“Sometimes … as nature-oriented people, we focus only on the fuzzy and happy parts of nature: blooming edible flowers, fuzzy soft rabbits, cute animals, soft mats of green moss, and shy deer. But nature isn’t just about things that are comfortable to us and that bring us joy and peace–nature is also about survival of the fittest, about defenses and predators, about huge storms, floods, and destruction. I think it’s important that we learn about all aspects of nature, even those that don’t always make us comfortable.”
The article I’ve quoted, from The Druid’s Garden, goes on to say that without connecting to the many aspects of Nature, we are in danger of misunderstanding her, of not seeing the whole, and not having a whole relationship with her.
This is where my query begins for surely Nature has its dark side, just as we humans do, and Humans tend to focus on the comfortable, happy parts of being human, and look away from the darkness in ourselves or of humanity. And, sometimes, the darkness intrudes like an unwelcome guest, an invasion, and we are forced to be with it, as edgy as it may be.
One of those edges includes the plants and beings we encounter when we’re in Nature. I’ll start with a plant most of us are familiar with named Poison Ivy, and then get to the heart of this writing, which is really the edge for me.
In June of 1966, a DC comic character made her debut. Her name was Poison Ivy. She uses plant toxins and mind-controlling pheromones for her activism, usually aimed at protecting endangered species and the natural environment from the careless actions of humans.
She was first identified as a villain, later as an antiheroine, which feels appropriate in this discussion about protectors of the forest. Everything about this plant may seem evil, especially if you’ve wandered into a patch, or put your hands on a tree that once had a poison ivy vine climbing up it to reach the light, and soon after found yourself with a blistering, itchy rash, as a result of that personal connection.
Even more personal, the Urushiol oil that that creates rashes on Humans does not affect the other beings of the forest, only Humans. In fact, the plant may provide shelter and food to small animals. Even white-tailed deer, bear and muskrats eat the berries, leaves and stems with no ill effects. In its defense, Poison Ivy possesses some medicinal properties. For example, it has been used to treat various skin disorders, paralysis, and even arthritis. And, by the way, feel free to add Poison Oak and Poison Sumac to this list of forest guardians.
When obliged to approach it or work in its vicinity, the Cherokee strove to conciliate it by addressing it as ‘My friend’ (hí gĭnalĭi).”
Poison Ivy, the plant, was once known as the guardian of the forest, or Sister Ivy. We stay away from it, which means we stay away from trees or stepping off trail. We stay on the designated path for Humans, not getting too close to Nature, also our friend. Poison Ivy teaches us awareness, defense, and the power of her potency as climate change impacts carbon dioxide levels. As CO2 levels rise, so does she.
This brings me to the heart of this writing: not a plant, a member of the arachnid family: Ticks. If Poison Ivy was the guardian of the forest, she has a distant, hyper-vigilant cousin in the ticks.
The main difference between Poison Ivy and a Tick is that Humans have to wander into the plant or touch the plant to be affected, while ticks, well, they go to great lengths to find you.
As I research ‘ticks as the new guardians of the forest’ or ‘ticks and spirituality’, I come up with a lot of interesting, albeit not relevant to my search, articles about ticks – tick-borne diseases, how to repel them, what to do if bitten, how to remove them or how not to be bitten, and the dangers of forest fragmentation (smaller areas/higher number of ticks). Then, there’s the totem or spirit ‘animal’ sites that suggest they teach us to wait patiently and then seize opportunity when it presents itself, or our energy is being sucked dry by someone or something.
None of this is what I’m seeking. All of it has merit.
For example, I found it interesting that Ecologists monitor tick populations to gain a better understanding of the health of particular ecosystems. An increase in tick populations may indicate a decrease in the predators of small reptiles and mammals, such as snakes and owls, who eat mice, on which ticks feed. A warning perhaps that another species is endangered? It is, after all, the white-footed mouse who is a primary reservoir of the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, which is how the ticks carry Lyme Disease to humans. Everything is connected. In contrast, a low tick population (oh, please, can we?) indicates that the predator population may have increased substantially.
Another fact that has me wondering: More than 34,000 people in the United States have tested positive for alpha-gal syndrome, extreme allergic reaction to meat, such as beef, lamb and pork, even some dairy products, based on a 2021 paper. This particular allergy is transmitted by the Lone Star tick. It raises questions about human immune systems and their evolution, as well as the increase in the number of ticks and the diseases they carry. It also raises questions about the meat 'processing' industry, the insane amount of water it uses to produce cattle as food, and the dire consequences to our environment. The perfect storm.
So, until genome treatment is readily available to create gene disruption in our arachnid friends, I share all this, wanting to know my enemy; your enemy; our enemy. Unlike the Cherokee and Poison Ivy, I’ve yet to call ticks my friends. In fact, they are the reason that I’m struggling with my own connection with Nature. They are no different than this pandemic that’s been at the heart of humanity for the last two + years. They are more than an inconvenience. They are a threat to life as we choose to live it.
How do I choose to live life? My heart wants to run barefoot through a meadow, lay down in a field and gaze at the clouds for hours. At the same time, my head tells me that I’ll be a feast for ticks if I even attempt it. So, I don’t.
How do I deepen my connection with Nature despite this edge?
I found a useful article at www.mindfood.com. It was a reminder that what we search for is usual right in our back yards, figuratively, if not literally. As a certified forest therapy guide, it was a good reminder about being present, slowing down and noticing, not letting down my guard or my vigilance; simply being with Nature, especially in places where I cannot be ‘in’ it. There’s an expression that goes something like this, “The shoemaker’s children have no shoes.” Forest Therapy guides need to care for themselves, along with leading walks to connect others to Nature.
The article offers 5 ways to create connection. For me, it was a springboard for deepening of my connection, rather than the fracture I’ve been feeling lately. I’ve taken great liberty with the 5 ways and adapted the text to serve my guiding language. Still, I want to acknowledge the article for the inspiration:
Our familial ancestors are not the only energy we can sense. When we are in Nature, we can sense the energy of all who came before us.
We must acknowledge that our present experience is only possible because of the path that history took to arrive at this moment, yes? Who stood here long ago, and what did they see, what did they talk about? How did they live? What were their joys and sorrows? What challenges did they face?
And, then there’s the future, yet to be written. Who, in a hundred or more years, will ask the same questions of our time; of us, standing on this exact spot?
