Here is a simple experience that enables me to dance with the universe, know what wants to be known. It connects me with a vast intelligence beyond my ego. It’s something that you can do too.
Last Saturday, I stepped across the threshold of my daily life into the lightening dark of dawn. And my load is light. No watch, no food, phone off and buried in my pack. I have warm clothes and water. Birdsong sings my steps forwards. No map. The map of my leanings, going where I’m drawn.
This ancient practice of walking out onto the land to ask for answers is largely forgotten. But not in my bones. My bones know the rightness in this. Not just rightness of an exquisite stepping into the Spring morning and bluebells and blue sky. But all of creation stepping into me, asking me to dance.
The dawn until dusk fasting walk is often called a Medicine Walk. Drawing us to the thin places where the body that is me meets all of creation. Where I can pay attention to what wants to be known in me and what is being asked of me. Space, space and more space, I’ve known for some weeks that it is time again to step out like this.
I remember Jon and Alex of Wild Rites, my guides in this practice. Courageous practitioners who showed me how to let go enough to know more, differently in Nature. Their work gives me courage. And I now have my own work that I source in this way.
Walking out from home, there is a stark simplicity that sets me free into the morning. I walk where I’m drawn along footpaths and lanes, through fields and woods, alongside streams. I stop, sit, sometimes sleep as exhaustion surfaces in the letting go. Then, I set off again. Fearful that I won’t know where to go next, each time I do. A path, an image, an animal. I follow. Free as a bird.
The human life that I left behind shadows me. An infuriatingly busy mind. “Can you please be quiet, we’re on a Medicine Walk?”. Moments of hunger and exhaustion, “Why did I do this?”. I stop and sleep beneath trees. And I am free to do so. As I walk, the emerging themes of my life come in and out of consciousness. I start solving then I let go. My footsteps synch with my heartbeat. Clarity surfaces about the work that’s mine, who I’m to do it with and how. And then there’s where to live and how to be post-mothering, post-wife, post-anything that isn’t big enough for the one life I have.
Around lunchtime that isn’t lunchtime, known only by the position of the sun, I am profoundly exhausted. I’ve encountered unknown places, unexpected animals, insistent springs, humans. I’m curious about the new story that’s being offered to me. I re-member what wants to be re-membered and shed what’s dead.
My consciousness changes. The busy mind is bored by the vastness of it all. It gives up. I stop less and walk more. Slowly, softly, wandering in wonder. Each turn onto a new footpath a delight of blue sky, cold wind, buds, flowers, young ones. Am I them or they me? We make love for the rest of the day. Like all wholehearted lovers, we are ecstatic. Become exhausted. Cannot go on anymore. But do.
Devoted lovers do not tell their most intimate secrets. One can be told. Towards the end of the day, I’m spirit walking the land. I’ve stopped noticing each step. I’m being walked. In the beech woods near my village, I meet a hare on the track. It’s running towards me, stops with its’ long ears sensing me. Runs closer. Stops again. Runs closer. Who am I in this moment that a hare chooses to run towards me? Then, having offered its’ hare-ness, darts off at speed.
I watch the sunset from a field near home. As I walked back into familiar territory, I was comforted by the daily life that comes into view. I’m desperate for food and rest. Stepping back across the threshold I am light as a feather. Radiant clarity of presence and mind. Exhaustion at the limits of what I’ve ever known. I can’t eat. I fall straight asleep. The end?
So, this one, white, privileged, middle-class woman had a day out in Nature. That’s not remarkable. What’s remarkable is it changes me and those I bring it to. And it’s still changing me, days later.
Nora Bateson calls for a metamorphosis in human life to create a future that works. Daughter of Gregory Bateson, pioneer of systems theory and cybernetics, she says our work now is:
“Finding old memories, in a new voice, with new insight, in a new context, and radically stepping aside old assumptions”.
Our ancestors did that as they walked the land. It never was an experience in its’ own right. It was an experience to take back to the people. Today, that is my work. Maybe it’s yours. To take presence and sightedness into our daily lives, our work and organisations.
Profound thanks to Jon Keen and Alex Hadfield of Wild Rites. For showing me the way. For their courageous work. For their contribution to the world. The Medicine Walk Guide can be found here. Let it be your guide too.