Interview took place January 12, 2008.
INTERVIEW WITH: Meg Beeler
INTERVIEWED BY: Linda Milks
DATE: January 12, 2008
PLACE: Meg’s home in Sonoma, CA
Meg had a lengthy and distinguished career as a technical writing consultant and teacher for many of the major players in Silicon Valley that paralleled her interest and training in shamanic studies and Andean cosmology. Nice contrast!
I’ve had the privilege of knowing Meg through a shamanic drumming circle we both participate in. It is a long standing circle that comes together twice a month in Marin mainly to do personal, community and global healing work.
Since retiring, Meg has dedicated herself to this work where she integrates core shamanism with Andean cosmology, sound healing and meditation. She teaches and trains others in these modalities as well as offering her healing skills.
I asked Meg if she would allow me to interview her for Nature Speaks and she agreed. Most of our interview took place outside on her deck at her lovely home in Sonoma. Birds can be heard in the background and on occasion one of her dogs would come by for a visit and a few pets! There are a lot of trees in her yard and she also created a medicine wheel where she conducts ceremonies and trainings.
Meg, it would be interesting to me to learn a bit about your spiritual background. Would you comment on your religious exposure as you were growing up?
Well there are two parts. One is that I was raised a catholic and stayed in the church until shortly after college. The church’s support of the Vietnam War made me so upset all the time that I dropped out for good. The other part was that I grew up in the country when I was quite small and my friend and I had a fantasy jungle that we played in with a creek and I felt very connected to nature. So at a very early age, nature was my solace.
Where was this?
Beginning in Alhambra valley outside Martinez, CA. And my aunt and uncle had a farm in southern CA where I spent a lot of time. And even though a farm isn’t wild we could hike and explore and find toads and chase bunnies. So the people part of my life was more problematic than the nature part. I was more aware of that as an adult rather than as a child.
When I finished college in 1966 I moved to Washington, DC. I had studied politics and if I had stayed in San Francisco the only job I could have gotten was as a secretary, which I didn’t want to do. So I wanted to go to the source of power and I looked at New York and Boston and I chose Washington because there were a lot of trees. It felt to me at the time like it was a more accessible town because of the trees and river – which ended up not being true!
In fact my first adult consciousness of interacting with trees was in Washington. I had a dear friend there and we would go walking out to this tidal pool area where the cherry blossoms are in the spring. We took pictures of each other hugging this tree and we had never heard of tree hugging before. I don’t think either of us understood what this was really about and we felt kind of silly but liked it at the same time.
Do you have a specific memory of when you were a child and you went outside to seek solace for a certain problem?
I don’t have a memory of a specific problem but I did go to this place we called the jungle and we would climb trees and build forts and I always felt safe there. I always knew that out here in nature we would be safe and no one would bother us and that was significant. The recognition that nature was my solace came later after I had come back to CA after being on the east coast for about 7 ½ years and my body just breathed this enormous sigh of relief. And I was totally shocked that my body had been missing this kind of environment but there it was!
I first went to southern CA near Idyllwild for about a year which was semi-desert. I spent a lot of time hiking and sitting by creeks and exploring on my own – much more than I had ever done as an adult up to this point.
We would go to various places in the east which were nice and somewhat wild but there was also the sense of it being groomed and it just had a different feel to it than here in the west.
Do you have a memory of establishing a relationship with nature as a separate being in her own right?
I have a specific memory of when I was around 6 of hiking in the east bay. These weren’t long hikes but we kids would take picnics and go up into the hills someplace. And sometimes in winter we would slip and slide down the muddy banks on our way home so it was a great adventure even if it wasn’t very far. But I have this recollection of thinking about seeing like an eagle. I’m not even sure if we had eagles there but I thought about it a lot and I never talked to anybody about it. Maybe it was kind of a fantasy idea but in my later spiritual development, I realized that it was a calling. A premonition of what I would do when I began to work shamanicly.
