Sekhmet’s Song

Sue Vincent:

Sekhmet’s Song – Land f the Exiles – by Alienora Taylor.
Alienora took the most demanding role of the weekend workshop, that of Sekhmet who found the inner strength and courage beyond fear; who, crushed, abused and humiliated could have chosen hate, but chose instead to recognise the immanent spark of humanity, the inner child crying out for understanding, and gave instead love, forgiveness and the first true glimpse of freedom.
Herself bound and subjugated to the will of apparent evil, she saw clearly enough to rend the masks… both his and her own… and allow something new to be born into the world.
These ritual dramas are not real, but they work within the heart, mind and soul on a very real level.
No-one else could have played Sekhmet with such grace or brought such inner light to what was asked.
Thank you, wild one.

Originally posted on ALIEN AURA'S BLOG: IT'LL BLOW YOUR MIND!:

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‘The grapes of my body can only become wine after the wine-maker has trampled me. I surrender my spirit like grapes to his trampling so my inner-most heart can blaze and dance with joy.’

                                                          – Song of Sekhmet

Many thank to Stuart France, whose lovely post this morning has inspired this. Here’s the link:

http://scvincent.com/2014/04/23/landscapes-of-light-land-of-the-exiles/

Did I know, at some level, that I would wake from that cryogenic slumber, upon the Starship Hawk, and find Setaxa? That the trampling in a former life, the intense pain of my spirit being stamped upon with hob-nailed boots, would give way to a terror more immediate and visceral?

He resembled our Captain in every particular – but, how can I put this so that…

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Landscapes of Light – Land of the Exiles

land of the exiles 017A guest post by Stuart France

‘The grapes of my body can only become wine after the wine-maker has trampled me. I surrender my spirit like grapes to his trampling so my inner-most heart can blaze and dance with joy.’                                                                  – Song of Sekhmet

So was the inner child seeded in Setaxa brought to life in the unscripted toast of the Communion from the final Ritual Drama of, The Land of the Exiles.

Some Forty-Eight Hours earlier we had stood atop the Creation Mound making final preparations for our Hill-Top ritual, ‘A Dream of the Soul’.
The ritual hillside was ablaze with celandine’s and daisies whose delicate petals shivered in the sunlight.
‘If we have weather like this tomorrow it will be perfect.’
We did not.
We had low clinging cloud, hill mist… and freezing wind.
It was still perfect.

land of the exiles 025

Some two weeks earlier we had again approached the hill-side hoping against hope to eke one more ritual landscape from it’s already well used rolls and crevices.
How many rituals can one strip of land hold?
As many rituals as one can dream up.

In the ‘Earth Shapers’ by Ella Young, Angus Og descends to Earth from ‘The Land of the Living Heart’ with the Lords of Light because the Earth has dreamed of Beauty. In the mists of their descending he fashions great swathes and sweeps of light and when Brighid lifts her cloak and the Lords look about they realise that Angus has built hills and valleys and fields into the Earth by his play.

It is a little like that… The earth appears to fit itself to whatever conception one holds, accentuating the movements and lines of the ritual, embracing and amplifying the energies until it too has become a willing participant.

One might even say eager…

I think our ancestors knew this.
They knew that given the opportunity the earth is capable of a lot more than bodily nurture and sustenance.
That the land is keen not only to yield crops but ideas too and that it desires and needs to be utilised in this way.
Why else fashion those mighty works which most in our civilised culture today struggle to even recognise let alone meaningfully come to terms with.

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So the adventure begun in ‘The Initiate’ found completion in the ritual rubric of ‘A Dream of the Soul’.

Arcane concepts and symbolism recognised, understood and adapted: passed on to those brave enough to trust. Realisation…

That night I dreamed an answer to a question never framed.
If the Earth is the body, and the Sun is the head, what then… is the heart?

On a personal note I would to thank all those Companions who participated in the Hill-Side Ritual. Without exception you all supported those Companions unable to make it up the hill. And thanks also to those who waited at the Temple Portal with great patience and forbearance. Such wholehearted participation from all concerned is a sure indication of the calibre of human being we attract to our workshops.

