What does strength really mean? And what about vulnerability? And how can we be strong in hard times, and at the same time feel our emotions and let them be present?
... This included keeping my distance from everyone, not touching door knobs, not taking part in the dinner ritual of sending my bowl, and also not cooking at the same time as the others and not cooking for the community.
Slow is a very relative term. In the past, traveling by train was considered fast, compared to traveling with horses or on foot even. Now, it’s considered slow, compared to airplanes, that have become such a common mode of transport nowadays.
A lot of people would have thought me crazy or stupid for taking the train to ride from Minneapolis in the center of the United States, all the way to Portland, Oregon on the westcoast. The whole ride took about 38 hours – not counting the different amounts of delay – and almost 3000 kilometers. That sounds like a lot. And it is! But then, time is also relative.
Community is such a big part of our DNA… It’s the feeling we all long for in one way or another. It is about being truly seen, being accepted, being loved. It’s about belonging to something bigger than ourselves, living our gift to others, and seing our purpose in the world unfold.
At the end of March this year, I spent one week in the North of Sweden in the middle of nowhere together with nine other people. The only thing that we knew about each other were, that we were all interested in native lifeways and learning about Sami culture and crafts.
When a person I talk to is unhappy with a situation that happened to them, I love to tell a certain Zen story about a man and his son, showing that nothing is ever only as it appears in the beginning. That apparent blessings could later be seen as curses and vice versa.
About three weeks ago, something happened, that now I have my own real life story somehow similar to it! You can skip right to my experience if you know the Zen story….
It might include some creative freedom.
One day, out of the blue, a man gets visited by a rich relative, who gifts him with a horse. So when he rode into the village, everyone said, what a blessing it is that he got that horse, because it can help with work on his farm and so many other things. But the man just said: We’ll see.
touching, viral bear video
One is about a bear mother and her cub, apparently fleeing from a drone filming them. The video went viral, because apparently it shows that perseverence gets you to your goal eventually. But all I could feel is the struggle of the little cub, and her fear. It did show the strength of that small animal that couldn’t have been more than a few months old. both physical and mental strength to handle such a situation.
And it reminds me that I can relate to the fear, but being paralized by that fear, I hadn’t really learned that strength most of my life. Being in that same situation, would I have been so curageous to follow my elder without hesitation, trusting that she knows the way? Would I have the inner strength to not even hesitate or think of complaining how unfair or undoable it is? And after the ordeal, traumatized by the experience, still not have resentment for that thing that threatened me?
While watching I felt all the wisdom that those bears had, that goes beyond words or intellect. And one of my own kind did that to them…
The other story was about two wales that had stranded on the north shores of Germany almost a year ago, and their autopsy now showed all the plastic inside of their stomachs. And looking it up again, I didn’t even find the article, but several other articles on other wales who died with huge amounts of plastic that they swallowed. And again, it is something, that people of my kind did or let happen, and I feel responsible for it.
And those reports are in essence nothing new. What makes this situation different is mostly myself. For such a long time in my life, I was so disconnected from my feelings and emotions, that whenever I heard a report of something awful, no matter if it was on other people, animals or “the environment”, my trained brain told me that this was something awful and that I need to feel sad or affected or shocked or something like that. But I never really felt the connection. And I would guess I’m not the only one out there.
But since I’ve been on my journey to really learn to listen to my inner voice and my feelings for a while, I slowly learned to really connect with these instances. Even though those emotions are not easy to feel and accept, I’m so thankful that I am finally able to actually feel them. Because the way I see it, it is the only way to sustainably change any kind of behaviour that would stop destroying our own home and habitat.
how to deal
So what can we do in that situation? – Well, if you can relate to not really feeling the connection, a good way to start might be to honestly acknowledge that state you’re in, and consciously decide that you want to change and that you’re ready to learn to connect with your feelings and stay on your path even if it’s hard or you’re scared.
If you can already really connect with a certain situation or more, and you feel overwhelmed, stay with the feelings anyway. Really connect with all aspects of the situation. What characteristics does nature show us over and over again? How do plants and animals deal with hard times and fear? Let them be your guide to grow your inner strength. Trust in it and be a role model to others.
is it too late?
There is also a lot of discussion of “it” being too late to turn things around. But is that really important for your decision? What if predictions are wrong? What if we could still influence the development in a way that is not so destructive and maybe even productive at some point? Wouldn’t you want to take the chance and still plant an apple tree even if you knew the world would be gone tomorrow?
