Tag Archives: friends

… then they lived again – friends – soul families …

How we make friends is a mystery. What is the unremembered that draws people and groups together as in a mirror? Are there families of souls tasked to exchange particular reflections during particular times?

Via serendipitous events my son was born in a Hamlet in the deepest Somerset hills among neighbours who adored him. The phase lasted five years, enough to provide me with a much needed hiatus after intense years of work, travelling and communal life.

Our selfless neighbours left an indelible impression on my son. They made him a valued and loved part of a small community. Our farmer friend, Hope, was hungry for knowledge, though never realised her dream of travelling as a journalist. She had however the most vivid visions of Tibet; a place neither of us had visited but felt strong emotional connection with. Not the first time, I had a shock of appreciation for the unremembered sparking instant rapport slipping through time.

‘We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.’ – William James

I was thirty then, had travelled much and been involved with innumerable internationally composed groupings, circles upon circles – this was to continue for decades to come. Among the groups were people who felt strangely familiar, like Hope. We would guard out solitude, cry together, or laugh hilariously about silly things. Equally there were those wary of me, often for reasons unknown to themselves, which made me wary of them. You may know this treading-on-eggshells feeling.

Serendipitous time-jumps weave through my novels. The cast of ‘Shapers’ has characters from ‘Course of Mirrors’ set in a future time, but caught in similar psychological dynamics.

It has been said that behind every creative expression is a desire for immortality, the prolonged influence of personal achievement. This seems simpleminded to me. I think our desire is to create beauty and meaning to make our existence worthwhile. It is the human search for our spiritual identity, generated by three persisting questions: who are we, why are we alive and what is the purpose of it all?

In this illusionary play of differences and multiple meanings we need friends. To have even one friend is a blessing. Friends distanced by space, and time, reside in the heart nevertheless. They include those who died. They may be writers, artists, innovators, past and present. They include friends who moved to other continents. They include the sympathetic minds we encounter via the internet, who greatly enrich our lives.

Friends I shared core experiences with are especially dear.  A few of them I see face to face at yearly intervals. We may catch up on the narratives we hold of each other, though there will be new thresholds – moments where the known encounters the unknown.

My mum used to put a ruler or a book on my head and mark my height with a date inside a doorframe during my rapid growth years. More than a physical measurement, these marks made me think of what else had changed during the months since the last recording. Our essence abides, but our persona grows and is mutable in the way we evaluate ourselves against the passage of time.

This is why I like having guests. When a Dutch friend visited last month, the thought arose as to how the time gaps between our actual meetings affect us. He suggested I write something about this. He works presently in Germany, so our conversation slipped into German, with snippets of Dutch and back into English. He uses one language for business, another for philosophy, and yet another for emotional subjects. This strikes me as a neat arrangement. A little space between feeling and thinking, and a choice between modes of operating can make one’s internal communication more finely tuned and coherent.

The occasional visit of a friend eclipses my routines and opens extra dimensions, like the virgin pages of a notebook where our idiosyncrasies are redrawn, edited and updated. Connective threads shift past memories or future visions.

We are re-imagined and in the process re-connect to our essence.

The lens we focus on each other is subtly adjusted by the most intimate of all friends, the angel that is our inner story teller.

 

 ‘Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes.’ ― Henry David Thoreau

‘No human relation gives one possession in another—every two souls are absolutely different. In friendship or in love, the two side by side raise hands together to find what one cannot reach alone.’ ― Kahlil Gibran

 ‘Mankind is interdependent, and the happiness of each depends upon the happiness of all, and it is this lesson that humanity has to learn …’ –  Hazrat Inayat Khan

 

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… friends …

P1080320 - croppedAugust –

my birthday month tends to be a time of remembrance and gratefulness for the friends in my life, close, far, cherished or neglected,  people that taught me to be a friend to myself, people I bonded with through heart-sparks that left indelible marks. My friends are soul companions that became part of my journey, they form a flowing web of connections I’m held in.

