Mindfulness of Nature

A new voice

Dear friends,

July has felt intensely transformative in ways I’m only beginning to discover. Following my experience with children in Cyprus, I’ve just returned from our new ‘My Story, Our World’ ‘storytelling’ workshop which we held for the first time at Trigonos Retreat Centre with Bethan John from WildLands Creative (new dates to be announced soon!)

The event explored mindfulness as a gateway to deeper understanding of ourselves, each other and the world – and of the unique stories each of us have to tell about our unfolding experiences of life.

I believe that learning to hear and truly listen to our own voices, other people’s voices and the voices of the natural world could be the first step to bringing forth a more peaceful, sustainable world.

Perhaps with enough awareness, true listening and deeper understanding, we could develop collective stories for positive change?

As I continue to reflect on how my own stories have been reshaped by my experiences this month, I would like, for now, to share with you the poem below by Mary Oliver.

Her words feel like a celebration of the importance and wonder of discovering our own voice and an honest acknowledgement of how deeply beautiful and painful the process can feel at times.

Could they also be an invitation for us to open compassionate spaces within ourselves, with others and with the natural world world for authentic listening and communication – not with the intention of keeping ‘each other happy’ or just ‘agreeing to disagree’ by holding our stories back from ourselves and each other, but with the intention of growing deeper understanding to allow our stories to be shared and heard?

At a time where we need creative solutions to reconnect a divided world, to reignite our innate true belonging here together in this human experience, part of a wider natural world, I feel these spaces are absolutely vital.

So, what’s your story?

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voice behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life that you could save.

Mary Oliver

4 thoughts on “A new voice

  1. Kathy McVittie

    Loving your account of this project, and your sharing of this Mary Oliver poem. I first met it on a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course at Cambridge Buddhist Centre in 2012.
    I have subsequently incorporated it into my ‘Writing Our Way Whole’ sessions and have been delighted when participants’ faces light up to greet it, sometimes as an “old friend” that ‘s already inspired their practice.
    And I find it so helpful in reminding me that we don’t need to seek to “rescue” one another… Rather, to listen with true compassion to the other’s story… and our own.
    Thank you!

    1. clairethompson Post author

      Thank you Kathy. Listen with true compassion indeed… perhaps, sometimes, that is enough?

  2. Christopher Stokes

    Dear Claire,

    This post, reflecting a time of transformation in your life, resonates deeply with me as I begin to discern a new voice which will require a reorientation of my life. Mary Oliver’s words suggest to me a threshold, a long-awaited moment at which transition from one voice to another begins.

    My thinking at the moment is much encouraged by these words of Dag Hammarskjold, an inspirational and deeply spiritual secretary-general of the United Nations whose life was tragically cut short in a plane crash nearly 60 years ago:

    ‘There is a point at which everything becomes simple as there is no longer any question of choice, because all that you have staked will be lost if you look back. Life’s point of no return.’

    I’m particularly grateful for his affirmation that everything becomes simple because, as I see it, to simplify means to focus: deciding for something and not keeping my options open, and honouring my new voice accordingly. Simplifying may not be easy, and indeed may be painful or difficult, but there’s an inevitability about it – there is no longer any question of choice.

    I look forward very much to discovering how your thinking proceeds, if you decide to write about it, and my thoughts are with you as this transformational time in your life continues to unfold.

    Warmly, Christopher

    1. clairethompson Post author

      Thank you Christopher,
      Yes, perhaps a new voice becomes clearer and clearer… I feel it’s a voice that comes from a different place – from somewhere else. And I definitely feel there is an inevitability about it – a commitment and willingness to listen to it beyond our control, perhaps. I am not sure if it’s easy to identify the point of no return – perhaps it’s when we begin to catch glimpses of it?
      I feel there is definitely a simplicity in it – but so far (for me at least)- it can become clouded my other stories, voices, habits at times. But something in the background, like a magnetic pull somewhere persists. I sort of described my experience of it in “My (Our) wish to know life” post a few weeks ago.
      I wish you well, courage and patience on your way too.
      Best wishes and take care

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