Saturday, May 4, 2019

The Soul of Nature

"The land is sacred. These words are at the core of your being. The land is our mother, the rivers our blood. Take our land away and we die. That is, the Indian in us dies." ~Mary Brave Bird
Spring arrived with an explosion of color here in Southern California, gracing the landscape with brilliant hues of yellow, orange, and purple. Walking in a nearby canyon I rediscovered the magnificence of local medicinal plants growing in abundance. The rains have restored streams that flow through previously dry creek beds, reminding us of ancient earth rhythms. I am in awe of her beauty.

At the same time much of humanity continues to live in unaltered ways, littering the earth with materials that are not biodegradable, continuing dependence on fossil fuels and living in unsustainable ways. Climate change and global warming are a reflection of humanity's disconnection with ourselves. Mother Earth is inviting us to go into our hearts, seek balance within, and reconnect with Nature as a spiritual teacher. We are spiritual beings and the mind-body-spirit connection can be restored when we align with our Mother.

In every community there are places that can be reclaimed and restored as open spaces and community gardens. Restoring our yards and open spaces with trees and plants that are native to the area brings back the local ecosystem, including native wildlife. Grassroots organizations and nature-loving communities are doing this throughout our country. In this era of political ignorance and denial, we can be part of the change, of the solution by care-taking our neighborhoods and consciously restoring the natural habitats where we live.

When I was living on the property in Laguna Beach I learned a great deal about balance and how nature collaborates. Native plant species growing on the land invited birds to return and the birds spread seeds. Snakes kept the rodent population down and birds of prey balanced the snakes. I watched coyote, quail, and raccoon parents teach their young about the wild places to seek food and find shelter. I even had the privilege of observing a mountain lion walk the hillside in the canyon where I lived.

Get out into nature. If you are lucky enough to live in a wild place, spend time observing and sitting in sacred silence. For those who live in the middle of a bustling city, choose to take yourself for a long walk in nearby natural places at least once a week to restore your inner balance. Walk mindfully. Sit with a tree. Go bird watching. Meditate with the soothing rhythms of the ocean waves. Nature is a healing tonic for the soul and the more you connect with her the more your own inner peace and balance will be restored.
"Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean." ~John Muir
Blessings of peace love and light,
Gogo Gretchen
May you find a harmony between your soul and your life ~ John O'Donohue

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Choose Kindness

"When you lend a hand, you open a way for your heart to touch the heart of everything. This is a wealth that only grows. While those we help may leave or die or simply grow into their own beauty and be loved by others, the closeness uncovered by kindness turns to light in the body, until the closeness generated by kindness makes a lamp of the heart." ~ by Mark Nepo, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen

I love the last line of that quote, "...until the closeness generated by kindness makes a lamp of the heart." This is a profound reflection of what is true about relationships and how the Divine can work within and without to create peace and harmony. We see examples of this in nature. It's less evident in daily news reports about the current state of human interaction but I am motivated to keep my eyes and heart open for examples of kindness in unexpected places each and every day. What I have discovered is that I am surrounded by good, kind people in the communities I interact with and I am hopeful for the future. We never know what we are learning in the midst of giving or receiving kindness but when we step back and reflect, we are changed. 

Throughout my life I have been blessed to be the recipient of great generosity from others. Nurturing the friendships that I have developed over my lifetime has provided so many blessings! Long ago I recognized that tending and nurturing relationships with those who also value kindness resulted in trusted friends who I can process and grow with. There are times to give and times to receive. Reciprocity allows for mutual expansion and the key is an open heart and a willingness to take risks with another person.

I choose to continue opening my heart to the goodness of humanity. I choose to give kindness freely and receive it equally! I choose to experience joy and love and laughter with people I cherish. I count myself lucky to have so many kind and loving friends who value my presence and whose presence I am continually enriched by. Each friend is a unique flower in my garden for that I am eternally grateful!

May each of us find others to open our hearts to "until the closeness generated by kindness makes a lamp of the heart".

