Thursday, June 23, 2022

A blessing

 I'm listening to portentous music on headphones at my desk. It's a catchy little track entitled "Cleans the Aura and Space. Removes all Negative Energy." No really, that's the name of the whole thing. There is a low note which reminds me of Joy Division's Atmosphere, and a bit of a drum thing, as well as wind chimes. Somewhat mesmerizing; you have to stay with it to see what will happen.

Two things I've been thinking about:

  • If you do the work, the Universe/God/Spirit will meet you where you are.
  • We are here on this earth to heal each other.
The second one came to me while driving too fast down a straight road through the middle of a golf course at a time of day where no-one is about. It's the second day after the solstice. It says the sun rises at 4.48am today but there was already a glowy light at half past four, and the birds were just beginning to stretch a leg out of their cozy nests. **Must buy wind chimes, stat.**

I'm reading "Autobiography of a Yogi" by Paramahansa Yogananda and it's marvelous. Ben Kingsley narrates (so I'm not reading, I'm listening, at speed usually). "We are here on this earth to heal each other" came to me while listening to "Song to the Siren" by This Mortal Coil. If you haven't ever listened to this track, try it here - and if you're one of those people that has just discovered Kate Bush, you will love This Mortal Coil. They are a mash up of The Cocteau Twins, Pixies and Dead Can Dance, conceived of by the guy who ran 4AD records. It's blissful stuff. Sorry, I'm going all Ronnie Corbett on you. Autobiography of a Yogi was famously the book that Steve Jobs read about three times while recovering from dysentary, because there were no other books within reach. It's about saints, yogis, miracles, science, awareness, enlightenment, grief, family.  George Harrison would keep stacks of them in the house and give them to anyone who needed "regrooving." I think that's where I might be now.

This may be too honest or make me too vulnerable to reveal, but being in LA does my head in, in a good way. I stayed in my old house because the very kind owner was away and offered it up to me, and while it created an enormous sense of safety (my home is for me my sanctuary; this house had changed very little - just slightly different art on the walls) it did bring up questions about lifestyle choices. England is a balm for me and whenever I'm in LA I long for misty mornings and green fields covered in dew, and beech woods, and the chalky strata of the Chilterns, but when I'm in England, it's the converse. Suddenly I find myself imagining myself in the canyon, walking on the dusty paths that smell like sage, and the massive feeling that I'm among my people there. This may be one of those posts which reveals too much, like telling someone else your dream which seems completely natural to you but actually reveals an enormous secret longing to a friend. You know what they say: don't tell people your dreams. I'm so pulled in both direction. Los Angeles provided me with the massive shot of positive adrenaline to my flagging heart, there was positivity wherever I turned, and love, and respect. These are my people, I thought. They understand me here. There is kindness in abundance, among the plumped lips and smoothed brows and impossibly flat tummies. If I sported an American accent instead of the upper middle class English one I have, I'm sure I would do better here. But there seems to be confusion when someone who sounds like me behaves in ways that isn't particularly English at all. It's odd for a privileged caucasian woman to be speaking of otherness, I know, but this is something

One of my oldest friends, who is also English, took me to the Lake Shrine - the Self-Realization Fellowship on Sunset Boulevard in the Palisades, which I've passed a million times but never ventured into. It was started by Paramahansa Yogananda. I said "do you want to go for a walk?" and she invited me to her house where she had prepared a feast of a lunch - roast cauliflower and white bean salad, roasted corn and avocado with greens and a buttermilk/feta dressing, and even vegan Coronation Chicken. We sipped on grapefruit soda and I admired her passion fruit vine (she provides the fruits to everyone I know because her tree gives in abundance) and watched her foster cat catch a bird (it escaped in a flurry of feathers). "Do you want to walk on the beach or?" I'd mentioned the Lake Shrine before her because I'd never been there before. "If it's calling to you, it's calling to you and we should go there" she said. I hadn't expected it. We drove along PCH to Sunset, parking just inside the gates. At the visitor centre it says "Dedicated in 1950, he envisioned a spiritual environment where people from all over the world could come and experience peace of heart and mind." And so there exists a beautiful garden with a lake in the middle, with a path around the whole thing, honoring the Christian, Islam, Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu faiths. There are shrines, waterfalls, areas set aside for meditation, a small chapel. More here. It filled me with a profound sense that God was there and God was with me and that God was everywhere, in each of those flowers, especially the gardenias (my favorite flowers, next to peonies). I found it hard to articulate at the time. I think I screwed up my face and cried and thanked Wendy for bringing me. But the warm glow stayed with me and seemed to somehow infuse everything I did, and do.

