Trees for Life are celebrating their 25th year of working to restore the Caledonian Forest. They are marking this with a new appeal. Below you can read a little about their current aims and find a link to their website and information on how you can donate. Many OBOD members have contributed trees via Trees for Life to our 50th Anniversary Grove. Trees for Life are a wonderful organisation who have achieved much over their 25 years – long may this continue!
In the summer of 1989 I took our first group of volunteers to protect Scots pine seedlings in Glen Cannich. The following year, we protected 100,000 pine seedlings in Glen Affric with our first fence, and in 1991 we planted 8,000 trees further west in the glen. Like those first trees, the organisation that I launched in 1989 has grown strongly over the last 25 years.
Now, more than a million trees and 5,000 volunteers later, we’re ready to grow again. Please support us in this by making a donation to our special 25th anniversary appeal today.
Despite the success of our work to date, the need to do more has never been greater. A report just released in February demonstrates that 86% of Caledonian pinewoods are still at risk because of overgrazing by deer. Against that background, we’re using the occasion of our 25th anniversary to launch an ambitious expansion of our work in both its scope and extent.
Help us to expand our work!
We’re making a strategic move at this critical time to expand beyond our traditional Project Area west of Inverness into other parts of the Highlands, where there is a clear need for more action to restore the Caledonian Forest.
During the past 25 years we’ve focused almost exclusively on the first part of our name, ie the trees. Now, however, with young forests growing again, the time is right to make us truly ‘Trees for Life’ by developing new projects for some of the other life in the forest, such as the pine marten, red squirrel and wood ants.
These new initiatives will be in addition to our ongoing work, so to make this leap forward we’re launching a special 25th anniversary appeal to raise £25,000. It’s an ambitious target, but I hope you will be as inspired about the potential for growth as we are, and give generously to make 2014 a breakthrough year for Trees for Life.
By giving a donation for our 25th anniversary appeal, you can help to launch Trees for Life into another 25 years of inspiring and ground-breaking forest restoration work… To read more and donate click here
One of the joys of Druidry, particularly the kind that is practiced within OBOD, is that it allows room to explore the approaches of other paths. Many within OBOD blend their Druidry with other practices; Christians and Wiccans have found a home here and through OBOD’s involvement with the One Tree Gatherings, fruitful links with the Hindu, Jain and Buddhist communities have been forged in a spirit of celebrating all that connects these paths rather than the things that divide them.
While for many Druidry as a single path is complete in itself, for others, hybrid spiritual practices enrich their understanding of self and life, and this, to me, is a positive expression of Druidry’s inherent openness and inclusivity- something to be immensely proud of. There is room for all and the knowledge gained and shared through the many experiences of these myriad individual paths can only enrich the understanding of Druidry for all.
My path has many influences. I came to Druidry via Wicca but I have also practiced Yoga for many years and of late have been deepening my practice through Yoga teacher training. This has required me to explore more deeply the philosophy of Yoga and it has been interesting to discover how much of this has a great deal in common with Druidry.
For many in the West, when we speak of Yoga, most immediately think of the Postures, or Asana, but the Eight Limbs of Yoga are interconnected spiritual practices and approaches of which the Asana are only one part. One of the branches of Yoga that I have been exploring in-depth of late are the Yamas – guiding principles that deal with the way we interact with others and the world – and I have been delighted by how much these resonate with a Druidic approach.
There are five Yamas: Ahimsa – roughly translated as non-harm; Satya – truthfulness; Asteya –non-stealing; Aparigraha – non-possessiveness and non-attachment and Brahmacharya, traditionally understood as celibacy but more commonly interpreted in the modern western world as moderation in our actions. These are not viewed as commandments but rather as approaches that enable us to live with a greater self-awareness, peace and contentment.
