Andy Raingold from Change in Nature
Nov 7 2017
"It felt that I had been welcomed into a merry band of modern day outlaws who were fleeing from cosseted creature comforts to live without walls and surviving on £6 a day in one of the most expensive countries in Europe."
“Why would you want to do that?” This was often the response I received when I explained to people what I would be getting up to in Sweden in the last two weeks of October.
A group of ten of us would be in one solitary spot in the wilds for 48 hours. There would be no distractions, no books, no journals and very little, if any, food. The intention would be to just sit still and see what emerged.
So why would you do that? Why sit alone in nature for 48 hours? My answer to this question would normally be to explain that it was a modern day vision quest, a long tradition from indigenous peoples from around the world of spending extended solitary time in the wilderness.
Traditionally, this has helped to provide guidance and openness to spirit. Plants and animals would be seen as great teachers and life would be felt as whole, interconnected and sacred. Yet what would our experience be?
I had been invited to Sweden to run a one week retreat by Land in Curiosity. This inspiring and intrepid group have come together from all over Europe for a 2 month wild immersion with the common purpose of deepening their relationship with the natural world. It is a new and revolutionary model for learning which is peer lead (through workshops, group inquiry, journaling, mentoring and mutual support) combined with a focus on rooting awareness in direct experience. They roam the land as a nomadic classroom and community, splitting their time between walking, learning and living.
Sweden is the perfect place to be wanderers. By law, it gives all people the right to roam free in nature and sleep out on mountaintops or quiet forests. Yet my first introduction to this wild adventure was a 9 hour bus journey from Stockholm to Malmo and rogue camping in the central city park. By the next night, after resting, drying and warming all morning in the library, we only made it as far as a golf course on the city outskirts. This was stretching Sweden's generous freedom to roam laws to their limit!
This sense of camaraderie helped to forge deep bonds within the group. We were a vagabond community, supporting each other, and putting the needs of the tribe above our own. The main focus of living was about providing our most basic needs; shelter, food, water, warmth and companionship. Rather than a struggle, I found there was immense joy in this simplicity.
Despite longing for less greys and more greens, I found that these urban beginnings were just as “wild” as the remote pine forests we were heading towards. It felt that I had been welcomed into a merry band of modern day outlaws who were fleeing from cosseted creature comforts to live without walls and surviving on £6 a day in one of the most expensive countries in Europe. In many ways, we were earth pilgrims, exchanging our stories, inspirations and learnings for hitching rides and the material gifts of locals.
When we finally made it into the golden autumnal realms of the native forests, it was not long before we found the perfect place to settle for a week. There was an open wooden hut by an ancient spring in close proximity to a number of diverse habitats, from mossy spruce forests to open clearings by rivers and lakes. We then started to open our selves and our senses through ancient energy cultivation and awareness practices. Intentions were spoken, fears were expressed and fires were sparked before the tribe disbanded and our solo journeys began.
In many ways, the 48 hours is the ultimate exercise in being not just with nature but yourself. I found that my exhausted mind was racing from the off and then slowly started to settle and resonate with the natural rhythms all around. Colours became more vibrant, different shapes emerged, curiosities surfaced, the winds made different whispers in the swaying trees and the elements theatrically shifted. The sun was a hopelessly inaccurate time dial but time itself was irrelevant. Some times it crawled, other times it sprinted. Nothing was ever the same. Everything was in constant flux.
After two still nights and with the sun at its highest point on the third day, we were ready to return and feast. And I found that the coming back together as a group, in reverence and ceremony, to honour our earth and what it is to be human, was just as profound as the solitary experience. In the same breadth, we felt both insignificant and powerful. We felt free. And we felt united by our songs, stories and prayers.
So why sit on your own in nature for 48 hours? This is not something to be reasoned or worked out in the mind. The only answer that truly matters comes from the experience itself. As one of the tribe shared; “I have never felt so much awe and gratitude and connectedness to the earth beneath my feet (or hands or back!)” It really is that simple.
You can check out the original post on the change in nature website.
Oct 17 2017
"There is a real beauty about learning a craft - to me, it is not so much about making a beautiful object than to create this connection and this understanding of what it takes to make something."
