This Week in Spirit: Free Advice vs. Advice That Is Freeing

I’m a fan of free advice. People of all types offer free advice: kids, adults, family members, friends, strangers. My dog even offers free advice, every time he sits in front of me with a ball in his mouth.

The trick with advice is learning how to sort through all of the free advice to find the advice that is the most freeing.

 Here's a time where I received advice that I found very freeing. Photo Credit: Arwen Bird 

Here's a time where I received advice that I found very freeing. Photo Credit: Arwen Bird 

Every now and then, a person will say something so resonant that every bit of my being comes alive. I feel like a bell that has been rung. When I have that experience, I know I’ve just received advice that is freeing. The words, and whatever else makes up the experience, shine full of clarity and a kind of power I can feel but don’t understand. 

Take last Wednesday, for example. Last Wednesday, I woke to a foot of snow, a rarity in Portland, Oregon. I did what any sensible outdoors person would do – strapped on my snowshoes, grabbed some poles, and went for an urban snowshoe.

On my snowshoe excursion, I paused to snap a photo of a rufous sided towhee, one of my favorite forest dwellers. As I did so, my ears alerted to the muffled crunch-swoosh sound of a person’s footsteps in the snow. I lowered the camera away from my eye so I could greet the stranger.

 Yes, the exact Rufous Sided Towhee I had been hanging out with and photographing as the stranger approached. Photo Credit: Tanya Pluth.

Yes, the exact Rufous Sided Towhee I had been hanging out with and photographing as the stranger approached. Photo Credit: Tanya Pluth.

The stranger was a woman, probably 20 years my senior. She wore no hat or gloves, despite the frigid 28 degree weather. She passed me on the right, and then stopped two steps away. She seemed to stare at the brambles I’d just been pointing my camera lens towards.

“Good morning,” I said.

“Yes! Amazing, isn’t it?” The woman replied, smiling.

I nodded. The woman pointed at the trees in front of me, where I’d been focusing on the towhees. I got ready to say something about the towhees. But, she didn’t say anything about the Towhees. Instead, she said this: “Isn’t it amazing how the tiniest branch can accumulate so much snow?”

I looked to where she pointed, and saw a series of thin alder branches laden with two or more inches of snow each. She was right. How did such tiny branches accumulate so much snow? Magic. She had said something brilliant. She had offered me advice that I found freeing. I felt my eyes soften, my heart swell, and my toes tingle. I already had been loving every moment of my urban snowshoe adventure, and then a stranger entered the experience and expanded the experience by offering me advice that I found freeing.

 The branches with snow that the woman pointed out. Point of fact, might not be alder trees. Photo Credit: Tanya Pluth.

The branches with snow that the woman pointed out. Point of fact, might not be alder trees. Photo Credit: Tanya Pluth.

The woman’s comment helped me key into another dimension of awareness. I hadn’t really focused on the branches, so much as on the beauty of a snow-covered forest, the incredible expansiveness of the landscape, and the contrast of orange and red birds next to snow. Meanwhile, the woman had been focused not so much on the look or feel of the forest and the snow, as on the phenomenon of accumulation. 

Accumulation is a natural phenomenon, one that occurs to both the living and the inert. The challenge with accumulation is first, allowing it to happen naturally, and second, allowing the same natural forces that create accumulation to also take away what is no longer needed. Accumulation is dependent on receptivity, and receptivity is a natural phenomenon as well. The tiny branch accumulates a lot of snow because it is created to be receptive. Branches help a tree accumulate sunlight and water so that the basic needs of the organism are more easily met. The natural processes of wind, sun, heat, cold – will all combine to melt away the snow accumulated on the thin branches in my neighborhood. As those processes work, the form of the branch funnels water and nutrients to the tree’s core.

This week in Spirit, notice the advice that people, place, and spirit have to offer. Just as a branch helps to funnel sunlight and water to the root of a tree, trust your own natural form to funnel all that is freeing to the root of who you are. In spite of the force of effort and will, it’s quite often random pressures and circumstances that truly create shifts and releases in our lives. This week in Spirit – be like a tiny branch, receptive to accumulating snow in a storm, trusting to your natural form to funnel what is most nurturing and freeing to your root.  

 Not bad for an urban forest, eh? #Ilovemyneighborhood. Photo Credit: Tanya Pluth

Not bad for an urban forest, eh? #Ilovemyneighborhood. Photo Credit: Tanya Pluth