In both Druidry and Yoga, there is an understanding that all things contain a spark of the Divine, that all life is interconnected and that because of this we strive to do as little harm as possible. In Druidry showing compassion and wishing to protect and honour all life forms is rooted in the recognition of this underlying unity of creation. Ahimsa encourages us to express compassion and to act with care and consideration for both self and others – this works on a personal level in our relationships with ourselves and with those close to us but also in our desire to protect our planet and build sustainable and supportive communities.
Druidry also places great importance on truth and fairness. The second Yama, Satya, encourages us to examine how we live with integrity: being honest with ourselves and others; recognising the power of words to both heal and harm and therefore choosing our words with care; knowing when to stay silent and when to speak. These each have resonance in the practice of Druidry and relate to Druid notions of Justice.
The third Yama, Asteya asks that we do not steal. This refers not only to the possessions of others but also to their time and energies. To take what is not freely given is an abuse and might be a symptom of a perceived lack in ourselves. Coveting what others have suggest that we feel what we have is not enough, that we are not good enough in ourselves and are seeking externals to fill a void. Asteya asks that we stay connected to our gratitude and recognise all that we have – not only our material blessings but those of spirit too; it requires a willingness to exchange our energies, to not only receive but to willingly give. This open generosity is key to Druidry’s attitude towards how we manage our resources and the resources of our planet. Druidry opens us to the abundance of life and shows us that the’ getting and striving’ can lead to terrible imbalances within our own lives and personalities but can also result in disturbing the balance of the natural world and our support systems.
Aparigraha is also very relevant to Druidry’s views on the use of resources. It encourages us to let go of our attachments and ask us ‘what is it that we truly need?’. We can so often confuse our needs with our wants. Aparigraha asks that we become aware of our need to consume and question what is driving this. It challenges mindless consumption and the defining of ourselves solely by what we have or even by what we have achieved. It asks ‘what is the self beyond these limiting definitions?’ ‘How does my need to consume impact on others and on my own happiness?’
In Druidry, we understand that life is constantly subject to change, that we must build a healthy relationship with change and learning to let go is an important element in this process. Aparigraha ask that we build a trust in life to provide and that if we hold on too tightly to things, people and experiences out of a fear of loss, or a sense that we possess a bottomless void that nothing will fill, the imbalance ripples out from our personal lives to that of our communities: our planet just can’t sustain the level of consumption that we currently indulge in.
Druidry also recognises that how we choose to express our energies in the world, both sexual and other, impacts far beyond the self. Energy is a sacred force to be used destructively or for good. When we learn to recognise the nature of our own energy and develop a greater awareness as to how we use it, we can potential become a more positive force for good in the world. Brahmacharya teaches moderation and asks us to become aware of where we place our energy and if we are expending it in ways that serve our greater good. Druidry also explores ways in which to consciously direct our energies, investing it wisely.
I have only skimmed the surface of both philosophies. I suspect I could spend a whole lifetime discovering new layers of understanding in the Yamas, just as I could with Druid approaches. However, even a short exploration of these paths serves to illustrate how each might enrich the other. I am cheered by this as it speaks to me about something fundamental in my spiritual search: it is in the living of life that we gain wisdom and in the living and the sharing of that wisdom that we are given the opportunity to find the best way through the complexities and difficulties that being human can bring us.
This brings us neatly back to Ahimsa, because the compassion we develop for ourselves and others in our struggles to learn and grow is the true treasure of any spiritual journey, regardless of the path we choose to follow.
Gregory Sams’ 1998 book Uncommon Sense – The State Is Out of Date has been updated and revised and is now out in print as The State is Out of Date – We Can Do it Better . Here is some information about the book and the author from The State is Out of Datewebsite:
Perhaps living in peace and harmony with each other is a more natural condition than that we experience in today’s strife-ridden world. Perhaps, like everything else in the natural world, we organize better from the bottom up than from the top down.
Whether confused, bemused or abused by the political process, The State Is Out of Date re- assures readers that politics is not even the primary game in town, though it may sometimes look like the only one. It is a book for those who wonder why politics isn’t working and what would.
