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Category: Inspiration (page 3 of 5)

The case for constraint

Perhaps like you, I resent being thwarted or trapped by some external constraint.

I have often rushed at these immovable things like a bull at a gate, with the same results of a sore head.

However, that was until recently. I’ve discovered, through nature, how fruitful such solid outside constraints can be. Twice this year I’ve seen the kind of ripe power that can burst forth after a period of life-strangling tight confinement.

‘How strange that constraint can create a build-up of awesome energy’ I thought (completely forgetting about bondage restraints and water dams) as I watched my “winter pansies” and “Lidl strawberries” produce flowers and fruits at an accelerated rate after my negligent containment of them.

I bought fifty tiny “winter colour” seedlings ultra-cheap from a Guardian offer in the Autumn. I potted them up with zealot gardener dedication.

But I was too late getting them into the flowerbeds and between one hard frost and another, followed by inches of snow on frozen ground, too cold and hard to gouge the trowel into, they were abandoned in their tight little containers.

In the Spring I noticed they seemed to still be alive, had even managing a bud or two in their tiny cells. I planted them out randomly in the garden and in the window boxes, what the hey.

Whoo-o! Within two days they were three times their size, bursting with new leaf and bigger buds, new buds and some had even flowered! They embraced their liberation with a force they must have been building and building after surviving the dormant freeze of wintertime. They have since produced flourishes of bright, joyful flowers for several months.

Similarly, the box of strawberry seedlings a friend gave me a couple of months ago which became root-bound. I fretted mildly about where to plant them and putting straw around the plants and what about losing them to our snails and slugs who rampage with full territorial rights through our garden and was there any point really in planting them out at all?

What a thing to admit to! And yet it reminds me of the fears we sometimes have about starting any creative project – our mind throws up all kinds of possible obstacles and fears which often prevent us from doing anything at all.

What is the point of spending hours of my life on this novel if it is never published? What is the point of buying a paint set if I never have time to paint? And so on, you get the idea.

I planted the strawberries out last week and already there are bunches of hard creamy strawberries beginning to blush with pink – the bright red one of a few days ago has already been eaten by a mouse or bird.

There are so many basic and complex examples of solid, external circumstances that confine and constrain us in our lives in just the same way ice forms in the stems of pansies. A lack of funds, the death of someone, a locked door, a phone not answered, a Visa expired, love rejected, a bus that breaks down.

So often our response is to try to fight the constraint, push it away. Maybe even deny it altogether. And yet look what nature tells us about the power external constraint can give us. If we freeze, pause a little and then allow ourselves to build our energy it will be there as a huge reserve you can let burst when external circumstances change, as change they will.

I am going to be more pansy and strawberry plant like from now on when I’m forced by external circumstance and situation to be dormant, pull my feelers in, remain alert and unmoving – be patient within a prolonged pause.

I am not talking here about in-between fallow periods. I am talking about those very real, very tangible forces outside of ourselves that stop us in our tracks and which we cannot change by force or any other method.

If my pansies or strawberries had fought against their confinement they would have lost a large reserve of stored energy. Instead, by pressing a natural ‘pause’ button they have given themselves the energy reserve to, at the slightest lessening of their confinement, burst forth with a huge force of raw, flowering and fruitful power.

And so it is with us. Instead of fretting and fighting about a confinement we might have – traveling to work, a difficult relationship, a tight deadline, an enemy setting us up for a fall, a pay freeze, a drain on cash flow – so many situations come up in life that press our ‘pause’ button.

I’ve noticed that many people advocate pushing through these forced constraints and I agree it is a good idea to test the strength of it initially. But then we must pause and wait, always knowing the release may not come but quietly containing our energy so we are ready for the dam bursting, the bonds removed, the money flowing and we can enjoy the hugely magnified power we had in only in potential before the constraint.

Constraints are good. They dam our creative power. And that means our creative power can explode like a new universe from a black hole.

If you, like me, are hoping that the photographer, Kalpana Chatterjee, who captured the image above immediately pulled out a pair of wire cutters and cut that barbed wire right off, you are only showing the positive spirit of humanity that has us always turning towards life and growth. Let us imagine the divine release and how the tree sap flowed after that snipping.

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Why do things die, mama?

“Why do things die, mama?”

My child and I had walked and talked for about ten minutes after finding a young fox dead on the roadside before she asked this question.

We were on a nature walk, an “adventure” and I gasped when I saw it lying there, all soft chestnut fire glory against hard grey tarmac and sharp curb.

