Archive for May, 2009

Into the Mountains: A Photojournal of the Fairytale Forest

Sunday, May 24th, 2009


Each Spring I take precious time out to journey into the high mountains of either New Mexico or Arizona in search of a some of the more elusive high elevation herbs I work with. While many people tend to think of the Southwest as strictly desert, this region is actually incredibly diverse and includes everything from arid desert to lush wetlands to treeless alpine vistas. Every ecosystem and region has its own unique personality that makes it worth exploring an getting to know.


As an herbalist, I’m afraid my favorite places are probably rather obvious — they’re the ones with the most plants! The areas I often frequent are usually middle mountain riparian and Ponderosa/Gambel Oak forest (like much of the canyon itself) and sub-alpine Aspen/Spruce forest and meadow because they are so rich in botanical diversity.


This time around I headed towards one of the Gila’s highest peaks to spend time in a remote area that is lush with Wild Roses, Elderberries, Strawberries, Raspberries, Violets, Cinquefoil and many other important edible and medicinal herbs. This favorite mountain is a veritable fairy tale forest and has that enchanted feel that only old trees and well established plant communities can give. Towering Spruce and white-skinned Aspens form the bulk of the upper story of the forest broken up by intermittent meadows filled with wildflowers and berry bushes.


I’ve visited this same spot several times in the past, but every time I am amazed anew by species I previously missed. And the long, slow trip up the twenty mile long winding, washboard dirt road provides ample opportunity to admire and exclaim over the changing habitat as we ascend from 6,000 feet to 10,000 feet. This year I made the journey with both Loba and Rhiannon, and we brought along a picnic lunch to celebrate the glory of Spring in the mountains. Rhiannon had never been to this particular spot and was shocked and amazed by Strawberry flowers and Aspen bark, and by the amazing view from the mountainside out over the rolling terrain of the Gila.


An incredible array of delicate blooms peeked from the forest floor and I think I could have spent the entire day on my belly getting to know each one. Soft Yarrow leaves and intricate Violet blossoms carpeted much of the area with a smattering of Dandelions and Potentilla to brighten up the day. False Solomon’s Seal and Western Coshosh (also known as Baneberry) peeked out from underneath Elder trees and Gooseberry bushes.


Not long after our arrival, black clouds began to move in, the wind picked up and thunder rumbled just above us. After exploring and gathering as much as possible in the remaining sunshine, we headed back down the mountain to eat our midday feast next to the creek that flows down from the peaks above. Amidst raindrops and wind, Loba gathered watercress from a grassy bank that was also filled with Buttercups and Speedwell while we prepared a simple meal of Beebalm/Sweet Clover pesto, meats and cheeses, skillet bread, red sweet pepper, deviled eggs and greens. We huddled together in the shelter of the jeep and watched the storm blow in around us as we thoroughly savored our food.


I treasure these much needed adventures into the bioregion I love so well.… and the hours of nearly wordless exploration and interaction with the wild, inspirited world give me the inspiration and fuel for the vital work that I am a part of here at Animá Center. Each sip of wild water and barefoot stroll through a sunlit meadow reminds of the how and why of my mission, and provides me with the vision and knowledge to ensure its growth.




All photos (c)2009 Kiva Rose

The Real Thing: Assessing Artificial & Genuine – by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

The Real Thing
Assessing Artificial & Genuine

by Jesse Wolf Hardin


“It’s the real thing!,” the soft-drink ads proclaim.  Sure… with real corn syrup, real caffeine, and really artificial flavors.  And I have to laugh, remembering the friend who turned down a tofu-burger in favor of a “the real deal,” only to have me point out that the ground beef in fast-food burgers are often mixed with liberal amounts of soy to make them go further.  Online dating services offer a chance at finding “real love” to people clearly willing to settle for something less, and television’s so-called “reality shows” attract audiences by putting people in artificial, contrived and manufactured situations.  And I’ll never forget the time as a child, when a motherly neighbor advised me “come down to the real world” while wearing more artificial makeup than a traditional Japanese opera singer and leaning over a bowl of decorative plastic fruit.

