“If you’re going through Hell, keep going!” or Why Winston Churchill was Right.

 

If you’re going through Hell, keep going” ~ or why Winston Churchill
was right

 

 

 

If life is a journey that begins with our birth, then the ultimate
destination is death. This is simple logic talking, picking apart a
somewhat overused metaphor and deconstructing it. I often wonder at the way the world is, and how blinkered we often are, how focussed on the outcome and not on the process, how determined to get where we’re going as fast as possible.

 

I’m guilty of it myself, on a regular basis, of wishing to get somewhere and skip the boring parts. And yet, as someone who travels for part of her living, I cover thousands of kilometres a year and very seldom get bored by the countless hours aboard a coach surrounded by other people getting bored and frustrated by the miles. For me, I have a rich inner life that stops me getting bored when all there is for hours is the side of the autoroute or motorway.

 

 

 

When it comes to the simple passage of life, it’s too easy to wish away the quiet hours, and rush along to better, more exciting things, and in doing so we can miss so many beautiful things because we don’t take the time to look. The sheer wonder of nature infiltrates every niche, like these swallows nesting undisturbed barely above eye-line at the Slipper Chapel in Walsingham.

 

They flew in and out and no one seemed to see them; I could have put my hand into the nests and scooped out eggs or hatchlings. Yet the birds seemed unconcerned, having learned that people generally didn’t even see what was in plain sight.

 

 

 

But it is in the dark times that we most need to keep going without
rushing through the process. Winston Churchill’s famous words seem
obvious, but there are a number of ways that people react to the dark
times. There are those who when plunged into darkness will stay
there, lost in a state of psychosis and shock. This might be for the
rest of their lives, and for these souls, medical care is still in
its infancy. Thankfully, relatively few people end up lost in this
state.  

 

 

 

Giving up and settling for the cold comfort of believing that this is all
there is to life may be another reaction. When people react like
this, it’s often at the stage where they were very close to emerging
on the other side, and are occupying those grey hinterlands of hell,
that one might term limbo. They’ve been trudging along for such a
long while that the relief at things suddenly not being quite so bad
convinces them that they are through and free. From being in total
darkness, they’re in a monochrome world that seems sparkling with
light by comparison to what they have emerged from. I think that
Churchill’s words are at their most powerful for people like these,
who do not realise that they are still in their own hell.

 

 

 

If you are taking one of these enforced subterranean journeys, then I
have a little advice. Do not rush headlong, in your desire to emerge
into a lighter place, because in your ascent you will find places
that appear to be beyond the darkness. Like great caverns lit by
eerie phosphorescence, these are places where you can take rest and
refreshment and give you time to think. They are way-stations on the
way home, but they are not home itself. These are places where you
may re-equip yourself with torches to light your way and other things
that may ease your journey. You may meet people here who have wisdom to share with you, who may wish to hear your story. But these are not places to stay and live. They are places between the worlds and the nourishment they provide is both limited and limiting. Use these times to reorientate yourself, but do not fool yourself into thinking you are home safe. You are not. There’s a long way to go. You may come to these places and stages many times before you come out into the true daylight again.

 

 

 

If life is a journey, then any short-cut is a death-trap. It might be
literal death, or it might be that drawn-out metaphorical death of
the spirit I have spoken of before, but bypassing and cheating your
own journey will only ever ensure you spend far longer in the dark
places than you might otherwise have done. If you’re going through
hell, you might wish to go back, to a better time or place, but this
will ultimately just take you deeper into that hell.

 

On this one, I am with Winston: “If you’re going through hell, keep
going.” 

 

Beachcomber ~ a poem about inspiration

Beachcomber

The
shores of sleep last night

Were not of soft white sand,

Strewn with intriguing driftwood,

Magical wave-smoothed rocks

And shining wine-coloured weed

Cast up from the deep.

No. The shores of sleep last night

Were strewn for miles

With the wrecks of dreams,

The hulks of hope

And fragments of fantasies,

Lying like beached and decaying whales.

Some looked whole and entire

Till I peered through portholes

And found them empty, no more than shells.

