes back on for that stretch? Pride of course, I had already started the exercise and wanted to see where it would take me.

Hiking on familiar granite rocks and dirt paths, the experience was new and stimulating. Some might say over-stimulating due to the amount of neurons firing in the brain to process all of the touch stimuli. The experience was also exhilarating in a way, the freedom from the bindings of society had fallen away and I was free to explore the landscape on my own terms. My rate of progress was slower but I was much more focused on the ground in front of me. The concentration of where to put my feet to avoid the unpleasant occupied the whole of my concentration. It was a rejuvenating experience and my shoes felt extra tight as I put them on to head home (and yes I avoided the thorny patch).

Technique #2 – Texture Treasure Hunt
The second hike of the week was more intended to explore the textures in Nature and I turned it into a treasure hunt. Layna, my gorgeous wife, joined me on this hike. The goal, to touch everything (even the cactus). It is amazing all of the different textures you can find in nature. The hard, bumpy layers of the granite rocks, the sharp spines of the cactus, the fluffy texture of the wild grass, the textures in Nature span the spectrum. How did this connect me with Nature? Getting back to a sense of exploration and curiosity that most children possess allowed me to just experience Nature without preconceived notions or judgement. Sitting on the granite rocks, overlooking Willow Lake, Layna and I watched a spectacular aerial show. Strands of spider web or cottonwood fibers, or something as yet unidentifiable were floating on the breeze. I guess we literally saw UFOs. The strands were dancing on the wind, and floating to who knows where. There was one tree that had caught many of these strands, all stretching perpendicular to the ground waiting for their chance to detach and continue free-floating with the wind. It was stunning and we saw it because we took the time to look while we were exploring like children.

One of the questions that Layna and I talked about as we did the exploratory hike was the state of our society in relation to spending time in Nature and deriving its benefits. Is our society suffering from Nature deficit disorder? More importantly, are our children? With our urban society, Nature has taken a backseat to video games and other forms of modern entertainment. All of us would benefit more from immersion in Nature on a consistent basis. When was the last time you took a hike? Take some time this week and explore Nature even if in your own backyard. Look at Nature with the eyes of a child and see what Nature wants to teach you. Take your shoes off and explore.


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In one drop of water are found all the secrets of all the oceans; in one aspect of You are found all the aspects of existence.”
― Kahlil Gibran

The elements of nature hold a fascination for me, particularly the element of water. I have always been drawn to water. Growing up my bedroom had pictures of surfers and I subscribed to Surfer Magazine. I knew the hot spots for the next big set and the statistics on the popular surfing spots on the West coast and Hawaii. Oh, and I lived 15 hours from the nearest ocean. One of my inquiries going into my dissertation program with the California Institute of Integral Studies concerns the elements and our individual affinity with one of the five. I have always thought mine was water but after this week I am beginning to question that preconception.

Water flows, what a beautiful concept. If an obstacle blocks its path, water finds a way around the obstacle. Water also has the power to break down obstacles given enough time. I live in the Grand Canyon State a testament to this concept; it is a majestic hole in the ground created by water. So my goal this week was to (re)connect with nature using the medium of water.

Technique #1:  Water Meditation

This first technique comes from the The Chakra Energy Plan by Anna Shelby (see resources tab for more information). Water is connected to the Sacral or 2nd chakra, the chakra located in the lower abdomen, governing the body fluids, emotions, and sexuality. Water is also associated with the kidneys and bladder in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The objective of the water meditation for balancing the Sacral chakra is to immerse yourself in water and focus your awareness on the sensations of the element and then to extend the awareness to larger bodies of water and the lunar cycles. Lofty goals.

When I first read this meditation I thought about my previous endeavors to learn foreign languages. I took 4 years of high school German but did not feel like I had mastered the language. I was then assigned to serve in the Korea Taejon Mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (better known as the Mormon Church). I had to learn Korean in a very short time. Total immersion into the culture and the language allowed for a much quicker grasp on the language. So what better way to learn about an element than total immersion?

