‘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?
The intention behind all the Wild Ways work is to bring together our sense of enchantment, imagination and wonder with felt experience of the natural world and some psychospiritual exploration to re-vision our relationships with self, other (including the other-than-human), and the wild – as well as to produce new and inspiring pieces of writing (no previous skills needed in any of this). Think of it as creative ecotherapy-plus – the ‘plus’ being shifting our centre of attention from the needs of humans to include the needs of other species and the planet.
Time spent outdoors in natural, rural and ancient ‘thin’ and ‘edge’ places such as megalithic Dartmoor, the Isle of Iona, Brittany or West Cornwall and Devon with their coasts, and the French Cévennes mountains enables us to feel and deepen this sense of connectedness, and can offer us a lasting shift in understanding. As guide to your experience, it might help to know that I have lived in and/or know in some depth all of these places; some from since I was tiny, and my pulse beats to their rhythm.
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 soul and 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.
On some courses a fire-pit, the ocean, a stone circle or a waterfall pool take the stage. In Britain, as in Brittany where I also work, we have a very long spiritual tradition of relationship with the land, and our sacred sites are markers. Some of the workshops take place in such spots. We also make use of silence, slowness, stillness, and mindful walking (sometimes barefoot).
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.
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).
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 as well as a felt relational one, and a sense of deep meaning in relation to the earth and other species, coupled with a failure of imagination.
So 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.
Consistent feedback is that the courses offered here and on my FIRE IN THE HEAD website are transformative.
The Where & When
Please visit the other pages for examples of the kinds of courses I lead – increasingly these are weeklong retreats in wildish places in Britain and France, with occasional weekend or day intensives, such as the Imbolc: The Inward Flame in Devon, and Horse Medicine on Exmoor.
You can sign up for an intensive online course, or attend a week-long residential in Cornwall or the Hebrides. In 2018 I launched my new yearlong online Tongues in Trees course, and the 2020 one is beginning at the winter solstice 2019 (a few places available).
In November 2014, for the Celtic new year, samhain, 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 workshop, a vibrant and creative out door day, ‘Tongues in Trees’. For an exciting new WILD WAYS retreat week, see here.
… and The Who
All the work is informed by deep ecology. It’s been shaped by Jungian, archetypal and depth psychology, Zen mindfulness, my own work as a professional poet, author, and workshop facilitator, and my training in Transpersonal Psychotherapy. I’m a lifelong student of the Grail mysteries, and studied Celtic languages, literature and old texts at Cambridge.
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 shamanic/druidic British Mystery Tradition. (There is a sacred dimension to all this work, but it’s implicit rather than dogmatic.) I relate to the ideas behind the Dark Mountain network, and have contributions in several of their anthologies.