The Breakthrough

April 4, 2016

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New birth hurts
It cuts through
You, discards
The old leaf
For the new.

You life gives
That draws out
New, displays
Colours hidden and
Fresh view lives.

 

Achilles Heels

March 16, 2016

You’re sitting, legs askew

On the deck of a boat.

Is it the bobbing water beneath your gunnel

That is making your cling

With hands, skirt, lips,

That slightly forced smile?

And your feet,

Jammed into tight, white, backless sandals,

Like the cigarette jammed between your fingers,

Portray a woman unsure, unseen,

                                                   Grasping desperately,

                                                   Longing for dry land.

                                                   Vessel of a man?

                                                   Capture of a portrait?

                                                   A place to belong?

                                                  Not in this same boat…

                                                  Its unsettled sway finding its way

                                                  Into your knees, hips…

                                                  And the coat flung aside

                                                  Between you and the cabin below;

                                                  You’re jamming it down

                                                  With an angry heel,

                                                  Achilles fighting against the prevailing wind.

February 18, 2016

Live poetry reading at Frome Poetry Cafe, by Stina Falle

Live poetry reading at Frome Poetry Cafe, by Stina Falle

Pattern of The Heart

We were traversing the etched-out landscape of Hampsted Heath,
In the way that only old friends can;
Weathered skins, shielding yet knowing.
Maps, outdated in their story, and still showing the way.

We were talking of men and matters of love,
Delving back into patterns well-versed, as if new.
‘You always end up…’ she said of me,
In what, I guess, felt a potent and acid pitch.

It was a sweeping statement, yes,
And by now we had topped the hill, overlooking the city.
My eyes pricked rather,
And the ashen ground blurred into the Shard and the Heron Tower.

The early Spring branches rose, poker-like
Into the February sky.
I wanted to rise in defense,
But my voice felt lost.

My voice felt caught in a huge broom,
Like it was being swept up with the cinders
Of all the burnt-out words
That either prove or disprove love.

The glass slipper,
Or the worn-out shoe,
It’s all the same.
And yet, love only knows…

It was in the leathery discomfort of that day,
That my soul quivered, like a wild pony
Which in days past would have plodded this land,
And was broken in.

Only the bridled horse, after all,
Can carry the prince…Or, forgetting the prince,
Only with bit to guide the horse’s hooves
Can the messenger deliver her message.

The shoes that fit have been given to us all,
And our task is to stand in them, break them in,
And walk through the veil of where
‘You always end up…’

To find our pattern of the heart etched,
With its acid-and-line, crossing over line, crossing over line,
On the page that sees all of our passing
And says: You are loved. You are loved.

Snow White by Victoria Miller

Snow White by Victoria Miller

It’s winter and my body is shrouded;
My spark, I know, flickers thin beneath its cloak.
As I ascend and wind up to the gallery,
It is as though climbing a tree to get a view.
And whilst damp shoppers cling in the marketplace,
I am up here, peering on tip-toe into
A row of awkward brown dwarfish pots
With gold inside them, each thinly lined with leaf.

Their porridgy domesticity on the shelf
Protects an inner glow, soft as morning light;
A glowing gaze, subtle as a wallflower,
Or the lacey fish-tail sweep of a Spring tide;
Each wave shading the almost-too-bright glory
Of the next up-and-coming shaft of water;
And so shielding my wintered eyes
From mining too sudden a spray of sun.

I turn, and see plates spinning on the walls,
Depicting ocean currents, meanders in the wild;
Eye-catching, but in their perfect roundness
I am saying ‘they contain their substance so safely!’
And it’s not that I want to smash them, but
Their shiny, smirking platefulness leaves me emptied.
Meanwhile silver birch is shouting ‘Our planet is wild!’
I echo back, ‘These aerial views can’t bite the bullet.’

So the mirror mirror is on the wall,
And the snow-white wintered poet
Is looking for the fairest, what will truly enthrall
And finds in the corner a cabinet of jewells,
Where inner and outer realms begin to chime.
A copper studded bumble bee, a Pollen Punk
And arrow-brooch of amethyst, emblazoned Corroded Dweller;
Biting the apple she goes down, down, down to ground.

December 2015
Black Swan Arts Winter Show, Frome

'Towards Columbus, San Francisco' by Sarah Targett

‘Towards Columbus, San Francisco’
by Sarah Targett

Hello, hello, hello
Is there anybody there?
The mobile line goes empty,
Alive, then wincing to a buzz.

