Recently I went to mid Wales and had the joy of walking up Cadair Idris on a hot, clear day (on the short and steep Minnffordd path in case you're interested). It was in a whole week of hot dry weather - not really what I expected in Wales - these kinds of days when the climate disaster and biodiversity catastrophe feel full in my face.
I want to say that I can make a difference; I want to know that each action I take, and have taken, will add up to something. That all my recycling, composting, growing veggies, eating less meat, having holidays in the UK and driving a little less are helping the Earth to deal with all the ways that I and other humans have messed things up; specifically taking fossil fuels out of the ground, burning them and creating CO2 and heat, lots of it. And not to mention all the pesticides and 'poor' farming practices that put profit - and humans - before everything else. Oh, and all the creating of buying things we don't need. (And maybe even using the computer to write blog posts! )
I'm not sure it is making a difference though. I cannot tell how my little pieces add to the bigger pieces. Perhaps I should give up my good actions, and get a hot tub, eat loads of burgers and go on a cruise. I could say f**k it, I'll take that flight to Greece this summer and have a windsurfing blast in Vassiliki, my favourite spot for many years. I could even buy a tiny bit of land and think 'I'm safe now, that's all ok, never mind the others...'.
Please don't think I have an answer to all this. What I do have though is a shifting/shift in perspective - and the beautiful mountain helped me with that.
I see and feel that I have lots of life. I mean, huge amounts of life, inside me and outside me. It's just everywhere and I can't ignore it. My body is full of cells and energy and it keeps wanting to get up and do things, to walk, dance and even to take one step at a time and climb up a mountain, just because it is there. Around me I hear the birds, the crickets, the flies and bees. On my desk are flowers from my garden, and I make many spaces for them to grow. I do my best to honour the place where I live and the places I walk and work; to be present to the other beings - all the life. Even if we humans destroy this beautiful planet in its current form, I'm pretty sure that life will continue in some form. The mountains feel to me like huge beings who watch over and see what we do.
That gives me hope. I will encourage others to find hope in the Beauty and Life around us, and inside us. We are all life, and life wants to live and to grow, to be present and to evolve into the next things.
How do we do this consciously when it is so painful to see things disappear and shift? My way is to make space for the grief I feel, to allow it, and to note it - not to push it away. When I walked up Cadair Idris I found myself in tears and chanting loving words to the mountain on the final ascent; offering my heart and love to the place. (And leaving no trace behind me, and picking up others' rubbish as I came down.)
I allow the beauty, the land and spirit to fill me up. I take actions that support me and others to change our ways. I spend time in 'deep connection' with the land and other beings, make ceremonies with the land, honour life and let it know that I care, that I see, that I am present. All these help me. What about you?
I have been listening to Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes' writings from some decades ago - 'Theatre of the Imagination volume 1'. They are still lush and full and come highly recommended. I feel transported to another realm; she tells stories with such grace and depth that my imagination is really liberated. In these times of climate crisis and pandemic it is so necessary to find ways to be in touch with the imaginal world. Watching films and TV is ok, and it does not stretch the imagination in the same way, and I really think that to create new visions and being of life we need a lively imagination.
For those of you who are new to her work, I suggest you buy a copy of Women Who Run with the Wolves as a starter. It's meaty and full of tales that bring us back to life. You may find it hard going, and then life is not always easy huh? And read it again and again; thats why you need the book, Take it places, let it get dog-eared and tea stained, or write notes in the margins.
Today I was listening to to Vaslisa the Wise, and at the end of this story of coming to life, learning to trust intuition and be a full person/woman in the world, Dr Estes gave us this poem. Now I've looked it up and find that it has been spoken at a few important gatherings including a UN assembly.
This is less a poem and more an invocation. Bring it to the Equinox full moon and speak it for all the human beings - women, men, fluid gender, non-binary, trans. - that we may hear each other and be heard.
HOW TO SILENCE A WOMAN (person): RETREIVING HER (their) VOICE…
–When someone says, “We’re saying the same thing.”
Say, “We are not saying the same thing.”
