Pearls of wisdom

I’ve just had my sister staying with me for a few days and it was a remarkable, wonderful time; I find I want to say, it was quietly transformational. There is nothing like spending time with “kin” to feel more completely comfortable and honest than in any other company and, when those relatives are female and share that sense of rootedness in a particular heritage, it can catalyse seriously powerful stuff. In my case, I don’t know when I last spent a few days with my sister like this…three uninterupted days of being solidly in each other’s company; probably not since I was an adolescent visiting her first marital home and we certainly didn’t bond like this then! Decades on, time spent living 150 miles apart, we find we have reached remarkably similar places in our perspective and our aspirations; only hers are much more grounded than mine (and you know how important I think that is for the goddess of our times) so she came bearing gifts for me that I was over-ripe to receive. I am in a place of needing to re-learn the skills that, I realise, my extremely grounded family has in spadefuls. Fingers in the earth, needles in the hands, practical support offered freely to those who needed it in the community; this was my family when I was growing up. We absorbed these skills from a very young age; in my father’s shed, where he carved wood, made everything and did marquetry or observing my mother’s needle and baking craft, along with the way she went out somewhere, every day, to help elderly neighbours while my father handed out veg and flowers from our garden. Never without knitting needles in her hands, my mother could put the world to rights and do at least one other thing while her needles were flying…and they always were. It’s a gene I have in me and yet I always directed it at grander aspirations; reaching towards higher projects like “lets change the world” or “be a world class painter”…never contented and, yes, wearing myself thin with the relentless need to strive at these ambitions.

I already had the burgeoning feeling that I wanted to go back to my crafty roots; to days gone by when wool, of all things, was my best friend and chosen medium. Long before painting or photography became my methods of choice, I salivated over textiles such as wool and silk, collecting them even when I had no reason to. I started needlepoint, or “tapestry” as we call it in the UK, when I was just 7 or 8 and continued it almost without pause until my daughter was born in my early thirties. Unfinished projects still languish in my big cupboard yet I never feel right about returning to them for we stitch ourselves into our canvases…and I have come such a long way since then. I even flirted with doing a textile degree when I was eighteen but the best course was in my hometown and my burning urge was to move away from there; yet I’ve often wondered how things might have been different if I had gone that route. I’ve even spun wool, many years ago; and the feeling of lanolin rich fleece between finger and thumb as my foot works the peddle still haunts me at times, as though it was only yesterday (not well over thirty years ago…) that I last did this. In fact, the very first time I sat at a wheel, my instructor told me (didn’t ask) “you’ve done this before” and when I said no I hadn’t she insisted “oh yes you have” and I knew very deep down that she was right. I still pick up wool caught on gateposts on my walks and find myself fingering it in my pocket as I walk my dog, knowing that I know its sensation very well. Lately, that too has haunted me, like something pressing upon me “do something with this, act on the feeling” and, at these times, I catch glimpses of myself dying wool using natural pigments and making things with it…though I am never quite sure what (and that is where my left-brain trips me up with all of its so-called “practical” ideas trying to make a thing of it until I shrug the thoughts away and get on with my life).

My sister, newly retired (somewhat earlier than expected) came brimful of enthusiasm for all her pursuits in textiles that she has reignited in the last year. Now running the quilting group that she initially joined as a novice, she is doing that and many more stitchery-based hobbies, including knitting at least one garment a fortnight, drafting up embroidery designs of her own making and feverish with excitement about what to tackle next. More than that, the group of other women that she is now part of has spawned friendships and conversations, a never-ending experience of like-heartedness and support that has brought light to her eyes and colour to her cheeks; she has never looked more relaxed or at home in herself. All those years of work and of wedging herself into routines (and so much career stress) that were never really “hers” have been shed like scales to the floor and she has come out of them shining with new-found passion for life. When I imagine her now, I imagine colour and playful expression; a rich tapestry of a life where once she seemed heckled by it.

I too have become drab and grey lately, I feel it and I see it when I look in the mirror. Painting used to bring colour to my life but I seem to have lost my way with that; my recent attempts felt like going backwards and there’s more that I still long to explore; threads as yet unfollowed. The longing to return to textiles had been biting at my heels…I knew it was there; but something told me it wasn’t enough…wasn’t big enough or important enough, it feels domestic and mundane to play around with wools when there is a world to save. Yes, I hear myself say this and I laugh outloud…but it was always there, this stumbling block around an idea of scale that had me stopping myself from going where my heart led, thinking that it was laughable to try and change the world one stitch at a time.

Knitting circle

My mother with her friend and my grandma knitting together 1955…it was just something they all did together.

The book I have been reading “If women rose rooted” (by Sharon Blackie), I know, has been seeping deeply into my encrusted ground-soil like a healing shower of rain, allowing the brittle cracks to swell into a new kind of looseness. I can feel where it has been tickling my roots with ideas of opting out of all that feels pressured and contrived, forced, or achievement driven (yes, even projects to save the world!) and allowing that a simpler life, even a life on a small holding or in the anonymity of the Outer Hebrides, though I know I don’t need to go that far, can be just as powerful and transformational for all women-kind. Such a feminine-inspired life of deep connection with the earth, with its richness, its colours, its textures without needing to roll this out as a product or a plan, is our version of doing our bit, just as much as doing what some of my friends do travelling the world and pow-wowing with elders and change agents or starting charities in Africa, running coaching programs and altering the way businesses operate and so on. “But how?” I hear myself wail, knowing I want to do none of these things (for all I applaud them). Because I know just how much we are all connected at the root and how any version of finding our true essence and allowing it to be grounded in whatever soil feels, to us, like home is playing our part. We are singing the song of the feminine, demonstrating what it is to have roots again, giving ourselves and others permission to do likewise and being that agent of change at the level where it really happens…at the grassroots of the extremely ordinary. And if we happen to inspire others along the way then good…but its not, directly, why we do it. That is the whole point; our focus is stepped away from that terribly masculine urge to roll everything our like it is some sort of strategy or means to an end. We hold space for doing what is already complete “as it is”; for it brings us such profound joy in connection with where we are in this moment. Nothing disperses anxiety or fear more quickly than spending time in such a place; and this ripples out to our families, our communities and so the world at large.

When women get together doing what they love for no other reason than they relish doing it, the “accidental” results catalysed by this can be incredibly powerful. My sister, who is not prone to hyperbole or flights of fancy, described how it feels like they are sat around a fireplace in times of old when they get into the flow of stitchery and chatting, the conversation weaving freely around their circle like the threads on a spider’s web. In my mind’s eye, when I hear this kind of women’s pow-wow in full flow, it is like they are unwittingly casting a spell…and, in a way, they are; for they make realities shift. I know for myself how some of the conversations I have ignited at the hairdressers (one of the few collectively female places I ever go in my extremely solitary life) have taken on legs of their own and made serious indents in people’s lives as changes and new perspectives have been sparked around the room. Once, I returned for my trim and received an unexpected hug for all the positive changes I had instigated on my previous visit and I am told that I am looked forward to in the diary. Knowing this brings back such warm glow to the embers in my heart and it reminds me that a woman’s life lived in solitary confinement can be, in many ways, a wasted life for we all feed off one another (and written words are not always as powerful as when eyes or hands meet across a table; an admission I am newly taking to heart). We often thrive most in community for that is what we once knew before; and is what we are modelling again in this fragmented world of collectively separate beings.

Women the world over gather this way over crafts and cups of whatever they happen to drink; these are the real crucibles of change, their origin going all the way back to when men used to seek women-wisdom before making any decisions that might impact communal life. Well, we are there again, needing just that very thing; and we spark the process off when we gather in the collective on equal footing (no egos here) and pool our energies at the same time as bringing our individual skills and projects to the table. We inspire and we catalyse though we meant only to sit where we had company; in fact, we simply can’t help ourselves and it is that unexpected, undirected and “accidental” kind of inspiration that is more potent than we can sometimes find words for.  I find I feel almost envious with longing for such a gathering to join in with…and that I am no longer assuming that such a collective has to be “spiritual” or anything to do with any of the topics I write about in this space; in fact, the more ordinary its focus the better, I am now prepared to admit. My eyes are newly opened to find such a community to tag onto.

Meanwhile, I am back to playing with my wool…two projects birthed in the twenty-four hours since my sister left on her train; both a knitting project (the steady rhythm of knit one, pearl one a sustained meditation of sorts) and a brand-new tapestry from one of my own ambitious designs onto canvas so, maybe there is a new direction there; yet I have never been less focused on the commercial potential or becoming a specialist. Like with all avenues that seem to be converging as my life right now, I find I just want to bring it all together…all the skills, the aspirations, the colours and textures, the mediums, the very diverse activities that amount to who I am and what gets me feeling excited and see where it all leads me. A phrase came to mind as I drove to the craft shop (where I was greeted by a friendly woman who poured over my design with such relish, helping me select just the right shades of wool…and who offered to teach me to knit if I struggled with my pattern): Grass Roots Goddess. That’s what I feel I am longing to be and am best equipped for at that; a grass-roots change maker, putting the world to rights through accidental encounters with everyday women over everyday projects that bring colour to all of our cheeks and laughter to our eyes. Real life encounters, every-day-domestic things that get new thinking out there or remembered from the rich heritage of our hearts…for we all have it in there, we just need to spin and weave and embellish it with our free-flowing thoughts as our flying fingers provide the wind beneath our wings.

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Posted in Art, Art purpose, Art transformation tool, Artists, Consciousness & evolution, Craft & design, Divine feminine, Health & wellbeing, Life journey, Menu, Personal Development | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Wanting more

There’s a fire rising higher and higher in me and it speaks of discontentment; tells me I want so much more. It’s the hot tongue of that pitta flame I invoked, to make me stronger in my doshas, yet it can’t switch on without the wanting of more…which is what drives it onwards, upwards, stretching, reaching-out to a place beyond. A place half-glimpsed through the mists that I know I want to be, so one without the other…not possible, which means I know I need this want, but it rattles my vata bones, makes my dryness react like irritated skin on a very hot day. So we ebb and flow back and forth; yet I’ve never felt more like going with the forward motion of wanting, hurt though it does. My own discontentment seems to eat me, eat at my life; there’s no settling any more, frustration bites at my heels. Like a cat on a hot tin roof, I hop from foot to foot, barely knowing what I want but wanting something.

This thing was always there, I realise; only it was holed up in a prison cell of sorts, like a wild animal in a cage in my dungeon. So all the time I was telling myself that I’m being ever-so humble, grateful and contented I was really wanting more than I ever said. For many women, it comes up like a guilty secret to start with and then you realise that all the little things were only ever attached to the bigger things; wanting more for the planet, for its people, for it all…especially the earth, that love of your life.

julia-caesar-24934.jpgHow many females do this thing, caging up the lioness of wanting, only ever letting it appear as want for others or for trivia, meaningless fripperies and the distraction of sparkly things on the journey of life when really we carry this BIG want, this mighty universal want for everything in creation. How many dress it up in religious or pseudo-spiritual terms when we say we want for nothing, are grateful for everything we have. It’s not wrong, that gratitude; it grew us more of what we wanted efficiently if slowly. But by keeping wanting so spiritually out of vogue we only kept our power under lock and key and then self-guarded what was rightfully ours to express; how ironic. We did the work of those who would keep us smaller and we jumped at every sign of an escape.

Is this why women react so at that immense fiery heat of the middle years; why we round it up and pillion the first signs of our first fire-awakening, suppressing and fighting it with a male-devised arsenal of drugs and therapies, making it so wrong. I long-ago reconciled that this woman-heat is far from wrong but, rather, the heat of transformation, the fire to my phoenix but did I really think it came without longing, without this upwards strive that feels as though you might punch through whatever stands in your way and whatever feels most unfair or destructive in this world. Not literally punch but by unleashing the cataclysm of woman-rage, the kind that had us labelled as dragons and pierced to the ground by men with long swords who claimed to rescue the demure and swooning maiden in us; saved from ourselves, they said. “Swoon no more” my inner goddess screams through the wild-eyed flames of my kundalini rising as I stick out my tongue and roar my way to the start of another feisty, fiery day. “Smoulder no more”, my body says as it shakes off the simmering un-health that keeps inverse heat trapped in my base. And so I fan my own flames, not yet knowing what it is that I really want but owning that I am open to finding out. Its this unleashed wanting of women that is set to transform this world.

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Posted in Consciousness & evolution, Divine feminine, Health & wellbeing, Life choices, Menu, Personal Development, Recovery chronic illness, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Putting our hands together…for all of us

It’s such a simple concept straight from earliest childhood yet perhaps it bears saying again at this time. When left hand helps right hand, the two working together in equal partnership, it not only gets things done but there’s a beautiful poetry in motion about it. When I take a break out from what I’m really wanting to be doing…like just now, waiting for the kettle to boil before going off to do my yoga (such a mundane interruption, you might think), the five or ten minutes I spent tidying the kitchen, unpacking and reloading the dishwasher and wiping down the surfaces was like a well choreographed dance; in fact I have come to love it as a sort of active meditation to start my day. Why so? Because of the fact that I use both left and right arms, fluidly, to their maximum capacity yet equally, in perfect harmony with one another so that, even whilst one might be pouring liquid from a cup and stashing it in the tray to be washed, the other hand is already stretched out to put a clean fork back in the drawer and reach for yet another thing to be washed. I covered so much ground in short time, my body twisted and flexed fluidly from side to side like I was an elegantly swaying tree in a wind yet there was no exhaustion to it; I hardly had to move my feet and the kitchen was sparkling in no time. No need to stop and think “what next?”, to negotiate about who wants to do what or to mediate disagreements; it was all very obvious which each part was doing and why, making it a seamless effort towards a shared goal of cleanliness and order in minimum time.

