14th April – From the very first evening in this valley in Wales, we have immersed ourselves in the happy coincidence that it’s lambing season here. Our first relatively short evening walk at sunset, down to the canal and along one of its tow paths bordered by farmer’s fields on both sides of the water, had taken us well over an hour as we stopped three times a minute to take photographs of the lambs playing. As my daughter pointed them out, I would find myself saying “Bless them…” over and over again, as we all so often do when otherwise dumb-struck by the sight of the most staggeringly beautiful living things. They were such a delight to watch, such a treat to start our holiday with; I too felt blessed in witnessing all this.
Their immense zest for life is the very thing that arrests me; the way these wooly youngsters engage with absolutely everything their idyllic green world has to offer, from the comedic pheasants walking by to the playful breeze that seem to whip them into jumping spirals of the most erratic motion, like leaves lifting off the ground. They race each other in playful gangs and they collaborate with audacious climbing partners, vying to get to the top. They suddenly leap up, bronking and bucking with bizarre spring-loadedness as though the ground has just tickled them. Then, when just as suddenly spent, they gravitate to their ever watchful mother’s side and succumb to warm grassy patches where, alone or in twin pairs, they meditate away all the gentle hours, eyes half closed and, yes, a kind of smile on their faces; apparently transported by an enviable ability to surrender themselves fully to the moment. Then again, suddenly up on those spring-loaded feet, they’re back to scrambling to that water’s edge, conquering the tree stump or forming pyramids on each other’s backs. If you have ever enjoyed the simple pleasure of watching a pack of dogs playing or even (for that matter) human children, these are really no different and their joie de vive is contagious as you watch.
Watch a lamb separated from its parent and you will witness the universal pain of familial separation encapsulated, as we have also seen play-out before our eyes this week. On our drive back from Nant Tawr on Tuesday, we spied a lamb that had somehow squeezed out of the huge enclosure in the shadow of those hills, miles from any visible farm or human helpers. It was in a blind panic running down the otherwise deserted road, its distressed parent bleating deep and relentlessly on the other side and the lamb’s own cries (for all the world, without any hyperbole) sounding exactly like it was shouting “mum, mum, mum…” to the skies. Of course, I pulled over and we carried off a three-way rescue effort where my daughter chased it towards me, my husband kept it shood close to the fence and then I opened the (thankfully unlocked) metal gate and watched it dart back through to its parent.
The scene of reunion, the wave of palpable relief from both mother and child, was enough to make a thousand words obsolete; these sentient creatures know love and attachment, fear and pain just as we do, there is really no doubt in my mind but perhaps we have to see and feel it, at least once for ourselves, to truly believe that rather than accept the convenient belief system doled out by the advertising machine of our culture that it really isn’t so; that these creatures are just meat on the way to the processing unit. That convenient world we now live in has left far too many people detached from the very creatures whose life force they turn into nutrients and, in that detachment, we have lost the easy ability to join the dots from one thing to another. Whole generations live out their lives miles from any farm and the honesty has been lost that was once the cornerstone of the lives of those who followed the herd and were well acquainted with, and grateful for, the lives they took out of dire need and as needed, not by production line; we no longer have that same dietary requirement nor the respect for what we take yet people’s minds are set in the groove of a habit grown compulsive and dogmatic. So, in spite of having done this rescuing deed, we all drove away from the scene with our happy chatter stunned into muteness, our hearts feeling leaden, knowing that very same scene of loss and separation, the inexplicable wrenching apart and so much inconceivable awfulness awaits all of these sheep in, likely, not all that many days or weeks; we had simply postponed the inevitable trauma that is already theirs.
