What followed on the walk was a litany of metaphors for life! Merlin (the self professed ‘custodian’ of the site) described the lifespan of the oak trees. It is said that an oak tree takes 300 years to grow, 300 years to live in maturity and 300 years to die. In that death is the extraordinary gift to other life forms around it – not only do bits fall off and denigrate into the earth providing nutrients for the soil but also the tree provides a habitat for all sorts of animals, plants, lichen & fungi. Now THAT’S a legacy!!
Merlin also talked about the mycelium network which provides a symbiotic system that interconnects the entire forest. He described the network as being like our own brain – full of synapses (hyphae) that are electrically charged & in constant communication. My mind immediately took me to thinking about how we (especially in the work that is striving for greater ecological and/or societal health) could create such a network, full of reciprocity as opposed to working in silos. Imagine the difference if we all joined forces for the greater good!
The temperate rainforest was the centrepiece for the retreat – it provided a space to connect with the earth (I spent quite a bit of time barefoot in the forest on the spongelike earth!!) and also a most beautiful spot for river bathing. I hugged trees, stroked branches covered in moss, marvelled at the biodiversity of plants all on one giant chaotic looking celtic oak tree & meditated on top of a tor. Yup... I went full on hippy at times! Spending time in the forest also provided an opportunity for me to find & lean into a mantra I will take into the next few months & years. The recognition that I am an unapologetically chaotic & vivacious celt. Merlin described Celtic oaks as chaotic & vivacious as opposed to English oaks which are far more straight trunked and uniform. For so many years I have felt embarrassed about being a little unorthodox! A bit loud and sometimes really rather feisty. Hearing about the oaks almost gave me permission to recognise the celt in me!! With Grandparents hailing from Cornwall, Ireland & Scotland it all rather makes sense!!
When back inside a lot of our inner work was around our ‘numbers’ – you know – the self talk that does a number on us – keeps us playing small, sad, or in a spin. We worked on accepting these ‘numbers’, firstly through observation coupled with humour & irreverence ie mildly taking the p*** out of ourselves! In fact Claire brought with her a bag full of clowns red noses for when we were being influenced by one of our numbers!! We then made sure we didn’t slip into self-absorption. This was a great provoker for us as coaches. How can we ensure we are maintaining the distinction in our self-work but also in our work with others.
In terms of re-wilding I like to think of this as clearing space for new seeds to grow, seeds that are more beneficial for our ecosystem. The irreverence is like loosening the root system of an invasive plant so it’s easier to dig up & get rid of. This is in contrast to self-absorption where we can find ourselves constantly pouring fertiliser over seeds & plants that are destructive.
In Zen one of the basic premises is to wake up… to live more in the present – we focused on NOWNESS instead of THENNESS (the past) or WHENNESS (the future). A lot of our numbers are based on the past or the future – bringing yourself into the present allows you to create separation from your thoughts and ensure you aren’t spending time in self-absorption.
The Dalai Lama puts it like this: “If something can be done about the situation, what need for dejection? And if nothing can be done about it, what use is there for being dejected?"
Here are a couple of questions that may be useful for your thinking in this:
I would also highly recommend the following books if you are interested in learning more about trees & fungi, how they communicate & what we can learn from them:
For now I will end by wishing you joy in your rewilding!
AUTHOR: ANNIE LEE
Annie is a coach, coach supervisor & coach adventurer! Warmth, depth & joy sum her approach up in a nutshell!