We all do this when we drive, when we play sport or pursue crafts and the most gifted do it in their academic studies and their work practice yet how often do we notice that we are doing it or how important it is to our lives? We seem to be most rusty at it when it comes to our social engagement, our corporate idea of job description, in our economics and politics and when it comes to making global decisions including those relating to ecology. We need to remember that it’s so much more than a nice idea, or a recreational idea, to use the left and right sides of ourselves together; the very act of doing this daily heals the rift between the hemispheres of our brain and makes everything in our experience much more cohesive. However mundane-seeming, it can be the very first step in a process of waking up to a whole different world of experience.

amaury-salas-324504It was for me. I had to learn this hemispherical cohesion to a whole new level when I first started to draw after a two decade pause in my art practice; when I was told every week by a life-study coach that I needed to keep changing my charcoal stick from the comfort zone of my right hand to the terribly awkward and hesitant left and seamlessly continue my drawing. It couldn’t have come at a better time for me; my fragmented sense of everything started to come back together at that point and three years of that practice played its part. It also stood me in good stead as an artist; years later, though I might not use left hand for the precision work, I would notice how I used both hands to smear and smudge paint together on a canvas and there was something beautifully cohesive about the results of using both hands simultaneously like that. It would always happen most at those times of greatly heightened and inspired creativity, when a sort of urgency and a new and wonderfully cohesive sense of shared and uniform intention would pull both aspects of myself together towards a single creative vision. In fact ending the day with both hands equally covered in paint became my sure-sign that I had had the best kind of day and it would play out in my mood for many hours afterwards.

Yoga helped me further with this endeavour then I had to develop it even more when I took up dancing; slowly, steadily making smoother those first awkward left-foot routines so that they flowed seamlessly into the right until, by the end, I would be delirious with joy and exhilaration. Again, now I’m learning a wind instrument, the same challenge has come up for me as I learn the fingering to get me through three octaves using just two hands positioned on six holes. This is, in part, a remembered skill from childhood, though a different instrument to before; which makes me newly appreciate how much easier these left-right collaborations are to turn into habit when we are very young (my attempts at learning piano at the age of nearly fifty seemed so much harder and unlikely to go far). Only the left brain seems to balk at such collaboration, saying “it can’t be done”; the right is always more than willing to have a go and the pay off is very high. When we keep daily practices going that use this collaborative skill set (ideally without interruption from childhood…but its never to late to start), we make it a lifetime pay-off, not just for ourselves but for everyone else around us.

I feel like I have spent an entire lifetime studying this phenomenon and I study it still; in constant awe of the unrealised heights of cohesion and joy that seem to be available when we just keep pushing the union further. There is something orgasmic about reaching that single point of collaboration; which is exactly what orgasm is…a meeting place of body and spirit. You could say, an experience that is so much more than the sum of its parts. Such an experience should be all the enticement it takes so why are we, often, so far off from the mark; as though we have developed chronic amnesia or had the remembrance of wholeness trained out of us by something that had more chaotic intentions in mind. When we are motivated to seek this union-point across all of our skills and activities, our daily lives, careers, our societal, political and global affairs, we will all reach that delirium of a single focus together; reached by collaborative means that make all our diverse gifts, leanings and priorities equally useful to the mix. I have no doubt, the swiftness and ease with which we will pull ourselves together will be astonishing when we reach such a point; poetry in motion, you could say. We already have the skill set; we just need to put in the daily practice, wherever we can gain it (however mundane or apparently trivial) and…step by step, we will start to dance to the same heightened tune.

Posted in Consciousness & evolution, Divine feminine, divine masculine, Health & wellbeing, Menu, Personal Development, Yoga | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Extreme light…extreme dark

With extreme light comes extreme dark…its a truism that many of us have got to know as we’ve head so concertedly for that light…and in the most visceral of ways do we experience vast contrast that seems almost too much for our sensitive souls to bear. Perhaps its even more so of the Ninth Wave (and we are currently in a night phase, approaching its peak), which is all about unity consciousness, bringing all into balance; so, yin and yang, in super-rapid oscillations. Yet to survive it, perhaps we’ve got to regard it more like we would those cloud shadows passing over a sun-drenched mountain that I talked about recently. We let those darker shapes pass by very quickly, not investing in their darkness, even when they present as a violent knot in the gut or a real-life horror story pulling the rug from right under our day. They are not the whole picture…they are just part of the whole, as are moments of extreme radiance that quickly follow. One does not swallow up the other; we are more experienced at this than to allow that the day is eaten up by the night. It just seems that way…for a time.

Some people prefer to live in a far more mediocre state, a sort-of comfortable, less contrasty state even if it means knowing less radiance; then perhaps they don’t experience the contrasts so starkly. When we make life all about the light, it doesn’t remove us from the effect of the shadow, but it allows us to work with it…to see it (oh how we see it), acknowledge it, then let it move on, letting go of what is not ours. Saying it is not ours doesn’t mean that we don’t care or that we won’t take practical steps to help but that we don’t resonate with the impulse that brought it up. We don’t choose to take it into the cells of our body to store as a fear-trigger or self-sabotage-sadness. These responses only render us smaller and weaker in the face of oscillations that rock our boat all the time; more every day. We prevent ourselves from rocking wildly to the same rhythm using all the skills that we have picked up along the way; whatever works for us (and each of us will know what that is), especially self-love made manifest as self-nurturance. Like anyone else, I have my deep, dark, almost black times when I feel too weary to continue swimming upstream, hearing the breaking news, worrying about my loved ones, taking in all the enormity of the world’s heinous mess (of course I do) yet I’m getting better at letting these things pass through without gaining a hook on me. They can pass by my window and I acknowledge that they are there but they don’t get invited across the threshold.

We also speed up our reactions as we continue doing this thing; fine-tuning the conveyor-belt of assessment… “mine or not mine”…choosing the higher moments, the radiant moments, the resonant moments to come in and fill us up or stay a little longer in our sacred inner space. We can send our heart out…yes…but we always choose what we want to take in when we’re conscious. We will get there, ironing it all out…but when we think we are done with knowing the dark, expecting it to be gone from the pretty picture of life, we only set ourselves up for the same traumatic shock every time darkness happens; and we need to become far more self-centred (in a way that is quite different to how we have come to know that phrase) than that. We need to stop tipping over in favour of fear and despair; to have resilient belief in the better future we share. We must…in order to be the ones who will help tip the balance of the world.

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Blazing a trail along an alternate path

No denying that the world can feel pretty yuk right now if you let it; I know it with my mind and even through my subtle senses, though I mostly choose not to “go there”. Yes, I know “things” have been going on, not least in our capital (family members drop clues, they exchange glances…), but I’ve kept my attention out of the details for the last few weeks; this is a conscious choice that I made.

So when I was due to head up to London this weekend for a concert that I had looked-forward to all year, I was surprised to find that I half-dreaded going there, which isn’t like me; I’m usually harder to submerge below the predominant air of pessimism and gloom. The clanging bell of this feeling seemed to build up in my solar plexus and I could detect a growing repulsion at this way of spending my saturday compared to staying home; like an early warning system in my cells was shouting “don’t, Goddess walk 3.jpgjust don’t go there” through my non-specific feeling of misgivings. These didn’t really surface fully until the morning came upon me and I felt overcome with paralysing indecision about train times and what we were going to be doing for a whole day at leisure in the capital (normally a treat). What was wrong with me; was I tuning into the collective fear? Was I starting to come down with something? Was it an actual warning I should be heeding? Attempts to rationalise our itinerary only made me feel more entangled in the of knotted string-ball of indecision since there seemed to be a conflict of interest going on with my deepest intuition; not helped by the fact that my instincts weren’t clearly giving me anything to go on. So we went ahead with our plans; I just didn’t have a clue how we Goddess walk 5.jpgwere going to be spending our day as I had really gone off  the idea of several hours wandering in crowded streets before the concert that evening. I guess, I was just being invited to go with the flow…

So by the time the train pulled in at a busy weekend Paddington, all I knew for sure was that I wanted to be above ground, not under it…and to walk initially to Hyde Park, which I had been intending to go back to since a momentous walk through it in the summer of last year (subject of my blog A walk in the park: Healing the deepest wound of all). This time it was to take my partner with me, to walk the goddess’ path along the water of the Serpentine, revisit the spot where the preening swan became the inspiration for my painting Heart Centred, adjacent to the statue of Peter Pan and the ever-more elusive Tinkerbell, and grab some lunch at the Goddess walk 7.jpglake-side cafe. I wasn’t disappointed as a (possibly “the”) swan returned to the same spot to provide more of that elegant preening show right beneath my feet; in fact my mood was already lightening at the comic squawk of parakeets in the trees, tame squirrels carrying acorns dashing hither and thither, so many water fowl and young families feeding them. It was like an action replay of that other journey through this park last year, only much more relaxed for being in an easy male-female partnership where we could jest around and have some lighthearted fun together without time pressure. This way of spending the day, yin-and-yanging without agenda, said such a lot about the journey I Goddess walk 4had been on since last my last visit; I could measure so easily that I feel so much more complete than I did at that cathartic time. In fact, I could feel myself unfurling, standing taller, inwardly shining a little more with each moment spent in that park; not unlike the example set by so many magnificent avenues of trees. Walking to your full stature through life; didn’t I talk about that in another post just the other day (in my post Growing up); about learning from the most giant and ancient of trees…

By the time we had eaten, I knew I only wanted to stay outside, beneath the magnificent trees of not-quite-turned autumn. So I devised a route of sorts…walk to Hyde Park Corner, cross the road to Green Park and then seamlessly join with the park of Saint James by the Mall. I had never, in my life, done this park version of crossing London though I knew it existed in principle since the city is blessed with so many green spaces. This way, we were able to see London in a whole new light…a green light, like it was a city of leafy avenues, of people at leisure, of comical wild-life so tame you can step right up and feed it from the hand. As we brushed close to Oxford Street, we could feel the city’s everyday vibe trying to assert Goddess walk 9.jpgitself like a frenetic pulse, sending an electric shock wave through the feet and out through the head. It only pushed me deeper, and with more determination, into the park; further into its green spaces and into closer appreciation and embrace with its trees, which I kept stopping to admire and “talk to” like they were old friends. When I felt my afternoon sugar low start to happen after all this walking, I simply threw off my shoes and grounded on the spot, the battery-recharger of all chargers (and doing far better for me than my phone, which was almost drained flat by a few hours in the super-wired city). I recoiled away from statues of men on horses, strategically placed bronzes celebrating military milestones, triumphal arches, lists of the dead; using them as the counter signposts of which path not to take. We paused briefly for an art gallery off the Mall but that was all we were prepared to do by way of divergence off this walking route; this was clearly not a day for going into confined spaces. It was quite amazing how much of this vast city we could walk by uninterrupted pathways of green; those same distances we tended to cover underground without really connecting with each variable of the landscape. The more I relished this Goddess walk 11.jpgway of spending our day, the more important it felt to acknowledge that it was the dark feeling at the beginning of the day that had served to urge me even further into all this radiant light; in other words, it had actually served to get me there!

An inevitable brush with thick shoulder-to-shoulder crowds happened at Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden, where the chaotic shopping impulse was drumming its beat loud and strong. Both of us were hard-hit with an electric vibe so potent that it sent a ground current charge up the legs triggering actual physical pain in the legs and hip flexors as we hit those first pavements and the feeling of cross-currents in the head was enough to trigger disorienting waves of light-headedness and feelings of space shifting. Really, the strength of the electric vibe of London’s centre (and its wired people) these days is like a smack to the head to the sensitive being; I really don’t know how those who live there cope or don’t crash into chronic states of illness and I suspect their antidote is just to keep going…faster, louder, sweeter, more inebriated; hands reached out for more more more…aclimatising to the bewildering pace by making it a way of life. Still, there was music playing; buskers were everywhere and those that, like us, had heard the Goddess walk 12.jpgalternate rhythm paused to stop in huge appreciative circles. Really, our bee-line was to reach Neal’s Yard’s oasis of greenness, for an early evening meal of incredible plant-based food (another “green route” that has become our lifestyle preference…) before our concert later on. When a sudden change of timings forced our hand to flag a taxi to that concert rather than break our fast of underground travel (part of me skipped up a beat in relief when that happened), our day of travelling by alternate methods felt complete. We were delivered to the Union Chapel in perfect time for the doors opening and all felt whole again; like we had reached our sacred destination in perfectly divine timing, our journey divinely orchestrated along a completely different path to our norm and all in readiness for an evening of sacred mantra.

Goddess walk 2.jpgWhen that day began, there had been lots of “oughts” on my list; I felt I ought to make an effort to go to certain points of interest on my list, that I  ought to make good use of the rare opportunity to take in some sights or exhibitions, even to shop. All of these things were an overlay of old belief systems; none of them came directly from me, hence the feeling of stomach wrenching confusion and conflict going on when I woke. I should have known, all I really needed was a blank canvas and the preparedness to listen to my instincts as they revealed their steady clues, one after another. As things turned out, our green path showed me many more things that are unfolding gently yet powerfully as I allow them to swell in the aftermath. I have long worked with the original goddess vibe of London that predates all the modern hard structures that shout and dictate our path through the city streets these days. There is a complex network (an earthstar grid) of ley lines crisscrossing the whole of the city…and I walked (quite accidentally) one of the most potent ones running between Buckingham Palace and Goddess walk 10Charing Cross when I happened upon the far end of the Mall after Green Park returned me back to the road. I crossed the Mall straight into Saint James Park, thinking I was sidestepping the actual ley however my research this morning tells me the leyline runs to the left of the mall, which is the route I followed along the waterside inside the park, all the way to the Mall’s end, enjoying the unusual geese, the herons and the black and white (yin and yang) swans.  I don’t think I have ever travelled the full length of the Mall before; certainly never by foot. Indeed, I think I had only ever been to Green Park once before in my life…many many years ago as a young-thing shopping on Oxford Street, when weary feet made me turn into a patch of green glimpsed between buildings and throw myself into one of the deckchairs lying about near the edge. How Goddess walk 8.jpgfunny that, all these years later, the potent beguilement of “shiny things” in shop window displays used to distract the herd onto a different path only repulses me all the more than it was starting to back then, allowing me to remember a different route from the time before. This impulse had taken me off piste to, perhaps, one of the most ancient routes into the city; some say the path to its original ancient centre where the Mall gives way to the statue of King Charles on the site of the original Charing Cross.