So far it’s been a social month. Having reconnected with two primary school friends from Germany aDSC_0472 from Lieselotte few years ago during a reunion,  they sprang a surprise visit (their first to England.) We had a lovely meal in an excellent pub, with my son joining us. I toured the girls through the woods of a nearby sculpture park, through my town, and, of course, through London. We started with a riverboat journey (my first) under London’s time-honoured bridges, got lost in Covent Garden, which eventuated finding a café that served Black Forrest cake, which delighted Lieselotte, and surfaced at Trafalgar Square.

P1080394 - smallerFrom there we wove our way through St James Park and ended up at Buckingham Palace.

The girls had a great time, and good laughs, especially when, embarrassingly, I fell into talking German with Londoners, attracting the occasional blank stare of incomprehension.

What struck me was how ‘in essence’ we had not changed since we were children.  Intrinsic qualities stay with us throughout P1080361 - smallerlife, shine through our energy field, temperament, movement, voice, characteristics and life-interest. The qualities my friends nourished in me as a child, I still value today, the unconditional kind heart of Gaby, and Lieselotte’s ability to assess situations quickly and get things done. I saw that they also nourish these qualities in each other. Sadly they had to return home and miss my party last weekend.

P1080425 - smallerThe Party… lovely sunshine, guest coming and going. An unknown sponsor even ordered a birthday balloon to sail above my garden 🙂 My good-weather-wish came true. Some of us kept a circle outside until midnight among sparkling lights. The occasional apple dropped.

My favourite deckchair folded  under more weightP1080413 - smaller than my own. Glasses clinked. There was silliness, acknowledgements, revelations.

Seen through the eyes of our friends’ imagination, do the lissome fleeting shadows flitting through our personal frames influence us, each other? I wonder, but guess they do.

As the years crawl along, heart-spark moments never dwindle. Stories are transformed and woven into a new context. Life stations glide by and return as in a spiralling carrousel.

Even friends not present were with us in spirit, remembered, since, like Kahlil Gibran put it … for that which you love most in (a friend) may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.

P1080431 - smallerFrom The Prophet …

And the youth said, Speak to us of Friendship, and he answered, saying:

Your friend is your need answered. He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving. And he is your board and fireside. You come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.

When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the ‘nay’ in your own mind, nor do you withhold the ‘aye.’ And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart; for without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed.

When you part from your friend, you grieve not; for that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.

And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit. For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.

And let your best be for your friend. If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also. For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill? Seek him always with hours to live. For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness.

In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.

Kahlil Gibran

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… recent instances that caused a smile …

 

Kalu Rinpoche

Kalu Rinpoche

Maybe brought on by the longer days and the increasing sunshine, there were more than the usual instances making me smile during the last few days, so I thought I share some of them …

Exploring with a client what it is that can shine through our eyes, and sharing an image of a Tibetan Lama, Kalu Rinpoche. We reflected on what is communicated  through our eyes. It is certainly informed by our inner attitude, by our projection. The way we look at ourselves, at others, at our surroundings, and at the world at large

Irrespective of the Lama’s Mr Spock ears, I feel deeply nourished by what shines through his eyes.

Hazrat Inayat Khan spoke of the smiling forehead. https://wahiduddin.net/mv2/XIV/XIV_1.htm

 

My resident blackbird family.

My resident blackbird family.

My resident blackbird family – dad plucking worms for his offspring.

Tiny plants in my garden, like Creeping Moss Phlox and London Pride.

Stories shared among friends about invisible presences that have come to say, ‘Hello.’

The intimation found in an old graveyard brushed by the evening sun – ‘Ha, ha, there’s no death – we’re having a wonderful time.’

 

Rhododendron flowers

Rhododendron flowers

A broken rhododendron branch – its budding flowers shouting, ‘Take us home and we’ll open’

The friend for whom I did photographic portraits, saying:

‘I must get to know this stranger.’

