Thursday, 26 September 2013


I am deep in a pool of stillness at the moment. Maybe it's the weather which has been similarly settled and quiet. Now and then I'll feel an habitual twinge of 'Shouldn't I be fretting about something I haven't done or haven't achieved?' but it lasts a single second and is dismissed. I have done, I am doing. I have achieved, I am achieving. In my own way on my own path.

In the space of this stillness my perspective has improved. I have distance from the worry and cause of those worries. What I am seeing is what so many have seen before me, that we create our own lives.

In the quiet I have heard my internal voice and the mantras I have repeated a billion times:

I'm broke.
I'm so tired.

How many times have I said,"I don't want to be rich, I just want to have enough. To be able to pay the bills and eat. That's all I want." Well guess what? Wishes do come true because that's exactly how we live. With just enough. We pay our bills - sometimes miraculously, because my core mantra, whatever else, has always been 'It'll be okay'  - and we eat and that's it. And I feel 'broke'. And 'so tired'.

If just enough is really what I want - and many days it truly is - then I need to stop complaining about it and be grateful! If it's not then I need to create something more because clearly my manifesting powers are pretty damn good.

In this space and clarity (which always happens when I switch to a vegan diet by the way) I am thinking about 2014. A full three months ahead because I've learnt, finally, that I can't hurry me. I'm trying out new mantras.

I'm whole.
I'm inspired.
I want to have more money to play with and enjoy.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

School Prayer

In the name of the daybreak
and the eyelids of morning
and the wayfaring moon
and the night when it departs,

I swear I will not dishonor
my soul with hatred,
but offer myself humbly
as a guardian of nature,
as a healer of misery,
as a messenger of wonder,
as an architect of peace.

In the name of the sun and its mirrors
and the day that embraces it
and the cloud veils drawn over it
and the uttermost night
and the male and the female
and the plants bursting with seed
and the crowning seasons
of the firefly and the apple,

I will honor all life
—wherever and in whatever form
it may dwell—on Earth my home,
and in the mansions of the stars.

~ Diane Ackerman

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Round and round my head

"I could see by the way you were living
You had gone to the other side.
You were the flash in the wings of a swallow
You were the light in a lion's eye.

And you were standing there alone in the river
Where do you go when the well is dry?
Like you could summon up another religion
Like you could summon another life."

-Shearwater, Pushing The River

Monday, 16 September 2013

The power of three

I overslept on Sunday - phone battery was flat so no alarm - and I didn't get out of the door with the dogs until nearly seven. As we walked up the garden I could hear very loud and raucous (raucous is the perfect word for corvids, almost onomatopoeic) calls from beyond our gate. They sounded like crows or magpies. I couldn't see anything but feared the worst. In our early days here I once opened the front door to find a mortally-wounded, screaming magpie flapping around on our doorstep, dropped by a sparrowhawk. As I had watched in powerless horror, the hawk did us all a favour and came back for its prey, flying off to finish the job. I was scared this was something similar.

As we went through the gate, dogs on leads, I saw it on the ground. A wood pigeon, way too young to fledge, probably fallen from its nest in the yew tree branches above us. I couldn't reach or even see the nest and anyway, this little baby was badly wounded. S/he had pin feathers just coming through on her wings but otherwise was still covered in pigeon fluff. Her eyes were closed and she was too weak to stand but was breathing heavily, clearly very distressed.

You can imagine how it felt to see her. She couldn't be saved. She wouldn't survive. She was slowly, painfully, dying. There was no sparrowhawk waiting to whisk her away. I knew I couldn't finish the job and even if Charlie were capable, he wasn't home to ask. There was only one thing I could do to help this sweet soul and that was to ask another sweet soul, my dog Dooley, to release her.

The tangled, traumatised, panicky energy of Life, still holding on to this body couldn't be left. Quickly, on my word, Dooley released her spirit from the physical. I know he would have done the same had I not been there. He's a dog. He did it efficiently and probably with more thought of breakfast than healing this thread of Life. He carried the empty body away and ate it, as I stood a few metres off and cried. I looked up and saw that, being later than normal, we'd come out at sunrise for the first time in a couple of weeks. There was a beautiful blue and pink sky and I sent a blessing and a prayer with that young soul, witnessing her return to the All That Is in all its beauty.

For the rest of the day all this circled in my heart. There was an element of shame that I'd asked Dooley - such a gentle boy - to kill but also a strange feeling that we had 'done the right thing' together. That we had acted as a team, my canine familiar and me. I was proud of and grateful for him, as sad as the whole thing made me. I felt as if my relationship with him had profoundly changed. I'll be honest, I have a new respect for him that I hadn't realised wasn't already there.

