Rhythms and Tides

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‘Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere 

The ceremony of innocence is drowned’

(William Yeats)

It’s been a strange, almost unhinged couple of months; ecological and political collapse accelerating, and like other friends not knowing where to stand exactly in relation to it; who and what to align ourselves with. I’ve been very grateful to be able to draw on both the buddhist and psychoanalytic frameworks of making sense of what’s going on, and trying to find the most creative way through it, with the help of friends and colleagues from both of those worlds. One quite new buddhist friend talked the other day of the importance for him of what he called ‘circles of protection’ – of friends he could trust and felt a natural connection with, knowing that at times of need ‘we could call on each other’. Yes to the importance of that. 

AB1A3241-3C9A-47C1-9F81-548A4689E32EThe search for a new communal home context is beginning to feel more urgent in the circumstances, and is progressing  most encouragingly, in several directions. I took the Quaker Eco-village-group to my buddhist friend’s forest garden in Devon last weekend, with interesting effects for all of us I think, of our attempts to focus a bit more on our inner visions, our right brains, and on the question of where our common ground lay and whether there was enough of it. I’m still not quite sure; the ambitious complexity and scope of their vision scares me a bit – I’m more inclined to start really small and simple with a little hut in a forest field, and then slowly spiral outwards organically, taking one small step at a time. So I’m also in conversation with a couple of friends feeling similarly, keeping things open and allowing them to unfold as they will. All aspects of my life seem more fluid lately, with things simply falling into place around me, rather than my making any rational decisions or great efforts – that’s been interesting, and much preferable! Work has certainly felt like that – my next step will be to keep it more and more local and coherent, reducing and simplifying my contexts. Doing more and more of less and less, basically.

F26B49BD-CA3E-4B22-A84E-30072BD513F0Not much else to say just now – I want to stay here, and deepen my connection to this beautiful land and all that lives and breathes in it. To learn to sea-kayak, and ride a horse. To move slowly and gently through the approaching darkness, with friends all around me. To face whatever is to come with courage and care, and offer what I can to help. Despite my general agreement and sympathies, I’m not going to the October XR rebellion because I think system collapse is happening quite fast enough already. I don’t want to help shut down Parliament during the very time when there could just be a glimmer of a chance of the few politicians with still some remnants of sanity and integrity managing to put the breaks on Brexit and rethink our dire national situation here … I don’t think we have nearly enough in place in terms of citizens assemblies etc to be able to deal with ‘mere anarchy loosed upon the world’ just yet. The truth is I’m too scared to quite let go of all hope in the old order just yet, I still want to say: ‘Please stop and come to your senses’. When really I know that Roger Hallam is probably right – it’s far too late for that, and we should no longer try to prop up a house of cards that needs to completely, irrevocably fall down, before something radically new and different can arise. But I can’t quite face that reality head-on yet.

D6E95538-C908-4C7F-A8AB-FBACFF40BAACA beautiful dawn is breaking over St. Michael’s Mount as I write this. It’s the eve of my birthday and just over a year that I moved down here. I’m going to meditate for six days now, with a small band of buddhist friends all trying to practice the homeless wanderer aspect of the path in various ways – to accept and embrace our existential loneliness rather than fight it or cover it up with false comforts and illusions of safety where there is none. Not an easy option – but I’m finding that  there’s exquisite beauty to be found as a treasure along that road – not least that of deep, genuine friendships, lightly and freely held.D466E653-2C94-4E1C-973F-DDF10DCE415C

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Putting one foot in front of the other

77C5A630-6E41-43E9-A125-E167CFC50609Kerdroya is the cornish name for the mystic labyrinth found in the Isles of Scilly, and all over the world in slight variations. It looks like a brain, and you move into the centre and then out again, meditatively, by walking it, or tracing it with your finger if it’s a small one. It seems to me to be an expression of life itself, of the moving from formlessness into a specific form and back into the freedom of spaciousness again. I keep coming across it everywhere. It’s the symbol of a local project I’ve just joined, to help restore some sections of old cornish hedges. I’ve been quite delighted by the exuberant ‘flowers in all directions’ explosions of those hedges into life this Spring, and so was really happy about the chance to learn more and to help protect and preserve them by being directly amongst them, out there in this so obviously living landscape.