Strawberry soup my mother used to make – slice berries, add sugar to draw juices, let it stand, the longer the better, add milk and dabs of whipping cream.

 

And on days like today, the late sunrays visiting my garden.

 

Late sun rays in my garden.

Late sun rays in my garden.

Moments of being – an aware and restful state of mind, an empty sphere from where anything can emerge.

*    *    *   emptiness   *   *   *

… only the unfettered mind holds

the virtual teasing in poise

screeners ponder its Socratic

wisdom in the bright light of day

peals of laughter – a burst of love …

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… sharing a heart-warming present …

A few years ago I decided to value my writing enough to make sacrifices.  I’ve since devoted every spare moment to this solitary word-sculpting activity, with no idea where it will lead, and therefore feel tremendous joy whenever my compositions arouse curiosity, and especially when someone groks the universal myth I struggle to filter through my individual imagination, my psyche.  Why do writers, and artists, share the facets stirring in the depth of their soul without the promise of a resonanating  audience? … It’s a mystery.

Image by Cynthia Holt JPEG riverside8

Cynthia Holt, living on the other side of this planet, created this painting for me, inspired by two of my poems, Riverhead, and Sleeping Sun … It struck me that the image relates, in essence, equally to the constellation of my novels, yet to be published.

Thank you, Cynthia, for your spontaneous offering. It speaks to how, through interconnections, face to face, or in the realm of the virtual web, we stimulate each other’s creativity.

The image can remind us of the two worlds, indispensable to each other, which we bridge – and how against the canvas of pregnant darkness, the spirit’s eternal light defines our unique myths towards consciousness.

A peaceful Christmas time, and abundant Blessings for the New Year to all …

I’m looking forward to spending a few days in Amsterdam with friends and family.

Since I posted this, Cindy has done a most beautiful post on her mermaid tavern site, including a poem by T S Eliot, a song, and a chart of the Hero’s Journey.

http://mermaidtavern.net/1/post/2015/01/the-law-of-three-artistspoets-and-quantum-physics.html

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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

P1110124

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.’

P1110127

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.

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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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… receiving .

I used to be part of a family-of-heart, The Sufi Way, for many years. Various fateful events in 2004 made the hub of this family move to the USA. In the wake of this loss, a group of local UK friends huddled together to hold and honour the memory of a place, friendships, and the gifts of remarkable teachings we had received.

Now our small group has lost a dear friend, who unfailingly showed up and contributed to monthly events we organised together.  His Sufi name was Aranth. He was called to move on, much too young, with many projects on the go. We miss him very much. May his guiding spirits bring him home.

In a moment when I strongly sensed his presence, received his being, something fell into place. He liked to give, and loved it when his giving was received. He was giving generously of his attention, his presence, and the embodied wisdom of his experiences.

So I pondered about how we receive. Today, when everything has a price, giving can be regarded with suspicion. Or a too well-meaning parent may have set up a default warning against receiving anything with strings attached, a condition I battled with in my early years, which made me super-independent, and hesitant to ask for support when I needed it. And there is the profusion of good advice, from self-help books, quotes of gurus, or recipes – like how to write a book in 30 days. The growth industry of advice-giving requires a filter, firm choices as to how we spend our time, and what we open up to.

Yet something given from the core of our being resonates subtly, is easily absorbed, and nourishes the giver and the receiver in lasting ways. To Aranth, this kind of giving was as natural as breathing. It’s how I’ll remember him.

Here the story of a small workshop he offered some years ago, on money, and the various ways in which money is perceived – as energy, power, or talent. We stood in a circle and Aranth pulled a substantial bundle of £50 banknotes from his pocket. Our eyes popped. There was once a period in my life when £ 50 notes wandered through my purse, but not then. ‘Go on, let it go round,’ he said. With a mischievous smile he proceeded to feed the crisp notes into our circle, clockwise. ’Faster!’ he said.

