Week 4: Forest as Guide to Stillness and Solitude

Week 4: Forest as Guide to Stillness and Solitude

Evergreens are more visible now in the forest alongside their deciduous cousins, and offer reminders of the continuity of life and fertility.

Pine, in particular, is often depicted with representations of Celtic deities, perhaps to indicate their everlasting life. The Gaulish god, Vosegus, for instance, who personifies the Vosges mountains and forests of eastern France, is sometimes depicted with pine cones, nuts and acorns on his skin cloak showing his connection with trees and their fruit. Also the writer, Robert Greaves, imagines a goddess, Druantia, as the deity of conifers, though the true deity may remain forever elusive.

Possibly Vosegus (http://lupa.at/27327)

Meanwhile, the pine throws her last ripe cones to the winter ground, red berries of wild holly hold the mystery of continuity in their centre, and the ivy reveals her delicate nectar sweet flowers for foraging worker bees and other insects even when the first frost comes. As the Irish Celtic poet writes, the forest anticipates the ‘black season of deep winter’, while bringing to the fore metaphors of light in the season. Pine-green, ivy-green, and holly-green offer us hints of life to come, confirmed by the perceptible, gentle and welcome increase of light after the Winter Solstice.

There is something about the stillness of the forest which works its way into us so that we come to know the feeling of this stillness. Such quietness is a gift from every tree. But the pine in particular also draws us to stillness with her fragrance, which directs a message to our deep brain or limbic system to help us relax. As a pioneer species after the last Ice Age, the pine surely knows about ways of being. Relaxation is an expression of stillness.

Stillness is openness – not silence – for stillness is deep listening for something that is barely perceptible which may come to us at first as a whisper. Perhaps it is the soft whisper of a falling leaf, or the murmur of the heron’s wings as she comes to fish beside the water. Whatever brings us to stillness, know this as holy ground. Sometimes it is through noticing our breath that we come to a sense of indwelling, a resting place at the centre of our being, a contemplative stillness. Amongst the pines, it is as if the whole forest is in contemplation.

From: Ventures into Deep Imagination

Stillness is often found in times of solitude where we are free from daily life routines but present to nature’s rhythms and aliveness.

Sometimes it is the pine tree who brings us to stillness with her needles to pin our pilgrims’ feet to the ground. At other times it is the heron, or it might be the crane, or the ghost white egret. Or it might be another wonder of nature who brings us into the present moment of solitude.

To enter solitude is a step away from daily life routines, which easily oblige moments of stillness, to the truth-revealing edges of life more discernible in being alone. Yet this is also a step towards other routines. Meditation, contemplation, walking in nature, reading, writing and painting, and so on, are practices for solitude. These reflective ways of being may orientate us towards something deeper within.

In Anam Cara John O’Donoghue writes, ‘solitude can be a homecoming to your own deepest belonging’. This is a return to our self, to the deepest centre of our being, our ‘deep innerness’ as Rainer Maria Rilke writes in The Book of Hours; to the truth of who we are when everything is laid to one side, including inner judgements; to what it feels like to live in our body in the present moment.

While there are many ways to live our life, there is only one life that is truly ours. To more fully discern this is the single gift of solitude. This is where our imagination, energy, and longing wants to go. This is the joy of solitude.

From: Ventures into Deep Imagination


Take a walk amongst trees. It is not important that this is not a forest. You may even prefer to imagine this. After a while, notice the stillness of trees, and at the same time the rhythm of your breathing. You will see that this is not a rigid or fixed stillness but is a felt-quality of stillness even where there is slight movement. Continue to notice the stillness within you a little longer. Then take this stillness of being with you on your walk.

Every so often also reflect on solitude as an important aspect of spirituality which is often the best way to enter stillness.

Then at least once this week put time aside for meditation. First bring your awareness to the rise and fall of your breath, then reflect on the question: What is wisdom in stillness? Alternate bringing your awareness to your breath with the question, before finally coming to rest only in your breath.

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