Spirituality and Nature

Clarence House

Clarence House

A few weeks ago I attended a spiritual drumming class in the glade round the back of Clarence House. The class was very enjoyable and the setting led me to think about spirituality and nature.

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.” – Buddha.

It is said the first Zen sermon was given by Buddha, silently. As he simply held a white flower in his hand, the onlooking monks bar one were confused at what Buddha was trying to communicate.  The monk who understood smiled. Zen gardens are intended to imitate the inner essence of nature, an aid to meditation on the meaning of life. Japanese researchers claim the subconscious mind is sensitive to a subtle association of between the rocks in these gardens.
Many cultures have ‘sacred groves.’  In Genesis, 21.33, it says,’Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there the name of God.’  In druidry, sacred groves are seen as places to reconnect with divine essence in nature. This is an example of animism, the belief that non-human entities like animals, plants, stones etc. contain a spiritual essence. In India, sacred groves are also used to protect biological resources, to provide sanctuaries for flora and fauna, especially medicinal herbs.  They are also used to provide oxygen and deep ground water reserves.

Clarence House

Clarence House

 

Sources and bodies of water are also considered sacred in many religions.  In the Hindu festivals Durga Puja and Ganseh Chaturthi, thousands of devotees immerse themselves in water to influence a deity.  Baptism is far from being just a Christian practice.  It is also practiced in Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism, Islam, Baha’i, Shinto, Taoism and Rastafarianism.  Being in harmony with nature is central to Rastafarianism.  This is an African influence.  Traditionally, African religions embrace the ebb and tide, waxing and waning of the moon, rain and drought.  These phenomenas are seen as natural rhythms.  Perhaps these rhythms are expressed in African drumming, which can uplift the ‘spirit.’

Sufi poet Rumi often referred to nature – “raise your words, not voice.  It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”  Of God, Rumi wrote, “a mountain keeps an echo deep inside.  That’s how I hold your voice.”  To man, he said, “but listen to me.  For one moment quit being sad.  Hear blessings dropping their blossoms around you.”

Along with its gardens, poetry in Zen also reveres nature with its haikus, very short poems that capture a moment.  Zen paintings literally makes human beings look very small compared to nature.  This is sometimes seen as ‘nature mysticism,’ when man is held in awe by the divinity he sees in nature.

One famous Zen master by the name of Dogon Zenji said, “when we pick up a lettuce leaf or a carrot, or engage in relationships, each moment and interaction is the body of the Buddha.”  Perhaps this can be compared to one of Christ’s sayings in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, “cleave the wood, I am there; lift up the stone, and you shall find me there.”

By Daniel Tavet

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In Green

  A couple of months ago (had no internet for a few weeks due to a technical glitch) I did a very enjoyable workshop at Clarence House called Feeling Good  With colour.  It was about using colour  to improve our mood.  We did a visualisation  where we imagined sitting under a giant flower and golden sunshine pouring on to us,  discussed a poem about colour in nature, colour associations, discussed colour therapy, colour harmony, and how colours are used in different cultures.  We also went into the garden and each wrote a poem about what were experiencing.  This is the poem.

                                   IN GREEN

Stillness

In green

Vegetation.

Indigo flowers

Sat in middle.

Circle of bird conversation.

Trees smooth out                                                                       treespirit-greenwood-tree-primavera-500

Blunt sunshine

Cool breeze

Pats the back

Of golden heat

Calms the whirling

Brain chatter.

Buttercup open

Like greeting hand.

(image from otherwisetrading.co.uk)

The Road To Recovery, Peer Support Groups at Leeds Mind.

I have recently been attending Peer Support Groups at the Wellbeing Service at Leeds Mind – Clarence House in Horsforth.

Initially I felt quite hesitant about attending a support group. I wondered if it was the right thing to do. Was I going backwards? Was I too vulnerable? What would it be like?  Would I get entangled in other people’s stories?  However I did decide to go and it’s been really beneficial.  I have found it to be a really supportive environment.

There are a variety of courses including: Confidence Building, Self-esteem, Assertiveness Skills,  Mindfulness and Relaxation techniques. Some of the courses run for a day and some of the courses are run over a number of weeks.  The facilitators all have personal experience of mental ill-health and are professional, skilled, insightful and caring.  I appreciated that the group was facilitated by people who have personal experience – I think it’s so important.  It’s not an ‘Us and Them’ environment and so it put me at ease.

One of the reasons why I think it works so well is that the groups feel very safe. The courses have structure and everyone speaks in turn around the group. If you want to you can pass on your turn – if it feels too much.  There are ground rules in place which are discussed at the start of a course which  include things such as: to try not to talk over each other, respect each other, that it’s okay to make mistakes, to refrain from giving advice and to keep things confidential.  The setting is beautiful and non-clinical. One room in particular has a stunning view over a lovely garden which contains lovely trees and squirrels can be seen scampering around.  There is a kitchen so you can make yourself a cuppa in the break-time .A small affordable donation is suggested for the sessions but it is said that this is not necessary if you really cannot afford it.

Attending the groups has given me chance to express my feelings and share my experience in a safe environment, with people who understand and are non-judgmental.  I’ve also gained a lot of insight from other people’s experiences.

One thing that has struck me is just how nice everyone is – there is something quite humbling about the experience.  If there is anything positive to take from experiencing mental illness/distress – is that perhaps that it can make people more understanding.

There is no formal referral process – please call the Wellbeing Service on 0113 305 5802

Thank you to Leeds Mind,

VIcky