Let’s be real about this:  as a society we tend to prefer the fake.  Marketers have found that as a whole our civilized kind would rather experience highly stimulating artificial flavors than the subtler effects of the genuine, messier foods that they attempt to copy.  Experiments have shown that children will take orange flavored drinks over authentic orange juice, for example.  Similarly, humans as a whole are apt to be more impressed with the latest “wilderness” rides at Disney World than the free flying creatures around us, more amazed at an artificial tree than the intricacies of the real living thing: sap pumping, roots sucking at the giving soil.  Historically, even the most nature-based tribal societies of Africa and the Americas were quick to trade valuable crafts and furs for gaudy trinkets and geegaws.  Likewise, in modern times we are taught to prefer the bells, whistles and visual distractions of the artificial world to full-on engagement with the real one.  Movie plots are certainly less risky than dealing with our own emotional dramas, but they can exhaust just as many of our waking hours.  We’re being trained to enjoy sensational, vicarious pleasures – while investing less time in the subjective experience of our fleeting mortal lives.

Admittedly, the artificial can be more visually arresting, cleaner, neater.  It seems to make less demands on us, symbolizing and sometimes promising immortality.  For example, plastic seat covers are easier to clean than cloth or leather ones and may well last a decade longer.  Sweaters spun out of plastic water bottles are less susceptible than wool to predation by moths.  Silicone breasts outlast and outbounce the real thing.  Artificial climates are more comfortable, and desert cities like Phoenix would be uninhabitable without refrigerated air.  One way to illustrate the contrast, is the common plastic house plant.  Artificial plants can be brighter than their authentic counterparts, shed no leaves on the carpet, demand no water and therefore require no awareness on the part of their keepers… plus they will never die!  Imagine that.  On the other hand, real houseplants drop leaves and seeds on the carpet, require that a pot of unhygienic dirt be brought into the room, and will quickly shrivel if we forget to water them.

It’s not that I am totally against plastic, mind you, as un-aesthetic and unappealing as I usually find it.  Being waterproof, rustproof and resistant to breakage, it perhaps makes more practical containers than glass does, and is certainly lighter in weight than carved rock receptacles.  What I object to is what a poseur plastic is in the hands of industrial and marketing agents, usually pretending to be something that it’s not.  I prefer the honesty of ugly day-glow ice chests to phony wood-grain vinyl trim, and the very idea of fake fur seems like an abomination no matter how you feel about the issue of using an animal’s skin.

More and more, it’s as though we’re spending our entire lives within a world of artifice, a virtual entertainment theme park, only occasionally buying a ticket to go out, spending a weekend now and then on an adventure to the scenic and titillating edge of the truly real world.  For all the possibilities it provides, we recognize reality to be a dangerous and unpredictable force, whereas life within the acrylic box – the factory, the office, the suburban house – is as much as possible controlled and managed, designed to make us feel safe while providing sufficient distractions and rewards to keep us from having to think about matters of life and death, meaning and purpose.

Reality can at times – especially with the help TV and certain religious sects and “coping” drugs – seem optional… at least until the concluding hours of one’s existence, when we may become acutely conscious of the irretrievable and finally, fully attend the intense present moment.  And of all the doors that you could open in this world of possibility, reality just might be the most discomforting to walk through.  But it is also the most genuine, and therefore potentially the most palpable, meaningful, instructive and fulfilling.

“But how can we ever know what’s real and what isn’t?,” I’ve been asked, as though truth were simply a matter of personal perception and reality an adjustable creation of the person doing the perceiving.  What is real is absolute, though inevitably changing like all the rest of the transforming universe.  Finite and vulnerable?  You bet, but absolute nonetheless.  The “proof is in the pudding,” as the old saying goes.  One can only deny the reality of a cast iron frying pan until it’s been dropped on their feet, and even the most convincing artificial fruit loses all credibility the first time that you try to bite into it.

