Finding our place in Nature

wilderness

If you dig down deep enough, fear is at the root at a lot of different issues.

Maybe you haven’t learnt to drive a car yet because you’re afraid of causing an accident.

Maybe you haven’t quit your dismal job and started your own business because you’re scared of failing, looking like a fool, losing all your money, and/or ending up homeless.

Maybe you haven’t got out of your toxic relationship because you’re scared of being alone, or of the consequences of leaving.  Or maybe you haven’t got into a relationship in the first place, for fear of getting hurt.

As I’ve discovered, the groundwork for understanding the true nature of fear and learning to work through it is, quite literally, to ground yourself in a natural environment.

When we re-ground ourselves and reconnect with the Earth, we find our way back to Love with a capital L – a Love that isn’t dependent on a particular person continuing to support us, be there for us, or make our dreams come true.

The ‘Love beyond all names’, as the Song of the Healer puts it.

This process is at the root of ecopsychology and ecotherapy, although the exercises that I teach aren’t ‘therapy’ in the conventional sense – they can be used by anyone, with or without mental health difficulties.

That doesn’t mean it’s an easy or comfortable process.   The nettles and thorns are just the beginning, and even the potential for disease-ridden ticks or venomous snakes isn’t the end of the story.  When we’re out wandering in the wilderness, we’re alone with ourselves.  We’re unprotected: away from all the distractions that keep us numbed and dumbed, like TV, overwork, overeating and social media obsession.

So the very soulwork that helps us to face our fears is, in itself, fundamentally scary for a lot of people.   Taking that first step is hard to do, without help.

My new e-course, Doing the Groundwork: Getting Ready for Major Life Changes, starts with a small, manageable step that most people probably wouldn’t expect…

Finding your place in nature.  

As before, I’m talking both literally and metaphorically.  You’ll find an actual place in nature that you can go to.  Preferably not the wilderness, in the first instance.  A tree in your garden is ideal; or if you don’t have a garden, maybe a hidden corner of your local park, or the bit of waste ground behind your office.

If necessary, you’ll take a deep breath; tell a friend where you’re going; and take your mobile phone (in case you get stalked by a creepy pervert), your water bottle, your emergency first aid kit, and a pen to poke in the eye of said pervert while kneeing him in the groin so you can make your escape.  And then you’ll turn the phone off, and start to realise that the Sacred Land has its own song:

Bring me your troubled soul, and I will make you whole,

For as you walk the ancient tracks you will attain your goal…

 

The cart opens for Doing the Groundwork on Monday 4th September.  In the US, it’s Labor Day.  In the UK, it’s the first day of the autumn term.  Summer’s over, holidays are done.  It’s time to get back to business.

So give yourself a chance, remind yourself that the Warrior Maiden is still there within you, and take that one small step.  Click this link to pre-register for the course today, and receive a notification e-mail as soon as registration opens…

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Doing the groundwork for healing

fallen leaves

As I’ve shared in previous posts, the heroine of my novel is told, when everything’s fallen apart, to ‘get up from the floor and go to Beckery’.  It’s the same place that she’s been dreaming of going to for a long time, but the circumstances have completely shifted.

She thought she’d be going there as the heroine, bringing the Sacred Flame to the nuns (she’s come from Ireland with more than twenty lanterns, so you’d think she might have had a chance at success…) and winning the patronage of the King.  Instead, she gets there in a complete and utter mess, covered in blood, and without a single lantern.

All she’s got left is the memory of a few encouraging words from her pilgrimage guide, who’s now several hundred miles away and doesn’t even have a phone.

Doesn’t have a phone?  At all?  What sort of a weird, improbable scenario is THAT? 

Welcome to Anglo-Saxon England – whoops, sorry, Wessex.  (I’m sorry to break this to the English nationalists who have been making a big fuss about me marrying an African guy, but in the seventh century, there was no such place as England.)

Needless to say, things can only get better – at least for a while.  This isn’t A Series of Unfortunate Events.  (Although I do love those books!)

When Brianna finally arrives in Beckery, she embarks on the long process of recovery, with the help of an underground movement that offers hope and healing through the so-called ‘Nineteen Songs of Reunion’.  The secretive Fellowship is deemed heretical by the Catholic Church, and its members are liable to be burned, along with their manuscripts, if the Bishops discover their existence. One of the reasons is that, just as the real-life Gnostics and Essenes did, they spoke about the need for balance and equality between the Sacred Masculine and the Sacred Feminine.

It’s not just about the equality between men and women in a literal sense, although that’s one crucial element.  It’s also about the need for balance between Heaven and Earth, giving and receiving, light and darkness, sun and moon, focused action and gentle nurturing, courage and compassion, God and Goddess, Sacred Masculine and Sacred Feminine.  And, most radically of all, it suggests that if we reach that point of perfect balance, we can all become Christ-like.

It might not sound controversial to us now, but at a time when women weren’t even allowed to speak in front of men in the Church, the importance of the Sacred Feminine wasn’t a message that a lot of people wanted to hear.  And the seventh-century clerics, like the Inquisition leaders who followed them several centuries later, certainly didn’t want people thinking that they could find the Divine spark in themselves without the help of a priest to forgive their sins.