We, in the present, have the opportunity to create that energy that will remain for future generations. How will you share your energy here today?
Just the idea of these invitations takes me into my imaginal senses. I don’t know if it eliminates the edginess of self-care in Nature and I don’t think it should. We must always be mindful of our safety; we, who left our home in Nature so long ago, and can only return as visitors in our present shape and mind.
What I believe it does is create that deeper connection without having to throw our arms around a tree or lay in a meadow. Not an ‘either or’ and perhaps a ‘both and’, it invites our imaginal sense to engage with the world around us and fills us with astonishment and wonder about who we are in this alchemy and algorithm of life on Earth. We are part of Nature, contrary to what human exceptionalism would have us believe. We are part of Nature, along with the ticks, and the Poison Ivy. Along with the elephants, and snakes and raptors. And the billions of micro-organisms in a teaspoon of soil or dirt.
With love and light,
 She was created by Robert Kanigher and Sheldon Moldoff.
 James Mooney, Myths of the Cherokee and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokee
Forest Therapy guides refer to their offerings as invitations. An invitation is defined as “a spoken or written request to do something”. So, we may offer a verbal invitation or share an invitation on small scrolls, designed to be opened by the forest bathers.
On my walks, I explain how invitations work; that in our lives, when you receive an invitation via text, email or (do we still?) snail mail, you have choices. You might arrive late, leave early, not go at all or something else.
Bottom line, you get to choose.
The same holds true for forest therapy/forest bathing. When a guide offers an invitation, say to connect with a tree, you choose how you’ll interact, or choose if you’ll interact at all. Those who’ve been waiting for this, may run up to the tree and throw their arms around it. Others may approach cautiously to figure out what that means for them. Still others may ‘speed date’ and visit lots of trees without any deep connection. Some may just stand around and check their phones.
Someone on a walk once asked me, “What if the tree tells me to get lost? That it doesn’t want to connect?” It was a joke from someone who must have been thinking that I was a bit off suggesting a connection with a tree. My response? “If a tree tells you that, go find another tree.”
Here’s the thing about invitations. Consider that you’ve already come to the party. You’re there. You’re present. What have you got to lose?
Well, one of our stories is that we do have something to lose when we’re seen by others. One reason invitations can be difficult for adults lies in our inhibitions, or the impediment to act freely when others are around. Someone will see me. I may look foolish. I won’t do this correctly, etc.
This hesitancy around invitations might also be related to those who were coerced into coming on the walk in the first place. I recognize them immediately, and sometimes I ask them to raise their hands. And they do, and yes, I see you. Yet, every one of those forest bathers has astonished me in some way by the end of the walk. Now, I simply wait for the forest to do its thing, even with the most resistant.
You don’t get to be wrong when you’re forest bathing. Whatever feels right to you is right for you. And yet, I long for people to step over their edges (our limits, our boundaries, our beliefs) and try new things: connect with a tree, send a message through a flower, give something of your essence to a river, and more.
I use language like “we’re now entering time tree, which is different than human time”, or I say we’re invisible because we’re moving so slowly in the world. I discourage ‘wrong’ and encourage connection. I haven’t cracked the code for everyone and making that my mission would be trying to control their experience which isn’t my role as a guide. I simply trust that the forest has their backs, just like it has mine.
What would it take for you to come to the party, cross over an edge, or suspend your disbelief? What waits for you if and when you do?
May 30, 2016: I awoke with a great sadness that followed me about the house like the mist I felt the night before; gentle yet present in a way that commanded my attention.
The rain made everything stop. Not a creature was stirring. That was at 6 am on Memorial Day, and yet, three and half hours later, not one car had passed the house; not one noise came from outdoors save the birds feasting at the newly installed feeders. There was a snail on the stoop; the first one; a reminder to move slowly and carefully today. The fuzzy black spider that had taken up residence between my kitchen door and the storm door was nowhere in sight.
I always remember the day I wished my father a “happy” Memorial Day; happy because it was a day off from work for me. He was quick to remind me that there was nothing happy about this day; people died so I could be free. It’s been a huge burden to carry ever since. So, now, I wish no one a happy Memorial Day, even if it is a day off for them.
I begin this journal of finding peace 2 days before the start of the month because we all need a head start; there is always something leading up to a choice to be intentional. Today is that day for me. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. We shall see tomorrow.
May 31, 2016: There is some peace in de-cluttering today; closets that I walk by every day, oblivious to what’s inside; or maybe conscious of what’s inside and not wanting to face it all. When did it get so full of non-essential things that I can’t seem to throw out? What to do with all the dog paraphernalia that reminds me of my Harry, gone 5 months already. I hug the red coat I bought him when he’d lost all the weight and shivered in the cold, looking for some essence of him; wondering when or if peace ever comes when we lose something or someone we love?
Now if I could unburden my soul the same way I unburdened my closet. What would that look like? Handling each item; turning it over in my hands; wondering where it belongs today; if it belongs today, or does it go out the door: Paper? Plastic? Thrift shop? Garbage? To put it back seems like avoidance, waiting for another day to give it a closer inspection, and yet there is only so much unburdening one can do in a day; only so much we can bear to inspect. Some things must go back in the closet … for now.
June 1, 2016 5:55 AM - Day One of the Month of Peace and I find myself thinking, “What was I thinking?” making a commitment to a month of writing about peace? It seems that the minute I make a commitment to something, it becomes an obligation; a responsibility to honor my word, which often is passionate and whole-hearted in the moment and then not so much shortly thereafter; the doubts arise; reasons why I might not be able to do it arise. What’s up with that? Where’s the peace in that?
I decide to let the day come to me; to let peace come to me and whisper what needs to be written later in the day. There’s peace in trusting that something will reveal itself. There’s peace in the early morning, in the smell of coffee awaiting my cup, in the birds waking up with song and especially in the morning air, which feels very much like my own skin. It is my favorite time of day when the morning air and I are the same temperature. I’ll let that be enough for now. More to come later.
“The More to Come Later”: Peace is wherever I am. I’m going to write it again. Peace is wherever I am. Working a part time gig to keep the ebb and flow of bill paying peaceful, I watch those around me in their unrest; their dis-ease as incredibly first-world “problems” arise in their lives.