I would be a beachcomber,

Gathering material for my work

As I patrol this shoreline,

But I cannot work with this.

I will wait till the next storm

Washes the strand clean

Of cast-up wreckage

And leaves me with the flotsam

I can fashion and transform.

 

A Tale of a Midsummer Bee ~ Balancing the Needs of the One with the Needs of the Many

A
Tale of a Midsummer Bee ~ Balancing the Needs of the One with the
Needs of the Many

As regular readers will know, I am the proud keeper of four hives of
honey bees. I studied bee-keeping at school;  because I refused to do
needlework or cookery and wanted to do woodwork or metalwork, the school compromised and allowed me to do rural science instead. That afternoon lesson was the saviour of my third year at high school,
because I could enjoy doing something practical, and I loved working
with the bees. My husband does a lot more with the bees, being more
confident than I, but usually our weekly bee inspection is split
between the two of us. One smokes while the other inspects frames and then we swap over.

This week we did our usual routine, and this morning, on the stairs I
spotted a stowaway. One of the bees had come home with us. Now, our hives are over three miles away and clearly this was one tired and
disorientated bee. I put her in a jar with a blob of honey and left
her to feed. When I came back, she’d nearly drowned in the honey so I had to rescue her with a pen she clung to. Some hours later, she’d
cleaned all the honey off herself and was ready to go home. I put her
in my water bottle with the cap on loosely so air could get in and
she’s gone off with my husband to be dropped off at the farm on his
way somewhere else.

Now I can hear what some of you are saying. All that fuss for one bloody bee? I know. Every time we open a hive for inspection we kill a few bees no matter how careful we are; a hive at full strength has over fifty thousand bees in various stages of their bee careers, and there are casualties all the time. We even managed to kill one queen, so some of yesterday’s work was reducing the thirty or so queen cells
the bees had produced down to one good one so we didn’t end up with lots of new queens each flying off with a retinue, taking our hive
down to nothing. It hurt me to destroy those half made queens but for the sake of keeping a healthy colony thriving, it had to be done.

Bees are the ultimate social creature; theirs is an almost perfect
society. Each worker is born knowing what to do; the first thing they
do when they hatch is clean out their cell so it is ready for the
queen to lay another egg in. They go through various stages as they
live, starting out working in the nurseries first, tending to eggs
and grubs, then making wax and building cells, then finally going out
to forage for nectar and pollen. A worker bee in her days as a
forager might make a scant teaspoonful of honey. One bee makes little or no difference; it’s the sheer numbers that make them successful. A solitary honey bee is a lonely thing; she is lost without her sisters and her function. The chances are they will not even notice her missing. And yet, I grieve for every bee I accidentally kill, for
those that have stung me and will therefore die (fact: human skin is
the only skin that bees cannot withdraw their sting from. Bears and
badgers can be stung repeatedly without ill effect to the bees;
humans cause the stinger to die, ripped more or less in half)

There are approximately seven billion human beings on this planet. Seven billion individuals. It’s an astonishing figure. Imagine: that many people all with needs and wants and thoughts and feelings and dreams. Some are starving to death, others dying of diseases caused by excess. Each and every one has the same value as another, and yet, when tens of thousands die half way across the world, we cannot
comprehend it. It takes a single human interest story to engage us;
we cannot relate to thousands, or even hundreds. We can barely relate one-to-one.

The gift of that single bee I found on my stairs is to remind me that
each is precious and worth saving, and that if I make no effort at
all with one, I cannot hope to care for thousands. It might make me a
slow bee-keeper, unfocussed on harvesting the golden glory of the
bee-people’s hard labour, but I think it might make me a better human being.  

 

Monday Meditation ~ Linden Blossom for Lightness of Heart and Ease of the Soul

Linden Blossom Meditation ~ for Lightness of Heart and Ease of The Soul

Background

Linden trees (also known confusingly as lime trees despite not being a
citrus) are among some of the longer lived native trees, some
rivalling yews in reaching vast ages. There are two main species to
be encountered in the UK, one of which has been extensively planted
as an avenue tree as it grows relatively fast and is tall and very
straight. They’re also one of my personal favourite trees.

