There is an aloe in my garden I admire. With spiny fronds that protrude and odd wedges for leaves it looks like a kind of immobile alien. Viewed from a distance the word curmudgeon comes to mind. As a plant, the aloe looks defensive. That is because it is, with a supreme elegance. Its adaptions to the harshness of its surrounding are genius.
It is covered in small sharp thorns. Underneath the thorns is a thick waxy skin that prevents it losing moisture. Inside the frond is viscous foul tasting goo that, as a child, my mother would put on my nails to prevent me biting them. When a frond dies it withers and then folds downward to protect the stem- a kind of ever replacing armor.
The aloe that occurs from southern Africa all the way to the Arabian Peninsula (and even makes an appearance in Madagascar) has been perfectly shaped by its environment.
Like the aloe, our patterns of defense have been perfectly shaped by our environment. There is sophistication to a defense mechanism. Rage, disassociation, isolation were born in us for a reason. Passivity or hyperactivity as a means to feel safe was constructed by the complex maneuvering of the psyche.
To understand and even admire our defense pattern is to step towards wholeness. To thank it for its necessity rather than loathe you for its presence is an invitation to be more yourself. Not perfect, but on a journey of growth.
At certain times of year, out of the fortress of the aloes defenses, rises a beautiful flowered frond. This is the aloe’s essence. And from this frond, a multitude of beautiful birds come to feed- mirroring the beauty of the aloe’s fronds with the beauty of the birds themselves.
Love your defenses. They protect your essence, which is so beautiful that it can’t help but attract others to it.
During a walk that I went on a couple of weeks ago, I felt a certain shift in consciousness, and a shift in the way that I was perceiving the natural world. It’s something that stayed with me for a long time, and I realised that what I was discovering was a much more native way of discovering myself in all things, in the natural world. It began with a very critical voice, centered on the fact that I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. I had all these places I wanted to be, and things I wanted to achieve, and I wasn’t doing enough to get there. That’s my common theme (it may be a different theme for you…we all have one). When that voice should have made me do more and motivate me, it actually made me rebel against it, and stop doing things. It was a recurring pattern for a week or so, and so I turned to the wilderness for the answers…
In the middle of the night across the river a lion roars. I rise from a half sleep and walk to the sliding doors that shut the night out. As they slide open a dimension opens. There is a distinct sense of stepping through a threshold as I go outside into the night. I feel in a few steps I have stepped from a domesticated comfort into a moonlit wildness.
The air is cool on my bare skin and the stars faint against the size of the moon. An ebony tree towers to my right silhouetted in silver light. From high up in the tree a baboon spots the lion across the river and begins to bark thunderously into the night. It is a guttural and sharp sound. RRRRRRAAAAAAA HUUUUUUUU. RAAAAAAAAAAA HUUUUUUUUU.
Its an ancient feeling – two primates awake in the wild, both aware of a predator. There is immediacy to a moment like this. Beautiful as it centers your presence. Aware. Here
Reverence is precipitated by awe. To belong to a process as old as the human experience. To remember yourself as nature. To belong to being alive.
Wisdom and enlightenment are nothing if not shared with those around us. My heart and roots are grounded in the ancient art of storytelling, and this allows me to share what I have learned, and share my essence with those around me.
To that end, I have joined Kari Van Tine in The Empowered Visionary Summit – a free online event where I will spend some time – along with other visionary speakers – sharing some of my stories and contributing to this living village.
Kari is the perfect person to lead this summit. She has always felt like she was living a “small” version of herself. Even when she was successful, she always felt like she could do something more. Then, a few years ago, she was in a car accident. It was a pivotal moment for her: her “normal” life was no longer okay. She wanted to step into a bigger version of herself and do something meaningful with her short time on the planet. As she began her journey to learn how to reclaim and own her power, find her voice, and make a difference, Kari experienced a deep desire to interview visionaries and luminaries about how to live big and bold … and become the hope this planet needs.
If you are interested in finding new ways to step into your own power and learn how to do more and be the best version of yourself, sign up for The Empowered Visionary Summit!
I see it time and time again in my own village. By working hard to cultivate a sense of shared wellbeing- be it to keep common areas neat and tidy, to regenerate the village by planting life back into it, or to keep an eye on your fellow neighbour’s health in times of sickness, it cultivates the best in everyone. It becomes a place to return to a deeper humanity and begins to represent a place for much deeper connections. The village, and village living, becomes a way that we can all hold each other in community, and it gives those people who have lost their way the opportunities to remember.
Never underestimate the power of the collective community. Just with one mind-shift, we can turn shared existence into village living.
I am always struck deeply by the sense of belonging I have when I drive out on a piece of wild land with no other person around and see a creature as magnificent as a leopard and he accepts my presence. I pray that other people will have the chance to feel that. I pray for future generations to have that chance. I want to bottle the feeling of awe and safety that comes when we begin to lose our fear of the unknown wilderness and see it for what it really is: a place of great safety, acceptance, a gathering of ancient friends, and, in the deepest moments, home.
This is true for all things in your life. Look at them without fear and you’ll see that in our true nature home is inside us and all around us. The world is full of wonderful relationships, but our culture has become obsessed with the romantic kind as the answer to a lot of problems in the minds of millions. Popularized by culture, it has become an obsession that keeps us from seeing all the other places and ways to connect.
I heard wood borer beetles feeding and clicking deep within a fallen down marula tree – the sound of life wanting to perpetuate itself. Those borer beetles are the bass sound that runs through all of us as we try and make this short infinite life something that we can be proud of now, not just as a well received eulogy.
The natural world is always communicating with us. If we learn to listen and learn from it, there is no better teacher on the subject of how we should live.
In the process of tracking our lives and building our villages, we naturally become more closely attuned with the natural world. We begin to fall into the rhythms of nature, and to understand the guidance and lessons we are receiving. We come to see the harmony of nature’s unfolding and all the ways it holds us. Our souls are fed as we learn to live in line with our own true nature.
The cathedral of the wild contains an innate spirituality. When we look into nature and become aware of her processes, we invite that spirituality and the depth of that natural teaching into our lives.
The village consciousness calls for a return to ancient wisdoms, and it is here again that nature can teach us. It will help us remember the harmony that we once shared with the natural world, which is what we need both for healing our own lives and for healing the planet.