We trust it was worth it.

And hope to see you all again next year… if not sooner!

…In the Loving Light of the Silent Eye…

Stuart France

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Four letter word

stonehenge 003

“Who do you love best?”

I overheard a conversation between mother and her small child this morning. I remember my sons asking me this question when they were very small. I imagine it is one many children throw at their parents and we reassure them, almost automatically, that we love them the same. It isn’t true, though is it? We may love them equally… in fact, I think by the very word love we are assuring them that we do, but we don’t love them ‘the same’.

Have you ever stopped to think about it? Such a small word for such a range of human emotions! The love we have for parent, sibling, friend, child or lover is always different. The colour of love may change, but it is impossible to quantify and all its colours, like those of the spectrum, blend and merge to make a love that encompasses all. There is no loving more or less… it simply is. There are no two loves alike, just as there are no two people identical, not even twins. Everyone is unique and so are our relationships with them.

We can like someone more than another, we can relate to them better, we can feel that odd attraction/repulsion that can be so strong… we can apply all sorts of other emotional overlays, both negative and positive, to the relationship; respect, sympathy, compassion… and all the rest. We can prefer the company of one, know light-hearted laughter with one friend, share an interest in books or butterflies with another, feel tenderness towards a child or a lover, fall hopelessly… or hopefully… in love, or burn with the flame of passion. We can be dutiful as children, loyal as friends… We can even find that miracle that seems to complete us. Or we can love in the hope that love will be returned. So many aspects to something both so simple yet so very complex it seems, yet it is the foundation of every human relationship by its presence… or absence. And it is such a small word.

The Greeks did it better… Four words instead of four letters, each with its own distinct meaning. Storgē is the love that accepts, and the love for what is. Philía is affection, friendship… the love for family, something to be shared. Éros, usually understood as the sensual and physical passion, falling in love through attraction and without thought, the desire of the senses. Yet Plato saw it as more than that… through the perfection of the physical form and its attraction he saw a pathway for the soul to remember beauty and through it find Truth. Agápe, the unconditional, selfless love that seeks nothing… only to be; the spiritual love for the Divine, or the purity of love for the child.

While we use that four letter word so often, we seldom think about what it actually means and when we are asked ‘who we love best’ we give the answer that reassures. We do not stop to ask ourselves if we love our ‘best’ or could love ‘better’. Not in terms of quantity for I do not believe love can be measured, but in how we love and what we give… or seek.

Looking at the meanings behind the Greek words is revealing. In them we can see a pathway to something more. In learning to accept what is, to love life without judgement, recognising both the good and the bad for what they are, what they might be or what they can teach, we could learn how to move through the world creating change. Through sharing… being able to give and receive what is given in friendship and affection… we can open ourselves to life and become part of a wider family, learning to understand the nature of love as we did as children, in innocence and trust. In seeking the beauty that sings to us, that embraces our whole being body, heart and mind, as deeply as we would a lover, we find a place of beauty within that simply wants to give love. It is enough. And when love ceases to seek anything in return it comes close to the Divine.

It is such a big thing, this little word, and we may all mean something different when we use it. It has become an everyday word used lightly… or it can be the deepest gift we have to give. It challenges us, holds up a mirror, breaks our barriers and sometimes our hearts. It can leave us wide open to hurt, yet to live it is to know the greatest joy.

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Wet feet …

bluebells 007“Aargh! Go, go go…!”

That was the reception accorded to the dripping figure in the doorway. I closed the door on the screams and loud music. A few moments later… fairly desperate… I opened it again…

“NOOOO! GO AWAY!”

Disconsolate I squelched my way into the bedroom, rummaging for something… anything… with which to replace my sodden clothes. As my son is a foot taller than it, the results were less than attractive, but at least they were dry. “If you can’t win, don’t play,” There was a certain irony in the slogan across the T shirt… I wondered how my shoes would fare in the tumble dryer….