Linden blossom is one of the most lovely scents of early summer, blooming from mid June to early July; the flowers produce vast amounts of nectar and the honey made by bees foraging in an area where linden grows is exquisite.

The wood itself is a favourite of woodcarvers, being close grained and
light in colour and the bark has also been used to produce cloth. The
fresh leaves have been used in baths to calm feverish children.

But it is the flowers that have the most pleasing uses. A tea made with linden blossom is light and delicate and can help with insomnia, and with nervous tension. An essential oil is also produced so that the
heavenly scent is available all year round and though this is
expensive, it is also available at a reasonable price diluted in
coconut oil or similar

For this meditation I suggest you use either some fresh flowers if they
are available, a drop of the essential oil, or a cup of freshly
brewed linden blossom tea.  

Go through your usual grounding and centring techniques and when you are ready, take a breath of the scent and hold it in your mind. Let the scent fill your thoughts and feelings and when you are sure you have the scent, you may begin.

 

Meditation

You are standing at the end of a long avenue of lime trees that stand
like columns of emerald green, shimmering as the soft summer breeze shakes the leaves. With the breeze comes the fragrance of the
flowers, light and very sweet without being heavy or sickly. It’s a
warm day but as you look around you can see that clouds have come
over and you feel the first drops of rain falling on your arm. The
ground beneath your feet is somewhat cracked as if this is the first
rain in a long while and the grass under the trees is going yellow
from dryness.

Start to walk along the avenue, but take it slowly. The rain is soft and
refreshing and seems to bring out the heavenly scent even more
beautifully. There are birds singing, and the whole place seems to be
quiet and deserted. The avenue is long and you are enclosed by the
towering trees so that you are walking in a lovely filtered green
light, a little like being under the sea. The sensation of being
bathed in green is relaxing and you feel tensions slip away as you
walk and breathe in the delightful aroma of linden flowers.

When you get to the end of the avenue the trees open out and form a circle; the clearing in the middle of this circle contains a small
building. It’s a little summer house, painted white and it has open
sides so that you can sit inside it and be sheltered from the rain.
All around the summer house are planted shrubs and plants which have large leaves, some like great hands of greenery. You notice as you cross the space between the avenue and the summer house that the rain has become heavy and almost torrential so you run a little so that you get to the wide shallow steps of the building and under the
protection of the roof.

Inside there are refreshments laid out for you to enjoy and a wickerwork sofa covered with soft cushions is very inviting. It feels like a very special sort of sanctuary, and someone has spent time choosing things that will appeal to you and you alone. The refreshments are covered with a crisp white linen cloth and if you wish to you can go and see what is there for you.

When you have made your selection and eaten and drunk what you have chosen come and sit down on the sofa. It feels perfectly comfortable, soft but supportive and as you lean back or curl up, the warm wind brings with it  moist air laden with the scent of the linden flowers. The rain is drumming a steady rhythm on the roof, and the music it makes as it falls onto the leaves of the plants is so soothing that you let yourself fall into a reverie or a daydream. You are in a loving place, a space where everything is meant for you and is therefore the safest place in the world. Allow your mind to wander and follow dreams and visions, while you sit in this little sanctuary and enjoy the sound of the summer rain and the scents from the trees outside.

*

It’s time to leave now. The rain has stopped and there is brilliant
sunshine warming the flowers and coaxing more scent out; bees are
starting to return and begin their foraging among the linden
blossoms. The avenue as you walk down it seems to hum with life and with renewed energy and inner strength. You feel renewed and blessed yourself and as you return to the start of the avenue, let yourself remember any of those daydreams and visions. Some of them may be things you may want to do in real life.

You’ve come back to where you started now. Allow the sense of peace and renewal remain with you as you return. The lightness of heart and soul will stay with you but you can always return another time if you need to.

Make sure that you ground yourself fully before resuming normal activitiy.

Written as a part of the Meditating with Aromatics interactive project.

