April 30, 2009
It's been too long
It's been too long; I'm defnitely going to write something here tomorrow.
This announcement could be a startlingly brilliant 'teaser' campaign. That's possible.
Or it could be that I just can't think of anything today. Which, if true, is disappointing... because today is all I have...
April 28, 2009
The Beautiful Life Retreat Part 3 The first dream
In the early hours of Thursday morning I had this dream
' The woman wanted to go and explore the attic but it was dark and she was scared so she killed her curiosity and didn't go.
The next day the sister of the daring little girl told the woman that the daring little girl had ventured into the attic and had found lots of exciting things and had brought some back with her. The woman wanted proof so she asked the sister to bring the proof to her.
The woman was jealous because the daring little girl had boldly taken the adventure she had wanted and so the woman was brought face to face with her lack of courage.
She felt anger stir in her, jealous anger.
When she had the proof in her hands she confronted the daring little girl, the girl looked the woman in the face with a difiant expression and said " I wanted to go, I wasn't afraid, I wanted to go"
The woman knew that the girl would not back down, she knew that in her jealousy she was trying to crush the little girls adventurous spirit because it reminded her of her own lack of courage.
The woman changed her tune and tried to make the girl feel bad by saying "what if something happened to you, I'm concerned, I need to know you are safe, I didn't know where you was"
Even as she said the words she knew that they were not entirly true, she knew she was trying to make the little girl feel bad for having an adventrous spirit.
The little girl just boldly looked her in the face because she could see through all the womans words'
This dream is all the more interesting to me as it links so clearly to my Enneagram number!
April 27, 2009
The Beautiful Life Retreat Part 2, Hugs & Kisses
On Wednesday morning I woke early and decided I would walk up the Glastonbury Torr before morning meditation.
As I made my way up the hill the Torr gradually appeared from the mist and when I reached the top I was surprised to see a herd of cows making their way towards me. I sat on the pathway step awhile and just watched in awe and wonder, being a London girl it felt like a real privilege to sit among them, one even licked my jacket which was on the step beside me. I turned towards the Torr Tower when I heard voices, two women walked out of it and said good morning, they were on holiday from Holland, we entered into a conversation and I said that sitting amongst the cows had brought tears to my eyes, then this stranger from another country said to me that she knew what I meant and then she said she felt she wanted to give me a hug, she hugged me warmly and afterwards her friend gave me an equally warm hug. Next they invited me to follow them into the tower and once inside we stood holding hands in a holy circle and shared a beautiful prayerful silence.
After my new friends left I stayed inside the Tower sitting on the stone bench,I felt full of happiness, then my other friends the cows came and surrounded the tower and captured me inside, they filled both the entrances and three walked inside and stood beside me.
I ended up missing the morning meditation but I had experienced a most wonderful alternative morning meditation with Kissing cows and Hugging Dutch women.
April 26, 2009
The Beautiful Life Retreat Part 1
Having arrived back from the Beautiful Life Retreat on friday I thought I might share some of my journey with the beautiful readers of this blog.
I arrived at Abbey House in Glastonbury on Monday, The Retreat House is a wonderful building surrounded by beautiful gardens which back onto the Glastonbury Abbey Ruins.
Having been to Abbey House before I relax and settle quickly, My Room is painted light green, with two little beds one for me and one for my case, a small writing table and chair, there are two small comfy chairs and a tiny round table infront of the window which has a view of the Abbey ruins.
The Beautiful life Retreat is held by Simon's book of the same name, during the week there are 10 hour long structured meetings which consist of words, silence and meditations, there are also morning and eveing meditations in the chapel, on Wednesday eveing there is a short get together where Simon introduces the Enneagram to anyone who is interested, on Thursday afernoon there is a 5 hour silence, a retreat within a retreat, all these things are entirely optional and there is plenty of time around these structured events to walk to the Glastonbury Torr, explore the ruins, use the art room, practice a caberet act for Thursday eveing or go for walk around the town. Glastonbury itself holds an intresting mix of people but all the locals seem very friendly.