The way I look at the natural world is from 3 directions. The naturalist’s point of view, the ecological/ scientific point of view and the spiritual point of view. And all 3 of these viewpoints have to do with what’s called in the Andes the living energy of the universe. In the cosmology of the Andes, there’s a consciousness that exists in everybody about the aliveness of every single being; the stones, the creeks, the mountains, the lakes, the creatures. The inter-relationship, the people’s relationship with all those different beings is constantly addressed and reinforced all day long. And that cosmology makes more sense to me than any other I’ve run into so I use it as a framework. If you’re a naturalist or ecologist or work with permaculture, you think about the same things, about the inter-relationship of all things; the ecological manner in which all things are interacting. But because of the Judeo-Christian separation of humans and nature in our culture and the hierarchical way of putting humans above the rest of nature and even of putting men above women, it’s very hard for us to feel that inter-relationship. We have ideas and thoughts about it but it’s very hard for us to experience it in our bodies and to live it. Even for me it’s a constant practice of awareness and of accessing what all this means at that deep level.
Some years ago a friend of mine who works with nature sounds and composition told me about a man named Bernie Kraus who lives here in Sonoma. He’s been in involved with musicians but he’s basically spent his whole life recording sound-scapes. He’ll go to an environment and record the ecosystem of sounds. And in that work he’s made clear for others a relationship in an oral way. If you sit here quietly in the mountain you can hear all these sounds and feel the energy of the trees, feel the weaving of the energetic connections.
Can you tease that out a little more, the weaving of the energies to make these connections?
There is a practice called exchanging energy with a tree. This is where you put your back to the tree and open yourself up to whatever energy or wisdom the tree has to give to you then you do an exchange where you let the tree take whatever it needs from you. Doing that practice is one way of accessing the difference between various trees and your affinity for the tree. We don’t really have very good words for these descriptions but you can become quiet enough to feel or sense the sap running. To sense the relationship of the roots and the branches and the sky and the physical way that trees actually exchange energy. They’re taking moisture in and out and exchanging carbon dioxide for oxygen and these are pieces of what’s going on. And as I practiced this more often and became sensitized to the energy of a particular tree then I started to become aware of the energetic connection between trees. And this started as a concept for me.
A scientific study I read about said that trees will send extra water to another tree through their root system if that tree is in distress. And wondering about that opened up this window of thinking that if trees can do that then they are in communication all the time. And if we can get our rhythms into a place where we can feel it or sense it or hear it then we can be in a deeper interaction with them.
And there was another wonderful study that Bernie Krauss was in where they sat a bunch of experienced meditator’s down with some trees and had them go into deep meditation. They measured something from the tree, I’m not sure how, and they found that the trees shifted their flow of sap to match the breath of the meditator’s.
And that just blew me away – I mean how sentient is that for a tree to be in such reciprocal relationship that it comes into resonance with a human being. So if a tree can do it with us then we can do it with them. And this is something that has made me think about the energetics of trees a lot and then I go out and try to understand how to do this.
Can you explain how you got from the conceptual stage to the actual sensing or knowing stage of this awareness with the trees? And where do you feel it in your body?
A lot of it has to do with quieting, the same kind that you do in meditation and it also has to do with intention. If I’m rushing around or being busy gardening then I’m not paying attention to the trees. If I take some time to go and be with a tree like we did this morning then my whole energy changes because my whole intention is to be present and to see what happens. So as I practice that I’ve trained myself to shut off my mind – and that’s a big deal!
People experience things in different ways. Sometimes they hear words or feel things in their bodies and so there isn’t any one way to do this. For me it’s a feeling and comes from the awareness that my energy is slowing down when I’m exchanging energy with a tree.
I will often send my clients out to ask a tree for any wisdom they may have for them especially after a soul retrieval session. And people who are not used to talking with trees will come back and say well the tree said this or that and its very wonderful. So at that level it’s really just a process of opening up and getting used to asking the tree a question – and then you get an answer! But doing it on a regular basis takes time and intention and quieting.
Would you explain what soul retrieval is and what you do as a shamanic practitioner in this process?
The oldest spiritual practices of humans are 40-50 thousand years old and they are shamanic. What that means is humans having a relationship with nature and nature spirits and the forces of the world. So we know of stories about people praying to the Thunder-God in the Norse countries and in Greek mythology about the battles between Zeus and Poseidon and other gods. Those are symbolic representations of forces in the world. In the shamanic practice you do what’s called “seeing” outside of normal reality. The quantum physicists describe the tangible mundane world that we all agree on. This is a table so our eyes and consciousness give it the form of a table but it’s really just a lot of molecules moving around in a specific way. And someone else who doesn’t have a concept of a table wouldn’t see that. And this is very hard for us to believe because we are so trapped in our perceptions but quantum physicists say that there are 12 dimensions. And shamanic people say that there are multiple, endless other dimensions and parallel realities that exist alongside of us.
