I was chastened by a dream I had several years ago. In the dream I was told: There is ecological devastation, but worse is to think that we are not one.
I was going through a difficult time, and first felt ashamed that I had allowed myself to feel separate from a world that I knew previously that I was a part of. But as I thought about the dream, over days, over months, I began to understand how pain or grief can isolate us.
This dream, I then realized, was not an admonition but an invitation. And I began again to open to the land that I walked on each day. Perhaps, this time, with more awareness and humility.
In the early morning, I would say a silent prayer to the trees. During that time of separation, there was no prayer. There was no one. Just a sense of loneliness from the world. But the dream was resolute in its message – that thinking we are not one, causes unimaginable damage to the earth.
After I moved from our rural home to the city, five years ago, I felt a deep loss for the land that I knew so intimately. One day I knew that I needed to relate to the barren backyard of our new home. So I went to a nursery and bought a salvia, a sage that has tiny, deep purple flowers. It releases a mint-like pungent smell when you brush against it, or water it with a hose. As I planted it into the soil, the terrible longing for the land where I used to live, lifted.
So grateful for this salvia, I touched its leaves, or rather caressed it with my fingers, like I might do with a cat. Silently, in my heart, I gave thanks.
That night as I was falling asleep, before my mind could think or analyze, I saw the salvia. It made a sound – a single exhalation – a chord of frequencies I have never heard before. And this sound – this response – filled me with joy.
Maybe it is in the suffering when our heart so readily opens, that we can feel the earth as we once did long ago.
One day, at the shelter program where we sit in circle each week with newly homeless women, a staff member had come to sit with us. She said that she was once homeless, before she trained to be a counselor.
On this day, she was part of the circle. Many of the women had experienced tremendous loss of loved ones, and she too had lost four family members in the last few years. Grief weighed on her most of the time.
She didn’t speak much. She seemed to want to be quiet, inside herself. Women shared after the silent meditation, about how they felt more connected, and more at peace. Still she didn’t say a word.
But a few minutes before the end of the meeting, she said she had an image during meditation and wanted to share it. I saw a change in her eyes – tears that were softening her. I saw, she said, a sheaf of gold wheat. It was pure gold.
How can I explain the feeling in the room after she spoke? It was as if all the women had been given this pure sustenance from the earth, bridging the loneliness of separation. In the silence that followed, it felt as if we were in a temple, or a redwood forest.
We were in fact sitting in a small livingroom, next to the kitchen where the dishwasher was running. But here was this profound sense of belonging, like a prayer.
I think that when a woman understands this, then her life becomes an offering.