Hans holding a basket made by his grandfather - baskets that last
I joined this two months educational journey with a focus on traditional craft, and last week I had the chance to be invited by the students of Skattungbyn Folkhogskola to join on a Vamhus basketry workshop, with Hans Eklund.
This type of basketry, made from strips of pine wood, is so specific to the village of Vamhus that it is refered as by the same name. It is believed the technic first came from Finland, sometimes in the 19th century and has been, since then, passed on from fathers to sons. Hans learned from his grandfather and is still using the same tools. He would like to see the craft stay alive and is running courses once a year at the local school, to introduce it to the young generation - we had the privilege to be the first people from outside the village to be teached by him. Hans is also hoping to see a woman taking on the craft and becoming a Vamhus basketmaker for the first time.
To me, a basket is never just a basket anymore - and Hans baskets are beautiful.
Collated by Lauren Goodey
Oct 10 2017
So here we are, 13 education adventurers on a journey together...
Written by Lauren Goodey
Oct 9 2017
"Is it the longing in my heart that is wild, or is it the standing alone in the forest listening to the moss grow?"
Sometimes I long to be in the wild. I feel the distance, and the longing for uninterrupted connection, I feel a gap between what I want and where I am.
What even is the wild anyway? I find myself asking this question again and again. Is it a place free from humans and their meddling? Is it the billowing wind rushing through my hair and shaking my skin? Was it that moment when I looked upon a woman playing a magical instrument and sat with wonder and awe for the wild creature that sat before me? Is it the longing in my heart that is wild, or is it the standing alone in the forest listening to the moss grow?
For me the wild is often over there... It is often a place i´ll eventually get to when the conditions are right - the time, the place, the right emotions etc. But that is not what I want. I want the wild now. I want it in my fingers and toes as I walk through the concreted city streets. I want to learn to connect more than I want to be on top of a windy mountain. I want to perceive in a way that allows me to experience the wild where I stand, wherever that may be.
Some of my most profound experiences and connections of ´wildness´ have been in the garden at Gaia house - a meditation retreat center in Devon. It´s a beautiful place, but not particularly wild. I spent days and days there following flocks of mistlethrush around the garden, relentlessly trying to learn who they were and what they did. I spent hours sat by a Holly bush listening to their soft electronic internet connection sounds as they munched on berries. I remember the wildness I felt branches brush across my face and my cheek and my eye. What was happening there in that garden that wasn´t happening when I was high up in the Spanish Pyrenees where the boar and deer and fox roamed free? In that garden I was training my perception. Training to be able to see and perceive the world around me in the way I chose to see.
Perhaps wildness is in the looking.
October 7, 2017
One of the main things I've learned on this Land in Curiosity adventure is to chew.
This sounds like a relatively trivial thing to learn on a wild immersion trip to Sweden, but is, I think, actually something quite profound. Over the past few weeks, the phrase "Remember to chew!" has been enthusiastically shouted by someone in the group at each meal time, reminding us that we have the ability to wolf down the food our bowls in a matter of minutes. Which, after seeing all the effort that went into getting it there, starts to feel absurd.
First of all, there is the heroic efforts of the cooks, who managed to keep the fire going, chop veg and generally devote their time while others rest after a day of walking in the cold and (often) rain. And then the food team, who spend most of their rest day hitching to the nearest shop to buy food for the next stage of walking. But, of course, both of these are small-fry in comparison to how much effort went into growing the food in the first place, processing it, packaging it and transporting it across potentially huge distances so that we could conveniently pick it up.
Think what you like about this food system that we often find ourselves enslaved to, but you cannot undervalue the sheer effort (and most likely blood, sweat and tears) that has gone into each mouthful we fuel ourselves with. For me, simply remembering to chew my food (especially with the inspired addition of putting my cutlery down between each mouthful) puts me in touch with this immense collective effort, of close by friends and distant others, and this earth to which we are all dependent on. As a result of chewing, the simple act of cooking and eating food has become a humbling experience - a daily reminder to savour this life and be grateful for the opportunity to taste it fully.
