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hawthorn kenn churchyard1

HAWTHORN

“warm breath
dark cave
summer stars.”

No smell so captures the atmosphere of early summer in Britain than the hawthorn blossom. It has a heavy, sweet, erotic earthiness that seems ideal for the burgeoning of life around the beginning of May when the branch-tops become laden with a layer of white, cream or pink flowers. Hawthorn is a tree long associated with earth spirits – the fairies in particular – and with the Earth Goddess. It is a small tree that never attains a great girth or height, though it suits its habitat of open scrubland, woodland margins and open moorland. It is one of the main hedging plants as it can survive heavy pruning and forms dense thorny barriers of angular branches. The wood is heavy and fine-grained, though not as hard as blackthorn or other fruit woods. It’s often contorted and expressively gnarled form gives each tree a personality and presence less easy to find in other species. Despite its rugged and wild appearance during the winter months, it has an aura of benevolence throughout springtime, summer and autumn when the branches are laden with small, dark red berries. Hawthorn somehow manages to express the epitome of the Threefold Goddess and the sequence of time marked by seasonal change. Herbally and energetically hawthorn benefits the heart by regulating any abnormal activity. Its generosity of expression in flowers and fruit and the guarded protection of its compact form and fierce thorns perfectly characterises the needs of the heart in opening to relationships with love whilst maintaining appropriate boundaries between the self and others. There are many sub-species and types of hawthorn, all of which work alongside the qualities of the heart, love, expression of emotion, personal path, universal consciousness, intimacy, relaxation, expansion, richness of the senses, relaxing into the experience of living.

*****

hawthorn blossom1

HAWTHORN BREATH
Breathing in: upon a constant stream of moving breeze from the distance in a straight line into the centre of the back (at heart level).

Breathing out: upon the stream as it emerges out of the front of the centre of the chest.

TREE TEA
Hawthorn flowers soothe sore throats. The bark is a mild tranquilliser that can help with fevers and malaria. Flowers, leaves and bark all regulate heart function bringing elasticity to blood vessels, reducing palpitations and giddiness.

******

HAWTHORN GODDESS

Attraction of atoms,
Mesmeric swing of electrons,
Neutron heart –
The yearning of gravity.

The constant dance of suns and planets,
The magnetic tide of the years,
Pulling green fire
Furled from rock-bleak branch.

Lying warm in lust nest
Dreaming of you,
Shining one.

Nesting in warm lust,
Weaving dream,
Shining one.

Clasped together
Magnetic dance,
Heart sharp drop.

Star for stone
Blood for thorn
Bud for spring
Attraction, fascination.

Root to soil
Iron to Pole Star
Spiralling inwards
Spiralling outwards.

Dancing hearts
Bud to heaven.


****

A5hawthorn

MIDLAND HAWTHORN

Expansion into heart, growth, direction, awareness, enthusiasm, fractal patterns, inward expansion, thousand-petalled

Inward expansion
Heart mother
Thousand petals.

Expansion inwards
Open fractals
Thousand petals.

Inner expanse
Heart mother
Fractal patterns.

Inner expanse
Heart mother
Fractal petals.


****
Midland Hawthorn Breath:

Breathing in: bring the breath in to the heart.
Breathing out: see the breath expanding out from the heart as a growing sphere. At its furthest, outermost edge, there is a sense of stars.

****
The Hawthorns all work with the energy of the heart. The heart is the centre, the core, of a thing, the place from which everything expands and originates. The first often gets swamped by the second, the third, the succeeding experiences that explore and elaborate in greater and greater complexity and originality. It is easy to get swept along with the new until there is so much to experience simultaneously that we grow tired of having to make choices, decisions, changes. We lose sense of control, sense of perspective and are overwhelmed by possibilities. Yet we have travelled so far away from where we started that it seems impossible to find a way back to a simple, honest, central point. Midland hawthorn helps us to experience a return to the centre, focusing energy and awareness in one place so that we can see the chaotic whole for what it is. Chaos and lack of order is simply looking at things from an inappropriate distance. Getting closer or going further away patterns will begin to emerge that we can recognise and follow.
Within infinity every possible point is the central point, and within that central point everything else is enclosed: expanding inwards, remaining in the centre, patterns unfolding endlessly. A small tree that becomes the universe. A wavy-edged leaf becomes a map directly to one’s goal. The music of the heart beating.

