Nature Awareness Essay

3 03 2014

Nature awareness is very important for me and has been my favourite part of the Dedicant Path. I have enjoyed going out to spend an hour in nature every week between March and November (after which it was too cold and wet). I am very fortunate to live in an area that has beaches, parks, woodland and a nature reserve all within a mile of my home. Each week I went to a local park that is around 15 minutes from my house and which contains a nature conservation wetland area. I spent an hour observing and recording what was going on around me, noticing what had changed since the last time I was there and learning about the nature spirits. I spent some time meditating there for many of the weeks too. I often said hello to the nature spirits and Mother Nature when I was there and on one occasion the words “the graces of the Earth Mother” kept going through my mind. Spending this time in nature and discovering new things every week really felt like I was receiving a gift of grace from the Earth Mother. I constantly saw new things and learned more about the world around me. I saw many different types of birds including swans, seagulls, moorhens, coots, wood pigeons, blackbirds, blue tits, great tits, woodpeckers, dunnocks, house sparrows, wrens, mallard ducks and a heron. I saw insects like bees, butterflies and dragonflies. I saw a Pipistrelle bat and many baby chicks. I learned the names of trees such as horse chestnuts and white poplar trees. When I engaged with one of the horse chestnuts in particular, I felt a definite sense of a presence there. Seeing the changes through the seasons gave me a very strong feeling of connection to the cycles of nature. I would have liked to have brought offerings with me each time but there were signs up saying not to feed the birds and other creatures because the food attracted rats. I did however manage to pick up litter a few times as an offering to the spirits of that place.

For me, honouring the Earth is a vitally important spiritual practice. As a Pantheist that views Nature and the earth as divine and sacred, I feel a duty to look after the world around me. As an Animist, I believe that all things are “minded” and that mind in some form extends all the way down to the smallest atom and up to the largest galaxy. Unsurprisingly then, I fully accept the Gaia hypothesis. I view the earth as a mother, the mother who creates me, sustains me and will one day draw me back into herself.

Over the past year I have tried to learn a lot about my local area. I have discovered that my water primarily comes from two nearby rivers (Dart and Tamar) and three reservoirs (Burrator, Roadford and Venford). I have learned that my waste water is exposed to the removal of solids and UV treatment and is returned to the sea via an outfall at Sharkham Point. I live next to the sea and the water quality here is good. I live in an urban area which is built over quite a few streams, but the nearest large rivers are the Dart and Teign and these act as watersheds. A significant portion of the area is also categorised as an “area of outstanding natural beauty.” The climate is temperate and the prevailing wind is from the south-west. We have mild winters here and it is also one of the sunniest parts of the UK. It is coldest in February, sunniest in June and dullest in December. Spring has the least rainfall and Autumn the most. Various fruits and vegetables are grown here but especially apples for cider, potatoes and maize corn. Because it is hilly, the county I live in tends to be used more for animal farming rather than crops. The soil of the area is primarily sandstone, with the two edges of the area being limestone. Most of the trees are deciduous broad-leafs.

I try my best to live in an environmentally sustainable way. I have chosen to be a vegan which is a very environmentally friendly way to live. I regularly recycle about half of my waste, including all paper, cardboard, glass, clothing, cans, jars and some plastic. I buy some organic items and I always make sure I switch off lights or electrics when they are not in use. For the last two years I have not had a car and have taken public transport instead, however recently I have got a new job which is in a location that is not practical to get to by public transport and so I have had to buy a car again. I have got much better this year at taking reusable bags with me when I go shopping so that I don’t get lots of plastic bags. In future I would like to make a lot more changes. Currently my power is mostly from fossil fuels so I would like to change my energy company to one that uses more green energy sources. I keep my heating down and have only been heating one room in my house this winter. I will be voting for the Green party at the next election and have signed up for an allotment so I can grow my own food when it becomes available. I regularly give to two environmental charities – the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and The Woodland Trust and am considering becoming a member of a local environmental charity too. I want to move towards buying more local and seasonal food and am currently trying to buy more things second hand or from charity shops rather than brand new. I don’t recycle my food waste currently because the bags provided are not suitable and break too easily so I need to find an answer to that. I need to get used to using the computer more in order to cut down on my paper use. I also need to investigate ways of reducing my water usage. I hope that by doing these things I will be able to make more of a difference both at a local and global level.

