Returning from Ecuador four months ago, I was filled with the living transmission of the forest. The presence of the forest pulsed in my very cells and heart and thundered in my bones. As I flew back to the states, watching the sunset rippling on the endless skin of sea between North and South America, I knew that my reference point had radically shifted. But I did not know just how far it had shifted in those few weeks, until I had landed back in the dream of the “north.”
When I returned and people asked “how was the rainforest”—I didn’t know quite how to answer. I would share stories, images, ceremonies, moments, dreams~but often this did not seem to quench the thirst to understand the experience. Inevitably people would ask me what my takeaway was—and so often I was unable to even reply. Take away? The concept did not make any sense to me. Take away somehow implies we take something from one experience and then apply it to our old world or paradigm. But if we ourselves are transformed there is no old world to go back to. We are the ones that have been taken away.
But after being home for four months, with my feet back in the northern dream, the transmission from the forest is present in a wholly other way. From here, I can begin to articulate more about what was so generously given. And so from here, I share what I heard the forest speak in those weeks I was immersed in the fullness of the forests’ dream.
What the Forest Speaks….
We live in a vast, elegant and beautiful Interconnectedness: All things live in intricate inter-relationship with one another. The forest is not a collection of parts. Oil is not a separate inorganic entity under the ground, but quite literally the blood of this living body. The earth is not simply a collection of individual species as humanity is not simply a collection of individual souls. We carry, quite literally, the “other” in our bones and body and flesh and blood. When we feel this, when we remember that these infinite choreographies and conversations are the truth of our being, we experience, on a somatic level—our relatedness. From here, we know that we are not separate or other and that our birthright is belonging. From this place of fundamental wholeness, we understand that doing harm to other means doing harm to ourselves. There is nothing outside of this web. Living in gratitude and in sacred reciprocity is one way we can acknowledge and continually honor this interconnectedness.
Life and Death are One Breath: In the forest, birth and death co-exist in every moment in very visceral and visible ways. You can see this explosion of life in the way the vines grow daily towards the sky and the ever present decay in the leaf rot in the muddy forest floor. The fertility of the birth and the necessity of death dance together. When we know birthing and dying as the inhale and exhale of one single ever-present breath—our life becomes a part of this continuum. The wholeness that we are continues. And as we feel and know this continuum, death becomes our ally and friend, a great awakener and a laughing angel, who reminds just how precious it is to have even a single day in this body, in this world.
Miracles are everywhere.
I love author Charles Eisenstein’s definition of miracles—he says a miracle is simply an event or experience that exists outside of our current story of what is possible. In the rainforest, the story of what is possible expands, opens its wings, and includes what we in the northern world might call magic, myth, or miracles. Here, the forest peoples regularly encounter creatures they have never seen before. The spirits of the dead become jaguars and guardians of the community itself. The pink river dolphin makes a timely appearance, during a particular moment, during a prayer or a song. The kapok tree is an elder, who speaks to the people about their destiny and stewards initiations. Plants come to people in dreams and offer their medicine, their healing. And when we dream a “bad” dream, we are invited to go fearlessly back into the dreamworlds and dream it again, until it is a dream worth living (and dying) for.
The Heart & Mind are One Intelligence: In a conversation about dreams one morning around the fire, a journey participant asked how the the Achuar people work with “mind control” in their culture—with that aspect of mind that holds on tight to our personal stories, beliefs, and sense of control. They smiled and shrugged. Back and forth we went in this conversation. At one point, our guide said, the Achuar don’t have a word or concept for this. If they are struggling with fear—they simply go back into ceremony until they clear the fear from their systems. This is not something that the mind can figure out—but rather a letting go, a surrendering to another kind of intelligence. This heart-mind is whole and vast and intuitive. When we access heart-mind, we open our beings to all kinds of magic, synchronicity, solutions, and ways of understanding that are otherwise unavailable to us.
We are dreaming our world and it is dreaming us: One morning, I woke up and shared a dream I had the night before with our Sápara friends. I had dreamed of riding in a canoe down the river the Sápara community live beside. I followed this river until it joined a bigger river—and until that river joined yet another giant river—until I arrived at a place where many rivers converged. In the dream I saw dugout canoes filled with peoples from different rainforest communities—each in their own traditional dress and markings. In the dream, all of these peoples were gathering at this place of convergence for an important meeting that had to do with protecting the forest. When I shared this dream—our Sápara friend told me I had dreamed of a traditional meeting place from long ago, in what is now Peru. It is a place that has been desecrated by oil exploitation, but was a very sacred place for the rainforest peoples. In this moment, I wondered if I was having the dream or if the dream was having me. In this way, the earth shares her dream with us, as a way of helping us re-member who we are, fundamentally. The dream of the earth shakes us out of our arrogance and ignorance—and calls us to take our seat as co-creators and co-dreamers of a “more beautiful world.”
Play is fundamental to our nature. In our natural state, in our unfettered nature, we are playful and creative beyond measure—and this, as much as our hard work, focus and devotion—is what nourishes our souls, brings pure delight, and evolves the spirit of Life. The forest plays. The dolphins play. The children of the forest play, even while they “work.” One morning deep in Achuar lands, I awoke to twelve children scrambling up a tree gathering beautiful yellow rainforest fruits I had never seen before. They were in the midst of work—and they were deep in play—laughing and talking and tossing the fruits to each other. When they saw me, they laughed shyly and rolled me a fruit too, to invite me into their play. The forest also plays with us, if we open our hearts to this invitation. Our natural state revolves around the central axis of delight, wonder, play, spontaneity.
Everything is speaking: Walking with the Sápara men through the forest, we watched as they listened to everything. They listened not just with their ears, but with their whole bodies. They would stop to note a bird, or to call out to monkeys that we could not hear, or to point out an orchid that we would have passed by, or a congo ant on a branch. In one moment, our friend Jose, simply walked into the forest and emerged with two beautiful sapphire blue eggs that had been abandoned in a nest. Later that same day, when the Sápara men took us to a particular solo spot in the forest to sit silently and meditate –they were inviting us into that conversation—to participate in that textured dialogue of wind and light flicker and birdsong and tree heartbeat. Each of us emerged with tears in our eyes, softened, remembering how to speak and understand this first most primal language.
We Belong: We human beings are a gift, not a virus. We have simply forgotten what we belong to. We have forgotten what we are here to fundamentally serve and live as —life itself. Our belonging does not confer us the rights to dominate or destroy—in fact, in our belonging we know our most sacred responsibility to tend to the wholeness of the forest, to the interconnectedness of life. What would it be to dedicate our human warrior spirits to this? And what defense and egotism and greed would we naturally shed if we knew, with every fiber of our being, that we belong to this life, to each other, to this earth, no matter where we live?
Read more about Laura's Amazon rainforest reflections:
About Laura Weaver: Laura is an educational advocate, writer, parent, teacher, guide, and the Director of Transformational Learning at the PassageWorks Institute. She has published dozens of poems, book chapters and essays on topics ranging from rites of passage to death and dying and is the co-author of a book for educators entitled The Five Dimensions of Engaged Teaching. Some of her work can be found on her blog SoulPassages. Laura traveled to the Ecuadorian rainforest with The Pachamama Alliance in January 2014. Read her blog "Dreaming Our Belonging...Reflections on an Amazon Journey" here.