No other way?

dawn 006A chill flame burns in the hearth
Where the embers of warmth
Should smoulder golden
In the morning
Carrying the gentle night
To a new dawn.
Dew falls, salt and bitter
On the sapling
Torn from earth
To become a spear
Launched to flight,
Seeking its prey
With a hunter’s hunger.
What of the branch
Where the songbirds rest
Singing to the sun
Amid the flowers?
What of the fruits;
Its berries, drops of blood
From a prey too strong to die,
Stain the hunter’s hand
With the shame of destruction
And the madness of knowing
No other way.

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Coffee break

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It has not been an easy morning, following long and strange night. It is odd how we can go through the most unusual situations and still face the day with every appearance of normality sometimes. We are a resilient species on the whole.
So, after a long night and a very early start, I was home early from my son’s and set about finishing the jobs interrupted yesterday by the recalcitrant washing machine, re-stuffing the sofa cushions into their newly washed covers that, temporarily at least, smell fresh and clean… and not of Ani. The small dog, in helpful mode, decided to plump the cushions for me. Sadly, she seemed intent on doing so by sitting on each of the ones I was struggling to re-stuff. It made life a tad difficult. Funny, but difficult.

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It reminded me of the day I tried to lay the carpet here alone. My youngest son was at school, my eldest already left home. Bear in mind I am a mere five foot nothing and this carpet was 28 yards square and heavy. I’d struggled enough to get all the furnishings to one end of the room and, at that point, had two dogs intent on helping.
By the time my son came home I had one end laid and was moving furniture back to the far end to do the other. Bad enough on a flat surface, but of course, there was now a roll of carpet in the middle of the room attached to the floor at one end. Everything needed lifting. My son rolled up his sleeves, called in the troops and we waded in, me and three teenagers.
All went well until we noticed one of the dogs was missing… and found an Echo sized lump beneath the carpet. Every time we got her out she burrowed under again, with Molly chasing her from the top. collage1
The carpet fitting took a while but it was, perhaps, the funniest bit of redecorating ever. Or maybe the purple dog who had used her tail as a paintbrush counts for that. Or the Ani who likes helping with cupboards and who, given half a chance strips beds or hides inside the duvet cover.
The small dog has now reclaimed ‘her’ sofa and is sprawled across as many cushions as she can reach and I have stopped for coffee. My next job will entail climbing; I will climb on one chair in order to get the suicidal crane flies out of the uplighters… Ani will doubtless climb up beside me. Health and Safety would have a hissy fit.
But you will forgive me if the dog comes into the equation again today. Her lunacy keeps me sane in a world that is sometimes fraught with ’unusual situations’. It is that or I wax lyrical over those friends far away who hold on tight when you are in need of a virtual shoulder, talk sense when the world throws a wobbly and are just ‘there’ when you need them… and if I did that they would probably just call me a daft sod and have done. But they, like Ani, bring brightness and colour to my days, particularly when it gets a bit overcast.IMGP0405

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A question of choice

dawn 004I have been thinking a lot lately. You may have noticed. Not that my mind often stops. It sleeps occasionally, though even my dreams are busy. Sometimes it goes into abeyance and I stand back and watch another me, one who knows something that I do not. A bigger me. Not, as my sons would gleefully tell you given my mere five foot that this is a difficult thing.

Many writers recount how their characters write the book and they, as authors, simply take down the words as dictation. I can verify this for I have felt it myself, learning to know and love my creations as they create themselves. All I do is set the scene and give them a form to inhabit. The rest they write for themselves and I tap away at the keyboard, watching and waiting to see how their story unfolds and frequently being taken by surprise.

It is a curious feeling and one that inevitably begs the question as to whether this is how the One feels, fondly watching us play out our stories upon the backdrop of life, waiting to see what we will do with the opportunities we are given. For they are opportunities, each and every challenge with which we are faced. Some of them are bigger than others, some pass almost unnoticed, but we meet them every day.

The big ones, those that affect our lives, inwardly or outwardly, are the ones we remember. They are the heartaches and grief, the fears and loss, even the joys. For they all carry choice as part of their gift. Even when we are faced with a seemingly choice-less situation, we still have the ability to decide how we react, how we learn, what we carry away from the moment.

I’m not even sure that the choices themselves matter. It is what impels them that counts. Too often we merely react, thinking we have chosen, when in fact we are the victim of our own conditioned responses and we stumble through life unconscious of the fact that we are not fully aware. But choice is a precious thing. We won’t always get it right… sometimes there is no right. We will inevitably make mistakes, and that is okay. We can learn from those too. Every single second presents us with the wonder that is choice. And each choice we make will change our world in a very real way.

