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Friday, 14 March 2014

Cycles, Circles, Endless Renewals

The wheel turns full circle. When I was a very young, small person I exhibited, in my own infant way, untrammelled authenticity. Running around the garden, splashing in puddles and falling in mud, I was lord of my own domain. By the midpoint between my infancy and today, in the early/mid 1980s, I had firmly and substantially (though, with the benefit of hindsight, I can state never totally) fallen in with organised religion in my quest for self knowledge and realisation. Presented as an alternative to the tired and crusty authoritarian Christianities of western orthodoxy, my chosen Buddhist vehicle was, nevertheless, pretty organised and religious.

Today, the people who catch my attention are those who walk their own path. They wander - to transform Wordsworth's cliched poetic fragment into inner metaphor - lonely as clouds across the vast sky of phenomena. The muse comes personally - the still, small, inner voice, the calling - and nobody can give them instructions or guidebooks on how to conduct their own life. The people who emphasise personal authenticity, individual uniqueness; prepared to look in all directions for advice when needed, inspiration when called for, rather then identify with any one singular path. The people who call up the courage to confront their life in all its marvellous complexities, its heights and depths, its light and its shadow, its own extraordinary richness and variety.

Neil Kramer is one such person. Another is Niall/Opaque Lens from Shamanic Freedom Radio, a man whose sacred path climbs many a dizzying hill and drops down many a dark dale; but a man with the courage to face whatever demons may leap out on the way. In a recent episode, Opaque Lens interviewed Shonagh Home. I had never come across this lady before, but she immediately reveals herself as another of these souls courageous enough to embrace the individual, sovereign path. Do not be afraid to be different. 'Be a rebel, be a misfit' she encourages at one point. 'I'm a misfit - say this with love.' Be happy to be an anomaly, she suggests to Mr Lens.

Of late, I have been listening more carefully to the voices of women. My discovery that the timing of my migraines bears relation to the phases of the moon was the first step in this direction. I figured that I should get to know a bit more about the moon: while the presence and influence of the sun is more obvious, the moon works her magic primarily at night, her influence unnoticed and unheeded while we are all indoors behind windows, walls, and thick curtains. Sister moon relates to that elusive notion, the sacred feminine. And through this to the voices of women.

For a woman, it's impossible not to read and listen to men big time: the majority of stuff out there has been produced by males. But for a man it can easily come to pass that the voices of women can be overlooked, if for no other reason than force of numbers. The subtly different viewpoints and experiences related by the women I've had the pleasure to listen to and read of late have enabled me to expand my own perceptions. Maybe this is part of what Jung and his followers refer to as 'anima integration'. Jung on the Shadow is brilliant, but when it comes to anima, I've always found him confusing - possibly because he was a bit confused himself, I suspect. Be that as it may, my female sources are often more at ease with expressing and exploring their emotional responses to events without prematurely short-circuiting the process by being judgemental or theorising too much. And when they do theorise, they remain in their body and in touch with the earth, instead of disappearing into a totally abstract world where cold logic and tyranny can take over.

The women I have listened to of late do not come into things through the doorway of academia, bristling with a portfolio of PhDs and smart-ass ivory tower superiority complexes. They are more likely to come through poetry, art, story, and song; through love and broken marriages; through tending to the sick and the dying; through listening to the oceans and the trees.

Another remarkable woman of this ilk is Penny Sartori. She came into her own unique calling through her time as a nurse in Intensive Therapy Units. The many years spent in this environment led her to have contact with large numbers of people undergoing the process of dying. The fruits of her experience and subsequent research are distilled into 'The Wisdom of Near-Death Experiences', a book which immediately goes onto the Pale Green Vortex highly recommended list.

Once more, a woman of great courage and humanity, prepared to face the relentless scepticism and worse of much of the mainstream. To go where many fear to tread, exploring patiently yet relentlessly the experiences of dying people in the hope of helping them come to terms with this most critical moment. But the book is more than that. Subtitled 'How understanding NDEs can help us live more fully', it is as much for those with many years ahead of them as for anybody else. Books of the dead and the dying are invariably books for the living too, and Penny Sartori's lovingly-written publication is just that: a book about how all of our lives might be lived better. It doesn't come much better than that.