Today I took my sobbing heart to dig some earth
With each forward motion I felt my pain release into her rich and warm body
I played and felt and digged and squashed the black softness of her flesh in my hands
I caught myself smiling as I lifted some carrots off the earth bed and like orange lanterns they shone bright straight into my heart
The smell of nourishment entered my senses
I bowed all the way touching her in gratitude to the release of pain
As I was leaving my heart weighed less with sorrow and more with content
Today I took my sobbing heart to dig some earth
As a psychotherapist and a transpersonal approach practitioner the aim of my work with clients is to facilitate making ‘whole’ and help clients get back to themselves, get back ‘home’.
This time of year brings me closer to my roots, to my ancestors of birth and land. I begin communicating with and seeing them more clearly. My food changes according to how they had eaten and I occupy myself with activities, music, books that had been familiar to them. Most of those traditions are closely woven with nature cycles, seasons. My home and people carry nature in their blood. It is as natural to us as mother’s milk. All traditions and customs that we undertake every season is never questioned by anyone. They are observed in a way that flows very naturally between generations, genders and ages. There is this common knowing, understanding and love of nature. We are in a very close relationship with all things nature. Spirit, emotions, intellect and physical sensations can all be linked to our expression through a relationship with nature. There are references to it in literature, poetry, music and language is filled with a variety of descriptions of moods, changes and emotion-evocative experiences. Nature is a living breathing being for my ancestors and myself.
What happened to me five years ago was a shift, a push towards ‘home’, back to myself. I needed to get back to my roots from which I also needed to cut off for some time in order to survive and fit in. I had to start a process of remembering, re-integration, re-igniting of my knowledge, resonance and love of what roots and home meant for me. This journey also connected me to the land that I currently live on and through finding striking similarities in the landscape and the emotions that it evoked in me, that remembering of ‘home’ journey became very rich and fulfilling. The process happened with nature spirit flowing through me at all times. I connected to my roots through learning and remembering about trees, weather patterns, the elements, magic, plants, my love for certain things in nature and remembering and connecting who I was then and who I am now in terms of what spirit lives within me.
I am writing this after watching a wonderful presentation on ‘Identity and spirituality’ as part of my CPD and it reminded me of my own process of connecting with my roots and establishing a solid knowing and understanding who I am now through who I was then and the process of becoming and evolving. It is the process of finding what is at the centre of my being.
In my practice I feel passionate about working with both issues, identity and spirituality, and both are closely linked in making ‘whole’.
It opens up discussion about your beliefs on whether we are spiritual beings having an experience on Earth or are we human beings with a spiritual nature. It might mean the same to some, to others there are clear differences. It would depend on your own personal experiences regarding spirit and beliefs about life on earth and afterlife. To me, spirit is an integral part of who we are along with our other aspects or functions, cognitive, emotional, physical and all operate together and ideally harmoniously. However, where there is a lack of presence or distorting in operation in one or more of these functions then a ‘whole’ is disturbed. For example, a person struggles to express their emotions or their thoughts are distorted or they manifest their difficulties rooted in the mind or heart through the body or their spirit is asleep or remains unreachable or unknown. In my work as a transpersonal therapist I aim to bring a person into balance, and to get all functions/aspects operating together and in harmony.
This morning was one of those mornings when I felt my time was well spent. I was called to visit woods, a particular place I know well. Whenever I am called like this I always follow and I got in my car this morning open to what messages awaited me.
A smell of pines surrounded me on the way to the woods and a field of associations opened up in my awareness. Pines connect me to home, a land I was born in and another place where that association is often activated in is Scotland. I love pine trees and I am so familiar with the smell. While driving I craved to see them and realised that was one reason I was called to this particular wood and not any other. This is the only place where I can find pines in a particular corner of that forest I knew well and worked in before.
