Discover more from Living Heart with Ellen Livingston
Live In Love
“Love is our Soul Purpose”
When I met my partner Todd, and he shared with me that his mission statement in life is to “Live in Love,” I was delighted, because that is mine, too. It’s a lofty mission - we are both idealists! In the ‘real world,’ this trait certainly comes with challenges, but I still think the world needs more idealists. We are unafraid to imagine beyond the typical boxes, and we keep inspiration alive. Todd was also the first partner I met who could out-barefoot me...this is one of the ways we live in love, through ‘kissing the earth’ with our bare feet every day, and gently exchanging energy with her. When Todd and I hold hands while both walking barefoot on the earth, we expand the magical electrical circuit of nature’s love.
Living in love, for me, means noticing these things every day. Slowing down the pace of life – a lot - opens up space to feel and know the omniscient presence of LOVE. Consciously feeling, every day, with heart-swelling gratitude, the sunshine and the breezes on my bare skin; saving time to watch the sun come up and go down; making eye contact with fellow beings, including with ‘strangers’; offering a genuine smile; feeling my own breath and heartbeat; allowing my attention to be completely captivated by the fascinating micro-activities of insects and animals; watching leaves and grasses dance with the wind or rain. These are some of the ways I know peace, and return to peace every single day. Peace and Love go hand in hand. I love my friend Chris’ brilliant slogan: “Peace, Love ‘n Seasonal Fruit.” That really sums it up!
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I believe we all love to have these simple, ordinary yet extraordinary experiences, when we allow ourselves – it feels like coming home. I invited groups of people to join me on raw vegan retreats in Costa Rica because I had fallen in love with the nature of that country, and my heart needed to share its joy with other human hearts. I had the thought, if only I could bring people to a natural paradise like this, they would feel loved by the same magical resonance I felt. So I created the retreats, and it worked like a charm. Sitting on big rocks warmed by the sun, our feet in the cool water, feeling the misty spray of magnificent waterfalls while we peeled and ate mangoes with our hands, tossing the peels to the iguanas at the jungle’s edge – we were in heaven together, and for some it brought spontaneous tears or childlike laughter - a joyful recognition and reunion. All we had to do to access heaven was to connect with divine Nature, and drink the pure nectar. It’s so simple. And yet, most people, if they’re not outright afraid to commune with nature, view it as a luxurious once-in-a-while treat (or ‘Retreat’), rather than a way of daily life.
I took part in a women’s circle which met regularly on my land in Michigan. We rotated the responsibility of facilitating the circle, and when my turn caught me feeling unprepared, I followed a quick inspiration to offer a barefoot walk on our trails, in silence, followed by a campfire. I cleared the trails of any poison ivy, and built the fire structure. When the other women arrived, I offered the simple mantra, “With every step, arrive.” The women shed their foot-coverings, and we walked slowly, silently, in a spacious single file, around the perimeter of the land. The trails included a steep pine-needle-covered hill in the woods, rolling grassy terrain, cool bare soil, dense decaying leaves, and (my favorite) plenty of damp, squishy soft moss.
We completed our walk in about 20 minutes, and gathered silently in a circle. I lit our campfire. With all eyes meditatively fixed on the mesmerizing flames, our sacred silence continued. The first woman to speak, gentle tears beginning to roll down her cheeks, shared that she had not walked barefoot on the earth in that way, nor sat by a campfire, since she was a child. Others nodded, and a thoughtful dialogue about reverence and connection quietly emerged. A couple of things were confirmed for me that night – one, that the simplest, most natural activities can sometimes be the most powerful, and two, that safely vulnerable nature immersion is one of the most direct ways to open hearts.
“What do you really, REALLY want?” and “What would LOVE do?” are questions I continuously sit deeply with. Over many years of working with these two questions, I have been able to access deeper layers. Being the strong visionary that I am, for a long time “What do you really want?” was centered around manifesting my visions, in the form of concrete projects. I was raised to celebrate outer achievements above all, and alongside my natural visionary and leadership capacities, and my adventurous spirit, this has served me well in bringing visions into reality, quickly and often rather spontaneously. I have loved helping women find their confidence to raise their babies naturally. It was fun and meaningful to help bring a Co-Housing community to fruition, and later to invite homeschooling, raw-vegan, and yoga community into my home for regular gatherings, classes and workshops of many kinds. I loved taking long winter camping adventures in Florida with my homeschooled children. It was amazing to experience a month-long water-fast in Costa Rica. It was fun to build live-in community and a cooperative garden on my big land in the Michigan countryside.
It was especially fun to build, with a partner I had at the time who was, like me, a very energetic, creative visionary and manifestor, along with a small community of helpers, a giant, 30-foot diameter yurt on that same land. It was like a barn-raising, and with nothing more concrete than a heartfelt intention to bring this beautiful structure into existence, this yurt organically became a community magnet for incredible, sacred full-moon Kirtan chanting events, yoga classes, men’s and women’s groups, healing nature retreats, and more. Later, it was fulfilling to experience several months of living mostly off-grid in a beautiful other tiny yurt in my favorite magical spot on that land. It was amazing to be in Costa Rica every winter with an eager group of nature-seekers I had lured to the jungle. And I grew new wings on-stage at the unprecedented annual Woodstock Fruit Festival in upstate New York for a decade, giving my heart a microphone, and gifted with a loving and generous audience.
