Communicating With Nature

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In the last week of October, 2013, I started a strenuous exercise program: walking two miles three days a week and swimming a half hour two days a week. All the way up to Thanksgiving I was keeping to my schedule. My swimming goal was to swim a half mile non-stop. I was almost there, splitting it up into two quarter mile segments. Then winter arrived. The next thing I knew I was limping because arthritis or bursitis or whatever in my left hip was acting up. I decided to treat it with heat, witch hazel and cold compresses. Finally it cleared up. But then my right heel acted up and I was limping again, so I focused on that. The holidays also slowed my program down. In short, I stopped exercising. Then I got a cold New Year’s Eve which lasted until January 16th. And of course the fiercely cold winter temperatures and snow hit us as well. That’s my long story of how I haven’t been out communicating with nature for over a month. I especially miss the walks.

In the warmer weather I always see lots of birds and animals when I go for my walk. Squirrels, rabbits and sometimes a glimpse of a possum or raccoon are my reward. Most of my animal friends are in the bird kingdom: wild parrots, chickadees, robins, cardinals, sparrows, woodpeckers, house finches and  American goldfinches with their bright yellow, white and black feathers darting in and out of the trees. I even know some of them by their chirping. My favorites, however, are the hawks. I’ve seen red-tailed hawks here in Blue Island, but most frequently I see the Northern Harriers that live in the neighborhood. Harriers are one of the few birds that actually hunt other birds.

I always stop and listen to the bird calls and watch the birds if they are within view. It’s a great way to get exercise and commune with nature at the same time. When the temperature gets up over twenty degrees again, I plan on slipping on my hiking boots and going out for a walk, even if there is some ice and snow. I may be lucky enough to see one of my cardinal or hawk friends. And here’s a tip. The next time you hear the cardinal singing his song, you will know that full-blown winter will end in two weeks. Honest! A little birdie told me so.

Ancient Wisdom: Healing Secrets of the Native Americans

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I am reading Healing Secrets of the Native Americans by Porter Shimer. All quotes in today’s blog are from his book.

Today we look to pharmaceutical companies for our medicine. Native Americans looked to nature, especially the plant world, for remedies and cures. Nature was (and is) their pharmacy. Do you know that a large percentage of modern pharmaceutical products derive their healing abilities from plants common to our environment? One example is aspirin. The ingredients in aspirin are chemically similar to pain relieving compounds found in the bark of the willow tree. For centuries, “Tribes in California used a willow bark  to make tea that relieved back pain (page 116).”

It’s not that early settlers were unaware of Native American use of plants for medicinal purposes. In 1650, Dutch explorer Adrian van der Donck wrote, “The Indians know how to cure very dangerous and perilous wounds and sores by roots, leaves and other little things (page 10).” And in 1714 John Lawson wrote in his History of North Carolina: ” Among all the discoveries of America by the French and Spaniards, I wonder why none of them was so kind to the world as to have kept a catalog of the illnesses they found the natives able to cure (page 10).”

So why didn’t the early (or later) settlers keep track of this information, or at least adopt Native American remedies? Unfortunately it was because most of them incorrectly and rashly viewed Native Americans  as ‘ignorant savages’. What a tragic mistake! They would have benefitted, even on a personal level, from learning this Native American wisdom. It was left to our later scientists to re-discover what Native Americans had known for thousands of years. It makes me wonder, what other ‘Ancient Wisdom’ have we not yet re-discovered?

Medicine For The Earth: Repairing the Web of Life

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The concept of the web of life is that everything is interconnected: plants, animals, rocks, humans and even the spirits in the spirit world. Since my second journey indicated problems within my ancestry, emigration from foreign lands to America, and the sorrows it produced, Lauren suggested that I journey and ask my helpful spirits to ‘reconnect’ any web-of-life connections that needed repairing. This reconnection would take place during my journey or immediately after.

Journey 3: As the drumming began, I found myself in complete darkness. My young teacher met me there and we journeyed into the Lower World and entered the cave. We met up with the eagle, merged with him and flew off into the void.

Our focus was on me, as well as my relatives and ancestors. As we flew, I could see new connections already forming, like one single cable with numerous strands, growing forward toward the infinite web of life. Through our intentions we joined the connections, first with my immediate family, living and dead; aunts, uncles, cousins grandparents, my brother, my parents, my children, my wife, my in-laws. Ultimately the connections extended themselves to our ancestors in Ireland and Sweden. Finally, at the end of all the growth, the cable approached me and I accepted it into my heart. What a pleasant experience. I was happy!

Toward the end of the journey I asked if there were others we should include, like friends. My teacher said no, that this was ancestor-oriented and therefore the connections were created that way. I thanked my eagle and my teacher and I said a prayer of thanks to all the helpful spirits on behalf of my ancestors.

Medicine for the Earth: Second Journey

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On my first journey in the seminar I found that I had an imperfect idea about my heart being a source of pain. For our second journey we were told to ask our spirit guides where this problem began for us individually and if there was a connection through our physical ancestors.

