Indefinite Leave To Remain (Diamond Jubilee)

Intensity is done
Now the wait
What comes next?
We, immigrant
Moving nations
Not across borders
But inside bodies
Our blue eyed son
The reminder of migrations past
That cut across
Boundaries made from desks and glass partitions
The inventions of form filling
Line making
Appetite suppressing
This Indefinite Leave To Remain
Speaks of staying
The softness of the story, human sized and roughly hewn; indistinct
Asks for audience
But, childlike, must quiet itself
Elevating certainty above ambiguity
For the egalitarian process
Of mutual adresses, proof
Credit card payments
The evidence of our good citizenship
Bus driver rides angry,
Son of forced movements sweetened later with the cultivation of recruitment promises
Cushioned beneath a Jubilee weekend
Sixty diamond years of continental drift
Culminate in a penstroke of declaration
That what we are is enough
That what we are is the truth
The pragmatism of surrender
Another layer on the foreshore
As 1000 ships sail by.


The Spiral aka ‘Keep Getting Up’

My son learnt how to stand by himself yesterday.  Today he kept practicing.  Standing, grinning, falling down, getting up again, grinning some more.  This is his work and he lives it because in his world that I am delighted to witness, the false separation of work from the rest of life doesn’t exist.  He keeps standing up regardless of how many times he falls down.  He keeps standing up because he falls down a lot!  So it is.     And it is lovely! I find that it harder to get back up, return to writing.  This life story asked of me by the West of the Wheel; my PHD thesis.  Watching my son, I am reminded that no matter how many times I fall down – don’t write, get distracted, get caught up in a dark cloud – I can always get up.  So I do.  However unsteady on my feet.  Write a little or a lot.  Get.the words out; hold the judgement.

Walking home from school today through the pocket-sized woods, my daughter noticed a beautiful snail shell. Pale green with hints of yellow, it was unlike any snail shell I’ve seen before. Examining it closely, we saw the perfectly formed spiral that was at its heart. The spiral reminds us in perfect symbolism of the continual return; the constant revelation of the next turn.  Engaging its lesson, I renew my commitment to return to my work and let that work become part of a life I love.  When I lose my bearings, and I will, the spiral helps me to find the way back in.  Keep standing up.  My children constantly offer me chances to wake up (usually between 3am and 5am….ha ha!).  Too often, I don’t get it.  But when I do, I’m the luckiest woman alive.  5am birdsong is the best there is.  The sleep that follows, sandwiched between them, the sweetest.


Clearing out Pain Stories & Trusting the River

Right now I am writing my life story, a big part of identifying the pain stories and agreements that are running the show behind the scenes. This felt initially quite indulgent and a bit egotistical.  also hard…. too big.  But this is what is called for in the West of the Wheel.  Old ways of being must be allowed to die with dignity in order to make space.  It’s a bit like clearing out a massive old cupboard, a really really big one. Have I mentioned the size of this thing? Seriously. Huge.  It’s taking our circle forever to go through this part of the Wheel.  But this is the thing with clutter – everyone has different quantities of it and relationships to it.  In our circle, going through the Wheel for the first time, this is a first telling.  Perhaps we are being ambitious. Trying to do a mass clear out, and detailed ordering at the same time.  That’s a lot of labour.  But the more clutter you clear, the lighter it gets.  We are sharing the stories in weekly chapters, each of us taking turns to be teller or listener.  Whether sharing or witnessing, the experience has so far been  tremendously powerful in releasing all the stuff that had been locked in these stories.  It’s good, important work.  And like any work that is significant, there’s a lot of resistance up in here!  It is so hard to turn up for this and stay motivated to write. Yet, like any other clutter busting project, once I get past the gates of resistance and  start, it’s like a rushing river….. torrents of words and memories spill out of me.  The power with which they come tells me that these stories have been longing to be released.  Clamouring for a hearing, however humble. We have barely scratched the surface of childhood in two months, but if this is how long it takes, then this is how long it takes.  Shew! All we have to do is keep turning up for work, letting the river carry us where it will, clearing all the debris on its way.  At this stage, it can be tough to let go and trust the river to do its work.  Maybe, the trick here is not to try too hard to understand the process at this stage…. just let go and get on with getting it out.  See where it goes.  Watching, and feeling, the river flow when you’re in it.