So extraordinarily beautiful. So young, only just an adult, smooth, soft, mange-free fur and white teeth, brand new. Still warm, but dead.

Cars whizzed past, fast. I picked the fox up, its head flopped and I cradled it, blood dripping a little from its mouth.

I carried it and laid it reverently in some bough-heavy bushes, curled it around nose-to-tail as though it was sleeping, closed its eyes.

My daughter wanted to touch it too. I was proud of her. We stroked it. Her emphasis was on its wild eyes. Mine was on its youth and splendor.

We talked about it being an instant, painless death, that looking at the road, the driver couldn’t have stopped in time. We noticed the globy blood splatters. My girl asked would the fox’s parents be looking for it?

I began to cry, just a little. I was thinking of the utter, desolate waste. The youth and vitality, the care the fox’s parents would have taken to protect, feed and teach this little one through cold Spring and wet days and nights of scarce pickings. And now too quick across the road and gone.

My quiet tears as we walked were not just for this young, healthy, fit fox. They were for my own death kisses: my dogs, my cats, my mother, my self, my best friends, a boy I found dead in his car, who had fed a hose from his exhaust pipe in a lonely place . Suicides, bizarre accidents, fatal medical mistakes.

I don’t mind at all that my child sees my tiny tears or feels my sadness. I think of other children who are not given opportunities to see and feel raw, wild life and learn about death gently at first through the natural world. Who do not go on nature walks. Death on a nature walk, what could be more natural?

We have ten minutes of discussing the fox, sudden death and the consequences for everyone involved, my child asking me all kinds of questions.

And then she asks me, as she has asked me several times before, “why do things die, mama?” And I say, without hesitation, “because without death there is no life”.

I use my quaint, simplistic theory of opposites to explain things a lot. Without darkness light doesn’t exist. And yet, when we happen upon death suddenly and unexpectedly as grown-ups we are thrown out of our complacency. Children accept.

I feel odd writing about our young fox – and this is a documented syndrome you know, that when you happen upon a dead body you feel a primal sense of needing to protect it, an askew sense of it being your responsibility – I think of him still curled up and getting wet in the rain, I wonder should I have carried him all the way home and buried him here though that didn’t feel at all right at the time. I feel a little dishonorable documenting our experience in a blog post.

All of this is perhaps less about the natural, wild fox still in his natural element in the bushes and more about the wondering over death his has stirred up in me.

Yet, I want to say that I am glad we came upon the fox when we did, that it was us and not some other, stray dogs even.

I am grateful that the fox in his death gave several gifts to my child: a chance to touch wild, to stare at stillness, to learn about death in all of its complexity, to honor the found dead, respect and revere them – and more, that crossing roads is a dangerous thing, impulse must sometimes be tempered, consequences of decisions can be catastrophic …

I see her beautiful mind absorbing all of this. And she does not cry. As with so many other things, she understands it all far better than I.

Image “An Angel in the Woods” borrowed from artist Karen Davis. Check out her Etsy shop,  Moonlight and Hares + follow her on Twitter @moonhare Thank you Karen for making our world more beautiful.

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Love or be loved?

Where are you at with that? It seems to me that society puts pressure on us to be loved but I don’t resonate with that very much at all.

Of course, it’s a beautiful thing to be loved and yes, we all surely want to be a person people love. And I definitely behave in such a way as to have people like me because life is much nicer that way.

But to love another. Well, to me that is something precious. Something to be treasured. I’m talking about big love or as a beautifully lady, Julie Daley talks about “fierce love”.

There are not that many people I love in that way.

And when you get right down to it perhaps it is the same for you.

I love that wild, intense love that has you in a lather to care for someone and honor them and admire and support them and all things in the in-between places. It makes my cells vibrate when I feel that love for someone else.

Of course, there are all different kinds of love and I write this post while listening to one of my greatest forever loves, John Denver (! lol), (after playing The Eagle and the Hawk on Youtube after reading @WildelyCreative‘s new blog and her latest glorious, mesmerising moments post – follow her on Twitter @MesMoments).

“My greatest inspiration has always been the out-of-doors, The out-of-doors was my first and truest best friend” sings JD. *sigh*

I guess nature is my first love. Nature has always filled me with big love vibrations.

And then there is mother (and father) love which overrides every other kind of love whether it flows wild over your baby, your dog or your cat or any other vulnerable someone.

