Tag Archives: unique moments

… loss and restoration …

This time of year I like reading in the garden. Last week I forgot to take a book inside – ‘The Hand of Poetry,’ collected poems from Sanai, Attar, Rumi, Saadi and Hafiz, translated by Coleman/Barks, with introductions taken from talks by Inayat Khan. During a short but heavy shower that night, the book greedily feasted on rain. I found it blown up, like a balloon, to double its size.

Restoration would atone for my failing. Gently lifting page after page, I placed toilet paper between each, twice and three times over. On the third day I hung the book by its spine on the washing line. Once dry, I managed to press the volume with a heavy vintage iron into reasonable shape again. The ordeal required my undivided attention. The re-read pages during those hours lodged themselves with refreshed presence in my heart.

I recalled a scene from ‘Shapers’ –  the not yet published sequel to ‘Course of Mirrors.’ The story starts with a shipwreck.  Surviving this tragedy, my protagonist finds her diary drenched to pulp. The irreplaceable loss gained her unexpected access to internalised memories, and the ability to exchange virtual letters with her soulmate of the future, scripts made visible in the thin air before her.

This phenomenon happens to me frequently these days. Just before sleep, or waking, I see screens with writing, sometimes even Twitter pages, which later turn out real. Beats me – explanations are welcome.

Memory is fluid. The child in us not only imagines the future, but also re-imagines the past. While I was lifting apart the soaked poetry pages during my restoration, it struck me they resembled crumpled and discoloured reminiscences of my father a trailing grief about our dissonance brought to light in dreams, with messages to abandon this nonsense. Can you miss a surreal projection? Yes you can – releasing a feeling of rejection that ruled years of your life takes getting used to. Had I not taken my dad’s anger with the world, and me,  so personal, I might have implored deeper into his heart pain, and mine, since, after all, deep down, our sensitivity for beauty and nature, even our humour, were much alike.

I had resisted my father’s expectations and boldly followed my heart, which, while gratifying, brought its shadow of existential anxieties. My rare brave attempts to cross the dividing bridge were met with contempt for my quixotic worldview. Bridges then became imaginary sanctuaries between varied realities, a neutral zone for my rebel to gather strength for the next quest ahead. Bridges became a major theme in my novel ‘Course of Mirrors’ – see book page on this site, or my twitter page @mushkilgusha

Rejection can add fuel to a journey. But what if a regular fuel runs out? Consider the weird silence when a monotonous background noise stops … suddenly. I identified my inner background noise as the subtle lament of blame that long ago slyly settled in my unconscious. Blaming something or someone can achieve an emotional distance, displace resentfulness, a hurt,  – but now – this peculiar silence …

The symbolic intelligence of psyche’s inner dimension communicates not only through dreams, but also through our surroundings: world events, people, objects, images. My restoration of ‘The Hand of Poetry’ resonated. Compulsive energies shift when time slows,. Familiar scripts may assume fresh meaning, and re-write themselves with different rhythms and new pauses for the spirit of surprise to enter.

Meanwhile I enjoy some treasures close by …

 

 

 

 

 

And I’d like to share a Hafiz poem from the restored collection. Hazrat Inayat Khan says of him:

The mission of Hafiz was to express, to the fanatically inclined religious world, the presence of God, which is not to be found only in heaven, but to be found here on earth.’

THE BANQUET

A gathering of good friends

talking quietly outdoors,

the banquet being served, a dry Rosé

with a bite of Kebab afterwards,

a wink form the one who pours,

Hafiz telling some story,

Hajji Qavam with his long laugh,

a full moon overhead,

the infinite mystery

of all this love.

If someone doesn’t want the pleasure

of such an openhearted garden,

companionship, no, life itself,

must be against his rules.

Hafiz

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… to relish the sense of taste …

Our senses, physical and otherwise, make us feel alive, grant pleasure, and no doubt increase our hunger for taste, touch, smell, sight and sound, and more senses besides. They all overlap.

Try, as I did once with my ex-husband, to go on a weekly fast. You may, like us, get your hunger satiated by the sweet torment of smelling and looking at food on market stalls or in shop windows.

