Today Peter Reason shares his practice of asking deeper questions, not only about what we do but how we experience ourselves.
Peter is a writer and Emeritus Professor at the University of Bath, where he co-founded the MSc in Responsibility and Business Practice. I was a participant on this pioneering programme, the collaborative, experiential and action-oriented forms of inquiry deeply informed my practice as a coach and later, the development of Wise Goose. Since retiring his focus has been linking the tradition of nature writing with the ecological crisis of our times, drawing on scientific, ecological, philosophical and spiritual sources. We need, he believes, to discover whole new ways to be a modern human.
As part of my ongoing inquiry, and specifically a current cooperative inquiry with sentient Rivers, I drive early to my regular Spot where I have been sitting these last months.
It’s very dark, very wet. The sky is murky, colourless. I wonder to myself what kind of an idiot would be out in heavy rain like this on a Sunday morning when the clocks have gone back, and everybody is supposed to appreciate that they get an extra hour in bed. But you can’t just visit river at those times when it’s beautiful for humans! I leave the car and trudge across the field. About halfway across I realize I am not attending but rushing, as if achieving something against the elements. So I slow down and start to walk more intentionally, not just getting to a place but taking it more like a pilgrimage.
I have my first glimpse of the Frome flowing below me, glistening in what little light there is. A few yards further and the narrow peninsular between the Frome and Avon is in front of me. Many more leaves have fallen since I was last here just a week ago, so the place feels open and naked and slippery, a touch dangerous.
I bow and introduce myself, “Good morning Rivers, Good morning River, this is Peter, Wolfheart, D* come with thanks for the teaching of a few days ago which has affected me profoundly. I come with no expectations. I come to pay my respects”.
I call the Four Directions. To my surprise I find myself praying for success in the COP negotiations taking place in Glasgow. “I call the powers of the East. I call for illumination, for the spark of new life. I call, particularly at this time, for new visions of how we can create a stable climate or, I should say, stop destabilizing the climate of the planet. I call Fire. I call the masculine… I call the power of the West, Grandmother Earth. I call the deep feminine, introspection and intuition. I call the bones of the world, you who take the new spark from the east and ground it, make it real.
At this time with the COP conference, we humans need to make our speculative plans into something real…. I call the power of the South. I call emotions. I call water. I call everything that flows. I ask that we may learn to harness our emotions, our emotions of fear, our emotions of hope to bring these together in creating a new human world that’s in harmony with the greater whole. I ask we do this for the children, for all the children… I call the power of the North. I call for that intelligence that links heart and mind, that draws the other powers together. I call on the fourfooted ones to show us how to do this. I call with passion; I call for your help this morning. Here I am, just visiting River and hopefully in some small way adding to the work of the larger whole. Blessed be.”
I scramble down nearer the water. It’s still really dark. What I can mainly hear is the raindrops falling on my umbrella. In all my gear comfortably warm and dry hands a bit wet there’s a wind outside. I pour my tea and make an offer to river, like the Aboriginal elder throwing a handful of sand to show her seriousness with the River. I may have no plans, no expectations, no ceremony; but I feel I am here in all seriousness and all joy. And now I am here I feel it’s absolutely right. Absolutely right.
The water flows in the ripples and eddies create a texture on the surface which reflects the lightening sky in a kind of dark silver. And there’s that owl again
I sit and watch River. A dark mystery of the water flowing and taking the rain back to the sea (and unfortunately taking all our shit and waste back to the sea as well). I sing the Morning Song to River, drumming on my thigh to the heartbeat. I don’t ask for much; I am just sitting alongside River companionably as you might with a human person.
I thank the Four Directions and walk back to the car.