I was a child of the woods. My father and his brother dragged me along on all of their adventures, whether camping in the deep woods, canoeing the lakes and rivers of Minnesota, blazing trails with clippers and saws, or just sitting in the speckled sunlight dancing through tree branches. My dad told me that I was the one that named our first piece of land “The White Woods.” It was a simple but extraordinarily beautiful 40 acre wooded land in the heart of the Smoky Hills State Forest. It was full of brilliant birch, bright white connecting the green foliage to the blue sky.
It was here, in the Smoky Hills, that I learned how to be with myself in absolute silence. My father taught me to observe life around me, without impacting it, without wishing to change it. Just letting it be in all its glory -- just as it is. Life - death - the constant changes around me, including my own transformation over the years from child to adult.
The forest is different now. For many years the birch died off and The White Woods were darker. Then, the birch and aspen made a big come-back and the brightness has returned. Like my White Woods, I have also made a come-back, returning to the homestead of my late father, to step into the vision he had of me stewarding this land, and teaching the next generations of LaFleurs to love it as much as he did.
I am different now. I return after a wild career that led me to foreign lands, extending aid to others. When I was in need of aid myself, I was too deep in my ego to ask for it. So, I suffered in silence and neglected self-care and self-compassion. Discovering a practice of meditation brought me back to myself - placing me as an innocent child sitting under the birch, playing with a pine cone, observing the smallest bugs’ delight on the breeze once again.
It is in this spirit that I have launched the Smoky Hills Insight Meditation community. While many who join us will not directly experience the Smoky Hills State Forest, the connection with our natural environment and the teachings and practices will translate to wherever we find ourselves. So, I invite you, just for a moment, to sit among the trees and deeply listen. Feel the connection to all of life, without asking it to change for you. For everything is already in motion.