Seeing into those other worlds requires shifting out of the purely physical and into the world of what some people call energy and others call spirit. And there are a lot of varieties around this. There are people who talk to angels and to power animals. There are healers who work with sacred medicinal plants and mushrooms. There are many different ways of accessing these different realities as through plant and animal spirits. Some people will see others will hear or smell or sense or just know or have a combination of any of these.
Michael Harner who is in the Bay Area developed what’s called here in the west, core shamanism. He took the practices of many cultures and honed them down and teaches people a way to do this seeing and shamanic traveling. And the interesting thing about this is that you always travel with helpers, helper spirits. It’s not me getting information necessarily; it is me in relationship with my power animal or my teachers who are in the spirit world. They want to help us because they don’t have physical bodies on this plane and so there is this reciprocal relationship with them and they help us get answers to questions. Just as the trees will gives us answers as well but the trees don’t talk as much as some other beings! But there is a difference in talking with the trees because the physical tree is included along with the tree spirit. And in shamanic journeying you are simply working in the spirit world.
So you are distinguishing the difference between meditation and shamanic journeying in that when you journey you meet up with a spirit being and they act as a guide in these other dimensions.
Yes, in general that’s it. And that someone else is guiding you based on an intention I have set and questions I have posed beforehand. For example I would call to my power animal or animals and ask the question, “What does Linda need to come into balance”? The one of my power animals would take me and I see pictures more than I get words. But some people have more words and get a lot of conversation and some get a more sensory feeling and no pictures so there is no one right way. And the trick is to figure out how you best perceive and trust it.
I was in the Amazon with someone who never saw any visions. He sat through ceremony after ceremony and was right there with it but he said that he just doesn’t see. And that taught me something because he gained from these ceremonies and had done them more than once.
Others in the group said that they could see spirit entities around us but I couldn’t see them I could only feel them. I could sense the size of something energetically but I didn’t have any physical visuals at all. The real issue is figuring out what your skills are and developing those and not worrying about the rest.
Did you investigate other modalities before focusing on Andean shamanism? I know that’s what you are most drawn to.
Yes, and I can give you a quick rundown of my process. I was very taken with Carlos Castaneda because some of the things he wrote about made perfect sense to me. He would talk about the assemblage point, about how the sorcerers would send out a cord to connect with each other from the solar plexus area. And I would start to visualize this but without having any personal context for it.
In the early 1970’s here in CA friends and I would do ceremonies at the equinox and solstice and we just kind of made it up as we went along and I spent a lot of time in nature. In 1984 I took a Wikken class. So for the next 8 years I learned a lot about creating ritual and ceremony and working with the elements, the directions, with trance and with raising energy. I was really drawn to trance which is shamanic journeying essentially but without the power animals, and I gravitated towards people who did that.
A friend of mine brought an Indian teacher to the peninsula where I lived. His name was Americo Yabar from Cuzco, Peru and I adored him. He was this wonderful wild man and he would come and do weekend classes which is where I began learning about Andean cosmology. I finally got to go on a trip to the Andes and less than a year later I was back again. I didn’t understand it I just went.
I’m a pretty linear person in many ways so when I found myself back there a second time I had to think about that. This was in the early 1990’s and I’ve been 4 times since then.
So I’m trundling along in the Andes and I started having spontaneous journeys. We would be in a sacred place and I would have these amazing visions and I would come back shaking because they were so extraordinary. That happens because the power of a place can hold so much energy it makes it easier to vision. All the energy of this place and the people that work there sort of feeds you. And even though there are people around these places are pretty wild so the energy is not disturbed.
Another really interesting thing to me is that in the Andes there is no tradition of fighting each other. Whereas in the Amazon the shamans do have a tradition of sending darts or bad energy to each other and so you have to protect yourself. So a lot of your work has to do with protection and its like a warrior business which doesn’t exist in the Andes. One thought I have as to why this is relates to the fact that just surviving at 17,000 feet is arduous enough that they don’t have time for fighting each other! And they get their energy from the mountain and that relationship is so strong, those forces around them are so potent that I guess they just don’t have a need for the warrior mentality. These are some thoughts of mine I don’t really know for sure.
