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Published: October 7th 2008
I‘m not made for hermit life - at least not for extended periods of time. With a personality like mine, I don’t stay solitary for long, despite the best of intentions. After one or two months of immersion in near-solitude and spiritual practice, I am starting to itch and want to get out there again. The explorer in me is far too curious about life, land and people.
When I told my good friend Sheilagh Holmes that I was moving to a remote village in the Brecon Beacons, she laughingly prophecised that before long, I would organise a ritual in the local stone circle. She was not that far off the mark. Wondering what do to for autumn equinox, I called the Coed Hills Rural Artspace Community
in the Vale of Glamorgan to find out about their celebrations, and was promptly asked if I would like to facilitate a ritual. They didn't have to ask me twice, and after a few phone calls there were eight of us heading towards Coed Hills, including Tony, his son Quentin, and my Priestess sister Tara from Bristol. Coed Hills is an inspirational community, run entirely on alternative energy, from high-tech wind turbines and
biomass underfloor heaters, to solar showers made out of scrap radiators. There are permaculture gardens, and the residents live in railway carriages, Mongolian Yurts, log cabins, tipis and straw bailed buildings. They have even built their own stone circle based on the solar lunar calendar. Check out their website at
It was a beautiful sunny day on 21st September, quite a rarity this summer in Wales, and after a lovely lunch, a talk about Krishna-Radha and some African drumming, we prepared for a sunset ritual. It was all very spontaenous and simple as we danced and drummed the elements and connected to the Earth, just flowing with the energies of the day. We formed a gratitude circle to give thanks for everything we experienced during the past twelve months, and more and more people started to drift in, joining hands, and the circle grew wider and wider. When the setting sun coloured the evening sky in purple, red and blue colour, Tony focused a small meditation to connect us with ourselves and each other. Suddenly, the world expanded, the heart opened, sounds and visions and sensations melted into each other, and everything was, once again, perfect. Delicious. After
travelling through so many different countries, cultures and religions on my trip, it was wonderful to celebrate the seasons on familiar soil again - a warm thank you to Coed Hills for letting us share their beautiful stone circle setting.
Travelling, for me, is often more about people than it is about sights. Or, let me re-phrase this: the people who are part of the land. They are indivisible. In a way, I feel as though I have been travelling slowly through Wales, a country, in the words of my wise Celtic friend Rhian Green, 'which shows herself slowly.' This ancient land is full of hidden treasures, and contains a multi-faceted mosaic of spirituality. So although I've been walking in and driving through the landscape here, appreciated the mountains, stone circles and the sea, and cursed about the rain - it's once again the people that have enriched my at times very difficult stay here enormously. The Welsh people are very friendly and welcoming. Neighbours instantly ask you in for a cup of tea, the people on the street acknowledge and greet you with a smile, and it's easy to make friends. There is a lovely community spirit about
the place, and over time, I've connected with many inspirational and creative people.
One of them is Emma Jones
(), a wonderful naturopath who works closely with the seasons, elements and women's wisdom. I was fortunate enough to participate in an autumn retreat with her at beautiful Buckland Hall (). During the retreat, we ignited the fire in our bodies with delicious vegan naturopathic foods and supplements, treatments such as Epsom Salt baths and Castor Oil packs, ceremonies, meditation and healing, yoga, walks in nature, and an ecstatic dance workshop in honour of the Hawaiin volcano Goddess Pele, led by dancer Hannah Corr of Halfouine Dance (). That night, after we were all fired up by the volcano dance, I facilitated an outdoors fire ceremony, which brought back memories of India and my favourite fire priest Sanjay.
Apart from that, I've been spending some time with the Hare Krishna devotees at Iskcon in Swansea at Govinda's Restaurant
(). Apart from offering fabulous food (always a sure way to get me to go almost anywhere), they run nice dynamic Kiirtan Chanting classes on a Friday night, great yoga classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Gita study classes, and the weekly
Krishna fest and feast on a Sunday. They're lovely and welcoming people, and well worth a visit when you are in Swansea. Since my return from India, Krishna & Radha have been repeatedly and consistently appearing in my life, sometimes in the most unlikely places. In Amodini's words, 'in higher forms of yoga, Krishna is always located in the heart, and once the flute begins to make itself heard in the heart, the individual sadhak
has no recourse but to engage in the mystical dance of love and longing which results in forgetting the illusory material existence.' The myth of Krishna and Radha is a deep and fascinating one, and one I've only just started to delve into - not least through direct experience!
Another couple of great contacts in this area are shamanic healer and artist Sarah Howcroft Lane
() who makes beautiful bespoke shamanic drums and rattles, and runs shamanic workshops throughout the year. It was through Sarah that I was led to Nepalese shaman Bhola Banstola, who visited Wales in September and led us through a potent Himalayan healing ceremony. And then there is Mandala Yoga Ashram (), set in a truly remote and picturesque countryside
location, closely associated with the Bihar School of Yoga. The ashram's founder, Swami Nishchalananda Saraswati, is a direct disciple of Swami Satyananda Saraswati, and teaches the system of Yoga formulated by him. I visited the ashram at the beginning of my stay here and it was just like being back in India with kiirtan and satsang evenings - and they even have a cat called Agni (Sanskrit for 'fire')!
And last but not least, I would like to honour the very man who brought me here to South Wales, Mr Tony Crisp
, a visionary, writer and teacher extraordinaire
. In the three months I have been here, I've worked closely with him and he has been very generous in sharing his extensive knowledge with me. Wherever I go next, I will take these teachings and healing methods with me and share them with others. I've been very blessed to have this opportunity to work with him, and not only does he continue to be an excellent teacher and inspiration, but a wonderful friend as well. Do visit his abundant Dreamhawk website at (). Thank you for bringing me to Wales, Tony, even though I didn't always seem to appreciate it!
As you may have gathered, I'm leaving Wales soon. It's time to move on. As much as I've been inspired, I've also felt quite isolated, living in the countryside on my own. There are many great people to connect with, but they're very spread out and it's necessary to drive everywhere. I miss being able to walk to places and be near to my friends. I'm actually not sure yet where exactly I'm going. Right now, I'm looking for a community where I can spend the next six months writing my book before setting off on my next trip, and I'll be visiting some of those during October. If you can recommend any spiritual artistic communities in the UK or Europe, please get in touch! There is a chance that I'll return to my beloved Leamington Spa for a while - all will become clear in the next few weeks. Until then, ffarwel Cymru!
I am also planning my next journey, for around May 2009. This time I want to travel overland by train from the UK through Turkey, Iran, Pakistan to India, with a possible visit to Afghanistan. I envisage staying one month in Iran and possibly two months in Pakistan, and then open-ended in India. I would like to spend some more time with the Kalash to study their rituals, and explore the roots of shamanism in Iran. For this trip, I'd like to travel with a photographer (or somebody with an interest in photography as well as shamanism, yoga and eastern spirituality) - so if you might be interested in travelling with me, contact me!
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