69B03A51-95A3-453E-AE87-D7A59705008AI learnt in a community lecture that there are a staggering 300.000 miles of old cornish hedges meandering their way through the county, most of them still used as field boundaries by present day farmers and landowners, and that cornish hedges are unique in that they consist of a double sided drystone wall, with earth packed into the middle – hence the flower explosion in the Spring and summer, as each hedge is a precious wild seed store as well as marking a field boundary. The most ancient, Bronze Age hedges are in West Cornwall where I live – recognisable by their curviness and intricacy in following the natural contours of the land, rather than the later straight grid-like lines. Which might have to do with the resistance of the west cornish to the ‘enclosure of the commons’ in the last Century – I love the rebellious celtic spirit of West Penwith! I spent a gloriously sunny day with a small group, learning to stack serpentine and granite stones correctly, to repair section of cliff terrace on the Lizard Peninsula, guided by a young and passionate ‘Master Hedger’. The project is also going to build a giant labyrinth across the cornish  peninsula, linking up some of the key sites, and using different local hedging techniques. The plan is that this labyrinth will be walked by humans as a pleasurable learning experience, as well as provide new habitats for birds and insects. A simple but profoundly important project, which I hope I can help more with over this coming year.

CD02C61B-6E46-4462-B2CF-30DB93D6B343So walking the coastal path, the paths to the holy wells and now the hedges and field boundaries is something I’m trying to do for at least one day each week, in order to slowly get to know this ancient, mysterious land down here. I’m writing this from the train back from my annual professional Conference in Glasgow, where once again I enjoyed meeting up with old friends and colleagues, and have gathered a few new ideas to take forward into my Child Psychotherapy work – but I’m entirely happy to be zooming back towards magical Mounts Bay now, and was thinking again how glad I am no longer to be living in a city – even one as beautiful and impressive as Glasgow! I’m really valuing the process of engaging ever more deeply with my small marginal place just now, and ‘to take responsibility right where my feet are planted’ as Sharon Blackie would put it. Hers and Martin Shaw’s thinking about the complex nature of rootedness are really helping me feel less sad about not feeling any actual, concrete ancestral roots in say the place I was born – that doesn’t mean I can’t allow myself to be claimed by a place for the resonance of its qualities and conditions with my present state of mind; and even if I can’t yet promise I will stay ‘forever’, I can still be fully engaged with it right now, while I’m here, and be open to where this leads. To be a true nomad rather than a ‘scatterling’.  There is something deeply grounding and at the same time liberating in simply putting one foot in front of the other and allow a place to gradually become more known and familiar – and loved for that! Quite different from the slightly dizzying effect of zooming about in my little blue car or on high speed trains over much greater distances – although in small occasional doses that too is a welcome part of the gradually emerging rhythm of this new phase of my life.

1B06D83F-D8D4-483A-A86E-9BE581517C70So I’m walking the labyrinth externally and internally, with the focus of my attention now firmly shifting to finding a communal base with a compatible vision – my orchard and tribe. As lovely as my little flat with a view is for the time being, I most definitely miss the community aspect of sharing inspirations, skills and resources – however challenging I know this can be. More on that aspect in the next post.

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Beltane – moving into summer

440B8B6F-B256-4B7F-870C-CF2AC21A1A56A shamanic journey: I climbed my childhood Linden Tree, and as I got to the topmost branch there was a whirl and my being dissolved into a red berry, carried in the beak of a raven or crow. The flight was dizzying and exhilarating, and I knew the crow was my grandmother whom I could trust. Fog and mist descended all around us, muffling the drumbeat which formed the background sound and rhythm of everything. Then abruptly the drum sounded louder and faster, urging me to return. I fell, startling a deer which bounded through the forest in graceful leaps. Whether I had become the deer or was following it seemed immaterial – what mattered was being immersed and absorbed in the beauty of the forest.

