A note from Carl:
Before I begin today’s writing, I want to let you know that we still have space for you in next weekend’s immersion in Salt Lake City: Improve The Way You Move. It will be an awesome weekend of embodied learning and we can’t wait!! Details are below. Join us for one or both days.
Erin is also offering a new online course. The Art of Attention: Inspired By Mary Oliver will happen during the merry Mary month of May. It’s going to be pure delight. We hope you’ll check it out!
A couple of days ago, I was walking through our local cemetery around the corner from our house. Over the last 25 years, we have spent thousands of hours walking in this beautiful, tree-filled cemetery. We have seen deer, moose, foxes, baby Great Horned owls ready to fledge, Red Tail hawks along with the many stories and lives described by the gravestone inscriptions. For a cemetery, it often feels like one of the most sanity-supporting places to walk in our city.
On this day, I was walking along, and I came upon a family of deer. I softened my steps, seeing if I could have the same silent footsteps that they had. In bringing attention to my feet, and my soft steps on the ground, the connection with my surroundings became much more intimate. A moment earlier, I was walking along, appreciating the beauty of the day, but mostly in my head, thinking, planning and reflecting. Now, in relationship with these deer, my mind was much more quiet, my direct senses were much more clear and alive. We walked along together for several minutes – the deer pausing to look at me, then going back to nibbling.
I contrast this to a time last year, when Erin and I were walking in the cemetery, and came across a large herd of deer. We spontaneously paused in silence, open to connecting. Out of the silence, we heard a loud “HEY BAMBI! Come here!! Don’t walk away Bambi!!!” There was a girl, probably junior high school age, leaning out of a car window, screaming at the deer. As the deer slowly walked away from this obnoxious human, her parents drove, following the deer, as the girl continued to scream for Bambi to stop walking away. We were not sure who was more disappointing – the girl or her parents.
In Focusing or Inner-listening practice, there is an image we sometimes use to treat what comes up in a session, whether that is bodily sensation, an image, an insight, or a felt sense, as though it was a shy deer emerging from the forest, with whom you want to connect.
How can you be in relationship with something that is emerging inside you, where you are not trying to fix, chase, domesticate, cling to, figure it out.. but rather to be receptive, to connect, to feel into what that shy deer needs to be safe?
In a sense, the quality of the girl screaming for Bambi not to walk away is the relationship many of us have learned of how to be with our bodies, with our inner-lives, and with our natural world. Perhaps not as obvious or loud and obnoxious, but with a similar flavor of disconnection and objectification.
Mary Oliver always models a good example of how to be with the inner and outer wild deer:
The Place I Want to Get Back To
by Mary Oliver
The place I want to get back to
in the pinewoods
in the moments between
and first light
came walking down the hill
and when they saw me
they said to each other, okay,
this one is okay,
let’s see who she is
and why she is sitting
on the ground like that,
so quiet, as if
asleep, or in a dream,
but, anyway, harmless;
and so they came
on their slender legs
and gazed upon me
not unlike the way
I go out to the dunes and look
and look and look
into the faces of the flowers;
and then one of them leaned forward
and nuzzled my hand, and what can my life
bring to me that could exceed
that brief moment?
For twenty years
I have gone every day to the same woods,
not waiting, exactly, just lingering.
Such gifts, bestowed,
can’t be repeated.
If you want to talk about this
come to visit. I live in the house
near the corner, which I have named
Thirst (Beacon Press, 2006)
Wishing you well,