Simon Parke  
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      A Hearse at Midnight   Cover of Conversations with Leo Tolstoy   Picture of the cover of One Minute Mindfulness.

Simon outside a chapel on Rhodes

It wasn’t just the goats

Newsletter: October 2022

Hello again, dear web friend

And I’m aware it has been a while. It isn’t that I haven’t thought of you, because I have thought of you often, kind friends on the journey. There is a particular way in which, like the warm sea, you hold my existence. This, of course, doesn’t mean you can’t unsubscribe, which is the most natural thing to do after reading this. You still held me for a moment; and that was enough. It’s best we take holding duties in turn. We can’t always be the holder.

But to return to my mail silence, it is simply that things have been busy, very busy, too busy – and though it may not appear so, a letter like this requires a pause, a deep breath, a deliberate step away from things pressing, and things have pressed hard. But perhaps now is the moment.

Most of my life (which has never gone to plan and continues in the same manner) is spent as a therapist, seeing people face-to-face or on the ubiquitous Zoom. This can sometimes drain and sometimes reward in significant ways. The honest human being (there are a few) desiring consciouness above self-image is one of the great wonders of the world; and more remarkable than any remarkable pyramid. And whatever the presenting issue – and they vary – this quest for the conscious life is at the heart of the therapy story. The poet Ted Hughes called it the difference between the primary and secondary self.

I write a little about consciouness here in a blog post, Shape-shifters Anonymous.

But in between, I’ve done a few things that I now run up the informational flagpole.

1) I ran a marathon at the end of July to celebrate my 65th birthday. I did it to challenge my body and spirit, since ’65 is the new 20’ and nonsense like that. But more importantly, due to humbling generosity (you?) the run raised £3,000 for Ukrainian familes in Seaford. Here’s a video of me at the finish line in odd head gear…

2) August saw me leading a five-day retreat at Sheldon on Vincent Van Gogh. It was an unusual retreat for me, in that our focus of attention was not virtue or some magnificent figure from the past, but rather, on a man more dysfunctional than any of us; and that’s saying something. So, quite the opposite of aspirational. And the question: could we turn human frailty and damage into something creative in us? It seems the answer was yes. Vincent – and his pictures – were good company. Maybe his struggles so echo our own that we feel un-judged in his presence, able to relax with him; and self-knowledge only arises when we are relaxed. ‘This is what it is like to be human, and that’s OK.’

Here’s one of the scenes from his life we reflected on. The day Vincent was praised... fascinating.

3) I’m presently travelling to London every week to deliver some Enneagram sessions to a group gathered by St Luke’s, Holloway. It has been good to re-visit the Enneagram material, left behind for a while. The biggest challenge, of course, is not the sessions themselves but the travel. Nothing really works in the UK at present, as you may have noticed. The cold fingers of societal dysfunction are everywhere – law courts, doctors, ambulances, the post, benefits, trains, social care, sewage pollution, fracking, national finances, trust, etc., etc.  This makes any train arriving or leaving on time – or nearly on time, let’s not be picky – a source of great joy, with tears of shock and gratitude.

Here’s my beginner’s guide to the Enneagram, just in case you’re wondering what on earth I’m talking about. If it’s any consolation, I’m wondering the same.

4) And finally, over the past 12 months, I’ve been writing the final Abbot Peter mystery (as opposed to the final Abbot Peter misery, which was my first attempt at the word). It’s called An Inconvenient Convent and will be out in a month or so. But I’ll talk more about it when it’s available.

This was Abbot Peter’s previous adventure/misery: A Hearse at Midnight.

In between, in early September, Shellie and I enjoyed a wonderful 10 days in Rhodes – a holiday postponed three times, but worth the wait. (See picture above, Prophet Elias’s chapel, high up in the mountains.) I needed a retreat, and I was given one by the sea, the sun, and the mountains, which worked together. And the goats, obviously, one mustn’t forget the goats, keen and hardy retreat-givers. Here’s a reflection I came away with, written for myself. But when you read it, I am gone and only you are there.

The sea shifts, adjusts, invites and holds
The sun melts, warms, lights and exposes
The mountain is rock, sparse, itself and eternal
And I am the sea
And I am the sun
And I am the mountain

So be it. Until soon.

Simon X

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