The light filled centre


photo by Sue Vincent

The search had take so long – most of her life really.   Born in tumultuous times to passionate and volatile parents, upheaval and dissonance had been Christine’s story since earliest childhood.   Searching for a some place to call home – some place that offered her a sense of security and stability – had taken her across the globe and deep into the mysteries, legends and stories of other cultures.

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Now, as the years added up and her hair greyed at the temples, Christine retreated behind the closed door of the little flat she rented downtown.    Her forays out were of an essential nature.   Going to work, buying food and supplies, getting out for a walk in nature when she could – these events marked the passage of her days.  Beyond this she did not bother with going out and about as she had once done.   No, she told concerned friends, she was not depressed.   She just needed to be alone for a bit.

Sitting in her flat mulling over her life she came to see that what she was looking for was an inner centredness.   She’d called it a quest for a home and a sense of belonging during those years when she’d looked here, there and everywhere in the outer world but really, what she was looking for was a sense of belonging inside herself – a sense of coming home to herself.   What she was seeking was an inner foundation – a place where she could stand strong and secure within herself regardless of outer events.

Some of the things she’d learnt on her travels assumed a greater significance to her now.  Certain meditations and visualizations carried her into inner realms that nourished and sustained.  Some of the sacred objects she’d crafted in workshops with other women embodied spiritual energies she sought to integrate within herself.   Although the objects – the wands, drums, medicine bundles and spirit dolls – had their origins in other cultures, the women had fashioned their own meanings and contemporary applications into these ancient tools.    Looking at them now as they sat on her altar she saw they were still potent receptacles of ancestral, archetypal and spiritual energies.  These days too she often turned to the spiritual books she’d acquired and, increasingly, the online blogs and websites of contemporary spiritual practitioners.   These sources offered her guidance and reassurance that the inner journey she was undertaking was both profound and necessary.

Using these diverse spiritual tools drawn from many faiths and cultures she shifted through her personal memories and plunged into an investigation of her bloodline inheritances.    As time went by she found too that she began to unpick the cultural stories she’d assumed to be unassailable facts but now saw to be constructs erected to promote conformity to capitalist agendas and limited social structures.

As the months went by Christine began to wrestle some kind of treasure from her inner dross and darkness.   Her state of mind shifted and she began to experience extended periods  where she felt illuminated by an inner lightness of being.   She had occasioned upon these feelings before for brief moments during the drug highs and sexual bliss of youthful experiences then later, in deep mindfulness meditations.    Sometimes at sacred sites or sitting in circle with indigenous teachers similar states of consciousness had uplifted her temporarily.

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Now as her mental and emotional landscape cleared the lightness of being became stronger and more stable.    Uncanny synchronicities and intuitive flashes of understanding occurred more frequently as she began to circle around an inner locus of being that was unassailable and immutable.

It was at this point that Christine realized integrating this new sense of self was, in fact, her life’s work.   Everything of any value flowed from that.     Even while she was still in the process of building this new inner structure she felt she needed to go back out into the world.  While there was a part of her that was quietly appalled by this idea  (some people were so damn scary these days) she came to understand that it was only in interactions with others that she could test her new found way of being.   Any places where she still needed to do some inner work would quickly become apparent that way. On a deeper level there was too the emerging knowing that knowledge gained meant little if it was not applied to real life situations.

photo by Sue Vincent.   prompt: https://scvincent.com/2019/03/28/thursday-photo-prompt-bright-writephoto/

A new start

photo credit-  https://scvincent.com/2019/02/14/thursday-photo-prompt-new-writephoto/

As the sun rose over the rooftops like a searing ball of flame another day of excessive heat was born.

The couple out for an early morning fitness walk stopped in their tracks and viewed the spectacle.

“I feel so impotent,” said the man.

The woman glanced sharply at him wondering if her long term partner and father of her children was about to reveal some emergent sexual problem.

The man, oblivious to how his words had been misconstrued,  continued on:   “I mean, what can I do?   Out there across the country bushfires are burning out of control while record breaking floods swamp the north east.   Millions of fish have died in the extreme weather affecting the inland river systems.   Across the world beneficial insects and bees are dying.”

The woman shifted uncomfortably.   These thoughts had been on her mind too.  “And still governments refuse to act on climate change,” she muttered.

