The Wild Ways
soul, the natural world & the ecological imagination
I don’t think we have an imagination apart from the environment . . . And I don’t think we have an existence apart from the environment either. And if the imagination isn’t about our existence, I don’t know what it’s about. (W. S. Merwin)
The ‘tired’ conversation – the old paradigm – is that of ‘man (sic) vs nature’. The conversation we need so urgently concerns interrelationship of human and all other species as peers within the great web of nature. Nothing is more important, I believe, than re-visioning our place in this web that holds us all.
‘The Wild Ways’ is an ecopsychology project designed to help re-establish a heartful and strong relationship with the natural world, as well as with our own imagination and the lost, forgotten or conflicting parts of our inner lives. It’s something like: how might we live with depth, creativity and connectedness, honouring all, including and especially the other-than-human, in a society and era in which dissociation, fragmentation and damage seem the norm?
The work happens through courses and workshops, and through mentoring. Most of the work involves direct experience outdoors, and all the workshops involve aspects of creative and reflective writing, but you don’t need to be a ‘writer’ to come along. (My other more writing-based website is fire-in-the-head)
The first workshop of my new WALKING THE WILD WAYS year-long course has just happened, for Samhain, the Celtic New Year (November 2014). 14 of us came together in a vibrant and creative outdoor day for ‘Tongues in Trees’.
For an exciting new WILD WAYS retreat week, see here.
The land is a constant companion and collaborator. We make use of silence, slowness, stillness, mindful walking (sometimes barefoot) and writing. We work with story, poetry, sound, discussion. We listen to the land, pay attention to Other and remember how to be fully alert with all our senses, including the non-physical ones. Along the way, the animals, birds, plants, trees, rocks and weather patterns co-create or shape our experience. And we remember, too, how to play.
Humans are tuned for relationship. The eyes, the skin, the tongue, ears, and nostrils–all are gates where our body receives the nourishment of otherness. This landscape of shadowed voices, these feathered bodies and antlers and tumbling streams–these breathing shapes are our family, the beings with whom we are engaged, with whom we struggle and suffer and celebrate. (David Abram)
Relationship is our natural state. And yet loss of heart and alienation seem to be widespread experiences in our frenzied consumer society.
What would it be like to live from deep soul, and in accord both with our creative essential nature, and with the natural world, aware of interrelationship and interdependence as felt experiences? If we knew, really knew, as Chief Seattle famously said, ‘The earth doesn’t belong to us; we belong to the earth’? How can we re-imagine our relationships?
Time spent outdoors in natural, rural and ancient places such as megalithic Dartmoor, the Devon and Cornwall coasts, the Hebrides and the French Cevennes mountains enables us to feel and deepen this sense of connectedness, and can offer us a lasting shift in understanding.
We work with the seasons, the elements, the directions and the seasonal cycles of the turning earth through the compass of the Celtic year, and in all weathers – and with their correspondences in our lives and our imagination.
These workshops re-immerse you in ‘the old ways’ and stories of the land and its inhabitants, and by offering you certain tools help reconnect you to lost and hidden parts of yourself, to your imagination and creativity, and, importantly, to the shared heart of nature, the ‘ground of being’, where briefly we may move beyond the separate disconnected self into world soul, anima mundi.
Increasingly we see how inner and outer overlap and amplify each other, and how we might integrate them and remember our place in the web of being.
This is very much a ‘felt’ experience. The workshops draw on aspects of contemplative, creative and bardic practice, returning us to the wells from which we sometimes forget to drink. Imagination and observation are brought together. We aim, too, through poetry and myth, storytelling and play, to catch some of the fire of the elusive spirit of awen, ‘fire in the head’ or ‘inspiration’ in the Celtic tongue, and use writing to explore and express our experience in whatever words have been given to us during the experience, alive and thrumming. On some courses, land art features.
I also offer this and variations of this as individual mentoring work, exploring your relationship to land, place, the other-than-human, soul and imagination, using writing to record, explore, process and express this. We can work by email, Skype or sometimes in person. Please ask!
I believe that underlying our current ecological crisis is the loss of a spiritual connection and a sense of deep meaning in relation to the earth and other species, coupled with a failure of imagination. This work is in service to fostering a deeper relational connectivity to our beautiful fragile planet and the cosmos, as well as to our inner lives and increasing consciousness.
The courses and mentoring offered can restore a deep sense of re-connectedness, renewal, and inspiration through the creative powers of the imagination, as we explore the soul of place and the place of soul. Constant feedback is that the courses offered here and on my FIRE IN THE HEAD website are transformative.
The Where & When
You can come along to a day workshop on Dartmoor, the Westcountry coasts or elsewhere in the UK (‘Ground of Being‘), sign up for an intensive online course, apply for individual mentoring, attend a weekend retreat, or put your name down for a week-long residential in the Hebrides, Devon, or France.
In November this year, 2014, for the Celtic new year, my long-promised year-long intensive in-person Wild Ways group, incorporating work I’ve previously called ‘The Grail of the Heart’, began (this will also be available as a solo quest). You can read about WALKING THE WILD WAYS here; and you can read a blogpost about the first day, ‘Tongues in Trees’.
The Who & the Work
All the work is informed by deep ecology. It’s been shaped by Jungian and depth psychology, Zen mindfulness, my own work as a professional poet, author, and workshop facilitator, my training in Transpersonal Psychotherapy. I also bring to it a lifetime spent outdoors in rural West Britain and a wide knowledge of and passionate affinity with the plants, trees, animals and birds we encounter, plus what have been described as eco-bardic ways from the British Mystery Tradition.
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Freedom. It isn’t once, to walk out
under the Milky Way, feeling the rivers
of light, the fields of dark –
freedom is daily, prose-bound, routine
remembering. Putting together, inch by inch
the starry worlds. From all the lost collections.