This just may be the key to finding what’s really real in one’s life: roll it around in your mouth!  Don’t try to think about it, just tongue it, taste it, test it.

Now savor the genuine, and spit out the rest.

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The Chiaroscuro: Of Light & Dark in the Storm’s Path

Monday, May 18th, 2009


With the thunder rolling through the mountains and the raindrops splashing against the dusty ground, there’s no doubt it feels more like the middle of July than the middle of May. We have our fingers crossed that the last few days unseasonal storms will provide some much needed moisture rather than triggering lightning set forest fires during what is normally our driest season. The nearly black clouds roll across the Gila, even as sunlight spills through and around them, creating a fascinating display of light and darkness upon the green and gold curves of the land. This natural chiaroscuro plays over New Mexico’s water and earth in an annual demonstration of wholeness, not of contesting opposites but the complementary parts coming together to create a greater beauty than either alone could engender.

As odd as the weather may be, the plants still seem to know what month it is and are coming out in their own steady schedule. Down by the river, the wild roses are beginning to bloom — their vividly pink petals unfurling slowly, a few more each day, and  their scent wafting up and down the river on the breeze. Gold and orange faced Monkeyflowers, lavender petaled Veronica and white sprays of Watercress grow from the riverbanks while the creamy lily-shaped blossoms of the Yucca adorn the stark cliff-faces and rocky mesas. Come evening, the rich, nearly overpowering scent of Wild Honeysuckle and Canyon Grape flowers drifts on the cooling air, drawing us all outside to breathe deeply of the sweet, almost intoxicating aroma.

Everywhere I step, I’m greeted by the colors and smells of Spring. The great sheltering canopies of  Gambel Oak and Canyon Walnut rear up from the hillsides, providing a shady haven even in the hottest of weather. At their feet, Pink Penstemon, Purple Vetch and Wild Skullcap proliferate and spread among last year’s slowly composting leaf litter.

On my frequent walks I almost always carry my large gathering basket, its strongly woven interior easily holding the many bundles of herbs I often harvest when out. I also wear my curved gathering knife (a sweet gift from Wolf) with its intricate damascus blade that’s perfect for cleanly cutting through even a thick section of plants. Rhiannon often accompanies me and together we hunt for the sweetest greens and newest flowers, crawling under fallen trees and climbing up lichen-kissed rocks.

No matter how many times I explore the same area, I’m bound to find something new — a clump of red earth, a rust colored crystal, just opened blossom or a small splinter of bone. Even the shades of earth and dirt change with season and weather, in the same way that the other colors and textures of every bit of the natural world are constantly adapting and shifting in relation to the rest of the whole. We as humans often want to hold onto what we love, whether child or place or era — to keep it safe, pure and unchanged. And yet, through the complex evolution and interplay of life in the myriad forms of soil, rocks, rabbits, butterflies, anemones, salmon and eagles we can see that vitality and loveliness are rooted in dynamics and relationship. Always moving, always adapting, always becoming.

In truth, beauty is not ephemeral, it doesn’t mysteriously disappear from humans at age forty or fade with the plant’s shift from flower to fruit to seed. It is constantly growing, changing, shifting. We are born, we age and die and become the soil, only to begin again. Every part of that process is beautiful and filled with the potential for grace and growth. In the light and the dark, in the blooming and the seeding, in storm and stillness, the land remakes and rebirths itself, and we along with it. In the chiaroscuro is the dance of life

Outlaw’s Counsel: Untypical Life Advice for Graduates & All Others

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Outlaw’s Counsel:
Thoughts Around Graduation Day – For Folks of All Ages!

