The first task I had when taking on this space was to clear the dead wood and brambles left to over grow for years .
Not an easy task but after a few weeks of steady perseverance, the majority of the thorns had been tamed . I’d pitched a little tea making spot beneath the elder and began to observe as spring brought a surge of growth to the land. What had been bare and barren and quite frankly looked a huge mess , began to transform before me into a beautiful woodland paradise.
It became clear early on we would need pathways to make getting round the site easier for people but also so wildlife habitat wasn’t being trampled on. It took a while to sit with the space and work out where best to place them. Some , like the path from the entrance to the compost to the meadow were straight forward and self evident. It was the how of it that started the first conversation with the land .
I wondered back and forth for days trying to work out what to use . Weed membrane? Wood bark ? Stone gravel ? Do i buy stuff in ? Card board ?
The answer came from the land itself as piles of dead sticks from last years flowers mounted up and as the dead grass and moss was raked to make space for shoots and new growth . “use whats here already”
And so the winding path beneath the willows was made of soft green moss and stalks . I continued it past the compost heap and towards the meadow. And then after a sudden spell of snow the sun warmed the land and the site exploded into its spring growth . The paths were overwhelmed and it has become evident that my initial reluctance to put down the weed membrane was not such a bad idea.
By not putting it down immediately I learnt 2 lessons- one that it was in fact a good idea and two that the site needs much wider pathways than I anticipated especially during summer ! I also got to learn why they need more room and the kinds of plants that the land is home too.
Nettle , thistle and common hog weed grow incredibly tall during summer if left unchecked. As do the grasses . They are all vital food and habitat for wildlife and sources of nutritious forage for people. And the site is abundant with them ! Its wonderful but also means it needs to be managed if people are going to access the site on a regular basis . And without weed membrane down the paths need clearing every two or three days . Leave it more than a week and they disappear beneath the green .
There’s something deeply satisfying in taking time to work with and negotiate with the land about what is done and when and why.
By allowing myself to go step by step guided by the space and the wisdom of the garden , by not rushing to impose a solution but giving the place time to show me how it grows I have been able to figure out not just what i need but what the place needs. What the wildlife needs. What the plants need. Where they grow , how they grow and how that effects how the space is used and becomes shaped.
It has allowed me to consider what kinds of workshops and activities might be best suited to here and what can be foraged and utilised for them . And what needs to be left alone . To grow . To keep the balance.
It also reminded me of how we build new neural pathways in our brain by learning new things and doing things new ways . The physical act of laying new paths in the outside mirrors the creating of new pathways within. And so it goes with permaculture. Undoing my human learning to do to , rather than with all beings not just the human .
As I continue to deepen the relationship to place and land it begins to open up and speak more. Nudging me here to do this and there to do that. Advising when to leave alone , stay away or come closer and help out. There are times I notice i am stuck internally and in danger of forcing things to happen and the wisdom of the land supports and offers its advice . To stop. Go home . Rest. Come back in a few days . Do something else for a while . And I do and it works. Things shift and move.
Nature can be harsh and unforgiving in its wildness at times but it is also very giving and patient and welcoming. It shares its abundance and its wisdom willingly . When we are able to listen and hear what it has to say and let go of our human need to control everything. Thinking we know best .
Since taking the site on in April my self and the land have been getting to know each other . It felt important not to rush in with my own ideas of what to do with the space . It felt important to settle in with the place and let it speak to me .
I check and ask its permission before doing anything. I have noticed that often after any cutting or clearing or when i have made a new area I leave the site alone for a while . It seems to “ enough” let me get used to it .
What is unfolding is a beautiful relationship between myself and space . Where boundaries are not just for people. Where vision and potential are part of a reciprocal relationship between self and other . Human and other than human.
There is a lot of negotiation and compromise and the land often has a much better idea of what will work where than I do . So I listen to it . I only work on what feels right to be worked on .. some days I just turn up , drink tea and listen to the bird song . And some times thats all I need to do . Sit. Listen. Ponder. Potter.
I have had a dream for a long , long time . A dream many others have of having access to land . Land I can get to know and work with . Land that I can practice my Wild Therapy , flower essences and shamanic work from .
