A pilgrimage in Tibet & the Living Goddess in Kathmandu - - - - - Moving moments - - - - - Noticing plants as a way to reconnect
Our Eco Shamanism newsletter is back and we are full of stories, most of which we can't fit into this newsletter. The big news is of Mandy and Jane's trip to Tibet and Nepal over the summer, a once in a lifetime opportunity that began with a dream and took every ounce of strength to complete. Mandy gives a precis whilst Jane reports from home turf and what sport can tell us. Freya writes of harvest time and how connecting with plants brings us succour.
Firstly a quickupdate- Shamanic Sundays is this Sunday 1st September and returns to it's standard format of guided shamanic journeying at the usual venue, Millers Farm. All welcome.
Our other Autumn offerings start with a weekend of Eco Shamanism in Derbyshire from 6.30pm Fri 6th to Sun 8th including contributions from herbalist Debs Lincoln and Qui Gong expert Karen Clarke. There are now non-residential and Saturday day tickets available for those who live nearby. The following weekend 14-15 September sees the return of the Plant Perception and Resonance Course for another year at Millers Farm. At the beginning of October there is the new Eco Shamanism year course 'Shifting Terrain' at Ragmans Farm . . . a different type of course on shamanism . . .
And news for any of you who are interested in the Eco Shamanism Practitioner Training Course. The next one starts in October 2020 and further details are now on the website. The course has been extended to just under two years and has two extra modules.
Kailash, Kora and the Kumari Mandy and Jane's trip to Tibet and Kathmandu
Many have not heard of Mount Kailash (photo at the top of the newsletter) nor have an inkling as to what constitutes a Kora, let alone the existence of the Kumari. Neither did I 9 months ago. So that you know what I'm going on about Mount Kailash sits in the south west of Tibet in what is known as the Transhimalayas and is thought, by some, to be the crown chakra of the world. It is considered to be one of the holiest mountains on the planet, has never been climbed and is sacred to the Bon (Native Tibetan religion), Buddhist, Hindu and Jain cultures. Pilgrims believe that circumambulating Mount Kailash on foot is a holy ritual that will bring good fortune. The peregrination is made in a clockwise direction by Hindus and Buddhists, while Jains and Bönpos circumambulate the mountain in a counterclockwise direction. A kora is the circumambulating bit, a word that means a cross between a pilgrimage and a meditative practise. And the last K, the Kumari, relates to the Living Goddess in Kathmandu (resident in the sacred Durbar Square with two others close by in Bhaktapur and Patan), a young girl who lives in a sacred temple from the age of about 3 until puberty and is the living incarnation of the goddess of creation . . .
Everest with a scarf of prayer flags; Mount Kailash wearing a cloud hat.
It all started with a dream back in January. Jane and I had been working, over the previous couple of months, with the 'dream of species' in South Africa. I had opened up a large 'spiritual' hole in the ground with a South African client whilst Jane visited a physical one in South Africa. It was very much about the void beneath our Earth's surface. In January we set an intention to dream and were shown the South African and her husband flying up over snowy mountains. And so the reality arrived, I had always wanted to go to Kathmandu, Jane to Tibet. The plan was that Jane would fly to Beijing and take the train overland to Lhasa, Tibet's capital. I would fly to Kathmandu, to get a visa, and then onto Lhasa a few days later. So we came from different directions. During all our time in Tibet, at altitude, neither of us dreamed one dream and this was the oddest thing of all.
Part of the tour involved a stop off at Everest Base Camp, on the Tibetan side, which neither of us wanted to do, but in the event the journey there was exhilarating with hairpin climbs and altitude highs as we climbed up into the Himalayas. We were lucky enough for the clouds to part and Everest revealed herself. On the downside was altitude sickness which affects everyone differently. Jane felt like she had the worst hangover ever and I lay in bed all night with my heart beating as if I were running a marathon.
Left: sacred stick and wooden ball - if you click on the photo it will take you to an Instagram video of the stick balancing, or praying, in front of Everest with the sound of water spun prayer wheels. Right: prayers of Everest breathing in and out in the thin air of the Himalayas.
We travelled across vast Tibetan plains between hills and mountains. Rainstorms passed in the distance, yaks wandered in the sparse grasslands and many tiny flowers were visible when we stopped and wandered by the roadside.