Anomaly ~ a novel of resilience and self acceptance by Thea Atkinson

Anomaly – a novel of resilience and self acceptance by Thea Atkinson

My first port of call on my voyage of discovery in the world of
Independent authors was Anomaly, and I was intrigued enough to
download the sample. That’s the beauty of the Kindle system; you can get a fair chunk to read for free and then decide if you want to buy the whole book.

I read through the sample at a fair pace and was hooked enough to make my very first Kindle purchase. The next afternoon I had free, I
curled up in bed and read the whole lot, a guilty pleasure like a
massive tub of ice cream.

Essentially it’s a simple enough story if you boiled it down to mere plot, but that could also be said for a lot of world renowned literature. The power of this book is the characters and especially J, the narrator
and in my opinion, the hero of the story. J might take issue at this
but this rather depends on what gender J is at the time.  You see the
central character isn’t really sure of his own gender, and that’s
what makes this book so breathtaking. We’re not talking about gender reassignment or anything quite so…well, crude.

  Anomaly examines in a very thought provoking way what gender actually is. Is it what genitalia we are assigned, our chromosomes or how we think. Or is it how society depicts what makes someone male or female? It brought home to me quite how loosely many people are fixed into their gender. It’s something I’d thought about quite often and how society demands that somehow we make up our minds and stick with our decision(or that which birth landed us with)

  J can’t make up his mind. In fact, I think it’s not about making a
decision at all, but about something that shifts on a regular basis
and has done since childhood. He has suffered for it, dreadfully and
the events of the novel force him to revisit his own demons and fight
them again, but this time while trying to help both his friend and a
neighbour fight the same family of problems.

  At the end of the novel I was left with a sense of increased compassion and understanding for J and also for myself. The narration flows smoothly, the voice of J is discursive and sometimes evasive as though he’s aware that people want to know more and is making them wait. I spent quite a lot of time wanting to know what gender he actually is, but that is intentional, and I found it nicely unsettling. His inner voice, the one we are listening to changes, veering from masculine to feminine and back again but often settling somewhere in the middle in a way that I found familiar of my own thought patterns at times.

  This is such an original novel, I cannot imagine how a traditional
publisher would have taken a risk on it. If they had, I feel sure
that the heavy hand of an editor would have slashed away much that
was raw and real in a bid to make it more palatable for the mythical
reader they are catering for. It also defies genre stereotyping. I
have no idea where you’d place such a book in a bookshop.
Psychological thriller? Nope. Chick-lit? Nope. I don’t think a comfy
slot exists for a book like this, which, given the book that it is,
is oddly comforting in itself.

  I’ve begged Thea to write more about J’s journey and she assures me it will happen. Sometimes a character really gets under your skin and J did that to me. Give it a go, and see if he grabs you the way he did me.    

The Dark Side of the Moon ~ the Pull of Darkness

Tonight in the UK is a total eclipse of the moon, starting around half past six in the evening.

I find this sort of event challenging because it makes me think that for every good bright thing there is not only a shadow but a dark side.

The dark side of love is hate; the shadow side of either is indifference. Dark is not automatically to be equated with evil but fairly often it is not only portrayed as such but does actually represent what someone like me would see as evil.

But even as the world turns, so too does the balance between light and dark, and kept in equal measures, we can live as complete beings. However, when the tug towards the dark becomes overwhelming that balance becomes uneven and we make poor decisions that hurt others and ourselves. When someone harms us, our first instinct is to strike back and take revenge; it is seldom to forgive and to try to understand.

I’ve been finding the pull to the dark overwhelming lately, and tonight I hope to sit through the eclipse and watch as the moon passes through blood red shadows and back into the light and as she does so, I want to trace my own journey through the dark and back into the light.

Dark is not always evil, but dark is always…..dark.

Pray for me.

Disneyland, Cowboys and Let’s Pretend ~ Is Suspension of Disbelief the Secret to a Happy Life?

Disneyland, Cowboys and Let’s pretend ~ Is suspension of disbelief the secret to a happy life?

