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.

E61F1044-DEE6-4779-BAE8-6025F42C6097

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

‘Everything not saved will be lost’ – Part 2

6A0276D0-A7CC-42BB-A605-BD369649751D

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? 

DBF92D45-8A6C-497E-B33A-211D30BE8D75

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’?

F934BE63-70BA-489D-AD88-858245BEDB54

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

‘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:

AD3DDD02-134F-4DEF-B744-828F21005DAE

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.

ED879C8F-7FAE-4F03-BA95-A89970268148

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.

94325E41-2412-4720-BEA2-D9EEE79E4DD3

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…

0C7264B8-2459-44E4-9D4D-41AAA7611E05

The karmic ties that bind…

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.

7CFAA57F-E924-4F7A-BFE1-AE5F435F25CB

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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:

D27AB273-B33F-4389-B648-58230635BBE5

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’)

71689B62-1319-4878-BA11-7AEDE987BAC4

005D4BB4-BB6D-4A7B-B76A-C70889DC32AC

‘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.

EC7B5D36-1BD3-47BF-983F-FD29B959D1A5

‘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: 

D3838646-5BD7-486A-BDC6-661A5733A209

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

B947B6B6-635F-4E87-A8CC-10A58F07047C

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…

E7F1134D-92B4-4AC8-A009-458860F19B25

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

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Of Apple Orchards and the Moon

628B4562-BD18-48AC-8D85-A5600BF95775

‘Under the bright moon I walked round and round the lake All night long. Build a fire my friend, So it will crackle, I will show you something good – A big ball of snow.’ (Basho)

A couple of years ago when I embarked on my Ecotherapy Diploma with the Tariki Trust, a likeminded friend lent me her entire library of eco-books for inspiration, and I discovered Bill Plotkin’s version of the shamanic wheel of life, the ‘8 ecocentric stages of human development’ he described in my favourite of his books: ‘Nature and the human soul – cultivating wholeness and community in a fragmented world’: https://fractalenlightenment.com/28827/life/the-eight-soul-centriceco-centric-stages-of-human-development . Reading it I really resonated with the ‘Artisan in the Wild Orchard’ stage of late adulthood and still do – I don’t feel quite like an elderly crone yet, still too full of energy for that – but I do want to start slowing down and simplifying, to find my orchard, ie a context where I can put into practice and share the skills and gifts I’ve accumulated over the years freely with whoever’s interested or in need of something I’m able to help with. Where my ripe fruits can be harvested. 

4F8C30C3-67FF-41D6-BDCE-E7D8BB1262B3

I was reminded of that metaphor when the conversation after yesterday evening’s full moon ritual turned to abundant apple orchards, and ripe fruit going to waste because we no longer know how to process and preserve it, or can’t be bothered to make the effort to – so much easier to grab a plastic tub of fruit from the ends of the earth, not considering the implications … well anyway, that’s where my mind went to; and then back to my own more metaphorical search for an orchard, a fertile context where I can spread my branches and share my fruits…and it looks more and more as if that might well be possible right here. I’m now in the process of re-entering the NHS to offer some paid as well as voluntary work – in a delightful little CAMHS clinic right by the sea, with a garden. This will happen alongside my independent therapeutic and supervision work, which is gradually beginning to increase and  take on an interesting and varied shape. And then there is our still experimental weekly morning meditation class, and possibly monthly full moon evenings, which may lead to longer day- or weekend workshops and retreats, over time. A rhythm and momentum is building, and I feel moved by the warmth and openness of the people I’m connecting with down here. So on my wanderings I will from now on also survey the lay of the land for possibilities for the eventual building of a communal base … using as a guide that image of an apple orchard bathed in moonlight, reflected in that vast, wild sea…

286E6551-3BED-4BD6-AA8B-2C6664F468D5

In the meantime on a more down to earth level, I’ve been quite fascinated by the raw energy of ‘Extinction Rebellion’, and salute them for what they are doing, shaking things up and trying to instil a sense of urgency in the powers that be, about the global political changes and measures needed right now, to prevent our sliding into ecological collapse. Unfortunately I’m also deeply pessimistic about it working – I fear this Movement might go the way of ‘Occupy’ – run out of steam eventually, faced with a mixture of disinterest, ridicule and repression from the Establishment. I hope I’m wrong, would love to be wrong on this one. I’m going to listen to the Founder of the Transition Movement Rob Hopkins’ latest thoughts on ‘Making Britain imaginative again’ tomorrow evening – he’s speaking at a local volunteering event, about the crucial task of strengthening our imagination in the face of what we are currently living through. I still think that truly and wholeheartedly ‘thinking globally and acting locally’ must surely be the key to finding a constructive way forward, for our species and all that lives…

12625232-3644-4E9D-B590-E10F99AAA97E

On which note I want to make one final recommendation for you all to watch David Attenborough’s very thought provoking new series ‘Dynasties’ if you haven’t already. He and his team are this time taking the controversial approach of following particular animal groups and families and getting to know them over a whole year. Which gets in my view a bit soppy and anthropomorphic at times – for example in the annoying naming of a truly fierce female lion as ‘Charm’…but both episodes so far also really grappled with the question as to whether as humans we should simply be observing nature happening in front of us, or whether at times we need to take a more participatory approach – like when the film makers built a ramp for some penguins stranded in a crevice with their chicks, and when they called out the vets to a poisoned lion cub. I think it’s only by slowly healing this tragic rift and accepting once again that we are fully part of nature and in this together with all other species, that we can genuinely learn to become less destructive of our habitat – because like these film makers in tears, we will be moved to act wisely and compassionately, in whatever situation we find ourselves in. Which incidentally is something also most brilliantly explored in Andy Goldsworthy’s new movie ‘Leaning into the wind’, where he keeps literally immersing himself in and interpenetrating with nature, becoming part of it, not separate from it. It’s the most inspiring film I’ve seen for ages – okay, so that’s one more recommendation for you. That will do for today – the horses are hungry for their vegetable scraps!