I do not want to be them, even though I know I am them; everything we see in others that we disdain; that we judge, comes with the disclaimer that we disdain it and judge it because it is inherently human and lives in us as well. The impatience, the assumptions, the biases, each lives in us. I’ve been that person, an omission that comes with some shame and self-judgment.
Inner dialogue: How could I be like that? I’m not her. I’m evolved. I know better. Well, I could be like that. I am her. I’m only as evolved as I am in any given moment if I don’t stay present to what I value, and I don’t know better when I let the moment own me.
What I found was I could let her go (the her in me and the her standing before me); stay in peace; I could remember those feelings churning inside me without letting those feelings churn inside me. Yes, that is what it looks like to be in dis-ease; to judge, and yes, I’m capable of that, and no, it doesn’t serve me; it doesn’t own me or have any real estate in my life; certainly not for the first world problem of how soon will I get through this line and out the door. Certainly not for the bigger or smaller things either.
Peace comes at the price of letting go of our righteous indignation; our feeling of being “better than”. Peace comes with connection, realizing that we are all same whether we like it or not. It’s just what we choose to do with that information that’s the difference between dis-ease and peace.
June 2, 2016 Day 2 of Peace: Okay, I’m really into this now and I promised someone that I would write about this topic, here on day 2 of a month of peace: my bathroom scale. Because she posted something that said, “You don’t need a scale to tell whether you’re allowed to like yourself today. You are. You belong here. No matter what you weigh, you deserve joy and happiness (Geneen Roth is cited as writing this quote).
It just happened to be the day that I got on the scale and, maybe my battery is dead, but my scale made up some digital alien numbers. I can’t even type them here. And I thought, okay, I guess I weigh THAT today and got off the scale.
To set the context for where peace comes with this moment, two years ago, I found myself weighing more than I’d ever weighed, all of me being 5’2-12” tall because I’ve literally shrunk an inch already. I got really depressed seeing photos and just didn’t feel good. Most of all, the food I was eating upset my stomach on a daily basis; eating was getting really challenging and as a front of the room facilitator, let me tell you that you don’t want to have stomach issues on a daily basis. You just don’t.
So, I went OCD on myself and followed a regime through my chiropractor that was a food elimination/re-entry plan. About two months and 25 pounds later (I kid you not), I thought I’d gotten my food intake to be only that which my body could handle: no inflammatory foods. I eliminated wheat, corn, oats, cow dairy, processed or any raw sugar, pork, regular ground beef, processed foods with ingredients I can’t pronounce and some vegetables, which in spite of their mystical healing properties still made my stomach churn.
I joined a group on Facebook for this particular protocol, in which the other members were so hyper-nuts about what they were doing, I couldn’t stand it anymore. My own OCD was enough, you know?
Nearly two years later, I’m still following fairly closely: healthy, happy, still holding my weight down, but I do get on the scale every day. (Back to the scale thing)
Seeing the weird, digital, alien numbers the other day was a relief. I can’t tell you what I weigh today and I don’t care. I just want to be healthy and happy and enjoy my life. That includes being present to what I can and can’t eat; just not a crazy loon about every pound. I’m not running out to buy another battery any day soon.
I’m still working on peace and yet I feel it coming.
June 3, 2016: Day 3 of Peace - From Megan Hollingsworth on the anniversary of my first marriage, ironically enough.
I like to think my desires are simple and pure
so when you asked what I want most, I said 'you'
not knowing what that meant
until you fashioned a wall between us and as you left the far side,
busted a hole clean through and wide enough to shatter delusion.
If you asked me again, 'What do you want most?'
I would say, 'Nothing. I am everything and more.'
Peace is all I've ever wished before you came along
and all I claim since you walked on.
June 4, 2016 Day 4 of Peace: Shooting a video for Voice of Evolution Radio’s web site brought me to Planting Fields Arboretum early in the morning. I was aware of particles as I drove to the arboretum; particle choices: choosing my clothes, my hair (straight or curly? Ironically, it was very humid and by the end of the shoot, I’d chosen both!) … most of all, choosing my words.
There was a script. There were words I’d spoken and written down, as opposed to writing down words and speaking them; a subtle, yet important, distinction; my words. I was committing to my words this morning; publically committing to my words. Hey, world, here I am and this is what I stand for. Doing the radio program made it no less terrorizing. A GULP moment. A moment of gleeful terror. On camera.
Anthony and I were surrounded by singing birds and chipmunks crossing the parking lot as he set up his camera. It was a beautiful morning; somewhat reluctant, neither sunny nor rainy; hazy and humid; still. I took out my “words” and put them down. I picked them up and put them down. I knew what I wanted to say.
“It’s not going to be one shot, is it?” I asked, knowing that I’d not been able to get through it without stopping.
“It’s better if we shoot sections.” Anthony replied. “Then I can use some close ups and B roll.”
Peace. I knew I could do that.
Cars, planes, and a park ranger who eventually came to ask if we had a permit. We didn’t. But the “words” were done so we caravanned to Bailey Arboretum, about 9 miles away, where a permit wasn’t required. Both Anthony and I realized that the ranger kept driving around, which ironically, made the shoot take longer because we had to stop and wait for it to be quiet again. The ranger approached us as we completed the last take. Synchronicity? I believe so.
We drove in peace to the new site and continued shooting the video that would play with the voice over.
No drama, just being in the moment.
The moment that felt most important to me was the moment that I looked at the camera and thought, “Just speak from your heart”. “What do you know?” “What do you want someone watching to know?”
I had to come to peace with some other questions: “Will someone see me and think who the hell is she?” “Why should I listen to this person?” “Geez, she’s old; not millennial or slick, just some woman talking about something called being a Reluctant Evolutionary.”
Where do we find these ways to sabotage our brilliance? And that’s what I talk about in the video; our brilliance. How crazy is that? I’m just one voice speaking from my heart. Will my seeds plants themselves, germinate and grow wildly? Who knows? What’s important is that I speak my words. You get to do the listening and choosing.
David Christopher, author of the Holy Universe, writes about seeds, “Many are called but few are chosen, yet the few that are chosen need the many that are called. For with too few seeds, the one seed may never take hold and species may then fade away … this is the paradox of creativity … what we see as the failure of thousands, false starts, dead ends, mistakes, are transformed into the exalting joy of all. And all that do not survive share in the majesty of the one that thrives.”