Goddess walk 13.jpgWomen have been so much more than just milkmaids, flower sellers, whores and good wives in this place (though these roles have been part of their journey). Alternate feminine routes through London have asserted themselves to me many times in the last decade or two; in fact they have been the most potent undercurrent of anything I have ever experienced there from the very first time I went as a teenager. I have written more than once about the “hidden” River Fleet, now half buried, mostly turned to underground sewer yet once a sacred and powerful stream joining the Thames at Blackfriars. In fact, many of London’s hidden feminine pathways speak through water since the feminine is the well maiden, the bearer of the overspilling grail to all who are thirsty, yet who fled and left the well barren when the masculine treated her so ill. This city is littered with forgotten rivers and sacred wells that have been filled-in like the suppressed feminine made manifest. I just happened upon this quote from the Times Newspaper May 1st 1874 and it captures the scenario aptly:

“The holy well of St. Clement, on the north side of St. Clement Danes Church, has been filled in and covered over with the earth and rubble, in order to form part of the foundation of the Law Courts of the future. It is said that penitents and pilgrims used to visit this well as early as the reign of Ethelred”. *

This is how the piecemeal process of silencing, subordinating and, in fact, burying alive the feminine aspect to serve as the foundations of a masculine world took place in recent centuries…yet she stirs still, from beneath our feet, when we listen closely with our most attuned senses.

Circles and long straight lines provide other clues (as they have provided to me before: see The Where the circle meets the Line). Temple Church was another of my accidental stop-offs a year ago on the way to another concert (and I had a run-in with it at another potent time in my life, many years ago). Its chapel in the round is probably the most powerful feature of its sacred-geometric design devised by the Knights Templar (modelled, they say, on the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem) and deeply embedded with female symbology. Well, this time my journey ended with another uniquely round chapel, Islington’s Union Chapel, to experience the music of an embodied divine goddess (Deva Premal) that evening. The Union was built 140 years ago to a design by James Cubitt, inspired by the Byzantium-inspired, 1000 year-old Santa Fosca on the Venetian island of Torcello. Its vision: “to step out of the enchanted circle of habit and precedent … to break through the tyranny of custom” by allowing people to congregate in the round…equally, easily, providing excellent acoustics thus no need to shout to hear yourself heard. Its roundness, then, harked back to some earlier principle, long forgotten yet desperately needed to soften London’s sharp angles; a feminine impulse so urgently welcome back in town. The round, womb-like meeting place reached by a long straight route is as ancient as can be; and London was a nest of such places long before it took on its present-day mantle.

My recent blog talked about Elen of the Ways, goddess of the ancient pathways; well, her long-straight routes (her green and leafy routes!) feature subtly under the surface of  London, with more obvious clues here and there, such as Saint Helen’s Bishopsgate, thought to be an extremely ancient and significant sacred site and with a ley line running through its axis. Saint Paul’s Cathedral is well-known to have been built upon an ancient temple to Diana…yet (as I’ve written about before) a deeper-digging theory suggests that dedication was just a Roman overlay upon an even earlier deity (again, the goddess Helen seems likely given shared symbology with Diana), at a site adjacent to what was probably a stone circle (or so speculates Christopher Street, a London ley line expert and author of several books on the topic). This is thought to be the case because, just beyond b8633d5b2c83e2e2f6b0074a58aef989the north-east wall of St Paul’s, an octagonal marker in the ground indicates where there was once a single standing stone which was removed by Cromwell. That stone had a cross a-top it for many years and was used as part outside altar and part speaking podium where common people gathered to have their say and to debate the suitability of kings (back to the topic of determining sovereignty from my last post; the feminine would once have had this say-so based on the candidates good custodianship of the earth). According to one source, it was known as a place of public utterance for at least five centuries, “one where the conscience of the nation could be spoken” and it was apparently used as a meeting place of the Occupy Movement most recently.

Known as “Old Pol, that stump of a megalith is speculated by Street to have been part of a complete stone circle and the name given to it a reference to Apollo, not to Saint Paul as historians have tended to assume. If so, the name Apollo possibly indicated that this was a king stone (as at Rollwright stone circle and at Stonehenge) of a very significant standing stone circle in days long before all the modern day trappings of church, law and governance came along to sit a-top the same site. According to Mallory’s La Morte Goddess walk 1.jpgD’Arthur, Arthur drew the sword out of a stone in the churchyard of London’s greatest church…so it could very well have been this stone that he had in mind.

When you follow London’s more instinctual impulses, you happen across all these places and more, feeling the pull of them with your feet. A warmer and more open embrace awaits. Sometimes, the clues are still there, built as symbols and shapes into masonry, left behind in a paper-trail of bizarre or thought-provoking street names or felt as an alternate feminine vibe to all the push and shove otherwise going on. The trees and the water have a lot to say on the matter and when we support these natural spaces as the lungs of our cities, we support the feminine aspect in our world.

I have no clear mental idea why I walked the route I did that day but it felt like it kept me safe, like an alternate way simply opened up for me and gave me clear passage through. I knew none of the details of recent explosions on underground trains or acid attacks by gangs (things my daughter, it turned out, had been fretting about when she knew we were spending the day there) until after I returned home; I didn’t need or want to know about the specifics of a world in the throes of traumatic growing pains. My own instincts yinkept me safe on the path that was meant for me and what a path it was, cutting through all the urban sprawl, parting the ways, showing me the softer underbelly of a city turned hard and so much more besides. I find, this morning I have the title of my latest artwork (my first artwork in a very long time) readily waiting for me even before I decide if it is quite finished. Its a painting of a swan radiantly glowing in a feathery mantle of vibrant rainbow colours within the dark shadows of an reed-entangled corner of an evening lake. Shine Most in Dark Places is what I find I have been trying to say through it; and its less of an instruction than a statement of fact…for you do! We all do; we can’t help ourselves, once we unleash our light.

So open to your instincts and let your feminine impulses be your guide then you too can walk a softer path through so-called chaos; wherever you happen to be. Blaze your trail through it. Dare to unfurl your full stature there. Read all the subtle clues like the pro that you are. Remember who you already are in those places; that these are already your pathways. That there is no need to hide. And don’t forget to slip your shoes off and feel into where you are from your very roots, allowing that feeling to swell and grow upwards to the ceaseless light shining from your crown. For you may be surprised at the sheer power of the affirmative you receive for this simple act of reconnection with the surface of the earth in places that at one time always seemed to turn you away.

Reference

* London’s Ley Lines – Christopher E Street; an excellent source of London leyline tips (along with his several other books) and from which the newspaper quote is also derived.

 

Related posts

On track for non-duality: healing the rift by walking its path

Layers in the landscape I

Following the unseen river

A walk in the park: healing the deepest wound of all

Where the circle meets the line

Growing up

 

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On track for non-duality: healing the rift by walking its path

This post is a long and winding road but I invite you to join me on it. Along the way, I stitch together so many observational threads about the feminine as guardian of “the long straight path” and where we are all headed in a world that is venturing beyond duality.


I realised something key about the feminine approach to “getting somewhere” recently and it all began when I went on a trip; one that I booked long before I noticed the significance of it. By chance, this trip involved basing myself in two places, one in Austria and the other in Italy, a route following the twelfth degree east longitude line, heading south; so, why so interesting? Because, as chance would have it, I went to two completely different countries along this same longitudinal line last summer. Tracing my life back about 30 years, I found I have been dotting my travel flag up and down that same geophysical line repeatedly, and with remarkable precision, making it (longitudinally speaking) my most visited destination by far, almost like I was following some sort of trail I couldn’t keep away from, or a geophysical theme I was playing with.

Maybe this was the case because (and this was a drum roll moment for me) I read earlier this year, in Carl Johan Calleman PhDs book “The Global Mind and the Rise of Civilisation”, that the twelfth degree east longitude line is where the planet’s left and right hemispheres meet; you could say the dividing line between western and eastern impulses along which the history of humanity has played out in ways that he outlines so compellingly in his book. In otherwords, this “planetary midline” can be demonstrated to have played a “driving role in history”. As he also points out in the book, that longitude closely correlates with the dividing point of the inner core of the planet’s eastern and western hemispheres, marked by a significant change of structure from highly organised crystalline shapes (west) to significantly more molten (east), as found by a group of

Screen Shot The Rise of Civilization Twelfth Degree

Credit: The Rise of Civilization and the Global Mind, Calleman

Cambridge scientists in 2011 (*details below). He uses this information to support his hypothesis that “the earth should be regarded as a global brain”; its problematic divisiveness something we see play out in the events, politics, economic patterns, spiritual leanings and, well yes, so many of the dualistic behaviours of this world. Indeed, Calleman chose to spend the arrival of the shift into the ninth wave on that longitudinal line “in order to have as profound an experience of this shift as possible”. The tug ‘o war that constitutes the way these two halves “meet”, much like the way our own brain hemispheres interact, is long overdue for a grand reconciliation. Since I seem to have pursued the project of healing my own left-right hemispherical rift all the years that I have been struggling with my conundrum of physical health challenges (subject of many posts), this is something that deeply fascinates me…for in our own journeys we ceaselessly find, in microcosmic form, the far broader challenges of the collective, which comes back to the idea of a global brain, to which we all contribute our unique portion.

Newly tracing that geophysical line and the part it had played in my story over the years, I found I had some of my key “explosive” moments there (for instance, right before my health, as it were, became unhinged and fell apart, I spent some memorable time staying in a hill-top village at twelve degrees east and bathing in the natural hot springs cascading out of the hills in Tuscany on that line). Other visits and synchronicities marked major moments of self-revelation or epiphany, breakthroughs, breakdowns, even the beginnings of key friendships and collaborations, flawed relationships exposed, better ones committed to. It was like tracing the path of my own personal evolution, out of which some of my most heightened moments had apparently flowed like hot lava ready to construct my reality anew. In particular, I went to these locations concertedly for many years up until 2011…and then just stopped; until the sudden urge to return there last year and particularly this. More interestingly still, I accidentally timed this recent trip to coincide with the eighth wave going into a night phase, removing the compartmentalization effect of a dualistic viewpoint (which the eighth wave is), something I wrote about recently in my post Lining up with the Eclipse. This is especially interesting because, to quote Calleman:

“When the global mind is compartmentalized (as DAYS begin) movements away from the midline are induced, separating people who move from it in different directions. When, on the other hand, it is decompartmentalized (as NIGHTS begin), the midline boundary collapses resulting in a movement toward the center abolishing previous polarity”.

So, was I feeling this so strongly that I was, as it were, tugged back to the midpoint for this trip, feeling the compunction to walk a particular “path” at a most particular time? I never discount such possibilities since they have reconciled some of the least explainable impulses of my life.

This year, my so-called “accidental” trip to the twelfth (as in, it was booked before I read Calleman’s theory or was familiar with any of his work) took me to Austria and then northern Italy, both in the Tyrol – spending time either directly on the twelfth or well within the auspices of the 2 degrees either way that Calleman allows for. One of the places I went to was a pilgrimage of sorts; it took me to the lakeside village of Pertisau and up in the mountains thereabouts (at 11.69 longitude), a place that served as inspiration for the location of a series of 58 of my very favourite childhood fiction books. The holiday had taken shape around that pilgrimage and was booked many months before I read about the twelfth degree. With that, I realised, I had been attracted to this location for far more years than I had previously accounted for…right back to when I was, what, 9 or 10 years old. Those books drew me in because of a particular way that they made me feel when I tuned into the sense of “place” they conveyed (as childhood books are so potent at doing since our instincts are wide open to them); a feeling I internalised and which stayed with me all the way into adult life, leading to this long-visualised trip, as though I had planted a red flag in the ground and said “make sure you go there”. Indeed, so much about this eleven day trip in the Tyrol felt like coming home…as it had the year before on my Scandinavian travels.

36867046941_34908e0a16_k.jpgSo what was it; was it something about “lines” in particular that drew me…that, as it were, attracted and compelled the female aspect in me? For this compunction and curiosity to go (not just to one destination but) where I could straddle two or more places and feel out the spaces between them felt just so “feminine” in its origin. I didn’t just want to “land” somewhere and take on its cultural trappings, seeing through tourist’s eyes; I wanted to feel it out much more broadly as one does when they approach somewhere more gradually…almost (you could say) step-by-step, feeling out and reconciling any differences. And I wanted to see it from all angles; high peak, low valley and all the spaces in between…even if this took up some of the time I could otherwise spend at a so-called destination with my feet up by a pool.