Nature Awareness 8th Dec 2013 and Mental Discipline Updates

8 12 2013

So I haven’t been out to my normal place in Nature since the last post on the topic back in October. I decided at Samhain that the weather is becoming too cold now and I have seen most of the yearly cycle – everything is dying off. I also think I’m going to switch the spot I go to from the nature conservation area to a local park behind my house. This is partly because its closer so I’ll be more likely to go, but more importantly it isn’t restrictive in terms of offerings. I couldn’t give offerings at the nature conservation area because it would attract rats and they would eat the baby chicks e.t.c which I definitely don’t want to happen, however I can easily give offerings in the park (albeit there’s more people around) and hopefully this will mean I can develop a closer relationship with the nature spirits.

I am also changing my mental discipline plans. I have tried to follow a meditation regime but I have failed to feel like I’m making any progress or enjoying it. I have done the required 5 months and I will still do some meditation now and again using a Buddhist loving kindness meditation or Stoic meditation but a disciplined daily regime feels beyond me. I think I have done enough to have a reasonable understanding of the Two Powers meditation and I have explored many other types of meditation but I would like to change to a more devotional practice using the Solitary Druid Fellowships evening devotion (with some small amendments). I won’t have a set time each day I’ll be doing it as I have found that too difficult to keep to when my life doesn’t have a set routine, so I will do it whenever I can and hopefully every day. I am also switching my focus more to a Norse Pantheon as I seem to be connecting better with it.

Mental Discipline

Week 28 (26th October – 1st November)

31st October – I did a Two Powers meditation for 10 minutes in front of the altar as part of my Samhain ritual. It went well although I felt tense still and kept slumping. The visualisations are not getting any easier.

Week 29 (2nd November – 8th November)

2nd November – I went to a Buddhist retreat this weekend. This involved a lot more meditation than I was used to. It started with a 3 hour workshop on meditation which consisted of a short talk, 45 minutes sitting meditation, 45 minutes walking meditation and finally another 45 minutes sitting meditation. I really enjoyed the walking meditation and learned how to do it properly. Later that day we had another 1 hour meditation session.

3rd November – The day began with an hour meditation at 5am in the morning and another one at 7pm in the evening. Meditation for these long periods was difficult mainly because I kept needing to move around due to pain. I still keep slumping and the monk suggested I might need to take up alternatives like Tai Chi to help me deal with my posture issues. Overall I felt the weekend helped me to really progress my meditation skills.

Week 30 (9th Nov – 15th Nov )

No meditation this week.

Week 31 (16th Nov – 22nd Nov)

No meditation this week.

Week 32 (23rd Nov – 29th Nov)

25th November – It was the beginning of Stoic Week so I did the Stoic Meditations which consist of a focusing on breathing for a short time, then contemplating the vastness of the universe and my place in it. Following that one plans their day and visualises situations where it might not go according to plan and how its best to deal with those. I felt this type of meditation where my mind is engaged in planning seems to be easier.

26th November – I did 10 minutes of Stoic Meditation as above.

27th November – I did 10 minutes of Stoic Meditation as above.

28th November – I did 10 minutes of Stoic Meditation as above.

Week 33 (30th Nov – 6th Dec)

2nd December – I did 10 minutes Stoic Meditation. I also did a Stoic circle of compassion meditation mixed with a Buddhist loving kindness meditation. I visualised a light of love surrounding my body then extending it out to encompass different groups of people until the whole world was encompassed. I also said silently “May you be happy, may you be peaceful, may you be loved” at each stage. I found the visualisation hard but I did feel it was beneficial.

