A counter-cultural invitation by Paul to explore the creative potential of withdrawing and of being alone, in the context of his own longings for withdrawal. As the introduction here puts it:-
‘He explains and reinterprets his childhood dreams of withdrawal from the modern world as an active quest and implores that retreating into wilderness is a necessity for change.’
This resonates strongly with the writer’s own experience, and sense of this. It’s a different context, but one of the things people coming to this service are often doing, is moving deep into their own inward landscapes for a time, taking themselves away from external demands and expectations, like a deep diving – even as between sessions they return to the surface, and continue to live their lives in the world. That is an immensely valuable – at times painful and challenging – process of presence, encounter and (ultimately) reconfiguration, replenishment, healing and becoming.
In our culture, we favour perpetual summer and manifestation, and have largely lost touch with our need for deep winter, for retreat and solitude and rest, to support the growth of new seeds, the blossoming and the harvest. These are the rhythms of the natural world, so – for us to reconnect with those rhythms in our own bodies and processes – wilderness, withdrawal, retreat and aloneness offer us revitalised vision, new pathways… And this is not a luxury, it is essential.
Paul captures it beautifully:-
‘The world we have created is terrifying in its complexity and power and in its ability to destroy the small, the precious, the immeasurable and the meaningful, inside you and in the places around you. Perhaps to a political activist, sitting by a stream in a forest seems like self-indulgence in the face of mass extinction and climate change, but it is the opposite. If you don’t know why that stream matters, you are not equipped to protect it. If you have forgotten how to listen to it, you may end up on the wrong side, as so many have before you.
If you don’t go out seeking, if you don’t retreat, if you don’t put yourself into the wilderness with nothing to carry you, you will never see what you need to shed or what you need to gain. You will never change. And if you never change, neither will anything else.’
We need to connect with our deeper selves first, before we can radiate that outwards into our relationships, our lives, our natural world. The earth supports that.
Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter
Counselling Exeter since 1994