This year, I visited the Earth Sanctuary, retreat center, sacred ground and a not-for-profit nature reserve. Situated a mile outside of Freeland and before Langley, on the south end of Whidbey Island.
Wooden benches situated at the sides of the pond invited contemplation and a reflective moment while watching the mist rising from the still water. Bird calls and sounds of flapping wings filled my ears. It is evident that this is was a refuge and habit for local wildlife. The intentional art and sculptures were discovered around turns of the path and prayer wheels called me back in to meditation.
The meandering 2 miles of trails led me through an old growth forest and an arborerum; a recent project and restoration site for many native plants. The arboretum intends a return to old growth forest by replanting a variety of native trees including Fir, Cedar, Birch, Spruce, Redwoods .
I am called down the labyrinth path and discover a natural a salal hedge labyrinth intended for contemplation in walking meditation, a metaphor for representing life’s journey. The labrynth
has a single continuous path leading inward to the center – a metaphor for lifes journey, the only thing to do is travel forward, one step in front of the other, until reaching ones goal. An arrival at the center occurs before turning outwards again to complete the journey and attain the goal. A walking meditation is both an inward and outward journey, there is the activation of the left and right brain through movement and stimulation of our bodies circulation and lymphatic systems; during the walking contemplation ones awareness moves inward to finally reach a calm center; the core of our be-ing and connection with the inner realms of our mind and oneness in our body. A labyrinth can represent a sort of pilgrimage for those who are unable to take a longer sacred journey or pilgrimage like the camino de santiago, vipassana meditation or the kumbh mela. An interesting piece of trivia is that there are labyrinth patters found throughout the world in various cultures and also found in basket weaving designs, paintings, drawings and hedge borders.
Above is a visual of a labrinth by the website: http://wellfedspirit.org/labyrinth_pages/graphics.html
Down another path I discover the Fen Pond stone circles. I am reminded of the sacred stones in the popular television series Outlander, a ceremonial circle used for prayer, intention setting and giving thanks. Not much is known about stone circles today; however many have suggested that these circles are sacred sites intended for prayer with precise astrological alignment to the movements of the sun and moon, combined with sacred geometry.
Pairs of stones are aligned in true north and south, also to the winter solstice sunset and to the run rising and setting in the summer; connecting one back to the 4 directions and grounding into the land, interweaving ritual back into daily life while connecting with the greater mystery.
A reminder of the interconnectness of all things; interweaving nature, the sun and skies and mother earth into all life. Stonehenge in Great Britain perhaps being one of the most well known sites. There is an informative website called The Stone Circle Theory by Simon Hedger who offers additional reflections. For more information: http://www.stonecircletheory.com/
Further on the path a meadow opens up into the Cottonwood Stone Circle and I marvel at the 12 majestic stones towering 11 feet high.
The grounds have been a home to Ospreys with educational artwork found along the path. Ospreys are able to breed on almost every continent except near the South Pole. Apparently Ospreys can live for 10-12 years, however these birds were once on the endangered list (although now listed as a threatened species) – according to the New York Department of Conservation, largely their population had decreased due to the insecticide Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, DDT – more commonly known — which caused reproductive issues and thinning of egg shells in the newly laid eggs. DDT is classified in a group of chemicals called Persistent Organic Pollutants aka chemical substances that stay in our soil and the environment, bio-accumulate through the entire food chain, posing health risks to humans and animals in our food chain and the all of the natural world. Used previously in agriculture, DDT has now been banned from agricultural use in the United States, as it has shown to impact human health including being linked to infertility, breast cancer and other endocrine health issues. Take note, this insecticide has a half life of 25-30 years – meaning once DDT is in the soil it stays there for a very long time.
By no means am I am expert on the history of Buddhist monuments however I immediately recognized and appreciated their presence, Having once been gifted a prayer wheel myself – I will share my limited knowledge of the Tibetan prayer wheel or Mani wheel found along a bend in the path… A Prayer Wheel provides an opportunity to spread spiritual well-being and blessings while spinning the wheel. Spinning the prayer wheel is done with the proper intentions. Holding elevated intentions for the well-being, spiritual blessings and highest outcome of all beings is essential while using the prayer wheel; incorporating visualizations and mantra will align one with the Body, Speech and Mind of the Buddha.
Set your intention setting while spinning a prayer wheel. Intend on strengthening the mind and contemplate offerings such as :
- “May all beings be happy. May all beings be free from suffering.”
- Reciting a prayer or a mantra can also be done while spinning the wheel to align ones spirit with the on loving kindness and equanimity for all sentient beings.
- Om Mani Padme Hung, the mantra of loving kindness and compassion is often written on the outside of the wheel in Sanskrit.
A stupa is situated on a hill – a sacred mound intended for enlightenment and created for various purposes (from a burial ground to marking an profound event or created as a receptacle for offerings). A clockwise walking meditation around the stupa is done in reverence or reflection to radiate spiritual blessings and for specific meditation practices. Prayer flags are found around the paths.
Also on the nature reserve was a tall dolmen -a megalithic tomb of two or more, upright stones set with a space between and set with a horizontal stone on top, which could serve as a meditation room or in the Hindu tradition represents “the cave of the heart”, a protected place for reflection.
The most sacred space for me was the First Nations Medicine Wheel used for prayer and healing. The significance of this prayer wheel reminds one again of connection to all that is, all our relations, the 4 directions, the 4 seasons, mother earth, our grandfathers and grandmothers, and the elements. So much can be remembered through strengthening connection to all that sustains us on planet earth.
What a serene way to enjoy the afternoon in this birth and wildlife sanctuary. In 2008, the visionary and designer and founder of Earth Sanctuary, Chuck Pettis, was recognized in the September 2008 issue of Science of Mind magazine as one of 12 people making a difference in the world. If you are on Whidbey island, this space is worth a stop.
Much of the restoration is being done by the University of Washington ecology students to complete projects in this remarkable site. A huge thank you to all those who have contributed to such a stunning serene location. Until I return again…