****

midland hawthornA5

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silver birch2a copy

Birch Breath

“Bone white
birth reveals
all in beauty.”

The birch is amongst the most graceful of trees. Its white bark and long elegant boughs, often with down-swept branches, make it easy to see from a distance wherever it might be growing. Birch is a pioneer tree inhabiting the poor, rocky soils of heath land and lower mountainside. Living on the edges of the inhabited world of man it is easy to associate the tree with the spirits of the wild, particularly female lunar and fertility deities. In keeping with its character as a liminal dweller on thresholds the birch carries associations that appear contradictory but elucidate its significant role and symbolism.

The ghostly white bark represents both light and life- the power of life to conquer and regenerate, to give birth and flourish – and also of the cold, lifeless bones of the dead, the dwellers of the Otherworld and the ancestors. In the Scottish Highlands the birch is sometimes seen as a benevolent female spirit, a dangerous, devouring witch or a home for the spirits of dead girls. This symbolism may well reflect an ancient association with the Great Goddess, whose aspects included the nurturing fertile Mother at the same time as the ravening destructive force of War and Destruction. She is the Mother who goes to all lengths to protect her offspring from harm.

The name ‘birch’ derives from the same Indo-European root words as ‘light’, ‘shining’, ‘bright’. But birch also shows that all beauty is balance, for the white purity of the bark splits to reveal black underneath. There is no birth without death, no light without darkness, no beginning that is not also an ending. We cannot rest our eyes on true beauty until we accept the whole interaction of life with death, until we stop favouring, stop judging, stop comparing. The oldest traditions of the Great Mother are uncompromising in their clarity. All aspects of human experience, good and bad, are manifest in Her forms and faces. There is no possibility of compromise with human frailties or wishful thinking if we want to attain a true state of clear, birch-like awareness.

Breath:
Breathing in through the solar plexus.
Breathing out, imagining the breath swirling around the inner walls of the body(as liquid swirls around a vessel).

Tea: All parts are useful, including the rising sap in early spring which can be tapped to make an excellent wine. The bark is diuretic and laxative. The leaves are high in potassium so taken together with the bark can prevent the sodium-potassium imbalance that can occur when taking other diuretics. Both the leaves and the sap are anti-inflammatory and are useful for arthritic conditions and skin irritations like psoriasis. The buds can be used in cases of cystitis (the alkalising effects of potassium helpful here as well).

birch boughs

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Ivy clad

And if I am a worm, I am the worm of the world
Enwrapping the roots, gnawing my fill.
So tell me then: which came first, life or death?

Well, (you might say) , first came life
For how could an end come before a beginning?
But I say:
Call death by a better name,
Call death “change of state”, in a more proper understanding,
And see then death arising first,
For how could life arise
Without a change from nothing to something?

But again, this is only one eye’s view:
Light without dark, sun without shade
So cannot be.
Life is change and dies remaining still,
Death is at the heart of life
As life is nothing without death.

So let me be the parasitic worm, the cloth of graves,
The burden of the ancient.
I walk in light and shade, deal death to live,
Bring change to remain.
I am the worm that weaves the world,
A stitch in time, a fearless heart
That will not needlessly divide.
Clasping the axis, seeing the round view.

A heart in light
A star in darkness
A rope to reach
A road to follow.

Ivy clad:
The world wreathed in glory.

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IVY. ( eye vee why)

I
No mistaking that first eye, seeing straight.
An arrow dividing light from dark,
Both equal offspring of the sun.

V
Opening iris: understanding mind.
A mouth to engulf, to hold firm
Sharp advice.

Y
Tongue tasting life,
A right rod to divine, chooser of paths,
Division sign
Conciliator, binder.

Slow spinning searcher.

Heart and stars of winter’s world tree.

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plane trunk2
(plane tree trunk)

Meditation Tree

All trees help us towards a meditative state. Tree awareness is always connected to the whole. Tree awareness exists in a cyclical or spiral time. Human awareness exists in a linearity of past – present – future. We think at this linear level: evaluating past memory or projecting into the future. The present doesn’t hold our attention in the same way. Perception of the present becomes memory or speculation by habit rather than of necessity.

