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.
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.
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.
I’ve heard a lot of people talking about how during these times nature has been a great bolster and inspiration.
I want to share some cool ways I’ve learned which have brought me more into relationship as part of nature, and changed my outlook from feeling sad about how we use nature as a resource to how I can feel part of it and even give back in a meaningful way.
I’ll be sharing practical and accessible ways to connect, whose side effects can be feeling more at ease in general, looking at our resistance and how we often ‘think’ we know better and what a feedback loop that can be. Nature can really help to show us a different way of experiencing things.
I’ll be bringing in the mindfulness work I’ve been training in and teaching, along with nature connection practices I’ve learned and the work I’ve done in local food over the years which has involved building relationships and systems where people work together. We will also explore how to feel like we’re making a difference in the world – and for me that all begins with connection.
There will be time alone in nature and time with others, gently immersing ourselves in a supportive, calming environment.
Please share this with someone you think would like it. I really believe in the need to connect and build connections with nature and others, now more than ever.
Suggested price is £150, including food and camping.
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
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