 

My first experience of a depressive episode came when I was about six years old. By that point I’d been in full time school for about six
months and was already finding it a baffling experience. There was
way too much messing around and not enough learning for my liking.
Back in the seventies, before any of this National Curriculum
rubbish, teachers got to decide what they were going to teach their
classes and how. I went to school eager to learn to read and write
and all that and within a week was hopelessly disappointed at the
grinding slowness of it all. I even realised that I could actually
already read a bit.

 

The crisis came with P.E. In those dim and distant days infant schools
usually made you do P.E in your vest and pants and that was trial
enough for a shy kid like me. Balance beams and hula hoops were
endurable but one day the teacher told us she wanted us all to
pretend to be cowboys twirling our lassos. I stood for a second, not
quite able to believe it and watched as my class erupted into action.
They galloped hither and yon, waving arms with invisible ropes and
whooping with delight. I continued to stand there, baffled. I
couldn’t do it. I looked on in utter bewilderment. It defied any sort
of logic or narrative; cowboys do not go round wearing vests and
pants from the Co-op, nor do they try and twirl like that, and
if you tried that on a real horse, you’d be on the ground in
seconds…..You’d surely never have twenty eight trainee cowboys
running round together unless this was a special training session.
And we were too close, the ropes would have had someone’s eye out by now….

 

Come along Vivienne, you must join in!” said the teacher brightly, not realising that this set the precedent for my lifelong opposition to
“joining in”.

Something in my juvenile psyche fizzed and banged in a wholly ominous way and being five and a half, the inevitable happened. The tears started and wouldn’t stop. I think I cried most of the day after that.

 

Fast forward to 2008 and a shamanic dreaming workshop I foolishly attended and standing in the middle of a field with 12 other women and the leader(who will remain nameless) I watched as they all “took on the attributes of their power animal” and after watching for a minute, walked off without a word to pack my bags and catch the train home.

Fast forward to 2010 and Disneyland, Paris, and seeing hundreds of people, adults even, getting excited because people dressed in costumes were coming past them on a float, waving and wearing fixed and weary smiles. “I met Mickey Mouse!” breathed one woman with ecstatic joy in her eyes. I smiled and didn’t say, “No, you met some underpaid French student dressed in a Mickey Mouse suit.” That day was only made bearable by the company of the two teachers and some of the students I spent time with. It was actually painful. Everything was fake and almost everyone was happy to accept it for that day as real. Like an atheist among believers, I felt isolated and ill at ease.

 

During my childhood I played lots of let’s pretend games but within those games there had to be a certain structure of reality. Yes, a felled tree could be our spaceship but you couldn’t just jump out of it; you had to exit via the airlock. Yes, my paper boat could be a ship going down the Amazon, but the dolls piloting it couldn’t carry it over
waterfalls because it would be too heavy. The internal world of let’s
pretend had to follow certain patterns of logic and reason; if I was
being a boy in the game, I had to wear boyish clothes and so on.

 

I find it almost impossible to believe even for a minute in things I
know are fake, like Disneyland. It ruins any enjoyment I might get
because it grates on raw nerves, and makes me suspicious of what else they might be trying to fool me with. I’m the same with a lot of New Age matters, even though I know enough to realise not all of it is quackery and snake oil and that some is utterly genuine and helpful.
The shamanic dreaming workshop upset me badly because not only did it throw me back to that episode at five years old, but because I was unable to get past it. All I could see were grown women behaving like pre-schoolers and a leader who seemed to take more delight it it than I felt was healthy. I felt threatened by it, as if by giving in and suspending my disbelief I was somehow in serious danger. It may sound an exaggeration but at the time all I could feel was a whirlpool pulling, drawing me into a different dimension. Nobody stopped me leaving, or seemed to care much that I was upset; the leader did try to persuade me to stay and when I explained my reasons he refused to accept my point of view. I’ve never dared go on anything like that since then.

 

But observation of people who can seem to get “into the spirit of the
thing” whether for Disney or whatever has shown me something that
disturbs me more. They tend to be people who are happy. They tend to not agonise over things the way people like me do.

 

I asked one friend why she liked Disneyland so much and her response was, “I love it because I can be a child again.”

 

It’s made me wonder if I ever was a child at all.