Tree awareness is held in the present, so requires no thought process (or not like ours). When we contact a tree energy we absorb some quality of tree consciousness and so find it easier to release the habitual linearity of thought. This begins to establish a meditative state. (Each tree will have a different quality or ‘flavour’ depending upon how we interact with its energy.)

Tree awareness is concentric and 360 degrees. Individual awareness is the centre of a circle of energetic liveliness that also includes many other circles of awareness. A tree’s individual awareness is not experienced as separate from the circle around it, but as a denser focus of peculiar factors of view and form. The self (I) cannot have the same meaning where there is no spatial movement or change of view. As humans, we are always in a state of physically changing relationships with our environments. We have therefore to be constantly self-referring to know where we are and what we are doing. A tree exists in one place and has less differentiated parts (organs etc.) so there is not the same need to be self-conscious. More of the awareness can be directed outwards towards the circle’s circumference. It is an inclusive awareness rather than a human’s exclusive awareness. Entering into tree spirit awareness, we experience a change in metabolism – things slow down, the body relaxes, loses track of its position, sense of time changes, thoughts continue but do not distract us from an underlying, non-verbal vibration of energy, sometimes experienced as bliss or sound or light. Buddha knew what he was doing sitting under a tree – not just for shade, but for the connection to wholeness of life.

silver firs
(silver firs)

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cherry plum closeup

(blossoms of cherry plum, usually the first petalled blossoms in the English countryside, though not a native)

Tree Truth (part 2)

There are about 40 native trees in the British Isles. The figure varies because some authorities do not include some small trees that they consider to be shrubs ( such as hazel, elder, juniper, dwarf willow, the buckthorns). But it seemed to be a logical place to start an exploration of tree energies using the flower essences of those trees. It is something that most people do not think about or consider: all trees have flowers. Not just the blossoming trees, like cherry and apple. Ask someone to describe the flowers of holly or oak, and even though they would probably be able to identify the tree from its leaf, few would be so sure about the flowers. Tree flowers often are small and the drama of their opening, flowering and fruiting go on way above our heads most of the time. Only the showiest tree flowers are more familiar to us because those are the ones we often choose to put in our parks and gardens.

And this was the next conundrum that faced me. Those forty trees ( really less than thirty if one was not to get too fussy about minutiae of very closely related species, like willows), nowadays play much less a role in our everyday environments than species of trees that we have intentionally and consciously chosen to have around us. Naturalised trees are those from elsewhere that have settled down and are quite happy flowering, seeding and self-propagating. Some naturalised trees have been in our landscapes so long, it seems almost churlish to exclude them, segregsting them from those that ‘belong’. Environments change. In Britain, monkey puzzle ( Chile pine) was a native for millions of years longer than the eight thousand or so the ‘natives’ have been around. So too were firs, now only seen in the mountains of mainland Europe. There are ecological reasons why the natives are important. Each ecosystem has developed its flora and fauna as an interactive web of synergistic support. But a horticultural division into natives, naturalised and specimen/park/garden species, though valid at some levels, makes little sense from an energetic and holistic perspective. If we are to explore and understand the spiritual qualities of trees then it would seem to be vital to consider those relationships as they now are. Otherwise there is great danger of becoming historically exclusive, to become zenophobic, even racist, in our attitudes to trees in the same way as we habitually are to ‘foreigners’ and ‘strangers’.

So when I was out collecting tree essences, though I was seeking initially to study the most common natives and naturalised species, if something else came along and grabbed my attention, that was also included. If people understand the energies that they bring into their cities, towns and gardens, then that relationship becomes consciously powerful and sustaining. Humans are also integral with the ecology. To think otherwise is devisive, and more than a little arrogant. Just because one crazy plant collector ( an awful lots of Scots, for some reason), roams the wilds and brings home an interesting/ beautiful/useful tree, that doesn’t make the end result any different than a wind-blown seed or a fruit passing through a bird’s gut. Trees need ( it could be argued, indeed, that they invented), animals in order to get around the planet. The relationship we have with a tree species has always relied upon usefulness and aesthetics. Both these require us to understand the physical and energetic uniqueness of a tree species. The tree presents us with qualities that attract us, we move that tree to other lands, where if the conditions are right, it will thrive. Win win. ( of course, there do seem to be disasters with this sometimes when one introduced species outmanouvres an established species. But this too, is a narrow, short term, anthropecentric view of matters, and introduces value judgements about one living entity over another, a slippery slope!)

