A month ago, on February 1st, I received a spate of posts and emails celebrating Imbolc, a time when new shoots of life begin to emerge from beneath the surface.
But I wasn’t resonating with that time within myself. And neither were the snowdrops in my garden, who seem a more reliable indicator than the solar calendar of when Imbolc is happening.
I'm only now beginning to tentatively emerge from a long dark underground spell of soul searching. I’ve been in a pretty bleak place in recent months, maybe actually for a year or so, maybe longer.
This has felt like a Dark Night of the Soul, in which I’ve been pretty sick and tired of myself, along with many other things. I lost touch with any sense of faith, or knowing what I could believe in. And it was clear that I couldn’t make myself believe in anything. And so, I felt uncertain about what to commit to, or what to do next.
I was beyond trying to craft a positive mindset. My sense of active hope had upped and left me sitting among the ruins of erstwhile sandcastles in the air.
I also found that the response to what I've been offering these last few years has mostly felt like tumbleweed rolling across a landscape of deathly silence.
Maybe it's because I didn’t fully trust in what I was doing?
As best I could, I’ve rested in stillness and silence, awaiting an epiphany, or some kind of sign of my next steps. A dear woman I shared these thoughts with recently reminded me that I’ve sown seeds which are ‘pushing out their roots and anchoring themselves in dark earth, way before any sign of growth is visible above ground’. Yes, I have sown seeds and I know that some take longer to germinate than others. And perhaps they only do so when all the conditions are right for them?
So, my questions are: Are the conditions right for my seeds? Am I even the gardener in this picture? And, if so, have I been building good rich soil?
I’ve also noticed during this time that I have more or less let go of my old habits of problem-solving, analysing what’s wrong and pushing myself to keep on keeping on. I suspect there are yet more things to compost, like more of the grief I’ve been carrying for aeons. And self-doubt. And lack of belief in the laws of attraction and abundance.
I'm not fully convinced the world needs any more coaches right now, not even 'nature-inspired' ones. I think I may be averse to my own brand!
But I AM sure that we need more poetry, more beauty, more love, kindness and connection And more generosity. Much MUCH more of that.
Oh, and we must tax the billionaires and big corporations, and redistribute wealth so that everyone can thrive.
We'd do well to remember new and ancient ways of living, in villages and smaller communities, preferably without money, and with shared commons: good soil, clean air and water, lots of fruit and nut trees and shared harvests. And, while we're at it, let’s revitalise and enjoy the pagan and indigenous festivals of our lands - those that are rooted in place.
I heard a thrilling, heart-lifting interview recently with Richard Powers, author of one of my favourite books, n from the vast living web of interdependence with all beings on this planet.
(I wrote extensively on this theme in the chapter ‘From Thinking to Acting: Responding to the Climate Emergency with our Minds, Hearts and Hands’ in.’Climate Adaptation: Accounts of Resilience,Self-Sufficiency and Systems Change’, Arkbound Foundation, 2021.)
This systems view of life - a modern face of Animism perhaps - is what I am willing to root myself deeply into. This is the rich dark soil that my own seeds of inspiration, action and faith are longing to thrive within.
I heard a thrilling, heart-lifting interview yesterday with Richard Powers, author of one of my favourite books, The Overstory. At one of the most arresting points in the interview, he said:
"In the shortest imaginable formula, we have to escape the life of commodity and replace it with the life of community. We have to give up this notion that human destiny is to manage and control and to dominate, and replace it with the idea that human destiny depends—as all other destinies do—on making ourselves better at adapting to the environment, because the environment is 99 percent living things. What’s going to be required is a conversion of consciousness. I call it plant consciousness. We have to—one by one, until we reach a certain critical threshold—begin that journey into interdependence, into reciprocal communal existence.”
I’d love to quote many more pieces from the interview, instead I strongly encourage you to read/listen to it here. And if you haven’t read The Overstory, it’s a powerful story that has changed how some people perceive the world, opening up to an animistic or systems view of life.
Returning to my earlier reflection on my work as a ‘nature-based coach’, I think perhaps we need Commons (re) Connectors more than we need coaches. What I mean by this is people who inspire, encourage or teach others how to open their awareness to what venerable Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh called ‘Interbeing’ - the web of co-dependent arising of all life on Earth, and beyond.
Of course, ancient spiritual and indigenous wisdom traditions have been pointing to this truth for millennia. But the Western colonial mindset, at least as far back as Aristotle, has systematically favoured thinking that separated mind from body and humanity from nature. This philosophical and scientific paradigm attempted to understand the world by asking ‘what is it made of?’ - a point of view that reduced the world to separate building blocks, operated on by quantifiable mechanical laws.
Since the late 19th and early 20th century, revolutions have taken place in quantum physics and biology, and the new science of ecology was born. Alongside this, other aspects of a new scientific and philosophical paradigm have emerged, including General Systems Theory, Complexity Theory and Gaia Theory. These rest on the question ‘what is it part of?, focusing more on patterns, relationships and wholeness than component parts. In this sense, they have more in common with ancient spiritual and mystic teachings than with predominant Western colonial ways of thinking.
Although I’ve been aware of the 'new science' since studying quantum physics in school, I’ve only recently begun a deeper delve into exploring modern systemic theories in earnest. And, gradually, I’m finding that, along with certain mystical teachings, this gives me a sense of light in the apparent darkness of our time.
Maybe what I’ve been doing these last couple of years is shining out my flickering torch beam, hoping it may be seen by co-conspirators of my heart tribe. If this little beam has a frequency that matches the one in your heart, please let me know (the tumbleweed is getting old!)
Your longing is counter-cultural. Welcome home.