Fast Wisdom™, the newsletter of my Holden Healing Studio practice.
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December, 2015
By Lonner Holden

Winter Solstice: The Virtue of Deep Quiet (the source of Restorative Nature Practice™)

It’s Winter Solstice.  My cat Yin Yang meows his, “I want to go outside” call.  I approach the back door to the patio and yard where breeze and bird sounds, after-rain and plant aromas, and a variety of ground textures await his curious senses.  I open the door and watch as he does nothing, stands still, facing the opening. In classic cat mode he walks cautiously towards the outdoor gallery of sensory delights.  He takes a few steps, waits, sniffs the air, takes a few more steps. I relax my impatience to get on with my “other things,” realizing that I have something to learn from the ‘way of the cat’; that I am being given full audience to a master of transitions from the domesticated safety and comforts of modern human shelter to connection with a more wild environment where the senses naturally come more fully alive.

It takes a full minute for Yin Yang to travel just five feet to the threshold of the doorway, a process he has engaged in a thousand times which he approaches now as if it were his first. He lowers his head and sniffs the metal plate he must cross.  He tests one paw on it, then the other.  He lifts and turns his head to listen, then lowers it to sniff the first step, proceeding this way down two more steps to the cement patio. He moves to the right passed the ivy-draped terrace wall towards where fallen wet leaves offer new smells and a damp carpet under the willow tree where he completes his deliberate entry of relaxed presence among dirt, withered grass, rotting weeds, dormant roses and the rough skins of a variety of trees. Bird calls, insect buzz, squirrel chatter, barking dogs and the hum of the occasional passing car or chatting people on the other side of the street further attune him to the outside environment.

You see, Yin Yang is blind.  His eyes haven’t led him a stitch in navigating for a few months, yet to watch him move around, you would hardly know it. He seems to be completely comfortable, moving freely about by his knowledge of sounds and sound directionality, smells, changes in air flow and air temperature, the texture of the floor and ground, kinesthetic memory of where the walls and furniture are inside and where the trees, patio chairs, yard terrace steps and grey water tanks are outside. He still jumps on and off the bed easily and navigates around indoor objects as if his body has measured and remembers to the exact step and with precise compass coordinates the distance between the kitchen island and his food bowl.

Last night I was at a Winter Solstice candlelight poetry reading. The theme the hosts asked the readers to respond to was this beautiful poem by Wendell Berry:

“To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.”

In darkness lays the stillness of silence too, not usually available when one is in the light.  And with deep quiet comes deep listening and awareness of subtle sensations. They may be sounds, scents, movement of air currents, refined sensitivity to hot and cold, wet and dry, textures and the presence of shapes or of slow movements.

We know that blindness sensitizes an individual’s other senses.  Darkness can then be used as a means to ‘see’ more clearly. After a recent Restorative Nature Practice™ Wander exercise, one of the participants replied, “It felt like I didn’t even need to remove my blindfold to go and find [my] tree again.  I ‘knew’ it even without using my eyes, not just by its shape and textures, but where it was among all these other trees so similar to it.”

In his Point Reyes Light newspaper column, ‘Tracking Notes’, good friend and fellow tracker and nature mentor Richard Vacha recently writes of “How to go Feral.” At the heart of this process he describes ‘going quiet’ - accessing an internal state free of chatter. This is requisite to transitioning from the familiar raucous of daily ‘civilized’ living to connecting with “... your primal self.” He states, “It’s always there, just under the surface, ready to awaken, silently watching over you at all times, waiting to light up.” National award winning nature educator and writer Jon Young speaks of the darkest hour before the dawn as the period in the daily cycle representing “quiet mind”, a quality which has the greatest potential to connect one deeply to nature rapidly.

