I first met Maria Owl Gutierrez when she spoke at the inaugural Earth Medicine Alliance conference. I remember clearly how she described a special relationship she had with a spider that lived just outside her front door. As she came and went, she greeted and acknowledged the spider, and the spider became a friend. One night, she dreamed of the spider. It bit her and she she awoke, Maria knew the spider had transferred wisdom and medicine to her. A few days later the spider passed. I was moved by the story. It demonstrates the kind of relationship we can have with plants, animals, and the elements if we will open ourselves to it. I am honored to interview her this week for Katrina Dreamer Interviews.
All life on Earth depends on the complexity of relationships in the biosphere and atmosphere and human beings are just another biological creature participating in these complex relationships. If you can perceive this truth, then nature is everything. Nature is existence on Earth. To really perceive this truth should really bring us into deep reverence and humility, as we are so inter-dependent on all the other forms of life.
Nature has the power to remind us of our beginnings – the first unicellular organism, the first breath, the first plant, fish, four-legged, bi-ped, the first reflexive consciousness. And nature has the power to end our mortal lives. Nature has the power to inspire us and to open us to our pure beings. I hold nature as a pure reflection of that Great Mystery, The Source, The Creator, and if I can slow down and listen and witness deeply, I can behold this divine beauty. If I’m lucky, I’ll become aware of myself as harmonic nature. I’ll feel the divine beauty within me, an alive teacher always breathing inside of me.
2. How do you connect with nature?
2. How do you connect with nature?
I spend one to three hours in nature every day. When I can’t make this pilgrimage for many days on end, I start to feel disconnected from the larger picture.
I don’t perceive nature as a separate consciousness from myself. When I walk through the forest and pray for the continuance of health for the habitat, I’m praying for myself. I am the forest. When I sit and discuss my heart longings with the squirrel or hawk or lizard, I am sitting with another form of myself. We are relatives. Family. As I am a part of my Mother and she is a part of me. We are all energy, particles of the larger consciousness that dreamed this whole dance up. I connect to nature through deep respect and reverence in this recognition.
3. How does your work invite others to reconnect with or interact with nature? I lead wilderness fasting rites annually out to Mono Lake Basin in California’s Eastern Sierras. These are nine-day pilgrimages into nature where participants are invited to slow down their urban minds and open into their nature-minds.
Part of the Vision Quest work includes a three-day solo with only water. The act of fasting from food and comforts is foreign to most westerners, as we’ve become so reliant on our luxuries and privileges. We, at Ancient Path Vision Quests, hold the fasting rites in a sacred and intentional way, knowing that questers will be fed by Spirit while they are on their solo journeys, a nourishment that is beyond food.
During the Vision Quest work, we engage in community ritual, dreamwork and council – all while sitting under the lodgepole pine forest canopy with hummingbirds, butterflies and honeybees zooming in and out, offering their two cents. They are part of our community while we’re out there. By the time we depart the land, leaving it as if we were never there, we are so embedded into the natural rhythms and cycles of Earth and cosmos, that our very perception of ourselves has shifted. When we make space in ourselves to be moved and touched deeply by nature, we will be absolutely transformed by her.
4. What wisdom can you share that can help people establish a relationship with nature? Humble yourself. When you look at a tree, recognize this other is not an “other," but an “I AM.” Recognize that this “I AM” is a particle of The Source, Great Mystery, and holds a consciousness and wisdom that has the power to change your life, if you let it. This will happen when we revere anything in nature.
Take the time to sit with a non-human being – rocks, plants, water, animals, and rather than defining what you perceive, just let yourself become empty and listen. Be open to the thousand ways this being may communicate with you – through symbols, energy, resonance, temperature. Introduce yourself to this being and tell it what is most important to you in your heart of hearts. Ask this being for assistance. Ask this being what you can do for it. Reciprocity is always present in healthy, thriving friendships.
5. Anything else you'd like to add?
Reclaim the wonder and awe for nature you had as a child. The loss of this way of perceiving has caused incredible harm to the planet. Remember that, though our spirits are of an infinite nature, this one, precious mortal life on Earth right now is finite. Let’s not take this beautiful life for granted. May each of us return home to the Sacred Web of Life, with tears of joy streaming down our cheeks.
Maria Owl Gutierrez Twice a year Maria’s organization Ancient Path Vision Quests takes small groups into the wilds of California for ceremonial fasting and prayer. She also serves on the board of directors of Earth Medicine Alliance. Maria currently sees individuals and couples at her private healing practice in Sebastopol, Sonoma County. For more information go to: www.mariaowl.com.