It stings if we aren’t the one that takes hold; our ego gets in the way and holds us to blame for somehow not being enough. What a terrible way to live our lives. Unattached to the outcome, we must plant ourselves; our only mission is to grow wildly as we were meant to grow. Everything else that happens is beyond our control. There is peace in that thought. I hope it brings you peace, too.
The video will be out any day now. I can't wait to share it with you. I've planted myself. That's all I can do.
June 5, 2016, Day 5 of Peace: Sitting on the couch last night after 8-1/2 hours working, there is a crash about 12” to my right. When I look, a huge Aqua Forte painting and its heavy, heavy frame has fallen off my wall, and taken out the potted plant, several framed photos, and a candlestick. On the floor to my right, is a pile of broken glass and dirt. Everything shattered. It’s too late to cry, “No!” and too late to stop anything from happening. It happened. It’s done.
One of the screw eyes worked itself out of the frame; one of the screw eyes that held the wire that held the frame on the wall. Maybe the passing trains over the years … who knows?
Damage to the painting deserves some grieving. No anger. Too late for anger. So, grieving and learning to love it as it is now; loving it any way. This happens slowly as I clean up the broken glass and dirt.
“Where are you hurt?” I ask.
“Here … and here.” It shows me.
“I see. Maybe I could fix that somehow.” I think, even though it’s likely to be apparent that there’s a scar; maybe it can’t be repaired. A beautiful Amsterdam scene, soft aqua forte tints by an artist I’ve found twice over the years and bought his work twice and will again.
It’s only then that I realize how close it came to my head, a mere 12”. Photos will attest to that. And yet, that didn’t happen. One thing did; another didn’t. Life goes on. There is peace in what I can control and what I can’t; peace and grieving and gratitude all at once. I like that I am able to separate them so they each get a moment of presence, as something shifts in my body as each is considered. Peace.
June 6, 2016, Day 5 of Peace:
Today, someone else’s words will me with peace.
The Peace of Wild Things
by Wendell Berry
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
June 7th-9th Days 7-9 in a month of peace: New rule I make up because I can, you see … if I get too far behind, I can create one entry for any overarching themes about peace. That thought alone brings peace to what could easily be a criticism about being consistent; keeping promises, etc.
And so let’s talk about what we create called our life. The last few days have been about being in choice. I created one day for myself in particular that had no part time job; only those things that fulfilled me: a new coaching client, a conversation with my friend David to complete a recording about passion, purpose and paying the bills that we started two weeks ago and our busy schedules prolonged until we could end the arc of conversation with some thoughts for the listeners; another conversation with filmmakers, Joel and Katy about their film, Time is Art, (oh so synchronous) waiting in Zoom while they got their newborn baby to sleep. What are the rules about all these things that keep us in an agitated state rather than peace? How did making choices create a peaceful, joyful day that felt like a gift from the Universe?
I’m a space holder; maybe I’m a time holder, as well. What does that mean? Being, holding is an active state. I’m not zoned out on the couch, except when I am. Holding is the state of being present and aware of all the energy around us. When I hold a space for my coaching client, I’m aware of the newness, the excitement, the possibility. I’m aware of the hunger in my client for change; for a vision of something potent and powerful to begin. That hungry meets my hunger to awaken, inspire and activate through deep, meaningful conversation. We are in synchronicity. We are in the flow. The space is alive, while all the while, I am aware of the birds singing, flying past my window; the dog is snoring and dreaming, her legs kicking as if she is running in an open field, or chasing the squirrel that frequents the bird feeders in the backyard.
When I talk to David, I’m holding space for completion and the possibility of what’s coming next and yet, I’m fully in the moment and the conversation, inspired, activated, laughing because we talk about being human and let being human have its moment of humor and compassion.
When I talk to these young filmmakers, I’m holding space for life itself to unfold. The baby is still awake even though it’s 7:30 pm and we’re all spent from a long day. Everyone does what is needed; everyone does it as if the web of life needs that moment; sometimes even the web of life has trouble getting to sleep and why not? What a day it had!
We talk and there’s something in space about not liking interviews, although I never interview. The conversation becomes so animated, so filled with energy, there’s a moment I say, “See. Not an interview; a conversation.” Before I become present once more and join my energy with theirs.
When we’re done, we’ve talked about everything from the film itself, to synchronicity, to UFOs appearing during the filming, permaculture, and the underlying system beneath the US system of government. We are probably all on the US no-fly list by now.
So as this arc comes to completion, holding space over these last few days, even though the part time job creeps back into the picture, is different. Even a conversation with someone at the part time job about synchronicity and the mystery of being highly sensitive and sentient about unseen dimensions completely changes my perception of this person. I hold space to be shifted and changed by others; to be open to the possibility that we are more alike than different.
This choice thing could catch on big time. What do you think?
June 10: Day 10 of a Month of Peace – A Friday. Usually a day of peace for the end of the week and the beginning of a weekend, except now that I’m freelancing, it means less than it once did. My peace and pleasure comes from having the day off during the week; the day that most people are in their offices; their cubicles; their conference rooms. I used to say that there was a secret world in which people could travel around during the day. I’m part of that secret world now and it’s delicious.
My work starts early. It’s 6:20 am and I’ve already been at my laptop for awhile; on my second cup of coffee. I work until I wander. Then I go outside and see how the vegetables have grown overnight; watch the birds at the feeders; make my prayers at the memory garden for my dog, Harry, who lives in my heart now. Then I go back inside and work some more: on this and on that; always something a bit different; never the same thing for very long. I’ve given myself permission to find my own rhythm in this thing called “work”. It works for me.
June 11: Day 11 of a Month of Peace – I sign up for a Summer of Peace, http://summerofpeace.net/program
It is the Shift Network, which I’ve unkindly referred to as the Walmart of Consciousness. I can’t open their emails without an immediate overwhelm of information. They’ve attracted some big time speakers, as only big time, Walmart organizations can. They have a wisdom council, as only big time Walmart organizations can. I’m curious about the summer of peace and not yet excited.
I have a ‘lesser than’ feeling right now; wondering if my work will ever catch fire; a wisdom council to offer me support and advice. I’m reminded of David Christopher’s The Holy Universe and his chapter on Seeds: the few need the many for the species to survive and not all flourish; not all survive. Yes, David, it stings to be a seed that does not flourish; one that fights for light and water, and yet, we’ve got to do what our heart leads us to do. It’s a paradox, or something else.