Since setting up 3 years ago I have had various trials tribulations set backs and difficulties that often brought me to the “ should i just give up and let go of this” stage – was I just chasing a pipe dream ?
Was Space for nature ever going to find a place ? A home ? A base ? I have dreamed for years of a woodland space of my own – a little yurt , wildflower and herb beds – a place the tired and world weary can come to reset , recharge and relax with no expectations and no pressure. The place I needed all those years of struggling.
Not inside , not around too many people, in touch with the ground , plants , birds and animals. Somewhere i could offer my time to others in a healing capacity, a listening ear , a cup of tea .
It appears the world was listening and answered my call . I took a gamble on my dreams at the end of last year. I followed my heart with only a rough plan and some wild ideas to carry me and this week I got the keys to this beautiful space.
An unusable old allotment, disused for 19 years , over grown with Ivy and brambles and who knows what else!!
Its huge ! Its wild , its going to take a lot of work but I am determined to create a Space for nature – a community space on land that has been essentially abandoned and uncared for the past 19 years .
I feel a new beginning arising . A bloody big challenge but I can’t say I ever shied away from the improbable or the difficult.
I will need many generous , earth loving souls to support me . Many who will allow me through their support to realise an ambitious vision. People who have my back and wish to see me succeed .
I have land, I have a dream and I intend to gift it back to my local community so they will always have a beautiful place not far away they can feel they belong to. Where their dreams can have space to evolve and grow. In their own time . Where they can receive healing from connection to nature , to the wild , to each other .
I feel fairly grounded and certain I can do this . One tiny step at a time . In no rush. first is to go meet the land and get to know it . Work WITH it .
Strangely I don’t feel overwhelmed by it.
I’m going to start in one corner and take it a day at a time .
I’ve just returned from a beautifully nurturing, nourishing and wonderfully held Wild Therapy taster weekend .
It was lovely to connect in the flesh with real people during what has been an often difficult and isolating period.
My main role was fire tending and water keeping – keeping people warm and with brews and holding the observer position, part of the group,yet just outside of it. Noticing.
I often take sometime to commune with the land and the space and often receive poems to share during these times. This one was the one that came during this weekend. These experiences often rekindle a deep connection to the wilderness and the other than human that many people find deeply connecting and sustaining. They remember something. They make time for stillness, pause and reflection. And the wild works its medicine through all of them.
Listen to the voices of the wind.. Its medicine, You need that
Listen to the voices of the water Its medicine You need that
Listen to the voices of the fire Its medicine You need that
Listen to the voices of the land Its medicine You need that !
Go to the forrest and speak to them They are longing for your company
That tree you love so much ? Its medicine
That plant you are being drawn to That rock , that stone, that feather , its medicine, You need that !
The beetle longs to tell you the secret of its shell , The butterfly, the squirrel, the hazel tree, the crow All are waiting for you …
I often wander the woods near my home. Its a helpful place to go when I have a dilemma. The woods has lots of useful information to share if you know how to find it, if you listen , if you learn how to look for it , if you ask and it feels like sharing with you.
Its part of how I work with people in the wild wisdom I offer. Its a way of reconnecting to our selves as part of nature and a way of remembering how we used to know.
Its often a case of paying attention and letting your self be guided by the other than human. Sometimes its a case of wandering with a question in mind and seeing what arises as you go. What you encounter as you walk, what you see that might have meaning for you. Sometimes its about sitting still and not thinking at all.
As we have time now in lockdown, as 2020 takes a turn in an unanticipated direction, amidst the chaos and crisis its really important to allow yourself to stop . To slow down . To ground.
For those who can get out into nature in a garden , for a walk – now is a great time to bring in awareness of the other around you . For those who can not go out it is still possible to pay attention and notice what is occurring around and within you at this time .
To hear what your inner-self may be asking or needing from you .
To listen and hear what the land may be saying . The birds . The insects. The rocks. What wisdom do these others have for us if we stop to pay a little more attention?
When our connection to each other is being reduced physically- what does this offer us in extending our connection to other aspects of nature ?
How can a more tactile relationship with leaves and moss and stone alleviate our lack of physical closeness?
What tiny wonders can we appreciate in our living spaces ? the warm sun through the window ; how does that feel if we let it in ?
