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After the fire

Posted by Simon Parke, 07 April 2021, 5.13pm

After the fire, when the flames have died, stand still with what was

If the ash still smokes in the morning dew, rake it gently over

As the robin watches on and a leaf scuttles by

The embers still flicker, a defiant echo of yesterday’s blaze

Their little glint, one last hurrah of all that’s been, the ripping heat and crackling glory – remember?

But cooling now, the fire is done, the ground scorched and cleared, only ash remains

The grey residue of life, now flighty dust in the breeze

When the flames have died, stand still with what was, with this nothing, for awhile

As the robin watches on

And for all that has been, thank you; and for all that shall be, yes

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Posted by Simon Parke, 06 April 2021, 8.04am

‘Spirituality’ is a word often used but rarely defined. So what is it? And does it really mean anything?

‘It seems to mean everything and nothing,’ says one weary observer. ‘Just one big blancmange of weirdness.’

There is sometimes a whiff of self-indulgence in the air when the word is used: people simply doing what they want and labelling it ‘spiritual’.

Or, ‘religion-lite’, as someone else called it.

Historically, the word has an awkward relationship with science, which prefers observable phenomena and laws of process: ‘when I do that, this then happens.’

Spirituality doesn’t score high in that test.

So, traditionally, psychiatry – in search of a close relationship with science - has also been suspicious of spirituality and for many years refused it a hearing or place in the healing process. If anything, spirituality has been viewed as part of the delusion that needs dismantling.

Over the last twenty years, however, for many therapists, this modus operandi has become harder to maintain, with spirit seen as a significant sphere of human existence.

It doesn’t help that ‘spirituality’ can get put in the same mix as ‘belief’ and ‘faith’, because they are not the same.

Religion and belief tend to arise from the human desire for meaning; and the ordering of that meaning. A common faith needs order; something its adherents can gather round.

But spirituality isn’t fixed and nor is it ordered. Rather, it’s an elusive sphere of existence that can open up to us; sometimes to our surprise. It’s a realm of being that many testify to knowing and which gives particular meaning to the moment. 

Its effects can be as powerful as any drug. Spiritual experiences can change how we feel; they can change how we live.

The evidence is of valid experiences in the world which transcend our routine reality. We are somehow lifted out of it; or forced/helped to look at it anew.

The psychotherapist Victor Schermer describes himself as ‘both by nature and nurture an incorrigible sceptic and a scientifically-minded, humanistically-inclined individual.’

But he strongly feels the need to take account of spirituality. He describes it as ‘that aspect of our psyche which is always reaching for union with the mysterious and the beyond.’

This is a decent working definition. It describes a momentary sense of connection with something - a person, a landscape, a truth, the universe, our life, humanity, a flower.

Julian of Norwich famously had such an experience with a nut. It became, for her, the entire world and thereby a profound source of connection.

And there have been countless other such experiences down the years, arising unbidden in daily experience. You may well have experienced such things yourself. They may have significantly affected your life. They have affected mine.

There is a back story here.

From the outset of our earthly existence, the spiritual self and the egoic self, like two siblings, struggle for ascendency.

The egoic self generally wins. Our ‘everyday ego’ has responsibility for our survival and nothing else. Early difficulty in life and social pressures in our teens and beyond can mean that the everyday ego has almost complete ascendency.

What use is the spiritual self? Life is difficult; everything is about survival - and not about union with anyone or any thing. The only story is me.

These two siblings can become separated in humans; and the separation of mind and spirit leaves people estranged from themselves, from others and from their origins.

In many ways, it’s where we are as a society.

But ‘How is your spirit today?’ can be a legitimate and helpful question because spirit shapes both matter and will.

The connection between mental well being and physical well being is now well documented. So spirit, matter and will need to be in relationship with each other.

If spirit is removed from the story, denied validity, the quality of healing air is significantly diminished.

The everyday ego and the spiritual self will stay in close contact in the healthy human, both with roles to play; the first to survive, the second to thrive.

So, what is your sense of all this? What feels true?

‘We are not human beings having spiritual experiences but spiritual beings having human experiences.’

This line is attributed to Teilhard de Chardin and whether you agree or not, it’s the opposite of the narrative most have grown up with, where the everyday ego has been encouraged to take the lead. But it’s powers are limited.