There’s a mouth-shaped void
In the gap between
What’s native and what isn’t.
I’m seeing San Francisco,
But it could easily be Kent,
Where, unlikely bright flashes
Against the pencil-grey of England,
A pandemonium of escaped parrots,
Have nested in the oaks and hawthorn…

I speak: Can’t you see
While you’re standing
Static with your mobile
That the dog is missing,
Sniffing with longing his walkabout?
The tethered animal strains,
Beyond the confines of the tableau,
Wishing he was a bird,
And and could migrate, could fly.

The urbanite responds…
Incongruous in his ironed camping shorts,
Spruced, but sporting wild facial hair,
Telling me that a couple of beech-green parakeets
Have just flown past,
Bristling the hairs on his head.
What’s happened to all the birds of the air?
He asks. His voice is strained,
The traffic beyond buzzing to a wince.

I too am straining; I’m all ears,
Trying to get a birds-eye view
Of this modern fusion
Where wild yearning for the native world
We’re fast losing
Is becoming another asset,
Another sketched-out money-spinner,
Transcribed onto the commercially-driven
Landscape that lurks beneath.

I don’t like you. I’m afraid to say this.
He stands still in the street and hails a taxi,
His bags of new clothes
Rustling their plastic against his bare legs.

The parrakeets meanwhile
Whip past his head again,
Squawking across his shoulder,
Red-green flashes like gunfire from a pirate ship,
His crimson shirt suddenly a symbol of mutiny,
Bright against the pencil-lined buildings.
In a far-flung way, perhaps he’s taking a stand;
My heart softens with the blow;
The value of wound.

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

While once, perusing the life-lines of your face,DSC_2002
Its landmarks of grace, failure; pathways of shadow, light,
The question lingered, ‘What it is that has brought you salvation?’
I now see this as a telling for your rest bed, your death-bower,
Where witness to the silence imbuing every life hangs…

No, now what I want to know is this:

What is it that has brought you
To the edge places of your life?
Where is it that you’ve encountered and felt your terror,
And allowed its claw to draw you closer to the ground?

What is the story of your bowing descent
Into the bone and matter of things?
And where in that evolution were you brought to see,
How spineless are the ladders of escape?

Who did you meet along the way,
That allowed the mossy earth to grow beneath you,
And your bone to be the anchor,
Your skin to be the vessel for embrace?

What is it in your eyes, ears, nose, mouth, touch
That drew you into the vast detail of the world?
And what was it that incarnated in you daily,
As you rose into each morning to lift the tools of labour?

On the cusp of each hurt, each dream,
Is an horizon.
And it is we who choose
To keep looking to its edge to be exalted,
Or to level our eye to its beckoning wave.
The first may go the distance, but few can follow;
The second is where, skin, bone and breath walk back to life,
And from the table’s crumbed surface
We, however poor, take up our art.

I saw a man doing this very thing this morning.
He was watering his herb bed with a hose,
And an old crooked crone walked onto his land.
Dressed in the weeds of mourning,
Head clad, back burdened with her bag of brush,
She gestured to him, and with the song of foreign tongue
She chorused the death of her love,
And why-without-who she makes this journey every day,
So crossing, from her scrubby patch of field, his threshold towards home.

It was the kindness of his leaning body that I saw;
His bent-ear-and-hose following her broken spine,
A vision a thousand times more namely than these cobbled words.
But I will mention this:

In her hobble, as she passed into the distance, DSC_2007
I saw a thread of joy,
A tiny spring,
Run through the dark valley of her form…

It does not interest me what has brought you salvation,
But (and you will do greater works than miracles)
What carries you to such as these, the edge places of your life,
Where yes, even the desert sends forth a bud.