The breeze from an open door ?
The soft touch of a favourite blanket or jumper ?
How can we invite our senses and our tactile natures to be comforted and stimulated where physical contact may not be possible for some of us ?
Can we extend our contact to the other than human and through this enter a richer , deeper sense of connectedness and wellbeing ?
What ways do we have to meet our need for comfort when the usual ways are no longer available?
I am used to not having physical contact , for numerous reasons- that doesn’t mean I don’t miss it.
I have always gone to the land for comfort from being a child – it has always been my go to place.
It is always there . It is always waiting . It is always listening.
And I wonder how many will take the opportunity in these difficult times to turn back to the earth ? How many will remember earth as kin ? How many will seek out natures comfort?
How can we remain in touch with ourselves and our connections between ourselves and other at a time of separation and social isolation?
It feels like an invitation to recognise our non human connections- to remember that we are never truly alone. That we are always held in an interconnected web of life by numerous beings .
If we can allow ourselves not to limit the notion of togetherness to only people , we can find our way through loneliness and see and feel our interconnectedness to all of life’s sentient nature.
Your home is a being – spend time with it – ask it what it needs.
Your house plants are beings – get to know them – sing to them – spend time with them.
Listen to the birds – let yourself hear their conversations- what are they saying to one another ? This can be a fun conversation to have with children . A little bit of imagination and creative play .
Allow these little bits of time connecting to the other than human to flow into inspiration for stories , poems , pictures , projects .
In such an anxious time for many its the little pockets of whimsy and curiosity, the tiny moments of fun , the little ways of letting go of the usual “rules” that open up little doors to nourishing spaces. To new energies of hope and comfort.
We may not be able to go far . But the world is always here with you .
Find small ways of letting its beauty in.
Allow its presence to be with you , to hold you , to nourish you .
You are never truly alone. Nature is with you, always.
I am sat in my garden admiring the stillness and the warm glow of the rising sun as it peers over my fence and illuminates the lemon balm.
The sky is azure blue and cloudless and I sit in my hammock as the East is ablaze with a full round sun , blinding to gaze upon.
I am sitting with polarities. The polarity between grace and rage in these turbulent times . I am aware that I am aching to connect.
What I miss is connection. Connection with depth. The rich soul depth of true contact with another being.
I swim in rich internal pools of wonder and longing , naive and guileless, full of childlike wonder and innocence. I marvel at newly spun webs on the ash , the filaments of rainbow light that appear through cracks as I squint my eyes.
I am flighty and skittish – easily spooked. A foal finding her legs. I am often clumsy in the way I take to this body and its place on the earth. I often stumble about until something clicks and I can prance and throw my head as I skip and frolick , jerkily moving more life into my body and my limbs .Free yet contained and constrained by the physical limitations, a part of me confused as to why I can only expand to fill up so much space.
I can not be everywhere as I wish to be. I cannot fully touch the all that is . I can only anchor in a small part of this universe and it feels a little … uncomfortable …uncertain.
I am not sure if I like it or care for it much . It is alien to a part of me that has been to the sun and knows the cosmos as a brother. I feel estranged and forgotten and abandoned down here – where are they ?
They have left me with friends they say;
“With the trees and with mountain, with forrest and with hill
They will look after you.
With flowers and river and ocean, they will comfort you
With wind and with rain and with fire, they will welcome you, nourish you, revive you” they say , but still i am lost and my heart aches for the stars that are my home.
In the stillness of morning before the raucus caw of gul and crow and the quiet song of the morning birds, I hear the static of the atmoshpere warming as the Sun ascends on the horizon. I hear the fizz of atoms heating up. I feel the energetic shift from cool still night to dawning day .
I hear it crackle imperceptibly all around me . It’s this invisible sound that stirs and wakes my sleeping body each new day. Its magnetic pull that lulls me from the dream of sleep to the lucidity of wakefullness.
It leaves a heaviness , a sadness , of a soul returned to its box . I try not to let this realisation dampen my day but it feels like dead weight i can not bear to carry.
I look up and remember the sun , lazily surfacing over the rooftops and feel it lighten my being . I feel the joy and energy of life in my heart. Excitement and possibilities come to my window and invite me to play.