‘Only connect,’ said EM Forster - and this is spirituality’s story.

Spirituality is staying awake to the possibility of union, of connection, with life, with self, with mystery and the beyond.

Its claim is that mere survival is not the end of the story.

And some will say that is what it is to be mad.

While others will say that is what it is to be sane.

And what do you say?

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Posted by Simon Parke, 31 March 2021, 1.43pm

An extract from my novel, ‘Gospel, Rumours of Love’. ‘Rocky’ is Peter.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, my chest is tight and I think of the fish in Rocky’s net.

There is a place in the net where the fish have nowhere to go; Rocky spoke of it. ‘On reaching that place, the fish can swim around as much as they like - but they can’t swim out! They live – but they’re dead!’

He tells it with pride but I feel with the fish tonight. Is this where it ends, the net too tight? My friends sleep, for the dear wasters are shattered as the night wind sighs.

We have eaten together, sung songs of lament and come to Gethsemane, our familiar haunt where either horror or joy will greet us…for one or other must arrive this evening. Events in the Temple will not be overlooked, I know this. I have kept to the villages, and walked a hidden path; but the Temple always sat waiting and the Temple is the hinge, on which everything opens or shuts.

Either Nicodemus ensures they are with me, and the restoration begins; or other voices are heard…   

‘Maybe it ends here, John, in this garden; or maybe it starts.’ Young John looks at me; he is puzzled.

‘Nicodemus?’ he asks. 

‘It is possible.’

‘Really?’ He does not believe.

‘He too wants a new Israel, John. He spoke of a conversation with the priests, with the Sadducees – with Annas even. Who knows? “I will do my best,” he said.

They may come tonight. They know we gather here, I make no secret of it…this is my hope.’

‘You still have hope after what you did, teacher?’

‘I am not your teacher anymore.’ John is disturbed by my actions; this is clear and this, my closest friend. I wonder myself if I went too far; though I felt alive there. But did I say or do too much? ‘Perhaps I have stirred them to goodness, John,’ I say.

But his laugh is dismissive which hurts more than any Pharisee.

‘Stirred to hate, perhaps. And Jude?’

‘Why speak of him?’

‘He has left us, Yeshua, he will not be back. The Temple incident, he could not believe it…maybe others will follow him.’

Anger returns. ‘He must do what he must do, John. He has been leaving for a while. Perhaps you have not noticed… I noticed.’

There is silence between us. 

‘So we wait for the end,’ he says. ‘Or the beginning.’

The night is quiet and yes, I wait for Nicodemus. Hope rises in me, pricking the heaviness. He has influence; and Israel could be re-born, born again, with no temple but our spirit. One day we shall have hearts and no rules; for a good heart needs no laws. How can this not be seen? And perhaps he comes now, for surely this is God’s will, God’s promise - Israel waits for such a day! The gentiles await such a day! We could all be one. And Nicodemus is a serious man. He risked much to speak with me.

Through the olive trees, it is a still and starry night. It reminds me of Nazareth, when I would lie on the roof and gaze at the heavens. We called it ‘The Prophet’s Room’ up there on the tiles…where a wandering prophet might be housed. Our mother told us every home should have a prophet’s room, space for the visitor.

And I pray now as I prayed then; I cannot help but pray. Prayer is drawn from me like water from a well. ‘Dear father in heaven, your kingdom come and your will be done here on earth, as it is in heaven…as above, so let it be below!’

‘Master, I hear something.’ It is Rocky moving towards me. He has woken up, his snoring interrupted. ‘Do you wait for someone, teacher? You seem to wait for someone.’

‘How would you know, Rocky? You have been asleep.’

‘Resting – not asleep; I never sleep.’

Let me be honest with him. ‘I wait for horror or joy, Rocky.’

‘We don’t need to, Master. We could leave now, there is still time.’

‘And by leaving run from both? No, I believe I am invited to wait, to yield to one or the other.’

‘When did you ever yield?!’

‘There is a season for all things. Sometimes we must yield.’

I see movement in the distance, four or five figures in the shadows; they seem uncertain of the way. I see shapes but not faces. Nicodemus is small; I do not see a small man. I continue to watch; perhaps he follows, hidden by his companions. Perhaps members of the Sanhedrin have come here without him, to speak for themselves. I would be glad to speak with them.

