She doesn’t know how or when I actually found her.
I’m a follower on Instagram, someone she has connected with over the waves. She always puts “likes” and encouraging comments on the song videos that I share, and “hearts” my photos. A very engaged and compassionate online presence.
Little Bird, they call her. Her spiritual name.
Because of this seemingly random connection, I end up attending one of her ceremonial retreats on Bowen Island, BC. It becomes a weekend moment I’ll never forget. Of course. A combination of solitude, company, ritual ceremony and personal practice brings me deeply into alignment with myself and Spirit. Seemingly random things are always synchronistic — there’s a reason for everything.
Little Bird practices Sacred Life Animism. More than a business name, this title indicates an entire way of viewing, walking with and working with life force energy and hence, the world.
“Everything is alive, right?” she begins, at the introductory circle. “Even a rock is a cluster of kajillions of moving cells that coalesced to be right there in a certain forest at that particular moment in the history of time. A rock is not just a rock. There is really no such thing as inanimate.”
Suddenly I remember being a little child and apologizing to the coffee table when my knee hits it. Touching trees and knowing their secret names. Sitting under the sun, in the long grass, singing a mysterious song with the crickets and other insects. Lying on my sled in the snow, absorbing the light of the full moon, quietly crying.
I remember, in my bones, the conversation I’ve always had going with nature, with Spirit — with both at the same time. It’s been a relatively constant dialogue, mostly a friendly one, sometimes a protesting one. Layered on top of it is a wretched, shameful tug-of-war with the Judeo-Christian God, whose personality often doesn’t jibe with the flow that I feel in nature.
Even though as a child this dialogue came very instinctively to me, at some point in my late teens, I lost it. The responsive connection became supplanted with notions and ideas, as will happen when you’re a young person in university. As it faded away, my own depression and lethargy increased. I couldn’t figure out what was missing — some kind of inner purpose or intention.
“Everything is about intention,” intones Little Bird during a conscious nature walk ceremony at the retreat. “Ask the flower before plucking it. Ask the leaf before taking it. Ask the rock if it wants to be part of your collection.”
Now, some folks will laugh at this kind of sensitivity. That’s fine. I’m sure it sounds kind of unhinged, a little bat-shit crazy, to the more rational types out there.
But guess what? Not asking permission from nature has gotten humanity into a heap of environmental trouble. Our insensitivity — the way we take without caring to ask — is why the planet is burning now. It’s why we’re losing untold numbers of species and filling up our atmosphere with greenhouse gases. How’s that for rationality?
So, asking . . . When I lost that ability to ask questions within nature, to flow in Spirit that way, I became depressed. Something in me died. All the academic theories in the world couldn’t suffice to bring the same joy, sensitivity, aliveness and purpose that came with my connection to sacred life force energy.
Luckily, I only thought I was disconnected. Spirit has a way of coming back in, whenever it’s invited. In my sense of hopelessness, I began to explore all manner of spirituality, including earth magic, tarot, magic rituals and paganism, yoga, centering prayer and the contemplative Christian tradition, zen meditation, herbalism and plant medicine.
Fast forward some 25 years and here I am at 45 years old, continuing a daily practice of connecting with my Spirit Guides through visioning, ceremony, prayer and meditation. And sometimes I’m able to offer spiritual guidance and healing sessions to others, as well. I am very blessed to feel connected in the ways that I do.
But we all have our ups and downs.
A few years ago, just before the Covid lockdown, I was dealing with a bad case of body dysmorphia (a condition where the shape and sense of one’s body is incorrect and somewhat unliveable and unloveable). For me, it’s a very itchy feeling. The complete opposite of sacred life force energy, it’s the firm belief that things are disconnected and nothing fits or has any purpose whatsoever. I’ve struggled with this sensation in my own body, off and on, since I was 15 years old.
Scrolling through Instagram is the worst cure ever, but there I was. Flicking through photo after colourful photo, watching little video reels of people doing funny dances or showing off their babies. Checking out all the perfect people doing their amazing things.
And there, on the screen, was Little Bird.
She was sitting in the back of a sunlit dusty vehicle at Burning Man, crying and sweating. A little section of her aging belly showed from under her shirt.
“I’m so sick of hating my own body,” she sobbed. “I’m tired of being critical of my belly because I’ve got stretch marks. I’m done with looking around at everyone else and thinking they’re better than me because they’re young, or smoother, or prettier.”
The same ugly feelings welled up in me, and I began sobbing right along with her. Singing the same song as Little Bird. A poignant song of grief, dismay, frustration, and deep self-love. A fiercely protective melody.
I watched the video ten more times, tears streaming down my face. I showed it to my partner M, sobbing. I showed it to my daughter, wanting her to understand how never to hate herself.
Then I followed Little Bird on Instagram.
I followed her light all the way up and into to the spiritual retreat when I met her in person, just a few weeks ago.
There, each day, she led us in songs and prayers for compassion, connection and gratitude. She fed us cacao medicine and sang to us in a million different secret voices, holding space as our hearts unfurled like little spring ferns by a fresh source of water. She danced with us.
When she danced, her arms swung gracefully, her skirt floated cloud like around her body, the rhythm running through her like a stream of clear water. Little Bird, indeed.
This stream of clear water knows where it’s going, and it flows through me, too. It flows through each and every one of us. Life force energy.
Ask where it’s going, if you’re not sure.
Ask, and you will be answered.