Robert Macfarlane on the Celtic culture of retreat, & wildness

‘[The] Celtic Christian culture of retreat originated in the Ireland of the fifth and sixth centuries. Begun by St Patrick in the 430s, and inspired by the desert saints of the preceding centuries, the practice of retreat spread to what are now western Scotland and coastal Wales: a centrifugal motion, carrying men to the brinks of Europe and beyond.

It is clear that these edgelands reciprocated the serenity and the asceticism of the peregrini. Their travels to these wild places reflected their longing to achieve correspondence between belief and place, between inner and outer landscapes. We can surmise that the monks moved outwards because they wished to leave behind inhabited land: land in which every feature was named. Almost all Celtic place names are commemorative: the bardic schools, as late as the seventeenth century, taught the history of places through their names, so that the landscape became a theatre of memory, continually reminding its inhabitants of attachment and belonging. To migrate away from the named places (territories whose topography was continuous with memory and community) to the coasts (the unmapped islands, the anonymous forests) was to reach land that did not bear the marks of occupation. It was to act out a movement from history to eternity.’

The Wild Places: Robert Macfarlane

Here’s the link to Robert’s wonderful and important book:-

Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter

Counselling Exeter since 1994

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Parker J Palmer on Paradoxes

“It takes training to think the world apart because we arrive in this world with an instinctive capacity to hold paradoxes together. Watch a young child go through the day, and you will see how action and rest, thought and feeling, tears and laughter are intimate and inseparable companions.

In a child, the opposites commingle and co-create each other with the animal fluidity of breathing in and out. But that easy embrace of paradox is soon drummed out of us. Early in our journey toward adulthood, we are taught that survival depends on our ability to dissect life and discriminate among its parts.

The ability to discriminate is important—but only where the failure to do so will get us into trouble. A child must learn the difference between hot and cold to keep from getting hurt and the difference between right and wrong to keep from hurting others. But it is equally important that we retain, or recover, the ability to embrace paradox where discrimination will get us into trouble—the kind of trouble we get into when we enter adulthood with partitions between thinking and feeling, personal and professional, shadow and light.

We split paradoxes so reflexively that we do not understand the price we pay for our habit. The poles of a paradox are like the poles of a battery: hold them together, and they generate the energy of life; pull them apart, and the current stops flowing. When we separate any of the profound paired truths of our lives, both poles become lifeless specters of themselves—and we become lifeless as well. Dissecting a living paradox has the same impact on our intellectual, emotional, and spiritual well-being as the decision to breathe in without ever breathing out would have on our physical health.”

Parker J. Palmer

Thanks to Micah Ingle on Facebook for showing us this.

Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter

Counselling Exeter since 1994

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Joanna Macy on Separation, Connection & the 3 Movements

“In the first movement, our infancy as a species, we felt no separation from the natural world around us. Trees, rocks, and plants surrounded us with a living presence as intimate and pulsing as our own bodies. In that primal intimacy, which anthropologists call “participation mystique,” we were as one with our world as a child in the mother’s womb.

Then self-consciousness arose and gave us distance on our world. We needed that distance in order to make decisions and strategies, in order to measure, judge and to monitor our judgments. With the emergence of free-will, the fall out of the Garden of Eden, the second movement began — the lonely and heroic journey of the ego. Nowadays, yearning to reclaim a sense of wholeness, some of us tend to disparage that movement of separation from nature, but it brought us great gains for which we can be grateful. The distanced and observing eye brought us tools of science, and a priceless view of the vast, orderly intricacy of our world. The recognition of our individuality brought us trial by jury and the Bill of Rights.

Now, harvesting these gains, we are ready to return. The third movement begins. Having gained distance and sophistication of perception, we can turn and recognize who we have been all along. Now it can dawn on us: we are our world knowing itself. We can relinquish our separateness. We can come home again — and participate in our world in a richer, more responsible and poignantly beautiful way than before, in our infancy.” 

Joanna Macy – World as Lover, World as Self

The writer has just completed a sequence of 4 workshops exploring Joanna’s Work That Reconnects. As before, she was struck by the resonance with person-centred: by how many of us, committed to models of growth and service – with our differing languages, focus and conceptual systems – essentially reach the same insights and perceptions…. Feels heartening and supportive.

Here is the book link:-

Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter

Counselling Exeter since 1994

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Marion Woodman on Growth

“There is no growth without real feeling. Children not loved for who they are do not learn how to love themselves. Their growth is an exercise in pleasing others, not in expanding through experience. As adults, they must learn to nurture their own lost child.” 

Marion Woodman: Coming Home to Myself: Reflections for Nurturing a Woman’s Body and Soul

So much packed into this brief statement. Here’s the book link:-

Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter

Counselling Exeter since 1994

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Alan Watts on the art of living

“The art of living… is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging to the past on the other. It consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive.” 

Alan Watts

Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter

Counselling in Exeter since 1994

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Our Power to Bless One Another – John O’Donohue

Here’s the wording, for those who have trouble seeing Facebook posts:-

‘OUR POWER TO BLESS ONE ANOTHER

In the parched deserts of postmodernity a blessing can be like the discovery of a fresh well. It would be lovely if we could rediscover our power to bless one another. I believe each of us can bless. When a blessing is invoked, it changes the atmosphere. Some of the plenitude flows into our hearts from the invisible neighborhood of loving kindness. In the light and reverence of blessing, a person or situation becomes illuminated in a completely new way. In a dead wall a new window opens, in dense darkness a path starts to glimmer, and into a broken heart healing falls like morning dew. It is ironic that so often we continue to live like paupers though our inheritance of spirit is so vast. The quiet eternal that dwells in our souls is silent and subtle; in the activity of blessing it emerges to embrace and nurture us. Let us begin to learn how to bless one another. Whenever you give a blessing, a blessing returns to enfold you.

John O’Donohue

Excerpt from
BENEDICTUS (Europe) / TO BLESS THE SPACE BETWEEN US (US)’

Here’s the book link:-

Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter

Counselling Exeter since 1994

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Parker Palmer on the highest form of love

“The highest form of love is the love that allows for intimacy without the annihilation of difference.” 

Parker J. Palmer: The Courage to Teach

Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter

Counselling in Exeter since 1994

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