13 Nov 2006
A Walk in the Woods # Exercise 1. ‘The Third Eye’.
An Earthwalk is a wonderful exercise for getting people out into Nature and seeing it in a completely different way. Originally developed for using with children ages 10-13, I use it with adults, and have seen the power of its affect on all ages. I once taught a course in Ireland, and one man who was in the Gardai, sad afterwards he was completely blown away by it. He subsequently left the Gardai and opened a shop selling green paints and so on… . Over the next few days I’ll tell you my 5 favourite Earthwalk activities. I recently taught an Introduction to Permaculture at Dartington College of Arts, and on the first morning I took the students out into the nearby woods to do an Earthwalk. Over the next couple of days I’ll tell you about the slides and the colour dabs activities, but today I am going to tell you how to give participants a Third Eye which allows them to see Nature in a whole new way.
Gather the group together at the entrance to a beautiful woodland. Tell them that normally we perceive nature with our two eyes, but how different it would be if they were able to see with a third eye that gave them a whole new perspective. Then tell them that in order to experience this, they need firstly to be able to wear a ‘veil of silence’, and get them to mime putting a shroud over themselves. Tell them that when their veil is on they remain silent until you tell them otherwise.
Then hand round to each person a mirror, about 8″ square. The cheapest way to get these is buy boxes of mirrored tiles for bathrooms. Then get them to put on their ‘veils’ and to walk, slowly, in a line behind you, through the woods, holding the mirror at waist level, so the view above them is reflected in the mirror. Walk for about 10 minutes until you reach a particularly beautiful large old tree with enough room around it for people to be able to make a circle around it. Wait until the group has all arrived, and ask them to take a journey around the tree using their Third Eyes, until they find a particularly beautiful part of the tree. Then ask them to take off their ‘veils’ and turn to the person next to them and using their ‘normal’ eyes try and find that point on the tree and explain to their partner what was so fascinating about it.
The lovely thing with this exercise is that you become completely absorbed in the trees above you in a way you never have done before. It is gorgeous. It also is fascinating in all weathers. First time I did this was on a course on how to run Earthwalks that we did at The Hollies with Mark Jeffries, on a day with the worst weather I ever saw in my time in Ireland. It was almost a complete white-out storm, all the power was off, and it was hard to stay on your feet. We were all unkeen to go out, but Mark insisted, and to walk slowly using your Third Eye through a storm, seeing all the trees writhing around above your head, leaves flying everywhere, it was amazing. Felt like Turner, the painter, tied to the mast of a ship so he could see what a storm really looked like. I’ve never since done one in such conditions, but whatever the weather is doing, it is always an amazing experience.