I think it's called a blessing.

Tuesday, June 07, 2022

you are not alone

While wheeling my trolley around the supermarket on Sunday, I bumped into a woman who was mouthing to no-one in particular, but perhaps me, because I'm the one that was right there in front of her "I don't really want to be doing this anymore." I smiled in that British way (smile and nod, says Vivien, it's what the Queen does, amazingly diplomatic but not really committing to anything) and continued to trundle, rounding down the pasta aisle, being temporarily fascinated by the different kinds of couscous and pausing. I felt bad. I should've said something encouraging. It didn't sound like she was in good shape. As she turned into my aisle I caught her eye and said "Me too! I really don't want to be here much either." "I just don't like shopping, she said. I've lost so much weight" - she points to her jeans which hang off her hips - "and I cook for people who don't really eat and seem to be happy with the same thing every time. I have so much anxiety about shopping." She trails off and uses her right hand to push her floppy dark blonde hair out of her eyes. She looks apologetic, but she's smiling a little. She points outside the window "My husband is sitting in the car.." and rolls her eyes benignly. "Why?" I ask. "Have you told him you need him?" "No," she laughs."He wouldn't get it. Since the pandemic he thinks he's exempt from going into supermarkets." I give her a sympathetic look. "I'm so anxious," she repeats. "I have a job interview on Monday, nothing big, just a job at the farm shop." "Oh but that's wonderful," I say, "it will be good to get out and be around more people, don't you think?" "I hope so," she says. And then we're at the checkout; she's next to me. And that's when I do that thing that embarrasses my children so. I say, "I know this may sound a little nuts, but I spent a long time in California" (I always say this; it's code here for woo-woo/hippy-dippy but also kinda cool). "There's a breathing thing you can do that really helps for anxiety.." and I go on to describe box breath. The woman thanks me politely. I'm wondering if I will regret this. I think of my children and how mortified they'd be.

I woke up feeling alone in the world today. (It's nothing to worry about; it's something that goes after I've been up for a while). I said something like "We're basically on our own, let's be honest" to Charlie, an existential cry into the void from a seven year old. "You're not" he says, and irritatingly I know he is right. But as if the universe heard this, I rode through a triangle this morning, a triangle of grass with a road sign in the middle, and at the very moment that I rode through I saw my friend K peering through the round window of glass at her front door, my friend Jane in a smart small grey tractor, cutting the buttercups in her horse field, and on the hypotenuse, a grey electric VW driven by no other than my friend Lizzie, all together and at the same time. It made me think about the nature of time, and how it really isn't linear. For me, at that moment, having woken up feeling alone, the universe conspired to have three people I know be at the same place at the same time. I know, it's a little silly too, but it does remind you to print out these words and stick them on your mirror:


And then there was God in the beech leaves, as I rode down the track towards Watlington. I know this because it was enough to make me catch my breath, that green net to catch the sun, and the sun twinkled through it, and I found myself saying thank you, out loud. Divine light, I thought. This is divine light. This is what I'm always inviting in. Don't forget it.

I'm rather taken with Sharon Hewitt Rawlette who writes about these types of coincidences. Here's a transcript of something she did with Rick Archer at batgap. Scroll down to the third time Rick asks a question, the story of the pastor here

It's wonderful, no?

