Tag Archives: beauty

… a ginger cat dreams of company in breath …

The woman used to sit in the deckchair with her sleek black friend on her lap, eyes closed, breathing in unison. She calls it meditation. I was jealous, what else.

I’m old and grumpy, a familiar sight. Small chance she wonders where I hang out when not visiting. Today she spotted me – a fluffy ginger ball dozing on a brick wall sheltered by ivy – not my regular spot. I prefer having my daily nap on a bench at the top. From that royal view downhill I keep half an eye on creature traffic, neighbour cats that shamelessly kill fledglings or lame birds, the stray dog or sly fox that slips through the hedge, reckless rodents … but it’s been drizzling all night and my favourite bench is soaking wet this morning.

I get no food here. However, she daily cleans and refills the ceramic bowl near the house with fresh water, just for me to slurp. In such moments we exchange glances, and she nods. What she doesn’t like is when I get too close to her little stone Buddha. Then she shakes her head or steps from the backdoor to clap her hands. I’ve seen her turn the water hose on cats with bad manners. She should know better, I’m not one of them, I have principles.

I bet she misses her companion, glossy and black as a moonless sky. She was gentle and tolerant of me, which is why I used to protect her from a nasty tom. Some years ago the woman dug a deep hole for her friend, near the compost heap. Not the most romantic spot to have one’s bones rest, but due ceremony was observed, which must count for love.

I wouldn’t impose myself. I wonder what attracts me to this human and her world. I’d love being invited in her house, as companion. Nowadays she often sits near the window, staring at some rectangular device like it’s the most fascinating sight in the world, the opening to a mystery, like a warren.

She keeps her distance, wary of attachments. I get it, of course; she doesn’t want her freedom restricted by caring for another cat. Her neighbours used to look after her pet during her absences. Now their health is fragile and can’t be relied upon. She objects to Kennels, rightly. I was put in one, long ago, confined in a cage, horrible.

I doubt she cares where I camp at night. Doesn’t know I endure the stoned torpor of Mr X, lost in a dark place. It’s not a home, the vibes upset me. But each morning I vocally rouse X from his hangovers to alert him to my dry meal. This must be my purpose – my insistence on my existence is how he tracks time, like noticing a new day. Alas, the filthy water bowl is only rarely topped, which is why I’m thankful that the woman got the message …  I’m always thirsty.

The image keeps returning, of her sitting in the garden with her black friend on her lap, eyes closed, breathing in unison. My thirst lives on. It may be complex and beyond measure, or awesomely simple, I don’t know, but company in breath seems the one simple thing of beauty most worth dreaming of.

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… rose is a rose is a rose …

 

The rose-phrase is the enduring refrain of Gertrude Stein. In her surreal 1939 children book, ‘The World is Round,’ for example, rows of three words appear throughout. A girl called Rose carves her name round a tree in an endless loop to affirm her existence .

Rose is a rose is a rose – rolls from the tongue much like the prayer beads of a rosary roll through nimble fingers.

You want to stay with the rose, let it take root in your psyche, and from there let roses after roses grow.

By comparison – BrexitisBrexitisBrexit – sounds like the rusty hinges of a rotten door, or the croaking of a parrot with a sore throat. I try to resist the word’s grating in my skull, but it’s difficult to avoid its ugly edges from day to day, in bizarre discord with the rousing refrain of Britannia rules the waves.

There’s repetition and repetition. Applied with intention in literature, music, dance and the visual arts, repetition can strip the familiar to its essence. The arts, at best, alert us to nature’s spellbinding repetitive rhythms. Shield your ears and hear the blood-river rushing through your veins – touch your wrist and sense your heart pump the river round and round. Spirit is seduced into this trance-dance, or it would never get trapped in forms. Repetitive behaviour settles us into mollifying routines and gives us a sense of stability, as well as addictive habits. Beneficial as they can be, customary routines also have a tendency to dumb us down.

