Ear_shutterstock_134142941“Let your ears eat grass”. I heard this Jamaican expression the other day, during a passing conversation, and it got me thinking.  In all the exuberance and noise of this vibrant West Indian culture, these words  also express something of the need for downtime, silence, and doing nothing, once in in while.

This same sentiment motivates us on “Wild City Retreats”. We all need down time, chewing the cud, releasing stresses and congestions of the mind. Listening to the seasons helps, using every sense we can muster.  At Meanwood Farm, we were surrounded on all sides by the city, but at times we almost failed to realise it.  I am wondering if it is not almost too verdant a venue to be challenging us with the interface between “City” and “Retreat”.  We intend to be a group who will persistently look for, and be fed by, the “wild”, (however we may choose to define that) even in the midst of the city.

IMG_1415Our ears betray our city location in this wooded valley. Standing still in a small patch of autumnal garden, our viewpoint showed nothing but a skyline of trees, fields, grazing animals and a trickling stream.  However, focussing on our hearing, perhaps drowning out the grass, there was the constant rumble of traffic noise, shouting, and the clatter of vans disgorging refuse at Meanwood Tip.  Heavy lorries kept the Leeds economy going, and the screech of emergency vehicles serviced the needs of our huge urban population.  In this place, our “ears could eat grass”, but were also taking in the complex networks of our surrounding city.

Before we can really tune into the natural world outside ourselves, it helps to be genuinely in touch with our bodies, and the senses are the way to start! There are many more than just the five senses.  Those such as intuition or balance will be required to truly experience and learn from the non-human world around us.  Many spiritual traditions use the breath as metaphor and practice, to centre ourselves, become aware of our surroundings IMG_1462and listen more acutely.  I‘ve been reflecting on connections between our bodily breath, the breath of the Holy Spirit, and the everyday wind of the earth.   Bodily breath can be exhilarating and rejuvenating, mostly taken for granted, or agonisingly painful and all too conscious.  As focussing on our breath can focus our mind and heart, so attending to the sound and feel of the wind, in its many moods, can increase our awareness of the flow of air in and beyond our bodies in connection with the physical world.

As we get into November, wild winds will increase, and suffering in our city will increase for many, who are homeless, unwell, or not acclimatised to our weather. We come to the time of bonfires, many cultural festivals, Remembrance, Thanksgiving, and the approach of Advent.  Let’s enjoy the outdoors when we can, and don’t forget to give yourself the chance to “let your ears eat grass”.

Pippa Woodhams

Wild City Retreats will take place this Saturday morning, 8th November and Saturday December 6th.  These will take place at Meanwood Valley Urban Farm. 10.00 till 12.45.  £5 donation requested.   Watch for developments into the new year as we follow the seasons, perhaps around different locations.

Please book with LCI or contact Pippa Woodhams pippa.woodhams@gmail.com