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Look at it… tempting isn’t it? Can’t you just imagine aching muscles being soothed in warm, fragrant bubbles? Tucked away in a secluded corner, a place to unwind… a moment of sheer decadence amid the clematis and birdsong?

But appearances can be deceptive. This thing eats hobbits for breakfast.

It was that time again… the time for the Cleaning of the Hot Tub… a piece of therapeutic luxury that has been worth its weight in gold to my son’s recovery but with which I personally have a love-hate relationship. And it knows it. When he was away one week, he let me use it… on condition it was drained, cleaned and refilled ready for his return. Heaven…bliss… it was worth it… and I would have had to do it anyway.

No such luck this time. Just a chance to do some major housework in the three hours it takes the thing to refill. That, of course, is the easy bit. First it has to be drained.

Now, there is a drain tap… but being inaccessible for my son it has to wait until I get there. Switch the thing off at the mains… then wait a couple of hours for it to empty. Then clean, change filters and refill. All very well, you might think, but it was a beautiful day… a warm spring morning with the prospect of bluebells and woods with Ani in the afternoon if I could get everything done. Knowing there would be the three hour refill, a bucket seemed a good solution.

bluebells 020I wonder about my sanity sometimes, I really do.

2,000 litres of water takes a lot of bailing. And it gets messy. By the time I’d got maybe a quarter of it emptied, my neck was calling me an idiot and I had very wet feet. Still, I was getting there. The sun was hot on my back… maybe a jumper hadn’t been the best idea?

The wood of the deck was getting very slippery with wet shoes, of course. I would, I thought, have to be careful. Heave ho… I was soon halfway there. Much better than waiting for the paltry trickle from the tap! I reached over the edge to fill the bucket with gusto… the weight of water combined with short legs and slippery deck had predictable results. Head first and fully clothed….

It is amazing how much water a jumper can hold… but as I was there anyway I carried on bailing.

The worst had dripped off by the time I was done and squelched into the house in search of my son. His aggressive reception was not encouraging… However, he soon enlightened me, “That was the most Mum-unfriendly tune EVER…” They have an odd chivalry where I am concerned, my sons, and anything Mum-unfriendly is not allowed to encroach upon my consciousness. There is a deliberate blind spot about their own conception and I am not supposed to be aware of many things. You have to chuckle.

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I explained. I’d only wanted to see if I could borrow some clothes… I’d thought he would like to see the results of his hot tub’s hobbit offensive…“Well, yes! Any other time I would! I just think it’s a bit mean you didn’t let me film it…”

I can be thankful for small mercies then….

I finally got finished and changed back into the newly dried clothes and headed home to collect Ani for a walk in the woods and fields in the blazing sunshine. I discarded the trousers and jumper in favour of a thin dress… much more suited to the weather… and we set off over the fields, wandering far from home…

It was at about this time the heavens opened. With almost no warning the sky darkened and the rain came down heavily, battering the ground at our feet and splattering the pair of us with mud. So much for the summer dress. There is the old saying… ne’er cast a clout until May’s out… Serves me right.

Dripping, mud spattered and bedraggled the pair of us headed home to a bath… her first. Then I get to clean the bathroom, the walls and any stray beds I forgot to close the door on…

I could really use half an hour in the hot tub….

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Learning to teach – Land of the Exiles

Our hillside

Our hillside

The two most beautiful women I know are Teachers. I use the upper case ‘T’ quite deliberately as they teach simply by Being who they are. One, on her own admission prefers to work from the wings and stay out of the spotlight, yet her gentle and joyful Light touches all who know her. The other is known worldwide, a light around whom we flock, and both are loved deeply by many. Both are head of the group they represent. Both would, and do, simply describe themselves as little old ladies, but nothing could be further from the truth, except in purely physical terms… and even that I dispute!