3rd December – The last of the Stoic Week meditations today. I also did a 15 minute guided meditation which was focused on contemplating my place in the universe by imagining myself floating up from my body. It was again difficult to do the visualisation and the words were spoken too fast which made things difficult. I need to do some practice on it.

4th December – I did an evening devotional and gave offerings of Oats to the Kindred.

6th December – I did an evening devotional and gave offerings of Oats to the Kindred.

Outline of new daily devotion

(Light Candle & Incense)

Say: “I come before the sacred fire, sacred well and the sacred tree to give thanks for the blessings in my life.”

(Breathe deep 9 times)

Say: “I give thanks to the Earth Mother, Nerthus, for the support and sustenance she gives to my life. Hail Earth Mother!

(Give offering)

Say: “I give thanks to the Ancestors for making my life possible and for the guidance and blessings they give me.” Hail Ancestors!

(Give offering)

Say: “I give thanks to the Nature Spirits who watch over my land and home for the guidance and blessings they give me. Hail Spirits of Nature!”

(Give offering)

Say: “I give thanks to the Gods and Goddesses, especially ….(changes each day)……… for the magic they bring to this world and for the guidance and blessings they give me. Hail Shining Ones!

(Give offering)

Say: “I give thanks to all the Kindred for their presence in my life, and for the blessings they have given me. Hail Holy Ones!”

(Give offering)

Say: “Mighty Kindred of the nine worlds, I give thanks to you today and ask that you accept my offerings. In return I ask for your blessings and protection upon my family, friends and upon my home. Guide me in the path I must walk and may I feel your presence ever with me.

So may it be.”

(Bow then blow out candle)

Nature Awareness Update 25th October & Mental Discipline Weeks 25 – 27

25 10 2013

We’ve had a lot of rain recently so I haven’t been able to get out much. Today I went out mid afternoon and it was cloudy but dry. There were a few blue patches in the sky and it was very windy but mild. There are a lot of leaves on the floor now and the Horse Chestnut trees have almost lost all their leaves. Many White Poplar leaves are yellow now too. There are still some blackberries around but they are very small. I noticed some a small holly plant which was probably hidden by all the growth of other plants that have now died back (although I didn’t notice it in the spring). There are also some new nettles around. I heard a few birds singing and saw seagulls and crows circling as the flew up in the wind. There was also a Magpie. Most of the insects, including the spiders are gone now but there were a few Pondskaters and a bee. In the lake there were only 7 swans – I don’t know where the other two have gone.

Mental Discipline

5th October – 11th October

6th October – I did 10 minutes of the Two Powers Meditation at my altar. It went well but visualisation still needs improving.
9th October – I did 10 minutes of the Two Powers Meditation at my altar. It went ok but I slumped so my back hurt and visualisation was very difficult. I prayed to the kindred giving them an offering of incense as well as lighting a candle and praying to Brighid.

12th October – 18th October

17th October – I did 10 minutes of the  Two Powers Meditation at my altar. It went ok but I slumped a lot again as I don’t think I was sitting correctly and found visualisation difficult.  I gave an offering of incense to the kindred and lit a candle to honour Brighid. I’ve decided to try some Buddhist style meditation again rather than Two Powers for a while.

19th October – 25th October

25th October – I meditated for 20 minutes in my nature spot. The time went fast and I felt calm. I enjoyed the wind blowing around me and against me as I sat there still. I changed my routine a little from chanting 1 up to 10 alone to doing that and then counting back down from 10 – 1. I did slouch a lot which i think was because I wasn’t sitting right and my paper I write notes on flew away half way through so I had to sort that out and begin again. My breath slowed when I was meditating but I sometimes felt more tense when it did. I have done some research on mantra meditation and might try some of that this week too.