From 1967, Gregory Sams was pioneering natural foods in the UK, in partnership with his brother Craig. He opened Seed macrobiotic restaurant in Paddington at the age of 19, Ceres grain store in the Portobello Road soon after, then Harmony Foods (now Whole Earth Foods) in 1970, as well as being closely involved with Harmony Magazine and Seed, the Journal of Organic Living. He conceived and launched the original VegeBurger in 1982, adding a word to the language as he opened up the market for vegetarian foods. In 1990 Greg moved out of food and into fractals, founding Strange Attractions – the world’s only shop ever dedicated to chaos theory. Trading as chaOs worKs, he went on to produce and license fractal images worldwide on everything from posters to book covers to fashion fabrics. His interest in chaos theory, however, was not just for the sexy images, but for the social lessons inherent in the discovery of self-organizing systems throughout the world. This led him to write and publish, in 1998, his first book, Uncommon Sense – The State Is Out of Date. It was well received and, enjoying his role as an author, Gregory spent the first seven years of the next millennium writing Sun of gOd, in which, as he puts it, the biggest elephant-in-the-room that you could ever imagine is unveiled. In 2012/13 Gregory refreshed and upgraded much of his first book, now republished as The State Is Out Of Date – We Can Do It Better. The timing was right and the digital edition hit the Internet on Oct 1st, the day that Uncle Sam shut down for lack of funds. The print edition launches April, 2014.
Exploring the Arts of Celebrancy 17 – 21 SEPTEMBER 2014 at EARTHSPIRIT IN SOMERSET
Celebrate! A five day immersion in the arts of celebrancy for OBOD members and friends who want to explore working with rites of passage – either in a professional role or simply for themselves and close friends and relatives. In this year of celebration of the Golden Anniversary of the Order, it seems fitting that we should turn our attention to celebration as a natural and spiritual response to the fundamental turning-points in life. During five days in the magical setting of Earthspirit in Compton Dundon near Glastonbury, we will work with ways in which we can create and hold rites of naming, weddings, handfastings, rites of passage and funerals. Lying between the two hills of Dundon Beacon and Lollover in Somerset, Earthspirit is just on the edge of the small village of Compton Dundon, a few miles south of Glastonbury. The Earthspirit Centre is warm and comfortable, and in addition to extensive gardens that include an Ogham copse, there is a large indoor cedarwood hot-tub and sauna. This time together is designed for both experienced celebrants and for those who are just beginning to consider celebrancy as an avenue of service. We will receive advice from, and listen to the experience of trained ‘mainstream’ celebrants in established traditions, from professional ‘alternative’ celebrants, and from members of the Order who offer their services as celebrants to their local community. We’ll share our own stories and learn ways in which we can craft rites that respond to the needs of people who may be ‘spiritual’ but who hold no special religious affiliation, as well as for those who want a specifically Druid ritual. Contributors will include Caitlin Matthews, Peter Owen-Jones, Mark Townsend and Philip Carr-Gomm. The event will be recorded so we can share what we learn with others.
The cost of the workshop is £363 inclusive of all meals (vegetarian & delicious). Accommodation is sharing – see www.earthspirit-centre.co.uk. £60 Single Room Supplement. A limited number of campervan/tent spaces exist but there is no reduction in cost. To make a reservation, send £100 deposit via paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org (write “Celebrate deposit” and your postal address in message field) or send a cheque for £100 deposit made out to OBOD together with a note of your name, address, telephone number and email to: Celebrate, OBOD, PO Box 1333, Lewes, East Sussex BN7 1DX or for info email: email@example.com
Images by Will Worthington from The Druid Animal Oracle & The Druid Plant Oracle. The deposit is non-refundable. Balance due 1 August. No refunds after 1 August.
When we walk into a carefully nurtured and diverse garden, we are struck by its beauty and its sense of completeness. We are enraptured by its scents and its mysteries. We are enlivened by its colours, both vivid and subtle, and we are nourished by the freshness that fills our lungs.