Just over a year ago I had fallen in love with another line, a route in Wales known as Sarn Helen which first attracted me as her namesake and then because of what I learned about her goddess-persona in association with deer and all the other creatures of the forest and with the idea of sovereignty, all of which is so relatable to me. We have become so mixed up in our idea of what sovereignty is, taking it in such secular terms  to do with power and ownership but its truth runs much deeper and this tale from the Mabinogion (the Welsh book of legends) reminds us. Legend has it that Helen (or Elen) married a Roman Emperor called Maximus, or Macsen, who (in a wonderfully allegorical tale of how a “king”is only a true and worthy ruler when he marries “the land”, bowing to its sovereignty and vowing to respect and serve as respectful custodian of its affairs) made a pilgrimage of sorts to Wales seeking a beautiful woman who appeared in his dreams. His quest to find her (yet another long route to be travelled) and preparedness to live where she lives helps to shore-up his worthiness; a trial by effort in order to kneel before the one who lives amongst all the trappings of Nature, walking alongside the deer of the forest, to ask if she will be his bride. Once married, he offers to give Elen whatever she most desires and she asks for a network of sturdy roads to be built, making use of this distinctly Roman skill set, in order to bring her people even more closely together. Thus she has become known as Elen of the Ways…guardian of the long straight pathways…and versions of her story are known broadly across the whole of continental Europe, Scandinavia and beyond, nodding to how well-connected we truly once were.

The often disjointed remnants of Sarn Helen (sign of our times…) run through the Black Mountains and all the way north towards Snowden, where she was said to live overlooking the Isle of Angelsee. I walked parts of that ancient track on my adventures seeking waterfalls last summer; sensing, all the time, that this route was a far more ancient part of the living landscape than its supposed Roman origin suggests. We tend to regard roads as such masculine things, don’t we, especially when we think of them as having been built by Romans for marching their conquering legions up and down vast territories. Yet many of us also know, in our hearts, that these ancient tracks, and the desire to travel along them, predated those sturdy roads and that all the Romans really did, in many cases, was “shore up” what was already there using their valuable engineering skills and ingenuity; you could say, a marriage of left and right brain skills. The whole vast continent that we live on is a cobweb of ancient tracks; they cross and weave in the most beguiling and informative of ways, highlighting crossing points as places of longstanding interest. They hint at what was so important to those who travelled them and how we were once so much more collaborative and free-flowing than our modern world and its addiction to maintaining borders to keep people out suggests about who we have become. In other words, our territorial impulses are a relatively modern “male” overlay upon the human psyche…and it wasn’t always thus, suggesting we are more than capable of returning to a far more open way of being with one another…the feminine approach. I have come to think of pathways as distinctly female in their impulse, driven by an urge to draw people closer together and connect (not to dominate or pull them apart). Why some routes have thrived, others dwindled, tells us such a lot about our current world and its priorities.

I happened upon another ancient road just before this recent holiday; it’s called the Carmino de Santiago or Way of Saint James and its considered to be a pilgrimage to the Spanish destination of the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela. Again, a male (that is, a Christian “religious”) impulse has been used to overlay the “reason” for the path and yet the book that drew me to it (“Rebirth” by Kamal Ravikant – you can find my review of that on Goodreads) is an autobiographical tale of an American man of Indian roots, not a christian, who impulsively decides to walk the route after the death of his father, on the way back from a trip to disperse his father’s ashes in the Ganges. His relationship with his bullying father had been fraught with unresolved difficulties and he uses the long-steady, deeply contemplative process of the pilgrimage to, as it were, unravel his tangled head on these issues. By the journey’s completion, he has a much softer and more reconciled approach to all of that old and once painful history and is ready, at last, to reunite with the female aspect of himself (a rift played out by his bullish behaviour towards his girlfriend prior to embarking on the walk and subsequent breakdown of that relationship); a transformation marked by how he is now able to reconcile with her and to embark on a new relationship with a free-spirited woman met on the walk. You could regard this all as a parable (conscious or not) on the theme of “the healing of the relationship between masculine and feminine”; and perhaps many of those who go on pilgrimage experience their own version of such a healing. This takes the emphasis off “getting somewhere in the end” (a religious view of pilgrimage) and brings it firmly back to the potential for having a transformational experience that occurs one footstep at a time along the way.

One senses that it is the ancient nature of the route, on a pathway of such antiquity as this (putting those on it in touch with earlier, less complicated, impulses beneath the entangled surface of their present day minds) that gives it such potency. That, combined with all the diversity and challenge of its varied scenery, its undulations, the many ups and downs, the requirement to stay present and aware at every step or risk missing something significant. All of which serves to unravel the tangled ball of string that enmeshes the day-to-day preoccupations of the average person, rendering them more “whole” at its conclusion. What this pilgrimage seems to achieve, as do so many pilgrimage routes, is much more holistic in its impulse than a religious explanation might readily allow us to glean…as though its process is more about straddling and reconciling two disparate aspects of the individual (you could say one side of the track with the other…) more so than “getting somewhere” in the end. Yes, you could say, its more about the journey than the destination. In this, we have the feminine approach to pathways; they follow the line of the rift between two sides and they draw aspects from each of those views, finding things in common and reconciling them…within their own mind. There is something reminiscent of stitching about such a process…pulling the needle through one side and then the other, steadily, evenly, rhythmically. Its a process that I recognise from my own life experiences and it feels like hemispherical healing, in action.

This is what the feminine does so well…and is what, I suspect, feminine pathways (literal and in the abstract) continue to do to this day. What those of us with a strongly feminine disposition see in the corner of our eye catches our attention on such journeys and synchronicities form pathways in our own muddled attention span; imparting routes made up of significance where confusion might otherwise reign. At the same time that I happened to pick up the book about the Carmino, it kept appearing in my peripheral vision like it was demanding my attention. Various films about it repeatedly came up in my suggested viewing; these synchroncities forming their own path, telling me I needed to go somewhere along its thinking process. Then a friend came to visit me from Germany and it came up again. She Via_Imperii_und_Via_Regialives in Leipzig…which is nail-on the twelfth longitude (interesting in itself, since Germany is the one “stretch” of the twelfth that I have not been to on continental Europe…so it was like she was bringing me the missing piece). In the preamble to her visit, she happened to mention that an ancient route joins Leipzig with Innsbruck, which is where I was about to fly to…I might want to take a look, she suggested, telling me that it crossed with another ancient route under Leipzig’s old marketplace where they are currently digging deep to make an underground station. When I did, I found this route, known as Via Imperii from its Roman days, follows the twelfth longitude all the way into Italy, to Rome, and probably beyond then extends up towards the Baltic and, again, probably beyond to what we know as Sweden where I was last summer. Its name could just as aptly be “Via Twelfth Longitude”. Then, when I studied the map, I found that the other ancient route with which it intersects to form a transcontinental cross in Leipzig is the Via Regia – an ancient extension of the Camino; I was astonished at the coincidence. The Via regia is known to be at least 2000 years old, probably considerably older, and has long been considered a cross cultural link between eastern and western Europe; so much so that it has been chosen as a symbol of European unification and was awarded “Major Cultural Route of the Council of Europe” in 2005. Are these not the kind of unification impulses I refer to above and which our world is desperately calling for us to run with at this time? Perhaps some of these most ancient pathways crystallise the impulse required for our future of unity consciousness made manifest as a practical arrangement based on openness and collaboration that serves everyone, not just a nice idea for “spiritual types”. Ironic in a world apparently fragmenting back into nationalistic impulses, there is another impulse starting to surface from beneath our very feet…and its been here before, in a time before borders.

So, what made ancient folk walk particular routes…was it “just” for trade or conquest or was it because they were far more sociable and curious about their neighbours than we give them credit for? Were they simply unable to keep still, unhindered by modern-day concepts of national identity to box them in; or were they just following the deer that led them to food? Did these routes form the basis of collaboration in a world before war or was it more of a spiritual pursuit, a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other walking meditation for people who still knew the merit of that?

In her book “If Women Rose Rooted”, Sharon Blackie talks about Elen of the Ways and she discusses the similarity between ancient pathways as orchestrated by a feminine urge and the idea of a labyrinth. I wrote about the transformative experiences I have had with the labyrinth last year, both in the context of a labyrinth on St Catherine’s Hill near Winchester, England (also an important male-meets-female node on an ancient north-south dragon line known as the Belinus Line running the length of the British Isles like a spinal column (see my post Walking the Labyrinth) and in reference to my experiences in Copenhagen, Stockholm and Amsterdam where I found the streets of these urban settings had a labyrinthine quality in the context of my quest for a far deeper, metaphysical interaction with place (see that post Graceful Journey: A Scandinavian Experience  and Glass Butterflies). As I’ve already said, twists and turns, blind corners and stark contrasts in terrain, in any context, can help us to unravel our badly knotted minds. Again, through black and white masculine eyes, we tend to think of a labyrinth as a “dark, bad, scary” thing into which we plunge and get lost in confusion…but that is more to do with the very clever, left-brained idea of a maze with all its red-herrings and dead ends, all designed to confuse. By contrast, a labyrinth does not confuse…it unravels us (again, like working backwards through that tangled ball of string in order to unpick all the knots).

When we focus on one step in front of the other, and only that step (which keeps us exclusively “in the moment” of the experience), we allow ourselves to be taken to a “place” and that place is all about innate wisdom, intuition, connection with higher self. In other words, life’s muddle, its confusions, its apparent conflicts and divergent interests simply fall away and we gain the relative simplicity of the objective overview that we are meant to be the embodiment of (only we forget to be that, much of the time). We return from that experience with all-new clarity…and a labyrinthine journey, like a long pilgrimage through vastly divergent terrain (maybe mountain peaks, broad river crossings, then endless plateau…or even a complex network of streets, dark alleys, open squares, sharp corners and unexpected bridges) can provide many such moments of insight, walking us through our apparent confusion about life, to unravel it patiently, bit by steady bit. We are transformed “on the spot” of such a journey and when we look up from our feet, all seems very different though (to “logical” eyes) it may all appear to be much the same terrain as before. We KNOW that we are transformed by it…and that is all that matters; and this is what many of my travels have done for me, never more so than these most recent ones since I have come to expect the transformation rather than having it come upon me, as it were, by accident much (even years) later in my process. In other words, transformation comes quickly when you work with the potential of journeys, even relatively mundane ones, to transform you utterly and in an other-dimensional ways.

When we get down to it, our impulses as human beings are remarkably simple…we do the same things, many times over and these patterns tell us things about ourselves. When I got to Innsbruck, I visited Saint James cathedral; in fact the lovely small square outside under lamplight afforded one of the most magical moments of the holiday (I was celebrating my own landmark of sorts…an anniversary…on that day). Innsbruck has its own clues that it is also an extension route of the Carmino and many people still follow it as such, seeking the clue of the scalloped shell along a trail of alpine churches and villages throughout the Tyrol region and beyond. That cathedral  and also the gates of the town are, apparently, embellished with bishops in pilgrim dress, according to various websites supporting an upsurge in popularity for the Way of Saint James. Such pilgrimages have never been more popular, according to one website –  190 million people a year world-wide, at the last count. People innately love to follow clues…a trail or a treasure-hunt of sorts. What I can’t help noticing is how we have become so reliant on

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Are cities all the same now? The sign that photo-bombs almost every view.

manmade clues. Somewhere along the way, we seemed to have largely stopped tuning into the more subtle clues and synchronicities that drew us along these pathways to start with; and now is the time to rediscover them since they would serve us well as a means to navigating these times. We do this when we listen to our body’s own responses to location; when we notice the subtle differences between one place and another, using our peripheral vision, spotting synchronistic occurrences, paying close attention to what draws us on, even to what repulses us so that we can question why that is and whether there is an alternative so that we no longer have to plough our way through what feels so desperately wrong (or, sometimes, we instinctively know we must embrace, not avoid, the challenge since it holds something we are looking for). It’s a combination of remembering to be more like water, finding the point of least resistance and getting into the flow whilst also going with that inner craving to climb high for no other reason than to gain the view. When instinct drives us over schedule, we reach all sorts of transformational places on our own particular journey. I have been navigating like this for years and probably all my life yet, for all too many, its a forgotten skill-set and the more we assimilate one place to another, laying on all the usual trappings of the familiar modern world so that all places start to look near-identical, offering all the same conveniences and branding, the more we lose access to the subtle layer of clues that tell us far more important things. What those more subtle signs tell us is becoming more important to us by the day…for they are our mislaid intuition about our relationship with Mother Earth, on whose say-so we are allowed to exist on this planet at all (remembering, like Maximus, that we are caretakers of the garden, not owners of it…)

When we got to the Italian Tyrol, travelling a motorway route through the Brenner Pass with its dramatic sheer edges with the remnants of castles overlooking it and just so beautiful when you kept your eye higher than the road yet beset with such gridlock traffic that it took double time to get there, I truly felt the contrast of the softer spot where we were staying in Naturno (or Naturns). Our vegan, eco hotel was such a gentle sanctuary; so feminine in its impulses (even the playful sparrows that endlessly flitted around our table at meals day after day, we noticed, were all female) that it felt like being on retreat.

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Remembering Lady Falls

For a week, we were surrounded with the soft curve of lush green mountains, distinctly feminine in their roundness like they had been drawn by a child with an idea of where fairy-folk lived…yet our “spot” was focused upon water and we spent our afternoons gazing at waterlilies in a natural swimming pond that always seemed to be bathed in soft amber light until the magical moon orbs of its lighting took it over by evening. My mind kept drawing back to Wales, to a particular amber-coloured pool beneath a sacred feminine waterfall (the Lady Falls) where I found myself daydreaming about swimming right under those falls, though I only dared to wade as far as it took to sit on a rock with my feet in water and gaze at her long “hair” tumbling down from the high ledge above. The potent memory of that visit and the feelings it stirred up has stayed with me ever since (I shared about it in my post The Lady Falls…and then she stands back up again and I subsequently painted it). That waterfall was on Elen’s way…and now I was here, sat next to another nature pool and, yes, this time I got in, though the water was quite freezing, so I could swim shoulder to shoulder with water lilies and dragonflies and look up at the embrace of the full circle of towering mountains in order to see them a whole different way; from, as it were, ground level and I never felt more protected or at ease with my situation.