Illustrated by Lauren Goodey
May 30 2017
Lauren's blog posts mostly always consist of notes, drawings and photos. Here are her pages from the walk. You can visit the original post on her website.
May 23 2017
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking out new landscapes but in having new eyes.”
The best journeys answer the questions that in the beginning you didn't even think to ask. When I set out on an 11 day “walk in curiosity” with a merry band of 13 travellers across the ancient lands of Dartmoor, what intrigued me most was how a like minded community could come together to open up to life in new ways and find a greater appreciation for nature's gifts? Yet soon very different questions began to arise.
The adventure started in a car park in Ivybridge, South Devon, fresh eyed and fresh faced. It did not take long to wave a last goodbye to tarmac and step into the wide open expanses of the moor, entering a timeless world of white heather, wild ponies, yellow gorse and skylark song.
We carried all that we needed to cook, eat, sleep and learn. There were no campsites, no showers, no itineraries, no destination. We would eat when we were hungry, wash in streams when dirty and sleep where we found sheltered spots. The mission was to explore new ways of connecting with the land, with ourselves and with each other through immersion in the simplicity of nature and living in community.
Using the walk as our structure, we created a nomadic classroom. Each person was invited to bring their own curiosity and interests. Many of these we explored while walking – such as foraging, bird language and cultural identity – drawing on personal experience and a mobile library. This was combined with two formal study sessions each day, exploring themes such as authentic listening, dance, song, storytelling, dreaming, bushcraft and mindfulness.
What I thought was a journey, I soon found to be a revolution in learning. It broke down all my boxed-in concepts of education dictated by institutions, hierarchies and professors. We are all teachers and we are all students. It was a diverse group of different ages and backgrounds, yet each person shared hugely enriching skills, experience and talents.
This was not about box ticking and achievement. It was about making a contribution, stepping out of your comfort zone and experimenting in a safe, trusting, non-judgemental space. Finding our own truths were valued over finding universal ones. We were striving for presence rather than perfection.
The result was empowering. It was up to us to make the most out of our explorations. We all shared accountability to co-create our school and our syllabus. We mentored each other, supporting individual and group lines of enquiry.
The wilderness was our classroom. We were sleeping wild in ancient oak woodlands, wandering through river valleys carpeted in bluebells, climbing granite tors and making fires in ancient bronze age settlements. Being held by nature helped me to listen in deeper ways – to natural rhythms, to my feet, to the emotional needs of others, to the dawn chorus, and to both the human and the non-human world.
The journey finished boarding a train at Exeter with a sense of exhaustion, achievement and a dodgy stomach. Yet the greatest spark was perhaps one of passionate curiosity - a line of questioning I did not know how to ask beforehand.
I had not appreciated how much curiosity was a practice, something that can be developed and grown. It was a delight to explore a natural mystery for days on end, such as a particular bird's song, the growth patterns of ivy around trees or the topography of the moors, and be content to ask more and more questions rather than being satisfied with the first answer. I started looking with new eyes and tried to bring the humble quality of a beginners mind to all the explorations.
I feel like I have attended a retreat, wilderness school and Schumacher college in one fell swoop. And all this for our meagre living expenses of less than £5 each a day, much of which went on grains, veg and nuts! It just shows what can be co-created by thirteen special souls and will inspire me, and maybe others too, to experiment with different intentional learning spaces, such as an evening in the woods or weekend in the wilds.
Socrates said that “education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel”. Overloaded with information, our vessels our sinking to the seabed. The fire of passionate curiosity brought alive by a like minded community can truly light up the voyage of discovery.
