Nature as Guide: Blackberries and Bread Baking
Brambling stream of consciousness journey on the spiritual path, from Yoga to Paganism and beyond... (Yes, brambles because: blackberries)
The spiritual path for me has been a winding one with various influences and illuminations, twists and turns. I feel resonating truth and inspiration from many traditions and practices, and for me, that affirms the unity of things.
All rivers lead to the ocean.
I sometimes find myself looking for more of a structured path to follow. Something with guidelines and regular community gatherings... a well laid path, something to belong to. I grew up in the Catholic church, which possesses those qualities. I've belonged to other spiritual groups, and the closest thing I have come to "following a path" was yoga.
As a tradition from the East, yoga didn't carry the baggage that my Western choices did. It was something removed from my Western experience of life, the world, and spirituality, and that was refreshing. And then, when I found a teacher from an authentic, respectable lineage, I thought, I had finally found it. Something I can devote myself to. Something I can believe in. Something to belong to. Something unbreakable. Something I can rely on. But, as my understanding and knowledge of yoga and its history deepened, I realized, this tradition was not without its shadow side. Like just about every faith tradition I can think of.
That realization popped a bubble for me. I was looking for whole, perfect and true, and I was looking for it externally. It showed me how I gave my power away. How I wanted to place my faith outside myself. In a teacher's hands. In the arms of a recognized lineage. It showed how I wanted to place my devotion outside myself. In a practice, in a structured path with sign posts and all. Where all the rituals and rules were already in place, and I join right in. Where everything was perfect. When I realized this path wasn't the pure perfection I had hoped for, and that it too had its shadow side, it invited me to embrace the realness of that. To turn inward and embrace the wholeness of me.
These reflections and realizations were culminating in summer of 2020. As I realized I didn't have to travel far and wide for spiritual inspiration and began turning within, I felt the importance of looking to my own roots. But what are those roots? I have Irish blood, so... Celtic I suppose? This is a start. And yet, though I feel a connection to those lands and those tales, it is not the land my physical body has known as home in this lifetime. While some of my ancestors are from Ireland, I'm "American". Am I overcomplicating it? I chalk it up to my Sagittarian quest for truth, for the purest experience of reality. Anyway, I still find myself intrigued by Celtic mythology, and I remember my fascination with Earth-based spirituality (e.g. paganism, wicca) as a younger person, even as a young child. Following this fascination did and continues to enrich my spiritual life.
And yet, there is still something that does not quite yet feel authentic. I find joy in exploring various Pagan and Celtic mythologies and ideas. I am curious to see how relations with their deities and archetypes unfold. I am turning my awareness to the Wheel of the Year and the named Sabbats. Feeling into some of these myths and traditions, I realize how their context, their roots, are often of a different time, place and season than my current lived reality. (Also very applicable to yoga.)
Muddy roots, lack of strong held traditions, and interruption of the passing down of wisdom can be confusing (at the very least) in spiritual life, and in other ways too.
However, the Re-Memberance that this process has awakened for me personally, the process of uncovering my spiritual roots, is that I am consistently led back to the Earth. To the Roots herself (themselves). Prior to, as well as coinciding with my witchy aspirations as a little one, was the deep sense of belonging and awe of the natural world. Making stone soups and fairy houses was a way to interact with this understanding as a child.
My search for a spiritual path with structure and certainty stems, at least in part, from various old, unhelpful (often harmful) programs, many in a quest for power over - namely religious power, and also all programs that suppress the feminine, the narratives of the empirical mind that require rational proof and certainty (to name a few of many possible factors). And, in a quest for power, the individual who falls prey is in turn disempowered.
Equally true, is that it is all just a part of truth seeking and the path home. Would there be "truth" without these "lies"?
I am writing this in late July of 2021, and Lughnasadh, the Celtic and Pagan (which if you didn't know, means "country folk") recognized holy day is nearing. While some deities I feel a kinship to, I haven't really felt the call to or from Lugh, for whom the holiday is named. Many stories and sources recall this time of year as the grain harvest, and bread is baked in celebration. This is an example of the contextual dissonance I experience at times. Grain harvest isn't really relevant for me and my local community, (i.e., I am not living in an agricultural community where wheat is currently being harvested).