As I walked into the woods with confidence and anticipation I came across a broken pine branch straight away. I picked it up and put it against my face. The smell at this point was constantly around me and I breathed it in deeply feeling connected. I also felt not alone. It took me back to the days when I was young and mushroom picking with my parents and grandparents. I also remembered my encounters with pines in Scotland and Wales, thick, furry canopy in dark green against the purest blue of the sky. Soft carpet of fallen needles underneath my feet and that crunch of dry foliage and sticks that is so familiar to my ears.
And then there it was, a squirrel. It sat still at the foot of a pine tree and I felt energy going through me and tears coming to my eyes. Grandmother. Memories flooded in. My grandmother loved squirrels. She even had a couple of stuffed ones in her flat. I remember them vividly sitting on top of a television. I watched the squirrel and it watched me. I never before witnessed a squirrel be so still for quite some time. It didn’t run or turn just watched me before starting to climb a tree but slowly with shaking her tail in an interesting sort of way. I felt my grandmother near me as she often is. I the sat down on a stump and my granddad came to mine. I didn’t know him too well but I was around him a lot and have so many memories of him painting and care taking his wounded foot. It needed bandages changed every day and he would do it in this tiny stool, looked like a tree stump. I felt him around too.
In a distance I perceived a deer, vulnerable, soft and gentle, innocent and pure. My sister, I thought, and with a fresh breeze I observed a silver beech swaying her long green sleeves in a wind dance. The birch is a maiden tree to me and also strongly associated with my home land. My sister died young and was the sweetest soul.
Pine smell continued to be around me and it felt comforting. My relatives are buried in a pine woodland cemetery far away in Russia, Siberia. Three graves together amidst pines with rows singing their demands and moans into the wind. Don’t you think crows often sound like that they are dissatisfied with it all. I love them, very characterful and unashamed of their nature. My sense of smell took me to that cemetery once again, a place I remember well. I also had an awareness of my father currently being there and perhaps in the actual cemetery as I sat on a tree stump in England communing with ancestors in nature. I created an intuitive ‘grave’ collage on the ground and while in that space it felt like I was in the actual place.
They live within us and their ash fertilising our souls and make us grow with each breath and memory of that connection.
I have always associated deep sadness with the land of my birth, yet today I don’t feel it. They have moved on a long time ago and I have known about it for sometime. They are together, but also go on travels of their own to be with their own essence. It is a forever kind of connection like water or air that couldn’t separate itself from one another’s being. Even with letting go the memory is stamped forever on a canvas of their experience. They might become strangers over cycles yet there will always be a certain recognition on every encounter and there are many encounters throughout a life time, I believe.
As I was leaving I came across these three crosses amidst trees. They looked significant and made sense to me.
This Litha I am incorporating my ancestors’ altar into my main one for the first time. It feels right to perform a ritual in their honour around this time in June, around anniversary dates and what today’s walk taught me was that remembering my blood lines is to be included in my spiritual practice and something that is natural and within me.
- Genuine hunger – instinctual us, animal us
- Meeting an emotional need. Using food as something pleasurable to get away from something painful we are feeling
- Being stuck in a pattern, a habit, automatic behaviour associated with certain activities
This week is all about the body and I felt it would be useful to summarise some information on our relationship with food. I am reinforcing these messages for myself as much as for everyone else and I hope you will find it useful.
We all heard of binge eating, emotional eating, overeating, over-consuming on calories, mindless eating, etc. These are unhealthy patterns of behaviour, which we either do consciously with a purpose or unconsciously.
There is one way of eating, which is natural and the most helpful is to eat when you are hungry. When we are consciously aware and mindful of clues sent to us by the body, NOT our mind, indicating it is time to eat. When we know we are ready for intake of food, we need calories and there is a genuine need for nourishment on a physical level. It is when we know that if we don’t eat we might not ‘survive’, it is instinctual function for our body to sustain life through taking in some food.
