Nature

Listen to your soul

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I create a bit of space every day when I can sit in silence and allow myself to hear my own thoughts.

In this busy, connected world, with notifications, advertising, and everyone having a voice, I feel it’s important to learn the difference between someone else’s voice and opinion, and my own.

To do this I sit in silence for at least five minutes every day, preferably outdoors. No television, no radio, no phone, no noise, just a notepad for making notes afterwards. I get into a comfortable spot and allow myself to sit in silence. I take a few deep breaths and allow my thoughts to flow.

In creating the space for my intuition to be heard, I’m creating space for the guidance to flow.

If there’s a situation that I’m concerned about or a decision to be made that worries me, I allow my mind to go to the situation and simply allow my thoughts to drift. And, I listen. I don’t question what comes up; I just listen and give my inner voice permission and space to speak to me.

A health problem became my focus most recently. As I sat on the seat in silence, I allowed myself to drift into thought. I pictured the ‘healthy me’ that I ideally wanted to attain. It became very clear what I needed to do to remedy the problem. When I got up from my seat it was clear the food I needed to cut out, and the exercise path I needed to restart. The answer came from my body itself. I listened to my instincts, I listened to my intuition, and I found the right path.


A fear worse than death

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The teenage boys moved forward along the High Street navigating the street furniture and other people without losing their group formation. Their hair styles all looked the same, their clothes looked the same, they sounded the same.

The scene reminded me of an observation by Carl Jung:

“Grazing heads nodded, the herds moved forward like slow rivers. There was scarcely any sound save the melancholy cry of a bird of prey. This was the stillness of the eternal beginning, the world as it had always been, in a spate of non-being for until then no one had been present to know that it was this world.

"I felt then as if I was the first man, the first creature to know that all of this is. The world around me was still in its primeval state and it did not know that it was. And in that moment which I came to know the world, the world sprang into being. Without that moment it never would have been. All nature seeks this goal and finds its fulfilment in man but only the most highly developed and fully conscious man. Every advance, even the smallest, along its path of conscious realisation, adds that much to the world.”

Our fear of standing out and feeling different is sometimes so great that we fear it more than death. It’s a feeling I understand well myself having suffered for many years from a chronic lack of confidence. On the other hand, it seems odd that we’re so afraid. What exactly are we afraid of? What do we think will happen to us? We’re unlikely to suffer any real or lasting harm - or are we? The answer seems to lie in our remote past, in our evolution as social animals.

Most people don’t want to be seen as ‘different’. Not fitting in is associated with being an outcast, an ‘undesirable’. Humans evolved over the last few million years in a world filled with risks like large predators and starvation. Early humans were probably commonly hunted by many of the large predators common at that time.

One defence commonly used by mammals to protect themselves from predation is to live in groups. In a group, members can alert each other to predators and help to fight them off. The advantages of living in a group probably are the reason why early humans and other large primates evolved to be social, and why we are still social today.

Early humans learned to survive by using their wits and collaborating with each other. Those that worked well with the others, helped others and fitted in with well with the group were more likely to survive and pass on their traits to their descendants. Failure to fit in with the social group and getting kicked out probably spelled doom for early humans. It follows that anything that threatens our status in our social group, like the threat of ostracism, feels like a very great risk to us.

In the animal kingdom, ostracism is not only a form of social death, it also results in death. The animal is unable to protect itself against predators, cannot garner enough food, etc., and usually dies within a short period of time. Imagine the herd that Jung talked about. If one of the herd was injured or became separated from the group they would be targeted by the predators. Modern day humans who dare to be different and stand out from the ground risk becoming a target of trolls or of being ridiculed by their peers.

The fear is shared by many people who are faced with getting in front of a crowd and performing such as speakers, artists, athletes, actors, and musicians. They fear being negatively evaluated in anything they do; fear being rejected; fear being abandoned.

We are all afraid of rejection. At a primal level, the fear is so great because we are not merely afraid of being embarrassed, or judged. We are also afraid of being rejected from our social group, ostracized and left to defend for ourselves on our own. Sometimes, it seems that we fear ostracism even more than death, because not so long ago getting kicked out of the group probably really was a death sentence.

