Unlike Me

April 11, 2017

A kind of poem, memoir and statement of an evolving feminism and poetic activism rolled into one. And today… there are some unseen peacemakers in the world who, like the artist or the healer, drink the poison (the shadow, the unlike, the toxic waste) of a place, country or culture to hopefully open our eyes, wake us up to play our part; this is for them too.

It is
Only
With
Mine
Very
Small
Eye
That
I sees
I am
Another
Statistic
Of women
And Ye men
Who will
Be (I do)
Forever
Replaceable
By an
Eternally
Younger
(Like me
Tho I do
Too) newer
Bomb
Shell
Model

 

It is the bigger broader all-seeing eye of the vast landscape of the world that likes us each in it so truthfully and sees You too just as you are greatly singled out and Me as small as the two-cells-meeting seed I began as yet as wide and free as the life I am ready to birth where we all stand to see each other just as we are held by love and with the banner of

No
More
War
Peace
Justice
Freedom
And hope
For a
Better
World
Waving in
Our hand
Hearing
Heard
At last

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poem of La Gomera

February 3, 2017

man-la-gomeraMy poem of this trip in January 2017 ended up as solid rock-like verses, attempts to convey the feeling of meeting this volcanic frontier, in the landscape and in me. From the meaning of Islas Canarias (island of the dogs), there are little echoes of poets that spirited the experience of finding my own ‘black dog’ met by the vast movement, silence, intimacy and music of nature: Manley-Hopkins, Emily Dickinson, TS Eliot, Rilke & Jung. Interestingly 8-line poems are called Octaves; resonant of order but also scale, reach and expanse. And find today the late David Bowie wrote a song called Eight Line Poem too…

 

mountain-la-gomeraPoem of La Gomera

First the rock, then the dog,
Then the sweetened bird of gold.
An evolving face of pressed ascent;
Lava and ash, song and bark,
Light on dark and wave on crag,
Frowning forehead of memory,
Copper, black; dark then pink,
Bisected skin of haunch and wing.

me-in-truck-la-gomeraI wouldn’t say my dog is mine,
Not half as fully as my tongue,
It’s looted from my tribal chest;
It’s teeth and weight against my rib,
Was passed to me one day in time,
When milky blind spot opened up
It’s retinal cave, just long enough,
For black hound to run through.

 

boat-la-gomeraOur boat is now a shrunken raft
Before the La Gomerian shore,
This small wild Islas Canarias;
Hardened jaw of trodden fire,
Stroked by the wind, lit by the sun,
Lapped by the constant broken wave,
Whispering, sucking, salted purge,
Birds eye tears melt our approach.

i-want-to-see-you-la-gomeraIt said lie down, animal and you,
Bow before my towering growl,
I want to see you, and your pride,
Lift you to rock that’s higher than ‘I’,
Engulf you in gliding mantle blue,
Vast moving mirror at my feet;
Who is this on the other side of you?
Lift your eye, see it fluttering free.

art-la-gomeraNature, enraptured by this dance,
That carries on ‘tween shore and sea,
Meets her own lover every time
We bring our burden, our black dog,
Our unachievable task of praise,
To her heel, and humbled thus,
Our heartache can bear fruit for us,
And pour translucent light through us.

 

black-dog-la-gomeraThus so the beast will meet the bird,
Sweet music scaled by the deep,
And ah! Bright wings from bristling fur,
Will rise with freshness from the earth.

Poem of Evia II

October 14, 2016

dscn8732_master_216a5db5-f28b-471f-a3fd-2b0da551cce2Walking today, a swathe of shoreline
Sprung at me, its stalks giant tall,
And still swaying; the feathery grass
That we had watched dancing,
Brushing against the curve
Of July’s pregnant full moon.

Then we stood, two standing spoons,
Wide silvered faces upturned,
With the sea grazing at our backs,
It’s rhyming ripples mirroring
The cat and fiddle, cow-jumping
Strangeness of a fireside dream.

f-new-moon-2-40-x-34-oil-painting

 

It is the newness new moon now,
Three months on, early October
Dishing out its harvest light,
From just a slit of sickled mouth,
Whispering and licking a fulfilment
That, earth smiles, is yet to come.

 

turner-new-moonRight then, thinking fun sets only over summer,
A copper-shining dog ran, laughing, along the autumn beach.

All was saying,

Ear to Ear,
I am here.

Poem Of Evia

August 18, 2016

 

Evia rhodadendrons July 2016There was too much for-giving
For me to write a poem today
The sound of the lute
Is ringing in my ears
And I cannot strike a note
Of the old song I know.

What is the new love chord
That is longing to be plucked
From this tip of tongue
From my inner anger of ear?
To strum it’s footprints-in-the-sand
Along the shoreline of a soul?