–When someone says, “Don’t question, just have faith.”
Say, “I am questioning, vato, and
I have supreme faith in what I think.”
–When someone says, “Don’t defy my authority.”
Say, “There is a higher authority that I follow.”
–When someone says, “Your ideas are seductive.”
Say, “No, my ideas are not seductive,
they are substantial.”
–When someone says, “Your ideas are dangerous.”
Say, “Yes, my ideas are dangerous, and
why are you so afraid hombre o mujer? ”
–When it is said, “It’s just not done.”
Say, “It will be done.”
–When it is said, “It is immature.”
Say, “All life begins small and
must be allowed to grow.”
–When it is said, “It’s not thought out.”
Say, “It is well thought out.”
–When they say, “You’re over-reacting.”
Say, “You’re under-reacting, vato.”
–When they say, “You’re being emotional.”
Say, “Of course I have well placed emotions,
and by the way, what happened to yours?”
–When they say, “You’re not making any sense.”
Say, “I don’t make sense, I am the sense.”
–When they say, “I can’t understand you when you’re crying.”
Say, “Make no mistake, I can weep and be fierce
at the same time.”
–When they say, “I cant understand you when you’re being so angry.”
Say. “You couldn’t hear me when I was being nice,
or sweet or silent, either.”
–When someone says, “You’re missing the point.”
Say, “I’m not missing the point, but you seem
to be missing my point — What are you so afraid of?”
–When someone says, “You are breaking the rules.”
Say, “Yes, I am breaking the rules.”
–When someone says, “That’s not practical.”
Say, “It’s practically a done deal, thank you very much.”
–When it is said, “No one will do it,
believe you, or follow it.”
Say, “I will do it, I will believe in it, and in time,
the world may well follow it.”
— When it is said, “No one wants to listen to that.”
Say, “I know you have a hard time listening to that.”
–When it is said, “It’s a closed system,
you cant change it.”
Say, “I’m going to knock twice
and if there is no answer,
then I am going to blow the doors off that system
and it will change.”
–When it is said, “They’ll ignore you.”
Say, “They won’t ignore me and the hundreds of thousands who stand with me.”
–When they say, “It’s already been done.”
Say, “It’s not been done well enough.”
— When they say, “It’s not yet time.”
Say, “It’s way past time.”
–When they say, “It’s not the right day,
right month, right year.”
Tell them, “The right year was last year,
and the right month was last month,
and the right day was yesterday,
and you’re running behind schedule, vato,
and what in the name of God and all that is holy
are you going to do about it?”
–When they say, “Who do you think you are?” --
tell them …
tell them who you are,
and don’t hold back.
–When they say, “I put up with it,
you’ll have to put up with it too.”
Say, “No, no, no, no.”
–When they say, “I’ve suffered a long time
and you’ll have to suffer too.”
Say, “No, no, no, no.”
–When they say, “You’re an incorrigible, defiant,
hard to get along with,
unreasonable woman … ”
Say, “Yes, yes, yes, yes …
and I have worse news for you yet --
we are teaching our daughters,
and our mothers,
and our sisters …
we are teaching our sons,
and our fathers,
and our brothers,
“How To Silence A Woman, Retrieving Her Voice,” ©1980, 2008, 2018C.P. Estés,
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés is Mestiza Latina [Native American/ Mexica Spanish], presently in her seventies. She grew up in the now vanished oral tradition of her war-torn immigrant, refugee families who could not read nor write, or did so haltingly, and for whom English was their third language overlying their ancient natal languages.
This September, even with a pandemic happening around us, I lead a Vision Fast for two courageous souls. I had been approached in the spring and asked if I would lead, and of course I had to say yes. We had a lot of conversation about Vision Fast or Vision Quest or Wilderness Quest, and I keep being asked, as it's seems confusing for people.
So this is why I'm calling this work a Vision Fast.
