Sunday, 22 February 2015

My retreat

9 Feb 2015
I arrived at the Krishnamurti Centre about 2.45 in the afternoon. A nice man called Wilfred showed me around all the facilities, then to my room, and explained about meal times. He left. So there I was. Now, usually arriving at holiday accommodation means plunking down the suitcases, a quick cup of tea after figuring out how to plug in the kettle, slurped whilst examining tourist leaflets and speculating on what we can manage to see before it gets dark. After all, we're on annual leave, no time to waste, gotta see what we came to see! (The itinerary would have been planned - by me - weeks in advance, but with some leeway for weather and travel time. Cause you know, I'm flexible.) But this time -- I was on my own. It was just me. And this is where I am; there's nothing to do, nothing to accomplish. This is it. For the next. Four. Days.

I sat down on the bed, at a loss. Then I noticed the welcome folder on the desk and opened it and the very first page of the folder contained this quotation: 

'I think it is essential sometimes to go on retreat, to stop everything you have been doing, to stop your experiences and beliefs completely, and look at them anew, not to keep repeating like machines whether you believe or do not believe. You would then let in fresh air, wouldn't you? That means you must be insecure, must you not? If you can do so, you would be open to the mysteries of nature, and to things that are whispering about us, which you would not otherwise reach; you would reach the God that  is waiting to come, the truth that cannot be invited but comes itself...

'In a retreat, do not plunge into something else, do not take some book and be absorbed in new knowledge and new acquisition. Have a complete break with the past and see what happens. Do it, and you will see. You will see vast expanses of love, understanding and freedom. When your heart is open, then reality can come. Then the whisperings of your own prejudices, your own noises, are not heard. That is why it is good to take a retreat, to go away and stop the routine -- not only the routine of outward existence, but the routine which the mind establishes for its own safety and convenience.'

-- Jiddu Krishnamurti, 1952 

I was struck by the phrase 'That means you must be insecure, must you not?' Ah ha. So this uneasy feeling I was having, this unfamiliar situation of a completely neutral environment with no programme, no companion, no goal -- is a normal reaction! Reading that helped me relax at once. It was okay to feel unsure.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Book Review: The Holy by Daniel Quinn

The Holy: A Novel by Daniel Quinn

One of the great things about surprises is ... they're a surprise. I recently had a birthday, and was delighted to receive a gift in the mail from a friend. One of the items in the parcel was this curious novel by Daniel Quinn.

I have to admit I had never heard of Daniel Quinn. His books Ishmael, The Story of B and My Ishmael form a trilogy that seems to have been quite influential in the 1990s. Ishmael apparently won the Turner Fellowship of Tomorrow Award (which I hadn't heard of) and inspired a Pearl Jam song 'Ishmael' (which I'd never heard). Everything about this book and its author constituted a surprise for me, then!

I was even more surprised when I opened the book to the title page and saw this:

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Feeling good

Language of Letting Go, Hay House 2005

Today's card comes from a deck that is not a tarot and it is not an oracle -- though you could use it as such. It's a set of affirmation cards by Melody Beattie, based on her book of daily meditations called 'The Language of Letting Go'.  This card is called 'Feeling Good'.

It seems counter-intuitive to think that sometimes we resist feeling good. But actually -- we do. Some do it more than others. What are some ways we resist feeling good? We focus on irritations. We dwell in the past, and the things we dwell on are bad memories. We stuff food in our faces without tasting it. We criticise ourselves. We criticise others. We allow the news on TV, internet and radio to darken our day. We lose sight of the value of our lives. We become pain seekers.

The back of each card has an affirmation. This card reads:

'Today I will let go of my need to be in pain and to suffer through crises. I ask God for assistance in moving as quickly as possible through my sad feelings and problems. I ask for help in experiencing joy, peace and gratitude every day. I will accept what's good in my life today!'

Who would have thought that we have a 'need' to be in pain. And yet, looking at our habits, some of us will see that we do have such a need. We can let go of this need, Beattie remind us, with help from our Higher Power.

May I move through this day in search of joy instead of trouble.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

When is it ever enough?

Interesting that this lady should turn up today, because I've started thinking along Queen of Pentacles lines in the last couple of days.