Many fascinating processes happened among us. In the rush of energy, bank notes would take on a life of their own. They would stick to hands and accumulate, or notes were dropped in confusion. Some people got impatient when the flow was held up. And there were those who quickly handed the cash on to the next person as if the notes singed their hands – I was among that group. ‘How comfortable are you dealing with energy, money?’ Aranth asked. ‘There would be enough for everybody if it was allowed to circulate and flow freely.’ Yes, there is that, a fact of life, money gets hoarded and piled up in oxbows. But what about people handing on energy too fast, like I was in the habit of doing?

My lasting insight during that day was – insufficiency, as well as sufficiency, are states within us. And our environment tends to confirm the state within us. I gradually managed to stop worrying about money. Yes, it would be nice for a few wants to materialise, but I always seemed to have enough of what I need. Attending to my inner state, I shifted my focus towards holding and developing my talents.

unfading rose

I receive Aranth’s giving that day, and benefited  Yet many times a giving is concealed to me, or appears like an obstruction, and I miss its blessing. Like the beggar in a Hindu story, who stumbled over a sack of rags and cursed, not realising it contained gold.

As it happens often, it is only when we lose someone who has been part of our life that we are able to gage the depth of what we were able to receive. When a giving is truly received and valued, something of beauty is exchanged that lives on – like the unfading rose.

So I figure, this little quote they assign to you, dear St Francis of Assisi

‘It is in giving that we receive,’

has its equally valid mirror … ‘It is in receiving that we give.’

I imagine the Saint would have smiled and agreed.

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… memory and place …

I never thought I would live in one place for 23 years, and tend a garden. Its visiting creatures provide inspiration and amusement. I cast tendrils of attachment to secret corners, the changing patches of colours and textures. I observe the cherry and apple blossoms turning into carpets on the lawn, the tulips, blue bells and peonies bursting open in spring, wild strawberries, the abundance of clematis, roses and geraniums during summer, or phlox and fruits in autumn. The space is breathed through by the seasons’ moods and muses. On rare and perfect summer days, when the sun plays through the branches, I love spending time in my hammock, reading and editing, or share the space with friends – bliss.

Yet I can count such days on the fingers of my hands. And not just because of the UK weather.

This paradise is surrounded on four sides by hedgerows, has 5 mature fruit trees and a shed and studio smothered by ivy. Those of you who have gardens with sizable plants will understand the dedication it takes to merely keep annual growth under control.

Is the effort worth it?

Twice a year I need assistance. After the heavy rain and excessive growth we had during spring and summer, my neighbour recently helped transporting two transit vans stuffed full with cuttings to the recycling dump. The excess jungle weighs on my mind each year, but once trimmed and sculpted, the cleared shapes feel like newly decorated living rooms. 

What is it about places we care for? How come we spend so much time and energy looking after them? What we experience through our senses can be fleeting, but where repetition is involves, it becomes fixed and saturated in our imagination. There is nothing as deeply impressive as living in one place through cycles of seasons. We call it home.

In these tumultuous times, a great number of people around the world are forced to leave their homes. Either they have no say in the matter, or they must leave for sheer survival, escaping adverse weather conditions or politics that undermine human dignity. But wherever we land, we inherit the history of a room, a house, a plot, a community, and in turn we leave traces, an influence.

The place survives us. Do we bless it?

Do our personal experiences – including those associated with ambivalent feelings about places and people – survive beyond the brain’s switchboard activity that ties associations into a framework of meaning and memory? My intuition tells me yes, there are spaces in many dimension, floating as in a kind of hologram, which can live on through a strong memory laid down in our imagination, like the next chapter of a story.

In the way of habituation, these subtle forms must remain in some way in the collective psyche, accessible to minds and hearts who tune into their feeling pattern. This could happen via a kind of grid of finer matter (see Eccles: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/John_Carew_Eccles) that interact with the denser neural network of our brains.

