My decision to work with Giles Hutchins was not rational, but heartfelt and rapid. A word-of-mouth recommendation plus a fleeting Google search, and my mind was made up.
The best decisions in my life have always been made in the moment, and from a gut feeling, not a head space.
I signed up for the full package over 6 months, and I purchased and started to read his latest book, Leading by Nature.
Giles has a unique style and nature that holds a safe container for curiosity, humour, honesty, and the invitation to find my own way. The process is a refreshing co-creative relationship, fostering a deep internal inquiry, and discovery of myself, returning home to the magical child-like fascination and understanding of our connection with the natural world. After several monthly 90 minute zoom sessions, I was apparently ready for my day and night immersion in Giles’ 60 acre wood in Sussex, UK.
I didn’t really know what I had signed up for, but dutifully did as I was told, arriving with tent, sleeping bag, mat, and lots of warm and waterproof layers. No phone, No torch, No watch.
Despite loving my work, involving deep connections with other humans, I have always felt nourished in solitude in nature, so I was excited to walk into this oasis of native woodland, with its own Spring water. Giles has literally macheted paths and created sacred clearings and firepits. He describes feeling called to this land, and I can see why. He is the guardian of these trees, and has developed a synergistic relationship with this land, that he does not question. The same symbiotic connection that the tree roots have with the rhizome fungi.
The natural world is grieving for humans to walk with it again, to remember our sacred contract with Mother Earth, that has been understandably forgotten with the constant, loud distraction of our material and political external environment.
After some fire-cooked delicious pasta, and a chat/intention-setting around the fire, I was invited to choose my spot for the night. A giant redwood caught my attention immediately, and my mind was made up!
Camping is a great love of mine, as is being outside. However, it was raining by the time the tent was up, and I realised that I had no distractions, not even a notepad!
The Redwood had created a very grand clearing around it, perfect to pitch my little tent. The boundary was a circle of Beech, Birch, Holly, Yew and Rhododendrons, with one younger Redwood standing to attention nearby.
A guided meditation helped settle my somewhat apprehensive nervous system, and then he was gone! It was a 15 minutes walk out, and there was no way I would have been able to navigate the labyrinth of paths. So this was me, and the trees for the next 14 hours or so. On my own, or was I?
I was encouraged to stay up as long as I could, to observe what Giles called “witching hour” when day becomes night, and birdsong becomes owl song.
It took a while to relax and settle, my mind frantically rambling, in an irritating, distracting manner.
The rain was more intense now, but I snuggled into the small hollow in the soft Redwood’s trunk. There was nothing to do. A rare gift of space and solitude in the exquisite arms of my tree. My breathing slowed, my body unfurled a little, and I began to surrender to the experience.
I realised that despite exercising frequently in nature, I was rarely still, and this was a very different experience for my senses. Something began to shift within me. I took off my glasses to sense more, and that magical childlike curiosity started to be with this natural oasis. I felt content, safe, held, awake, open, alert. The blurred perspective allowed me to be mor playful with what I perceived. As if more information became available to me, as I slowed my system down.
I saw a clingfilm-like dome created by the canopy, and despite heavy rain and large gaps, no water was coming through. I sensed the privilege of this event, and decided to greet every tree, and sense how each would convert to human form. The upright, formal beech, the serpent-like rhododendrons, and the Redwood, the Guardian. I was having fun. No-one else was within earshot and I started to sing, dance, shout. Quite liberating!
Witching hour was fascinating. Like a light switch. Immediate colour to black and white, my retina switching from cones to rods as the light intensity dimmed. The world became shades of monochrome. A stillness only broken by the hoots of owls. I felt an odd, intimate connection, embraced by this Redwood, as if it too needed to be truly seen as we all do, for the beautiful essence that we all share.
I eventually surrendered to sleep, which was only broken by the amplified pitter patter of rain on canvas.
As promised, a Gong was sounded at 8am, and I packed up my tent and was collected by Giles. We gathered round the fire pit and I was struggling to find words. I felt quite overwhelmed by my experience. With skilled guidance, I began to piece together an experience that has changed me, and the way I now lead my life and my business. Now leading from this connected inner, calmer space that needs constant vigilance and tending to. The action no longer leads. That is the end result of a much more natural, softer process of trust and noticing. The few weeks following this adventure, I had a huge amount of creative ideas and inspiration, and I continue to seek similar experiences in nature, to guide me back to my true essence that is far easier to live with!
Because my senses were heightened by the slowing down, the lack of external stimulus and distraction, and the power of the natural environment, I was able to receive stronger inner knowing, guidance, intuition that was far more advanced than intellect was capable of. Afterall, the mind purely gathers information, evidence. It cannot possibly sense the unseen as well as our hearts can.
I understand that we are intimately connected to the cycles of the earth and sky. My immersion into the stillness of Springwood imbued me with confidence in my knowing and a deep respect for the trees. My work now is to stay awake, and not become a slave to the madness of the mind, but rather follow the quiet whisperings of my heart. The longing has gone. I have everything I need to live an even more delicious, abundant life, leading by nature. Giles has a precious place in guiding me to full, unapologetic expression, no matter what life throws at me!
This is a guest blog written by Carolyn Eddleston who spent 25 years as an NHS GP, more fascinated with those that thrived despite horrific stories, than those that remained unwell and stuck in their illness and life pattern. She found the Daoist philosophy that underpins Traditional Chinese Medicine refreshing in its honouring of the human connection with the natural world. She then immersed herself in a full-time 3-year training in NZ in the late 90’s and has been a Traditional Acupuncturist ever since this transformational adventure. She continues to evolve her curiosity and self-cultivation to be open to the next piece of guidance. She works with humour and softness. Her container is strong, as are her boundaries. She wonders what is possible for herself, and humankind moving forwards. www.cyclesofchange.com
Giles Hutchins is a regenerative leadership coach, adviser and author. His latest book is Leading by Nature.