Still waters

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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:

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*Images Google search, photographer unknown

Inner whispers

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Every so often there is a shift in a life’s pattern that leads you off at a new tangent. Sometimes these are things you have worked for, dreamed of and created for yourself… an opportunity seen and grasped. Sometimes these events simply land in your lap and you have to choose whether or not to accept them and go with them… and sometimes there simply is no choice.

Occasionally these new directions may leave people questioning your sanity… why would you take such a risk after all, when there is no real reason to do so that is obvious to the outside world. You are doing okay, everything seems to be in order and life is pootling along quite nicely, thank you very much. Suddenly you pull the metaphorical rug from under your own feet and start behaving in what the world might see as an unusual manner.

‘Mid-life crisis’, say some, ‘lost the plot’ say others… and there are unkinder epithets available too, as well as the slightly envious, or respectful ones of those who want to break free of their own routine and Do Something.

Of course, you may well launch into one of these ventures… or adventures… and find things seem to unfold in their own way, regardless of the nice, tidy plans you have made where you thought you had everything under control and your vision of the future ran between nice, neat lines of predictability. Then you wake up one morning and realise that while you were sleeping the universe, as is its wont, has seen a vessel shaped to its need and rushed in to fill it.

At this point you realise that you are running along merrily with a cup filled to the brim with something unfamiliar, unplanned and suddenly very easy to spill. It demands a more considered approach and some major readjustments in thinking. You might, it is true, simply empty out the cup and start again to your own plan, or you can accept the gift and begin to learn what it will need from you in order to grow into what it could… perhaps should…be. It was such a scenario that saw the birth of the Silent Eye… a desire that became an imperative that has become both response and learning curve for those of us involved.

We are lucky, we are none of us on our own in this and we each have the companionship of the others to check, teach and learn from, for we really are the first students of the School. We have to be…anything else would be hypocrisy. You cannot teach what you are not first prepared to learn although that learning may be damnably uncomfortable at times, as we learn to look into the mirror of self and see ourselves without mercy, but with justice, love and understanding. It is a necessary process and a valuable one, as from those personal lessons we learn to teach from experience, not mere theory.

There are other gifts and shifts along the way too, and every so often you pull up short and wonder about everything, up to and including your own sanity in following these pathways into an unknown that is yet not unknowable, especially when the going gets rough. Learning to trust that the path knows where it leads isn’t always easy. But there are treasures to be found along the way and some of them are the people who drop into your life at just the right time, with just the right understanding and experience to restore your faith in your sanity and allow you to hitch up your backpack and follow the path forward. They are not always obvious, these gifts; for although sometimes they stand in a clear light, easy to see, at others they are like the ragged beggar or the beast in the fairy stories that turns out to be the hero or the sage in disguise, but they await on our journey if we have eyes to see.

Our individual journeys as human beings, though, are not fairytales, they are our lives and each of us encounters these moments of choice and self doubt in the quiet of our own minds. There is, deep within us all a part of us that observes and Knows, shaking its head fondly at our errors with love unconditional and a clarity of vision we might call conscience, but which goes beyond that to a deeper understanding of our self, our motives, our strengths and our frailties. On the surface we may be as children, fingers in our ears in our refusal to hear a truth we already know, yet learn we must and grow we will, like it or not, one day.

That inner knowing pulls together all the threads of being and manifests as that inner voice of the heart and that, perhaps, is our best guide through the journey of life if we can simply learn how to listen and act on its whispering song.