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Relationship

There is a Season

The weeks before Christmas leave me breathless. Perhaps like me, you have a clamorous inbox of shoulds and ought-tos. An avalanche of choices, decisions to be made. Deadlines to complete before the holidays.  For many of us, uncomfortable emotions pop like Christmas crackers at family gatherings. We toss, turn and fret over problems that are still-born. How do we soothe the seeping hurt that curls cold fingers around this season of exuberance and joy? If this is the first, or one in many year ends that swirl around the carousel of loss, we may be still mourning the presence of the one we have loved.Our heart may ache inexplicably as the old year ends with such finality. As families gather together we may feel unspeakably alone amidst the tinsel and the gaudy lights. How do we draw up festive ebullience within ourselves when our well is dry? When what we really want to do is close the door, turn out the light, stay home tonight – and tomorrow night?

Ancient traditions and spiritual wisdom are underpinned by the knowledge of the silent circuit of the great wheel of the year. As the seasonal energies realign with the solstice, our body rhythms realign with the seasonal shifts. Western medicine is largely ignorant of what shamans, Chinese and Indian healers have known for centuries. Our minds, our bodies, our psyches have cycles. The calendar year may be coming to an end now, but we may still be in the midst of a long winter cycle of intensely private grieving.  The lyrics of a song played on New Year’s Eve may draw us back to a different time and another place, to a small unmarked grave where a piece of our heart is buried. We may be gestating a new greening. Or we may heroically be at the zenith of our own personal summer where we resolve to bring our Best Self to the silent spaces in relationships that speak eloquently of pain and disappointment, loss and longing.

The calendar year is a man-made construct. In the cyclical nature of our own lives, let us take time to pause in these weeks before the holidays. Perhaps to tenderly anoint the scars of painful losses. Perhaps to finally relinquish all our hopes or expectations of things being different.  Perhaps to find the Grace to accept those things we cannot change. Endings can be stock taking times. Times to acknowledge that if we were ready to make those changes in our life, taken that different road, we would have. Times of knowing that we did the best we could at the time.

So let’s go gently as the weeks gather momentum for the crescendo of the solstice on December 21st. Amidst the Christmas carols that loop repetitively from sound systems in shopping malls and supermarkets, the frenetic hurrying to buy what we think our loved ones want, the strenuous exertion, the anticipation in the planning, the doing, as this calendar year draws to a close, let us be kind to our weary bodies. In the flurry to buy food, gifts, stocking fillers, ask yourself today what is it I truly need now? Amidst the bright babble of the office party, the fairy lights of the crowded malls, amidst the heated rush of hurry, re-claim a few moments of sumptuous silence in the gap between the in-breath and the out-breath.  What do I truly need now? The answer may come as one of those delicious surprises we find behind the tiny windows of the advent calendar. Our needs may be quite simple really. More sleep. This might mean loving our self enough to get into bed earlier. A sudden craving for rice pudding and custard that brings comfort reminiscent of a childhood when it snowed and all the word was white? This might mean buying pearl rice and switching on the oven to pre-heat. The strength to forgive the one who has hurt us so deeply. The willingness to forgive ourselves for hurting them too. This will certainly require humility and Grace.

What we need may be priceless. The simplicity of  being in the presence of those we love with all our human hearts. A pause in the busyness.  Time to think. The strength to say no. In a voice that speaks as authentically now as it did in the 12th Century, the mystic Hildegard of Bingen invites us to “glance at the sun. See the moon and the stars. Gaze at the beauty of earth’s greenings. Now, think.

Know that our soulfulness ebbs and flows. Know that it has seasons of joy and of sorrow. So as the gyre of this year comes full circle, take time to harvest the abundant treasures of your heart. Tell yourself how well you have done, how far you have travelled, how very brave you have been. Cultivate a garden of gratitude. Pause and smell new fragrances. Stop and really see the moon and the stars.  Savour the flavours of this season, and know that this too shall pass.

Art by Julianna Bright.

 

The Byrds sixties classic – Turn! Turn! Turn!

1

Daisies of the Galaxy

“Be glad. Be good. Be brave.” Wrote Eleanor Emily Hodgman Porter in her best-selling novel, Pollyanna. The year was 1913. This simple statement resonated in the matrix of the Collective Consciousness as the dark war clouds blotted the sun over the Balkans and young men were soon to drown in their blood in the trenches of World War 1. Ninety-nine years later, we continue to enlist in our private battles for survival – financially, emotionally, or spiritually. When everything around us seems to be falling apart, this steadfast statement bids us first and foremost, to be grateful. To conduct our lives with integrity and valour. The fortitude and unwavering optimism of eleven-year-old Pollyanna offered the comfort of hot-buttered toast and a cup of sweet tea at a point of impact in western civilization when there was no going back. When to be glad, good, and brave, was one constant beacon amidst cataclysmic change.

So often we hit a wall. Collide with an immovable force that profoundly alters the trajectory of our life: the accident, the lawyer’s letter, the termination of  our employment, the conversation with our doctor that leaves us haemorrhaging  hope. We stand at the door unopened. We tremble; we know with every fibre of our being that there will be no going back. When we cross this threshold, this crossing will reverberate across future decades of our lives – and the lives of those we love so fiercely. When we take those fateful steps, we feel in the deep silence of our heart, that we have to choose: to be angry, bitter, desperately powerless to change or control what has gone before. Or to be glad, good, and very brave. Pollyanna is a virtuoso at making deliciously sweet lemonade from the tart lemons in her life. She adroitly gathers comfort and joy from the shards of pain and misfortune. And she is skilled at playing The Glad Game. The rules are simple: find something to be glad about in every circumstance of your life.