by Jess Hardin


If there is one thing that High School and College Graduations remind me of, it’s how many harmful illusions students often carry with them as they enter the so-called adult world.  I’m talking about culturally embedded lies that we hear from the time we are kids, lies such as young women and men thinking they’re “not good enough” when they have gifts and abilities that make them not only worthy but special.  Or believing that their worth hinges on what will be their income level, or that money equates with happiness.  It would seem that a majority of modern graduates imagine that they are personally powerless and the government all-powerful, that fitting-in is more important than distinguishing oneself, that technology can fix everything, and that love is an assuaging comfort instead of an opportunity, celebration, commitment and service.  Commencement speakers all across America and the civilized world give speeches that reinforce the stock illusions as well as ever more debased values of the dominant world-order.  It makes me wish I could be invited to stand before a graduating class or two myself, a token patriot outlaw from the outback advising and extolling an entirely different way of perceiving and doing.  I can picture letting loose with an uncensored speech that provoked as well as affirmed, resulting in the departing students tearing off their bleak gowns and dancing like Boston Tea Party rebels atop their folding seats.

A small sampling of this sort of outlaw counsel follows, including novel (and sometimes archaic!) concepts that you might find enlightening or helpful no matter what your age or stage of life:

Every moment is a decisive moment, and your future is a blank canvas.  The only things standing in your way are the fears and habits you are attached to.  No one is in charge of your life but you!

You are an American citizen, not subject.  Freedom isn’t something guaranteed, it’s what you personally claim and then defend.

Don’t depend on other people’s rules to determine your actions.  Develop a personal code of honor, and then live up to it!  Promise your allegiance to your friends, your family, your community, your cause, and the land you love.  And always keep your promises.

Responsibility isn’t obligation – it’s the willingness and ability to respond.

Beware of any solutions that are sold, bottled or regulated.

Be suspicious of anything that requires fossil fuels, brags about being “disposable,” admits to having been artificially colored or flavored, or pretends to be something it’s not.

Bravely explore anything and everything that increases your degree of sensation and depth of experience, that stretches, inspires, informs or invigorates you.  Taste the many diverse flavors of life, being sure to spit out the bad.

Travel and explore as much of the world as possible.  This will not only make you familiar with other regions and other kinds of lifestyles, but it will also help you appreciate any place that you ever call home.

Neither our problems nor the problems of the world are caused by feeling too much.  Rather, they’re caused by us feeling too little!  By opening up to the pain of conscious existence, we also open ourselves up to the fullest experience of joy.

Try to remember that “making a living” isn’t the same as really living.  Find work that reflects not only your skills, but also your beliefs.

Watching adventure stories on the television is a poor substitute for having adventures yourself.

There are just so many hours between birth and death… spend them carefully, on what matters most.  Ideally you will discover, and then fulfill your most meaningful purpose.

The point isn’t to gather riches, but for us to have a richer life.

Having toys is not the same as having fun.  Focus on sports where you actually get to play.  Swim in chemical-free water, and in places where you’re “not supposed to be.”  Walk barefoot through clover.  Cry, laugh and sing.  Hug and howl!

Never take anything for granted — not your health, your home or your family.  Never answer a question by saying “whatever,” because it means that you don’t care and you know very well that you do!

It would be wise to avoid any drugs, careers, relationships or lifestyles that deaden your awareness, impair your growth or distract you from your goals or calling.

And pay attention, for goodness sake!  Focus solely on your sweetheart when you’re with him or her, and on no other food than that food which you’re eating.

Remember that nothing is worth anything, unless it’s authentic!

All events, both good and bad, are valuable lessons that we can be grateful for.  Avoid stubbing your toe on the same rock twice.  And don’t fritter away too much precious time explaining your mistakes – just learn from them, then go on!

All the world is a great gifting cycle.  Learn to give all you can. And just as importantly, learn how to graciously accept every gift that comes your way.

Take time to “be little” even if you think you’re at an age when you need to be “wise” or “cool.”   Crawl around on the ground after interesting bugs, look for animal shapes in the clouds, and don’t worry if you get grass stains on your clothes!