98F89537-136F-4613-83D6-ABD743B5C196I love the evocative seasonal festival celebrations here, and find that they connect me deeply and elementally both to the land and sea of the here and now I’m immersed in, and to my past, and my troubled family story. Learning to carry that dark, heavy stone of my mother’s legacy in my heart with love and acceptance will take at least the rest of this lifetime for sure – but it feels like a good and important thing to try for. The hedgerows round here are magnificent right now, exuberant with wildflowers; marking boundaries wildly, naturally, gently but most definitely. Hedgerows and wildflowers somehow connecting me to both my mother and grandmother and simultaneously beautifully separating the spaces we each inhabit, in mysterious ways. I’m joining a project next week to restore and preserve the ancient cornish hedges – honouring these vibrant edge-land habitats, and learning from them.

As my work situation is now gradually clarifying and it’s clear that I am able to make a modest living here, my attention is turning towards finding a more stable base, containing a communal element if possible, and maybe allowing for some eco-building. I keep picturing a Roundhouse with the entrance facing east, windows all around, encircled protectively by fruit trees – my orchard. The image of Roger Deakin living in a meadow and building a house around himself also keeps recurring, like a snail slowly but steadily creating its shell, smoothing it around itself from the inside out – soft and warm on the inside, sturdy and solid on the outside, to withstand the wind and rain, the heat and cold. A group of Quakers are currently planning to set up an intentional community in Cornwall, and a new local friend and I will join them for their visioning meeting next weekend, as a starting point – let’s see what emerges from that.

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‘Everything not saved will be lost’ – Part 2

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Gurnards Head

I used this title for a post almost four years ago, and looking out on this astonishing ocean from a cliff somewhere near Zennor it just came to mind again. Apparently it was made up in a novel and never was an actual screen message on any Nintendo game, but maybe in its evocativeness it should be our doomed civilisation’s screensaver? 

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Waterloo Bridge last week

I spent this past week visiting London and my old friends for the first time since I moved down here last summer – only less than nine months ago, but it feels much longer. I had more than fifteen heartwarming, thought-provoking and reconnecting encounters and conversations over that time, and took a small part in the Extinction Rebellion on the first day, meditating on Marble Arch with the impressively organised ‘Dharma Action Network’. I’m so glad that my stay coincided with Rebellion Week, and felt very impressed and inspired by the powerful, positive atmosphere the Rebels managed to create – and the stamina and determination of the full time activists I talked to. Their presence evoked the recurring theme of impermanence, loss and collapse, in terms of the earth’s ecosystem unravelling, the threat of global societal collapse (in terms of losing our ethical bearings), and the inevitable decline of our bodies and loss of family and friends through ageing or illness – none of which we individually have any control over. So how can we live joyful and creative lives in the face of all that, how do we not either turn away from these difficult truths or despair? I shared the recent inspirational Jem Bendell article with quite a few of my friends, you can find it here: https://jembendell.wordpress.com/  It’s the deepest and best thing on the topic I have read since the early Dark Mountain days a decade ago, and there are now also various spin-off interactive online forums.

Personally, what struck and surprised me – both in my old familiar Bethnal Green Buddhist Community where I spent the first half of the week and later on my travels with a large bag in a roughly westerly direction – was how much – despite the familiarity and the very warm welcome I received everywhere – I definitely felt like a visitor, no longer part of life in the capital – in fact I often dreamt of and longed for the sea, and was so glad to see it again on my return a couple of days ago. Then yesterday I felt all restless and ‘at sea’, quite scared suddenly by the certainty I now feel that I’m definitely not going back, that’ll being well, I will base myself here in this little southwestern corner of the U.K. for good – that the land here is firmly claiming me, as mythic storyteller Martin Shaw (drmartinshaw.com) would put it. And just now I’m really in touch with the loss this entails, in terms of how much of a close connection I will be able to keep up with my old friends – it will largely depend on their willingness to come and see me, as I feel a great urge to stay put for a while now, and put down roots gradually – not sure where yet or who with; that will be the next phase of exploration starting now. I had one detailed and specific conversation about selling my London flat next summer, which has given added focus to that search now for a simple, small scale eco-base, either as part of some already existing intentional community project or as a new, joint venture with a couple of buddhist friends. 

