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The word “nature” is capitalized throughout this book, to emphasize Nature’s seamless oneness with Spirit, God, Goddess, or whatever word we may use to denote that Sacred Mystery.
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1. Sacred Exchanges with Nature (An Overview)
Many of us have experiences that point toward a more holistic, interconnected Reality than we normally perceive. Episodes of telepathy, spontaneous healings, confirmed intuitions, precognition, attunement to nonphysical beings, nonlocal awareness, or communion with the natural world–all these can expand our understanding of what is possible for us and remind us of an undivided spiritual dimension of ourselves.
This memoir in prose and poetry is an account of my continuing education in such experiences, which can make us more aware of that dimension of oneness, and empower us to step forward into more conscious, collaborative relationships with the sentient energies of Nature. These sacred relationships can contribute to environmental harmony right now, and may help downscale our climatic predicament in days to come.
This book originated from a sermon which I delivered to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in my home town. Titled “Sacred Exchanges with Nature,” the sermon set forth a vision of our intimacy with Nature, and offered scientific evidence as well as personal anecdotes supportive of the thesis that we can nurture the natural world through meditation, prayer, blessing, positive intention, loving presence, mindful ritual, celebration, song, dance, and other expressions of joyful creativity.
In the frightening face of all we read and observe about climate change, this is an important and heartening message: yes, political and grassroots action is absolutely essential for the protection of our environment, but so is what American spiritual teacher and author David Spangler calls “subtle activism.”
I have actively addressed community health and environmental issues for thirty-five years now. I’ve worked as a community organizer in Georgia and Arkansas, engaged with others in anti-nuclear research and activism, co-authored a book about natural forms of radiation protection, and most recently have joined the growing number of people working to alert the public and public health officials to the environmental hazards of “fracking” for
subterranean natural gas deposits. I am convinced that we can help sustain and restore environmental harmony through our loving interactions with the natural world in a way that complements such necessary political work.
In the course of presenting “Sacred Exchanges with Nature” to my Unitarian friends, I shared two personal stories about dramatic interactions with natural forces which happened to me in the presence of other observers, further opening my eyes to our inherent oneness with Nature. I was initially concerned that these stories might be too far out, way too woo-woo for a cognitively-oriented crowd of Unitarians skeptical about things mystical and parapsychological. However, my listeners seemed to take the two unusual tales I shared in stride, along with the rest of the sermon, and afterwords I felt encouraged to continue to share them in an interactive workshop.
I also began to wonder how many similar non-ordinary experiences I’d had which could be confirmed by subsequent events, or verified by the observations of others who were present with me, or which were otherwise not strictly subjective, but at least partially founded in tangible, external phenomena. I decided to compile a chronological memoir of such experiences, supplementing them with relevant anecdotes and reflections.
Over a period of about a year, I primed the pump of my memory and collected a journal full of such stories, to which I added a number of others about off-the-chart synchronicities and instances of what some researchers into the anomalous call “High Strangeness.” Certain vivid experiences of energies sensed in wilderness, or at ancient ceremonial and burial sites, got grandfathered in, though decidedly more subjective in character than other tales. Several unusual incidents occurred over the year which I appended to this collection, and here and there I threw in an original poem or song lyric which called for inclusion.
Gradually, a kind of patchwork parapsychological-autobiographical quilt emerged. (All of my recorded songs and some recordings of my poetry can be accessed for free right here at www.geoffoelsner.com, if you’d care to hear as well as see the larger patchwork pattern of my creative labors.)
2. Also from Sacred Exchanges with Nature (An Overview)
Have you read The Secret Life of Plants? It came out in 1973, and in it authors Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird described interactions and experiments with plants conducted by Luther Burbank and George Washington Carver, and later, people like Cleve Backster and Marcel Vogel. In a number of these pioneering experiments, plants showered with love grew faster, larger, and hardier than those in control groups which received no love (or worse, were bombarded with feelings of hate or violence). I know a few of the many people who successfully replicated these experiments after reading The Secret Life of Plants.
Actually, before I saw the book , I was already among the converted due to the time I’d spent living at the Findhorn Community. There in 1965, a garden planted on sandy soil with organic additives of little more than cow manure, grass clippings, and seaweed tested out completely satisfactorily for all nutrients, including rare trace elements, though the Morayshire County Agricultural Advisor considered this impossible at that time.
While at Findhorn, I participated in making the first batch of compost there, based on a recipe of specific organic materials that Dorothy received in an attunement. During my stays at the community in 1969 and 1970, I witnessed the amazing size and quality of vegetables that grew in the ambient field of love and cooperation which we co-created with the devas and spirits of Nature.