Human interactions, our history with trees is a fascinating thing when looked at from a spiritual or energetic perspective. So many serendipitous events, coincidences, unlikely paths have introduced us to some of our most familiar tree neighbours that one would not be blamed for believing that something very peculiar is going on…..

elm flowers

(flowers of elm, hardly noticed as they flower in February or early March. The seeds, if fertilised are much more obvious – a vivid green before most other trees are in full leaf)

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gorse spray
(gorse flowers, now beginning to get a full spring polish on themselves)

A USEFUL PLACE

 

(A stance useful to bring to mind before all Tree Spirit Healing work)

 

1

Nothing in creation is isolated or alone. Every being is part of a seamless web of energy that flows, transmutes and modifies itself in the maintenance of dynamic balance.

 

Illness and disease arise when the systems of the body cannot locate the necessary information or energy for self-repair. Any method of healing simply helps the body to find what it requires for wellness.

 

Trees and other plants have always been our primary healers, and continue to be so today. They physically sustain us by balancing environmental factors (temperature, humidity, wind, the constituents of both the air and the earth), and their spiritual presence brings stability and equilibrium to all around them.

 

Trees, by their effortless balance, remind us of the calm spaciousness of our natural awareness, connected to the seamless flow of existence. Each tree species demonstrates a particular way of achieving balance so that, by linking to them in a very specific sequence a state of disorderliness, chaos and suffering can be alleviated within us.

 

2

Getting oneself into an appropriate frame of mind speeds the effectiveness of the healing and allows for clearer experiences. Becoming aware of our connection with the world, acknowledging that we cannot always do everything by our own efforts, allowing help to be offered and to be accepted, all soften up the brittle boundaries that are often put in place in an attempt to keep ourselves safe, but that really only isolate us further from a solution to our pains. Use those preliminary processes that feel most comfortable for you.

 

Take a moment to turn your attention to the breath. You do not need to change your breathing in any way – simply pay attention to the movement of air in and out of your lungs. This in itself will steady and calm both the body and the mind. If you find that there is some turbulence, open your mouth slightly and breathe through it. If you put your attention on the soft palette at the back of the mouth you will notice that, as you breathe in, the air feels cool there, but on the out-breath, there is no sensation. Simply stay with this experience for a moment or two until you feel calmer.

 

Imagine that you exist as a wave on an ocean of infinite waves, each unique and distinct from each other. Allow your attention to move away from the experience, sinking downwards towards the depths of the ocean. As you descend, your sense of self changes, expanding, becoming more aware of the unseen deep currents, and of other perspectives, other ways of being. You are still yourself, but more integrated with others, able to exchange information and energy easily. Stay at these deep levels until you feel calm and alert.

 

Take your attention to each of your senses in turn. Feel how your body is resting, where it is relaxed, where it is in tension. Adjust yourself so that you become more comfortable. As you breathe in, be aware of the scents and aromas around you, the temperature and feel of the air. Allow your eyes to relax, rest them where they are, just gazing at whatever you are looking at. Simply allow what you see to enter the eyes without the need to focus on anything in particular or to think about what is there. Now what sounds are you hearing? Open your hearing in the same way that you opened your sight. Simply let whatever sounds there are to register in your mind without focusing or dwelling on any of them. When you become aware of thoughts, treat them in exactly the same way – let them come and go on their own, simply keeping your awareness open and spacious.

 

3

The invitation.

 

Asking for help is acknowledging that no one is alone, that life flows from one being to another in an endless flow, that what is required is available when one knows where to look. So, open to ask for assistance from the tree spirits in some simple way. Use the feeling in your heart to simply call for help, or give a simple gesture like a bowing of the head or an opening out of the hands. Then wait for a moment or two before beginning the healing.

