Training in mindfulness has been one of the best things I ever did. I still call it my ‘cleaning the glass’ moment, where I was finally able to remove the filter of worries and anxiety and see that the world was beautiful and natural outside.
Previously, I had a strong belief that I was no good, not quite worth it. It wasn’t a strong and overriding belief, but more of a quiet little critical voice, keeping me low, helping me stay in a place of mistrust and anxiety about what was happening for me.
I’ve done a lot of mad stuff over the years to try and shift things. I’ve sat on mountains for several days in one spot without food, I’ve walked hundreds of miles, I’ve kayaked across the Irish Sea, I’ve slept out in the open in freezing conditions, I’ve meditated, tried to meditate, felt like I couldn’t meditate, ACTUALLY couldn’t meditate and within it all I’ve felt some level of struggle, pain, resistance and, of course, fun (Type 2 fun, most of the time)!
For sure, I haven’t done a lot compared to many, but I try to look at my needs and follow that urge to go deeper. And although a lot of what I’ve listed above are outdoorsy ‘doing’ things, the reason for ALL of it is my own mission to be happy in my life, to feel satisfied and to explore the traumas and depression I carried with me for decades.
I consider this stuff all part of my inner journey. I am a person in the world, yet I have this whole massive inner experience I spent so much time ignoring through getting angry at other people and the state of the world. I am doing my best to contribute to the bigger picture, but at the same time I know that unless I explore my own inner world, I feel rubbish about the rest of it.
Life, for me, is in two parts – the inner and outer experience. We do stuff ‘out there’ and that affects us ‘in here’. I have to feel healthy inside, (and I’m not necessarily talking about food, here) if I’m going to have a healthy outlook. I have grappled with social conditioning, personal conditioning and judgement to get to a point where I feel like I can hold space well for others to explore theirs.
That is why I do mindfulness and nature connection stuff – because it’s worked so well for me. In my opinion we will never save the world – to me, even the very idea of saving the world is ridiculous – an overblown, egotistical fantasy, putting our redemption at some point in the future, when we have the right tech/attitude/people.
Changing the world starts within. It starts with changing our attitude to right and wrong, good and bad. It starts with actually looking at WHERE WE ARE NOW rather than some future place of ‘being saved’.
Don’t change yourself, be yourself. To me this means accepting who you are, even the shitty bits you don’t want others to see. You are not bad, you are perfect how you are. Everything is perfect.
We are fed layer upon layer of story about how we are broken and need fixing, how there’s stuff wrong with us; problems, addictions, mental health, threats to our health.
For so long I believed I was wrong, that things I did were wrong and that I was unfixable – that’s how I conditioned myself. Society was not in a place to support people to be themselves and see that they are OK, even with the hurt, the fear, the mental health problem. Social conditioning tells us we’re sick, the world is sick, that we are bad. Social conditioning tells us not to trust, that we will get hurt, to protect ourselves. Look where that got us.
My wish is for everyone to love and feel loved, to support and feel supported, to be in a space where they experience compassion, especially when making mistakes. I have made mistakes, I have hurt people, whether I know it or not. I wish to let that go, to let it be known that I was only another person trying to survive, in a society that often felt unsupportive and unkind.
I wish to grow compassion. I work on putting compassion into everything I do, and by doing that I am changing the world. The natural world needs love and connection and understanding by spending time there, in a quiet, open, connecting way, the people around you need love and connection and compassion by you being open. YOU need love and connection from others being open and compassionate. I need love and connection. It’s not reserved for a certain group, it’s for ALL.
We each have our light and dark side. You can have BOTH. Open up to both.
There is no such thing as a bad person. Open up to that.
Forest Bathing Day – 7th May Hebden Bridge
Spending time among trees makes us feel good. But did you know that there are scientifically proven reasons which explain why forest bathing (‘shinrin-yoku’ in Japanese) is so good for you?
During the 1980s, the Japanese government conducted research into why spending time in forests was beneficial. They concluded that focused time spent in a forest offered a range of benefits including improved blood pressure, concentration and memory.
They also discovered that time spent in a forest exposes us to something called ‘phytoncides’. These are chemicals naturally produced by trees which have an immune-boosting effect on our bodies.
Be With The Landscape
When we slow down we see that there is so much going on ‘in the moment.’ This day retreat will bring you that experience – together we will walk within woods, sit in relaxed contemplation, slow down and experience the woodland as never before – literally breathing it in.
For a chance to deeply relax and let go, join me in beautiful woodland near Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire for what will be a nourishing day.
Forest Bathing Day
Foraging and Grounding Day Workshop – 5th June
Connect with plants, place and the roots of experience.
On this one day workshop, join me and foraging instructor Leonie Morris to connect with traditionally used plants in a beautiful, supportive woodland setting, near Hebden Bridge.
Learn about plants, how we can use them for our well being and for food, whilst connecting more deeply with those plants and their setting through natural mindful practices.