Journey: Again I went into darkness rather than a specific place like the Lower World. I met my young teacher again and posed the question to him. He confirmed my suspicions that, for me, it began when my mother died. I was six and her death was unexpected and turned my world upside down. Because of the fact that I did not know or learn how to grieve, my sadness was always just under the surface of my life, waiting to be opened again and covered over as quickly as possible. Unfortunately this meant that the wounds were reopened every time I lost a family relative, and every time I attended a funeral or wake, regardless of whether I knew the dead person or not. The fact that I am an emotional person to begin with made such occurrences more difficult.

My teacher said that there was also another, ancestral aspect to the issue. My grandpa McAllister, and my grandpa and grandma Bergstrom left their homes in Ireland and Sweden to come to the United States around 1900. All three came because of limited opportunities and religion-oriented issues in their homelands. As a child I don’t remember my family making a big deal out of this. Maybe they knew so many people whose parents did the same thing that they took it for granted.

Back in 1900, when people left their homeland to come to America, they knew they would never return. This meant they were leaving their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents and friends forever. They might exchange letters but they would never talk to them nor see them again as long as they lived. It was as though all these relatives were dead. How sad that must have been for all those brave emigrants. It brings to mind the Irish song “Oh Danny Boy”. The song is about a young man leaving Ireland and returning some day to visit the graves of his relatives. It’s one of the saddest laments I have ever heard.

Society needs (I need) a ritual which focuses on accepting the passing of our loved ones in such a way that it allows us (me) to release our emotions, and with them, the pain and sadness incurred with our losses. Our modern wakes and funerals aren’t helpful enough. We need something more.

Ancient Wisdom: Wisdom from the Blackfeet Nation

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By late November, 2012 I decided to cancel my cable TV. I had the cheapest package available, $30.00 a month for about thirty-some channels. So I bought a digital antenna and connected it to my TV. I now have access to over twenty channels and, much to my surprise, four of them are associated with WTTW, my all time favorite. Sometimes signals fade, but I patiently wait until the station comes back. Most of the time it is not a problem.

So one day I was checking out my new line of digital channels when I came across a new one, FNX. At first I confused it with FX, but this was FNX. As I watched I realized that every show was oriented toward American Indians and other indigenous cultures. The light dawned! FNX stood for First Nation Experience. It features indigenous cultures exclusively. I watch it periodically and I can tell you it has expanded my awareness of indigenous issues and taught me much about cultures I knew nothing about. If you get it, I highly recommend it. The subject of this blog is based on a segment of one of those programs.

Not long ago I was watching FNX and a woman who is the Chairperson for the Blackfeet Nation in Montana came on. The host of the show exchanged pleasantries with her and then asked her to explain the importance of the Circle in terms of family life in her tribe. Her comments follow:

At the center of the circle is the child. There are many helpful circles around this child. The inner circle is the mother. The mother is responsible for the health and welfare of that little child. If the child needs attention and the mother is not around, the second circle takes over. In the second circle are the aunts and older cousins. Likewise there is a third circle consisting of the grandmothers. The fourth circle is made up of uncles. The fifth circle belongs to the grandfathers. The outer circle belongs to the father. While each inner circle ultimately supports the child, the father protects all of the family members within his circle.

As the child grows, cousins an aunts help educate the child in regard to customs and the child’s responsibility to the family and the tribe. In the teen years the grandmothers take over, making sure the child becomes more responsible and well behaved. Ultimately the uncles, grandfathers and father help educate the child as well. Of course this is true for all children in the tribe, girls as well as boys, and creates a wonderful network of family support for each of them. This is a wonderful family concept. It’s more intricate than any family structure I have heard of.

Next Blog: Journey – The ancestry of my heart TLC issue

Medicine for the Earth: Journey

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In late August, 2013 I attended Lauren Torres’ seminar, Medicine for the Earth. It was five days long and held in Watervliet, Michigan.

Lauren taught how we are part of the earth. If we hate or dislike part of ourselves it is the same as if we hated or disliked part of the earth. The first journey was to ask the spirits to tell us what part of ourselves needed more tender loving care and to ask what part of the earth that body part represented.

JOURNEY: I journeyed but did not travel to a specific world, at least not one I could recognize. In darkness I met my younger teacher. He quickly answered my request. He said I needed to love my heart more. He said I am currently viewing it as a source of pain. He also told me the heart relates to the inner workings of the earth.: gravity, lava flow, balance, even the outer element of water flow that has a nurturing effect on our entire planet.

He said I also need to show more love to my eyes and other senses by avoiding those things, like TV news, that cause me worry and disappointment, and detract from my focusing on creating an environment of harmony and balance. The senses are part of having a physical body and part of how I experience the world. Lack of balance and harmony in our life can ultimately have negative results in the health of the body itself.

After I returned from the journey I thought about this advice. I am an emotional person and always have been so I am sensitive to what I see and hear and it can have a negative effect upon me. I thought about how I used to meditate more and decided I need to get back into meditation to ground myself and help create the balance and harmony I need. The advice about TV news made sense as well. I need to find ways to avoid the negativity of TV.

