Today I Walk with the Divine Key in my Pocket

Yesterday I wandered too far,

Striving for something I forgot I already had.

Fog descended, smothering the trail.

Disorientated, I stumbled, twisted my ankle, grazed my knee.

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Lost and alone, bruised and bleeding,

Waiting for the mist to lift.

I sensed the haze close in

Becoming thicker and heavier.

 

In well-thought-out plans of escape,

I became further entrapped.

Until I remembered the key you gave me,

And softened to seek your guidance within.

 

  A spark of clarity burned through the haze.

This impenetrable fog, I now see,

Is of my own creation.

And  you’ve graced me the key to its unmaking.

 

Today I walk with Shabda in my pocket,

A rare pearl charged with our love at dawn.

A love so powerful it sets me alight and radiates out.

Graced to be a vessel, divine purpose refound.

(Shabda: power of divine love in expression)

The Grace of Fall

Events can conspire to restrict you, or so it may seem. Having your arm in a cast is hardly conducive to breaking new horizons, one might think. Yet nature shows us its beauty in all its seasons, so perhaps it’s no surprise that it’s autumn when I start writing. When the trees, a beautiful haze of gold, orange, yellow, red, green and copper, are yet to release their beautiful leaves to the ground.

Theo and Tana facing

Photo by Simon Groves

A suspected broken wrist and a new puppy have drawn me to embrace and appreciate this season like never before. Every day Ember and I head out to play. We start in the garden where I have to lift her over the paving stones onto the lawn because she doesn’t like the cold feel of stone on her feet. She makes dens in the passionflower, in blossom now and bearing fruit. She buries her nose in the sedum’s purple florets, and shakes up our bamboo. We rest a lot in the den too, her tiny body warming my tummy as she sleeps whilst I chill out, watching films, listening to music and allowing a more contemplative, reflective vibe to seep into me. My right arm is in a cast, three fingers stuck in a claw so I’m unable to do much of my usual household chores or train for my new role as a Pilates teacher.

I’m still high on the love from my spiritual teacher’s latest seminar a few weeks back, and I feel so full to the brim that I know I need to release. So I write. It’s slow going at first, my clawed fingers sensitive to the pressure of a keyboard. But a particular story has been brewing in my mind for some time: Last winter, I learned to use imagery to ski a black diamond run more gracefully, and this helped me meet the challenges in my life. The tale pours out of me, a natural feeling, like it was always meant to be. A while back a friend of mine, Lesley, who shares the same spiritual teacher and whose writing I admire, had offered free advice on writing. This feels like the perfect moment to take her up on this opportunity.

My adventures with Ember progress to walks on the street. At first she is tentative, just sitting on the front doorstop, gazing at her surroundings and sniffing in the new scents. So we sit together enjoying the warmth of late summer. The next day she makes it to the end of the street, inspecting all the plants along the front gardens of our terraced street as she goes. As the days unfold her confidence grows and we become more adventurous together. True to the spirit of her name, Ember seems to ignite a warm glow in most people we see. She greets everyone and everything with her tail wagging and a gentle curiosity, and I find my world expanding too. Before long we’re making connections with dogs and their owners, parents and children. Well, to be honest, anyone and everyone around the neighbourhood, so indiscriminate is Ember in giving out her love.

“I think you may have found your calling,” Lesley writes over Facebook having read my second essay. Buoyed by her encouragement, I find myself waking earlier and earlier so I can write after my spiritual exercises. I reach deep inside myself and write the story of how tuning in to the loving vibe of my spiritual teachings has helped me through challenges in the past. Not just small challenges but huge, undignified challenges where, without the hand of grace at my side, I may well have crumpled in a ball of shame or fear. It’s like I’m being emptied, the words pouring from my fingers as I type.

Theo, my six-year-old son, is entranced by this new preoccupation of mine and so enthused that he wants to join me. Soon he’s tapping away on the iPad beside me as I write. This is fun, but not so conducive to my own writing.

“Mummy, how do you spell treasure?” he asks, eager anticipation in his expectant face, his tiny fingers poised for action. I dutifully spell out each letter for him.

“Mumma, how do you spell surprisingly?” he pipes, a mere one second later

I gently suggest he may be able to store up his questions and ask me every five minutes, but he’s simply unable to restrain himself.

“How about every minute?” I relent, smiling, impressed by his enthusiasm.

But still his questions, whilst writing his Indiana Jones-inspired tale, come thick and fast. We’re so absorbed, the two of us, that it’s all of a sudden a rush to help Theo to breakfast and prepare him for his school day, Ember chewing at my heels all the while.