The dramatic Tibetan plains, low lying plants and a monastery window
And then we were at Mount Kailash and our pilgrimage, or kora, began. It is a 52km trek over 3 days staying in monastery guest houses along the way. I won't bore you with the details but it is was the most gruelling physical challenge of our lives. And even now, nearly a month later and despite following the dream of spirit, I am still in the dark about the whole thing . . . there are small snippets that come through every now and again but nothing that I can formulate into something coherent to others. I feel confident that future newsletters will refer back to this time as and when it becomes clearer.
Clockwise from top: a lighted candle giving thanks on the last day of the Mount Kailash trek; yaks taking the load; the many footbridges on the Tibet/Nepal border crossing
Moving on to Kathmandu and our dreams returned. We went across the Tibet/Nepal border overland in a 4x4 and had to contend with landslides, bone jolting roads with intermittent crash barriers, the sight of upturned vehicles in the valleys below and much overtaking on blind corners . . . Jane thought it was exhilarating whereas I tried not to look.
We arrived in Kathmandu exhausted but the next day decided to explore Durbar Square which is full of sacred temples including one which is the home of the Kumari, or Living Goddess. Strangely, a month or so before the whole trip began but in a typically spirit driven moment, I found a book called The Living Goddess written by none other than Isabella Tree, author of Wilding, the book about the Knepp rewilding project. Those of you who have read previous newsletters will understand that connection. I am reading it now but the Kumari intrigued both Jane and I - a young girl who appears at random times at the balcony window of a temple in a sacred square, lives her life there until she reaches puberty and is then replaced by another 3 year old girl. So we decided to try and find the temple of the Living Goddess in Durbar Square and did so in a fortuitous manner, arriving just before the stroke of 12 noon and as we stood in the small courtyard hoping that we might catch a glimpse of this child she suddenly appeared, made eye contact with us, then melted back into mysterious shadows. We felt we'd achieved something, somehow, without quite knowing what.
Durbar Square, Kathmandu and the golden serpents that led us to the Living Goddess in Patan.
We decided that we wanted to be out of Kathmandu, tour guides kept hassling us, it was very polluted and we wanted something a bit easier so we left for a nearby place called Patan City. We arrived the next day only to find that it had a Durbar Square too . . . a drop in altitude had returned us to our regular dreaming state and that night I dreamed of a washing machine in the corner of a kitchen and it was placed in such a way that you couldn't open the door. The following day I received a message from a friend who asked if there were any golden serpents where we were. We set out to try and find a square with a complex of alley ways and courtyards leading away from it and came across a shop full of washing machines. It didn't click. We got lost, and found the reverse entrance and ended up arriving in the square which also had 4 golden serpents at it's centre. We left the square and came out onto the road where we had got lost and there before us was the temple of the Kumari with the washing machine shop on the corner. We went in and saw a sign saying you could visit the Kumari in person. So we did. There, in the corner room of a temple, was a young girl of about 7 or 8 receiving and blessing tourists as they came through - which seemed a rather sad existence . . . she marked our third eye's with red pigment in a desultory manner and that seemed to be it. Jane whispered that maybe we should give her a gift, something like the wooden ball that had been to Everest in the video above . . . Jane showed the Kumari the ball. She looked puzzled so Jane and I played catch with it, in true cricketing fashion (see Jane's writing below). Her eyes lit up and she smiled. She accepted the ball and then blessed us again with a big dose of red pigment. We left feeling we'd achieved something, somehow, without quite knowing what.
At the moment I'm still at a loss as to the meaning of the whole trip yet I also know that something profound has shifted in me. It was gruelling, stressful, exhausting and a culture shock in many ways. Yet in between were moments where, when we followed intimations from spirit, we came across the divine, we communed with the crown chakra of the world and had a glimpse of Everest, a mountain that has the name of eternal rest.
And my dreams are back in profusion which is handy as our Eco Shamanism Shifting Terrain course is fast approaching in October and 'dreaming' is a big part of it!
Moving moments Jane on what great sporting moments, amongst other things, have to tell us
For those who do not follow it, sport may seem an odd subject to be discussing in an Ecoshamanic newsletter, especially following on from an epic pilgrimage to Tibet, but here we go anyway.