Have you considered that we are the authors of our own reality based upon how we face each moment. We can change our worlds with a single thought, a shift in perception, a change of heart. We can hurt and cause pain by simply reacting in anger or frustration, or we can share joy and comfort, choosing to look beyond the surface of the moment to see what lies beneath.

When we do make these choices consciously, we do not do so with the mind alone.

There is a stream of thought that sees Manifest reality as the ultimate expression of the One, by whatever Name we call It. If this is so then we are not separated from the Divine, aspiring to be worthy of Its Love, but both we and the world in which we live are an inherent part of It.

We may choose for good or ill, each carry consequences and bring further choices, to Be or to react. But the simple fact that we have this gift is also an expression of the perfect design of the One. Made in awareness, our choices will reflect that and we can touch something finer within ourselves than we would normally see in our everyday lives. We do not do it often, but when we do, we Know.

Originally posted 2012

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A nice, restful Sunday…

I wished the camera was within reach.

As the kettle boiled I had opened the door for Ani to go out and prepared her breakfast. Calling her in I watched, astonished, as she skidded to a halt and began the low, warning growl at her breakfast bowl. Spider, I thought. They are everywhere.

I checked, but no, nothing.

Ani is still growling, advancing, pawing at the ground like a small horse and retreating.

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I pulled everything out again… checked all round… not a thing. I could see no reason for it.

Ani has by this point retreated to the living room, within sight of the bowl. Her nose is wet, her mouth says yes, favourite breakfast… but she won’t go near it and is whining. I sit on the cold floor in my dressing gown and show her it is okay.

She advances… but not too close, continually growling with that low, worried rumble. I pick up the bowl and she scarpers to a safe distance, howling quietly. Maybe a field mouse has come in, or a big beetle? A frog? Goodness knows…

Feeding her a bit by hand I attempt to reassure her, utterly bewildered at what is happening here… she’s never done anything like this before…books 002

She takes the morsels and wolfs them down. Not the food itself then. Weird. I advance the bowl again… she retreats further, pawing and growling.

I can’t understand it… there is nothing different, no changes… nothing at all to worry her, yet she is obviously very worried by something….

I look at the bowl from my ground level view… and then I understand.

Seriously? Really?

Oh Ani….

The two pale golden capsules hidden in her food… capsules she had eaten with no problem every day for the past week… are catching the light and sticking up slightly from the surface.

Like eyes, perhaps…?

A quick stir and they are out of sight. I try again, she creeps in slowly and wolfs her breakfast after a cautious sniff.

My dog is officially a chicken…

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… and I was chuckling away at the daft thing for quite some time. Her sheepish ‘thank you’ after breakfast sort of said it all.

She’s not having the best of days. The washing machine decided to pack up and spew soap suds all over the floor, billowing everywhere… This wouldn’t be too bad (apart from my own consternation) but she’s always liked helping with the laundry…

Last seen she was hiding under the sofa cushions, which, to complete her discomfiture, I have stripped of covers to go in the wash… hmm. That could be tricky…

Still, she is buried and not coming out. Daft animal.

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Except… that is unfair. From the small dog’s perspective some arcane creature had taken up residence in her bowl and was looking back at her with a pale golden stare. She was genuinely worried about something she simply didn’t understand. It was outside her experience and made no sense to her. Then the friendly washing machine attacked her.

I can’t say she is alone in being scared by what she has not had to face before and fails to comprehend. It must be a feeling we are all familiar with at some stage of our lives and I suppose we might all end up feeling sheepish or looking as funny as Ani did to outsiders who can see the fear for what it is.

Me, I was supposed to be having a quick clean up, strip the sofa and curtains then get out into the garden… yeah, right. Where’s the screwdriver…

hell 001

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Awkward questions

williamson fin cop monsal dale churches 013
I was asked a question the other day with which I am intimately acquainted but for which I had no answer. “What does it mean to lead a spiritual life?” It is not strictly true to say I have no answer. I have my own answers, but those I recognise to be subjective, not definitive. It is, I think, one of those questions to which there are as many answers as there are querents and all will hold at least part of the truth.

To begin with it begs the question of what we mean by ‘spirituality’ itself. In this day and age it is often a term held to be quite distinct from religious belief and many will say they are ‘spiritual, not religious’, yet I am not so sure you can really make that distinction. Religion is generally defined as a formalised and organised set of beliefs, where spirituality is usually seen as a personal relationship with the non-physical life. Yet a religious belief that seeks a personal relationship with God, whatever Name is used, surely, by that definition, is spiritual? For me the choice of path matters little, it is how we choose to walk it that makes the difference between whether we embrace a particular path or merely pay lip-service to an outer form; a spiritual life should be a personal journey towards understanding regardless of the route taken.

