Getting lost in a forest

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Getting lost in a forest evokes fear that is tangible and real, but it also brings a sense of freedom, potential for adventure and exploration. It brings in hope into being that the right path will be found sooner or later. We all need to get lost sometimes and to find ourselves again.

Today was such a day when I got lost in a forest for the very first time. I couldn’t help but wonder whether that was exactly what was needed. Experience mimicked my state at the time precisely when I felt a bit lost within and struggled to obtain guidance with my inner compass in a bit of a shutdown mode. I don’t think my navigation wanted to work in that moment, come to think of it. It stayed shut down on purpose to let me get lost in order to find something.

Trees all around me spoke of potential today as I entered this particular grove. It called me this morning and without hesitation I went, as I always do. I stood amongst trees delighting in the fresh air and bird song overheard. I felt that love, connection and peace that nature brings and solitude that is so sweet to my soul. I walked off the path, like always do and it was when I had to make a ‘crossing’ that I realised I was getting lost yet that particular road I had to cross. I walked intuitively and intentionally away from places where people could be. I needed to feel through a place, its colours and textures. I needed to hear mud under my feet and feel moisture of tree bark against my face. Most of all I needed to be alone to hear my own heart beating and feelings surfacing as natural as water coming to shore and retreating back into the ocean again. I needed to walk in rhythm with my own breathing, undisturbed and aware. Never before had I got lost, but today I did, however it sprung a door open within me, the awareness of fear, doubt, worry and all those emotions that take us away from ourselves yet connect us to ourselves and inner resources at the same time.

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It was all good, all useful to feel and experience. As I spoke to myself trying to find a way back I carried the inner knowing that all would be good at the end. I had my own back, I was with myself and that was enough. It was good enough, I was good enough. Trust, faith and understanding of what something means or trying to tell us is awareness. It is all in connection all of the time. That road, trees, my feet, body, voice and emotions worked as one, inseparable, in one motion of being on one afternoon. Collaboratively it all leads to something, which is neither good nor bad, but rather both and it is all ok.

Invigorated by the experience I settled into my car with a spark in my heart and I felt complete and grateful. I felt looked after by myself and by the forest around me. A feeling of potential spread all through my body and I inhaled deeply the feeling of spring coming. New hope, growth and planting the seed of what’s to come.

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Walking into spring

Imbolc, meditation walk in nature

I went outside and was met with a cold wind on my skin and a bright sun reflected in my hair. I squinted towards the light and took in the wind’s cold embrace into my face with pleasure. I exhaled all I no longer wished to carry.

When I walk in nature I always find I begin to breathe properly, deeply, slower, more aware of each inner and outer breath. I stop, close my eyes and feel into my body, as nature surrounds me. Birds’ wild swooping above my head and a distant calling of their comrade wakes me up into my walk again. I begin slowly and steadily on my path, through some farm fields and into a wooded area. I become aware of a chant, as I carefully watch my steps and feel pressure against the earth with delight and embodied knowing. The chant becomes louder mud, sticks, stones and trees; mud, sticks, stones and trees. As I repeat the words I am completely and fully aware of where I am, who I am, what I am doing and my breath has never been more profoundly present. I close my eyes again and stand still for a minute continuing reciting the words again and again and with each in-breath I feel full of life. I also become aware of my body in a way that it carries me every day. I am grateful for my legs and feet that allow me to be in nature whenever I feel like it. A grounded walk is all I ever need to come back to myself.

It’s just passed Imbolc and the air is filled with hope and anticipation. Everything around us is waking up, yet everything is still, about to move, about to sprout, but not just yet. It is pure joy and excitement. I love early spring and begin to crave some warmth and softness of soil in my hands, as I begin to plant seeds in my garden. Every year with the arrival of copper topped trees that unveil in the landscape I see Brigit with her red hair. She is singing and calling in the birds for a dance. Young, free and beautiful she plays amidst trees in pure knowledge of her own divine force and power to bring creativity into our new spring and support us as this new cycle begins. Soon everything will explode in ecstasy of spring and with a fragrant fresh air we are reminded there will be light, warmth, harvest and bounty to be had in months to come. She stands in the middle of the woodland grove in white and green clothing cupping a white candle. She sings and bows to trees, then sits down to play a tune on her flute and writes a poem with a goose feather wand. I observe in reverence and silence and my own heart is filled with immense gratitude, peace and authentic energy of myself being here and now, in this moment and that is all there is and it is utterly beautiful. A blessing, indeed!