There are these unanswered questions: is consciousness an emergent phenomenon of matter, or is matter an emergent phenomenon of some finer, spiritual substance?

Either way, if one were to assume that we create the world hereafter by the repetitive strength of our experience, be it with places, people or the passion for a sport, craft, art, music, science,  it bears us well to find something we can love, care for, and empower with our imagination.

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… all time is now …

A day, whether six or seven years ago or whether six thousand years ago, is just as near to the present as yesterday. Why? Because all time is contained in now.

Meister Eckhart

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Time ago I visited Lamorna Cove, an enchanted spot at the Cornish Coast. A friend, who is into solid walking, dashed ahead, while I stopped to contemplate a group of rocks that faced the Atlantic like sentinels.

An impulse inspired me to offer an invocation. That very moment a family with a bunch of kids and their exuberant cacophony of shrieks changed the ambience of the place. I let it be. Home in Surrey, before yielding to sleep, I was reminded of my unfulfilled intention, went back to Lamorna Cove in my mind’s eye, and did my invocation:

 … towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of mastery – the spirit of guidance …

My presence was ‘being there’ descending from another sphere, in synergy with a poignant moment more real than real, in the place rooted in my imagination. Beyond time, even the tiniest thing impressed deeply can be re-embodied in awareness. As in the process of analogue photography, where an image exposed to light is developed to its fullness in the darkroom.

The elements our bodies and the cosmos are composed of mediate and record what was, what is and what will be. I come to this conclusion through my practice of psychotherapy, finding that memories held in body and place easily circle in time and from a wider perspective allow us entry points, so we can adjust misaligned perceptions, as well as project blessings towards wholeness. In other words, we can change the meaning of the past, the now, as well as the future through fresh perception. Maybe this is what resurrection is really about.

I used to think synergy was difficult to achieve in the virtual world, the simulation of the collective psyche made visible through words and images. I changed my mind, it happens through the imagination. Events once fully sensed and experienced can be recalled, invoked and re-created. Why would we otherwise take physical form, we might as well remain angels. Proof me wrong  …

The internet can be overwhelming during phases when we live from the outside in, accumulating and soaking up information, less so during phases when we live from the inside out, creating new mythical realities. At best we do both in some kind of balance. I have come to appreciate the virtual web for staying in contact with friends all over the world. A few days ago, two of them, unknown to each other, were in Hong Kong.

Melanie, adept in the field of astrology http://www.melaniereinhart.com/  has been my friend for over thirty years. Presently she conducts a lecture/workshop tour through Asia.

Here is an image of Melanie blissed out at Kowloon harbour … fell in love with this beautiful wooden  in boat with red sails … She says she was exhausted. How images attune to perception …

I’m totally enchanted with this image.

A relatively new friend visited Hong Kong at the same time. Quenntis is a writer and dancer I met through the Harper Collins Authonomy website. We collaborated as part of a small group of poets living in all corners of the world towards manifesting the publication of ‘Rambling Poets at Café Cyber.’ I hope Quenntis doesn’t mind that I pinched the tiny feet of his daughter.

He wrote on face book about his visit to Hong Kong … attending my first ever international poetry reading event – over 4 days of constant poetry – pure chaotic bliss – i think my brain is a balloon and it has popped a few times already from over-expansion …

Another bliss, I look forward to these experiences being filtered, embodied and shared here: Dancing with Words: http://quenntis.wordpress.com/

These are two of my friends, one I hug rarely, and the other I might never hug, unless I travel to Taiwan. But it occurred to me that all my friends, far or near, have individual passions. Individual passions provide a structure wherein the most unique becomes the most universal.

And in that universal sphere all time is now. This inspires …

*    *    *    *

The invocation above is my slight adaptation of what constitutes the advent of a universal worship ceremony created by Hazrat Inayat Khan, but can be used to begin any event. If your life includes using prayers go here:  http://www.cheraglibrary.org/

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