You've probably heard the saying that everything is energy. This is true – you, me, the grass, the trees – we're all made of energy vibrating at different speeds. But it's not just “living” things – even water, rocks, clouds, and the earth itself is alive. It's all energy. And as such, it's all sentient in its own way. That's part of why asking the land for permission to do any kind of work is so important.
In addition to the physical things we can all see, like the trees and the people, there are additional energy layers all around us. Some people can see these other layers, or dimensions, easier than others. I don't particularly see these things with my eyes – but sometimes I notice them in my mind's eye, or can feel them.
In fact, I like to remind myself that if I'm sitting in a room that is say, 25% full from top to bottom (that I can see) and the rest of the space that appears “empty” to me is actually quite full.
It's a good practice to try to sense what else is around you.
So, I say all of that to say that each piece of land that we live on, work on, and pass over every day has a spirit. The land is quite conscious of what is happening – whether a tree is cut down, a garden is planted, or a prayer is said. In addition to the land itself, there are any number of energetic spirits also living on the land – animal guides, ancestors, fairies, gnomes, tree spirits, and more.
Because nature moves at a much slower vibration than humans do, it's hard to hear what it has to say when we're rushing from here to there, looking at our phones or talking to a friend. Not that we can't do those things – it's just nearly impossible to tune in and connect unless we slow down and get quiet. So we need to do those things if we want to communicate.
And what is the first thing we want to do when we want to communicate with the land? Ask for permission.
You don't want a stranger barging into your house without knocking, opening your refrigerator and helping themselves to a snack any more than the spirits of the land appreciate you doing whatever you please in your backyard. Whether you “own” the property or not, the land and its spiritual inhabitants have been there long before you and will remain long after you. You are simply a steward at this moment in time.
Sometimes trees need to be cut and holes need to be dug – we need to learn to do these things (when necessary) in a way that respects the spirits of the land. To start getting to know your land and the spirits living there, each time you go outside, stop.
Close your eyes. Take a deep breath and feel your feet connecting to the earth.
And then, in your head (or out loud if you like to do that…I'm totally an in my head person) say hello. Take another deep breath.
Now, ask for permission. It goes a little like this:
Hello! Wow are you all so beautiful today! (nobody hates a compliment – especially the trees) If you feel so inclined, you can recognize what is especially catching your eye at the moment – the blue sky! the red tulips! the refreshing rain!
Take a deep breath.
I'd like to: go for a walk / mow the lawn / cut some flowers / lay in the hammock and enjoy the sunshine. Am I welcome to do that today?
And then you wait. Remember – nature is quiet and moves slower. Count to 60 in your head if you have to. It shouldn't take longer than that. But wait.
Permission can be any variety of subtle cues. A breeze that kicks up right after you ask, a gentle buzzing in your heart, hearing someone say “yes” in your ear, the clouds parting to let the sun shine through. These are all gentle forms of permission.
It's rare that you will get a no, but it's usually pretty clear when it happens. If I hear a no in my head, I double check and ask if I heard correctly. There are a variety of reasons we may be denied permission and, after you've established a relationship, you may also be able to ascertain why.
It could be a sacred area you don't have permission to enter, it may be unsafe for you, or the spirits may just be directing you to do something else instead that day. But if you are told no, respect the request, just like you would any friend or family member who politely asked you not to do something.
If you do need to cut a tree, you need to not only ask permission from the land, but also need to communicate with the tree spirit. Each tree has a spirit assigned to it to care for it. It's very confusing to these spirits to lose a tree they were caring for so carefully and they will be upset that they have failed at their responsibilities.
Let the tree know what is going to happen. Apologize. Ask it to pull its energy up and let the spirit know that their work with this particular tree is complete. Give an offering.
You don't need to agonize and feel guilty over this decision, but you should consider these spirits before making a hasty decision. It is part of your relationship as you care for the land.
Over time, you will get to know the spirits on your land, and they will offer suggestions. Sometimes they will test you – if they ask you to pick up trash – do it! You'll often be rewarded once they know your intentions.
Offer your thanks to this friendship with something that seems appropriate: flowers, seeds, cornmeal, tobacco. As you get to know the land, ask what it would like – it may not be something “traditional”.
As you get to know the spirits of the land (and they you), they begin to co-create with you. The neighbors may begin to say that you have the prettiest garden or grow the best tomatoes, or that your trees seem more vibrant that the others on your street.
You can do this practice with any piece of land – the spirits of the land at the park may be different than the ones at your house. The energy of a mountain is different than a river. Get to know the land. Take a couple of minutes to orient yourself on each piece of land you will spend a little time on each day, and don't forget to ask for permission.