Getting into the Grit of Us

August 19, 2021

“I like to know the grit of people before getting involved in things, so I am asking what The Mystery School truly means to you away from the videos and away from the gloss?“

This question was posed to us when we first launched our Mystery School nearly three years ago. It struck us then, as it still does now, that in today’s world, it can be hard to get the feel of someone as so often we just meet them online.

Since the start of the pandemic eighteen months ago, we have held almost thirty free online gatherings. We have been running these to support our The Way of the Buzzard community during the pandemic, and over this period, we have met thousands of new like-minded fellow travellers.

Sometimes in our events, we give a little introduction to ourselves and our story, but often we jump right into the content of the evening. So, with the re-launch of our Mystery School fast approaching, we thought we would talk more about ourselves over the coming weeks, ‘away from the videos and away from the gloss’!

I shall begin by revealing some of my grit and sharing what the Mystery School truly means to me. I will start with a bit of back-story.


Over the past three decades, I have struggled to live in the world I was born into. So much didn’t make sense as I grew up and stepped out into adulthood. I had my own personal crisis launching out into the world, resulting in a breakdown at twenty-one, which was undoubtedly the beginning of my awakening process. So often, we only begin to look up when we reach rock bottom, don’t we? Since then, it has been a long journey to get to where I am today.

I am going to cut to the chase now and say that these are serious times. I believe on some level, the majority of people feel it. Every year things seem to get a little more uncertain and a little crazier in our world. I have spoken at length of my concerns in the therapy room and with close friends that I sense that I am living in the ‘end of days’. When I say the end of days, I am speaking in particular of climate change and the breakdown of the earth systems.

Until relatively recently, I worked as a sustainability professional for large organisations. My job was to scan the horizon and assess the environmental risk that would have a financial impact on the business I was advising. This meant I needed to listen to what the scientists were saying and understand the data for myself. It wasn’t new to me, as I studied climate change for two years when I was at university.

However, up to a point, I always thought that it would be possible to turn things around. However, having worked in a number of organisations and watch the pace of acceptance and change, over the years I grew to realise that the level of change that was needed wasn’t going to be achieved. I began to acknowledge that the world will look very different in my lifetime, and that at some stage in the future there would be a collapse of some kind.

This is a difficult realisation to assimilate, and at the time it affected my mental health to the point where I felt I was on the road to another breakdown. This is a difficult time to be alive. It is hard coming to terms with this knowledge and awareness that previous generations, including my parents, just haven’t had to face.

It is a fine balance now as to whether humanity is going to make it, and when I look at the science, it is clear on a head level that we aren’t. Yet, there is something going on within me when I weigh everything up. At a gut level, I have a deep hope that humanity pulls through, and as we wake up, we create something beautiful together. I have a deep hope that in the shakeup, more and more people will come to see the Earth in a different way and reignite a deep love for her. This helps me, as alongside the grief I feel for what is being lost, I have anticipation for what might become.

Creating something new

So, it’s a difficult time to be alive but also an exciting time. As the old structures crumble, they give way to an opportunity to create something new. As I awakened to this awareness, I found that I needed to find support to carry me through, which led me into therapy. Having a person who I could go to speak to every week shed light on patterns within me that I needed to work on.

I sought ways to heal outside of the conventional, which led me to unchartered territory, which at times felt pretty wobbly. It took many years of seeking, and ultimately, I was drawn to the spiritual practices of shamanism and nature connection. Over time, I left that old life working within the corporations and closed the door to my sustainability career. Now, my work is to share what I have learnt with others who are also searching for a different way of living on our Earth and a different life.

The essential things

My role in the world is to play a part in the awakening process, helping seekers access their spiritual guidance to find their role in creating a new world as the old one falls away. Jason and I do this together through The Mystery School.

I feel there are five things that are essential in these changing times, and The Mystery School brings all of these five things.

