Birds of a Feather

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That the birds were there first means little to Ani. It is, as far as she is concerned, her garden and she decides who gets to play in it. Apart from the stray babies, those she makes an exception for and will even call the cavalry to their rescue. There is no malice in her vociferous warnings to the feathered fiends who invade her space. In fact, she grins all the time she is chasing them off.

The cat next door, on the other hand, stalks them silently, moving a whisker at a time, closing in for that final, fatal pounce.

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Me, on the other hand, I like birds. I love to hear them herald the morning as I wake, the first light washing the bedroom in pale colour. I love to watch them darting around the garden, or soaring in the blue above. They are creatures of grace and beauty who carry music within and rise above the landscape, seeing it with eyes other than my own. In quiet moments imagination lends me their wings and I can rise with them to greet the dawn.

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The three of us watch the same sparrow on the fence from completely different viewpoints, with different emotions and imperatives fuelling our actions. I suppose we are simply following the dictates of our own species and nature. Yet these are neither inevitable nor unchangeable. There are many cats that never chase a bird. There are probably few dogs who warn them off quite so joyfully. And as a human being, I could simply ignore them, see them as a source of food or raw materials, or even through the eyes of myth and legend.

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The three of us are not so very different after all. It is a personality shaped by instinct and experience that impels our individual reactions to the birds every day. Ani sees them as both invaders to be warned away and playthings with which she can have fun. The cat I don’t know personally… for some reason, Ani refuses that acquaintance… so I cannot say whether it is the thrill of the chase, or a quest for dinner that drives it. For me it is many things. Memories of being taught their names and stories as a child, the simple love of their beauty and the knowledge of the thread of life that binds us, associations that run deeper than the surface, perhaps.

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I remember my grandfather explaining a picture in a book to me, when I was very young, where the heart was weighed against the feather of truth. There is more to that than the simple lightness, for Horus, the Divine Child of the Egyptian faith, was depicted as a hawk and truth was a goddess with a feather in her hair. The Egyptians, indeed, had many birds associated with divinity, from the Benu bird, a symbol of rebirth, to the protective vulture goddess Nekhbet. Odin had his ravens, a story brought to life for me on a first visit to the Tower of London, observing their curiosity and intellect in action. Christianity has the Dove and the Pelican. Symbolism,  folklore and fairytales are littered with feathers.

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Experience shapes us in ways we often cannot see. The innate nature can be overridden by learned behaviours, habits and acquired reactions that may seem obvious to those looking on, but to which we ourselves are blind until something throws them into sharp relief. These habits can be both positive and negative, overcoming inner battles or seeing us lost in a sea of fears. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference.

But we do not have to be a slave to our reactions, there is always that poised instant when we stand at the crossroads of choice and can break the cycle if we so will it and, to paraphrase the famous quotation, be the change we wish to see in ourselves.

Questions

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What are the most important human characteristics?

Love, kindness, joy, honesty, integrity, compassion?

Who are we, why are we here, what is the Purpose of all this… and what do we do with it?

We have questions…we all do.

We seek a path through life that allows us to find our own answers, a path that makes sense of the universe and our place within it. A path that takes us beyond the bounds imposed by our three dimensional reality and the daily necessity through which we move towards a ‘something’ we sense may lie just beyond our vision. We may not know what that ‘something’ is, but we know enough to realise there are gaps in our knowledge and in our understanding …and we begin to wonder.

Ultimately, it is said, that whatever belief, faith or reasoning calls us the path we choose must be walked alone. Yet how do we define ‘alone’? Conscience, that intangible presence, is a guide and constant companion we are all familiar with. What is its source? The conditioning of our upbringing and culture can explain the majority, but occasionally we simply ‘know’ in a way that seems to go beyond what we have learned. Perhaps there is a deeper level of being than we are aware of on a daily basis?

There may come a time when we reach a turning point, a moment when we become conscious of a need to set our feet actively on a path that leads towards a greater awareness. There are many such paths to choose from and no one is better than another; all are right for those who choose to walk them with a whole heart. Like spokes on a wheel, they may begin at different points and take different directions, but the goal, that central point, is the same. All paths, spiritual, humanist or religious seek a spark of inner Light, and whether we think of that as Spirit, Divinity or simply as the highest aspects of human consciousness, our quest must begin in the same place… within ourselves.

This is where we begin in the Silent Eye.