I trained as a Guide with the School of Lost Borders in California in 2017. It was a month in the high desert of the Inyo Mountains, looking out on the Sierra Nevada. The land is the ancestral land of people who are now called the Paiute, and there is a reservation in Big Pine, which is where the School has its base. Meredith and others from the School have worked closely with the Big Pine Tribe so that the land on which we camped and worked is properly honoured. I found this to be really important - in my bones as well as in my mind- as I work hard in my homeland to honour the places I know, and to make ceremony and 'feed' the soul of the land I work with or visit or know. I was told that the Elders had asked that if this work is done on their land- and yes that is ok- please can we not call it Vision Quest, as that is their ceremony. So the term Vision Fast is used.
I could call call the work a Wilderness Quest, as some others do here in the UK - and the term Wilderness Guide is often used. Well, I'm not sure about that here where I am working, as there is no real wilderness in these green isles! Being based in the South West, the land I am working with has all been managed or cultivated at some point. And I'm not that comfortable with the term Wilderness either. What do we mean we talk of wild and wilderness? It sounds exciting and exotic, which is why it's great for marketing purposes. However, it seems to assume the separation of that nature and our nature. Aren't we all wild somewhere inside?
So do you fast?
Yes! This rite of passage, this time crossing a threshold into another place, this sublime liminal experience, is made more real for us rather-too-comfy humans by taking away the distraction of food. For three of four day and nights. There is time to prepare and drop into it, to create an intention, and there is time to come gently back into the world afterwards. You are welcomed back with food!
"I will never forget the day of the return, arriving back at camp to see Jenny waiting for me, with nurturing food and a fire. My soul felt replenished and loved and seen. " Fasting also changes our relationship with time, and that allows things to shift for us time-bound people.
So if you are thinking... is this for me? Then find out more. You can book a free half hour 1:1 with Jenny.
My January has been a deliberate time away from regular work, away from the normal workdays and into a time of rest, reflection and renewal. For a few months, I was telling people that “I’m having January off”, and not really feeling it myself. Now it’s here, and more than half way through, and it’s my last evening at a cornish cottage alone. This place has a harbour, and there is an icy storm raging. The safety of the harbour has been needed for me to rest and re-find a place of inner quiet, ready for the year ahead. As anyone who knows me would confirm, I have a propensity to hold onto far too many work strands, love creating new projects and generally try hard to make life OK for others. No wonder I was burnt out, exhausted.
Right now, I’m happy to be safe inside, warm and with the prospect of a final spacious evening alone. Over days I have walked the coast path, climbed up step after step and slid down muddy tracks; I’ve explored the woods, crossing streams and noticing primroses getting themselves ready to produce flowers. Tomorrow, it’s into the cold winds of the winter and towards my home. The storm will propel me outwards, into the wilds again. Not just the outer wild; the inner wild landscape that now travels with me. These are the dreaming lands of the winter, a place of renewal and a breathing space. For many years I paid lip-service to the notion of winter dreaming, taking a few days off here and there. This year, I carved out a whole month, taking time away from work, some time away from loved ones, away from home, in mountains, on the moor and here by the sea.
So I’m grateful for the storm tonight, and the winds forecast again tomorrow. It has been so good to pay heed to the weather; and to the cliffs, valleys and streams of this place. It has felt like a gift to be in a landscape that demands my full attention; walking the northern coast path in winter is steep, slippy, windblown and empty of people. It evoked within me what is now called mindfulness. I know that as being fully present to the landscape around me, to each step I take, the rocks I pass by, the calling of the gulls, kittiwakes, rooks and ravens overhead.
Now, in my room, I stop and take a breath. Listening, as the rain and sleet again pound the roof and windows. Here in my safe harbour, where I thought that I would dream of new projects for my work. Instead, in this breath between things, this place of renewal, I’ve come to realise that I want to hear the dreams of this land: the ancient cliffs, river valleys and wild seas of this beautiful lush, wet island that is my home. I give thanks and honour the storm that has sent me inward to this realisation, and settle deeper into the warmth of this haven. I feel protected in this valley by the cliffs around me, and grow into a remembered feeling that it is not us who dream this land, but it is the land that dreams us.