It’s also feminine energy; feminine to include; very masculine to compete. How do I want to operate my passionate purpose? With feminine energy or masculine energy? Yes, a balance of both. I know what you’re saying, and yet, believing in the whole, I must opt for feminine energy. There is room for all of us even if some grow tall and others fight for light and water. I just hadn’t expected to be one of the ones fighting for light and water. There isn’t peace here yet. There is still a wanting for approval and acceptance; wanting the thing that goes viral and the whole world notices (in a good way, that is).
Much wrestling still to do here. Much peace wanted; needed to be enough; for my own life to be enough.
June 12: Day 12 of Peace in a Month of Peace: There is no peace today; certainly, not in my heart or in the world. The shooting in Orlando, captioned as a “terrorist” shooting has us all in grief, anger, and what I culturally call the activation.
The ““around terrorist are not mine. They belong to the unconscious media that brings us the news. I wonder why the quotes are there, like the air quotes I use when I wished my father a “happy” Memorial Day or wrote about first world “problems” on previous days of writing about peace. It implies “not really”, so a mass shooting is “not really” terrorism? Then what is?
Facebook is alive with media clips, quotes and talk of love, not hate. We hold candlelight vigils. I posted my own media clip of people standing in line to donate blood in Orlando, and a 2012 blog that I wrote after Sandy Hook, called “Among Us”; the words worth repeating. More quotes.
We are activated. Voices everywhere. But what really happens after a tragic activation like that, which took place in Orlando? The comments and the quotes slowly begin to be replaced with other photos; other quotes. We don’t forget; rather the event’s been culturally absorbed. It’s become part of us.
“Will there be singing in the dark times?”
“Yes, there will be singing … about the dark times.”
It has become part of our song; Humanity’s song about a time of darkness and separation; about a time of light and love; a paradox of the old story and the new, both sharing the same space. Once we’ve railed against it, most of us will accept it. I don’t make us wrong. How can we possibly take on one more thing in our lives? How can we possibly change this terrorism – no quotes – in the world?
We start close in (thank you, David Whyte) and do what we can. I trust that there is someone out there, who, activated by the murder of those in Orlando who were doing what we all do – taking a break from life – dancing it out, connecting, laughing, loving, were killed because someone saw them as separate from; separate than; someone who couldn’t make the connection of connection; I trust that there is someone out there who will take his or her activation into action and help us create a better world for our children; for us.
There is no peace today. Not in my heart or in the world. Today, my song is about the dark times.
June 13th: Day 13 of a Month of Peace: I attend Lucetta Zaytoun’s book reading here on Long Island, NY. Lucetta was recently on my radio program, talking about her book and the journey life’s taken her on. We meet for the first time after three years of connecting online.
As Lucetta reads excerpts from her book, the funny and the sad roads traveled, my friend Janine remarks how some people seem to have the easy life and some seem to have a life filled with chaos and tragedy. It resonates with me. I’ve always felt that I’ve lived my life dancing between the rain drops, sometimes through them; only a few times actually getting drenched by them. I would say that my life has been blessed and I’m full of gratitude every day.
And yet … you knew this “yet” was coming, right?
When I think back on my life, it’s had its tragedies and chaos; somehow, they were my tragedies and chaos and so, I don’t think of them as such; I just think of them as part of my life. So, I wonder, for others, is it that way, too?
Do we all accept our tragedies and chaos as ours? Do we all believe that we’ve danced between the raindrops or through the raindrops rather than gotten drenched by them? Is our resilience more powerful than we choose to admit? Is it, perhaps, our greatest human characteristic?
There is peace there, knowing that we survive horrific tragedy and can continue on holding it as part of us without turning against life itself; continuing to embrace life AND its tragedies; its chaos.
We are resilient, if nothing else and we are so much more.
June 17-19, 2016: Days 17-19 in a month of peace: “Invoking the Muse” in Rhode Island with my goddess sisters. Trusting the day will unfold as it is intended to. What a beautiful lesson in letting go and letting come what is supposed to come. At peace with every step. Reflecting back, how do I live my life this way? How do I walk into the world with trust that the day will be whatever it is meant to be?
There are other energies I work with on a daily basis that challenge my peace; the “doing” energies that hold behind them some kind of intention for outcome that I still see as “less than” the larger and greater good work in the world. Are they less important? Are mine more important? They are all of value, on the human plane and the spiritual plane. The question becomes where do I choose to put my energy? Can I continue to live in both worlds and still be true to myself and at peace, letting go to let come, or striving for a goal that has been manufactured for me by the people who see “success” and “power” and “materialism” as an outcome?
The time is coming when my focus must be on what feels most important to me on a spiritual level. Let the world of commerce continue; blessing the tender we’ve chosen to help us all find shelter and food; comfort and aesthetics. Blessing the tender, with the intention that as a system, it too wants to be used for good; that only the people who (ab)use it have turned it into power and hoarded it.
Not what I intended for this writing and letting go to let come, this is what’s come today.
June 20-21, 2016: Days 20 & 21 in a month of peace: The summer solstice radiated peace all around me; a day and night in which I walked quietly in my world, even if the world did not walk quietly around me. Viewing a video of Broadway stars singing for Orlando, Burt Bacharach’s What the World Needs Now, tears falling, at how living in our passion manifests a way to be conscious and active in the pursuit of compassion and sustainability.
We just need to find our way to our passion. How will my voice, my heart, my hands, my body create something that shows what I stand for, who I am, how I see the world? A person doesn’t need to be an artist to do that and of course, we are all artists; creating from self.
Finding our passionate purpose is a personal thing. I believe we are each created to fill a place in the world that requires our unique attention, whether it’s the creative world, the financial world, the business world, agricultural, inventive, or environmental. We are all here to serve something with love.
What the world needs now is you. In your passionate purpose. In love. In peace.
June 22-26: Days 22 through 26 in a month of peace: Peace isn’t easy. Peace isn’t easy if you look for it outside yourself. Hell, peace isn’t easy at all. Here’s what I know today:
It’s a “both and” here. Do those things if you are led to do them AND be part of the world we live in as a conscious and sustainable contributor.
