With open arms…

“… it gives me a big advantage for getting to know people,” said my son.  I had to admit that he has a point. The only way he can walk is with support, and if there is no handrail or frame available, he borrows a shoulder or two. I, being very much shorter than he, am a perfect height for the job and am so used to it that I have long since ceased to think about it. We just get on with it as the need arises. But, he has made use of shoulders on three continents and made many friends in the process too.

One memorable adventure I was able to capture on camera. It was after the Feathered Seer workshop, one April. My son had come along to see what happened at our workshops, and stayed behind afterwards to go exploring the Derbyshire countryside with us. Alethea Kehas had come over from the US for the workshop too, with her friend Deb, and they were going to spend a day or two with us, visiting some of the ancient sites in the area. Most of these are a fair walk from the road and over moorland paths… not exactly wheelchair accessible… but that was not going to stop us and, for the next couple of days, all shoulders were in use and my son was able to visit places he would otherwise have never seen.

Alethea, Nick and Deb at Arbor Low, the great stone circle of the north

I thought about the ‘advantage’ my son has, and it is very simple. In order to get around when there is neither handrail nor walking frame, he borrows a shoulder. This means opening his arms to let someone come close and when he does so, all the barriers that normally separate stranger from stranger go down.

People want to help, they realise that he is relying on them, that they are doing something important. They know that they matter… if only in a practical way… and, more importantly, that they are being trusted. He is trusting them, not only to keep him upright, but to come within that ‘exclusion zone’ that most of us have around us at all times where strangers are concerned.  He is letting… inviting… them in.

Most modern cultures accept no more than a handshake from a stranger, which by its very nature, keeps people at arm’s length. It may have begun as a gesture of peace, showing that neither was holding a weapon, but it creates a natural barrier of distance. The French may greet each other with either a handshake or a kiss, and while this is impersonal, it does allow people to come a little closer to each other and the effect on budding friendships is noticeable.

We each have an area of personal space around us into which any uninvited incursion will feel like an intrusion. It makes us uncomfortable and we step away at the first opportunity. By opening your arms to a stranger and inviting them into your personal space, you are automatically placing them in a position of trust and acceptance. You are sharing your life with them for a moment.

I remember when I first moved to  Paris… young, loving every second, but feeling very alone and quite desperate for the touch of another human being. A hug would have healed everything. I remember too, not so long ago, a dear friend whose healing began through just such human comfort. Unlike a handshake that proves you are unarmed, when you open your arms to another human being, you are exposing your heart and trusting them not to wound you. And the odd thing is that when you do show trust in someone in that way, they will seldom let you down.

The three of us who run the Silent Eye often hug people when we meet them. Not total strangers, as a rule, but those who come to our events are seldom entirely strangers, even if we have only ‘met’ via email. We will offer a hug, usually by hugging those we do know first, and we will not impose if the other person extends a hand or seems less than comfortable. So far, though, we have always hugged everyone on the last day of a workshop, even if we have not done so on the first.  Sometimes trust needs a chance to grow.

I have heard my son speak of the shoulders he has leaned on in Europe, Asia and India. The people, their names and stories, have left good memories behind, and made an impression on him, even those who were only there for a brief moment. They cease to be ‘just another person’ in the street and become real in a way that is normally reserved for friends of long standing. In many cases, the impression they have left has shaped my son’s view of the world, and it is a kinder, more compassionate and more laughter-filled world because of these encounters.

I have to wonder how much we lose by keeping people at arm’s length as we are trained to do by the dictates of polite society? Maybe opening our arms and our selves more often, in trust and acceptance, could change the world as we see it and allow it to open its embrace to us too?

The Elusive Shrimp

Caridina-multidentata-ingestion.jpg Shrimp by Richard Bartz, Munich Makro Freak via Wiki. This image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.
Image: Richard Bartz

They seek him here, they seek him there...” I couldn’t help thinking about Baroness Orczy’s Elusive Pimpernel as I watched the translucent creature foraging in the corner of the aquarium. He’s not exactly scarlet, being more of a watery pink, but he could certainly be the ‘shrimpernel’ of the tank.

Quite where he came from, or how long he had been in there, I’ll never know. I can only assume that he hitched a ride on one of the plants I brought home from the fish place. I didn’t even know I had him until he was discovered, lurking in the bottom of the old tank when I transferred the fish to their new home some months ago, and it had been months before that when I had last bought plants.