Facing Fear With The Silent Eye, Part 9 – Heights ~ Helen Jones

Helen shares the final part of her journey with the Silent Eye in Derbyshire:

I recently attended a workshop with The Silent Eye about Facing Our Fears, an extraordinary weekend spent among the hills and grey stone villages of the Peak District. It’s taken me a little while, as it usually does, to process everything that happened. Once again there was history and mystery, good company and tasty food, old friends greeted and new friends made. And, as always, revelations.This is part nine of my account, parts one, two, three, four, five, six, seven  and eight can be found here…

 

I couldn’t get to sleep until very late Saturday night, despite being exhausted – for some reason I found it difficult to relax and, when I did, tapping noises ensued which kept me from sleeping. I finally called out ‘For god’s sake be quiet and let me get some sleep!’ The next thing I knew, my alarm was going off…

Sunday morning dawned grey and drizzly, the glorious weather having disappeared overnight. It wasn’t cold, though, and the rain, though not ideal, was more of a soft mist than anything else. Which was good, as the morning’s plans involved us being outside. We headed into the green once more, grey stone villages softened by rain, hillsides blurred by soft clouds.

Continue reading at Helen Jones’ Blog

Facing Fear With The Silent Eye, Part 6 – Release ~ Helen Jones

Helen continues her journey through the sacred sites of Derbyshire…

I recently attended a workshop with The Silent Eye about Facing Our Fears, an extraordinary weekend spent among the hills and grey stone villages of the Peak District. It’s taken me a little while, as it usually does, to process everything that happened. Once again there was history and mystery, good company and tasty food, old friends greeted and new friends made. And, as always, revelations.This is part six of my account, parts one, two, three, four and five can be found here…

As you pass between the gateposts leading onto Stanton Moor, there is a feeling of entering another world. Perhaps it’s the Cork Stone, a great stone guardian whose sphinx-like profile has monitored the path for millennia, or the old quarry marks, now overgrown. Or perhaps it’s the many cairns hidden amongst the heather, silent indicators that this is a land of the dead.

Humans have been using this place for thousands of years, which is why Stanton Moor is a place of national importance and, as such, is protected. Prominent signage advises visitors to leave no rubbish, make no marks and, something that became important as we journeyed further into the landscape, keep their dogs on a lead at all times.

Continue reading at Helen Jones’ blog.

Facing Fear With The Silent Eye, Part 5 – Failure ~ Helen Jones

Helen continues her journey through Derbyshire with the Silent Eye:

I recently attended a workshop with The Silent Eye about Facing Our Fears, an extraordinary weekend spent among the hills and grey stone villages of the Peak District. It’s taken me a little while, as it usually does, to process everything that happened. Once again there was history and mystery, good company and tasty food, old friends greeted and new friends made. And, as always, revelations.This is part five of my account, parts one, two, three and four can be found here…

We left Tideswell and headed into the hills. The sun was shining, the temperature warm enough for just a light jacket – not exactly the kind of weather one associates with fear. However, so far we had faced pestilence, death, and the idea of losing everyone you hold dear to be left alone in a changed world. Quite intense for the first afternoon! I started to get the inkling that this weekend would be about challenging myself internally, as well as externally…

Fear is something that is both universal, and specific to the individual. There are fears that hearken back to our ancestral roots – the fear of being vulnerable, cast out, or killed by some predator. Then there are fears that are more personal – some people suffer from claustrophobia, whereas others dislike large open spaces. Some people are scared of heights, others of spiders – it really depends on the individual. There are modern fears – nuclear war, gender-based violence, terrorism – and age-old ones such as poverty, bankruptcy, homelessness. Fear is unique to each individual, and yet is something we all share. Our next destination was a place where people were tested against an ancient fear, yet where the same tradition is still observed to this day.

Continue reading at Helen Jones’ blog

Facing Fear with The Silent Eye, Part 1 – Arrival ~ Helen Jones

Helen Jones, author of Journey to Ambeth, begins her account of her weekend with The Silent Eye in Derbyshire…

I recently attended a workshop, with The Silent Eye, about Facing Our Fears, an extraordinary weekend spent among the hills and grey stone villages of the Peak District. It’s taken me a little while, as it usually does, to process everything that happened. Once again there was history and mystery, good company and tasty food, old friends greeted and new friends made. And, as always, revelations.This is part one of my account…

My journey began on Friday 13th, amid the hustle and bustle of St Pancras station, my train waiting beneath the great arcing span of glass. Perhaps it was the day – I’d given myself plenty of time to get there, yet still found myself rushing at the last moment, a wrong turn taken meaning I had to run the length of the station to get to my platform. But I made it on board and settled in for a pleasant journey through London and out into the green, past the dreaming spires of St Albans and further north, buildings of golden brick changing to red, then to grey stone.

This weekend was to be given over to fear, so I reflected on what that could mean as we headed north.