The other two ways of relating to food are the ones to watch for. One is us using food as a way of making us feel ‘better’, that pleasure trap when we seek a relief from a difficult emotional state and wanting to feel pleasure and we do it through food. This is emotional eating. I know, e.g. in the past my emotional eating had been connected closely to grief. It works similarly with other habits, like smoking, e.g., which for me, again used to be a way to gain relief when I felt unsafe. Very specific emotions that I would need to release through using something else. Once you identify what it is that you are ‘running away’ from through inducing pleasure using food, then it is time to FEEL that emotion, allow it to be, having courage to be with that, as it is part of you.
One other reason we eat is through habit. Something that we keep on doing automatically to a point that we are not always conscious of, we simply do it when engaging with a certain activity. A good example is watching TV in the evening. Many would reach for food when watching movies, favourite programmes, because this is something that they have done over and over again for a long time, hence a habit is formed and the brain knows it is food time once you are on that sofa switching on your television. The first thing to do is to become aware of where you might be using food, in what situations and circumstances that you might have not realised. The only way to break that pattern is to learn to interrupt that behaviour consciously. Once you are aware, conscious then you can begin to stop it in its tracks. It is like changing a cycle, interrupting something repeatedly should rewire our habitual thinking or automatic actions into doing something else. This needs to be practiced again and again and there will be time when you will be able to watch television without overloading on calories. This would happen overtime through interruption of the cycle and engaging with activities that take you away from that pattern and from food. Do something instead for a period of time to give your brain a different message. Remove your association between watching a film and eating.
Now think of nature in all its presentations and with all its inhabitants and species. What stands out to you when you look to nature? With me it is balance, it is a beginning, a middle and the end. It is time for everything where nothing is rushed or delayed, where everything has its place. Summer doesn’t come before spring, flowers do not bloom in winter and the earth is not producing food when the ground is frozen. Nature teaches us that there is a system of elements that constantly working together to achieve an overall balance. Sometimes challenges are thrown in its way in a way of adverse weather conditions like floods and droughts, yet it recovers, it catches up and it continues to live. There is a force of survival and thriving for that equilibrium state where everything is just as it should be.
Now think of your body in the same way. Evaluate when it is the right time for you to eat, e.g. are you a morning eater? Are you more of a snacker or a bigger, more regular meal eater? What is your body’s preference and schedule for calorie intake? What feels most natural and nourishing? Do you follow your body’s natural rhythms or are you even aware of it? The goal is to bring your body into balance with your mind, your spirit and your emotional world. Is it in balance? What foods bring you joy not when you use it to avoid something else, but when you seek to give your body nourishment and enhancement in order to feel better?
My connection to nature and the earth has helped me balance out my physical and emotional enormously. Eating produce that comes from earth gives my brain a message that it is fresh, it is filled with water and sunshine and it is full of nutrients. It is good for me. Remember doing something enough times repeatedly can rewire your brain into knowing it is working and good for you. Start small with changing one or two things a week in order to increase your potential for balance in the body, add something beneficial or take away something that is not good for you. Small, steady and continuous steps.
Remember to get sunshine and rain water on your face, as well as feeling the earth with your bare feet whenever you can. Connect to the wisdom of the intelligent system that is nature, the earth and let its wisdom go into all areas of your life, your relationship with your body and food included.
As summer energy begins to spread through the land in its blooming attire we have an opportunity to come out, lay bare, expose.
Summer is a time for outer expression, exploring potential and examining inner and outer in its full spectrum. As nature steps into its blooming coat, so do we seek opening up and exploring. This is a ‘Full Moon time’ in its energetic signature, if you like, where things have built up within and without and it is time to show ourselves to the world and to ourselves, warts and all.
My trip to the island of Skomer on the Pembrokeshire coast in Wales made me see parallels between how nature comes into its full potential and how it is an opportunity for us to expose all that had been hidden, open up to a more authentic way of being. The insight came through my own experience of fully exposing parts of myself that might not seem favourable, ugly even, yet while in nature I felt it almost necessary to go with whatever was manifesting within and it felt safe. This experience was new and I suspect there will now be more chances for me to ‘show myself’ fully. I have been in ‘hiding’ during summer months for as long as I remember, yet, perhaps, the time has come to make changes in ways of expression and authenticity.
