There is a place that I go…that I’ve worked with…for well over a decade now; you could call it my spiritual hub, somewhere I walk to process things through, even when I don’t know that I’m processing them or needing to work anything out. It doesn’t really matter to my readers where the place is; it could be anywhere and you probably have one similar of your own, somewhere that draws you to it, repeatedly, though you hardly know why. Long before I came to understand how I work with this particular landscape, as an externalised “model” of some inner landscape that I am also walking through, I came to this place and found a special solace from being there, like it helped me unravel parts of myself that might otherwise have remained in a tangle. Through my feet, its features helped me untangle and make simpler what was otherwise unfathomably complex; layer upon layer, through many years’ walks that became littered with symbolism, adding a richness of association that was built upon each time I went there (which was often).
This particular place is in the shape of a circle and it is also a very ancient place…with Roman walls that are, in my mind, the relatively modern addition to something much more antique beneath its surface. To some eyes, it is no more than a farmer’s field with a few crumbling remains of a two thousand year-old metropolis that was abandoned in the fifth century; yet, to my senses, its nature-reclaimed appearance is just the surface layer of an energetic reality that I seem to tune into via another dimension.
Long before I knew it with my mind, I felt the draw of its centre as though there was a particular holy spot there…and, it turns out, there is; though I found my confirmation of that much later, several years into walking there. History books tout it as one of the earliest Christian sites in Northern Europe and yet…the tiny Christian church that has been unearthed to the side of a far grander basilica has intrigued more than one renegade historian enough to cause them to speculate, was this really the temple of some Eastern cult, something that predates the Christian model that a whole lot of assumption has caused it to be so-conveniently slotted into for so long. For, though its 13 x 9 metre shape suggests similarities with a couple of early Christian churches elsewhere, it remains relatively unusal in that there are features that suggest a pagan connection and which baffle historians and suggest earlier dates of construction. There is a particularly interesting black and white tiled floor which I will come back to later. On my own intuition, this building felt like the later addition to something going on in that spot much earlier than those bricks were built around it; as though its sacred activity found its match in some eastern philosophy that, perhaps, roaming legionnaires brought some flavour of to this green patch of rural England, giving it shape as a union temple of sorts. I knew somehow that what lies forgotten beneath the soil of a Roman town long-ago reclaimed by nature was really something extending much deeper into that ground than anything that substrata could ever offer up to an archaeologist’s trowel…something that must be felt with the senses, tuned into as though dialling into a long-forgotten radio station.
Which is what I suspect I did even before I was open to doing very much “dialling”…long ago…finding some kind of home in this place and walking its circle…round and around and around…for many years. In all weathers, all seasons, with people and alone, so many walks; all of them delivering answers of a sort and me hardly knowing why or how. Quietly but assuredly, it became “my place”; the one to which I would always go to sort through my “stuff”.
Then I began to notice how the walk around its walls (really embankments with tumbling flint walls holding them in) seemed to split into two distinct halves in the way that they present as two quite-different experiences to the senses. There is the semi-circular South walk, from the East to the West “gate”; and there is the quite-different semi-circular North walk from the West to the East (always, for me, started from that Eastern side…the non-official entry to this English Heritage site, which tries to guide all its visitors from the western side). In the “old days” I tended to walk the whole circle and then…gradually…I found I had my favourite or, at least, would know quite distinctly whether I wanted to do this side or that, the whole circle or just part of it (and this would come as an intuition that really didn’t want to be argued with on each and every visit).