None of this gives me peace today and I have to remind myself that being at peace wasn’t the intended outcome. The intended outcome was to write about peace and see what happens. See what happens when I write about peace?
June 29th, 2016: Day 29 of Peace: I awake to a Facebook alert telling me that someone I’m friends with is OKAY. Grateful and asking why, where, what’s happened? Then I read about Istanbul’s airport bombing.
I’m reminded of an event nearly 4 years ago when the people of Istanbul took to the streets to protest; to stand in their solidarity for their rights and freedom. I remember going on the air with one of my friends and colleagues in Istanbul a good 24 hours in advance of any major news program, reporting from a personal perspective on what was happening there. Grateful for the connection, the willingness to talk about the government and the purpose I feel in doing so.
I’m devastated for Istanbul and all the innocent people who lost their lives. The senseless terror that we all live with on a daily basis even if most of us don’t think about it on a daily basis is always there.
It’s so big; so heavy. I wonder how my little part can make a difference and I know that my little part must happen anyway. We all have the thing “we cannot not do” and the radio program, being a voice is mine.
Today, my heart is heavy, filled with friends and colleagues in Istanbul and all those I don’t know and will never know. As I work to find peace in a world that changes every second of every day, I dream of peace for the world.
June 30, 2016: The last day of June and the final day of writing about peace.
Coming to terms with peace.
These last few days are sticking to me, like clothing on a hot, humid day. I want to peel them away and yet, they refuse; politely, respectfully, they refuse to be discarded.
I had a thought today. What if we don’t make it? What if we have already written the chapter that ends with the end of Humanity – or at least, the end of Humanity as we know it? What if we are singing the songs of love, compassion, connection and sustainability too late in the game to turn us around? Too little, too late. What if, we, who have only been here a second or two in the history of the Universe, have run our course? What if we are a failed experiment? We had a chance and blew it.
As Jeff, John and I rehearse for the first radio drama (funny, I started to type “dream”) on Voice of Evolution Radio, I am reminded of something the Keeper of Soul’s purpose asks the interviewer – have you ever planted a garden? The interviewer says yes and the Keeper goes on to explain that sometimes something comes up in the garden and you let it grow because you’re not sure what it is … so, when do you decide? When do you let it grow? I know in my own garden, it’s when I see buds; when I see it’s going to flower and become all that’s possible. Sometimes, I pull it too soon and realize that I didn’t give it enough time. If only I waited a bit. Other times, I wish I’d pulled it sooner.
Which one are we? Will we be pulled too soon so others can grow and blossom, or is there a blossom just about to bud and a little more time will show that it was worth the wait?
I’m going to end this month of peace with my deepest favorite poem by Rilke. Oh, so difficult to choose, and yet this one came to me as I was in my back yard, reading a book of Rilke poems and yes, it felt like it was written to me; for me; about me.
Peace to all.
“Dear darkening ground,
you’ve endured so patiently the walls we’ve built,
perhaps you’ll give the cities one more hour
and grant the churches and cloisters two,
And those that labor—maybe you’ll let their work
grip them another five hours, or seven
before you become forest again, and
in that hour of inconceivable terror
when you take back your name
from all things.
Just give me a little more time!
I want to love the things
as no one has thought to love them,
until they’re real and ripe and worthy of you.
I want only seven days, seven
on which no one has ever written himself –
seven pages of solitude.
There will be a book that includes these pages,
and she who takes it in her hands
will sit staring at it a long time,
until she feels that she is being held
and you are writing.”
-Rainer Maria Rilke
The other day, the words on my Hay House calendar hit home.
“I have a great relationship with money. It loves me and fills my pockets.”
No. Not even close. I’ve been in a struggle with my money story all my life: from not having it and wanting it, to having it and letting it slip away, to having barely enough, to having not enough, to feeling shame and deficit because of it.
You see, I’ve believed that money isn’t real for a very long time. That it’s a made-up thing. It started out as shells and cattle; stones and salt (yes, salt), not bills and coins; certainly not checks and credit cards. If you had something I wanted or needed, I could trade you some pretty shells for it. If I had something you needed or wanted, you’d offer me some unique and lovely shells, which, in turn, got you the thing you wanted.
At some point, the business of ‘government’ chose to be the sole creators of money because, not unlike early religious organizations, “government was created to control a population larger than those who wished to control it.” If you control money, you control the people.
There’s a true story about early money; shells and stones: “An example which takes this tendency to the extreme is the rai stone, used as currency on the Micronesian island Yap. Not only do these huge wheel-shaped carved stones not have a practical use, they are also far too large to be practically transported. Instead, the Yapese keep an oral history of each stone owner, and the value of the stone was determined partially by its historical heft. In one instance, a rai stone even sank to the sea floor, but remained in the economic system of the island. Islanders would simply agree to transfer ownership of the stone without ever having to see it for themselves.”
So, it surprised me the other day when I had a realization; not about my money story but about money’s story about itself. Systems thinking. “A system is an entity which maintains its existence through the mutual interaction of its parts.” What this means is, if we’re talking about money, money should have a seat at the table as an entity unto itself. Otherwise, it’s just gossip, isn’t it?
While there is so much more to say about systems and governments, for now, let this suffice.
So, what does money think about how it’s used in today’s society? I asked it that very question and here’s what came back to me:
· Money is in pain about how its story has changed; “WTF, Humans?” was the energy that came back to me after asking the question.
· Money never wanted Humans to suffer because of it, or the lack of it or the surplus of it, either
· Money sees the greed in the eyes of Humans who hoard it and use it to brag of their wealth; those who ask so much for their product, service or work that others have to gulp before they say yes or have to say no because the price is out of reach.
· Money realizes that the story has gone too far in the hands of Humans for money to change the story, even as a system
· Money wants to be used for good, to create more good
· Money delights in service and stewardship; it has a “let it flow” attitude that always finds its way back to the giver
So, with that, I’m learning to change my money story. I am its ally; not its enemy. It is my ally, not my enemy. I will never again see money as something made-up; I acknowledge its existence as a vital system within our systems. If I use it benevolently, as it would like to be used, it will come back to me as something unique and beautiful, not a trophy that separates me from the rest of Humanity; a connector to Humanity AND the planet AND all living beings.
Ask me about my money story. Here’s what you’ll hear:
“Money is a system; an entity unto itself that holds at its core an intention of generosity and abundance.”
