Midsummer Mindfulness



How do we enjoy nature and the company of other people without losing ourselves or withdrawing because ‘its all too much’?  Apparently these are primordial fears:  left isolated and alone or instead totally overwhelmed and absorbed.

At Forest Church we’ve found a simple, yet effective balance.  We meet together in beautiful outdoor environments, with one or two people giving a lead, we have a brief introduction and then we all go off to find ‘sit spots’ where we contemplate nature for 20 / 30 minutes on our own.  Those with children find their own balance between stillness and exploration.  We then gather, share experiences and food and return home.  Sometimes we sing, read a poem, say a prayer, make mandalas or labyrinths-  but for me the potent time is that 20-30 minutes where I am on my own but in the company of others.

It has a peculiar beauty.

Last week, on Thursday 21st June we met at Wittenham Clumps, near Didcot, to celebrate the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, a clear cool blue evening.

After confusion in an over-filled car park we found our different ways to the agreed point at the top of the Clumps facing the sun.  We read St Francis of Assisi’s canticle of ‘Brother Sun and Sister Moon’ and then each headed off to find a ‘sit spot’.

Several of us simply dived into the long thick grasses clothing the hill side, and someone remarked later that they heard a child saying ‘why are all those people sitting away from each, not talking?’

For me, the evening was bliss.  Going against convention, I retrieved my phone, took photos briefly and then for 25 minutes simply sat and looked at the grasses, smelling them, listening to their rustling and stroking them.At one point I thought, “I’ve seen the grasses, now what?”  and then realised that, like any work of art, the pleasure is in sitting with it and allowing the colours, the patterns, the flavours to permeate.  So I sat, paying attention to the golds and the greens, noticing breezes and coolness, hearing distant traffic, the whir of a remote-control toy plane, loud bursts of conversation from people passing by.  Eventually I looked out over the landscape below, the deep blue lake, the long shadows cast from the poplar trees, the stillness.

After that we gathered and people who wanted to, spoke – about how they noticed the Red Kite shifting tiny feathers to adjust her flight or how the sun entranced them, how the wind was blowing all around them and yet the distant view looks so still. One person noted how their mind kept moving between peacefulness and angst-ridden issues in their lives. We then shared a delicious range of food and drink, talked, laughed and finally turning towards the sun, we sang the following chant:

The trees are in full bloom

The blackbird sings her melody,

The sun is strong and the days are long

Come and enjoy the blessings of summer.

Then we dropped into silence. Others had gathered nearby in couples and small groups to watch the sunset and for 20 minutes we all watched the sun sink on the longest day of the year.

I noticed how cold I was and that I wanted the sun to sink quickly so I could go home!  I paid attention to the sensation of coldness, decided it was bearable and then enjoyed the sun setting at her own pace, dipping her curved bottom into the horizon edge and then slowly, luxuriously, sliding her full body out of sight.

After last chats and goodbyes, a friend and I ran down the hill, laughing, the slope pushing us to a speed just short of falling.  I felt warm by the time we reached the gate.


A last thought:

For years I’ve loved the understanding I received from a monk and writer called Harry Williams who said the doctrine of the Trinity perfectly encapsulated this balance between our fear of absorption or isolation.  The Trinity points to the possibility of being in a perfectly balanced relationship where each person is utterly themselves and yet they all share the same divine nature.  Creative tension does not collapse and there is always room to welcome others.  To me this is a dynamic relationship, a beautiful dance.

Let’s dance with nature, lets dance with one another.  We’re all of the same substance and yet if we allow it, we’re all utterly ourselves 🙂

Sculpture of 3 dancing fairies by David and Adam Gosling at the Rollright Stones.




3 thoughts on “Midsummer Mindfulness”

  1. This is a lovely reflection on our Solstice gathering, Susie! I love the final thoughts on the balance between absorption and isolation. And your photos brought it all back to me! Thank you.


    1. Hi Robert, thanks for that. I’d be interested to know how people responded to the piece. It was also lovely to see that you are part of band of brothers – I’ve had the great pleasure of teaching mindfulness with Conroy and am just about to teach another course with him 🙂 I also had a very pleasant equinox – Our forest church group went to bessesleigh woods in the rain on Saturday and I sat under a beech tree for 30 minutes and surprised myself at how glorious it was to sit there in the rain!


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