Because the South walk feels distinctly “yin” or feminine in flavour and the North distinctly “yang” or male; there are really no other words that fit so well. On the “yin side”, the view is expansive, the feeling of it “free” as you get to choose high or low, broad or narrow, undulating up and down like a snake-path or to do it all on one level…all according your choice and without any rules. There are abundant wildflowers growing in every crevice, blowing in the warm southerly winds. Then there are woods alongside half of it (a quarter of the circle), with seasonal water to be found at their bottom, fed by a cascade that comes from some natural source in the field above and which tumbles over a water-eroded section of the wall when there has been enough rainfall to keep it flowing. In springtime, thick bluebells dance in its watery shade and its tree-tunnel path offers up all the mysteries of dancing light and shade, the setting sun through the trees’ branches, a cool respite from the heat of the day and a sacred darkness lit by pinpricks of sky at nightfall. I’ve sighted the red flash of many deer through those branches. There is frequent birdsong and much scuffling of furtive animal life in the undergrowth. Once, I met a surprisingly large snake who startled me by coming out from beneath the roots of a gnarled old tree just an inch from my next intended step (the only living snake I’ve ever seen at large in this country). There are two ancient yew trees (stood like Mother and Grandmother) gripping on to life with quite unshakable determination, their finger-like roots clinging like fists of iron to the crumbling edges of the brick-and-earth bank to form overhanging roofs over natural stone altars that have formed like a series of ledges in the weather-eroded flint walls beneath. There is a natural seat in the wall, just before the woods cover over the path, where I like to meditate to the sound of bees in the clover and with about the best view in England (to my eyes), a timeless view, spread before me. Just the other week, we noticed how those bees are now inhabiting the wall; and I liked to imagine how once intractable fortress walls had been hollowed out and made softly habitable, spewing golden honey, like an egg broken open (this seemed to tell me something important about the times in which we live; about the return of the feminine). Oh yes, there is magic and mystery on this side of the circle and it is oh-so sacred-feminine in its impulses and application; like a mystery tour into the female aspect, made manifest as a path along a living route for the three-dimensional senses to get to experience in ways that they might otherwise miss.
Then there is the North walk…with its single-path route (no choices here); a high path, overlooking houses with neat lawns and vegetable plots, gazebos and kids’ trampolines, the close proximity of the road with the sounds of cars and occasional horse hooves. The “official” car and coach park can be found here, there is a clearly visible line of electricity pylons cutting the view, there are farms with their bleating and neying stock of animals grazing, the chug and grind of freight trains on the nearby railway line; so many signs of civilised life, organised life, material life. The winds here can be quite keen; Northerly, sharp, like a cleanse or catharsis, they cut through you and expose you bare in the cooler months or a windy day, whipping you with ice like a facial exfoliant and stirring you up like the contents of a washing machine when it rains. Then there are the remains of an amphitheatre; entertainment of sorts…with a sting in its tail (they found so many horses remains here; you can imagine the rest…) with the Victorian nicety of a bright red postbox situated by its entrance. Then, of course, there is the church; that familiar symbol of organised religion, with its well-tended gravestones, another carpark, the sound of an organ on Sundays, signs for tea and cake, flowers in jam-jars, park benches, village life. All the trappings of nice well-ordered human existence can be found on this “masculine” side and it feels quite different; and though I still like it a lot, it is not my favourite side.
There was a sort of determination, a doggedness in me (sometimes) to walk the whole circle, whether I wanted to or not…like I must be fair or committed to “wholeness” in the face of my own impulses. Sometimes (when I made it too cerebral) the choice “which way to go” would seem leaden, like getting it wrong came with consequences. The better walks were invariably when I learned to listen to intuition and be adaptable at the last possible moment after reaching the junction, with no fixed plan; and sometimes it was a surprise which way I went and led to wonderful experiences that could never have been planned.