“I use money as a loving extension of myself; caring for my needs, yes, and caring for the needs of others and the planet.”
“I have a great relationship with money. It loves me and fills my pockets.”
Linda Lombardo, 1/25/18
Those of us who love the outdoors, seemingly enjoy everything it has to offer. In Spring and Summer, we can hardly wait to go outside and feel rebirth and renewal in every breath; see bulbs break ground and burst into flower; the trees leafing into their distinct shades of green once more. We’re inspired to dust off our bicycles, or skates, or walking sticks. We are ready to engage in the beauty of nature; engage in activities that often require some long soaks in a hot tub, citing how out of shape we are after “that long lazy winter”. In Autumn, we walk along trails resplendent with the color from leaves that the trees have pushed off in preparation for wintertime. We go apple picking and love the crispness of the air and the warmth of the late afternoon sun.
We must talk about Winter if we’re going to engage with nature in ALL her beauty. I’ve seen memes on the first day of winter that read, “Only 75 more days till Spring!”. We stay indoors; become less active, less motivated, perhaps. We’ve forgotten - or choose to ignore - an entire season that is essential to our human cycles of life as well as nature’s. Not all of us, certainly, and yet, enough of us.
Energetically, Winter is a time of deep rest in preparation for a rebirth or transformation. The trees sense it as early as late Summer and early Autumn when many begin the arduous task of pushing their leaves off their branches, dispelling the idea of “Autumn leaves falling”. They only fall because they are pushed. These leaves are useless when the tree needs all its energy to keep its living cells from freezing in the cold. Trees know how to shut down what’s non-essential in order to ready themselves for hibernation, or dormancy, all the while actively keeping their living cells from freezing. At rest and active simultaneously. Some even set their buds before dormancy in preparation for Spring and warmer weather. My lilac bush is awash with tight red buds in December awaiting a signal that Spring has arrived and it gives me hope every time I stop to admire the lilac’s forethought and handiwork.
So, how do trees keep from freezing in wintertime? Research tells us that some trees change their cell membranes to become suppler in wintertime, so the amount of water they usually hold is released to the space between cells, where freezing is not an issue, maybe even of benefit to the tree. We humans usually eat more, put on a few of pounds, two or five or ten, acting more like bears planning to sleep through the Winter than trees whose work is less obvious yet still at work. Speaking of eating more, some trees even supply more sugar to their living cells, like anti-freeze, lowering the point at which a cell will freeze. They just don’t gain weight or worry how they’ll look in a bathing suit.
This brings me to the question: how do you keep your living cells from freezing in Wintertime? What are the non-essentials you push off to focus your attention on what keeps you alive? And what little buds are you birthing for a later date, a warmer season, a full expression of you when the time comes?
Beyond the science of trees, there is an aesthetic beauty to the woods in Wintertime. There is a silence in the woods, in which we can hear our own hearts beating, or hear snow fall to the ground as a squirrel dashes across a branch, or hear how the song of the wind in the leafless trees has changed ever so slightly; a song in the key of Winter; different than a song in the key of Spring. It requires us to be in dormancy, too, if we choose to notice and hear these things. What’s in motion when it isn’t you? What are you noticing, being present to the silence and stillness of Winter?
Most of all, how is Wintertime essential to your being alive, a thing of beauty and part of every season in nature?
For the longest time, I’ve grappled with what I call my ‘cloak of invisibility’. What I mean by that is that I seem to be able to go unnoticed in a crowd. Not intentionally. I’m the one who raises my hand and doesn’t get called on. I can be in the middle of saying something, and another person begins to speak over me, as if I hadn’t been speaking at all.
“Hmm, I must be wearing my cloak of invisibility,” I say, often aloud these days, as my filters are wearing thin with age.
It bothered me for a long time, and I wrote it up to the fact that I’m not flashy or glamorous. I’m quiet, reserved, and introverted. For years, it seemed like that cloak was wearing me. It had gotten heavy and there was a ‘why bother’ somewhere in its lining. In fact, I still recall being at a workshop in NYC with some friends. As the facilitator arrived; he was also a friend as well as a mentor/coach, he was saying hello to everyone outside the building, hugging everyone (remember when we could hug?). I opened my arms to receive my hug as he approached, and this person brushed right by me, saying to no one in particular, “Hey, we’d better get upstairs!” I was left on a NYC sidewalk with my arms open wide. Anything could have happened to me. But it didn’t because, apparently, I was wearing my cloak.
Before it feels a pity party to you, the reader, and it’s not that, I promise you … this past weekend, on a forest therapy walk, I suddenly realized why I’m often invisible and it’s quite the opposite of what I imagined it to be.
I was leading a walk in a very human-congested location. We’re all still ‘going outdoors’ because there are still lots of places we cannot go and gather. Families were picnicking, playing, running, and shouting, throwing balls, flying kites, walking dogs. Our group of 13 walked among them in an invitation called, “What’s in Motion When It Isn’t Me?”, an invitation that comes from my certification training with the ANFT, or Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs.
In this invitation, we walk more slowly than we’ve ever walked, stopping to notice everything around us: the grass moving in the breeze, the bark of trees, insects, mushrooms, birds, or the water in the bay. We also notice people, and most people are moving quickly, involved in their outdoor human activities; concentrating deeply on their ‘doing’, while we were concentrating on our ‘being’.
I suddenly realized that we were invisible to the people there. No one noticed us, not even as I played my flute to remind the forest bathers to drop back into presencing. No one noticed us at all.
It was then that I realized how wonderful being invisible can be. What a delight to move among humans so slowly and witness them in their distinctly human behaviors! We were like the wee people, the elfae folk, the Varivae, the Little People of the Light, and others, moving slowly, unseen among them. I’ve never felt that before with a group of people as a group of people. It was magical.
I realized then that, in my own life, I, too, move slowly, I listen, I observe. I am always curious about what’s in motion when it isn’t me. That’s not to say I’m never in motion. I am, and then I am like those humans who cannot notice what’s in motion around them, or the ever-so-slight shift in energy. And mostly, I’m living in the slow place, the place of questions rather than the answers; the metaview and the macroview simultaneously; holding that curiosity where my mind is always processing, working, weaving, imagining. I feel as if I’m having the most intimate conversation with you and you’re probably wondering why I haven’t said anything for so long.