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The Sacredness of the Wild

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Dear Human,

Can you feel the spiritual value of the Nature around you? Do you revere the sacredness of the wild that is in your bones, and in places that we must protect for their own sake? As you walk in Nature do you take notice of the physicality of things, knowing that all physical things also have their spiritual dimension? Do you touch the world as you pass by, appreciating its solidity and presence?

That stile over the stone wall – don’t climb it too quickly. Lay a hand on the stone and feel its texture, feel its edges – are they smooth or sharp? Experience for a moment the coldness of the stone. Stop by a tree, stroke its bark and recognise it as another living being. Run your hand over the moss on the fallen down tree and feel how it is still wet from the early morning rain. Gently touch the petals of the primrose flower and feel their softness.

Mindfulness through touch.


Finding the right balance

Balancing Stones

Sometimes we have to let things fall down so that we can rebuild them the way we want.

BY JANE REDFERN JONES

I hold a large rock in my hand and make tiny adjustments which I imagine are barely discernible to anyone watching.

The rocks will collapse and I will start again.

Life is like that. We build our lives up and sometimes everything will come tumbling down all around us.

Sometimes it will fall down on its own, other times we have to knock it down ourselves in order to rebuild it in the way we want it to be.

It is all experience. The most valuable lessons in life come when we fall down.

As I place rock upon rock I am constantly in awe at the stillness, let alone possibility, of such precarious formations, amidst sometimes very turbulent conditions. This reflects our own potential to maintain a still-point amidst the variety of challenges we each face throughout our lives.

All things are difficult before they become easy.

What is fundamental about the sculptures is their simplicity, with the stones balanced together to create a seemingly impossible composition. The improbable equipoise creates a sense of wonder in the onlooker and gives the sculpture a magical presence, a paradox of fragility and solidity. Just like life.

The stones seem to lock onto each other and stay in place as soon as that precarious yet unmistakable point of balance has been found within them.

The stones decide when they are in perfect alignment with each other and the solar system. The stones reach the point of harmony with each other and the planet. The only thing holding one precarious stone on another is gravity, that incredible force that forms the stars, which shaped the earth, and which holds things together – or causes them to fall down when they are out of alignment.

There is something beautifully simple about deciding to balance stones. Being a grown up in the modern world is so often characterised by planning ahead and the pressure to succeed. An activity like stone balancing is is just on the right side of pointless and therein lies its beauty. The simple decision to do nothing else for an hour other than balancing stones in a river is to surrender to absolute freedom. We can return to the wild abandon of our childhood and open ourselves up to the abundance of the universe.

I stop planning, I stop trying to achieve.

The present moment is all I have.


I am not alone

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Woodlands and forests are ideal places to go back to nature and to refresh the soul.

JANE REDFERN JONES

I stand amongst the trees and soak up the peaceful atmosphere. I breathe in the woodland smells, deeply inhaling the smell of humus emanating from the woodland floor. I watch beams of light flicker through the canopy of branches overhead. I place my hands on a beech tree and feel the smooth bark. I feel the moss bounce softly underneath my feet.

An old bench seems to beckon me to sit quietly for a few minutes. I look and listen for signs of life - a wren is flitting about close to the ground, a pygmy shrew scratches and searches for food. I hear the distant tapping of a woodpecker

I place my hand on my heart. I can feel it beating and notice how my chest rises and falls with every breath. I think of all the heartbeats doing the same thing in these woods, in the whole country, in the world. I feel the shared experience.

I am not alone.

 


Intuition connects us to the natural world and to our nature.

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The authority of your internal voice is much stronger than your external voice.

BY JANE REDFERN JONES

The moment we choose consciousness rather than the tired out collective consciousness (behaviours we have inherited from our family) is when we start to think for ourselves. It's when we stop our lives unfolding according to someone else’s plan. It’s the transformative moment – it’s when we get to choose the life that’s ours and ours alone.