A month later, during half-term, we take Ember into Richmond Park for the first time, Theo and I. Theo makes a tree into a hotel, and Ember and I check in as guests, burrowing ourselves into the rabbit holes and indentations in the ground, our designated rooms. We order room service, and Ember enjoys inspecting the leaves and stones we’re given as our evening meal. It’s enormous fun, and it’s hard to tear us all away. The weather glorious, warm sunshine on our backs, all three of us revel in the play. The Park is magnificent; acres of long meadow grass sway in the breeze, while majestic trees drip with the richness of autumn leaves in all their glory.

I send my husband, Tim, one of my essays, a story about a health challenge we faced together the year before. “It made me cry” he texts, on his commute back from work. “I’ve got a few comments to add.” And so we frolic in the field of creation, all of us. Playing make-believe with Ember and Theo, and juggling words with Lesley, my husband and my son, I wonder if this is what it feels like to jam in a band. A wonderful co-creation of love flowing through my veins.

Like autumn leaves fluttering to the ground, I see our pieces of writing as love notes released into the wind. Still feeling lit from the love of the seminar and the ensuing weeks, I wonder what it would feel like to have released all these revelations that have been building up inside of me. Would I feel like a tree in winter, bare branches exposed to the elements? A feeling of lightness pervades my body as I imagine myself as a tree, having shed my beautiful leaves of the year. Light and free, roots digging further into the ground for winter, I reach inside for a deeper connection to the great aquifer of love I feel rising within me.

And where do these love notes go? Who are they for? Should I send them out into the world, hoping for attention and reward? No, that doesn’t resonate. It is not me that is the protagonist here. Love is the hero of this tale, rising up against all odds and triumphing over other passions as they raise their ugly heads. I wonder where LOVE would like these love notes to land? Would Love encourage a gentle breeze to flutter them onto fertile ground? Perhaps, but Love wouldn’t have any expectation as to the result of this, and I see then that nor can I.

P.S. If you enjoyed reading this post, I’d so love it if you left a comment to share what resonated with you (or didn’t) and/ or any experience of your own inspired by this essay. My intention is that this blog becomes an interactive experience. Thank you!

The Gift of Pain

My head aches. The all-too-familiar sensation of heaviness and compression pervades down the left side of my skull. The usual pain throbs from the top left of my neck making my occiput tender to touch. Tension knots my shoulders. My spine feels rigid, my sacrum bruised, a dull sensation penetrates down my left leg. I’ve had a relaxing evening, a hot steaming bath, rubbed in some anti-inflammatory lotion to my aching muscles and taken some ibuprofen. This is my third night of enduring pain and I know that until I get myself to an osteopath, and allow myself to rest, sleep will be hard to come by.

It’s the beginning of the summer holidays for my five-year-old son, Theo. We’ve driven north out of London to the haven of my cousin’s farm. For me and my animal-loving son it’s a place of dreams. A menagerie of rare-breed farm animals set amongst fields of burgeoning fruit trees and bushes, and of vegetables ripe for the picking.

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My warm-hearted cousin and her generous husband fill our bellies with delicious home cooking from fresh farm produce and seamlessly enjoin us in the best of the farm chores. We feed the piglets, collect eggs from the hens, pet the horses, play with the dogs. We fill punnets of rich juicy fruit from the laden cherry trees, blissfully savouring the taste as we go. We happily unburden the strawberry bed of plump ripe berries and untangle aprons over tea in the farm cafe.   We coo over their ten-month-old son, smiling at his chubby cheeks and his huge endearing eyes. It’s a happy day of catching up and enjoying being, and I’m pleased that I’ve distracted myself from the pain.  I enjoy a glass of wine for dinner. I feel it go to my head, as my voice becomes louder than usual, my conversation too free.

This is my third night of sleeplessness, and with each ensuing night the physical pain becomes harder to bear, my emotions more fragile, my composure more on edge. Let’s face it, I’m wired. Thoughts race through my mind as I frantically try to think myself out of this unbecoming situation. After over two decades of grappling with this pain, it angers me that I’m unable to manage it more gracefully, that I don’t know myself better than to allow myself to get into this situation again. This anger fuels the thoughts that race around my head, the blocked energy that stifles my body. I pull out my phone and listen to an inspiring talk, hoping the loving teachings of my spiritual teacher will ease my pain. They don’t.