A dear friend of mine, who recently visited, relishes taste. How does one describe taste in our taste-filled world? I challenged my friend to find words to evoke the recent meal I served. Here then a leap of the imagination back to the event – an excerpt:

 … the small, round boiled new potatoes were the sweet, starchy berries of the earth. Their light brown skins stretched enticingly over the creamy white fruit within. The asparagus, almost luminescent green, redolent of a waving forest of green marine plants viewed through the warm clear waters of a tropical island bay, fresh and tender in the soft embrace of the mouth and chewy enough for the teeth to relish their work of liberating the cacophony of nourishing juices over the vibrant, aroused tongue. 

The salmon, its raw fishiness tamed by gentle heat in the company of thin slices of lime, into a piquancy which thrashed around the palette like wild seas. And, the final trigger to culinary orgasm, a tangy, herby sauce, which pulled the palette this way and that, like stretching a rubber band, taking it for moments into the realms of sublimity.

I remarked, ‘You could’ve become a restaurant entrepreneur or a food taster.’

 

 

During gatherings of friends, we love sharing stories as well as food delicacies … the displays and the bouquet of flavours wafting on the air on such occasions may well attract hungry ancestors, grateful for such feasts.

My mythic adventure novel, ‘Course of Mirrors,’ has sections depicting sensual experiences, which is why a re-read, while tuning into editing the sequel, ‘Shapers,’ is a pleasure. My childhood must have served as inspiration, encapsulated in my village poem.

If you relish taste, you may like ‘The Last Banquet’ by Jonathan Grimwood – a feast for the senses, if a little decadent. Here is my review of the book on Goodreads in 2014

With the waves of depressing news around the globe, I thought I’d cheer up my readers, and myself.

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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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… songlines – family – a wedding in Darwin …

Families are an enigma to me. I value solitude and, yes, company, inner space and, yes, gritty adventure, constancy and, yes, change. I must have been born on a wave of contradiction. With no siblings or surviving grandparents, and my mother gone since 27 years, I’m left with a hermit-like father who avoids communication and  lives at a distance. Well, bless him.

my mother with her grandson

my mother with her grandson

 

Opa and his grandson

my father and his grandson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not surprisingly, my sense of family has an abstract quality that benefits my fiction writing. That said, my family extends to weathered friends whose authenticity I respect, my ex-husband included. Last week, our son, Yeshen, and his partner, Natasha, who live and work in London, had their wedding in the tropical Northern Territory of Australia. Sensible, since most of Tasha’s relatives live around the great coastline of this continent, in Brisbane, Sidney, Melbourne, Perth and  Darwin – where we gathered. As a child, like the author Bruce Chatwin, I once asked, ‘why don’t the people from down under fall off the earth?’ Australian children may well think of Europeans as down-unders and similarly ask, ‘why don’t they fall off the earth and float into space?’

The first three decades of my life I moved from place to place, restlessly roaming my inner songlines, searching for footprints leading to a family of mind and spirit, much like Chatwin described in Songlines, the practices of the indigenous people of Australia, who used to traverse their vast territory following the dream tracks of their ancestors, singing the names of everything they encountered on their paths, as a way of bringing their world into being and endowing their lives with existence and meaning.

I travelled all over Europe, have been to Israel, Africa, America … the other side of the planet had never called me. The thought of clocking up over 20 flight-hours made me nervous. Hey, I told myself, this is an adventure. In the end, my passion for clouds outshone my anxiety. A window seat always helps. Without the view I’d feel boxed in.

As the plane cruised over the Bay of Bengal towards my stopover, Singapore, I stared 36 000 feet down and couldn’t help thinking of the plane that only a few months ago went missing without a trace. I diverted myself, as one does when overcome by the enormity of one’s human helplessness, with useless thoughts, like pondering the possible legal implications when bodies can’t be found. Two days after my flight, another plane went down, this time shot out of the sky above the Ukraine. As it emerged, my son’s father was meant to be on this flight from Amsterdam. Due to overbooking, the airline offered a later flight, via Paris, with complementary business class thrown in. He and we were lucky, others were not.

from my window seat

from my window seat

Life is a treasure, if unpredictable – at times beautiful and brimming with joy, at other times painful and cruel, and often exceedingly strange, without rhyme or reason. We like to think we have control, yet know little to nothing about what decides our fates.

It made the wedding ceremony, which took place on an old pearl fishing vessel, all the more precious. The event culminated with the setting sun painting the wisps of clouds salmon pink. It’s my favourite light.