Lily.jpgFor everything about this trip had shown me something and it was that while I was in a ring of mountains, nothing about the masculine felt so abrasive; rather, the male and female came together as one, their agenda the same. From the moment I arrived in Innsbruck, the week before, and discovered that, for the first time in two years, I could hold an iPad and use it for half an hour to research where we were going without terrible nerve pains sending shocks up my arm and into my head, also that I could sleep in a hotel with 24/7 wi-fi, I began to realise something about mountains and their crystalline innards. They somehow made it easier to cope with the abrasion of modern technology; they literally seem to transform it or at least absorb it so that I didn’t have to (or this was the theory that seemed most instinctive to me). By the end of eleven days in mountains, I was under no doubt that mountains mitigate the most abrasive energies of our super-wired world with its perpetually wired people (Innsbruck was just the same as any European city in that respect…yet it felt so different to all those I have been to recently). When I got back to London, that electro-sensitivity returned with a vengeance and has remained ever since…so where oh where were my mountains now? I am left wondering where I need to be living to regain the sense of balance that feels swept from under my feet where I currently live and yet why should I have to move from my home; when did living where we choose become so conditional upon our ability to cope with a tidal wave of manmade stressors arriving faster than we can find out about the potential health risks? At least I now know that there are places I can be more comfortable.

When we lost touch with the land, we lost our instincts about these very basic things which tells us how and why the effects of living in one terrain is quite different to living in another; information that we need now, more than ever before. To keep going along this technological trajectory that we are so fixated on (and I enjoy its benefits as much as the next person) we need to remember this knowledge we once had and get back in touch with it; and we need to adapt to the earth, not try to force it to adapt to us, assuming we can install all the same “conveniences” wherever we happen to be without considering first the impact. As an article I read recently (For More resilient Cities, Stop Trying to Conquor Nature) reminded me “when we work against nature we only work against ourselves”. Elen and her spouse knew this…so when did we all forget that the earth is still sovereign (as are we…but only when we work with her)?

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There was something I particularly wanted to see in Naturno and it was a tiny and very ancient church, viewable from my balcony, with an intriguing mural on its wall depicting Saint Proculus, to whom it is dedicated, sitting smiling on a swing of sorts that is apparently being lowered over a ledge from a kind-of window. This image has had academics scratching their heads and hypothesising for years but I went with an open mind, only to be utterly charmed by this little church and its inside and out of brightly coloured frescos.

Dated at around 630AD, it is considered to be one of the earliest Christian churches in Europe, with the most ancient frescos in the German speaking region and built on a pre-existing pagan site. Even the adjacent museum across the way was a draw…for there on its wall, as I descended a staircase to the main exhibits, were several references to another ancient route, the Via Augusta, that passed this way through the mountains; an alternative mountain pass to the Brenner and now, its seems, reduced to little more than a popular cycle route though it was once a main crossing point. Everything about Naturno; the mixture of cultural styles incorporated in this little church, for instance, suggests a cultural meeting point of travellers from all four directions. What little I could find about the Via Augusta also celebrated it as an “avenue of communication and cultural exchange connecting northern Europe with the Mediterranean and beyond” in its day. Even now, Naturno was a bizarre mixture of Italian and German speaking influences, like it had never settled down into one fixed cultural identity. All of this felt Magdalene supper.jpglike a clue that I was staying on the feminine aspect of a dragon line; one of those male and female paired serpent routes that (like the Belinus line in England) “walk together” in some places and pull apart in others. Here, (having pulled asunder at Augsburg in the north) the male line seemed to have chosen the Brenner route through the mountains (now beset with roadworks, traffic jams, toll booths, villages bisected by the road and endless satellite aerials competing with church towers) and the much diminished female current seemed to continue flowing here in this gentle place adorned with so many feminine clues, not least the super-feminine vibe I was tuning into. Those two routes join back together again at Bolzano to the south. So what determined their impulse to choose divergent routes through the mountains?

Saint Proculus Church Naturno
Where the feminine is, especially in an ancient sacred spot such as this, a natural spring is never far away and I kept gazing up from that church wondering “but where is it?”. Near an English church built on an ancient pagan site with a mount or on naturally raised ground, I would expect to find a nearby well or a tiny stream…something implying the presence of water just beyond the churchyard, playing out the almost forgotten symbolism of “masculine meets feminine”. A walk later that week confirmed my instinct. High up on the mountain ledge of the Texelgruppe Nature Park, having got up there by one of the gondola cable cars (which, by then, I had become addicted to over the course of a week…for all that I am usually pretty challenged by heights and, especially, drops) and having walked long and energetically in the heat along a rugged uphill route, we reached an obvious turning around point. Suddenly, I was forging ahead anyway, leaving my companions way behind, as though I knew I was about to get to something important beyond that bend…and there glistening in sunlight was a small waterfall springing out of the mountain and playing over the most sparkling silver-foiled rocks; tumbling directly over a view of the roof of Saint Proculus far-far down below. As I stood astride it and took a cupped hand full of the water, I truly felt like I had found my particular “point” on the twelfth longitude; the place where my own particular meeting point of masculine and feminine occurred since a combination of both left-brained ingenuity (the cable car) and an instinct to walk where I did at the top had brought me to this. It was as though something clicked into place for me there, that day…a finale of sorts and I was all smiles as I returned to the cable car.

Because I had been led to this “heightened” experience via a new-found love of those high-wire mechanical contraptions that are dotted all over the alpine region and which, just one week earlier, I still regarded with a fair amount of trepidation. All my life, I had looked up at high points, especially at mountain peaks, longing to be on top of them to gain the most expansive view…except for one small hitch; I strongly dislike climbing or scrambling on rocks or uneven, slippery and precarious surfaces of any kind. I particularly dislike the feeling of a sheer-drop in a situation where I’m not attached to a solid building (so I can forget about fairground rides). Give me an elevator or a rooftop and I am fine; but a rugged mountain path with unpredictable edges is another matter. I repeatedly tried to overcome this in my youth but the outcomes were never very happy; instead, I became envious of those who just do all these things; climbing, paragliding, skiing holidays, though I never really wanted to do them as such…I just wanted to be at the top or, you could say, to start at the top and take it from there. There was even a well-schooled level of my psyche where I told myself I didn’t deserve to have the experiences I craved because I wasn’t prepared to “conquer” the hardships with my physical prowess and sheer determination to overcome fear (the masculine spin that has been given to so many of the things we do and why/how we “ought” to do them). Yet a deep-seated female stubbornness in me reacted to the  living metaphor that this situation seemed to be for an old-style belief system that states that only those who pursue the masculine path deserve to reach the very top in life and I have long refused to have anything to do with that. In other words, I had long-ago opted out and must do without my views (my version of entrenchment in a belief; I had chosen the feminine way over the masculine)…or so I thought.

36867053351_dbf08bb86f_o.jpgThis holiday provided a solution and it was where masculine met feminine in what, for me, was a most transformational union of both. In the form of the wonderful piece of left-brained ingenuity that is a cable car, I found the solution…a mechanical contraption that would take me quickly up thousands of feet to the highest peaks and safely back down again when I had had my fill of walking at the top and looking at the view. From the very moment I stepped into my first cable car north of Innsbruck, I was hooked…and what surprised me was how it was the downward journey that had me grinning from ear to ear. While other passengers stared nervously at their feet, I would dash on board and rush to the very front in order to secure that near-as-dammit feeling of jumping, or gliding, off the edge like a bird of prey and it was exhilarating, it fed my dreams, it was an oddly familiar feeling like something dredged up from another lifetime and which, now awakened, remains part of me to this day. I would just have to close my eyes lying in my bed hours later and could feel myself free-gliding across valleys, as light as air with that bird’s eye view. It was all I ever wanted; and it opened up all those high peaks to me for the first time in my life.

In light of this twist in my story, I was able to gain the overview of my lifelong phobia, no longer making it wrong to choose my particular way. I now knew it to be rooted in the fact that I try to make balancing and spacial awareness “mental” and “logical” to over-compensate for the fact that, to me, dealing with gravity has never felt like the instinctive thing that it is for many others. This tied in with what I have recently come to know about vata-types like me (that is, those whose constitution is, according to Ayurveda, all about air and space). In our human form, I suspect we vatas remain so cognizant of all our other manifestations beyond three-dimensions that we still remember we can fly, that our thoughts can take us anywhere, that we are as fast and light as the wind. Spacial reality, therefore, leaves us bewildered and a little clueless for much of our lives; we find it slow, clumsy and frustrating. Have you ever watched someone climbing a rock face as I did on holiday? It takes so long and has so many set-backs; to me, there seems to be no joy in something so slow and arduous (though I respect the point of view of those who beg to differ); I just want the journey to be light and airy. As a result of this non-compute it is us who, all too often, seem to be the slow and clumsy ones; we struggle to do sport or even to walk in a straight line…and its because we are just not all that adept at being in a human body, coordinating one leg in front of the other. It can make us seem weak and feeble and we often struggle with “health issues” or even staying grounded in a body at all. This had been me all my life…always feeling like I missed out on half of what life has to offer (those views); yet here was my answer and it happened when a left-brained “idea” met “inspiration”. This is what hemispherical union looks like in our world; it entices and makes real the most divine aspirations we possess as human beings, bringing them down into physical reality as they partner with practical solutions that meet what we long to achieve with our hearts. This is what we have at our fingertips when divine feminine meets the divine aspect of masculine. It reminds me that technology does not always have to be in opposition to nature…just as long as we keep Nature in the picture.

My experiences with the cable car reminded me that we don’t push back against fear to conquer it, like we would if we were engaging in a conflict with it…rather, we override it, gliding overhead, like riding a high wire straight to our highest joy and getting there in next to no time. We don’t need to pain over the obstacles when we focus on the highest truth we know to be waiting for us in that far more unlimited place that has always drawn our the attention of our higher eye; we can get there so much more swiftly and with ease when we don’t stumble over gaining each foothold, our nose pressed against the hard rock of so-called “circumstance”. What’s more, I realised I had been doing this already for the past eleven years…each and every day I woke up in pain and yet fixated on a more ideal reality rather than the minutiae of my so-called dire situation. This was starting to feel like what non-duality might look like, in action.

So it was that when I looked at the image of Saint Proculus on the walls of that church, having been on cable cars a handful of times by then, I felt I knew at once what I was looking at though I’m not sure anyone else would agree with my audacious theory. Proculus, as far as they know anything much about him, had fled persecution in Verona to come to these mountains, presumably finding “his special spot” here too. So, why wouldn’t he look up at those high peaks and, like me, think to himself “I want to know what it feels like to be up there, defying gravity, flying like a bird”; and why wouldn’t he say to his baffled-looking peers “strap me onto this seat-thing and hang me over the edge so I can find that out”? A seventh century cable car or ski-lift, of sorts, is what I see when I look at the clue in the artwork…and it makes me smile whether I really believe it or not. I like to imagine that I share Proculus’ exhilaration at reaching a place that brought him out of the darkness of his earlier experiences and into a high place with such a view and a gravity-defying sense of liberation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen it comes to having lost the over-view, when did we lose our way? Perhaps when we prioritised the most direct and the fastest ways; the most economical, impressive, bullish, hard-lined and non-negotiable steps forwards. So why was it that the Brenner Pass, with its toll booths and endless traffic jam felt more abrasive and really rather lacking compared with the gentle ease of the week I had just spent wandering my way less purposefully on top of mountains of soft velvet green. True, the slowness of the traffic on that road had afforded me ample opportunity to take dozens of photographs (I thank it for that) but such bumper-to-bumper slowness wasn’t what the road was meant to be about, as the miserable faces of all the people we met queueing for facilities at the services confirmed to me. As a photographer in no hurry, I found my own perfection in the way it turned out; after all, when you no longer live life in such a hurry, a few hours spent in transit is just another opportunity for life to surprise you with its gifts. However, though the views were spectacular, I kept noticing communities bisected by that road; churches left isolated right next to the crash barriers where the road had cut through and I could only imagine the traffic noise for residents (we are bisected by an increasingly busy, noisy and fumey trunk road where I live in what used to be a quiet village, in spite of residents’ protests, so I know how that feels). On the way home, we were forced to leave before sunrise for our late-morning flight to ensure we would get to the airport on time though the drive was only supposed to take two hours so, you could say, the masculine route wasn’t working so well. It was as though the feminine was having the last laugh on this road as we drove along slowly enjoying the view; as, perhaps, she is having about many such roads the world over where traffic has become snail-like in spite of every effort to make them faster, slicker, more direct. A meet-in-the-middle compromise is needed here just as it is in every other walk of life; we need to look at where we are going and why, how we are travelling there and how fast we expect to go…not to mention the dire impact on each other and on Mother Earth when all we really care about is speed and convenience. Like in all these things, a more balanced set of priorities would serve us better.

20994289_10210334303174223_3756452112516305347_nI like to think I spent my week in Naturno tuning into another way, a softer way that once ambled through the mountains at a pace that was equally unhurried; prepared to take in the high points as well as the low. Between the contrasting experiences, it felt like I had tuned into a twelfth longitude kind-of impulse, straddling high peak and valley, and both straight and winding routes.

The most direct route, in its most modern sense, can miss so much; yet Elen reminds us that the long-straight route is of benefit to us, joining us all closer together. Maybe that long-straight quality of old is more metaphorical than literal; referring to the kind of route that is a balancing process that takes in “both sides” fairly, affording them both equal attention and finding things in common between them. After all, as soon as we take more from one side of a line than another, our line becomes a curve so we are forced to be even-handed to retain the straightness of it. I notice how this is how I have come to live my life in recent years; for every inspired creative urge I follow, I contribute its equal in rational thought…for every practical step I take with my health I add its fair share of the mindfulness that leads to broadest wellbeing since it reminds me that I am already healed and whole. When I wake up in the morning, it’s as though I stitch myself back into  human form by taking positive, practical steps to ground into physicality. I refered above to the feminine being so adept at this “stitching” process, drawing together aspects of each side of the hemispherical track. The modern-day analogy you could use is of a long-straight zip fastener. If you have ever looked closely at a zip, it is made up of tiny hooks like miniature hands and the zip pulls them together in pairs so that they hold onto each other, joining in the middle. We are that zip-puller; we make it happen.

