May 25, 2009
on top of the world (well England)
What a crazy idea, climbing the highest Mountain in England on a sunny May Bank Holiday. As we walked down the road to our starting point there were cars parked on the verges nose to tail for about a mile. As we began the climb it was the equivalent of the hikers M1. People like ants swarmed the mountainside making a beeline for the summit.
Many made it, young and old, some in trainers and shorts, others (like us!) in their mountaineering gear, English, Japanese, Italian and more nationalities besides, some running, some plodding, everyone sweating. A mass of humanity in search of the prize - to stand on top of England and look down on the world. Cameras were produced to record the moment. Some grabbed phones to call home and report on their momentous achievement (and the weather, and what they were having for lunch). Most took a moment to wonder. To look in awe. To give thanks.
Then sandwiches eaten, photo taken, it was time to step off the top and make the long walk home.
May 22, 2009
Quiet in the studio please: Part two
So as mentioned previously, I have been in the recording studio for a couple of days this week. To what end? Recording one of my books 'The Beautiful Life' for MP3 download; whatever that is.
Of course, it's highly stressful having to read your own material at the best of times; but to do it with a sound engineer, who can hear a mouse change its mind, is even more so. The brain melts, and you feel as though you've got various pieces of furniture in your mouth, stopping anything approaching clear speech.
I wasn't always to blame. Sometimes we'd have to stop if a police siren was particularly loud. There's obviously alot of crime in Putney which needs attending to; and everyone likes to flaunt their siren now and again. But do they realise the artistic damage they are inflicting? Ye gods! So you will understand my hissy-fits, temperamental tantrums and frequent walk-outs:'I can't go on!' Art is pain, believe me.
We also had problems with rumbling stomachs. The hour before lunch on both days involved many takes, as one or other of us disappointed. We gave up apologising to each other after a while, as technically, it isn't really a sin. Just a fucking nuisance. 'Take 43' was oft heard...
I also discovered a large number of words I am happy to write, but can't pronounce. It will be worth getting the download just to hear my pathetic attempts at the word 'curiousity' - which appears frequently. Though obviously I'll never use it again...
As the saying goes, I've suffered for my art; now its your turn.
May 21, 2009
The Truth Mirror
There is a truth mirror that appears when life beckons us to explore
deeper truths about ourselves.
It appears when the surface truths we have told ourselves, or have been told no longer suffice and we sense the pretence,
This is when our journey of true discovery begins.
It takes courage and a willingness to tune into a different kind of
seeing and hearing.
A willingness to let go of the 'certainties' that went before and allow the nothingness to replace them.
In the nothingness the deeper truths appear and are recognized.
The truth mirror is a gentle guide; it shows what is without blame or
It will wait patiently when we run away from the truth it tells.
It allows us to rant, rave, scream and cry, for it knows that there is
often an inner battle to be fought for truth.
It is a friend who always tells the truth whether we like it or not.
The truth mirror celebrates our laughter of recognition when we start to see through our made up truths, for it knows we are on our way.
The truth mirror never needs to use any kind of force or persuasion
because the deep truths are already within us.
It just shows us what is and waits patiently for our recognition.
May 20, 2009
I was going to stay away from the blog for a while, as I am engaged with a death at the moment but Shelliz bringing the blog round to that subject and particularly to attachment, has made me return because I have been thinking about these things and also about time – from the viewpoint of this strange capsule that death and birth put you in.
The Greeks called the time we think of as time, ie the time our watches and clocks depict, chronos but they had another word for time kairos, what Madeleine L’Engle describes as
“that time which breaks through chronos with a shock of joy, The saint in contemplation, is in kairos. The artist at work is in kairos. The child at play, totally thrown outside herself in the game, is in kairos.”
I’ve also been having some kairos moments, - when I just get it. I am one and the same time fully engaged with the world and the present moment to such an extent that I lose my attachment to it. It’s not that my grief is not there but I’m just part of it and get a shock of perspective that it’s all OK. God is here and we are here, the earth is here, heaven is here. Things are not divided one from another. Like a great spirit that covers all of heaven and earth and does not know the difference. All will be well. Just a momentary understanding that I belong to Love rather than love belonging to me. This is, of course, before chronos takes over again and my defences return and I’m back to my more anxious and attached daily life.
I have loved this poem for many years which is about that movement from chronos to kairos.
What the Living Do
Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up
waiting for the plumber I still haven't called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It's winter again: the sky's a deep headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through
the open living room windows because the heat's on too high in here, and I can't turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street the bag breaking,
I've been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,
I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.
What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss -- we want more and more and then more of it.
But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep
for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm speechless:
I am living, I remember you.
~ Marie Howe ~
Quiet in the studio please
Today, I'm going to spend the second of two days in a recording studio.
