A space to share research, knowledge and personal experiences related to Goethean Science, Sustainability and Personal Experiences with Nature.
The Plant as Teacher, Beholding the Heart of Nature
Plants show their vitality in spring. This time of the year is when new growth, buds, blossoms and flowers come out in many different plants and trees. In the zodiac this is the time of Aries, a sign, which is characterized by heat, fire and initiative. By following the process of careful observation and representing our perceptions in technical and artistic ways, we understand that, as Goethe pointed out, the metamorphosis of the plant connects with our own growth as living beings.
I am the Marketing and Communications Officer at the Pishwanton Project. I’m an environmental journalist; my work always aims to raise awareness among people in making sustainable choices. I lived for few years among poor peasants in West Africa and Latin America, supporting them to grow their own food. Engagement with nature is at the heart of everything I do.
At the beginning of April 2015, I participated in the course Beholding the Heart of Nature, a series of seminars that follow the cycle of the year at Pishwanton Wood through the seasons via plant, animal and human observation and landscape study.
This was the first seminar of the cycle starting in Aries and is based on the study of plants (the last one of these seminars will be in January 2016, focusing on Human Study). We had the good luck to experience the unfolding of plants in the spring of the year. This was absolutely marvellous and made it possible to make the most of this course.
Engaging with Plants
To come together with nature requires openness, being alert, and leaving the ordinary man aside. This is not easy in our distracting high technological societies. To reconnect with ourselves in the outside world we need to balance rhythm, observation, expression and meditation appropriately. The course Beholding the Heart of Nature helps us to make this balance.
Growth has rhythm. This is something that all cultures have preserved in their folklore. In the course, before starting our daily routine, we sang everyday to be in tune with the tempo of plant development.
Observation is a complex process and requires a great deal of openness of mind as well as of heart. One of the first activities we did was drawing daffodils. We drew them in their natural setting. By watching the details of their anatomy, and discussing them in pairs, we entered into a process of deep observation. We made three paintings: the first one capturing their mood, the second drawn by memory (trying to remember the plant without looking at it), and the third one, a more accurate detailed representation of the plant. As a result we learnt how to be more alert and receptive not only with the daffodil itself but also with its surrounding. Christel Mattheeuws, another participant of the course said “drawing is not only creating form but also movement. This became evident when I had to draw my plant with closed eyes”.
Expression of plants often requires a careful attention to its origins. As Goethe noted through precise observation of the flowering plants and trees we understand that this is only a part of the manifestation of the dynamic principles followed by the life of the plant. To engage with the expression of the plant in this way we drew a chestnut bud, which was about to open, everyday of the course at the same time. We used a concertina booklet, drawing the bud each day in a different page. So, at the end we literally unfold the growth process of the bud in our booklets and can experience it as a breathing process within ourselves.
Meditation is always challenging and often is the result of careful observation. During the course we each had to choose a plant as a project. We made our selection from memory after a silent walk. We needed to recognise which plant touched our hearts. I chose an old willow. A little shoot was coming up from it. The old tree was chopped to make an entrance to a fence. Crossing a small bridge over a stream I saw a willow and I felt captivated by it. I saw the defiant shoots and their strength, I experienced how well connected it was to the river flow. In the following days I discovered what the willow was about to teach me. The power of resilience is in the roots of the plant, and expresses itself with the flow of the water. In fact, the flow of life is a continuous power of resilience. Christel chose Gorse, which became an excursion in the unknown depths of herself.
Goethean Science and Art
The course ‘Beholding the Heart of Nature’ is a schooling path based on Goethe’s scientific work (1749-1832), later developed by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), and carried out in Dornach, Switzerland (in the Natural Science Section of the Goetheanum and all over the world). The special relevance in the British Isles is the relationship between art and science as in the Hibernian Mysteries of the past.
One of the key aspects that I think makes Goethean Science so unique is its wholistic approach of teaching. The physical, intellectual and emotional dimensions are well balanced by combining science and art, practical and meditative work. This harmonises the head, the hands and heart of every student. This in turn, results in an understanding and trust of one’s intuition and the confidence to act responsibly in the world.
Everyday we read extracts from the book Nature’s Open Secret by Rudolf Steiner, which was the first introduction to Goethe’s scientific work. In a different book, by Steiner, Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture, lecture 2, I paid attention to one simple quote that I believe it summarises the purpose of the Pishwanton Project: “Today no less than in ancient times, we are in need of knowledge that can really enter into the inner workings of nature”.
One evening Charlie Lawrie, a poet and translator of Johan Wolfgang Goethe, performed different poems of the German writer and scientist. In his verses we learnt the importance of the metamorphosis of plants the seasons and their lives and the inspiration that we gain from them.
Throughout the course we needed to feel the mood of Aries. At this time of the year nature pushes upwards sprouting and producing flowers. For humans and animals, this energy is concentrated on the upper head and contains the heat of the fire.