For some religion provides the structure and the guide that they need. For others that very structure is anathema. Many forget that the underlying message behind most paths that is not so dissimilar when stripped of doctrine and tradition. They can all be paths to the Light. That is up to the traveller.

If I were to seek to express an answer to that original question and say what I personally mean by living a spiritual life, I would have to say that it is to live without blinkers.

I would have to consider the blindness that can make us the last to see our faults and flaws, the last to see our personal, inner barriers and the excuses we make for ourselves and say that the spiritual life leaves us naked with nowhere to hide. It demands that we look at ourselves, both in our weakness and in our strength, recognising the problems and screwed-up bits equally with the gifts, glories and beauty we all possess; as a rule we are not very good at that, tending to see only one side or the other.

To live a spiritual life is to live, fully… and to live in the world, alive to the world, in the moment we are given; and through knowledge and experience to seek the understanding that can be born of them.

For me, it does not mean being a saint or becoming perfect. It is about living in awareness and harmony, both within ourselves and within the world. It means recognising the perfection that already exists within each of us… within each other… and within which we all exist. It means aligning ourselves, little by little with that greater perfection and with who we are in the world. It asks of us that we live in compassion and love, obeying that golden rule that transcends all the religious and spiritual barriers we have created; to treat others as we ourselves would wish to be treated, and to do so in the knowledge of our ultimate kinship as part of a single stream of life.

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Wings

Originally posted August 2013

P1120129‘Which is the greater blessing,’ someone once asked, ‘ to have the sublime unity of God to centre and save the universe ? Or to have the concrete immensity of the universe by which to undergo and touch God?’ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

In many cultures the butterfly has been seen as the symbol of the soul. It is, in many ways, an excellent analogy, and no less so for being much used. From the earthbound caterpillar that munches its way through the garden, feeding the physical body by consuming its environment, much as we do with the emotional, intellectual and sensory input we receive, to the imperative that sets it to build the cocoon. It does not know what it coming, but it has no choice. It is a change of state that is inevitable… like death… and the small, soft body responds to the inner command, building a place in which, to all intents and purposes, it will dissolve into its component parts, becoming nothing at all like the caterpillar… yet the essence, the life force that animates those glorious wings and takes flight above the earth, is the same. What was the caterpillar becomes the butterfly… they are the same creature, but wholly different in their appearance, their abilities and their goals.

Can it feel, in some vague, instinctive way, that inner call? That desire to fuel transformation through its environment? Is the squishy little body aware at some level of what is to come? Does it glimpse a passing butterfly and yearn for wings and a reflection of that beauty? Does it recognise something akin to its own nature in the glorious creature that flutters around it? Maybe it recognises at some deeper level that this is its kin, its parent… the one who laid the egg from which, long ago, the caterpillar emerged. Or is it simply consumed by the desire and need to consume?

Why caterpillars anyway? Why not just lay eggs that become butterflies? I do not know, but I have thought about it a fair bit… my mind wanders down some odd pathways sometimes. I think it is about the fuel. The butterfly is already inherent in the caterpillar, yet the mechanics and beauty, the colour and complexity of the design takes a lot of creating. Think of trying to make a caterpillar… even from clay. It is a simple design… simply a mobile feeding tube. In terms of engineering it is quite simple… and its functions are minimal. Now, try sculpting that butterfly… and make it a working model.  The time, effort and energy to do so is far greater. So I think that is why caterpillars. A neat package… a simple egg, that hatches to feed and grow itself, learning its environment, consuming it, experiencing it and carrying the programming to make the butterfly itself once it has grown enough, fed enough, matured enough….

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It follows the dictates of its own nature and, by obeying the inner imperative, is transformed in one of the most incredible moments of glory, into sheer beauty, taking flight under the summer sun.

As an analogy, I’m not sure we can beat it.

We are not so much different, I feel. Though how you interpret that depends upon your own perspective, of course. We do consume our environment, taking in all the stimuli and information in our need to grow, both in time and in understanding. And there is that odd nagging set of questions about the why of it all.

It is a touchy subject this, this debate around the nature of the world and our spiritual place and purpose within it. Or should it be, its spiritual purpose around us? Many, possibly all those amongst us who seek, have asked so many why’s and probably each of us has come up with different answers. That’s fine, and, I feel, as it should be. The relationship in which we see ourselves with however we conceive of Divinity… even if we reject the very concept… is, and should be, a personal one.