Controlled scientific experiments in which human consciousness, and in some cases music, have demonstrably affected the structure and quality of plants, water, air, and soil have been conducted for decades. They continue to this day. I want to share a notable example of such research. The following may be an even greater stretch for some folks to take in than any of my little stories. Here goes:
In 2010, my partner Leslie and I traveled to Chicago to attend a weekend workshop with a man from India named Mahendra Kumar Trivedi. A mechanical engineer by training, he has an ability to alter living and non-living matter with energy transmissions or “blessings” of focused intentional consciousness. Researchers in six countries from numerous scientific fields have gathered considerable data which substantiate his ability in a scientifically measurable manner. Here from the Trivedi Foundation website are outcomes of some of the Trivedi experiments:
• Without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides, crops showed significantly increased nutritional value.
• Crop yields increased up to 500%.
• Immunity in plants increased up to 639%.
• DNA (Genetics) altered up to 69% in plants and 79% in microbes.
• There were reduced concentrations of up to 99.81% in samples of viruses that included HIV, Herpes and Hepatitis (both types B & C).
• Genus and species were altered in harmful bacteria.
• Human cancer cells were converted to non-cancerous cells. There are many testimonials from people Mr. Trivedi has apparently healed of a huge range of health problems.
• In material sciences research, the mass and size of atoms, and the energy within and between atoms changed significantly.
• In an experiment which Mr. Trivedi verbally reported to us in Chicago, the presence of radioactive isotopes was reduced by up to 47% in contaminated water.
• The Trivedi Foundation also seeks to continue the research previously done on Mr. Trivedi’s atypical physiology and its relationship to his unusual abilities.
This man’s capacities have been tested in over four thousand laboratory and field experiments. Reports of experiments conducted with him have been published in peer-reviewed technical and medical journals, including the Bulletin of Materials Science, Materials Research Innovations, the Metal Powder Report, the online Journal of Accord Integrative Medicine, and The Internet Journal of Alternative Medicine.
While we were in Chicago, I experienced powerful and very relaxing energetic effects during the times set aside for group blessings. I found Mr. Trivedi an intriguing person: obviously focused and powerful, tempermental yet big-hearted, and somehow rather childlike. He spoke of the Divine in a tone of trust and truly reverent awe. If interested, you can google Ken Wilber’s appreciative short essay on Mr. Trivedi and watch Deepak Chopra interview him on youtube. If still interested, you can visit the Trivedi Foundation website, and see a synopsized “Science Report” and many detailed laboratory reports.
The thing he said I liked the most was that he was participating in these experiments so that people will say, “This is also possible,” in other words, to increase collective consensus that such abilities reside in us all to one degree or another. And that’s why I’ve shared all this information with you, too.
If you do find the Trivedi experiments impossible, consider looking into what has been happening in the field of parapsychology over the last one hundred and fifty years. A fine place to start would be to read Extraordinary Knowing: Science, Skepticism, and the Inexplicable Powers of the Human Mind by Elizabeth Mayer, Ph.D., with a foreword by physicist Freeman Dyson, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey.
The late Harold McCoy, a dowser and healer who founded the Ozark Research Institute in my home town, Fayetteville, Arkansas, played an essential role in the birth of Mayer’s book. Her eleven year old daughter owned a rare and expensive harp which was stolen while the family was living in California. Harold, while in Fayetteville, successfully absent-dowsed over a map of Mayer’s neighborhood in Oakland and located the exact street address of the house where her daughter’s stolen harp was. Subsequently it was found and reclaimed, and that is what initially opened Mayer’s previously skeptical mind to carrying out the research that led to her book. I was fortunate to have several opportunities to work jointly with Harold McCoy. You’ll find another story about him, and how he found a precious lost object of mine, in the following pages.
Extrasensory, parapsychological, paranormal, supernatural, non-ordinary–look at those prefixes! They each imply a spirit/matter split, a dualism that permeates some Eastern and most Western cultural and religious worldviews. Hopefully, someday this split will be culturally re-visioned, and the meaning of these words revised, so that we can accept all of our experiences–sensory, psychological, psychical, and spiritual–as normal, natural, ordinary aspects of our lives.
3. Birdwindmindstream Transmission (1973)
En route with Leslie and a friend to Lamoni, Iowa to attend an early eco-awareness conference at Lamoni College (now called Graceland University), we stop in at a rural roadside diner. As we file in toward the booths, an old farmer is leaving with a friend. He looks closely at me as we pass, exclaims something about or to me under his breath, and the next thing I know, I have the overwhelming sense of being part of his breath, which is part of a larger more powerful wind which blows through both of us, streaming with birdsong. The two of us share a tacit eye-to-eye, and mind-to-mind connection which lifts me into an intense totemic experience of a unique and briefly bestowed birdwindmindstream transmission, direct from the fields and fencerows of his osmotic, hidden life. It’s a birdy and benevolent kind of medicine. Then the old farmer passes by me and out the diner door, and that moment passes with him.