Saturday, June 04, 2022

where you start

 One of the things you can do, if you're in doubt, if you're shaken, is to stare at the person you love across a table in candlelight when there are other people around and they don't know that you're looking at them. Just watch them twinkle and interact when you know they're hurting inside but they're a master at appearing unruffled and erudite and sound and engaged. Watch them objectively, as a visitor would, forget that they're a part of you, that you've forgotten sometimes where they end and where you start, forget the irksome horribleness of the day, not created by them, but just circumstance - forget circumstance - and watch. You may have a glass of wine, but maybe just one because you are driving, and you may be using your sparkle as a shield - it can be a useful place to hide - and you may have also done that special meditation that brings the white light in when you think nothing could possibly work. You may have driven across the Cotswolds in despair while trying to apply mascara and wondered about the state of the world, and how indeed you are going to survive with horribleness you have witnessed. You may have heard things you should not have heard, so much of it that your chest filled with jaggedy energy that made your mouth dry and your heart pound. You may have spoken to your child - a man now and wise and empathic - with whom you have strange telepathy - and listened to his words, your son, who is now advising you in his quiet, kind way on how to negotiate your way through the darkness. But then, after all of this, at a dear friend's table, with a white cloth, and candles and a small china dachsund sitting in the middle of it amongst the blowsy flowers, watch your person dispassionately, as if you are a stranger, and see how it feels to witness love for the first time - kind, unconditional, rising up through the suffering. This is a good man, you think. This is a brave, sexy man. This is the person that loves me. This is a person worth fighting for.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Testimony by Rebecca Baggett

Testimony, by Rebecca Baggett.

(for my daughters)

I want to tell you that the world 
is still beautiful. 
I tell you that despite 
children raped on city streets, 
shot down in school rooms, 
despite the slow poisons seeping 
from old and hidden sins 
into our air, soil, water, 
despite the thinning film 
that encloses our aching world. 
Despite my own terror and despair. 

I want you to know that spring 
is no small thing, that 
the tender grasses curling 
like a baby's fine hairs around 
your fingers are a recurring 
miracle. I want to tell you 
that the river rocks shine 
like God, that the crisp 
voices of the orange and gold 
October leaves are laughing at death, 

I want to remind you to look 
beneath the grass, to note 
the fragile hieroglyphs 
of ant, snail, beetle. I want 
you to understand that you 
are no more and no less necessary 
than the brown recluse, the ruby- 
throated hummingbird, the humpback 
whale, the profligate mimosa. 
I want to say, like Neruda, 
that I am waiting for 
"a great and common tenderness", 
that I still believe 
we are capable of attention, 
that anyone who notices the world 
must want to save it. 


Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Thief of Happiness & other magical thoughts

My friend Viv, who is a swan among us, serene as a ballerina on top, and paddling furiously underneath, tells me that Covid is the thief of happiness. I thought about this a lot, as I wondered around the pond staring at the heron in the tree, trying to remember to breathe through my feet and rest in awareness; things I do when I'm trying to be happy. Here's the truth: I'm really struggling. And not in a normal, oh fuck, I'm having a horrible day way, just that there are so many things that feel discordant and out of alignment. 

It struck on Good Friday, a disproportionately sunny day, the end of which we spent in Winchester, first at a Ravilious exhibit and then at the Cathedral, for a female choral Pergolesi Stabbat Mater. It's the kind of  divine music that makes a believer out of you, swoony, tearful, feel it in your heart stuff. We wandered out afterwards and there were young people lying on the grass, pink sun-burned faces, small children on bicycles, old couples hand in hand, arms without sleeves, giddy dogs. And then at home, the sun pouring into the kitchen, great shafts of baked orange light, the kind that makes you look up from the sink and give praise, even mutedly.  You see, the thing I've found about England is that after the winter, the cold, the pandemic, the horror of the war, the pessimism of the BBC news, the misunderstandings and awfulness and jarring discombobulation, all we need is a sunny Good Friday, a cup of tea and a hot crossed bun, and all is well. All is reset.

But my dog is dying. I know that she is dying because every single bone in her body is prominent but her gut is the size of a large water balloon. People with dogs will understand this. For me, she isn't a bony gargoyle with bad teeth and an attitude, she is an irridescent angel of light who has gotten me through the biggest move of my life, warming my ankles at the same time, even on the coldest of nights. We have been through months of yellow puddles of Bisto, epic flatulence, mistakes and accidents and misdiagnoses, bad vets and good vets, and the lovely nurses in between. A dead chicken lies in her wake. And now here we are with a pretty strong belief that it's stomach cancer. I am okay with it. I couldn't think about it before, but now I can, and that's how brilliant the mind is, isn't it? Easing you in to uncomfortable situations gently, grooming you for the worst. I'm ready for it. But, oh God, I don't want her to suffer. I know it hurts even when I pick her up. She needs a sheepskin bodysuit to protect her.