The first is to build community. For so long, so many of us have been on our own in our thoughts and beliefs. Yet when we come together, incredible things happen. I see it time and time again both in the Mystery School and when we gather together for our weekend retreats. We don’t need to be alone anymore.

The second is to get our connection with our spiritual guidance nailed. Too long we have had to listen to someone telling us what we should think, believe and do in this world. Yet, we all have the ability to move beyond this and connect with the guidance held for us in the Otherworlds. The world beyond the physical world. Two things have been incredibly transformational for me in this respect: shamanic journeying and nature connection. We major in both of these in the School.

The third is to see the beauty in the Earth. If we are at the point of no return with life on Earth, as the scientists tell us, I liken this period to sitting with someone we love who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. After the shock of the news, what would I do? I would do my utmost to enjoy every minute I could with them, doing all the things together I treasure in my heart. I would see the beauty in them, tell them, and celebrate this with them.

This is how I relate to our Earth now. I see the beauty in her, and I am working through all the blocks I put in the way to spend more and more time with her, one on one.

The fourth is to work on my own healing journey. I cannot heal all the problems of the world, and I have tried pretty hard at this in the past before I figured that one out. But I do have a direct influence in healing myself: a 100% influence. So, if I take charge of that little bit that I can control, then I will be different in the world, and this will undoubtedly have ripples. The shamanic toolkit has been and continues to be an incredible resource for my own inner healing, and no wonder, as it is the most ancient healing modality humanity has. We have evolved as a species with it because it is so effective for us and our lives.

The fifth and final important thing I have found to focus on is all about bringing through my creativity. I can find my creative place in this world and help to create a new world. If we can learn to hear messages from our spirit guides and have the self-belief to carry out their guidance, maybe, just maybe humanity will shift into something glorious. Maybe humanity will reclaim back a relationship with the Earth that has systematically been removed over the last 10,000 years since the birth of ‘civilisation’. The Fall by Steve Taylor sums up my position beautifully if you want to read more into this and my take on how things are shaping up for humanity.

The grit

So, there we have it. This is my grit and why the Mystery School is so important to me. Through this space, Jason and I can offer a place where like-minded souls can come together, share, learn, grow, and celebrate. Our spirit guides have told us that The Mystery School isn’t for everyone, but there is something here for everyone. The uptake in the School has been fantastic during its first three years, and we are very much looking forward to opening up the doors again this month and welcoming in new members.

If you are on the fence about joining us, my gut response would be … what have you got to lose by joining and finding out if it is for you?

This is why we have developed the pricing structure we have. For around the price of one coffee a week, you can join and check us out and see if the experience is helpful for you. 

Sharing your thoughts

We would love to hear what you think about The Mystery School or anything we have talked about in this blog. Please write your thoughts in the comment box below.

About the Author


Nicola Smalley is an edge-dweller, shamanic practitioner and writer living in the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Natural Beauty in north Lancashire, England.

Following a career in corporate sustainability, she now runs The Way of the Buzzard with her husband Jason. Her passion is anything connected to nature and the mysteries of the Earth.

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  1. Hello Nicola and thank you for your very candid blog. I found it really helpful. I think I’m in a similar place to you in my life in some ways, and in other ways not so much. I too have had breakdowns in the past; some very painful experience at the time, and yet during both of these experiences, my love and connection to the Earth and to myself have became deeper and more important to me.. When I imagine our beautiful blue Earth suspended in space my heart weeps because I can really feel her pain and I find that hard to live with. I’ve spent most of my life working as a nurse and so the idea of sitting with someone with a terminal illness is something that really resonates with me. Acceptance of what is happening can bring a lot of peace to people in that situation whether it be they themselves or a relative with a terminal illness and after reading your blog, I realise that acceptance of what is happening to the Earth is something I don’t have right now but I could work towards it. I’ve been rallying against it for years with heart breaking sadness, bitterness and anger. I haven’t wanted to “give up”. I’ve known people “accept” it or give up, but they’ve always seem hung on to the anger and bitterness and in many ways have become cynical. So this more accepting approach is very new to me. I will hold it in my heart over the coming days, weeks, months or years to try to find my own role as to the best way I can help, either by just sitting sit with our beautiful Mother Earth and holding her hand in her pain or whether I would be better served to continue the battle. The thought of the peace that laying down the protest banners sounds very appealing and peaceful, but I’m not certain I’m at that place just yet.

