Teachings from the Wind
(Paper for The Plant Spirit Medicine Conference 2011 – On Building a Practice. )
For many years I have regularly gone onto the moorland near where I live, to move with the wind and connect with the season. When I heard this conference was about building a practice I was inspired to share what I have learned from my reflections on this, as I move with the wind.
The writing in italics is taken from my diaries recorded through these last two years.
Standing on a rocky hillock, the wind gusts around me. It is strong, cool and refreshing on my skin. It moves me and I respond, trying to keep balanced in the constant change. As I lean, the wind meets my body with a steady fullness and gradually I begin to let it take my weight. Amazingly I am resting on air.
Like a child again, I feel the joy of a wind that can hold my whole body. Arms opened I relax and drop into the delicious sensation of being held and supported by an invisible force. The winds pressure and the certainty of its touch, nourishes something deep within me, as I feel it strong on my back. It meets my body and then continues its journey onward and beyond.
It flutters a little, changes and softens. My body alerts, suddenly it is almost calm and all momentum is gone. I bend my knees and with a rapid downward movement of my body, catch myself before I fall. The breeze is gentler; I must stay awake as the next gust could topple me. Wide-awake and exhilarated, I’ve been here a while and taken a few tumbles but gradually I’m learning to move with this changing force. The longer I stay with it, the more I root into the ground, opening to a flexibility of body that responds more and more readily with each shift of air.
I am asking the question, what is it that most supports my practise, and me within it? As I move and dance with the play of energy around me, what I know to be most important is exactly what’s happening here. Staying steady and strengthening my root. This allows me to tap into the resources I need and the flexibility to enter the unknown and meet the ever-changing mystery of the process of healing.
As my root has grown stronger I have felt more and more able to be really present in my practice. Many years ago I was part of group of homeopaths who were exploring ways in which to build our practices. We tried many different things and ultimately the conclusion we came to was that a quality of presence and steadiness was the consistent factor in those whose practices grew and flourished.
Growing a practice is unsurprisingly like growing a plant. The first thing that begins to grow, once it has germinated is the root, searching for stability and nourishment. Just like this first exploratory root, our days in class are hidden from the public eye. We take in information; explore it, question it, and gradually it changes us inside as we begin to deepen into new understanding and growth.
My experience is that the stronger this root becomes, the more sustained I can be in my practice and more it can build from a steady base. Each of us is individual in what strengthening that root might mean and for me this has meant different things at different times. In the early days a large ingredient was, and still is study and support. At other times I have need to face my own demons and do my own healing to keep up with what I am meeting in others. On a daily and weekly basis I have to find what deeply nourishes me, be that conversation with close friends, meditation, movement, exercise, sitting by the fire or walking in nature. All those things and more are vital ingredients to keeping myself healthy and able to sustain my practice. I have also consistently needed someone I trust who gives me some kind of supervisory support. I absolutely believe that for my practice to thrive I need to be thriving myself.
Rhythm of practice
Returning to the hillside, I am struck by the different responses needed to meet the changing quality of the wind. As it becomes quieter, I’m left with a slight sense of abandonment, where is my playmate? As my depth of connection to the ground grows I become more able to adjust and flow with the changes. Now I find myself honouring the subtly of the gentler breeze, opening me in a different way. It is not so obviously exciting or outwardly visible as my responses to the wild, driving force I was experiencing earlier, but the gifts in it are palpable and have a different kind of magic.
My practice has had busy and quiet times. When it is full and strong, just as in response to the strong wind, it needs my full energy and attention. The sudden loss of this force requires me to feel my root again and regroup, so it is in my practice. Those quiet times don’t imply failure as a practitioner. They might mean a tightening of the belt, but mostly it is a call to be with a gentler energy that can be more reflective. It is time to nourish myself and my practice in whatever way is needed. If I can stay clear in my intention the energy rises when the time is right and through listening to the signs I am ready to flow with it, allowing the process to unfold in its natural rhythm
In my experience building a practice is not a linear thing, and it is a very individual process. For some it takes years to build and create to the point where it can really sustain, for others it is quicker. In my first years of practice I did many other things to support me, waitressing, cleaning, working in a youth club. All jobs I could leave behind at the end of the day. It wasn’t just money these jobs gave me but also a change in energy. I wasn’t immediately ready to spend all my days listening to people and needed to build my experience and capacity gradually.
I have found that being congruent with my energy and capacity is one of the things that most supports the growth of my practice. It is not the quantity of clients but the quality of the work I do that has enabled my practice to grow. It is well known that word of mouth is the best advert and in my experience this is absolutely the case. It means clients also come with a sense of trust and openness and a lot of the work is already done.
Finding my place
As my root deepens into the ground, I find I am beginning to see around me more clearly. My vision has changed and the flowing curves and swathes of moorland are opening up. I see layers of land before me. The first is in crystal sharp relief and behind it a small rocky outcrop, more softly outlined. As my eyes scan over the horizon each layer of land becomes gentler in its focus, drifting into the distance, colours more muted, edges less defined.
My feet feel deeply settled, my body open and flexible, my capacity to receive what is around me is growing and opening. As my arms move and are moved by the wind I become part of the whole, I play with the space moving it and being moved. Far into the distance I can see the coastline with little curving clouds bouncing on the horizon, my fingers feel, explore and play. As I glance eastwards to the wooded hilltop, I meet the valley beneath it, the beings in the little bushes that live by the stream dance with me.
Northwards I see the heart of the moor. Narrow layers of hills step up rising to the highest curving peak. Acknowledging those little trodden territories, I bend in a bow.
As I see more clearly, I allow myself to become more visible as I take my place in the land.
The more I am rooted and nourished the more I can see the whole and find my true place within it. Then this healing practice is less about me, and more about the whole. I take my place in the jigsaw and that allows what is possible to happen. In becoming more present in the embodiment of my practice, others find it easier to see and find me, like a flower blossoming in summer.
After a while I feel able to venture out into the wind, I stand and climb onto the top of the small mound that had been sheltering me. As I step upwards I feel the wind and rain increase in their intensity, now I am right in amongst it. ‘Can I face the wind?’ the question goes through me. I am and I do. I face into it and wind and rain together meet me. Raindrops sting my skin and the wind is steady but ripples and flows over me. I have been here for some time and now the damp penetrates my jacket, water drips down inside my boots and my gloved hands are soaking. I have given up to the sensations pleasant and unpleasant. I hold my face and my body in its full force. It blows into me, down my neck and around my head, it’s exciting and uncomfortable at the same time, it’s a matter of enjoyment and toleration.
It is also possible I find, to take space from it as I turn my back and enjoy the softer, less invasive force pushing me from behind and I allow myself to lean in to the deliciousness of being held in the arms of the wind.
This is also the challenge of practice. It is not always comfortable, and at times it challenges me to my core. It can be the most inspiring and satisfying thing ever and some days I witness some wonderful healing transformations. Other times I have felt confused and overwhelmed, or that I don’t know what I am doing. It can provoke a lot of anxiety, or it can feel like a great gift that has come into my life. Part of the process of building a practice has been accepting that this is how it is and something in me has to stay with it and meet what it brings. This is why I like to have someone in a supervisory role who will both hold and support me but also who will challenge me to look at what it is bringing and be clear about my responses. Building a practice is not something we can do on our own and behind each practice that sustains and grows are our teachers, our peers, friendships and family, our spiritual nourishment, our physical nourishment and all that supports us in the joy of living.