Spirit, quite suddenly flocking
Seagulls, a whole circling crowd
Lifting from beach into the wind
Moving across the open sky
Landing; the soil of instinct
Lapping up its persistent waters.

Sunset & feet EviaAnd in this union, a soul is born.
It is the child that has been waiting
Limbs now freed, aloft the crevice
The mother of her innards.

I feel life, before Me
Giving birth to something
Whose mystery is enfolded
Still, in God.

Evia, Greece, July 2016

 

The yoga and dialogue workshop I’m leading with Sue Claire Morris in the beautiful Pelion region of Greece still has spaces. Below are some reflections on what we will be exploring through movement and archetypes. For information and booking see http://www.kalikalos.org/movingarchetypes.

edward_burne_jones_45_the_pilgrim_at_the_gate_of_idlenessA prevailing ‘moving archetype’ of this era is that of the immigrant, the homeless person. We now have these images sealed in our minds and psyche. In spiritual cultures through history the stranger was someone to welcome to your home as you would a king. In the West it was the pilgrim, in Asia the wandering sadhu, or in Latin America the El Mendica.

kos-greece-island-refugees-migrantsHow many of us have felt the impacts of forces beyond our control in recent weeks, months, years?

How do we ourselves deal with the sense of destitution, helplessness, injustice this can bring?

 

11travel-maheshwar-sadhuDo we find we are able to welcome the stranger in ourselves or in others, or do we reject it in preference of something more comfortable, familiar?

 

 

 

DSC_2576What is the archetype we have been manifesting, and how might an identity with archetype help us into a more creative relationship with our experience?

How can we do this without getting overwhelmed, or collapsing into catastrophic thinking, whilst allowing ourselves to that edge where we let go of false securities and feel more alive? Apparently most of us fear change not because we don’t see the advantage of newness, a potentially brighter future, but because our terror of what we might have to let go of outweighs all the benefits we see in doing so. So we stay stuck.

 

image spaces of the body april 2016How can we explore these thresholds safely through the vessel of the body, through yoga, movement, dialogue and the natural environment?

 

 

These are some of the things we’ll be exploring, appropriately in the land of Greece which has been so much at the centre of the current flow of moving people. Through yoga, movement and dialogue we will be exploring our theme of The Moving Archetype, nestled in the hills of the Pelion, the most stunning region of mainland Greece. See Facebook page or here for details http://www.kalikalos.org/movingarchetypes

 

 

Jill-Purce-The-Mystic-Spiral-BookQuote from The Mystic Spiral: Journey of the Soul by Jill Purce – Thames and Hudson, London, 1974

In a second, the faintest perfume may send us plummeting to the roots of our being, our whole life verticalized by a fleeting sensation: we have been connected by a mere smell to another place and another time. The amount we have changed in the recognition of this moment – this is the spiral: the path we have followed to reach the same point on another winding.”

Spiral is a natural phenomenon – in the patterns we see in the natural world, in the unfolding of time, and in the body. Our relationship with this is, to a certain degree, conditioned by how or where we feel our ground to be, a patterning learnt from the womb. As we are born into gravity, mature, learn to carry our own weight through the world, we see how these patternings can change, when we discover the energy and health of our soul.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Spirals manifest as shapes that are circular. However, it is only a spiral because it exists on different levels. A circle stays on one plane; a spiral deepens, drops, widens and rises into multiple planes. The same is true of the body. Being ‘stuck’ often means that we have misinterpreted the journey of the spiral for a circle. From here we can experience a loss of energy and direction; either because we lose a sense of ‘turning’ or rotation in the body, so stay on one plane; or because we lose our centre or axis. This can go one of two ways; a downward spiral (a sense of flopping or crashing), or a ‘taking off’ into a upward spiral or spin (the feeling of ‘losing my head’). Both patterns of holding and collapse cause tension in the body, which yoga seeks to undo.

Equally, importantly, we can misjudge this single, circular perspective as being the only way that exists, or the only way we have choice to follow. We sense a lack of meaning, loss of connection to our own truth and to others. We lose the ability to find right orientation and to interpret our life experience in new and deeper ways. When this happens collectively, it can be destructive, as we see when a group creates a barrier between the people ‘inside’ and those ‘outside’.

A hallmark of this from the perspective of ‘I’ can be that the world and others around us take on a mirror-like quality, which is stuck in that it is inherently created by a solidified sense of self, therefore can only be self-referencing. A true friend should be able to spot when your life narrative becomes over-personalised, when you speak without listening and have become disconnected from a bigger picture.

Andy Goldsworthy

Andy Goldsworthy

We live in a world where we can attune to the idea more than ever before that everything is connected. So this is no longer the new perspective we need to attain. Perhaps the deeper question is, why do we want to find this connectivity? What drives us? What really interests us?

This question points to the wider picture, which is often beyond our understanding, but that holds within it everything that is trying to find connection.