Happiness, and her twin sister, Joy, dance in Gratitude, in the “little things that are the hinges of the universe” according to newspaper columnist and novelist, Fanny Fern. Gratitude is a spoonful of sugar to crankiness. Gratitude is like a garden. It requires careful tending if we want it to flourish. It may require gentle coaxing back into bloom after a storm or the cruel crush of frost. It certainly takes a good sprinkling of imagination and a stir of magic to feel it sometimes, and yet like the fairies that sit on our garden wall and fly about our heads as we water the rose bushes, it is always there if we look. If we believe.

Melody Beattie believes.  Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.”

Physicist Stephen Hawking who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in his twenties believes. He once told the New York Times, “my expectations were reduced to zero when I was twenty-one. Everything since then has been a bonus.”

Gratitude, like Love, is a choice. It’s an inside job. If we feel like Cinderella, no pumpkin carriage, no diamond tiara, glass slipper, or handsome Prince will make us authentically, radiantly happy. If we play the Glad Game, and cheat because we don’t truly — in our authentic truthful hearts — believe, but go through the motions, we cannot evoke the magic. We cannot fake it ’til we make it. We cannot buy, Botox, or bargain our way to Gratitude and contentment. We cannot pretend to be Little Miss Sunshine if we feel like The Snow Queen.

Lévy-Bruhl and, later, Jung, wrote of the Participation mystique.  That mystical participation that can manifest in situations and material things in our lives. That sense of wonder and magic that is inherent in small children and has been codified as The Law of Attraction. We are required to “always look on the bright side of life” as we bravely embrace the contradictions, the baffling complexity, and buckle up for those roller coaster rides that leave us whip-lashed, aching and bruised. Says Neale Donald Walsch, “gratitude in advance is the most powerful creative force in the universe. Most people do not know this, yet it is true. Expressing Thankfulness in advance is the way of all Masters. So do not wait for a thing to happen and then give thanks. Give thanks before it happens, and watch energies swirl!”

Gratitude must become habitual for the magic to work. Author Sarah Ban Breathnach invites us to write down five simple things we appreciate each day. “Things like my morning coffee, the beauty of my mountain home, the music of the songbirds sharing my backyard, the health to enjoy this day, and the freedom to do what I love…. You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you.” 

So observe those wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings. Give thanks that the silver white winters will melt into springs … And like Maria, in the Sound of Music, simply  remember your favourite things … “when the dog bites. When the bee stings. When I’m feeling sad. I simply remember my favourite things… and then I don’t feel…so bad.” 

Eels – Daisies of the Galaxy

Take heart my little friend
And push back your seat
Soon we’ll be far away
Far from the street
Where you learned how to be
Not what you are…

I’ll pick some daisies
From the flower bed
Of the galaxy theatre
While you clear your head
I thought some daisies
Might cheer you up..

Firelight  and Kingfisher by artist Molly Brett

4

Cause I Love You

We talk glibly of Love as if it can be bought like a bag of pastel-coloured macaroons. Or conjured up by a psychic who says, deftly spreading a well worn deck of cards: “now let’s look at the love-life!”

We talk flippantly of Love as if Love can be compartmentalised into a neat life all of its own.  As if Love is a play-thing, to put aside when we tire of it, or it becomes too big and boisterous for our small stingy lives. Each one of us yearns (whether we will admit it or not) to be loved and cherished. To have someone to love and cherish in return. Yet still we lazily window-shop for Love on dating sites. Foolishly mistake Love for Sex.  Are not truly brave enough to do the inner work to weed our garden so that a small seed of Love may grow tall in the sunlight.

Many of us live our lives vicariously through the lives of other heroes or heroines. We balk at provocative choices. Terrified we may expose our soft-bellied vulnerability, we manacle ourselves with the cold steel fear of rejection, memories of past betrayals, disappointments. We play it safe, never daring to throw the dice lest we score too high for comfort. Then one new day, we awake to find our fervent prayers have been answered by a benevolent god! How we tremble and shake in unspeakable terror as we stand on the precipice; afraid to take that giant leap, to tumble weightlessly into Love. Afraid to do what it takes to be with the one we cannot be without. Love, like old age, and death, is not for the squeamish. To fall into Love requires valour. To stay in Love demands tenacity.

Science makes an attempt to measure the power of Love by assigning our light-headed omnipotence and euphoria to dopamine and oxytocin. Mood-altering chemicals that flood our brains and make us feel ecstatic. Our right (emotional intuitive) brain lights up like a Christmas tree, and our left (logical language) brain is all shook up, without words to adequately describe … well, nothing really matters any more, except the urgent desire to be with the one we love forever and ever … Astrology describes the synastry, the poetry of the composite chart of a relationship, yet not our warm arousal from a long slumber and our pulse that beats with ardour,  urgent passion.  We can measure the how. But why we fall we fall in love, why we swoon in the languor of our eroticism, why we bow our heads to our heart’s holiness, why we enter the hallowed portals with blouse unbuttoned, tossing our hair in the face of our morbid fears, remains a Mystery. “Nothing is Mysterious. No human relation. Except Love,” Susan Sontag wrote.

Love is the song of our soul, our connection with our own Divinity. We must take in Love through all six of our senses; imbibe it through all our orifices. Experience it, fully, bravely, with all our human hearts.

“Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced,” wrote John Keats who lived his life brightly, like a  tremulous dew-drop, and died at  twenty-five, having all too briefly experienced the intensely real burn of passion. Love is the substance of Life. And death. “We must love one another or die,” Auden wrote. And cantankerous Philip Larkin affirmed in his famous ode to immortality, “What will survive of us is love”.

There comes a time when we simply cannot go on rummaging through the closets of our childhood looking for reasons for why things happen as they do. We cannot go back to the postage stamps of our past fumbled attempts at Love.  We must dredge up our strength, our courage, to stop punishing ourselves, each other. Risk using our imagination to see the perfection within one another.  Bravely continue our pilgrimage, with blisters and bleeding feet, ravished by our own longing. Tenderly follow the scarlet blaze of our own life essence that carries like sweet perfume and mingles with the still night air.