In this time of rapid changes, words and images topple over each other’s associations. Type ‘apple’ into a search engine and up pop pages listing Apple Inc., the multinational technology company that has seized the apple, bitten off a chunk of knowledge, like Eve, and deployed it as a metaphor for its corporation – brilliant, and disconcerting. It had trouble finding a title for my novel, where ‘mirror’ was not already owned as a label by tabloids or rock bands.

Most young folk today move along the electric cultural highway in fast gear. Facebook’s Zuckerberg famously said ‘Move fast and break things.’ Maybe he’s a speed-hatched modern-day mystic. I’m reminded of Hazrat Inayat Khan’s profound quote regarding the journey of life – ‘The ideal the means, its breaking is the goal.’

I suffer a long view. My first experience of TV was Queen Elisabeth’s coronation. What unnerves me is the speed of spear-heading elites, leaving ordinary people no breath to digest events, especially as history and the arts are being replaced by computer science in education. With automation the rage, the journey happens in a blur, as do thinking processes. Keywords have become mechanical codes, and shareholders bow to the omnipotent algorithms’ patterns of, let’s say, how existential fears relate to consumer behaviour. We hardly notice our choices being manipulated. How to catch snap assumptions that keep consciousness caged, or one’s imagination buried under debris of glib answers? With traditions and ideologies on trial, how to develop a filter of authenticity to stem the flood of information? Reflective minds are turning cynical. I have that tendency.  Doubt is the new lodestar.

Like never before, we perceive phenomena through multiple eyes, tap into the states of other beings – their joy, their ignorance and excess, their poverty, suffering and distress. We may blank out what upsets, but can’t escape the increasing experience of contradiction, the very function of reality. Greater awareness deeply conflicts us, as much as it inspires creativity. There’s hope. Seeing does not require physical eyes. Collective consciousness will expand, be it through chaos. The least we can do is to still our own mind, which is why I return to the rose.

The genus Rosa, according to fossil evidence, is 35 million years old and begun to be cultivated circa 5000 years ago. Due to its tessellated structure, dome-like shape and its delightful perfume, the rose has become a symbol of the heart, of wholeness, love, beauty and perfection the world over, frequently with mystical connotation, and often highly stylised, as in Islamic art.

When held, thought or spoken of, the rose lingers on and generates a mood. It may appear in different stages of opening or beautiful decay, in a particular colour, light. The name alone conjures up memories of scents, places, relationships, delight or melancholy. What ‘rose’ evokes derives from a time-wrought cypher that evokes all roses that were, are and will be.  Rose is a rose is a rose – depicts a rose, no more, and yet, it kindles all the experiences and ideas humans formed around roses.

While fear of loss and abandonment engenders life, it also draws us towards the mystery of infinite consciousness, the one being with countless names. Various practices, derived from spiritual traditions, can calm a turbulent mind enough for a glimpse of harmony beyond divisions. For a while, at least, we sense the larger presence, the effortless zone, the flow – and given patience, come to realise that consciousness is what we are.

I invite you again to This guided rose journey I shared here three years ago, requires only your imagination.

It is a short imagery, easy to memorise. Enter with eyes closed, and it may work for you as a bridge to the recurring presence of rose – a reminder of continuous becoming and expanding consciousness.

 

 

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… letting go of letting go & duende …

An apple doesn’t drop by itself before it’s ripe. And unless fate delivers us a hard blow natural ripeness applies equally to experience. Experts are quick to tell us, or we tell ourselves, to let go of whatever – an attachment, a fear, a grievance, an addiction, a desire, melancholy, sadness, the ego, and so on, while we are enmeshed with our life and its phenomena. The best chance of ripening towards a possible potential lies in keeping one’s balance on the tightrope of contradictions, that is, the fine line between the particle state and the wave state – as in Blake’s ‘Kiss the joy while flies.’

Natural letting go happens every second. We breathe, well, we are breathed, though we mainly notice when the rhythm of our breath is disrupted – through pain, exhaustion, anger, anxiety, anger or sheer exasperation, when anyone uttering, ‘Calm down,’ deserves a punch.