I saw him again the following morning, swimming merrily across the glass of his new home and really hoped I would see more of him; they are fascinating to watch. I even bought another half dozen shrimps to keep him company, knowing them for social creatures. But, despite cleaning the tank at least once a week, I hadn’t seen him or his fellow crustaceans since. They just disappeared into the undergrowth, never to be seen again.

Until last night, that is, when, bold as brass, a shrimp sauntered out to raid the fish food that had fallen at the front of the tank. I had been convinced for some time that I had lost them all. I had seen the vacant exoskeleton on the sand one day, just after I had medicated the tank. Invertebrates are not good with many aquarium treatments and I was convinced he had been a casualty of the war on white spot. And shrimp are a delicacy for bigger fish too.

No matter how carefully I look, though, or how assiduously I peer into the plants, nooks and crannies, there are no shrimp to be seen. It is nice to know he is there, though, quietly working behind the scenes, doing what nature intended. I only know he is still in there because he allowed me to catch that one, fleeting glimpse. It was enough to reassure me that he is alive and thriving, but it also makes me wonder what else might be in there, present but unseen.

There is something about the tranquillity of watching fish that can induce a meditative state. Or maybe I just indulge in weird trains of thought. But it seemed to me that the presence of the invisible shrimp could serve as an illustration for other unseen presences.

We cannot see love or hope, but we feel them, and see their effect on the world around us and in our own lives. We cannot see the wind, but we watch the trees bend before it and their leaves dance in its breath. We cannot see yesterday, but we know it was there… and we trust that tomorrow will come. We live our lives trusting in the presence of the invisible.

Neither deity nor the soul are visible to us, even when we have faith in their presence and existence. Without direct experience, we may trust that they are there, but we cannot know for certain; that is the very nature of faith. But, every so often, we are granted a fleeting glimpse of something beyond the scope of the everyday world.

It may be the beauty of a sunset or the first rosy blush of dawn, the perfection of a newborn babe, an act of love, or the whisper of that still, small voice within that holds a wisdom far beyond our own. These things can all be explained away as mere manifestations of a prosaic reality, but when they touch your heart and fill your being with wonder, you are gifted a glimpse beyond the mundane realms of fact and know that you have been touched by grace.

The courage of conviction…

‘They’ve got that completely the wrong way around.’ I almost winced as I read the article, completely disagreeing with the perspective that was being outlined. The basics were correct, I felt but there was something decidedly ‘off’ about the way it was being put across. I read on regardless, listening to the running commentary in my mind… then winced in good earnest. This time at me.

By what right did I think I could judge another person’s perspective? Anyone can challenge facts if they have better information, but this was not a factual piece; it was an article on an aspect of spirituality, which, by its very nature, deals with the unseen and unknown. I may have the right to disagree with a belief or an opinion, just as I have a right to my own perspective… but I have no right to judge another to be wrong on such a subject, no matter how deep my own convictions may run.

How can we know? None of us can prove there is anything beyond this realm. None of us can prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that anything exists beyond what we are experiencing right here, right now, with our own physical senses. And even that is debateable, subjective and at the mercy of quantum physicists. We cannot even be sure that we exist in the way that we think we do.

We accept that we are solid beings in a physical world where walls are impenetrable and water is wet, all the while knowing that there is more space between the particles that make up everything in the universe, than there is solid matter. Even though, theoretically, our atoms should be able to pass through walls, we don’t try to walk through them. Experience says it doesn’t work.

But we all know that there are things beyond what we are seeing. I know my sons are in their homes as I write. I know the dog is sleeping in the hallway and that the sun will rise in the morning. I cannot see any of these things, but I know them to be true. I have learned from experience, and such things are part of my image of the world that has been built over time. If I doubted that experiential reality, how could I move through the world?

When it comes to spirituality we are, by definition, dealing with things unseen and unprovable in any scientific way, yet as soon as we wonder whether there is a greater reality of some kind, we are looking at a plane of causation, something which affects and is an integral part of this reality.