We have just one choice: To allow our hearts to rule, and the warmth of our lover’s perfect body to caress us back to life again.

When my heart came to rule
in the world of love,
it was freed
from both belief
and from disbelief.

On this journey,
I found the problem
to be myself.

When I went beyond myself,
the pathway finally opened.

Mahsati Ganjavi (12th Century)

Art by Irina Vitalievna

James Blunt – Cause I love you.

 

 

0

Shelter from the Storm

Storms wreak havoc, flattening the white picket fences of our suburban lives. They unbolt the fury of our suppressed emotions, galvanise us into acts of heroism, catapult us out of our inertia and distil our values. They  photoshop the Kodachrome into uncompromising black and white. They test our faith. Challenge our belief that everything that happens “to us” in our lives is for our Highest Good. The Titanic storm that loosed its fury over the East Coast of America this week is a metaphor for the tumultuous storms that sweep through the crowded subways of our psyches. When all around us is falling apart we can either tug at the rip cord, parachute into unmapped territory or seek shelter from the storm within the austere bunkers of our isolation.

Hope Springs is Hollywood’s rather awkward attempt at portraying the frozen despair of a couple locked in an icy tundra. They live in a barren landscape where there is no connection, no intimacy – a stuckness. Like so many couples, they are unable to find a way through to connect with one another physically, emotionally – or honestly. This being Hollywood, the movie must have a happy ending and upbeat music lest it all becomes too poignant and painful, but it is a small glimpse into the winter storms that blanket so many relationships with great sheets of ice.

Every living creation has a life spark, an energy field of power. In our relationships, we so often rattle like tumbleweeds across the desert storms that rage for years: afraid to ask for what we long for, lest we are disappointed.  Terrified to step into our authentic power, because it feels safer to stay small and infantile and allow our partner to carry the power for us. Reluctant to examine with gentle hearts – what do I really need to be happy? What do I truly value?

Every human relationship has changing weather patterns that display subtle shifts of power. In families, in offices, in friendships, in the intimacy of our marriage beds, dark clouds gather as we flex our muscles of will, control, or subversion. Like Love, Power is a paradox. Beneath the veneer of the dominating husband and the submissive wife, or vice versa, power is inverted. Often it is the soft-spoken Victim that holds the sword of ultimate power. The carer that swabs the oozing wounds or lifts skeletal bodies from the wheel chair, that has supreme sovereignty. Many of us stay in powerless roles. We may implode into a dank depression. We may literally become immobilised with an illness that wastes our flesh, rendering us as little children once more. Our power haemorrhages in angry tantrums. It seeps out in subversive acts of sabotage. It weeps in the chill of our numbness, our withdrawal, as we wriggle, like worms impaled upon a savage fish hook in our attempts to avoid our own greatness.

Many women channel their anger or their desire into subversive, subterranean canals where it trickles silently for years in the darkness. It may erupt in dreams that bring images of ferocious violence or forbidden sex. It may speak through the symptoms of dis-ease in our bodies. Or it may be released when our partner finds another lover, granting our unconscious yearning for liberation from the shackles of a marriage in name only. When we identify with the Victim archetype, we may become addicted to the turbulence of frequent storms in our lives as a catalyst for the release of pent up pain that festers. Our barbed wire defences keep us separate, divided, from our true self and from the intimate connections we crave.

Our soul is the repository for our authentic power – our vibrant certainty, our tenacity, our effectiveness. If we can pause in the epicentre of our storms of anger. If we are silent in the nuclear fallout of the arguments that blind us to the innocence of our tormentor. If we can gently examine our sympathy-inducing passivity and acknowledge our dependence upon other’s approval, our fear of personal power, our  mistrust in our own strength… if we can speak of our fears, our resistance, our longings, our insecurities… Authentic power may mean acceptance. It may mean faith. It may mean that we stop apologising for who we are.  It may mean that we look directly at ourselves and begin cutting away at the pastiche of false selves that superimpose on the masterpiece beneath.

I love this quotation by Neale Donald Walsh: “Sculptors have to look at the block and begin cutting parts of it away before their vision emerges in the marble. Look directly at the block if you want to create the art”.

So from beneath the rubble of our lives, we must courageously retrieve the blocks of marble, and with patience and reverence, stop and look directly at the indomitable soul that lives in the silent centre of our being.

O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t!

The Tempest William Shakespeare.

Image from http://abiggerworldyet.wordpress.com

Bob Dylan gives us Shelter from the Storm.

 

 

2

Between The Shadows

In real life lipstick comes off when we kiss our lover. In real life our noses run and our mascara meanders darkly down our flaming cheeks. In real life the people we love with all our hearts die too soon.

In real life we reach cyclical turning points, each one of us on our very personal journey, which will lead us inevitably across the threshold into the shadowy unknown. So often we stray from the path, lose sight of our Life Purpose. Dante Alighieri wrote “when I had journeyed half of our life’s way, I found myself within a shadowed forest, for I had lost the path that does not stray.” We stand at the threshold, not sure of who we are or who we are about to become.  For many of us threshold times can be disorientating, painful, even terrifying. To our ancestors, thresholds were holy places. The Latin word for threshold is limen. It was a sacred space guarded by the gods and goddess: Janus, Hermes and Hecate.  As we traverse the space in-between we may have lost our faith in the primal gods or goddesses. We have only our Faith and the tenacity of our spirit as we follow the elusive lantern light of our becoming, to meet the shadowy dark night of the soul. We may not know that they are still there to guard us as we take the perilous journey across liminal spaces, and that the  supernatural elementals, the  faery folk surround us as we wander alone through the dark woods.  