And then I see another figure, familiar in movement. And I know…I know in that moment that it ends here in the garden. Nothing begins here…everything ends. There is only the horror. And I feel the sweat of terror pricking at my skin, as though I bleed.

And I am empty; quite empty of words. So many spoken but now they are gone. I have nothing to say. Words of anger, words of healing, words in parable, words in judgement…the words rise and fall, they dance and they die…only I remain. Though who am I now?

‘Do you see them, teacher?’

‘I see them, Rocky; and you should go. Take the others - certainly take Mark. He is too young.’ Mark has become his new friend, a young admirer, which Rocky enjoys. I think it does him good. He looks so lost at times; but when admired, he opens like a flower and remembers what to do.

‘I will not go!’ he whispers loudly. Their silhouettes are clearer now, they move faster, a torch of fire guides them, men armed with clubs and knives, brazen in the night. ‘I’m for taking them on.’

‘I think we shall be helpless, Rocky.’

But he does not hear me; or cannot believe what he hears. ‘Helpless?’ he says. I nod and try and calm him. ‘It must be so, it must be so.’ It hurts me to speak this. I have not asked this of my friends before; and I have not asked it of Rocky. I have asked them to hope, trust and pray, to take nothing for the journey but courage. But I have never called on them to be helpless, which is the only robe now left. ‘It ends here in the garden.’ 

‘We shall never be helpless, teacher! Never. John! James! Levi! Wake up! Mark – wake Levi up, the lazy toad.’

‘It is time to do nothing, Rocky,’ but he doesn’t listen. He is up and about, doing everything, gathering the band; Levi is cursing Mark, Thaddeus stumbling. But I am moving forward towards the torch light and the figures behind - when suddenly Joanna and Miriam appear through the trees on my left. I hear first the anklets, strange music in the dark - and lamps in their hands, worried faces. I approach them.

‘I fear love is not through with me,’ I say, and feel tears breaking.

Joanna says, ‘Neither are the Temple priests, from what I hear.’

‘But love is the more frightening, Joanna; it asks of us the most terrible things. We shall all do our best. And be kind to each other as we fail.’

‘My love will never be through with you,’ says Miriam; and in that moment we exchange souls through our eyes, where no darkness lives, only union. I hug them both, cling to them both, so grateful, so sad, so alone…and walk away. I must walk away or cry for a thousand years. I feel the tears; such heaviness of spirit is upon me. And now the men are before me.

‘Who do you seek?’ I ask.

‘Yeshua the Nazarene.’

‘You could have come in the light, my friends. No, really. But you arrive in the dark, with swords and clubs, as if I am some bandit! I was with you daily in the Temple and you never laid a finger on me. But here we are and this is your hour with the authority of darkness; I understand. And maybe your shame prefers the shadows.’

They are silent for a moment, so I reassure them. ‘I am he, the one you seek.’ I hold out my hands in welcome. They turn to Jude who appears from the dark. He nods.

‘You can trust Jude,’ I say. ‘We knew each other once, a good knowing; but our paths parted…for which I am sad.’ I look at him. ‘Perhaps he is sad too. So Jude, I am handed over by you?’

‘Not by me, teacher, not by me.’ Jude has hollow eyes like a caught fish, like a fish thrashing, like a fish dying. ‘You hand yourself over.’

‘And so I do, and so I do. We must each choose for ourselves and not lay blame at another’s feet.’

‘You handed yourself over in the Temple this afternoon.’

‘I spoke the truth, Jude, which is perhaps the same. But where better for light than the darkness?’

‘You must show respect for the law and the prophets.’

‘Don’t think I come to destroy the law and the prophets.’

‘But you do destroy, teacher, you do. You dismantle the law and you dismantle us, each of us! What are we to do? You seem to think everything is acceptable apart from the Temple! You let a woman wipe your feet with her hair, using costly perfume!’

He refers to Mary, my friend in Bethany and the best of hosts.

‘She used spikenard, Jude…costly, I agree, but kind. Am I not worth kindness?’

‘It stank the place out – I can still smell it.’

‘You sound as bitter as the aroma, Jude!’ Spikenard does stink; it smells of goat and brings all conversation to a halt.