Continue reading at Journey to Ambeth

Lord of the Deep: In to The Deep. ~ Willow Willers

Willow continues sharing her journey with the recent Lord of the Deep weekend:

After we had returned from ancient Sumeria that Saturday night we all, everyone of us, got changed and fought the biblical weather the thankfully short distance up the hill to the local pub.

We all deserved a break, I was there, just behind the lense. The cosy warmth in the bar was matched by the warmth of these beautiful people who had been traveling along the same path with me. This was every bit as important as a learning curve as the entire workshop itself. Different but just as important.

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Continue reading at willowdot21

Lord of the Deep and a glass of wine ~ Willow Willers

Reblogged from Willow Willers, who continues the tale of her experiences with the Lord of the Deep weekend:

As the first Ritual Drama came to an end and the Temple Guardian unsealed the Temple.

I find I am leading the fates out, bowing to the East and then to the Guardian as we leave. I stand in the hallway and I truly wonder just what had happened. I felt as if I was still Limma but there were Sue and Stuart thanking us for our hard work . So I guess I was back in the present.

Sue announces that we are meeting at the pub which is literally next door. I can’t get my head round that really. I end up asking Steve, Katie, Sue and Stuart if they are going to the pub because I still feel otherworldly. They must think I am an alcoholic!

Continue reading at willowdot21

The alchemy of joy

By the time this goes out, another workshop will be over and our Companions will have dispersed for another year. Inevitably, every time we go back to Great Hucklow, we think of that very first workshop… and for me, that meant laughter…

 

“What have you done with my mother?”

The laughing sally greeted our arrival and my offer to climb into my son’s home through his bedroom window. It set the tone for the day… one mainly filled with laughter. It is often so.

Laughter, smiles, joy… they are as contagious as a yawn… or as any other emotion. They can also turn a moment of fading sadness to beauty. It is a well-known phenomenon that depression can affect those living with someone suffering from it, in almost the same way as the cold virus will spread through a household. The negative emotions set up a downward spiral as, for instance, a partner closes him or herself off emotionally and a domino reaction sets in which affects the whole family as needs are not answered and individuals feel unable to communicate those needs for fear of setting off an even deeper reaction. Unconscious resentments, fear, fragility begin to dominate the minds and hearts of those concerned and it is a vicious cycle difficult to break.

In the same way a group of people coming together in an atmosphere of comfortable laughter will soon put others at ease and allow them to open up and be themselves. We saw this in action in April at the launch event in Derbyshire. We were a new School and this was our first major, public event as a School. To be fair, no-one knew what to expect.

Steve, Stuart and I had left a School we loved in order to follow the path we felt we had been given to tread. There was a certain nervousness when we began to publicise the Launch, wondering if anyone would come. Steve had run similar workshops before, notably the Alchemy series, I had taught in other ways… but the School was new and untried. We had only our vision to work with.

Gradually the bookings came in. We were delighted to see a group of people forming from all spiritual paths, from the Druidic and Shamanic to the Mystical… from traditional Western Mystery to those who follow a personal vision. This was what we had hoped for… this was about bringing our School to birth without barriers. Even more wonderful it was to see people flying thousands of intercontinental miles to attend! There was never any question of recruiting new students… that is not what a workshop is about. A workshop of this nature is a public opening and sharing… a simple and mutual exploration of concepts. Most of all we hoped people would come along and simply enjoy. We wanted it to be fun.

Photography by Matt Baldwin-Ives
Photograph by Matt Baldwin-Ives

The workshops begin late on Friday. At other workshops we have all attended it often takes until the next day before everyone settles and feels really comfortable. A few of us who got there early to set up had gathered in the pub next door. Gradually others filtered in… the laughter was infectious and by the time the whole company gathered to begin after tea, the atmosphere was simply buzzing and everyone seemed to have known each other for years, though few had ever met before. It was delightful and lasted the whole weekend!

I think you have only to read the posts written by some of those who joined us that weekend to hear an echo of that laughter…you can find links to some of their articles by clicking here.

It was an object lesson in how infectious joy can be. Perhaps it went further than that… maybe it was an object lesson in how we each, individually, define our own worlds. By meeting in joy and laughter we were able to create a world of fun and friendship for that weekend… a small pocket of light that lit us all from the inside out, sustaining friendships made there by planting them in fertile soil.

The School is now established with students across the globe… yet the sense of joyous adventure continues, born, I think, of the shared laughter of the launch weekend. .. the ‘infection’ continues, and long may it do so!

I have a feeling that these first moments of any relationship… with people, organisations, situations… colour how that association develops. The playful laughter that gave birth to the School has certainly coloured it for me and painted it golden … and those who joined us there and shared that moment will always have a very special place in my heart.

Photography by Matt Baldwin-Ives
Photograph by Matt Baldwin-Ives