Ordinarily, come Beltane we run away to the woods and immerse ourselves in community amongst the bluebells and birdsong with two hundred fellow springtime adventurers at our Space to Emerge micro-festival.
Lockdown presented an opportunity try something a little different this year as we gave our first online retreat a go. Although we had heavy hearts that we would not be able to be with everyone together out in the shadow of the Cumbrian mountains, we at least were able to connect with each other in the best way we could online.
Our focus with Space to Emerge is always about creativity. The energy underlying the Celtic festival of Beltane is fertility: birthing new things into the world and emerging afresh into the world. From our own experiences over the past few months during lockdown we have found that creativity has been our balm, and so it seemed the perfect theme to choose.
Our First Online Retreat
We spent Friday evening to Sunday evening together, immersing in nature's beauty and the mysteries of the Otherworld. We had nature videos to lose ourselves in, creativity talks, an opportunity to tune into the wisdom of the trees and the medicine that animals hold for us. We each went on a shamanic medicine walk, wrote poems, created art, went on shamanic journeys, bathed in the energy of the healing drum, enjoyed a live campfire shindig together and an open mic session. We laughed, cried, mused and most of all spent time in soulful community.
The Space to Emerge Online retreat has taught us that connection knows no boundaries, nor limitations. That when we meet each other at our edge and peer over we do not see the cliff descending into the darkness that might we expect. Instead we see a collective group of smiling faces, hands stretched out reaching for us, cheering us on, helping us make that step forward we have been grappling with for all these years. Encouraging us to move just that little bit closer to where our soul is aching to be.
A Rite of Passage
This weekend we proved to ourselves and each other that lockdown does not need to mean lock in. That even within the confines of our four walls we can travel on untold adventures to far flung places in our imagination, where we can merge with the birch tree, crawl onto a spiders back, seek lessons from the ant and meet our muse. That through art in all its many forms, we can disappear within the depths of our psyche and inner workings and emerge the other side just that little bit different.
We can step out into our back yards, gardens and crafted videos and allow ourselves to be held and guided gently by nature's wisdom and caress.
In indigenous cultures there is an important rite of passage practice where the individual embarks on a vigil; a stilling, where they sit in the wildness alone for four days and four nights without luxuries and without food. There is something deeply transformational that happens when we move from a place of comfort into a place of shelter, spending a prolonged length of time here feeling uncomfortable: where we open ourselves up to the unknown and face that thing which most terrifies us.
Through this we grow a little bit stronger, a little bit more insightful, and a little bit braver. It is these qualities that will, like the alder tree, firm up unstable ground and give us that foundation we need in order to let go and launch ourselves further into the unknown.
Crisis brings change...
and it is our individual and collective choice as to how we respond to it.
We can bury our heads in the sand and wait it out, with the hope that we will return to normal as quickly as possible. Or we can choose to stay awake through the darkness, fully conscious of everything which is happening around us, staring into the dark forest, knowing that when dawn does eventually come our world will look very different indeed.
It is in this place, eyes wide open with our ear bent listening out for the whispers carried to us in the wind, watching the mysterious shadows dance their strange dance, that we can see the opportunity that is presenting itself, the opportunity to birth something new. Who was happy with normal anyway?
The coronavirus pandemic has given us all a space to emerge into something different. Mothers say that giving birth isn’t easy, but it is rewarding beyond measure. Just as with the birth of a child, this moment in human history is messy, ugly and painful but at the same time joyous, beautiful, expansive and exciting.
The very foundations of capitalism are crumbling around us, and as we sit in the pain and grief of the ashes, rest assure that something new will rise. It is our choice as to what shape that will take, whether it will be a band-aid around civilisation or something completely new. I know which I am choosing to help create.
So how do we begin?
This is our time to follow our curiosity and spend time doing those things we haven’t allowed ourselves to do for many years: that thing which lights a fire in our belly and burns strong driving us forward, no matter how random the direction feels.
This is our time to follow our creative urges. If we can’t feel them, it is time to find ways to feel our way into them. This is not easy. We have years, centuries of conditioning telling us anything which isn’t ‘work’ is a waste of time. But creativity will lead us down the path of the unconditioned mind and closer to our true selves; that part of us beneath the weighted cloak of do’s and don’ts culture has lent to us. And when fear shows up, as it surely will, move it from the driver’s seat to the back seat of the car, and remember not to be fixed on the outcome needing to be any good. Done is good enough.
We had the most marvellous weekend together. Thank you to all of you for making this experience so very special. Let’s see what emerges now we are on the other side.