These days, I find myself becoming more and more fierce about loving nature. It’s kicking-in with my mother love.

Then there’s inexplicable love. That soul connection that makes you stupid, foolish, irrational – or is it brave, courageous, authentic? Feeling that kind of love is scary. Being ‘in love’ is like being possessed – and you are, by LOVE.

The media perhaps propagates the view of the importance of being loved to make us behave ourselves. But I think a sense of encouragement to love actively would be so much better for humankind.

If we focused on the glory of LOVING and expressing that – love is a verb, after all – how much more beautiful life, the universe and everything would be. If we thrilled more to the joy of actively loving, and less on the ego-centric notion of being loved, I think we would feel far more contented.

If we loved more, and connected more strongly with the energetic love vibes inside of us – and felt more comfortable with loving, rather than being loved – nature would be nurtured and supported instead of ravished for fleeting gain.

We would get better at being loving. We would learn more ways to love positively.

When we individually experience loving others, and enjoy that wild ride, we would not be quite so uncomfortable about being loved – indeed, being loved by ourselves.

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Image – “Love Birds” – borrowed from Elizabeth Ray Photography. Visit Elizabeth’s beautiful Fly With Me Etsy shop. Thank you for making the world more beautiful Elizabeth.

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Interview with a Wild Man – Jim Beattie of Primal Scream


Oh yeah. I am SO good to you baby.

Here for your curious pleasure, your whimsical attention, your inner wild liberation is Primal Scream legend, songwriter, musician and all-round wild man, Jim Beattie interviewed in a hazardous fashion by me.

If you can bear the excruciating first couple of minutes of me faffing around with the camera and sounding like a donkey’s ass while Jim demonstrates great patience you may feel wildly empowered after watching the whole thing. (I chose not to cut those minutes, or any of the other bits I could have cut. I am weird that way. I like it real, raw and slow y’know.)

Jim talks with dangerous candor about music, being in a successful punk rock band, writing songs, self-expression, music, creativity, seeing naked breasts for the first time, (at a David Bowie / Ziggy Stardust gig) individuality, Future Shock, fashion, making axes from tin cans as a child, music, karma, how he uses gardening to “lose himself”,  fear factors, the Sex Pistols, mindfulness, music, why people should read more, cooking, de-cluttering, being in the now, how to find your inner wild man, google Earth, architecture, music, making furniture instead of buying it, how we’re all voyeurs, woodworking, psychos, his wild take on life’s purpose, music, going hill-walking so he can “breathe” and yes, even religion and politics.

Meanwhile, I inappropriately disclose childhood abuse I experienced, talk and laugh too much.

Anyway, after the serious ride of being a famous punk rocker and songwriter, Jim has now chosen to be of service to young musos, artists and other creative people by actively supporting and helping them to set up in business through Glasgow-based Ico Ico.

I wanted to interview Jim not just because he is a legendary punk rocker and I was a punk but also because he is one of the kindest, funniest and hard-man grandest people I’ve met. I wanted to get some insights from him that might help other creative wild types live a bigger life.

Wanna hear some of Jim’s tunes? Check out his Primal Scream favorites:

Velocity Girl

Gentle Tuesday

both written by Jim.

For more Primal Scream check out current line-up website, some other Primal Scream website, fab unofficial Primal Scream website, Primal Scream photos, history and songs on last.fm and NME’s Primal Scream news, pics, lyrics, photos, best songs, discography, concerts, gossip and tour dates.

Footnotes:

I have interviewed hundreds of people in person, on the phone, via email. You would have NO idea of my interviewing skills watching this video interview!

Video interviewing is a whole other kind of other thing entirely! I am a video interview virgin so be gentle with me.

If you are disappointed not to see me on film – so am I! I had a great outfit on, and lipstick, but forgot to film myself. *sigh* In my next interview I might sit side by side. Oh God, just the idea of that makes me feel a little faint…

The blog I mentioned at one point when we were talking about simple bliss whose name escaped me at the time 1000 Awesome Things – amazing!

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Slow, slow, quick-quick, slow

Slow, slow, quick-quick, slow. Oh, the rhythm of the tango.

If we dance through life then the tango is my dance. What’s yours? Waltz? Foxtrot? Tango? Maybe a bit of line dancing – why not?

Even while I’m a person who’s happy to go from sound asleep for 10 hours to massive, intense, multi-tasking action to ‘make up’ for my love of sleep, I’m feeling a pull towards a slow waltz. Yes, I think I’m gonna take the slow road, even while as the picture above shows, that’s a topsy-turvy, new perspective for me.