In medias res, in the middle of things, is a fecund state of birthing. A profoundly sacred crossing where we are required, at every age juncture, to ask ourselves “Who is the I that stands at this point of no return?”

There are no right ways or wrong ways of crossing a threshold. We may eagerly seize new opportunities to pioneer a new path, to live our “unlived lives”. We may garner those scattered or buried parts of ourselves and become more conscious, more whole, more of Who we truly are. Or we may crouch in rigid status quo, or regress to old ways of being.

Transition times are holy times. Marriage, divorce, the birthing of our babies, the end of a career, the beginning of a new one. The inevitable ageing of our bodies. The ultimate transformation of our dying. Transition times are accompanied by conflicting emotions. Joy, trepidation. Fear and unspeakable sorrow as we leave the  old behind and step into the new. The transition from youth to old age is a threshold we must all traverse.  There is no elixir for eternal youth. Each one of us will exhale for the very last time.

The Pluto in Leo generation in the Western world (those born between August 1938 and October 1956) have capitalised on transition times associated with ageing in a plethora of therapies, books, blogs and workshops.  Pluto in Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius and Capricorn generations will deal with the process of age and death very differently, I suspect.

Baby Boomers living the affluent west mostly do live longer than our grandparents did. Midlife has become a moveable smorgasbord, celebrated in cinema and song and glamorised in specialist magazines aimed at the over 40s. In a feature entitled Fifty Shades of 50, journalist Lisa Depaulo writes with breathless ebullience about a brand-new breed of 50-plus women – stronger, smarter, sexier than ever, dubbed the new Alpha Goddess who has a penchant for fast cars and luxury holidays, travelling solo and saying “it’s my turn”.  The article bubbles on cheerfully, “almost every woman I know over 50 seems to be doing things that none of us were expecting to be doing at our age. We’re making choices, in both little and big ways, just for ourselves.”

Demographics and photo-shopped aspirational women’s magazines aside, shrewd Pallas Athenas were rare – there just was no room for a brand- new breed of Alpha Goddesses on Mount Olympus. Despite the sacrifices of The Suffragettes of the 19th and early 20th century and the courage of the  Feminists of the ’60s, between the shadows of our politically correct social constructs there exists today the very same polarisation in gender and power that has existed for eons. In affluent societies, many women in midlife and in their elder years live in straightened circumstances after divorce or the death of their spouses. Women still do not, in the main, earn as much as their male counterparts. Women still bear, birth, and nurture the children.  

Each one of us will have thresholds to cross. Yet not all of us will have the luxury of time or sufficient financial security to say “it’s my turn” as we support our children through their college years, nurse our dying parents, care for once-virile partners, now stricken with depression or facing terminal illness. We find we don’t have the physical strength, the financial clout, the confidence or even the inclination to be an Ageing Alpha Goddess. We find we have never wanted to travel solo to Peru, buy a sports car or learn to play the piano. In real life, we accept that we have lived more years in the past than we have allotted to us in our future. In real life, we do not all die peacefully in our sleep.

So, in real life, we distil the essence, the magic from the simple things in life – a hug from the one we love. Watching a bumble bee in the languid embrace of a still summer afternoon. The intoxicating scent of white jasmine.

In real life, it is time that becomes the most precious commodity. Many men and women enter the second and third acts of their lives with less attachment to fast cars or yet another pair of shoes, less clinging on to the bricks and the mundane mortar of life. More reverence for the here and now.

 “Opposites throw light upon each other”, said the philosopher Schopenhauer. Our lives are animated by the dappled shades of light and darkness, chaos and meaning, the cacophony of sound and long stretches of silence… And in the silence we begin to notice the brilliance of the rainbow as it arcs over the rain-washed sky. And how quite suddenly, the swallows have returned for the summer.

In our life’s transitions we may find our purpose, our passion. In our ageing and in our dying we may discover the meaning of Love, and in the shadows of our inevitable parting, our redemption.

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life? –
Mary Oliver.

Art by Casey Baugh. Between The Shadows Loreena McKennitt

 

2

Whisper a prayer to the moon

Our creativity is the full expression of Who we are. It unfurls, like the rainbow-coloured tail of a kite on a windy day. It arcs through the clear blue skies of our imagination. It soars to distant galaxies. It whispers a prayer to the Moon.

Yet so many of us give up on ourselves so easily. Our inner critic curls her lips and whispers, “what a stupid idea” when we believe six impossible things before breakfast. As we hop-skip along the stanzas of a poem and turn cartwheels across the notes of a melody, we stop, suddenly, foolish.  Then she says a little more sternly, “and just who do you think you are?” Awkward. Self-conscious, we judge and condemn ourselves to a life behind the bars of our meticulously constructed prison cells. Perhaps we blame the gaoler husband. Perhaps it is the ailing parent, the needy child, the punishing work schedule that keeps us securely padlocked, safe from our spontaneity, our joy. Pablo Picasso once said that “Every child is an artist; the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.”  Jung spoke of the “Divine Child” archetype, “the child is that which brings the light into the darkness and carries the light before it.”  Emmet Fox mentioned “The Wonder Child” – the true self, the Child that lives within each one of us that beckons us to spiritual regeneration. The Wonder Child archetype represents our soul’s yearning for trans-formation.  It manifests as the sense of wonder, the awe that we feel when we look upon something greater than ourselves. The magic of believing, with unwavering certainty that miracles do happen. That everything will be alright in the end. It manifests in our delight as we follow a silvery snail trail that meanders across a dewy lawn to the fairy toadstools at the bottom of the garden; when we gaze in awe at the Milky Way. For so many of us The Wonder Child is an infant in exile, banished from our adult lives. Says Marion Woodman “As long as we are determined to move at our swift, logical pace, our child remains hidden. The soul-bird put away in a dark box in childhood needs time, needs silence to learn to trust again.”  In the clatter of our over-scheduled lives, we fear our little soul-bird’s joyful song; we shy from the exuberance of our scarlet creativity.