Back to my personal retreat on Monday night I recorded in my journal
"It's your wake up call"
"You took your time"
"Me.....I've never stopped knocking,
But you have just began to listen"
Interesting events are about to unfold......
April 19, 2009
Book Review - "The Enneagram of Passions and Virtues" by Sandra Maitri
This book is not an Introduction to the Enneagram, and this book review might not make sense to those unfamiliar with it. For a brief intro go elsewhere on Simon’s site to Consultancy or Books.
I discovered the Enneagram about 20 years ago and have found it invaluable in understanding myself and some of my friends and family who have also discovered it. However, I was complaining to a friend that I wanted to go deeper with it, rather than going around it again and she recommended Sandra Maitri’s Passions and Virtues book. I also misheard her and have read it before Maitri’s first book “The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram” but I would follow the advice my friend was trying to give me and read that one first.
“Passions and Virtues” does what it says on the tin. After an introduction, there are 9 chapters clustered not numerically but in corners – the outer corner with 9, 8 and 1; the image corner with 3, 2 and 4 and the fear corner with 6, 5 and 7. This meant, as a 6, I had to wait a long time to get to “mine” but my friend had wisely counselled me not to go straight to it. One of the gifts of the book was that there isn’t a chapter in it that you cannot relate to which immediately communicated the wisdom beneath the Enneagram – that we are all connected and struggle to not be bound by our passions whilst the virtues can feel forever elusive. In each chapter, Maitri describes the transformational process for each Ennea-type from their passion to their virtue. So, for a 9 from laziness to action, for an 8 from lust to innocence, for a 1 from anger to serenity, for a 3 from deceit to veracity, for a 2 from pride to humility, for a 4 from envy to equanimity, for a 6 from fear to courage, for a 7 from gluttony to sobriety and for a 5 from avarice to non-attachment.
The assumption of the book is based in what Freud called psychodynamic theory though the Ennegram had got there first. This is the world-view which says that when we were children we reacted to our environment in a way that gets hardwired as our main defence against the world. In Enneagram terms, this is our Enneatype. However, it is largely unconscious so to become aware of it and then to try to live more freely from it is a long and complex process – albeit apparently simple: we merely have to accept ourselves. This is why when we manage it in any shape or form, it feels like coming home which is the sub-title of the book – “Finding the way home”. Or as Eliot once magnificently put it:
“the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time”
Maitri bravely describes what this transformational process feels like for each Enneatype. It therefore does not make for light reading but equally she writes clearly and explains any psychological jargon. In my view, she uses the most useful insights of psychotherapy. Sometimes I wondered if she could have been more concise but maybe the subtleties of our inner processes require her careful slow unfolding. What results is nothing less than a map of the inner world of being human seen through the lens of the Enneagram, coloured by the understanding of psychotherapy and strongly flavoured with a good dose of Buddhism.
I believe I have understood the Enneagram much more deeply than I have understood it before but for me, the most compelling thing about this great achievement of a book is its spirituality. It sings of compassion and urges self-compassion from beginning to end. The message of each chapter is: “Dare to look at yourself. See your immense loveliness. See your less attractive moments. Do not focus all your energy on judging and banishing. Be merciful. Just keep looking and noticing and allowing your soul to simply be and be open to the reality of all that life is and slowly, by slowly, freedom will come and it will feel like home”.
April 16, 2009
The 8th wonder of the world revealed
I know every parent thinks their own child is especially interesting and bright etc etc. So am I being stupidly over-proud when I say that my toilet cistern may well be the 8th Wonder of the World? I believe it is - and therefore deserving of its own special shrine or chapel - it could be called the Cistern Chapel.
The reason I say all this is simple: I have so far had three visits from the plumbers, and it still isn't mended. Which makes me think they are just so fascinated by it, they're looking for reasons to come back.
There's a certain pride in all this, obviously. Hell, I'm not looking for fame but who wouldn't jump at the chance - sell their soul even? - for a two page feature about their own toilet in 'Plumbing News' or 'The Daily Drain'?
