Samuel shares his nature connection experience of gratitude and grounding on Embercombe’s flagship programme The Descent.
By Samuel Clements, Sustainability Advisor for an energy company and Sales Manager for The Fully Charged Show
I remember well the mystical, magical Welsh valley I visited for my Descent in 2017. The trees and streams and bird song. The solitude of long, damp days. Digging in, discomfort intertwined with an invigorating, unearthed delight.
I fondly recall the welcoming warmth of a fire and the fellowship of those sat sharing in its comforting crackle. As well as the times we sung together, surprised by a new depth and fullness that imbued our voices; our wild, embodied calls echoing through a verdant valley that had been allowed to “rewild” for forty years.
In writing this blog, I found my journal for The Journey that I’d been on two years earlier. What jumped out was, so many words! 49 pages, largely forgotten. I put it aside and closed my eyes to see what actually lingered within…
I see Mac beating his drum and telling tales of a jumping mouse. I see us sitting in circle in ever greater trust and vulnerability, bearing witness to what is real, raw and familiar; the countless stories merging, becoming free of individual identity, ultimately indistinguishable; some fundamental witness beneath the tales of anguish and alienation that is perfectly fine, and wanting to us to know it: It’s okay… nothing is broken; nothing needs fixing… you are here, heard, and held. You are loved.
I see myself listening deeply, or as best I can, to the struggle and sorrow of others, seeing that it matters, yet knowing it is not who they really are. I am wondering if I’ll find the same compassion and lack of attachment for my own stories… I see a forest, mostly bare as it braces for winter. Binding its time. Knowing it will be courted by spring, and ready with an offering of green gems. I see myself sitting by a fire as it dries my tears. And since The Journey calls us to step up and declare a mission, I see myself standing before the group and declaring my intention to live a life of playfulness, compassion and courage.
And so I see that the experience does indeed live on, despite the 49 neglected pages.
I almost left The Descent early. It’s a pattern of mine – leaving before I actually strike gold – but I made it through with some gentle encouragement. As the yolky sun spilled between clouds on the final day of what had been a rather grey and wet week, I asked myself what I would carry forth from my time in the valley. I knew almost at once. Because I heard her. In the cool choral river as it giggled and sung its way by. In the wind-tousled leaves as they bobbed on the secret whispers of the breeze. Even in the golden sunbeams that warmed my cheeks and filled my closed eyes with a warm pink glow. Mother. Not the one that bore me and couldn’t always know what I needed. But the Mother of all Mothers. The one I had met in the valley and had carried me fondly in her arms. Home.
Immediately after The Descent I drove to a family gathering – a nest of wounds that would surely trigger me; the ‘home’ that wasn’t home anymore. Yet I remember my serenity in their presence, my enjoyment even. I was my own man, free to interact with ease. Never had I felt so unfazed by, and at peace with, my family. At peace with myself. It reminded me of one time as a child in my back garden on a warm summer day. I was curled up in play ‘den’ made from partly folded garden loungers, the air humming with hover flies, not a care in the world. Not a care in the world. By the time of course, I was already aware of the temporary effect of supposed ‘transformational’ or ‘peak’ experiences. I didn’t grasp, therefore, or panic that I was losing my seemingly unflappable serenity and ‘regressing’ when the peace seemed to ebb away. I was changed in some way. Each Emerbcombe course, and others like it, one part of a tapestry of happenings, albeit in highly concentrated forms, that has meant finding peace has been a little easier ever since. Life continues, and so too therefore, the struggle to love and be at peace. The twin trail, as Mac calls it, of our inner and outer quest. How are you faring, dear reader, on yours? For here, right now, in this sentence, in this question, we meet, and I care.
I often feel like I’m at sea, the reluctant captain of a leaky lifeboat drifting in a sea of forgetfulness. I know there’s no way to fix the leak and I must just keep pumping the bilge pump each day: exercising awareness, acceptance, and gratitude; grounding myself; setting intentions; being mindful. Already that is quite the list! In my journey from sleepy forgetfulness, I sometimes see how little I know. How much I’ve been defending myself; not giving and receiving with an open heart; blind to so many invitations to love or simply to enjoy life. It’s shocking. Saddening. Humbling. Sometimes when I mediate and sink beneath the chop and splash of mental waves and truly relax, I realise how utterly unrelaxed I am almost all of the time; as if I am gripping onto life like the railing of a listing ship. It’s exhausting. Sometimes I can apologise to myself for it. It is rare, but it happens. Compassion. With time. More and more I am standing firm and not fleeing. Like the noble trees of Embercombe amongst which we weaved our Journey those wonderful weeks.
On The Descent, one of the course facilitators spoke about how finally committing to learn and practise something had brought a new depth to his life that he didn’t have before. In his case it was stringed instruments. During lockdown I finally picked up the guitar and learnt the basics of digital sound production, after years of thinking it was always too late to begin. I think I’m beginning to understand what they meant. Green shoots are being called forth. Arms wide, fingers strumming, I want to dance on the breeze.