Look me in the eye and say that

Are we really losing the art of looking each other in the eye, of saying to others what we would be prepared to say to their faces, of standing by our actions and diligently following them through as we would if we had to lose the anonymity of the call-centres and websites we largely seem to hide behind? This post is inspired by the continuation of my broken fridge and boiler scenarios, as shared in my last couple of blogs, since what unfolded “next” seemed to flag up a remarkably similar set of themes that were as thought-provoking on the deeper level as they were frustrating on the surface.

As the saga continues (still), one positive is that I am decided that I will never purchase “product protection insurance” again. Its not only a waste of time but is verging on being an oxymoron as its existence seems to do anything but protect your easy access to the said product. For starters, it probably pushes up the amount you spend on your products (encouraging exorbitant prices of white goods when one of the primary “customers” is always the insurance company that is constantly replacing the previous white goods that have now broken down – a stock-in-trade for well-known manufacturers of household appliances). The assumed “future claims” on these new-for-old policies at the point they are taken out inevitably push up the price of premiums for everyone and most people have become too afraid to live without them, like a form of serfdom attached to every product bought. If you’ve ever experienced the barrage of phone calls and follow-up marketing that comes in like a tsunami if you ever turn down the offered premium, you will have gained a sense of how much is at stake for those who make a profit out of them. Yet the end result is, on my experience, far more headache replacing your product than if it wasn’t insured and a sub-standard service from the insurance company because you are, effectively, at their beck and call, jumping through their hoops to get your life working smoothly again. As someone who has worked hard to liberate my life from external ties and reclaim my sovereign domain of professional and home life from other people’s protocols (hard as that can be to do in modern times), this last week or so of having to jump through such hoops to claim on two of my insurance policies have been some of the most frustrating times of the past half decade…and the most enlightening about the human condition. And its not just been about the insurance aspect but about the way we treat each other; the sheer lack of respect, empathy, decency or honesty that is rife.

I am now coming up to a week without a fridge-freezer and my boiler is still making peculiar noises, though it works on a modest temperature. I have also had a debacle over the delivery of a chair coming from Germany which was sent to an office in London “by mistake” by the distributors (and a wrong chair sent to me…); though that wasn’t the issue so much as the assumptions and shortcomings of the internet company I purchased it from, who laughed flippantly in the face of my concerns and the endless inconvenience of non-deliveries and wrong deliveries and who have had to be “chased-up” every inch of the way. The MD of this company was able to duck and dive in and out of so-called “availability” to talk to me, or shove his ill-informed employee in front of himself as a buffer, as suited him because, of course, we were doing all of this “virtually”.

On the subject of the fridge-freezer; which was (as I predicted) written off as soon as the engineers saw it on Monday morning, the start of my week was littered with increasingly more frustrating phone “conversations” with the insurers in which I was promised a call-back that never happened. Over and over again, I explained my plight and was assured by an anonymous voice at the end of the phone that s/he would pass on my file “right now” to x person in y department and that they would call me back by z time. None of these calls, even the evening call-back by the out-of-hours team that I was so sincerely assured of “tonight between 6 and 8, I promise…I’m emailing them right now” ever happened and, of course, their incoming phone systems were switched off by then. The tediously jolly jingle on the telephone line, so-obviously made to sound reminiscent of a childhood christmas song to mind-numb me into tolerance of their procedures, had become engrained in my mind by Tuesday morning, having spent literally hours on hold listening to it on Monday.  If I had been charging my time by the hour, I would have made a fortune that day.

When I spoke to that same department bright and early the next morning, the girl actually guffawed down the phone at my frustration at the promised call not happening the night before and said “oh we’ve had a lot of complaints like yours this morning!” It was only five past nine so I was impressed that they were already in such full-swing. This time, at least, she progressed things to where my chosen fridge-freezer (I had done all the legwork myself to find the exact replacement model, removing this from their shoulders) was ordered for next day delivery and I was told I would get to speak to them later that day to discuss when I would be in. Fortunately, some personal detective work got me in touch with the suppliers and the department that dealt with delivery logistics as her assurance of such a call would not have held any water but the guy agreed to book me in “before midday” the next morning and so I crossed everything I had and hoped for the best. By now, we were quite desperate to eat something that didn’t involve toast or root vegetables and my house smells like mildewy cabbages.

Meanwhile we spent some time dismantling our old machine into smaller parts because, although we had paid extra for it to be taken away, we were told that our delivery-duo would probably tell us where to get off if they couldn’t fit it through our hallway and were unlikely to agree to unscrew the fridge doors.

When my new fridge-freezer arrived early today, I notice how unprofessionally wrapped it was, like it had been taped back into its polystyrene after being previously removed from its factory packaging. Straightaway as the plastic wrapper came off, I noticed a very deep dent on the side and we found a further three plus an enormous scratch. The delivery guys rang up their office and I overhead the woman on the other end say it was an insurance job and to just offer the customer a discount to keep it. Needless to say, I turned this down and requested a replacement unit…but her attitude typified how I felt I had been treated all week; like a second-class citizen because this was “just” a replacement on a policy, not an item purchased from a shop. And this is where insurance goes so horribly and fundamentally wrong; because, as soon as we call it in, we are treated like leaches and less-thans for all that we have been diligently paying our monthly premiums, possibly (as I had) for many years, amounting to a sum that would have – guess what – bought me a new fridge-freezer if I had just kept it in a bank account. When something is arranged through insurance, we are downgraded in somebody’s eyes and that mindset permeates the whole system that operates around it, from the call-centre to the logistics team and so we are kicked from pillar to post by people who never quite look you in the eye or truly listen your circumstances.

When you take part in any of this…as a person or an employee, both the same…you have become a number on a spreadsheet, the objective of which is for the machine that spews those numbers to fulfil the legal obligation at as little cost to itself as possible, with no consideration of circumstance or suitability. I have seen the same thing happen, through the back door, when I worked in personal injury and watched people offered treatments that were rudimentary or not what they most needed (or, indeed, no treatment at all when it was most called for) because that’s what their insurance dictated and the timescales that were involved often negated the effectiveness of the treatment by the time it was received. You become part of a sausage factory and, largely, spew out of it feeling sausage shaped, much like everyone else. Somewhere along the line, you realise, you stopped feeling like an actual person and took on their mindset that you are just that piece of processed meat plopping through the system and its a horrible feeling that permeates your very sense of self. The people that work in these very industries are also made to feel like this by the machine they are trapped in via the pay-roll and so the feeling perpetuates like a bad vapour that filters into all of our human dealings around such enterprise; people dole out more of what they feel they are being dealt by others so around and around it goes. This is how I came to feel when I was attached to insurance work for even just two years of my career, which coincides with when my health crashed utterly; part of the reason being, I now realise, that I felt so stomach-sick at the whole process I had become part of that it blighted my sense of self at the very root. En masse, as a society, we are all taking part in this mass root-blight, forgetting that – beneath the ground – all of our roots intertwine and so, in hurting others and ripping them off, we only hurt ourselves.

By contrast, the guys on the ground level, the pair who turned up with my fridge, could not be nicer or more genuine. Far from indicating they would have refused “point blank” to take off my fridge doors as I had been told by the call centre, who so clearly held them in very low regard, they were so incredibly grateful that we had already done this that they thanked us several times for making their job much easier. They were devastated for us when the dents to the new machine were discovered. They apologised profusely though none of this was their fault since someone else had loaded their truck. This incident had messed up the first part of their day yet they went the extra yard to take away our old machine and be polite and helpful, leaving me with a rescheduled delivery (tomorrow!) already arranged on the phone with the same woman who wanted to persuade me to accept the faulty model.

The same with my boiler repair man, who has been out twice already and is coming back next week as the problem still isn’t solved, through no fault of his own. He has pained and persisted over the strange noises my boiler makes and has made himself available by mobile phone so I can update him when it happens again, which I feel sure isn’t a part of the normal protocol. Both times, he has scheduled his revisits to save me the time of  “going through the system”. Yet his problem is that, whilst he has a fair idea that it is one of two likely problems, he daren’t replace one part only to find out it was the other as the use of these “costly” parts flags him up for managerial attention. Two parts “spent” on one job could lead to him being very closely scrutinised or even being next in line for being replaced. In short, he is not at liberty to do his job efficiently and freely because my product is, guess what, taken care of under an insurance policy!

nv0ehnnkqdha21gc3baj_paris-louvrSo here we go again in our world stuffed full of call-centres peopled by weary and disillusioned people spieling out their stock responses to real human beings seeking redress to the kind of problems that send their lives into disarray; what a mix, what a tension caused by almost entirely disparate aims. We have placed so many stages of protocol in between each other that it is a wonder we can ever get together to do anything creative.

Meanwhile, nobody feels “heard” and this undermines something fundamental about the human condition, stealing away our sense of worth and liberty while seemingly forcing us into the kind of corners where we show our very worst aspects as some sort of “currency” to barter with. I have found myself hamming up my personal circumstances to all those call centres this week, not because I want to make a meal out of health issues that require a plentiful supply of additive-free fresh meals cooked from scratch to keep me on the level; in fact I hate to bring these circumstances up with strangers as they can never understand why I don’t just phone for a takeaway or buy something processed. Yet, when cornered – hard – by a protocol that feel unrelenting obtuse and unlistening, we sometimes feel like there is nothing else we can do but spew our personal circumstances and lose our cool. We are often reduced to ranting toddlers by the time our solution is delivered after much banging of heads on a brick wall and so is it any wonder that the delivery or repair force is then accustomed to arriving at people’s homes to find customers poised like Rottweilers ready to pounce; no wonder they sometimes refuse to go the extra-yard. We have become entrenched in a mass stand-off, with the people who work at the front line of our services feeling abused and abusive because people behind the scenes get away with so very much. At its rotten root, it all comes from policy, not from the people manning the phones per se; though the fact they don’t have to look people in the eyes when they feed them the corporate line has made it oh-so easy for us to habituate this modern-day mode of behaviour and kid ourselves its is the acceptable norm to send out and receive. Our mores have become corporate and our evolution requires that we shed those standards and stand by our own once again; like we did when we were village shopkeepers and looked people straight in the eye…only on a far bigger scale. This is our next challenge and it is entirely achievable once we all remember how important it is to feel respected and heard ourselves.

When we get back to dealing with people as “real life” human beings with personal circumstances and feelings, we start to oil those stuck human cogs once again and remember how to flow (not grind) with each other. Even if we can’t see them; even when that person is down the end of the phone and possibly on the other side of the world, the treating “as if” they are right in front of us is a rule of thumb that would iron out a multitude of sins. It’s a skill-set we started to lose very rapidly once online shopping took over from the high street and as small independent shops rapidly disappeared into the mists of time; and we are set to lose this skill even faster, perhaps forever, if we don’t make the pitfalls of doing so very conscious. We need to consider what it is that we are ALL set to lose  if we stop looking each other in the eye; as a mindset, even when it is not literally possible. If we work on the premise that we want to be able to hold our head up high in the company of anyone that we have ever had dealings with, we really can’t go very far wrong and will know how to act. When a job makes it impossible to live by that, do as I did and ditch the job; for me, it was the beginning of healing on a very grand scale and the first necessary step in reclaiming “who I truly am”.

An interesting outcome of the first visit from my boiler man was that I watched his attitude towards me melt before my very eyes. When he arrived here, first call of the day, I’m not sure if he was still half-asleep or just resolved to have a crappy morning but his mouth was set in a hard line and he clearly wanted no pleasantries as I showed him what was wrong. Yet, half an hour later, once he has been around my house to check my central heating and had noticed all my artwork littered in almost every room, he was suddenly transformed. When he asked me about all these paintings and we briefly chatted about art and what I do, he lit up completely and became quite the different person, which was when he seemed to resolve to do what he could to get my boiler working, even at the risk of drawing attention to his need to return another day or install parts that garner attention. In short, he stopped being a jobs-worth and has been more than pleasant to deal with since; in fact, I am so grateful for his diligence because I know how rare it is after over twenty years of boiler cover. If he did but know it, he has restored my faith in humanity more than just a little, along with those delivery guys this morning!