Let’s see what emerges from the depths of the sea and sky over these next months … trees and streams keep appearing in my dreams, so although I’m becoming very attached to Penzance, I will also explore the relatively nearby more sheltered Helford River Valley area as a potential future living base. Asking myself these Jem Bendell-inspired questions as I walk:

In what remains of my lifetime…

What do I want to retain, protect and preserve?

What do I need to relinquish?

What can I help to restore?

How do I reconcile myself to the truth that whatever path I take, ‘things fall apart, the centre cannot hold’?

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‘Somewhere more simple’

That was the title of the novel I picked up from a secondhand stack on the Causeway Head the other week – by a woman called Marion Molteno, who it turns out one of my old friends once met and worked with! Anyway, it turned out to be a very absorbing and interesting story of love and solitude, set on the Isles of Scilly. Reading it whilst watching the Scillonian Ferry make its practice circles in Mount’s Bay outside my window – preparing for the season – really made me want to go and see these islands with my own eyes, and gain a first, direct impression of the ambience there. 0E8D1601-7374-4442-AFB7-F377CFC8CEBD

I also wanted to have a realistic context for the sometimes quite critical remarks of local friends and colleagues about the attitudes of the Island people. So I took a risk and booked a ferry ticket and a bell tent for three nights, right by the shores of the Atlantic. I found a friend brave enough to accompany me, and we have just spent a quite magical four days and three nights, exploring the most southerly and smallest of the inhabited islands St. Agnes, where our tent was, and the slightly bigger and more rugged island of Bryher on a day trip out from there. This was a very evocative photo of the islands in the local newspaper on the day before our departure, taken from an aeroplane thousands of feet above:

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I was especially struck by the sense of fragility and precariousness of this collection of tiny rocks far out in the big ocean – both in this image and later in the reality of spending some time there, communing with the astonishing elemental beauty all around me in the ever-changing light and weather. It’s thought that before the last ice age, the five main islands and surrounding uninhabited rocks were all one land-mass, separated by rising sea levels as the ice melted.

 

An echo of this is apparent in the causeways between some of the islands appearing at each low tide, enabling you to walk across – with an eye firmly on the tide timetable, because of the strong currents at high tide. And I love the story of the lost kingdom of Lyonesse which is believed to have lain between the islands and Land’s End. People report sometimes hearing the bells of the forty church towers ringing from the depths – which makes no rational historical sense, but is a mythically powerful image nevertheless.

 

Around about two thousand people live on the islands altogether, most of them on the biggest island of St. Mary’s, which looked slightly forbidding and depressing to me, to be honest – but then we only had an hour there, not nearly enough time to explore it properly. St. Agnes only has 73 inhabitants apparently, and consists of one street, a lighthouse, a pub, cafe and shop, a small Gallery, a Village Hall and a few farms dotted about the place, plus the delightful campsite facing west towards the Atlantic Ocean. You can walk around the whole island in three hours, but it’s quite difficult not to stop every few minutes to marvel at every single inch of it. 