Memories in the snow

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I woke up from a dream of being back in my Siberian land. Dreams that take me there are always set in winter. Most of my childhood and youth’s significant events happened in winter and amidst snow and remain the most memorable to this day. Sledging with friends in freezing temperatures when we couldn’t feel our faces, hands and feet, yet incredibly happy and full of joys of childhood. My first kiss, awkward, yet warm and sweet. The day I let him go also took place in the middle of winter with me crying in the bright light of street lamps and snow sparkling all around us. I remember my blue mascara running down my cheek as if it was yesterday and the smell of his winter coat as he pulled me close to his chest. I remember his heart beat as we said good-bye.

I recall ice-skating with my father and falling into the deep snow, up to my waist, in the wilderness forest. We laughed a lot. Another kiss takes me back to a sacred place where memories stand still and not just my own, but for the whole nation. Wearing white hat and mittens in a cream coloured coat I was deeply in love.

As I walked to the window this morning I was greeted with a snow-covered garden and land beyond. Beautiful. It continued to snow all morning and I decided to go into the forest for some nature and elements communion. I always feel it is such a raw, spiritual and necessary experience to immerse yourself in the elements be it rain, snow, sunshine or wind. Each element awakens something within, touches upon places that need to be visited to remind us of what is essential and where we are in life. Crunchy under my feet I found snow and pure white landscape stretching ahead taking me further into my memories and on a journey of seeing and feeling things I hold dear to my heart. Memories flooded in like a bitter-sweet river and looking around me I smiled also feeling a smidge of sadness in my heart. He is long gone, but what he left is a place within me that is unconditional love and to this day I carry it inside and always will. Forest was noisy with splats and swooshing sounds of snow falling off branches. Many trees were bent down under the snow weight touching the ground. I stopped and breathed it all in. I miss him still and I remember everything like it was yesterday. Sadness filled my heart, but it is no longer grief or longing, it is settled and contained, warm and alive. It is love, forever.

Walking with ancestors

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This morning was one of those mornings when I felt my time was well spent. I was called to visit woods, a particular place I know well. Whenever I am called like this I always follow and I got in my car this morning open to what messages awaited me.

A smell of pines surrounded me on the way to the woods and a field of associations opened up in my awareness. Pines connect me to home, a land I was born in and another place where that association is often activated in is Scotland. I love pine trees and I am so familiar with the smell. While driving I craved to see them and realised that was one reason I was called to this particular wood and not any other. This is the only place where I can find pines in a particular corner of that forest I knew well and worked in before.

 

As I walked into the woods with confidence and anticipation I came across a broken pine branch straight away. I picked it up and put it against my face. The smell at this point was constantly around me and I breathed it in deeply feeling connected. I also felt not alone. It took me back to the days when I was young and mushroom picking with my parents and grandparents. I also remembered my encounters with pines in Scotland and Wales, thick, furry canopy in dark green against the purest blue of the sky. Soft carpet of fallen needles underneath my feet and that crunch of dry foliage and sticks that is so familiar to my ears.

And then there it was, a squirrel. It sat still at the foot of a pine tree and I felt energy going through me and tears coming to my eyes. Grandmother. Memories flooded in. My grandmother loved squirrels. She even had a couple of stuffed ones in her flat. I remember them vividly sitting on top of a television. I watched the squirrel and it watched me. I never before witnessed a squirrel be so still for quite some time. It didn’t run or turn just watched me before starting to climb a tree but slowly with shaking her tail in an interesting sort of way. I felt my grandmother near me as she often is. I the sat down on a stump and my granddad came to mine. I didn’t know him too well but I was around him a lot and have so many memories of him painting and care taking his wounded foot. It needed bandages changed every day and he would do it in this tiny stool, looked like a tree stump. I felt him around too.
In a distance I perceived a deer, vulnerable, soft and gentle, innocent and pure. My sister, I thought, and with a fresh breeze I observed a silver beech swaying her long green sleeves in a wind dance. The birch is a maiden tree to me and also strongly associated with my home land. My sister died young and was the sweetest soul.