Diabetes and overweight run in my family. I know this. And yet for the last few years, I've not only stopped working out entirely, I've also eaten with more or less wild abandon. It's almost like I've got a death wish. In the last year alone, I've gained 10 lbs. But these last few days in particular have brought home to me the peril I'm putting myself in. Three days in a row, I've baked a cake. The two of us have eaten the whole cake each day. They're small cakes, but each cake contains 1 cup of sugar in the cake, and 1 cup of icing sugar in the frosting. So that means in the last three days, I have eaten THREE CUPS OF SUGAR in the form of cake. This does not include the sugar in the jam on my toast, and other sneaky sources. I have also had a really intense headache that I can't shake, despite having Beconase and paracetamol. The ringing in my ears is also louder to me. I may be getting a sinus infection, don't know, but I can't help but think it's the gigantic sugar consumption. I know it's kind of dangerous to diagnose using online tools, but Warning Signs of Type-2 Diabetes lists 17 signs, and over recent months, I have had 8 of them. In any case, stopping this behaviour will only be good for me. My poor pancreas. How could I do this to it?

Today's card is Queen of Pentacles from Tarot de St Croix. Apparently she is the Queen of Sheba, and the companion book places more emphasis on abundance and the good life, but the Queen of Pentacles is grounded in the body as well, and concerns herself with health. Even the symbols of the good life here are natural ones -- fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh air and sunshine, etc.

It's an odd time of year to embark on a health kick, but to be honest, I don't feel up to any more junk. My appetite for it is greatly diminished, as if my poor little pancreas and other vital workings are finally speaking up in outrage.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Divine connection

Well, I've drawn this card three days in a row so I guess I am going to have to take a look at it, Magician from Tarot de St Croix.

The little companion book to this deck says that the figure depicted here is the Sufi mystic, Rumi. His name was Jalal al Din Rumi, and he lived in Aghanistan, 1207-1273, a mystic and poet who wrote in Persian, and whose influence is far-reaching. The general thread running through Rumi's works is the longing for connection with the All, or as Rumi called it the 'Beloved'. He believed strongly that ritual music, poetry and dance could help with a pure connection to the 'Beloved', and it's from these ideas that the 'whirling Dervishes' emerged.

So, on the card we see a man dressed much like one of those whirling Dervishes (and looking a lot like a fairy tale wizard, too), standing in the middle of a wagon wheel, apparently pulling tarot cards down from the heavens and directing them towards the earth, while basking in a blazing sun.

Deck creator Lisa de St Croix writes, 'The Magician is the root number of the Sun which radiates above and the Wheel of Fortune on which he stands as it spins over a vast desert. The elements are represented on the tarot cards which he brings forth from the Great Mystery and circulates out toward us. His robe indicates the cosmos and the symbol on his cap refers to the moon phases.'

The tarot cards looming at us in the foreground are the ace cards, showing the elements: fire, earth, water and air (wands, pentacles, cups, swords). The figure's arms are raised in an as above-so below formation, so this card is not that different from the traditional RWS Magician. The meaning is also traditional: 'Through focused energy we are able to harness the means to create our destiny.'

It's probably no secret that lately I haven't been feeling like I have much hand in creating my own destiny. I think sometimes we misread the Magician card, and say things like, 'The Magician has everything he needs within himself to manifest all his desires.' But if that's so, why wouldn't the Magician have his hands over his heart, or have them thrust forward with lightning bolts emanating from them? No, we always see him drawing down power from above and manifesting it below. He is a conduit or channel for something. His Higher Power.

'Love came and it made me empty.
Love came and it filled me with the Beloved.
It became the blood in my body
It became my arms and my legs.
It became everything!
Now all I have is a name,
The rest belongs to the Beloved.'

The Magician is not bending energy from the Universe to his will. He is not commanding and directing the elements. He is rather completely infused with the Universe. He is in submission, he has surrendered entirely to it, and this is where his power comes from. It's not his power. It's the Higher Power.

When we don't feel that we have much hand in creating our destiny, it's a sure sign we are living by Will and Ego and resistant to the flow of the Beloved (or the All, the Universe, the Higher Power, Goddess, or even God -- whatever you want to call it.)

Reminders come from all directions.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Balance is wisdom

What wisdom does my Higher Power offer today in facing my angers and resentments?

The card King of Wands from Tarot de St Croix features Hermes Trismegistus (Hermes the Thrice Great). The illustration is clearly based on the one below by Jacques Boissard, 1605. Hermes Trismegistus is credited with writing texts that espouse a system of theological and mystical philosophy that appears to have emerged around the 2nd century, around the same time as Neoplatonism and Gnosticism. He probably never existed, and the texts were no doubt written by various authors over the centuries.

The 7 Hermetic Principles are outlined in a text called the Kybalion:

1. 'The All is Mind' -- All outward manifestations of reality are in fact based on upon mental and spiritual realities.

2. 'As above, so below; as below, so above'. -- There is always a correspondence between the various planes of being and reality. Seems similar to 'for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction', but in the metaphysical sense.

3. 'Nothing rests. Everything moves. Everything vibrates.' Modern science now proves this is indeed true. Our very atoms and the components that make them are in constant motion. Everything is zooming around.