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Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Letting the masks slip

It has been a really strange week for me, with the mind buzzing, and so much to do that it has at times seemed almost overwhelming.

It is always the same before I go on holiday - so much to do and so little time. Cars to fill up, laundry to be done, bags to be packed and a million and other things to do in between, including for me, the village newsletter that I edit.

Most people it has to be said, have been very good and sent me their contributions in good time, but still it has been a rush to get it all done and organise the pages. I have had to be ruthless this month and stick to just 24 of them, even though it is a double edition for 2 months - July and August, but I think I have achieved a good mix. As well as the usual contributions from the National Trust and various local groups, I also have a piece on how to amuse the kids on long car journeys and an anonymous piece entitled I Believe, which was sent to me by my friend Barbara Stone.

Barbara is what I would describe as a networker, as she spends a large amount of time circulating various interesting snippets to the growing number of people on her mailing list. This is useful for me, since the stories all have a spiritual slant, and I do like to try and bring at least some spirituality into each issue. I think this is important, since there are three regular pages on Christianity - the church services, the letter from the Parish Rector and a piece from the local Christian Fellowship. Don't get me wrong, they are interesting articles, written by lovely people, but it is nice to have a balance between religion and spirituality and represent more than one view.

Lundy then is looming again - all being well I shall depart for Bideford early on Friday morning. If the weather is good, which it has been so far this week, I shall then hit the beach at Saunton Sands before going on to my bed and breakfast just outside Barnstaple. It is just a 10 minute drive to the boat at Bideford the following morning, which is just as well given the early start, at 8am. I have to be there at 7am, so that means an early morning call around 5.45 am. I expect to spend the afternoon then zonked out in the sun outside the pub !

I really need this holiday though, since I am just so tired, with so much going on, waiting for news about work (will I come home to find a closing down sale in the window?), worrying about whether Gardners will order more books while I am gone, and whether my partner will know what to do, wondering for that matter how he will manage on his own for 2 weeks. He has not been too good of late with this stomach playing up and getting a lot of headaches and aches and pains.

We both though relish the time alone and crave and need it, as if it is part of us, and so I know that he will cope, and cope remarkably well, because that is the type of person that he is. Despite his fears, he knows that the silence and the enforced solitude makes him stronger and closer to who he is, not further away. It does diminish, but enhances, as it gives both of us the opportunity to relax and let the masks slip, masks which we wear from day to day, even with each other. It is this that I find the most draining of all, playing all the different roles - the sales person, the writer, the blogger, the sister, the friend, the partner. On Lundy I don't have to play any roles at all, but can just be me, and nothing else.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Coran, books, music and nature

I seem to be waking up earlier and earlier of late, which I suppose is only natural given the time of year. I often find though that this is the best time of day, and certainly the most creative, so perhaps I will try to continue this habit.

As I write, the early morning sun is streaming through the windows of my study, with a gentle breeze wafting through the trees that moves them gently from side to side. The birds are twittering away as I look forward to the challenge of a new day.

My partner sits in the next room, typing at his own computer, and listening to my Chicane CD 'Far from the Maddening Crowd'. This I have discovered, is perfect music for exercising to at the gym, especially my two favourites, Sunstroke and Red Skies. We will be off to the gym soon hopefully, before it gets too hot and maybe later on for some shopping, in between cooking lunch, chilling out at the viewpoint, and cutting our grass, plus for me of course, the newsletter that I edit.

Coran is flapping about now, wondering why he is not able to put these tracks on his own computer. I keep telling him that he should put the Napster software onto his computer, and then just log in using my ID, as members can download tracks that they have bought onto three different PC's. Men though never listen !

Ah well, none of this is important I guess in the scheme of life. What to me is important? Life itself and the blood pumping through my veins. None of this 'stuff' is who I really am, but is merely trappings that I have acquired in order to make myself feel better and more secure. It doesn't work though, as I am still as insecure and needy as the next person. One thing I do know though, is that these things may well be trappings, but I cannot imagine a world without the four things that are most important to me in all the world - Coran, books, music and nature - in that order. Today I intend to enjoy all four.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

A Wonder to behold

Stevie Wonder is my undoubted musical hero. Had it not been for a reading site that I am a member of, I may never have known that he had announced a European tour, including dates in London, for this September.

I was really excited to hear about this, since I am one of his biggest fans. To me this man is an absolute genius, and his songs are poetry in motion. I have most of his albums from the early 70's onwards, and quite a few of his earlier tracks too. It is impossible to say what my favourites are as these change according to my mood, but I would count among them songs such as Creepin', Too Shy to Say and Love's in Need of Love Today, as well as sixties favourites My Cherie Amour, I'm Wondering and Uptight (Everything's Alright). I don't think there is one single song of his that I don't like, as they are all special, like the man himself.

I was so excited though when I heard about these dates that I immediately searched on Google for the dates and ticket information. I then discovered that they would not be on sale until yesterday morning, Friday 13th June.

My partner and I got up early on that day and dashed to the supermarket so I could get straight on the net after 9am and try and get some seats. I kept trying and trying for around half an hour but no matter which site I went to it was the same result; I would fill in the request form for the date and number of seats that I wanted (there was just one date in London anyway), and it would come back to say that it was unable to process my request, and to keep trying. The equivalent I suppose of dialling a telephone number and getting the engaged tone.

I went away then for around half an hour to do some other stuff, and then tried again, only to find that the sale had been suspended. How upset I was to think that I would miss my hero in action! I refreshed the page though, and to my delight found that another date had suddenly been announced for the following night, which was even better than the first, since it was a Friday, meaning that I would not have to get up for work the following day and have to rush home to make sure I got enough sleep. I could not believe my luck when the screen came back to say that 2 tickets had been booked for that night.