Altogether, the majority of sentient beings will surely concur, this garden is a most agreeable place to be – and should someone emerge who threatens to desecrate this sacred space – the reaction will be to jump to its defence and protect it against such a criminal action.
So let us consider the fact that many a wise person and many a spiritual leader has felt impelled to point out that “The World Is Our Garden” and that it should therefore be tended, nurtured and defended in the same way as the private space in which we grow our flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs. Emotionally, we should make no distinction between these micro and macro spheres.
Yet look around today and what do we see?
Certainly there are many mortals tending their individual gardens, and many more with no physical garden to tend. But amongst of all these, just a tiny minority can be found who are willing to go out of their way to stand-up for that greater garden called planet Earth.
Even amongst those who would class themselves as ‘aware’ and advancing along the path of spiritual enlightenment, one finds too few ready and willing to actively defend the greater whole in the same spirit as they readily defend and tend their ‘own’ private space. Be that space the place where one cultivates one’s spiritual growth – or the physical space that is one’s own garden.
The act of ‘ownership’ appears to have overridden and nullified our ability to feel and apply a sense of innate responsibility for that which we don’t ‘own’.
The neo-liberal capitalist/consumerist conditioning that forms a major part of nearly all our educations – has not taught us to feel responsible for all life – but only that part in which we have invested our personal interest and financial resources.
We need reminding that we are the collective trustees of this unique living entity that sustains and provides us with all our needs for the duration of our lives – and beyond.
Let us question our supposed ‘spirituality’ in the light of our unwillingness to lay ourselves on the line to fight for the survival of that which enables us to eat, drink, breathe and take pleasure in its abundant generosity.
You see, if we had been entrained from an early age to respond spontaneously to the life giving heart beat of our planetary existence, we would make no distinction between empathy for the garden of Gaia and empathy for our own private garden. Empathy for all children and empathy for our own children .. and so on.
We would recognize that the manifestation of our protective instinct to operate only around that which we consider ‘belongs to us’ is a gross distortion of our natural instincts.
Why do I say that?
Consider for a moment that you are sitting in your garden and someone comes through the gate with a chain-saw and proceeds to set about felling your favourite fruit tree … what would you do?
Well, you would almost certainly spring up from your chair and rush to stop them. Now let us shift to a similar incident where a beautiful tree in a park on the other side of your garden fence is indiscriminately approached by a man wielding a chain saw who clearly has no business to be there. It is clear that this person has the intention of cutting down this tree … what would your reaction be to this? Would you try to apprehend this person? Try to find help? Feel a sense of outrage?
There is a chance that you might respond in all these ways; but there is a much greater likelihood that, after experiencing some initial discomfort at the brazenness of this destructive intent, you would take no action, consoling yourself with the thought “There’s nothing I can do about it anyway”. With that thought uppermost in your mind you would try to ignore the incident and get on with what you were doing.
If our education system had even a smidgeon of spiritual aspiration written into its curriculum – we would be encouraged to recognize our responsibility for all life on this planet from an early age – and be encouraged to come to its rescue at times when it is clearly under threat.
But that is not what the majority of schooling is about. On the contrary, it concentrates its energies on teaching us how to acquire the means to ‘own’ some little niche of this planet, and to accumulate the thousands of bits and pieces that are deemed necessary to furnish it. God forbid that we might decide to reject the trappings of this hallowed road to hell!
Every TV advert, commercial hoarding, glitzy magazine, shop window, internet and cinema screen – is imploring us to indulge in a consumptive way of life that both precludes gaining a greater awareness of our predicament, and contributes to the inevitable rape of the planetary resources upon which we all depend.
The rising consciousness that comes with our spiritual practice also has the affect of alerting us to the destructive nature of this consumptive life style and the majority of jobs that constitute the repetitive and largely sterile working week.
We see more and more clearly how, if we are caught in this mechanism, we are just a cog in a vast machine whose overall ambition is precisely the opposite of that which inspires our spiritual endeavours.
