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moons-nodes-in-action

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‘the still, sad music of humanity’….Some thoughts and feelings during an awful week for our world…

Something I have learned – the hard way – is that some of us are more porous to the experiences of others at an intuitive, non-rational level, than others. This hyper-sensitivity is a gift in some contexts: it can ensure an appropriate, compassionate response to one’s fellow beings, thereby enriching one’s own life, as well as being useful to one’s fellows. Having worked all my life in contexts where sensitivity is essential to being an effective teacher and helper, I can personally affirm the value of such a gift.

Prisoners of Conscience window, Salisbury Cathedral

Prisoners of Conscience window, Salisbury Cathedral

photo: Anne Whitaker

But the gift has a dark shadow. It means difficulty in creating the boundaries that are at times necessary to protect oneself from being invaded by others’ pain, others’ woundedness, others’ unconsciously destructive energies…and the pain of the world…

I have been feeling really low since yesterday when the dreadful news of the Tunisian beach massacre burst on us all, following on other horrors this last week. In this, of course, I am not alone.

I feel as though the dark pain at the core of my own being, old long-accepted pain which most of the time just lies there, like rotting old leaves at the bottom of a deep pond, has risen to meet and join with the world’s pain. Normally I keep those feelings to myself, sharing them only with one or two trusted loved ones. But today, I thought I would write about it, and share a personal experience from a long time ago which  also evoked for me  ‘the still, sad music of humanity’, in poet William Wordsworth’s poignant words.

Calais, France, Summer 1990

Twenty five years ago whilst fulfilling our mother’s wish for her seventieth birthday that my brother and I  should take her to visit her older brother’s war grave in Calais, I had a shattering experience of being plugged into the world’s pain which I have never forgotten.

 Le Touret

Le Touret

Le Touret Memorial (Le Touret Military Cemetery)

A radio officer aboard HMS “Achieve”, her brother’s ship was sunk in May 1945, off the French coast, shortly before the end of the Second World War. His was the only body from the “Achieve” ever found. Having managed to swim ashore, he died of hypothermia on the beach before anyone could rescue him.

My husband Ian’s diary for Friday 5th May 1990 records ‘Annie a bit nervous about trip to France tomorrow’. Had I known just how fraught it would be, I’d have been hysterical…

The overnight return trip from Glasgow to Calais turned out to be pretty harrowing, owing to our time miscalculation based on erroneous information concerning distances provided by the travel agent, whose cheery “it’s just a hop, skip and a jump from Paris to Calais !” turned out to be two and a half hours longer than he had told us. We finally managed to get to the cemetery, stressed and exhausted from our 6 am start, just as a churlish and unfriendly French attendant was slowly pushing the gates shut for the night.

My choosing to burst into tears to evoke his sympathy rather than punch him, accompanied by my miraculous recall of French, probably saved us from being denied entry on what turned out to be our only opportunity. For the cemetery – bizarrely and unexpectedly – was closed on the following morning, a Sunday, only during the weekend of our visit.

But my mother did find her brother’s grave, and we were all shattered by the experience. I will never forget my brother  and I standing at a respectful distance to give her privacy, keeping an eye on the burly, scowling attendant, as she hung the silver celtic cross she had brought with her over the right hand corner of a small, plain gravestone. Head bowed, she wept quietly to herself. She had loved her brother dearly and deeply. 

Fortunately, suspecting we would need privacy, my brother and I had booked us a room each. On retiring to bed after dinner, I began to weep, and simply could not stop until exhaustion eventually brought sleep. It was no ordinary grief: I was aware once again of my personal sorrow becoming a channel  for ‘the still, sad music of humanity’….in Wordsworth’s  poignant phrase: this time, it was for the heartbreak and waste of that terrible war…

It is seventy years since the end of the Second World war, and humanity’s track record on applying restraint to the reptilian part of our brain in order to diminish the impulse to torture, maim and murder those whose values, beliefs, race and gender differ from our own has not appreciably improved as the twenty-first century unfolds. We are unimaginably ingenious, brilliant, when it comes to applying our intelligence for example to the quest  to decode the human genome:  been there, done that! – or to find the Higgs Boson – ditto.

When, oh when, are we going to find a way to stop slaughtering one another?

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800 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

The miracle of the living soul: Inspiration from Jung

All my life’s work has been with people: as an adult education teacher in many settings, as a psychiatric social worker, as a private counsellor, trainer and supervisor of counsellors, and writer.

At the core of this apparent vocational diversity has been, I now understand, the same drive. It is that urge to find meaningful contexts for my own tiny, ephemeral spark of life, whilst offering some affirmation to others that their tiny flame matters too: it is worth struggling to get our light to burn with a purer and brighter radiance.

Something ineffable and charged can on occasions arise in deep communication between one person and another – those in the helping professions and their clients are by no means the sole partakers of this context. There is a moment in which the feeling of safety, intimacy, trust, empathy and openness of exchange becomes so intense that the level on which two people are interacting shifts from ‘ordinary’ to numinous.

