A glittering piece of the real Self

It’s like a beautiful, glittering kite, flown high and above the regular considerations of our lives; and yet this part of us, long recognised by psychology, has the potential to transform us into people of being, rather than reaction…

(750 words, a five-minutes read)

When we are children, we have to be seen. By this, I mean that special feeling when your parents see you shining at something and radiate pride in what their child is doing.

The young child, hungry for this feeling that is essential to the development of their self, demands constant attention with trivial things. Over time, these become refined, as the youngster comes to appreciate the quality of the seeing – the energy it brings to their developing being.

The child begins to understand that when this is mixed with something real, something that brings achievement in the world, the eyes of the parents radiate a special energy of appreciation, knowing their child is showing the first signs of adult achievement and self-discipline.

Some children never get this. Their glittering kite, flown constantly and increasingly desperately for the parent’s seeing, goes unnoticed, as yet another aspect of play. The parents are too involved with their own lives; too wrapped up in the set expectations they have for their offspring to see the reality of what is played out before them. The child’s real identity is never acknowledged, though their existence may be comfortable and even luxurious.

For children whose kite is never seen, the string gets longer, they let out more and more of it so the glittering object rises higher and higher, barely visible… only seen by the child, itself; but at least protected.

Psychology calls the kite the ego-ideal. It is part of the set of self-states that we form as we explore our relationship to the world. Later, we may come to understand it as our world, but that requires that we grasp a deeper level of reality.

In terms of Freudian psychology, which was the foundation for so much else, the growing sense of a ‘reality of me’ has the building blocks of ego, id, and superego. The ego is what we think of ourselves. The superego is the constant sense of ‘should do’ that sits on our shoulders and nags us to be better. The id is the wild energy of our being that is suppressed ‘below’, like dark fire, ready to erupt and ruin our place in society.

The young science of psychology was shocked to find that the ‘self’ is capable of dividing itself to form separate self-states, but it does; such is its power and importance – a strong and stable ego being the main goal of modern psychology.

So where does the kite, the ego-ideal, fit into this? In the heart of the Superego there lives a single attribute based on us – our identity – rather than the imposition of expectations. It is the best of us, and, seen or unseen, it represents our metaphorical sword, our armour, even our wings, because it has never lost its connection to our real Self, the one we are born with, but which, through lack of recognition, seldom gets to grow and bear its jewelled fruit in our lives.

We all know people who have that certain energy of being. They may not be wealthy, but they have a naturalness of expression and a bigness of soul that carries them, shining eyed, though life. These have never lost their connection with who they are. By accident or nurturing, they have protected and refines their selves so that they can express what is within them.

Psychology usually stops there… but spirituality doesn’t.

And, at the end of that other journey, we can feel the emergence of a completely new us. Stronger and more real than anything we could have imagined.

That kite, because it is real, can become the seed of a new level of being. We can pull it down from the high blue sky in which we have kept it safe, and explore its reality. We can let its true energy spill over into the rest of our lives as we contrast its presence with that of lesser things. We can choose to look and find other aspects of our real selves because we know the taste…

Perhaps then, walking along the beach of our lives, we can come across other little children flying their lonely kites; and help them see the reality of what’s on the end of that fragile string…

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.

Wings of love

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The red kites are teasing me again, circling low over the garden… until I grab the camera, disappearing in their typical fashion as soon as the lens is pointed skywards. They were at it all morning, yet all I managed was a blurry pic and a handful of distant dots in the sky as usual.

I love those birds and cherish an ambition to get a really good photograph of the great birds in flight, one of these days. I can get a clear picture when they have landed, but in flight it always seems that I click the shutter when they are head down, or in odd positions where it is difficult to see their majesty, or a blurred one eye to eye. The birds seem to smile at my naivety.

It reminds me of the incident with the feathers. When we first began following the kites all over Buckinghamshire, it seemed that everywhere we went there were feathers of every conceivable colour. I kept picking them up. Stuart shook his head every time I took anything out of my bag, as clouds of the things fell out, the interior of the car began to look as if someone had been pillow fighting and I had feathers of every variety… except kite.

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Then, on one exceptionally hot day, we climbed our first real hill and walked miles in the heat. It was right at the beginning of the adventures that led to the writing of The Initiate and we barely knew what we were getting into at that point. It was, looking back, the first real physical effort we had put into our quest too. We walked up through ancient earthworks, seeking the path with dowsing rods and really getting a feel for the landscape. I remember Stuart talking about the sacrifice of energy required to climb the hills as part of the ‘contract’ with the heart of the land…. and then a red kite flew out of the sun.

We walked on, awed, in the searing heat… waterless as usual… climbing ever higher and following the ancient path of the Ridgeway, until I caught sight of something. I bent to pick it up… a whole bunch of kite feathers, plucked, it seemed, from the breast and shimmering with unexpected iridescence. We felt then that we had been accepted for the quest. If that sounds odd, it must be remembered that we had learned to trust and follow the birds, heeding the lessons in their flight, so it felt ‘right’ in ways I probably can’t explain. That afternoon unfolded with magic as we began to understand where and how we were being led.

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I came home that night and proudly displayed the feathers on the table. And because I left them there, the dog ate them. So, I was gifted a lesson in non-attachment too… and a reminder that a gift once given must be cherished and cared for; take it for granted and all you have is a memory.

So, although I still try for that perfect picture, it still eludes me and it feels as if the denizens of the sky are laughing gently. The elusiveness of the kites holds another lesson too, for some things are simply too big to fit inside a camera or to frame within the terms of the physical world. They are gifts of the moment to be treasured. Sure, I might get a good picture… but the great birds are more than just beauty and aerial grace; to watch them fly is to watch the spirit of the air and the feeling that brings is one of awe; something I don’t think any photograph could capture. They evoke a feeling I can only call love and it seems I can watch to my heart’s content, accepting the gift and grace of their presence, as long as I do not attempt to pin down their grace and essence… which is exactly how love should be.

Yet there is an acknowledgement, a reciprocal amusement, it seems, where I still try and they indulgently tease; a daily reminder that both spirit and love exist in freedom and their gift is there to be known, accepted in all simplicity, for as soon as you try to hold them, they lose something and are changed. You can only accept the gift and the grace when it is given… and cherish it.

If I get that ‘perfect’ photo one day, it will not be when I try to take it, but when it is given. All I can do is be open to the gifts of the day…

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Quest for a Quest: The Initiate’s Story

Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

17-19 April 2020

A Living Lore Workshop.

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