Some feel the world should be overcome… that we should be able to transcend its call, its desires, the flesh itself. Some feel no call to another level of being… they are here, now and that is all that matters. Some see the world as an expression of the Being of the One and thus see all as sacred, even our faults and flaws part of a higher purpose.

But regardless of our beliefs, or the way they shape us all, the inevitability of that moment of transformation we call death awaits us all. As we approach that inescapable leveller where king and pauper are alike, we have only our beliefs and hopes and that still, small voice that whispers within. Do we simply return the elements of our physical bodies to the earth and cease to be? Are our hopes of survival merely fears of annihilation? Are we nothing more than a body? Am ‘I’, are ‘you’ just this flesh? Is there more to being who we are than appears when we look in the mirror? Or is there within us the butterfly waiting to emerge, nourished by the experience of living, fed by what we have consumed in life, awaiting that moment of dissolution and transformation when we fly free?

Me, I’m with the butterflies.

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Turning pages

desk 026I’ve been doing some clearing out again. The house, small though it is, was once home to seven for a while and still holds an awful lot of leftover stuff I really do not need. Bit by bit I whittle it down, though I would need a skip to clear the loft I’m betting. Stuff the boys left behind and no longer want or need, odds and sods kept ‘just in case’… you know the sort of thing. We all have that kind of clutter if there is space to put it.

Taking a break and chasing Ani out of the spare room, my eye fell upon the bookshelf at the top of the stairs. It used to be a fairly useless alcove; now it is a floor to ceiling affair deep enough to hold two rows of double-stacked books. There are similar ones in the living room and a smaller bookcase in the bedroom. Those shelves hold a lot of memories; the books on there are mainly old ones… a lot of fantasy and historical stuff as well as books from my own childhood and youth that I somehow seem to have retained.

If I go through the shelves I could, potentially, dispose of the vast majority of them really and only keep the reference books I still use. I don’t though, and I won’t unless I have to. Not because I can’t let go of them, but because they are old friends I like to revisit from time to time. Me and the books have moved county and even country together and though, periodically, I have pared them down to minimum, it has never exactly been through choice as such, only necessity. I suppose they are a symbol of continuity and a link with other times, places and people. None have any monetary value… the few rare books went long ago when there was little choice, but all have value to me as the repository of knowledge, ideas and imagination.

It is said you can learn a lot about people from their bookshelves. Certainly I can trace the story of my life in the books I have stashed all over the house. There is the little illustrated Bible I was given by my paternal grandparents, which has probably seen more concerted use in the past eighteen months with the writing than at any other time in the past half a century. The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám passed down from my maternal grandfather’s days in Burma, and via my mother to me. Old books on Yorkshire that belonged to my great-grandfather. The Burns a friend gave me in Paris.

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My Sunday School prize of Dr Seuss sits by the Asterix books I bought in France twenty years later and the books on aircraft my sons left behind. Later come the fantasies and several tattered copies of Tolkien that snuggle up with books on physics and psychology. Cookery books sit cheek by jowl with art and poetry. But from the earliest to the latest acquisitions runs a thread of myth, magic and comparative spirituality across the ages.

It was always understood that a treasured gift would have words printed in it and from childhood the book token was the favourite gift. It is even better when friends know you well enough to give the perfect book and ‘H is for Hawk’ sits with ‘Manifesto for the Noosphere’ and ‘At the Gates of Dawn’ on my bedside table… the latter being back there for the second time this year.

Perhaps the most futile of the books are the ones on dog behaviour. She doesn’t. Behave, I mean. I read them, I know the how and why… honestly … but Ani seems to be an exception to any rule. And as she has decided to strip the guest bed for me while I had this coffee, I suppose I had better go and help…

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Glastonbury: Thursday 2nd October

The Glaston Centre School of Learning and The Silent Eye present:

The Living Enneagram – Pathways of the Soul
With the
Silent Eye
School of Consciousness

Following the successful use of the enneagram floor mat as a basis for exploring the life of the Soul, The Silent Eye School will be using the same method to present this, their penultimate talk, with an experiential journey around the nine corners of our lives.

Modern psychology has determined that there are nine core ‘types’, when considered from the perspective of how we view and react to life’s circumstances. These are used by some organisations to model and polish personality.The Silent Eye’s interest, however, lies with a more spiritual approach – that of using the nine surface (or personality) points to reveal a series of pathways that take us deeper into the history of our lives and, ultimately, to the jewels of our being that lie at the foundations of our divine individuality.

