Sometimes it’s hard to define what you feel most passionate about, especially when it goes against the grain, and there’s no specific word or phrase to describe it. I’ve titled this piece ‘Earth-Based Living’, because that’s about as close as I can get to describing the lifestyle I have come to adopt over the past five or so years, but it still doesn’t quite encapsulate everything it entails.
I’ve never been a devout follower of… well, anything really. When the ‘religion’ box appeared on forms and questionnaires, sometimes I’d tick ‘Christian’, other times ‘Agnostic’, but neither sat well. Around 2014-2015 I started to read more non-fiction, in particular the new wave of nature writing that was emerging at the time (John Lewis-Stempel and Rob Cowen were favourites), and as my reading list expanded, so did my perception of faith, belief and what I valued in life.
I started to ground myself in the seasons, to really try and notice the small changes in nature as the year progressed. I bought The Seasons: A Celebration of the English Year by Nick Groom, and fell down a rabbit hole: this book contained everything that I wanted to include in my life - nature, the seasons, tradition, literature, celebration, folklore, adventure - but I didn’t know where to start. So I spent the following few months devouring everything I could that sparked my curiosity. Poetry from John Clare, the concept of microadventures, the emerging idea of slow living (which at the time was virtually unheard of on the internet, and especially on Instagram).
One day my dad recommended I read Glennie Kindred’s The Earth’s Cycle of Celebration, and handed me his copy. The introduction alone was enlightening: ‘We can empower ourselves in new and exciting ways, break free of old outworn attitudes, damaging dogma and concepts. We can transform and change in our own unique and individual way. Best of all we are free to embrace a holistic understanding of all things being interconnecting vital parts of a whole.’ It goes on to explore the Wheel of the Year, its festivals and celebrations, and how it can bring focus and structure to our lives (if you’re not sure what the Wheel of the Year is, click here). She writes: ‘The Wheel of the Year is not just a matter of changing from one season to the next. Beneath the manifestation of seasonal change, there is also change in the energy of the Earth. These energy patterns affect us all whether we are conscious of them or not. By understanding the flow and direction of that energy, we can move with it, in harmony with it, as true inhabitants of our planet earth: belonging, part of, changing on all levels of our being.’
I realised that subconsciously I had already started to sculpt a life defined by the ebb and flow of nature. I was already feeling the impact of the Earth’s energy at different times of year, changing up my routine, what I was eating, the activities I enjoyed doing. What I hadn’t realised was that this wasn’t a new concept: people have always been guided by the seasons, and the transformative power of nature; it is only in the more recent past that our connection has diminished.
I spent more time reading, researching, and thinking about how everything linked together, and to begin with, my thoughts and ideas were incredibly scattered, which I suppose is natural when you’re forming a belief system. I felt very much like the odd one out, and didn’t fit neatly into any one category: I wasn’t a Pagan (though I resonated with the Wheel of the Year and the importance of ritual), and I wasn’t a Buddhist (though I agreed with the importance of meditation and lasting values in an impermanent world). I wasn’t (nor did I aspire to be) a monk, but again, many of the beliefs rang true (a rejection of mainstream society and the importance of simplicity, for instance).
My beliefs, values, and approach to life and work evolved over the next few years, and though I’m still learning today, I feel better equipped to talk about the lifestyle I aspire to lead.
MOVING THROUGH LIFE GUIDED BY THE EBB AND FLOW OF THE SEASONS, AND THE ENERGY OF THE EARTH.
My earth-based approach looks like this:
I believe that we are all members of one Earth community.
I believe in the power and wisdom of the Earth, and practice gratitude for all that it provides.
I adopt a ‘slow’ approach, managing and balancing the different priorities in my life in order to focus on what really matters to me.
I use the Wheel of the Year as a framework for planning, celebration and intention.
I look to the Wheel of the Year, and the lunar cycle, to utilise the best conditions for my actions, and to help to explain what I feel in my mind and body. I do not use these cycles to try to predict the future.
I look to the Earth for wisdom, whether that be through ritual, meditation, forest bathing, grounding or creative acts.
I try to eat seasonal food and practice seasonal yoga flows, inspired by Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine.
I use seasonal rituals to help align my everyday with nature (e.g. lighting a candle at breakfast in the winter).
Most of all, I try to get outside whenever I can, and feel the grounding power of the Earth.
I don’t get it right all of the time (who does?!), and I certainly find things more difficult when I’m going through a really busy period in my life or work, but it really helps to have a set of principles to turn back to every so often, to remind myself of what’s important to me. As Satish Kumar remarks: “We are all part of this healthy web of life maintained by soil. The Latin word humus means soil. The words human, humility and humus all come from the same root. When humans lose contact with soil, they are no longer humans.”
Let’s make time to reconnect, with the Earth, with soil, and with the cycles and rhythms of the natural world.