Come and Sit with Us: A Lady Slipper Love Story
The lady slipper first activated my heart, as most of nature does, when I was least expecting it. This was just one of many lessons I would learn, starting with how to listen for the quality of her silent wisdom. Like every other creation, the lady slipper is a unique expression of divine intelligence, which, by overcoming the challenges of its own existence over millennia, results in a highly specific essence. What began for me as a childlike path of observation and study turned into a spiritual friendship, a feeling of companionship, comfort and inspiration. Finally, I realized what was drawing me towards the lady slipper was my own true self. Her essence filled the holes in my heart, reuniting the fragments of my soul so that I could more beautifully shine as an expression of the divine. This is, in truth, the very essence of the lady slipper, so let me now tell you our story.
I will never forget meeting this pair of lady slippers two spring seasons ago. Can you remember a moment in your life in which time seemed to stand still, to hold some significance yet to be understood? I have a mental photograph of the precise moment when, for no apparent reason, I turned my head to look up at a ridge where the lady slippers were growing. I marveled at their pink, delicate beauty in an otherwise stark landscape. I felt like a child in a fairy tale, discovering a rare treasure. I am smiling now as I look back on this moment of innocent curiosity, now that I know the lady slippers so well. They knew what was to come! They knew I would return a full year later, and that our relationship would heal and transform me.
May 11: Sure enough, my life brought me to a difficult turning point, and I dedicated myself to walking for two hours every day in the woods in order to make space to listen. I had forgotten all about the lady slippers, but they didn’t mind. They caught me by surprise a second time, resprouting in the same spot I had first seen them. Once again, I had the intuitive feeling that something sacred was happening, and I named their location Lady Slipper Rock, a place I would pass by each day, but only occasionally be called in to listen.
I knew they were going to teach me a new way of communing, hearing, knowing, remembering. Their sheer beauty drew me in to sit quietly. That was always their call: “Just come sit with us.” At first, I studied them like a scientist. I did some research on my phone right there in the woods, learning from naturalists, botanists, mythologists, and flower essence farmers.
The lady slipper’s flower essence is an energetic vibration that helps us discover our essence, our unique attributes and contributions to the world, our sacred piece in the puzzle of life. Yoga calls this dharma and, like the lady slipper, understands that our highest purpose is merely and powerfully to discover our highest self. I felt the lady slipper lighting me up, showing me that the path, as well as the destination of dharma, feels exciting, wondrous, beautiful, hopeful, magical; that it doesn’t need to be hard, and the effort required will flow easily at the right time.
This was just what I needed to hear. I had been working very successfully training Yoga teachers and running a yoga studio for 15 years, but I was bogged down in the administration of business and managing people. I longed for space and time to integrate all I had learned from my life, sensing a new direction for my teaching that would better serve others, as well as my soul. But all was uncertain. Others were not exactly happy with my decision, and I had no idea where I was going.
The lady slippers already knew. Their tune is like the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Yoga text, whose title means “Song of the Blessed One.” The unknown author of the Gita, like the lady slipper, shares wisdom to guide one gently and beautifully toward the true prize — reunion with the divine whole. And both do so with a quiet allure, and a repetition of themes to awaken our soul’s sleepy lull again and again with humor, patience and compassion.
May 14: To my delight, I learned that the pink lady slipper is not only an orchid, but also the New Hampshire state wildflower! Though this variety is not currently endangered, they have been given special concern status. They don’t transplant well, so although it is not illegal to dig up or cut them, they tend not to survive when taken out of the place in which they naturally seed with the assistance of adequate moisture and a symbiotic relationship with fungus.
I contemplated this while reveling in their sacred beauty one day, and I began to hear their message in my own mind. It feels strange to tell you they were speaking to me, but that is what it felt like. I heard, “You and all of humanity are endangered in terms of your soul.” As I continued to listen, they said, “You are very important, and the world will encroach upon your sacredness. Find a protected place, and you will grow for a long time.”
Once lady slippers find a protected space, which can sometimes take 16 years, they can live for 50! This information was a bit serendipitous for me, as my 50th birthday was approaching. This would be the first small seed of their greatest message over time: “You are we, and we are you.”
May 17: One day, walking head down and deep in my own thoughts, I was yet again called over to the lady slippers. I was trying to figure something out, only it was my old way of doing things — striving, planning, intellectual, goal oriented. I felt the lady slipper’s compassionate laughter at my folly. “Why all the running around?” they asked. “It is time to get to know who you are, and the essence of life. The only way to do that is to slow down. Come sit with us. Breathe and look around. Listen for your higher self and the greater beauty and wisdom of life.” When I do this in nature, I always receive what I need, often in the form of answers to questions or new revelations, or simply the awareness of how much I was struggling, irritated, sad or angry about something in my life.
