Where was all this going? I wondered, as I walked along the Grange seafront on a dismal day. So many wonderful things had happened, so why was I feeling such a sense of unease? To go from the ‘high’ on Humphrey Head, in the gentle care of Maria Angelo, to a slump like this was not characteristic of me. I am normally an optimistic person, so I needed to get to the bottom of this feeling.
I knew myself well enough to know that I can also be quite lazy with such things. To counter this, and to bring myself into the ‘now’ with some force, I decided to forgo my usual coffee at the Sunrise tearooms and walk along the shore – gloomy or not – until I had some resolution of this negative emotion.
And so I walked and talked to myself, sorting my thoughts into a sequence of ideas.
1. I knew I’d been lucky – very lucky – to meet such a spiritual group of people in a place like Grange-over-Sands.
2. They were dynamic and quite formidable. I wanted, as the saying goes, to continue to be ‘in their company’.
3. I had been quite open with my feelings, allowing them to carry out their ‘alchemy’ to shift my longstanding views of the world.
4. This process had worked well.
5. So why the hell was I feeling so low!
I sat on a bench and determined to do an ‘enquiry’ on myself. I had read about this technique many years ago. Its popular use seemed to come out of the Human Potential Movement in California in the 1960s. It is a very simple thing, and comprises holding in your mind something that is troubling you or which you wish to consider in more depth. The essence of it is to ask it questions, then let the answers take you . . . following their thread without judgment, and with an open inner ‘eye’.
I knew what my opening question should be: “What am I feeling?”
I watched my mind actually recoil from the question! There was a pause as I let the calmness settle in, then I asked it again, and watched as a kind of inner distance emerged between ‘me’ and the state of mind I wanted to understand. The answer came back with a shock: “Fear”.
I nearly lost the thread at that point, but just managed to hold on to my composure. I steadied my breathing, and took myself back to being present with the thread. I hadn’t expected that answer. “Fear of what?” I asked my mind. It took a few moments for the threads of meaning to unravel, almost as if they were trying to escape.
The answer formed slowly: ‘Diminishing”.
At that point my inner dialogue was interrupted by a cry from my right.
Grange is a place of many sights. One of the most unusual is a behemoth of a footbridge that crosses the Lancaster – Barrow main line, half a mile to the west of Grange station. This tall, black structure would not have been out of place in the original film of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. It bestrides the tracks like a colossus, linking the west of the town with the seashore. The long climb up the forbidding gradient is quite steep, and from the other direction, young and old alike are often to be found picking their way, slowly, down it, to get to the seafront.
A young woman was screaming on the top of the footbridge, at the highest point of the slope. She pointed to her pram, which had begun to career out of control and was gathering speed as it bounced off the black rails. I leapt to my feet and crossed the short distance to the start of the slope, before dragging air into my lungs to prepare to sprint and intercept the runaway child’s carrier. I met the buggy halfway down the slope, but only managed to take hold of its right side; with the result that, although I halted its momentum, it spun out of my grasp and fell onto its side, taking me down with it. Somewhat dazed, I dragged myself off the wet surface and clambered on my knees to peer into the interior of the buggy, hoping against hope that the infant had been strapped in.
The pram was empty. My heart was still thumping and I looked up to see the child’s mother running down with her little boy in her arms. Her thanks were plentiful as she took my arm with her free one and helped me to my feet.
But she couldn’t understand the look of shock and bemusement on my face.
I left, quickly, assuring her that I was fine, if a little scuffed . . . As I got to the top of the footbridge, I looked back to see her putting her son, securely, back into the buggy and adjusting his harness.
The picture of Don Pedro came into my mind. His image formed a layer over my thoughts – seemingly urging me to see this incident as something significant. Five minutes later, and still shaking, I entered the deserted terrace of the Sunrise cafe. The interior looked warm and inviting. Surely I could permit myself some change to the rigours of our outdoor teaching place on such an occasion?
As I opened the outer door, a golden fox looked up at me with sad eyes. Pedro refused to budge as I said my hellos to him and stroked his warm head.
A few seconds later, the inner door opened and there stood Maria Angelo with a steaming mug of coffee. She took my arm with her free hand and directed us both to sit in the cold and windy terrace.
She seemed to know I had been through an experience that had shaken me up, but said nothing while my equilibrium returned. These people wasted nothing, and seemed to see significance written in everything.
But the coffee was warm and the company was wonderful . . .
Coffee with Don Pedro is normally published on Thursdays. The previous episodes, some of which are labelled ‘The Beast in the Cafe’ are in the blogs. You can follow the enigmatic trail by clicking on this link.
Contact details and an outline description are on the other pages of this blog and via the website below.