 

approaching Darwin

approaching Darwin

father and son

father and son

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the ring exchange

the ring exchange

the signing

the signing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the bride

the bride

the sun winks

the sun winks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P1060700lower

 

 

Because the pearl-fishing boat could only accommodates a limited number of people, the ceremony was small and intimate. The images speak for themselves. Later on, a much larger party met for a fabulous reception at the estate of a relative.

There were songs, one specially prepared by the bride’s mother, accompanied by my son’s father on the guitar, there were humorous speeches, there was the glimmer of water from illuminated rock-like pools, festive lights overhead, candles, and the music and slideshow the couple had prepared. The latter I missed and must catch up on, having been too involved with meeting my son’s new family and getting drawn into stories over champagne, wine and delectable menus.

The pleasant tropical winter night, with tables arranged on English-style lawns, was equivalent to a rare, gloriously European summer night. And of course there were more songs, by Mr Palm of Palm Guitars …

Mindil Beach Market

Mindil Beach Market

P1060262lowerIn days that followed, we returned to favourite places.  Crowds gather, especially on Thursdays and Saturdays, at the iconic Mindil Beach with its backdrop of festivities and over 300 colourful market stalls. People come here to watch the sun grow in size as it nears the horizon, and everyone cheers and claps when the last sliver of red drops into the Arafura Sea.

 

P1060759lower

 

We travelled to Nature Parks, with abundant wildlife …

Palaces built by termites …

Springs, waterfalls and rock pools to swim in, with the thrill of possible crock sightings …

P1060382 - lowerWe enjoyed nights at the waterfront where they serve fresh seafood and Thai dishes, with Sharks and Moon fish beyond the harbour wall waiting for morsels.

Wangi Falls

Wangi Falls

termite palace

termite palace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the garden pool

the garden pool

Russell

Russell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Banyon

Banyon

palm roof

palm roof

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On returning, I watched the lights shining from the islands in the Timor Sea. After 4 hours stopover in Singapore, to stretch my legs, and, delight, enjoy a few roll-ups, yes they have smoking areas at this airport, I settled into another window seat, overawed once more by how such super-heavy Airbuses can lift from the ground. My eyes switched between the book I was reading and the screen on my seat showing the flightpath, with the sun moving across to the Atlantic, while Australia’s night was encroaching on India. Endless hours later, England’s south seemed quaint from the air, with its patchwork of orderly fields framed by hedges and lanes. An American friend once called it Hobbit Land.

Home again. I feel like being gently rocked in a cradle. It will pass. I’ve yet to absorb the experiences of my Aussie adventure, still deliciously disorientated by upside down time and a different kind of dreaming. I got a taste of a new world, as good wine that lingers on, leaving a desire for more, like learning about the traditional owners of the territories, the Larika people. If I heard about Darwin’s man-made and natural disasters, it had not registered. The town was flattened twice, first in WWII – during Japanese air raids, and again in 1974 by Cyclon Tracy. Aussies are a resilient people.

Having enjoyed generous hospitality by the brides fathers, stepmother, mother, aunt and uncle, heart warming company by more uncles, aunts, siblings, their partners, cousins, nieces, and their partners, I miss the buzz of the large family, and not least the cute dogs, Russell and Rosie, whose exuberant joy in ballgames included jumping into the pool. I’ll hold the memory of the green shade under layers of palm leaves, the fresh fish served at the waterfront, the buzzing markets, the incredible architecture of old banyan trees, massive baobab and eucalyptus and the impressive series of sunsets. I’m looking forward to visitors, and maybe assist them in exploring places where their ancestors lived in Hobbit Land.

One image keeps playing tricks on my mind, some dark thing, stuff for a surreal crime novel – a giant toad in a freezer. But that’s a story for another occasion.

Technically challenged, I now hope the images on this page don’t jump all over the place once I press the ‘publish’ button 🙂

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… precious hopes …

The buzz of web-traffic can be exhilarating, a universe of stimulation, stories, advice, facts and know-hows. We put our name out there, mingle with travellers, seek adventure, share our thoughts, fulfil a task, meet like minds, exchange or sell something, and hopefully find synchronicity, resonance – yet at times …

P1090901 - Copy

Nasrudin rode the train to work every day. One day, as usual, the train conductor came and asked him for his ticket. He begun fumbling around in his coat pockets, and his pant pockets, and then in other people’s pockets. He looked in his briefcase, in his bags, and then in other people’s bags.

Finally the train conductor said, ‘Nasrudin, I’m sure you have a ticket. Why don’t you look for it in your breast pocket? That is where most men keep it.’