In the body, there are millions of possible connections that we might like to investigate. Yoga means ‘yoke’ or ‘joining together; union’ – things revealing themselves as being united, belonging to each other. Ultimately this is the joining of the head with the heart, which yoga seeks to uncover through the layers of our being. Without some understanding of this, we will always be experiencing some level, overt or subtle, of splitting, fragmentation, separation.

Georgio O'Keeffe

Georgio O’Keeffe

However, once we have found the perspective of yoga we must not stop there. Vanda Scaravelli, as well as many other practitioners including Krishnamurti, warns us against the trap of using yoga to fix things (the body or the mind) to suit our own agenda. There is a point at which a certain attachment to the connectivity that is in the body can lead to a self-fulfilling neurosis, which simply mirrors our culture and may describe some of the ways yoga has become expressed in the West.

(See conversation with Krishnamurti https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chPBmSzvStQ&app=desktop)

This question of yoga in the West is a big subject, one for another fuller discussion. But perhaps for now we can see this theme of ’embodying the spiral’ as a creative invitation to gain a new orientation. One that connects us to a deeper sense of ourselves and what draws us more energetically to the source of life.

Through a coherent yoga practice, one that has an interest in true integration on all levels, one that enables a coming together of ground and sky in the body, a joining with the ‘higher’ with the ‘lower’, we find ourself as participators in a whole new source of energy. Energy that, in Krishnamurti’s words, is no longer caught up with the self. From this experience, which in spiritual language is referred to as a conversion, it is as though a new moral compass is opened up, one that is not linked to circumstances but an inner orientation.

Andy Goldsworthy

Andy Goldsworthy

We could see this as the energy of the spiral, the inspiration of change, or metanoia, when a radical turning takes place in the soul. It is when the soul knows it is on a journey. It is an event, a process, when eventually the body understands what needs to stay, secure, hold, harness, anchor, offer direction and strength (the masculine energy) and what needs to release, circle, question, rise, fall, curve and coil (the feminine energy). And the freedom we seek lies in the eternal dance of both.

Painting by Nicola Slattery http://www.nicolaslattery.com/

Sometimes the ground on which we’ve stood for years-
That room, where objects we’ve known rest against its edges,
Containing us like signposts on a pilgrimage-
That place in nature, where spirit drops our feet
So much closer to the grass…
Sometimes the ground that has carried us
Requires us to lean, fall over even,
To trip over our step, step across a threshold,
Where the scent of longing can spill in.

Can you feel this in your body now?
Just the word ‘lean’ and ‘fall’
Evoking a kind of turning from left to right?
And all that you have touched, or been gifted –
The embroidered cushions, the flowers,
The perfumes, the bottles and beings –
Take on a different transparent shape,
A kind of moving imbalance towards the window.

Birthday – Marc Chagall 1915

Shhh…sssshhhh
Is she coming or is she leaving?
Are things moving together or dancing apart?
Does it matter that these arms,
Receiving the bouquet with one hand,
Do not know what the other hand is doing?
And how is it that he who offers the gift,
Like a horse galloping through your red carpet,
Has no arms?

In this moving, questions fade.
In the vast space that surrounds us all,
The leaning trees, the expiring moss,
The ladders beyond the window,
What is left is that hovering kiss.
The lips that twirl together, through the pane.
The feel of velvety hairs, horse’s nuzzle, skin on skin.
The sound of your warm breath as our ears tilt
And hearing pours, riding, astride space and time.
And old feathers turn slowly, from black to red.

This poem was inspired by a reflection on two paintings as part of a workshop run by poet Rosie Jackson (What The Ground Holds), Frome Festival 2015:

  • Woman in red dress with white horse – by Nicola Slattery

  • Birthday – by Marc Chagall

the place of resource

July 18, 2014

 

IMG_2131 (2)










Seated here, crossed-legged,
I am archaic sea creature
Clamped fossil-like to a rock, 
Grafted on the sea's dark floor.

Tentacled, pocked by deep abysses,
I am swaddled, spat, swayed
Within the vast nowhere-cloud
Around me. Clinging, forgotten.

Forgetting. Since rippled womb-hole, 
Aloneness was my primal base;
Reaching beyond flickering fear,
And desires paddling the surface.

But now it reveals its gravity, its grace.
Like a sea creature clamped to a rock;
I am swaddled, spat, swayed
Within the shores of vast awareness 

Within me. This aloneness opens a wave,
I remember, let go and swim into its tide.

IMG_2128















In this poem I am attempting to illustrate a movement, 
a transition of soul, a threshold of thinking, where a sense 
of being in isolation and abandonment, reaching into stories 
of the past, changes into a place of resource, 
of grace, of opening. 