The Diamond Soul

The Diamond Soul
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In that moment, (to my subjective recollection) both souls are held, in a state of grace, in the palm of some vast invisible benevolent Hand. Both sparks of life are suspended in a sense of the sacred….Such a state can never be evoked. It can only be bestowed – fleeting, memorable, perhaps life changing.

Coming across the following quotes recently thus struck a profound chord:

first, from Carl Gustav Jung –

“ That is why I say to any beginner: learn your theories as well as you can, but put them aside when you touch the miracle of the living soul. Not theories but your creative individuality alone must decide.”

Carl Jung from “Contributions to Analytical Psychology” (quoted in Self and Society Vol 27 No 1 March 1999, p 22.)

second, from ‘Gilead’ by Marilynne Robinson, p 51 –

“ When people come to speak to me, whatever they say, I am struck by a kind of incandescence in them, the ‘I’ whose predicate can be ‘love’ or ‘fear’ or ‘want’, and whose object can be ‘someone’ or ‘nothing’ and it won’t really matter, because the loveliness is just in that presence, shaped around ‘I’ like a flame on a wick, emanating itself in grief and guilt and joy and whatever else …. To see this aspect of life is a privilege of the ministry which is seldom mentioned.”

(‘Gilead’, winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, is a wonderful novel in which, towards the end of Rev John Ames’ life in 1956, he begins a letter to his young son, setting down all that he wishes to communicate which impending death will otherwise render impossible.)

I urge you to read it for its humanity and its wisdom.

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500 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

For love of wild landscapes – returning to the North…

Rolling stones do eventually run out of restlessness, if they are lucky. I came to rest in Glasgow, Scotland, UK, by an accident of fate – by putting a wrong number on a university application form. ( long story – some other time…) it was a fortuitous twist of fate, since I have been happy here, and have no desire to move again, ever.

Standing Stones in Winter

Standing Stones in Winter

But every so often, I need a ‘fix’ of the land where I was born and raised. The land, sea and skyscapes of the North-West of Scotland inspired me from my earliest days. I can still recall lying tucked up in bed listening to wild January gales tearing the world apart outside, wondering what Power drove all that mighty energy. The Northern Lights transfixed me with their beauty. The unpolluted  night skies revealed magical star patterns to my youthful imagination, inspiring my writing from a very young age. I still need scenic wildness, scenic beauty regardless of weather or season.

So – here we are, for a few days’ vacation. I thought I’d share a few of my photos. The bottom one is me, spaced out on horizons and fresh air…What is the landscape which calls you Readers to return? I’d love to hear!

IMG_2007IMG_2048IMG_2061 IMG_2073

200 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Preserving wild land and Nature: community versus politicians – Glasgow, UK

Our local community in North Kelvin, Glasgow,UK,  has been campaigning for years to preserve a precious piece of wild land in the middle of  the area. The most recent initiative, The Children’s Wood, has won numerous awards in its three years of activism. It operates on the cutting edge of world-wide research which shows that children – and their families – enjoying the Great Outdoors together is wonderfully effective in promoting physical, mental, and community wellbeing. Our local wild space is regularly used all year round by numerous community groups, eg  a number of local schools are now on side with an impressive range of educational programmes centred on outdoor learning. 

This year, the Charity Commission recognised The Children’s Wood by awarding it charitable status, to the delight of all local residents.

Children's Wood Protest 1

Children’s Wood Protest

photo: Anne Whitaker

You would think, wouldn’t you, that our local City Council – which likes to promote Glasgow’s “Dear Green Place” image – would be proud of having such an impressive community initiative right here. You might even think, mightn’t you, if they were savvy politicians, that they could be claiming some of the credit  for this world-class initiative, using its success to attract positive interest – maybe even money – in promoting their Glasgow’s Green Year 2015 campaign?

Not a bit of it!!!

No interest whatsoever has been shown. The council persist in describing our vibrant piece of community land as  “disused football pitches”. Here, in the words ofThe Children’s Wood website, is a summary of the current  state of play regarding the sale of the land – the City Council’s preferred option, opposed by 90% of local residents:

“Glasgow City Council is run by a Labour administration. It is the decision of the Labour party to sell the land. They could at any point throw out the application on various grounds, including the length of time it is taking New City Vision to move forward. It has now been 7 years since New City Vision became the preferred developers, and 3 years since the initial planning application was submitted. In the mean time the community of Maryhill and North Kelvin have been kept hanging around while NCV stop and start.

We are not supported by the Glasgow Labour party and believe that they have not engaged with us on this issue. It is vitally important that you get in touch with your local councillor and other politicians on this issue and ask for their support on this important matter and to put pressure on the council to throw out this application and support our plans to keep it wild. 3,000 local people were surveyed by Glasgow University over a year ago and the results revealed that over 90% do not want building on the land.”  