The Great Turning
Well, I guess this is not a new concept. I still only have heard little and haven’t read Joanna Macy‘s books about deep ecology, the Great Turning and the work that reconnects, but it goes in a similar direction to what I just wrote about. There is also a wonderful talk of her on youtbe.
The way I see it, connection with yourself, others (not only humans but animals, plants many more) and nature is a vital part of our way of healing.
There once was a little girl. She kept to herself and didn’t make friends easily. She felt awkward and like she didn’t really belong, because she was so different. But she was hopeful, so she had set out to find a group of other people who also felt like they didn’t belong, and formed a bond. This bond was providing her with a lot of feelings of belonging and happiness, and she felt understood. Maybe for the first time in her life.
But one day, out of the blue, they were gone. And instead there were people, looking the same, but acting very differently. Confused, she tried to find what she had done wrong, but couldn’t make sense of the situation. She searched high and low for a way to get back that feeling of belonging. Looking for other people, and at the same time too scared to experience the same thing again.
This is when she built a wall to ward off her feelings, because they had become unbearable. And to feel a resemblance of what it felt like to belong to a group, and feel “something”, she turned to the TV. She found a lot of shows and movies that invoked that feeling. But even though these feelings were created on the surface, there was no real connection.
Years went by without much change. The memory of that pain had faded into the subconsious and was magnified when looking at it from the conscious. And the solution with the second hand emotions seemed to be working just fine. So for years and years, she didn’t see any reason to change.
Until she did.
Questioning her own level of capacity, she started an investigation. Like a dog with a bone she slowly carved away all the layers of protection that she had built. Seeking in different areas like diet, fitness, mindset and more. With every step getting more focus on inner processes, while gradually also changing her outside environment and habits.
She stumbled upon courses and seminars, wanting to change something on the outside, and ended up with more and more experiences of feeling alive again. Finally having role models of expressing their emotions, and showing her that what she had been doing for such a long time was not a normal state of being. That it was more akin to being a walking dead.
Intrigued by what she saw being possible, she set the intention of wanting to really connect with her own emotions and feelings. But it was still a long way. Being there for such a long time, the wall that she had built had grown bigger and thicker, keeping more and more emotions out. And with that, the fear had grown stronger. Fear of being even more overwhelmed, because she could just see the huge wall, but not what lay behind it.
Slowly chiseling away on that wall, repeating her intention to want to connect and feel her own emotions and feelings, she had found a way! With every step she took, she collected all the courage that she could muster, and dragged along the fear like an anchor. And after some time, that anchor became a friend, so that now she can walk alongside the fear, holding her hand.
And her feelings? They are slowly but surely coming back to her, the more she’s working on dissolving that wall that she built. And the more she experiences feeling her feelings and being able to handle feeling them, the more she builds trust in her own psyche to only give her as much as she can handle. Slowly training her to handle more and more of her emotions, and building stronger connection to her inner voice, feelings and gifts.
Even though this is only one of many stories of how we can learn to feel again, it is a strong testament to the power of will, and our ability to change situations that seem unchangable.
This is the third and last part of a three part series about nature connected rituals for the end of the year. If you want to learn more about the closure of the past and start of the new year, you will find that in part 1 – closing nights and part 2 – winter solstice. There is also a german version of this post.
The rawly nights (Rauhnächte) have regained their popularity the last few years. Many people are searching for instructions or guidance on how to spend those nights, what they tell us, which rituals can be used. This post should offer you an attunement and some ideas on how to do that. I do however also want to offer the perspective, not to have to follow any instructions, but to really listen to your inner voice of what is important right now. For this, you need to be really quiet and calm, but it might be worth it.
This is the second part of a three part series about nature connected rituals for the end of the year. If you want to learn more about the closure of the past and start of the new year, you will find that in part 1 – closing nights and part 3 – rawly nights. There is also a german version of this post.
This year, the shortest day and longest night of the year is on the 21st of December. This doesn’t only mean that – according to the calendar – now the Winter starts. It means so much more.
This is the first part of a three part series about nature connected rituals for the end of the year. If you want to learn more about the closure of the past and start of the new year, you will find that in part 2 – winter solstice and part 3 – rawly nights. There is also a german version of this post.
On December 8th, the locking nights (Sperrnächte) started. They are the lesser known harbingers of the longest night of the year and the following rawly nights (Rauhnächte). But where does this tradition come from? And what do we actually do in that time?