Find divine Creation and your place in it, in every blade of grass, in every home’s backyard, but don’t forget to make pilgrimages to truly wild places.

Expose every harmful illusion or lie.  And whatever is real and good, protect and nourish with all your might.

There is no one that will do the vital work for you, and thus there’s nobody else to blame!  Both the responsibilities and the rewards are yours.  Take credit!  Then give thanks…

You have dreams, hopes, maybe even a special calling that you’ve seldom told anybody about.  Now it’s time to live those dreams!

Remember that it’s hardly ever “too late” for anything, so long as you start right now.

Expect a miracle.  That miracle is you.

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For the Children’s Sake: Making Our Selves a Priority – by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

For the Children’s Sake:
Making Our Selves a Priority

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

mama-collage-3-sm.jpgWriting this on Mother’s Day, I find myself flooded with a mixture of sensations and emotions.  First come the feelings of warmth that attend this special day’s sweet, lavender scented associations, images of tender moments in what is never an entirely tender life, flashes of the hand-drawn cards that I made every May from the time I could hold a pencil until the year that my own dear Mama died.  And amidst the comforting nostalgia, I feel a persistent ache.  It is the pain of having lost her, and having to do without her actively in my life.  But I ache, too, over the fact that she never followed her dream to become an artistic designer, citing being a mother as a reason for not doing the things that she most wanted to do.  Her sacrificing for her child and husband demonstrated her deep devotion, yet I never quit wishing that she would make the culturally unacceptable choices to pursue her calling, satisfy her desires and wholly tend to the myriad needs of her blessed heart and soul.

Even sadder for me, is how many young mothers I know who have not only set their dreams aside but also remained working at unhealthy jobs or staying in unsatisfying relationships “for the sake of the kids.”  Invariably their own mothers had done the same sort of thing, becoming resigned to mates that inspired neither satisfaction nor growth, quitting work or dropping out of school, settling for a secure position at a meaningless job rather than advancing in or creating an exciting career, sidelining beloved activities like dance and art, feeling guilty if they took any time out for themselves.  And just as they find themselves replicating their mothers’ self-sacrifice and discontent, so too are their children in danger of emulating their pattern of always putting others first.  It’s not hard to picture these kids sometime in the future, imagining that they are powerless to make positive changes, feeling stuck in some situation that doesn’t serve because of the little ones who will be there watching and learning from them.

rhiannonportraitsm.jpgIt is our instinctive nature to go without eating in times of scarcity in order to feed our little ones first, or to step between them and danger even if it could result in our harm or death.  On the other hand, a mother of any species who allowed herself to starve, would as a result be ensuring the demise of her precious brood.  And staying in unhealthy situations can’t possibly serve a child, if she or he grows up to do the same.  If we truly want our offspring to grow up following their hearts, meeting their real needs and pursuing their passions, then we parents need to do more than mouth the words.  We need to be examples of self-tending and self-love, of blissful time in nature and continual expressions of our arts and gifts, of insisting we are treated honorably by bosses and spouses, of refusing to compromise what matters most, of purposeful activism and conscious recreation, of meaningful risk-taking and focused dream chasing!  Their long term happiness will hinge on them believing that they are worthy.  Their fulfillment will depend on their being able to each make their self one of their essential priorities.  And if that is what we really want for them, then we must first demonstrate that we can give this most vital gift to ourselves.

To those of you fortunate to have moms that are still living, I urge you to acknowledge them not just on Mother’s Day but all throughout the year, insisting they take credit for their constant caring and valuable accomplishments.  And I strongly suggest that you also encourage them to love, tend and celebrate their selves as deeply and devotedly as they do their treasured daughters and sons.

And to the mothers among our readers, please remember that you are more than that.  It is not your only job description, ability or responsibility, nor does it need to wholly define you.  You are also a daughter, girlfriend or wife.  And a current or potential craftswoman, teacher, builder, scientist, herbalist, writer, stacey.jpgartist, healer, singer or dancer.  They are not your surrogates, replacements, redeemers, or your sole purpose.  It is by seeing to your needs, allowing yourself challenge and pleasure, refusing to compromise your vision and celebrating your being that you serve your purpose – and your children – the best.

