Starting early…

It is no time to be up, not when it is not necessary. Even Ani has got the general idea that just because I am up doesn’t mean it is time for her to wake these days but I love the quiet hours of the morning. There is something in that silence when you know you will not be disturbed, when the world around you sleeps and it seems as if even the pressure of the busy thoughts of others is withdrawn in slumber. Dreams linger, inspiration creeps in through the crack in the door and, for the only hours of the day, the soggy tennis ball is not on my lap. It is the best time of day to write.

You wouldn’t think it would matter. The small dog and I write and work most of the day and evening. Emails still come in night and day from across the world, student journals can just as easily arrive before dawn as at teatime, texts start before the alarm clock and social media never sleeps. Not that I am complaining… it is wonderful to be able to communicate instantly across the world, regardless of time zones.

However, it is true that in terms of technology the diurnal rhythm has gone right out of the window. Where our forefathers rose and slept with the sun for purely practical reasons, electric lighting and entertainment have lengthened our days, the rule of ‘nine to five’ defines them, even though so many now work unsociable hours. The seventh day, the day of rest when thoughts were turned to the sacred has been drowned out by the pressure of seven day working and the need to catch up. Even pleasure has been slotted neatly into the time frame. Although many do enjoy their jobs, it has ceased to be a prerequisite and most work simply to earn a living, seeing those who love their work and get paid for it as ‘lucky’.

Though it is easy to dream, given a realistic choice most of us would not go back to a simpler time. We like our gadgets and those luxuries we have come to accept as mere conveniences… like an inside toilet, heating system and hot water on tap. When I was first married, the little back to back terraced house we took was due for demolition within a couple of years. The shared toilet was in an outhouse at the end of the street, there was neither heating, except from the coal fire, cleaned and built fresh daily, nor hot water unless you boiled it. It was not all that long ago either…the houses were out-dated even then. But coming from the north, I didn’t meet central heating in a home till I was in my twenties. We adapted… I would again if I had to… but I do like warmth!

One thing I would change though is the lack of communion with the world around us. Communication we have. We rely on it, are almost defined by it these days. Smartphones and tablets, things that were, in my childhood, the stuff of science fiction, have now become the necessary adjuncts of modern life and I love the possibilities opened by these modern marvels of technology. We can see so much of the world from the comfort of our living rooms. But that is not the same as communion. Being aware of the time because of the quality of light, waking to the sun, seeing the world fresh each morning with eyes childlike in wonder at the miracles of life around us… these things cost nothing, take no time and yet the rewards are far richer than the remuneration for the jobs which occupy our attention in the struggle to make ends meet, for they are paid in joy and beauty.

Simply taking the time, albeit a few minutes with that morning coffee, to stand at the door, look out of the window and feel the world, feel yourself part of it… here… now. To see the painted skies of morning or watch roiling clouds race, to hear a blackbird’s song. To see the resilience of a flower pushing through concrete, the miniature forest in a clump of moss or watch the turning seasons in a tree. Those few moments reconnect us with something that is a simpler world. Not something lost and outmoded, but a rhythm that sings in our bodies, a shifting tide that moves with the music of being. Taking a few minutes from the busy day to look out from a house to the place that is truly home and just being aware of beauty, even in the most unlikely places.

Four letter word

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“Who do you love best?”

I overheard a conversation between mother and her small child and remembered my own sons asking me this question when they were very small. I imagine it is one many children throw at their parents and we reassure them, almost automatically, that we love them the same. It isn’t true, though is it? We may love them equally… in fact, I think by the very word love we are assuring them that we do, but we don’t love them ‘the same’.

Have you ever stopped to think about it? Such a small word for such a range of human emotions! The love we have for parent, sibling, friend, child or lover is always different. The colour of love may change, but it is impossible to quantify and all its colours, like those of the spectrum, blend and merge to make a love that encompasses all. There is no loving more or less… it simply is. There are no two loves alike, just as there are no two people identical, not even twins. Everyone is unique and so are our relationships with them.

We can like someone more than another, we can relate to them better, we can feel that odd attraction/repulsion that can be so strong… we can apply all sorts of other emotional overlays, both negative and positive, to the relationship; respect, sympathy, compassion… and all the rest. We can prefer the company of one, know light-hearted laughter with one friend, share an interest in books or butterflies with another, feel tenderness towards a child or a lover, fall hopelessly… or hopefully… in love, or burn with the flame of passion. We can be dutiful as children, loyal as friends… We can even find that miracle that seems to complete us. Or we can love in the hope that love will be returned. So many aspects to something both so simple yet so very complex it seems, yet it is the foundation of every human relationship by its presence… or absence. And it is such a small word.

The Greeks did it better… Four words instead of four letters, each with its own distinct meaning. Storgē is the love that accepts, and the love for what is. Philía is affection, friendship… the love for family, something to be shared. Éros, usually understood as the sensual and physical passion, falling in love through attraction and without thought, the desire of the senses. Yet Plato saw it as more than that… through the perfection of the physical form and its attraction he saw a pathway for the soul to remember beauty and through it find Truth. Agápe, the unconditional, selfless love that seeks nothing… only to be; the spiritual love for the Divine, or the purity of love for the child.

While we use that four-letter word so often, we seldom think about what it actually means and when we are asked ‘who we love best’ we give the answer that reassures. We do not stop to ask ourselves if we love our ‘best’ or could love ‘better’. Not in terms of quantity for I do not believe love can be measured, but in how we love and what we give… or seek.

Looking at the meanings behind the Greek words is revealing. In them, we can see a pathway to something more. In learning to accept what is, to love life without judgement, recognising both the good and the bad for what they are, what they might be or what they can teach, we could learn how to move through the world creating change. Through sharing… being able to give and receive what is given in friendship and affection… we can open ourselves to life and become part of a wider family, learning to understand the nature of love as we did as children, in innocence and trust. In seeking the beauty that sings to us, that embraces our whole being body, heart and mind, as deeply as we would a lover, we find a place of beauty within that simply wants to give love. It is enough. And when love ceases to seek anything in return it comes close to the Divine.

It is such a big thing, this little word, and we may all mean something different when we use it. It has become an everyday word used lightly… or it can be the deepest gift we have to give. It challenges us, holds up a mirror, breaks our barriers and sometimes our hearts. It can leave us wide open to hurt, yet to live it is to know the greatest joy.

Morning glory…

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It is 4am and I haven’t slept a wink. I’m not entirely happy about that. It is not as if I haven’t tried. My mind whirrs quietly, emotions heightened by a frustrated fatigue. Ani is draped across the sofa snoring softly. For all I would, at this point, much rather be asleep, I love this time of day.

The sun has lit the touchpaper of the horizon and the east is edged in palest gold, the fire of dawn spreading silently over a sleeping land. The first bird just started to sing, Another has joined and the morning chorus has begun. There is a rainwashed freshness in the air and the colour, still absent from the ground, now gilds the sky, shifting the focus upwards.

It is as if the divine Hand has opened a window allowing us a brief glimpse of glory, lifting the eyes away from the earth towards a realm higher and clearer than the one in which we move. That small shift in focus alters perception completely and the world becomes a wider place, filled with a magical possibility as I watch the sun crest the horizon and see its pale eye with my own.

It seems as if the light steals in over the landscape, illuminating each leaf and branch, so softly it cannot be measured, yet bringing them to a life of living colour moment by moment. As it does so, the focus shifts again, back to earth and the glory of the morning sky is forgotten as attention is drawn to the detail of living, familiar green.

Yet it is still there. The sky is still full of light, the sun still rides the heavens all through the day, so bright it cannot be perceived directly but only by looking at the world it holds in light.

I see the analogy in this. A daily, unregarded reminder of the way in which our attention is glued to the details of everyday life, while the essence of the soul need only shift the focus to see whence it comes and in what it has its being.

Most mornings I miss the summer dawn, dreaming of other realms while my own awakens unseen around me as I sleep. Missing too this moment of the daily reminder of the beauty of light as it performs its revelation of reality while slumber holds my eyes closed and my mind absent.

It is a brief miracle every day. In the minutes lost to writing, the sun has risen, the world is flooded with light and had I just awoken, I would look at the earth and not the sky, mesmerised by the colours of leaf and flower. To share a moment with the dawn is a gift.

‘Aye’ of the Unicorn: Tower…

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To complete our pentagrams

we returned to our

core principles and considered the shadow.

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The setting was not the swiftly flowing Spey

but a quitely progressing brook

which arced in a crescent

around the space in which we chose to work.

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Out text saw the Queen of Witches,

Hecate, admonishing the Weird Sisters

for tampering with the modalities of time.

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A fitting end to conclude our adventures.

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The child outgrew the shadow

 filling the limbs

and head of the pentagram

before climbing astride

the Unicorn

and bounding away…

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With thanks to Dean Powell and Steve Tanham for organising the weekend…
and to all those who joined us in Scotland for making it a great one.

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If you would like to join us for a weekend, exploring the inner, spiritual landscape, within the Living Land of Britain, please see our Events page.

‘Aye’ of the Unicorn: Circle…

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As the weekened progressed

we were to work our way around ‘the limbs’

of an elemental pentagram.

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Two sites from the region

were given over to each element.

*

In the first we would consider the element in question

with the help of a conducive environment and our core text.

*

In the second we would construct and walk our pentagrams,

again in a conducive environment,

whilst examining notions of our magical self

in relation to the element and its inner psychology.

*

Mid and late Saturday morning,

we considered and worked with the element of water.

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Which all turned a bit weird.

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For one thing we abandoned our core text

and instead considered the information board

to the Holy Well at Burghead.

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There was no disputing that the place

was ancient and held to be sacred,

but some of the uses to which it had been put

caused rumblings in the assembled ranks of the Companions.

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These only increased as the steep steps

down to the cavernous well head were traversed.

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There seems to have long been an ancient connection

between skulls and sacred waters.

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Symbolically, this combination relates

to accessing the pool of ancestral wisdom.

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A ‘baptism’ in these waters would be an acceptance

of this higher source of being which reaches beyond the circle of time…

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As if in confirmation of such a notion

when we reached our second site

for the element of water

the tide had come in!

 

 

 

Space and Time

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Consciousness flickers round the edges of dreaming and I become vaguely aware of the delicious luxury of warmth and comfort and a body relaxed and sleepy. It is dark and silent, the dawn will be long in coming, and dreams hover on the edges of mind. The eastern horizon waits for sunrise… and the thought flits through my sleepy mind, that actually, there will be no ‘sunrise’.  The sun does not rise. Ever.

Okay, that woke me up.

It is neither as radical not as weird a thought as many that occupy my mind… it is simply true. The sun does not rise. It hangs in space and we, our planet, are the ones that move. Yet in language, thought and imagery we paint a moving sun that arcs across the heavens, marking the dance of time through our days.

I wonder for just how many millennia we have accepted that idea unquestioning? For a long time we accepted a geocentric model that placed the earth at the centre of a revolving universe. Before that there was a flat earth… and earlier still was the poetry and wonder of myth. Heliocentricity didn’t emerge as a fully formulated idea till Copernicus in the 16th century… and it probably didn’t make its way into the popular mind for a long time after that. Even now, knowing that the truth is other than the evidence presented by our eyes, we still watch the sun ‘rise and set’ aware only of ‘its’ movement, seldom ours. Although we all know the planetary dance these days, few really need to understand it in any depth or detail. We don’t, on a day to day basis, even care whether the sun moves overhead or we circle it.

Perhaps it is more comfortable that way.

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It is a similar story with time… physicists, mathematicians and philosophers all have their own ideas that we, the general public, are unlikely to ever question enough to understand. We look at a clock and that is enough. We do not have to understand Newton, Einstein or Hawking in order to know the moment we have to leave for work or make dinner. Between the apparent motion of the sun and the hands of our clocks we can function within the frame of days.

As the kettle boils, Ani pretends she is a cat, leaning against my legs and rubbing, with one soulful eye on the milk carton. I wonder if she is any more aware of her place in the universe than we are. In some ways there seems little difference. She is aware of what she needs to know… and although insatiably curious and willing to learn, the patterns of behaviour … or misbehaviour… go deep. She knows she will be fed without recourse to a clock, knows she has warmth and cuddles and tennis balls… why should she worry about any more than that? Yet she does and is always on alert. Though that may just be being nosey.

We are not all that much different in many ways and spend our days focussed on the needs and desires that move us through the hours from dawn to dawn. ‘Had we but world enough and time’ what else could we see? Sometimes something will catch our attention and we find ourselves considering new things, or new ways of looking at old ones. Sometimes we make that conscious decision to step outside of the tramlines of need and begin to question a world we seem to be seeing for the first time with a new awareness. It doesn’t take much to bring us to these realisations of possibility if we are open to them… it might be no more than seeing an object with fresh eyes or questioning a long-held belief. Or realising that the sun never rises… it is always there in the heavens.

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Perfect peace

The sun had shone on a perfect day, buzzing with the sound of summer. The air was full of small noises… the distant squeals and laughter of children playing, insects busily going about their job, music carried on the breeze, the tearing of grass beyond the garden fence where the cattle munch their way through the lush green field and the constant song of birds. It was one of those days where you could read the season from its soundtrack, even here in the village.

Much later, I sat outside while the dog dozed in the cool night air and there was silence. It wasn’t just quiet … there was no breeze to rustle the leaves on the trees, no wisps of speech from late-night television wafting through open windows…not even the usual muted roar of the occasional car on the main road. With the door closed behind me to keep the moths safely outside, the quiet whirrs and hums of appliances could no longer be heard. The silence was complete.

I love the night… I always have. As a girl, in a more innocent world, I loved to walk long after dark, feeling the change in the city streets as people closed their doors and curtains, withdrawing their life, gathering it in to the centre of hearth and home. It was never silent, but there was a quieting of human presence… a strange, psychic ‘space’ and peace in the empty streets. I would watch the stars… at least, those that could compete with the sulphurous glow of the city… and I would dream.

It was, perhaps, an odd way for a young teenager to spend her evenings, but somehow there was a sense of security in that silent solitude. It was the one time in my day when I felt I could be no more and no less than me. There was no parental expectation, no teenage self-image to create or maintain for peers, no awkward self-consciousness, just a consciousness of Self as I set my mind free to wander. It was, I suppose, my introduction to the kind of walking meditation I would learn in later years.

But this evening was different. Deliberately becoming consciousness of the body is a technique often used in meditation. It encourages awareness of the here and now. But this was not the same; it was not deliberate at all, but a moment that arose spontaneously and brought with it a sense of peace and wonder all of its own.

There was a stillness to the night that is rare… a perfect pause. The absence of any kind of noise only seemed to enhance the vibrancy of the life around and within me. The only ‘sounds’ came from my own body and they were ‘heard’ only within. Observing and following my attention as it seemed to dance deeper, I was aware first of the constant whine of the tinnitus, a false sound that is only exacerbated by silence. I became conscious of each breath, of the blood in my veins and the beating of my heart, as I ‘listened’ to the silent rhythm of my body’s life and knew it for a tiny part of something vast and beautiful… just one small note in a great symphony.

There was a clarity to the moment, knowing that the body we inhabit is not who we are, that the mysterious thing we call life may animate, but exists beyond, the physical machine. That the life I think of as my own is simply a drop in a great well from which all life is drawn and in which we all share, from the warm, summer grass to the snuffling hedgehog, from the moths drawn irresistibly to the light behind the curtains to the dog snoring at my feet.

I thought about the scientific premise, so easily observed, that energy is never lost… it simply changes form or state when it reaches an apparent end.  As summer blossoms, the energy of the sun is captured and forms flowers. With summer past its zenith, the blooms fade , revealing their burgeoning fruits and seeds while the petals decay and disappear, becoming one with the earth from which they arose, the source of next year’s flowers.

Will the energy that is ‘me’ one day do the same? Not just the physical form returning to its component parts, but that invisible something we call life? My own belief is that it does, returning to its source as fuel for future lives, and, in the silence, I wondered whether what I have borrowed from the well will be returned depleted, enriched…or simply in its original state? And yet, I thought, did  an answer really matter? Any borrowed gift must always be respected and returned  with care.

Perhaps darkness is the time for unanswerable questions. The dog yawned and shifted. I felt closer to her than ever, feeling the shared bond of life as I reached down to bury my hands in her fur.

‘Aye’ of the Unicorn: Armchair…

*

As the weekened progressed

we were to work our way around ‘the limbs’

of an elemental pentagram.

*

Two sites from the region

were given over to each element.

*

In the first we would consider the element in question

with the help of a conducive environment and our core text.

*

In the second we would construct and walk our pentagrams,

again in a conducive environment,

whilst examining notions of our magical self

in relation to the element and its inner psychology.

*

Late Saturday afternoon and early Sunday morning,

we considered and worked with the element of fire.

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We were back with the witches, again,

on the blasted heath.

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I’m not sure whether or not our heath had been blasted

but it had certainly been scorched…

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The witches really represent past, present, and future,

for our soon-to-be-king, Macbeth.

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He was Glamis and is now also Cawdor, although

at the moment he is unaware of the promotion,

and he is promised King…

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The crux of the matter is really

one of free-will or determinism.

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Would he have got the crown

without seizing it

and what difference would that have made?

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The rest of the ‘prophecy’ may still have held

but brought about by different circumstances…

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That fire, or desire, could actually be a weakness

is not always fully grasped.

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Just ask Falstaff!

 

‘Aye’ of the Unicorn: Enneagram…

*

As the weekened progressed

we were to work our way around ‘the limbs’

of an elemental pentagram.

*

Two sites from the region

were given over to each element.

*

In the first we would consider the element in question

with the help of a conducive environment and our core text.

*

In the second we would construct and walk our pentagrams,

again in a conducive environment,

whilst examining notions of our magical self

in relation to the element and its inner psychology.

*

Mid Saturday and Sunday mornings

we considered and worked with the element of earth.

*

Our character Macbeth is given reason

to believe that he has the potential to become king,

but his treacherous manner of achieving this desire leads to all sorts

of trouble both for him and his soon to be acquired kingdom,

and when he finally gains access to the crown he discovers

that to be king is not all it is cracked up to be!

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Like a castle sinking into the earth

his kingdom, his sanity,

and ultimately his life slips from his ignoble grasp.

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It could have been so different,

had he only sought integration

instead of dominion.