In fact, we had passed an empty double-decker sheep-transporter on the road through the mountains earlier that afternoon, which was almost the only vehicle we had seen all afternoon; its emptiness somehow more ominous than if it had been fully loaded. The very sight of it made me feel sick to my stomach, reminding me that this pastoral idyl we were immersed in for our holiday was no more than a subsidiary of Tescos and a dozen other familiar outlets supplying detached body parts served in convenient wrappers, all part of the production-line “normality” of our world. The irony struck me that though it is the very same words written on that packaging – “spring lamb” – that makes people exclaim “bless them” when confronted with cute images on social media, most choose not to build the mental bridge from one usage to the other and yet its these same creatures…these same tender youngsters brimful with a passion for life…that enable butchery outlets and restaurants to boast the fresh, tender meat on today’s shop-shelf or menu. I watch parents and children run their hands through fluffy new fleece rugs in the farmshop, exclaiming at how much they want one for their bedroom floor yet having already forgotten that they just cooed over the very same thing, worn by the “baby” sheep outside. I hear those children ask the burning question; hear adults deliver platitudes, pretence and vagueness (as though they hardly know, or want to know, the truth themselves) and its this learned and culturally-ingrained state of disconnect that really bothers me the most.
Earlier this week, I was forced to admit that I had been in my own continued state of emotional paralysis since making my own connection, drawing those dots and walking that bridge of no return to a diet of no meat, four years ago; as though I couldn’t quite look these creatures fully in the eye out of guilt that I still wasn’t doing more to help. Yet here I was in Wales, where the first sound to greet my ears through the skylite every morning is the sound of lambs bleating on the hills…I was literally staying in a sheep theme park and so they had made themselves quite unavoidable. What was this telling me, could this be yet another opportunity to heal something, as the rest of my week had already been? The epiphany came through those very words I kept finding myself saying outloud…”bless them, bless them, bless them”!
Back home, I already have the regular practice of blessing all the things I most love, even those I find most troubling about my environment. I “namaste” bow to the trees, the rivers, the views, the birds that arrest me with their song, the flowers on my walks, the places I have spent time in quiet meditation, my food, the roof over my head…I bless all of these things, many times a day. I silently bless the people I meet, the situations I confront, the homeless people, the angry drivers honking out their frustrations, the noisy teenagers that gather in my street, my lonely widowed neighbour who is afraid of them being there, the people and situations across the world that I hear about in my newsfeed, even the politicians (that they may find their way back to their hearts). Like the much-needed oil to the rusty wheels of this world, I bless everything that comes to my attention and, in doing so, I bring the focus of myself to all these things in a way that I have learned…repeatedly…is not the laughable, empty, eccentric or self-important lip-service of a spiritually-deluded person with nothing better to do. The daily practice of all this blessing brings me previously unimaginable solace and communion with other living things; it weaves me into the very fabric of my world and allows me to sense something of my role within all of it.
It has real power when I do this; I know that for sure without being able to adequately explain it and yet why wouldn’t it – after all, this is me in my “largest” version, expressing and directing myself outwards as an expanded consciousness, believing myself to be an energy capable of making a difference, living it large as that consciousness embodied (as we all have the choice to do) and feeling out the unlimited territory of all that it is to act from that broadest point of view which allows that there are really no limitations or boundaries and that all things are possible. If you must have science to back this up, there have now been so many demonstrations of how intent, prayer and focus change outcomes and behaviours; its all out there if you’re interested and its already happening, its being studied, data is being collected, books written and people are gathering together to do this stuff en masse…in fact, this is as real as it gets.
It is the tsunami wave of joined-together thoughts, focus and intention that make this planet what it is and I know that what I do in blessing this world makes a difference, in collaboration with that ever-expanding quota of people that are joining me in doing likewise. Yes, so easy to shrug all this off in disbelief and so not to do it or even to kid yourself that you are doing it when, really, you are constantly undermining all your own efforts because of that little part of you that’s still not convinced its really making any difference to the world – and that self-sabotaging person, I now realised, had been me. Akin to so many others, I newly find I have been allowing myself to doubt, to flounder, to succumb to an overwhelming sense of helplessness in the face of situations I really don’t like and which I find so very hard to look at. I had continued to insist to myself that all the answers lay in “doing something” (and yes, do do something…take those action steps that lead to a new outcome…but don’t stop there). In looking away, forgetting to celebrate what was so important to me, I had withdrawn the most powerful thing of all – my focus, my gaze, my energy.
