I was sitting in a room with 24 others who had become deep friends for life in just a matter of days. The rain forest enveloped us outside, night sky both hiding and hushing the lush green canopy, exotic birds and cacophony of insects that came to life with the sun as we’d join to meditate on a stone patio in the early misty morning. It was the halfway point of our week-long mindfulness retreat in Ecuador, attended by thoughtful folk from all walks of life and every quarter of the earth, each seeking illumination for living more mindfully, each finding clarity within the confines of a week away from all other distractions.
Our host had set up a special ceremony with an indigenous shaman, the honored holy man of the region, and it was to be one of the high points of an already impactful week. Generations of his family in bright, traditional dress danced to the beat of primitive drums, candlelight casting shadows on their shy but happy faces. As we then danced and waved palm fronds, our smiles followed suit, finally letting go of whatever inhibitions tenaciously remained after days of open sharing. The most memorable moment of the evening came as the shaman spent individual time with each participant in our circle: cleansing our foreheads, blowing new life into our faces with a healthy set of lungs in the form of a special herbal drink, and giving each person a new name in his mother tongue. Thankfully, a translation of the name was given as well, and several were tied to natural elements: water, stone, animal. It was such an intriguing mix of culture, reminiscent of Native American ceremonies in my home area of the American West, but with its own distinctive Ecuadorian flavor.
It was my turn. The short, wiry man paused, bending down and staring into my eyes for a minute. My face was fully misted from his powerful cleansing breath, and I sat forward with anticipation. “Heleni!” he ruptured. “Si, Heleni.” It was a beautiful name, but I immediately craved its interpretation. “Seed of the Forest: Heleni,” he nodded, pointing at my chest. As I turned the name and its meaning in my mouth and mind, I instantly felt it a perfect fit. My name is Mary Wood, I have always been drawn to trees with their natural beauty and nurturing spirit, I feel a vibrant connection with those towering ancestors who have given seed to who I am, and the quest for sinking roots deep while stretching for the light is one I emulate and embrace.
The rest of the retreat turned into quite a powerful experience for me, almost too much to digest. I’d gone to meet a couple of bloggers whose writing and lifestyle inspired me, and over the course of the week and as I began to share my story, they encouraged me to start my own blog. I went home fully fed, thoughts and ideas swirling, but found difficulty keeping the promise I’d made to the group to begin writing. Seeds of doubt crept in. Who needs another blog about simple living? There are plenty out there. Sometimes, if you follow too many, the frequency of notifications start to crowd your own thinking and become paradoxically not simplifying. Further, my core message of hope in the face of hardship has a spiritual element to it…not always well received. And finally, the details which make my life experience compelling are not easily shared, impacting others. How to achieve that tastefully? For a long time, I wrestled with these issues. For a long time, I pushed away the truths I had learned about myself and my inherent need to find clarity and expression with words.
But this New Year, as I embraced with excitement the concept of a Depth Year, I realized that my perfectionism was an anchor keeping me tied to shallow waters. So, despite fears that I’ll fall short on this goal, that my voice will be just one in the crowd, and that some may be offended by my attempts, I’m sailing free to discover the depths. If you find even one tiny seed of inspiration in these pages that helps you along your own journey, the effort will be worth it. I am a Seed of the Forest: Living Simply, Finding Depth, Creating Beauty.