There are hardly any cars on any of the islands as there is no need for them, which felt very refreshing – although there were quite a few tractors and quad bikes in evidence, to transport things back and forth from the ferry. The rhythm of people’s lives revolves entirely around the tides and ferry timetable. The sand in some places was covered in tiny shells the colour of sunshine, echoing the yellow of gorse and daffodils, and the bright orange lichen clinging to the rocks. The song-birds were so tame that you could almost touch them, so I actually for once was able to take a few decent photos of some:

2B9792CF-D27B-4930-A310-1F8E59685381The ever-changing light and colours with the rapidly changing weather and rhythm of each day and night was mesmerising – we made a fire on the beach one evening, roasted apples, watched the sickle moon rise and beheld a densely woven blanket of stars appear. It’s a place where dreams are strong, and deep musings and conversations happen easily.

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I found that Bryher especially had a sense of ancientness about it, similar to the Moors. I felt quite spooked and oppressed as well as at other times enchanted by the granite rock formations in particular. Many of them looked like ancient giant beings, reminding me of some of the old local stories I had recently read, evoking the sometimes definitely dark, heavy and eery atmosphere around some of the stone circles, cairns and standing stones.

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In the context of a strong bout of a bronchitis-like cold, I had a sad, vivid dream of my mother’s legacy of deep unhappiness like a large black stone deep inside my heart, and the physical sensation of that has stayed with me – difficult but hopefully fruitful material to sit with and contemplate in meditation. To be continued…

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The karmic ties that bind…

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Rhythms, tides and proper perspective

A9789658-C80B-4895-A0E6-A96C7D253A27This is a bit of ‘a week in the life of’ post, written whilst sitting in my favourite spot, on the red sofa by the window like  a boat high above the sea, looking out across Mount’s Bay. I still have to pinch myself to make sure my ‘new glorious aspect’, as a friend recently called it is for real! I spend a lot of time sitting in this spot – it’s my new home office, instantly helping restore perspective by just lifting my eyes from the screen. And my first live supervisee down here told me the other day that the view while talking to me really expanded her mind.

So my new flat is on the first floor of a historic Malthouse, built in 1739 and later expanded in all directions – like a mandala, as another friend observed – and converted into a dwelling house by a succession of owners. I just found out from a delightful local history booklet published by a woman who once lived in my flat that at one point at the turn of the 20th Century it was the social and creative hub of the Newlyn School of artists, and that Thomas and Caroline Cooper-Gotch lived and had their studios here on this very floor of the house where I am now based, for the time being. There were apparently picture windows facing both north and southeast at that time – so quite a few of their paintings might depict the view from right here!

Despite its inevitable historic quirks and not so chique shabbiness in places, I’m finding myself settling and relaxing into this second base down here. I think I might well spend a couple of years in this mythical bay of Lyonesse, researching the lay of the land slowly and thoroughly, and allowing an intentional community third base to emerge in its own time from the as yet quite fluid and uncertain foundations. I’m in ongoing conversation with a couple of friends about setting up a future simple practice community, with room for inviting others in (in small numbers) for retreats of varying shapes and sizes. I’m hoping to start doing some more concrete research into viable locations, buildings and / or small pieces of land for such a venture over the course of this year. I would love to live communally again eventually, but want to give the preparation and visioning phase plenty of time. Kayaking and walking or even riding a horse around some of the many nearby rivers and estuaries might form part of that, to get a feel for that slightly gentler and greener aspect of the local landscape.