For more exciting news – I am going to stay at a Buddhist Monastery next weekend so should hopefully be able to reboot my meditation practice and sort out issues I have.

Nature Awareness Update 4th October & Mental Discipline Week 23 + 24

4 10 2013

I went out to the spot in nature early this afternoon. The sky was cloudy although there were a few blue spots. It was very warm and windy. There are still lots of blackberries out but most flowers have died off now. The floor was covered with leaves, and many leaves on the trees have turned yellow (except the horse chestnuts which turn orange or brown), however there are still many green leaves on the trees. The horse chestnut has some large buds appearing on it and the few chestnuts that are left have turned brown. There are still lots of spider webs around and I also saw a few bees and the red dragon fly again. Pond weed is covering the small pond now and is also in the larger pond however there were still quite a few pond skaters in there. There were very few birds in the nature reserve, however on the lake there were seagulls, a heron, 8 swans, 5 coots, some ducks and 6 moorhens. There were also three different types of mushrooms on the grass nearby. It seemed a lot quieter today with a clear sense that things are winding down. There is a lot less activity than there was a month ago. Next week I want to try an experiment by opening myself up to messages from  the Earth Mother and local spirits.

Mental Discipline

21st September – 27th September

21st September – I did 20 minutes meditation at my normal place in nature. I got interrupted twice and my mind kept wandering. i was also distracted by the birds singing. My legs are still a problem as I’m not sure what to do with them when I’m there. But I found my sense of hearing improved and I became more aware of what was going on around me. I felt calm afterwards. Overall I didn’t think it was too good of a session.

25th September – I did the two powers meditation for 10 minutes at home in front of my altar. It went well and the visualisation was a little easier. I also lit a candle and prayed to Brigid.

28th September – 4th October

4th October – I meditated for 20 minutes in the nature spot. My mind kept wandering a lot but I seem to have solved my leg issue by simply keeping my feet flat on the floor. I also seem to breathe faster when my mind wanders and slower once I return to focusing on my breath again. I felt quite calm after.

Nature Awareness Update 25th September & Mental Discipline Week 22

25 09 2013

I went out to my usual nature spot on Sunday as it was the Autumn Equinox. It was 3pm and it was cloudy, but warm with a little wind. There are still lots of blackberries out and some aren’t yet ripe. There were a few bees and wasps as well as spiders in large webs. I also saw two red dragon fly’s, lots of pond skaters and a butterfly. Many leaves on the trees have changed colour to red, yellows and browns now however on some trees most leaves are still green. There were a pair of small birds in a tree and some magpies and sea gulls around. One of the swans is missing but I saw a young adult moorhen too. I’m not sure what happened to the others.

Mental Discipline

14th September  – 20th September

20th September – I did a 10 minute Two Powers meditation in front of my altar. It went well but I felt a bit tense and visualisation is still difficult.

Nature Awareness Update 13th September & Mental Discipline Weeks 19 – 21

13 09 2013
English: Horse chestnut leaves turning brown

English: Horse chestnut leaves turning brown (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been very bad and not visited my nature spot since the end of August because I have been very busy. Today I went out at 3pm but it was raining a little. There was some wind and light grey clouds covered the sky. The last few days I have had a sense of things changing in nature. The weather has turned, it has become cold enough that I’ve now had to shut the windows in my flat and the number of leaves covering the ground is now noticeable. The leaves on many trees are changing colour and the blackberries are beginning to go over. Many flowers have died off and the plants are turning brown. The horse chestnuts have few green leaves left and the white poplar leaves are beginning to turn yellow. I saw a few bees, a red dragon fly and some large spider webs but there were very few insects around. There were lots of seagulls and I saw a Dunnock but couldn’t see any others (although I heard a few in the trees). It’s really beginning to feel like the earth is dying off again now.

