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by Robin Rose Bennett

excerpt from Healing Magic

Outdoor Meditation

Go outside and simply be. Sit, stand, or lie with no goal or plan.

The simplest practice of all can be the most challenging for our busy, goal-oriented selves. Try it. Be still and know the earth.

Awakening Senses

~ Consciously breathe fresh air in a natural setting. Smell the scents that are being carried in your direction.

~ Touch various natural things with your fingertips, such as stones, feathers, grass, flowers, or tree bark. Touch them with your eyes closed and notice the difference.

~ Walk barefoot on different types of ground: on grass in a meadow, sand on the beach, fresh pine needles in the woods, or on smooth pebbles in a shallow stream or river. Feel the sensations of different textures under your feet.

~ Listen carefully to the sounds you hear. Notice that the longer you remain quiet, the better your hearing becomes.

~ Sit or stand in one place and look around you, observing as much detail as you can. Stay there for a minimum of five minutes and notice that the longer you stay there, the more you see.

These practices help you learn to slow down and reawaken your natural senses. You can continue with more smells, sights, textures and include tastes, too.

Be creative about how you open yourself to perceive the multitude of details that are available.

Tickle your cheek with pussy willows, brush your hair gently with a fallen pine bough, let an insect walk on your arm, smell a maple tree flower, taste an apple off a tree.

Heart to Heart with Mother Earth

~ Lie down on the ground, on your back or your stomach. If you’re on your stomach, turn your head to the right or left. Breathe deeply, in and out, and listen to your heartbeat. As you become quiet and relaxed, see if you can hear and feel the heartbeat of the earth coming up into you from the center of the planet. Feel the generous love of Mother Earth, the ancient mother of us all. Relax; she will not let you go.

Open to receive. Melt into her. Feel your heartbeats merge and become one. This practice helps you feel the protective love the earth has for you, her daughter or son. It opens you to receive nurturance and nourishment from the earth, which, in actuality, you are always receiving.

Knowing the truth of this increases your sense of security and belonging, and decreases your sense of isolation and loneliness.

Drawing on Earth Energy

~ Place both feet on the ground, ideally without shoes. Consciously breathe in and out and draw the energy of the earth up into your body through the bottoms of your feet. Send love down to the earth with each exhalation. Even in a tiny city park, you can find a patch of earth, perhaps where a bush is planted.

This practice regenerates your energy, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It is especially useful when you feel fatigued from being indoors too much or not moving your body enough. It can help lift depression, too. When I lived in the city I never thought this practice would be enough to help me. Yet, I would make myself go outside and do it—and it always did help, even when I kept my shoes on.

Communing with Plants and Trees

~ Sit outside with a plant or tree and do a timed writing practice. Pick a phrase such as, “This plant (or tree) says, . . .” as a starting point. Commit to write for a specific length of time that you’ve decided on in advance, from 5 to 30 minutes, without lifting the pen off the page at all. Repeat your starting phrase at any point if you get stuck, as many times as necessary, so you don’t stop writing (as described in Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones). Let the writing go anywhere it wants. When you’re done, read what you’ve written out loud to yourself or someone else. I guarantee that something you’ve written will surprise you and teach you something.

~ Sit outside with a plant and consciously connect with it through the exchange of breath. Plants exhale oxygen and inhale carbon dioxide. Humans do the opposite. Open to receive the gift of breath as you inhale and share the gift of life sustaining carbon dioxide with “your” plant as you exhale. This symbiotic relationship is always taking place and it is of primary importance. If it weren’t for the plants and trees, you ¬wouldn’t be able to breathe. Breathe in and out with conscious awareness and let yourself experience the living relationship you share with the plant, which until now, only it has been conscious of. Let it touch your heart.

These two practices can help you feel the love that plants and trees share with human beings. They help you to experience the common spirit or consciousness that emanates from us all. The plant may even communicate specific information and guidance to you. These are among the kinds of practices that helped herbalists and medicine people originally learn which plants were good for food and medicine and which were hallucinogenic or poisonous. You might even be lucky or receptive enough to hear the plant’s song!

Excerpt from Healing Magic, by Robin Rose Bennett

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