The 17th century heralded a new evolutionary blooming on the World Tree. In the West, the Age of Reason – the Age of Rationalism – ushered in a philosophy that snuffed out the belief in miracles and wonder; relegated the “unseen” and the “mysterious” to the slag heap. The “irrational” was feared, trivialised, disowned. Science became the new religion. For almost 500 years, The Wonder Child lived and played with  musicians, performers, poets, and painters. He lived in myths and fairy tales – the hero, the baby in the manager, The Little Prince. Collectively, we internalised the concept of the suffering artist. The creative person who carried the success and the failure of his or her own endeavours utterly alone. This heavy burden  crushed the creative life force from those who embody The Muse.  Keats, Byron, Plath, Jonker, Joplin, Winehouse … crumpled wings, broken bodies piled high upon the funeral pyre of creative genius.

Is this a symptom of the hubris that lifts us on feather and wax wings that melt as we fly too close to the Sun? Do we carry the Collective Wonder Child on our shoulders, stagger under the weight of our divine burden? Must we, like the wretched Eve, be condemned by a misogynistic psychopath god who proclaims spitefully, “I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth.” Must we perish as we give birth to our creative progeny?

Carl Rogers and a team of psychologists made a study of the dynamics of creativity. The consensus would certainly not surprise a pre-schooler: the necessary ingredients were playfulness, spontaneity, the ability to be present, to live in the now, the ability to focus, a sense of wonder and the capacity to be one’s own “locus” of evaluation – to delight in what you have made. A tough call for the fragile psyche to straddle the magical, imaginal realm and the insatiable demands of a material world where we are only as good as our last offering on the altar of creativity. We speak of creative blocks. Resting actors. We silence the baying voices in our own heads with narcotics, alcohol. We open the door of the gas oven. To be playful, spontaneous, present, focused. To delight in what we have produced. A tough call when the rent is due and we must chop wood carry water. Not always easy when our teenager stays out all night drinking, when our father is ailing. Not always easy when we move through the lunar cycles of our relationships.

The ancient Greeks had Nine Muses, each one a chthonic divinity who bestowed in-spiration upon mere mortals – poetry, art, music, astronomy, and writing. The ancient Romans called upon The Genius. Author Elizabeth Gilbert proposes that we do not have to internalise the Muse. We do not have to live anxious, tortured lives. We do not need to self-destruct as we race after our Wonder Child.  If, like the Greeks and Romans, we allow the anthropomorphic goddesses to bring us inspiration– from afar – we can remain mortals, not custodians, not neurotic wanna-be gods or goddesses. Not Wonder Children – 24-7.

To restore the Natural Order, these magical divinities must remain in their sacred groves. They must dwell at the crystal clear springs of prophecy. They must inhabit the walls of our work places. They may inspire us from afar. All we must do is show up when they call.

Says Elizabeth Gilbert, “Just do your job. Do your dance. If you glimpse some kind of wonderment just for a few moments… ‘Ole!’ to you, just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up.”

Art by Kay Nielson. Out flew the Moon.

Eleanor McEvoy – Whisper a Prayer to the Moon.

My darling, my darling

So crazy, so charming

It’s just that it happened too soon

But I send you my wishes

My hugs and my kisses

And whisper a prayer to the moon

 

 

4

A Mirror Without A Face

I did not recognise her at first. An effigy. A wax-work-woman. Skin taut, lips swollen, blue eyes slanted like Tretchikoff’s Lady from Orient. “I’ve just  had it all lifted. And derma abrasion,” she mouthed through grotesquely swollen lips. “My 14-year-old son didn’t want to be seen with a wrinkly mummy!” A tight, unconvincing laugh came from the hollowness within. The sadism of the narcissist in her vain attempts at marble-like self preservation. A caricature of the eternally youthful Aphrodite, a middle-aged woman lost in a hall of mirrors. Like so many of us, unaware of the beauty of her true face.

We talk glibly about someone being “a narcissist.” We usually take that as meaning he or she is utterly self-absorbed, isolated in her own human subjectivity. For me, myths and fairy tales are repositories of wisdom. These age-old stories carry the unperturbed truths that ripple through our lives today. They teach us that nothing has changed, nothing is “trending”. And that all our neurosis is just a minute piece in the large tapestry of evolution and transformation. The story of Narcissus contains rich food for the hungry soul: Long long ago the concerned mother of an extremely beautiful young boy asked the blind prophet Tiresias “will he live to an old age?” to which wise Tiresias replied, “as long as he does not know himself.” So she hid all the mirrors in their home and Narcissus grew up to be extraordinarily handsome, loved and adored by all who met him. Because he had never seen his own face, he had to depend on the reactions of others to tell him how beautiful and desirable he was, so that he could feel confident.

A narcissist does not truly love herself. In her self-absorbed flaunting, in her exaggeration, her brash insistence on her individuality, she seems to want to stand apart in her desperate need to be seen, to be adored. Says Rilke, “though the reflection in the pool often swims before our eyes: know the image. Only in the dual realm do voices become eternal and mild.”   

We live in a narcissistic world. We shout, “See me!” from the illusive realm of social networking sites. They have a fluid, dreamy quality which is a powerful mirror for our own narcissism – what we present is often an illusion of success, beauty, happiness. In reality, we so often erect boundaries to our loving, hold back our giving. We present faces to the world that are mere masks, covering the  hollowness inside.

The story of the beautiful youth, Narcissus, is a tale of self-absorption, spurned lovers, arid intellectualism without conversation with the moist wetness of our soul. The 2010 documentary, Catfish, depicts the same age-old allegory of deception and artifice that covers the painful void of self-love and stunted life force. The film portrays a romantic relationship between Ariel and Angela who “click” on Face book.