If you relate, perhaps we are the ones who are capable of dancing between the raindrops, who are drawn to the stars light years away as if they are in our own back yard. Perhaps we are the invisible ones as only we can be, noticing, witnessing, being in the questions of life.
I realize that this is my gift and wonder, is it yours, too. If it is, what is the gift you receive when you wear your cloak of invisibility? How is it your superpower?
We offer this pause as an opportunity to connect, celebrate and restore our strength. Join this group of extraordinary leaders for meditation, poetry, forest bathing, yoga and MORE!
Noon – 1:30 pm ET - Saturday, October 10
Opening Connection, Meditation, and Healing with Deborah Beany Slide into our Opening Circle -- beginning with our video cameras on, connecting and setting our intention together. Then drift into a guided meditation, nowhere to go, nothing to do. Let go of tension, lists, expectations and anything that needs clearing. Relax into a 90-minute session of meditation and stress release techniques.
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Shinrin-Yoku, Harvesting a Deeper Connection with Divine Feminine with Linda Lombardo We are entering a time of divine immanence, in which all that is sacred is accessible to us right now in this existence. It isn’t separate from us or outside us. We will fully recognize and honor what has always been within us. And regardless of whether we’ve ever birthed another being, we must acknowledge the unique and utterly necessary feminine spiritual power to create as the world’s stories begin to crumble and new and long-forgotten stories are birthed.
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Welcoming a Season of Gratitude, with Poetry and Moon Magic with Carolyn Dragon Our celebration begins with music and dance. Feeling our body come alive and enjoying the rhythms of life. Settling into our harvest nest, poems of encouragement, joy, and connection will be shared. Allowing the words to wash over us, you will have an opportunity to capture your own words. Our party moves on to games of gratitude and we conclude with moon magic.
9:30 - 11:00 am ET - Sunday, October 1
Nourishing Yoga Practices to Reap at Harvest and Transition Forward with Kerry Ferguson The practice will be a guided flow of yoga postures. A choice of poses that will encourage connection with the inner sacred feminine. Breathwork, centering, simple and digestible yogic teachings, woven into a flowing sequence of yoga postures, that will be simple yet could be as physically challenging as you choose. A variety of modifications to the movements and options will be offered.
11:30 am - 12:00 pm ET
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I’ve always been the first to say that I would love it if everyone went outdoors to be with nature. What a goal; what a dream come true. Now that everyone is going outdoors, mostly because there’s nowhere else to go, I’m a little less certain that it’s really what I want.
As a Master Naturalist and Certified Forest Therapy Guide, being outdoors in nature is the most calming experience I know; connecting with a tree or a blade of grass; feeling the breeze and letting it take me where it wants, watching the Connetquot river flow effortlessly into Nicoll Bay before becoming part of Great South Bay, and more invitations that are protocol from my ANFT (The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs) forest therapy training. Right now, it’s like bumper cars on our trails; it’s like the Long Island Expressway. Everyone is out, using the same trail, trying to stay in their lane, and it’s not as wonderful as I expected it to be.
I seek solitude in the forest, when I’m not leading walks, whether a park, preserve or arboretum. What happens when the parks, preserves and arboretums get really, really crowded? How can I maintain my recommended 6’ physical distance? My colleague, Mindy Block of Quality Parks and the Master Naturalist Program in Port Jefferson, concurred, “I need 600 feet when I’m in nature, not 6.” I agree with her wholeheartedly.
It’s like discovering your favorite restaurant, only to find that everyone else has discovered it, too, and now, you can’t get a table.
Here on Long Island, Quogue Wildlife Refuge just instituted a ‘one-way trail’ direction. I might be able to live with that. It’s certainly a step (no pun intended) in the right direction. Even though research says it’s not the passerby; it’s the prolonged exposure, are we willing to take that chance? Passing someone on a narrow trail means shifting our bodies, our pace in less than a 6’ area. Imagine supermarket aisles and add some generic vegetation. That’s what it’s like these days.
Still, to be fair, I’m excited that families are going out and spending time together in nature. Many people are in nature, just not with nature. What I mean by this is, they are outside doing something active, like jogging, bicycling or walking while listening to music or a podcast, earbuds in and eyes on their phones. They may be deeply engrossed in conversation or actively keeping the kids on the trail, off trees and grassy areas. I suspect many of those folks will go back to their normal routine once we are able to. It might be ages before they visit another park, preserve or arboretum. Nature doesn’t discriminate, so whatever immune system boosters it has to offer, it shares inclusively with everyone who ventures out. It’s like your mother, who loves you, even when you come to visit and spend most of your time on your phone or watching TV. Unconditional love from Nature.
I’m also excited to believe that some are stopping along the trail, noticing the Snowdrops or the Crocus, listening to bird song or, like me, feeling the breeze and wondering where might it take them if they let it? Across the grass, off the trail, winding around conifers or an old crab apple tree? I’m excited that someone might notice that there’s a tree that appears to have the eye of a dragon where a branch once was; excited that someone might notice that the bark from the London Plane tree makes a fun, natural mask if you find just the right piece. And, of course, there’s more; the Witch Hazel blooming, the bright green Spring tips on the fir trees … how the air feels when Spring arrives, then retreats, then arrives again.
I trust that some of those people will remember and return, deepening a connection with the natural world that we Long Islanders are so proud of, but don’t always experience personally. A deeper connection created out of necessity, and now, something we realize has always been a necessity.
In the end, I’m grateful that more and more people are coming to nature and spending time with their families. They are all welcome. I’d like to leave you with some forest therapy, no matter how you’ve experienced nature in the past. If you've ever walked with me, you've done some reciprocity breathing with the trees. A deep breath in with gratitude for the trees that made the oxygen you require to live; a deeper breath out to share the much-required carbon dioxide that the trees need to live, and also, to activate the vagus nerve. Research tells us that you can indirectly stimulate the vagus nerve by taking deep, deliberate breaths from your belly. Deep breathing activates specific neurons that detect blood pressure. These neurons signal to the vagus nerve that blood pressure is becoming too high, and the vagus nerve in turn responds by lowering your heart rate. The result, a calmer, more grounded you. So, try breathing with a tree today, even if it’s one that's in your own back yard. Make the connection. Be grateful. You are part of everything, and everything is part of you.