Monday, 5 September 2011

Learning to Listen

Blackthorn ~ Prunus spinosa

Over the years I have been learning to listen to where my attention is drawn. This can come through any of the senses. I have also found that not only are my senses drawn in a particular direction but this also accompanies a strong desire or attraction. It can feel akin to feeling hungry, to having a nagging thought that doesn't go away or wanting to listen to a particular piece of music. When we have those desires hopefully we don't dismiss or ignore them. I have learnt that so many gifts come from including these messages.

This late August into early September I have noticed Blackthorn with their blue/purple berries ~ otherwise known as sloe which can be made into Jam, Wine or a health tonic. Why had I not been aware of this tree and their fruits before? Unfamiliar they looked edible and I had a strong desire to eat them. But I thought better not... Just in case. I put my curiosity aside. However, the curiosity grew into fascination and I kept seeing more. I looked the tree up and identified it as Blackthorn. On my return to home I searched some more. And as I found out the properties of Blackthorn realized that there is a reason why I was drawn to this tree at this specific time. And I am thankful that I have learnt to listen to those messages. Years ago these messages were more often a faint whisper and infrequent. Now they come louder, more diverse and as such are not out of the ordinary.

I have trusted in my process of listening. However, I have found in today's world this way is not so easily trusted. From school I was taught that to learn meant memorising other's interpretations and quoting them in order to pass the tests. My own interpretations were discouraged especially if they did not fit. Schooling was not about learning to perceive, to be inquisitive, to ask questions. It was about becoming memory banks. Unfortunately I found this also carried on into Art College where only certain styles and philosophical approaches were acceptable.

It is a delicate balance between following, learning tools, techniques and being prescriptive. We now have an abundance of books that illustrate the ways, whys, because, hows, whens etc. We have increasing number of competing workshop leaders who offer courses that lead to certifications. It is wonderful that there is so much choice, experience, knowledge and more acceptance of Esoteric, Metaphysical, Alternative Spirituality and Pagan fields. However, I would also add that an over reliance on following a style of learning which is more 'painting by numbers' can stifle the magic and mystery to discovery of each person's unique individuation process. There is a danger of our own selves and process being lost in the experts experience.

In the past I too often found that I became lost in anothers journey resulting in feelings of intimidation and inadequacy. When entering anothers neatly summarized presentation of their journey we don't see the full process that person underwent. We might not realize what wonders of creativity lies in our Secret Garden that follow the dark nights of our soul. Getting lost is part of the journey, in fact is a necessity. To quote C. G. Jung " The right way to wholeness is made up of fateful detours and wrong turnings". For me a wise teacher is one that does not live by this old model of delivering lots of techniques, tasks, models and theory ~ that can prove their value. But who facilities space for others to explore and be held in that process. Many are speaking of 2012 the year where many will awaken. I believe this is about acknowledging where we are already. It is not the few leading the many.

Learning to listen for me is about discerning. I have found that I frequently discard layers of mis-information so that I can tune into the deeper messages. Is there another voice that says eat some spinach and not more chocolate?! Or "Cross to the others side of the road NOW!" which happened to me twice where upon not listening I was set upon by a gang and harrassed by another the other time. Now when I get a voice out of the blue ~ I must remember to listen! I felt confused by my fascination for this tree. What part of my response could I trust; with its dark twisted bark and huge thorns with shiny blue berries and deep glossy green leaves. I felt a feeling of being held through connecting with it's sturdiness, resilience and tenacity. Were the berries ripe to eat? Would I need to cook them? I needed to be respectful in my approach. If this tree was person it would be like an old man with short temper when his words were not listened to carefully. With many wonderful stories while sitting smoking his pipe by the fire-side his pockets bulging with old stories of mysterious paths and wonders hidden amongst rock, bone and wood. His old eyes sparkling in the dim light full of life and vibrancy. His stick hard as rock ready to beat back any scurrilous stranger. As his smoke created strange shapes around his face his laughter cracked inside the fire stirring the embers. He could be seen simultaneously sitting at the fire that was slow burning while at the same time sitting on the cliffs edge watching the sun rise and fall. Easily overlooked and misunderstood by many who are in too much haste and impatience.

Blackthorn is the brother tree to its sister Hawthorn. Feared because of it's nature. It's magical medicine can be seen through observing it's apparence and it's medicinal properties.
Blackthorn the first to flower before other trees and whose berries are last to ripen in Autumn. The thorns if you are cut by them can become septic. The wood is extremely hardy. Blackthorn has many medicinal properties and which include boosting the immune system as well as being a cleanser/purifier. Sloe berries are very tonic bitters. They are astringent, and stimulate the metabolism, clean the blood, and are used as a laxative and diuretic. They help with indigestion, eczema, herpes, allergies, colds, catarrh, neurosis, weak heart, kidney stones, skin, bladder, and prostrate problems. They disperse toxins.10 In 17th and 18th Century, sloes were brewed as a purgative to treat “fluxes in the belly.”(The Spirit of Trees, page 187)“The fruit and leaves of Blackthorn contain tannins, organic acids, sugars and vitamin C. Steeped in boiling water, the flowers have a mild diuretic, tonic and laxative properties. The dried fruits are used to treat bladder, kidney and stomach disorders. The liquid from the boiled leaves can be used as a mouthwash for sore throat, tonsillitis and laryngitis. It is also good for circulations, blood strengthening, and nutrient absorption.” (The Wisdom of Trees, page 127)

Green Man Tree Essences
: “Blackthorn - Circulation. Helps absorption of energies necessary for life. Stabilizes emotions. Brings hope and joy. Stimulating.”

“The leaves can be boiled into a decoction that, once cooled, is an excellent mouthwash and gargle for those suffering from tonsillitis or laryngitis. It can also be used as a soothing eye bath. A tea made from the powdered bark has a calming effect on the nerves.” (Celtic Tree Mysteries, page 166)

"Blackthorn is a guardian, keeper of the shadows, holder of the darkest secrets." "Helps us to bring light where there is darkness." (Tree Angel Oracle, p56)

Sources for Magical, Health and Healing Properties found in:

Tree Wisdom by Jacquellne Memory Paterson

Tree Angel Oracle by Fred Hageneder & Anne Heng