In the meantime, the typical pattern and rhythm of my week currently is a mixture of independent and NHS Child Psychotherapy Work and Supervision in the middle of the week, with Mondays and Fridays kept as spacious and flexible as possible, to allow for plenty of roaming around the coastal path and local cultural activities, as well as long buddhist weekends away ever so often. I’m now able to make ends meet financially, which is a great relief, and has happened faster than expected.  I’m just starting to do some regular meditation teaching once a month, and with a group of likeminded others am in the process of adding some more experimental compassion focussed awareness raising workshops into the mix, in support of the local Extinction Rebellion Groups springing up as we speak. Cornwall Council has just declared a Climate Emergency, which provides a good starting point for some local direct action on behalf of the earth and all that lives. I look forward to working out collectively what form this might take, and some new friendships might spring from these endeavours too.2ADF9808-E56B-4B6C-B601-FAE5517AAE44I’ve started listening to Radio 4 sometimes on my long mid-week drives across the moors to Bodmin, and the endless loop of maddening Brexit discussions has confounded me recently. I’m starting to think of this completely irrational situation as a metaphor for our increasing utter lostness and confusion as a species in general: we don’t even know any more what we want and need, never mind being able to work out a collaborative process of achieving anything constructive any longer. Our children are out in the streets as we speak, urgently telling us that our house is on fire while we play silly, pointless games inside. We’re oblivious to the truth of our out of control greed and (self) destructiveness, and not listening, not stopping, not taking adult responsibility. The fabric of society is shredding and fraying quite rapidly now in many places, but we simply adjust to the ‘new normal’ of unhinged political leaders doing their best to crank up the speed of collapse a bit more – like the frog in the slowly heating water glass in the now quite old but prescient Al Gore movie ‘An inconvenient truth’ we shrug and insist it’s really not all that bad, it’s just exaggerated media bias, there are plenty of good things happening too, aren’t there? And anyway, what’s so bad about not having to keep cleaning squashed insects from our car windscreens?

So what’s helping me most during anxious, helpless, sleepless moments worrying about the crashing insect population and collapsing biosphere etc. is the buddhist teaching that we have to go beyond hope and fear and act from an inner trust and confidence instead that focussing our energy on developing our hearts and minds towards wisdom and compassion is the only worthwhile thing to do – whatever happens. That each moment of turning towards the good, true and beautiful matters, regardless of the overall end result; that all we can ever do is put one foot in front of the other and live as creatively and generously as we can through whatever situation we find ourselves in. Trusting that this will bear fruit – however small and insignificant in the big scheme of things, this matters on the scale of our personal lives and relationships with where we are and who and what we directly encounter there – which is the only scale we truly have any influence over. Which brings me back to wanting to live communally again, as simply as possible. I keep thinking that I would much prefer to reduce my radius eventually to distances I can traverse on foot, on a bicycle or a horse or in a kayak. I have a very conflicted love-hate relationship with my little blue car which at this point in time I am so dependent on, which feels all wrong … but enough for now, and more about that specific topic of moving through the landscape in different, slower and more embodied ways in a future post.

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Abiding in the cave of the heart

E3A07850-AFAF-4313-8EE1-CA7E899424AAThe full moon winter solstice passed in full-on Penzance Montol glory on Friday night. I felt quite exhilarated by the strong and wild atmosphere created by this ancient carnival here – revived over the past 7 years so I’ve heard mostly by the sterling efforts of one passionate local historian! When he talked last week about the quality of the world being turned upside down for a day in a spirit of mischievous laughing at the prevailing status quo, and the sheer exuberance of celebrating ‘out with the old, in with the new’, it brought to mind David Fleming’s writings about ‘the carnival of resistance’, about the importance of a community suspending all rules from time to time, in order to re-examine them, and not to take them as absolutes. He said that by briefly descending into chaos and anarchic hilarity, we can then step back into everyday life renewed and refreshed – that this is the deeper reason for and significance of true carnival. Montol seemed to contain these qualities, it felt deeper than simply a picturesque seasonal celebration. I’m really looking forward to the other festivals down here as the year goes round…

18AB891F-590D-40DE-AFF5-0F2EB34C122BFor now however I’m winding down, preparing for a week’s turning inwards and towards the elements in a semi-solitary here in the stone tent, framed by two Chapter Gatherings on Christmas- and New Year’s Eve. This feels quite perfect, especially as the week will now also include packing my boxes again and preparing to move out of my small cosy cave and into a slightly larger longterm rental flat in neighbouring Newlyn, on the 2nd January. Although I will miss the two horses especially, I can’t wait to sit gazing out of these windows looking directly out to the sea:

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I will also start working for the NHS again from January, for a day or two, and am really glad about that, and curious to see how this will turn out. And totally unexpectedly I’ve also just been asked to join the meditation teaching team at the class I’ve been going to regularly, and have said yes to that. But in the meantime, I’m looking forward to turning inwards here as I say goodbye to my first base down here, perfectly designed for hibernation dreaming. Here is a poem quoted by Sharon Blackie in her latest newsletter, which kind of sums up how I feel right now; note to self: find the novel that is an extract from…

‘Please bring strange things.