It soon becomes obvious that we have to make a choice: find a form of work that satisfies our rising sense of discernment and is supportive of the trusteeship of planet earth, or give-in to the demands and promises of the corporate state that so relentlessly undermines all that is subtle, beautiful and spiritually fulfilling in this day to day adventure called Life.
The new society so many of us long for can only come about if we take the necessary actions to bring it about. One cannot embark upon a path to higher consciousness while ignoring the damage done through the way one conducts one’s daily life. In order to realise our deeper selves and sleeping spiritual powers, we have to bring all aspects of our lives into line with our rising consciousness.
This means embarking upon a disciplined transition away from reliance upon the crude and destructive commercial edifices of the status quo – such as long food miles, profit hungry supermarket chains; highly corrupted large scale banking institutions; agrichemically and genetically modified ‘convenience’ foods; unnecessarily large gas guzzling cars; mind numbing and mind controlling TV programmes; following ‘fashion’; frequent boozing and partying; electro smog producing indulgent cell phone conversations … and so on.
Not only are these various pursuits negatively impacting on us and on our surroundings – but by pursuing them we are financially and energetically supporting those facets of society whose sole aim is profit, power and increasing control over our daily lives. In other words we are supporting that which is part and parcel of the uninterrupted destruction of this ‘world that is our garden’.
This is clearly a thoroughly unspiritual path to tread.
We are either supporting a radical transformation of society in line with our own rising awareness of its multiple destructive components, or we are falling into a hypocritical and delusional state in which any gain in awareness is soon undone and turned in upon itself.
We have no choice other than to walk forward on two feet. To ‘walk the walk’ and to practice what we preach.
It is my belief that we will succeed in this great quest once we have securely tethered our inner awakening to the manifestation of its true outward expression.
Thus the road to enlightenment becomes synonymous with taking actions to ameliorate and heal the social, cultural, economic and environmental scars that cover our wounded planet. A process which unifies otherwise disparate endeavours and reveals disengaged, inward looking and passive spiritual practices – that shun active participation in service of the planet – to be ultimately fraudulent and a mechanism for escapism.
If ‘The World is our garden’ then let us be united now in going to rescue it from its enemies – no matter what the odds. Let us defy the political gamesmanship that has lead governments to ally with the corporate cause and ignore the cries of imprisoned humanity and the tortured limbs of mother nature.
Our highest spiritual calling is to come out in defence of life.* The angels will rush to our side once we have demonstrated our commitment to taking control of our destinies, which includes the emancipation of this long oppressed planet which is our unique and irreplaceable home.
* ‘In Defence of Life – Essays on a Radical Reworking of Green Wisdom’ is the title of Julian’s latest book. Published by Earth Books. See Julian’s website
Throughout my childhood, teens and early adulthood, I had countless dreams where I could fly. It was a strange method of flight, as I would push up into the air and use breast stroke to move, often with surprising speed. These dreams were so frequent, that as a small child, I was convinced that in my waking life, if I just lifted my feet from the floor I would float. To my small self the impossible was possible. But this is the way of childhood; with age, it seems that gravity claims us, its weight increasing with the passing years. We can often feel the limitations that it places upon us as a restriction.
I have been thinking a good deal about my relationship with gravity of late and realise that its gifts are becoming all the more important to me. In my daily yoga practice I have recently had a powerful urge to perform handstands. This desire, as strong as it was, was counterbalanced with an equally strong fear. What if my arms just couldn’t take the weight of my body?
Going back once again to my childhood, I spent a huge percentage of my time inverted, as most children do: handstands, cartwheels, headstands, hanging from climbing frames in playgrounds – I was intimately familiar with a world turned upside down, with the rush of blood to my head thumping in my ears and the wonderful elation and clarity that came in returning to upright. I never thought twice about hurling my legs above my head, balancing without trepidation, never once worrying about falling.