Then, increasingly, this last year or so, I found I favoured the “yin” walk; would do just that one and then cut straight up the middle of the circle…only it is not really the middle since the permissive track that bisect the circle (so telling that…) has been taken off-centre in favour of the northern “masculine” half, guiding you relentlessly towards the steeple of the church (which is also so telling of the trajectory humanity has been on for so very long…). The true centre of the circle (where the ancient temple once stood…) lies just south of the track, enclosed inside a farmer’s field; you can get close but not quite stand on top of it – and isn’t that the way its been for this recent long era of history? Even before I knew about the existence of a temple, I was drawn to this spot and would always halt my walking pace there to gaze…at what, that oak tree, the view? Whatever it was that I was tuning into, I found I always had to stop here. Then I learned about the site of the temple (“church” as they call it on the Roman street plans) and, one time, got closer when they opened the site for visitors during an archaeological dig. I was interested (of course I was) to hear all about the basilica that they were working on but really all my senses were keyed to feel into the spot where the “church” had once been though it was no longer an open dig-site. It had somehow become the centre of my interest; it seemed to open me up to this location in a whole new way to dial in to what it was there for and those for whom it had been so important. Then (this experience is almost too bizarre to share, but I will) I went for some sessions with a sound healer who used crystal bowls to repair DNA. Her treatment room was a small building in her garden and she was just a few miles from this place where I walk; so I would stop there on the way home and just sit beneath the tree in the spot where the two hemispheres meet, just a few degrees past the modern church, next to the hardly visible stream that comes from the centre of the circle and flows under the road near the carpark (how many people even notice that water flowing from the circle’s centre?) Something very compelling made me go home and check something out after one of those treatment sessions and a meditation in that spot; and I discovered that the treatment room lined up exactly with the latitude coordinates of the position of the temple on the archaeology plans of the site. When I told my healer, though she was not familiar with the place or its history, she started to weep like she knew its significance across all the layers of so-called linear time and multi-dimension without really understanding why. For me, it felt like an important synchronicity, a predestined alignment that brought me back to myself and the centre of my own healing process; all the answers relating to which, of course, remained just waiting to be accessed in the quantum void to be found at the core of my very own cells.
By now, I tended to prefer to park away from the church carpark and start my walks where I have described, at the point by an oak tree and the hidden stream, which feels like where the two hemispheres of the circle meet. Somehow this felt much more aligned as a central start-point than the modern church. At the end of the walk, we would sit beneath the oak and, in midsummer, would notice how this spot aligned with that other oak close to the temple in the centre of the circle and how the setting sun would set right behind that tree from this position, lighting it up in a blaze of fire. This felt like the “true line” between the circle’s two hemispheres (in replacement of the permissive path leading to the church), bisecting the circle into equal parts made up of yin and yang; a hemispherical division line like the split between the two side of the brain. It felt important to have realised this, like some sort of outward manifestation of the hemispherical division that I had become so conscious of on the inside myself; subject of so much of my writing here. Inwards and outwards, it was as though I was working to regenerate the working partnership between these two sides, to find ways to soften their relationship and help them to work more holistically together (this was even before I read Dr Calleman’s books about the hemispherical division of the planet and how this reflects…and corresponds with…the same division in the global mind). It seems I had found some sort of metaphysical playground in which to enact my own internal vision quest and these walks were playing some sort of deeply intrinsic part in it, like I was unwinding my own tangled circles around these (often conflicting) perspectives on life by walking this path, re-sculpting my own sense of divisiveness and healing a separation wound that was programmed deep inside my own psyche (just as it is programmed inside all human beings as a result of this evolutionary partition of the brain). On all those levels, I have come to understand, a time has now come when we must get those two halves of ourselves working together in a new relationhship; our very survival depends on it and this felt important about this landscape within that context, like it had something important it had to show me.
So the recent summer solstice came and, as had become something of a tradition, we felt we wanted to spend it in this place. We, naturally, aimed to park in “our spot” by the oak near the hemispherical divison line on the eastern side…only to find, to our surprise, that several others had beaten us to it. A selection of cars were there, boots open, picnic paraphernalia spewing, loud music, clinking wine bottles and the exuberant voices of several people in the mood for a party, all positioned under “our” tree. So we parked by the church like in the old days and walked past them, smiling our “hellos” (I worked hard at brushing off my annoyance at my plans being scuppered, my spot seemingly invaded on such an auspicious night and my midsummer alignment taken off track “through the actions of others”). So we continued to walk the “yin” side of the wall, which was even more magical than ever as though it knew that I needed its tenderness to stroke my feathers down; the tree tunnel was wearing all her most mystical garbs for the occasion, with a hint of molten golden through her leaves and I found I craved her leafy embrace almost more than to be out in the open waiting for the sun to arrive. We saw a pair of deer (“thank you”). We watched the sky…which had been cloudy thus far (though those clouds had appeared like impressionist paint daubs in the shape of hearts…) start to open up, hinting that a last minute sunset finale might be about to happen. And when we got to the choice point (full or half circle?), I knew I only wanted to walk to the centre (not to continue along the northern path, the masculine side) and that, when I got to that point in the middle…the one that is but yards from the temple…that it would all come together and so it did.