So I didn’t actually learn about core shamanism until about 2000. I took the core shamanic class from Nan Moss and David Corbin who are Foundation teachers with Michael Harner, and it just blew me away. Everything I’d been doing for the past 20 years all came together and it all fit in a way I could make sense of whereas before it had been piece-meal – a little of this and this. And this was really important to me to have a vehicle to use to jump in and develop this without having to be in Peru or a sacred place to have these visions. I took to this like a duck to water and I was off and running and started a journey group.
Can we shift gears a bit to the trees? If I ask you just simply can you speak to me about your relationship with the trees, are there things you want to say about that?
Yes. The thing that’s important about trees as far as anyone relating to them is that they are big and tangible and present more so than a plant. Lots of people learn from plants and plant spirits but trees have this presence. And most of us have experiences of climbing a tree, playing in trees, swinging from trees. Many kids don’t have that opportunity now but people a little older certainly do. So there is already a connection with trees that many of us have. The trees then become a vehicle for re-accessing what was natural in childhood and then gets suppressed as we grow up and have to go and sit in an office. This is why I think trees are such a powerful vehicle for connecting with nature because we can relate to them in these many ways. Mountains are also very powerful to connect with but they are so huge you can’t really get your arms around them, but you can actually hug a tree.
Years ago I read about this movement in India in the 1700’s, the Chipka Movement, where there was some contentious development issue and the village women went and hugged the trees to prevent the development from happening. Humans have a long history with trees and they provide us with so many necessities and I think this is one of the reasons we get drawn to them.
Do you think you could ask a tree a question now?
I can’t do it from afar so we could go up to one. What question would you like me to ask? And by the way, asking a question like this is formally known as divination in the shamanic practitioner’s language. Jewish shamans used raw eggs to divine with. Turkish grandmothers used tea leaves and coffee grounds. Chinese used oracle bones. Westerners use tarot cards among other things. There are many different vehicles for divining that have a very long history. And you can also divine by asking your teacher or power animal to take you to show you an answer to your question.
You had mentioned some time ago to remind you about some tree stories that you had to tell. Can we do that now before we move into my questions?
The tree story I wanted to tell you was about a 350-400 years old oak that was in a park near my house where I used to live in Menlo Park back in about 2002. There were 3 old oaks on this park, this was the mother and the 2 younger ones were closer to my house. One night I was on the phone and I heard this enormous noise and one of the oaks had fallen over. It was a beautiful old tree and it made me very sad. And they came in and did a terrible job of cutting up the trees and trimming the other ones around it and it was not good for them or for us.
So I started paying more attention to these trees. And I did some paintings of them and the hole left by the one that fell down is what I used to enter the lower world in my shamanic journeys. Then a little later on the mother tree developed this oozing and it freaked me out because I really loved this tree.
And for me it was the beginning of a very significant relationship on 2 levels. One level was around ceremony and offerings and I would bring my journey group there to this tree. We would sing to the tree and give it energy. And then on a practical level I got in touch with the man in charge of caretaking this tree and he brought others out to look into the problem and they did some remediation to it. I’m a bridge between the ordinary and non-ordinary worlds so this is part of what I would do. And so my relationship with this tree kept building.
I knew that this tree had a lot of stories about the ancestors, the people who had lived there over the centuries, but I had never asked the tree anything really specific. It’s just something I knew.
When I journey with this tree there is kind of a precursor I use before journeying. I’ll visualize the tree, I’ll connect with it and in this process the tree reminds me that I have roots and branches and larger connections. So this actually helps me to shift my energy out of the egoic small self into the larger self and I use this kind of repeating reminders of tree-ness in my life in all kinds of ways. One of the valuable things about relating to these different beings is that the tree has a perspective, the wild animal has a perspective, the domestic animal has a perspective and we can learn from all of them. And the more we can see from their point of view broadens our overall view of the world.
It’s the living being part of the tree is what I really learn from. I exchange information with the tree about how it is to be in the world and part of that is by observing. I was on a hike in the mountains near Palo Alto and there was this enormous old, old tree in a meadow pretty much by itself. I went up to it and was faintly touching one of the branches and I realized that it was reverberating across the whole tree. I could see the other side of the tree moving and then it would stop and I would experiment with it, with the touch. And it would physically move all across the tree which was about 40 feet away. And it blew my mind, I had no idea they were that sensitive. And then I would watch the wind blow through it and it was so fluid. They look solid but they have an amazing capability to move with the wind and to be flexible.