As I let myself be inspired in the exploration of Earth-based spiritualities like Paganism, and Celtic lore, as well as investigate the aspects of disconnect, I glean that these traditions, in essence, lived in tune with the cycles and seasons of nature, as well as otherworldly energies, demonstrated through the connection to deities and the mythological realm. And the realization that feels ultimately resonant is that Nature is truly my Guide. Particularly, nature integrated with spirit. Union. Including, my own innate nature. As within so without. Union. A truth that I was able to open to in Yoga as well.
I have great appreciation for ways of living where significant celebrations are marked by the transformations of the natural world around us. It just feels real to me. It even feels practical. It feels connected. Christmas truly is a celebration of light after a long dark winter! And a knowing that the light will return.
And of course, I deeply appreciate mythology, working with archetypal energies, and having a real spiritual connection and relationship with deities and the spirit realm. This has strong significance in not just my own spiritual life, but there is also a sense that the marriage of matter and spirit, which includes acknowledgement, reverence and ideally a relationship with the "otherworldy", is essential.
It is no coincidence, in realities and programs that devalue and seek to push down and control archetypically feminine experiences and qualities (like mystery, intuition, sensitivity, relationality) that we have lost connection with nature, lost touch with Nature as Guide. Because living with nature as your guide, especially if you do not already live this way, requires respect for archetypically feminine qualities and willingness to embody them in ourselves.
The changes in the natural world are often (though not always!) subtly sensed. We must listen with patience and presence. We must develop keen embodied senses. While after some time, you realize there is level of seasonal predictability, you don't always know when the nature of a season might change, when it might stretch on or speed by, and what unexpected surprises or challenges it may bring. There is no control of and power over nature, ultimately. We have to let go and let God~Goddess...
This paradigm asks for a different way of showing up. It is not mechanical or rote. If you want to make Nature/the Universe laugh, tell them your plans. It is alive, breathing, listening, sensing, responding. We must be willing to attune to the mysterious forces of nature and be at the mercy of this power. It does not have to be "God-fearing". It is relational, it is conversational.
It invites us to pay attention to the world around us and to engage in relationship with the world around us. To show up present to the call of each moment, with our personal agenda aside. To be okay with not always having the answers, not having a solution to the problem, and perhaps not even considering it a "problem" in the first place, if it's within our capacity and boundaries of self-compassion.
To begin wrapping up these thoughts as I bounce about on my merry way, admiring the many traditions, time and time again, I come back to Nature, back to the Earth. (And of course, to Love as my religion.) Yoga has forever changed my life, and I see no end in sight for my personal yoga practice on and off the mat. There are many ways that I perceive yoga to be in complete alignment with Nature as Guide, and I imagine this would prove even more true if I traced yoga's indigenous roots. The enchantment with traditions like Wicca, Paganism, and Celticism continues to inform, enrich, and weave its way in, out, about, around and through my life. And I am so grateful for these traditions leading me back home to the Truth I experience in Earth-based Spirituality.
I am giving myself permission to feel my way through the dark.
To belong to something that is fluid and mysterious.
A tradition that is timeless and formless and so very alive.
A tradition that does not come with instructions, other than being present and trusting the harmonies of our soul song and the call of the Wild.
I am empowered to know my own innate wisdom, authority, and sense of belonging.
So, at this turn of the Wheel, coming into the moonth of August, while I am drawing inspiration from a people that celebrated by baking bread from grain harvest, I will be delighting at the smiling yellow sunflowers and hoping that the season for juicy blackberry stained fingers is ripe, and whatever other seasonal greetings might engage me.
Lastly, the call, a quote from the book If Women Rose Rooted:
“And so the Heroine’s task on her Return is to bring humankind back in its place with the world: to bring about a re-enchantment of our relationship with the Earth. The Return … is about … bringing the wisdom of nature to consciousness, as we position ourselves with nature against a destructive and dualizing culture. This is the true task of the Wise Woman: to offer again the fructifying, land-healing, life-giving drink from the Grail. To reclaim our ancient authority: to restore to the world the Voices of the Wells.”
(Sharon Blackie, p. 290)
I bow in humility and pay respects to Indigenous peoples, and all beings who have always upheld this wisdom and way of life, even in the face of severe injustice.
May we humble ourselves to their wisdom and honor their lives with great reverence.