Rumours abound of course. Some say I'm laying down an exquisite new guitar riff on Eric Clapton's latest offering.
Others, that I'm helping Nigella Lawson with the fiddly bits in her new TV series 'Big Banana Surprise!'
Others still, that I've signed with Max Clifford, in preparation for my kiss-and-tell expose of my recent 'nights of passion' with famous author, Katie Price.
None of these are true, however. Certainly not the Eric Clapton story anyway. So what am I doing?
May 19, 2009
Going to the Garden of Sadness
I've had a difficult few days, sad days, pain filled May days.
I call them May days, but they don't always happen in May. This is because when I look back in my journals I find the gate to Garden of Sadness is often left ajar at this time.
Two out of the three of my baby daughters that died have May Birthdays, so I understand the tears and pain associated with the remembering of their short little lifes, the utter emptiness I felt and the confusion as somehow I tried to make sense of something that made no sense and if I am honest still doesn't.
But the May days are more than this, they take me to the places I want to avoid, to preparing to let go of people I care for now places, I'm not even sure why, sometimes I feel it would be better not to go to these places, it's like causing myself pain for no reason and why do that? maybe it would be better just to deal with things as they come.
But something inside tells me that it is important for me to do this, even though I don't fully understand, It's kind of letting go of people in order to love them well if that makes any kind of sense.
On Sunday I went for a walk and picked up a fallen bloom for each person in my life now whom I am attached to and one at a time I let them fall into a small pond along with my tears, I not sure if I'm any less attached and I still love them very much, but the pain inside has lessened and maybe that's what the going to the Garden of Sadness is all about.
Just releasing the pain we all carry inside.
May 18, 2009
Who's on trial?
It's been my privilege to lead a few retreats recently; some long, some short; all good.
Is there pressure to deliver?
People sometimes imagine it's the retreat leader who's on trial; and deliver their judgement accordingly:
So some will say: 'You were utterly shit, really disappointing, and a dark place for me.'
While others will say, 'You were utterly brilliant, really wonderful, and a source of such light!'
Of course, these dear people are not talking about the retreat leader; they are talking about themselves; about the textures and states they have discovered within.
The retreat leader is neither shit nor brilliant; just a space they have stumbled into, and from which they now declare.
May 15, 2009
Clothe me round the while my path illuming.
Our May Day celebrations are seen as the spark that renders the village aimiable and sunblest for the coming months. The first bee on the honeysuckle and the cows lowing into the pasture after a winter confined to the dark pens. Everything passed as ordered. Franny Sourdough from Grimley Hall was undisputed Queen of the May and wore her crown with pensive dignity. No one appeared much disappointed that the bearded ladies had been diverted by offers of lashings of ginger beer at the Little Pebbledash event. They are better value in front of a roaring fire in Advent. Wimborne St. Giles, who has taken up residence at the Hall, was persuaded, I use the term loosely, to give a series of monologues which included his well tempered 'Horatio's Lament'. I'd heard it on several occasions, and am surprised it drew such an audience. Mr Kipling and Totty Dribbett, some of her 't's are silent, were rapt in their applause. The jousting was sporadic. It was billed as 'fun jousting'. Can you imagine?
So everyone had a good day but the joy was confined. Has festive rectitude marred this lighthouse in our calendar?
How curmudgeonly I have become. No gloom in this village as the annual swine fever preparations are underway. Mrs Minchin usually leads the dousing, swatting and overvexing. Sadly an avian virus has rendered her confined behind muslin curtains. I've applied poultice of comfrey and a ready beverage of feverfew infusions. Bless her, all she asks about is the well being of all the other folk at the hall. The Knights have shewn great consideration and have been polishing their own Round Table. There has been an outbreak of poetry and I have been picking up hexametres and sonnets and I found this unidentified note under the Parlour door.
'Today the Hall sounds like Babel
So, I'm orf to my horse in the stable.
Kindly cut me a slice
Beery beef would be nice
I'll be out, not at the Round Table'.'
Fancy, spring must be here after all. The Grim Reaper has lead a ramble through the bluebell woods. She always said that Johnny would have a new master and this, as yet unidentified man and has plans for a hotel in the village. Fancy, again. I must wash my curtains and bleach my nets as it seem this high street is to attract fine travellers. After dusk I will meet the rat catcher's mother at the Heron's Bill and we'll toy with something vermouth as we discuss the week's events.
May 11, 2009
The Debate Goes On
Following on from Mr BJ's blog,I was walking on Hampstead Heath yesterday with a couple of friends when the coversation came round to the politicians expenses claims, between the three of us we had quite a debate.
We decided that, if you are earning a salary of up to £160,000, then you are probably one of the few people who can actually afford to buy two homes and pay for them yourself!