They share many things, these two, not least a joyous, playful wickedness in their humour. There is a twinkle in their eye and you know there are stories they could tell. These are women who have Lived, taking the life they were given and embracing it to the full, fearlessly in spite of fear, wholeheartedly and vividly. They are both loving, kind and warm… in fact, they seem to glow with an inner radiance. Yet there is nothing soft or sentimental about them. To stand in the quiet of ritual with them is to see something quite different. These women are spiritual Teachers and they radiate joy and strength.

 ‘Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.’

Teilhard de Chardin

I, Steve and Stuart have been blessed to learn from both these women over the past decade and that learning continues… the seeds once planted continue to grow if they are cared for and nurtured and they will continue to be part of who we are. We may carry a different lantern these days, but the light within it is born of the same Flame, a Flame they were instrumental in igniting for us.

With the coming into being of the Silent Eye, we too found ourselves called to teach. I can’t speak for the other two, but it came as something of a shock to me. We all have experience of teaching; I had taught various aspects of the spiritual journey for years before, yet there was a gear shift here, more was required… and what I had thought was teaching suddenly took on a different hue and showed itself to have been merely the first diffident steps in my own learning. Now there was a need to step up and really learn to teach… and with these two women as examples, that is no laughing matter!

No laughing matter?

No laughing matter?

It would be easy enough to fake it on the surface… going all beatific and angelic, but one thing among many that these women have taught is that it has to be real. It has to be from the heart and soul… it has to be whole, warts and all. All of us. All of me. I have written before of the internal debate… did we have to stop being ourselves and become something else…burying who we are beneath a veneer of who we or others think we should be? No… that would indeed be hiding. The phrase naked in the desert has a habit of wandering through the mind…

I recall a conversation with one of these women about what makes a Teacher; how it requires that one keeps a foot in both worlds as it were, seeing the greater purpose behind the events of our lives. We spoke too of the decades each of us spend learning to use the gifts we are born with, of the transforming journey through life, pain and laughter towards understanding. Of the courage that is needed to be one’s whole Self, whether privately or publicly. There was talk of the human flaws we all share and of those who inspire us and how they can be seen as “special – to others.” Yet to themselves “it must remain no big thing.” She says of such people that they “fart and burp and pee when they cough like any other daft creature of our ilk. But they have Work to do.”

It tickles me, with the mental picture I have of her elegant and stately self that she chooses such words, yet she is without doubt the most down to earth person I know, as well as being one of the most genuinely spiritual. And she is right. It is a common misconception that a spiritual teacher must have found some kind of personal perfection, yet in truth what they have found is a real and all- pervading awareness of the Divine in life. Yet those true Teachers I have been privileged to meet seem to share this earthiness, this serene acceptance of all the levels of their being from the gutter to the heavens.

The unholy alliance...

Mischief incarnate?

There is, it seems, always laughter in them, often at themselves, and sometimes tears. Emotion and experience are equally vivid, equally embraced, as are their characters, seen as the raw material of humanity within themselves. They acknowledge their strengths as well as their weaknesses, but seldom see themselves as Teachers unless that role is thrust upon them. They are simply sharing the journey with fellow travellers.

There is another side to this, for the commitment to the Light is real and demands a lifetime. It is not something one can dip in and out of. It can bring to these people both the gift of being truly with those around them with a warm immediacy, but also a certain separateness, an aloneness and sense of isolation as they see life from a different perspective that they can share only with others who have walked their particular path. And at the level of which I speak, they are as rare as unicorns. Yet there is a wholeness about them, a completeness that accepts themselves and us for who we are, seeing, perhaps beyond the outer face we wear to something profound within and recognising the kindred fire of the Divine we each of us carry. And because of this deeper vision there is a strength in them and a depth that manifests itself as Love.

At our workshop we were blessed to have some very special people. Some have been called to teach… others teach simply by the grace and joy of being themselves, unaware of what they bring. Some would shy away like a startled horse if you tried to tell them. One thing that is shared by all seems to be this joy, this inner radiance, the ability to play the fool, laugh at themselves and with others. To share a ribald joke or down a pint at the pub, to let their hair down and laugh or cry from the roots of being… what they share is humanity, rooted in earth and reflected in the stars. Shared too is their ability to teach the teachers, simply by being who they are with a whole heart. And that is a gift we can all aspire to share.