June 2015, Greece

butterfly-picture-life-retreat-20101‘The first step toward change is awareness. The second is acceptance.’ (Nathaniel Branden)

‘…be loyal to life, don’t create fiction but accept what life is giving you, show yourself worthy of whatever it may be by recollecting and pondering over it, thus repeating in imagination, “this is the way to remain alive.”’ (Hannah Arendt, as quoted by Marion Woodman)*

‘Acceptance looks like a passive state, but reality it brings something entirely new into this words. That peace, a subtle energy vibration, is consciousness.’ (Eckhart Tolle)

Many of us, in our personal lives and the state of the world, hunger for change. Awareness of life shows us that, converse to our expectations, acceptance is the beginning of change. Yoga can bring us to a place of acceptance, and therefore transformation, because as well as showing us what is possible, connecting us with the potential of life through the body’s relationship with nature and spiritual longing, it also reveals to us our limitations. We could refer to this as our ‘edge’ places, where, through the encounter with ‘centredness’ we discover from our practice, we can glimpse into the unknown: what we fear and push away, and what we are lost in or clinging on to; the patterns we have built up in our lives in order to survive and feel safe.

shoesagain - dion archibaldAll of us need to accept these patterns in the depth of our being before we are ready to find new pathways and patterns. Maybe these new discoveries will enable us to see that the ‘edge’ that arises from our experience has become too small, and is no longer useful for our growth. So the edge becomes a threshold place over which we need to tread in order to move on.

Or sometimes we can discover at these edge places that we still need the container that has formed around us and allowed our life to blossom… We need to be still and wait.

Always on some level it is a combination of both of these movements. Different places and relationships bring different needs to the foreground. Our task is to be discerning. To really see what is ‘staying’ and what is ‘going’ in the body and the mind is a fruit of yoga and meditation, whereby we can find a place from which to perceive our particular tendencies of flight, fight or freeze; the strategies that have served us to deal with stress.

In all that is arising in the soul-body, which includes of course the unconscious as well as the conscious mind, we need to practice acceptance so that the necessary integration can take place for us to become more human, more fully and expansively ourselves. And eventually to contribute to the life around us, build relationship with the divine as we’re called to, and with others; those who are like-minded and the ‘stranger’, those who are not.

Vanda_ScaravelliVanda Scaravelli says in her book Awakening the Spine that there is a place in the middle of our backs, somewhere in the centre of the waist, where this process of integration takes place. In the nature of the body, and referring eventually to the mind, this is the integration of the natural forms of ground and sky. Some mystics allude to the same thing when they use the words ‘gravity’ and ‘grace’.

In yoga we are exploring this possibility: of becoming more deeply connected to ground and sky through the spine. When all parts find their place in the spine, we then find that gravity draws on us in equal measure through the whole body, and beyond. Here we find, piece by piece, freedom and transformation. This process enables our re-connection with nature and with others, not to merge or disappear into our ego ideas about ‘connection’ and ‘oneness’, but to allow ourselves to really feel. The wisdom of this ability to feel is deeply intelligent, and we find what it is to be part of an integrated whole with our own totally unique embodiment and presence.

feet_to_the_sky_jul 2014 w-shop flierVanda Scaravelli also goes on to say that this cannot happen when we impose our ideas (namely about yoga) upon the body. We need to allow for ‘infinite time and no ambition’. This is an ideal, and some times we need to be on a retreat or in a different environment to our daily pressures to get a taste of what this might mean for us. But we can begin on the journey. We then find (in Vanda’s words) that ‘elongation and extension (expansion beyond our edges) can occur when the pushing and pulling have come to an end’. Acceptance is the key.

Rebecca Brewin

23rd June 2015

*Marion Woodman – Addiction to Perfection

IMG_1793

It’s not for me to know why or how
That in touching things –
This spoon on the work bench,
That box on the window-sill,
Whilst sifting dusty traffic sounds
From its lid –
I am taken back to a time…

A whittled-worn log, on a beach,
Its holes blown through with sand;
A picnic.
The ledge of bread and cheddar
Peppered with seaside dust,
The rising sounds of waves,
And the falling,
Nature at its bottom, most bare.

And meanwhile here I am,
In the confines of my room,
Pawing my things with a rag of duster,
A somebody wishing:
‘Somewhere Other Than Here.’

And somehow, suddenly, something is pouring;
Some time of the heart enters
This box (dust-to-dust) of mundanity
And connects it to a presence
Far, far greater: that shore’s lip,IMG_1795
My young hand in wrinkled house-wife paw
Of my, (now ashes) grandmother,
Salt smell rising from the water,
Lapping it’s skin around our ankles.

And now not only is this sill in my room
Finding its way to the edge of the world,
But I myself, in my rigidity of duty,
Am also being poured…
This task, the entry point
Into all
That lies, moves, pulses,
Beyond the window’s pane.

Written 3rd May 2015 at a poetry workshop in the Black Swan Arts Centre Frome, in response to an exhibition titled ‘Nest’ by Tom Bayliss