‘It is the smell of death, teacher, and if it’s death you want…well, I don’t know what you want, or want of us. Just what do you want? You say the kingdom of God is within but who knows where? We can’t find it. So you leave us as beggars by the side of the road without comfort. You leave us as beggars!’

‘Happy are the poor in spirit, Jude - but not the self-pitying. You cry “victim” and fight what is; when all the time you could fall into love.’

In this moment, I feel quite free; a decision is made, an adventure ahead. But Jude rubs his eyes, like a child upset. ‘You weren’t the answer, you see - not the answer, not the hope I thought…the hope we thought. All of us.’ And now he almost smiles, though the smile does not reach his eyes, which is how I remember dear

Jude; haunted eyes, with a smile that stopped at his cheeks. ‘Why couldn’t you just?...I mean, I thought you could help; and I did my best, really I did, but, well - the Temple?  What you did there, I mean…that isn’t going to work. We must make friends not lose them. Make them!’ He looks for help from the sullen faces around him. ‘I mean, why are you so hostile, Yeshua? It’s just needless, it doesn’t get us anywhere. So you hand yourself over. No one else need do it. You don’t even run away now! You sit here in the garden and wait for us. I feel no guilt. Why would I feel guilt?’

I have an overwhelming desire to kiss him; to let him know that all is well. ‘Jude, my friend.’ I reach out to him. He steps towards me, cautious, holding back. But I do not. I kiss his cheeks, one and then the other and feel his tears; he sobs on my shoulder. I hold him. I cannot judge this man; no judgement is there. I feel such love for him, my fear is quite gone. We release ourselves, each from the other, and he turns and runs into the night. ‘So let us go,’ I say.

They seem disturbed, those who come to arrest me. Perhaps they expect a fight. My friends gather slowly, but barely know the hour, the day or the place.

‘What’s happening?’ asks Andrew, who is still asleep though standing. And Rocky lunges, grabbing a sword and slashing in the night, until held back by James. I also hold him, this dear madman.

‘Remember, Rocky, we must be helpless now - like lambs to the slaughter.’ 

‘I will never be helpless!’

‘You will be helpless beyond your knowing, my friend. But fear nothing; we shall all do our best and fear nothing. Shall we go?’

Young Mark runs away and proves a quick fellow; too quick for the soldier who grabs at him. He seizes only Mark’s robe, which the boy leaves behind in his hands, running naked into the night, towards the city. And I hear Rocky say to Levi, ‘What’s going on with Jude?’

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My Julian talk

Posted by Simon Parke, 29 March 2021, 6.46am

This is a transcript of my talk on Julian of Norwich at St Luke’s, Holloway on Palm Sunday.

She was like one of those serial killers when the neighbours discover the awful truth.

‘Always kept himself to himself, that one.’ That’s what they say.

And Julian, one of the foremost women in English history, she kept herself to herself – particularly after she chose to be sealed in a cell, attached to St Julian’s church in Norwich.

She became an anchoress, one anchored to a place. A funeral service was sung at her bricking-in, as the door was bricked-up, stone by stone – because she would die there, she’d not be walking out, she’d be carried out, this was, in a manner, her tomb – though maybe also a throne, an unlikely throne.

It was here in the cell that she prayed; here she saw folk who came to her window for counselling. ‘If Carlsberg did counselling services…’

And it was here she became the first woman to write a book in English. Chaucer and Langland were doing for the men, and Julian was doing it for the women, though more truthfully, she was doing it for everyone, after she was given sixteen visions on her deathbed.

She was so rough, so ill, so wasted, that her mother had declared her dead. She was definitely dead. The priest, though, said she wasn’t dead yet – but soon would be and gave her the last rites, holding the cross before her.

And then, when everyone had given up, including Julian – along came the visions, the revelations, the showings…and also, forty more years of life to reflect on them, to live them, to understand them, to write them down – and here they are!

The Revelations of Divine Love – the first book written by a woman in English.

She reminds me of Jesus, in a way. I mean, in terms of character, they were very different. But one big similarity. He’d often say he did not come to abolish the law or the prophets, that not a jot or tittle was under threat from him – but, in truth, he drove a convoy of camels through them. He left nothing standing, including the Temple.