“I could volunteer for the emergency services,” the man reflected, “but I doubt I’d be much use.   I’m a scrawny artist guy not a macho fire fighter.”

“And I’m a writer and poet,” said the woman.

“Make art then,” said a lilting voice beside them.  “Write stories.   Sing.  Dance.   Take photos.    Create, create, create.”

The couple looked around in confusion.   They had thought they were alone.   Both gaped as their eyes fell upon a small ethereal being dancing in the sun beams.

“Oh good, you can see and hear me,” the being sang/spoke.    “I’ve been working at making myself visible to you.   I have a message for you.”

“A message?” the man queried.   His tone hovered between aggression and disbelief.   Seeing fairies was not something he was accustomed to.

“Yes, yes.   Don’t argue.   Just listen.   I don’t know how long I can hold this form.”   The being appeared to flicker in and out of manifestation in the bright sunlight.  “This isn’t my natural state you know.”

“Well who’s the message from,” the man demanded in a practical, no nonsense tone.

“Oh the fairies and all the elementals,” the being said impatiently.   “We’re worried.   The Earth’s in trouble.   We’re trying to contact all the artists, musicians, writers and creatives who are open to new inspiration.   It’s time for you all to get busy.”

“I know,” the woman murmured, “but I’ve been feeling so blocked lately.   My last book sunk like a stone and I haven’t felt like trying again.    I seem to have run out of stories.”

“Put all that aside,” the being advised.   Its voice was more kindly now.  “There’s no time for all that creative angst any more.   After all those creative blocks are really just personal personal obstacles.   They are negative by-products of the wounded ego so many of you creatives are afflicted with.   Now is the time to heal your wounds and see the bigger picture.   Your creative talents are a gift you can use to help heal the world.    You can take whatever raw materials you choose to work with – paint, words, musical notation, wood, stone – even food or garden plants – whatever motivates you to create.    Take those base materials and transform them into new forms that offer, healing and beauty to you as the creators and to those your work reaches.”

The being dancing in front of the couple blazed in the light like a beacon.   “Creativity expressed with intention can make the invisible realms of the imagination visible to others.   It can operate as a portal to worlds of expanded consciousness.   Shifting hearts and minds in this way allows room for healing.”

The man and woman nodded slowly.   The words echoed heart callings they both felt deep down but hardly dared express even to each other.

“The creatives amongst you all are the voice of the time you live in.   Creativity is a gift that moves through you.   It’s not something you own.   It’s greater than you.”   The being’s voice rang like a bell in the morning air.   “Sure it can bring you undone.   It can consume you if you let it.   But, if you use the energy in a trans-personal way, it can uplift you and the world around you.   It’s time now to heal yourselves and step into your greater role as creative healers.”

As the sun climbed higher in the sky the temperature rose further.   The elemental being seemed to dissipate and become part of the white light that beat down upon the dry ground.   At the same time the memory of the encounter shifted into the mythic and neither the man nor the woman was entirely what sure what had just occurred.

“Ooh, it’s so hot,” said the woman.   “I’ve got to get out the sun.   I want to go to my study.   I’ve got a feeling those notes I made a while ago might form the basis of new story after all.”

“Yes,” the man mused.   “I feel like painting today.   I have an urge to express all this.”   He flung his arms out wide as if to embrace the world.   A faraway expression graced his face.   The woman left him to it.   She knew him well enough to know some new creative impulse was brewing within him.  Talking now would only dilute it.   Besides, she had to get home.   She had work to do.

Inner spring

Although it is late summer over here in Oz there is some ancestral part of me that remains connected to the seasons in the northern hemisphere – even after all these generations of Australian born family.

So here I am – betwixt and between seasonal cycles and bio-rhythms.

Seeds within me cry for nurture, for nourishment – the seeds of new dreams – the seeds of ideas – the seeds of creative expression.

The shaman drums
the seeds of new ideas 
spring to mind

003collage made with National Geographic photos

prompt:  https://frankjtassone.com/2019/02/09/haikai-challenge-72-2-9-19-first-spring-gust-haru-ichiban-haiku-senryu-haibun-tanka-haiga-renga

An Imaginative Connection

I was scrolling through my WordPress Reader when I came across Sue Vincent’s latest #writephotoimage.