There are many paths to the spiritual life and one size does not fit all on this journey. From quiet contemplation to prolonged study; from natural wisdom to religious faith… all paths are valid for those who walk them from the heart. And for those who do so there seems to be a bubble of laughter where the world should be.

"One side will make you grow taller... "

“One side will make you grow … “

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Easter Monday Freebies

Sue Vincent:

Free ebooks from Gary Vasey for Easter Monday.

Originally posted on The Wacky World of Dr. Vasey:

Happy Easter from me.

On Easter Monday and just for the day, you can grab a Kindle version of my first two books of poetry for FREE…. Don’t miss it!

Poems for the Little Room, Lulu, 2012
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This is my second book of poetry originally published via Lulu but now re-published via Creatspace to get it wider availability and a better price. It combines images and poems that range from a humorous look at a Czech TV interviewer Jan Kraus through to stories of idyllic love – both for partner and daughter. The idea behind this over sized book was that it would be ideal for that little room where guests only want something to leaf through for a short time! Hence its name….

ISBN-10: 1493783114
ISBN-13: 978-1493783113

Weird Tales: Other World Poetry

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Weird…

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We are One – Land of the Exiles

The Silent Eye and De Magische Bongerd

The Silent Eye and De Magische Bongerd

There are photos… a fair few of them. Many, sadly, too grainy to post…which is a crying shame. Some I wouldn’t dare post without permission. I even forgot to take one of the cake when it was lit, but I had, at least, had the forethought to do so before I packed it for transport… because, of course, it was our birthday. We are One.

We are One

We are One

Technically, not till today, a year on from our birthing on that hillside and there was a year of work before that… but it was our ‘official’ birthday last weekend. And that is pretty mindblowing for it has been a year that has seen the Silent Eye spread its wings and fly. We have students on four continents, a body of work and a number of books, a course of study that is changing perspectives and lives, a series of talks this year in Glastonbury… and much more in the planning.

Three as One - the Triad

Three as One – the Triad and friends

We had come together for a weekend workshop, with friends from across the years and across the world as we welcomed the Companions who would share our first birthday with us. The artist Benjamin Prewitt came from the States, along with our beautiful Nephthys, Jordis. The dearest of old friends came down from the wild north of Scotland, old friends first met on another weekend workshop in Tintagel with the Servants of the Light came from Dublin and Newcastle with their dogs, and Alienora, Morgana and Chris came up from Somerset. Dominic came over from the continent, as well as Debora and Michiel from De Magische Bongerd (The Magic Orchard)… and so many more from across the country! These are people we see all too seldom, and sadly, never get to spend enough time with. I would happily sit down and spend the whole weekend just talking, but with a total of seven rituals and five talks… there simply is never enough time and between rituals some of us seem to be running around like demented chickens. But that’s okay. It is worth it!

Our lovely Nephthys

Our lovely Nephthys

Some were with us last year, some we have known for years. Others were brand new, never having attended anything like this… all seemed to fit together beautifully and the abiding memory once again is of laughter… much of it in the old Queen Anne next door to the centre, of course, or in the conservatory where we had been treated to chocolate and strawberries by a man who evidently understands the needs of the aforementioned manic fowl and her cohorts.

There was chocolate...

Smiles and chocolate in the conservatory

As the final rituals were completed the cameras came out again… we do not take photographs in ritual, of course. There was a sadness to come with the partings, but for now there were smiles that speak volumes, laughter and hugs. There was to be cake too…

Sisters in Light

Sisters in Light

In a weekend that was a delight on many levels, one of the things that struck me most came right at the very end. At all other workshops I have attended, there has always been a mass exodus where the vast majority of people, many with very long journeys ahead, are packed and ready to go as soon as the weekend is over. Not so this time, as everyone congregated in the sunshine and the clock ticked on unnoticed as people talked, laughed and continued to glow in the alchemical light of friendship and a shared adventure. If anything were needed to convince me that the weekend was a success it was this… for people are more important than anything else… and these people were smiling.