When Julia Butterfly Hill was up in her redwood tree Luna, she described how even in hurricane force winds the tree would be buffeted back and forth. And at first she was really scared but she then saw that the tree wasn’t falling down so why should she fall? So she learned to not be rigid when she was afraid.
Do you ever dream about trees and are dreams a vehicle for you to access information from them?
I don’t remember my dreams much and nothing comes to mind. But I keep coming back to the living energy of things. There’s the physical component where we can observe the qualities of trees – the roots and fluidity and leaves as they reach up into the sky. And the whole tree of life concept from many cultures is of course based on observing the trees and seeing that trees take us up to the heavens. That it’s a vehicle for connecting the earth and the cosmos. And also seeing all the creatures that live in the trees and take nourishment from them and how that expands the energetic/spiritual possibilities of relating to the tree. At least that’s how it works for me.
And this is true for mountains too. There is this sacred mountain in Peru where I was being taken to in journeys before I physically visited it. And after a lot of years I thought well I need to get myself to this mountain, to Ausangate. It’s a mountain that is sacred to the Q’ero. And when I went there I was so sick with bronchitis that I had to ride a horse the whole time instead of walk. And I’m an earth person so this was really strange – and when we got to our destination I would just collapse and sleep for 14 hours rather than be able to walk around. I just slept on the mountain rather than see the golden lights and sunsets. And when I got home I realized I had been given this enormous gift of lying on this mountain so I could feel it in my body all the time. So that’s what I was supposed to get and it’s fine that I don’t have any memories of trundling around looking at everything. So I had the spiritual relationship then the physical and energetic relationship and now I weave them together and keep learning. And this is the same thing I do with trees or anything else.
When we moved up here 2 years ago (Sonoma) it was very exciting to be a relatively wild place, there was so much to learn. Different trees and creatures and birds and how are they all relating – I was on overload all the time! And now I can get pieces of things but it was amazing how important it had become to try to access everything. There is all this specific knowledge about how to transplant an acorn and which ones will make it which ones won’t and why and I don’t know why I care about all this but I do!
You spoke of the oaks trees down in Menlo Park and this 400 year old tree was the one who anchored the energy for that area. Can you speak of this dynamic a little more and put it into context?
That’s really interesting because I’ve had experiences where I would see a tree and I would just make a bee line for it because it had such a strong pull on me. One time I was driving in the south bay and there was one tree there that had such a powerful draw for me I stopped the car and went back and hung out with it. It was old and big oak that had this amazing presence. Another time in Mendocino at one of the state parks there was this enormous cypress tree that I was energetically drawn to and I just knew how important this tree was and I just wanted to be near the tree.
It’s not dissimilar to what humans feel for the 7 wonders of the world or for other sacred places like Machu Picchu or Stonehenge where people feel a calling to be there. Humans created those so that’s a difference but it is a similar energetic calling which seems to say that person needs to be in this place to learn something.
I was with a woman once who got to Machu Picchu and she literally lay down on the ground she was so happy to be there. And she knew that she had needed to go there for a long time.
I feel drawn to that area too. Other than the energetic draw and wanting to take time to be with these trees do you remember anything else about these experiences?
Well I know I got information from the one in Mendocino but it’s not in my head right now because that was probably 30 years ago.
So you were getting information from trees that long ago. And you felt that these trees you were getting such a strong pull from were the anchor trees for that area?
Yes but I didn’t really know what to do with it back then. But it was so strong I can still feel that tree even though I have not visited it again. And I don’t know if that would always be true that these trees were all anchors. But all of us are drawn to big old trees. The older and bigger they are the more we seem to be drawn to them and this is probably because of the information they hold. I’m reminded of this practice, that I think is related, that people would do at a sacred place where there was a sacred stone in the wilderness or at a certain place say in Stonehenge or Machu Picchu. And this is where you can intentionally connect with all the people who’ve ever worked there and you can draw that energy into yourself and use that energy to empower whatever work you are doing. This would be along the lines of world healing work let’s say. So I think a similar thing would be true for these ancient trees. There’s something so amazing about a tree that is 10 times older than we will ever be that draws us in.