Pine smell continued to be around me and it felt comforting. My relatives are buried in a pine woodland cemetery far away in Russia, Siberia. Three graves together amidst pines with rows singing their demands and moans into the wind. Don’t you think crows often sound like that they are dissatisfied with it all. I love them, very characterful and unashamed of their nature. My sense of smell took me to that cemetery once again, a place I remember well. I also had an awareness of my father currently being there and perhaps in the actual cemetery as I sat on a tree stump in England communing with ancestors in nature. I created an intuitive ‘grave’ collage on the ground and while in that space it felt like I was in the actual place.

 

They live within us and their ash fertilising our souls and make us grow with each breath and memory of that connection.
I have always associated deep sadness with the land of my birth, yet today I don’t feel it. They have moved on a long time ago and I have known about it for sometime. They are together, but also go on travels of their own to be with their own essence. It is a forever kind of connection like water or air that couldn’t separate itself from one another’s being. Even with letting go the memory is stamped forever on a canvas of their experience. They might become strangers over cycles yet there will always be a certain recognition on every encounter and there are many encounters throughout a life time, I believe.

As I was leaving I came across these three crosses amidst trees. They looked significant and made sense to me.

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This Litha I am incorporating my ancestors’ altar into my main one for the first time. It feels right to perform a ritual in their honour around this time in June, around anniversary dates and what today’s walk taught me was that remembering my blood lines is to be included in my spiritual practice and something that is natural and within me.

Summer and exposure

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As summer energy begins to spread through the land in its blooming attire we have an opportunity to come out, lay bare, expose.

Summer is a time for outer expression, exploring potential and examining inner and outer in its full spectrum. As nature steps into its blooming coat, so do we seek opening up and exploring. This is a ‘Full Moon time’ in its energetic signature, if you like, where things have built up within and without and it is time to show ourselves to the world and to ourselves, warts and all.

My trip to the island of Skomer on the Pembrokeshire coast in Wales made me see parallels between how nature comes into its full potential and how it is an opportunity for us to expose all that had been hidden, open up to a more authentic way of being. The insight came through my own experience of fully exposing parts of myself that might not seem favourable, ugly even, yet while in nature I felt it almost necessary to go with whatever was manifesting within and it felt safe. This experience was new and I suspect there will now be more chances for me to ‘show myself’ fully. I have been in ‘hiding’ during summer months for as long as I remember, yet, perhaps, the time has come to make changes in ways of expression and authenticity.

With exposure comes acceptance and an integration follows, which is an important part to bringing us back to whole, back to ourselves. Was I scared I won’t be accepted or be judged? In the moment I didn’t think, I simply was in a state I was in. I did and didn’t enjoy it, as one would expect, but with exposure and real experience comes such clarity and awareness, which is so useful. On reflection when an opportunity comes for an exposure so does fear for not being accepted for who we are. As a society certain traits and behaviours might be looked down on, but there is also a chance that people that you surround yourself with will sit through that ‘exposure’ with you and become curious about sides of you they might not have seen before. If they manage to hold the experience and still feel the same those are the people that are meant to be around you, furthermore it gives others an opportunity to do the same, i.e. becoming more ‘exposing’ of themselves, accepting of others and freer as a result. We are all dark and light, beautiful and less so, hard and soft and the ability to be present with it all makes us stronger in knowing ourselves and connecting even deeper with others. We often fear alienating others and seek to conform, hide and comply, but we all know what that feels like. Sooner or later all of our inner pieces that are yearning to be exposed will spill into an ugly mess.

I felt inspired watching nature in its most open state, in its full blooming capacity. Nature doesn’t think or waits to be exposed it just does it regardless every year. Summer is the culmination of that energy manifesting everywhere. With exposure comes danger, as beauty can be just as threatening as ugliness. On some level we are threatened not just by others’ beauty, but by our own. We often do not see or realise our own beauty and potential, so we remain hidden and silent. ‘Be brave’, summer would say, bloom anyway even when someone might step on our blooming heart or cut us down mindlessly without a second thought. The song we sing might be our last, as we take flight into the summer air, but sing anyway, the more beautiful the better. Exposure of the body, mind and spirit is so necessary and summer is a powerful time to explore ourselves in our most vulnerable, naked state. There is a potential to be fully empowered.