Also we considered the idea that some of these people obviously are not in tune with the little voice inside, which surely would have been saying "hey, come on now, don't you think you're taking the piss"
But what really interested us was that all the politicians had the same set of 'Rules' to go by, but only some some chose to use these to their complete finacial advantage, while others chose only to claim sensible outgoings, I know which kind of people I'ld rather have in Government.
As a wise man once said 'By your deeds be Known'
How good it is to hear politicians defending themselves over their expenses claims for chandeliers and property empires. 'I broke no rules,' they say. Good point, well made. What's the fuss about?
And then, rather nostalgically,I'm off down memory lane. The last time I witnessed such a stampede for legal exemption was the Nuremburg war crimes trials, and like today's politicians, the defendants there were absolutely right. No rules had been broken, technically speaking - it was all quite legal under the Third Reich.
As for me, I can't think of a rule I wouldn't happily break; legal means nothing.
Though I do weep for my attitudes sometimes.
May 10, 2009
The Beautiful Life Retreat Part 8 'Reflection'
Before we left Abbey House Retreat Center we were asked by the staff whether we minded filling in a feed back form on our retreat experience. What was good?, what could have made us more comfortable?, what could have made it better? etc.
Normally I have an aversion to filling in these types of forms, but for some reason I felt it important to fill this one in. Maybe because I sense the staff at Abbey House really care and want to do everything in their power to make the space as helpful as possible for retreatants to do the inner work they have come to do and also because I know many retreat Centers are being forced to change to fit in with a commercial marketplace, this takes away from their original vision and personally I think this is a deep shame.
Anyway I took my form home with me because I wanted time to reflect and really think about what I wanted to write.
While reflecting I realised that it is so important for me to have these retreat times put into my yearly diary, It is during these times when I step out of my busy day to day into the peaceful holding of one of these retreat Houses that the things that I have been working on (sometimes unconciously), the things I have written in my journal during the previous months have time to surface.
I have space to sit with them and make sense of my own journey and feel my connection to the Heartbeat of the world and to all creation.
I filled in my form and on the back I wrote
The Beautiful Life Retreat at Abbey House Allows Me
Space to Sit
Space to Know
Space to Ponder
Space to Grow
Space to Laugh
Space to Cry
Space to Dance
Space to Die
Always after Death comes New Life
May 05, 2009
The beautiful Life Retreat Part 7 ' The second dream '
After the caberet on Thursday evening, a few of us went for a walk in the abbey grounds,It was dark and the presence of the huge ruins towered above us, It was mostly quiet apart from the odd rustlings in the trees. As we stood in what would have once been the main part of the abbey, one of our group said "Wouldn't it be amazing if a line of monks came towards us chanting" I couldn't agree less as the mere thought absolutly petrified me.
Later that eveing before going to bed I asked my friend, that if I became really scared in the night could I come and find them, feeling reassured that this would be ok, I went to bed.
The second dream.
' I woke my whole body filled with fear, I felt my legs running and my heart pounding, and yet on another level I was aware that I was still in my little glastonbury bed.
Then I felt safe arms come around me from behind, they held me securly and I felt myself physically relax back into them, a thought went through my mind ' it's ok my friend has come and is holding me, i'm safe'
A feeling of warmth and comfort spread through my body, I was held and I was safe.
As I gradually came from sleeping to being awake it dawned on me that that the door to my room was locked so it was not my friends arms around me.
At that moment I knew that it was the 'Arms of Life' which are always there, but for the first time in my life, I consiously felt their physical presence.
May 04, 2009
The Beautiful Life Retreat Part 6 'Meditation of Attention'
Simon had ended one of the sessions by encouraging us to take part in a 'Meditation of Attention' The beauty of this meditation is that it can be done anywhere and the idea is that it helps us to focus, quieten our monkey minds and make connections between ourselves and other things/people in the world.
In the session I had chosen a small glass bottle and now in the silence I decided to go back to it.
The bottle is made of glass,
Ornate crystal glass,
As I stare,
The space inside the bottle becomes apparent,
I see myself as the bottle,
I can choose to fill myself up,
Or I can choose to be space,
Space for whatever comes along,
If I am always full it will prevent me from taking part in new experiences,
However this does mean I need to allow my contents to be tipped out often,
I ponder on how I feel about this,
I let my feelings surface and just sit with them,
They can not harm me, they are the ripples on the surface of the water.
My focus moves to the outside of the bottle,
It is hard and unmoving,
It has a beauty of sorts,
But it is easily chipped and broken,
In the glass on the outside a pattern has been imposed on it,
I realise that it wasn't there in the begining,
Not part of the original,
But where it is etched deep in places,
It allows the light inside,
Again I ponder, does it have any value?
The bottle has a stopper in the top,
Keeping the inside separate from the outside,
I have a urge to take the stopper out and discard it,
As I sit this urge becomes bigger and bigger until I step forward and remove the stopper,
My space is so much bigger than this small container.