All places hold energy and they hold the memories of what’s happened there and so the trees hold these memories of what they have witnessed. And I haven’t ever listened that closely with that intent to find out what they have seen.
Would you like to do that this afternoon? And do you have a particular species or a special relationship with one tree that makes it easier to communicate with over others?
Yes, that would be interesting. And I don’t have a particular species although I love oaks and in general I think the more you have a relationship with a particular tree you probably would have access to more information but I haven’t really tested this out. If I spent all my time just talking to trees I may have an answer to that but I don’t really know. My relationship can be characterized more as an inter-being, inter-relationship and connection based on the amount of time I’m able to spend with the trees. They help me to experience that and it’s actually becoming a more important part of my life. And some things just don’t have a clear category to go in.
If I can’t sleep at night I’ll go into this certain cosmos mediation and I’ll be in an altered state, not quite asleep and not quite awake, then different things will come to me. And we were speaking before about the difference between meditation and journeying and sometimes the division is actually very blurry. I don’t know many people who have both a meditation and a journeying practice so I haven’t asked if this happens to them as well. How about you? What happens for you?
Well, I wonder about this in my own journeying practice and in meditation. I can go into a certain state without engaging the practices and it feels very similar to when I am journeying or meditating. It’s like looking at a movie and I just watch it play out and it often seems like a metaphor that has meaning for me. I find if there are a number of similar ideas that come through then I believe it might be grounded in something valuable.
I’m working with this woman and we are planning the next Medicine for the Earth reunion in Santa Fe . And she has a similar thing going on where her process isn’t a strict thing either. But where I think the traditional journey with the power animals is important is when you’re getting information for other people. It’s different when you’re learning for yourself. But the egoic part of ourselves is so strong that I feel it’s absolutely crucial to do that process and work with a helping spirit when you’re working with someone else to get what I need for them. It’s just way too easy to flip into your thought patterns or assumptions or presumptions. We are actually going through this with this issue that’s come up for this reunion and it’s very complex. But it becomes then really important to do the strict things and processes so that you’re not imposing your own desires on things.
But if it’s your learning and my learning for ourselves I don’t think it matters.
At this point Meg and I go out on her property to find a tree to speak with. She chose a blue oak tree, one of the older ones there. Her guess is that it might be 100+ years old. I ask her to describe the process:
I walked around the tree and greeted it and asked permission to exchange energy with it. I put my hands on the tree and blew into it as a means of connecting. Since the exchange of energy is back to back I put my back to the tree and opened to what it had to tell me and opening my energy to the tree. Then to ask it this specific question I turned around and touched it with my forehead because that just felt like what I should do.
Then I was very surprised, the tree immediately said that it was always trying to reach out on different directions like I was and it could really help me with that process. So I asked about the specifics of this and it said it could remind me about my essence as being the center of all these things I’ve been shown recently of little spider web type filaments that I can see going in all directions.
And just a little background for this, the spider webs are to replace the more solid structures that I’ve had before because when I got sick over Christmas I got really clear that I was the glue for too many people and things and that I needed to shift that. So I’ve been asking a lot about how not to be the glue for everything and then the spider web image came to me about this.
But the tree is going to help me how to figure out how to do that more. And I think the physical reason the tree can do that is because it has had an unusual pruning. There were 6 big branches that had been cut off that tree a long time ago. And then way up high there were some little branches that have been cut off only on one side and I don’t know why. So metaphorically speaking the tree was saying that it used to have all these branches and it had been brought back to it’s essence or trunk.
Then I asked if there was anything about the history of this area that it wanted to tell me about. Could it tell me anything about the imbalance in this valley? And it didn’t have anything to say about that or the family that used to live here but it did say that it was never a gathering tree.
Most native peoples CA, and maybe further but I only know about CA, had a main tree or set of trees they would go to when they gathered acorns. A family or group had a defined area to go to and they would just take what they needed. So the tree said it was not one of those kinds of trees. I don’t know why – maybe its because blue oak was not the preferred choice to eat or perhaps it wasn’t old enough…But this was the only historical reference it made. It was interesting because it didn’t really have any comment on the family that lived here before us.