So, if we want a world full of job’s worths who work on a task like automatons and shrug when the job is left hanging then we are going the right way about it; and that includes how we treat those front-line people who deliver a particular service into our lives. The human factor – that quality that make us distinctly human –  is such a slippery thing but we can grasp it with both hands and drag it back into the core of things if we really want and intend to make it a priority and, for all our sakes, we must before it is gone.  Until we stop dashing past each other, bashing shoulders without apology, we remain locked in a groove of non-thought around our wider human interactions; like they have become as compartmentalised away from our personal selves as all the various departments in our huge corporate offices….thus we have stopped regarding ourselves as “whole”. Our interconnectedness via the internet and world commerce should be a great thing but only if we don’t lose ourselves down the cracks in between; and we should be running the machine, giving it a beating heart, not the other way around. Just as we do in a physical “shop”, we should engage with people – wherever they happen to be – as though they have our full attention in that moment. Just  as I always make a point of making eye-contact with people serving me across a counter, taking the time to make conversation, however lighthearted and brief, we would do better if we practiced this all the time, regardless of whether the encounter is physical or virtual. By noticing their voice, tuning into the human factor and respecting them accordingly (whichever side of that conversation we happen to be on) we “look them in the eye” and this is such a failsafe gauge as how to treat others as we would want to be treated ourselves, leading directly to the realisation of a new paradigm where there are no winners or losers, just a system that serves everyone all down the line.

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When cracks start to appear…and light comes pouring in

Let me tell you a true story about my week; more of a metaphor really…in the end. When my fridge freezer started to fail a couple of days ago, I suspected straightaway that it was to do with the hairline crack that had formed in the liner several months ago. I got straight on to the company with whom we took out the “new for old” product insurance but the engineers they tried to put me in contact with were permanently engaged and never returned my call. I’m a busy person so I convinced myself the “problem” was aesthetic and ignored it for a few months longer.

Now, all of a sudden, the freezer part wasn’t freezing and there was a repeated “clicking” sound going off in my house which, detective work suggested, emanated from the back of the fridge. Of course, our weekly shopping was due for delivery that very night and, by morning (even after transferring the fridge items to the defunct freezer which, at least, felt somewhat “cool”) it became obvious that the whole unit had failed. Temperatures had actually started rising as the compressor was forced to work much harder, making the walls hot and a chemical smell seemed to be filling the void…so we switched it off and kept the doors firmly shut.

The engineers, who I pounced upon as soon as their office opened, were friendly enough and, at first impression, rational enough to have straightforward dealings with so hopefully this would be relatively quick to resolve. It seemed obvious to them that the fridge liner had been compromised (there was now a ladder of cracks on the back wall) and he told me it was certain the machine would be a “write-off” because the liners aren’t considered worth replacing. Given that and they were too busy to come out for 3 or 4 days, I asked if this “write-off” could be done from photographs. Sure, he said, conditional upon my insurers’ say-so, if I could email detailed photos of the cracked liner, an engineer’s report could be written and I would be a step nearer getting a replacement fridge.

So I spoke to the insurers and was put through to someone in the resolutions department. He seemed nice enough as he listened to what I explained but then put me on hold to speak to the same engineer I had just chatted so amicably to, during which time I was still calmly confident that I was well on the way to my problem being sorted.

However, when he came back to me, the whole story was changed and his account of the guy I had just spoken to made him sound like quite a different person. Of course they couldn’t write off my fridge freezer on the basis of a photograph, I was told; the engineer had completely denied telling me this could be done. After all, I could have taken a photo of any old fridge (hello inherent mistrust of fellow-human being) so I would just have to wait for the engineer to come out some time the following week to see it with his own eyes and draw the same, inevitable, conclusion. My ease-filled journey had suddenly compressed to where I was apparently being sent through the narrow bureaucratic tunnel of “procedure” that involved someone driving nearly 40 miles each way just to see something that had already been diagnosed and write his official report and, meanwhile, no chilled food for me. I strongly sensed that the engineer had been warned it was “more than his job was worth” to create logical loopholes that bypassed “the system” that protects the corporate vested interest and so, as ever, it appears we must monkey along with the game the way it has long been set up to feed situations that generate mistrust and then use that mistrust to excuse even more rigorous protocol.

As the day wore on, the fridge warmed up considerably and the contents started to smell really rank. More soft cheese than we could possibly eat in a day was thrown out as it deteriorated and we guzzled fresh smoothies, cooking with what we could to make a far heavier lunch than I am used to in the race to “not waste” what we had purchased. In the evening we turned off the heat in our front room and transformed it into a walk-in larder for as many perishable items as we could, including all the organic veg and salad that had also just arrived. My daughter came home from school and looked like she might cry at the absence of easy-to-reach comfort food and familiar dinner options. While she grazed on what she could salvage, I rustled up a roast squash salad for ours but none of us were very interested in our meal that night (given we had over-stuffed with cheese at lunchtime) like the whole ritual around eating had taken a knock.

photo-1461354464878-ad92f492a5a0By now, I was sitting back and just watching the themes and archetypes play out, for starters, that old-companion “catastrophe” of which this was only a very minor example. Compared to people recently put through hurricanes and more, I knew this was nothing at all and if this over-tested us, what did that say about our resilience. And what part of myself (not all that deep beneath the surface…) always jumped at the first sign of this coming as though it was expected; always felt that I should spend a lifetime limbering up survival skills in case something disastrous should happen. What was this part of me that always felt like it was in rehearsal for “the big one”; the day when the skies turned dark or electricity went off for six months or more? What was that almost tangible memory held in my cells that felt like the kind of flashback to earliest childhood that you can’t quite get into full focus and yet, I know, goes even deeper than that? What was this the thing that made even the brightest and most joyfully abandoned days feel mitigated, tarnished or brought down, at some level, to a place full of “what if’s” that clouded the sky?

Then, of course, I watched the playing-out of this whole “entitlement thing” we have around food and comfort, as though life itself is conditional upon our favourite brands and easy access to what we want without the merest hint of challenge. So what happens when we have to reach out, just a little, for those things; does our whole sense of self crumble, like we can’t take another step without well-guarded routine and familiarity? What was so wrong about living off bananas, nuts and bread for a few days; some people…in many places…would consider that absolute luxury. Nothing was really as bad as all that and I knew it so well…but, most interesting of all, I recognised that I wouldn’t have known this so easily just half a decade ago or even just a couple of years ago when I was much more entrenched in my belief of what it took for me to feel safe and sured-up as a human being surrounded by all my trappings of familiarity. Old me would have reached straight for a take-away menu but we just don’t do that food anymore yet we cope better now, in a more self-sufficient way. As I have become more conscious, I have also become more adaptable, more relaxed, much more curious than alarmed, more inclined to find the funny side in any situation and to pull back from any behaviours that feel compulsive or obsessive because that, like an alarm going off, tells me I rely on them way too much. Yet it was still an interesting social experiment to have playing out in our house and I saw how much emotion can be pinned around access to “food” as the very mind-game of whether we feel safe, abundant and comforted or not. My daughter initiated conversations along the lines of “how do people cope when they don’t know where their next meal is coming from” and I began to wonder if time-out from convenient food supplies might not be an essential experience for all families at least once or twice a year….

As I started to research a possible replacement fridge freezer so that I was poised for action once the engineer had been, I was taken aback at how search categories on websites could be sorted by colour, shape and brand but not by eco-friendliness; surely that was top of everyone’s priority these days? And the more I read about the “big beasts” of the fridge-freezer world – like mine – the more I wondered why we even make them except to cater for exceptional circumstances (much the same as I think about certain cars); when did “bigger” get so strongly equated with “most protected” from the slings and arrows of life? Why do we so love to hoard what is surplus to requirements “in case”? Though we are not exactly the Waltons, the machine I am replacing is a huge “American style” thing that appealed to me when the kids were young but, as I considered an alternative, I realised that was the thinking of that “old” stock-pile-shopping version of me and knew I really wanted to downsize to cater for where we are now at, including as vegetarians who freeze very little since we like to cook from fresh. Yet when I put it, hypothetically, to the insurers that I would prefer to trade in my like-for-like budget for something considerably smaller, he was dumbfounded into a state of “non-compute” and had to check his small-print because he had literally never heard anyone ask to do that before!

So today, as our weekend on a diet of toast and quirky salads gets going, I find I have reconsidered many things about the fears and conditions built around the matter of our access to food (which is far from straightforward any more, even where it looks so convenient…) and around why we are so eager to protect our access to this and all of life’s other “essentials” with insurances that promise to deliver what we most fear losing yet which are tied up in so many conditions when you scrape beneath their somewhat flimsy surfaces. The cracks in the whole concept of insurance started to reveal themselves to me quite some time ago and I have very few policies actually running anymore; yet this throwback had delivered me an invaluable amount of insight in a situation where, without it, I could have already gone out and bought myself a new fridge for next day delivery and without all this headache.

I really don’t mind the “easy” weekend of snacking rather than cooking up a storm; it’s a sort of holiday for me and in a house packed with nuts and whole foods, fresh organic veg, grains and home-made bread, it’s not nearly as hard as if we ate meat and processed meals. Part of me wonders if I even need a freezer anymore and that flags-up a big change in attitude since we used to freeze great joints of meat and so much processed food. My biggest intention of the last year or so has been to keep simplifying our lives until we live modestly in ways that meet our actual needs and joys, amounting to a lifestyle that can be packed up and moved at relatively short notice and which allows us to tread softly upon the earth. I feel this wake-up call around food storage is very timely; like something that wanted to get my attention because it didn’t fit our lifestyle any more, the big plug-in “beast” in our kitchen that sat there like an energy vortex sucking our fresh-new lifestyle down a hole. If I can get to the point where plugin devices are the optional extras of my world, not the life-support machines, I realise I will feel much more in-balance and control of my own destiny.

Sitting back spectating all this, I quickly realised that what I was really exploring was the landscape of the fourth dimension; the belief systems and hierarchies of control that make up the real “furniture” of our so-called solid three dimensional world. The issues here weren’t so much the fridge or the deteriorating food, the corporations I was dealing with, the real people on the end of the phone or even in my household as the strings pulling them all and the beliefs about life holding them together, including fears around such heavy-old-pieces of life-furniture as lack and survival, made themselves suddenly very obvious. Once we see how active our beliefs are in this world…far more “solid”, in a way, than the three-dimensional objects that come to represent them…then we start to see how powerful and necessary it is to place ourselves as heart-guardians of that domain, choosing which belief-systems we actually want to maintain in order to manifest the solid realities we really want to experience “at ground level” as it were. Importantly, we learn not to leave it up to other people, with other priorities and agendas, to determine what those belief-systems look like.

We’ve made so much of what we think we experience conditional upon certain familiar situations being maintained and certain outcomes we think our lives depend upon being set in concrete – allowing others to build solid walls and barbed wire around those so-called priorities under the guise of protecting them for us . When we outsource like that, we lose sight of our own truth; nor do we have to guard the perimeter of our own interests with with all the heavy ordnance they, otherwise, say we do when we take matters into our hands from behind the fortress-walls of our own fears since those old ideas are just a defunct belief-system too. The fundamental need to protect ourselves is perhaps the densest smog-cloud of a belief system of them all; one that begets the very things we are protecting ourselves from in an ever-repeating loop.

We’ve lost the knack of being prepared to face up to the surprises and variables of each moment in ways that allow for total flexibility and heart-directed responses. All of this is fear-based behaviour and it originates from an original trauma that we have already lived through…long long ago…and would do well to stop expecting to reappear over the horizon of our “now” for all the game has been set up to constantly imply that it is very imminent. All that does is increase the likelihood of it “happening”, manifested out of a fourth-dimensional place of fear that we all seem to focus upon at levels of consciousness we hardly give a second thought to at the surface level…until something happens to press our buttons and then our own belief in all the bad stuff makes it happen, we summon it from our own imaginations!

