Reflections on the Nature Forces Workshop


Reflections on the Nature Forces Workshop
with Julian Barnard & Marko Pogacnik

May 28-30, 2004
Great Barrington, Massachusetts, hosted by SteinerBooks

by Claudia Keel

Understand, I am always trying to figure out
what the soul is,
and where hidden,
and what shape...

...Though I play on the edges of knowing,
truly I know
our part is not knowing,
but looking, and touching, and loving,
which is the way I walked on,
through the pale-pink morning light.

from Bone, by Mary Oliver

If there is one thing I have consistently noticed in both my flower essence and herbal practice, as well as in my own life, it's that even the smallest connection with the forces of nature is transformative in unexpected and magnificent ways. Here in New York City where I live, all one may do, perhaps, is make tea from flowers, leaves and roots; or begin to notice all the flowers that manage to grow in or near asphalt; or grow your own tomatoes for the first time in a community garden; or even begin to eat fresh, seasonal food bought from a local farmer you spoke to at a farmer's market. Perhaps it is some other experience, but I have noticed that these seemingly ordinary moments have a domino—or what I like to call, a kaleidoscope—effect within our soul. The simplest way I know to describe this kaleidoscope of nature forces within us is that life begins to seem more whole, more connected, more "of course." And we wonder how we missed seeing the life around us....

I mention all this by way of introduction as an attempt to put in context the draw I felt to attend the Nature Forces workshop with Julian Barnard and Marko Pogacnik, held this past May in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, hosted by SteinerBooks. I suspect most of the attendees of this great gathering of people would have similar impulses. I quote Mary Oliver's poem "...I am always trying to figure out what the soul is..."; with her indulgences, I believe we could substitute 'nature' for 'soul', and mean the same thing.

Julian Barnard, from England, and Marko Pogacnik, from Yugoslavia, represented and offered different poles of approach to the Nature Forces around us. Yet each perspective was based on common denominators—attention to these forces in various forms, and the awareness of their presence—is available to us all.

Marko Pogacnik, Julian Barnard & Christopher Bamford, Editor-in-Chief of SteinerBooks

Friday evening, Julian began his comments by comparing Edward Bach with Nicholas Culpepper, the famed 16th century herbal doctor, who went against the edicts of Henry the XVIII, as well as the medical and apothecary guilds of his day, to make available to the common person the use of herbs for health and well-being. Likewise, Dr. Bach made plain the preparation and action of flower essences as the medicine of the people, also going against the convention of his day. Throughout the weekend, Julian spoke in that same spirit of Dr. Bach, laying plain how evident the personality of a plant is when we pay attention to its form, color and habitat. In this way, we can better understand the effect flower essences have on us when prepared in a way that imprints the plant's "pattern" into water. Much of what he spoke of is elaborated in his new, beautifully written book, Bach Flower Remedies: Form & Function. In short, Julian's approach was practical and far from obscure. From careful external observation, we can understand the nature forces within the plant, and, by extension, the landscape.

Marko offered us the other side of the coin—the intuitive communication with the Nature Forces on our planet. Moreover, his focus is on a larger scale than Julian's—the forces of our earth and our landscapes as a whole. Marco is best known for his work as a geomancer and the development of lithopuncture—most easily described as acupuncture for the earth. During the weekend, he spoke eloquently of the radical transformation the earth's energies are going through, and called us to align ourselves with it. He also offered a number of meditative exercises to assist us in developing this awareness. His books, also available from SteinerBooks, outline his ever deepening understanding of the transforming forces of the earth, and gives many more meditative exercises for us to connect with that awareness.

In many ways, the two poles of approach that Julian and Marko offered us came together in the closing ritual. We went to a grove of marble stones in the hills above the conference center. Marko offered us meditative exercises focused on healing the land upon which we stood, as well as the larger lands and forces in the Middle East and United States. Julian suggested that during the meditations we hold in our hearts and minds the healing energies of Olive for the Middle East and Heather for the United States. As he elaborated, Heather so often has a connotation of the obnoxious, talkative, loud person, and so some might make these associations with the United States. But these are just some symptoms that arise from a particular soul state that holds both the dark and the light.


To quote from Julian's comments in Form and Function:

"[Heather refers to] .... a way of treating with life as it has developed over a period of years...When anxiety begins to replace normal, healthy optimism, then some people find themselves in a Heather state...Heather people become insecure and are secretly worried about life and death."

I leave the reader to muse on these qualities and our country, as Julian left us to do so after the weekend.

So many of us today are overly trained in our rational mind. The intuitive understanding of nature forces seems so elusive. Marko simply reminded us that the language of nature is not one of words and concepts, but one of the heart and emotions. This is one way that I find flower essences a support to our awareness of the nature forces around us. Each particular personality of a flower offers us increasing subtlety and awareness of our own emotions—a larger vocabulary of the heart so to speak. With the development of this “heart vocabulary,” we, in turn, open more and more to give and receive from nature. And so I, in offering flower essences to people, am blessed to be able to witness this opening, both intuitively and rationally, to the nature forces around us—and blessed to witness its beginnings in myself.

About Claudia:

Claudia Keel is a flower essence therapist and clinical herbalist practicing in New York City (visit her website). She also works as an artist-in-residence in schools and community gardens creating murals and other artworks reflecting one's experience and imaginative connection to the natural world. You can contact her by writing to


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