And likewise, Julian paid endless lip service to Mother Church, declaring herself a faithful child of the received faith. But in her own sweet way – and it was sweet, you see, there’s no bitterness in Julian – she didn’t leave much standing either.

What she particularly dismantled was the church’s vision of God, who in those days was not a figure you’d want in, or anywhere near, your church.

He was psychotic, unpredictable, in constant need of calming down, in constant need of placating – ‘buy an indulgence, make a confession, whip yourself, starve yourself to death – anorexia mirabilis! - it’s worth a try, it’s the sort of thing he likes, he might give you a break’...

So, Julian was very shocked when her visions revealed no wrath in God at all, no judgement, no blame. ‘I found no wrath in God,’ she says. And breathe.

What was she to do with that?

Her Bishop, the bishop of Norwich, Henry Despenser, was constantly furious. He had to lead some services, of course, it goes with the job, but he was never happier than when killing the Scots or the French. We’ve all been there.

But he was only mimicking the endless rage of his God. Guilt and fear - these were the pillars of the church. Guilt and fear! They brought in the money. They kept the faithful in order. They gave priests their authority: ‘Te absolvo’.

But what if God wasn’t angry?

You can see why Julian had to hide away to write…why her work had to be smuggled out, to re-surface eventually in a monastery in France. There was no place for that sort of talk in England, the book burnings had begun; and by the end of her life, so had the people-burnings. England now incinerated its people. 

Julian wouldn’t be read in England for over six hundred years; so, for one of the foremost women in English history, she wasn’t to the fore at all.

But its all about the climate, isn’t it? I don’t know how you assess people – how do you assess people? Professional success? I’m told shoes are important. Or the quality of their cake sponge?

When I assess, I assess climate the climate people create around them. What climate does that person create around them? Because that is who they are. We create around us what we are.

And Julian created a climate of freedom – no judgement, no blame. Imagine that. Imagine that.

Imagine stepping away from the Jekyll and Hide God, who on the one hand loves us so much, ‘love you lots!’ - and on the other, is really very angry for much of the time and not at all happy with our performance, picking us up on even the smallest of things.

You always need to be apologising.

Imagine stepping away from that Jekyll and Hide God, who has lasted way beyond the 14th century – and Julian does step away. She steps right away.

And as soon as you take rage out of the equation, then the maths can accommodate something that looks and, more importantly, feels like love.

Once blame and shame are removed - and Julian does remove them - then the experience of love can flourish and we can breathe, we can weep for joy, we can exist.

And perhaps, who knows, the self-hate, the self-punishment, the sense of failure – perhaps these things can begin to dissolve in the sunlight? It is time.

‘I discovered that love is his meaning,’ she writes at the end of her Revelations. ‘I discovered that love is his meaning.’ And no wrath – no wrath at all.

I should say here, that Julian didn’t write about social issues.

You wouldn’t have known a plague was killing half of England as she wrote, bodies in the streets.

Neither would you know that social inequality brought into being the first organised political movement in English history, the Peasant’s Revolt, 20,000 men marching on London to speak with the king, led by the remarkable ex-priest – he was thrown out of the church - John Ball.

No hint of that in Julian; nor of the savage government reprisals, which included Norwich.

And unless you read very closely, you wouldn’t even know she lost a husband and child to the plague.

She didn’t write about these things. It wasn’t a misery memoir.

She preferred to speak of love, which may calm or infuriate – some do prefer the denouncements of social prophets, more relevant they say.

But that isn’t what Julian did. She spoke of love and the inner freedom it brings.

Spirit, matter and energy – these are different expressions of life: the spiritual, the physical, the wilful.

But Julian placed spirit at the core, and in particular, love.

If spirit, matter and energy are equals, then spirit is first among equals, love is first among equals, and let the others follow.

Spirit is the music; matter and energy are the dance.

As she says right at the end of her work, her final discovery: love is his meaning. And there is no meaning outside of this. What is the meaning of all this? Love.

And it’s this story, and this nailed-on fact, that is behind one of God’s strongest pastoral assertions in her visions which I have here put into verse:

First, all the things God didn’t say. Then the one thing God did say:

I never said that torment would not arrive, loud, at your place
I neither said you’d weary not, exhausted by the pace
I never said distress would pass you by, your dear life shun,
But I did say, please remember well, you shall not be overcome

Julian of Norwich had to stay secret; her freedom song had to wait for over 600 years. But the wait’s over and the secret’s out today.