 

japanese camelia essence3

(Japanese camellia)

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mistyStrawberryTree

LEARNING TO GAZE

1)    Sit easily in a relaxed, upright position.

2)    Take a couple of deep breaths.

3)    Relax your face and your eyes. Allow them to find an angle of view which is relaxed and comfortable – a slightly downwards gaze is usually good.

4)    Put your attention on your vision, but do not focus your eyes on anything specific. Allow them simply to gaze in a relaxed manner, taking in whatever can be seen.
You may find you have a tendency to focus on something in particular, if so, just relax your sight once more or take your awareness to the edges of your area of vision (without moving the eyes at all). This usually helps to regain a relaxed, open sight.

5)    If you feel restless or unsettled give yourself something else to rest your attention upon.
Keeping your eyes relaxed, turn the attention to whatever you are hearing. See if you can relax your hearing in the same way as your vision – not distinguishing individual sounds or identifying them, but listening to all sounds that are happening simultaneously. (It is easy to forget that our hearing is as selective as our sight – recording the sounds in the room we are in clearly demonstrates how we habitually ignore many of the sounds around us that the machine cannot block out).
Alternatively, put your attention on the breath. There are various ways of doing this.
One of the easiest is simply to notice that, whilst breathing gently through a slightly opened mouth, the cool inbreath can be felt as it passes over the palette at the back of the mouth, whilst on the outbreath the warmed air cannot be felt at all.
Just a light attention on this phenomenon is enough to quieten the mind. Restlessness itself can be relaxed into.
Avoid the idea that physical, mental or emotional stillness is required. What is required for gazing is simply not to get absorbed by any sensation, thought or experience. Suppressing energy only stirs up more energy. Energy subsides by itself in its own time if you just allow it to.

6)     So simply remain, allowing sense impressions, thoughts, images, feelings, to come and go whilst you continue gazing in a relaxed way.Initially you might find it easier to close the eyes for a moment or two to settle yourself down, but it is then a good idea to open the eyes again, as it is easier to remain without drifting away into sleepiness or dream states.There is no need to do this exercise for long periods of time.Two or three minutes on a regular basis gets us used to being comfortable in a state of calm without focus, without activity, without the need to do anything other than register our life.

Looking at a gently changing scene can be helpful to gazing. Watching the surface of flowing water, looking at the changing clouds in the sky, or the leaves on a tree, grasses undulating in the wind, all help to establish a calm, trance (entranced) state.  The word ‘trance’ has come to mean ‘unaware’, ‘fooled’, unfocused’, whereas trance is really what gazing is all about. The state of trance (of which there are an endless variety of degrees of experience), is simply the turning of our attention away from the conscious, surface, language-based rational processes of the mind, towards a more open, relaxed and curious state of awareness. Ordinary awareness is one window we choose to look through. Sleep is another, dream is another, imagination is another, trance is another. All these states are natural to the human being and all are effortless to achieve. Once you have had a little experience with gazing you will appreciate how easily we can slip from one state of awareness to another in a smooth continual process. Gazing simply helps us to watch the world (internal and external), in a more neutral manner. We become less an individual experiencing and judging events (interpreting patterns), and more simply a location in time and space on the universal field witnessing local events. This sublimation, or turning away from individual judgemental thought is essential if we are to access tree spirit consciousness in useful ways. Gazing exercises help us to broaden out our experience. We become an experience happening, rather than someone having an experience.

pussy willow sky

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Imagine a tree beginning as a seedling.

It starts to accumulate energy and begins to transmute the elements of light, water and earth.

It accumulates power within its structure.

As it grows more energy, power, information, consciousness is concentrated and can stay stable here for many hundreds of years.

These are stable energy fields within an ever-changing environment.

Slowly, as the tree eventually ages and dies, it releases that accumulated energy slowly back into the earth where it can be accessed again.

Visualise this process as if each tree were a  point of light or warmth.

Look down on the landscape alive with stable energy.

Small points growing bright over the centuries, spreading the light of energy into their surroundings, holding steady and then gradually becoming more diffuse and fading as other lights begin to glow bright.

Know that nothing else in this world can infuse the world with this light.

Everything relies on this continual dance for its survival and sustenance.

These are the power stations that need to be maintained.

weeping willow2

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