So I poll my two best friends. I say, as one does, "Did you feel psychotic when you had Covid." And "Was your mental health affected when you had Covid?" and both of them said "No." Very Quickly. But they would, wouldn't they? Isn't that what people do, especially here? People want to keep a lid on it. I wish I wanted to keep a lid on it. 

Dog is at the vet and C reports that she's getting steroids to try to get rid of the fluid that is filling her stomach and preventing the protein from working its magic. Steroids are what I was given with my auto immune disease. They feel magical and final somehow.

I told another friend that I wanted to get away to somewhere warm, somewhere with a warm sea, and she told me that it was just as easy to feel good here, by focusing on nature in one's own garden. Believe me, this is usually what I do. I wake up. I walk outside. I get pulled in by the birds and the sounds of the tree in the breeze, and everything changes.

My dressage and non-duality friend (ha ha) is a fan of Duncan Trussell, and because of this I've become a fan. You may want to check out this conversation between him and his dying mother. It's beautiful. But one thing that gave me enormous strength this morning was in this conversation between Duncan, Sharon Salzberg and Ragu, where he says something like, "I'm always struggling with depression." I feel a need to come out and say that same thing: I am always trying to find ways to keep my depression at bay. I have been off my meds (all meds) since July, I have a robust meditation practise, I am an ardent fan of spiritual podcasts and listen to them every day. And I have downloaded books by monks and scholars and the enlightened in order to further understand this thing Prince calls life. 

But still, every morning, I must decide to wake up and choose happiness. I do not take it for granted.

Let's be honest, Covid has fucked with that. (Viv says "honust" instead of "honist" which is so elegant an old-fashioned and well-bred. Every time I speak to her I try to remind myself to do the same; it's so much more pretty.)

And another thing: I love wine. I love the taste of it. I love the gently woozy, happy way it makes you feel after one glass. I love the color of rosé, the gentle pink of it, the way it makes you think of summer and people you adore, of cherry blossom and blowsy peonies, of picnics by the sea. But wine is not my friend. It is one hundred percent connected the way my synapses snap; and my dopamine levels, after a life of drinking, of coming from a drinking culture, of being part a society where drinking is as natural as smiling, need refreshment. So I don't drink. I don't drink until I feel smug enough about not drinking to have a glass of wine to celebrate. And so it goes. And so it goes. And I know why I drink. I drink because it makes me not feel everything. When I don't drink I feel every single thing, every vibe, every issue, every sting of pain, every old trauma. It's what our parents and our grandparents did because they didn't understand coping methods, nor, generally, boundaries.

Feel it to heal it, right?

So, healing. This, right here, this is what I'd like to figure out.

Not just for me, by the way. I'm hoping that whatever I discover will help everyone.

Here are two book recommendations. The first one comes from a taxi driver I had in London on Thursday, who asked me if I meditated. He knew, of course. He used to be a monk and this is his teacher.
He's a party guy who joined a buddhist monastery where they meditate 12-14 hours a day alone...but he offers such invaluable tips as "don't reach for your phone the moment you wake up" and other things we need to be reminded of. Huge sense of humor and brings real world knowledge to his spirituality. Lovely.
This recommendation comes from my friend (who I've never met, ever!) Rick Archer at BATGAP. A former TM teacher who lives in Venice, CA teaches something called natural meditation (rest in awareness) similar to Gelong Thubten (above). Sound, uncomplicated, effortless. I love him.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

chatter/clutter & spiralling hawks

Hello world! We're in that weird noman's land between Christmas and the New Year, and I'm staring out on an unusually blue sky. It's 3.41pm and the sun goes down in about ten minutes because deepest December. In my new office I have a wide expanse of sky, bare trees on the right, a few clouds on thee left, a couple of planes making vapor trails, the garden wall strangely without birds (we had pheasants this morning). It's very very still and very very quiet.

The madness of Christmas - three days of a full house of seven children and two children - an eighth couldn't make it because of Covid - has given way to that still, small quiet. Three days of joviality and forced joviality (God bless McD with his lateral thinking games) and small triumphs (a three year old learning to ride a bike for the first time, a perfectly cooked turkey) and odd sadness (a funeral, a death). And now we're in a period of contemplation.