The twelfth longitude as some sort of “zip” in the global mind may sound like nothing more than an abstract concept yet that geophysical line births so many real-life consequences…the kind we can see play out. Just think about the global kind of consequences born out of places such as Rome and Berlin, both past and present. In recent history, recall what stark divisiveness Berlin has seen play out, manifested as a literal concrete wall segregating east from west. It took a busy kind of feminine impulse buzzing into that particular era of history and, like bees, making honey in the mortar (you will need to cross-reference to my post Walls of Honey to grasp the allusion I make), softening and lightening that intractable symbol of separation from the inside, for the wall to come tumbling down.  That was at the very start of the eighth wave’s influence coming in; the birth of a new feminine era. Now we are well into the ninth wave; so how does that play out where divisiveness still wants to happen? Are we prepared to be the makers of its honey when we encounter this kind of impulse still happening in our world?

Already, I tend to look back at my week in Naturno as a hallowed retreat from the “real world”; a sort of honeyed escape from it all. Is that the so-called problem with the feminine approach…it just doesn’t feel “real” enough to provide practical solutions for our world? Do we still think that feminine impulses are more to do with our extra-curricular pursuits, our holidays or weekend get-aways, our spiritual time; things that hold no practical sway on real-life situations? All too many people seem to spend their time divided between stress and retreats from stress (or stress and times of health crash; days off spent under a duvet hiding from the world); we have yet to perfect the art of mixing it all up into one big picture. Its time to make the feminine perspective just as real and practically applicable as the many gifts brought to the table by the masculine.

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Ultimate modern overview – from the plane

I’m seeing that bigger picture clearer than before my trip. The Brenner Pass had got me to my destination, several cable cars had got me to the top of numerous mountains and I admit to welcoming mobile technology back into  my hands like an old friend as soon as I found I could use it without it without the usual headaches. Digital technology was born out of a yin-yang marriage; a female urge to bring people closer together combined with the technical solution that made that a reality. How many of us now have friends dotted all over the world (like my German friend, who I would never have met without the Internet). I celebrate that I am, in this moment, sipping wonderful tea discovered on my Italian holiday yet made in Germany and delivered here straight to my UK door. I envision a world where roads like the Brenner Pass continue to deliver people from one country to another with nothing more heavy-handed than a toll booth at its border. There is so much that is wonderful about our modern world…we just need to straighten up its line a bit.

It’s sad that so many of us only seem to experience peaks of stress and worry rather than the kind of peak moments that make us feel more connected to the earth or with our very reason for being here. The long-straight routes that we tend to know best are the short-cuts and the rush to grab what we want without thinking through the broader consequences. We reap the consequences in our health, our damaged eco-system and our nagging sense of disconnect from the planet…and each other.

Yet, though we all carry memory of trauma in our DNA, we harbour other memories too; including recollection of times when we walked expansively, openly, without borders to keep us separate. Ancient journeys are literally built into our DNA and we awaken them when we travel mindfully, allowing them to surface.

36606935610_6d4370057c_kMemory of tectonic collision is held in every rock where mountains peak yet they also have far more uplifting things to share; after all, we don’t go to mountains to harp on about age-old trauma, do we? Their constant patterns of light and shadow are a reminder that we can be both of those things at the same time, without contradiction. These patterns change so quickly against the sides of mountains that it is hard to keep up with a camera; yet they are staggeringly beautiful and quite mesmerising to behold. If we could only remember to be so transient, so fluid, so easily forgiving of what has now passed by…whatever head-on collisions we may still hold memory of deep down…how quickly could we recover from eons of repeat trauma; in fact, those cycles of endlessly repeated behaviour could cease. The mountains that I watched so closely on this trip defied their own solidity by presenting themselves as beings of light, of ethereal mystery and by disappearing altogether in great banks of cloud only to reappear dressed in very different hues moments later. They show us how to learn new rhythms and behaviours beyond the hard-lined belief systems of the past.

Right now we are entering into a “dark” time; in the sense that the eighth wave is going into a night phase (along with all the previous waves of our evolution which are already into their “nights”) leaving the ninth wave as the only one that intermittently swings in and out of a “day phase” every eighteen days. For more on this, you can read Calleman’s latest article here (also listed below). Thinking about this is enough to make you feel you have to gird your loins in readiness for extraordinarily tough times ahead (and we could say that we are already noticing signs of this all over the news) and yet….what can we really say we know for sure about the times ahead when the whole point is we have never been there before; it’s a whole new paradigm. What this phase also means is that we are heading out of the influence of duality for a time (since, whilst the eighth wave marks the return of the feminine, it is also a dualistic wave). The ninth wave is also a far (far far…) faster oscillating wave than we have ever experienced before; I can’t help thinking back to those beguiling patterns of light and dark speeding past against the blank canvas of white mountains again. Perhaps the only thing we can expect is to “move” far more quickly in and out of the rhythms and preoccupations of our lives as we atune to this new wave. This is set to make for a far faster evolving “picture” of reality than we have ever seen take shape before (and without the influence of duality); and there’s a level where this is, surely, just as exciting as it is somewhat unnerving. A bit like launching off the edge of a mountain, you could say…not knowing if you will crash or glide.

What could the absence of duality mean to our world, even in a so-called “dark” time? None of us know for sure. One thing the feminine is all about is that we deeply understand how some things can be seen more clearly in the dark; for we are used to finding ourselves there. In that fecund darkness, we have learned how to dive upon the pearls that we forgot we had ever left behind in there and, in doing so, we somehow always manage to seed our next level of transformation. All those women who have ever broken down into tiny fragments, tumbling into the peaty earth like they were lost forever, only to return from the darkness transformed beyond explanation (and I am one of them) will tell you all about the dark place. Its rich chocolaty soil is the bed in which our best seed took root; many of us were reborn there and came back stronger than ever. The key is not to fear it but to seek its clarity and its opportunities. Many of us have multiple lifetimes’ experience of doing this and we are remembering that a little more each day. Perhaps that’s where we are all at, together…taking a plunge into the unknown darkness only to rediscover who we really are down there, ready to come back feeling more complete than ever before. In times like these, it is near impossible to fixate on a particular destination yet our ability to place one foot in front of the other…calmly and without fear…is our gift and will hold us in good stead. It’s a skill we learned in the long dark labyrinth of being a female in unfavourable times; where all we could look at was our feet and the immediate view to the left and right of us. In that place, we remained whole by focusing on what was similar, not disparate, about those sides of our experience, stitching them together as ourselves. Our special skill of unity-wisdom is called for now; for we are the keepers of the long straight path every bit as much as was Elen of the Ways, who kept the remembrance of this safe for us, wrapped up in the forest green cloak of her particular archetype.

Though we don’t know what is coming, we can each play our individual part through the attitudes we adopt and by putting our effort into the “one foot in front of the other” walking meditations that we make of our lives; by which I mean we live consciously, doing what we can to bring our lives into balance. I honestly believe that fear will not serve us; in fact it will tug us down to the depths of previous waves as a manifestation of how much we remain triggered by those same old themes. Instead, why not focus on all the little bursts of beauty around us, like you might on a literal walk as your eye is caught by wild flowers under a hedgerow or the fall of light on a rock (there is much to be learned from the skill-set of steady walking in Nature). Life is full of beauty in all the most unexpected places when we remain open to it; and when we appreciate that we make even more of it appear. When all of life becomes as conscious as a step-by-step walk that keeps us tuned into our highest potential in every moment, adapting and responding to things as they unfold without hard-line opinions and beliefs to keep us blinkered, meanwhile remaining open to seeing beauty and potential on both sides of every situation, we start to unravel all the knots of the past. Life becomes a living pilgrimage of sorts…and the only destination, such as there is one, is to make our world a more sociable, collaborative, trusting, adventurous, life-affirming, peaceful and creative place, all on a scale never seen before. Also one in which an attitude of respectful custodionship is combined with the very best aspects of human drive and innovation, making for a holistic (non-dualistic) way of living together on this planet.  I like to envision us getting on track for all that pretty soon.

 


References

* Waszek and deuss, “Distinct Layering in the Hemispherical Siesmic Velocity Structure of Earth’s Upper Inner Core” 2011 (as referenced by Carl John Calleman in “The Rise of Civilization and the Global Mind”)

 

Related reading

“The rise of Civilization and the Global Mind” – Carl Johan Calleman PhD

“If Women Rose Rooted” – Sharon Blackie

“Finding Elen: The Quest for Elen of the Ways” – Caroline Wise

“The Nine Waves of Creation” – Carl Johan Calleman PhD

“Rebirth: A Fable of Love, Forgiveness and Following Your Heart” – Kamal Ravikant

“Disasters and Non-duality –The Consequences of the Eighth Wave going into a NIGHT on September 27, 2017” – Prof Carl Johan Calleman

All photography Copyright Helen White 2017 

 

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The feminine has landed…so how do we induce her to stay?

Over a year ago, I painted a light and airy canvas and called it Shakti Dance even before I really knew why. A year hence, I recognise shakti as that divine feminine essence that is quite universal though extraordinarily hard to “ground” into physicality since it has to want to land…and we need it to do so; never more than we do now. Like a butterfly, the feminine can be tempted to (fleetingly) land by a particularly radiant flower yet must always be at liberty to move on whenever the impulse (and she is inherently impulsive…) arises. In my recent explorations of Ayurveda, I recognise it as the airy and spacious essence of the vata dosha…and this is what I have been working on “grounding” in myself all these years, through healing, through art, through life itself. Hard task indeed for (as I have repeatedly found) its elusivity is part of its essence; it cannot be forced to stay and offer its innate gifts and still remain that which it is.

The goddess energy that this world so desperately needs at this time, by way of an important distinction, is the grounded form of shakti energy, for the goddess brings this energy “in” to the three-dimensional realm and then lands it into a physical form. That goddess is worldly, she is sexual, she is hungry, she is “real”; in other words, she is all those things the other two doshas are about (fire, water, earth)…only she is also the living representative of that shakti essence; the flesh-and-flood container of it. The goddess cannot be all about air and space; she likes edges that contain her…but on her terms. She is all three doshas in collaboration; and, in that, she is wholeness personified. This is what the ninth wave of evolution looks like. We all need the goddess to return – male and female alike – and our planet’s survival depends upon it.

Landed 2For all too long, the particular bent of this world has been to force the feminine to stay here, against her will. In particular, those times when the vata portal of divine receptivity is wide open (the dawn hours, between 2 and 6 am, are one of these times) is a time when this shakti essence has tended to be grabbed by the ankle and forced down into situations that she did not want to be part of. For, whilst the feminine is wide open at those times…drawing essence down and spinning it into something solid…she is also at her most vulnerable, in an earthly sense, and so attacks upon her essence have been the most effective at those times.  It is as though she most readily takes in whatever is suggested in that receptive mode, trusting all without questioning motivation or agenda…so it can be like planting a seed of self-destruction within her very substance to make an attack on the feminine in her most innate state of openness, making this manifest into the cells of the body and the belief systems she operates by once she grounds into the physical. The more destructive aspects of the masculine have learned to pray on those times as the most likely ones to get them what they have most wanted for eons; which is to control and manipulate the feminine (to everyone’s detriment).

In my own earlier life, this played out through a series of abusive situations and a literal attack, all (interestingly) focused upon that half-asleep early morning “vata” time of day when I was apparently most surrendered and thus wide-open vulnerable, physically speaking. The net result was that these events coerced and distorted me into a misplaced sense of having had my power stolen from me; for I was led to believe that it was so (and even that I was deserving of, or complicit in, what had happened). The truth is, my integrity was never so much as touched (nor could it be) yet it took me some time, and a long journey of self-discovery and empowerment, to appreciate that. These deeply buried traumas fed into other times when worldly stresses and worries seemed most likely to sneak nathan-dumlao-264909.jpginto my inspiration time and, like a slow-creeping rot, undermined my desire to open to the free-flow of morning’s most inspirational thought processes. They saw to it that a pattern of “locking myself up” during the vata time of day replaced what should have been a state of naturally occurring receptivity to my most divine guidance. In short, I was left feeling cut off from my source – abandoned –  and my optimum time of day became my most dreaded; the one from which I felt most alienated…or at least for a number of years. Really, I should  have been landing my most divine feminine essence into the body at dawn each day, bringing all of its gifts into physical form…as should we all…but, ask yourself, are you open and receptive at that most inspirational time of day, or do life’s circumstances make all your physical systems clamp down in a state of resistance? Do you wake up feeling refreshed and inspired or hagged, tense, demoralised and already trodden underfoot by life’s apparent sordidness and brutality? Many of us are putting up with this locked-down state of existence without even realising we are; since we read the early warning signals of our world through our highly receptive nervous system (which is far more informed than we ever give it credit for) at every moment of the day, even when we sleep and especially in that half-sleep state of the early morning. For many of us, this means that, even before we rise to the surface of our minds or open our eyes of a morning, our nerves are already telling us to recoil from life. For so many (male and female…its all the same) our highest inspiration, our optimism, our tenderness, has fled before we have even drunk our first cup of coffee; we just slip on our hard-lined and well-learned responses and head out the door to get on with our lives. And so the feminine’s reluctance to be grounded continues on…to the terrible detriment of this planet.