We are faced with three ways we can go. There is scepticism, where we withhold judgement until and unless we find some reason to change our minds. There is belief, where we can choose to accept …or reject…a vision of reality put forward by others. Belief, on its own, implies that choice and choosing not to believe comes into that category. There is faith…trust, conviction, knowing…call it what you will. It may have, but does not require any religious affiliation or dogma, it transcends logic and simply settles on the heart.

Scepticism and belief can argue their corner. They are based on knowledge and reason. Faith is unreasonable, subjective, emotional, often illogical… and yet it can grow from both scepticism and belief. Faith ‘just knows’ and the conviction is so deep it permeates every aspect of your life and answers its every question.

And you cannot prove a thing.

You might very well be wrong.

The only ‘proof’ you can offer is how you live your life. How your convictions shape you and carry you through the trials and tribulations each new day can bring. And the trouble is that, regardless of the specifics of that faith, you are not alone. There are people whose convictions sustain them exactly as you are sustained… yet their path is different from yours and may not include faith at all.

So how can we judge another’s faith, belief or conviction when we cannot prove our own? As long at it follows some version of the Golden Rule and harms none, how can we say who is right and who is wrong?

All we can do is refuse the impulse to dismiss another’s belief, believe without seeking to impose our own perspective and accept that there is always a paradox… we can know with utter certainty, knowing that we might be wrong and that it is okay.

That, I think, is the true courage of conviction.

Unbalanced scales…

“…so, we’ve being doing this for a while…”
“Twelve thousand, four hundred and ten days to be exact.”
“…and I still don’t really know.”
“Know what?”
“What flowers you would prefer for Mother’s Day.”
“Ones with roots.”
“For the garden?”
“Obviously.”
“Or you could have fish…”

…which is why we ended up at the local aquarium place and why, a little while later, we were watching the newly acclimatised fish settle into their new home.

It was fascinating to watch the little corydoras, with their long, trailing fins, as they excitedly explored their environment. Almost straight away, they were joined by another small fish, a phantom tetra who seemed to feel he belonged. Phantoms are shoaling fish and he is the last of his kind in my tank until I can replenish his shoal. Although no more than a tiny fish, he Is beautiful, with velvety black fins and an iridescent ‘eye’ on his flanks. He too has a long, trailing dorsal fin, set at a similar angle to that of the new arrivals. He has apparently decided that he is now a corydora and seldom wanders far from his friends. He is determined to become part of their shoal and ‘fit in’… even though he doesn’t.

While the young corys dash around and rummage through the substrate in a constant hunt for food, the little phantom follows them, yet looks at a loss. Phantoms are shy fish, preferring to hide, where the corys are gregarious and playful extroverts. They are bottom-feeders, while the phantom is not, yet they swim in the open and at all levels, while the phantom prefers to stay close to the bottom and safe hiding places in the plants. Nevertheless, little phantom fish is now doing a very good imitation of a corydora, so desperate is he to fit in with them.

We are often guilty of projecting human behaviours and emotions onto other creatures, but I could not help but be struck by the little phantom’s illustration of something many of us do, or are expected to do, at some point in our lives. The only thing the phantom has in common with the corys… aside from them all being fish… is the shape of one fin. Yet he is prepared to set his own nature aside and conform to an alien model, copying the behaviour of others in order to be accepted. It is unnatural; he seems rather lost and confused, and his own beautiful being is subsumed by the need to belong. The sooner I can provide him with a shoal of his own kind, the better.

Later, I watched the fish in my son’s pond, and finally got a good look at our wonky fish. It happens every so often… some disease or other will twist a fish’s spine, leaving them otherwise quite healthy, but with a curvature that makes swimming more difficult. We have seen it before, and Bent-Tail proved to be a better teacher than his able-bodied counterparts until he flew away.

Wonky-fish is the worst case I have seen though; his spine bent almost perpendicular to his body and he is unable to swim properly at all. Like Bent-Tail, all my research does is throw up methods of euthanasia, and like Bent-Tail, that will not be happening. Wonky-fish is perfectly healthy apart from the twisted spine. He is, in fact, a beautiful mirror carp and has grown, in spite of his problem, to a foot in length. Being a dark coloured fish and preferring the depths, we did not see him until he had grown and by then it was far too late to try and effect a cure.