When I saw it I did a double take for I spent hours yesterday making this collage – 001.jpg

What a strange imaginative connection links Sue’s photo and my collage.  I have no idea what motivated Sue to post that particular image but the inspiration for my collage came from thinking about the life and work of the 11th century Christian nun, Hildegarde of Bingen.

I find Hildegarde inspirational for she was an accomplished writer, herbalist, mystic, composer, artist and environmentalist back in an age where women were too often voiceless and powerless.

The brilliant colours of her manuscript art inspired my own collage –

Image result for hildegard of bingen manuscript illumination https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scivias

Her music is hauntingly beautiful.

One of Hildegarde’s most enduring ideas is the concept of Viriditas, a Latin word which loosely translates as vitality, freshness, lushness,greening, or growth.    In Hildegarde’s philosophical writings the word is used as a metaphor for spiritual and physical health.  She celebrates the sacred energetic force that animates all life and actively sought to connect with the natural world for she saw it as a source of creative and healing power.

“O most honored Greening Force,
You who roots in the Sun;
You who lights up, in shining serenity, within a wheel
that earthly excellence fails to comprehend.
You are enfolded in the weaving of divine mysteries.
You redden like the dawn
and you burn: flame of the Sun.”

–  Hildegard von Bingen, Viriditas

Hildegarde experienced visions from an early age but it wasn’t until she was 42 that she felt compelled to share her visions with the world despite the disapproval of patriarchal church authorities.  Later on in life she undertook four preaching tours where she told her male superiors that they would fall from grace if they didn’t change their attitudes.     Huffington Post – why Hildegarde matters  Her words have relevance today as the male clergy that control many Christian churches are being held to account for their role in covering up child sexual abuses.

There is so much to learn from Hildegarde’s life and work.   What came through for me yesterday while I was working on my collage was an understanding of the energy and inspiration found in having a sense of purpose that is greater than personal self interest.

Hildegarde’s voice speaks loud and clear down through the centuries.   I hear it in the calm pure notes of her music and in her writings.  I see its imprint in her art.  “Take your time,” she says to me.  “Celebrate life.   Create with clear intention.  Discipline the will and seek to serve the greater good. Speak your truth.”

The fire within

In ancient Greece Hestia was the Goddess of the Heath.  She was a peaceful Goddess who never strayed from home for her job was to keep the home fires burning.     

As an archetype she represents wisdom and the inner life.   

Returning home –
finding sanctuary
centering within

                                              admin-ajax[1]

prompt:  https://dversepoets.com/2018/11/27/fire-up-that-creativity-dverse-poetics/

 

Dark and Light Spain

I have been inspired to write this post after reading Cathy Birdsong’s post about her  spiritual journey and her decision to walk the Camino-de-Santiago
https://wanderessence.com/2018/08/23/the-call-to-place-the-camino-de-santiago/

Cathy’s post reminded me of my own journey through Spain and that sense of being called to a place even though you don’t know why.   For me Spain was a kaleidoscopic patterning of impressions, light and shade, highs and lows.

While I’m travelling I keep spasmodic notes on my experiences.  Sometimes too my photos work to sum up my impressions of a place.     Here are a few diary excerpts and photos from my experiences in Spain:-

Cuenca and the hanging buildings:-  hanging houses cuenca-01
“where I was serenaded by an aging busker and give a tote on a joint by an aging hippy” 

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Barcelona – city of magic and mystery, excitement and creativity

 

Montserrat – “a strange and mystical encounter with Goddess energy”
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Saragoza -Goya’s birthplace
“went to a beautiful silent gallery filled with an exhibition of Goya’s etchings.   Profound.
In the Cathedral – St James is said to have seen a vision of the Virgin Mary – she then turned into an alabaster pillar – I touched the pillar but saw no vision – only a sense of the deep, sometimes superstitious religious beliefs in Spain”
     
I bought some postcards of Goya’s etchings at the gallery.  One that has always intrigued me shows a donkey teaching a donkey pupil to read.    I found a good interpretation of this etching on here – “The idea seems clear enough: while we continue to teach our children to believe in the same falsehoods that we believe in, the pantomime will persist.”

