written by: Ellen Kittredge, Eagle Condor Council Co-Founder and co-leader of the Weaving the Golden Thread Pilgrimage

When I sent my first batch of pictures from my travels in Peru to my family back home, my Dad emailed me back to say, “Do they always wear such bright colors there?”, referring to the many pictures of Andean mountain folk I’d included in the album. The answer is, undoubtedly, “YES”, but I wondered why, and I didn’t immediately have an answer for why the textiles and clothes and hats and blankets of the Andean mountain peoples are always so bright and colorful. A couple weeks later I read the following in an article about Andean Culture and Art by Hugo Franco. An Andean man, Waipas Gregorio, was asked by a foreigner, “Why so much color?”

“We wear colors because we flourish with the land. Our way of thanking such infinite generosity for generations over millions of years. All we can do is enrich more.

And how do we do it? Let us Flourish us too. We are walking flowers!”

There was something so powerfully resonant for me when I first read this.

What does it mean to be a walking flower?

What does it mean to celebrate your own beauty in such a profoundly humble and connected way?

How can we best honor the source of our nourishment and life?

I have found many layers of teachings in these simple honestly expressed words.

Teaching # 1. There is an inherent humility that comes from living close to the earth.

In the Western industrialized world, in general, we are very disconnected from our sources of food and shelter and water. We don’t walk out into the field every morning to harvest our meals fresh from the land, and we don’t climb up the mountains to cut down grass that we then make into a roof for our house, and we don’t walk to a stream or river or lake to collect and then carry home the water we drink, cook with, and bathe in.

And so, it makes sense that we have, largely, forgotten that the very earth we walk on is what keeps us alive in every sense. Because of this, instead of living in a way that celebrates with deep humility and gratitude the abundance the earth provides, we may tend to be disconnected and unaware and take for granted the fact that we can go to the grocery store and buy any number of packed or fresh goods from all over the world, and make a meal from them.

I am speaking generally here of course, and I am speaking also of something that has only really been a reality for many living in industrialized countries for the last couple generations – i.e. this is, relatively speaking, a very NEW way of living on the planet.

Is it working?

We need to keep looking around us and pay attention to what is happening to the natural resources on this planet to answer that question.

My guess is that this level of disconnection from the very things that give us life (food, shelter, water) is not ultimately going to be sustainable. There has to be a way that we can bring back a deeper sense of connection so that those of us who live in a way that is devoid of an immediate feedback mechanism can start to understand how our daily actions impact others and the planet.

What I re-member in each of my travels to Peru is that there is still a large percentage of the world that lives in a way that is more directly connected. And from what I can see, there is both a joy and a humility that comes along with that.

These two energies deeply feed my soul and inspire me to continue to re-member how I can choose to connect more with the earth, the foods that give me life, the beautiful people I am so lucky to call my friends and family, and this body that has carried me through this existence despite all the times I’ve been less than gentle or caring with it.

Teaching #2. “We are all herbs in Mother’s garden.”

One of the more profound teachings I received in the 2 year Earth Ministry Program I attended is very similar to the words the Andean man expressed above. It is the idea that we can choose to live by this simple concept:

“We are all herbs in Mother’s garden.” – Jyoti Prevatt

What does this mean? It means that each one of us is an individual expression upon Mother Earth, with a different taste, flavor, color, level of spiciness, etc.

If you wanted to make a delicious chicken soup, would you leave out the rosemary or the parsley or the basil? Could you possibly say that rosemary is somehow “better” than basil? No! You need all flavors to make the most delicious (not to mention nutritious) soup possible for yourself and your family.

What can we learn from the Andean peoples about embodying this concept? How can they teach us to live from a place of seeing each person, animal, plant, mountain, and stream, as an herb, flower or other plant in a beautiful garden?

Yes, some people might be cactus people, and a little too prickly for you to want to get too close to, and that fine. But it doesn’t mean they aren’t just as beautiful in their own way as a lilac person or a lily person. Each of us has our place here. And each of us deserves both room to grow and a unique honoring of our individual essence.

What herb, flower or other plant are you?

What is your unique expression?

How can you honor this?

These are all questions I’ve begun asking myself the more time I spent with Andean folk, and I have found that a whole new world of healing is opening up because of these questions.

Teaching #3. We must flourish ourselves.

“Let us Flourish us too. We are walking flowers.”

In some ways, this may be the most important of the three teachings I’ve gleaned from this Andean man’s comments.

For me the idea of “Flourishing Ourselves” means many things:

It means making the choice to consciously nourish and feed the physical body with things that enliven it.

-It means choosing work that feeds the soul.

It means choosing to be with people whom honor and acknowledge your inherent beauty.

It means choosing to live life from a place of deep balance in all ways.

Flourishing oneself is not an easy task per-se. Let me explain what I mean.

When we chose foods that don’t make us feel alive, but rather deaden our senses and make us feel dull and depressed (perhaps after an initial high), we have to then ask the question, “Why?” And when we start to uncover what is beneath these sorts of choices, we may unearth some subconscious patterning that might seem to be too much to handle or too hard to look at.

When we choose to continue doing work that is, as many clients have said to me, “killing my soul” we need to understand what the pressures are that are keeping us in that work. Is it the need to support a family? Is it to keep health insurance so you or your partner or child can get necessary medical services? Is it because you are afraid that if you do what you really want to do, you might fail at it?

Despite the reality of these challenging questions and many more that I am sure you can come up with, I pray and hope that you will make the decision to “flourish yourself” now, today, and each day moving forward. And I pray that I can continue to do this as well.

Why?

Well, there are many reasons for this prayer, but one speaks to me particularly strongly right now given the blatant disrespect for the lives of others that we see taking place around the planet.

If we can’t first make the choice to deeply nourish ourselves, then how can we possibly understand that every other herb, flower, and plant (i.e. every other person) in the garden (i.e. in the world) deserves deep nourishment as well?

How can we see the inherent beauty of others if we can’t see the inherent beauty of our own self?

A rose garden is quite beautiful, but can you imagine if roses were the only flowers growing on the planet?

We need diversity in our diet, our gardens, our lives…We are each a walking flower – a different walking flower – here to live out our beautiful existence and bloom into the fullest expression of ourselves.

And let me reference the comments shared above one more time.

“We wear colors because we flourish with the land.”

It is not about being a more beautiful flower than any other, but rather about celebrating your beauty as a way of thanking this infinitely generous planet that supplies everything you need to survive.

My heart is feeling very called to honor the sacred gift of life these days. I imagine yours might be as well, and it is my deepest hope that with a deep sense of humility, gratitude and honoring, we can each take the steps to flourish ourselves, and then, extend that same energy out to the lives of all others on this beautiful planet – so that we will all be able to dance, play, grow, and flourish together for many generations to come.

Jeff Firewalkers’s TEDx Talk