I watched him today as he played on the surface in the sun. He cannot swim in a straight line at all… the movement of his tail, because of his spine, sends him in circles. When he first showed up at the surface last year, it was heartbreaking as he seemed so frustrated, but he soon adapted.

He knows how to swim… there is a pond full of teachers demonstrating every technique. When he sought to conform, all he did was wear himself out and struggle to little avail.

Now, instead of desperately thrashing around, he has learned to ride the currents in the pond and use them to sail gently to where he wants to be. He has learned that it only takes a slight movement of his tail to carry his resting body effortlessly through the waters. He trusts me to throw food within his reach, yet he does not rely solely on me to feed him, he forages quietly for himself too. Instead of swimming with the crowd, he has made a home for himself beneath the irises, where the roots hold him steady and keep him safe from predators. And, by gently going his own way, instead of trying to be what he is not, he is better able to be part of the life of the pond, playing with the other fish in the sun.

Little Wonky-fish follows his own light, in spite or because of the difficulties he has faced. He does not swim with the shoal. He is one of a kind and, like his predecessor, a wonderful teacher.

Space for error

For five years, it was Steve who was the principal writer of the annual workshops. I don’t think any of us had really considered that it would ever be otherwise. We contributed, both ideas and certain sections of the weekend, but he had established a format and set a standard. All who attended knew they could trust him to deliver.

The morning of the first meeting after the River of the Sun workshop, Stuart and I had been talking about an idea he’d had for a workshop long ago…something he had been thinking about, on and off, for years. The Green Man had been coming up a lot in our lives…perhaps that was what had brought the idea to mind once more. We tend to trust the synchronicities that lead us along these odd pathways…especially when they go all ‘bells and whistles’.  You never know where they might lead, and so far, they have not led us astray.

“I think you should write the next one,” said Steve, settling himself at the pub table where we had just met. At any other moment, the only answer would have been that we could not possibly do that…he writes the workshops! Except, we’d been talking about the Green Knight/Green Man idea all morning so…

“Well, actually…” Which is how Leaf and Flame came into being, taking us all by surprise. We followed a year after that with The Feathered Seer, which we had also begun to mull over. Neither Stuart nor I had undertaken the writing of a workshop on that scale before, and Companions come from across the world to attend… even so, Steve left us to it, trusting that we would rise to the occasion. We, on the other hand, trusted that we would be given what was needed by way of inspiration as we worked. And we were…even though some of it came in its own good time.

Trust was a major facet of the Leaf and Flame workshop. Not only did we ask two of the Companions to ad-lib a whole section, trusting that they would bring what was needed to the moment, but we also asked the Gawain character, played by Steve, to place his trust in unseen forces, represented by …us. As we were by this time, being referred to as the Terrible Twins, this was a leap into the unknown. These ritual dramas go far beyond mere playacting and can have a deep and abiding effect on those who take part… and the trust required was real.

In previous years, the ‘knowledge sessions’ in which we explore various concepts, had all been carefully themed and designed to fit neatly with the story we were using and, for the most part, we had presented them ourselves. With Leaf and Flame and the Feathered Seer, we invited our Companions to share aspects of their own paths instead. We gave no more than a few words to guide their choice of subject and left them to it because we have the utmost faith in them. And every time, that faith has been repaid… not just with the quality of what has been shared, but through the strangely synchronous way in which their presentations have dovetailed far too neatly with the workshop.

That trust extends to all the Companions at the workshop… we ask them to open themselves to the moment …and they do. Every time. They are there when there is a need, they pick up the errors that inevitably occur, step in where there is a space, and each of them adds their own essence to the ‘cauldron of inspiration’ we brew together.

Some are asked to fill demanding roles. Last year, we beheaded one of our American friends in the first ritual. Okay, he did get to pick up his head and challenge the Companions to choose oracle cards from the severed head…and I think he enjoyed that… but even so, the axe was heavy and the trust needed to be mutual. This year, we asked our Shaman to work almost entirely unscripted for a large part of the weekend… which he did… and our Lore Keepers to enact two interwoven tales that they had yet to see, in whatever way they saw fit. Not only did they agree, but they delivered an incredible piece of performance art that had us all laughing and crying by turns and brought the historical role of the storyteller to vivid life for all of us.

The trust is unspoken, but always there. I believe it is stronger for being implicit, rather than explicit. It is simply accepted… and in that simplicity there is space.

