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  • Writer's pictureHeather Cowie

Create a clearing in your life - a poem that resonates

Woman with backpack near green trees.

I stumbled across a poem called Clearing by Martha Postlewaite the other day written in a journal and these words struck me; 

"create a clearing in the dense forest of your life.”

Maybe it was what I needed at that moment, but my mind answered, yes please! Just reading those words seemed to soothe and relax me. 

Our lives are dense with many things to juggle, so many activities and busyness of both the mind and body. How often do we clear a space, to clear our minds of the daily challenges and just be? 

We often seek solutions in actions, asking, what do I need to do? What should I do? But maybe the answer is in doing nothing. Just stop for a minute and do nothing! How wonderful to realise that it’s so simple.

We don’t have to wrestle physically and mentally with things. Just let them be.

That can be a hard concept to grasp when we have such an ingrained culture of busyness. Even writing this blog now I notice that busy, critical part of me saying that sitting still and doing nothing is lazy and won’t achieve anything.

Then I remember a lesson on stillness my counselling tutor taught me. How do you catch a butterfly? You can run around chasing it but it will keep flying away and you will use up a lot of your energy in a wasted effort. Or you can sit quietly and observe the butterfly and wait for it to land.

Meditation is one way to create that stillness but I know lots of people can struggle with it. Personally I don’t always find it easy to focus or to sit still! But for me meditation isn’t just about a formal practice, it can be about the small moments. By quietly listening to the birds, taking a walk outdoors or even just taking a couple of deep breaths and switching off for a minute, we can create that clearing. The moment I read the quote I automatically took a breath, pictured a forest and a clearing in my mind and my body relaxed. It felt very peaceful not to have to do or think for even just a moment.

We can use the concept of creating a clearing in everyday situations too. When we feel anxious or angry, for example, it's helpful to stop what we’re doing and pull away from our racing thoughts. Allow them to exist around us but for us to sit peacefully in the clearing and observe them. Viktor Frank talks about our power being in the space between the stimulus and the response. If we can create that space we have the power to control what we do rather than getting dragged into unhelpful behaviours.

There is a lot of talk about self care in the media and this simple act of creating a clearing seems to me to be the most straightforward and free self care there is.

It also struck me that counselling is like the clearing in the forest. We can get to a point in our lives when we are lost in the dense forest. To use another common expression, we can’t see the wood for the trees. Our thoughts and emotions feel like they are closing in on us and we can’t see a way through. Counselling offers that clearing in the forest, that space, that opportunity for calm where we can start to think clearly and separate ourselves from what is going on around us. When we have that space new thoughts and ideas can come in and we are able to see how we really want to live our lives, to find the “song” of our lives.

Here is the full poem:


Do not try to save

the whole world

or do anything grandiose.

Instead, create

a clearing

in the dense forest

of your life

and wait there


until the song

that is your life

falls into your own cupped hands

and you recognize and greet it.

Only then will you know

how to give yourself

to this world

so worthy of rescue. ~

Martha Postlewaite

Hoping you find ways to create your clearing. What does creating a clearing look like for you?

If you’d like to find out more about how counselling may help you, get in touch. I work online throughout the UK, at the Dragonfly Well-being Centre in Plymouth and the Wellness Rooms in Tavistock.

Image by Michelle Spencer

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