I always feel a little bit like a fish out of water when I go on a "touchy feely" course - one that usually involves thinking a lot, spending time on my own thinking or (eek! I find it difficult) sharing my thoughts.
And I always feel fantastic afterwards and want to do more.
This time it was an Eco Therapy course with the wonderful inspiring Alastair at Earth for Life, at the Water of Leith Centre in Edinburgh.
Despite a high footfall and a few dog poo piles to negotiate, I connected and communed with nature and I learned just how significant this work is to mental health workers and the people they care for.
I work closely with many people who are interested in their health -not necessarily because they think they have a problem with it but because they are interested in living a life the best way they can.
Some are already nature geeks and understand the power it has to ground us in the here and now; to anchor and support, and to instil a Mindfulness into our lives without which we swirl and dance in unproductive anxiety and unfocused activity.
And some (like me) are interested in learning new and interesting ways to bring peace and community into daily living in the hope of a healthy and happy life.
We recently organised a "Litterescue and Poopickery" for King's Park, in Stirling. Instead of viewing it as a chore and an excuse to grump, we chose to approach the clean up as a way to spend time together, moving in a healthy way; and as a way to contribute to the community around us. Twenty two bags of good will!
My mIndfulness training encourages breath and sound as ways to root us to the here and now, and as a way to help settle the mind and smell the roses. And I welcome this approach as another powerful way of bringing Mindfulness to our day - a literal root, a literal grounding to the present. Even if the roses are sometimes poo-shaped.
Simply being in nature is good for us. Shinrin Yoku or Forest Bathing is a concept that has been around for a while in the East. Foraging for wild foods is part of our old ways, and paradoxically the "new thing". Natural smells, natural rocks and crystals and natural movement are all back in fashion.
Mindfulness is the latest buzz word. But who cares! If sitting together, practicing mindfulness in a formal way, builds a community; if by having a physical connection to the Earth, we can “speak” to each other and to it in a special way… in a lost unique way; if the latest communication superhighway is tapped into by touching the ground, then I am all for it.
This is my latest girl crush: Dr Sharon Blackie is a narrative psychologist and mythologist (how glamorous is that! Thank you Catriona for introducing me.); and leads us through myth and tales to understand and re-write our own stories, and bring us back to a feeling of belonging through connection to the land.
As pre-Christian myth and legend tells us, we are bound to our land and to other sentient beings; we are nature and nature is us. By moving through it, our bodies bend and dance in a way they were meant to; and it provides us with a wealth of medicinal and healthy fare. We have moved so far away - we don't like to be dirty, or to get wet - we change our clothing and take rucksacks of equipment to "protect" us from nature. We lay down concrete so we can avoid its pits and troughs, we spray chemicals to avoid thorns and "unsightly" wild flowers, we employ gardeners or move house when we can no longer bend down... and we lose our connection... to the land, to others and to ourselves.
Women used to be the guardians of nature, and only if men respected her would she provide sustenance and support. (Did you know that up to the 16th Century, Kings performed a ceremony to marry the land?) To be connected in this way ensures a legacy of care and nurturing... as custodians (or "Stewards" as our tutor Alastair called us) we ensure space for those who come after us.
If we do not, then who will.
If you too are drawn to explore this theme, then there is an opportunity to join me for a lovely weekend away to Lendrick Lodge, by Loch Venechar, 14-16th July. You can see more details at Braithe: www.braithe.co.uk
And if listening for inspiration is your thing, or if you like to meditate to music, here is a beautiful pieceto listen to on this theme, from Ayla Nereo’s album The Code of the Flowers.
Click on the image to play.