Participants from October's Time to Breathe with Trees in Topiary Park
October marked my two year Survivalversary! Yes - I made up a word to commemorate the fact that I survived a life altering collision with a semi-truck in 2019. That time in recovery challenged every aspect of my being, especially my faith. I had made some decisions that changed the course of my entire life, so when I literally slammed into the back of a semi-truck, I had no idea where to go from there.
A year after I was in a physical rehabilitation facility with a broken right arm and dislocated hip, I was getting fitted for a beautiful floor length orange and gold embroidered skirt rehearsing my TEDx Talk about the Life Saving Power of Inspiration. I'm still in awe of how God took what was one of the most excruciating experiences of my life and transformed it into a testimony that inspires others to breathe through their pain.
Two years after the accident, October welcomes the manifestation of another vision I’d had - Time to Breathe with Trees. We gathered in Topiary Park for my first in-person breathwork session in the city. After offering breathwork via zoom for several months, it felt like the right time to turn the screens off and get some fresh autumn air.
Topiary Park carries a significance for me that I didn't explain in my introduction of Time to Breathe. On Saturday, October 5th 2019, I left an invigorating yoga flow session at Replenish Spa Co-op and decided to use Topiary Park as the back-drop for a self care video I recorded. After completing the video, I rehearsed my Talk for TEDxKLB 2019. I left the park feeling motivated and excited about this leap of faith I was taking onto the TEDx platform. When the accident occurred that night, everything changed, including my plans to present a TED Talk. However, the accident helped shape a message of hope that would take on a much greater hope than the one I had originally written.
Clearly, there was a detour that altered my intended destination, but did not distort my destiny. It ultimately rerouted me to the path I was purposed to be on.
It felt symbolically appropriate to host my first in-person, nature centered breathe session in the very place that carried so much significance. Many of my prayers and poems were cultivated in that park. Many of my tears soaked into the roots of those trees as I broke through the mental constructs that once limited how I connected with God.
I found that God's presence was just as potent at the foot of a tree as it was on the edge of my seat facing a pulpit. I could hear His voice clearly whispering my name in the melodious breeze as much as I could feel rhythmic excitement during praise and worship . I count it a blessing to carry church with me wherever I go, including outdoors - where it all began in the first place. Connecting with God in this way has been a critical aspect of my recovery, my healing.
So, on my 2nd Survivalversary, I selected the tree at Topiary Park that gently commanded my attention with its tall speckled trunk adorned with greenery planted at its feet. I lit incense to welcome the aroma of loving intention. And one-by-one, my fellow tree huggers showed up. Laying our mats in a circle, we connected in divine unity as we shared what we've learned from our personal encounters with trees - how trees teach us about stability, productivity, perseverance. It was beautiful being with people who spoke my language! "I'm not the only one!", I thought excitedly. I'm not the only one who appreciates the wisdom and comfort trees usher into our daily lives when we choose to notice.
I invited participants to find a tree to spend time with. Everyone communed with a tree as they reflected on the past in gratitude for every lesson and for our ancestors who have gone before us. One person crouched at their tree's roots. Another person wrapped his hands around a high branch and dangled in playful appreciation. There was praying, journaling, and even dancing in the face of these towering friends of ours.
When we returned to our mats, we returned to the breath, accepting the present as a gift that deserves appreciation. We concluded by affirming that we have faith for the future. Emotions stirred within us as the leaves danced against the wind. Peace rested in our hearts as we held our hands gently pressed against our chests, reassuring our inner selves with words of love and devotion. Every inhale, a harmonious receptivity of abundance. Every exhale, a declaration of freedom.
Honestly, as I reflect on this - hosting a breathe session in nature with my community was just as much a dream come true as standing on that renowned red circle at the Lincoln Theater giving a TEDx Talk. Life is teaching me that some of the most memorable and meaningful moments we may ever have are the ones that are never streamed on media platforms.
I think about the trauma nurses that showed me kindness, but whose names I don't remember. I give thanks for the friends who came to my bedside with cards, books, and comforting words who may not be as active in my life today. I recall the times in silent meditation and prayer that helped me through that season of uncertainty. Every quiet, uncelebrated, yet appreciated act during my struggle has led to this one moment that I am sharing with you.
It's those private unpublished moments, like the ones in reflection at the foot of a tree, that shape our lives. As you go along life's journey, even if you encounter detours and collisions, value every breath. Your life is a testament of faith, hope, and resilience. Your message is often buried in circumstances that will cultivate your breakthrough. Just as every tree is birthed from a seed, your next offering to the world may just be implanted in the soil of what you’ve survived.