We really need to stop catastrophising at every turn; this is how we are being played through all the mechanisms of our society, right down to the level of insurance companies that constantly tell us we’ve been mistreated by somebody and deserve our big payback while, really, chasing after their own well-guarded interests and yes, I only understand this all the more because of a former career working in personal injury litigation so I’ve seen how the game works. This game of beliefs spins out into every level of our apparent reality, through all the politics and the religions, the TV shows and the news; its the real hardware of our world…much more solid than the objects that have come to represent it (like a whole belief system around food had manifested as my fridge). Its a game and we all play our parts so well in it; but a huge condition of taking part is this long-sustained agreement  – like a blood-pact we once swore to – to believe in lack, loss and our own limitation. We are all seeing that system breaking down before our very eyes, its long-preserved contents quickly purifying – again like my fridge – but as I’ve learned this week, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Maybe we didn’t need such a “great big monster” to serve our basic needs. Maybe its time to get closer to what we really want. Perhaps the wonderful new silence where that huge machine used to hum and churn in my house is a timely reminder of how we hardly detect some of the base rhythms that provoke our disquietude until they are suddenly switched off!

There’s an alternate place that can be believed in where every moment is a gift, even unexpected ones like these, and I find I am already there winking at myself over some of the other layers of life made suddenly overt by a twist of circumstance that could have been a complete unremarkable domestic circumstance, nothing special and yet…The most ordinary occurences can serve like one of those disclosure tablets swilled all around your teeth to turn the plaque bright blue, if you let them.

Without constant fear and suspicion, ridiculous old protocols can be allowed to fall away in favour of common-sense and we keep out of knee-jerk reactions in favour of seeing what is really happening here, which often isn’t as bad as it looks and, where it is dire, perhaps its just shouting out for us to take a much broader perspective. Sometimes the hairline cracks that start to form can be the first clue that a new level of expansion is just around the corner. Even as toxic gases release and things get hot, that crack could still mark the dawning of a brand new set of circumstances that serve you far better (and haven’t I seen this over and over again with my health). This is how cracks can be regarded as such a gift…a herald of great things, like an egg opening up…rather than as a trigger because they portent some sort of catastrophe; because when a crack occurs, new light can come shining brightly through to the point that so-called reality adopts much more transparency. What can seem like a dire fissure forming on the face of a long sustained reality can actually be the breaking down of a wall that kept you from seeing your truest, most abundant, least traumatised self and that can represent the start of a much deeper layer of healing that transforms your world, beginning in one dimension where “what we believe in” determines all and beaming a seemingly brand-new reality into that more solid one where we think that we live.

Posted in Consciousness & evolution, Culture, Environment, Health & wellbeing, Life choices, Life journey, Lifestyle, metaphor, Personal Development, Recovery chronic illness, Shopping, Symbolic journeys, Vegetarianism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Taking the route least travelled

It took me over an hour this morning to drive my daughter somewhere, a journey that should have taken 15 minutes, due to gridlock traffic. By the time I turned round to make the return journey, things had got even worse on the roads and it took me another hour to get back again…though would have been considerably longer had I not known so many back routes. I’m still looking at vehicles that aren’t going very far outside my house and it seems like the whole county is at a standstill because the motorway has been obstructed; the classic knock-on effect of our world.

So how did I manage to get back at all? Well, once I noticed the first signs that the main drag to my house was also backed up, I turned around in the road and started off on a network of country lanes and backwaters to get to my house the most “rustic” route. Over the hill and along a zig-zagging maze of narrow farm lanes I went; a route that most people seem to be completely oblivious to and, though I had to rejoin the main carriageway near to my house, I saved a huge amount of queueing and a vast amount of time. My route was anything but direct and even seemed to take me a little backwards to, ultimately, get me where I was headed yet I was able to clearly see the progress I was making rather than just sitting there hoping for something to shift and it was a lovely drive. It could have been the story of the last ten years of my life…

The reason I know these back routes so well is the fact I walk them with my dog and have had the curiosity and the time to explore them since giving up conventional work. Back in the days when I worked full-time and walked my dog “like clockwork” in the same convenient handful of parks where most other local people walk, I wouldn’t have had a clue. This last ten years of “health challenges” has taken me off-piste in more ways than one and I see what the metaphor was telling me; it was a godsend this morning.

photo-1445711005973-54fe2a103826And isn’t it a truism that, just when you think you’re almost there, something happens to slow things right down again…or seemingly so. When I had almost reached my house, I was forced to queue for the final 20 minutes in direct view of my own front door and it was that classic “so near yet so far” scenario that we all know so well yet it was the keeping centred, in extremely good humour and in perspective that got me that final few yards in the end. I knew that, in no time, I would have that coffee maker on and would be getting on with my day in my seat by the window…and, in the meantime, it gave me time to slow down, to think things through, to breathe deeply and just appreciate things. I was so grateful for the great music in my car and for many moments of early morning sunlight beaming down in thick ribbons through the branches of trees on the back of the mist that was now lifting; it transitioned into a truly glorious day before my eyes while I watched it through the screen of my car. This was a timely reminder that the route itself is always littered with unexpected gifts; that the so-called destination isn’t everything and its the being “fully present” that allows us to perceive so much of what makes life worth living.

In my own life, without what felt like some serious curve balls, I would never have gone off the track I thought I was on, would have sat like all those other down-faced folk rammed in their bumper-to-bumper cars going nowhere via the conventional routes. Looking back, I see with great appreciation how I rose to the challenge and embraced those unplanned detours, fueled by the curiosity that never stopped wondering “what’s down here?” and wanting so eagerly to find out. These qualities helped me develop the skillset that now serves me so well, coming into its own the most at times when I might otherwise have “got stuck” in life’s mud. Its the skillset I relish sharing with others and allows me to be of service to those who want to get off the main drag but don’t know how to go about it or whether to take the risk. I find I have become something of a minor authority and cheerleader of the path least travelled and I relish this about myself, across all aspects of life…all because life once presented me with a huge gridlock traffic jam not unlike the one I just encountered this morning, if on the vastly bigger, if more personal, scale. Its all versions of the same thing and what we learn from the practice is how we choose to react to such an impasse; do we just sit there or do we go another way, a different way to other people but, perhaps, one where others might like to follow?

Then – another curve ball – my boiler broke down last night and the engineer can’t get to me for three days. Of course, last night was the first truly cold snap of the season with a touch of frost and thick fog when I set off in the car. Its not good news that my boiler is making this very strange noise that sounds like its on its last legs; and, to start with, I watched myself get triggered into a knee-jerk fear reaction: “what if we have to replace it this time; we can’t afford that”. Then, as soon as I noticed that come up, I knew why it had happened. If I could just pull back and watch myself, it had so much to tell me about any automatic fear reactions that still lurk in the depths of me, holding me hostage, paralysing me with their over-reactions and the helpless feelings those always whip up. After all, my boiler may need no more than a service or a spare part so why the catastophising? Or perhaps its time to upgrade to something that’s “greener” and more economic that will serve us better in the long run. In the meantime, having sat in my car for over two hours, I was mighty glad to get back into the relative comfort of my house, even with all the extra layers on…and it gives me the perfect excuse to light the first fire of the season if I want to, what a lovely prospect.

These little everyday things that happen are almost laughable in their triviality and yet I got such a lot out of them. They are also such wonderful reminders of how convenience-oriented we have become and how we have come to expect to jump in the car and “just go” or to flip a switch to have instant heating or light. When these things get challenged, our reactions can be a reminder (conscious or otherwise) of all the far meatier challenges we’ve already taken on before and, rather than trigger that old reaction, we can allow them to flag up to ourselves how well we have always coped, what we have learned, how many dire circumstances we have actually survived to be standing here today. Rather than be triggered, we can breathe in deeply and recentre ourselves to settle back and watch the show of our “automatic” reactions, knowing we get the say-so of which reactions to run with and that we are uniquely well equipped to deal with whatever life throws at us…and then some…since we are experts at our own lives. It helps us to get things in perspective and, rather than fall into the “here we go, more ‘bad stuff’ coming” mentality, we get the option to see how far we’ve already travelled via all those back routes, detours and off-the-beaten track journeys that life already took us through, like we have been rehearsing dance moves that make us ever more adept and seamless at being who we are henceforward.

In the strangest way (when I don’t allow the circumstance to be labelled “there was such terrible traffic this morning”), I enjoyed this morning’s drive. To be honest, I’d rather the path least travelled any day of the week than be part of the unquestioning herd who just follow the obvious routes, however the traffic is behaving, or beep horns and shout abuse when things aren’t going their way, locking deeper and deeper into the entrenchment of each other’s messy situations. When we are most challenged to consider “do I really want to be part of this”, we encourage ourselves to think outside the box and to seek the positive spin, to adapt in the face of unexpected circumstances and find insight and joy in the most surprising places, chosing our responses. We step up to drive ourselves instead of agreeing to be shunted along and that is so key to living consciously as a self-actualised being who takes an active part in creating their own reality.

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Released from the jar

sibylcumaeWith great synchronicity, having just “released” the deeper meaning of my glass butterfly preoccupations through my painting “Reflection Upon Life”, I tripped upon the Cumaean Sybil in my reading, not once but several times this weekend. The Sybil was a prophetess who was said to live a 1000 years, having asked for eternal life, though she shrank and shrank until she was kept in a glass vial and, in the end, was no more than a voice.

A work of fiction, you assume, and yet her “story” crosses over into history where she is said to have been the priestess presiding over the Apollonian oracle at Cumae, a Greek colony located near Naples. Her prophesies were said to be kept in a series of nine books, which were offered to the semi-legendary last king of the Roman Kingdom, King Tarquin who declined to purchase them…so she burned three of the books and offered them again. Still he turned them down so she burned three more and offered them a final time; which is when he finally relented, keeping the books in the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill in Rome, to be consulted in times of dire need. Then the temple burned down in the 80s BC so what was remembered of the Sibylline prophecies was gathered from all parts of the empire to be sorted and compiled into another record, which was saved in the rebuilt temple. The Emperor Augustus moved them to the Temple of Apollo on the Palatine Hill, where they remained for most of the remaining Imperial Period.

The Cumaean Sibyl is featured in the works of, among others, Virgil (The Eclogues, The Æneid), Ovid (Metamorphoses) and Petronius (The Satyricon). She was even included in the Sistine Chapel ceiling by Michelangelo; so what was it that made her stand out so, that made her “story” so durable and deeply woven into our culture? Why does this resonate with me, so strongly, right now at this time like a bolt of electricity that tells me her story is our story and that this match-up with our female circumstances is her greatest prophesy of all? Is it the case that, what once was not valued at all (our most sacred female input, that which would rebalance this sickly world), though we offered it many times, will be the thing that is valued the most and which is set to transform this world once it is fully liberated?

If this sounds extreme, I’m not the only “modern” thinking person to have been engaged by the idea of her; this all-seeing woman who, it is said, wrote her prophesies on oak leaves (I’ve been consumed by multi-layered thoughts of oak trees lately) and predicted the birth of Jesus Christ. In fact Constantine, the first Christian emperor, quoted lengthily from the Sibylline Oracles (not the same as the Sybylline Books referred to above…but some suggest a connection) in his first address to the assembly, as if to give weight to his words as he changed the paradigm of a whole civilization.

In the epigraph to T. S. Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land” (1922) a quote is included from the Satyricon of Petronius (48.8) wherein Trimalchio states “For I indeed once saw with my own eyes the Sibyl at Cumae hanging in her jar, and when the boys asked her, ‘Sibyl, what do you want?’ she answered ‘I want to die’.” The writer Sylvia Plath, who famously committed suicide at the age of 30, is said to refer to the Sybil in her ampulla in the title of her semi-autobiographical novel “The Bell Jar” (1963) about her descent into mental depression and that, somehow, pinged my thoughts to Virginia Woolf with whom I have identified so much over the years and who also took her own life.

