Gather round, my dear ones! Come sit at my feet. Now, remember to keep your hands to yourself and pay attention! I am going to tell you a story of a time, long, long ago when things were very different. What? You don’t believe me? You think I am making this up? Well, my dear ones, just be patient. Listen closely, for you may find something very special in this tale about YOU!
Down the road, not more than a half-day’s walk, there once was an ancient wood. This forest was magical in every way. The trees were the most majestic of any trees found anywhere. They rose so high the clouds would nestle among them and join in the songs that were sung when the wind would blow. The forest floor was the softest and most fertile, with mushrooms and ferns, and colonies of small creatures that would eat the dying things and turn them into fertile soil. When you entered the forest, the quiet would gently surround you, and invite you to hold your breath until your heart and soul discovered the ancient rhythm that set everything in motion. Then you would exhale; long and deep. Releasing all the tension, fear, and worry that you had unknowingly been carrying on the outside of the wood.
For first time visitors, finding their way through the wood could be confusing. This was because they only used their eyes and ears to locate the paths. Eyes and ears worked well outside the wood. One glance could identify friend or foe. Sounds could be paid attention to or ignored. But in the wood, there were no familiar ways of identifying friend or foe, so the eyes alone lost focus. And ears that had been trained to pick out whiny voices, or complaining voices, or critical voices were useless when all sounds were harmonious.
It takes a while to learn the secrets of the wood. Do you want to learn some of the secrets, my dear ones?
The first secret (and truth be told, it is really not a secret at all!), is that you need to learn to be quiet. I don’t mean quiet like holding your tongue or not talking. No, I mean being quiet inside. So quiet that you can hear your heart beating. So quiet that you can hear the blood pulsing through your veins. So quiet that you can hear your very thoughts as they pass through your awareness.
The second secret is that each and everything has its own rhythm. Once you have discovered your rhythm, you can learn to speed it up or slow it down. Once you have discovered how to do that, you can match your rhythm to the rhythms of others. That is when you find out what it means to be truly alive. In the wood, you can learn the rhythm of the seasons, the rhythm of birth and death cycles, and the rhythm of ancient time. This, my dear ones, is truly profound, for we are nothing more than a pause between beats in this most ancient of settings.
One more secret, (but just this last one because I don’t want you to become overwhelmed), is that all of us, within and without the forest, play a role in each other’s cycles and rhythms. We don’t always know what that role is, which can be frustrating or confusing. It requires that we listen with our forest ears, not our outside-the-forest ears. It requires that we see with our forest eyes, just slightly unfocused, so we can see beyond the edges of things.
I know, I have digressed, but it is important that you understand that just going into the wood will not guarantee that you actually make your way through it. And, what is on the other side of the wood is so magnificent and so wonderful, you will want to make your way through. Alas, some of you, my dear ones, will never make it through the wood. Some of you will become lost. I know that can be scary. But it is something you all need to understand.
Some of you, though, will learn the secrets of the wood. You will find the paths that will take you to the cool water rushing over the rocks in the streams and rivers. You will find the quiet pools where the fish sleep until they are ready to return to the moving water. You will find the plumpest berries and the sweetest fruits growing on the bushes and trees in different parts of the forest. And, if you are lucky, you will come upon the glade where the fauns are born.
Others of you will find your way to the cliffs and, looking up, will see the eagles soaring overhead. If you enter the wood at dusk, you will feel the wood coming alive, and hear the hooting of the owls and the antiphonal response of the loons on the lake.
It is so easy to fall under the spell of the wood with all its beauty. But there is another side to the wood. There are plants that look inviting, but are poisonous. They send mixed messages, and you only learn the consequences after you have come into contact with them. There are pools of water that look inviting, but if you jump in without checking first, you will be boiled alive, for the water’s temperature is too hot for people. Other pools will offer the thirsty traveler relief, until you take that first swallow and find it is all salt and is undrinkable.
So, my dears, what do you make of this wood? Is it a place to explore, or are you afraid to enter? Can you imagine what it would be like if we didn’t have such a magnificent place? How else would we learn the secrets of listening with our heart and pausing long enough to match our rhythm to the rest of the world?
When I was your age, I would go there all the time. I learned to listen with my heart. I saw the eagles and found the faun’s birthing nest. I heard the loons at sunset. When I am gone, dear ones, so will the connection to the wood be gone. I am so very sad you will never be able to walk in such a wonderful place.
No, dear ones. Please forgive me! I meant to tell you a pleasing fairy tale, not get you all upset. Still, perhaps there is value in being upset. There still is time, just not much. And we have many challenges ahead. Maybe we can use the secrets of the wood to bring us through.