Remembering wholeness

Tower poppies 14

Some years ago, I had a friend (I think we have all had this friend) who used to wheel out all the very same stories of her sadness, her tragedies and her loss and so re-experience them, every time I saw her, keeping them fresh, alive and current in her daily experience by dwelling on them. As a result, the same “stories” kept happening to her over and over again; only the actors changed, and she could never understand why she couldn’t move on, start afresh, find people who would behave differently towards her, find happiness and feel whole.

On my next trip to London, I plan to stop off to see the poppy installation by ceramic artist Paul Cummins  (setting by Tom Piper) at the Tower of London; not to keep alive an old pageant that has played out through all of my life, but to lay it all to rest. This will be the last time I engage in the swooning pathos of remembrance for wars that took place before I was born, the solemn reminder of which permeated every November of my childhood and beyond; as fixed a cultural reference point as the Christmas that came straight after it, an annual ritual observed just as “religiously”, doggedly by parents with direct personal experience of both “world” wars so that they became part of the very fabric and fibre of my life too. This will be the last time, not because I don’t care or appreciate, respect or understand the sorrow and the pain that shoots amongst people and fragments their world like shards of glass as a result of conflict; the profound loss and sacrifice of it all but because I don’t choose to put my energy into these circumstances playing out over and over again, because I REALLY intend to write a new story and that means letting go of the perpetual reenactment.

I am an old hand at how the reenactment of old behaviour patterns sets the grooves that deeply engrave these patterns of behaviour we wish so desperately to leave behind, which then become fixed, for this is how the body holds memory of trauma that has long-ago passed by within the myofascia and stores it up in the cells, causing distortion and pain long after the causal “event” has gone. Underlying it is a misguided “belief” that we have been taught as a truth and so we doggedly grip onto this; one based upon fear, the fear that if we don’t hold onto that trauma and reenact its “story” like a cursory tale, we will make the same mistake again and again. Yet I know from direct experience how a new pattern of behaviour can only be created out of a different focus; a focus upon the positive, the uplifting and the light-filled, in order to release the heavy burden of that past trauma. And to heal, we really have to want to release this trauma; to address any underlying agendas that make us wish to keep reenacting the woe, or to keep the drama of “what happened to us” alive in the “story” we tell people about ourselves, and to release those too. We have to ask “am I truly committed to leaving pain, trauma and sadness behind now?” so that we can drop that story and any pathos it might inspire in the telling, in order to be ready for complete healing to take place. We have to be ready to remember who we really are, in our wholeness, which is the way we started at the very beginning.

The installation is called Blood Swept Lands and I choose to take this as “its time to sweep it all clean”, to flush the old wound out with a healing blood that is entirely symbolic; energetically, alchemically cleansing the mindset of our generation and beyond without the call for the spilling of a single drop more of “the real thing”. As we see this installation in all the shock-factor of its symbolism, we are in effect asking ourselves how much we really want this healing now; I mean really want it…no ifs and buts…and putting our combined focus upon that in a way that has the potential to transform.

PoppiesAnd I want to see this installation because I adore the striking beauty of a field of reddest poppies dancing in the breeze and wish to reclaim that imagery for my most joyful experiences, without seeing spilled blood wherever they are. The Tower of London has seen plenty of that, over its centuries, and I’ve still never managed to take myself past its threshold…having no longing to feel into its darker crevices. I will be there to see it from the outside, bathed in flowers that are like a very symbol of transformation, its bloody past cleansed in so much striking beauty of poppies newly sprung in the heart of this time-ravished place, as by surprise they spring up along hedgerows, around derelict buildings and on landfill sites and dance so merrily along the edges of our roads and all those other foot-worn markers of the human journey that takes us, endlessly, from one old-familiar, time-trodden place onto pastures new.


Why did I write this post today; my original intention being to write about my visit to the installation after I had been? I had hardly opened my eyes before I started typing it.

