Tag Archives: Coleman Barks

… the opportune elevator pitch …

Image by Carol & Mike Werner

Image by Carol & Mike Werner

Once a hotel, now a home for senior citizens, to live independently or, when needed, access a care unit, is the place my father chose as exit platform. The building has Escher-like features. Doors along every corridor look alike. The only way to determine floor levels are the artworks of residents gracing the walls. At one end of the building is a sluggish and brainless elevator. Hardly bigger than a telephone cell, it is airtight and eerily silent. Once inside, the occupant is suspended in time, with no sense of movement, up or down.

‘Can we squeeze in?’ I ask, pushing my dad’s wheelchair into the tiny cubicle. The man is baffled. Landing at ground level was not his intention. He is the reticent carer in training that worries dad, who detects a touch of paranoia, a sentiment he himself is familiar with, plagued at times by imagined dubious intentions of people. I’m a lost case to paranoia, but I allow for paranoid people’s intelligence. They value truth.

Occasional bouts of confusion haven’t impaired my dad’s wit. He suggested we should discover what interests the uncommunicative carer  so we can butter him up. I tried, going about it the wrong way. ‘Do you like alcohol?’ I enquired, thinking of a choice bottle from my dad’s apartment, the home I must soon dissolve.

‘I’m no alcoholic,’ was the curt reply. Newcomers from Eastern Europe tend to have admirable principles.

With the three of us trapped, sans sound, at snail-pace, embarrassment has no distraction other than a mirror covering one wall.  ‘Ah Herr W, how are we today?’

‘So, so,’ my dad says, with a melancholic pout.

The mournful air compels the carer’s curiosity. ‘What things interest you?’

‘Everything,’ my dad says, ‘the whole world. ‘And he cunningly adds, ‘what interests you?’

‘Everything,’ says the carer, ‘countries, people, science, religion …’ The elevator door opens to the care unit … ‘most of all religion.’

Pa at St Michael 1967

Dad at St Michael 1967

My dad shoots me a wicked smile. His library, I discovered, apart from books on art and travel, had accumulated works on ideological themes he used to rubbish with a vengeance. As a young mother in rural Somerset, insular for a while, I did an OU course on Comparative Religion, wanting to explore the key influences prophets and their early followers had on cultures throughout history. My dad’s comment at the time was, ‘Next you’ll send Jehovah preachers to my door.’ Attempts to bridge our bizarre dissonances had only ever elicited angry reactions, which I chose not to energise, enduring the grief. My dad’s cranky nature shielded a fine intellect, fed by reading and extensive travelling. His disapproval of me, I sensed, held a childlike envy of my bohemian autonomy, freedoms not available after the war. We battled with our shadows in isolation, me remaining the wayward daughter that lived abroad.

During my most recent visit, I arranged for some of my dad’s paintings, photographs, books and creative tools to be around him in his care abode. They’ll provide openings for conversation with those who now look after his daily needs.

Our war is over. It is heartening to observe how my dad’s reclusive attitude softens and, like blossoms falling this spring, gives way to new fruit.

Out Beyond Ideas

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense

Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

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… journey into mystery …

Close your eyes … switch on a light in the area around your heart and see the image of a rose bud emerge … at first a luminous tip of colour … the bud stirs … the sepals gradually turn outwards. See the petals unfold in a slow and fluid movement … until the rose has opened and exudes its delicate fragrance.

Imagine the rose expanding in size … to a palatial sphere that invites into its passages. Overcome the weight of your thoughts and wander barefoot with feather-light steps towards the luminous centre. Rest here for a while … absorb the tenderness of the realm’s ambience and the exquisite fragrance of rose into every cell of your body.

Rose, autum 4 low crop 2

Become the rose …

Move your consciousness upwards … lift on spirit wings and witness the rose palace merge with the landscape below. Soar higher and look down on clusters of houses, roads, cities, fields, hills, rivers, woods … see the shape of countries, continents, coastlines and oceans spread and curve the horizon. Move higher still, until the whole earth floats in deep space like a marble.

Feeling light and trusting, imagine you are level with the moon and look back at the shining marble turning in space … ribbons of white cloud, blue oceans, pale sands, green forests, red rock and snow-topped mountains – your home – vast in your memory but also small enough to be held in your palm.

Think of the people who have been and are close to you … in love … or alienated by hurt and dispute … people you shelter in your heart or have expelled from it. Sense the mysterious weaving of souls in the tapestry of the universe … your separate thread belonging and active in the creation of earth, the home of your human family.

Know that every sincere thought travels … know the creative potential alive within you is reflected in all life forms throughout the universe …

We are the mirror as well as the face in it.
We are tasting the taste this minute                                                                                                                                                                 of eternity. We are pain                                                                                                                                                                                        and what cures pain. We are                                                                                                                                                                                  the sweet, cold water and the jar that pours. – Rumi

 

Slowly descend – return to earth – into the rose palace.

Step away from the luminous sphere … let it ebb back into the small flower, petals folding … see the bud float into you open hand … sense how its power wishes to stay alive in you … for its beauty to unfold whenever you need loving. Here is how – place the rose and the whole experience of rose-becoming into your heart.

*    *    *

Over the years I composed many similar imageries with archetypal themes. They are tools of reflection I use with clients and in workshops. When I guide, the process becomes subtly interactive and explorative. Some journeys are safe to walk alone, like the one above, and they are as powerful as your imagination allows.

Should I share more such imageries? Let me know.

Here a more elaborate space visit … http://aeon.co/film/overview/

The poem from ‘Open Secret’ – Rumi transl. by John Moyne and Coleman Barks.

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