Like so many of us, Angela and Ariel feel the pain of narcissistic wounding and as they dismantle the artifice they have set up and maintained with such dedication, they discover that by failing in fantasy, they have recognised themselves. The documentary reveals the “faces” we present, the pretty plumage we display, so that we may see ourselves reflected in the mirror of approval. We are mesmerized by what we see, yet the self-love and self-acceptance we crave cannot be found outside ourselves. It lies cradled in an introverted place. The process of trans-formation can begin only when we know ourselves, when we ground ourselves in humility. As the desirable “I” crumbles and we are consumed by the fire of authentic self-love, we melt the wax work image and allow our soul to soar out of rigid self-absorption. As Angela and Ariel unmask and begin to know themselves, they, like Narcissus, realise that they have become stuck, on the familiar images – the surface identity, the isolated face we present to the world. They discover that beneath the impenetrable  membrane of narcissism, lives a deep soul in its luminous unfolding, in its infinite potential.

John Bradshaw writes, “Adult children, having long ago buried their authentic selves and lost their sense of I AM ness, cannot give themselves to their partners because they don’t have a self to give.,”  We are conditioned, admonished “not to get big headed”, or “ahead of ourselves”. We are asked “who do we think we are?” Exiled from ourselves, we present our smiling faces, our happy lives to the world, and no-one ever knows the depth of our aloneness and our suffering. “We mistake so much for love – neediness, dependence, mere familiarity. And in reaching out for love, we vanish into projections of who we should be, and how our lives should appear. One day, we wake to face a stranger in the looking-glass – and know that we abandoned ourselves long ago. The before it is too late, we must find our way home – and learn the true meaning of Love” says Gill Edwards.

Only by self-discovery, only by differentiating, only by seeing the otherness in this “dual realm” can we see our true self in the fragile beauty of the little flower of our soul whose roots are deep and whose beauty is grounded in the earth, in the eternal cycles of nature.

Artist: Chen Hongqing. Girl Looking into the Mirror

Royal Wood – A Mirror Without a Face

I keep on running from the buildings tall
The buildings tall surround
Like in a circus oh a circus tent
A circus tent I’m a clown

What good’s a mirror without a face
Without a face

 

 

4

Only A Woman’s Heart

There’s a virgin’s innocence in the blush of new love. It is a many  splendoured thing. It arrives, flying on bright-feathered wings to lift us off our feet of clay. In  love, we become gods and goddesses. Our days sprinkled with stardust, our nights with butter-yellow sunbeams, our domesticated lives quite suddenly unleashed.

Erotic love is eternally young and naive. It ruffles our hair, heightens our intuition, ignites our creative impulse and supplies life-giving blood to our anaemic imagination. The ancient Greeks depicted Eros as an eternal youth.  This is a love that is playful, unbounded. It stirs, it shakes, it rattles at the windowpanes, then bellows through our hearts on a big wind. In this expansive energy, we stretch our own soul-wings and feel the tender bud of our own blossoming potential.

This kind of love recognises no boundaries, no barriers in time and space. We may fall into love during the dappled springtime or the monochrome winter of our lives. It is our soul’s initiation into the realm of Infinite possibility. Elif Shafak’s beautiful book, “The Forty Rules of Love” is a paean to the power of love that transports, transcends, defies all reason and codes of conduct. So often, there is fatedness about two souls joining, reuniting, at a certain place, in a certain time, to experience the bliss of their Belonging. Great love stories immortalise love in all its manifestations – the madness, the melancholy, the deception, the heroism and the sublime healing. So often the mystery and grandeur of love’s experience meets the cold unyielding concrete walls of practicality or the finality of death. Our souls inevitably lead us across barren wastelands, or snare us in thorny brambles of subterfuge and prickly complexity.  Without the luscious juiciness of erotic Love, our soul’s thirst is fleetingly quenched by love stories in books and movies. Its gossamer wings stretch towards the warmth of a love song that reverberates in the furnace of our knowing. We encounter love in the transcendent realm of our dreams. Love swirls us in fantasy, pricks our hardened hearts with thorns of sadness for what was, what might have been.

Some of us dare to dive deep only once in a lifetime. Some 0f us swaddle tightly in layers of protective clothing. Stay well away from such foolish messy things. We are too busy, too old and too fussy to believe in such folly ever again. So we  remain, ghostly spectators on the mossy river banks, not daring to dip a even a toe into the swirling waters. Wearing our wetsuits of past experience that say “too risky… or it will never last…”

We choose to live low wattage light bulb lives, silently moving through the motions of our lives, barely casting a shadow, leaving a foot print.  “There is life without love, “says Mary Oliver. “ It is not worth a bent penny. Or a scuffed shoe. It is not worth the body of a dead dog nine days unburied.” She  admonishes her reader to grab their courage, and “ row, row, row, for your life toward it.”

The valour of Love stirred my heart in a beachfront restaurant on Sunday evening. A middle-aged couple strolled past my table: an ordinary looking man holding the hand of an ordinary looking woman.   Except that there was something transcendent, something magical about the way they moved.  In unison they seemed to glide across that floor. Slowly, they sank into their seats at a table facing towards mine, their backs away from the turquoise sweep of sea and sky. With soft eyes they gazed at one another. They loved what they saw. Heads thrown back, throats exposed, soft and vulnerable, they laughed deliciously, often, playfully. They savoured the sweetness of each word, each precious gesture. They hungered to know more as they leaned into each other. Languorously, they kissed, hungry tongues exploring, hands urgently caressing. Oblivious to the setting sun, oily oozing gold-vermillion on the shimmering waves. Unaware of the black-backed gulls swooping low over the kelp-strewn sand. They sat, enthroned King and Queen of Hearts in their timeless kingdom. The food they ordered, the bottle of wine, were incidental props at the High Table of their love. Their embodiment of love graced all our tables that day. Says Thomas Moore: “Our era’s preoccupation with mental hygiene encourages us to think of all forms of mania as disease…Plato’s divine madness is not pathological in our hygienic sense, but more an opening into eternity. It is a relief from the stringent limits of pragmatic, sanitised life. It is a door that opens out from human reason into divine mystery.”