Then Mary Shelley’s extraordinary introduction to her novel, “The Last Man” (1826) claims that, in 1818, she discovered handful’s of the Sybil’s prophetic writings written on oak leaves in her cave near Naples and that these were used as the foundation of her story, which is an apocalyptic tale of a plague and a darkening of the sun event that wipes out humanity in the late twenty-first century until only one man is left standing. Shelley’s own prophetic ability to tune into the depths of a possible future far removed from the times when she was writing, as she did in “Frankenstein”, held me riveted to that novel in my student days and later came back to haunt me as I tackled my own electro-sensitivity and some of the new realities of where science was meeting, or grating uncomfortably with, human consciousness. So, to find this so-called autobiographical account in the opening pages of “The Last Man” – which I dived upon yesterday morning – ignited me with so many cross-overs with my own thoughts. However unlikely it sounds that she found what she claims to have found in the Sybil’s cave, she was most likely tuning into the female gift of prophesy – you could say, rediscovering her inner Sybil – and touching upon far bigger themes than the small-scale metaphor that this novel is broadly assumed to be.

What I was touching upon here, over and and over, was the theme of a universal female relentlessly burdened by the depths of her despairing knowledge of human affairs, past, present and future. A female so burdened she had conspired to make herself smaller and smaller, to disappear altogether, in order to put out the pain of such knowledge combined with the systemic helplessness imparted by a culture that kept her “beneath glass”; apparently free but only seemingly so. Here was my glass butterfly all over again.

So what is it that the Sybil represents and reminds us of in these times; right where are now in so called “history” on the brink of remembering there is also a thing called “herstory”? Is she that very story…the story of the sacred feminine, the wisdom of the lost female aspect that, with each passing year, was mislaid just a little bit more…burned, droned out and shouted down again and again until she remained only tenuously as a hearsay, word-of-mouth, Chinese whispered thing, like a little voice trapped in a jar?

Is this what Shelley, Plath and Wolfe and others like all of us who realise we carry this shared female experience in our cells have been feeling ever more defeated by, especially last century when the feminine seemed all but doomed (and had nothing to do with burning bras)? Did she feel so done, then, that all she had the strength to long for now was to anaesthetise the pain with prescription medications, or by succumbing to an unconscious lifestyle of endless consumption and distraction to numb her senses, or to snuff herself out altogether, “to die” as Elliot said. Is that the state of hopelessness that Shelley predicted in “The Last Man” and why”The Wasteland” must have felt like the beginning of the fulfilment of that dire prophesy a hundred years ago? Have we just witnessed our “darkest before the dawn” moment and are we now stepping out the other side of that, into the unfiltered light of a glass-less panorama? Had I just scraped the soil off the root of my long-time preoccupation with glass houses and views through windows, the one-time focus of my painting that no longer inspires me. Was this why, I now know from experience, women often have to do most work of all on opening the throat chakra, learning how to make themselves heard again? Have we just gone “direct”, like the solar-return celebration of our civilization, with no more place for misted or distorted panes of glass, no desire or call for an intermediary in any shape or form on our route to clearly seeing our highest selves?

So what has changed, how are we in any different place now, what feels better and how are we re-writing that ending in the midst of an about face turn that changes absolutely everything? I don’t know it in so many concrete terms that I can put into words but I feel it as distinctly as it is possible to feel anything. In myself, I see how I have realised the new ending in the many thoughts that rose up in me, first, about being “kept under glass” and then knowing I was now “released” from that same glass. Like paint doubs on a canvas, I have felt myself fragment and reconfigure entirely and confinement is no longer part of that picture. Its a quantum change yet it is very very real and I feel it for all women.

As I wrote about in my last post and have worked intense alchemy upon through a year’s worth of painting, the inner work has now been done on this; which goes far deeper than anything I can represent in paint or words, and it feels immense and multi-lifetime, like a bell jar has, indeed, been lifted or a glass vial broken to spill all of me “out” to become all that I will, without containment. I am gulping my first lungfuls of fresh vibrant air after eons of being kept, at best, stuffy and stifled like an exotic plant in a hothouse or, at worst, suffocated altogether and this is all of us; I feel this for us all. That confinement, the gagging heat, the glass ceiling limitations, the airlessness, the artificiality, the being forced, the possession, the control, the being seen but not heard…all those things were the female lot…but that was then and this is now. There was no coincidence in my finding the Sybil this weekend straight after my words of Friday since I was clearly ready to be reunited with a “story” I had not yet encountered in this life. I see now how the timeline that Shelley “made” into her story from the prophesies was only one possible outcome and how many others are now available to be chosen; ones which – already – mean we are out of the glass container forever and are never going back in there again.

My introduction to the Cumaean Sybyl came in the form of Barbara Hand Clow’s novel “Revelations of the Ruby Crystal” which works hand-in-hand with her non-fiction writing including “The Alchemy of Nine Dimensions” (all highly-recommended).

Reflection Upon Life is a painting that I recently completed, of a Madagascan Sunset Moth beneath glass, which I talk about in my post “Glass Butterflies“.

Posted in Art, Art metaphor, Art purpose, Art transformation tool, Books, Consciousness & evolution, Culture, Divine feminine, Life journey, Personal Development, Symbolic journeys | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Glass butterflies

www;helenwhitephotography.co.ukI realise suddenly that I never wrote the second part of Layers in the Landscape, a post from over a year ago about a trip to Bruges and Amsterdam (via a very interesting day in London). Just as suddenly, I realise that…actually…I painted what I had to say instead; which I will share below via my art blog Light on Art.

Briefly, the metaphysical journey that I had so obviously embarked upon in London and Bruges continued to some sort of finale when we took up residence in a canal-side apartment on Amsterdam’s Prinsengracht. We had started our journey in London where the suppressed waters of the river Fleet – an aspect of the sacred feminine –  had managed to capture my attention. Then there was Bruges, picturesque town of many canals – the masculine element of deliberate, man-made waterways – but with a very different “feel” and layout to Amsterdam where the canals are an accessible part of the townscape whereas, in Bruges, the waterfronts are the almost exclusive domain of private properties and best seen from the water.

Immediately, I felt right at home in Amsterdam in a way that I couldn’t quite put my finger on but later – honestly – felt had something to do with its latitudinal proximity to the place where I grew up which made the light and energy of the place feel deeply familiar though I had never been there before. Perhaps I had also been here on another timeline…the feeling was very strong. Really, I loved it and “knew” it in ways I can’t explain logically but there it is; I long to go back there to explore the feeling some more.

While we were there, we had all sorts of experiences that stay with me even now; far too many to share here but some of the most abiding and sharable, perhaps because they were so visual, formed a series of encounters I had through window panes and under glass. Of course, Amsterdam is stuffed full of shop windows and galleries, not to mention beautiful canal-side apartment blocks but was I noticing their windows more than usual because of a particular quality of light near the water and against those slate skies, or was it the way the interiors of these places “worked” with the reflections on the glass in a way that became a multi-dimensional focal point for me and my camera? In particular, I noticed so many butterflies (you know, the collectors items pinned inside frames beneath glass), including in shop windows where the double-glass effect added more layers of multidimensional consideration for me to play with…and this wasn’t me trying really hard to make something of these encounters, this was synchronicity telling me something through them that added meaning to whatever else was happening at the time. Butterflies have long served as some of my most potent symbols along the awaking path and, this time, it was like they were there to get me to sit up and pay attention to other things that were happening all around me…

amsterdam-map-bigI also noticed something else very distinct about Amsterdam and that was how the layout of its main canals, in a layered horse-shoe shape, divided by roads and intersecting canals that fanned it out like a turkey-tail, reminded me of an inverted tree of life or, perhaps because I have been writing about them so much lately, a tree of life labyrinth. I have talked about my labyrinthine experiences walking around the streets of various towns many times before, not least on my recent trip to Copenhagen and Stockholm (my post Graceful Journey); also about the turf labyrinth I walked a few weeks ago on St Catherine’s Hill (see Walking the Labyrinth). The labyrinth can be an extremely powerful way of encountering portals at the points where energies intersect and seems to invite multi-faceted experience into your awareness through these portals; which serve as an axis-point between other dimensions (you could think of such a portal as the truck of a tree connecting dimensional “branches”). So, in effect, you can find yourself standing in an ordinary physical “place” when suddenly your three-dimensional “reality” (which starts to take on symbolic significance in ways you didn’t notice before, forming “clues” that invite you to sit up and take notice) seems to intersect more fluidly than ever with other dimensions that you can now perceive.These power nodes train you in multi-dimensional awareness and so you familiarise yourself with its potential in ways that you get to take with you through other walks of life. When you encounter these power-portals, you feel riveted to the spot as coincidences of circumstance “speak” to you in a multitude of ways, offering new layers of deeper meaning and understanding to what you ordinarily encounter with your five senses.

treeoflifeAt the time that I was in Amsterdam, my knowledge about labyrinths was minimal yet I was encountering these streets (I now realise) as though I was in one. In particular, the two “halves” of the town layout, divided as though the horseshoe shape was folded in half to  form a symmetrical shape (like one of those butterflies we made out of folded paper and paint when we were children…) started to present to me – quite viscerally – as the two hemispheres of the brain. I noticed entirely different kinds of experience were playing out in these two halves of the town as we walked it every day; they felt quite different in very archetypal ways. Of course, I noticed we had chosen our apartment within the “right hermispheric” portion…and I truly loved our apartment, it felt sublime to go back there every night and sit at the open window overlooking the canal…even though I had originally tried very hard to book somewhere on the other side of town, which various websites implied was the “happening” place to be.

There were things on that other side of town that left me cold…like Anne Frank’s house next to the Westerkerk  with its massively snaking queue to “get in” and see where, ironically, she herself was trapped wanting so desperately to get out for so long. Everything about this so-called attraction made my skin fizz with all the clues that I wanted no part of it, knowing that she couldn’t be found there and had long-ago flown. I prefered to stay amongst the colourful flowers on the boats, at the vibrant street-level where there was always something going on; the same canalside world that kept her spirits up during her confinement. It wasn’t that I disliked anything about Amsterdam…but the experiences I was having went considerably deeper in some places than others, then felt more resonant in one half of the town than the other…so what was this telling me about myself and how much more I felt naturally at home in my right-hemisphere, felt the kind of resistance about the left that almost had me stepping out under the wheels of a fast-moving bicycle in direct view of the Westerkerk because I was in a blur of too much going on. When this thing happened, I experienced an adrenalin rush that felt like an abrasive reminder of those aspects of human existence that I most recoil from because they leave me feeling unsafe at my root; and well I know that it is this fear-based disengagement from life’s quick-footed spontaneity and unexpected thrills that represents a separation from near half of my human experience…a lop-sided flight-attempt that keeps me  grounded. Back and forth we walked, over the course of our week; and so the zig-zag routes that we took, which curled around the guiding paths of the canals and bridged – endlessly bridged – these two hemispheres, felt like a walking-meditation and a healing meant just for me in order to get me to break out from a separation mindset that was holding me down in this life as though held down by a glass ceiling that prevented me from spreading my wings…

22837241459_1f461ac507_kAbove all, I had two most-memorable encounters with “butterflies” out of probably a dozen such encounters. One turned out to be a moth – a spectacular Madagascan Sunset Moth – inside a glass frame in the window of a shop that was closed, overlooking a busy road near the impressive Rijksmuseum, which we could actually see from our apartment. The shop was in total darkness, the road was grey, there were refuse collectors in orange jackets crashing bins around in the street – by far the brightest thing on the horizon – and yet this pinned creature with its iridescent wings seemed to be its own light-source, transcending it all. More, the refection of a tree growing between pavement slabs on the street was playing with the glass of its frame making it appear as though the moth was dematerialising…escaping?..or was it actually materialsing before my very eyes. It turned out, I had much to process through this winged partner in awareness; which I did with my paintbrushes, over several months, as described in my post “Reflection on life“.

www'helenwhitephotography.co.ukThe other indelible memory was provided by a visit to the Botanical Gardens on our final afternoon in Amsterdam, also on the “right” side of town, with the deliberate thought of visiting the butterfly house. Those butterflies fluttering all around our heads and landing within inches of our mesmerised gazes were quite stunning; one even had wings like glass, which I hadn’t seen before. However, what remained with me long afterwards was a dissonance at having seen them held prisoner in such a small space with its glass walls, glass ceilings yet, ironically, with gardens all around them, if only they knew (and maybe they did).