This is a way to experience foraging and the plants themselves as our ancestors may have – with gratitude and reverence, taking into account our roots as farmers and foragers, who relied upon their appearance for both sustenance and maintenance of the wider eco system.
On this day we’ll allow ourselves to really connect with the plants, to sit with them and find which speak to us, opening up to the possibility of a deeper connection with the surrounding woodland, opening senses and, altogether, giving a fulfilling, grounding and connecting experience.
The day will include:
-Mindful breathing exercises
-Quiet solo reflection time
-Tasting wild plants and getting ideas about how to cook them
-Learning about plant folklore and medicinal uses
-Slowing down and noticing
Foraging and Grounding
Weekend Retreat 8, 9, 10 July Hebden Bridge
This is one for those of you looking to go a little deeper into nature connection.
A retreat over three days near Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, limited to 6 places only.
This will be a camping only (tent, bivvy or hammock) weekend, with full immersion in the outdoors.
Phones will be off (I’ll be the emergency contact) and you’ll have the opportunity to get away from the stresses and distractions of your everyday life.
There will be nourishing food, including locally grown produce – communally cooked and hearty conversation and sharing around the camp fire. The space will be held for you to explore what you feel will bring you closer to and change your relationship with the natural world. This starts by bringing you into a relaxed frame of mind, with grounding and connecting practices.
The key part of this weekend will be the ‘solo time’ – an opportunity to be alone in a spot of your choosing, where you feel safe, for a prolonged amount of time. This is an opportunity to slow down enough to perceive what’s happening around you in a new way and begin to develop a more wonder-full and child-like your relationship with the natural world. Solo time is a practice very likely used by our ancestors to mark rites of passage or some other significant event and it could also have this function for you.
The weekend will leave you feeling relaxed, connected and being more in a place of union with natural surroundings – closer to your nature.
Camping and all meals included
Weekend Nature Retreat 8, 9, 10 July
Starts 12pm on the Friday, finishes 2pm on the Sunday
Befriend Thy Brain
This is an 8 week course designed to get you to a place of acceptance, empathy, compassion and kindness
More info on this page https://endless-river.org/create/befriend-thy-brain/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Through the weeks we explore various practices which will connect you with your direct experience in the present moment, helping you to go beyond doubt, make stronger choices, increase your focus, appreciate the little things, be grateful and let go of long held fears and worries. This is a powerful course.
Where Mind Meets Nature 10th July 2021
On this day we’ll explore where mind meets nature, giving you a chance to slow down in a held space, in a beautiful piece of private woodland in the magical Calder Valley in West Yorkshire.
We will slow to the pace of trees, slow enough to notice where we are, to watch the busy mind, take it from the busy world for one day, and open up to what’s around us.
Combining mindfulness and nature practices, the space will be held to explore a deeper connection. We start with how we each interact with the world, planting our feet firmly on the ground in our own personal experience of ourselves, and our place in the natural world.
Inner and Outer Nature
The inner working of our mind can act to both collaborate and compete with itself, just as the underground networks of plant life and creatures do. We often have thinking patterns that pull us this way and that, (away from natural processes and) into the grip of unhelpful thinking habits. These habits can lead us to being distracted and feeling disconnected. It can be difficult to see clearly when we are living life this way.
All it takes is a little time to tune in, to give ourselves a break and let ourselves be.
Our minds can be open, it is possible to reconnect when we see that the only blockage we have to being open is with ourselves. We can work with our natural way of ‘being’, just as easily as being caught up in the thinking patterns that hold us back.
To reserve your place please use this link
To pay £60 for this retreat please use this link
Connecting with Stillness 14th August 2021
The Universe is always moving, and our body and mind are also always active in some way, yet we have this idea of stillness, this something that is unmoving, eternal perhaps.
On this one day retreat we’ll explore the idea of stillness and what it can bring us, when we take ourselves into nature.
Starting with simple, connecting meditative practices and movement, we’ll begin to slow the body down, to open to stillness.
Opportunity to Slow
Life is super-busy and on the face of it, slowing right down can feel impossible, especially when we’re in the thick of it. On this day, we’ll take our time slowing down, and exploring the many ways in which we can tune into our own version of stillness. We will experience this slowing in a natural place, a place where our vibe meets and mingles with the vibe of the woods.
Experiencing the possibility of stillness means opening up to a deeper part of our nature. Opening to both what’s around us, and what lies within – if we can accept the inner and outer as they are, without judgement – we are then connected. That’s where we will be heading on this day.
The space will be held for you in an open, non-judgemental way.
If you are willing to be still, to be open, your nature will open up to you. You have all the answers already, you just have to be open to the question “Do I want to be still?” The space you need is there for you.
To reserve your place please use this link
To pay £60 for this retreat please use this link
My daughter spotted it yesterday while we walked the dog in the hills.