They're certainly not mending it, anyway. So far my admirers/plumbers have been Chris, Will and Tony. I'm hoping the next one's called Gordon, because if he's successful, I'll call him 'Flush Gordon', and we'll dance around like the Thunderbirds of old, shouting: 'All cisterns are go!'
But that's probably enough lavatory humour for now.
April 13, 2009
When Will We Learn?
When will we learn?
That our head is shit at understanding!
We do our best to break things down
And put things back together,
Which just dregs up more and more questions,
All squabbling around in our brain,
Crying out to be answered,
Never adding up, never making sense,
Then sometimes a lull,
Until another thought throws itself in
To stir up the turmoil once again,
Causing bad tempers, self doubts, self recriminations, the blaming of others and many many other destroyers of the soul.
When will we learn to listen with our hearts?
Learn that it is ok not to know
And that we do not need to have answers ready.
Learn to allow the unknowing, allow the stillness,
Learn to trust that that what's to be will be.
For only in this place do mysteries unravel
And what we need to know rises up from the center of our being
And is placed on a beautiful silver serving dish upon our lap.
Then all the other things that torment and challenge our stupid little brains, float away and no longer disturb us,
With their constant itchings and demands to be scratched.
When we let our hearts choose our companions
Then beautiful friendships will grow,
When we let our hearts reach out to those we find difficult
We will watch our resentments disappear,
Leaving space that allows us to connect in a healthier way.
Even as I write I accept that I do not fully understand,
As Julian once wrote
'All shall be well and all manner of things shall be well'
I can let go of the 'how' 'when and 'why'
And give up the 'because of this' and 'caused me to do that'
Let's take ourselves out of the 'knock on effect'
And say 'I am not going to be used, knock on without me'
Come with me and be a rebel,
Let's step out and watch
As others try to work out how to control life,
Knowing it is a search without ending.
Only when we are open to receive,
Then and only then does life release it's gifts.
Let's listen with our hearts
And walk the paths they show us,
Believe that any answers needed will be found in the journey,
Let's trust and enjoy the mystery,
Knowing 'All is well'.
April 11, 2009
The Fool sits and watches
All the people around her
Getting on with their busy lives,
Things to do, people to meet, places to be,
Up when things are going well
Down when things are bad
Happy when the sun shines
Pissed off when it rains.
She smiles to herself
Not because she's any different
But just because she knows she's a fool!
April 09, 2009
the death of a good flower
The daffodils are looking a little bent and tired.
No offence, but some are looking seriously shrivelled, and it's all just a bit of a shock. Because daffodils are bright yellow trumpets trumpeting spring. So to see them so down, so hang-dog, so dry and stooping - well, it's not helpful, is it? I mean, what's going on?
Though I grant you, this may speak more of me than them; my need for these blossoms to be something, when I can't be that myself.
Because here's the truth, they have been brilliant, and next year, they will be brilliant all over again; no word of a lie.
They're only dying today so they can return tomorrow, and really you can't knock that.
It's just hard to watch sometimes...the death of a good flower.
April 05, 2009
Sheds on our path the glow of day...
It is no more than a furlong to the old Schoolmaster's house. I was on my way to plan the forthcoming egg events for the childrens' Easter treat. We usually roll them down Hennyman Hill, hard boiled and dyed in such shades as nature can add to a vat of water. Today the walk took me an age as the street was teeming with villagers heading to the Spring Flower show and the village store for pastries, fancies or the tired old tarts inevitably left on the shelf.
The Grim Reaper was looking unusually light hearted and in sprigged muslin, already. "Gadso" I exclaimed, for it is well known that April can be the cruellest month and it is unwise to cast off the gaberdine and fustian before the clouts in May. She could do no other, so she said, than hope to win the Simnel Cake class at the flower show and she felt so well after her cabbage poultices that... and so she hurried on and I believe she was smiling.
