Most of you already know I spend a lot of time in nature...walking the dog, flying the birds every day, which means I spend every day in the glories of Mother Nature. And I wouldn't change it for the world.....but I also go deeper.
Every year, for the past 6 years I have actively gone out into nature as a 'nature retreat', to reconnect with myself and find the medicine, the wisdom held within me and within the natural world waiting for me; to learn something new, to re-learn something I have forgotten, and to honour myself and my connection with Mother Earth. I have always done these sessions on my own, overnight in total darkness. Something that for some would be extremely fearful but for me they have provided great insight into who I am, and how to overcome the challenges that have held me back, and how to more importantly move into the person I am becoming.
I do not call these 'Vision Quests', as to honour the traditional Vision Quest of the Native American nations I would have to go and discover my medicine over 4-5 days in wilderness that I am unfamiliar with. I also hold a strong desire to stay true to my land, my connection to my ancestors, so it would be very wrong to say I was doing a Vision Quest overnight. Instead I hold true that what I have been doing is taking myself out of the technological world and putting myself firmly back into the natural world, to reclaim my natural way of being by reconnecting deeply with the natural world around me......learning my medicine.
When you strip away the attachments of the technological world you feel bare, naked, vulnerable. For some people they simply do not know how to behave. To sit with ones own thoughts for 10-12 hours in the dark requires you to meet your fears, your anxieties, your deep conditioning that in my early twenties would have sent me running away in the first 10 mins of the retreat.
I clearly remember my first retreat in nature. I had decided 1 month in advance that I needed some time connecting deeply with nature and I was coming to a major life decision and really needed to connect strongly with myself to make the next move. Meditation was the key, and for each night coming up to the retreat I would meditate and link in with what medicine I was searching for to make the next move in my life. When in fact after my first hour in the woods, in the dark, my medicine became all my fears rolled into one. My shadow side loomed as dark as the night and I became suffocated in fear, and I promptly left the woods and headed home. A very deep lesson from my first connection, and one telling me to do more inner work before venturing out again. I then spent a further 9 months working on the shadows that appeared and re-tried the retreat in nature once more. This second time I stayed for 10 hours overnight in the woods.....the time out in the natural world became a safe place, a comfort, a holding space for everything that happened and came forward as wisdom, as medicine for me, to teach me. Those teachings then became integrated into my life through honouring and for me to take up the challenges, to see these challenges through.
My night-time nature retreats have never been easy.....in fact they are the hardest thing I have ever done for myself. Meeting yourself in the raw, stripped bare of the 'sugar and spice' that you've come to see as 'you' is difficult..and certainly not for everyone!
Recently I have changed the night-time nature retreat into a day-time immersion technique and been pleasantly surprised at the contrast of the medicine that has been waiting for me. During the day-time your fears and anxieties still surface, and so they should, this is a time for being honest to Mother Earth and to yourself.....this 'nature retreat' is not hotel lined with plush food and yoga sessions, this is back to the raw earth, sleeping on the ground, connecting in a way that we used to connect with Mother Earth. During the 'nature retreat' day I am fuelled with the awe and wonder of my Inner Child, wanting to climb trees (which I did), paddle in streams (which I did), forage for berries (loads!), follow the smallest animal trails through dense undergrowth to be led to the most amazing areas, and cuddle up to the amazing trees......sheltering me as I honoured their presence, providing me with deep wisdom and medicine to be integrated throughout the coming weeks. Messages coming at me from all directions as I slowly sank into a deeper connection, deeper way of knowing the natural world around me. Feeling eventually as one with the forest, feeling the movement of the deer, the wind over a Buzzards wing as the same wind caressed my cheek, the forest floor breathing as I lay down breathing with the forest. Deep immersion, deeply connecting with Mother Earth means you have to make sacrifices and are willing to change, to move forward, to honour and respect not just Mother Earth but also yourself. These 'nature retreats' cost me nothing in terms of money, but money can not be placed on the amount of connection and gratitude I have for this work. My personal 'nature retreat' has me longing to get back out in the forest, to connect deeply once more. The feeling of coming away, felt I was leaving something I loved and treasured so strongly. The forest has a piece of my heart...I long to be back out there, immersing myself in its presence once more. Mother Earth connection for me is so important. She feeds me, comforts me, provides me with her medicine, her wisdom and yet she knows me so, so well that I always feel safe in her presence. The plants, trees and animals I have encountered during my day retreats have taught me once again who I am, what my true medicine is and how I may serve the community. In this day of technological advancement humanity has become cut-off from Mother Earth. We live in a time where 'Nature Retreats' are glamourised and pushed as something you can achieve through plush surroundings and posh food. Are people afraid of reconnecting? I think for the majority if they truly reconnected back to Mother Earth there would be a huge element of fear. Fear of change, of finding out who you are, of who you are supposed to be! And it comes full circle, if we fear change and the natural world, we don't honour ourselves or Mother Nature for what she can provide. By not honouring all that Mother Nature holds we are killing her, and in turn killing our true selves........we need to learn to connect, to honour and respect everything that she provides, and without her we would not be here. I only wish everyone re-connected back with Mother Earth......we need to slow down and 'listen', 'see', 'touch', 'smell' and 'feel' with our HEARTS if we are to connect once more. Go and spend time in nature, just sitting doing nothing! How long did you sit out there before feeling the urge to get out your phone or the to-do list in your head was more important than the bird-song overhead? We need to reconnect now more than ever......
Twice per month I am running day retreats out on Exmoor and the Quantock Hills in Ancient Woodland. A chance for you to reconnect with the natural rhythm around you, and to connect in with who you are and perhaps find some of your own medicine by connecting in with Mother Earth. If you are interested please do get in touch. Forest Blessings, Karen x