4. Telepathic Ten Year Old (1974)
I’m teaching five to eleven year olds at a very progressive “free school” in Kansas City. There are no grades or set classes, though we offer individualized reading and math instruction. We do all kinds of cool, fun things with the kids. I’ve been sharing the Zener cards used by pioneer parapsychologist J. B. Rhine to test for ESP with my students. There are 25 cards in the Zener deck, featuring 5 shapes to guess from: a circle, a plus sign, a wave sign, a square, and a star.
The ten and eleven year old girls are best. Traci gets something like eleven out of twenty-five cards right, which with a 1 in 5 per card chance of being right on a given draw, is remarkable. She’s so “on,” we decide to graduate to pure telepathy. I ask her to send me an image of something she really wants.
It’s late afternoon, and I’m a bit drowsy. That’s to my advantage, as I slip into a light sleep or trance state, and the next thing I know, I see Traci hurtling toward me in a bright orange van. The image is so lifelike and kinetic that I desperately try to get out of the way of the oncoming vehicle. Then I’m back, with no doubts: “Traci, it’s an orange van and you’re driving!” Up to now, Traci hasn’t hesitated to tell me when my intuitions are wrong. She confirms that I got her orange van fantasy exactly right.
5. Sitting Ducks (1974)
On another day at the same school, we work with Bea, a beatific Eastern European immigrant conversant with Theosophy and the more contemporary teachings of Eckankar, which the American mystic and author Paul Twitchell freely adapted from the light and sound-current teachings of Kirpal Singh, and the writings of Julian Johnson, on Surat Shabd Yoga.
With Bea’s guidance, we experiment with projecting consciousness outside our bodies. Again, I’m sleepy, and again it helps: I fall into a drowse and find myself, just as intended, out at the small farm Leslie and I rent near Peculiar, Missouri, a place where some mighty peculiar things happen! I’m looking at two ducks on the big pond just down the lawn from our front door. Though the pond was clear that morning when I left for my job at the free school, when I get home that afternoon, most curious about the ducks, there they are: two quackers, floating pretty much right on the spot where I’d remote-viewed them earlier that momentarily magic afternoon.
Other similar events take place over the years, including many mornings when I watch the sun rise while lying in bed with closed eyes, then get up, go to a window, open the curtains, and see the same scene.
6. “Let Peace Branch Between Us” (2001)
One of my eco-spiritual heroines is Julia Butterfly Hill, the brave young woman who sat for 738 days in a redwood tree she named Luna to protect it and other California redwoods from logging by the Pacific Lumber Company. Formerly a native of my home town, Julia returned to Fayetteville in 2000 to speak at the University of Arkansas about what she had learned during her long tree-sitting sojourn. Her talk raised my consciousness about the importance of preserving forests of ancient giants like Luna, and about the soulful relationships that can develop between humans and individual trees. Within a year of hearing Julia speak, I camped out by the Cossatot River in Arkansas, and had a surprising experience of connection with the trees there, described in the following poem:
For the Trees and Julia Butterfly Hill
Once I camped out
in an Ozark river valley,
and felt the creeping sense
of something very wrong,
some kind of shady deal gone down.
Curious, I tuned in to the trees
and received a jolt of sad distress,
accompanied by the words
I didn’t understand this message.
When morning came,
I walked over the hill-rise
to an savage clear cut.
My eyes seared at the sight
of what had upset my sleep
all night: the loss, the tear
of so many branching songs
how can we protect you?
How do we infuse heart
into our politics
and grassroots actions?
The trees stay, minding and mending
the whole scene; not patient
Walt Whitman wrote it:
all the while, they’re
“uttering joyous leaves,”
exuding crucial oxygen.
let peace branch between us again.
Just as our beloved pets or the birds that gather at our back yard birdbaths and feeders can open us to a heightened awareness of the natural world, the experience of developing a relationship with a particular tree is one of the most common and accessible ways by which people discover the promise of direct communion with an aspect of Nature. The little poem below is a celebration of one such relationship, which I’ve found to be consistently grounding and calming. It’s addressed directly to my tree-friend:
Tree at our window in the crush of day
presiding Oak as you are now
you stand before me in the rose church
a branching of brown roads of twilight
and tell me my roots but only now I hear.
cannot fail thirst While we sleep
for in the earth you walk
our life is. the deep world-breezes–
Old angel night’s cool hand
you were singing on the brow of our city.