Blessings ~ Gretchen

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Community Connections

Here in Southern California rain is something we truly appreciate. Our average annual rainfall is about 14 inches and many years we receive less than that. So a rainy day is greeted with appreciation. I always thank the Water Spirits for blessing the land with the sweetness of water and for refreshing nature. 

In the Dagara tradition of West Africa, there are five elements: fire, water, earth, mineral, and nature. People carry one of these five elements and this is their soul's contribution to the community. To identify your element, look at the last digit of your birth year. Then look at the picture below to see what element you carry. 

Each of the five elements has particular medicine to offer to the community. Fire, the original element, is seen as a most potent connection to the spirit world. It connects us to our spiritual path by consuming that which stands between us and our purpose. Water brings cleansing, reconciliation, purification and peace-making. Earth, the central element, is the mother who is inviting us to come home to community and the earth, our true home. Mineral is the elemental energy that invites us to remember, through ritual, who we are and why we are here. Nature asks us to open to transformation in order to realize our true and authentic selves.

Within communities, all the elements need to be represented. The example of Mother Earth and her expression through nature is key here. We must be in touch with our human nature while living with the elements of nature – water, earth, animals, plants. When we are connected with the rhythms of nature, we are in balance and see with all of our senses. Intuition is heightened and the importance of living in harmony with our neighbors and our self is brought into focus. There is an ongoing cycle of death and renewal in nature and if we apply this to our personal and family life, we can learn how to interact harmoniously with others. 
This year, 2019, is a Mineral Year in the Dagara system. A mineral year is about remembering who we are and why we are here. Our bones hold the "stories" of our lineage through our DNA. The minerals of the earth hold the ancient wisdom of Earth's creation and the history of all that has occurred during the earth's transformations. What old stories are relevant for today and can help guide humanity move forward in a positive way -- stories that we can benefit from remembering and sharing? It's also important to look at the old stories we tell ourselves that are outdated and need to be reimagined. How can we learn from the past to create a better future?

Indigenous cultures throughout the world understand this connection between humans and the elements. Rituals using the elements are performed to remember who we are and why we are here. We can learn from the wisdom of cultures that are consciously choosing to live in balance with the natural world.

Humanity has much to reflect upon in our current chaotic climate. Our personal and collective communities are going through an evolutionary process and we are being invited to choose how we move forward. What can we learn from history and how can we take responsibility for the future of Mother Earth? Grassroots nonprofit organizations are communities focusing on solutions and need the support of those in alignment with their mission. I encourage you to find local organizations where you can volunteer or offer financial support. Get involved in your community!  
What do you long for? Is it time to change jobs, receive training in an area that interests you, move to a new place, or end a relationship in your life that no longer serves the highest good? What is working well? What is not? What old stories about yourself do you want to release? Listen with your heart. Discover joy again. Get involved with like-minded people who also want to contribute in a positive way to Mother Earth's evolution. Be the change you want to see!

Blessings of peace, love and joy,
Gogo Gretchen Crilly McKay

For more information about the Dagara, read an article written by Sobonfu Some

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Shared Roots

A few months ago I met a lovely woman, Jen Kramer, who had committed to a year of postings on social media at #yearoflove. Her goal was to acknowledge the people in her daily life that she appreciated and who made the world a better place. Jen inspired me to make a similar commitment for 2019 but with a different focus.

Over the last year I have been contemplating community and all the ways we help our planet heal by actively participating in various communities. Recently I began reading Mark Nepo’s latest book, More Together than Alone: Discovering the Power and Spirit of Community in Our Lives and in the World and decided to make community and nature the focus for my year of reflection.

Nature provides many examples of interconnectedness and interdependence, especially among tree communities. California’s coast redwoods are among the most impressive trees on the planet. They are one of the oldest living organisms in the world and can live more than 2,000 years! They are so tall that their tops are out of sight. Mats of soil on the upper branches support whole communities of worms, insects, salamanders and mammals.

Redwoods can clone themselves, resulting in a complex network of roots beneath the forest floor with which trees communicate and share nutrients. Their roots are not deep, only about six to twelve feet, but they are interconnected. Extending up to 100 feet from the tree’s base, they intertwine with the roots of others, holding on to each other, increasing their stability.