When we dictate, step by step, every move that should be made, attempting to retain control of the vision we hold of ‘how things should be’, we are implying a lack of trust in others, even though we may not feel that to be so. Leaving space for error is also leaving space for trust…and that space allows those around us to grow into their own possibilities, challenging themselves in ways they may not otherwise have attempted.

When trust is misplaced, either things will not go according to plan or we will feel the shadow of betrayal. Either way, that space that we prepared will allow us room to grow as we face the challenges of the moment.

Living in the moment also requires our trust; that moment is the space in which we are…it can have neither past nor future, nor is it the present as it is past before we are aware of it. We can only trust as time and space moves through and around us. That trust must be in our selves, in the design of existence and the forces that are the matrix of being.

I wonder if that Free Will with which mankind is endowed, is also a manifestation of Trust? And is life, perhaps, the ‘space for error’ that we are given? Does it then matter whether we get things right or wrong… or does it matter more that we grow, through both success and error, for both can teach in their own way if we are prepared to learn. Is life our ‘space for error’, because we are trusted, rather than condemned… a space that allows each of us to grow into our own possibilities, challenging ourselves in ways we may not otherwise have attempted. Maybe we just have to trust that the Cosmos knows what It is doing… and trust ourselves to know It.

The Flowers of Mistrust – #Silenti

We live, increasingly, in an age of mistrust. It can be seen as cool, savvy, to doubt what we hear–an expectation of deceit in the ‘other’, as though trust belonged to the infant’s playground; something to be outgrown in the face of maturity in the world and in life.

As ‘humanity’, if such a concept is meaningful, we yearn for the true values of early childhood, where we could trust. To have to live in a world of its opposite is foreign to our natures and invokes one of our fundamental shared attributes – fear. Fear teaches us that mistrust is necessary to protect ourselves… and it is, until it comes time to be bigger than both.

Anyone who considers they are on their own spiritual path – and by that I mean simply a journey within themselves for the truth of their lives – encounters this lack of trust, sooner or later. Many, who have been working on themselves for a number of years, need to come up against this – often with the help of true friends, no matter how that looks at the time – before they can see that much of their lives is characterised by a lack of trust.

We build little islands within. We compartmentalise, thereby allowing mistrust to fragment what should be a whole nature…

It’s not as though we don’t have trust in parts of our lives; we have lots of it in family situations; and good, strong families are based on it. Only by showing a child that you trust them can you ever invoke that powerful sense of its loss when they do something that hurts its essential nature. This is an example of how the positive dynamic is so much more powerful than the accretion of the negative. Sadly, societies so often display the opposite.

Sadly – or perhaps, inevitably – politics across the world is increasingly based on lack of trust. The most powerful nations on earth can seem the most paranoid, and yet their civilisations grew from a history of trusted, social achievements.

How did this happen? My personal view is that we, as ‘cells’ of society, have, essentially, three natures. We have ‘the good’ and we have ‘the technology’; and, beneath them both we have the ‘fear’. The ‘good’ is, for the want of a more modern word, the ‘moral’ side of us – the goodness that the church used to address, back when we allowed moral considerations to belong to someone else. The ‘technology’ is the machinery, in all its forms, that we like to surround ourselves with to make life more comfortable and pleasant. The ‘fear’ side of our natures is what keeps the animal part of us alive. Our psychological side – the self that we worship in this age – only persists because of that animal nature’s ability to preserve itself as a base-layer. This is dilemma we face when we look at ourselves, honestly. We can dress it up in fancy terms, but, deep down, that’s what it is…

‘Comfortable and pleasant’ are what the ‘fear’ nature in us strives for. We want to be warm, we want to be clothed and fed, we want to exert ourselves less for more. These are not morally wrong things, they are what happens when the lower levels of our Maslow hierarchy gets a chance to surpass its fear and mistrust.

