Reconnect with the sacred in nature and your own nature
Spirit, soul and the sacred in nature
Awakening The Shamanic Force Within
I have already introduced you to working with the four nature directions of the wheel (in the previous chapter) and suggested that you do rituals and ceremonies outside (in Chapter 8). Here I will give you some ideas on how you can work by yourself to connect with the sacred in nature and your own sacred nature, nourish your soul and increase your emotional and mental wellbeing.
Become conscious of the gifts of nature
An easy yet essential shamanic practice is to become more conscious of nature’s life-giving and life-sustaining forces and developing gratitude and appreciation.
Remember that every breath we take, every drop of water we drink and most of the foods we eat comes from nature. The joy we feel when the rays of the sun touch us, the refreshing coolness of the wind on our skin, the sound of a river that calms us — these blessings and so many more are nature’s gifts.
If you want to go a step further, remind yourself that the meat you eat comes from an animal and the fruit you enjoy comes from a plant or tree, and thank their spirits. You can also bless the food you eat, give thanks for it and begin to leave little offerings outside for the spirits of nature.
Be seen by Mother nature
A powerful and moving way to connect with nature is to be seen by Mother Nature. We have a tendency to look at our environment and forget that we are also being looked at.
Exercise: Being seen by Mother Nature
I often use this exercise and have also used it with clients and groups. For most people, the experience feels loving and nurturing. It provides a delightful way to experience being part of something bigger that loves you. It is also very healing, especially at emotionally demanding times in your life. Do it as often as you can and the positive, loving regard of nature will work its magic on your psyche.
· Taking a notepad, find a quiet spot outside.
· Spend some time stilling yourself: breathe deeply, rattle or drum.
· Close your eyes and imagine that you are being seen by nature. Or ask to be seen. Ask Mother Nature to look at you as one of her children, with love.
· Be aware of feelings, thoughts, images, sensations, intuitions and sounds.
· Open your eyes when you feel the urge to do so. Write down what you have experienced.
Honour the spirit of place and your own place
Before beginning work in a place, all the shamanic teachers I have met have honoured its spirit. During the honouring they get to know the spirit of the place and often they are given signs about it, its energy and what is required to work beneficially within it.
When working in a centre in Cornwall, I greeted the spirits of the place and was instructed to climb a nearby hill, greet the guardian of the stone circle there and ask his permission to work within the circle. I hadn’t planned to do any work in the circle, but after greeting the guardian, I decided to conduct a ceremony there as the space felt very powerful. Needless to say, it turned out to be one of the most profound ceremonies I have ever facilitated.
Another time, when I walked around the grounds of a camp greeting the spirits, I met a deer. She was young and small and stood there looking at me for quite a while. I changed part of the programme to include more gentle and feminine aspects, which turned out to be exactly what the group needed.
The spirit of a place consists of many layers and ingredients, including all the human imprints. But in this chapter, as we are connecting with nature, we will use the indigenous definition of spirit and spirituality of ’place’, which is based on the ecology of a place: every landscape or place is a web and together they form the great web of Being and Becoming. So it is the spirit of this smaller web within the large web of life that you want to get to know and honour.
Exercise: Honouring the spirit of a place
· Go to a place in nature.
· Still yourself: rattle, drum, breathe.
· Close your eyes. Ask the spirit of the place to connect with you or call it with a drum or rattle.
· Listen and be aware: you will get hunches, images, maybe words, a sudden knowing, a feeling.
· When you feel that you are connected, ask the spirit of the place any question you choose and note the answer.
· Leave something to honour the spirit or conduct a little ceremony.
Connect with the spirit of your own place
If you are in harmony with the spirit of your own place, you will find that your life runs more smoothly and that the place you live in will support you. When you are doing it for the first time, it is beneficial to journey to the spirit of your own place. Later, you can just briefly tune into it whenever necessary.
Exercise: Journey to meet the spirit of your own place
(For the structure of a shamanic journey.)
Your intent is:
’I am journeying to meet the spirit of this place and ask them to advise me how to best be in this place and serve it so that it also serves me.’
· Let the journey unfold.
· Write it down afterwards.
This is an exercise I really would advise you to do, because it’s astonishing how much information you receive when you contact the spirit of your own place. You will be shown which adjustments to make or which energies are strong and which need strengthening or clearing. You can also ’feed’ the place by leaving offerings or create a ceremony to thank and honour it. It is helpful to tune into the spirit of your place repeatedly.
Connect with the spiritual aspects of all living things
In shamanism we connect with and get to know the spirit aspects — the essences — of living things in nature, which also helps us to strengthen our own spiritual aspect. I would advise you to connect with the spirit aspects of trees, plants, rocks, mountains, forests and rivers, or of the elements, such as water, earth, fire and air. Of course you can’t do this all at once, but you can begin. There are many ways to do this.
Exercise: Connecting outside
· Go outside. Find a spot that feels right or go to the tree, plant, river or whatever you want to connect with.
· Call in spirit.
· Go into a meditative trance: breathe, rattle, drum or sing and close your eyes.
· Tell the tree (plant, rock, etc.) that you would like to connect.
· Imagine that you are connecting in whatever form feels right to you.
· Be patient. Listen deeply. Just stay connected and become aware of images, hunches, sounds, feelings and sudden insights.
· You will know when you have finished for the time being. Thank the tree and write down what you remember.
Exercise: Connecting via the shamanic journey
Another way to connect is through the shamanic journey. Your intent will be:
’I am journeying to the middle world to connect with the essence of this tree. I ask the tree to teach me.’
Then let the journey unfold.
Nature walks: enhance your awareness and connect
Conscious walks are a pleasant way to enhance your awareness of nature and your connection to it. If you live in an urban area, go to a park. If you have access to countryside, walk anywhere that feels right to you.
Exercise: A connecting awareness walk
This is a nice way to practise receiving the ’whispers of the sacred in nature’. You can do this in four stages:
· Formulate an intent, such as ’I am connecting with the sacred in nature’, and repeat it a few times as you walk.
· Listen for a few minutes, then sense and feel.
· Next, become aware of plants, trees and wildlife.
· Fourthly, connect to the ground. Sense your connection with the Earth.
You don’t have to do anything else. The exercise itself produces the connection.
Exercise: ’Let something find you’ walk
This awareness walk will connect you with spirits.
· Walk consciously and silently in a relaxed manner.
· After a few minutes, state an intent along the lines of:
’I ask for whatever wants to find me to find me.’
· After stating your intent a few times, just keep walking with awareness. Be assured something will find you. It usually comes in a surprising form, is needed in your life and captures your attention.
During practice in a group, people were found by a variety of things. One participant was found by her voice. She started singing and loved it. Needless to say, she was a very quiet person, who rarely said anything.
Another was found by a buzzard, which he watched spellbound as it circled in the sky above its prey. Whilst watching, he received the timely message that he needed to bring more focus into his life.
Another was found by her freedom and courage. She vividly remembered a time in her childhood when she often cycled in the village and nearby woods with friends. She recalled the excitement, the feeling of freedom and, most importantly, her own courage.
Yet another person was found by silence, which she saw as a gift. She suddenly became aware that she had walked for a long time without her usual intensely present ’mind-chatter’.
There are many ways of creating ’awareness walks’. You can even do these exercises just sitting still in nature. The important thing is that you focus on nature, not your inner state. This will create a resonating inner state, which makes the connection.