Later, I listened to the latest audio class from my shamanic practice teacher. This one covered two topics: ethics in practice (at least, an introduction to this vastly important area) and also building a deeper relationship with spirit guides (including so-called 'power animals'). The overlap of these subjects involved looking at how the power that a shamanic practitioner can access is not theirs, but is 'borrowed' from spirit animals and other guides who live in non-ordinary reality. The practitioner is the 'hollow bone' who can use that power and is responsible for what it does at his/her behest, but we need our spirit guides in order to reach it. As humans, living in ordinary reality, we bring our societal and cultural ethics to our work - not to mention our human emotions and sensitivities. Meanwhile, we should always remember that animals don't share most if any of these ethics and emotions. They have their own. We can't project onto them and we can't judge them. Healing is not about getting things to go the way we subjectively believe they should; we are ethically responsible for doing the right thing, however hard it may be. And the right thing means returning Life to smooth flow, removing obstacles that throw shadows in the way of the light. Sometimes those obstacles will be too big or too heavy for our human form, even in non-ordinary reality. This is why we have helpers who allow us to access their power, skills and vision.

Clearly, these here and available to us in this reality too, as Dooley was for the baby wood pigeon and for me. It was a sad but graphic lesson for me in the power of the shamanic triangle: practitioner, guide, situation.

I left a flower and a blessing at the spot where she left her body. The sun was shining.

Friday, 6 September 2013

What summer gave me

From top left, clockwise:
June in Scotland; July, August and September in Wiltshire.

There are people, from all sorts of spiritual backgrounds, for whom the act of walking upon the earth is an offering. My wanderings around my little sanctuary here in Wiltshire hardly compare with miles trekked over mountains, deserts, coastlines and more but still, I can relate. The sense of reconnection, realignment and renewed commitment to Life is almost unavoidable.

Ten or so years ago Charlie brought some South Korean monks here to lead an environmental protest. They practised the offering of samboilbae - three steps and a bow - and with their dedication to Won Buddhism and cultural history of animism, it fascinated and spoke to me. They left a gift of a mala with me and I treasure it still.

I think that for many busy people - I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest women feel it more because of the many and varied demands and roles they deal with - the idea of tranquillity and simplicity is a seductive one. For me, the thought of a quiet life of contemplation, service and devotion appears to be the highest path I could walk and - perhaps a contributing factor - an easy one for me and my ultra-introverted ways to travel.

Back in 2009 a course I was doing prompted me to distill my values down to seven words. The first six were predictable, although no less true for that, but I was aware from the start that I had no Seventh Word. I played with the ones I already had, attempting to eke out a simile, but it was clearly not going to work. I procrastinated. Then I gave up trying and in that moment my hand wrote 'devotion'. Before the cynical 'yeah right' could pass my lips I felt how deeply that word was rooted in me and for how long it had been there. Forever.

Living my daily life while remembering that I long for that simple, devoted, contemplative life led to waves, tsunamis of resentment over the ensuing years. Until very recently I could regularly be found stomping around a field, taking deep breaths, attempting a calming affirmation but still cursing like a sailor along the lines of,"How the f***ing hell am I supposed to have a tranquil spiritual life when every single f***ing day I have to put up with this crap? I'm just a f***ing unpaid housekeeper. Our whole lives are f***ing CHAOS and I get to clear up the f***ing MESS. Again." Ever been there? Yeah. Fun. And usually, in my case, not entirely accurate.

But that messy, chaotic life with its ceaseless demands, zero job recognition and generally crazy-makingness IS my life. It's the world where love lives in all its embodied glory and the world that I've chosen again and again. Even when I'm not entirely sure why.

So this summer I decided to have if not the best of, then some very good bits of both worlds. The crazy bit is fairly self-perpetuating these days; I don't need to work on it, it just happens. I know, it's damned impressive. The spiritual, peaceful bit needs more attention. And that's why my alarm goes off at 5 AM every morning.

Now that it's still pitch dark at that time out here in the land of no street lights, I'll admit I probably don't get out of bed until 5.30 and out of the door about 20 minutes later (if Dooley will stop the Staffador opera he likes to indulge in when he wakes up). But from that point I am wide awake and present. Through the summer, my days have started with glorious sun rises and as lovely as the photographs of those are, nothing comes close to being there. The temperature of the air, the freshness, the waking birds, sometimes deer or a fox or even the Fugitive Four (sheep who escaped their field and roamed all over the estate for a couple of weeks, appearing in the most random places and always making my day). Most of all the sense of being in the presence of All That Is. Of being part of All That Is.

It's that which heals me and will always heal me. It's that which has led me to shamanic training, to renewed meditation practise, to appreciation of the place as I live as home and place of learning. And yes, as temple.

I've loved this hot, dry, perfect summer and my heart hurts to see her leave but hopefully autumn will share with me the deep, earthy magic I know she carries with her.