Suddenly, when we got there, the sun burst out from her cloudy veils and we were treated to the most spectacular sunset, to the duet of an owl in the trees we had just been in (on one side) and a blackbird’s honeyed song (on the other); an incongruous-seeming blend of night and day that, nonetheless, seemed to work. Subtle existence arose into consciousness on all sides as we stood peacefully in that spot; an awareness of tiny rabbits playing in the half-light of the field, the crackle of a beetle in flight, minute changes in temperature registered against the skin, the particular light on a leaf; it was like we were aware of experiencing so much more than is usual, all in a heightened way, hyper-aware of it all, zooming into all the minutiae and panning back to become part of the big-big circular sky and back again, noticing it all. From the east side, the sound of laughter and clinking wine glasses and of speakers playing music still rang out on the summer stillness….but, from where we were, we really didn’t mind; from here, those sounds were softened and could almost have been nature calls akin to the bleating of sheep, those jackdaws returning to their nests, the summer breeze jangling in leaves. We knew we could choose what to tune into and tune out all the rest.
It was like that truism in action; from the centre of everything, all conflict, all disagreements, all variables of choice and preference soften and disappear. In that place, our most strident opinions matter not. From there, we notice most what we all have in common. We stop guarding what we perceive to be “ours”, seeing as such nonsense this sense that we need to own, to safeguard or to fortify in order to have the experience we want. We become closer to everything, in equal proportion…all things being equidistant to where we are in that central void. We find the kind of neutrality that softens the heart and allows it to swell outward; unguarded and free. Those things that make experience so distinct, “on the edge” of life, dissolve to become one point, one focus, one wholeness, one shared perspective from which all things can be seen as equally valid. It was like being stood at the centre of a dial, equidistance from all the unique features that had always made the various portions of the sides of this circle feel so very distinct from one another…like all the experiences of life itself…since they were suddenly all brought together to become the pivot point of ourselves. Just as we are all the pivot point of our own experiences; the one aspect in their midst that is already fully unified and whole. In this “spot” we hold consciousness steady, without agenda or preference…which allows awareness to arise without our interference. This relies on us not jumping from this experience to that (or, you could equally say, choosing one side of the circle over the other) but experiencing it all…simultaneously, without the need to immerse in it or loose sense of self in the process. The experience that comes through is clear, complete, all encompassing, without filter or distortion, something constant and unwavering…you could say, whole….and with us at its centre. This is our very own consciousness, the I Am presence in the centre of our own particular circle of experiences; experiences which are designed to let that aspect get to know itself (for how else could it). We are able to live from this point, in perfect alignment with all that we are, moment to moment, responding to new preferences as they arise (not entrenched by all those choices we made earlier, as we are so accustomed to doing, building whole belief systems around them like fortresses, but adaptable and fluid). It is a place where we get to truly know (and see in action) how we are the ones directing all the action, setting the pace; yes, we are the lynchpin of all the experiences that come together in our lives. We get to experience all the incredible diversity of life without having to be immersed (or entrenched) in any of it; a multi-faceted viewpoint without ever losing our centre. And all we have to do is place our consciousness in this place in the centre and we are there (wherever we happen to be)…always and in any situation.
Even after “getting” all this from such an auspicious solstice walk, something made me stall about writing up this post and sharing it, as though it needed its final conclusion and it wasn’t until a couple of weeks later, when we returned there, that I knew why the delay. This time, it was the eve of the July full moon and we followed the same route around the “yin” half of the circle and back up the middle to the fence overlooking the site of the temple. The moon had been playing games with us thus far; dancing behind “veils” of thick cloud bank, hardly appearing at all…but I knew, somehow (and was right) that she was saving it all for the middle. When we got there, to the exact same spot we had been for the solstice, the sun was just tipping below the horizon line, leaving an orange glow in the sky. It was at that moment that a strip of cloud opened and the moon came fully out on the east side of the circle, forming an alignment with where we were standing and with the setting sun at our backs on the circle’s other side. Again we were the living centre of the hemispherical line carving the circle only, this time, we had the ultimate in yin-yang markers tracing that line for us in the sky above our heads from moon to sun, yin to yang. It was as though were poised in the centre of a see-saw; as the sun dropped, the moon rose up…and so the day turned to night. Once again, we could not been in a better place to witness this alignment, nor to have the very best experience of it, than where we were standing…right at the centre. Such is a truism of life.