I learnt the only way to be authentic is just that – expose. Summer allows that space and a perfect opportunity to seek acceptance from within. If we can stand our own shadow energies, watch it unfold, manage to contain it post-exposure and still be ok, we become more whole. This process is of freeing ourselves from the thinking that is harsh and judgemental, often coming from within. Take inspiration from blooming flowers and singing birds, vulnerable, but free in knowing they are blooming even if just for a short time. Nature is accepting of itself, it is not critical, shy or seeking approval. It just is. What greater example is there of authenticity of being.

 

Forest overdose

Images: Epping forest
copyright RawPagan

An interesting memory was triggered within me accompanied by a powerful experience when having been out in the forest all day on a workshop I felt extremely unwell.

I began feeling it was too much half way through the day as my vision got fuzzy and I felt pressure in my head. I also found it difficult to connect to others while in nature.

The experience took me back to my childhood when I remember spending long days in a forest either berries or mushroom picking and just how exhausted we all felt afterwards. I experienced the same symptoms yesterday, bright red face with a strong headache, blurred vision and feeling very tired physically. Not a pleasant state to be in. Nature overdose. I am convinced it is possible and spending long periods of time out in nature amongst trees can really alter things within us and it can be a difficult adjustment, experience.

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My sacred woodland

Across the road from my house there lies a woodland. It is a short pleasant walk into what is a sacred place to me. At first sight it might seem like nothing particularly special, big or of any significance, yet to me it means everything. It is a sacred crucible, which has been holding my pain and joy, ecstasy and turmoil and provided a solid presence and acceptance for many years now.

The way I would describe it in a way of imagery is a circle of greenery, it is a round shape, not too big, positioned slightly more to the left off the path although it stretches to the right too with a path running all the way round it and across it. It inhibits the lives of many oaks, holly trees, silver birches and smooth-skinned beeches. There are many hidden groves within the woodland where one cannot be seen from any of the paths and it feels like one is in a safe hold of the forest floor, trees above and plants all around. I often feel hugged by my guardian trees and most of them I can climb in between, as they stand in clusters. There is a brook running through the middle, small, narrow, but very alive with vibrancy of the crystal clear water.

In spring the woods change its flooring to vibrant purple of bluebells and the smell stretches all senses in a delicious dance of delirium. The joy is indescribable and it takes my breath away every time. In summer it is near to impossible to go off the path due to overgrowth of ferns and brambles and the air is so still I can hear my heart beat. I hold my breath in surrender to the cooling shelter that it provides amidst the heat of summer days.

In autumn it is very pleasant and paths yet again begin to open up for accessing all the hidden little groves, beginning to invite us slowly into the heart of the woods and our inner worlds. Here I cocoon myself for an hour or so doing magic or simply lying on the floor merging with the earth. There is a notable chill in the air, but so refreshing and, of course, the golden attire of trees never fails to get me to the floor kneeling before its majesty. In winter it is bare in all its glory and I can see the most intricate silhouettes of trees entwining their branches and huddling together against the wind. Stunning in their nakedness they stand strong in their vulnerability.

This woodland has been in my heart for many years and witnessed my process intimately holding all my secret heart desires and painful experiences. I never once left this place without a resolution, an answer or a transformation of some kind. It works every time. It is my trusted teacher, friend, guardian, counsellor, mother/father, the divine. It is something I can’t imagine my life without and its vibration has been aligning with my own for many moons whether it was performing my nature spells, meditating, talking to trees or spending time in close embrace with the earth smelling and feeling the glory of its body and soul. It might be a simple woodland, yet to me it is sacred and precious.

I now intend to take other people on soul quests through this wonderful place where I hope they, like myself, will find resolution, understanding, healing and transformation. I offer OUTDOOR therapy for clients in the UK, Uxbridge area.