Category Archives: Woods

Spirituality Without Fanfare

Once you have been on your spiritual path for a while you will start to realise that it is best to not take yourself too seriously.

There are two types of people who practise spirituality, in my experience. Those who tell others how powerful they are or how enlightened they are or how good their expensive courses are…and those who just get on with it, quietly and without fanfare. Do a course for fun if you think you will get something out of it but do realise that the only thing really worth spending is time itself. Time to learn, time to experiment, time to let things simmer.

Unfortunately being bombarded with all these enlightenment sellers can put some potential newcomers off discovering more about themselves and their possibilities and that’s a shame as there is nothing to be nervous about. Don’t be scared by the hype, don’t be put off by those who dress themselves up as mystical beings who need to be adored. They are selling a service which is the spiritual equivalent of getting your nails painted…it’s fun but it isn’t an essential life choice. You can do what you need to do with a little online research, free resources, reading books and, most importantly, living the life and gaining the experience.

Those who are quietly spiritual know that everyone is an individual who will be spending years on their unique path, no expensive course is going to get anyone there quicker. Sorry. Sometimes it can even slow progress down as you are following someone else’s path not your own. Their way of doing things might not be yours.

Your path is your own and you don’t have to be doing A, B or C to qualify for any award. There is no award. There’s a reward for taking a spiritual path though. Several of them.

If you can successfully meditate you can make your daily life calmer and happier. This can take the edge off the hardest situation. YouTube has some really good meditations. Try Michael Sealey or Jason Stephenson.

Practising mindfulness will give you a better outlook on life and will make those challenges easier to deal with because you stay in the moment, at least long enough to have a break from your mind chatter. Here is a 8 week free course, run by Dave Potter a fully certified MBSR instructor.

Being able to work with the energies to heal yourself and others for free is your way to give back and to do your bit to help change one small part of the world which is suffering…whether that be an individual or a situation.  Learn how to give reiki to yourself with this previous article of mine Reiki For Self Love.  Where you go with it afterwards when it comes to helping others is for you to decide.

Ritual is a way to bring order to chaos as well as engaging in aged practices – whether you just count your morning ritual of shower, tea and toast before work or rituals used with your deity of choice, such as prayers. A good morning ritual sets you up for the day and most of us have several rituals which we enjoy. Perhaps yours is a candlelit bath or a cup of chamomile tea last thing before bed. A ritual is simply something you do at a certain time and, sometimes, for a certain reason. Getting a few rituals of your own in place will bring structure and certainty to your day and you will find you look forward to doing them. They will bring a comfort and a smile, a sense of well-being.

Learning how to work with herbs is another way that you can help yourself. Again there are many online courses out there for the basics but a good book will do you just as well too if money is tight. The work of Susun Weed is a good start if you are in the USA or Herbcraft by Anna Franklin and Susan Lavender is an excellent choice for those in the UK and Europe. Herbcraft gives a broad use for plants including medicinal and magickal as well as a bit of history for interest.

Learning which plants are edible is very important so do take care as there are some deadly ones out there too. 

Knowledge is essential when using herbs in whatever form you choose them. Several good books for cross referencing are essential and you should never rely on just one photo in a book to decide which plant is in front of you in the wild. Several good, clear close up photos are needed. Of course, the company of someone who already knows is ideal but few of us have that and so we must take things gradually and be careful with our choices by being sensible.

Here is a fun video done by someone just starting out using herbs. We all have to start somewhere…

Many of us enjoy a cup of chamomile tea or peppermint tea so why not take it a step further and start learning how to work with the energies of the plants in your vicinity, growing your own or even just in their essential oil form. Pure oils can be used for cleaning and sanitising your home, refreshing the aroma, getting rid of garden pests, used to heal yourself and pets and in a multitude of ways.

I have had no training in essential oils but taught myself gradually over many years and now use them in every part of my life. They are surprisingly versatile, useful and helpful and, of course, chemical free if chosen wisely. There are many articles online which will help you choose a starter arsenal of essential oils. My first three choices would be roman chamomile, lavender and peppermint. I have linked to an article for each to get you started if you are new to essential oils.

If you are starting off on your path and follow the signposts above and in my previous nine articles then together they should give you your first few footsteps. You will be on your way to a spiritual life which allows you to grow, gain confidence, deal with challenges, heal your everyday niggles and give love and strength to those around you. There will be days when it all seems too much and you will want a break. Be kind to yourself on those days and do whatever you need to do. Everyone has a spiritual crisis at some point in their lives…sometimes more than one…but this is good because this is where the biggest shifts happen.

My final suggestions are to enjoy life, love who you are and do what you have to do to make your life your own. Never be dictated by those who surround you or even those in your area of choice spiritually. Always trust your instincts and if you aren’t sure what they are saying then meditate and wait. The answer is there.

This article is part of Your Spiritual Life series. Other articles in the series can be found in the top menu.

Finding Your Safe Place

Lots of people have already found certain places in nature where they go to regroup or relax. This can be as simple as a tree in the local park where they can stop off whilst walking the dog to take in the view and taste the air.