1BB250A9-D6AD-48A6-AC12-CCD6ADA0F7B9

‘Within the still waters of the heart Dwells the moon, The lonely waves ~ brightness everywhere.’ (Dogen)

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

‘May I dance in that freedom of change…’

 

That’s a line from the dedication prayer I conclude my meditation with each morning – the line that stands out to me just now.

94499541-9237-4A52-B747-827263D3139A

So my second month down here has come and gone, and at a slightly disgruntled moment earlier today I was thinking ‘yes and not much to show for it’. Which led to an interesting reflection – as I was grumpily stomping along in a sandstorm on Marazion Beach, salt and sand in every orifice – about why I feel I need to have something to show for myself and my time here; and what exactly, and to who? Maybe I was mostly talking to myself – to the part of me sort of trying to recreate my London life of roughly three days a week paid therapeutic work, to pay the bills … but over this past week I’ve allowed myself to start thinking: well, what if that’s just not going to happen down here; and do I even really want to recreate my London life here – wasn’t the whole point of coming down here to do something completely different, to hang more loose from that kind of regular, conventional pattern of life? To take more of a risk towards really putting my spiritual practice at the centre of my life, and to see what happens when I genuinely do that? To trust that it will turn out alright, that something new and as yet unknown will arise from that?

DC103251-8607-4CB6-9229-4C21A276F14C

So yes, this was a rockier and grittier month than the first, with me keeping on painfully bumping against my fears and limitations in all areas. But it all feels fruitful and necessary; something I have to go through and can’t bypass, no shortcuts…so even during my most challenging moments I feel simultaneously quite exhilarated that I’ve really done it, that I’ve had the courage to take myself to the edge of this land, to something brand-new and as yet unknown and unformed. I’m realising that my scrambling and rushing to sort out my working week, as well as being related to my neurotic worry about money, is at least partly also to do with wanting a more solid context, to feel I belong somewhere specific and am contributing something of value. With wanting to be less of a lone drifter in this overwhelmingly wild and beautiful landscape. Walking along the coastal path I feel alternately or even sometimes simultaneously joyfully free and painfully lonely – the feelings as huge as the landscape and moving with it and spilling over like the waves, ebbing and flooding with the tides, waxing and waning like the moon. I’ve planted a winter garden, wanting to put down roots, to stay put. Thinking of my grandmother, so firmly rooted, especially in her vegetable garden. The two horses in the field next door have firmly attached themselves to me and I love them. They remind me of my grandfather who still ploughed the field with two horses I also loved and was a bit scared of, as a child. I’ve ended up in a landscape of vineyards and cabbage fields here interestingly, very similar to that of southern Germany, except for that vast sea so close by and astonishing. 

C5957888-EB46-42C8-A95A-D3B70B185165

I bought a fire pit and want to host a full moon puja here next month, for the local buddhists. I’ve been humbled and impressed by the depth and commitment to spiritual practice I’ve encountered here so far in several buddhists from other sanghas, some of which I had never heard of before. I am also becoming aware of a hunger for clear and coherent spiritual guidance of many others. The classes I’ve visited so far were all heartfelt and moving, but didn’t offer much of a guiding map to a newcomer. So maybe that’s where we can contribute something with our specific, systematic approach to begin with, and see where it leads? We have started a morning meditation drop in class at a local alternative gallery, so let’s see what emerges there. It feels good to start to contribute something, and to host a meaningful event later this month.

FE91AAD2-75E4-487F-AFF9-B619E21E3B96

So alongside my physical and spiritual wanderings and my search for work, I’ve started learning about the significance of the stones and waters, air and light round here, and their effects on local art and culture. The hard and resilient quality of granite, the veins of metals and minerals in it from the earth’s core, and the softer, beautiful serpentine and soapstone prevalent on the Lizard Peninsula. White China clay quarries inland, standing stones, holy wells…so much to learn, a big winter project, to read about as well as visit specific places, inland as well as around the coast; to connect with the elemental energies and old stories, and relate them to my practice. Mining and underground passages seem to have particularly captured my imagination right now, the extraction of precious metals from stone. Granite cracking and molten lava from the earth’s core filling the cracks – the as yet untapped potential of the minerals needed for our digital phones and gadgets now possibly being mined by the chinese who have reopened South Crofty surface mine, near the deprived town of Camborne. Stones to build a house with, the earth, grounding – maybe that’s the solid, sheltering element to start with, as we move into winter. But I also want to go sea kayaking, learn to ride a horse, make photo collages, assemble stones and found objects and combine them with words. I don’t yet quite know where to start; too many impressions and ideas and possibilities, all in a restless jumble – ‘may I dance in that freedom of change’.

8501D546-2998-4FEF-83F8-410A252C6FDB

‘Where can it be found again, an elsewhere world, beyond maps and atlases, where all is woven into and of itself, like a nest of crosshatched grass blades?’ (Seamus Heaney)

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments