Lord of the Deep: TechNick ~ Willow Willers

Willow continues to share her experience at the Lord of the Deep weekend:

It was after the second ritual and before Jan’s exploration that I ran into our technician.He was half way up the corridor between the temple and the dining room. To be honest he was as surprised as I was that he had got so far… Mind you he is a very strong willed young man.

He asked if I had seen his mum , I hadn’t, could I help, yup a glass of water would be great.

So I got us both one, he sat down at a convenient chair and table and I asked where his wheelchair was, back in the temple! I told him to stay put and I would get it. He started protesting about me not being strong enough..

For once I was at an advantage and said I’d manage and scooted off before he could say more.

Continue reading at willowdot21

Saving for a rainy day …

The fish need feeding… their food cannisters need refilling too. The bird feeder needs completely restocking…and it is freezing outside. Not only is it cold enough to make a snowman shiver, it is raining… the kind of rain that falls as stinging darts making the presence of each drop sharp and immediate. I shiver, watching the blood withdraw from my fingertips, feeling them shrink and stiffen with the cold and I wrestle with the frozen metal of the lock. Raindrops trickle across my scalp, slithering down my neck. It is not a day to be outdoors… but the fish and the birds need to be fed, regardless of my misery.

Opening the shed, I squeeze past my son’s wheelchair to reach the feed. I remember, just for a moment, coming onto the hospital ward one day and seeing the longing on his face as he watched the raindrops on the window pane. I’d give anything to be out there, he had said. To feel the rain on my face again. Back then, we had no idea if he would ever be able to do so…at least, not without help.

What if, I wondered, this were the last time I ever felt the rain? I know, all too acutely, how life can change between one moment and the next. How normality, freedom…even life itself… can be snuffed out without warning. Such thoughts may seem morbid to some, but I have found that an awareness of the finite nature of the life we know only enhances our ability to appreciate its beauty. Yet, here I was complaining.

I asked myself the question once again. What if this were to be the last time I ever felt the cold of winter or the rain on my skin? Would I really want to remember it through a veil of misery? Or would I want to remember the clarity of the moment? The sparkle of rain on the first, burgeoning leaves of a nascent spring… the ever-expanding circles drawn by the raindrops on the silver surface of the pond… the aliveness of my skin, tingling beneath the touch of winter… the freshness of the rain-soaked garden and the smell of wet earth…

Some ‘last times’ we are aware of… we know they will be the last. We see them coming and they make an indelible impression on memory. I will never forget my last, tear-blurred glimpse of the Sacré-Cœur as we left Paris, thirty years ago. I didn’t know then that it would be the very last time… I still do not yet know if it was, for that matter… but it was the end of a chapter in my life and the beginning of a new story. I remember the final hug shared with a friend and his final words to me, hours before he died, as clearly as I recall the last time I closed the door on the family home.

Sometimes we only realise it was a ‘last time’ once the moment has passed… and those memories too entrench themselves, kept alive by emotion. But most ‘last times’ only become clear in retrospect… we will not know until it is too late to give them our attention and store them up in memory.

As we grow older, any farewell, no matter how temporary, takes on a new layer of meaning; as the years pass, the chances that some of these farewells will be ‘last times’ cannot help but increase. I would not wish to waste such moments in sentimentality, regret or in the imagining of some dire future… I want to enjoy them, storing them up in a treasure house of memory where life, love and laughter are the true riches of living.

There is a reason we are here, in this life, in these bodies and with these senses. Our lives are short… seconds, minutes and hours tick by, heading towards an unknown point, for few know the span of their days. For any one of us the world can change at any moment… yet we live our lives taking so much for granted or, as I was doing, railing against the downside instead of carrying away with us all the moment has to offer.

Living in England, the chances are that I will see and feel more rain than I could possibly wish for… but I do not know what the future holds. Would I really wish to be stuck behind glass watching the rain fall beyond my reach… and knowing I had wasted my ‘last time’ grumbling?

I fed the fish and the birds, smiled at the Indian airline label still attached to my son’s wheelchair… and went out to enjoy the rain.

All images in this post were taken in India by my son…where he felt the rain.

A painter’s palette

dead-painters-palette

The faded flower caught my eye as I was trimming the potted plants on the windowsill. The rich shades of its life and death were so striking they would make an amazing watercolour. Appropriate, really, as the flower was an Anthurium, the painter’s palette. The heart shaped bloom seemed too beautiful to simply add to the compost so I reached for the camera, thinking that really, I should have reached for the paints.

Then I realised that I haven’t painted once since I moved house several months ago. In fact, I haven’t even unpacked them. Granted, there is a problem of space. There is no longer a spare room to serve as a studio and storage area, but that excuse only works for the oils and the big easel. The watercolours would slip in a drawer.

I used to paint something every day, just to keep learning, even if it was only a ten minute sketch. I never learned formally, I started to paint and learned as I went. I knew just how much technique I lacked. I always saw the perfect picture in my mind and failed to attain it. It didn’t matter. I loved it.

The smell of oil paints and turpentine excites me. The texture of canvas and the feel of paint on brush or, just as often, fingers, always makes my heart smile. Yet, what with one thing and another, it is a long time since I have painted. In fact, I realised with a jolt, I haven’t really painted for the past couple of years. Life got in the way and then, if I’m honest, because I stopped practicing, I lost confidence.

You see, I always knew that I was not a particularly good painter. My perspective ends up all wrong, the colours, light and shade are never right, my drawing skills leave much to be desired. I never once painted a picture with which I was completely happy. But that only spurred me on to learn, it did not detract from my joy in the process.

Most of my paintings were of dreams and visions, full of hidden forms and symbols that spoke to me quietly. They were personal. So no-one was more surprised than me when the paintings began to sell. Not just to friends who might just have been being kind, but to people I didn’t even know. They seemed to be seeing something in the pictures that I did not and, whatever it was, the images spoke to them. While I still saw the imperfections, they were seeing something else.

Then the commissions started to come in. Some of them were for prestigious locations and companies. For a few years, I earned more as a painter than I can imagine earning as a writer. My confidence grew. I still saw the flaws in my work, but learned to accept them, even whilst trying to learn. When I was called to paint an enormous mural at an important venue in London, I began to believe in myself. That confidence reflected itself in my work and the pictures began to get better. The stiffness disappeared; the brushstrokes became surer and more expansive. I allowed the paint to play instead of trying to force it into line with my inner vision.

I learned to believe in what I was doing, not because I was getting it right, but because I was doing it. My very first mural came from taking a chance and ‘having a go’. I had absolutely no idea where to begin, but did it anyway. I made it up as I went along… and it led me to paint at Wembley.

“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page,” wrote Jodi Picoult. The words apply just as well to painting and living as they do to writing. If you are doing something badly you can learn how to do it better. If you are getting things wrong, you can learn how to get them right. If you are doing nothing at all because you are afraid that you might not succeed, then you have nothing to work with and no experience from which to learn.

How many of us hold back through the fear of imperfection? How many leaps of faith are refused through fear of failure or disappointment? How many times do we decline what life offers, just in case we are not good enough?

The first page, the first chapter… the first tentative step in a project, relationship, dream or adventure… It is always a moment of fear; especially if we have tried and failed before. My own early paintings were utter rubbish. I still have some of them, a testament to where you can come from and where you can go, just by saying ‘yes’ to life.

Even on the inner journey of personal and spiritual growth, there is a choice to make. Do we stand still and wait for life to push us forcibly forward, or do we take the leap of faith into the unknown regions of discovery?

‘One day’, ‘maybe’, ‘I wish’… sometimes the only thing that is stopping us is ourselves. We hold ourselves back, paralysed by the spectre of failure; it is true that we cannot fail if we do not try, but nor can we succeed. Confidence does not grow from learning how to do something, it grows from doing it. It is better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing at all.

If we are going to fail, let it be in a glorious blaze of colour. Let it be with fireworks, bells and trumpets… not a failure to ignite the inner flame until it forgets that it could ever flare into brightness.

As for me, I need to unpack my paints.

We’ve been nominated! #BloggersBash

Blogger's Bash 2016 awards vote logo

The Silent Eye has been nominated for an award at the forthcoming Blogger’s Bash in London on the 11th June. The nomination is for The Silent Eye and is under the category of “Most Inspirational Blog”.

We don’t know which kind soul has done this, but we’re very grateful…and would like to express our thanks to the person who nominated The Silent Eye.

Also, Sue’s son, Nick Verron, who shares aspects of his journey back from the effects of Traumatic Brain Injury has been nominated for “Best Newcomer”, while Sue’s own Daily Echo has been nominated for “Best Overall Blog.”

Please visit the Sacha Black’s website to show your support for her and the team of organisers who are putting so much time and effort into both the awards and the event… and where you can visit the blogs of all the other nominees who are listed in the final categories. There are some fabulous nominations.

Click this link to go to Sacha Black’s WordPress page to vote.

Thank you!

Steve, Stuart and Sue

Levels of communication

I wrote this entire article before I finally abandoned the attempt to sleep, though of course, I lost most of it on the way downstairs. A pity, it was a brilliant piece as I was dictating it in my mind. Isn’t that always how it is, though? That, like the doorstep wisdom that allows us to find a perfect retort in only retrospect, is the sort of wry irony the mind seems to delight in occasionally.

It is three in the morning and I cannot sleep. I’ve tried for the past couple of hours but have tossed and turned, too warm in spite of the frozen night and my mind hovering around the edges of that odd lucidity that lies somewhere between  consciousness and sleep.

By the time the kettle had boiled about all I had left of the mental article was that it spoke about Helen Keller. Firing up the computer I realised how little I actually knew about her at a conscious level. Only that she was counted a heroine and was blind. I could not for the life of me remember more than that through the fuzziness of fatigue, although I must know more than that to have woven the article around her. It had made sense on the threshold of dream.

The memory must be stored somewhere in the cobwebbed halls of the mind. The Girls Grammar School I attended followed the ‘house’ system, each house being named after a remarkable woman. I was in Ockenden house, but I remember Keller was one of the others and at some point we must have learned the stories of these women or it would have been a rather pointless exercise to name the houses for them and use them as exemplars.

Helen KellerA glance at the internet reminded me. A truly remarkable woman, Helen Keller was an American writer, speaker, social and political activist and the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. Losing both her sight and her hearing after a mystery illness in her second year she had no concept of speech or words and little means of communication until Anne Sullivan began to work with her. The remarkable mind and determination of the woman shines through the rest of her story. So does her courage. There is a quiet fearlessness about her achievements.

Of course, there is also another story intimately linked with hers and that is Anne Sullivan’s tale, of which less seems known and written. It is quite as remarkable to me to be able to teach such an abstract idea as speech and the naming of individual items and concepts to a child who can neither hear nor see, and to a level of complexity that allowed Keller the freedom to learn and to express herself at the level she attained. It is a tale of patience and determination.Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan

Now forgive me for being a bit fanciful. It is, after all the wee small hours of the morning, and a little surreal here. The house is utterly silent apart from the creaks and groans of its fabric as it attempts to reconcile the warmth inside with the freezing night air, sounding as if a small army of ghosts are populating its very bones. Even the dog merely opened one eye and looked at my wakefulness in disgust.

It seemed to me as I read the stories of these two remarkable women that there was a parallel here for the relationship between the levels of human consciousness. On the one hand there is the child, closed in from so much awareness by the lack of sight and sound, unable to comprehend that each item in her world can be individually named, that even abstract things like emotions can be described, discussed, communicated. Unaware that words exist and therefore restricted in her learning to what she directly experiences. On the other hand there is the teacher, fully aware of the possibilities of language, seeing the potential in the child yet powerless to open the floodgates of possibility until a line of communication is found and established.

This seems such a similar thing to the way we ourselves stand in our quest for spiritual progress, where the physical self is limited by the form and the senses, yet within there is a higher consciousness that is struggling to reach us on a level we can understand and communicate something beyond the realm of physical experience.

Even at three in the morning when we ought to be asleep.

TheHandOfGod


Jan 2013

Healing

P1110417

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”  Rumi

Every life holds its own heartache. We cannot avoid them, no matter how we try. We cannot hide from them, though we can, and often do, try. Yet still they find us. And every heartache, great or small, leaves a wound that remains tender, often prone to infection from further hurts, just as any wound of the flesh. Untended they can fester and even the smallest can bring terrible pain and cause greater damage than the wound itself warranted.

Yet, if we cut ourselves, we do not run from the pain… we deal with the cut first, cleaning it, maybe having it stitched by someone more qualified than we, if it is bad, then we keep it clean and let that cleanliness and the fresh air do their work. There may be a scar, there may not. If there is, most of the time it fades into insignificance and is forgotten.

We do not treat the heart as kindly, though, do we? We often worry at the hurt like dogs with a sore foot, we scratch it and press it to feel how much it pains us, or bite it as we illogically do with a tooth that needs attention. It is almost as if we are afraid that the pain will stop.

windsor 001

I know I am guilty of it.

I have wondered about that. It is not as if we enjoy the hurting. But maybe we feel a need to cling to it, to keep it alive somehow. Perhaps we have lost someone or something and in allowing the pain to heal we feel as if we are betraying that loss? Maybe the pain is due to fear and in letting go of the fear we fear the unknown territory of being unafraid? The familiar is always more comfortable than the unknown… at least in our own minds.

The danger is, of course, that then we allow the hurts to define who we become. We sink beneath the murky waters of pain and cease to see clearly, allowing events and our reactions to them to shape who we are and how we see the world. We learn to see ourselves through a veil of hurt and in turn this is the image we expect others to see.

Yet we are not our hurts. The pain can teach, or it can, like a flame, burn away the impurities and leave behind something cleaner and able to move freely. I have a feeling that is its purpose, to allow us to burn for a little while, cleansing the grief and fear, before emerging like a phoenix renewed.

The scars remain as reminders. Nothing is lost or forgotten, but it can be allowed to take its place in the past and be a solid foundation for the future. Perhaps if we are able to allow ourselves to heal, seeing the wounds, as Rumi says, as the places where the Light enters, the pain would find its proper place in our lives as a teacher, not loved, perhaps, but respected and acknowledged for the value of its experience and the healing it can bring.

“Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.”  Rumi

P1110418

July 2013

Fragments of memory

stonehenge 004

I took a slight detour on the way back today, driving through an area we used to live. When we first moved south, about 25 years ago now, we walked everywhere, exploring the towns and villages and finding out about our new home. About half a mile away there were fields and trees… we lived right on the edge of the town. Coming from a city, this was heaven and we walked there most days. The path, an ugly concrete affair, snaked along the side of the river Thame, little more than a stream here. There were wildflowers and dragonflies, rabbits and evidence of badgers. We saw woodpeckers and owls… and the occasional red kite.

The White Path, as it became known, separated town from country, the known from mystery. On one side the fields gave way to houses; on the other bank the fields expanded the horizon… not a rooftop in sight. Nothing but green, a few cows and sheep and a taste of adventure. We walked that path a lot, cycled it, paddled in the stream and watched the butterflies.

scotland trip jan 15 477

In one direction it led to a large, artificial lake, built as part of an expensive housing development. The water table is high in the area and flooding a problem… the lake is part of the defences but also a haven for wildlife. My sons have seen snakes there, rare sightings in urban England and my younger son learned to fish in its waters. In the other direction, perhaps three miles away, the path stops dead at a busy road… an artificial path bounded by man that follows the course of a stream. In some ways, it wasn’t much. In others it was wonderful, a place to escape with the boys and play in the fresh air.

On the far bank there were strange mounds. We had noted them early but had no idea to what they related. Back then, before home computers and the internet, there was the library and the tourist information… and little seemed forthcoming until a chance meeting. We had walked out to one of the villages and found a beautiful old church. It was locked, but a gentleman we met not only told us where to get the key, but gave us a guided tour that highlighted so many hidden gems he may have ignited my love of the architecture these old places. He also told us the local history. The mounds, it seemed, were the gun emplacements from the 17thC Battle of Holman’s Bridge when Prince Rupert of the Rhine had led the Royalist Cavaliers against Cromwell’s Roundheads. The Prince had seen his forces defeated and many lives were lost.

scotland trip jan 15 684

Of course, the next day we had to cross the stream and explore the mounds. We also found the remains of Quarrendon, built around the estate of Sir Henry Lee, jousting champion of Queen Elizabeth I in the 1500s. Nothing is left above ground save the ruins of the tiny church, but we had seen Lady Lee’s tomb in the church in the town, decked still with the red flower she had asked to be left there. We walked the fields, uncovering forgotten shadows of the past and listening to ghosts whisper on the wind.

Today as I drove home the horizon was filled with rooftops. The fields are gone, replaced by the new homes of an ever expanding town. Much has been lost to plough and bulldozer and, though sad, it is the way of things that the past should become buried beneath the layers laid down by need and the march of time. We preserve the highlights… the architectural treasures, the ancient sites where stone and sky marry land to heaven… but the mundane, the landscape of the small folk, is often lost. It is still there and its place in history cannot be changed… though our understanding of it may evolve and grow… and it is the foundation upon which the present now rests.

north 079

I wonder how much we have ‘lost’ to this progression… or if, in fact, we have truly lost anything at all. What was is always the foundation and is absorbed into what becomes. It may be unrecognisable… at least at first glance… but strip back the accumulation of new knowledge, new ideas… the source is always there in some form. Fairytales and legends follow the course of myth and a shadow of the knowledge of another time still remains in their symbols and archetypes. Archaeologists strip back the earth and reveal the ghosts of the past; homes and the small details of our ancestors are unearthed and brought back into the light.

It goes even deeper… knowledge and understanding garnered and husbanded over millennia are the harvest we reap from those who went before. Our very DNA holds the traces of our furthest forebears and recent research shows that through the feminine line, memories are held, showing that perhaps those who worshipped the Great Mother may have understood Her better than we, without the benefit of science.

scotland trip jan 15 178

Even within our own lives we see the same rhythm play out. Our personalities are built through our experiences. The past shapes the present… and will shape the future. Each time we look back we may glean a little more understanding of what was, perhaps learning to see the patterns and how they shape what is. In turn that new understanding may illuminate what is in the process of becoming.

Nothing is wasted. Nothing is lost.

We are the archaeologists of our own being… our minds and bodies are a landscape strewn with fragmented ruins and arcane sherds of memory. To trace their origins and follow their trail through the story of our own lives is a great adventure. Yet, like an archaeologist, sometimes we need to step away from the ground where we are working and see a wider view before we can really understand. An aerial image, taken from a higher perspective will reveal an entire landscape and details within it invisible to those on the ground, marked only by shadows and strange patterns in the growing green. For us the higher perspective comes when we cease to focus entirely on the daily round and can see ourselves as part of a greater story, beginning to understand our place within it. Then we may catch a glimpse of our world, seeing it as ‘the marvellous seed of the stars’ and we ourselves as motes of a Light brighter than the heavens.

scotland trip jan 15 685

Almost…

Seti I & Hathor

Ten days to go. The countdown is on as I begin to pack for Egypt.

No planes or airports involved either… just a nice, leisurely drive to Derbyshire; two hundred miles and over three thousand years back in time to a place where the gods of the ancient ones spoke through their priests and the machinations of a dark figure shadowed the footsteps of Ramases…

Such is the setting for the annual ritual workshop this year.

My home has become what appears to be a costume department. On the airer in the garden a large swathe of velvet, which close inspection would reveal to be a cloak. The sideboard is littered with painted tokens and props and my bedroom festooned with an archaic wardrobe. And this year we’ve kept things simple… I am not actually doing much in the way of sewing for once!

Still, the attention to detail matters. It is part of building the frame for the symbolic picture we, and those who join us for the weekend, will paint in words and thought.

Yet none of the visual preparation really matters. We could do this just as well in jeans and T shirts. It is imagination and intent that fleshes out the simple lines we draw in colour and fabric, words and gesture. But imagination is, as the saying goes, the ass that carries the ark and anything we can do to guide it in the desired direction helps. To continue the analogy, by creating an illusion we are leading the mind with a carrot, rather than beating it with a stick.

goddess maat

It is for this reason we use ritual drama rather than the dry, dusty technique of lectures. We build something the imagination wants to engage with… something fun and different. We tell a story… and in doing so we engage the emotions too. And that is how we both teach and learn. We engage with something that simply goes beyond thought and logic… beyond either intellect or emotions alone, touching something that is far greater than the sum of its parts.

There is one final ritual to write and it falls to me to complete it. Its shape has been mapped for some time. The words had taken shape, given in a single moment on the way home one day. The form had wandered a stately dance across the canvas of the mind, yet I had not committed the words to paper. I didn’t know why. It was bugging me and I wanted to see it finished. I just couldn’t for some reason… and when ‘that’ feeling gets you, there isn’t much you can do if you wish to leave space for inspiration.

It doesn’t just apply in this particular situation, of course. You can try and force things into a shape of your choosing, but in doing so you fix prematurely in stone, as it were, something that is still fluid in the waters of creation. By doggedly filling in the blanks with an eye on the clock, you freeze the space between where possibility awaits and things may come unbidden into being. We have learned to wait in patience and to trust that what comes will be right.

detail of Seti I  & Hathor

It is all about trust.

Such things unfold in their own good time and only when the moment is right. Last night I was sent a document that filled in the space between. Tonight I will write my part of that final ritual, knowing that I have been given the questions I needed to make sense of the answers I already had. All the fragments are now in my hands… all I have to do is to gently tease them into the shape they need to become, and by the ninth day before the workshop begins… the number of the enneagram with which we work… the form should be complete.

Then I just have to sew and pack….


There is still time to join us for the River of the Sun, a fully catered, residential workshop in Derbyshire, 24-26 April, 2015.

Full brochure, prices and booking form can be downloaded here:

SE15 Feb15 brochureAA


*Images Google search, photographer unknown