Last night, I watched the first episode of the new series of “Downton Abbey”…and the heated discussion about the erection of a war memorial in the village which would, in the opinion of the village school teacher, serve as an expensive monument to a pointless war that killed millions of people for no reason, keeping the pain and futility of all that fresh and alive in people’s hearts and minds for many years to come. 

I woke with the lyrics from Marketa Irglova’s song “Time immemorial” playing on loop in my head: 

“We didn’t start this war, or the one before……” (and it continues) “Since time immemorial, there’s been conflict and war – each one greater than the one before…..don’t you see fear has been our sole enemy. But you and I have minds of our own…..we are the heart and soul of our greater whole. All we ever wanted was to come home to ourselves…..you and I can break the circle, we don’t have to feed the flames…..” 

“Immemorial” sounds like it should be the opposite of “memorial”; it refers to something that goes back so far in “time” that we can no longer remember its origins; there are no “hard” records of those times and the issues that seemed so important then; so you would think there were no grievances left to hold onto or reenact from those times. 

Yet when we set behaviour patterns in motion that stick through endless repetition, we become our own memorial to those times “immemorial”. Patterns of dysfunction become their very own reminder; laid like deep trenches of behaviour that determine the route that we take, over and over again, scaring the landscape of our world. No longer knowing why we pitch in hatred and opposition against our fellow human beings, we continue to do so because “we have always done it that way”. 

Clearly these threads came together synergistically in my consciousness this morning as I wrote this post fluidly and with such a strong feeling of it needing to be said today (not tomorrow). Such apparently random cross-overs give me such optimism because if many of us were to join in this rolling act of synergy…who knows –  for we can, indeed, remember who we were before time immemorial, stop feeding the flames, break the circle…and now is our chance.

Related posts:

Poppy image with thanks – Katariina Järvinen
Lyrics referred to – from “Time Immemorial” on the album ‘Muna’ written by Margheta Irglova

About Helen White

Helen White is a full-time professional artist (painting moments of everyday radiance in oil on canvas), a photographer, fabric designer and published writer with several blogs, on various topics, to her name. Light on Art is her art-related blog sharing recent artworks and inspiration.Living Your Whole Life is a health and lifestyle blog sharing all the many highlights of learning how to transform your health and wellbeing (spiralling out of ten years recovering from fibromyalgia). Spinning the Light is a very broad-based platform of self-discovery where she explores the everyday alchemy that is available to all beings just as soon as they open up to life's fullest potential.Helen White Photography is a portal for sharing her Fine Art photographs which are available as Limited Edition prints.
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7 Responses to Remembering wholeness

  1. A very thought-provoking post Helen. I’d never thought of memorials in this way, but it is so true that to move on we have to think and do things differently.

  2. Pingback: Towering poppies | scattering the light

  3. Karin Van den Bergh says:

    Indeed, thought provoking and at the same time a questioning theme I’ve been subjected to as well.
    So long as we keep engraving the trenches, so long the enduring suffering continues..
    Just before we moved to Boston 3 years ago, we went touring the landing beaches of Normandy. I had visited them years ago during a schooltrip but since it was my son’s wish for his 12th birthday present (and my husband is a fan too), this girl had to endure a week of wartime all over again. It was however still an educating experience, refreshing my memory, now so many years later as I was more interested to learn about it than back in my teens. This year, because of the 100th commemoration of WWI (which in this country at least always seems to be in the shadow of the Second WW) I wanted to participate (virtually) one last time in bringing homage to this part in history and also concluded that this would be the end. Never forget, no (how could we) and in all due respect! but already enough memorials, ceremonies and especially movies have been erected and directed for this theme..Gosh every year they seem to dig up yet another story that they could turn into a movie.
    There’s a time for everything and I hope that someday we will be able to put this behind (maybe not in this lifetime but we’ll see)

    • Helen White says:

      Interesting what you shared about the trench visit as my husband is hugely into all that too and there was talk of us going (I saw the Normandy beaches when I was a child, on a school trip and have no particular desire to stoke all that up). We seem to have dropped that idea now and, interestingly, my daughter should have been going on a school trip that they do every year but that has now also been changed. Maybe its just time to remember, yes, move on.

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