Please come bringing new things.

Let very old things come into your hands.

Let what you do not know come into your eyes.

Let desert sand harden your feet.

Let the arch of your feet be the mountains.

Let the paths of your fingertips be your maps

and the ways you go be the lines on your palms.

Let there be deep snow in your inbreathing

and your outbreath be the shining of ice.

May your mouth contain the shapes of strange words.

May you smell food cooking you have not eaten.

May the spring of a foreign river be your navel.

May your soul be at home where there are no houses.

Walk carefully, well loved one,

walk mindfully, well loved one,

walk fearlessly, well loved one.

Return with us, return to us,

be always coming home.’

(Ursula LeGuin, from ‘Always coming home’)

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‘Far-ranging and lone-faring is the mind, incorporeal, and abiding in the cave of the heart.’ (Dhammapada)

I’m a bit nervous about descending into that ‘cave of my heart’ this winter, as my moods have been quite turbulent lately, like the winter storms. I’ve grappled with some bouts of loneliness and overwhelm, in the face of the big changes I’ve made, moving away from my familiar friends, surroundings and lifestyle in London. But these storms pass quite quickly, and are always followed by bouts of delight about this astonishingly beautiful place, and how easily things seem to be falling into a new rhythm and pattern down here, with relatively little effort. From the start it’s been a matter of riding the waves of the strong and exhilarating ocean energy I am surrounded by here.

I’m re-reading Virginia Woolf’s quite brilliant ‘To the Lighthouse’ currently, as well as working my way once again more systematically through Ian Siddons Heginworth’s ‘Environmental Arts Therapy and the Tree of Life’, which despite its clumsy title is a wisdom treasure of a book. It takes as its core the symbolism of the ancient Celtic Ogham Tree Calendar which starts with the cold, death and decay of November and works its way around the seasons and corresponding qualities. The quality of December being descent into the heart of darkness, to be transformed there by the returning light. It contains reflections as well as actual practical suggestions for working with these energies out in nature – some of which I will try out this week during the brief interludes between exuberant downpours of rain. And during the times of  darkness and rain, I will focus on the six element meditation practice – let’s see what emerges from that mix.

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‘It has been said that you do not go into a cave unless you are prepared to become the animal that sleeps in it.’ (Ben Weaver)

I’ve been quite frightened lately by the speed of ecological and political unravelling both in this country and more globally – it’s beginning to feel like we’ve truly entered the time described here by two prescient souls: 

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‘Things are going to slide in all directions. Won’t be nothing, nothing you can measure any more.’ (Leonard Cohen)

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The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats … It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.’ (D.H. Lawrence in ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover, 1928)

But strangely and reassuringly, in the face of that fear and sense of instability I’ve found myself feeling really grateful quite frequently, simply for still being warm, dry and safe, with enough food and water, a little car with fuel to take me to the places I need and want to go, and beauty all around me. Not knowing how much longer this fortunate state of affairs will last, but appreciating it all the more through being more conscious of that ever-present uncertainty; no longer taking any of that for granted. Trying to focus on those aspects of the situation I have some agency over – thinking globally and acting locally; finding contexts where I might be able to help contribute to preserving and protecting life and creativity. Life here feels quite stripped bare and much less cushioned than in the city with its many distractions, but in a good way – more enabling of the ideal of ‘elegant simplicity’. Speaking of which – it’s time now for that descent into the cave of the heart…

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The mindful who leave home do not delight in an abode ~ like wild geese quitting a lake, they abandon whatever security they have.’ (Dhammapada)

 

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