Shocked, I continued and there was Mr Kipling actually sitting down on a milk churn. He too was surprised by his encounter with the Grim Reaper. She so rarely smiles. I enquired if he was entering his almond slices at the show but he declared that this year he too had acted out of character and entered the decorating an Easter Bonnet class. I wished him good luck and turned away bumping into Drab Pam, three daffodils in a vase and Scarlet Temptress desperate to win something with her shortbread.I will be sure to go along after the judging this afternoon. No doubt Sir Loin bien Cuit will be there with his French Marigolds.
The old Schoolmaster was out in the street too. Some of the Knights had trotted past and their horses produce a good amount of high octane garden fuel. He had a bucket and shovel and his dog, of course
We shared a dandelion tea and decided to enlist the help of Tom the Piper's son for music now we've taught him some more tunes. He's earning tree shillings a week and the Piper is glad to have him kept away from pigs at the weekends. Turning down the Schoolmaster's kind offer of a cold collation I returned home to find that the Postman had been.
There was a letter from Sir Cum Locution at present on furlough somewhere in the next county. He has such a beautiful and distinctive hand. There was also the report of the Village Council who met at the Great Hall last month.
Planning Matters.....The old woman who lived in a shoe is to be moved to one of the proposed affordable houses.
The Badger Fair is to be allowed to continue as an annual event so long as they can prove they are TB aware.
Fouling on the Tilting Green has been noted.
The Hadron Collider is not to be used by any children or the insane.
The Procrastination Liaison with Larkrise is to be postponed.
I will pass this on to the Ratcatcher's mother when we meet for a Gin and It at the Stranglers Arms this evening. She is drearily introspective and needs to be more aware of village matters.
April 04, 2009
I stare into the Lenten mirror and nothing stares back at me
It's been a long empty barren Lent for me. Kind friends tell me that's what Lent's meant to be but it doesn't feel like what I imagine the hot desperate passionate suffering of Christ must have been like - and then I think well maybe I did meet my demons and of course, it wasn't very pleasant - and does feel very dull as I've got to know them all quite well by now except of course that there's always a trickster in the pack.
Anyway, just as the Holy Week station approaches and there really does feel nothing to report - this is extra worrying as I've got to produce something spiritually nourishing for other people next week - a poet showed up at the 11th hour. Poets have been my preachers for such a long time now - maybe always have been actually. I live in Oxford and we have just had the Literary Festival. I've never been - it happens in the university and isn't really my scene. Indeed entering big marquees in the grounds of Christchurch college did feel like being an unkempt kid with chocolate all over her face at knee level in a very upper class wedding. However, I was prepared to infiltrate these strange ranks to worship at the altar of David Whyte. I had been very strongly recommended by the 2 friends I was with - we were late and so were indeed like the 3 wraggle taggle gypsies at the back of the class.
I had been put off by his website - he is Anglo-Irish but lives in the States and so charges thousands of pounds to go and spend a week with him in the Lake District. Suddenly all those literary people letting me in for £7.50 seemed very kind indeed. I'm not sure he (or anyone else) is worth thousands of pounds but I recommend an hour in his company strongly. Like John O'Donohue (who he is very like and they were friends), in that hour it all seems so simple and then you go blinking back out into the sunshine of a normal day and you know quite soon it will feel complex again. But it was great to be reminded. And to be fair, he never said it was simple. He talks of life not as if you are at the centre of it naming things but that you pay attention to things and they speak back to you. It is a conversation. And how this is like poetry - that we try in our little garrets to name things but we need the external world to speak back to us:
Everything is Waiting for You
Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.
Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.
-- David Whyte
from Everything is Waiting for You
©2003 Many Rivers Press
April 01, 2009
A working breakfast
I'm just back from a 'recession-busting' breakfast at Downing Street. All pretty high-powered: just me, the Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Barack Obama.
I know there's pressure on us all but I feel it went very well.
I could have done with the bacon being a little crispier, but the mushrooms were a delight, the eggs sunny side up, and the tomatoes beautifully grilled - with just the right amount of pepper.
I can't remember what we discussed. To be honest, our mouths were pretty full most of the time, and Gordon loves his toast and jam! But I do remember the coffee was both hot and strong, which is not always the case at these things.
So green shoots of hope, in a way.