Two things happen as we rise up this hierarchy of needs: we get more comfortable, which takes us away from the rawness of experience; and we develop technology – and sell it to lots of other fearful people. At the group level, some of the technology removes the other, threatening people, before they can do it to us… Mistrust can be a very effective weapon for the ‘fear’ nature, but it’s by no means a spiritual quality – though it can be a great catalyst…

To cut through any of this requires that we do two things: we need to re-learn the value of the ‘good’. We don’t need religion to do this, though there’s nothing wrong with finding it there. Secondly, we need to believe that we can extend that sense of personal good into our societies; and to do that means we need to be prepared to face the terrible arsenal of technology that has done what all intelligent machines do – protect itself at all costs. At present, there is very little belief that human good can achieve this. But, that is an illusion. ‘There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come’, to quote Victor Hugo.

In a wonderful act of synchronicity, my smartphone has just beeped with an updated message. I’m following a blog about the ‘olden days’ in my home town of Bolton, Lancashire. It was a very working-class place, but it had good aspirations and some very good schools. One of the respondents to the blog has just replied: ‘Yep, that was us… happy days, true neighbourhood – all one big family.’

It was true. Life was poorer, very much poorer, but the neighbourhoods were much closer – often intrusively so. Education and technology have ‘raised’ many of us out of that world – but only in the prosperous western world.

We can’t go back. The kind of nostalgia that so infects the elderly end of some counties’ populations is a useless emotion. But we do need to find a way to believe in goodness, again, and then to trust in its power…

The deeper spiritual journey is marked by a stage where real, inner trust is essential – indeed, is an attribute of the developing soul. And, collectively, that is a fire which will test what we are truly made of…

©️Copyright Stephen Tanham.

Fragments of perception

Fragments of night rise from the road, scattering flecks of dawn on ebony wings. I watch the sun gild a horizon veiled in mist and see the earth blush at its touch. The morning song of birds drowns the sound of the engine as I drive through a green land that is waking to spring. It is only a few weeks since I last drove this road, yet it is a different place… the seasons have turned, the light has advanced… new life springs from old. It is beautiful and I know this road so well that I can give my attention to the land. I am struck, quite forcibly, by the realisation that no-one has ever seen quite what I am seeing…nor will they ever see quite this scene again.

And nor will I. This is the very last time I will see it. For a moment that thought sears the heart and yet, by the time I have realised the pain, I am no longer there and it is already too late.

It is also the first time I will see this scene. It has never been quite like this before, no matter how many times I have driven this way. The dawn light, always glorious, is always different. Everything is in a constant state of flux, moving inexorably through its own inner cycle, responding to the greater cycles of life and evolutionary time.

I will never see it again for it will never exist quite like this again. And nor will I. Even I am changing, a millisecond at a time, always different. Even the ‘I’ that considers this fact is no more before the thought has finished formulating.

The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali (1931)
The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali (1931)

What is, is… now and only now.

The place I have left exists for me only in memory. I am no longer there. The place to which I go is also just a memory. I am not yet there. Neither is more real for me, at this moment, than a dream. I move between moments trusting that both my past and my future are a true reflection of my perceptions. I must trust that my perceptions are a true reflection of reality. My life is based on that trust. Indeed, I must even trust that the ‘I’ that is recreated with each passing moment is the same ‘I’ that I remember myself to be. Even so, the ‘I’ to which the ego persists in clinging no longer exists, but is itself no more than a perception of memory.

I drive on, allowing the now distinct fragments of my perceived self to give their attention to the moment. While my eyes drink beauty, my mind explores and my body drives itself onward, recognising that even the word ‘my’ can no longer apply as ‘I’ do not exist for long enough to own anything.

Can you live, day to day, with such a realisation at the forefront of the mind? Dali’s paintings suddenly make more sense than ever before. So does the Ruler of the Universe from Douglas Adams’ books and those religious orders who eschew words of possession. Only madness, genius or divine revelation can come from attempting to live within the world in that state of realised non-being for very long.

 

Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1906814
The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali (1954)

Once touched, though, that realisation leaves its mark. Imagine, just for a moment, if you were to know that this would be the last time you would ever meet a pair of eyes in quite this way… if this were the last morning you would ever see… the last hug you would ever give or receive from one pair of arms. Imagine that this is the last time that this you would have chance to embrace this moment. And then stop imagining, for it is true.

The world, your world, becomes a different place when every second is to be lived with a passion because you know it will never come again. No chore is quite the same when you do it for the first time…or the last. No joy is as bright or as poignant as the first and the last time it touches your heart. And it is always both.