‘Oh no,’ said Nadrudin, ‘I can’t look there. Why, if it wasn’t there, I would have no hope.’

*     *     *

‘Why, if it wasn’t there, I would have no hope.’ What spooked the legendary fool’s mind that day? What do you make of the story? What does the ticket symbolise/represent for you? A hope can be so deeply meaningful to us that we keep it hidden at times, even from ourselves. Then we look for affirmation elsewhere because we couldn’t stand having our faith dashed.

Yes, I have such days. Where is the ticket to your hopes and dreams to be found? Are you keeping it close to your heart, holding it there, to remind yourself of inspirational instances when grace happened in your life, so when grace visits again you can seize the moment?

pink rose - black&white

*    *    *

I chose the particular version of this wisdom tale from a lovely book edited by Elisa Davy Pearmain, Doorways to the Soul. She calls the story The Lost Ticket. You find a link to Elisa’s website in my blog roll.

A classic collection of wisdom tales I treasure is in Caravan of Dreams, by Idris Shah.

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… the inner silence of Henri Cartier-Bresson …

The Mind’s Eye – writings on Photography and Photographers, by Henri Cartier-Bresson, is a lovely book I received for Christmas from a dear friend. I was reminded how H C B inspired my photographic work with its poetry and Golden Mean, and still inspires other creative areas, including my writing.

Henri Cartier-Bresson - 1972 photo of a Georgian familyFor H C B photography led on to include painting & drawing. For me photography led on to include writing, in the way H C B said: ‘The writer has time to reflect. He can accept and reject, accept again; and before committing his thoughts to paper he is able to tie the several relevant elements together. There is also a period when his brain ‘forgets,’ and his subconscious works on classifying his thoughts. But for the photographer, what has gone is gone forever.’

The impact of H C B’s images is hard to define. They exemplify what many photographers aspire to but can’t name. Not only do most of his shots surprise by capturing the essence of a fugitive moment, a magical decisive one, they are framed in a way that touches all the elements of motion in a dynamic balance.

H C B - rest‘My passion has never been for photography ‘in itself,’ but for the possibility – through forgetting yourself – of recording in a fraction of a second the emotion of the subject, and the beauty of the form; that is, a geometry awakened by what’s offered.’

‘I hope I’ll never see the day when photo shops sell little schema grills to clamp onto our viewfinder; the Golden Rule will never be found etched on our ground glass.’

Henri Cartier-Bresson, girl running

 

 

 

 

 

 

I let Henry Cartier-Bresson talk for himself:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MW7I3GBdsBw

Henri Cartier-Bresson, the wallInner Silence

H C B speaks in relation to portrait-photography of looking for the silence in the person. I guess he was looking for the silence behind everything. This silence was most likely what he was attentive to. I conjure that this silence lies between each breath, from which all phenomena emerge from second to second – from that timeless soul-garden within us – which we can tune into.

henri-cartier-bresson-liverpool-1963-c2a9-henri-cartier-bresson-magnum2

What I am saying is – H C B could not have captured these decisive moments without having experienced the silence within him. From this timeless state we glimpse the joie de vivre with its awesome sense of wonder generated and re-generated from eternity that makes life worthwhile and meaningful. It’s probably this glimpse, the ethic of this silent sphere that drives all anarchist artists.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Sur les bords de la Marne 1938Why Black and White and not Colour?

In 1952 colour film emulsion was not well developed. H C B said then: ‘I am half afraid that this complex new element may tend to prejudice the achievement of the life and movement which is often caught by black and white.’

He was concerned that  composition would suffer and be overpowered by colour. I remember when colour TV was first introduced, I intensely disliked the busy business cramped into a small frame. Colour can however be used as a language, and I am certain H C B would have cottoned on to this had he lived on.

Here a sample of my own to illustrate colour’s use.  http://500px.com/photo/6913693?from=set/266780

In 1974, together with other freelance photographers, Henri Cartier-Bresson founded Magnum Photos. See also: http://www.henricartierbresson.org/pres/home_en.htm

H C B’s second wife, the Belgian-born Martine Franck, was an inspired photographer in her own right: http://www.theworld.org/2012/08/remembering-celebrated-photographer-martine-franck/

I am wishing all my readers and visitors a wonderful creative New Year …. 