Written by Andy Raingold from Change in Nature - Click here to see the original article
Written by Tom Morgan
Feb 26 2017
Sometimes I feel a deep sadness when listening to stories and teachings from our indigenous relatives, it gets to me, there is a sense that I am missing something, that I am not whole, that I am running on safe mode or something, that my potential as a connected human being has been somehow stolen from me, not by anybody in particular but I suppose by the times in which I live. There is sadness there but there is also a calling. It can seem sometimes overwhelming; the endeavor to relearn or maybe re-remember the knowledge of our lands plants, animals or weather, especially when making comparisons with what we hear about our ancestors and the profound wisdom and intimacy they seem to have had with the natural world. But I suppose times are different and we have to start somewhere and essentially what I think I am seeking is connection, the knowledge and intimacy will follow naturally if I ask the right questions. I am seeking to be connected to that sense of wonder, that awe, that sense of love for my surroundings, the childlike joy of sensing the rain, the sensation of the wind tearing through my clothes and chilling me to the core, the aliveness that brings, the magic of a naked flame, the insatiable curiosity into the lives of all the non human cousins that I share my place with, the medicine of the plants I live with. I often get glimpses of this when I give myself the gift of a weekend sleeping out in the forest and it is so nourishing but when I come home there is nothing to support and nurture that experience, to help it to grow. Maybe It is a sense of community that can offer this support, a community that acknowledges the power of this nature connection stuff, this wonderful and much needed endeavor. This is what I would like to try and create with this project. A shared walkabout to borrow the term from the aboringinals of australia. Where we can walk back onto the land with curious minds and open hearts together and share our stories along the way, support each other on our own unique learning journeys and have a stupendous amount of fun doing so. I know I am not alone in this desire for connection in fact I would imagine that it is something that is alive in almost everybody I meet whether they are able to articulate it or not.
And the power of telling a story is something I have always neglected. I have become a rampant individualist, it is something I have inherited I think, a bad habit I have picked up, hoarding my experiences as my own and being precious with them, not sharing them, thinking that to share them would come across as bragging or something like that, but maybe a different way of looking at it is that it is an act of generosity to share a story, i certainly feel that when somebody shares their story with me, so why have i always tended to be guarded with my own?
It struck me recently very clearly when I made the very simple comparison between dreaming and learning. For example; when I wake up and immediately tell somebody my dream, that dream stays alive in me, when I don’t I it just dissolves, I’ll go to tell somebody later in the day and I don’t have the foggiest idea what it was about or worst still I have totally forgotten that I even had a dream. The same process happens when I am trying to learn something, as soon as I share my story, the curious fact I read in an article somewhere or an observation I made whilst sitting in the woods, it gets filed in a folder in my brain, one that I know how to access. If I don’t share it however, it goes to one of those temporary document folders hidden in the depths of my hard drive where all the files are just jumbled arrangements of numbers and letters that make no sense to anybody. It is such a simple thing but so powerful and it has been missing from my past experiences of learning and maybe that’s why I am so bad at it. So this is a big part of the intention of this walk, to create a culture of sharing our stories, asking each other questions, supporting one another in our own distinctive learning adventures.
I have noticed how I learn and how I don’t learn in my time and I have noticed that I have only ever learned something well when whatever it is I am learning is totally alive in me. The amount of times I have started an online course is laughable considering I haven’t finished a single one and I can’t remember how many times I have tried to learn a language by listening to an audiotape or going through a home study programme and it never worked, not once.. But I did however manage it when I moved to a foreign city and immersed myself in a language so deeply that I had no choice but to learn it, what’s more is that it was so much fun, it was like a game. Every word I learned had a story behind it. It had some real experiential context and it didn’t really require a whole lot of effort. Just some serious play! And that is how I want to learn about nature, by playing. Earlier I mentioned that the knowledge naturally follows the connection as long as I ask the right questions, So what are the right questions? I don’t suppose it really matters as long as they are questions that meet my edges, questions I cannot answer because then I will learn something. My curiosity will never be totally fed, it will always be a little bit hungry. In order to really learn something years of attention must be paid and the finer nuances come only with deep immersion and the passage of time.
So it has to be immersive and it has to be fun and it has to make me feel alive or I am not going to retain anything. but It seems I need to constantly remind myself of the beautiful simplicity of this process, to return to just playing in the woods and allowing the birds to tame my feral attention span with their mystical calls and songs. maybe I have to unlearn how to learn in order to really learn.
So these are 3 things that I would like to explore on this journey, reconnecting with the land and everybody on it living or not living, learning something about the lives and ecology of the place, and sharing this process with my fellow humans supporting it in others and exploring ways to bring these things into our wider communities.