When joy beckons

I never intend much, I generally just see how things pan out. This blog started out with the intention to be a space for spiritual things: workshops; event; quotes and such like. Anything goes, I suppose. So, in my mind it seems right to write about running, or walking, yoga, dancing, even sex, perhaps recipes and books too. All these things are actions that lead along the path of happiness. It’s wise to never rule anything out. I do not pretend to be very enlightened, certainly not more than the average person. I have learned a few things along the way, though, about what brings peace. What within me answers the call of joy.

I’ve noticed that joy calls very subtly: often its call is hidden in what I can only describe as the false urge of materialistic values. ‘If you run you’ll be all fit-looking and slim’.  ‘If you eat fresh vegetables and forage from the Earth then it’s better for you than eating cake and biscuits’, ‘don’t drink beer, it makes you bloated and that doesn’t feel very nice, does it?’ ‘Do your yoga, NOW! If you don’t you’ll feel regret and guilt.’ The mind races through all of these options, day in and day out, from moment to moment. It is true that we are paying rent on our bodies, and just like if we choose to pay rent for a beautiful house, then the rent must be kept up, or we lose that which makes us comfortable. Our bodies demand rent, to keep healthy and well, to keep fit, to sleep in security and comfort, without the chasing dreams of drunkenness or lack of movement during the day. But, how do we quieten the mind of these false urges and find the simple urge of joy beneath?

It takes patience and practice to release ourselves from these urges, yet keep the well-intended habits that these negative urges have created. It takes a good, objective look at those things that we say to ourselves which seem like sense on the surface, but are actually trapping us in a cycle of negative reactions. It takes patience and love of ourselves, and, simply, it takes thinking about ourselves just a little bit better. Instead of ‘don’t do that, you’re letting yourself down’ running and re-running in our heads, change the tune to ‘let’s do THIS!’ and do a wonderful thing for yourself. If that small negative urge cannot be quietened, then that’s ok too, just look at it square in the face and let it carry on, just ignore it, as a bigger child may do to an irritating younger sibling.

This is why this blog has snippets of dawn walks in it, pictures of my muddy running shoes, some day I’ll post yoga asanas on here, recipes from better cooks than I, trees that have been hugged and ground that has produced wild garlic to eat on a chilly walk. These small things in themselves are how I answer the beckoning of joy within me. I’ve never managed to quieten that nagging voice within that demands its rent. But I have learned to be better at ignoring it. Like setting up a direct debit, I suppose. Everyone’s happy. And that, surely, is what it’s all about in the very end.

This morning, Dog and I went for our dawn walk as usual, and stood for a little while under a tawny owl, as it hooted softly to itself. Owl looked down at Dog, as he snuffled waggily in the undergrowth after smells undecipherable to me. Deciding that we were just worth ignoring, Owl flew silently off to its next perch, leaving us to walk home, Earth-bound and ready for a coffee and a spot of breakfast. Joy waits everywhere, we just need the senses to find it.

twany owl


Awaken the Beast, who has awoken me

I awoke this morning to a dull tooth ache. Enough to keep me awake, but not enough to call ‘pain’. So I got up in the dark to walk the dog. Walking out into the frosty morning, I could hear the birds calling, fluttering, darting in an new determination from place to place above my head. As I walked, I disturbed a tawny owl from right overhead. Doesn’t it just go to show how you never really know when you’re being watched.

I walked as the light quickly grew. At this time of year, the sun is really in a hurry to awaken the day. Twilight grows perceptibly from night to light; the liminal time lasts barely ten minutes now. I have to be aware with every step of the transition around me, for it goes in the blink of an eye, from the deep magic of dawn to the mundanity of day. 

Yesterday I went to the dentist for a filling on what seemed to be an average-looking hole in my tooth. Of course it turns out that the nerve was damaged and a lot more drilling had to be done. Today I have been awoken and kept very aware by this very real discomfort.  As I walked I explored these pain signals in my mouth, my face, even my eyes seemed to be reacting to the pain. The Beast has been awoken. All I can do now is endure it until the nerves calm down again and the bruising of the drilling subsides. Endure, or find a way to make aquantance with it, being with it in its overwhelming waves in my jaw. 
Two existences occurring at once: my personal pain and the eternal turning of the Sun. These things too shall pass. The day turns to night, the night turns to day. What overwhelms me today will pass in time. The relief in the liminal space that I feel as the pain begins to surrender to the calm of non-pain. I am not controlling this change. It is just happening and taking me along with it. 