While we continue to avert our gaze, to flinch at seeing the bad stuff we wish we hadn’t or to listen to the scaremongering of “the news” and all the nonsense they want us to focus on, immersing ourselves in the very worse this world currently has to offer, we bring our spirit down so low that we feel defeated by it all, thus rendering ourselves next to useless or – worse – now part of the problem in a pessimistic world. We forget how powerful we really are and we overlook the very obvious; that when we take the choice to focus on all the good stuff, the life-affirming, the uplifting and to make all of that stuff the new wallpaper of our world, we help to recreate even more of that as the forthcoming reality of the new world we already have in production – tomorrow’s world – manufactured by the mass-intentions of all our hearts.
This is the very essence of what came to me via those very simple words “bless them” that kept suggesting themselves to me so spontaneously as I walked those idyllic lanes bordered by sheep…though the reality was really far simpler than that. There was very little thought-process involved in what I came to know through those daily walks of total immersion in sheep but suddenly I was much clearer about all the things that most bothered me about this world.
Then, when I returned to the cottage, I found myself suddenly wanting to snatch up my daughter’s drawing materials and do what I hadn’t done for years and draw these gentle creatures in all their perfect setting on every small scrap of paper I could find since I had none with me. Here, I came to realise as my pencil flew across the page, lay the biggest healing potential of all, the most potent tool at my disposal because in focusing myself through my love of creating, my very deepest meditative practice of all, I was applying all the full might of my most powerful visualisation via the activity that I love to engage in with all my heart. Here was an instrument of love and intentionality directed at depicting the scenes of endlessly uninterrupted days of gentleness and peace that I wished so desperately to bestow upon these gentle creatures as the perpetual reality of their world for all the natural days of their lives. This, my photography, my writing, sharing my love and enthusiasm for these creatures as I am now…all of these creative, positive, life-affirming, celebratory acts….were, I now realised, fully focussed upon the very change I wished to be in this world, fuelled by the very activity that delivers me more joy than anything, my gift. If we could all but come to trust that in applying our own gift to those very things we most care about (rather than pursuing these goals the way that others tell us we should, even when they sometimes feel so hard and leaden that we don’t want to go there or do it that way), we would each uniquely contribute to the creation of the very outcomes that we most long for because we would bring joy to the table of doing this thing and following our joy is the most powerful force of all; its where our genius light switches on and lights us up like a beacon. Understood from this perspective, literally no contribution is too small or ineffectual as the heart-driven force can never be underestimated.
Just as the sheep carcass at the entrance to the pool by the Lady Falls on my walk yesterday had seemed to block the water’s flow with its foulness and drowning-pathos, I realised I had been allowing my own sadness over the treatment of animals in this world (and a lot more besides) to block my own divine feminine flow and despoil the ‘perfect’ beauty of the world as I preferred to envision it; a world that seemed held at bay. I could now see, all at once, that nothing whatsoever could ever block the flow of myself unless I allowed it to do so; that I was as relentless a force as those waters tumbling down from the rock edge creating sparkling cascades into the river below; I was a powerful force of nature when I followed my own natural course (as we all are). Once I reclaimed my own part in the whole bigger picture of this world, realising that my flow was unstoppable and would always support me and my purpose here the best when I trusted to my most natural course, the routes that felt like they were uniquely mine, then I was able to extract a deeper meaning from the experience of the day before and pluck the gift from it; also realising that this could not ever be taken from me (as the golden orb was stolen by Elidir…) ever again. We are anything but helpless in the face of a world that so often feels heinously out of sync with our hearts; none of us are those helpless, hand-tied individuals we allow ourselves to think we are when we fall into despair and focus on all the bad stuff that brings us down. When we stop playing at being the little children fed whatever other people (with their own agendas) want to feed to us, accepting it all like we have no choice in the matter then we get to live that reality and joy steps back into the process of living…the joy that is the very fuel to our most creative powers!