(Thanks Joe Linker for the great doodle)

Emotional balance wavers from day to day, but when self-blame knots up our muscles it makes sense to focus on the body. There are plenty of ways to relax: exercise, sex, music, singing, mantras, doodling, magnesium, weed, pills, wine … or to imagine brilliant light circling through the breath, like the basic drone of a reed harmonium or a tanpura holding up multiple sounds. Everything in nature has an essential frequency, which tends to flush out what obstructs its flow, even if it takes earthquakes, storms and floods. To right imbalances of the planet is beyond individuals, we can however bring a clear intention towards balancing our body’s frequency. Try this:

Inhale through your nose – draw brilliant light from head the chest – counting to 7   

Exhale through your mouth – let the light flow to your feet and out – counting to 11

Imagine the out breath taking along the tensions held in your muscles. A few rounds of this ritual should calm the heartbeat for a while. Being in resonance with your body draws the shy soul closer, bringing a sense of oneness – satiating our thirst for belonging. And it makes us aware that beauty is not in things, but in the soul of things, even the tiniest thing has soul.

Enjoy the circular sound by the wonderful mantra singer Hein Braat.

However, a constant sense of oneness is not what evolution is about. In a time and space structured cosmos we cannot cage harmony. Reality is the result of contradiction.

Our struggle for balance can be intense. But each of us has the chance to live with zest, inspired by the earth spirit and its dark power for spontaneous creation born of sadness and pain. Garcia Frederico-Lorca talked about art being inspired in three ways: by muses of the past, angelic visons of the future, and by duende – inspiration of the present. Duende springs from the core of one’s being in direct confrontation with death. You can read Lorca’s remarkable speech here: ‘Theory and Play of the Duende.’  

… You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves …  from – Mary Oliver, ‘Wild Geese’

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… bewildered hearts …

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We may reach out in vain towards heavy hearts shrouding broken ideals or stagnant truths that are dark-sealed against any doubt.

We may reach out in vain towards wounded hearts that shirk beauty, scorn at tender gestures, treat humour like treason and plot revenge.

 

Yet in the death rasp of each bewildered heart we may catch the echo of our sigh – the time-sculpted murmur of our own pain.                                                                                                                                                                                                                   P1060110 inverse lowres                                           

 

‘The ideal is the means; its breaking is the goal.’    Hazrat Inayat Khan

 

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… I mourn the round clock …

P1100988I mourn the round clock

the poetic face of time

gazing into now

 

hands whirling round hours

much like the planets orbit

our cradle of light

 

pulsing in us – too

as heart hub where the Muse dwells

minding her own pace

 

you are the turning

– she hints – laugh and weep with me

create more beauty

 

from her calm domain

she may join freak storms as rain

and make deserts bloom

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poets and children

glimpse how she weaves dream fabrics

to wrap up each now

 

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… patina – beauty of use & age – wabi-sabi …

From an old postcard. I can't source the photographer.

Old woman – from a postcard I can’t source.

The phenomena of patina on surfaces is intimately seductive – layers of flacking colour on facades, walls and doors of old houses – thresholds dented and polished by feet treading on them for decades and centuries, tools honed by use, lichen-coated wood and stone, the fading or darkening of materials affected by exposure to light, air, water, wind, heat, humidity, wear and touch – and – poignantly – human skin inscribed by living.

Essaouria

The irreverence of organic processes brings endless revelations, a subtle kind of charm, a triumph of endurance, a fleeting glimpse of time in motion, a mystical hue of imperfection, evidence of existence that display glorious or sad narratives of beauty, relationships, melancholy, comedy, tragedy, remembrance and transformation.

Linus and his blanket

Linus and his blanket

Children naturally form emotional attachments to objects that then become love-worn. The remarkable psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott (whose ideas are worth exploring) specialised in early emotional relationship bonds and the importance of a holding environment for children. He coined the term transitional objects for the blankets, stuffed toys, dolls, or anything a child may choose to have an intimate relationship with, for comfort, often substituting the closeness to mother.

And don’t we know …  people are complex and unpredictable when it comes to holding our projections, quite unlike objects, be they associated with visual attractiveness, taste, smell and sound, or with tactile sensations. Objects can retain comforting feelings for us throughout our adult life. Anything from pets, trees, trinkets, letters, pens, photographs, books, significant presents, clothes, furniture, tools, cars, houses, places , feathers, sticks and stones can become treasures that give us pleasure.