You are encouraged to freely post or publish this piece.

(Top Photos (c)2009 by Jesse Wolf Hardin)

(Bottom right photo of and by loving mother and Animá student Stacey, who is serving her daughters wonderfully while honoring and caring for herself so well)

Awakening – In Animá, a Lifetime Process of Expanding Awareness & Personal Enlivening

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009


A Lifetime Process of Expanding Awareness, Enlivening & Response

by Jesse Wolf Hardin


I awoke this morning, as I have many mornings, to the bell and woodblock sounds of deer hooves on riverside aggregate.  It was not these graceful doe-eyed grazers that wrested me from sleep however, but another call of nature that drew me out of a well of fantastical dreams and wholly into the rich reality of this enchanted canyon.  Eyes still closed, I could feel myself slowly rising like a trout out of the the deep pools of the subconscious, to the tune of the sweetly murmuring river.

It was perhaps twenty minutes yet before first light, but already I could hear the chirp and cackle of wild turkeys as they one by one flew heavily down from the safety of their ponderosa pine perch.  This was soon followed by the mated ducks gathered on the beaver dam upstream,  each announcing in their raspy laughing way not the rising of the sun but some waterfowl rousing which we humans may never be privy.  The songbirds we imagine to be our dawn heralds, really don’t join in until later, beginning with the soft-hearted phoebes’ trill and then the always competitive canyon wrens erupting in a cascade of notes like water tumbling over polished glass.  Only when they fly back and forth just above our resting heads do I surrender my attachment to the night’s needed rest and unbridled imagination.  There’s usually no ignoring the rapid rustling of hyper chipmunk toenails on our outdoor bed’s wooden roof, making sure I am awake for the songbirds as they each make their enter with their own full chested contribution to the growing avian chorus.  By the time the sun first hits the top of the sacred West-placed cliffs, a posse of trench-coat ravens has swooped in to investigate the latest leavings in the compost pile, purring, scolding and chortling as they each make their selections.


Along with these early audible demonstrations, comes to me a series of input through other senses besides the ears.  Before the first flutter of eyelids, there is the sensation of a too full bladder, then a tickle in the nose as a breeze passes over me, the feel of my body’s weight pressed into the horribly modern and wonderfully comfortable memory-foam mattress, and the texture and temperature of flannel sheets beneath a feather stuffed comforter.  A slightly acidic taste in my mouth leaves me with a desire for water, the first sip of which tastes like the rain it is.    The breeze that tickled, brought with it the intoxicating smell of newly budding cottonwood trees the perfume of snakebrush, and when it rests I dally on the scent of the skin of my dearly loved.  When I do opt to take in the light and color, form and motion around me, I can make out an eagle arcing towards the clouds, and I turn to watch the chipmunks’ madcap gymnastics in the slowly gathering light.

It seems at such moments that I have arrived at a grand opening in the nick of time, taking my seat mere seconds before the maestro taps his or her wand on the oaken lectern.  In truth, of course, it is not really silence that was interrupted, for the nights are filled with sounds that simply go unheeded if they are heard at all, giving the waking person the impression that they are at the beginning of an opus that had graciously awaited our arrival.  The trademark winds had come and gone since first lying down, unattended by this weary author.  Pack-rats, skunks and raccoons had invariably circled the outdoor bed on their nocturnal rounds, while resident owls had whooshed from tree to tree in anticipation of their nightly rodent meal.  Elk and javalina indelicately treading upon the canyon’s dry leaves and snapping branches, somehow registered as innocent and of no immediate consequence by those sleepless, primeval portions of the human nervous system that miraculously manage to remain on a twenty-four hour survival alert.  And no doubt an occasional jet had flown roaring through the sparkling canopy of stars, venturing with its forward-focused passengers from well-lit city to city over the relative dark of our vast tree-covered wilderness.  The musical rattle of little tiptoeing mule deer was not really the first sound of the day that I awoke to, but rather, the first that I was wholly conscious of.