During Restorative Nature Practice™, I invite participants to let their vision go soft into just peripheral awareness, a kind of half-blindness where nothing is in focus. This welcomes a natural curiosity of and sensitivity to sounds, smells, textures, terrain contour and movement. With soft eyes, you can gently and safely transition into a deeper connection with nature by feeling the textures of a leaf, smelling a broken blade of grass, rubbing dirt between your palms, bringing attention to the flow of the air across your cheeks, even taking off your shoes and going barefoot. (Always be aware of local hazards like thorns, poison oak, ticks and snakes.)

If the experience of connecting with nature awakens one’s senses more, leaving one feeling lighter, happier, with an increased sense of psychological resiliency and well being, then perhaps living less connected to nature is a way of living in the dark - the darkness of dulled senses and of a compromised sense of belonging. Choosing simple sensory curiosity outside is a way to transform this sleepiness into an awakening process. During Restorative Nature Practice™, we explore all the senses. I invite the participants to consider what it feels like to imagine that what they see, hear, feel, touch, smell and move over and around is also sensing them.  One response was, “I feel like I am part of a community that I didn’t ever recognize was always around me before.” I enjoy watching the participants walk with more care after they consider this possibility; they have moved into deeper relationship with the living world being aware of a power they hadn’t previously weighed in on - the power to destroy what they are part of and the power to protect it.

When we have any connection experience, it is so natural to want intensely to share it with another.  We do this in Restorative Nature Practice™ Wanders.  We strengthen each other’s sense of connection through our shared mini-stories of awakening moments of awareness. Something soft and strong and enduring inside us arises. One’s sense of relationship to self, others and nature can become more vivid; questions come into greater clarity and one’s creativity, purpose or required action can more easily be felt or envisioned from this relaxing into the source of life, relaxing more deeply into the welcoming cradle of nature.
By allowing an intentional moment of ‘entering a gentle darkness’ and deeper conscious quieting, all our senses begin to awaken.  Proceeding into the realm of nature’s magic and beauty, deliberate as a cat, to become confident as a cat going feral for a few minutes or hours out the back door, we can look back indoors from the outside, comfortable out in the open, knowing that we can bring our nature connection wisdom back inside, happier with a sense of belonging which we allowed ourselves to remember as we came out of the darkness of shelter, wanting.
Jin Shin Jyutsu:

Gently hold each finger on each hand for a few minutes to enhance the senses:
  • Middle: Speech/quiet
  • Ring: Vision
  • Thumb: Touch
  • Little: Smell
  • Index: Hearing & Taste
  • Palm: Intuition

Restorative Nature Practice:
  • When you awaken in the morning, before you open your eyes, bring attention to your first sense of touch and of hearing.
  • When outside in your yard or a park allow your vision to become soft focus - peripheral. Notice the sounds, smells, textures around you and bring attention to how it feels for your body to respond to the landscape as you safely move through it.
  • When you return inside, how has your perception or perspective on the inside physical and/or social landscape changed or remained the same?

Imagine the senses as being the portals of the nervous system to the outside world.  Nourish the nervous system with foods higher in B vitamins like whole grains, nutritional yeast and cooked vegetables. Minimize simple sugars like candies and deserts (within moderation - after all, it is the holidays).

NEXT MONTH: New Format for Fast Wisdom™ Newsletter

PICK OF THE MONTH: Your stepping outside and transitioning to connection with the natural environment through experimenting with any sensory curiosity.

Restorative Nature Practice™, Marin County: January 16th
Marin County Tracking Club, Point Reyes: January 31st

See events on calendar »


Fast Wisdom™ is the newsletter of my Holden Healing Studio practice.  Each issue explores a theme of living approached in the context of healing.  Included is a simple Jin Shin Juytsu® Healing Hands Self-Care exercise, as well as a Restorative Nature Practice™ activity to practice which relate to the newsletter theme of the month.  Nutrition and health tips too, so you can live a happier and more vital life infused with well-being, improved health and more effective and empowered recovery.

© 2015 Lonner Holden
Fast Wisdom™

Copyright © 2015 Holden Healing Studio, All rights reserved.

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