We paid attention to how the mood of Aries manifested itself in nature. By looking closely at how it was expressed. The first day of the course, we did a silent walk to capture the mood of Aries by observing a specific place that was special to our hearts. We expressed with colours the mood that we felt for that place on little pieces of paper. Then recreating the map of the walk, we located these little drawings in the exact places where we felt touched. Once we had the map we tried to reconnect these drawings with the Aries mood we had felt in the walk. We learnt through this activity how each individual has different perceptions to represent the moods of the landscape. We observed how life and death are interwoven.
The strong energy of Aries can be felt in physical work. Just hammering a post can bring about this feeling. You just need to bend the knees and feel the energy coming upwards from the soil. Putting all that energy in a single and clear stroke of the hammer. Then you feel how the mood of Aries comes from the land in this upward and downward movement. Similarly, in the morning exercises, Christel said, “By expressing a blossoming tree or flower in physical movements my mind expanded”.
In conclusion, personally I felt really privileged to have experienced the course Beholding the Heart of Nature. Having lived quite close to nature for few years this meant I recalled not only my memories and feelings, but also most importantly my understanding of life. It is often curious how life works. I beheld the heart of nature once few years ago. I was mountaineering in the French Pyrenees with a friend of mine. One day we were walking when an intense fog captured the mountain. We couldn’t see even a metre forward. At some point we decided to stop and camp by the shore of a lake that we couldn’t see. The following morning when we got up, we saw a heart shaped lake. For many years now I think that it was the mirror of nature.
The next course in Beholding the Heart of Nature will take place the 16th to 24th of July. It will use the same process as described above to connect to the heart of a chosen landscape, we will rebuild Goethe’s journey of science, do group exercises in the morning and with our own chosen landscapes in the afternoon, alongside guided excursions and an explanation of local geology.
The course after this will deal with animals in the landscape and their relationship to humans in October and then in 2016, January we will study the human being, embryology and nutrition.
We hope you enjoy this video and find inspiration with it.
To start the year we suggest this video of Animal Communicator, Anna Breytenbach, to have a better understanding on animal communication (edited by A.W.A.K.E.N. Academy).
Small is beautiful
In the light of our coming course ” Birch Broom and Charcoal Making” next 13th-14th September we want to highlight one article from Reforesting Scotland, published this year (Issue 49). Alan Carter, a forester and green space manager based in Aberdeen, analysed the importance of human scale in our economies, remembering the book, written forty years ago by the economist, Fritz Schumacher, Small is beautiful.
Carter outlines in his article how small enterprises can often create more value out of a given resource “as their flexible, bottom-up nature allows them to identify and exploit niches that simply would not fit in the streamlined, uniform processes of a big business”.
In 2013, at the Reforesting Scotland Gathering, the Scottish Woodland Skills Centre used the gnarly, knotted pieces of wood that would have otherwise been thrown away to create a high-grade charcoal that is mostly sold locally but that is also sought out by craftsmen for its hot, fast burn. As Carter observed, close attention to recycling of this wood can get a decent conversion rate out of wood that would be rejected by a high-throughput mill.
At Pishwanton we promote always the reuse of our own woodland by-products. All our heating comes from our firewood and charcoal and we do not use electricity. Indeed beauty and harmony is be part of the bigger cycle. And is easy and fun!
If you want to find out more on our course about Charcoal Making click here. Please do get in touch with us if you have any queries for this course. Many thanks.
Interview with Mike Galbraith.
Beholding the Heart of Nature. Aries. 25 to 27 th April at Pishwanton Wood.
We have interviewed Mike Galbraith, a prestigious Scottish geophysicist settled in Canada for over 40 years. In this video he shares his experience doing this course. Mike has attended on 25th April the first weekend of the course “Beholding the Heart of Nature” led by Dr. Margaret Colquhoun and colleagues.
Click here to see the full video on You Tube.
He is one of our long life friends and currently he is supporting us in many ways. Mr. Galbraith, P. Geoph., has a B.Sc. Honors in Mathematical Physics from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. With approximately 35 years of geophysical experience, particularly in the research and development of geophysical software. His expertise also extends to wavelet theory, signal processing algorithms, migration, 3D processing in general and the design of 3D surveys. He first developed a 3D design program in 1985.
Mike is doing a part-time Professional Training in Goethean Anthroposophic Natural Science, mentored by Dr Margaret Colquhoun.
This is Mike´s letter explaining his study of Cooking as a Transformative Process.
“Cooking foodstuffs leads to transformations in the nature of the food itself, in the consciousness of the person doing the cooking and finally in the recipient (s) of the finished product.
The transformation of the food can be for reasons of edibility (e.g. softening plant or animal tissues for human consumption), but equally can be for aesthetic or other reasons intended to appeal to human senses not directly concerned with food ingestion.
The degree of consciousness and awareness a person brings to the task of cooking can make all the difference between an inedible meal and a culinary delight. Thus the cook must use all available skills to ensure the maximum possible nutrition is extracted as the food provider would have intended it and that the recipient benefits not only from the food value itself but also from the conscious additions provided by the cook.
Finally the recipient will undergo transformative processes. First, as the food is digested and becomes part of their constituent beings and secondly as the “awareness” added during the cooking process is absorbed by the recipient” (Mike Galbraith, April 2014).
Nice staff, isn´t it?
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