And so I blessed the sheep…and I blessed them again and I blessed them some more… in what felt like such an apt finale to my week of many healing; and so (having just returned from our final walk amongst the sheep of this valley) I get to take back home with me a new preparedness to open my eyes, fully and without fear, to all the many sights of my familiar world as it turns through all its different seasons, some of them darker than others. When those altering seasons manifest as the appearance of vast numbers of sheep and then new-born lambs in all the fields alongside my daily walks and then, not so mysteriously, their sudden disappearance occurs once again, leaving the fields eery with their absence, I no longer need to look away and drown in the waste. In me, there will be no waste of their short lives…in fact I will keep on looking for the least sullied, most uplifting aspects of what I am seeing and I will focus my gaze there, sharing what I see, as I see it, holding out for a different outcome, knowing this is my true gift.
Since returning to Berkshire, a slight stagger between seasons has played another trick on me (as it did in my earlier post, Pause Rewind Play) in that the lambing has only just got underway here, over a month later. I find that I am reliving the whole experience of watching new born lambs appear along all my daily walks, this time on on my home turf.
Like an important point is being reiterated, this feels like another opportunity to practice using this new perspective that allows me to coexist with the often less-than ideal environment that constitutes “my world” without either feeling defeated by it or in denial, neither of which is ideal, sustainable or empowering.
When we bury our heads in the sand because our hearts “can’t accept” a particular reality, we do nothing to assist the evolution of that reality into something closer to our ideal. In denying the innate power that we all have to make a difference by choosing what we focus upon and give our energy to, we abdicate our part in the creation of that newly evolving world. In fact, we post-traumatically stress ourselves into the kind of paralysis and overwhelm that renders us useless and, often, part of the very problem as we feed the very negativity focussed around issues that then turn into heinous sores hung around with so much contention, conflict, defensiveness, side-taking and unsavouriness that nobody wants to look at them anymore. Nobody wants to be bombarded with horrible images….but when we show the positive ones, the ones that depict the beautiful things and remind us how we get to have more of these if we work together, we start to transform the world.
The next half century will see a vastly altered world take shape; we will probably look back in abject disbelief at some of the so-called “givens” and “normalities” of our current world and be amazed at the fact that we ever perpetuated them. Right now is a time of rapid transition…in fact, if you put your ear to the ground, you can feel the grumble and grind of the world’s stage-set turning on its rusty motor ready for a brand new world to be revealed. This makes us the pivotal generation; the one that gets to hand-pick those things we want to carry forward with us into this new world and those which, like so much heavy luggage, we would much rather leave behind.
I sincerely hope (and envision…) that the consumption of meat is one of those heavy suitcases that we will choose to leave by the wayside (which is, by the way, entirely possible, desirable and probably quite essential to the survival of the planet but that’s a whole other topic…). I have many other visions for the future of this planet too (hopefully, we all have) and, rather than keep them stored away in the recesses of my mind, I newly realise how important it is that I get these out of their box and look at them, in the most positive light possible, every single day…and share them with others too. With that in mind, here are some of the lambs of my holiday in Wales; I hope that you take the time to experience them a little through my eyes and let that inform whatever peace you choose to make with the world you play such a crucial part in creating.
This is the seventh post in a series written during a week spent in a cottage in Wales in mid-April, all of which are inter-related. Others in this series are:
- Pause – Rewind – Play
- Letting go of the need for things to be perfect
- Taking back the wheel
- Journey with Elen: Finding my way
- Returning to source: a symbolic journey
- The Lady Falls…and then she stands back up again