Now I live in Arizona and monsoon season is over, so finding a body of water for this meditation was difficult and I chose the next best thing, our deep, oval bathtub. I immersed myself in the water up to my ears and tried to meditate and become aware of the water. What really jumpstarted the meditation was to go deeper and include my ears underwater. A whole new sensation opened up, I could hear and feel my heartbeat. The awareness of the water really took hold when I laid on my side in a fetal position with my ears submerged. I began imagining myself in the womb and all sounds muffled or non-existent except for a beating heart.

Coming out of the water into a more traditional seated pose, I felt refreshed. The water had a cleansing affect on my emotions and stress levels but left me a little drained of energy. I was also still reeling from the sensations and thoughts of the womb-like experience. I started concentrating on drawing in energy from the water on each inhalation and immediately my energy levels began to rise. The energy from the water was not an infusion of energy like a sugar rush, but rather a calm, refreshing energy.

Technique #2:  A Sensory Break

The second technique comes from Awake in the Wild by Mark Coleman (see resources tab for more information). The meditation focuses on the sound and sight of water as part of the meditation. I located a small stream (not easy this time of year) and settled myself in for a meditation session. Listening to the sound of running water, it was easy to shed the stress of the day. There is just something so calming about the gentle rippling sound of a small creek. I also observed the sunlight playing off of the water and the patterns created by this interaction. I did not go into a deep meditative state, but it was still refreshing.

The water observation did teach me an important lesson that only just hit me as I began composing this post. The creek water ran downhill and over some of the rocks creating the familiar creek sound but then the water entered a stagnant pool. Leaves floated on the surface but the water did not seem to be running out of this pool. However, the creek did continue down the hill but the water in the pool seemed unaffected. I wondered about this, how is there water running on both sides of the pool but the surface of the pool appears stationary? So I stuck my hand in the pool and had a revelation. The water underneath the surface was moving. Now the epiphany, Lao Tzu advocated individuals to be like water, calm on the outside but ever moving and changing on the inside.  I need to be like water. While the surface may appear stagnant, the underlying current should be continually propelling me forward. Working on a PhD is my undercurrent.

So be like water, continually flowing with cleansing, regenerative energy!!

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“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
-Marcel Proust

Opening our eyes every morning we greet the new day. Our eyes provide navigation, observation, and stimuli allowing our brains to process information and send signals to the body moving us through this existence. Do we rely more heavily on any of the other senses? With that in mind, my experimentation this week to (re)connect with nature focused on using the sense of sight as the catalyst for this transformation. Marcel Proust provides the theme for the week looking at landscapes with new eyes. I purposefully chose an area I am familiar with to conduct my experiments. I wanted the familiar to observe with new eyes.

Technique #1 – Five Steps

This first technique comes from the Earthwalks by James Endredy (see resources tab for more information).  The gist of the technique is to activate the sense of sight and observe the changing landscape with each step. After walking to set the intention of the walk, begin in an area by closing your eyes for 30 seconds. Clear the mind and the senses. When you open your eyes, look all around you. I have found when hiking I either focus on my feet and the trail directly ahead of me or the landscape directly ahead at eye level. By focusing on your immediate surroundings without moving, you remove the movement option which leaves you freer to visually explore the environment. Now look all around including behind you and observe the area. If something catches your interest, continue to observe don’t just give the area a cursory glance and move on to the next step. Open your eyes and open your mind. When you are ready to move on, no defined time limit, take five steps, close your eyes to reset your perspective, and open them to the new surroundings. Repeat as many times as you want. I ended up only moving 50 feet in 30 minutes of experimenting with this technique. By the way for you math and science lovers, my rate of speed was a staggering  1 2/3 feet per minute.