I didn’t enter another dimension or reality when I roused from sleep this morning, I simply became much more alert to the world I exist on and within.  This process of awakening naturally continues through the day and throughout our lives so long as we participate, a potentially unending expansion of conscious sensory and energetic engagement with all elements of reality, with every diverse and complex manifestation of nature, the “world soul,” the force and motion of life, the Anima.  It is the apparent “intent” or direction of inspirited evolutionary transformation, for life to become ever more aware.  And to become increasingly aware, requires becoming ever more awake.

Like the trout, we look out through an inherently subjective lens that can often distort, with truth bending like light as it passes through the prismatic currents of our hope and denial, pretense and projection.  In order to perceive better, we too may ascend to the surface, break water and look around.  But for us, there is no single surface we burst through.  What there are, are endless layers through which we repeatedly breach, entering additional levels of clarity and comprehension with each well tended lesson, sudden insight or broadened realization.  And it is not just a leap into light, but also simultaneous intimacy with and knowledge of the dark, a probing and plumbing of core and mystery, root and depth.

yuccaflowers-sm.jpgThis ongoing sense of awakening is primary to Animá nature-based teachings – not necessarily the most important, but essential and foremost, a base ingredient without which no knowledge, agreement or choice can be completely trusted.  Right action hinges on one’s degree of awareness, and without awakeness there can be no awareness.   As conscious and determined seekers, sensors and doers, every consecutive moment of our ultra-present life can be a waking… including waking up from things: From a slumbering of the senses and anaesthesia of emotion, from the narcosis of disinterest and distraction.  From the cloud of comforting illusions, convenient supposition and placating dogma.  From the hypnotic state of unquestioning acquiescence to authority and institutions, convention and fashion, perspectives and priorities.  And a waking up to things: To the scent of baking bread and birds outside even the most urban window.  To not just experience and circumstance, landscape and context, but to patterns and connections.  To potentials and possibilities, revealed relationships and responsibilities.  To desires awaiting our attention, and life not yet fully lived.  To long-postponed hopes, and ever more realized life.  To magic and spirit, destiny and calling, openings and opportunities.

We can become – every mortal second – more conscious of who we are and the true nature of our needs and gifts.  More conscious of our emotions, instincts and intuition.  Of the particular enticement in each flower’s scent, in every spoonful’s tastes.  Of the panoply of sights and the sensation of touch, of variations of heat, cold, the feel of a steaming shower, the sometimes ecstasy of love making, the excruciating beauty that brings out the artist in us.

“Wake up and smell the roses,” the old saying goes, but also the odor that indicates the diaper needs changing.  The noxious exhaust of our vehicles, reminding us of the undesirable impacts of our driving instead of walking.  The stink of harmful industries, without which no one might notice or protest.  For the good of ourselves, others and the entire planet, we need to be conscious of the unpleasant emanations that signal critical imbalances: The trauma and pain that should motivate us to action and remedy.  The screaming sound of sirens or slammed brakes, that can alert us in time to get safely out of the way.  The “bad taste” of things that need changing, the unbearable sights that lead us to be activists, healers or conservationists.  It is for us to be conscious of those shifts in our body that indicated what systems our nourishing or mending, the injustices of society to which we must respond, the destruction of nature that cries for her determined defense.  Conscious of other people and who they really are, of the ways we not only affect but are affected by those around us.  Of our place on the planet, and our personal most meaningful purpose here.

Waking up need not be a once-in-a-day event, but rather, both the never ending work and voluminous reward of a life wholly and ever-more consciously lived.

(Please post, forward and share this piece as you like.)

(photos (c) 2009 by Jesse Wolf Hardin)