Mental Discipline

24th – 30th August

25th August – I did the two powers meditation for 10 mins in front of my altar. It went well today and i only slouched once. i found visualisation a little easier too and towards the end (when the currents were mixing) I felt warm and could sense extra light (might have been from the sun though). I lit a candle beforehand and prayed the druids prayer as well as a prayer to Brighid, I also lit some incense as an offering.

26th August – I meditated for 20 minutes in the nature spot outside. My legs wouldn’t get comfortable so I had to try different positions but none felt relaxed. It seemed a lot easier to focus but my mind did wander a few times and I got interrupted by someone too. I also had trouble with my back again. Overall it seemed a good session but I need to deal with the comfort issues when I’m sat outside.

31st August – 6th September

1st September – I did two powers meditation for 10 minutes in front of my altar. It went well and visualisation was slightly easier. I also slouched less. I did feel tense as I was imagining the water coming up into me and could sense brighter light as I imagined sky power going into me.

7th September – 13th September

13th September – I did 20 minutes meditation outside in the nature spot. I felt very calm afterwards. The meditation went ok but I had a lot of tension in my feet and my mind kept wandering after about 10 minutes. I had no issues with my back which was good.

Nature Awareness Update & Mental Discipline Week 18

27 08 2013

I went out to the nature conservation area on Monday evening. It was a lovely sunny hot day, with no wind and not a cloud in the sky. There were sounds of crickets, seagulls and a few small birds singing. I saw many insects including butterflies, a pond skater, a red dragon fly and a blue one. There were also many bees and wasps still collecting nectar. The plants are now taller than I am, most of the blackberries are ripe but there are still many not yet ripe. The horse chestnut seeds are very big now and the leaves on those trees are turning brown.

There weren’t many birds around this week. I saw a robin, a wood pigeon and a large raven. There were no moorhens in the ponds today either.

I picked up a piece of rubbish and took it home as an offering because i’m not allowed to leave anything there for the nature spirits.

Mental Discipline

17th August – 23rd August

The good news this time is that I have managed to meditate a lot this week.

17th August – I did a four minute meditation. It was difficult to focus at the beginning and I was interrupted a few times. Otherwise it went well. My hearing senses felt a lot clearer.

18th August – I did a 20 minute meditation outside in the nature spot. The time seemed to drag and I kept slouching. I lost focus quite often but not as much as a few weeks ago.

20th August – I have decided to go back to doing the Two Powers meditations. I did a meditation for 10 minutes in front of the altar. The visualisations are still very difficult but I found it easier to stay focused. It was a good session. I felt calm after and like I had “filled up on power.”

21st August – I did the Two Powers meditation. I felt very hot and tense so I wasn’t breathing properly during the session and I had some chest pain. The visualisations were difficult but I did feel calm afterwards.

22nd August – I did the Two Powers meditation for 10 minutes. I also prayed to Brighid first. I put an extra cushion on my chair after having asked a meditation expert for advice about slouching and he said a strong foundation is key. It did seem to help with slouching a bit. I’m still struggling with visualisation though.

Nature Awareness Update 18th August

18 08 2013
Red Dragon Fly

Red Dragon Fly (Photo credit: philip1120)

I went out at 1pm on Sunday. It was warm, windy and sunny although there were lots of clouds in the sky, some white and others grey.

There were lots of butterflies out this week, they appear to increase in number each week. I also saw a blue one which is new as previously there had only been white or brown ones. There were quite a few bees collecting nectar. On the pond were two pond skaters, a water boatman and a blue dragon fly. Amazingly, there were also three massive red dragon flies, two of which were mating.

There were very few birds around today. I saw one medium size moorhen chick but not the rest of its family. The swans were in the lake with their seven cygnets and there were many sea gulls overhead. I heard what might have been a woodpecker but I couldn’t see it in the trees.

The horse chestnuts have massive fruits on them now and one has dropped a lot of its leaves, with the other leaves have changed over half their colour to red-brown. Earlier in the week I walked past an Oak tree and there were lots of acorns on it which was lovely to see.