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… the rose trick …

As white clouds sail above my garden today, and robins peck at morsels the fat turtle-doves dislodged from the feed-balls I hung into tree branches, I’m thinking of the hectic buying-frenzy in town, and what springs to mind is that it’s all about feeling loved. In that spirit – a Christmas gift for you, my readers and friends – The Rose Trick – a guided imagery from another dimension. I use this imagery in my work, though it turns out different each time. Once you have read the text, close your eyes and make it real – imagine…

A garden, your inner garden – in it grows a rose bush that carries one bud about to open. Stand still and observe – a luminous tip of colour peeks from the enfolding calyx – the sepals gradually separate and turn their green tips outward. See the rose bud stir – see its petals open in a slow and fluid movement – until the luminous rose has attained its perfect shape and exudes its delicate fragrance.

As the garden fills with radiant light, imagine the open rose growing into another dimension, expanding in size to a sphere that is inviting you in. Overcome the weight of your thoughts, walk barefoot with  feather-light steps towards the centre of the rose-orb and sit and rest there for a while …

Absorb the soothing resonance, the exquisite tenderness of the petals, and the subtle scent of the rose-sphere through every cell of your body. Be loved. Become the perfect rose.

Autumn Rose

Now rise and return to the former dimension of your garden. Look back. Watch how the rose grows small and folds back into it sepals – watch the bud floating into the palm of your hand – sense the rosebud in your hand, and how its power wishes to stay alive in your heart so you can call upon its unfolding whenever you need loving. Do it, place the rose and the whole experience of rose-becoming into your heart.

*    *    *

Do this imagery when you feel a lack of harmony, or if you lost someone dear. It will re-animate the attar of roses in your heart.

The inspiration behind this imagery, which, done with an open attitude, can be  powerfully transforming, comes from great beings like Hazrat Inayat, Khan, Fazal Inayat-Khan, Roberto Assagioli, R M Rilke, Rumi, Bette Midler, and from roses grown in many gardens …

————-

‘When one of us gets lost, is not here, he or she must be inside us.

There’s no place like that anywhere in the world.’  Rumi

————-

The following are thoughts from ‘The Mind World’ – Volume Four of Hazrat Inayat Khan’s lectures.

The Function of the Heart

The heart, in Sufi terms, is called the mirror. Whatever is reflected in the heart does not only remain a reflection but becomes a creative power productive of the phenomenon of a similar nature.

For example, a heart that is holding in itself and is reflecting the rose will find roses everywhere. Roses will be attracted to the heart and roses will be produced from it and for it. As this reflection deepens and becomes stronger it becomes creative of the phenomenon of roses and the symbolic qualities we associate with roses.

Equally, the heart that holds and reflects wounds will find wounds everywhere. It will attract wounds and it will create wounds; for that is the phenomenon of reflection. There are examples to be found in the world of people who by retaining a thought have created on the physical plane its manifestation, its phenomenon. The reason is – that the phenomenon is not only an image as produced in the mirror

but that reflection in the heart is the most powerful thing. It is life itself – and it is creative.

If the heart is calm enough to receive reflections fully and clearly, one can choose for oneself which reflection to repel and which to retain.

*    *    *

Maybe we are the particle science is chasing ...

Maybe we are the particle science is chasing ..

See also Bette Midler – The Rose: http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=GB&hl=en-GB&v=oR6okRuOLc8

And https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/2012/07/14/imagination/

And …

Arvo Pärt – Alina!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmafNVimRbI

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… the shock of disorientation – the unknown …

Change is the only reliable constant. I sometimes wished I could pledge my life to a convincing reality. For me, what is derived from facts or beliefs in our culture often lacks a vital ingredient – the acceptance of the continuous process of harmony unfolding from cycles of necessary chaos – so I watch the river flowing and imagine stories and create worlds.

four weeks old

Though my childhood had its trials, I was lucky to be held during my early years, both physically and metaphorically, which gifted me with a sense of basic trust, a right to exist, a right to question, and a playful irreverence. Maybe this is why my little wisdoms play with facts and beliefs, dust the inner mirror, value what is emerging, the ever higher level of coordinates of truth and beauty, like a trajectory of the love I received.

For someone not held at birth, change can be dreaded, or seen as a means of escape from an unsafe environment. What we all have in common, is a longing for sufficient containment, and periods of relaxation.