This metanoia, interestingly, and I know this to be true, 
does not occur firstly in the form itself. The 'sea creature 
clamped to a rock' does not alter; what changes in the 
space 'beyond flickering fear and desires paddling the 
surface' is the relationship to the environment, the ocean bed. 

Here aloneness, which to begin with seems to follow the context 
of 'clinging' and being 'forgotten', becomes re-fashioned; 
a primary trueness of our embodied condition is revealed 
(that we are each alone); and yet the word aloneness 
re-appears as the place of opening, of movement, of letting 
go, of connection.

My body uncovered this sea-creature experience during the 
stillness of meditation one morning; a process that had 
started in a yoga class some weeks before when a lifelong 
feeling of imbalance in one foot and leg started to turn around, 
like an eye suddenly aware of the periphery of vision. The 
teacher came over and said words to the effect of 'look away 
from the struggle and see what's here in your spine.'
A hand on that side of my sacrum was enough to understand; 
this was the place of resource, a space from which the place of 
'struggle' could be 'swaddled, spat, swayed', and located in a 
new light. Since, I've had glimpses of the world in a new light.

Vanda Scaravelli, and numerous other practitioners of movement, 
point towards the healing that can happen when we challenge 
our impulse to fix and mend, impose and push (often most 
coarsely displayed in the yoga hall) and give ear to the intelligent 
resources of the body. Here the paradoxes of life are most 
intricately entwined: weight and space, liquid and bone, 
'gravity' and 'grace'. Scaravelli named these resources as 
Ground, Breath and Wave and, like the whole patterning of 
nature, one feeds and enhances the source of the other. 
See here for a day workshop I'm running with Giovanni Felicioni 
in London this October when we will be exploring this very theme.

The last lines of the poem bring in the images of memory, 
swimming and tide, metaphors reminiscent of the 'rippled 
womb-hole' and being born. Finding ourselves in the place 
of resource is therefore a remembering, where the tide of 
life threads us back into an ancestral insight into who we 
really are, where we are free to swim back to the beginning 
(in this context the beginning of the poem) and through the 
cycle of discovery again and again; that our aloneness 
is the wave on which we are brought to the shore, the 
threshold of constant movement, where the other can 
meet us, where the mystery is that we are never alone.

IMG_2253

Holding on and Letting Go

September 24, 2013

Life-is-a-balance-of-holding-on-and-letting-goThe influences impacting each generation affect whether the dynamics of ‘letting go’ or those of ‘holding on’ are more highly valued.  All spiritual traditions emphasise the need to let go of the impulses of the ego and surrender to a state of being that is less self-centred, more spacious. They also offer guidance into what we need to hold onto, because this process of surrender can be so challenging. And also because some kinds of ‘holding on’ contain the vital energies we need for deepening our awareness and waking up. This is difficult for the mind, because the nature of thought is usually to grasp or to push things away. In the language of psychology, referencing  now the writing of practitioner John Wellwood (Journey of The Heart), what prevents us from finding a healthy relationship with the dynamics of letting go and holding on are our fears, deep-rooted in childhood. These will be either of abandonment or of engulfment, and patterned by our earliest experiences of invasive caring or lack of support from our parents.

dancers - 'letting go'When we practice meditation or yoga, we are bringing these tendencies to consciousness. In meditation anchoring the mind, holding or harnessing or containing thought in a single focus, shows up the stream of thoughts so we have the choice to let them go, enter into our own experience of life flowing in us and see what is of value in the mind. In yoga we are discovering this in the body. In fact all thought begins with a physical impulse. Bringing the body to yoga offers an opportunity to see where we are contracted or where we collapse, both causes of pain and injury. It offers a space to understand where in our contracting we can let go, and in our collapsing where we need to hold on.

Vanda_ScaravelliVanda Scaravelli had the insight of how yoga can help us find a balance between holding on and letting go – by slowly and gently releasing and aligning, to re-train the body enable it to trust these three resources: ground/gravity, breath and wave. The jolts of life leave can block our access to these resources; we can stop trusting and the work that applies yoga to trauma reveals that our systems have had to hold on until they can find the resources to let go.

penguins_holding_hands 2Through our practice and relationships, we can explore how we can find that resource and start to allow our bodies to discern through the inter-relating of our inner experience and outer responses. In yoga we find that this is paradoxically through a constantly moving process of releasing and realigning. When we move away from the temptation to stretch, fix or push the body into shapes, we find ourselves inside a yoga that balances opposites: flexibility with strength, relaxation with vitality and a groundedness that is complimented by lightness and flow.

March 13, 2012

Only the soul knows we grow best in the shadowlands. We are blinded inside of either total light or total darkness, but…ironically, it is in darkness that we find and ever long for more light. Did you know that even physics is now telling us that what looks like total darkness to the human eye is actually filled with neutrinos, which are light?…the mystics like John of the Cross knew this to be true on the spiritual level too.

Richard Rohr