The Art of Being Seen (in Nature)

The Art of Being Seen (in Nature)

In prep for a night walk during our recent Renewal Retreat at Windhorse Farm, Jim Drescher provided us with a few words of wisdom to help ease the group’s fear and anxiety that may surface when walking into the unfamiliar presence of darkness in the forest.

“Allow yourself to be seen in Nature,” he said.  Jim continued reminding us that the practice of being seen takes a great amount of courage and vulnerability.  At night, it is dark and a challenge for us humans to see, however, the nocturnal beings that we can’t see will be certainly be able to see us.  If we allow our fear to prevail and walk in protection of ourselves, the animals won’t get a glimpse of the kind and compassionate beings that make up our humanness and provide a sense of connection with them.

The walk that we took in darkness was a magical reminder of how easy it is for us to walk in darkness.  To protect ourselves from being seen authentically, from leaving with fear of the unknown.  The walk through the forest reminded me that night that being seen was more than just being in a room with the lights on in the presence of others.  As Jim Drescher said, being seen is a practice of courage and vulnerability.  It is moving through the darkness and stepping into that which is scary.  

I realized as I explored the forest in darkness on my own, that in allowing myself to be seen in darkness, my brightest light was alive.  I heard myself laugh in my most childlike way, I climbed trees and bounced over branches in the most adventurous way, I felt free and alive…and I cgongouldn’t see a thing.  I trusted my surroundings so much that even in darkness the unknown was freeing.  

While I watched myself bound through the forest with my other senses heightened and the child in me alive, I felt a vast amount of happiness.  I didn’t quite fully understand that this was all part of the letting go with a willingness to be seen until the next morning.

The following morning, Martha Purdy and I woke up before all the retreat participants and walked down to the lake and sat in front of the gong to prepare the fire for the morning meditation.  It was still dark with just a glimpse of the sun rising.  As we stepped onto the path to make our way back to the lodge, a large owl swooped in front of us.  I didn’t realize it was an owl immediately, however, it had the largest wings I had ever seen.  It flew in front of us and stopped on a tree.  It was in this moment that Martha and I exchanged a silent moment with the owl who unbeknownst to us had been watching over us as we prepared the fire that morning. We stopped and exchanged gazes.  For a very brief moment, the owl stopped and allowed us to see him in the same way that we were open to be seen.  The exchange was breathtaking, we watched it majestically fly away again and silently made our way back to wake the group.

Seeing the owl was momentous for me.  Firstly, it reminded me of the words spoken last night that to be seen takes courage and vulnerability.  It was my reminder that NOW is the time to live with courage and vulnowlerability.   The opportunity to be seen can happen at any time by anyone, now is the time to practice.

Secondly, the owl reminded me of my Grandmother. She collected monuments of owls throughout her lifetime.  It would have been her birthday this weekend and it is each time this year that I contemplate her life and her death.  Another reminder for me that NOW is the time to be seen and embrace the preciousness of life.

Thirdly, the owl was my own subtle reminder of the greater support that exists when you trust a greater presence.  This requires vulnerability. It seemed like my Grandmother stopped by the retreat as of to say, “live courageously,  live authentically, be vulnerable…and if not now, when? And don’t worry, are never alone when you allow yourself to be seen.”

Leanne Whiting
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