Nature Awareness Update 11th August & Mental Discipline Week 14-16

11 08 2013
English: Blackberries

English: Blackberries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I haven’t managed to get out to the nature reserve for a few weeks but did manage it this week. I went out on Thursday at 5pm. It was sunny but also windy and quite a few clouds were in the sky. I saw five little ducklings as well as the swans and all seven cygnets which are almost as big as their parents now. I also saw what I think were black headed gulls but they had white heads at the moment.

There were many insects out including lots of bees and wasps, some butterflies and three dragonflies which surprised me because I thought they only lived a few weeks out of water…although it may have been new ones. I could also hear crickets.

There were lots of new plants I didn’t recognise, and almost every plant in the area is now over 5 ft tall. Blackberries and raspberries have been ripe for the last few weeks.

Seagulls were flying over head and I saw a moorhen with two of her chicks. I don’t think the others have survived :(. The chicks are twice their original size now so I’m feeling optimistic about their survival. A female blackbird came close to the moorhen nest and the adult moorhen chased it away.

I was surprised when I got there to see that one of the benches was broken. A man came during the time I was sat there and mended it. I helped him.

Mental Discipline

Week 14, 15 & 16

This is going to be a long bit to cover the last three weeks.

The good news is that having an app on my phone is working and reminding me to meditate, not every day but more than usual.

28th July – I did a meditation inside. I began by saying the Druids Prayer and then meditated for 20 minutes in front of my altar. I have changed it slightly to make the Buddha statue a more central part. My mind kept wandering and was a little fidgety. I was an ok session and I felt peaceful afterwards.

29th July – I have started using a “learn meditation” app on my phone and it begins with three minutes. I did three minutes of meditation today and it went well.

30th July – I did a three minute meditation this afternoon and it went well. I slouched a little but managed to focus for most of the time.

31st July – I did a three minute meditation as part of my lughnasadh ritual. It went well.

4th August – I did a three minute meditation. I found it very hard to focus for more than a few seconds. I think its because I hadn’t done it for a few days.

7th August – I did a four minute meditation. It was hard to focus but I felt calm afterwards,

8th August – I did a 20 minute meditation outside although I was interrupted after the first 10 minutes so it became two 10 minute meditations. It seemed easier that normal but towards the end I kept losing focus. I did feel some changes in consciousness towards the end of the first 10 minutes though. Overall I felt it was a good session.

Nature Awareness Update 19th July & Mental Discipline Week 13

19 07 2013
English: Raspberries (Rubus Idaeus). Français ...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I went out at 4.15 on Friday. It was very hot as we are enjoying a long heatwave in Britain this year. There were a few cirrus clouds high in the sky but little wind. When I first got there, I noticed that there were raspberries already ripe. I tried one and it was lovely and sweet. There was a mixture of ripe and unripe ones which is a huge contrast to last year when nothing was ripening at this point.

There were lots of insects around including quite a few white, brown and even blue butterflies, there were also bees, two dragonflies, pondskaters, water boatmen and a spider. The brown bits of the horse chestnut leaves have got bigger and its clear that they are starting to change colour.

There were some birds singing in the trees, a few seagulls flew over and I saw a couple of wood pigeons. I also saw at least three of the baby moorhens and a parent but i’m not sure about the fourth. The older sibling was helping to feed one of them too. The baby coots are adult size now and the baby cygnets are doing well too.

Mental Discipline

13th July to 19th July

I was outside again for my meditation today. I did a meditation focused on my breath. It didn’t go particularly well although I think I was sitting better as I didn’t feel any pain. I did keep slouching and had a lot of trouble avoiding thinking. I still can’t keep my mind clear even for 10 seconds. I also didn’t manage to do even a single day of short meditation so I have now added an app to my phone with a daily reminder to try and help. Overall, I need to improve and do meditation more often.