Throughout the coast redwood forest there are about 400 small redwoods that are completely stripped of color, albino or ghost redwoods. Scientists have discovered that these trees are full of cadmium, copper, nickel and other noxious metals that are harmful to the forest. These albino trees suck the heavy metals out of the soil in a symbiotic relationship with their healthy neighbors. These ghost trees act as reservoirs for poison in exchange for the sugar the healthy trees need to survive.

Coast redwoods take care of each other. They form bonds and look out for one another, even recognizing their offspring. All trees in the redwood forest are interconnected and interdependent, actively participating in the health of the entire forest. It is the interactions of the whole forest that keeps it strong and thriving as a community.

This year I am going to explore and share reflections about the power of community to heal our world, inspired by nature and people in my life. We all come from the same ancestral roots.

Please share your thoughts and reflections as I post on Facebook at Ancestral Wisdom, #sharedroots, or Instagram @gcmckay.

May 2019 inspire you and bless you!
May you discover and expand your appreciation and interconnectedness with the communities in your life.
May you recognize the interdependence of all life on Mother Earth and become part of the solution for our planet and all living beings.
May you give and receive the gift of love and shared ancestral roots.

“Shared roots live longer.” Mark Nepo 

Gogo Gretchen Crilly McKay

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Times of Transformation

“The only people who change, who are transformed, are people who feel safe, who feel their dignity, and who feel loved.” (Richard Rohr)

We are living in tumultuous times that call each of us into deep reflection and self-awareness. We no longer have the luxury of hiding our light! Relationships and community are what we need now. Each of us is being called to come out of our shell and learn to live together, in community.

Recently I had the great blessing of sitting in sacred community with one of my favorite authors, Mark Nepo. He inspires me! Mark’s generosity of heart and spirit remind me that each of us matters to the transformation of our communities and therefore the world!
“Now, all the things we have in common, all the endeavors of respect that we treasure, all the ways that we find strength in our kindness – all our efforts of heart – matter now more than ever. We are at a basic crossroads between deepening the decency that comes from caring for each other and spreading the contagion of making anyone who is different into an enemy.” (More Together than Alone: Discovering the Power & Spirit of Community in Our Lives & in the World, xix. Mark Nepo)
This is a powerful time of global initiation. The choices we make will affect the future of our children and grandchildren for generations. We can no longer afford the luxury of sitting back and waiting for someone else to step up. This is a time to become an apprentice of compassion.

The dictionary defines compassion as sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it. Synonyms are bighearted, kindhearted, sympathetic.

Each of us must choose. Who do you want to become? Change requires each of us choosing the qualities we want to inhabit and taking action to grow, setting the intention to align with the characteristics we aspire to develop. It isn’t what we do that changes the world…it’s who we become! BE the person you want to meet! Share kindness. Be sympathetic. Be compassionate. That doesn’t mean you need to be codependent with others but it does mean that you can listen to a friend with an open heart and be present for their journey, without judgment.

In order to step fully into our true, authentic self, our divine light, we must ask what moves us? Who are we, at our core? What gifts and talents do we want to share with the world? How can each of us make a difference -- in our family, in our community, in the world?

Asking your self some important questions is a way to begin this journey.
  1. What is limiting me from standing in my truth?
  2. What is something I love doing and how does it bring me joy?
  3. How will I stretch or move outside my comfort zone to become my authentic self?
These are times that require each of us to consciously stepping into compassionate relationship with our self and with our others. Everyone has a special gift to share with the world. Some of us move quietly in one-on-one relationships that we tend and nurture. Others feel called to stand up in bigger arenas and make their voices heard on larger stages. Some write. Others speak out. Artists create and share their creations. But the majority of us work quietly, behind the scenes, within our families and friends, at work and at play. No matter what your calling, each of us is essential to the evolutionary, transformational times we are in!

Be brave! Be courageous! Choose to be part of the solution by connecting with a compassionate heart in relationships and communities that you are part of. Your kindness does change the world! Each of us has a role to play in this time of challenge and change!

Blessings on your journey,
Gogo Gretchen Crilly McKay