No-one was leaving... :-)

Something feral in the doorway…

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Easter

fields 003In England today there are chocolate eggs and rabbits. In France the church bells are silent as the bells of St Peter’s fly to the children, tied with ribbons and flowers. Across the world images that combine the Christian and the older pagan festivals of spring and rebirth abound, hijacked by a consumerism that somehow forgets the sacredness of both. Yet today, for once, the shops are closed.

For those who follow a pagan path this season is one of the renewal of life after the darkness of winter, a time for the rebirth of the sun, the exuberance of spring. In the fields young lambs gambol and play; birds are busy with nest building… even the kites are flying over with their beaks full… A grey and cloudy day cannot dull the blaze of green and gold that is an English spring. For those who follow the path of Nature, confirmation of their belief is all around. You can feel it in the woods and on the hills, in field and valley… everything is bursting into life.

For those who follow the Christ, this is the holiest season, the time when Jesus, crucified and entombed, rose again. It is on this event that the Christian faith is based. That in purely literal and physical terms this is not possible makes it a miracle, something beyond the understanding of logic and science, and it is this that forms the foundation of faith; that knowing of the soul that goes beyond reason. There is no confirmation in the world around us, there is no objective proof… no comfortable reassurance. You simply accept the teachings of the Church or you do not… or you feel Truth in your heart and that is enough, regardless of logic, teaching or dogma.

Faith… not religion… is a very personal thing, an intimate thing, and none among us has the right to judge the faith of another, to discount or degrade it, to ridicule or dismiss. It sings to heart and soul. It is the personal relationship between the innermost being and the Highest, however we choose to name or conceive It. There is a purity in true faith that shines and radiates, no matter what religion, path or denomination shapes the outer form. Faith is always a thing of the Inner world, regardless of the way it manifests in the outer realm in which we live.

There are many who were raised within a nominally Christian society who accept without question in childhood when the impossible is perfectly feasible and it is no more challenging to believe in Resurrection than it is to believe in fairies or dragons. There is beauty and comfort in a faith that shows a way to live that is based on love and which has love at its ultimate blessing. There is comfort too in the knowledge that there is no loss of self after death… only believe and follow the tenets of that faith and you will be with the Father in Heaven.

There are those too who come to their faith through life, growing into it gently or through pain, or with the lightning flash of personal revelation, finding within it the answers to the questions of the soul.

Yet there are many who do not find faith in that way, who look at the anomalies of the biblical stories and find them impossible to reconcile. They question and find no answers within the Church and yet feel that within the heart of the story there is something. Perhaps they begin to read the stories with a detached discernment that allows them to question the disparity between the political ramifications of a powerful Church that has constructed a body of teaching to suit its needs over the past two thousand years. Perhaps they see the stories as a symbolic journey of the soul… an initiatory experience echoing even older tales. Perhaps they simply look beyond the letter of the words to the spirit of them.

A blind acceptance seldom addresses the questions of the heart. Many people are raised within a religion and yet pay only lip service to its outer form, feeling a gnawing void where the kernel of faith should reside. There are many too who, having questioned and found the literal tales wanting, have searched behind them and come by unorthodox routes to a deep faith. The exoteric Church may not suffice, but there is a Light behind it, behind all religions, that draws the seeker, often by strange pathways towards a single centre of Truth that is greater than the sum of the pathways we walk.

In the Christian story of Easter it is the Son of Man who is crucified, sacrificing himself for our redemption. Yet it is the Christ who rises, different, unknown to those closest to Him… a Mystery. For those who find faith that Mystery may take many forms and names, or none, remaining Nameless and formless as the One. I wonder if anyone can redeem another, or are we simply shown the way for the sacrifice of Self to something greater and deeper than we now know. Perhaps in walking that path we can come to understanding, to a knowing of the heart that surpasses knowledge and transcends doubt; to a place that knows neither fact nor fiction… to the awakening touch of the inner Christ that is the Light within.

