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Spirit of the Land, Hastings Country Park, Fairlight, Jeremy Linden

Spirit of the Land

Spirit of the Land is described as “a personal journey to rediscover the intimate paths between us and the land”. This is achieved through a series of three outdoor Saturday workshops along the coastal path near Hastings. HOT reporters Cathy Simpson and Erica Smith put on their walking boots, braved the wind and rain, and explored the great outdoors and their inner landscapes.

The day started with a nice cup of builder’s tea in a beautiful Hastings home overlooking the Castle. Course organiser Jeremy Linden put us at our ease, explained the intention of the day and discussed our expectations and reasons for wanting to engage with the spirit of the land.

Before we left the building, Jeremy lit five candles and led a meditation to prepare for the day. For anyone who is not familiar with spiritual practices, Jeremy was a master at putting us at ease. He reminded us that the most important aspect of meditative practice is awareness of one’s own breath. That simple description enabled us both to meditate deeply, being aware of the ambient sounds (the passing train to London and a wren’s gutsy song), and letting them go. This simple introduction set the scene for a day where our walk along the coastal path was interspersed with different forms of meditative practice.

Once up on the East Hill, it took time to engage with the environment – the wind had whipped up and icy rain threatened to send us all home. We zipped up our raincoats, pulled the hoods tight and surveyed the Old Town below – its growth restricted by the steep sides of the valley. Jeremy told us that when humans were simply hunter gatherers, conflict was rare. It was only when land was ‘settled’ and boundaries established that inner tensions built up and conflict became commonplace. A legacy which is even more apparent today.

We reached the limit of our discomfort, and left the windy hilltop and path made inaccessible by the landslide allegedly caused by recent tree-felling and over-development at Rocklands caravan site to skirt around the back of the cliff. Miraculously, the weather changed from bleak winter to burgeoning spring – birds belted out their songs and blackthorn budded, burst and blossomed.

One of the remarkable aspects of the day was being guided through a landscape that we felt we were already familiar with. The morning’s meditation had prepared us to walk thoughtfully and think about gravity pulling us to the earth’s centre, and a sense of being grounded. Whilst we moved over the land, we felt very connected to our surroundings. To paraphrase Shakespeare: “The earth hath bubbles as the water does, and we are of them.”

We felt privileged to enjoy the breathtaking variety of landscapes within such a small area. Scenery during the day included woodland dells where we reflected on the way a tree and a stone engaged and the way trees make space for each other in a sylvan dance; countless crossings of babbling brooks in dells deserved of Oberon and Titania; a sure-footed goat track down to the open sea; a bracken-covered clifftop where we basked like adders and experienced the contrast of exploring the intimate space of a square metre of soil and the infinite horizon.

Erica’s reflection on the day: “I didn’t know what to expect – but the day exceeded all expectations. It was a beautiful, thoughtful and celebratory way to spend time – exploring the country park and my inner self at the same time.

I don’t know how to say this clearly enough – the workshop was brilliant, and shouldn’t be dismissed as ‘a load of hippy-shit’!”

Cathy’s thoughts: “The whole day was a palpable reminder that mind, body and spirit are one – and the activities engaged all three in harmony. The following day, I still experienced a sense of wellbeing and unity. I would unhesitatingly recommend this workshop to anyone feeling stressed out, burned out or just plain tired of life.”

Spirit of the Land is a series of three workshops. They run on alternative Saturdays throughout the summer and into the autumn. To find out the theme and timing of forthcoming workshops, visit the Spirit of the Land website, or sign up to the Facebook group: Spirit-of-the-Land.

Posted 22:23 Thursday, Apr 16, 2015 In: Home Ground

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