Often a search for something lost is at work. My mother, in her later years, became passionately obsessed with replacing the Biedermeier furniture her family had lost in the Blitz on Berlin.

Then there is shabby chic, distressing and antiquing of furniture, which seem to gratify a need for aesthetics and comfort that some people enjoy but could not otherwise afford. To that end various sophisticated techniques are used on wood, glass, metal, stone, plaster and even plastic to replicate the vintage look.

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But the love-worn feel of an object stressed and polished by personal use over many years, additionally endows it with a kind of cellular memory and connection, which adds a more enduring and special significance of a personal kind for which words are inadequate. The value a child or adult attaches to such an object is often poorly understood and not respected by others, be they parents, friends or  strangers.

In my case, apart from certain books I loved to bits,  photographs of dear ones, stones picked in memorable spots, and so on. I grew fond of a purse made for me by my ex-husband. I repaired its stitching many times. The purse is not only useful, with a special compartment for payment cards, and encrypted markings I added inside its flap, it hoards contradictory symbolic connotations worth remembering, though I won’t divulge those. Sales-people in shops tend to look at this purse far longer than necessary. Its leather shines – you see.

P1070909 - smaller My purse is not full enough and my house not big enough to indulge in the hunt and collection of rare objects to which the Japanese concept of Wabi-sabi would apply. Then again, I chose my priority to be writing, and am content with the few minor wabi-sabi objects I cultivated over time.

In a way we all express wabi-sabi qualities in our personalities.

… Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy, and appreciation of the ingenuous  integrity of natural objects and processes. Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect …

What are the transitional objects in your life that bridge one love to the next?

Clicking on an underlined words in the text will bring up a new page, which means you won’t lose this page.

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… what is your bliss? …

My moments of bliss come out of the blue, when I glimpse something moving in a certain way, in a certain light, not ordinary light, but a mysterious light that shines through nature.

P1070862 - smallerLike the day after the sky was veiled by thick curtains of rain and next morning the sun spun its brilliance through the cleansed air, and a warm breeze played through my washing on the line. Such joy, when for an instant my whole attention is timelessly merged with a particular quality of being, transporting me beyond my senses in ways I can’t fathom.

I draw these tricks of light to me, like a collector tends to attract the objects he/she desires. When days or weeks pass without such moments, I feel deprived and nothing quite chimes.

Maybe it’s a rare beauty that takes the mind by surprise and stops time. The washing line reminded me of another bliss I met on a stormy day in the sand dunes of Rye on the Sussex coast. Imacon Color ScannerTo take the photograph I balanced with difficulty on a lifeguard tower that was rocked by strong winds, leaning precariously backwards to get the frame right. The light was sombre, the stirring in the air not playful but intense, yet bliss was present.

When I lose my bliss I pray for its return, like one would call on an imagined angel to make itself known. Occasionally I find a feather on the ground and think – it came and I missed it. Then again, no instance of bliss is lost; the experience is incorruptible and lives on in the calm depth of life’s pulsing heart. Everyone has their own kind of bliss.

What is your bliss?

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… marginalia of bodies …

moon's swing door

moon’s swing door

the white rock sails adored –

silent swing door to sanctuaries

imagined beyond where

each being claims its mystery

un-evidenced

 

 

winged by unknown purpose

spirit seeks shelter

tumbling through cells

to the orb of a home –

embodied in you and me spirit mimics

nature’s mirrors moments after now

though once inner vision unfolds

our dreams are branded …

framed by the one eye

supreme to all eyes …

sun’s furnace illuming draperies

history sanctioned

seemingly evidenced

but for the singular breath

of insight needling between

obvious fabrics to thread

intense tales of beauty …

sample of my occasional art, 1998

sample of my occasional art, 1998

 

The poem was inspired by June’s full moon.