She also said, by the by, that it is fine to speak of God as father, as long as we also speak of her as mother. But that’s for another day.

For now, we stay with the discovery with which she ends her writings: Love is his meaning. Love is her meaning – whatever that means for you and your one precious life today.

And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.’

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Chronos and Kairos - it's about time

Posted by Simon Parke, 23 March 2021, 10.08am

Chronos and Kairos, you’ll know the difference between these two time-keepers.

Chronos is clock time, something linear. The day begins, the day continues, the day ends.

Kairos is about the propitious moment, the right time, a window of opportunity; it is synchronicity and revelation.

Both describe time but describe it differently and lead to different experiences. Time will not be contained by the clock.

We have all, on occasion, been slaves to Chronos, watching the minutes as they tick slowly by. 

Or sat in traffic, aware we’re going to be late. The grip of Chronos can be harsh.

But we have also known Kairos, when time stands still, or passes in a flash, when something is revealed; when, for a moment, the clock is entirely irrelevant.

Chronos is methodical, reliable, inevitable and has its place. Sometimes its time-keeping is helpful, if we need to wake up, catch a train or take a cake out of the oven.

Kairos is more elusive, less obviously practical, mysterious, a wild child who won’t be told – but who, on arrival, makes everything new.

Kairos can overturn Chronos’ furniture, which is sometimes disturbing.

Some call Kairos ‘spiritual time’ and in the Bible’s New Testament, it gets eighty six mentions against the fifty four times Chronos is used. Here it is the propitious moment, the divine now.

We will spend much of our lives walking in step with Chronos, aware of the time, and where we need to be, and when, and with who.

There is grace here.

Though we stay open to Kairos and her kind visits - looking away from the clock and into the sky for the moments that make all things worthwhile.

Kairos won’t be tamed or caged; but she is drawn to the open heart and can bring eternity to our door -

- in something less than sixty seconds.


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My words to some sixteen-year-olds

Posted by Simon Parke, 10 March 2021, 2.29pm

I was recently asked to speak with a group of sixteen-year-olds on mental wellbeing.

Here is my inadequate summing up after our question and answer session:

‘You will feel you have to grow up, and you’ll want to grow up. Probably some here have had to grow up already, in ways they don’t wish to.

But in the race to be adult, stop sometimes and give yourselves a break. Where you are is fine.

I don’t actually believe anyone can become an adult until around the age of thirty, which gives you some space. It doesn’t surprise me that neither the Buddha nor Jesus got going in public until then.

It takes time to get there; it can’t be hurried.

To become an adult, you need to put distance between yourselves and your childhood; you’ll need clear blue water between the two, so you can assess truly.

This is impossible for you now - you are immersed in it, you can’t see it, though it has shaped you significantly.

Some years will need to pass before you can understand the transactions around you; and begin to be free.

You’ll need also to experience the world of work, the struggle and delights. I often see people in their mid-twenties who are experiencing difficulties – I call it the quarter-life crisis.

They have everything they thought they wanted when at school – a job, some money, a flat, a partner, holidays in Bali - but they’re not happy.

By the age of thirty, you can understand the internal legacy of your childhood; and you’ll have seen for yourself the world and its ways.

And from this fire of experience, you can forge your own sense of self – rather than the self that others might have given you.

And that is true adulthood. Being adult is not about age – for many never get there. It’s about self-awareness. It’s about understanding your journey.

But for now, there’s no rush to get there. You will be rushing, of course – for the benefits and allure of adult life, like some mythical City of Gold, can appear endless.

When I was sixteen, I wanted only to get there. You know much more than I ever did, really you do – mental health was not on my school agenda; it is on yours.

But still you may want the same – to be adult!

But there is no rush. And, in a way, the more you rush, the slower you travel. Adult life can’t be grasped; only arrived at.

Better for now to live the life before you, noticing what you enjoy, who makes you feel good and who shackles your spirit. You’re allowed to be young.

Push yourself hard, of course; be as successful as you can be in whatever you do. Make the most of your lovely talents. Work on those, be your best!

But, more important still, be kind to yourself because you will be overwhelmed along the way. Strong emotions can smash us as hard as any crashing wave.

