I was brought up in the Evangelical Christian tradition. Whilst I felt the loving energy of a divine essence, most of the rest of the religion felt like a lot of rules and constraints. And so, during my adolescence, I questioned and challenged. I really wanted to find answers but to some, I was too much, and one person described me (in a prayer meeting) as “an attack from the devil” – which got a loud round of “amens” from others. And so, I left the safe shores of my upbringing and began a long quest for a spiritual home.
Whilst I blossomed around the age of 18, with many friends and accomplishments, I was soon to enter a long, deep valley. There were several reasons for this: narrow expectations, I missed my identical twin brother (we went our separate ways after school) and I was trying to become someone I was not.
And so, soon after I started my first job after university, in accountancy, I went into a deep depression. It felt as though I was in an emotional straitjacket, no matter how hard I struggled to free myself, I remained stuck. It was very frightening as I had lost all my capacity to cope with life and there was nothing I could do to free myself. And in there, paradoxically, lay the key to my escape. It was to give up trying. I left my job and became unemployed, I gave up trying to be a success, to try to please others, to try to become someone I was not. At a deep level, I vowed to follow my own path, however difficult it might be. And in making that commitment, my chains fell off and my heart was free.
After about a decade of working in the financial markets and IT, I experienced a series of dreams. Dreams that told me I had to make a deep change. One dream I had was of wandering out of my house and into green fields. This felt natural and somehow deeply ‘right’. I remembered my vow to follow my own path however difficult and so I made a huge transition. I left working for a major bank to go to work to help homeless people. It was a big leap but in time, I found myself working for a homeless charity in the East End of London for 3 days a week. This gave me 2 working days to explore. And explore I did. I started reading books, going to workshops and having adventures. It was at this time that I came across the GreenSpirit Book Service run by Alan Shephard. I read avidly and was amazed at the depth, range and relevance of green spirituality. Soon after, I went on a retreat run by GreenSpirit near Salisbury. There, I asked all sorts of questions. I remember Professor Chris Clarke explaining quantum entanglement – that is has been proved that there are interactions between particles that are too far apart in space to be connected by signals moving at the speed of light. So, I thought, it has been shown that there is more to the world than straight bricks and mortar, there is a mysterious force that connects the universe together. My heart leapt with excitement. And then I asked my biggest question: “is compassion at the heart of this green spirituality?” The answer was a resounding “yes”. It was then that something triggered deep within me and I was ready to begin this new journey.
This new adventure felt like climbing an enchanted mountain. There were rocky crags of difficulties, magical winds of synchronicities and pathways of connection; and climb I must.
I soon started going to lots of different green spiritual events: talks, workshops, retreats, festivals and more. I was amazed to meet so many likeminded people and kindred spirits, some of whom have become companions on my journey. And I now feel I belong to a wider green spiritual movement which seeks to bring compassion, justice and hope into the world.
I remember a Vision Quest I did near the beginning of this journey. This was a few days at Hazel Hill Wood – a forest near Salisbury. We went through the 5 directions: North, East, South, West and Spirit in the Centre. With each direction, we had teaching input and an experiential exercise to help us to engage with an aspect of our soul journey. This holistic approach culminated in a night spent alone in the forest and I remember having a whole series of vivid dreams. Looking back, I can see that these dreams were giving me the psychic energy to go on my quest.
Another such place is Cae Mabon in Snowdonia where a GreenSpirit group goes to most years. At its centre is a Celtic Roundhouse and dotted around are a variety of eco-structures all within an oak forest and beside a rushing stream. There we sing, dance, tell stories, cook, swim, laugh, and connect with the Earth. Each time I go, I feel transported away from my sometimes mechanical city life into a place which is alive and natural and where my soul can breathe. For me, this place feels like a wilderness: a place of freedom, where limitations can fall away, and I can discover new spiritual treasures.
My version of green spirituality is inclusive. We are all part of the living Earth, and we are here to support each other on our journeys. My love of the Universe Story (the story as revealed by science from the big bang through to today) brings science and spirituality together and it shows me that the universe is constantly creative – there is newness all around. This spirituality is alive and organic, not stuck in an institution or teaching.
Whilst I am always ‘work in progress’, today, I feel I am on higher ground on my spiritual quest and I can look back at my deep valley. I realise that the valley I walked through has given me an understanding that when someone is struggling, I do not have the answers for them, I cannot show them their path, but I can try to shine a warm, white light of encouragement. A white light that does not judge or have expectations. A light that is ready to accept others as they are. As I had to accept myself in the depth of my own valley.
Healing comes in many different forms. It is said that making sense of your journey through life and being able to articulate a meaningful and coherent story to others can be a part of the healing process. And so, thank you for hearing my story and being a mirror for my soul.