I see how our very culture has worked on the vulnerability of those times when receptivity to shakti energy is wide open; how the onslaught of high-stress living, the relentless timetables of industry, even the interference of modern technology 24/7 (for instance) have messed with the time of day when we are all innately tuned to this cosmic shakti impulse…which is when our divine essence, as it were, comes closest to landing but can be so easily deterred from making the effort. Here’s a tester: if you were a butterfly with all options open, would you land on this life or would you flutter on by? That other vata time of day…mid to late afternoon, when our wide-awake creative potential and visionary insight should be open to the highest impulses we have access to during daylight hours…has, likewise, been made dogged, world-weary, creaking beneath an over-crowded desk, dashing through commuter chaos, burdened with domestic demands and beset with so much noise and chaos that we can hardly tune into ourselves let-alone anything much more subtle, elusive and impossible to define. Breaking with a conventional work timetable helped me to reconnect to that daily window of inspiration (those times became my painting and creating times). Yet, still, the cultural entrainment and abuses of my earlier life rang out a clanging reminder of all the times I had been “sat upon” and held to a belief system that kept my essence small and imprisoned; basically, not wanting to be here. Those early mornings, in particular, felt like the impossible task of coaxing a butterfly into a box knowing it was only to get pinned to a wall (hardly an inducement to land).

In my current life, a particular nerve is playing out this metaphorical drama for me (like its last bastion of expression)…for I have a pain issue with a nerve called the pudendal nerve which, literally, stands guard over my root chakra causing such pain and heat at the top of my thigh, radiating all the way to the base of my spine. It is fiery, inflamed and oh-so prone to over-reaction when certain triggers arise and especially at that vata time of the day, I find; and any wonder after all that it has been through, this lifetime and all the many others. I looked up the meaning of its root word “pudendum” and it turns out to mean “parts to be ashamed of”; and does that not say it all? In being branded thus by the scientific men-folk of the seventeenth century, the guardian to the most basal entry point of a woman’s anatomy has been made into something that is all about shame and a need for control; deemed only fit to be handled on another’s masculine terms, presumably someone who “knows best”. It is like the so-called shame and comeuppance of Eve all over again; and yet, under the duress of this false belief system, we women have turned it to our own distorted purposes, making this nerve into our own sentry at the gate to guard us from possible marauders (for the feminine has no innate belief system around a need for “protection”; it is the male spin on things that has given us that). In other words, the nerve itself is not “the problem”; it has only learned to behave thus based on lifetime after lifetime of fear-entrainment and so it feels it now has my best interests at heart when it flares up as angrily as it does. It is part of me but it has learned all its tactics from the masculine; just as women themselves have tried to survive and thrive by becoming even more masculine than men themselves; playing them at their own game, you could say. Good effort; but this is not what the return of the feminine (or “feminism”) is all about…at all.

At a time when I should be inviting heat into myself in order to complete myself through the wholeness of incorporating the pitta quality of fire into the mix of my vata and kapha qualities (enabling me to bring my shakti essence into physical form), my unhappy, over-reactionary nerve is interpreting that life-giving kundalini heat as “the enemy” beating at its door. That kundalini fire has never felt more persistent or well-timed than it is right now, in a woman who is fully open to her highest essence and on the brink of attaining the mid-life worldly maturity that lays ultimate wholeness at her feet…in other words, I need it and summon it to me. Indeed, this is the invitation to all women of this prime age-group at this time in our evolution; for we are ripe to have it all (airiness, fire, earth and water…all in one package) and to demonstrate how this degree of wholeness can be achieved, by all people, whilst THRIVING like never before; which is what embodied wholeness looks like.  Our mature woman-wisdom has never been more potent or necessary to guide us all towards realising a whole new reality; we are like the key-holders to a new age. Yet how to do this without the fire burning us up at our root entry-point, where we connect with the physical (which is where so many women fall by the wayside as serious health issues dominate their middle years)? By unlearning all that ever entrained us that there was a need to contract in order to protect ourselves from harm; for, where we come from (all that air and unlimited spaciousness), there is no potential for harm; the feminine is beyond all of that yet has become bogged down in the distortion of an exclusively male perspective. Endless cycles of fear and a perspective that has us fighting everything that challenges us (with a vernacular of “battling”, “beating” and “winning” used everywhere we turn), even the cancers and all the other situations that arise in our bodies to tell us about ourselves, is a male approach that never really fit us…nor does it help us to stay embodied.

Time to relax that nerve; time to let it know it can trust again. Not through instigating more safeguards, more resistance, a bar on the door but through intention, affirmation, remembrance of the wholeness that was never lost…only mislaid. As I work with myself though the physical, emotional and energetic layers all at once, surrounded only by the loving support of a different kind of male; the divine and protective (not forcing, imprisoning, possessing or controlling) male essence that eagerly seeks to hold a woman’s essence like a cup holds ambrosial liquid, I unpeel lifetime after lifetime of misplaced contractions against the natural receptivity of the feminine aspect. Those triggers and oh-so painful contractions (helpful as they were trying to be) only ever kept me from being myself and my essence from truly wanting to be here in a physical form. They served their purpose but the time for them is gone.

Landed 1These are important steps to realise at the personal level; for they are the self-same ones which many of us are performing at all kinds of levels of human existence, from the personal to the sexual to the political and all stages in between. As the feminine learns to dare to take down her blockade and end her long denial of her own natural receptivity (having fully reactivated the divine integrity that keeps her perpetually intact from within), the male learns how much more fulfilling it is to give (not force) and how to enjoy holding something like a tender embrace (not an imprisonment or statement of ownership) once again. And as the feminine deigns to come into this arrangement, wanting to stay, to receive, to be offered the structures in which she can be her most playful and unlimited self, we all get to experience wholeness…together.

 

More on that elusive butterfly Glass butterflies II

Closely related post on my Living Whole website Autonomic nerves and their ceaseless dialogue with the universe

 

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Who we are in the backwash

It’s a truism of life. The universe sometimes pulls back its energy; times when, as it were, everything seems to slow so abruptly that it feels as though all the momentum gets sucked out, the beach left bereft of water. Like after a period of several intense days of solar wind stream buffeting the planet at 650km/second (we just had that…), when those winds suddenly slow down I suspect we all at the subconscious level (though many have no idea why) feel somewhat flat by comparison. The same rhythms happen all the time in nature, in our seasons and in the routines life (the word we like to use is “anticlimax” and, with our high excitement and investment in things always “happening”, we set ourselves up to experience that thing all the time) yet we tend to think the flatter, slower, more vacuous moments are an excuse for generating even more movement and speed.

For we fear the void and what it says about us, the mess, the devastation, things we don’t want to give our attention to. We dread the sense of emptiness that follows the very full…for its as though, in the wake of such formidable energy, there is a withdrawal of life force; it can even feel toxic. Yet it is more like when the fast flowing river runs dry or the massive wave withdraws from the beach, leaving so much debris behind in the sand. In other words, the situation is only toxic to the degree that the waste products of our lives have been exposed in the aftermath of the flow pulling back to reveal what was already there.

Each time it happens, we get to look at what is so starkly left behind; so, if our face is that of a “rabbit caught in the headlights” at that point, it’s because we are confronted with an unsightly mess and there is no one here but us to own it. Feelings may range from mild discomfort to white terror as we are left with none of life’s exhilaration and all of the responsibility, facing what is ours in the absence of flow.

Whether these days of energetic withdrawal present as a subtly nauseating “off” feeling or a sensation of outright alarm, our first thoughts are like a benchmark for those out-of balance things that are calling our attention. For instance, if our first assumption is that we “must” be feeling so horrible because of our work, that says something about the work that we do; and it is not the void that is the issue here but all the day-to-day denial that goes on for the rest of the time.  That “debris” left stranded on our own personal “beach” on a day that should otherwise feel void is calling our attention as the very next thing in our life that needs to be reconfigured or even removed altogether. This scattered debris is made up of all those things we shove conveniently out of sight (like throwing litter in the ocean) thinking it is big enough to swallow all that we don’t want to give our attention to…until these things, inevitably, came back to haunt us on the tide. The more we work on making our lives align with who we really are, the less debris we find washed up on the beach when life’s tide pulls out. One day we may even reach a point when the beach is pristine; there’s not a thing that shouldn’t be there or from which we recoil and that feels like the moment we’ve been waiting for. Its neutrality tells us that we have reached a truly zen-like place; one that we found our way to by noticing all the other days when there was debris lying in the sand….for, bit by bit (instead of covering our eyes), we owned it or we dissolved it away appropriately.

Because the more we notice…and feel disturbed by…what is left behind by the backwash, the more invested we become in “cleaning up our act”. Individually and collectively, we start to think about what we throw into the flow, knowing it doesn’t just dissolve but, rather, always comes back as the unbiodegradable plastic waste polluting the water of life.

pablo-torres-276163When we stop littering the flow by taking responsibility for our lives, dealing with debris as it happens, we allow for the rhythm of the universe to happen without moments (or long periods…) of feeling rising panic, dread or terrible despair in the void. When that curtain gets pulled back on those days and we find a version of ourselves sitting in the control room of our lives, we want to be able to look that aspect of ourselves squarely in the eyes; the mirror of all mirrors. When we have done the work, there is no mountain of rubbish to get in the way of such a moment; no lifetime’s collection of disowned moments that fill us with uncomfortable feelings, none of the pointlessly accumulated titles, roles and possessions we have tried to define ourselves by, nor any of those accolades or praises we courted thinking we needed them so badly in order to feel like we exist…none of that remains. When the flow takes its pause, we want to see ourselves clearly, without all those trappings.

So really, these moment of so-called flatness, the aftermath of something else, times when there is no wind left to propel our boat, periods when we might doubt our very purpose or our point (really we are the point) present as a golden opportunity for self-realisation and growth, like a life-review…a pit stop…time to reappraise. Time comes when we get to say “Oh, it’s just a backwash kind-of-a day…the energy has gone out of my project, the wind out of my sails…so I’ll just lay back where I am for a while and enjoy the sun, rain or wind on my face”. Then, when the flow of life returns with all its vibrance and force, the waters will be even more pristine, sparkling and potential-filled than ever. When we no longer rely upon the feeling of ceaseless movement to feel whole but find ourselves even more whole in the stillness, that is when we know we have reached the place we were always heading to in such a hurry, only we found we got there much quicker by standing still.

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A sweeter way to be

Since learning about Ayurveda and working with my excess of vata dosha through diet, bringing in foods that ground and “pacify” my airy spaciousness, I have had to recalibrate my relationship with “sweetness”. For all too many years I had made it “wrong”, throwing out the baby with the bath water of rejecting processed cain sugar by falling out with all else that was sweet. Sweeteners in my diet only seemed to exacerbate my nerve sensitivities (thus pain) inducing migraines and worse; even those so-called “healthy alternatives” such as agave syrup. I recently discovered I am intolerant of coconut, that other favourite alternative source of “sugar” (I shouldn’t be surprised, in the light of Ayurveda, since coconut is “cooling” and vata dosha simply doesn’t need any more cooling down!) so I had pretty-much learned to sidestep all the sweetness that life has to offer except for eating beets and the smallest amount of local honey.

17Yet in my cupboard stood an altogether different jar of honey – Tropical Forest Honey – and its darkness both called and repelled me. I had been cooking with it, for goodness sake (honey should never be heated, I now learn; it coagulates and produces toxins or ama). Suddenly I was compelled to add it to my porridge (at the end of cooking, once removed from the heat) as part of my new, warm and sweet, sustaining diet to keep my vata constitution well grounded at the start of a day. This turned out to be a very good instinct; the tropical honey utterly transformed my half-hearted porridge and, suddenly, it was my new favourite meal. This honey comes from hundreds of different species of forest trees and still contains the pollen (which contains many proteins and enzymes) since it is pressed from the comb and uses minimal filtration; the sheer complexity delivered by its sweetness unpeeled into layers as it hit my tongue. More than that, I could feel it was unpacking inside my cells, making me newly robust.

Something kept nagging and nagging at me to look into it further. Coming as it does from organic African sources (unique bee hives that are many hundreds of miles from inorganic farming practices)  I felt almost convinced it was being harvested at the base of the northern hemisphere’s twelfth degree longitude (to “get this” you need to cross reference with my posts about the Nine Waves of Creation). After all, its effect was serving to ground me at my very base; reaffirming my cellular attachment to the earth so why wouldn’t it derive from the “base” of that powerful energy line – that would be such poetic outcome. I wasn’t far wrong; it comes from sources in three locations, one of them Cameroon, right on top of the twelfth degree. This is the bubbling spring of the planet that humanity birthed out of…the root chakra of the world. When I eat this food, I’m going back to base.

14When I looked into the honey more, this is what jumped out of the page the most; it is harvested without wearing any of the western-style protective gear…no face masks, no gloves. It takes courage but also a kind of inner stillness, gentleness, an intention not to harm.  Yes, a small amount of smoke is used to shoo the bees from the entrance to the hive but not so much that it disorients the bees; and the fact that those collecting are seldom stung speaks volumes as the bees are clearly not provoked into becoming defensive.

The whole process feels more like collaboration; the timing of the harvest ensures that the hive is refreshed, keeping it healthy. The hives, made of hollowed tree trunks, are distributed randomly across a broad area of natural forest. This traditional practice of bee keeping goes back 100s of years but was on the verge of dying out until the director of the UK company that imports it took an interest over thirty years ago.  He expected to teach these people western methods…but found that traditional ones were just as productive and less costly to set up. The benefits of this revival in beekeeping spiral out into the communities that produce the honey, where quality of life is good (bee keepers can put their children through school, have a pretty good standard of life with the things that they need and can earn even more than teachers if they are hard-working). Young people are able to stay in their self-sufficient villages because of this ready source of income, even in remote locations. Then, of course, the bee population is massively encouraged whereas it would be scant without this burgeoning interest in tropical honey. In short, this scenario is sweet for everyone involved, including me.