I could try to explain the potent layers of awareness of self that have continued to uncoil from these two experiences ever since…but I suspect I delayed writing this post for so long to avoid such intellectualisation of what wanted to unfold in a more abstract way. Instead, I realise I have poured some of this into a painting of the Madagascan Sunset Moth which took exactly a year to complete and which played with some of these themes as they materialised for me across all those months. My attached post, below, on Light on Art explains this more throughly and you can see some of the photography relating to these posts in my Glass Butterfly and Amsterdam using these links.


Glass Butterflies

Glass Butterflies




Read more on this theme in my original post “Reflection Upon Life” on Light on Art

“When I brought the canvas back out into the light and started to play with it again, it was under the influence of a far less rigid stance (newly arisen out of many month’s personal ev…

Source: Reflection upon life

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Speaking your truth

I read this woman’s article and I felt that alert attention in my all my cells like you always do when something said by another could have been you speaking out loud; like, at last, a direct hit or the gentle sound of something important clicking into place. It was a forthright, say-it-like-it-is article, written by a highly accomplished, well-educated journalist, describing her experiences as someone with electro-hypersensitivy…just like me. Her barefaced honesty as she described in detail how this had unfolded and affected her life could have been one of my pour-it-all-out posts. I felt all the kinship, not only of an experience shared but of such a similar approach to writing…to saying it all, no matter how many words it ran to (throwing all guidelines about the average attention span to the wall…) and including even the most deeply personal stuff that writer’s decorum would have us keep to ourselves if only we bothered to listen. I pounced on this article because it could have been something I had written staring back at me out of an academic publication.

But then I also noticed how part of me began to almost flinch at how much the author was prepared to share of herself to get her point across and I knew this was how I, inwardly, flinch as I put my own opinions “out there”; half expecting to be attacked or dismissed for saying “too much” on topics that are considered “unorthodox”, “unscientific”. Beneath her article, a couple of caustic comments said out loud what my heart feared to find there and I felt for her; felt angered and abused with her for the way these people had responded to real experiences that they belittled as the fictions of a hypochondriac with an over-florid way of writing. “I am deeply concerned about the tone and subject matter” declared one reviewer, ignoring the compelling circumstances the article describes, before launching into a theory that this “affliction” was probably the latest of a long line of self-diagnosed and “exotic” maladies dreamed up as part of some-sort of extreme sport version of hypochondria. Another reviewer takes her to task for a writing style that misses the line between “fact and voodoo medicine”, apparently risking her audience’s disdain in the process. In these comments, which seemed to overlook the considerable substance of the article as though it was simply not there, I witnessed the familiarly gladiatorial process that underpins our culture play out as it so loves to do; the desire to find that soft spot just beneath the ribs, to raise the cheer of the masses waving their flags of what they think they know as the immutable truth. These people long to bring down what would dare to be different, presumes to say something new in a sea of sameness; of what, to them, represents saneness. Don’t those ready-critics know that we know this about ourselves; that our outlandish experiences sound as mad as a barrel of frogs by the measure of what most people seem to experience as their norm and yet does that make them any less “true”?

Then I realised, a slightly different perspective and that could be me writing those brutal critiques; for they could be the self-same criticisms I have directed at myself a thousand times for “feeling” more than other people and “succumbing” more than they seem to do. In another life, with a different set of experiences, without the health issues that have dismantled me down to the brass tacks of myself, I too could have wielded my high-intellect, my sharp-edged quest for the reasonable and rational like a sword to cut such a one as I am down with disparaging words. I know that because, at some level, I still do…

That moment when you fully see yourself as the centre of a star that simultaneously has all routes leading to it and from it, all perspectives merged into one possibility is a transcendent one and yet it can be bizarrely demobilizing like a moment of “where do I go from here?” When you see all sides of the equation you just want the equation to go away; to dissolve…but I find I’m left standing here, the human being with health foibles that are as real as the eyes in your head if you are reading this.

This thread made me wonder why I do it; why any of us that stick our necks out from sameness do it…that is, put ourselves in the firing line whenever we have a thought, an experience or anything to say that doesnt fit what people want or expect to hear or what is considered the norm. Why didn’t we decide, long ago, to just lie down quietly and bow to the majority experience, to acquiesce in the belief systems of others and put up with what we’ve got or can see going on in the world. In the conversation around this article that ensued in a forum I belong to,  I heard someone say that whilst they could feel the author’s passion and how this had been directed at garnering support for her/our point of view they also felt that, in being so open about her experiences (the matter of a toxic sofa that initiated her illness was the favourite example…), she had most-likely alienated her audience because of her unorthodox conclusions. The suggestion seemed to be that to be “taken seriously” you have to temper your viewpoint almost to the point of it dressing itself up as an addendum to the very paradigm that it is supposed to be challenging. To paraphrase Einstein when he asked this of the (still) largely unlistening world, what is the point of that?

So when you write from real passion to challenge the current paradigm, to expand people’s minds beyond its blind spots and then those who are “with you” also think you are undermining the cause by alienating people’s opinion, what are you left with? When those who fervently agree with you or are on the same page would rather nod silently to themselves but not share your material around to their family and friends in case it sounds a bit “bonkers”, what is the point? Why stick your neck out for that?

photo-1468487422149-5edc5034604fIf this was the only motivation for my daily writing-habit, I confess, I would have lost mine long ago over the extremely flimsy sense of camaraderie that is garnered as a writer of the unconventional. The more you stick that neck out, the more you are likely to have it “chopped off” by those who fervently disagree with you, because you rock their boat, than receive the enthusiasm and open-support of those who hear what you have to say. That’s why I made a point of contacting the author of this article to thank her (so we are now enthusiastically in touch), of subscribing to both her blogs and sharing her article across all of my social media. Its these small but important gestures in the direction of your truth that make the slow-but-steady difference and to not make them is to be complicit in the status quo that you tell yourself you long to give a good shaking to. Its how we realise our minority isn’t all that minor, our viewpoint so weird or off the beaten track, after all. In succumbing to the illusion of separation, of isolation and of not fitting in, even making a glorious wound of it at some level, we calcify that state with our beliefs and only make ourselves feel more helpless than we really are.

Thankfully, for me, there is always another, more self-serving, reason that I must wrangle with convoluted topics and write every day. In doing so, I keep my intellect limbered-up at the intersection where its preoccupations become most abstract and, in that frontier place, I am presented constantly with my next biggest writing challenge; a cutting-edge domain which keeps my mind razor-sharp. My writing has become my daily exercise to keep me out of the kind of brain-fog that electro-sensitivity brings in on waves that might otherwise consume me and spit me out in the semi-Azheimer’s state that likes to hover on the periphery of a mind that actively thrives upon being kept run off its feet. Some of it I share here, then piles and piles of it gather in notebooks that I fill with alarming rapidity. Writing keeps my synapses well-oiled while I wrestle life’s biggest challenges to the ground through the forum of myself and taking on easy topics delivered exactly like they’ve already been said a zillion times before would be no challenge at all; would be the very torpidity to send me back into a sleep I would never wake up from. When I struggle to grasp the right words (sometimes very obvious words…) and find them waving at me in my mind’s peripheral vision yet not coming into crisp focus where I can easily reach them, the hide-and-seek game of this prevents my intellect from atrophying and that is such a gift to me; its my daily medicine. Writing has been the saving grace of this past half-decade, providing the very ladder rungs that I have used to climb out of my darkest hole and that keeps me doing it like I have a new deadline to meet almost every day. In the back room of its shop-front, I have come to understand some of the deepest, most mind-blowingly complex things about myself and this universe that I could ever hope to know and so it has – quite literally – transformed me; quite aside from whether it ever manages to help transform anyone else (even though I like to think that, one day, it might).

In other words, people like us aren’t doing it for the literary accolades, the hope of a regular column or a book deal; we’re doing it because we must and because we feel utterly driven to explore and then speak our own truth. Like a slowly rolling ball of snow, we hope to pick up others along our way but we understand the ebb and flow of the seasons and the blight of a sudden thaw. We get that not everyone will gel with what we have to share but we ride a long way on the euphoria of connecting with those who really do; who stand with us and amplify what we are doing, adding their voice to ours in a dissonant yet oddly compelling melody over the familiar base-beat. And when that happens…oh how we all feel it tingling through us, that unmistakable ring of somebody’s truth  daring to be spoken, finding in that the long-awaited permission slip to share our own.

The article that I have referred to in this post is:

I Am an EMF Refugee – by Alison Main in Notre Dame Magazine. Alison is a freelance graphic designer and writer with a focus on environmental health, EMF safety and natural living. You can read her nonfiction essays at uncommonalchemy.me and her published work at alisonmain.me.

Posted in Authorship, Consciousness & evolution, Culture, Health & wellbeing, Life choices, Personal Development, Recovery chronic illness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Getting over the ultimate catastrophe

The book I am currently reading is far too astonishing for me to paraphrase; I would do far better to encourage you to read it. For my own part, I know why I “chanced” upon it as it was a perfect dove-tail intersection with several of my preoccupations of the moment. The book is called “Awakening the Planetary Mind: Beyond the Trauma of the Past to a New Era of Creativity” by Barbara Hand Clow and I am still relishing every page.

So excited am I about this book that I’ve wanted to write about its effect on me for weeks but hardly knew how to get started without just paraphrasing it (which I wanted to avoid at all costs) and yet I felt I had so much to say. Then, this morning (for reasons that become apparent) I found this post almost ready to write itself from the place where the book intersects with my personal experiences; especially those that have been unfolding of late.

In this remarkable, thoroughly researched and documented, work Clow proposes (as science is now catching up with) that a major cataclysm happened to this planet…not such a long time ago as to be something we can barely relate to, such as when dinosaurs were around…but as recently as 11,500 years ago. In her view, again backed by an every deepening pool of scientific corroboration, the planet consisted of a highly evolved, technologically advance maritime civilization that enjoyed a remarkably modern way of life not that dissimilar to ours when this thing happened and that this harmonious civilization lasted for as long as 40,000 years! Just sit with that for a moment and see how it slots into what you know; not just at the intellectual level but in the depths of deeper knowing that we all have based on memories we still have access to through our DNA. “How does this affect me or my modern day-to-day world?” you may ask; but as Clow points out “Most people are not aware that the shadows they struggle with come from confusion caused by the false story of the past; people feel guilty about something they can’t even describe”. To heal this hidden trauma, just like any healing journey (exactly like mine as I have healed myself from chronic, inexplicable illness these last ten years) we need to bring it to the light of our conscious understanding or, at the very least, acknowledgment.

Of course, what happened wiped almost all hard evidence of such a world from the face of the earth, especially as these people tended to live along the coastlines of seas that rose hundreds of metres afterwards or were crushed into other landmasses as tectonic shifts were mobilised by the onslaught, dissolving layers of the crust and reformatting them in entirely new ways. However, new-generation scientific methods are now overcoming such limitations and those few remnants of such a world that we have, which are so incongruously “advanced” as to have been all-but disregarded for not “conveniently” slotting into the “orthodox” timeline of history, are suddenly locking into a vastly different picture that looks very different to the ignorant cave dwellers we have been taught to imagine during those times.Whilst I confess to having intuited such a reality for the longest time (which is why, I now realise, I had such a visceral reaction of being “on the wrong course” when I started on my history and archaeology degree – later switched to another subject because I almost couldn’t bear to sit through the deadly-dark lectures about how early cultures supposedly lived), I realise it was largely at the unspoken levels of myself until I read Clow’s book. A massive sense of relief seemed to ripple through me from the very first pages, like I had found solid ground at last and something that resonated with my inner truth.