I realise that this last sentence is a truth that comes to me over and over again and later I look back in my journal and find these words that I wrote at a time when everything around me was going a bit mad and threatening my well being.
I have so much space inside me
That nothing can overwhelm me
All can be held
And all things must pass
Leaving clear glorious space
May 02, 2009
Thou visitest the earth and blessest it.
The annual Parish meeting drew a good crowd. Fertie Fly Bleeting, the Parish Clerk makes an ale and figgy pudding which we serve at the end so there is no chance of anybody sneaking away before the Chairman's report. There were heads nodding in approval when the Planning committee announced a size 10 shoe for the old woman with so many children. It's an affordable shoe, a scheme that has been much publisized and the funding is available at the end of the rainbow. The Highways committee have been up to their necks in potholes. Several barouche have been unwheeled in the village and the Cranford Bracombe Gallop has been cancelled for two summers. Jack the lad is now walking again but it's said he'll never marry.
Lady Wellbender asked if there was any news on the coming of the railway. Once again, the Chairman, Sir Scrofula Stoat-Noser, with a wry smile, explained that the funding was still under wraps, somebody's wraps. There was some mumbling at the back as it's a commonly held assumption that he owns practically all the land from Bracombe to the sea.And, I daresay, beyond.
I sipped a Tansy infusion later with Drab Pam.
"Keep your friends close and your enemies closer and know the difference" she said. She always says that.
So the Maypole is up on the green and the Queen of the May is Clamyidia Larchwood. She's a lovely girl who used to step out with the piper's son. Mrs Minchin says he stole a pig but the evidence is flimsy and Mr Kipling says he has special needs. I can only assume they are crackling in whatever form.
The bearded ladies won't be here but Wing Wah and the Axe Man have prepared a juggling bonanza and the Bishop and Mrs Mitre are to present the prizes for the Donkey Fest and traditional Hawthorn Bundles.
Totty Dribbett, one of her Ts is silent, or used to be, is playing on Sunday. The hedgerows are dancing and singing for joy. Isn't May a wonderful month. It is in the village.
THe Beautiful Life Retreat Part 5 'Out of the Silence'
During the silence, I walked in the gardens and found a secluded place to sit on a small swing bench. I sat in this peaceful setting and just let myself be held by all that was unfolding around me, birdsong, fluttering butterflies, black and yellow flies that suddenly stopped and hovered mid-flight, two cocky robins who were having a disagreement about nesting materials, the changing colours of the ivy type plant that was creeping it's way up the wall beside me, the spider who had come to sit with me and two fruit trees that were bright with new growth on old wood.
I sat lost to time just being part of this sunderful(sunnny & wonderful) day.
I picked up my journal and wrote
'The tree begins to grow from it's small seed, it is left to grow and gets bigger and bigger.
Then comes a time for it to be cut back, there is so much wood and branches it no longer needs.
At first the cut seems quite savage, so much needs to be discarded.
But in time the new growth appears
New, Vibrant, Alive,
It comes from the very centre of the old.'
May 01, 2009
The Beautiful Life Retreat Part 4 'Rose's words'
I woke early on Thursday morning and opened my curtains, As I sat and looked out of my window at the remains of the two stone walls of the abbey reaching high into the sky, The refrain of Rose's poem came flooding back to me. Rose was a fellow retreatent who while looking at the ruins on Wednesday had written a very beautiful poem, she had kindly shared her words with me over supper.
Now these words spoke to me, childlike in their simplicity but so powerful
'I'm standing at the gates of freedom
They are reaching to the sky
I'm standing at the gates of freedom
They make me want to cry'
Hopeful tears escaped from my eyes and rolled down my face.
The mysterious case of the disappearing picture
Well, here I am again, all dusted down and shiny bright after recent exertions. And on one of these, i came across a zen painting kit.
It all starts out normally enough. You settle down, gather yourself and then dip your brush into the water. You then paint onto the board provided. You do your best, and it's all quite exciting to see what you create; only it then starts to fade as the board dries, finally disappearing completely. 'Sacre bleu!' you exclaim. So then you settle again, dip the brush in the water, and paint something else, which will also shortly disappear.
It's all about the impermanence of life; about drawing us into the flux of things coming, and then things going. So whether we imagine our picture to be a good picture or a bad picture is of no great consequence - for it is passing; and whether we drew on feelings of despair or happiness, again it doesn't matter; for these are impermanent states. As the board dries, and our picture fades, we just breathe them away.
It's a masterpiece in letting go.
P.S. I'd like to give this kit to some modern artists, because I feel that much of their work would benefit from disappearing. But they'd probably just turn it into a trendy 'installation', and after a feted season at the Tate, sell it to some rich doughnut for £1 million.