There are so many layers of broader relevance here about how we look forward to the future and what practices we use, for instance how we marry the best of traditional and modern methods (not always bowing to the latter…), how we take the quality of life of those producing the product into account and how their personal attributes (especially where this involves handling living things) feeds into the quality and the vibration of that product. Above all, there is something to be learned about how the sweetest and most nutritious things tend to come out of practices that involve the least interference, and bully tactics, of man. This approach to “harvesting” anything feeds into its energetic imprint when it reaches our cells as we eat it; you can literally taste the difference. When we snatch and grab at what we think is ours, the food tells a very different story. Its one of the main reasons why I am vegan; though I have no issue with eating honey derived in this way. Intention is such a BIG part of the process, from beginning to end, when it comes to producing high-vibe food to sustain us for life; its a vibrational message that our bodies know how to interpret at the subtle-cellular level.

This food-source is honestly the first sweet food type I have been able to tolerate without my energy crashing or an episode of nerve pain in such a long time, and it allows my health to stabilise with the warm sweet diet that it craves, enabling me to become more grounded day-to-day and in the longer term. Since introducing it, I have been able to introduce some other naturally sweet food sources such as dates though I couldn’t tolerate them before. In ways hard to pinpoint, I am feeling systemically stronger. There is so much more to all this than just a very “nice” metaphor; it is truth. Western processed diet is just not sustainable at any level of the practice. It steadily undermines those who consume it (as it did me for the first few decades of my life), those who produce it and the ecosystem of the places in which these industries play their heavy-handed part. Like the very antithesis to all that, I have found my sweet spot in the jungles of a far simpler life…and I eat it every day for my breakfast!

 

Images with gratitude from the Tropical Forest Products website

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Growing up

The robust aroma filling my car, that bright-sunny morning after the storm, initially baffled me; like a pot of rich, warm essential oil extracted from an evergreen tree, it came into my air vents so suddenly and absolutely that it gave my senses a “hit”. Then I noticed how the road had a slight skid-factor, like driving on wet gravel, and that its surface was a bitter-orange “carpet” of pine needles…only these were no pines.

I was driving along Wellingtonia Avenue in Berkshire, flanked by the most impressive giant sequoias that I know (having never been to California). Yes, I know them very well since I pounded my feet on countless morning walks in the two expanses of open-access forest off this road during my “awakening” period, shortly after giving up work to recover my health a decade ago. Though visited less often now, I still love to walk here..saving it up for days when I feel the “pull” of these trees and that expansive southward view across Hampshire from the top of the dramatic glacial ridge that lies just beyond the avenue. It can feel like you are standing on England’s last pause for thought before sliding into the sea forty miles away. The Roman’s marched along this route along the so-called Devil’s Highway; and, its said, Catherine of Aragon first met her betrothed, Henry XIIIs elder brother, at a pit stop on this same ancient track through what was then a Royal hunting forest. There were no giant sequoias then; only the Victorians would have come up with the idea of importing trees when there was already a whole vast forest of them…

WellingtoniaThis striking avenue, you see, was only planted when the road was made, in the 1860s, to commemorate the Duke of Wellington, who had so recently died. The mammoth species of tree had just been “discovered” in 1852 by William Lobb, a seasoned traveller and representative of the Veitch Nurseries on his trip to San Francisco. While there he heard legends of these giant trees, natively located in California’s Sierra Nevada range and promptly arranged to go and see them. Duly astonished by their size, he brought seeds, shoots and seedlings – a very precious cargo –  back to England, feeling confident that he was about to start a trend and a very lucrative one at that. In under two years, thousands of saplings had made their way into the hands of wealthy Victorians for planting as giant status symbols on their country estates!

When the matter of naming these trees came up for debate (for in naming things, we have tended to think we can claim ownership…) he pipped his American rival, Dr. Kellogg (founder of the California Academy of Sciences) at the post. Kellogg planned to register the “new” species under the name ‘Washingtonia’ after America’s first President. To do this, he needed to complete his set of specimens but, before he managed to get his collection together, Lobb (having abruptly cut his specimen-gathering trip short to hurry his new finds across the Atlantic…) reached England with his booty so the naming race was, effectively, lost to the Brits. It was John Lindley of the Horticultural Society who chose the name ‘Wellingtonia gigantea’ to commemorate the lately deceased Duke. These are the bizarre circumstances that, in under half a decade from their discovery, led to these mammoth trees being chosen, because of their appropriate name, to plant in two flanking columns along a new road in Berkshire in honour of a dead duke. These actions created  what amounts to an astonishing, if somewhat incongruous, experience even as you drive along it today, 160 years later; one which was now filling my car with the most incredibly stirring aroma after a night of heavy wind and rain. It was almost as though the heady scent of these trees woke me up to a whole new level that morning; an activation of sorts, setting in motion my own set of connected dots, these being just a few of them.

Why I feel the urge to share this anecdote has far less to do with a desire to regale you with yet another example of the “silly boys pissing in the snow” type of history that, sadly, accounts for most of our recent achievements (by which I mean the last several hundred years…) than to point out the extreme arrogance of an age that I like to think is now coming to an end. There is something tragi-comic about an age that treated a several thousand year old tree as “new”, that thought that you could “own” such a tree just by collecting its seedlings, that it could be exchanged between hands (even continents) as a lucrative commodity and then given a silly name (usually a name of a general or a politician; the biggest one in existence is known as General Sherman …). All of this is, well, quite absurd; ample demonstration of our most groansome failings to date but, hopefully, the kind of behaviour we are now putting behind us.

35709209034_29858a3e5c_o.jpgYet there is poetry to be found in all things…even the bizarrest twists and turns of history. For if it wasn’t for this prime example of monetary ambition and arrogance, the giant sequoias (the more tactful name later bestowed) would not have made their way back to this continent. I say “back” because it is thought that they once grew across the whole of the Northern hemisphere, even though they are now the rarity outside of California, Oregon and Washington (and a few hundred British country estates…) And if it weren’t for that strange twist, there would not be one growing on the top of the hill behind my house (once part of such a country estate whose house burned down in the 1960s), an avenue of a further 36 leading from the main road where I live and yet another solitary sequoia due west of my house in very clear view from my bedroom window behind which the  summer sun spectacularly sets. The one on the hill has been my close friend and support for the longest time; I really can’t tell you how sustaining it is for me to lean against it, to wrap my arms around its substantial trunk, to hear what it has to say to me: I’ve been known to run to it like I would to a trusted ally. That remarkable tree has seen me through times thick and thin and I’m so glad that this and others like it made the journey across to British shores…it feels good, somehow, to have them around right now; feels, somehow, important to have their wisdom planted deep in English soil. Maybe the trans-Atlantic aspect is important, energetically. Whatever it is, it feels important to have these giants spread out (and, for me, in close proximity). Which goes to show that, just as so many seeds get sown through the excreta of small animals, even the most lowly motivated actions can seed “exactly what we need” ready to germinate new life once the conditions are right. May all the hidden seeds of light accidentally sewn as the bi-product of  hard competition, fame, social standing and greed be on the verge of delivering such a timely and unexpected return!

For there is “just something” about these trees; something that makes them stand apart (and it’s not just their size). Here’s one remarkable thing: they have an open-celled structure, thus containing little or no pitch or resins. So, a crystalline tree to all intents and purposes…that got me sitting up and taking notice when I first read about it. They also live in three climate zones at once so they must adapt for that; their bases concentrating fully on the business of grounding and sustaining their great size with water and food and their middle layer (which is where 29882254520_835d430f42_o_HDR.jpegbranches start to sprout and loop downwards; their lower trunks don’t attempt branches at all) concentrating on diversity, moistness and warmth. Then their canopy is subjected to extremes of wind and cold – harsh conditions indeed – and so a complete change in needle structure (from being broad and flat for maximum heat absorption from the sun lower down to tight scaly spikes to reduce evaporation near the top) reflects this. I recently talked about how useful it is to emulate a tree in order to thrive as someone who operates primarily from their vata-dosha which is all about air and space (in my post on Ayurveda From reacting to working together: healing relationships inside and out); and it seems to me that these extraordinary trees are a living example of all three Ayurvedic doshas in one perfectly balanced being. They go from being perfectly kapha adjusted (all about earth and water) at the base to being perfectly pitta (fire and water focussed) in the middle, to being perfectly vata ready (designed to withstand air and space) at the top. Bringing all three doshas into balance is the prime objective of Ayureveda and is how we achieve optimum health, balance and wellbeing as human beings; and these incredibly resilient trees could be the perfect teachers of such a model. Like the human chakras, the trunk acts as a link between the lower chakras (to do with matters of attachment to the earth), middle chakras (digestion, sustenance and all the day-to-day matters of physical existence) and the higher chakras (spirituality, expansion, inspiration). If only we could reach higher and higher as human beings, knowing we can operate from those higher chakras without “tipping over” through our ungroundedness or because of being destroyed by harsh elements that we can no longer withstand, loosing warmth and sustenance or generally taking a battering. Well, as these trees show us, we can…as long as we have that strong open-celled linkage from top to bottom. There’s such a lot to ponder on here!

It seems my early morning infusion of giant sequoia essence had a great deal to tell me; all of this, in fact…since I joined all these dots during and after my walk after that “hit” of potent aroma. Not least, they reminded me that even the strongest of storm winds plays its part in our rejuvenation; for it is in the shedding of what is now surplus to requirements and the refreshing of all our many layers that we get to release our keenest, purest signature-essence to the world. When we become the living balance of the three aspects I have talked about, we become so resilient that we get to weather any storm; in fact, the storm only serves to work with us, to refresh us. Then our own reboot serves to infuse those that pass us by with all the subtle sensory prompts that set all kinds of other reboots in motion; the kind of domino effect that reminds us (something every tree knows down to its roots; and sequoias seem to emulate this knowledge more than any) how, really, everything is connected.

Working closely with trees, especially the most ancient of them, is a skill-set that feels so important at this juncture; one which I seem to be remembering from some great depth of my own root stock. It feels like their great wisdom and longevity has a great deal to impart during these transitional times; they are truly “grand” in a way that far outstrips any kind of human-material grandness…yet, I feel sure, we can be grand like a tree if only we get much closer to them. This has absolutely nothing to do with ownership or “using them”, squabbling over them (and all the earth’s resources) like silly children in the playground, but everything to do with humbly listening to what they have to say about the way we work with our physicality in relationship with the earth. These trees are great masters of this thing; their great maturity, resilience and size a testament to what can be done with the raw materials of this planet when we work adaptably and respectfully with its varying conditions and resources, treading softly and not seeking to conquer things just because they are there to be conquered. The time has come to mature beyond those age-old approaches then, perhaps…like a tree…we will start to grow up.


More that is interesting about giant sequoias

Kellogg, who was “on to” the trees Lobb came along to take the credit, was led to them by a hunter called Dowd who came upon them quite by chance. This account from Wikipaedia amply paints the picture: “Dowd told the audience that in the spring of 1852 he was employed as a hunter by the Union Water Company, of Murphy’s Camp, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in Calaveras County, to supply the workmen, who were engaged in the construction of a canal, with fresh meat. He had been out chasing a large grizzly bear; the long, hard chase led Dowd into a strange part of the forested hills where he followed the bear into a grove of gigantic trees. Dowd soon lost interest in the chase and wandered around in amazement at the sheer size of the trees surrounding him. On returning to his camp, Dowd told his story to his companions, most of whom did not believe him and accused him of being drunk; a week later, however, he was able to persuade some of the less sceptical to be led to the grove, where they were equally astonished by the monstrous trees”.

When Lobb was taken to the same location, he recorded 80 to 90 trees within a mile, ranging from 250ft. to 320ft. in height and 10–12ft. in diameter. One of these trees had been felled and measured 300 feet with a diameter of over 29 feet near its base. A section of this 3,000-year-old tree was subsequently displayed in San Francisco. Its hollowed and carpeted(!) slice of trunk was used to accommodate a piano and an audience of 40.

Giant sequoias are the world’s largest single trees and largest living thing by volume. General Sherman, the giant sequoia in Sequoia National Park, stands 275 feet (84 m) tall, has a 102-foot (31 m) circumference, and weighs 2.7 million lbs. (1.2 million kilograms). They are thought to be the oldest trees on this planet, though we can only speculate.

They can live for at least 3,000 years; the oldest on record living, from ring count, more than 3,500 years. Even fire, root rot and dry spells do not typically affect the whole tree; the most significant aspect is the base which, if destabilized, could bring the whole tree down. They supplement water supplies at the top levels using air roots which take water from fog (theres a technique for every airy vata-types to ponder on; how can me learn from that in order to sustain ourselves better from our crowns!). Storms and fire only make them stronger. They are the ultimate collaborative tree; their roots join forces with other trees, they collaborate with numerous other lifeforms and, even after falling, the length of time that they stay intact ensures a slow-steady release of valuable nutrients (for periods of as much as 10,000 years!) into the environment from their tannin-rich bark.

Sequoias thrive in elevated locations (for instance 7000 feet up in the Sierra Nevada mountain range) as the added height provides them with the dry air that allows their cones to open and release seeds…which they only do at these great heights. Taking this back to the Ayurveda analogy above, you could say that, although the experience of “being vata”, which is all about openness, air, wind, cool and dryness can be a very challenging thing as a human unless you are particularly well grounded, these are the very conditions necessary to bring the “seeds” (you could easily say inspiration and “higher” gifts) back down to earth to take root. Yes, wind activates these trees up…and what have we just had such a lot of.

NG_MapofRedwoods_lg

 

Sources:

Redwoods

How the giant sequoia came to England

Learn more about giant sequoias

List of sequoias on British Country Estates

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