“We are the universe knowing itself”. This is an excerpt from one of my favourite guided meditations and is a reflection on how we as humans are nature. As life on earth has flowed through the millenia and as part of this brought me, you and everyone we know into existence, so too has consciousness evolved. And with this we may reflect on ourselves, our world, our interconnection. Although western society has drawn us to imagine ourselves as separate over recent centuries, we at EcoWild and The Community Farm are all part of a great global community that is committed to remembering the truth of our belonging to “the family of things” as Mary Oliver describes the web of life. And in this of course lies great power, strength, possibility. Acting as part of something much greater than ourselves and our own lives is distinctly life enhancing. It enables us to become “relaxed, alert, unafraid, open to it all” (the first part of that earlier line from Joanna Macey’s Web of Life meditation).
My work with The Community Farm is to create a space where this knowing, and the wonderful models and frameworks that exist for coming into a space of thriving participation in life, are open to those who need them most. We all need to work hard at this time in human and earth’s history to find our balance, create space and real connection amid a world that moves so fast, pulls us in so many directions, that it can leave us spinning! Or even in a heap on the floor. And for so many among us who meet life through the lense of chronic mental and physical health conditions or post-trauma, these approaches are a lifeline.
Mindfulness as a practice has the power to strengthen neural pathways that support greater clarity of mind and sense of perspective. So that our stresses and challenges might be met with less suffering. Accessing our body intelligence and somatic holding through mindful movement and stretching is complementary in building holistic balance. I use both of these as a way to guide groups into a deeper awareness through a morning session, and then follow up in the afternoon with creative practices for self-reflection. That way anything that has been allowed to surface in the morning session has chance to be assimilated and welcomed in, through the processing that happens when we are freely creative. Always using natural materials and processes for this keeps us in a conversation with ourselves as part of this complex, diverse and wonderful living whole that we are held within.
I am interested in the balance between mindful self-awareness, which coming from the Buddhist tradition of non-attachment aims to bring freedom from earthly suffering, and the contrasting approach of a soulful exploration of self-knowledge that works in a very different way to ease our dance through life. Actually, I find that these two distinct approaches interlace and support each other very nicely. The latter is held within the offer that I work with in the NatureWell model, based on the 5 pathways to Nature Connectedness (Miles Richardson et al). This has been shown to increase pro-environmental behaviours as well as self-reported wellbeing. It leans in tenderly to the way we as humans respond and relate to nature, through our senses, through beauty, emotion and compassion. It explores how nature can shine a light on what is meaningful for us, and where our purpose lies. If you’ve ever taken a long quiet walk in the mountains or spent time alone on the coast looking over the sea, you’re likely to relate to this. Those times when we can’t go far, perhaps are ill or injured and therefore forced into a sedentary existence at home or in hospital, may also provide us similar insight, as we spend long hours gazing at the clouds out of the window or witnessing the changing light.
By Emily Malik, EcoWild July 2022