Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

My trees, my business


Trees (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

I venture out in the woods. I walk slowly. Carefully. Joyfully. I feel my feet touch the earth, and let the energy arise through me. Every step a connection to the earth. I enjoy the sun. The bright colors of the leaves: red, green, orange, yellow. My friend told me how rich she feels this time of year. The golden leaves fall on her, fill the streets with it’s riches. It’s golden abundance is available to everyone. I feel cherished and welcomed in the woods. Nurtured.

I have no plan. Just to spend 30 minutes in nature. I see a little creek I have never seen before. The heavy rains created it on the rocky path. Small, tenderly dripping away. It is quiet. Just the sounds of my breath, my footsteps, the breeze.

I hear a tree. It calls out to me. A juniper. It’s branches spread out wide and evenly. Inviting.

I hear my heart. Climb!

I hear my mind. NO!

I climb. One branch. Looping to the other side for the next branch. Avoiding getting stuck in the twigs. A next step. Taking a break.

My heart starts racing. I’m scared. I’m here on my own. I have no belay. If I fall, it might take hours before I’m found. I can’t afford a broken leg. I hug the tree. Lean into it. I feel how solid I am, how strong. I trust my body, myself. I take a next step. I feel fear. I rest, connect to my belly, to my heart. I respect my fear. I treat it with great reverence. It takes minutes. Then I take a next step. I see out over the tree tops. I see the valley, and all the autumn trees celebrating fall in splendid colors.

I rest. I celebrate. My agility. My trust. My strength. My fear. My steps.

This is how I run my business. One step. Feeling my fear. Leaning into life. Finding my balance. My solidity. My trust. Then a next step. Let fear arise, loneliness. Worries. Give them space to talk. Listen. With empathy and compassion. No fixing, reassuring, arguing. Just listen. Listen to life and how it supports me. Then a next step. No fighting the branches for being to far apart. No impatience with my fear. No comparing myself with other, faster climbers. That’s not my path.

My path is to experience what it is like to be me. My path is to experience which conditions support me. Take a step. Connect to what’s alive in me. And then a next step.

Climbing a tree

I’m climbing a tree. 100 Feet high. I am terrified of heights. I  tremble with fear standing on a ladder. Diving of a diving board is beyond my comfort zone. Let alone climbing a 100 feet high tree. Okay, I was anchored to a belay. It made no difference. The fear was shaking my body.

I made this a sacred journey. Into my fears. To my dreams. A unique opportunity to be fully present with my terror, be touched by it, open up to it.  A holy practice of trust. Of the tree, my community, of myself. Trust that life and light arise from embracing my feelings.

I wake up at 6 am, meditate and write a poem. I walk up to the tree, and hug it. “Please, allow me to step on your branches. Talk to me. Share your wisdom. Hold me and keep me safe.” My belay drums the drum and sings a song. My two friends bow to me. I get into my harness, and take the first step. I am terrified. I tremble. I sweat. I put my arms around the tree and cry. Tears of existential fear. I wait till I hear the tree tell me my next step. It seems incredibly far away. I take my step. I tremble. I sweat. I cry. I wrap myself around the tree. “Talk to me. Hold me. Keep me safe. Show me my next step.” I don’t move till I regain trust and courage. In the tree, my belay, myself. I see the next step. I tremble. I sweat. I cry. I continue.

Halfway I am complete. I did my inner work. I stood my feelings. I don’t have to reach the top. I don’t have to force myself to get results. “Ann, I am ready to get down!” Ann responds: “Look down, and feel your feelings. Look up and feel your feelings. Then make a choice.” I look down and see my community, patiently waiting and honoring my choice. I look up and see myself exuberant with the total sense of freedom of having journeyed through my fears, terrors, and obstacles to life, to choice, to trust.

I take another step. And another. And another. And within minutes I am at the top. I look out over the canopy of trees, it is beautiful beyond imagination. I look down, and feel no fear. Just extreme freedom and joy. I am one with the universe. I yell so loud, that it can be heard at camp. “I AM AN ANIMAL!!!”. I take off my shirt, my bra, and I let the universe touch my very skin, my bones, my cells. There is no “I”, there is no “you”, there is no “here”, no “there”. There just is. Right here, right now.  Being.

I have a kissing reminder of the tree on my leg. Some call it a scar. I call it the proud mark of my courage, the tree and living life to the fullest.