One of the most moving moments of my life was in the stands of Anfield, the home to Liverpool football club, singing the anthem "You will never walk alone" with thousands of others rocking from side to side, waving red and white flags and scarves. Another was walking the kora in Lhasa at dawn on my final day there around the Jokhang Temple, mostly in a clockwise direction, young and old, some doing full prostrations, many chanting, or spinning prayer wheels, each moment more and more people arriving as we moved from night to day.
Lhasa: Johkang Temple and old and young on the kora
On Sunday another moment as the England cricket team pulled off an "impossible" win, made all the sweeter as a local Somerset player was at the other end, holding up the last wicket, wiping his glasses. I found out later that his dad was listening to it on the radio in a park in my nearest town. Ringing an old friend straight away we worried as he didn't answer, we were concerned he might have had a heart attack as it was so tense, but he was having a moment and had shed a tear or two. It has been a year of sporting turn arounds, where suddenly the tide has turned. It is often due to one or two individuals who keep on believing and do not lose hope.
A month or two ago I lost hope about the state of our world. It took a kinesiologist I visited about a sore hip and foot to ask my body what was up and it said just that, that I had lost hope about the state of our world. Once it was said I realised it was true, but I had not even admitted it to myself. The soreness has gone now and I decided to listen less to the news that all is lost and we must face the "facts", and start my own re-searchs. In so doing remembering the many great teachings from across the world and aeons suggest that from the brink, great things can be born.
These amazing sporting events can remind us that if we believe, practise and stay focused we can turn things around, they are part of the unfolding story for me and perfectly timed. The sacred and the profane perhaps for some, but for me they each have their place.
I walked the kora around Mount Kailash with thousands of pilgrims holding hope in their hearts and I know that I will never walk alone because someone somewhere in the world is walking on behalf of us all. The emotion at Anfield and walking the kora was the same, a coming together of hearts and minds. If we can all come together now and focus maybe . . .
Jokhang Temple with wooden ball, later given to the Kumari, and balancing stick - also left behind in Tibet after having been swapped for a stone on Mount Kailash
Autumn riches News from Freya
Here in the Forest, autumn hedgerows are strung with colour - juicy blackberries, rosy crab apples, dusty plums, shining elderberries, glowing rosehips, blackening sloes, sticky hop flowers and crisping hazelnuts. The bees are foraging on late summer flowers such as fennel, yarrow and hemp agrimony, and the wasps are sucking up the sweetness of discarded fruits. So much to enjoy - straight from the hedge or squirrelled and stored in jams, jellies, syrups and fruity alcohol.
Harvesting and foraging is such a beautiful and direct way to connect with local plants, whether it's blackberries for crumbles or elderberries for cold-fighting cordials. Getting to know our local edible and medicinal plants connects us to the land where we are; this connection once gained can not be lost. It is a re-awakening of our senses to the bounty of the earth, the generosity of the planet we live on. A deep sense of home.
Yarrow in full flower and ripening rosehips
Like all good relationships the more we give the more we receive. Developing our relationship with the place we live and the land we live on, or near, can bring sustenance that goes beyond nutrition, and offer deep healing. During hard times when all seems lost, or about to be lost, stopping to pay attention to the bright light of a flower or the exquisite shape of a leaf can bring you to your senses, fill you with love and connection. This connection can sustain us as we face worries about climate change and a changing world view, giving us something tangible with which to engage. Learning how to use herbs for our own health helps reduce our reliance on failing infrastructures and empowers us to take back control of our bodies and our lives.
If you’d like to deepen your appreciation of plants and learn about their medicine there are places available on our deep dive into plant connection, Plant Perception & Resonance course beginning this September 14th - 15th at Millers Farm in Gloucestershire.
Spread over a year working with plants in their seasonal beauty - seed, root, leaf and flower, we will connect with the spirit of plants through journeying and sensory plant awareness; we will make herbal remedies - oils, tinctures, vinegars and flower essences; we will create sacred ceremonies and work with elements, seasons, music, movement, poetry, dreaming and drawing. A delicious sensory journey of gratitude and exploration with at least four native plants over four weekends.
Suitable for anyone interested in plants - gardeners, growers, herbalists; and for those interested in shamanism and healing, plant spirit medicine and earth activists, and those who feel drawn to know plants. No experience necessary!
I hope you can join us and if you would like further information please contact us.
2019 - 2020 events update
in date order
What's happening this year - anything in blue and underlined is a weblink.
Any questions or enquiries please get in touch.