The message of the Beckery Fellowship is that you can’t just love the light and hate the darkness.  (That’s what we now call ‘spiritual bypassing’, although they wouldn’t have used that term!)  You can’t go through your whole life looking up to Heaven, and forgetting about the Earth that you walk on, and expect to be made whole.  You can’t love summer and despise winter; you can’t celebrate the new growth in spring without also celebrating the fall and decay of the leaves in autumn.

Compost matters.  The Earth matters.  Dark moon matters.  Women’s menstruation matters.  Night matters.  Rest matters.  And sometimes you have to wander in the wilderness for a while, in a literal as well as a metaphorical sense, in order to find your true source of courage, hope and healing.

As the Song of the Wilderness Wanderer explains it:

The path I walk is a path that is waking me,

Stung by the nettle, scratched by twig and thorn:

The path I walk, I don’t know where it’s taking me,

All that I know is new dreams are being born.

With open eyes and ears I wander the wilderness,

Losing myself until I find the One who knows…

 

We can’t make major changes in our lives without doing the groundwork first.  Getting out into nature is a crucial first step, but it isn’t the only thing that we need to do.  We also need to unblock our creativity, build a strong and supportive community around ourselves, and then, slowly and gently, start turning to face own emotions…

 

Walking back to happiness?

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When I came back from Tanzania, I was a mess, which isn’t exactly surprising.  I’d walked away from my marriage, my extended family, my community, my business, my projects, and the land I loved.  All I’d brought back with me was my daughters, two suitcases per person weighing less than 20kg each, and an entire plane-load of emotional baggage.

My life was transformed, little by little, by consulting a spiritual counsellor who told me to go out walking and start re-rooting myself in my own ancestral landscape.  (She told me a lot of other things as well, but I’ll save those for future blogs, as they’re too important to squeeze into a paragraph.)

The work I’m doing now has all evolved from that point, but takes it a few steps further.  It’s based on the realisation that just walking the Land isn’t enough in itself, although it’s a great start: we need to learn specific skills if we’re ever to find our way home again, in this crazy society that we’ve constructed for ourselves.

There are actual strategies that we can use for observing the Land, breathing it in, meditating on it, encountering it, experiencing it, singing its songs, making art with it and about it, and having conversations with it and about it.

All this is `second nature’ (literally) to intact Indigenous communities living undisturbed on their ancestral lands, of which there are now sadly few left – but it’s almost disappeared in contemporary Western societies.  And when we lose our connection to the Earth, our Mother, we lose a crucial part of our own souls.

That ‘soul loss’ is at the root of all our fear and loneliness.

I’ve really struggled with creating, building, and marketing my business, and the main reason is that I’ve had a hard time working out who my ideal client is, and what my target market is.  Why?  Because reconnecting with nature, creativity and community can provide a foundation for fixing most of the things that are wrong in most people’s lives in ‘modern’, affluent societies.   This stuff is valuable for pretty much everyone.

I’ve already been working with Travelling Light, a coaching program to help people lose weight and let go of the emotional baggage that keeps them stuck in patterns of overeating, stress and poor sleep.  But in response to some of the people who have been commenting on my blog, I recently had another ‘Aha!’ moment.  So now I’ve settled on a title for my first online group coaching program.  As anyone who was reading last week (or has managed to get their hands on a copy of my New Moon Newsletter) will know, it’s going to be called Doing the Groundwork: Getting Ready for Major Life Changes.

The program, opening for enrolments on 4 September and launching on 21 September, will be relevant to anyone who wants to overcome weight and body image issues – whether it’s emotional overeating, anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia, or something different – because all these are rooted, in some way, in fear.  Fear that we’re wrong, and not good enough.  That we’re losing control over our lives.  That if we don’t use food as a distraction (either the eating of it, or the not eating of it) we might have to start thinking about the really scary stuff.  So, as the theory goes, if I can help you make it easier to handle the really scary stuff, the food thing loses its importance.

But it’s also open to people who don’t have a particular issue with their weight, which I don’t, but want to make a big change in their lives, which I do.  It might be overcoming an addiction, learning to drive, starting their own business, getting over someone, or publishing that book.  Oh dear, I seem to be able to tick ALL those boxes…

Addiction: Check, I’m a recovering workaholic.

Learning to drive: Check.  Or at least passing my driving test.  Six attempts and counting. (For those of you who wonder how I actually function as a human being without driving a car, I live in the UK.  We have public transport, even in the middle of a forest.  As long as it’s not a Sunday, or a bank holiday, or after 7.30 pm, or any time around 3pm on a school day.)

Starting my own business: Check.  (But aren’t I doing that already?  Erm, moving on…)

Getting over someone: Check.  And no, I’m not giving you any more details.

Publishing that book:  Check.  Yes, that book, the one that some people will hate me for.

Argh, I have a TON of groundwork to do!  Hmm, if you want to learn something, teach it…

We all have something that we’re afraid of, that’s holding us back from becoming who we were meant to be… but before we can even start facing it, we need to know that someone or something, somewhere, is going to catch us if we slip.  Which we will.

Nobody but an idiot walks a high wire without a safety net, especially if they’ve never walked one before.  So ‘Doing the Groundwork’ is going to be all about finding strategies that can help us feel safe enough to make those big life changes.   I’ve dropped more than a couple of hints already, but here they are again:

Reconnecting with nature…

Reconnecting with your creativity…

Reconnecting with community…