Schools can sometimes press the ‘success’ and ‘failure’ buttons. It’s understandable. They inhabit an impoverished educational system, in which they are judged largely on exam data.

But in the real world, there’s no such thing as failure; only exploration; while success, it turns out, is mostly luck - not something often mentioned.

So, in the race to grow up, do remember to stop sometimes and enjoy being your wonderful self here and now.

And trust the unfolding – rather than insisting on it speeding up. Believe me, when you get to my age – a long way off, I know - you’re wishing it would all just slow down a little.

You’re going to be more than fine…’

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Remember when you were well?

Posted by Simon Parke, 09 March 2021, 5.38pm

It’s good being well.

When we are well, our primary energies come out to play which is brilliant.

These are energies, like fresh springs, that arise from our truest self and might include such delights as kindness, confidence, clarity, openness, justice, contentment, detachment, depth, capacity, passion, generosity, identity, vitality, initiative and courage.

When we are not so well, and it happens, we tend to fall back on secondary energies which appear in our lives like graffiti scrawled across a masterpiece.

These secondary energies can have a grip of steel on our spirit and often overwhelm us.

Energies like despair, pride, judgement, negativity, resentment, rage, fear, self-pity, jealousy, depression and anxiety have their own bleak force within us.

We won’t argue with them because that really doesn’t work. We’ll speak with them, they all have their reasons - but we won’t argue.

Though neither will we honour them with statues, as if they are valid in any way at all, for they really aren’t.

They’re ghosts.

As D.E.Harding once said, ‘Our happiness is deep-rooted and real; while our despair is shallow-rooted and unreal, born of delusion and ignorance. We suffer because we overlook the fact that we are all right.’

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Locating God

Posted by Simon Parke, 02 March 2021, 2.03pm

In locating God, we may need something other than the traditional grammar of success.

So, we’ll not locate God in statistics of religious attendance, up or down; for it is well known Hitler could draw a good crowd. And Buddha and Jesus died almost alone.

Neither will we locate God in the public utterances of religious leaders; history simply will not allow and may laugh with impolite disdain at all who attempt it.

And we’ll not locate God in morality which is a tired cultural animal possessing a thousand expressions and an ally in Order and Judgement – but with no known links to the divine.

We’ll not even locate God in community support, in the running of foodbanks or clubs, tempting though it is; for while altruism asks questions of the godless squad, in the human heart, it is too mixed a metal to be proof.

Instead, we give up the argument, we give up the fight – and glimpse God, like smoke in the wind, like lining between joints, in all things; in the interstices of life between vulnerability’s cry and creation’s green joy.

In the mending of life; in the pilgrimage from denial, we find footprints; and rumours in the air of the numinous pulse, this irreducible presence.

Clothe it and the clothes won’t fit; the cloth will instantly rip and burn.

Here we cross a threshold, we trespass on holy land; and in our hearts, away from scrutiny and hurt, know it for the first time. 

A grammar of success difficult to speak of.

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Posted by Simon Parke, 01 March 2021, 5.38am


No need to run away. Most of the fear we feel is an out of date response, a memory of former times

Observe carefully what is going on inside yourself. Truthful observation is key to growth

The path is kind, always kind. We will be given what we need

It’s OK to be disturbed by what we feel

Calm always comes after the storm

Enlightenment comes when we are able to sit with reality and allow it to lead us home

Shellie Parke


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Making anxiety speechless

Posted by Simon Parke, 23 February 2021, 5.10pm

When anxiety arrives at night, do not deal with it.

Your defences are down, it will have all the best lines; lines enough to keep your body in its grip.

So instead, look away from anxiety’s pressing breath and find your little self in the dark; the child from whom you grew.

And once found, greet and hug, greet and hug - and talk with them, your soul mate; for they know more of now than you do.

Speak of your adventures together; so many down the years and some not easy.

Praise your little self for all they managed, and all they survived; tell them just how well they did.

Because it’s true.

And celebrate with a smile and a wink how far you have come - each carrying the other.

Who’d have thought it?

And then praise them again, and love them again, for they did all they could; they could not have done more.

And as you laugh together, you might turn and find anxiety speechless and your body quite free of its grip.

Today is always about yesterday.

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