By morning I’m so brain dead I feel like a zombie. Today I have to drive home to London. It’s only around a two-hour drive but it feels reckless on so little sleep. My son awakes early full of joy. I’m glad of the distraction but have little energy for play. I guiltily set him up on the iPad so I can treat myself to another soak in the bath. We come down for breakfast and I attempt to make tea for everyone…but I’m so tired and on edge that I can’t remember all the different tea requests. There’s only four of us! My head hurts with the huge effort it takes to think and do anything. Theo is lovingly swept out to join in with the morning chores whilst I go up to pack and make an effort to cry. I’m not good at crying. It’s not one of those things that comes easily to me. But I sense a need to release some of this emotion and try to encourage the tears to roll down my cheeks. My cousin pops in and we share a hug.

I potter over to the farm shop to stock up on food for the coming week. Farm shops are one of my favourite places to browse, and this is a great one. I choose some lovingly home-cooked meals, meat from their hand-reared animals and fresh home grown veggies. I pick out some treats for us and presents for others. I add these to some of the fruit we had picked the day before. It’s more than I would usually buy but I’m too tired to choose and I love to support this family business.

My cousin’s husband is at the counter and asks how I am. How to explain that nothing is really the matter though everything seems to be bothering me. I’m so fed up with not being able to manage my long-term chronic pain. Will I ever learn how to cope with it better? I feel disheartened by having a husband who works all hours at building his company, leaving little time for play. I feel lost after giving up my job to raise our son. Gone is the daily gratification of being good at a job that supports those with mental health problems, the comradery of being part of a passionate and talented team and of course the monthly pay cheque that goes with it. I feel misplaced and outmanoeuvred by moving to a different area of London, reluctantly swapping a much loved traipsing ground with a supportive community for somewhere that feels alien, yet where we can afford a terraced house and garden near a good school for our son. I feel worn down by managing extensive renovations whilst living in a building site and nurturing a toddler, with little support at hand and no one I know well close by. I’ve somehow lost me in the process. Tears well in my eyes as I fail to articulate what feels true. My words tumble out in a haze of fatigue and pent-up emotion.

As I start the car to leave, my phone rings. It’s my husband, Tim. He lovingly asks how I am and I don’t need to say much for him to know my state. We’ve been here so many times before. He encourages me to book into my osteopath as soon as I can. Then he tells me he’s had another dizzy spell. He collapsed on the pavement in central London and his colleague helped him into a taxi home. I know it must be bad. He’s due to present at an important meeting up north today and little would tear him away from that. Over the last few months his dizzy spells have been becoming more prominent, rising from occasional spells which he’s always had to episodes that happen multiple times a day. I encourage him to go to the doctor but there’s no way he can manage the ten minute walk to the surgery.  He decides to call a cab to take him there.

This emergency is exactly what I need to pull myself together for the drive home. Tim is laid out on the sofa as we arrive. The doctor wanted him to go straight to hospital but he can’t face the bright lights and bustle of a busy Accident and Emergency department. He’ll wait until tomorrow. Typically he’d prefer to be at home to make sure I am okay. I make him tea, unpack our bags and look after our son, stepping into a new zone of energy I didn’t know I had. Despite the delicious food I’ve bought, Tim doesn’t feel like eating much. He looks grey, his slim frame shivering despite the summer warmth.  When I come down from putting Theo to bed I catch him struggling to heat up some soup. He can’t stand without holding onto something. I sit him down and gently help him to his dinner.

After another night of little sleep, I go to the osteopath and feel an instant release as my joints are manipulated back into place. But I’m still fragile. I know it’ll take a while for the headache to release and to regain my energy after the gruelling few nights. Tim is laid out on our bed. He can’t stand without feeling dizzy. Our son regales us both with his effortless sense of play.   It’s early afternoon by the time Tim takes a taxi to hospital. I’d like to drive him but we both know it would aggravate my neck, and one of us needs to be on form to look after Theo. We know it will be a wait but expect him back before nightfall.

In the early hours of the evening, he calls me. The doctors want to keep him in hospital overnight. They’re concerned that he has a large insect bite on his leg from a recent weekend trip to the New Forest and think he may have Lyme disease. They need to do a spinal tap, also known as a lumbar puncture, a diagnostic procedure which takes fluid from the spine in the lower back through a hollow needle, as well as various other tests to assess what is going on. I’m just in the process of putting our son to bed, and we decide it will be less disruptive for Theo if I stay at home. He calls his sister who’s able to come in to hospital, bring him a change of clothes and be there for him. We’re both surprised at the turn of events, but also pleased that after a life time of dizzy spells, they are finally being taken seriously. Perhaps we’ll have a reason for them soon.

To be continued…..

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