“We did not come to remain whole.
We came to lose our leaves like the trees,
The trees that are broken
And start again, drawing up on great roots”
I came across these four lines yesterday which felt appropriate – especially as we transition into the autumn months.
It’s been a year since I left my job at BirdLife International, following a strong pull to slow down the “doing” to spend more time exploring the “being”- whilst continuing to pursue my passion of sharing mindfulness of nature with people around the world.
Over the last 12 months, I’ve lost many leaves (to use Robert Bly’s analogy), transformed by my experiences in life’s mysterious, ungraspable ways. My relationships – with myself and with others – have tangibly melted into new, evolving shapes. At times it has felt like shedding old skins and ways of being, and allowing fresh new buds to slowly emerge – beautifully dynamic and enlivening, and sometimes full of grief. There have been breathtaking highs, deeply painful lows and everything in between.
Most importantly, amidst it all, I’ve begun to really feel the “great roots” Robert Bly refers to, in ways I’ve never quite experienced before. These roots that have been there all along – yet perhaps not always in the spotlight of my attention. Indeed, like many of us, I can lack often trust in myself and give into the mind’s doubts and shakiness. Yet simultaneously a strength from somewhere deep within continues with such determination to follow my (our?) genuine wish to really “know life” – a strength so alive, so wild and so fierce. A strength that seems to steadily grow, the more I allow things to be as they are rather than avoid, fight and push them away.
This summer I’ve felt this vital strength in my body – running, cycling, wild swimming, dancing, walking. I’ve felt it in the simple heaviness and stability of my feet on the ground and in the support of the earth whilst meditating in summer meadows. I’ve felt it in all the living things and others around me – friends, family and strangers. I’ve felt it whilst reduced to the ground in tears feeling misunderstood and at sea as life’s crazy ways washed over me. And, I’ve also felt it in my ability to stand up for myself, for my path, for my choices – which have gifted me with glimpses of a sense of true belonging.
So, what is this great strength that lives within us all, so resilient to what life can bring our way?
It doesn’t feel like the brute strength of competition, of defense, of “me against them”. It feels much bigger than that – more like a natural, creative and cooperative aliveness. A deep willingness beyond my control to be with life rather than fight against it. It feels fierce, understanding and compassionate – but not pitying. DH Lawrence wrote “No wild thing has ever felt sorry for itself”, and we are all wild things, aren’t we? This strong, aliveness can sometimes feel so much fiercer and more powerful than the fearful, self-centred “little me”‘s voice of the mind could ever imagine.
In these uncertain times, where great numbers of leaves are being lost, branches collapsing, forests being (literally) torn down – within ourselves and in the political, social and environmental world – it feels vital to (re)connect with this fierce, wild, creative force within us.
What if instead of focusing our attention on the uncertainty, the anxiety, the shakiness, we turned towards our natural, embodied strength, to unite with rather than to divide? What if we allowed this deep aliveness to shine through, to be celebrated? Could this be a way into finding solutions to honour ourselves, each other and the rest of the natural world?
As we move towards the seasonal change this autumn, I invite you all to inquire into “Where do I feel my “great roots”?”
You could begin by noticing where, right now in your body feels strong, stable, rooted, grounded or resilient? In contrast, what feels shaky, weaker, uncertain? And what do both feel like? What activities or people in your life inspire connection to your “great roots”? Could you give them more time and attention than those that don’t?
So here’s to feeling into our great roots, whilst allowing leaves to be shed this autumn. And remember, roots are deeply interconnected, and present in every single one of us. We’re in this together.
Ps. I’m now back based in Cambridge, with further reflections to share in time, re-establishing some stronger roots here for a while – alongside continuing to share mindfulness of nature with you all locally and further afield. All upcoming 2019 events are posted here including events in Cambridge, Wales and Cyprus.