My sister was cremated on Thursday. It was a small service for very close family followed by a bigger memorial in a very jolly church, decked for the holidays with a Christmas tree festival, which helped make the thing more bearable. Her children were magnificent and stoic and I was proud of our family, standing together in solidarity. She died of pancreatic cancer, like my brother before her. I find funerals weirdly uplifting and enjoyed doing my own research into the sister (half-sister) I didn't really know very well, and discovering wonderful things about her like her encyclopedic knowledge of birds and trees, her decision to get a tattoo at age 70, going to India after wanting to for fifty years, and loving it. Most of all, I was glad to find that I was wrong about her, that I'd carried a child's memory of who she was, a memory that serves no purpose now, a memory that had failed to incorporate the loss and tragedy she'd lived through.

(There is a pigeon on the wall now, lit by the last of the sun's rays, pecking at the ivy.)

And then a client died. I found out on Boxing Day, very early in the morning, and was up with it through the day, trying to find out information, issuing statements, trying to make sense of it all. Two things I will say about Hollywood: People are very kind and reach out with condolences when this type of thing happens, and it's lovely. They come out of the woodwork, people you haven't heard from in years, and they text you and ask you how you are and what happened and who will direct the next project now? But there are also those who like to insert themselves into the action and find ways to connect with the deceased, big themselves up to show how close they were. It's very, very strange behavior.

So much grief lately.

And so much chatter/clutter.

I tried to explain this to McD in the middle of the night. "How are you feeling?" he asked (I've been coughing coughing coughing with non-Covid bronchitis). "I feel like there is too much chatter," I said. I have this sense that in order to capture time, or make more time, the only way to do it is to quiet one's mind and allow some peace and quiet to make itself at home in one's mind. I'd been scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, twitter, insta, google, facebook, looking for things people were saying about the lovely client, and suddenly realized that I had no more room, only word soup sloshing around between my ears. I wanted some quiet. I wanted the equivalent of a pristine white room with just one small camp bed to lay down on. I wanted to silence my monkey brain.

(A hawk now, spiralling up, up above the wall, as the stars begin to come out.)

Time is a construct. And filling one's brain with monkey stuff feels like a dreadful waste. What if better things want to come in? What if there are great ideas that want to come visit? 

Imagine your brain as an inbox. And the only emails that are coming in are things like google alerts, wayfair promotions, jetblue offers. But what you want is a great, well-written email from a friend. Do you know what I mean?

So this week is going to be expanding the mind week. Keeping it nice and clear and clean and uncluttered so that it can be open to more interesting things. No more tabloids in my head please.

Thistle, my Frenchie, seems to have developed Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) so she supposed be crated and can only walk on a harness in the garden. No stairs, no jumping, no walks, no excitement, etc. It's hellish. So, no dogs in the bedroom (for the first time ever in her life) and no proper walks. I could cry just writing about it. The vet has her on three different meds - pain meds, inflammatory, muscle relaxants - so in the mornings she is confused, discombobulated, completely freaked out by the new system. What the fuck, I think. What is the point of having a dog if they have to live in a crate (when they haven't been crate trained) and can't be in your bed and can't go for walks? Is that actually a good life? Is that worth it? I'm not sure it is. She is nearly 11, a good age for a Frenchie. There has been so much grief. I can't even think about this.

(The sky is almost completely dark, and the clouds have grown to cover it over. Someone is shooting by the river. I hear a shotgun. A few starlings fly overhead).

I think this is what we need to come back to:

  • quiet
  • skies
  • the sound of birds
  • folding oneself into nature
For those of you who are interested in soul stuff (you know, woo-woo, psychic, spirit stuff) like me, I'm loving Pat Longo, who has a book called "The Gifts Beneath Your Anxiety." Pat isn't a great writer (she is a little repetitive) but she's a wonderful, empathic woman who is truly gifted, but also really down to earth in the way that only a woman from New Jersey can be. I love her.

Also, I adore Nichole Bigley who has a really smart, pragmatic podcast entitled "A Psychic's Story" where she interviews people who lead supernatural lives among the ordinary. I find it enormously uplifting. (I first discovered Pat Longo here.)

Take care, good folk.  Enjoy these between times.
Let's talk soon. 
Much love, Miss W xo

Chris Levine at Houghton Hall: 528hz - the Love Frequency