To say that I am looking forward to this is an understatement. I have been a fan of Stevie's music for as long as I can remember. This will be the fourth time I have seen him live, the last time being a charity concert for the blind in 1996, at the Royal Albert Hall. The other 2 times were at Wembley Arena in I believe, 1994 and 1995 respectively.

The show in 1995 was the best of all of them, since we were lucky enough (don't ask me how) to get 2nd row seats. When his backing singer led Stevie on stage the atmosphere was electric and the crowd erupted in an absolute frenzy. The arena just radiated this energy of love; the only other person I have ever been in the presence of who has anywhere near this effect on people is the Dalai Llama, and this did come close to what I experienced that night.

It is often the case that what disabled people lack in one of their missing senses they make up for in other ways, and this definitely seems to be the case with Stevie, as he works his magic on
everyone who is touched by his songs. They make you laugh and cry, and touch raw emotions deep inside, touching a sense of longing deep inside that is difficult to explain to anyone who has not been touched by the magic his man possesses. Yes, it will be a special night indeed - roll on September 12th, 2008.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Fragile - handle with care

The picture in tonight post pretty much sums up my present state of mind and so it seemed a highly appropriate choice.

Thanks to the waffler since Tuesday we have had just 2 members of staff in all day, running a busy store, for up to 9 1/2 hours with no break. The 2 of us that were in were running around like tits in trances trying to get the store looking good - don't ask me why when they are probably about to close it anyway! All this because some other Managers were coming to the store to do an inspection, and of course, they cannot possibly see it as it is. Well, when one of them asked me what I thought of the company, I told them the truth, and said we were not paid nearly what we are worth. I was utterly surprised to find that he actually agreed with me.

So, to say it has not been the easiest week is an understatement. Tomorrow though is another day, and it is also the first of my three regular days off (I only work four days a week). One week from now I shall be packing my bags and heading for Lundy via the M3.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Touching God

I have been aware for a few weeks now of a sense of unease in the back of my mind, which if I do not concentrate too hard, is just on the periphery of my vision. Many live with this feeling their whole lives, unaware of the cause, and unaware that there is anything else, that they can choose another way of being. Fortunately I do not fall into this camp.

I know that ultimately what lies behind this sense of unease is non acceptance of the now - the present moment, and what is happening in my life right now. To help me accept what is, and accept the sense of unease, for it is the act of accepting it that ceases its power over me, I have begun as of today to go over the lesson cards for A Course in Miracles.

I first discovered the course back in 1996, and got halfway through the book and cards before coming to an abrupt halt. When I got to the lesson where you had to give up all your fears, I found that I was not ready to do that, and so have not looked at the book (apart from to find the odd quote etc) since. I feel though that now is the right time to start reading it again.

I was reminded of this need last night, when I continued to read the Eckhart Tolle book, A New Earth. The page that I opened it at (page 240) said:

"Choose an object close to you - a pen, a chair, a cup, a plant - and explore it visually, that is to say, look at it with great interest, almost curiosity. Avoid any objects with strong personal associations that remind you of the past, such as where you bought it, who gave it to you, and so on. Also avoid anything that has writing on it such as a book or a bottle. It would stimulate thought. Without straining, relaxed but alert, give your complete attention to the object, every detail of it. If thoughts arise, don't get involved in them. It is not the thoughts you are interested in, but the act of perception itself. Can you take the thinking out of the perceiving? Can you look without the voice in your head commenting, drawing conclusions, comparing, or trying to figure something out? After a couple of minutes or so, let your gaze wander around the room or wherever you are, your alert attention lighting up each thing that it rests upon".

This is interesting, as the first lesson from the course is "nothing in this room means anything". Readers are encouraged to do the same exercise that Tolle describes above, gradually lessening attachment to the things that they see, and encouraging us to see with fresh eyes, perhaps to really see for the first time in our entire lives.

This reminded me of a deeply touching experience that I have each time I visit my beloved Lundy - one of my favourite occupations - to go out and night and gaze at the blackness of space. Living in towns and cities as most of us do, we do not often get the chance to see the night sky in all her glory, free from artificial lights with nothing between us and the vastness of space. I often go for walks at night when I visit the island, or climb the Old Light, to just gaze at the stars.

I believe that f you do not become completely absorbed and in awe when looking into the blackness and vastness of space, then are not truly looking. At this moment we stare deep into one of life's most incomprehensible mysteries and we have completely relinquished all sense of ego and self. The sense of awe is not derived from the fact that there are so many stars, or that we are small in relation to the universe, but from the depth that contains both of these facts.

When you become aware of space, you become aware of yourself and your own inner consciousness, as your consciousness opens up to expand that which is both within and without - our own sense of God. When the senses cannot perceive of anything, and the eye has nothing to see except the blackness, then that nothingness is perceived as space and a space opens up inside of ourselves that enables our spirit to shine forth. we connect with our sense of knowing and wisdom and realise that anything is possible, as the things that we see around us are no longer obscured or defined by form and we let go of all attachments.

When we observe beauty in nature, a flower unfolding, the sound of the sea, a beautiful sunset or sunrise, we touch a sense of recognition deep inside. We know that the stillness that we see in nature is a reflection of the stillness that lies at the core of our own being.

To coin a phrase from the best science fiction (or perhaps science fact) television programme in the whole universe, Babylon Five:

"I will tell you a great secret, Captain. Perhaps the greatest of all time. The molecules of your body are the same molecules that make up this station and the nebula outside, that burn inside the stars themselves. We are star stuff, we are the universe made manifest, trying to figure itself out. As we have both learned, sometimes the universe requires a change of perspective." -
Delenn to Sheridan in Babylon 5: A Distant Star"