Places accumulate impressions, snippets of reality that draw us forever into experiences from different directions and points in time. The one place we carry with us – OUR BODY – remembers what reason does not. While the intellect sorts memories into virtual boxes and slaps on the tag ‘facts,’ the body, animated by each breath, deeply informs our singular perception, helps us to adjust the past, refine the relationship with ourselves and others in the present, and opens a new wavelength and vision towards the future.

 

The experience you have within yourself of your separate identity, to allow right and wrong to be re-defined by you, your singular contribution, is where evolution really happens. You, by becoming yourself, can open a new wavelength. What you reflect immediately influences your environment, people close and far away.’

Fazal Inayat-Khan, notes from an attended lecture, 1989

‘Spirit without soul has no vessel – soul without spirit has no direction.’ Roberto Assagioli

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… mood swings …

A strong spirit can be dampened, sometimes at birth, sometimes through a later trauma, but with care, it can also be nurtured and strengthened. And like an effective immune system, it helps us to adjust imbalances in mind and body. The link between spirit and the immune system tends to be ignored when resources go into fighting the seeming culprit, historically blamed for imbalances, the intruder. True listening and welcoming a dialogues with the enemy are rare.

Churt Sculptor Park

Churt Sculptor Park

A recent Health Survey reports that nearly half of England’s population is on prescription drugs. And today’s news highlight once more that super bugs are on the rise. Factors that dent the spirit are not taken into the equation. When one observes how some of the dehumanising complexities of our systems wear down the dignity of people, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that depression is a sane reaction when there seems to be no light ahead.

Medicine is often the only immediate way a severe depression can be eased. It should however concern everyone that depression is on the increase, a development which, in my view, genetic markers acknowledged, expresses the collective state of our society and, again in my view, how the most sensitive people carry the imbalances of the system for the rest of us.

I’m a rebel, and while severe depression evades me, I experience mood swings. Once in a while I’m struck by a state of futility – about hyped-up news selling fake realities, the lunacy of ignoring the gulf between the rich and poor in the world, the exploitation of planetary resources, the abuse of personal data, cold callings, small businesses and communities disappearing, and the shopping mania in supermarkets. Add to this a personal loss, or simply an accumulation of irritants, and you have potential triggers for depression.

When something feels wrong in my heart, I bolt. Yet integrity is costly when security, health, loyalties, disillusionment and emotional dependencies are involved, then ‘NO’ carries risks. Stories told in many counselling practices focus on pressure at work, incessant changes of procedures , bullying and subtle manipulation. Complaints backfire because managers are themselves under stress. There follow negative loops of thoughts, the inability to relax, lingering anxieties, and also bursts of anger. Underlying these stories is a sense of powerlessness that brings about psychological regression, which can be an opportunity to find a gentle ‘yes’ for oneself, were one able to bear the consequences. Young or old, alone or in relationship, there is often a sense of feeling trapped, despair, a flattening of vitality, joy and compassion for oneself and others.

P1060863 smallerDepression seems to mark our time and is in dire need of acknowledgement. Besides medication and therapies, an honest assessment is vital – of how simple human needs for creativity, and expectations for love and appreciation are frustrated. I’m lucky in that I sleep and dream well, and generally recover from my mood swings. Apart from smoking rollups and drinking wine to relax, in moderation, I also have a default mode, where the world turns not so much unreal, but surreal.

P1060866 smallerMy spirit of independence refuses to be intimidated by the collective idea of what is real. I find beauty in small things and unique moments that give me pleasure. For example, I see the shadow of socks on the washing line and candles waving to each other, or the cucumber salad dressing resembling a river delta, or ancient trees … that’s the drift …

I switch to patterns in other than economy sponsored realities. I dream up stuff.

Being curious, I’d like to know about your ways of dealing with mood swings, or depression, or anxieties instilled by the media. How do you manage the rapids of sensational information? Do you have secrets of becoming? Do you swim against the established order or do the unexpected? Do you have moments of pleasure? Do you have gifts of resilience to share?

‘All we see is a false capture of being: a time grid.’ Fazal Inayat-Khan.

