RECLAIMING MY WILD SELF - A LIFE INSPIRED BY NATURE
Elen is a Goddess of the Woods, and often represented as a deer. Her name "Elen of the Ways" refers to the power she holds to lead us, if willing, along woodland paths to find deeper meaning both in nature and within our own psyches. She helps us drop into the gentle cyclical rhythm of nature, the seasons, our own cycles of energy, creativity and abundance. She is a goddess I call on regularly for inspiration, guidance and to deepen my ability to slow down and listen to nature. Like the deer, Elen is elusive and wild. To follow her means to shake off the fast pace of human life, rushing is not encouraged in the forest!
I am blessed to live in a beautiful woodland sanctuary above The River Wye called Sacred Tree Spirit. Each morning I am woken early with bird song and walk along the many forest paths. I forage for tasty leaves, watch the deer feeding in the dappled light and stop to rest a while by a large beech tree. The pace and flow of life here is so gentle and enriching. I work on the land, growing vegetables and helping run a healing business, providing a peaceful place for others to relax and recharge. Over the warmer months I love sleeping outside, hearing badgers, foxes and deer moving close by. I feel deeply connected to the complex web of life around me, it is more than just beautiful scenery, and allows me to feel part of something far greater. The woods and Wye Valley flora also provide the resources and inspiration for my business as a plant spirit healer. This is a beautiful way to connect to the healing power of plants and trees. It is based on ancient wisdom from many shamanic cultures and traditions who communicated with plant intelligence through calming their minds and listening with their hearts. I have found that we are often drawn to what we need for our own growth and healing, before offering it to others. This is certainly the case for me. Nature brought me back to life.
Ten years ago I was working a 9-5 office job, running a busy nutrition support service for a pharmaceutical company. I did not really suit the high-pressured, masculine world of corporate work, but as this was what I believed at the time was necessary to be successful. I was a perfectionist and worked very hard at trying to fit in and do well. When I wasn’t working I would go to the gym or out socialising with friends, often drinking too much, numbing myself from the stress. I was running on adrenaline and this finally culminated in a period of depression, anxiety and a feeling I had lost my way. I needed help and luckily several wonderful people came into my life with experience in mediation and shamanic healing, offering to take me along to some workshops. A new world opened up to me, I started gaining tools to help navigate the difficult emotions I was feeling. I began mixing with more like-minded people, people who did not really “fit in” to the corporate world either. Slowly I realised that my struggle had been a clear sign from my body and soul that I was on the wrong path and things needed to change. My authentic self was a wild soul, at home in the woods and roaming free.
Growing in confidence and purpose I decided to leave my career in nutrition and travel to Peru for six months. It was not a rational decision, but my heart longed to explore these mysterious lands so I sold most of my possessions and went to the Andes. I studied permaculture, growing organic vegetables in the equatorial sunshine and 4000m altitude. I was also blessed to work with local plant medicine healers. This was a truly life changing adventure and I returned home full of new energy, an open heart and a deep sense that plants and nature held the key to physical, emotional and spiritual wholeness.
Back in the UK I faced some practical questions.
How do I live in a way that nourishes my soul?
How can I support myself and also live in a simple way?
What am I willing to sacrifice to make my dreams come true?
Many fears came up as I challenged old beliefs about my worth, my place in the world and what equates as “success”. In 2014 I decided to completely leave behind my old identity and career and explore options in outdoor work, herbal medicine, nature education and living simply on the land. This included a year volunteering at an ecological centre on Dartmoor, winter in a caravan (which was chilly!) and helping run children’s activities for the National Trust. I can highly recommend volunteering as a way to try out new roles and places. It certainly helped answer many of my questions and highlight what I really wanted from my new life in nature. It was also an amazing journey into finding how little I really needed to be happy.
I feel strongly that a life infused with nature does not have to mean hardship or poverty, neither does it mean running away from the rest of the world. For me it is just as much about following a path home to ourselves, our “true nature” and for each of us that may look different. I am definitely a wild woman of the woods and have decided to embrace that fully.
Clare Barnes is a 21st Century medicine woman, nature connection facilitator and the creator of Artemis Rising. She is passionate about the wisdom and healing potential of nature for physical, emotional and spiritual well-being and wholeness. She works with native UK plants, trees and fungi as a Plant Spirit Healer. Clare combines her background in microbiology and nutrition with experience and apprenticeships in indigenous plant medicine practices of North and South America, as well as elements of eco-shamanism. She believes through deepening our connection to nature and our bodies, many of the stresses and imbalances of modern life can be addressed and this can be accessible to all. Explore more over at ArtemisRising.co.uk | Facebook | Instagram