Some years ago, I walked up the stairs of the Social Services centre where I worked. The building had two sections of offices that mirrored each other in design, with exactly the same stairway on each side. A lift in the middle accesses both sections. Being lazy, I usually took the lift up to the third floor, though I liked to take the stairs down on the far side. On this particular day I wanted exercise, and time to ponder a logistic problem. Steeped in thought, I headed for the staircase in sight. Arriving at my floor, I entered the office with its familiar layout and was hit by a sense of total disorientation. Wrong, all wrong, on my desk sat a row of bright, fluffy soft toys, not the company I had round my computer. In a split-second I noticed other irregularities, the quality of light – a smell of heady perfume. The entire atmosphere in this office was alien, the wrong music – alien to my expectations.

 

M. C. Escher

First thought – I must have time-jumped, returned from the past – my mother often marvelled at my vivid imagination. More laser-fast thoughts – perceptions are tenuous and dreamlike reality is self-made and its boundaries are fragile. Calling in episodes of lucid dreaming, my fear switched to wonder, until I grasped the situation. With my thoughts dwelling in abstract orbs, I had walked up the wrong set of stair, expecting to see my desk, which was however in the other, mirror-part of the building.

Being sandwiched between two realities, the expected and the unexpected, the cognitive familiar and the unknown, tends to cancel time for an instant, long enough to escape the compulsion of identifying with objects or thoughts. Shocked awake, the mind is free and spacious, a delightful state.

 

Disorientation, if tolerated, can bring a sudden glimpse of unidentified consciousness in action.

Not discounting trance and meditation, or the vast variety of personal experience – mind and body work in synergy if we loosen up our ideas and learn to relax. In synergy the combined intuitive intelligence of body/brain and the collective mind brings us into resonance with a reality beyond our comprehension – the reflection of a universal order. Not a miracle.

As a child I once dived into a swimming pool. The brilliant sky was of the same blue as the tiles that lined the floor and walls of the pool, which would have been fine had I not opened my eyes under water – the blue world overwhelmed. I lost all sense of direction and panicked. With no way out, I instinctively shut my eyes, which calmed my racing heart and allowed my muscles to relax. My body naturally floated upwards.

I later learned, during experiential Sufi practices, that apt intentional exposure to situations depriving us of habitual coordinates, can prepare us to face change, the unknown, with less stress and more equanimity.

Have you had moments of disorientation – even if it was putting a cup to your lips expecting coffee and tasting tea?

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The theme of ‘disorientation’ came up after recent posts by a blogger friend, Joe Linker (see blog roll), on Buckminster Fuller – his thoughts on synergy are powerfully relevant today – http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Buckminster_Fuller

… We are now synergetically forced to conclude that all phenomena are metaphysical; wherefore, as many have long suspected — like it or not — ‘life is but a dream’ …

Buckminster Fuller

So we might as well dance … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXpaI5IMQsg&feature=related

 

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… layers of perception …

Lately, fully into the process of writing again – the sequel to my first novel – I sometimes wake up with phrases. Yesterday it was: Outsight is the dream, insight is reality. Aha, not just a nice wordplay, I thought, but a fitting indication for what happens in the creative, intuitive process. Insight is new comprehension, often through a shift of focus revealing deeper layers, new connections in the matrix that awaken and surprise, fresh meaning, and adjust the outsight, the old noise caught in a time warp. It’s like having new sight through what the Celts called Thin Places, actual or virtual, where our senses are transcended and spheres intermingle.

If you are a creative person, you may listen to the system talking to itself, as it does day and night, even during dreams. Some of us like to branch into the unknown for dimensions beneath surface impressions, probe into the vast reservoir of the personal and collective psyche,  normally filtered out from our conscious awareness when we must attend to the practical matters of daily living.

Often a creative process is sparked by sensing in-betweens. This applies to all arts, including writing. Different layers of experience and association diverge and merge anew when we de-focus. In a visual sense, for example, try looking at a tree in twilight, squeeze your eyes and concentrate on the in-between spaces. There is a moment when the shapes reverse and the background becomes the foreground. And who hasn’t looked at clouds or landscapes in a particular light and seen magical beings?

In this optical illusion you only need to tilt your head. 

And there is the meandering mind, receptive to intuition. Like yesterday I popped to the corner shop to get a paper. An unintended detour got me talking to Annie, who does house clearances. Amongst her cornucopia of stuff a spot of bright magenta caught my eye. I instantly thought of my friend, Rahima, presently in hospital. She is a painter. She loves colours. The vibrant patch of silk, I thought, will make her smile. 