With exposure comes acceptance and an integration follows, which is an important part to bringing us back to whole, back to ourselves. Was I scared I won’t be accepted or be judged? In the moment I didn’t think, I simply was in a state I was in. I did and didn’t enjoy it, as one would expect, but with exposure and real experience comes such clarity and awareness, which is so useful. On reflection when an opportunity comes for an exposure so does fear for not being accepted for who we are. As a society certain traits and behaviours might be looked down on, but there is also a chance that people that you surround yourself with will sit through that ‘exposure’ with you and become curious about sides of you they might not have seen before. If they manage to hold the experience and still feel the same those are the people that are meant to be around you, furthermore it gives others an opportunity to do the same, i.e. becoming more ‘exposing’ of themselves, accepting of others and freer as a result. We are all dark and light, beautiful and less so, hard and soft and the ability to be present with it all makes us stronger in knowing ourselves and connecting even deeper with others. We often fear alienating others and seek to conform, hide and comply, but we all know what that feels like. Sooner or later all of our inner pieces that are yearning to be exposed will spill into an ugly mess.
I felt inspired watching nature in its most open state, in its full blooming capacity. Nature doesn’t think or waits to be exposed it just does it regardless every year. Summer is the culmination of that energy manifesting everywhere. With exposure comes danger, as beauty can be just as threatening as ugliness. On some level we are threatened not just by others’ beauty, but by our own. We often do not see or realise our own beauty and potential, so we remain hidden and silent. ‘Be brave’, summer would say, bloom anyway even when someone might step on our blooming heart or cut us down mindlessly without a second thought. The song we sing might be our last, as we take flight into the summer air, but sing anyway, the more beautiful the better. Exposure of the body, mind and spirit is so necessary and summer is a powerful time to explore ourselves in our most vulnerable, naked state. There is a potential to be fully empowered.
I learnt the only way to be authentic is just that – expose. Summer allows that space and a perfect opportunity to seek acceptance from within. If we can stand our own shadow energies, watch it unfold, manage to contain it post-exposure and still be ok, we become more whole. This process is of freeing ourselves from the thinking that is harsh and judgemental, often coming from within. Take inspiration from blooming flowers and singing birds, vulnerable, but free in knowing they are blooming even if just for a short time. Nature is accepting of itself, it is not critical, shy or seeking approval. It just is. What greater example is there of authenticity of being.
Not taking risks, avoiding what we perceive as ‘risky’ implies that there’s no freedom in our choices only a stagnant, familiar and constrained. Life imprisoned is like constant death anxiety. Surely the more death is feared the more we should embrace life yet we ignore it as if death is not present in life but something of a distant abstract idea, concept that is never to materialise.
Being free in life means being free in death, not afraid of taking a turn unconventional, perhaps, but something that calls us in the moment. Mistake, you say? That’s an instant regret about choosing freedom. That’s beating yourself up about having courage to live in the moment. There are no mistakes only a decision taken in the moment, a choice. How we take that turn is up to us. Will be go for it unconditionally and without attachment to an outcome, or cautiously with a degree of fear in the background. Both are valid to some extent and both are possible.
Images: Epping forest
An interesting memory was triggered within me accompanied by a powerful experience when having been out in the forest all day on a workshop I felt extremely unwell.
I began feeling it was too much half way through the day as my vision got fuzzy and I felt pressure in my head. I also found it difficult to connect to others while in nature.
The experience took me back to my childhood when I remember spending long days in a forest either berries or mushroom picking and just how exhausted we all felt afterwards. I experienced the same symptoms yesterday, bright red face with a strong headache, blurred vision and feeling very tired physically. Not a pleasant state to be in. Nature overdose. I am convinced it is possible and spending long periods of time out in nature amongst trees can really alter things within us and it can be a difficult adjustment, experience.