And I sit between the ache of longing for what cannot be and the joy of what can be created.
I sit between the darkness and the dawn wishing to be lifted back into the sun
Back into the earth
Back into the world
Back into life
And i carry with me both joy and sorrow
Belonging and loss
Fire and water
Strength and tenderness
Fear and courage
Hope and hopelessness
Grace and rage
And i take each day as it comes.
Touching into painful places ;I nourish them with warmth and light, courage and conviction, acceptance of what is.
Inhaling possibility, exhaling all that is done and gone.
Spending time in nature is not only good for our mental and physical wellbeing , its good for our soul. We were created to live in harmony with the natural world not to be seperated from it.
When you reconnect to this earth you belong too , you reconnect to a lost part of your own being.
Regular time spent engaging with the wildness of nature , observing its cycles , noting the effects of the weather , learning the cycles of growth and decay – puts you in touch with a much wider circle of life – it brings a greater understanding of our own innate being.
It allows you to become aquatinted with other. That which is other than human and to see how we are deeply interconnected to a wider web of living and life .
You begin to notice the similarities and differences in being and realise how diverse this marvellous creation called Earth, really is.
Thats why I trained as a Wild Therapist.
For me there is something that happens when we take healing connection outside and allow nature to become part of the process. Something profound takes place. Sometimes obvious , sometimes much more subtle – but things always move and shift.
Perspectives change. However temporarily. Room gets made for new connections. Space is created for exploration and enquiry , curiosity and playfulness.
We allow ourselves to drop deeper , tensions abate , breathing deepens , even in our raw edges and painful places we feel held by an invisible love.
A love we may not know yet. A love we may find hard to bare. But it is there.
The love from nature. Silently waiting for us to reach out to it .
Patiently waiting for us all to come home.
If you would like to explore this healing connection with nature in a therapeutic capacity contact Alexa at firstname.lastname@example.org or look at the Wild Wisdom page for more information.
You don’t have to go far to look for the medicine you need, its often right on your door step ,or in your garden. Its in those flowers that keep catching your eye and those trees you keep being drawn to sit beneath .
It’s in those plants in fields you dismiss as weeds and in the energy of the woodland or moorland you are drawn to visit .
I have always had a connection with trees and plants long before I trained as an essence practitioner , learning to tune into the needs of others to discern the essences that can best support them come back to balance .
I’m often suddenly drawn on a whim ( though not by accident ! ) to create an essence that helps address a particular state I happen to be experiencing. I’ll have got stuck usually and be lost as to how I can move forward so I turn to the nature kingdom and my guides and ask if there is an essence I can take to help . Sometimes the reply will be to make one as the one I need doesn’t exist .
Last Autumn Equinox I was guided to make an essence from the energy of this time of transition, in my own garden. The process actually started two days before the equinox itself but it was part of the alchemy of the essence .
It was a windy tempestuous day full of sun then rain and wind and hail and cloud then blue skies . I was given a process to follow and I did . I wasn’t even sure at first what it was for or if it would “work”, but those intentions became clear as the making unfolded.
The next day was so still even the clouds didn’t move . No leaves moved . No breeze blew.No sounds in the space at all . All the chaos of the day before had dropped into absolute calm. And I sat hearing the traffic around me ,the turbulence of the world out side my garden and marvelled at the stillness , presence and calm within it .
As time passed and I noted the subtle signs of the environment around me , the messages of the energy of the space and it became clear the essence is to support us find calm in chaos , balance in turbulent times , our center when we are scattered.
It’s medicine from the Earth. She has all you need to heal .
I have used this essence numerous times when things seem to be moving too fast or become too hectic. It helps to settle and bring inner calm and a centred space , clearing confusion and helping bring clarity. Its supportive during seasonal transitions or when there is a shift into rapid movement that can overwhelm or disorient us.
We can learn so much from our world if we take time to listen and follow our inner prompts .
Embodiment requires you to drop out of the head space ,the place of thinking and judging, observing and questioning, answering and processing external stimuli.
It requires you to drop down from the mind space and in to the physical space of the body you inhabit, the space of feeling and sensing. We can often believe we are in this place as it feels impossible to conceive that we are in fact existing outside of ourselves , in our thinking , in our heads , separated from our bodies by our minds.