Artists tend to tune out of fashion, out of mass projections, to let the muse take them along random paths into deeper strata of perception and cognition – of shapes, colours, sounds and movements – to re-arrange personal experience, bringing them into a new, universal context.

A good example of this process is shown in a documentary of the painter Howard Hodgkin by Alan Yentob, from the IMAGINE series.

Howard Hodgkin has a current exhibition at the Alan Christea Gallery, London.  http://www.alancristea.com/  in celebration of his 80th birthday,

A Robert Frost poem – Acquainted with the night – was chosen as the title for the exhibition.

De-focussing is magical – it brings new layers of perception …

Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.’ – Howard Thurman

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… the wonderful visit …

I loathe most talk of angels since they became best-selling brands, but the synchronicity of Annie Lennox wearing wings and singing to an angel at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and the discovery of a rare book among my shelves, brought angels up close.

H G Wells (1866-1946) has been referred to as the Father of Science Fiction. A neglected story, The Wonderful Visit, published shortly after The Time Machine, was regarded as a mocking reflection on attitudes, beliefs and the social structure of a typical English village in Victorian times. I read the social commentary as ornamentation, the comical human attempt to stay the same, round a more essential theme, the conflict that can accompany awakening.

The edition below is from 1922 and has an illustration by Conrad Heighton Leigh. The line under it is from chapter 5 – ‘He fired out of pure surprise and habit.’

A strange bird was sighted.

Ornithology being a passion of the Vicar of Siddermorton, Rev. K. Hilyer, he was going to outdo his rivals and hunt the strange bird. So it came to be that on the 4th of August 1895 he shot down an angel.

… He saw what it was, his heart was in his mouth, and he fired out of pure surprise and habit. There was a scream of superhuman agony, the wings beat the air twice, and the victim came slanting swiftly downward and struck the ground – a struggling heap of writhing body, broken wing and flying blood-stained plumes … the Vicar stood aghast, with his smoking gun in his hand. It was no bird at all, but a youth with an extremely beautiful face, clad in a robe of saffron and with iridescent wings … never had the Vicar seen such gorgeous floods of colour …

‘A man,’ said the Angel, clasping his forehead … ‘then I was not deceived, I am indeed in the Land of Dreams.’ The vicar tells him that men are real and angels are myth … ‘It almost makes one think that in some odd way there must be two worlds as it were …’

‘At least two,’ said the Vicar, and goes on ponderinghe loved geometrical speculations, ‘there may be any number of three dimensional universes packed side by side, and all dimly aware of each other.’

They met half way, where reality is loosely defined, and truth has no hold. And they shared the nature of their worlds. Eat, pain, and die were among the new terms the strange visitor had to come to grips with.

‘Pain is the warp and the waft of this life,’ said the Vicar. Riddled with remorse over having maimed the Angel’s wing he decides to looks after him. But to adjust to the Vicar’s world, the Angel must eat and accept pain, and learn all manner of things very fast indeed … Starting to read, during a phase of now legendary sunshine, I settled in my garden with a glass of red, and consequently spilled the wine on my wild strawberry blossoms due to sudden bursts of laughter.

‘What a strange life!’ said the Angel.

‘Yes,’ said the Vicar. ‘What a strange life! But the thing that makes it strange to me is new. I had taken it as a matter of course until you came into my life.’

Mr Angel is nothing like the pure and white angel of popular belief, more like the angel of Italian art, polychromatic, a musical genius with the violin. Listening … the Vicar lost all sense of duration, all sense of necessity … The reactions of the villagers oscillate across a hair-thin-divide between comedy and tragedy, while the bone of the story is psychological, and spiritual. Indirectly, the Vicar encounters his anima (his inner female) through the Angel’s love for Delia, the maid servant of the house. There is no escape. Things get intense. The Angel, over the span of a short week, is tainted by the wickedness of the world, and it crushes him. And the Vicar’s awakening from his narrow prison brings him into tragic conflict with his community.

*    *    *

Not much has changed. The world is crowded with wounded angels seeking compassion, and since our daily vocabulary offers little more than clichés for other realities, awakening rarely convinces, unless it is embodied and conveyed through atmosphere. Look out for the artist… the musician, painter, writer, animator, filmmaker … and the children.

‘If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.’
― William BlakeThe Marriage of Heaven and Hell

The painting heading this post is by the Finnish symbolist painter Hugo Simberg.

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