As I’ve already said, no point paraphrasing except as far as necessary to set the context for this post…its a remarkably compelling read and I recommend that you do so for yourself if the topic interests you. Rather, here’s my take on what feels like my truth; a truth that I had already laid out like a rather hesitantly placed jigsaw beforehand and, now, suddenly find I am ready to slot together with a little more confidence and see how that feels to me. Its a very different landscape to the one we have been taught.

Here’s how I think things played out, an over-view of all I “know” from intuition, memory, personal experiences and the insightful help of Clow’s book. A major cataclysm took place around 9,500BC and it not only altered the world “as we knew it” beyond all recognition but it tilted the axis of the earth, causing the variable seasons to occur that were not a feature of earth before that time. This – above all other nuggets of information that Clow handed me – settled into my deepest knowing with the most resonant “clunk” because seasons have been my “problem” for as long as I remember. As I’ve written about endlessly, the seasonal patterns have felt “off” and, at some level, unfamiliar to me…increasingly so the more I wake up to all the layers of who I am rather than being something I have ever managed to get used to. They trigger massive variables in my health and their effect seems to have very little to do with extremes of temperature, levels of daylight or even associated emotions around times of the year (although, like iron filings on a magnet, these associations have inevitably attached themselves to what I “feel” around the altering seasons, which runs at a much deeper level of my psyche). The deep dis-resonance around the stark seasonal variance that exists where I live has increasingly felt like something much more fundamental; so to learn that seasons were not an original feature of this planet tells me I have been tuning into (and so comparing) my current experiences with another time; one I have been, at some level, harking back to and longing to “return” to like some sort of Garden of Eden archetype. In our own unique ways (not always to do with season variance), perhaps we have all been playing out own own versions of such longing or the inherent confusion of not being able to find our way “back”.

2498191781_ed88965efd_zThe other detail that really caught my attention was Clow’s description of when the cataclysm took place (which I recommend reading; you may feel her words viscerally as I did, in which case they may act as a powerful tool to dislodge some of your most stuck memories…making for some extraordinary healing opportunities). She describes the skies turning increasingly electric and so-called “lurid monsters…that kept changing shape and colour” (a source-point for our legends of dragons, monsters and sea serpents) appearing to walk the earth and rising up out of the waters as the electrified atmosphere started to resemble what in my mind’s eye looked like one of those plasma balls. Had I just found a core reason for my super sensitivity (on the increase) to electricity; was this the fear-based core of physical symptoms that have been my newest and most alarming addition over the last year or so, making it a challenge for me to be around modern technology as, indeed, our own “skies” become more and more electrified?

Because what Clow is, in effect, talking about here is a mass case of post-traumatic stress disorder that we all share and which variable triggers in our environment (that is, anything that we have come to associate with “catastrophe” at the deepest levels) may well being “playing” inside of us like notes on a piano as these memories ask to be shown to the light of our consciousness so we can heal this planet as one. If we are alive, here and now, we are (at DNA level) survivors of this unthinkable cataclysm that took place in near-history (so, first off, congratulate yourself for that!) and yet it has remained completely suppressed by the orthodox version of history that we are taught  and also by our own bodies, which have in effect volunteered to bury the information because it was just too painful to be seen. Such locked away trauma has a tendency to play out through our unconscious behaviour patterns and so-called irrational fears and, sooner or later…in order to heal…must see the light of day by being made conscious. So, as Clow suggests, are we currently reaching the point where we are remembering this event en masse and, to some extent, re-living the original trauma that has been bolted away inside us for so long; playing out a healing crisis that we see reported across all the front pages of our news sources (if you even feel inclined to read those any more, so distorted are they in the name of keeping us paralysed in an original fear that serves the purpose of keeping us chopped off at the knees).

Once we start to entertain the idea of this cataclysm 11,500 years ago, we may think that cataclysm was the greatest disaster that ever happened to us and yet there were more “waves” of disaster that followed as the earth recalibrated to what had been a seismic shift; quite literally moving mountains and continents before our eyes. One follow-up disaster (at the time), the one that has impacted our world above all things that spiralled out of the orignal cataclysm, was the separation that took place between male and female, left and right, rational and spiritual. This, as you know from previous posts, is my “big area of interest” and here was a logical reason for it happening that slipped hand in glove into what I already knew.

Before the big “C” these things worked together in harmony…relatively…although, according to Clow, the idea of goddess had become something separate, sacred yet not maintain in practical terms in one of the maritime cultures that pre-existed the cataclysm, namely Atlantis which, in her view, was likely located close the Antarctic (which would have looked very different at the time). In domestic and political life, women seem to have been playing second fiddle in Atlantis by the time the cataclysm was upon us and the Atlanteans, in response to changes in the weather systems as cosmic changes started to murmur about what was about to happen, felt the pressing need to expand into the northern hemisphere and so they took on their old friends the Athenians in an argument about territory, resulting in a war that had just got started when the cataclysm happened. Inevitably, some of the survivors probably thought the cataclysm happened expressly because the harmonious balance had been tipped…and so began the messy business of blaming one faction or another for something that was out of their hands.

That’s the end of my paraphrasing and this is now my take on things (though it slots seamlessly with all that I am still reading in Clow’s book). Afterwards, in the unbelievably long, hard slog to survive, some remnants of the previous culture remained and I feel that I know that the sacred feminine (and I don’t just mean as embodied by women) was included, at least more so than in our times, in very real terms within day-to-day life. The qualities I refer to are the gifts of intuition and psychic ability, direct connection with our divine aspect, equal use of inspiration and other forms of direct knowing alongside rational thought, a highly valued engagement in the arts and all things spiritual, the kind of  connection to the earth that understands Gaia to be a living entity not just a spinning rock that we exploit for our own ends, a fundamental belief in abundance as the natural state of things and, of course, love and compassion as the driving force of our behaviours.

In those early years, the “higher aspect”…god if you like… was still called upon for collaboration in earthly matters (not for forgiveness…) and we used what we knew at both the earthly and spiritual levels together to try and forge a new world out of very different circumstances. It was harder than we can possibly imagine in our minds, though our DNA knows all about it, we still play videos of it as our deepest darkest fears under the surface of life. But somehow we started to regroup and one of the areas that this happened in a very concerted way, I believe, was along the Atlantic seaboard of France(Brittany) and into the West country of England and Wales, all of which were still part of a connected landmass at the time.

Amongst those who settled there were individuals who had enough grasp of the pre-cataclysm technology for some of this to be used again to rebuild what was left of the world that now had seasons; a phenomenon with which we had as yet to familiarise ourselves. There was a culture kept alive, at first at least, of knowing that we needed to realign ourselves with the stars as we were accustomed to doing and so times of the year that we could relate to the most became the significant events of the our calendar; the equinoxes in particular, when stone markers (standing stones etc) were used to remind us of our own relationship with the star systems and to assist us to align with them appropriately at the most powerful times as we had been able to do more consistently in engagement with the “fixed” skies before the axis tilted. Using the celestial skies, we were desperately trying to find our way “back”.

This technology was at the forefront in certain key places across the planet and certainly in the place known to many as Albion, which is my core realm of interest, technology was used to work with these new seasons, as seen in the few remnants we have (these are just the tip of the iceberg) at Avebury and Stonehenge. Goddess culture still thrived and was considered inseparable from our concept of our marriage to the land, a grasp of the importance of the unstifled energetic flow of the rivers and of nurturing the kind of fecundity that led to the abundant crops that helped us over-ride the challenges of the seasons. Importantly in those first few years, it it was still understood that to separate from her would be to put all these things at risk.

In these ways, the female aspect, the intuitive “spiritual” aspect, was utilised and this continued for maybe three or four thousand years. But then, as things continued to get harder as a result of more natural disasters rolling in that kept wiping the slate clean of whatever rudiments of life had been restructured since the cataclysm (water levels rose massively during this period), a new vibe came in and took a deep foothold. Certain elements within this culture, particularly those that felt they carried the “know-how” of ancient technology within their genes without the need to draw on the intuitive aspect,  those who believed they knew best” how to manipulate circumstances to their will at the level of cause and effect, claimed superiority and leadership powers, declared that the only way forward to reliable crops and the territory on which to grow them was “their way” (often involving bloodshed) and that they would keep everyone “safe” against all odds as long as the game was played their way. They even started to blame the right-hemispheric skill set – the shamans and perhaps especially the priestesses, even female deity – for the cataclysm and how hard things had become, like we had all been beguiled into played with fire (taking a bite of the apple) and then been banished from so-called Eden because we had messed with something that we weren’t equipped to know about. The ideas of “blame”, of “sin”, of taking by “force”, of “lack”, of needing to “protect”, to ask for “forgiveness”and to “sacrifice” in order to survive were introduced into our mindset.

The intuitive, right-brained, feminine aspect was, as near as dammit, outlawed overnight and the tables turned very quickly to the rational, left-brained, “scientific”, control mentality that assumes lack is our fundamental state and that to survive we have to protect what is ours or fight to obtain it. This viewpoint was most persuasive during such hard times and so whole swathes of people were convinced to follow these self-appointed leaders and to disown those now-blacklisted individuals who utilise “higher” wisdom in case they too were tarred with the same brush; and so began a deep cultural suspicion of anything unorthodox, inexplicable, artistic or born of intuition along with the idea of the “witch hunt”. Of course, religion stepped in to take advantage of this opportunity to control people by claiming that an intermediary was now required to commune with your god-self on your behalf and that to bypass the church was to commit heresy; and so the church became the most powerful political, earth-based monster it could be and had very little to do with the true spirituality that we all have direct access to and which had now retreated underground like a long-forgotten river.

What has this got to do with me or any of us? From my perspective, as someone who has been through their own milestone trauma in relatively recent history, I know how this can play out. How there was a time before that trauma and a distinctly different time after…nothing was ever the same, even though in many ways things “continued”. I even recall the feeling rising up in me at the time that seemed to say “here we go again, everything ruined, set back”. Yet I also know first-hand how the details of that mammoth event, the very fact of it happening at all, can get “get switched off” on your own timeline by a refusal to think about it or look at its trauma on a daily basis. So the symptoms of it can exist, and play out, for many years at the subconscious level, with no apparent cause on the horizon to explain…until you dig that original event up again and own it; own yourself for surviving it. Doing so can be the single most cathartic act because, like descaling a kettle, with each calcified layer a whole other layer of deeply encrusted trauma also rises to the surface and dissolves into thin air leaving you “clear” across vast, unifying themes of association across time. Its then that you realise that the original trauma that happened to you, the one that has really been bothering you and holding you down (though you may not have been admitting it), wasn’t even of this lifetime yet you remember it (and act-out about it) exactly like it was.