Something happens to us as adults. There is this unspoken expectation that we put away childish things. We stop skipping, swinging, leaping and jumping, in fact, we temper our joyful dance with gravity, often through social pressure or life’s demands. We can get out of the practice of really moving our bodies which makes re-engaging so much harder the older we get. The resulting aches, pains and decreased mobility and strength can feel like an inevitability of aging, our childish attempts to defy gravity long behind us. People with children get the opportunity to break out on occasion – playing with one’s own children enables us to become children ourselves once more; for those of us without kids, we have to borrow nieces and nephews or the children of friends to indulge in a little boisterous fun. But for many, with time, gravity and the sheer effort it can exert from us, can make us turn away from what it has to offer and lead us to confuse the natural restrictions of aging with inertia.
So, here I am, on the verge of my 48th birthday, and making a stand for… well… standing on my hands! I started gently, placing my hands upon the floor and walking my feet up the wall, edging my hands closer that my body might gradually straighten.
At first it was a shock to feel the weight of my entire body through my arms. How did I ever once do this with such gay abandon?! As I straightened my body, I also had to deal with my fear – the fear of something vital snapping, the fear of falling on my head…But gradually, with daily practice, I am starting to touch upon that elation that being upside down gives you and I can feel the strength in my arms and body growing.
In yoga, inverted postures are highly valued. From a yogic understanding there are many health benefits gained when we get topsy-turvy – it can help regulate our hormones, aid the lymphatic system and bring a greater clarity and alertness with the increased blood supply to the brain. But what also fascinates me about being upside down is that it puts us back into a much more alive and intense relationship with gravity and encourages us to view the world from a completely different angle. It is not for nothing that the Hanged Man of the Tarot has a halo around his head!
To stand on one’s hands requires that we build physical strength and develop emotional courage. These qualities, to me, seem like very important gifts that gravity gives us. It is not gravity that weighs us down but our unwillingness to dance with it. When we give up on our body’s dance with gravity, we become physically stiff, our muscles weaken and our flexibility is reduced. These conditions can age us long before we are actually old and have an impact on the way we think and feel.
Gravity teaches us much about perseverance and patience, about working within our limitations and by doing so, finding a new kind of freedom. When we work with gravity, it sculpts and strengthens our muscles; this in turn can help us to feel more grounded and stable both physically and emotionally. Gravity can literally change our shape – too little interaction with it and our muscles sag; too much and we become muscles bound, a condition where strength is given precedence over flexibility. Both extremes will ultimately affect the way we move in the world and because of that, can impact on the way we think. Getting the right balance (excuse the pun!) can help us to understand how much of an ally gravity is.
When we use our own bodies in weight-bearing exercises we actually strengthen our bones – simply standing on one leg repeatedly over time improves the bone density of that limb. This speaks to me of how gravity gives us the opportunity to become more embodied, to really feel and enjoy the way we are rooted to the earth. When we work with gravity we become stronger, we understand how important it is to be patient with ourselves, of accepting where we are whilst believing that we can change. We can also learn the difference between recklessness and courage.
Looking at those guys up in the International Space Station, I can see that, initially, weightlessness could be amazing fun and wonderfully freeing. However, we are children of our planet and in time I suspect that weightlessness would become wearisome and we would long to be earth-bound.
In truth, our dance with gravity is actually our dance with the Earth; it is how we move through her being; find our home in her density and our roots in her body. When you feel the weight of it, don’t bemoan its heaviness, let it push against you and enjoy the challenge. At first it might feel exhausting but if you stick with it, in time, it can gift you with its own kind of special freedom. It might not allow you unbounded flight but it has its own special magic.
Here is a lovely quote from Jean Houston, ‘At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities’. There is something wonderfully healing about a good belly laugh, a fact not lost on the growing numbers who are throwing inhibitions aside to chuckle and guffaw away their stress in Laughter Yoga classes. The great thing about laughing is that it brings you directly into your body and the moment – there is a peace and connectedness that fills us after a good laugh and sharing laughter is particularly joyful. Laughter Yoga might at first appear to be a satire on the New Age quest for well-being but I suspect that once the initial awkwardness passes, this would be a whole lot of fun!