By becoming overly attached to the things (and people) that we like but don’t necessarily need, we become their slaves. We become distracted from thinking about and pursuing our real goals.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes tells the story of how a mouse does not know it has been caged for quite some time: “It doesn’t realise it has been trapped. There is a little cheese hanging on the hook just inside the door and it tempts the mouse inside. The door snaps shut. The mouse thinks to itself, “I wonder what that noise was?” But is doesn’t realise what caused it because there’s this nice beautiful piece of cheese hanging from the hook. The mouse nibbles the cheese, maybe takes a few rest breaks, and a little glass of wine with it, they enjoy themselves and think “yum, yum, this cheese is really good”. And, when the cheese is gone, they think “Well, I’ll be on my way now, and I’ll find somewhere else to go, be and do”. But they can’t get out. The door is closed. They are trapped. They are trapped by this thing that initially was something that was the lure of temporary pleasure. Maybe it even put them to sleep a little bit, like when you eat too much then you drowse a bit.”

That’s how people become trapped away from their true souls. You offer them something pretty, or something nourishing, or something delightful, and you get them to enter the cage and the door snaps shut immediately. And, they have no idea of what’s happened for a long period of time. They might be drawn to a new partner and think “Oh look, they are having a nice time, that’s a nice house; they look like they’re having a nice time and eating nice stuff”. But, it isn’t long term, it isn’t nourishing. It isn’t what lasts. You could say that at that moment they have overwhelmed their own intuition. They need to be more conscious of transformational moments and take them instead of being so easily seduced away from them.

The mouse with the full belly was convinced all the choices were right – at least for a time – until the full belly was gone. Pleasure is the motive choice, it’s the anesthesia, especially for women, often inherited from women who felt they had no status, or whose status was received from the men they were married to. It’s not useful for setting a good example for their children.

It’s the quality of what they choose that’s the issue – they shouldn’t choose anesthesia, they shouldn’t choose the full belly if it puts them to sleep.

It is such a wonderful thing to be born. It is just incredible how everything comes together to form a human. This shouldn’t be wasted. Everyone is needed; everyone has a role to play. The thing to remember is what besides intuition can a person possibly rely on in order to develop and to grow in order to transform themselves? How else can they grow from something ego-driven into something soul-driven? Dreams are intuitive, daydreams are intuitive, and visions are intuitive. Everything that proposes an image or symbol is intuitive. And this plays a role. It generates the energy within the belief system, or within the intuitive system, or within the psyche – however, you would like to say it. It enables the person to think the thoughts that they weren’t able to think before and they have a choice whether to investigate them, or whether to refute them. But, the question is, “Who chooses?” At this point who chooses? Your soul? Your ego? Or the strange demon who appears to have possession of you?

You don’t need to understand your childhood. You just need to remember that the authority of your internal voice is much stronger than your external voice. To make use of it you have to increase your self-esteem, your self-love. You need to learn to trust your instinct. You have the gift of a brilliant internal guardian that stands ready to warn you of hazards and guide you to the best solutions. Intuition connects us to the natural world and to our nature. Every thought is preceded by a perception, every impulse is preceded by a thought, and every action is preceded by an impulse. Listen.

Rely on your intuition, your true being.


See ordinary things

Mindfulness Meditation

BY JANE REDFERN JONES

You walked along the path and you stopped. There was something special – the light perhaps? After the rain the sun appeared and the land looked brightly illuminated against the dark storm cloud sky. Or was it the smell of petrichor, the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil? Or the dark wet bark on the trees all around you?

You notice the minor detail of a flower head and some leaves that someone has placed on a fallen down tree.  The dandelion head strangely anchors your attention. You wonder why is it there and who put it there? And now you are present to all the rest of this banal, ordinary moment. You become aware of the scent rising up from the young wild garlic leaves crushed beneath your feet, and the dog barking in the distance.

There is nothing special about this moment that touches you, and makes your body and mind still.  You don’t need beauty or strangeness to stop the flow of your movements, thoughts, and plans.  You stopped because this moment is unique. Never again will you see exactly what you are seeing now. Because never again will you experience exactly what you are experiencing now. This is it. You’ve stopped because you realise what matters most. You are living this little bit of life. How can you take this for granted so often? You forget that life is a miracle, that every moment is a gift, snatched from night, darkness, the stars. How can you forget that? Find joy in small moments.