Can we take it home and look after it?, she begged, and a conversation began. I suggested that in the wild this ‘deformed’ creature would not survive, that we shouldn’t take it home but leave it to its fate, in nature. It wasn’t our responsibility. I reasoned that this creature would never fly, never be able to feed itself properly or reproduce, so what was the point in our keeping it alive?
But we couldn’t unsee it and as reason gave way to heartfelt empathy, together we decided that we’d take it home. I thought of Aoife, of course. I was thinking about her the whole time, at some level. Aoife who was born with cerebral palsy, who never walked or spoke a word –she didn’t live as nature intended.
This is why any argument I could think of for leaving the little butterfly fell to the ground. The first thing that struck me was the callousness of my reaction. I was ready to step on that insect and get on with my day, saving me hassle of bringing it home and putting it in a box (so the cat wouldn’t eat it) with a tiny lego plate of maple syrup. What could I do to help that poor butterfly? Not much.
So, pondering my sister’s life in care due to her condition, I wondered what would happen with this butterfly, with its stunted wings, weirdly protruding almost burnt looking abdomen and missing legs. I noticed the language I was using and the thoughts I was bringing to the situation. How the creature was freakish, beyond hope, ugly, stunted, without purpose – a lost cause. How was I being so heartless?
I wondered what I was avoiding as I pondered my reaction – likely a very ‘human’ reaction – to this situation, yet all the same I was a bit taken aback by my own willingness to write off this weirdly-winged beast. I began to realize that this creature wasn’t as wacky as my attitude towards it.
It sat in the box; old, holey tea towel draped on top. It clung upside down to the tea towel, apparently resting. We dripped some more syrup on top to soak through. Maybe it would eat that way. It seemed fine and healthy although I was still worried about what I’d taken on.
Next day we’re in the kitchen and I decided to leave it free to see what happened, so I turned the tea towel around and let it sit there, but on top this time. A few minutes later my daughter spotted a butterfly at the window, a white on this time it’s inside! she called out, inquiring how did you get in here? and proceeded to climb up on the counter to catch it using the ‘cup and paper’ method – cup over the creature, against the window then slide the paper over cup top without releasing the captive insect.
That done, she let it out the door and peace reigned once more. Then my attention went back to our captive who, apparently had gone! I looked around for it on the counter top, in the box, around the box and then spotted it, stood by the door, waiting to get out. I was kind of blown away. We decided that its friend had come in to rescue it and that we should release it. The white butterfly came to show us that the other one didn’t need our help and distracted us while the ‘broken’ one made its way to the back door. My daughter put it outside in the little lush patch near the back door and we both felt satisfied that it didn’t need our help.
But it was fine, we gave it a go and some interesting things happened, which otherwise may not have. I got a chance to reassess the concept of imperfection and we had an interesting nature connection experience as well. In those moments I feel like a better listener, like I’m tuning in, not dismissing things but exploring them instead.
A moment with a perfect butterfly.
In these times I feel it’s more important than ever to listen – to ourselves and the people around us and to nature. We all have different needs right now and it’s a great time to practice compassion and acceptance. Everything is as nature intended – we are nature and everything we do is nature in action. The simplicity of being in nature can help connect us to our more natural state of openness and acceptance and help bring that to the forefront of our experience. I resist it a lot but when I open and trust it, I always learn a lot.
sometimes I realise that just under the surface there’s a monologue, a constant. close as skin, unnoticeable as breath.
a tale of strife or woe, like an eager captor, cracking the whip. or I’ve been wronged somehow, prevented from being at peace.
then I think ‘fuck, I’m crazy’ and then I may even worry about that.
sometimes that’s just life – a cascade of emotion, a flood of worry.
and there’s nothing wrong with that, that’s why I say it here, because I believe it’s not just my shit.
there is no cure but maybe just putting it here will help a little.
we want to be powerful, invincible – perfect.
this is as close to perfection as I can experience. to keep opening up to what’s there and to expect anything and everything
this is how I travel
when I’m with my girl
we go along and find
until I open my eyes
to what she sees
acid trip detail fascination
talks to birds
answers with grass
takes me to belief
I’m lucky to have an adventurous daughter. She shows me things. How to catch frogs and newts, noticing little, natural details around us.
She pointed out snail trails the other day – a network of shiny squiggles on the damp soil. All of these observations tell me something- about her and what’s important to her, and also about me.
When I’m busy I forget. I forget to connect and take notice – of the signs around me, telling me what’s there. I breathe in and know I can rely on my little girl’s noticings – things lockdown has helped her tune into whilst I, as a key worker have been immersed.
It may not have been possible for you to slow down during lockdown but perhaps your kids did, or your parents or friends. We can all learn from their slowing.
I listen to my little girl and hope I pay her enough attention – she shows me the snail trail – the way to slow down and I don’t feel as busy any more