Based on statistics, I predict that the sun will rise tomorrow.

http://aeon.co/magazine/health/is-preventive-medicine-its-own-health-risk/

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… when did you last smile? …

When did you last smile? The question started us going. I belong to a bunch of friends, 10 to 20, who meet monthly. We rotate the facilitation of sessions. People propose themes worthy of engagement. Our April session had the theme of Positive Psychology. The term, coined by Martin Seligman, has been called unoriginal and evokes ongoing controversies, not least because basic theories promoting well-being have been around for a long time, for centuries. Overall, the disputes are creative.

P1110122

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The off-the-track cottage and studio we hire for our monthly meetings has a delightful atmosphere. We love it, though its structure is gradually falling apart. The custodians of the property have more pressing concerns, and so have we. After a unique international creative centre was lost to us eight years ago, this liminal space offered itself. Here we challenge and cherish each other, explore ideas and welcome guests.

As to the initial question of the day – when did you last smile? – Of late, I frequently smile at my quirky thoughts. That day however, I recalled waking early and passing a vase brimming with pale double daffodils, splayed open to full perfection in the morning sun. No matter how fleeting an instant of wholeness, it tends to ravish me into my veiled wholeness. The exquisite flowers invigorated every cell in my body and set the tone for my day. It was a moment of transcendence, of grace.

We explored scientific findings as to what goes on in different parts of our brain when we experience emotions. There is evidence, for example, that prolonged stress weakens the immune system. Stress may be real or imagined. It can be maintained by resentment, anxiety, learned helplessness and the anticipation of negative outcomes, often based on scary experiences (even in the womb) that informed expectations, like the world is unsafe and we have no control over events. Neurobiology is fascinating, though I wonder if it can ever explain existential questions about phenomenology. Some of us bring along a lucky or unlucky disposition, but a great deal of what we become seems to depend on the interpretation and meaning we give to what is happening to us.

Bang head here

Which begs the question, can optimism be learned through challenging negative self-talk, the kind that rubs it in, like – here we go again, I should’ve know, stupid me, no matter what I do –  and so on. For some people prolonged attention to self-talk works. Many brilliant techniques have been developed to overlay fixed habits. Extensive research has gone into the mastery of happiness, especially in the US. This said – Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology, acknowledges that negativity is part of the human condition. As such, I see negativity having a compelling function in social systems that first make us ill and then sell us pills, a larger story…

I tend to huff when a generic psychological approach is wrapped up as a brand and turned into an industry, and Positive Psychology has become a successful industry during the last decade. Then again, there were a great many innovators since Abraham Maslow, who, inspired by ancient wisdom traditions was the first to challenge Psychology’s focus on pathology at the time, by researching what motivates people up the hierarchy of needs, and by defining the qualities of achievers. The work of Seligman and his colleagues seeks to encourage functionality, resilience and well-being. It provides further valuable applications and insights regarding human potential that are worth studying.

I personally lean towards the subtle wisdom regained during my training with Psychosynthesis in the 1980s. We may reach peak states of awareness as our consciousness expands, bliss even, yet each higher view calls for a journey down, into denser spheres. C G Jung put it well … As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being.’

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Our group is an irreverent lot. We had fun, warm and lively discussions, and we engaged with personal questions. From a set of 24 cards we chose our 5 dominant signature strengths. Humour trumped several times, followed by creativity, perseverance, appreciation, fairness and perspective. Oddly, there was one card I ignored but which jumped to the top when I did a test on-line – Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence. I later figured out why I had held back from picking up the card. This appreciation, which I have to a high degree, is also the source of lingering sadness, because Beauty and Excellence touch me deeply, are glimpsed rarely, and are hard to live up to and shine with. Then again, moments of grace, a sudden seeing that stops time, like the daffodils of that morning, carry me through periods of melancholy and questioning. The theme of the day stayed with me, and after some reflection I came to this conclusion:

I would not be happy being happy all the time. For better or worse I walk the tightrope of contradiction.

*      *      *

The cards we used are available at:  http://mindspring.uk.com/shop/strength-cards/

Here is a site with a questionnaire that measures your character strengths http://www.viacharacter.org/www/ It’s free, unless you want a longer report.

The photo of the Stress Reduction Kit poster is by Programwitch, found on Flickr.

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