I recently found a space , over a weekend , to be completely still for a prolonged period of time and in this time I journeyed inwards. It was a spontaneous decision that arose from wondering ‘what happens if I choose to do absolutely nothing ?’ So I followed the impulse.
I lay down and did nothing but consciously bring myself and my attention into my body. For several hours I came back into myself .
For the first time in nearly 2 decades I experienced a profound sense of contentment , a long forgotten yet familiar experience of oneness with myself and my environment. An echo of a memory of womblike safety and comfort . Nothing required of me , except to be . A blissfully euphoric experience.
I encountered many profound realisations in this place that I continued to process for several days afterwards – most notably my desire to return to that state and live within it permanently – followed by another realisation that it is not a state we can inhabit all the time in this world . There is too much going on. But it is a place we can visit and restore ourselves in from time to time .
On the one hand this was a very easy journey to make in and of itself , however its been years of work to arrive at a point where it became possible. The conditions just happened to be the right ones .
So I share with you here my journey , my Embodied Initiation. The poem is in 2 parts . The second part, Entering The Void will follow in my next blog .
Initiation Embodied- part 1
I drop down , down from the mind space ,
down ,down, down ,into the body space
and meet the numb indifference,
the pain, the anger, the sadness, the rage,
The fear, the anxiety, the empty spaces where ‘I’ used to be.
The hollows where ‘I’ used to feel .
The absences where ‘I’
I sense the breaks , the fractures, the rips in the fabric of my being and
I follow the painful and uncomfortable sensations;
The awkwardness, the restlessness,
the bruising and the stitches.
The aching and the cramping,
the heaviness and the stiffness.
The conflicting need to run and be motionless,
petrification and endless turmoil; flowing in,
only to be catapulted out again in fear,
in anxiety , in shock.
In shame , in guilt, in bitterness,
Back and forth between body and mind
I can anchor a sense of safety in myself.
I can find the part of me that is always standing strong .
Unshakable and present.
Until I trust this part is here for me.
Until it has proven itself to me a thousand times
and never let me down.
I keep coming back to myself , until all is well
and then I drop down.
Down , down ,down into the body
that I used to know;
that I used to feel;
That I used to love,
before it was broken.
And I drop down deeper ,
under the skin.
Into the abyss.
And enter the void.
(All words and image copyright The Well of Belonging 2018.)
Having had a short break from the computer to gather myself in and do some inner work to bring myself back to centre , I thought I’d share another of the artworks I created as part of the Journey cards.
This one , as the name suggests, holds the energy of the centre of the Sacred space, the place where all things meet in balance ,where all is connected and held in love awaiting the right time for its potential to become manifest . It is the space between the spaces, where all things come from and to which all is returned. In the medicine wheel it represents the element of ether , the place of spirit. A place of stillness and paradoxically movement from within.
I often visualise it as a cauldron with all the other elements combining to create a potent potion , the brew of inspiration that will bring forth new ideas and new perspectives or offer a space to drink of the healing medicine contained within it. A medicine that takes us on a journey, to a timeless place of limitless possibilities and allows us to glimpse the threads of the web we are weaving our lives upon. Where we enter the void of beginning and ending, dying and being reborn , in each moment , over and over again.
This is one of my favourite images, I find it very powerful and evocative for a number of reasons , non of which I am able to share.
Some of what we are shown and taught by our guides is not for others to know. Its is for us to keep and work with as we reclaim our inner power . To tell all abroad to others is at times to diminish the energy and medicine of what one has learned. Its called The Sacred Mystery for a reason xx
As those of you who have visited The Well of Belonging will be aware , I have a life long connection to and awareness of ‘Other’. That which is other than human. Land spirits, plant spirits, animal spirits. I have felt drawn towards exploring and discovering a deeper connection to the beings that co-exist with us on this earth and those that support us and work with us in the other realms.
A path that is often termed these days as Shamanism. Whilst I would say the way in which I work could be considered shamanic in nature , I do not and would not consider myself by any stretch of the imagination to be ‘A shaman’ .