    I would really keen to join this community because I would love to be in contact with people who share my feelings about the earth, but past experiences of breakdown make me wary so I may wait a while to see how I feel about joining.
    Thank you for your words.❤️❤️❤️

    1. Hello Maria, I have loved reading your words here. Thank you so much for sharing. I can relate so much to what you say. I am sorry to hear of your past experiences in groups – that sounds like it was pretty tough on you. We have more free things coming up for you to try out if that helps until we feel like a good fit for you – whenever of if ever that happens 🙂

  2. Hi Nicola,

    Thankyou for sharing your blog I found it really inspiring. I cannot believe Jason's journey with his ear injury either, both incredible experiences that have led you to where you are now.
    I too worry about Gaia alot but there is something inside me that says we are going to make it, through birthing a new awareness back into the world by connecting to spirit and remembering our soul purpose once again.

    I am enjoying Jason's drumming course at the moment and am from a shamanic background myself, so it has been lovely to delve deeper and come back to source with it.

    Christopher 😉🙏

  3. Hi Nicola,
    I am very interested in your story and, as you say your grit. I am in my 70s, I am a retired therapist and astrologer. I have been on a healing path for several decades now. This includes regression and associated therapies, shamanism, and counselling, including CBT. I have been close to breakdown several times whilst attempting to heal from severe past trauma. I have been an eco warrior for decades and love nature. Like you, I feel we are doing too little too late to save humanity but, hope for a miracle. I am currently drawing towards a new direction (start of the progressed new moon phase) therefore a new epoch in my life. I am drawn to on line courses and learning new things. So, I am fascinated by what you are doing at the Mystery School and I am thinking of joining you when I’m ready.

    1. Hello Lynne, I have loved reading your story here – so many similarities it seems. Just delighted we have crossed paths 🙂 and that you are thinking of joining us in our Mystery School, when the time is right.

  4. Hi Nicola,
    I tried emailing you via the address on the Tree Wisdom videos. Why didn't I just respond to you here?
    I love your open approach here and hopefully, I will be able to join soon.
    I am in my 70s and retired but a long career in costing and admin in big companies still has a certain hold over me. I have been close to a breakdown several times in my life and the best way I can describe the experience is that the map of life that I held in my mind's eye showed where the school was, the street layout, where the church was, the factory and so on but one day when I checked the map against the landscape around me, those markers were not where they should have been. As I have grown older those markers have all but disappeared and the map that I cherished, to keep me safe, was no longer of use. The landscape of life and living had changed and I was lost.
    Through writing and some drawing/painting, I am creating, and by paying attention to the seasons and nature, that is what continues to save me.
    Thank you for this post. 🙋‍♂️

    1. Hi Ashley, what an interesting way of explaining your landscape here, your natural compass and how the maps you drew in your mind aren’t there anymore. I am delighted that you are finding your way despite this through your creativity. Flowing with the seasons has been huge for me too. Thank you so much for your note.

  5. Thank you for your honesty. I'm also concerned about our fate as,in the past, humans have been so destructive to our mother earth. For the past number of years I followed a Druid way but this seems regimented and lacks intuition and the deep reverence nature so rightly deserves. Hard to put into words but feel drawn to the mystery school so looking forward to joining at the relaunch.

    1. Hello Kay, thank you for your note here. We shall very much look forward to welcoming you into the school and it is lovely to hear that you feel it isa good fit for you 🙂

  6. Like you I have wrestled with this issue. I have been working with the directions and the elements. I am finding it helpful to remember how long the earth was here before humankind and to look at our time as a sort of autumn in the cycle of things, reminding myself that winter will come next and then spring. I liked your blog and hope very much to join the Mystery School. Thank you!