Dreaming of Darkness

Light in the night (Castelldefels)

Light in the night (Castelldefels) (Photo credit: jcarlosn)

It was a disembodied voice, heard in the gap between sleeping and waking, that brought me into the Wheel of Initiation.  Sounds like something unmissable, but actually capturing dreams and listening to the pointers of truth emerging from our subconcious requires a bit of engagement and discipline.  Sometimes we just don’t feel like doing it!  I know I don’t.  Being in a deep, wonderful sleep, or about to go into a deep wonderful sleep, it can be tempting to not write down the dream when it wakes you, or scrawl down the word that is repeating incesantly.  The night I heard the disembodied voice repeating the word that would lead me to Julie Tallard Johnson‘s work over and over again was one of those nights when I REALLY wanted to just sleep.  It had been a long day, full of the demands of children, family, home, work and it had been crappy weather to boot.  I was SO ready for a good sleep.  But this word, repeating, would not go away.  So I turned on the light, scrawled it in my bedside notebook, and promptly went into that much needed deep and refreshing sleep.  The next day, I checked out the word and the journey began that brought me to the Wheel of Initiation and this very page I am writing now!

Something to be said for keeping a bedside notebook for these night time scrawlings!  And also something to be said for just getting them out, however.  I have been known to write dreams in the dark too, allowing the pen to just let whatever has come to have some space in the gap of wakefulness.  It is always a bit of a thrill and occasionally a surprise to read it back in the morning.

So when I had another repeating word appear in the gap between sleep and awake the other day, I paid attention, scrawling it down with the promise to check it the next morning.

The word was Prometheus.

I knew Prometheus was a figure from Greek mythology, but couldn’t quite remember which one. I had it mixed up with Icarus as I googled the next day.  But this was not a dead end of confusion.  Icarus is destroyed by flying to close to the sun.  And Prometheus is punished by the Gods for stealing fire and giving it to humans.  Now what was this dream voice trying to communicate to me?   There is something here about too much light, and reflecting on where I was at around the time this dream voice appeared, I was trying very hard to be positive and good, a light-filled person.  You know.  Spiritual and glowing and saintly.  Super committed to my practice.  Wanting very badly to progress.  Be the most spectacular initiate ever.  A wonderful human being.  And in the process I was running myself ragged, trying to be all things at all times.  To my family, myself, my practice, my work, community, circle.  And feeling bad and guilty when I wanted to ‘switch off’.  This was resistance trying to get me!

There is absolutely nothing wrong with striving to be these things.  But in the process of trying so hard to reach the Light, there is a danger of suppressing the darkness that is also nourishing.  Too much emphasis on being positive, light and good, and we can get burned.

The Tao Te Ching speaks a lot about darkness:

Freed from desire, you can see the hidden mystery

By having desire, you can only see what is visibly real.

Yet mystery and reality emerge from the same source.

This source is called darkness.

Darkness born from darkness.

The beginning of all understanding.

Jeanette Winterson has written about the beauty and power inherent to surrendering to darkness at times when it is necessary.  Her descriptions of retreating in response to the coming of winter darkness ignite a warm glow in the heart, reminding me of the subtle interplay and dance of darkness and light, and also of the many faces of light.  Not always bright, manifesting light can be as much about the low glow of a winter fire, wrapped in the blanket of darkness.  When my daughter expresses her fear of the dark at bedtime, I try to describe it in these terms.  To think of the dark as a cosy blanket, that we wrap around ourselves to help us get to sleep (she doesn’t always buy it!).

In denying our shadow; our darkness, what do we suppress in ourselves?  The feminist writer Audrey Lorde would describe what we suppress in our desire to be too-good/light as The Erotic.  This is an erotic far removed from nullifying porno-culture.  It is, in Lorde’s words, …a measure between the beginning of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings.  It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire.

Again, I come to this confusion about the nature of light and dark.  The danger of making an equivalence between moral value and the qualities of light and dark.  This confusion is a way in which what Steven Pressfield describes as ‘Resistance’ finds a subtle way in.  Resistance operating in one of its most successful disguises, making over-work and an insane striving,  into the illusion of our true work.  In Audrey Lorde’s words:

This internal requirement toward excellence which we learn from the erotic must not be misconstrued as demanding the impossible from ourselves nor from others.  Such a demand incapacitates everyone in the process.  For the erotic is not a question only of what we do; it is a question of how acutely and fully we can feel in the doing…. The aim of each thing which we do is to make our lives and the lives of our children richer and more possible.  Within the celebration of the erotic in all our endeavors, my work becomes a longed for bed which I enter gratefully and from which I rise up empowered.

Beware the myth of Prometheus, where the  bringing of fire is equated with punishment.  Lighting the inner fire requires only a love for the darkness that surrounds it, and an appreciation of the dance between the two.


Sleep Walking

This Jagged Hole

Edged with shadows

Unknowing, Night waking

Pulls on a leather jacket,

Sleep walking

Threatening reprisals, violent and repercussive

If they try to stop her

If they don’t let her leave

You will regret it

She says

Led back to bed

Slumbering memory empty, though still vibrating

With a secret message

To keep waking up