Next Blog: Ancient Wisdom: Wisdom from the Blackfeet Nation

Tarot Reading: Communicating with the Spirit World

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I’ve been serious about tarot cards since 2004 and have developed a wonderful relationship with them. Before I do a reading I say a special prayer asking God to have an angel assist me with finding the answer that’s in everyone’s best interests. For today’s reading I also called on my helpful spirits for input. My question was, “What would my helpful spirits like me to tell everyone about communicating with the Spirit World?” I used the Celtic Cross spread.

The first part of the answer regards what motivation people have for communicating with helpful spirits. Will you communicate only when you are having problems, like trying to avoid future suffering, or trying to get the inside track on a business or work deal and then forget about it until the next problem comes along? If so, you are more of a dabbler. As with any endeavor, dabblers don’t become proficient in their craft. You need a sincere, persistent interest coupled with great respect if you want to communicate with helpful spirits. Helpful spirits want partnerships and mutual trust, not one-sided demands. Think of helpful spirits as friends without human form. The have every right to refuse to help you if you don’t show them the proper respect.

The person who will be most successful communicating with the Spirit World is someone who wants healing for themselves, their family and friends, their communities, and the entire world. They must have confidence in the spirits, be enthusiastic in their communications, and they must seek true knowledge and the experience that many trips to the spirit world will engender. While not every trip to the Spirit World will be memorable, having the correct attitude will help the spirit walker get the most out of every visit.

For anyone interested in learning tarot, I highly recommend “Tarot for Your Self” by Mary Kay Greer. It was one of the first tarot books I bought. It is a wonderful reference and a continual source of learning about tarot cards.

Our Ancestors: Survival

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This stretch of sub-zero temperatures and heavy snowfall are reminders of the fact that Nature is an unconquerable force. We think our snow plows and space heaters will get us through winter until one of these storms strikes. Then we hunker down for a few days in our warm houses and watch the forecasts on TV, hoping the power won’t go out and that we bought enough milk for the duration.

I went to Walmart to pick up a few groceries this morning. I was amazed at how barren some of the shelves were. At first I wondered if they were going out of business. Then I realized that other customers had ‘raided’ the store prior to the cold and snow and that normal shipments had probably been delayed. It made me think, ‘What did our ancestors do?’

I have seen the programs on the Discovery channel about modern families living in the remote locations of Alaska. In the fall they start planning and preparing for winter. They harvest all their crops, chop as much wood as experience teaches them they will need for heating, and find ingenious ways to store food so that it stays fresh. They also do as much hunting and fishing as they can before the snow comes. And they trade and share food items with neighboring families so they all have a variety. Theirs is a difficult life but for our ancestors it was even more of an issue of life or death.

Our ancestors may have had log cabins, or tents or lived in caves. They too had to plan for the winter just as the Discovery channel families. But our ancestors had fewer tools to use and none of our technology. I’m sure they knew tricks and shortcuts we never thought of and used every one of them to help their families survive. And they relied on the other families in their tribe or social group. Everyone helped everyone else. They had to. There was no other way to survive.

Our ancestors were hardy, brave, clever and determined. If they hadn’t been, we wouldn’t be here today. Here’s to our ancestors!

Communicating With Nature: A Robin

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Today is January 3rd and there are no robins hopping around in the snow and cold. But this blog is from my journal, dated July 18, 2013.

Because of the hot spell  we are having I decided to start trimming the bushes around 9:00 AM. The temperature was already in the 80’s. I have lots of bushes in front of the house so it took me 40 minutes with an electric trimmer to get them in shape. My t-shirt and baseball cap were soaked with sweat and my arms were tired from holding the trimmer chest high to get the bushes trimmed at the height I wanted. I still had all the clean up to do, but I thought I’d put the trimmer away before raking and packing the trimmings into leaf bags. I wound up the electric cord, picked up the trimmer and headed down the driveway toward my back yard.

Halfway to the yard I approached a robin, sitting in the middle of the driveway. He didn’t move as I approached but instead watched me curiously. As I passed him I saw his beak was open. He looked so thirsty I said, “Oh, honey, you look like you could use a drink.” I walked past and he stayed there, watching me. I suddenly wondered where he could get a drink. We were in a dry spell and there were no puddles or birdbaths in the area.

When I entered the back yard I filled up an old bird bath and two plastic paint trays with water and put them in the shade. Then I put the trimmer and cord in the shed and went inside where the two widow air conditioners were humming away. As I passed the sink I realized I was terribly thirsty so I slowly drank two large, cool glasses of water. I had to laugh as I reflected about my robin friend. Was he telling me he was thirsty? Or was he telling me, “Hey. Buddy, you look thirsty. Why don’t you go inside and have a nice cool drink?”

Later in the afternoon I saw several birds, including a robin, drink out of the containers in the shade.  I felt good. It’s important for us to take care of ourselves as well as our animal friends when the weather gets extreme. Speaking of which, I need to stop and get some birdseed tomorrow and put it out for my winter friends so they can keep warm during this frigid weather we are experiencing.