While travelling across the plains of northern Spain I wrote in my diary:-
“Strange energy today.   Like my ghosts are with me.  Russell (my deceased husband) with the classical guitar plucking a melancholy air in the background, my mother painting the drama of this dry landscape dotted with the crumbling ruins of old farmhouses.   Even more – a kind of romantic sadness and the deep pathos of the Spanish Soul”DSCF4273.JPG

In a Cathedral somewhere –
DSCF5538.JPG  – the architect husband of the woman in the foreground of this photo made the observation – “These days the money goes into building majestic buildings for financial institutions.   Back then it went on Cathedrals.  It’s all a reflection of what the society of the time values the most.”

Seville   – Sitting in the sun in a Plaza.  Sangrias and getting lost.
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In the Cathedral – Murillo and Goya.   Gold and silver everywhere.   Jewel encrusted gold crowns – made from melted down Inca gold?
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Ronda – “cobbled streets, orange trees, red geraniums, wisteria, rosemary, mint and thyme in pots.   Birds singing.   Someone playing acoustic guitar.  Blue sky.  Fresh mountain air.”
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Granada –  Alhambra crowded yet still magical, beautiful
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In the Jewish Quarter – ochre walls.    (The Jews were expelled from Spain along with the Moors in 1492)
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Cordoba  – the Moorish Mosque with a Catholic Cathedral erected in the centre (after the Muslims were expelled in 1492).   Strange place – a forest of stone.   While I was there a Catholic Mass was being sung in the Cathedral.  Deep sonorous male voices intoned the Mass solemnly, mournfully.

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Burgos, Segovia – beautiful old cities, atmospheric in the rain

 

Madrid – on my last day in Spain I went to a gallery in a cold old stone building with long cloisters.   I came across an exhibition titled ‘Light and Dark Spain – Dialectic Visions of Spain’.   The dark – Catholic, solemn, brooding, dramatic.   The light – luminous, sunny, colourful, a country for travellers seeking the exotic.”

At the time the exhibition worked to sum up my experience of Spain.  I had been feeling that throughout my whole time in Spain I had failed to understand what I had experienced.   In attempting to penetrate beyond my own superficial impressions I was, like Don Quixote, merely tilting at windmills.
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Now, all this time later, I feel that my encounter with the Black Madonna of  Montserrat was the fulcrum point of my journey.   The scholar Matthew Fox calls the Black Madonna the archetype for our age here

He writes:-  “The Black Madonna is Dark and calls us to the darkness.  Darkness is something we need to get used to again—the “Enlightenment” has deceived us into being afraid of the dark and distant from it. Light switches are illusory. They feed the notion that we can “master nature” (Descartes’ false promise) and overcome all darkness with a flick of our finger. Meister Eckhart observes that “the ground of the soul is dark.” Thus to avoid the darkness is to live superficially, cut off from one’s ground, one’s depth. The Black Madonna invites us into the dark and therefore into our depths. This is what the mystics call the “inside” of things, the essence of things. This is where Divinity lies. It is where the true self lies. It is where illusions are broken apart and the truth lies…

The Black Madonna shakes things up. Is this not an archetype for our times? Is she not a forebearer of a renaissance, one who comes to give new birth to a civilization, a birth based on a new sense of spirituality and cosmology and learning—a learning that reawakens us to our place in the universe? How will work in the world become wise as opposed to exploitive without wisdom? How will the human soul move from knowledge to wisdom without the kind of effort the goddess can bring? Without a balance of male/female, heart/head, body/spirit truly happening at all levels of education from childhood to professional degrees? How will a renaissance happen if education is left behind? What role will art play when the artist too lets go of the internalized oppression of the modern era and recommits himself/herself to serving the community and to serving the larger community of ecological sustainability?  These are some of the questions raised by the return of the Black Madonna in our time. They beg for response. They beg for listening ears and attentive institutions. They beg for self criticism of nation-states, governments, corporations, academia, religion, law, professions of all kinds which are called to something new (and very ancient): a new relationship between earth and humans. One of mutuality, not mastering. One of joy and wonder, not boredom. One that honors all our relations. For this to come about some rattling of our modern cages and mindsets is in order. The Black Madonna provides such a shake-up. Still. After all these centuries.”