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Looking deeper – Land of the Exiles

Time seems to do strange things sometimes. It seems impossible that it is just a week ago we would have been starting the second of three knowledge lectures… a halfway point of the weekend. We were about to discuss the undertoad… no-one said serious has to be boring… and Steve is our master of presentations. So much so, in fact, that although I had done my bit with the first lecture, Stuart and I absconded for the third in order to prepare the working space for the next ritual. However, we were all there for this one.

UntitledThe lectures underpin the theme of the weekend, exploring and explaining some of the concepts used within the drama. The first had looked at the archetypes represented by the Egyptian pantheon. Most folk who work within the Mysteries on one path or another will have a basic knowledge of the main stories, but that very knowledge often precludes digging any deeper. As with many things in life we accept that we know ‘enough’ and see no need to look in any more detail. Having grown up with the myths of Egypt I thought so too, but the research I did prior to writing The Osiriad soon knocked me off that smug little pedestal and showed me how much I had to learn. The Egyptian gods exemplify more than human personalities and take a deep and abstract look at the roots of creation. Approached from the perspective of science, faith or curiosity they open windows of realisation and possibility. As we were working with these archetypes it seemed appropriate to explore them.

2 slideThe second presentation looked at the pieces of string, the threads that make up our lives. It took a fairly irreverent turn, as these things often do, yet the subject of the undertoad has a serious side too. It refers, of course, to The World According to Garp by John Irving, where the undertoad is a misnomer for the undertow… the current that is beyond control and which proves too strong for the wrestler’s neck with tragic consequences. It is the hidden currents beyond the surface of life, waiting to drag us down, deny it as we may. Yet in recognising it, accepting its presence, we are able to use it to provide the contrast, the shadow that shows the light of hope.

Untitled3The final lecture took a look at the central symbol used by the school, which features in the sacred space we use… the enneagram. Most people today know the enneagram only through its use for psychometric profiling, yet it is a symbol with a much deeper meaning when used within the spiritual quest, incorporating many layers; from the geometry which speaks of the triune nature to the circle which is the One that encompasses All.

Untitled6We call them lectures or presentations, yet these things are much more than that… they are a time to come together and discuss, sharing viewpoints from many paths as well as giving the background principles upon which we base the workshop. They are also a time for laughter and banter; a meeting of minds and a sharing of knowledge and belief. They are, above all, about communication, for this leads to greater understanding and in a room where so many paths to the Light converge, that can only be a thing of beauty.

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The bionic son

Yesterday I drove my son to Cambridge. It is a two hour drive from here, a long way, you might think, to go for a physio appointment. But this was something a bit different.

Nick was stabbed through the brain in a random attack in 2009, leaving him for dead in an alley. Weeks of coma led to an awakening to a changed world. His brain had reacted as if to a high velocity wound, such was the ferocity of the attack; his brain swelled and bled… damage continued long after the initial blow, in spite of heroic efforts from the staff at the Wessex. He was expected to die, but he chose not to.

Waking, however, it soon became apparent that in spite of all the physical mountains he would have to tackle, mountains that would make an ascent of Everest look puny in comparison, he remained himself…stubborn, determined and focussed. He was initially paralysed down the whole of his right side, had lost coordination on the left, was unable to speak and his sight permanently damaged. And that is the short list. He was just 25. By the time he left hospital six months later he had astonished the medics and papers were being written. Yet from his perspective progress was painfully slow.

We take so much for granted.