We do not have to twist ourselves into spiritual pretzels in order to learn to live only in the now… it is the only place we can ever live. The past is a memory, the future a dream and we move constantly from one to the other, watching them slide seamlessly into each other in less than a heartbeat, with our awareness poised on the scintilla of time in-between. What we may need to learn is how to remember to embrace each moment as a first and savour it as a last time… and how to remember our selves as we move through our world.

Twin suns…

dawn sky (1)

“…It is at this point that Ben decides to leave us and heads off into the quarry which lies behind our vantage point on ‘an errand’.

 

“He’s burying the stones we were going to be lugging over the moor,” says Wen.

“How do you know they’re stones?”

“I don’t,” says Wen, “but I bet they are.”

“I didn’t know you were the betting sort,” say I, “but you’re probably correct.”

 

Wen moves off back up the track heading out to the moor beyond.

 

Just then the leading edge of the sun disk crests the cloud and a sliver of sunlight arrows out over the moor.

 

I run back to the edge of the quarry and shout down to Ben that the sun is up.

As the full face of the solstice sun finally emerges, it ‘sees’ us like this…

Ben in a hole…

Me on the lip of the hole…

Wen about to lead us higher up the moor…

Extract from Doomsday:Scions of Albion by Stuart France and Sue Vincent

***

There is always a certain amount of uncertainty about a dawn. It is in that moment, when we wait for the future to become the present, that we connect unconsciously with the past. We naively assume that our ancestors awaited the daily miracle of sunrise, not knowing if the great Eye would open to illuminate the day or remain closed, keeping the world in inescapable darkness.We stand on the edge of a tenebrous wilderness, scanning the skyline, waiting to see if our timing is right and the weatherman reliable. Will we see the dawning sun crest the horizon… or only the flush of light behind the pall of cloud?

We never really know. We can only take the time on trust and await the pleasure of Great Nature as the dawn unfolds.

There is something sacrificial about such moments… sleep curtailed, a warm bed abandoned, breakfast postponed and the morning braved, regardless of the chill in the air or the vagaries of the weather. You climb to your chosen vantage point…and then you wait. You have checked the sunrise tables and know, as accurately as possible, the time that dawn will creep above the dark earth at that particular spot. You do not know whether or not the sky will be clear enough to see, how light or dark the path before your feet will appear and whether sunshine or rain will be your lot. Yet all these are things that can be addressed with a little planning and preparation; warm clothes, good footwear and a chocolate bar in the pocket serve to cover the practicalities.

Yet, in spite of all your meticulous planning and best calculations, Nature is still in charge. How long will the sun take… beyond the technical time of dawn… to actually climb from below the eastern horizon to its place above the line of hills that now block your vision? Will the big, black cloud thicken and steal ‘your’ dawn, or part to shower gold at your feet? You do not know… but you wait.

The numinous space between night and day, you  are poised between doubt and trust, fear and hope, with eyes and heart open to the light… The crossroads of the day lie before your feet, signposting the choices the moment asks of you… and offering you a moment to affirm your self-definituon; yours is the choice….sleep or waking, oblivion or awareness… is yours to breathe, drinking its presence as the dew… yet once you have made that choice, like the ancestors, all you can do is wait and trust…surrendering to the greater will of natural law.

Sometimes that trust is rewarded in unexpected ways. You see asea of mist spread out beneath your feet like a pathway to the Otherworld, long before the sun rises…

You watch the dawn over the valley… then see the sun rise again above the hills where you stand… a twin dawn…

You watch a sky aflame with liquid light, gilding the world, revealing its contrast and colours…

Every dawn is a miracle, every sunrise both affirmation and new beginning…

***

Nick Birds SE Ilkley 2015 (7)

Join us in September as the seasons turn once more to walk forgotten pathways across the moors to circles  lost in the bracken. Learn of the dreams of a mysterious  Seer, a lifetime echoed in stone and whispered through time as we explore the sacred landscape of Derbyshire. In the solitude of the moors, the voices of the past seem to reach through the land and touch your heart, finding there a continuous thread of light that winds through the ages as each soul asks its own questions, the same questions that have been asked for millennia.

Based around the Fox House, Hathersage, we will spend the weekend exploring some of the neolithic  and sacred sites of the area, culminating in a trip to Arbor Low, the ‘Stonehenge of the north’. Each attendee will be asked to bring a short reading or to share a story that seems appropriate to the moment and we will talk as we walk, finding inspiration in the land and in our companions.

