It is easy to lose yourself in the craziness of this world. In this blog I want to foster a grounding in something deeper which is in abundance everywhere. To give attention to that wild side in all of us, that senses the aliveness and magic of our natural world. Maybe we, like our ancestors, should look at the Earth’s natural elements for inspiration when seeking the way forward?
I have written in other blogs about experiencing a God like presence when out in nature. Sometimes walking solo, the vastness of the moor holds up a mirror to my emotional state, reflecting my perceived fears and vulnerabilities. This exposure opens a doorway to change. Sometimes there is challenge, provoking inner strength, resourcefulness, and adaptability. Often there is a sense of awe and wonder. Through all these experiences, there is a sense of something very real which is powerful and wise, playful, and nurturing. Something inside resonates with the knowledge of this force. It is a part of who I am, reassuring me that I belong. When the natural world is brimming with intricate complexities, forever evolving, we are both very small and very meant.
Spirituality speaks of a universal flow. A natural way or movement of things. It is a purposeful process that has influence upon us and within us. Through time we have grown to see the natural world as separate to ourselves. Perhaps as we learnt to harness the resources needed for survival, we begun to perceive ourselves as superior, leading us to the crisis we now face.
The natural elements provide the conditions for life. The fire of the Sun like the fire in our hearts. The earth that holds us, providing the stability for growth. The air connecting us by moving through all living matter as well as the space in-between. The water that speaks of the journey and nurtures the process. Fundamentally they are essential for us to exist. I curiously ponder whether these elements are engineers of ‘the flow’. They provide the conditions for creation and the action that breaks down and recycles.
Whilst we cannot deny the negative influence of human activities on these natural elements, we must take the time to admire the perfection and astounding beauty, not of our making. Fostering a love of our planet is a catalyst for change, both within and beyond ourselves. Connecting to the natural elements reminds us of the balance between action and non-action. When to let go and trust, or when movement and change are necessary. Attuning to the natural elements can restore our sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves, outside of our field of vision. From this recognition comes hope.
My last wild camp of this year was for the best part uneventful. The clouds were too low and thick to view the sunset. I was disappointed with the light pollution from the nearby town and its effect on the night sky. It was windy, threatening to rain, and I retreated inside the tent early. It could have been the conversation with a stranger on arriving at the tor, about walking barefoot on the earth that inspired me to notice my closeness with the ground. Laid in the tent, the ground was supportive, solid, and strong. Relaxingly reliable.
As I settled down, the wind gust around my tent blowing between the inner and outer layers. My imagination explored ideas of sabretooth rabbits, bouncing against the tent looking for a way to get in and feed on my flesh. As ridiculous as this sounds, I needed to go into the night just to prove to my thoughts that these images were nonsensical. By headtorch, I watched how the wind moved around the tent, which bits flopped and flapped. Gracefully flexible to the wind, it was able to dance in its rhythm. I happened to spot three pairs of eyes in the near distance, watching me go about my business. I presumed these were foxes, the sight of them was somewhat ordinary in comparison to the creatures created by my mind.
I settled back into the tent, reassured, cosy in my sleeping bag and grateful for my shelter. I was sandwiched between the steadfast ground and the swirling winds, in a space that was still. I tuned into the lullaby of the elements and drifted into great rest.
The sun in the morning took time to clear the cloudy sky, bringing welcomed warmth. I headed on my way, over high ground with far-reaching views awarded by the endless sky. ‘Be thankful of hills for they lift you up’ (paraphrased words of Eckart Tolle). Possibilities not yet imagined, dwell like clouds in this uplifting abundant space.
Scientifically water is an interesting molecule with unique properties. Fundamentally, water is a vehicle moving nutrients, much like the blood flowing in channels through our bodies. For me the intrigue of this natural element is the visibility of its changing movements. The falls, the ripples, how it rushes, soaks and trickles. It finds a path around, over, or through each obstacle on its journey, teaching us the way to approach life. The reflective relationship between water and light creates magic that both fascinates the mind and soothes the soul.
On many occasions, I have considered taking a dip in a river on the moor. I have paddled across several rivers but there has always been resistance to taking the plunge. It feels like it is a brave, next level think to do. An intimate experience that requires a surrender to being vulnerable with nature. As a child there was never so much caution. Ironically, boldness came in the face of a discarded snorkel.
The plan was to take a relaxing walk, lunch by the river, before visiting a small nearby tor, then returning much the same way. It was late Summer, early Autumn, the sun still had warmth, but the ambient temperature was dropping. I came upon the perfect tranquil spot to pause. A granite boulder was perfectly placed for me to perch and paddle. A semi-circle of rocks making a natural dam, creating a perfect waist deep clear pool of slow-moving water. I was not the only person who had taken an interest in this spot. Discarded in the middle of the river was a plastic snorkel. I tried to relax and absorb the serenity, but the presence of the snorkel irritated my senses. I was unprepared, in jeans with only a napkin sized towel for drying my feet. While my thoughts deliberated over the practicalities, my inner being was undressing having already made the decision – vest and pants – the snorkel had to go!
The water was cool enough to be refreshing without shocking the nerves. My feet explored the smooth pebble bed below, searching for stable ground to anchor. So gentle was the flow we seemed to merge without resistance, an invitation to linger. Exhilaration followed by release. A sensation of connectedness lasted far beyond my time in the water. I breathed in the aliveness of the air, felt the changing ground under my feet, my heart was alight. I felt close to the energy that assures my being, conscious of the fragility of my flesh and bones. Yet there was a rich sense of belonging to something that was beyond my body or mind, something beautifully wild and powerful.
So, take the time to attune your senses to the natural elements all around you. Be comforted by the rain tapping on the window or the low sunlight bringing warmth through the glass. Notice how the same chill in the air that in the morning raises alertness, encourages cosy rest in the early darkness. Smell the lushness of fallen leaves laying on wet moss. The slippery splodginess of muddy ground underfoot. Feel the interaction of the elements upon you. Notice how they assure of your existence and influence a sense of wholeness. They remind us to trust in the flow of life and be conscious of our connection to the universal aliveness. Pause, take a deep breath, admire with wildness and wonder the magnificence of nature’s elements.