Love weaves daisy-chains, lies in grassy meadows, staring at the dance of clouds. Its delicious languor stretches across time. And yet so often the clouds of fear darken the fierce flame of our Love. Our doubts gather ominously on the horizon.  As we scurry for shelter from our childlike innocence our contaminated thoughts become the words that fly like poisoned arrows from our lips to pierce the heart of our lover, lacerating our own lips. Conditional love breeds like bacteria in a festering wound of fear. It flourishes in a dualistic world where we seek approval, control and security, through our love relationships. Where we sow the poison seeds of destruction in our superficial relating or rigid roles, where we cling to one another in desiccated desperation. Self-growth is self-love. And yet so many of us do not know how to begin to love ourselves until we begin to unearth our buried longings, the playful, joyful passionate parts of our selves. If we are single, we can write out the “wish lists” and visualise our “soul mate”. Yet we will only meet the “right” person when we are the “right” person. If we love ourselves conditionally, if we tame our own desires with shoulds and musts and ifs … we shrink into drab, one-dimensional cartoon characters, separated from Source, from our own Divinity.

There is always one constant in all our relationships: ourselves.  When we are willing to make the quantum leap into a new paradigm of forgiveness, acceptance and gentleness; when we release the fear and shame that bolt the door and imprison us in our sense of separateness, our relationships will mirror our own unfolding spiritual journey. Love is a many-splendoured thing.  If we are willing to adventure with child-like innocence, and eyes wide open in wonder, it will find us just at the perfect time. And we will sparkle, so splendidly.

Eleanor Mc Evoy Only A Woman’s Heart

 

3

Reason to Believe

In early childhood, most of us put on the ill-fitting garments of our false selves. We adapt, adjust and wriggle into the scratchy expectations and admonishments of our care-givers and authority figures. We learn to deny the urgent straining of our souls to fill our true wholeness. Our true colours grow dull. We shrink smaller and smaller until only the tiniest chink of light shines through the scaly armour of words that mirror our thoughts. Out of our mouths tumble  “Not too bad”, or “I can’t complain…” or “over-worked and under-paid”… when we’re asked how we are doing. And so we unconsciously choose to cement in our psyches the negative self-talk that echoes across all our experiences.

Our lives today are embodiments of the words we chose to say yesterday. This might sound trite, glib, clichéd.  Like an old movie reel our beliefs flicker across the silver screen of our minds. Each one of us has  millions of thoughts from the moment we open our eyes and stretch into the new day. We can choose to think and then say it is a miserable day – or a cosy, wet day. We can choose to say we are surviving – or flourishing. Our words reverberate throughout the cells in our bodies, and like ancient pebbles cast upon the still silent waters of a dark lake, they send ripples out into distant galaxies. Our thoughts and words hamstring – or set us free.

So many of us pause hesitantly at the threshold of choice, bound by the bonds of our beliefs – the stories we tell ourselves: I’m not good enough, loveable enough, worthy… Like a pendulum, we swing between the what-ifs or the shoulds. Like Scarlett O’Hara, we procrastinate, postpone: “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow…”

We generalise, use “master talk” and say things like “as all women know…” or “we all feel that …” We all do? Is this true for each one of us? Comatose, we seek the counsel of friends or “experts” who see the world through the prism of their own minds, the retinas of their own eyes.  Like sleep-walkers, we choose to listen to their words. To believe them.

The choreography of our lives is infinitely poetic.  We visit experiences that exile us from our homeland, wash us up on the cold shores of loneliness and suffering. We walk through the morass of despair. We will never know what it feels like to be courageous, passionate, reckless, irresponsible, if we don’t give a damn my dear. If we don’t leap, like The Fool, into the unknown and dance on talcum-white beaches, our laughing faces to the sun. Not look back, at least for a while. Ultimately we can all choose to believe that there are no “right” or “wrong” choices.  Each choice we make will lead us along a different, not always easier or better, way out of the cul-de-sac. Says Gary Zukav, “You cannot, and will not, encounter a circumstance, or a single moment, that does not serve directly and immediately the need of your soul to heal.” Research acknowledges what shamans and witches have known for eons. Our thoughts and images that flow from the deep ocean of our imagination have real physiological consequences for our bodies. Our brains often can’t distinguish whether we are imagining something or experiencing it in “real time”. Stories of heroines and heroes, gods and goddesses, warriors and queens are our stories – universal stories that frame our dark nights of suffering and loss, celebrate our courage and our will to re-emerge with our bundle of straw, spun into gold.

From the 12th century the word bileave took on a meaning which was more about holding something dear, having a sense of esteem or trust in something. This subtle nuance speaks eloquently about our personal values, and ultimately, how we value ourselves. So often we don’t value ourselves. Trust ourselves. Love ourselves enough to find a reason to believe. So often we shrug off our instinctual wisdom, or relegate it to the precarious roller coaster ride of “luck”, a “fluke” or “being in the right place at the right time”. So often we deny ourselves credit for the brilliantly courageous, self-loving choices we have made. So often we deny our victories, preferring to wear the thorny crown of blame.