It is no coincidence to me now that I would be called into a relationship with a plant with such obviously feminine qualities. At first, the lady slipper’s name, beauty and grace were lost on me, reflective of how out of balance I was with my own feminine nature. Even the history of her name would only later make sense to me. According to folklore, a Native American woman ran barefoot through the woods in search of medicine to save her tribe, and she was found collapsed in the snow. The flowers, which look like slippers or moccasins, grew to mark her bravery. For me, this story reveals the often undervalued strength inherent in the selfless, loving and life-giving quality of the feminine, while giving warning as well, to the perils of sacrificing too much. The lady slipper’s message for me, and our larger world, is one in which the masculine and feminine are in balance together, and in service to life and beauty.
May 19: The more I surrendered to the awakening feminine energy within me, the more joy and ease I felt. I pondered concepts like hope, which means “to believe things will get better.” I truly felt this hope. I thought about peace, which I realized was an ability to be with what is rather than resist or fight. I felt all these virtues with ease in nature. I was at my best there, without doubt, shame or fear. All was clear, and I was on my right path, frequently hearing the message that I was surrounded and “guided always and in all ways.”
I began to experience what I later called “heart infusions.” I felt an enormous and loving compassion rise up in nature, especially from the trees, and learned to notice the different emotions evoked by the pine versus the oak, birch, beech, and cedar. They, too, had specific essences to gift me and humanity. I soon was able to access these loving infusions in my home meditation practice as well. I needed only to remember its infinite source, and call it in.
By this time the lady slippers were in their full blossom, a deep shade of pink. They were bursting with their essence at the same time my heart was bursting and expanding with love and compassion for all beings.
June 1: On this day I spotted four new lady slippers in another part of the forest, which had successfully escaped the well-worn mountain biking trails. It felt like a party. They were grateful to be alive! They expanded my understanding of the essence of the lady slipper, as I considered the power of their words “thank you” and “yes.” They reminded me to say “thank you” to life more often, and even to experiment with using those words as a mantra. How might these choices to say “thank you” and “yes” re-tune our channel and determine the signal we receive from life around us?
June 2: As the lady slippers were in their feminine glory, I was experiencing the presence of a masculine guide in my home meditation practice, whom I later named “Holy Brother.” To my surprise, he embodied an enormous compassion and concern for my then-troubled heart. His energy said simply but profoundly, “I am so sorry for your sadness and pain.” I cried like I had never cried before, as though I was releasing all the small wounds of a life in which I had tried to please others, to seek approval, and secure proof that I was valuable and worthy of being here. This guide taught me what the divine masculine is all about. As I visited the lady slipper on this day, I felt him beholding her, devoted to protecting and honoring her divine essence. Shiva (masculine) knows that his power is nothing without the manifestation of Shakti (feminine). Like all opposites, one is not better than the other, but essential parts of a harmonious whole.
In Yoga’s cosmology, like so many spiritual traditions, Shiva, or God, first created an other out of, one might say, boredom and loneliness. What a powerful reflection on the most essential concepts — the desire to adore creation’s beauty, followed by the desire to enjoy that with another. As soon as the other was created, all the dualities were born, including masculine and feminine, as well as dark and light, happy and sad, etc. Along with these harmonizing opposites came free will — each creation has the freedom to diverge from or merge with God, for what satisfaction is there in requiring or forcing others to join with us? When it comes through freedom of choice, there is nothing more blissful.
June 3: The color began to fade on the lady slippers. Around the same time, I saw that a lady slipper in a different part of the forest had been run over by a mountain bike. Although I was deeply saddened by this, I also felt them teaching me the beauty of the life and death cycle.
In my recent experiences with my guide, I had contemplated the word compassion and loved its definition “to suffer with.” I found this concept so moving, healing and important in our increasingly uncertain and divisive world. An even deeper truth emerged — the more we expand our consciousness beyond the limitations of the mind and open to the unseen, the more faith and ease with which we can flow through life, accept the ending in its right time, and look forward to the reality we can’t quite understand beyond that. After thoughts such as these, I said, “Thank you so much, lady slippers.”
July 30: As I watched the flowers slowly crinkle, I was surprised to notice how strong their stalks were. My old brain had already tossed them aside as dead, but they were far from dead. They were in transition, just as our energy as humans shifts form in death. Upon closer examination, their large leaves at the surface of the ground were as vibrant and healthy as ever! I was somewhat disappointed in myself for not recognizing that they were so much more than their beautiful blossom. As the petals shriveled, their energies were redirected to the next step, once again with ease and grace, as they participated in the cycle of nature. We, too, are this strong. We, too, can flow with ease and grace as we align with the cycles of life’s natural rhythms. There is a time to burst forth and a time to let go.