So I am sure you are asking, what earth shattering observations caused me to move at snail’s pace down the trail? My eyes were opened and I saw shapes and colors on the trail I have never before seen. I was hiking pretty close to sunset so the shadows were getting long. The first thing that caught my attention was the interplay of light and dark. Shadows provided a different visual texture to the granite mounds that surround the trail. The most interesting observation directly involved this light and darkness mix. The other condition necessary to reveal for the observational data is the behavior of the wind, it was quite windy. I was in the shadow of a birch tree and saw an amazing site. On the other side of the trail from the birch tree and in the shadow of the tree was a scrub oak. Just above eye level, the light shimmered on the leaves and branches of the scrub bush in such a way that it looked as if light was reflecting off of water onto the tree. I had to look down to see if there was a puddle in front of the tree (it hasn’t rained for weeks, duh). The light of the setting sun shining through the leaves of the birch tree as they shimmered in the wind created this effect. Eventually I moved on another 5 steps. At the end of my observation time I walked back along the trail and paused to see if water reflection effect was still happening but it was gone. The sun had moved lower in the sky and the moment was lost. Because I stopped to really look at my surroundings, I was the sole witness to this particular event; a fleeting glimpse. I also realized that if I had been hiking as normal, I would have completed missed it.

Technique #2 – Nature and the way of the artist

No reference for this technique, I came up with it myself. I am an extremely amateur artist, and the medium I enjoy working in is pencil sketching. I hope to soon branch into charcoal, but I am too inexperienced in the basics of drawing to extend myself yet. Anyway, my idea was to take a sketch pad into nature and draw. Sketching any item takes concentration and an eye for the detail of the object being drawn. My purpose was to look at nature through the eyes of the artist and study the details while converting the image from life to the page. Here is my sketch from this experiment.

Did I feel closer to nature? While sketching I lost all sense of time. My whole concentration was on the object in front of me and trying to convert it to a drawing. The first sketch is an innocuous broken branch lying on the rocks (nothing in nature was altered for this particular sketch). I was drawn to this scene because of my own fascination with the texture of wood. My favorite subject to draw is trees. I realized after that this scene represented the cast off or waste of the natural settings. Most visitors to this area of the environment would either dismiss the scene without a second thought or miss it all together. This scene taught me the importance of opening my eyes in all situations not just in nature. We go through life with the cast off and waste of our society all around us and fail to see it or recognize it for what it represents, a failure of our society to clean up its messes (a simple grade school lesson). Whether we are talking about environmental waste or the failure of our political system to help those in need, most of us close our eyes and move through our lives with our eyes not truly opened.

Nature is a powerful teacher. This week taught me the power of observation after I had opened my eyes. I went on another hike this week, not intending on practicing either of these techniques. I found myself more aware of my surroundings and looking for the fleeting glimpses others may not see. The practice carried through. Open your eyes and open your mind!!

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We live in a fast-paced world of technology and time crunches. Nature has come to symbolize the possibility of future development in pursuit of a profit rather than a source of energy and a sanctuary from the world. Indigenous cultures around the globe revere nature and understand our interconnection with the energies of earth, water, and trees.

There is a lot of talk around sustainability in the United States. I am currently working with an instructor at the university to design a course on sustainable development. But do we really understand the term? The dictionary defines sustainable as method of using resources to prevent permanent depletion of said resource. Businesses and individuals have relegated nature to a set of resources without understanding the systemic vibrancy of nature as a living organism of which we are a part not the master.

The goal of this blog for the next 10 weeks is to record my own attempts at reconnecting with nature on an energetic level. I believe that through nature personal transformations can occur. I am not planning on leaving the comforts of my home and family and living off the land for the next 10 weeks. My plan is to research different practices recommended by others for connecting with nature and bring the energies of nature more fully into my modern technology infused life. Each post will focus on either one of the five senses (sight, smell, taste, touch, sound) or one of the five elements identified in Chinese medicine (earth, wood, fire, water, metal). Practices might include meditation in different natural settings, energy practices like chi gung, closer observation of hiking through nature to discern smells or sounds. Each week I will record my findings here. My hope is to connect more closely with nature personally, but also to inspire any who choose to follow this blog to try your own experiments. Please share your methods and findings.

One more word on the title of the blog, Dendrichor. This is my own word but it does have Greek roots, which is appropriate because so do I. Dendri is the Greek word for tree. and ichor means the blood of the Gods. The inspiration for the word came from the word petrichor “essence of rocks” or the smell of nature after a rainstorm. So my created word means the “essence of trees”. Yes I am a treehugger and proud of it!

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