Many things have come (and will continue to come) from the way that I interact with this place, my special place, yet this one was as beautifully simplistic as it was profound. It reminded me that the centre isn’t a place so much as state of being; that all places ever do is teach us how to interact with ourselves, serving us to better know ourselves and navigate our inner landscape so that we may better know all the diversity and richness that is presented by our world; whilst allowing others to do likewise. Its message was as timeless as it was currently applicable and I continue to unfold it through all my daily experiences, drawing on it constantly so that I may better hold my own centre, whatever variables life may seem to throw up along the vastly contrasting portions of my path.
The following morning, I drew up this sketch of a pattern I had in my mind’s eye of the sun-moon alignment in the West and East (the previous night) working with the yin yang hemispheres of the circle to the South and North. The alternate corners of the circle are suggestive of a binary code and I find that they are meaningful in many ways that are applicable to me when I work with the masculine and feminine aspects in human experience (and the ways that we go about seeking balance between them…sometimes going too heavily into the masculine/yang and equally, these days, tipping too concertedly towards the feminine/yin as though we must compensate for some sort of unfairness that we perceive needs to be rectified; these are all third-dimensional belief systems and have no place where we are headed). For instance, it is telling to me that “the church” is positioned in the yang-yin corner (spirituality…on male terms; organised and made formal, with an intermediary deemed necessary between the individual and “source”) while the woods, water, snake, wildness etc. are to be found in the yin-yang corner (magic and mystery, with a “dangerous” edge; as has been necessary for the feminine aspect to adopt so that she could survive such a domantly “yang” world over the last 6000 years). The yin-yin and yang-yang corners are the most neutral-feeling in that they lack contrast, yet…in their own way…they are out of balance since they are “all one way”, as it were; and a one-party system does not constitute balance. A more ideal pattern…surely…would be alternate corners conconsisting of yin-yang and yang-yin all the way around the circle of experience yet I suspect we have got far closer to the model I have just drawn in recent history; people tend to fall into one of these four corners (I can trace my own life-journey through several of them), many into those “all of nothing” camps…a place that can become entrenched in its own viewpoint at the expense of seeing anybody else’s.
Although I knew about, and had presumably seen before, the tiled floor that was uncovered in the temple at the centre of the circle (probably last seen by me four or five years ago), I was astonished when I reminded myself what this looked like shortly after drawing up my sketch. Here it is. It is one of the features of the building that has had historians scratching their heads but I feel I have my own answer to it when I associate it with all that I have just shared above. Whoever made this floor thousands of years ago was surely already onto something that I am only just starting to fathom, it seems. Perhaps this is why whoever lived here long-long ago found their kinship with a culture that, perhaps, drifted here from the East and helped to co-create a building that was anything but “just” another Christian church, even if it was adopted as such at a later time. This yin-yang yang-yin floor helps me to explain (such as I need to) why I feel so at home in this place. I like to think people from both east and west hemispheres of this planet felt this too; modelling how to coexist side-by-side in one small English location long before religion and so many other ideas of the mind made such almighty challenge of it all; planting a seed of potential for this to be remembered once more, as it needs to be now, so that we can better navigate whatever challenging times lay ahead for us all (for MUCH more on this conclusion, read on in Walls of Honey). Better still could be if we use those rapidly alternating, bizarely relatable (they are not all that dissimilar…) yan-ying / yin-yang experiences to find our way back to the middle; to start to live from that “place’ in the centre, then all things become possible.
The place in question; although it is almost incidental to the work that I have done with it, is Silchester; to anybody else, perhaps, just a quiet field in the south of England…