August 7: On some of my walks, I passed right by the lady slippers without a thought. On other days, I felt their energetic pull to come and sit. What was this all about? A friend called this phenomena “land energy spots.” Perhaps you have noticed that certain areas in nature are like magnets to your soul? Is there a reason you are called to these places, to better hear your soul?
I had long been observing that I talked to myself on my walks in nature. Because I received such beautiful counsel, I began to feel as though the trees were holding this conversation with me, or at least providing compassionate ears and energetic embraces. In time I realized it didn’t matter who I was talking to. I was always talking to a version of my higher self, my God essence; the part of me that was completely awakened, was talking to me from a different timeline and dimension. Whether I heard this wisdom from the trees or from the lady slipper, both were aspects of my soul being reflected back to me. So were all the others — rock formations, birds, plants, insects, animals, weather patterns, human relationships and world events. It was a mind-bender, but also felt like a great secret to life. This is the power of interconnection, of the truth that all is one. The wisdom we need is right there in front of us, ready to guide us back to the harmony of the whole.
October 17: On this windy fall morning, the blossoms were dry and brown, the stalks remained strong, with a beautiful layering of fallen leaves all around their base. Again, I was amazed at the strength and beauty that remains when we are stripped of all we think we are.
One of my favorite human teachers had told me, “As soon as we have let go of all that we are not, then we are truly capable of being our whole selves.” What are we not? As the lady slipper tells us, any thoughts that are not celebrating our beautifully perfect divine spark are not of our essence. For most of us, this looks like feeling bad about ourselves, questioning our worth, seeking approval from others and the outside world, fearing we are not good enough. How do we let go of all that we are not? We see it for what is. We look at it with courage. We feel it in our body and breath, and let the light of consciousness transform it into new strength, just as the layered leaves around the lady slipper create the fertile ground for next year’s growth.
November 23: As I passed by the lady slippers on this day, I said, “Hello, my friends,” but I did not hear their call. As I walked on by, I noticed a flicker of light shining on a leaf behind them, and it looked like a small hawk feather. I walked closer.
The hawk is one of my spirit animals, teaching me how to live in the world and also in the heavens at the same time. They remind me that I am a spiritual being having a human experience. As I walked closer to the small hawk feather, I realized it was only a leaf, and I laughed. This, too, was a lesson from the lady slipper. Though the feather did not even exist, its energy came to my mind, and the lesson was received. In case I had forgotten this important point, lady slipper was reminding me that we are constantly being reflected back to ourselves, through our wounds and our wisdom, through that which draws us in with delight, and that which triggers our darkest self. Our Earthly existence is continuously turning us back toward the light, toward our center, back to who we really are, back to who we’re meant to be.
Seeing the hawk leaf in my mind was just the key to unlock the wisdom. As I reflected on it, opening my mind to receive, I was curious about its small size, as well as how feathers have come to be important signs of angels, of flight, lightness, elevation. What occurred to me was that maybe in these challenging times, we could feel comfortable being the little hawk feather. We don’t have the answers for other people or solutions to the world’s problems. But as we connect to our life purpose, our highest self, and be that in the world, it’s like we’re scattering little feathers that people find, that shine a light for them, help them take flight. Maybe these little feathers that fall, and gently, mystically, carry people into the next thought, help them arrive closer to their spiritual being. Maybe we can feel really good about being those tiny little hawk feathers.
December 21: With snow on the ground and very cold air, I noticed a very different energy from the lady slippers. Their message was one of stillness, pause, and being. It opened my heart with a profound reverence. I felt an overwhelming presence of the unseen world, including Jesus, the angels, and all my spiritual guides. The wind of consciousness picked up, and the trees, including the baby hemlock, waved their hands as though saying, “Pick me! Pick me!” They were offering to continue being part of this awakening, and the beginning of something new for our world, as we heal from our wounds and rediscover our connection to all that is.
December 28: Like all of nature’s wisdom, the lady slipper’s essence is ready to fill our hearts with what we most truly desire — reconnection with our soul and our sacred purpose in the world. This queen of the forest knows that first we must find compassion for ourselves. She sits patiently, shining light on the beauty inherent even in our wounds and darkness, helping us let go of all that we are not. From this release and flow with the cycles of life, she reminds us that thoughts and action are most holy and profound when combined with joy, ease and grace. The lady slipper is a spiritual companion, helping us to awaken our knowing that friendship is not only our fundamental yearning, but the only path to rediscovering our soul’s interbeing with the greater web of creation, including the ever-abiding and loving source within us.
Thank you so much, lady slippers.
Julie Rost has been a yoga teacher and yoga therapist since 2000. She currently offers spiritual mentoring and private yoga therapy as well as a weekly newsletter to share the wisdom of yoga and the natural world with the general public. To receive her newsletters visit https://www.julierostyoga.com.