Join us on a journey through life as we explore these pathways. Everyone will be invited to join in, and to share their key experiences in this gentle and loving exploration of what it is to be, truly, human.
Find out more. . .

Venue: The Avalon Room (Find the venue)
Talk begins promptly at 7.30pm
£6.00    BOOKING ADVISED  

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Seeding thoughts

dawn 019
I woke early this morning and, instead of crawling grudgingly out of the warm bed as usual, I lay in thought for a few minutes. I had not moved anything except my eyelids; Ani couldn’t possibly know I was awake yet… could she? Well, on past showing yes, but honestly, it wasn’t even daylight. I have long since lost the habit of lounging in bed on a morning. Children and dogs require attention and years of getting up bleary eyed to deal with them build a habit it would be nice to break.

On the other hand, I get the dawns, so I can’t complain.

I was musing over something I had read before sleep from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “Matter is spirit moving slowly enough to be seen.” Scientifically, go ahead and shoot me down in flames, but the idea caught my attention as it accords with how I have always seen the world.

I like de Chardin. He was a French Jesuit priest with a passion for palaeontology and geology. A scientist with faith. On the one hand his feet firmly planted in earth, on the other a soul that soared. I may not share his particular facet of faith, nor all his views, but it is through difference that we explore and learn. I can see, though, a man who believed with his heart, used his mind to seek understanding and lived his personal faith as best he could and that, regardless of the detail, always holds something special.

I agree with him on this, though. Regardless of scientific arguments for or against, when we take that simple image of ‘slow-moving spirit’ and use it as a lens through which we look at the world, the natural order takes on a new depth. If we see all as spirit moving at different speeds… long and slow for the rocks and mountains, faster for our little human lives, faster still, perhaps, for air … then we begin to see a universal fraternity, a kinship with all the manifestations of life and, for me, that leads to a single stream of Being that runs through everything that we know.

We could even look at ourselves in that light, seeing the dense, physical matter of the body as the slowest-moving manifestation of spirit, our emotions, perhaps, as rather faster, picking up speed to mind and thought. And that is without exploring the subtler realms of the soul which, in terms of that image, must be faster still and thus closer to the source.

It makes me think of the centrifuge that separates a homogenous fluid into its component weights except that the fluidity in this case is that of the spirit.

It is just this kind of seed that grows in the imagination; a small phrase, an image, a word… that if allowed to put down roots and work its way through the fertile ground of the mind can engender the flowers of realisation. It doesn’t take much. It doesn’t even have to be provably or objectively true if it leads to a deeper understanding on a personal level.

Thinking about it led me straight back to what is, perhaps, the most widely known quote from de Chardin, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” That small shift in emphasis makes life seem a completely different thing. And from there to another, “Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” You don’t have to share de Chardin’s faith to get the idea; there is a joy that comes when the universal unity of Being is recognised and we see ourselves as part of an expanding perfection. The presence of the divine, however we conceive It, cannot help but illuminate the moment with joy. It is in those moments we feel One with the unfolding of a beauty in which we are enfolded; where words cease to be enough and only the moment holds meaning, yet it is a moment that spans eternity.

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Dear Wen X

the triumph of horsenden 065Dear Wen,

‘…You needn’t gild the lily
offer jewels to the sunset
No one is watching or standing
in your shoes
wash your lonely feet in the
river in the morning
everything promised is delivered to you…’

I thought you might like that.

hill of vision 030It reminded me of coming down off the moors and into the hotel restaurant, and of the river at the foot of Fin Cop, somehow…

I’m naming the rock formation The Castle of Skulls…

Real Indi stuff, or what, eh?

Doubtless, we’ll now have to go in there.

Ah yes, the original pointy stone syndrome… it makes one wonder just who is actually buried up there?

the triumph of horsenden 028It will be good to revisit some of the old haunts with a slightly different perspective and we are bound to have missed loads the first time around.

It’s going to be difficult to beat those original shots but some of the recent efforts have been getting there…

kites 327_DxOThe cross we already have for Dark Sage is fine… and the one at St Nicks is a reproduction anyway.

However, the twinned beast motif is reminiscent of the one on the Ilkley cross and may (or may not) have something to do the Beast of Mercia… The two beasts have bodies facing inwards but heads facing out… an intriguing perspective given that most of us do the exact opposite…

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…And speaking of beasts…

The Black One of Waddeson is looking a trifle pasty faced…

Tickle his chin for me won’t you…

And explain that I won’t be bringing either trifle or pasties but if he behaves with my cushions I may bring him some cheese.ani 002

Love,
Don x

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