We were talking on the way to the appointment yesterday. So many things fade into memory and are all but forgotten until something calls them up. Things like the determination to be able to sit up unsupported… that saw Nick seated on a perching stool for an hour and a half at a time while he tried to watch a film… trying to balance… not always successfully… while pouring sweat with the effort. Things like the ice cream tubs and luggage straps that kept his feet on the footplates of the cross-trainer while I held him and the machine upright… fighting for a lost fitness and hoping to re-pattern nerves and muscles, reminding them what motion should be through the mechanical repetition of movement. Things like the harness I made… like the reins sometimes used for small children… to keep him safe as he attempted to stand and walk… or the Dr Seuss books, large print tongue twisters read aloud until speech was intelligible again. You ‘forget’. Maybe you don’t really want to remember.

Some things, however, you cannot forget… like the discharge letter from his physiotherapist three years ago, copied to Nick, where, without warning, his goal of walking was called ‘unrealistic’… a word now used as a spur when the going gets tough.

The official help through the health service with that dream has been minimal the past three years; any therapy he has had to find and fund himself. Most of his progress has been bought with sheer effort and bloody-mindedness on his part and a rigorous workout routine. We have learned about brains and the nervous system, kept abreast of medical and technological advances as best we can and learned what we could in order to make ‘unrealistic’ possible.
Which is why we went to Cambridgeshire.

melbourn 063Bionic son

Prime Physio in Melbourn have a reputation for excellence… and from the moment Andrew got hold of Nick yesterday it was apparent why. It is a very different ethos from the NHS, bound as it is with rules, regulations, lack of funding and too much form filling. You can see why many physiotherapists find the system frustrating as it hampers their time and ability to help their patients. Andrew made Nick work. I watched as my son and he fenced verbally with laughter while the effort required made Nick sweat… which delighted him. Having learned to be sceptical I watched, too, in delight as the team picked up on the almost invisible weaknesses and targeted them specifically. And I watched the fire and sparkle come back into my son’s eyes after a disastrous and heartbreaking start to his year.

Physio is a long process. Muscles and nerves do not learn and change overnight. Balance cannot be restored with a magic wand. As I sat and watched I remembered uncurling twisted fingers, massaging feet and limbs, stimulating nerves as best I could through touch, even when he was deep in the coma, even when there was no real hope, because there is always hope if you allow it. I heard Andrew explain that this was something now happening with electro-stimulation for coma patients and remembered the electric ‘slimming’ belts we had adapted to stimulate muscles and movement on arms and legs every day. I saw Andrew test the movements of Nick’s fingers with an exercise I had made him practice in rehab, touching his thumb to his fingertips in an effort to regain coordination and precision. For the first time I realised that maybe the common sense which was all we’d had to work with hadn’t been so bad.

As they worked I watched Nick take control of his posture again, becoming aware of the weaknesses and compensation, and I saw him sit straight. I saw him stand tall. I saw a difference and a renewed hope of progress.

Meanwhile I was talking to Sarah as she almost unconsciously told me of the level of care they have for their clients, the extra effort outside the gym they have put into making this place possible and workable for those who travel here.

Then I watched, trying unsuccessfully to choke back tears, as they strapped Nick into the Ekso Bionics exo-skeleton and saw him walk.

You may think it silly… the Ekso does the work initially, after all. That’s the idea. It allows those who cannot walk… who may never walk… to exercise in a way they should not be able to do. But for those for whom there is a chance… even an unrealistic one… of recovery, it is a way of reminding the body what it should be doing. It reminds the nerves and muscles how to coordinate, it compensates for lack of balance, it allows the body… through correct alignment… to stand tall and straight. It can retrain gait patterns, rebuild neural pathways through repetition…. There are so many possibilities with it.

It is an extremely expensive piece of equipment… not something you could buy to be able to use every day. It will inevitably help, but it is not a quick fix or a magic wand.

I knew that.

But it is impossible to contain hope with logic and all the common sense goes out of the window when you watch your son walking, tall again, not hunched, not leaning… just tall and straight again, towering over you, for the first time in five years, tiredly reminding you why he calls you the hobbit.

And I watched him walk for half an hour… 362 steps.

melbourn 067Hobbit and son

Posted in Brain injury, Motherhood, Nick Verron, Physiotherapy | Tagged , , , , | 24 Comments