Rites of Passage: Seeing beyond fear ~  A weekend with the Silent Eye

As the June workshop in Scotland draws to a close, why not consider joining us in September for a weekend in the ancient landscape of stones, circles and strange places?

Rites of Passage: Seeing beyond fear

 A weekend with the Silent Eye

Derbyshire, UK

Friday 13th – Sunday 15th September 2019

We are all afraid of something.

There are the fears of the everyday world, from arachnophobia to a fear of the dark, and the deeper fears of the personality, that play upon the mind and heart.

What purpose might such fears serve, beyond protecting us from potentially harmful situations?

How have our ancestors addressed such fears across the centuries? Can we learn from the past a way to see beyond our fears to a future lit by serenity and hope?

Join us on Friday the thirteenth of September, 2019, in the ancient landscape of Derbyshire as we explore how to lay our personal gremlins to rest.

Based in the landscape around Tideswell, Bakewell and beyond, this weekend will entail some relatively easy walking on moorland paths.

The weekend runs from Friday afternoon to early Sunday afternoon, and costs £50 per person. Meals and accomodation are not included and should be booked separately by all attendees. meals are often taken together at a convenient pub or cafe.

Click below to
Download our Events Booking Form – pdf

For further details or to reserve your place: rivingtide@gmail.com

City rhythm…?

I couldn’t remember the last time I had walked so far on urban pavements. I generally avoid going into town with all the dedication I would show to avoiding, say, a dinner invitation from a ravenous vampire…and for much the same reasons; both leave you limp and lifeless. But, with the car off the road, the cupboards bare and the fish needing medical supplies, I had little choice.

It isn’t that I don’t walk… just that I live in a rural area. A tramp across the fields with the dog is a very different affair to walking on concrete. Quite how different, I had not realised until today. It isn’t just the external stuff like traffic, noise and scenery… walking on concrete changes everything.

The first thing I noticed was how much my pace and posture changed, from the relaxed mooch to a business-like stride. The rhythm of my steps was very different, I covered the ground faster and my back was straighter than usual, shoulders low and head held high.

The next thing I noticed was that the few people I passed all smiled before looking away. This, in itself, is unusual in towns, where most people avoid eye contact at all costs. Then it dawned on me why… I was singing.

I could see why I was getting the covert glances… and smiled to myself as I realised exactly what I was doing.

When I was very young, we did not have a car. My mother didn’t drive, my father was stationed abroad, so it was either the bus or Shanks’s pony. As far back as I can remember… and my memory is pretty good… as we walked, my mother and I, we would sing. It helped pass the time and took my mind off the distance my little legs were covering.

It started with my mother singing to me until I learned the words, which I soon picked up. There used to be a tape of a very small girl singing Gracie Fields’ ‘Sally’. I was so young at the time that my logic was a bit odd by adult standards; I could only sing that song and no other because I had a poorly finger… and the finger was poorly because my mother had made me eat cabbage.

Later, we would sing old music-hall favourites, popular songs, lyrics from musicals and even the odd aria. We could sing the entire score of ‘The Five Pennies’ between Town End and Waterloo Lane, and we knew the scores of any number of films. Sometimes we recited poetry instead, from Spike Milligan to the monologues of Marriot Edgar, via Wordsworth and Keats. And we always practised any numbers I needed for the musical comedy routines of dancing school.

When my own sons were small, we walked everywhere too. I did not drive and, in a city with excellent public transport, did not need to learn. And, as we walked, we recited those same poems and sang many of the same songs.

Perhaps it was the rhythm of my footsteps, but walking into town today, I found myself singing those old songs. And, quite apart from the fact that I should never be allowed to sing in public, for fear of offending passing eardrums, most people don’t do that.

It is one of those things that is simply not done,  though I cannot for the life of me think why that should be so. If I’d had a child by the hand, no-one would have batted an eyelid, but a solitary adult, singing to themselves, draws strange, strained glances followed by a rapid averting of the eyes. Had they been close enough to hear me sing, I could have sympathised.

I did have a child with me, though. She has never left me and will always sing as she walks. We may simply see the inner child as the first psychological blueprint of our growth, or we may see it as the soul-child and a link to something deeper still; the two do not preclude each other. For me, she is more than nostalgia or memory, I carry her within and she is, in many ways, the ‘mother’ of the adult. She exists as a purer state of being, uncontaminated by the failures, frailties and falsities of an  adult existence. It is through her eyes that I see a world filled with wonders. It is through her that I touch excitement, faith and hope and it is she who still reminds me that love is unconditional. And, if she wants to sing, that’s fine by me.

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?