It's happened at last – the first day of the ecosoul course I've been working towards publicly for four or five years, since the inception of my 'Ground of Being' days on Dartmoor at the solstices and equinoxes, and privately for – oooh – 4 decades or so.
I'm still assimilating the depth of the day on my friend Carrie's rich land in Cornwall (appropriate that the country of my birth would hold so beautifully the birth of this yearlong project, designed to begin just after Samhain, the birth of the Celtic New Year).
13 creative and interesting people joined me. One of the wonderful things was the diversity of the group, and the unique perspectives and contributions made by each. We were united in our sense that we humans need a different way to relate to the earth, and by our passion for this and for sustainability, and for work that has depth of imagination and soul, whatever the latter word meant to each of us.
This first day was to deepen our understanding of and our experiential relationship to trees and the tree realm – crucial to our survival, and taken for granted at best, seen as objects for our use or, worse, cut down because they inconvenience us, just as often.
I chose trees to open the course because – actually, I didn't. Trees insisted themselves into my imagination every time I thought about this course. It seems counter-intuitive to open an outdoor ecopsychology course with trees at a time of year when many trees will have lost their leaves.
In addition, it seemed a little crazy to offer this in cold November storms as an outdoor workshop. When I drove down from Devon early that morning, the weather was utterly filthy, with worse forecast. On the opposite carriageway, I passed an overturned car, and further along a 4x4 firmly wedged in and at right angles to the bank. Not for the first time, I wondered what I was doing.
However, part of the point of this course is to meet the natural world on its terms, not ours; and that means in whatever conditions are given us. Luckily for me, everyone turned up – some from a huge distance. Luckily for all of us – and Cornwall does this often – on the dot of 10am, practically, the start time, the sun started to dissolve the storms.
So the work outside could take place.
And what very beautiful pieces were created outside by the group; poetry of and to the earth in the form of shrines, or offerings to trees. I'll post some of the images another time (the ones here are mostly the unadulterated work of the land).
I'm still too close to the day to be able to talk coherently about it, and anyway I'm worded out.
What I can say, though, is that work that has depth to it will also bring challenges. This was as much the case for me as for some of the participants I spoke to after. It's hard to allow yourself to be visible; it makes one feel silly to think of creating a depth relationship with, speaking to, or for, trees, let alone in practise and in words, out loud. It's much easier to stay small, invisible, in our comfortable unchallenging creases, than to allow ourselves to be as large as we are; to live from soul in accord with essential spirit rather than according to the conditioned or prevailing spirit of the time.
So working outdoors in such a concentrated way was also to winkle ourselves out of the insulated comfort of our lives. We all, of course, struggle; we all have our sorrows. But here in the West we're fortunate; and each day we're alive is such a gift; easy to forget that.
And the day was such a gift. Carrie had put so much effort into making our day uplifting; the land is beautiful in all seasons; the weather and the hordes of sparrows and white doves in the garden helped; the trees were obliging about collaborating; and it's an immense privilege to work with people who will put themselves on the line in enquiry and exploration, with their imaginations and their hearts.
‘When there is the encounter with the other, when there is mutuality, when there is presence, when there is giving and receiving, and both are changed in that encounter, that is the moment when you can begin to move toward transformation.' ~ Richard Rohr
You can read more about this course here. I'm delighted to say I shall be leading a similar course in the Cevennes Mountains next September, a week after the creative writing retreat I lead there (the week in between can also be attended as an untutored writing retreat week, and there's a special deal if you sign up for both courses and this week). You can see more details here.
AND: for more comprehensive details of my forthcoming retreats and courses, click here. There are earlybird discounts on many of them.