My favourite place is by a particular tree which is generous enough to replenish me with its energy whenever I visit. I don’t visit quite often enough for my taste but it is a difficult tree for me to get to and so I savour it when I do get there. Not even my immediate family knows of my attachment to this particular tree. I keep that knowledge close to my heart because it is special to me and holds more power than if I verbally share it and its whereabouts indiscriminately. That’s what I choose to believe and that belief has served me well.

If you are lucky enough to have a public park near to where you work then do visit in your lunchtime. Take that half hour and your sandwiches and get outside. It will wake you up, increase your productivity and your mental agility too. Even if you haven’t got a whole park to yourself then a bench or somewhere peaceful outside is ideal to replenish a weary mind. It can also be the place you go to catch your breath when the human race has been particularly trying. It will become a place of regrouping, comfort and fresh starts.

If you don’t have a few trees handy then the next best thing is putting on a pair of noise cancelling headphones on and listening to sounds of nature or, taking it one step further, imagining a forest in your mind’s eye and creating your own place to escape to during meditation. You might want to start with a guided meditation first if this seems daunting. There are plenty of options on YouTube if you want to try this. How about this one from Linda Hall?

A place to feel joy, gratitude, love and happy memories and to make new ones.

A place to go to when times are testing.

A place where you can be yourself, without judgment.

However you find your sanctuary it will serve you well.

This article is part of Your Spiritual Life series. Other articles in the series can be found in the top menu.

Staverton Thicks

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Even on an overcast day in February, Staverton Thicks near Woodbridge, Suffolk is still the ultimate fairy tale wood of childhood stories in its bare bones of winter.

This place is tucked in very near to the very popular Rendlesham Forest (yes, the place where the UFO is said to have popped by for a visit next to the former USAF base) but few people seem to know of its existence.

It is a place which sets pen to paper. Robert MacFarlane talks of it in his book The Wild Places where he recounts a tale told to him by the late Roger Deakin of naked dancing deep in its heart. Sara Maitland tells of her own visit in her book Gossip from The Forest: The Tangled Roots of Our Forests and Fairytales where she had an encounter when she strayed off the path.

We didn’t see any cross landowners whilst we were there although I was prepared to sacrifice one of the teenagers to the cooking pot should the need arise. They are SO expensive to keep these days, aren’t they? Fortunately there was no need and we proceeded unmolested, enabling us to ask the spirits and elementals who dwell there for a few twigs and feathers to take home with us.

I took so many photos that I have decided a gallery is the only answer to fully share this wonderful and very magical place with you.

As my adult daughter with learning difficulties said of the trees “They look like paintings, Mummy.” and she was right, they do.

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Breathing Wilderness

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So this week I am writing just a little update. All is well, I just have a few minor health issues…full blown flu, women’s problems (yes, I thought I was done with that too since July last year! I can’t express how glacially thrilled I am) and a migraine to be exact. Tacking that lot on to the less than perfectly working body I have these days and I am, as one of the children put it, an ill bean. Probably of the broad bean variety if my ever increasing girth is to be taken into account…

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I have been napping since Saturday afternoon, tis true, but in between I have been defying the double vision and reading with an eye covered…awfully clever, I thought, you’re impressed too, I can tell… and sliding into the world of Robert Macfarlane’s The Wild Places. What a joy this book is! Macfarlane shares my love of a vista, a hidden nook and a furious coastline. Whilst I have been languishing he has taken me on a journey across moors, up mountains and through holloways. We have collected pebbles together, drunk from crystal streams and moved bramble to get into sleepy hollows. We haven’t eaten bugs because this is the UK and here, in our wilderness, we rub two sticks together, get a pan out and heat up something delicious we brought with us. And we did. And it tasted even more wonderful for that. Although we didn’t use a picnic rug which I thought would have been only right and proper. I shall perhaps send an email and point this folly out.

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On a couple of his journeys he had Roger Deakin as a companion. The two men together wandered as schoolboys in The Wild Places, squeezing into gaps most would pass by and using ivy to get into holloways which probably haven’t seen a human for many years. Deakin has also written some truly wonderful books with Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees being a particular favourite of mine. Printed after his death, it is a collection of his travels through woodlands in many places across the world as well as the UK. Moreover it is a book which brings alive every step he took so vividly you can reach out and touch the bark with him.

Macfarlane slept in the open air on the edge of island cliffs with birds roosting beside him and the ocean crashing on the rocks below him, lulling him to sleep with nature’s melody. He sought the fury of a storm on a mountain and the loneliness of a shingle bank (spit) out in the North Sea with a distant seal colony his only companions.

These books are about having fun whatever your age and going where your soul is nourished. For those of us who are called by the wild they are also a welcome respite from the sounds of the town around us. They are books which tempt you off the beaten track, which get you pulling out dusty maps from the back of your shelves and pouring over them. They are also for those of us who yearn to run our fingertips down the face of a granite outcrop again and marvel at the time it has been there. I miss my mountains.

We are here for as long as it takes a mountain to take a breath in. Make it count.