30 June 2017

Dilston Physic Garden - Labyrinth Day

I haven't been feeling on top form recently. Things have started to pick up, thankfully. It's all too easy in today's modern world to have stress and anxiety creep up on you, and before you know it a general yucky feeling is following you around like a shadow. I recognised what was going on and resorted to my go-to self-care techniques. Improving my diet. More exercise. Getting out into nature more. That's a big one for me. I have to be really aware of when I'm working too hard and spending too much time on my Macbook (which is most of the time). Being self-employed and a writer/blogger, spending too much time online is an occupational hazard. I'm starting to write more by hand and read more, which always helps to get me back in balance.

One of the striking mosaics in the garden
When I got the chance to go and spend the day in a beautiful garden in Northumberland to take part in a labyrinth workshop, I didn't hang around to sign up.  I no longer underestimate how crucial it is to spend time nature to stay in balance. As someone who's inspired by beautiful places and beauty in general, I've traditionally travelled far and wide to feed my soul and expand my knowledge of the world. Little did I know I didn't have to travel much further than the nature reserve next to my house. Even when we're in a built-up urban area, you can always seek out the trees and plant life. I'd just got out of the habit of seeing what was right in front of me.

Some friends in my spiritual Facebook group had raved about Dilston Physic Garden to me over the past few weeks. I no longer ignore the signs when I keep being told about something or somewhere. I've been drawn to sacred sites like Glastonbury and Stonehenge recently, and until I sort out a trip down south I decided to visit a site closer to home. The garden has a labyrinth which boasts an amazing view of the Corbridge countryside, next to a tranquil pond housing a spectacular mosaicked pyramid. The labyrinth day, in celebration of the summer solstice, is part of a series of four one day events spread over the year facilitated by Christine Headland, a true spiritual polymath. Known as Peace Pipe Circle Woman, she has trained in (deep breath) dowsing, shamanism, sound healing and tuning fork therapy, Seichem reiki, life coaching, crystal healing, sacred drumming, meditation, Access Bars and recently qualified as a Dru Yoga teacher. She runs weekly chant meditation and drumming groups in the Newcastle/Northumberland area.

I got a little lost on the way and ended up stressed, twenty minutes late. The minute I walked through the gate and up the lane towards the garden, a brook babbling away to my left, the stress started to fall away. There was a lovely lady, Lisa, waiting at the gate to show me where to go. She led me to the Herb Hut which is used for workshops and events, an airy space with herbs hanging to dry from the ceiling. I plonked down my carrot tarte tatin (we all had to bring a vegetarian dish) and made my apologies.


There were ten of us there, plus Christine. I felt an immediate connection with the energy of the women and the place (we sat outside the hut for most of the day, the wind whistling around us).  There was a medicine wheel in the centre of our circle, comprising of bones, crystals and a compass (the compass points signify different seasons). We switched off our phones (thank God), introduced ourselves and saged each other, before finding out about about the history of the labyrinth. We were to walk it three times that day, before and after lunch (a walking meditation around the garden was also scheduled).

The labyrinth
Christine suggested that we walked the first labyrinth slowly, and focussed on letting go of old wounds. We also drew oracle cards before each labyrinth walk for guidance which we could choose to focus upon if needed. I pulled the crystals (focus) cards and walked holding a piece of smoky quartz I found in my pocket. I'd never walked a labyrinth before so I hung back a bit. We waited our turn and bowed to Christine as we stepped onto this sacred space. I have to admit I forgot about letting go of things because I was blown away by the beauty around me, the weeds and plants poking up around the path, the ladybirds trying to avoid being trodden on, the silver snail trails reflecting the sunlight. Watching the other women make their own journeys. Wondering why there were cars parked in the nearby field. If the people in cars coming over the hill in the distance could see us. There was too much mind chatter at first, making it tricky to go within. Eventually, I felt like I'd gone back in time, and was connected to the past and my ancestors.

The Herb Hut 
We came back to the veranda and discussed our experiences. The energy of the labyrinth had made us hungry so we attacked the feast - vegetarian curry, salads, my tarte, garlic cloves, homemade scones, pizza breads. Sharing the food and finding out about each other was another highlight of the day. I tried the garden's own herbal tea which definitely helped me to feel calmer.

Before walking the labyrinth for the second time, we each pulled a Gateway Oracle Card. This time I pulled the Take Action card, which made sense I've had a quiet couple of months where I just wanted to rest. As we walked for the second time, Christine started to sing beautifully, which added to the energy of the experience. We stood together in the centre, feeling the powerful energy with the wind whistling around us. Again we discussed our experiences before walking it for a third time. I felt guided to bring my past life cards with me, so everyone pulled a card again. This time I got Wisdom. I found a multi-coloured felt heart in my coat pocket just before I stepped into the labyrinth. Each time was different. I placed it in the centre as we stood in a circle again, this time holding hands with Christine drumming in the background, the drum mimicking a heartbeat. I focussed on my heart chakra during this work, imagining light streaming into it.

Following the final labyrinth walk, we spent some time sitting in meditation around the pond, which was so tranquil and calming. It was a chance to reflect on the different emotions that came up whilst walking the labyrinth. Then we spent some time wandering around the beautiful garden. There are so many nooks and crannies, themed areas which evoke delight when you stumble upon them. There are over 800 herbs and trees, all clearly labelled with information on their medicinal uses, as well as scientific, folklore and magical properties. At certain points I was overcome with strong scents - rose, garlic and rosemary which made me stop in my tracks. As you wind your way round, you'll find sculptures, a giant chess board, a croquet lawn, and a children's playhouse. I loved the Heart and Mind section which contains a variety of healing herbs. When I go back, I want to spend more time on the Camomile Lawn and Bamboo Walk.

Plants to help with sleep/insomnia
I left feeling much calmer than I'd felt in a long time, more connected and in touch with my soul. I came home and immediately starting planning my next visit, craving the peace and tranquility that the garden provides in abundance. It was a privilege to spend the day with Christine and a group of inspiring, like-minded women.

*Christine's next labyrinth workshop is on Saturday 30th September (10am  - 4pm). She is also running a Heart Chakra workshop on Saturday 6th August (10am-4pm)

For more information on events coming up at Dilston Physic Garden click here 

To find out more about Christine Headland and her therapies click here

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