Inside me, as a female, I find these bubbles of deepest knowing that want – more and more – to rise to the surface and see light of day. They use the trauma I have been through in this life and any others that I remember as the ladder rungs that carry me towards the light of the biggest healing of all. I recognise how echoes of the original trauma have played out as a pattern of my life; how, when my beloved father first let me down (around the time I was coming up to puberty) it was like part of me thought “oh, there you are, I remember you, you’re the one who was easily swayed, who was a coward, who handed over the beautiful thing we had together for a song, who was persuaded to follow someone else’s leadership to hell and back rather than stay true to all we used to believe in together”. The tidal wave of anger that surged in me and the way I cut him off with my emotions from then until after he had died tells me this reaction hid a far deeper wound. It was like an expectation of disappointment, embodied by the male gender that I played out over and over through many of the the circumstances of my life for the next couple of decades. It determined the course of several of my relationships, lead directly to my most traumatic experience (there it was again; that grand betrayal delivered by a man I once loved) and resulted in my first marriage. Within that marriage, I find I am now able to explain the extraordinarily deep sense of betrayal (far deeper than the surface circumstances could account for – although they were bad enough) when that husband didn’t stand by me and my newborn daughter; when he sold out with excuses of his “important” career and having far bigger fish to fry than taking part in family life. Any time he failed to stand by me in a situation where another “threatened” me – and there were quite a few – the betrayal would seer through the heart of me like a red hot sword and would count as another reason that I was starting to despise him at the very core. Once betrayal became all I could see when I looked at him, his days were numbered and divorce was inevitable; I rose up like a tour de force and shape-shifted my world to make that unlikely thing happen and, looking back, this all took place, aptly enough, in the months following 9/11 when, I now believe, a ghost-memory of cataclysm served to awaken this immense strength in me to put self-survival and care of my child above any false ideas of “convenient”contract with another. Even since I found someone who is not like that at all with whom to partner my life, I see how this expectation of betrayal played out every month of the years when I menstruated, in the days before my bleed when I would irrationally (it seemed) feel so much annoyance and petty anger rise up in me around all the men-folk in my life, like everything they did was the disappointment I had been waiting for them to deliver…again and again and again.

Years later, as I started to wake up to the layers of who I am, I started to have flashbacks to a situation that felt just like me and my husband, although we were in the Amazonian jungle and I was a priestess of sorts in what felt like a matriarchal society. We shared an intense, quite beautifully intimate and balanced love; there were parts of this “dream” world that felt magical and reaffirming of all that I have now. But then something always happened in that “dream” that turned the tables over; I saw our community torn apart, massacred and he wasn’t there to prevent it, was dawdling his way on some errand amongst the trees and wasn’t by my side where I needed him when it happened. Or maybe he came back and saw something of what was taking place and was far too paralysed to take it on; felt afraid and ineffectual against whatever this horrific thing was that had come to destroy us. The more this “memory” came to me, the more it felt like a memory of a past life that echoed this one, a deep wound asking for the forgiveness to allow this version of that life to go further than that one did and for me to stop presupposing that such betrayal would ever happen again. I was being asked to allow that things have changed now and we get to go much further this time, as a human race, than we have ever gone before…together, side by side, yin and yang, intersecting in ways that are entirely complementary and make us “bigger” than the sum of our parts.

Last night I had a similar dream only it was set in the “now” and this was quite a new detail that made it even more visceral. It told me this remnant of an old-stuck expectation of being let down when it matters, of not being counter-balanced when it came to the crunch, is right at the surface of me now – not at the relationship level but at every imaginable level – and asking for me to take ownership of the feelings around it so I can let it go. I felt all the same anger around the paralysis of my husband next to me in this dream that took place in my house…and yet when I woke and took the reins of these thoughts, I realised what it was really inviting me to do was to own that I didn’t need anybody to save me, that I could do that myself, that it was time to rise up into my own power and own that…that seeking others to “save us” is what got us into this unholy mess in the first place. I felt the full lioness roar of me rally and build up heat in my solar plexus and I felt myself asserting my power, my big-ness, my divine force through all of the cells of my body, reclaiming it for myself as this flesh, in this reality and with no “ifs” and “buts” about so-called limiting circumstances. I am in charge of my own destiny, come what may, and only I can take control of me and what happens to me next; this is no one else’s domain and certainly not their fault…and I am big enough to forgive those who have felt their knees buckle with fear these last several thousand years because I have felt that too. It felt like a moment of growing up and of stepping into cosmically adult shoes; perhaps we are all doing that right now as the page of so-called “history” not only turns but, as we know it, crumples to dust. Perhaps we are all stepping into our big shoes and only then can we grasp one another’s hands and walk forward together.

Afterwards, I knew something huge had just happened because I felt almost too weak to do my yoga, it felt like a heavy flu, the first of very long time and yet I knew it was going to last just fleetingly as my cells let go of the emotional debris of an old wound I have carried so long (about 11,500 years, to be precise!) and which has now been incinerated to dust. The area around my solar plexus feels extremely bruised like I have been punched and I have extremely hot breath this morning; the aftermath of an internal fire and the trick is not to let it consume me to but to transmute me. Something has certainly woken up in me and, no, its not the desire to seek vengeance from those who sought to run the world (badly) for the last several thousand years without seeking the balancing aspect of the sacred feminine by its side. The pinnacle of my work is to understand – and to remind others –  that this was a failing on the part of so many of us that it is not worth the finger-pointing; and that it was born of a fear-culture that was drummed up by others who knew exactly what they were doing and how to manipulate the crowds into handing over whatever remnants of divine power they still had…but not forever and we are remembering now. In the years following the cataclysm, between the various religions that rose up conveniently enough to carve up the cake, the power-politics of self-appointed leaders, the rigid box of empirical science, the big corporate monster and the endless mind games that have made us feel small, we have been made the meat in the sausage factory for a very long time. There’s absolutely no need to replay the cataclysm we’ve been through already, we’ve done that and got the T-shirt; if only we could get it through our heads that what we have been most fearing, at the subconscious level, as though projecting it onto some future screen is actually a video recording of what happened already!

The most likely way we are going to see anything like that again is if we create it as a bi-product of our own panic as we kid ourselves into thinking, helped by all the bad news merchants, that we’re already done for or start blaming other people for what’s been and gone. This isn’t a time for blame, its a time to concentrate upon remembering what we can of the time before and how beautiful that was, how we worked together back then to create a balance that meant liberty for all and allowed harmony to manifest through all things…our relationships with each other, the planet, other creatures and (most importantly) ourselves. Along the way, we have learned something immeasurably powerful about ourselves; that our alignment with our highest aspect is not conditional upon anything…not the seasons or a particular tilt of the earth, not any of the ever-changing celestial alignments that occur in the starry skies, not anything other than our own inner-alignment with the fullest knowing of all that we are…both at the broadest level and as our human aspect, in perfect balance and most collaborative harmony. When we find that inner harmony, all else becomes possible though, sometimes, its necessary to push through a layer of cataclysm to get there…and that’s alright too, its the healing mechanism in action (and can often look like it gets worse before it gets better when, really, its the last bastion of fear). To return to that place is like returning to Eden only better for all the new perspective we gained since we “left”. You could say its like shining a new light on Eden, a “place” we get to appreciate and understand all the more for the intensity of the shadows we have encountered since we were last there.

new-light-on-eden-new-smallIn total “coincidence” with all of the above – though clearly not! – I finished a painting that I had been working on all summer during the first week of reading Clow’s book and already had the title formulating in my mind “New Light on Eden”. Its completion was delayed while I played long and hard with the rays of light and the necessity for “more shadow” to make the composition work. Of course, I see now – to a whole new level – what that painting was really depicting at its fullest potential and how working towards what you see here was one of the ways that I reached the place of my own “return” which, at multiple levels that are far more complex than I can possibly share, feels more complete than I have ever experienced before in this life or any other so far.

Posted in Ancient sites, Archaeology, Books, Consciousness & evolution, Culture, Divine feminine, History, Life journey, Menu, Personal Development, Recovery chronic illness, Remembering, Seasons, Space weather | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A longing for waterfalls

Think of it as that feeling you get when you’re next to a waterfall…When negative ions are freely available, we think more clearly, feel most positive and uplifted, feel creative, inspi…

Source: The positive side of negative

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Realising pure potential

pure-potential-new-smallThe journey of my latest painting shared  this week in my art blog

Source: Painting light

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Hats of to Roy again

Forty years! Exactly 40 since I first crossed paths with Roy Harper…and last night we were at his 75th anniversary gig so an anniversary for us both, you could say. He was far younger than I am now when we first “met” and now he looks like the wise old man and me…well. That’s forty years out of which I’ve seen him three times, almost four and, when I compare those occasions, last night was like a coming of age, not only to mark all the stages of his life but of mine too. Its one of those moments when a lifelong love of music is seen for what it really is; altogether much more than that, like a parallel road running along side the more obvious path of life, intersecting with it at many key moments.

The first time I (nearly) saw him – had the tickets in my hand – my friend’s dad heard some of his lyrics and live-performance preamble and banned her from going because of sexual references and swear words so I had to sell them and was gutted. I had no one else I could go with as he wasn’t exactly what my 14 year-old peers were listening to at the time. The second time he came past my way was at an intimate gig in the high-Victorian concert hall of Reading town hall across the corridor from the venue of my disastrous first marriage, in a Pre-Raphaelite room designed by my old friend Waterhouse, with an inordinately huge organ and gothic balconies as a backdrop…and there was little Roy on what you could barely call a “platform”, acoustically delivering music (beside his son Nick) with such softly spoken preamble that you felt like we were all cuddled around someone’s fireplace on a dark winter’s night. The third time was at the Colston Hall in Bristol on the night of the huge gales that flattened most of the the West Country half a decade ago (which still didn’t keep us away…) and could have been a bushy-beard and motorbike convention. The audience shouted out “rustic” comments, we got sloshed with beer from other people’s plastic cups and sat next to someone so huge and beer-breathed that we virtually had to share a single seat to cope; it was a memorable night and we were still very glad we went.

This fourth was very different; the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank (a venue I’d never been to before) with its panorama of London landmarks and nest of popular eateries  still spilling their summer-time seating onto the pavements below. We got there after having a “picnic” dinner outside the Tate Modern and going for a circular walk that turned out to be in meaningful juxtaposition with Roy (but that’s another story), also beneath the parade of beautiful plane trees on the South Bank that are under threat of being cut down to make room for a vanity project (the proposed “garden bridge”), the sort of right hand not caring what the left hand is doing scheme that is likely to have made Roy tut a few expletives as well. With the panorama of London all lit up in front of us, we noticed how this place made Roy seem all grown up; not least because of the string arrangements he’d come with. Those arrangements turned out to be sublime and made all the difference this time around; so closely nodding to every nuance of the original ones of David Bedford (no longer with us) that they endorphin-activated all the memory cells of many years spent listening to those original recordings. For more on those and the talented woman who put them together –  Fiona Brice – who was also on stage last night, I recommend her article “Twelve hours of soundcheck” as just hearing what she put together made me so glad we had made the effort to be there.

I need to put that comment into some context; almost six months after I bought the tickets, before we left home for this gig…even more so when we tried to coordinate all the necessary arrangements to make it possible and then catch a train…I had found myself wondering why I was doing this on a Monday night in London. Not my favourite night of the week for doing anything complicated, least of all in September; looking at the rest of the audience, I wondered if the assumption has been that most of his followers were retired and without school-age children. But as soon as I felt that electric frisson as Roy walked onto stage, heard what he had to say, recognised the first bars of one of my favourite songs (and the first in a set that could have been hand-picked just for me), I knew why I was there, why I couldn’t have not been.

When you really hook up with an artist, this is how it feels; and you know you are in for the long run with them because you set them up this way, as a living breathing reminder to yourself of “important things”. In getting to know Roy this well over almost a lifetime, I’ve got to better know myself and that’s a role I wasn’t going to hand out to just anyone…not to some fly-by-night pop icon of the 80s or somebody recording sloppy “cheese”. Many times, I’ve checked in with myself…does Roy still resonate with me? After all, not all the music of so long ago really does any more; my taste and preoccupations have changed hugely and never more so than lately when all I seem to long for is new and fresh, shaking off heavy old lyrics and thinking, for heavens sake, please stop singing about depressing old things. But then, like any great artist, yes he does still resonate; he keeps abreast with me at every growth spurt, his old lyrics revealing new layers and his new ones meeting me just where I am. When an artist is as meaningful to you as this you become, at some level, paired to their own life story like two horses trotting together so that, even through the tough bits (and Roy has been through some of those lately), their journey shines relevance upon your own in ways that feel startlingly meaningful; and then, when they come out the other side again (as he so obviously has), you feel this good news reverberate as “yours” at some level, so then you celebrate (and you grow a little wiser) together.