These events are not large, just a small and intimate group and a warm, informal atmosphere.

For those thinking of attending the Silent Eye’s Annual Workshop, The Feathered Seer, at Great Hucklow in April 2017, Circles Beyond Time will be of particular relevance as the story that will unfold during The Feathered Seer will be set in this particular part of the ancient landscape.

Arbor Low and Stanton Moor Imbolc 001 (16)

When: Weekend of 9th to 11th September 2016.

Where: Based at the Fox House inn near Hathersage, Derbyshire, England.

Who: An informal weekend with the Silent Eye, open to all who wish to attend.

Cost: £50 per person, accommodation and meals are notincluded and should be booked separately.

Why: Explore an ancient and sacred landscape and how it is still relevant to each of us today.

How: Email us at rivingtide@gmail.com to reserve your place.

Still waters

a 063

The surface of the pond was empty… not a fish in sight… yet by the time I had taken the last few steps across the deck, forty of them were waiting to be fed, with several of them, taking a leaf from Simon’s book and sticking their faces out of the water, looking hopefully… and confidently… in my direction. They know the footsteps that herald food.

Not for the first time I wonder about that. Small though I am in the eyes of the world, I am such a vast being in comparison to them. They cannot see me when they dart about their business in the water, only when they raise their eyes towards the heavens from whence all care comes; either in the form of fresh water and oxygen or as manna falling from the skies. Sometimes our eyes meet and there is a sense of wordless understanding. A promise, perhaps, that I will always do what is best for them. I wonder if they realise.

a 059
I have, in the past, removed them from their pond to treat their maladies in medicated buckets. When water levels have brought near disaster, I and others of my kind have worked to put things right and ease their suffering. They have not seen as they gasped and struggled, only felt the fresh inflowing of clean water. Sometimes there is a muddied pool where all seems dark, dull and the visibility is poor. The fish cannot know that this is when the pump at the bottom of the garden is being cleaned or the stream dredged for their benefit, yet they will play in the crystal waters that such murkiness precedes.

Meeting the eyes of a fish whose language and mode of living is so different from mine is a strange feeling. They move through different dimensions, up and down, with a freedom mirrored by the birds in the air. It is odd to realise that this creature must see us as both alien and, in our own terms, godlike, when it has a freedom in movement we cannot know unless we enter its domain and mimic its movements.

Simon 3
Yet it is a freedom confined, bounded by the banks of the pond… a limited environment which provides them with everything they need. Being a complete ecosystem, they do not even need the food I give them in order to survive, yet the falling flakes are welcome, giving a sustenance that allows them to live and grow in a way beyond what their own environment alone could supply.

Although so much comes from an ‘above’ to which they look for care, they cannot live in my world. The air that sustains my life is both too much and not enough for them to breathe… their evolution has been different from mine, yet, of course, the waters in which they swim are the same as those which brought my ultimate ancestor into being, and in which my own reflection is backed by the heavens to which I, in my own turn, look for a sustenance beyond need.

a 109
My body and theirs share the same substance, and even their environment is a large part of the vehicle in which I move through the world. Water is so much a common thread that both fish and human could not survive without it. Yet we use it in different ways; were I to breathe water it would be just as lethal to me as a goldfish breathing air. Yet there is water in the air I breathe, just as there is oxygen in the water that passes through their gills. We are poles apart… opposites in so many ways… yet so closely linked that our kinship is unmistakable.

I watch them swim through reflected trees; the clouds above my own head mirrored in the water. I wonder if the life below the surface mirrors my own more closely that I might at first think. I too look up to the heavens, trusting that the murky waters that sometimes trouble my life flow from a greater good I may not see. I know that it is from another and higher realm that I draw the sustenance that makes the difference between surviving and living. And I wonder if the freedom of movement we call free will is as confined by the limits of our existence as the swimming of fish by the banks of their pond.

a 075
Perhaps, too, there is a greater kinship with that which I call the One than may at first be perceived, for if I and the fish share the substance of being, perhaps that too is mirrored, and adds understanding to a phrase much loved by those who serve in the Mysteries. “There is no part of me that is not of the gods.”

P1160122