Although, the course was never intended to solely be about skills and workshops, but to give people a chance to delve deeper into an awareness of natural systems, and an awareness of the self.
I arrived feeling a little apprehensive as course co-ordinator and co-facilitator, wondering if I had forgotten anything, going over lists in my head.... I left feeling recharged, replenished and serene. This gave me a sense of how powerfully nourishing these weekends are; if they can effect even the person co-ordinating in such a significant way, they must be having a consequential impact on the other participants as well.
The first night brought us to circle in the beautiful little cottage-style house of the Natural Healing Space- the fire was on, the tea was boiling, and after a nutrient dense meal we all sat down and took a moment to reconnect. There were quite a few who knew each other from the first beautiful winter gathering at Hollyburton Farm, and their were some who had decided to join the course in Spring, so we each took a moment to introduce ourselves and express lyrically the trajectory the winds of our lives were taking. Some were tremulous, others breezy, with as many directions and fluctuations as the wind itself.
Bathed in candlelight, Claire Dunn (co-facilitator and author of 'My Year Without Matches') weaved us through basketry, and we sat and stitched the night away.
The next morning dawned bright, the sun spilled onto the Earth's skin, cracking the winter with its warmth. We gathered for a morning of Nature awareness exercises, and each found a sit spot where we would observe the natural world at different intervals through the weekend.
In the Spirit of Air, I ran a class on fermentation; as the presence or lack of oxygen is key to this process, as well as factors such as time and temperature. During the session we had a look (and taste) of creamy milk kefir, sparkling lemon water kefir, kombucha, Saurkraut and home-made tempeh (which is a recent exploration that I am hoping to perfect this summer).
Our incredible nutrient dense food cook, Mel, also brought a few of her delicious fermented goods to share, including pickled choko!
One beautiful lesson I myself learned that day, was the art of feeling into group energy. There were certain activities which had been planned, but with the emergence of the sun, we decided to give the afternoon to the breeze and let it cradle each individual in its arms, allowing participants to explore their own direction. It was luscious. We all were lying around, some talking, some enveloped in the embrace of hammocks, others lazing on the grass watching the clouds pass and a few with methodic hands continuing the weaving of baskets.
It is one thing to be a facilitator of knowledge, but it is another to allow peoples facilitation of their own wisdom, through nature, themselves and each other.
The Spring ritual differed greatly from that of our Winter gathering, as the depths of Winter often bring our shadows to the surface, and we look more closely at deeper issues that effect us. Our Winter ritual symbolised the return of the sun, focusing on what it was we were wishing to let go of, so we would be ready to step into the light after shaking the shadows.
The shadows shaken, Spring symbolises the seed that is sprouting, and we each planted a metaphoric seed that we are hoping to nourish to fruition.
Snaking our way up the hill, wreathed in jasmine and with drums beating we focused on the air in our lungs and the sun on our backs.
In groups, we carried on from the Winter weekend as Claire guided us in making primitive fire. We created the fire for our ritual circle with our own hands, an incredible skill and a beautiful offering.
During the ritual, one of the participants honoured and invoked the element of Air with one of the most incredible songs I have ever heard. When we were all lazing in the sun, she was meditating on the question of how to bring Air into our circle, and was gifted with that song. It sent such sweet shivers up my spine, and tears came to my eyes as I was experiencing true magick. The magick that is within each one of us, if we choose to listen.
I watched as the last of the circle made their way down the hill, skipping in their spring garlands as the sun set. I then sat with Claire as she held the fire board, assisting me as I attempted to make primitive fire on my own. I settled myself, took a breath, and placed my hands on the phallic Xantharia stalk. Claire took the fire stalk once and 'floated' it for me, keeping it warm so it didn't loose friction and heat. I then grasped it between my plams once again, and was so focused on my technique, on my breathing, on my core.... that I was shocked when I heard her say "You've got a coal!". A fire inside me burst as I looked down at the smouldering coal and tears sprang to my eyes. This was a milestone for me. Fire to me was a responsibility, a true ability to respond to any situation. It was a birthright. It was the way of the ultimate provider. I felt, for some reason, if I could make fire with my hands, I would always be ok.
It symbolised a big step, as during the Winter weekend I practiced, but could not get a coal on my own. And as I sat in my cold little room in the hills, lighting a fire with matches and newspaper, I was reminded each time how much I relied on this combustion, and how disconnected I felt when creating it.
That night the course combined with the Spring Sauna Celebration at the Natural Healing Space- an incredible and rejuvenating night enjoying a hand built sauna, cold plunge and hot tub, accompanied by a home cooked meal and replenishing coconut water. As the night drew to a close I had my second cup of chai and raw chocolate treat, smiling to myself as I floated to bed under the starts.
Yoga was offered each morning, and after breakfast we reconvened to learn about the world of bird language, and how to connect deeper with nature through awareness of sound and song.
More time was given for people to enjoy their sit spot with their newly acquired knowledge.
The afternoon found us in the garden, as I took a class on planting seedlings, microclimates and some basic Permaculture design principles. I watched, hands covered in soil from planting tomatoes in the greenhouse, and observed everyone pottering around in the garden, covered in hay and wearing sun hats. It was a wonderful collective activity, celebrating the new growth of Spring.
I guided those who were unsure of where to plant things, but tried not to give too much away, as I feel that some of the joy of planting comes through your own connection to the land, and I believe people won't develop their own intuition with nature if they are told what to do all the time.
After sharing our last nutrient dense meal of the weekend, we gathered in a circle and spoke of what we would take away with us from the weekend, and I ended with a paragraph from Stawhawks 'The Earth Path', the book in which the course is based on;
"Praise and gratitude to the air, the breath of the living earth. We give thanks to you for our lives, for our breath, for the literal inspiration that keeps us alive. praise and gratitude for those ancient ancestors, the first magicians, that lean red to use sunlight to make food, and so gave us the gift of oxygen. Praise and gratitude to those who learned to burn food for energy, and to the great exchange, he world breath that passes from green lung to the red and back again. Praise for the sun that sets the cauldron of the winds in motion, and to the great winds that soar over the face of the earth. Praise to the storm that brings the rains, the water of life to the land. Gratitude to the creatired of the air, the birds that lift up our hearts with their songs, the insects in their erotic caress of the flowers - a caress that brings the fruit of the seed.
May our minds be as clear and open as the air; may we learn from the wind winds how to soar across barriers and sweep away obstacles. May the air and the winds of the world be cleansed. May we learn to be good guardians and friends and allies of the air that is our life; may we make the right decisions that can restore the balance.
Blessed be the air."
We are now taking bookings for our Summer Sacred Ecology Weekend. For more information and bookings please click here.