Striclty speaking a true Shaman is one who is called by the spirits themselves , receives numerous initiations by them and is usually apprenticed to another in their lineage for a number of years before being allowed to call themselves Shaman. The spirits themselves decide if you are up to the job – one which is actually full of pitfalls and dangers and needs to be navigated with the utmost care and with full knowledge of what one is doing.
Shaman means ,one who knows. A shaman is often a well respected member of the community, whose life is dedicated to mediating between the human and spirit realms on behalf of both, to support the wellbeing of the place, the spirits and the people. To maintain harmony and balance for all concerned. You can’t become a shaman in a weekend. But you can utilise some of the practices, such as journeying, to enhance your own connections to your helpers, guides and teachers in spirit.
For a lot of people in Western cultures sadly, our connection to our native spiritual heritage was severed long ago with the advent of Christianity- and those who had the knowledge were either murdered or went into hiding. So we have had to patch together fragments from our oral history and combine them with borrowed practices from other cultures, likely to be similar to our own ancient practices and do our best to reconnect the threads of our spiritual and nature connected heritage .
There aren’t many who are connected to a lineage and most people, like myself are in effect taught through their relationship with their guides.
The majority of people in the modern world who are drawn to shamanism , those that aren’t part of an established tradition or culture, work within what is termed core shamanism- which is a set of practices gathered by western anthropologists studying other tribal cultures , that are utilised to help dissociated and disconnected westerners re-connect to their own innate capacity for relationship with beings beyond the physical , human realms.
One of the main ways of doing this that is often taught is Journeying. The prescribed method is to lie down , with eyes closed and listen to the repetitive beat of a drum and journey on its sound into the spirit realms of upper, middle and lower world. The concept and knowledge of these 3 realms is shared by all cultures across the globe.
You journey first to a beginning place , somewhere that has a familiar counter part to a place you know well in this realm. Then you ask for a guide to connect with who will be your helper and obviously , guide, around the inner realms. Time is spent forming a relationship with these guides before you are then ready to be taken to the access point for the Lower, Middle and Upper realms. Usually the most common presentation representing these 3 worlds is the World Tree. The roots represent connection to the Lower world. The trunk Middle world and the branches the Upper World.
Some people connect to this practice very well and very easily – but it requires an ability to be able to both be relaxed in body and mind enough to leave this world behind, whilst remaining conscious of what is happening, so you can bring back the information /healing you need. It is essentially dreaming whilst being awake.
But this isn’t the only way to journey , nor is it the only way to find or strengthen your connection to your own guides, helpers and other realms. Its a method I’ve found quite frustrating and difficult because it doesn’t always happen the way its described.
There is a big emphasis on the visual aspect of the journey and of seeing what is going on – but not everyone sees clear images of what is taking place.Some experience the journey as a purely physical event -with bodily sensations providing the information. Some see only colours or hear messages.
Every one is different and so it makes sense that we will each have our own method.At the end of the day the purpose is to learn to work with your own guides and helpers and not everyone is destined to travel between the realms this way . I spent years wasting time being overly concerned with getting it right , until I eventually gave in and accepted the fact that this way, may not be my way, and my guides and helpers will show me what I need to know , in ways that work for me .
Some people, like me , can’t travel to the sound of a drum beat , its too loud and intrusive for me to be able to relax enough. So I don’t bother with it . The drum beat is there to help you shift your brain waves from one state to another so you enter into a state of consciousness that is between waking and sleeping. But there are many ways of doing this.
Some people can do it at will , some do it with breath, some do it with meditation, some do it with rattles . I find silence and stillness quite helpful. Singing and chanting is another good way. Dreaming is another way of learning to journey.
One of the ways that works very well for me and no doubt lots of creative types , is though creating art. I find working with story, a very powerful way of journeying, that brings imagery and language together to bring awareness of what needs to be healed . Creativity using the imagination offers a way to connect with and bring back information from the spirit realms to this one. For many people, the creating of the art work is the Journey.
So here, I offer the second of the images from the Journey cards series , as well as a Journey Poem I have been given permission by my guides to share with you.
Old Mother Raven
came to my door ,
to tell me of wisdom and ancient law.
Dressed in fine feathers, with eyes darkest black,