I don’t think I’m alone in noticing a deep, quiet yearning for a slower pace.

So I’m now evaluating how I dance through life on an every day level. One step at a time.

Time. Well let’s forget about that. Let’s consider for a moment perception. Perception of how we move in the world. Do you rush? Do you walk slowly?

A lot of the pace we find ourselves setting is not just about the tasks we set ourselves each day but also, quite simply, where we live.

City dwellers always move and talk faster as a general rule than those living in rural areas. Living in the city and attempting to slow down requires a conscious swimming against the tide of, (sometimes pretty frenetic) energy that surges around you every day.

While in the countryside, surrounded by powerful manifestations of natural cycles through plants and animals, the seasons and an overall sense of a ‘slower’ pace, the full force of Mother Nature is setting your internal pedometer and mental acuity without you even realizing it. You are HUMAN after all.

So now I am noticing these differences. I’ve become aware. I’m aiming for slow-slow-slow-slow-slow —s-l-o-w and will be happy with a little quick-quick in there now and again, of course.

Even in nature a slow-grazing rabbit must be ready to run fast, a lazing, energy-saving lion to dash for a gazelle, a feather light seed to move quickly in the wind, a snail to tuck itself into its shell.

Snails. We love snails here. Having had a dry spell there have not been many about. But during lovely, saturating rain yesterday we had a snail encounter that illustrates several of the points I think I am making today.

Our bus broke down. Us passengers were off-loaded. Some were grumpy. I just don’t see the point of grumpiness about things like this. We were standing on the pavement about to walk when I realized a woman was calling a taxi.

Ever the friendly opportunist, (I’ve always lived with dogs and cats) I asked if we could split the cab with her? She was very sweet and happy to tell me in her Irish accent that it was a free ride on her employer’s account. Lovely!

As we waited in the drizzly rain my daughter excitedly drew my attention to what she had been studying – three gigantic snails in full slither all over the top of a garden wall in amongst lush green shrub.

Wow! They were beautiful. We stared and stared. They were moving pretty quick in the rain, in their natural element, out in the morning, happy and getting to it after being in their shells so long. My daughter wanted to give them something to eat.

I had a few big crumbs of bread in my bag (yes, I know that is a bit weird, but I AM a fairy story character, OK?) so my girl put the crumbs in front of one of the giant snails and he/she slithered at it and ate it while we watched, enchanted.

I am telling you this, possibly tedious, (slow?) story to illustrate how magical experiences have the space to happen in those slow moments when we are forced to wait, to look around and wonder. (Remember “the waiting place” in Dr Suess’s “Oh, The Places You’ll Go“?)

While some people might say it was a nuisance to have your bus (or car) break down with a different perspective it can be a gift out-of-time, a valid excuse to not just embrace but fully indulge the slow. Even witnessing, as we did, one of the natural leaders of the slow movement – and pretty mascot of the Slow Food US / Slow Food UK – the snail.

I am loving the Slow Movement, Slow Food (follow it slowly, of course, on Twitter) and slow everything else even while I am still catching myself doing a bit of quick-quick quite often. But then snails slip into their shells very quick-quick.

So maybe snails understand the rhythm of the tango just as much as me but prefer a slow waltz generally. I guess they keep their schedules pretty open: find food, eat it, evade death, appreciate your amazing hermaphrodite-ness, enjoy slithering and making out with other snails.

There’s a lot of good stuff to learn here. I am going to stop setting myself a ridiculous number of things to do each day. I am liking this idea of taking the slow road and making a slow, mindful, energy-saving and aware mindset my default position.

You gonna make like a snail or are you enamored of the cheetah? Unlike most animals in the wild, we have a free choice (if we allow ourselves to live wild that is).

Footnote: I must add that I’ve actively practised s-l-o-w while writing this post, by putting back the delivery time on your email subscription instead of rushing to make it by 11am AND forcing myself to not check the 26 emails which arrived tantalizingly in my inbox while I was writing it. This was NOT EASY for me! But change never is, is it? Also, thanks to Bindu Wiles for her wonderful 21.5.800 project which has supported me in staying focused and centered today. What a gal is Bindu – check her out.

PS Lovely Jackie Stewart of Flowerspirit has a wonderful post about the healing effects provided by a particular flower essence on this very issue. This flower helps us, as Jackie says, ‘slow down and be present’, can you guess it’s name? I love flower essences.

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