A few days ago I spent a couple of hours walking in the magical old growth redwood forest known as Muir Woods just north of San Francisco. The serenity and deep peace of this forest was amazing in spite of the many people who were there. The further into the forest I walked away from the welcome center, the less people there were and the quieter it got. I was lucky to find myself alone in the powerful silence for a few minutes and take in the majestic ancient presence of these magnificent trees. Their girth and height are impressive, to be sure, yet when you tap into their energy, you feel their presence as much as you see it.
The largest of the trees in this forest are more than 600 years old. Walking in their midst, I experienced a sense of wisdom and knowing. These trees have weathered storms, fires, and humans, and yet still stand tall, strong, and proud. Their trunks are scarred, gnarled, and stripped of bark in some places. Even the giant trees that have fallen continue to hold a powerful presence. Whether standing or on the ground, these trees remain pillars of strength and wisdom, reminders that the ancient world continues to live and be present among us.
While certainly not everyone in the forest was tuned in to its wisdom and majesty, some were. As I walked along the path, a fellow explorer quietly pointed out a Northern Spotted Owl perched on a branch about 50 feet away and well camouflaged in its surroundings. I spent several long minutes with the owl, yet another symbol of wisdom. There are not so many of these particular owls left. It is hard to put into words what was happening inside of me in the presence of this magnificent bird.
There is much to learn from life forms that have survived and even thrived over so many hundreds of years. The “learning” is not just about specific knowledge. It is also about presence—how we choose to show up to life every day. The presence of the redwoods is beyond words. I have experienced the same awe and power in the presence of the Austrian Alps, standing beside the Sphynx, sitting under the stars in the Western Desert of Egypt, walking the beach at sunrise, flying over remote canyons along the Napali Coast of Kauai in Hawai’i, and so many other places. You have no doubt had your own powerful experiences with nature. This is the heart of presence—something that is beyond words yet incredibly palpable. And this presence can be transformational. Something happens inside of us when we allow ourselves to be held in that presence. And that something opens our awareness to a bigger picture and a greater sense of oneness with all that is. As we embody that awareness and transformational presence, we carry that energy into our relationships, families, jobs, and communities.
Nature and the ancient world have much to contribute to our understanding of transformational presence. Opportunities to tap into this presence through nature are all around us. We just have to pay attention. And when the occasion comes that we have the chance to experience amazing places like Muir Woods, it is so important to pause and take the time to really be there, to take it in, to spend some time alone with this powerful presence, and drink it in. It can feed us for a long time. It can open new doors and windows of perception and understanding. And it can help show us the way toward creating a world that works.