These were all big and powerful adventures, and they changed me. My heart opened wide, my confidence grew and grew, and my playing-field felt almost limitless. I will never forget the many instances when my heart seemed to swell so big that I thought it could burst out of my chest, simply by witnessing the sincerity of my manifest visions give deeply joyful experiences to so many other people. Imagine the very real, epic scene of 100 people coming out of the woodwork for our first Kirtan music event in the yurt. 80 people packed enthusiastically in tight coziness on the yurt floor, doors flung wide open on a warm July night, while about 20 others played outside in the hammocks and gardens. As the music of the instruments and our singing voices swelled, nearly everyone was on their feet singing and dancing joyously, and then the music slowly brought us back to sacred stillness, sitting again. Afterwards, a bonfire under the big sky, and spontaneous singing, swaying, hand-holding, and joyful tears in the loving embrace of felt community. Magical glimpses of an almost lost tribal aspect of life that I believe we all yearn for, at some deep and often unconscious level.
One summer, on the last day of the annual week-long Woodstock Fruit Festival, I led an outdoor yoga class of about 80 people which flowed with such incredible, palpable synchronicity and harmony that there were many tears, and heart-smiles, at the end of class as we all held hands and looked across at each other, standing in 2 big concentric community circles, one inside of the other, so that we could fit on the platform. Participants approached me afterwards, saying “What WAS that? It was so incredible!” I felt like I had been an intuitive orchestra conductor for that hour, or like Mickey Mouse in the movie Fantasia, when he waves his magic wand to direct the dance of the broomsticks. I was divinely guided to surrender to instruction from a higher power, and we became a symphony of love for the duration of that community yoga session. I knew that I was being used as a medium, or a channel, through which this electric energy of love could be organized and conducted effectively. And the community was open-hearted, after a whole week spent outdoors, sharing meaningfully together. It was an incredible, humbling experience, and I am so happy that I was able to get out of the way. It was one of many to come, in which I began to see that when I can let go, and ‘let Love,’ it all requires less effort and becomes beautifully easier and more magical.
At some point along my adventurous journey, there was an important shift in the answers I was receiving to my question, “What do I REALLY want?” My abundant childlike energy and idealism had been such a dominant inner force for a long and magnificent, outwardly creative chapter of my life. My heart eventually began whispering - and then begging - for me to slow...way...down. What I REALLY wanted now was stillness, and a quieter kind of deep connection with my Self. I needed some protected deeper inward time. I needed to reduce my outer responsibilities and stresses, and allow more time for reflection, contemplation, and integration. My body was aching from the stress of holding so much for so long, and from expending so much effort to ‘make things happen.’ I latched onto the phrase, “Make it welcome.”
I thought about a magical day years ago, during our Sunnyside Learning Center program for homeschoolers (right after my divorce, my children and I developed an enrichment program in which other people’s children joined us two days per week), when I had taken a group of mine and other children for a walk in the woods, and they had become completely captivated with a large, recently dead snake they found. I let them bring it home, stretched out carefully on a towel across their laps in the back seat of the car, and back at home they spent the next several hours sitting on the grass huddled over their snake treasure, cooperatively dissecting it together and studying each of its tiny organs. All they needed from me were the tools they commanded: a baking pan, a needle, tweezers, tiny scissors, a microscope. Their animation was contagious, their teamwork seemingly effortless. They were in a ‘flow state.’ It was such a beautiful, inspiring, unplanned community learning session. All I did was open up to the flow, and make it welcome. It was time to apply this to my own visions.
“What would LOVE do?” became a guiding question for me. So much striving for what I thought I wanted, even when driven by sincere enthusiasm, had tired me, and my soul was guiding me toward self-compassion and deeper connection. I invented the phrase, “Tranquil Passion,” to reassure myself that I did not have to give up my natural passion in order to be fully grounded. “Passionate Tranquility” was also a fun twist to play with. It was clear to me that what LOVE would do now, was to take exquisite care of myself. This question of ‘what would love do’ often requires me to listen intimately for the deepest message. Often, a deeper answer is subtle. On the surface, I can feel confused by more than one option that appear to compete for what love would do. I like how this feeling is captured by a line from a wonderful original song by a favorite home-town band of mine (see video below):
“Two minds made up, both belong to me. So I’ll sit here and sing, till they both agree.” - lyrics from the song ‘Lemon Grove,’ by The Ragbirds
What to do when this apparent conflict arises? What might it look like to ‘sit here and sing, till they both agree’? Many times I will look at the sky and say an earnest prayer, such as “Show me the way,” or “Help me to find understanding and wisdom.” Sometimes, when clarity is hard to discern, I simply need time to gather more information. Sometimes, I need to get quieter, and listen more closely. Sometimes, I need to let go of needing answers at all, and get out of the way, relax, and trust. “When they both agree” is that crystalline moment when the way becomes effortlessly clear.
As far as I have been able to see so far, Living in Love requires sincerity, honesty, integrity, inspiration, compassion, surrender, faith, intimacy with ourself, and most of all – the courage to open to connection. Getting to know Nature, and immersing myself in her divine qualities, is an accessible, fast-track way toward a genuine way of living in love. It’s a truly humbling, and deeply rewarding path, and one that I’m sure I will be learning to walk for the rest of my life.