    1. Thank you Amanda, I love your analogy here. Taking this broader view helps doesn’t it. So delighted to hear you are thinking of joining us in our Mystery School. We shall look forward to welcoming you in, should you decide to join 🙂

  7. I really loved this blog. It says so much about you. And it's naked and raw, telling the stories that need to be told. Thank you.

    It IS a difficult time to live. Like you, I feel we are way past the point of being able to find a safe way out of this. So where does that leave us? I love your analogy of sitting with the person with terminal illness. Are you aware of and have you read much of The Dark Mountain Project? I find their writings help to make some sense of it all as well.

    Ultimately, if we can really start to understand the true nature of our lives, then we know that there is no "death" anyway. Whatever the future of this planet, we will remain, in one form or another.

    Thank you for all that you and Jason do. It's such important work. It doesn't matter if 1 person turns up or 1,000, it just needs to be done.

    1. Hello Richard, I have loved reading your words here. We hold that view – it doesn’t matter if just one person turns up. I have dipped in and out of the Dark Mountain project over the years and we have several of their books. I love their work and keep meaning to read more. Its back on the list prompted by your comment here, thank you!

  8. When I first heard of Mystery school I was not sure, but what I did like was the fact that I had not got a given finishing date. You may ask why I say this, well basically all my working life I was put under pressure hit targets and I told myself that when I retired if I did anything I would finish in my own time. I never did well at school exams basically because of targets but with Mystery school I can did in and out when I want., I am impressed with the quality of the materials Jason and Nicola produce and it has opened my eyes to lots of things that I was aware of but knew nothing about, do you know what I mean?
    When the announcement was made about the change, I panicked a little as I thought I was about to lose all this valuable material.
    I can now continue with my journey at ease with myself and the world, thank you both see you Sunday

    1. Hello Ron, it is lovely to read a little of your story here. So delighted The Mystery School is in a format that works for you. I know what you mean about deadlines. Existing in a deadline culture kind of makes one resist this when given the choice later in life doesn’t it!

      1. Hi Nicola exactly I have always had a resistance to instructions on do this by then attitude and always felt I was being pushed into a corner, the feeling I hated, I actually felt the anger rising inside me.
        But I can now see with help from Jason and yourself through The Mystery school that I am a none aggressive person.

        Now I feel a free soul but in a land I do not like so many things going on that again wrangle me.

  9. This sounds right for me. I have been Pagan albeit on and off for a long time but still feel that I haven’t found my true path, my true self. I had a break down also about 6 years ago and since then I have been reconnecting with Nature, learning herbalism, my local plant life and looking at what the animals and seasons really teach us. I have a deeper appreciation of the small things so the Lammas blog was great for me.
    I am looking forward to joining the mystery school and joining this community of like minded people. Thanks for sharing your story

    1. Thank you for your note here Hannah. This is great to hear that our approach sounds right for you. I can relate alot to your story you have shared. We shall look forward to welcoming you in to the School 🙂

  10. Thanks Nicola; very interesting read I’m interested in wildlife birds mammals and insects included. I have an allotment which is my thinking space growing veg and companion flowers in raised beds and undercover. I work nights at a local supermarket who always ‘want more’ so feeling mentally and spiritually exhausted I was amazed to find your wonderful group. There is a history of second sight in my family which can be quiet unnerving your spirt realm is very reassuring in comparison I will be rejoining as full member when you reopen from being a basic member.
    I love science fiction books by Ann mcathry and Jean aurel but am reading more diverse books via my local library online. Looking forward to Sunday may have to hide in allotment with my drum as family not receptive to ‘other worlds’ cx

    1. Hello Pat, it is really good to hear a little of your story here. Your allotment sounds just beautiful. Super to hear you are coming across to full membership 🙂 and we shall look forward to welcoming you in to the new School 🙂

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