Forests. Changing seasons. Slowing down. Walking. Reading. Researching. Teaching. Learning. Facilitating. Cooking. Walking. Conversing. Playing. Meditating. Yoga Soul. Walking.
I am here at Arteles Creative Center in the middle of Finland to facilitate the practice of a new way of flowing with one’s artistic and sometimes challenged ways of being in this world. Our first adventure must be in the forest. Finns adore the forest and so, because we are in Finland, we decide: we love it too. We are surrounded by white tall birch trees, and across the paddock is the lake.
The lake is small when compared to a large lake, but large when compared to a pond. Early yesterday morning we walked from the forest, along the unsealed road, through the paddock to the edge of the lake, where we Saluted the Sun and absorbed its soft rays. The evening before I had been reading Joseph Bharat Cornell’s book The Sky and Earth Touched Me. Cornell has had a profound impact on me over the last two months and as a result I have been reading many of his books. He talks simply yet profoundly about the sun’s gravity and how it has kept the earth in place, and safe, for four and a half billion years. No wonder we want to worship it. He provides us a variety of processes so that we can relate in an embodied way to the heart of nature, all the while knowing that in our Western culture we are often too busy to notice the magical realism that sits around us.
As the Artelesians and I walk back along the road at the edge of the forest I hear Joseph Cornell speak about the trees and how the tree turns air and light into life. He quotes Buddha when he writes:
(A tree has) unlimited kindness and benevolence that makes no demand for its sustenance…it affords protection to all beings.
Cornell also offers a meditation from Melissa Krige’s Trees of Light:
As the forests exhale
So we inhale.
And as we exhale
So the forests inhale.
In giving we receive
And in receiving we give.
This sits with me so comfortably as I walk the “Teemu circle” each morning.
Teemu, the Artistic Director and Co-Founder of Arteles Creative Center (he is a most definitely a visionary), created a circle made up of beautiful square stones. It is a large circle, not as large as some, but larger than others. We walk the circle each morning, reminding ourselves that life is just that: We wake up. We work. We go to sleep. And then we do it. All over again.
But do we? What I love about the “Teemu circle” is that it connects us to nature, the very pulse of the earth. We walk the circle multiple times each morning as a reminder that we are part of this earth. We walk the circle each morning to remind ourselves that we are breath. We walk the circle each morning because it gives us time to contemplate how we are connected to our world. Each day I ask the huge rock that sits overlooking Arteles, next to the Teemu Circle “What wisdom can you impart to me this day?” And the rock replies “Stand firm in your work. Stand firm in your relationships. Adjust to the flow of energy. Bend like the tree. And Hold. Hold. Hold”. And I do another circle so that I give myself the time to understand. The wisdom of this land is profound. I will take this experience and apply it to my world back home. I have always loved the Australian bush. Its harshness, its beauty. But have I ever asked it for wisdom? I will now. For I know that if I believe that Nature talks, then Nature will talk to me. And our indigenous people know so much. I know so little.
As I write this I am reflecting on having finished our first week of the second round of New Course. What is New Course? One of the residents here at Arteles translated it into “Artshab” and I love that. It is exactly what we are trying to do. And it makes sense that this sort of residency has been birthed in Finland. The world understands that Finland leads all of us when it comes to education. This program has been recognised as an important contribution to the world of art, and in turn, the health of the world. For is it not true, that the arts are the eyes of the world. Without art and nature, we would most definitely atrophy. Without art and nature, the world would be a very empty place.