The land and the light ask us to go inward during this phase of the year. It is a natural time to review our conduct and contemplate what we have learnt. In the realisation of failure, the possibility of success and fulfillment.
“Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success.” C.S. Lewis
When we are up to our necks in it, barely keeping ourselves above water as the waves of weirdness and intensity crash around us, we may not have the broad overview that a sense of distance can offer. Looking back, the limitations created by our own fears and desires become more apparent. Zooming out, we can observe the patterns created and repeated through time. Are they getting louder? Softening? Shifting? Does the phrase “there I go again” spring to mind?
The ‘I’ of those moments and the ‘I’ retrospecting feel like distant cousins many times removed. The ‘I’ caught in the tangled distortions of personality is not the same ‘I’ that is able to rise up to a birds eye-view. Going in, going up, going back, moving forward.
“Wisdom is knowledge perfected through inward realization” M.P. Hall
Did all of that really happen in one short year, one sequence of unexpectedness and wonder swirling its way through more than thirty one million seconds? Yes. You have come a long way.
This poem set to music by Gustav Holst was in the air every Christmas when I was growing up. I loved the sound, but it is only recently that I begin to appreciate the sentiment. The sublime, refined element of the European soul reaching for God sings to me now. Today is a good day to feel this. Beauty is present in faith.
In the bleak mid-winter Frosty wind made moan; Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone; Snow had fallen, snow on snow, Snow on snow, In the bleak mid-winter Long ago.
Our God, heaven cannot hold Him Nor earth sustain, Heaven and earth shall flee away When He comes to reign: In the bleak mid-winter A stable-place sufficed The Lord God Almighty — Jesus Christ.
Enough for Him, whom Cherubim Worship night and day, A breastful of milk And a mangerful of hay; Enough for Him, whom Angels Fall down before, The ox and ass and camel Which adore.
Angels and Archangels May have gathered there, Cherubim and seraphim Thronged the air; But only His Mother In her maiden bliss Worshipped the Beloved With a kiss.
What can I give Him, Poor as I am? — If I were a Shepherd I would bring a lamb; If I were a Wise Man I would do my part, — Yet what I can I give Him, — Give my heart.
Little robin redbreast (erithacus rubecula) is the most perfect bird, always friendly and suitably adorned for festivities. This one was a chubby chap, charming in his demeanor. We shared a moment of mutual curiosity, and then went our separate ways. This is a small souvenir from our christmas eve exchange. Sublime.
Here we are again. The shifting balance of light and dark have reached a special point in the seasonal pendulum swing. I am reminded of a beautiful phrase from the mystical scholar Peter Kingsley whose work I discovered only recently. His words “at the heart of every darkness is a blinding light” cut into my own heart, and strike me as the perfect arrangement of letters for the winter solstice.
I feel a special kind of joy this year. I have a good resting place and am reconnecting with the beauty of my homeland. The cool climate suits my northern vehicle, and the possibility of even a modest scattering of snow brings me a child-like thrill after so many winters spent in warmer climes. The crystalline formations adorning those brave little plants still daring to raise their heads above ground combined with the satisfying crunch of iced grass under foot is a treat. These tiny sensory delights remind me to be grateful. What a privilege it is to be alive, and to have “the universe in our hearts.”
"When you want what's so much greater than yourself, there's never a chance of being finally fulfilled. And yet something very strange happens. When you want that and refuse to settle for anything else, it comes to you. People who love the divine go around with holes in their hearts, and inside the hole is the universe."
The movement continues. We are here, and then we will be there. Always and ever an opportunity to enjoy now. I wish all evolving souls a wonderful winter solstice, and I leave you with a vivid depiction of the seasonal voyage (with thanks to Antonio Lucio Vivaldi, the Amsterdam Sinfonietta and Janine Jensen).
What am I doing here? What is the purpose of this collection of virtual pages? Words shape thought: they sculpt the inner landscape and influence the outer terrain. I am looking to share something of my individual path of healing and the realisations that have come along the way. I send the finest words I can conjure up out into the ether, in the hope that they will touch other human beings who are filtering similar matters through their own hearts, minds and wills.
I am sowing seeds of dissent and seeds of faith. I am practicing articulating the things that matter and working on my ability to form language so it reaches out with both greater precision and greater flexibility. Doing all this through a public platform allows me to track my own progress and perhaps receive a litle feedback. It also offers the possibility to cultivate humility, as I inevitably catch glimpses of my own naivety and misconceptions as I move forward. I am a witness and a chronicler. Does sincerity and truthfulness point to the untruth and deception of the society around us? I hope so.
The keyboard, the pen, the word in motion; the gun, the sword, the body in motion. Choose your weapon. Bow to your opponent. Fight with honour.
“God bless those lovely ladies who hold stillness for us during our nomadic motion, while we learn to carry home within.”