The “trauma of life” model adopted by psychologists and counsellors where childhood wounding shapes our experience in adulthood is inherently flawed. The human spirit is tenacious, resilient. The astrological birth chart reflects the unbounded potential to move from basic ground and venture into new landscapes. Choice is a precious pearl to be treasured. We can alter the trajectory of our lives by choosing thoughts, cherishing our beliefs, trusting that we will manifest only those experiences that resonate with the quality of Light or energy we want to experience. We can choose to believe that we are wiser, stronger, more adventurous, far more abundant than we thought we were. We can image our lives as mythical, epic. If we dare to visualise our experiences with flair, seemingly random events take on a deeper, richer resonance. One way to give voice to our lives is a daily journal where we can catch the silvery strands of the dreams that take us across shadowy thresholds during the night; where we can capture the minutiae of our daily lives on paper, sift our thoughts, vent our frustrations, our pain and our longings. Bare the beauty of our hearts. Be the  poets of our own lives. Look to find a reason to believe.

Rod Steward Reason to Believe.

 

 


 

5

Back to Black

Fifty Shades of Grey… “Oh my! … Holy Cow! … Holy Fuck! Oh, crap…”

I am quarter-way through the book and  I can’t suck it up any more. Perhaps my psyche is not desensitised to what is euphemistically dubbed “mummy porn”. The banal clichés, the one-dimensional cardboard cut-out characters, the deeply disturbing objectification of the human body.

My impression after a very brief foray into the murky darkness was that this could be a clunky attempt at a Revenge Tragedy so popular in Elizabethan and Jacobean eras where the absolute corruption of power had gruesome and inhumane consequences. This could be a loss of innocence and a tale of redemption of two very wounded, self-absorbed characters, set against the steel and concrete urban landscape. I will never know.

What intrigues me is how this chunkily-written, best-selling trilogy taps into something that reverberates in the dark undertow of the collective consciousness. The puer fantasy so powerful in the West – especially the American psyche is certainly spelt out loud and crassly clear: youth worship, instant gratification, materialism, the stock-in-trade Mills and Boon template – Alpha Male meets virgin who succumbs to his brutish charm. What troubled me was this portrayal of a shadowy world where power is concretised into sordid fetish and where the stench of pain lingers like stale cigarette smoke.

 

The Vampire has come back to inhabit the new collective zeitgeist. The Vampire Archetype is certainly embodied in the lifeless personae of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey as they enact the ritualistic  dance – bondage, discipline, dominance, submission. Power – and the misuse of power. This age old motif was evident in the Harry Potter books, where the powerless became powerful, and where magic was used for good – and for ill. Victim turned Persecutor.

When our power is usurped or corrupted, we may stray into the mire where Victim and Persecutor enact their macabre dance of madness. The frequency of childhood abuse in psychopaths would suggest that the “sins of the fathers” are indeed visited upon future generations. Early humiliation and victimisation is often re-enacted. Not everybody who is subjected to corporal punishment, or abused cruelly as a child has psychopathic tendencies, though many of us carry these feelings inside us. When we feel powerless we must create the illusion of power in the most ruthless way. A psychologist friend of mine told me that she has an increase of young female clients who have read the book and now wish to experience bondage, submission – and emotional disconnection.

Satan appears in ever changing forms. There will always be willing souls who wander into the darkness, to dwell there, lifeless wraiths. Those who mistake pain for love, who give up their will or attempt to usurp the will of someone else, passively make a “pact with the devil”.   Apparently, Fifty Shades of Grey deals with great wealth, synonymous with power, as the dark side of human sexuality, the dark of the soul: the templum of the astrological 8th house. As above so below. The perfect design of the cosmos echoes these archetypal themes as Pluto (god of the Underworld) and Uranus (primordial sky god) to reveal what lies hidden beneath the lean veneer of equality and respect between men and women.

Like Mr Grey and Miss Steele, the outer planets are not concerned with morality. Uranus devoured his children and Pluto was a rapist. These two planets were in conjunction in the sixties, seeding the sexual revolution, the civil rights movement in America, apartheid in South Africa, appalling atrocities in Vietnam, and stormy weather in Kennedy’s Camelot. Now something darker has emerged out of the clash of these two Titans as they face off in a tense square –  exact again next month. It is evident in the sombre clouds of discontent that gather on the economic and political horizon. It is evident in the pathological motif of Fifty Shades of Grey.

Our vapid heroine, Anastasia Steele is reading Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles, first published in 1891.

“Did you say the stars were worlds, Tess?”
“Yes.”
“All like ours?”
“I don’t know, but I think so. They sometimes seem to be like the apples on our stubbard-tree. Most of them splendid and sound – a few blighted.”
“Which do we live on – a splendid one or a blighted one?”
“A blighted one,”
says Tess.

Times were different then for men and for women. And yet, what has really changed in a world where we still hunger for power? Where we cling-wrap our frozen hearts? I wonder if the painful irony of the tragically short life of Tess and the dark theme of Victim, sacrifice and patriarchal power will ever occur to the vacuous Anastasia Steele.

Teilhard de Chardin said: “someday, after mastering the winds, tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of sexual love. Then, for the second time in history, we shall have discovered fire!”   When we naively make a pact with darkness, sign away our souls in the blood of our own arrogance, our addiction to the tyranny of superficial thrills, we will never know the exquisite heat of fire. Our soulful lives will inevitably be dappled with shadows – those parts of our psyches that we ignore or repress. And yet if we wish to live authentic lives we will have to give up our pretence of ignorance. We must be discerning about who – and what we allow into our world. We will have to pause to consider how our diet of thoughts, words and images may desensitise, dehumanise, rob us of our own fire. Instant gratification of an anonymous fuck leaves us starving for intimacy and lasting love. How our quest for power, the wicked games we play with one another, catapults us over the precipice of integrity, where we lie, redundant, in a wasteland of isolation.

Have we wandered so far into the Twilight Zone that we have forgotten the voices of those that stood in the sunlight with flowers in their hair? Has the hope, the idealism, the vision of a better world faded to Shades of Grey? Last word must go to Tess in her innocent naiveté: “A strong woman who recklessly throws away her strength, she is worse than a weak woman who has never had any strength to throw away.”

Amy Winehouse sings Back to Black

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