The Children's Wood

The Children’s Wood

The Children’s Wood have just made a short film which weaves research, activism, and images of children and adults using the land, into a vivid and clear statement of commitment to an ongoing project which can be used as a template ANYWHERE in the world where there are wild spaces within cities.

Do watch it!

Such spaces are in danger of being swallowed up by the power of commercial interests, who cannot see benefit except in terms of money. We are challenging this attitude in our community. We need help and support in fighting against our own City Council, sad though it is to have to see this statement in cold print.

If you would like to help us by sending in, from anywhere in the world, letters of objection to selling the land – find out how to do that HERE

If you would like to give us a donation to help fund our campaign, as well as our ongoing community projects, click HERE.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Do leave a comment with your thoughts.

Children's Wood Protest 1

Children’s Wood Protest

650 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

 

In praise of sacred spaces: Salisbury Cathedral, UK

Followers of this blog will have noticed that I have been conspicuous by my absence in recent weeks. Most bloggers, especially those like me who have been keeping noses to the blogging grindstone for a number of years, feel the need for a break now and then, no matter how much fun it all is. Sitting staring cross-eyed at a visually attractive wall, hand clutching a cup of tea, is a great way of chilling out and revitalising, I find. Throwing in a little therapeutic travel also helps!

So, after a week of travel therapy, I am now home. Our last port of call was the historic English market town of Salisbury. Much though we loved Salisbury, its world-famous cathedral, unsurprisingly, was the highlight: awesome, in the pre-social media sense of the word. I was especially moved by the Trinity Chapel and its magnificent Prisoners of Conscience window.

Prisoners of Conscience window

Prisoners of Conscience window

photo: Anne Whitaker

And – I found the statue of the Black Madonna.

(mentioned by Jamie in my April 10 reblog from her site..) 

Black Madonna, Salisbury UK

Black Madonna, Salisbury UK

photo: Anne Whitaker

Here is Jamie, from that excellent blog Sophia’s Children, on the topic of the black madonna archetype...”….But the real surprise, as I wandered through the beautiful cathedral was coming upon a chapel dedicated to prayer for ‘prisoners of conscience’, which featured a stunning stained glass window.

Looking over this chapel, dedicated to mindfulness of and prayer for those who are being held prisoner throughout the world, was a dark madonna.

For any who know the archetype of the dark or black madonna, and the many things She symbolizes, you will know that there is no more appropriate place for Her than this space dedicated to those who have been forgotten, who are being held captive, who are being treated cruelly…”

Given the awful atrocities we read about daily which are being perpetrated all over our world more than ever, we need powerful symbolism to remind us how far we still have to evolve as a species in order to become civilised…

We also took some time to wander through the cloisters and the extensive grounds around the cathedral, soaking up the atmosphere. Salisbury Cathedral is visually stunning, not least because of its magnificent spire. I hope you enjoy this unusual view!

Salisbury Cathedral Spire

Salisbury Cathedral Spire

Photo: Anne Whitaker

 One of the surprises of our visit was this: despite the constant traffic of noisy schoolchildren, mingling with tourists of all races, colours and creeds, it was possible to find contemplative spaces. For me, sitting quietly in Trinity Chapel, contemplating the beauty of its magnificent window which offered such a powerful, poignant message, was something I treasure and will not easily forget.

Where would we be, believers or not, without the power, grace and inspirational quality of those spectacular mediaeval monuments?

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450 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

 

The Black Madonna Connection

Anne Whitaker:

Following on Easter, Jamie over at Sophia’s Children reminds us of the deep, ancient wisdom held in the archetype of The Black Madonna…read, reflect, enjoy…In Jamie’s words “…this Whole Feminine, this symbol of deep wisdom and Unity, of remembrance and healing of what has been fragmented and abused, … is needed right now in the world.

She is calling for remembrance and expression in our work places, in our leadership, in the way we understand and express ourselves. The heartbeat grows louder, and the need for it grows as well. As we remember Her, she expresses herself more powerfully through us…”

Originally posted on Sophia's Children:

La Moreneta Madonna of Montserrat, a more renowned Black Madonna located at the Santa Maria de Montserrat monastery in the Montserrat mountain in Catalonia. La Moreneta Madonna of Montserrat, a more renowned Black Madonna I visited with at the Santa Maria de Montserrat monastery in the Montserrat mountain in Catalonia. There is also another nearby, in a more humble location amongst the people.

Given what I’ve shared in recent (and previous) posts, it seems a fine time to have a nice pot of tea and a renewing, revitalizing visit with the Black Madonna.

I’ve written a lot about the Black Madonna over the years, and will link to a couple of those posts here — they delve more deeply into the meaning, the history, and my own journey of introduction to her Mysteries.

In short, the Black Madonna is the Virgin and Child, Mother Mary and the Christ child. With a twist.

Her blackness is multi-level symbolic, but hints at the depths of the Mysteries … in this case, Christian, but connected by an…

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