Never forget to live. Look up and see everything around you as if you were a newborn, as though you never before had seen what you are seeing now. Just be aware that we are here, alive.

“It never failed to amaze me how the most ordinary day could be catapulted into the extraordinary in the blink of an eye.”  Jodi Picoult.


There is something simply beautiful about the light of the moon

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Tempted by the almost mystical light shining through my window I go into the garden. I feel a sense of awe and gratitude as the moon floods the garden and calm fields beyond with light.

I marvel at the magnificence of the full moon, but find it hard to fathom the magnitude of the universe that surrounds us.

We may have a tacit understanding of how our solar system works, but watching the full moon disappearing over the horizon reminds me of the vastness of space and the enduring mysteries of the universe we inhabit.

The sense of gratitude we have when looking skyward at night – where does it come from and to what or whom is it directed? Nature? Luck? God?

Teilhard de Chardin, a twentieth century palaeontologist and mystic, wrote in an essay ‘The soul of the world’: “There can be no doubt that we are conscious of carrying within us something greater and more indispensable than ourselves. Something that existed before we did, and could have continued to exist without us; something in which we live, and that we cannot exhaust. Something that serves us but of which we are not masters…”
It is to this unknown entity that we give thanks, whether we name it or not.

Our lives are transitory. We look up at the night sky, and we respond by giving thanks for the gift of the moment. It is good to catch that glimmer of gratitude, which is a lovely state to be in, and to fan its flame.

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Thoughts floating by...

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I’m out walking and I stop. In doing so I silence the sound of the heather and dead bracken being crushed by my feet, the almost soothing, familiar sound as I walked. I stop near a lake and watch the movement of the clouds reflected in the water. I think about how it is getting dark and that I should get back to the car.

I’ve stopped and I’m thinking...no...it’s not me that’s thinking...my mind is chattering to itself. I listen and notice this chatter: ‘Beautiful scenery’, ‘The colours are lovely’, ‘What’s the time?’, ‘I must remember to call at the supermarket on the way home’, ‘What time do they shut?’ ‘I should’ve brought my coat, it’s very cold’.

Gradually my jostling thoughts fall silent. I become aware of my own breathing and heartbeat. My attention is held by a cloud reflected in the water. I simply see it. I also see all the other clouds. I have no desire to move. I just stand there. Every now and then a new thought crosses my mind. I hear it in the same way as I see the clouds. Presence and distance. One thought whispers “Your thoughts are like the clouds, there are a lot of them, let them pass you by and float away, that’s fine. This moment is perfect. You don’t need or expect anything more than what you are experiencing here and now.”
 
Then my thoughts fall silent.
 
A glimpse of eternity.
 

Staying calm and open to the world

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I'm sitting watching the world go by. I see it change second by second as the mist moves along the valley. I hear sounds in the distance...a car...a magpie...the wind in the trees. I’m reminded that mindfulness is not relaxation (where we need silence, or quiet at least), but meditation (where we are trying to cultivate a calm relationship with the world).

In the meditative state of mind one is simply aware of being conscious at the very moment, or, to be more precise: one experiences oneself as this very moment of consciousness.

There are many definitions of consciousness and the simplest is simply ‘being aware’. 

So, as I sit here my mind flits from one silliness to the next, the same as the bird in the tree next to me flits from branch to branch. It can do nothing else. The main thing is not to feel stable on any one of them. Our minds need transitory certainties, just as birds need branches. 

I am aware that I (the real ‘me’) sit behind the voices in my head, silently listening. 

The Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh teaches, ‘Meditation is not evasion; it is a serene encounter with reality.’ This serene encounter with reality cannot be had to order. We must consciously use our breath to calm ourselves and patiently examine our experience of the moment, with gentleness and determination, even if that experience is painful, complicated and confused. We just keep on breathing and looking into ourselves. We accept that which we do not clearly understand or control, but we keep on feeling and observing. In this way we learn to look more clearly outwards, at this world that is also painful, complicated and confused. We learn to think better, more accurately and clearly. If we were all to test these fleeting thoughts we have against interdependence, emptiness and impermanence, we would suffer less, and cause others less suffering too.

And so I stay calm and open to the world.