I once, tongue in cheek, described Roy Harper and Kate Bush as my musical father and mother; they both stepped into my consciousness at a very particular time in my life and at such a tender age (we’re talking the mid 1970s here, before I was even a decade old) and they have both run alongside me all the way. But Kate, like the epitome of the sacred feminine that she kind-of is (if in the way that we have come to equate with rather aloof statues in temples) has proved to be impossibly elusive to me in the physical world; the nearest I’ve got to her is knowing someone who used to be her neighbour, albeit meaning they lived next door to the high wall of her well-guarded estate. The one time she famously came out of self-chosen hiding to put on a concert, I tried and failed to buy tickets…had them in my “basket” and was about to tap in my card details when the booking-line crashed beneath the weight of phone lines gone crazy at the furor of her “coming out” for once and that was that; a heartbreak at the time but now I smile at what it had to tell me.

Roy has never been so elusive; he is earthily available, joining his audience in easy conversation and oh-so mortally flawed…he wears that like a badge and writes songs about it endlessly…yet, to me, he is still the very poster-boy of the sacred masculine in action, though he would probably spit the label out if he heard it. I bought a “green man” to hang on my tree a few weeks ago but couldn’t find the right name until – of course – he’s Roy, he even looks like him (but then he has an album by that very name – “The Green Man” 2000). To me, he epitomizes the heart-space of a man that simply wants to meet with a woman and, with her (never limiting her but watching her fly wildly whilst worshipping her) birth an eternity that feels something like a dappled glade by the water’s edge dotted with forget-me-knots, losing himself in the unfettered union until its time to reach for his guitar and turn it into lyrics again. The romance in his soul is the very essence of that “lost” masculine note in our modern world that longs to be heard once more but finds itself battle-weary and demoralised at the end of an era that has seen him dragged into other people’s messes for far too long. He’s the timeless essence of all the best bits of the masculine, embodied exactly as you’d expect him at age 75…white bearded and craggy-faced and with an unmistakable twinkle in his eye. I realise now how I always pitched myself for such a man (one who would always let me fly and worship me just a little) and it altered the course of my life, getting me there in the end.

And love is no torment for we’ll give when we can
And we’ll live in the moment when you are my woman and I am your man.

(Roy Harper – “Commune” 1974)

Yes, there’s still a world-weary note to Roy these days; he said he hadn’t voted one way or the other over Brexit because “it’s a young person’s world now” (though you can tell he still worries about what his generation are leaving behind for those youth…) but there’s also a note of optimism in there…there always is; its what’s fuelled his entire career and he is an undeniable part of the fabric of that newly-birthing world, whether he admits it or not. He helped shake things up so they would have options and a staggering number of people have listened to him for all he’s not mainstream. Listening to him last night from the angle of what felt like a retrospective, such was the emphasis of the song line-up, I felt such gratitude for all the angst and anger his generation stirred to the surface ready to heal the cyst of what came before. What I feel coming “in the future” will be less to do with heated exchange than reconciliation and yet he got us to that very threshold; is part of it and…in his newly tangible mellowness (in his physical persona and his most recent lyrics) I find the promise of an entire world’s coming of age and moving on at last. In witnessing his – of all people’s – new “mellowness” take shape he makes mellowness feel like a possibility for all of us and its no bad thing after what we’ve been through. There’s an air of “we’re all human beings so lets move on now” about Roy and its something we all need to hear. The fierce anger of earlier lyrics has simmered down to the well-seasoned stew of the wise man who has seen it all and for whom optimism glistens on the very whiteness of his beard, even if it’s based on the belief that he won’t be around to tackle other people’s messes in another decade or two. Even “back in the day”, you could perceive all the great optimism that he has tended to equate with “the younger generation” and he still has that in spadefulls; he’s done his bit and knows they will carry it forwards.

Locked in mortal combat as the future shadows loom
The guardian of my spirit fights his way across the room
To where the sick majority infest the myths of doom
But the lanterns of children hold firm in full bloom

(Roy Harper – “Hallucinating Light”, 1975)

Since then, his voice has matured hugely…there is massive resonance in there now; its quite incredible and deeply stirring to hear in a venue like that where a final gutteral sound at the end of a song (I won’t necessarily say “word”; there’s something primal in there at times) had the entire audience holding their breath. Listening to a live recording from the mid 70s just now, the difference between his voice then and now is quite immense and he has only got better. To me, quality of voice (for a singer) tells all about where they’ve been and the layers of Roy can be heard in the richness of the sound he makes. Just as we all tweak and turn the dial of our own vibration across the course of a lifetime’s experience, calibrating what we give out to others to match what we consider to be our own truth, in Roy you can hear what he is about via the tones vibrating from his vocal chords…now rich, powerful, other-worldy at times and utterly arresting when you experience them live helped by those acoustics. His vibration bespeaks a lifetime spent growing a soul and he comes across as more “whole” somehow, less fragmented by pain, than he once did; and sounding far better for it. Its a sound that comes from a heart that appears to be bleeding somewhat less than before. He is so craggy, wizardly and white-haired now, so creased and worn in by his human experience; so unfailingly earnest too that you just have to love him. If I was visiting from another planet and listening to Roy tell one of his stories for the first time, I would want to be a human being like that next time around; he’s a great advert for being what we are, warts and all. He still goes off about some of the things that really piss him off about the state of the world but you mostly get the feeling that he’s had a blast along the way, in spite of all the tougher times, accepting the whole of the ride for the good bits. Yes, he seems to have become more whole against the odds of all kinds of fragmentation that has come his way and, in modelling that, he helps to get us all there; which is what earns him the label “folk singer” I suppose, though I never think of him that way.

This is an optimistic work as are the vast majority of my songs…(laughter)….its true, there isn’t a pessimistic one among them really”

(Roy Harper – live, many years ago)

Our relationships with certain artists become like shining threads of meaning woven through the course of a lifetime. When we hook onto them, its like clipping ourselves onto the kind of ropes that are slung between climbers; you only need to know you are attached at the moments when something happens and you feel that connection tug oh-so meaningfully, often reassuringly, between you. They can be a saving grace you put there without even knowing why at the time. They also act like a spider’s web of understanding outside of time and place; threads flung hither and thither across the linear confusion and seemingly running their own course, outside of the three-dimensional, until suddenly they help you make sense of all of it. In winding your thread around the hook of them, the reminiscence of a song or other artwork that marked a place where you felt “that” too, you create a portal between parts of your own life that can be travelled at will, skipping the linear timelines that can make grasping the broader panoramas of your life a piecemeal and painstaking thing at ground level where the pavement has many cracks. Suddenly, you are on the top floor and confronted with the much bigger picture of it all, a view across the very rooftops of your life…and ropes slung across the landscape by all the music you’ve pegged to certain key points for all these many years.

You come to love such music in an entirely unconditional way since it has nothing to do with fashion, fad or the emotions of immaturity. Through multiple repeat playings, these musical markers become power nodes where you wound your thread so meaningfully around a particular landmark on your life and said “remember to look back at this when the time is right and you’ll make all new sense of it when you do”. Being music that we deeply enjoy, we remember to keep that appointment with ourselves; which is so important and makes all the difference to what we take from it much further down the line. Of course, this happens wherever we plant reminders for ourselves but when the reminder comes via music or other art form, the three-dimensional criss-cross of coincidence opens out to become the temporary north star of our own navigation, pointing us off in a multitude of directions from the pivot point of experience that we are, taking us off along all the pathways of all our own associations built around that particular prompt as well as down the many paths of the song lyrics themselves and those of the artist that delivers them…all these crossing-points suddenly converged as one multi-pointed star. Looking down at the convergence of stage lights on the pinpoint of a fuzzily-outlined guy with white hair and an impressive collection of guitars (I really must remember to take my glasses to these things…), listening to songs that meaningfully skip me across all the decades of my life, I felt like I was looking down at some of the most powerful convergence points of everything that has ever happened to me…all embodied by one person dwarfed on a huge stage seen from up high in the front-row balcony seat of a venue that was his best fit yet. Pull the pin of him out of that life and my “story” would be very different indeed.

And full the single stillness of the mirror that is made
By each and every one of all the colours in a shade
Inside each eye is sitting like the sword inside the blade
And longs for once upon a chance to open love’s cascade

(Roy Harper – The Same old rock 1971)

Listening to Roy, I can fly between some of the most meaningful the portals of my life as he’s hooked-up to the best of them; a pattern I long-ago started to perceive through the mists of time following his thread. As a young woman I would vet budding relationships according to whether they had even heard or Roy or were amenable to listening. Later on his “guidance” came through subtler synchroncities, hinting I was still on my patch. When someone (still) crops up in your music urges as regularly as he has to me (even when you don’t play them all the time any more…not even nearly), you start to sit up and take notice, knowing it has something important to tell you. Why did I buy those Monday night tickets last April, I’d been asking myself; then, remembering where I was back then, which was one of the most powerful completion points of my life to date, putting to bed “old stuff” I felt finished with once and for all, I suddenly knew why I’d made this appointment with Roy, buying tickets on a whim. When you “get” the deeper patterns of your relationship with artists – all kinds of artists – you get the most out of all the times they crop up in your life-story. They forge pathways of “hallucinating light” (Roy Harper – 1975) across your world, making the multidimensional layers multi-meaningful by bringing them up to the surface where you can see them more clearly, reminding you of that thing that Roy now also knows: that “time is temporary”  (Roy Harper – 2013) and what really matters would still be left standing there without it. In getting to know Roy this well, I realise I got to know myself far better than I could have managed on my own.

www.helenwhitephotography.co.ukOne of the things that I came away with was a profound sense of the past being tied up in a bow with the present, made newly relevant in the here and now where what I thought I knew before was only a page marker. In the preamble to “Another Day” (Roy Harper – 1970), a long-time favourite song of mine that I felt I knew pretty well, he announced it was written many years ago about an unconsumated love (yes, I knew that)…but then he also mentioned it was written while living in an apartment in Copenhagen overlooking one of the long rectangle lakes that we walked home along – sunset after sunset – every night that we were staying there just a few weeks ago, gazing wishfully at apartment windows like I was looking for a clue of something familiar that once happened there. Suddenly this new layer of personal significance, lit up from within an “old friend” of a song, took the deeply familiar to a whole new dimension like a wash of colour to all those old-familiar words…and life is like that these days; just when you think you know something really well it gets even better, the colours turned up. Thinking back to all those tranquil pairs of swans gliding on pure molten gold in Copenhagen for what probably felt, after a few days, like “Twelve hours of sunset” (Roy Harper – 1974), I wanted to share with him my insight that perhaps the unconsummated relationship he had been singing about for nigh on fifty years had been fulfilled at a whole other level, the essence of something long caught-up between men and women in general “addressed” and thus transformed through the words of a song. Like all great poets, he takes universal themes of pain and loss then spins them into pure gold as art form against the very tide of a Rumpelstiltskin game that would have us all done-in and demoralised by our own trials and tribulations otherwise. Art forms such as his have kept us a afloat across the lashing seas of an era and – I think – delivered us safely to another shore. As the very boat builder with his words, I hope he knows that too.

Oh really my dear I can’t see what we fear
Sat here with ourselves in between us.

(Roy Harper – Another day, 1970)

In the end, you got me Roy…you made me choke up, we were both wiping tears in the end and  we weren’t the only ones as the standing ovations rolled. Of course, it was the encore of “When an old cricketer leaves the crease” (Roy Harper – 1975) that did me in but then it made me want to cry just a little when I was a girl. As this old cricketer made his way off the stage , I had a steady knowing that he would be back some time soon…either at the “Roy” Festival Hall for yet another birthday celebration or maybe to play out another role in his next lifetime (though I suspect he still doesn’t believe in all that); and hopefully one where he can afford to be just a little less pissed-off about the state of the world.

Title alludes to the song “Hats off to (Roy) Harper” – Led Zeppelin (1970)

Another great review in the Telegraph

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