This is the wonderful sentence that my friend M wrote to me this morning. As it happens, I consider her to be one of the lovely ladies who has been holding the stillness signal especially for me. I suspect she was doing this before we even knew one another. I picture her charming arrangement of green smoothie, red kitchen stool and smiling face and feel immediately at home – even when I am on the other side of the Atlantic ocean, sitting in a cold, smelly railway station waiting for a train that is three hours delayed.
Over the last few days I’ve been writing in my notebook about home, in an attempt to untangle why it is that I’ve been moving and moving and moving and moving over the last decade.
The relentless tumult of set shifts is a grand challenge, and quite frankly I have absolutely bloody hated it at times. For the virgoan introvert and semi-retired perfectionist who has a love of alphabetizing books and making neat arrangments of whatever objects are to hand, it can be deeply unsettling. Organic cotton bed linen, well sharpened kitchen knives, loose leaf tea and the satisfying weight of a cast iron teapot are sorely missed when on the road. Beauty and quality, two of my favourite things, are often in low supply in my transient abodes. “NO IT WON’T DO” and “THIS IS HOW THINGS ARE” do a merry little jig in my mind. A battle of stomping feet and graceful sentiments.
With pen and paper, I have explored my own chronic case of Perpetual Motion and drawn three fundamental conclusions on the underlying whys of P.M:
In order to find, one must seek through movement and pilgrimage.
In agreeing to be transformed by the experience of living, one also agrees to a period of intense external changes that reflect and illuminate the inner growth.
A lack of home out there is asking us to explore home in here.
As I have mapped this out, I have also noted that my current environment is quite lovely, quite beautiful. This simultaneous surfacing is no coincidence. In tandem with these ponderings I’ve felt drawn to watching various documentaries on monastic life. This has been a counter-balance to looking back over a year of high-velocity travel and expansion, and an encouragement to draw myself into the stillness and hibernation of winter. This one in particular touched me immensely.
I shared this film with my friend M, and in response she sent me a link to a blog containing a short clip of another monastic documentary. Much to my wonder, this blog (created by another M) articulates beautifully everything else that I had hoped to write about in relation to home. This came as another lovely reminder that even in those moments when the destination seems unknown and you cannot see anyone on the path with you, you are never alone.
A while ago I was asked how I would articulate what allows me to open, to put my shields down and feel as fully as I am capable of at this point on my journey. What are the qualities or components that set opening in motion?
Four simple answers arrived instantly. No reflection was needed to uncover them. They were always there.
Curiosity is indeed a good place to start. Endless technicolour adventures are to be found in the realm of curiosity, and many doorways present themselves. There is plenty to occupy the inquisitive heart and the opening mind, much of goodness too. However, curiousity also appears to be a destination. It is a place where many stop, where stalemate is common place.
What is it that stops the stopping in certain individuals? Are some born with inate qualities that provide an extra blast of spiritual jetfuel to propel them through those doorways and upward? Can we thank the attainments of our previous rounds on Earth for foundations laid out for us?
Among those who are committed, there are common themes. I observe and discuss these patterns amongst my little circle of peers, so for now I will speak of a ‘we’. Two notable components are a great willingness to take risks and a mighty capacity for chanelling the upheaval of repeated change. Within this, there is an ability to handle the extreme poles of the personal growth tide: gradual, sloth-pace changes to self and dramatic collapsing of identity. There is a constant shedding and recompiling of both the exterior shell and the interior components, again and again and again.
No matter at what age we realise or are first able to articulate what it is we are doing, there has always been a nagging feeling that something was not right, that what we are being handed under the labels of ‘real and important’ smells funny. Something is rotten, so experiments in living differently ensue. Motivated by a burning desire to avoid glaring compromise and the feeling of having entered into a faustian pact, we ask ourselves often what our vision of authentic living might look like. We end up in some funny places, but those are the stories reserved for face-to-face encounters…
We do not follow the routines that society expects us to adhere to, and sometimes we find ourselves in hostile territory. At times it is necessary to step back in order to go within and observe from a different vantage point, to close the curtains or retreat into the forest. Our unexpected, wild paths send us off the map, over cliff edges and into deep water. When we find ourselves in these unpleasant, pain filled places, we do not turn away. When the strength is found to chart every millimetre of the human-experience-terrain, an incredible source of learning is discovered at the extremes.
This trajectory makes for an individual who appears hard to pin down. Inevitably, we become un-locatable to family and old friends. They no longer know where we are, and separation occurs. As we continue to walk, the desire to place ourselves in God’s hands grows, even when we don’t fully know what that looks or feels like. The ego-driver has to be constantly reminded that it is not really in charge. With many of the more determined, fierce, individuals this is one of the most relentess tasks undertaken. We offer ourselves regular reminders. TWnmBD. Discipline and letting go simultaneously.