Americo said once that trees are incredibly sensitive so that when you exchange energy with them you shouldn’t do it for very long. So I thought of that when I was doing that process and that’s probably why I don’t go to them a lot with questions because it’s taxing. I mean it took a lot of energy for me to do that.
Oh, how do you feel now? Do you feel drained?
I feel very altered and not very functional! (We laugh…)
Do you need to do something to get grounded?
Oh no, that’s OK – I just probably can’t talk anymore!
We stop our conversation for a while and then come back to it to wrap up.
A couple of years ago (2006) there was a program in the Palo Alto, CA area called Sense of Place. They have a year long program that’s fairly mentally oriented but once a month they take people to different places and go on hikes and they have experts to go along and explain different things to them.
And for a couple of years they invited me to come along and do an Andean offering called a despacho. This one time we were in a park after dark with an astronomer and on the way we passed through a place called the ancient oaks trail. The coast range looks out toward the ocean and there is a big gathering of beautiful old oaks. Spontaneously, I asked if we could stop there and have us all do something. We stopped and took a break and I instructed people to find a tree that they liked and to sit with it. And it was the most incredibly sweet experience because people totally got into it and they didn’t want to leave. It was clear that they felt they had been given permission to be children and to do what they had done as children which was just to hang out in the trees. And the instruction allowed them to do something they all loved doing but wouldn’t have done on their own. So it is a classic story of how one little thread can open a door.
Yes, exactly. You hear that so often.
At this point we wrap up and I thank her for her time and efforts.
END OF INTERVIEW.
Below is more information and a story about Meg connecting with trees that she wrote about previously and put on her website.
8/2006 Connecting With the Web: Begin With One Tree
Everyone has a special tree somewhere. When shape or size or color draw our attention, the tree seems to call us, offering us the possibility of deeper connections.
Our bodies remember the childhood trees we climbed or read under, swung from or used for imaginary games. So it is not hard—we only have to drop our adult self-consciousness and judgment—to make relationships with the trees we are drawn to. That might mean leaning up against an ancient oak during a hike, or lying along the low branch of one. It might mean circling the biggest tree in our neighborhood, letting fingertips draw across bark daily to say hello. Or it might mean painting the tree or imprinting its bark into clay.
In an experiment that opens my heart with wonder each time I think of it, experienced meditators sat with their backs to trees and entered a meditative state. Concurrently, using highly sensitive recording devices, Bernie Krause and his cohorts measured the rhythms of human breath and tree sap rising and falling. Guess what? Each tree slowed the flow of its sap to match the breathing pattern of its meditator! The trees consciously entrained with the humans. This means that we humans can teach ourselves to entrain with a tree by letting our breath, our consciousness, and our awareness match the tree’s awareness, and by listening to tree’s story, advice, and requests.
It’s a subtle process, for trees have very subtle energy (as opposed to the “gross” sensations that Buddhist teachers speak of). I have found that I can begin the process of deep listening with some very physical practices: exchanging energy back-to-back with a tree, leaving offerings, and pulling weeds or otherwise taking special care with it.
Slowly, as I become familiar and make friends with a particular tree, I notice more: the birds and other creatures that move through it; how wind and sun interact with it; patterns of light and shadow; how the tree interacts with other trees nearby. Then I begin to make mental shifts, to open my cells, and to experience the “collective field” that surrounds me and the tree, the tree and its neighbors, the ecosystem it is a part of. As I notice these energies and interactions, our interrelationship becomes alive.
The physical plays into metaphysical: it is easier to step into parallel realities and journey to the magical realms a tree inhabits when we have a relationship in the mundane world. All the childhood stories you read, where a hole in a tree was the opening used to enter other worlds, is based on this, and we know that this method is at least 50,000 years old!
When we consider that only 7% of our communication is verbal, it becomes easier to imagine coming into congruence with a tree. The pleasure, beauty, and balance such connection brings to our frantic human lives is well worth a few minutes a day. It can also be crucial to our conscious movement through challenges both personal and global. Each relationship brings new and shifted awareness, qualities of attention, and ways of perceiving. Each relationship offers us more energy, fortitude, and wisdom for our lives. As in everything, it’s a matter of paying attention, listening, asking: how can you help me? What’s our relationship for? How can I help you?
As we near the fall equinox, I remind you of Chief Seattle’s words: “Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”