All things will pass. And before they do, they will have a rythmn, a pulse. Today I am captured by this pulse and I have no choice but to face the Beast. 

Making sense

The world is a very odd place sometimes. My place in it is put into question quite often. In fact, I’m pretty sure I have no ‘place’ at all. Last night I watched ‘Before sunrise’ and I realised that the innocence and certainty of youth simply morphs into cynicism, then into holding onto simple convictions that a career and money, perhaps even family will give life purpose. Then in fact, the circle completes itself again by returning you to a resigned innocence that perhaps, just perhaps, the world is as wonderful and magical as you thought it was when you were an innocent child. The word ‘journey’ gets banded about quite a lot, but perhaps that’s what it is.

Writing about the simple things that I see in the world around me is a way for me to find meaning. It isn’t The Answer, but it makes some sense of what can often seem to be chaos in its purest form. The things we assume to be controlled turns out to actually be completely out of any sort of order. There is chaos everywhere if you look hard enough. The task of turning from the safer way of perceiving order and deliberately inviting chaos into my life is a tricky one. But if there is a wasp in the room, I’d rather be able to see it. If I can be hit by chaos at any time, then perhaps it’s best to have been looking at it squarely, honestly, before it can take me by surprise.

And I get to see quite exquisite order and form along the way. In the chaos of a rainy, dingy winter’s morning, where I’m caked in mud and so is the dog, there’s rain going everywhere; down my neck, up my nose, through my ears, I’m slipping everywhere, and I’m really not feeling all that wonderful, my attention will be drawn upwards by the sound of honking geese in their unmistakable formation. Here, amongst the trudge and mundane, is beauty. I can pause for a second in my slipping and chaotic progress through the mud and look up. For a second I’m released from the world and I soar with powerful wings to somewhere far beyond here and far more bewildering than my small perception of this life has yet perceived.

When I was a single mum, my parents once came round to look after the girls, just so I could go for a bike ride and I could travel in a straight line for a change. My role is still so often meandering and repetitive, certainly not straightforward. Chaotic within the perception of an ordered day. But, having looked straight at the wasp and known of its existence, perhaps I feel more at peace with it within my life, meeting it head on.


Imbolc and Spring

In December 2014 I moved my daughters and I from our little house in Cumbria to start a new life in county Durham. In the melee of the move, I barely had time to notice Christmas or Winter, nor did I really start to put my feet on terra firma until the first shooting bulbs appearing at the end of January. Each day on our walk to school, we would go past a raised garden that is meticulously cared for. Under a naked copper beech we saw the first shoots of snowdrops appearing, to our wonder and glee. As the days rolled on, we actively went to see what had opened, what was growing in the cleaned and virgin soil. By St Brighid’s day, or Imbolc on 2nd February, snowdrops were well and truly flowering, starting to open their petals, drooping downwards so that only the earthworms could see their delicate inner colours.

It was a time for unsettled feelings in the girls. They really didn’t know what was happening and I have no doubt they felt the newness and adventure that I felt. Change is often not an easy thing to feel, especially when days are filled with new teachers, new friends, new lives. But that garden and the simple yet magical act of noticing its daily newness, was just what we all needed. Perhaps if we could look deeper into how this time of year marks the pivot between Winter and Spring, we would have seen that we were looking for any sign of hope for new warmth in our new home. That garden gave it to us, and continues to give wonder as the year turns.

Imbolc is one of my favourite times of year: it’s a congratulatory time of year. We made it! We’re out the other side and we can really see the sun returning now. Evenings actually glow a little bit, and the morning walking of the dog is not longer in the pitch black. Although, the deep magic before dawn is one of my favourite times of day. Not a human soul is about (except the knowing few), but the owl still hoots, the deer still forage under the comforting cover of the night. The dog and I are where we are not really meant to be, and that feeling is possibly the best way to start the day.

Perhaps these liminal times hold the greatest magic for me. The beginnings of Spring, even if the weather still won’t agree, and the darkness before the dawn. They are times to really look and notice just how wonderful it all can be.