Endings and beginnings

It’s nearly seven months since I’ve posted in this blog. So much has changed in my life since the fire which destroyed my home. I lost almost all of my material possessions, but have gained so much more, in friendship and freedom.

This blog is, as its title now states, an archive. I hope you will find much still to enjoy and mull over in these pages.

If you’re after up to date writing and information on what I’m up to, head over to What’s Your Story?, my new online home.


Raging at life: a message from God Herself

Today, I felt the first shudders of impact from the fire vibrating through me. I felt angry all day. I wanted to scream and pound my fists in rage at everyone and everything.

Most of all, I wanted to scream in Life’s face, “How dare you be so cavalier of our precious lives? How dare you even consider wiping us away in a heartbeat? How dare you?!”

And in my heart, I did.

The message I received in response… well, I’ll let God speak for Herself:

I see the big picture; I am the big picture. This is flow. All comes from Me, all returns to Me. This is flow.

You cannot know how much I value each and every life. You have no inkling how precious each and every part of Me is to Me, how I marvel at Myself, how I marvel at you.

Even my toenail clippings are held as sacred, as holy, raised in golden radiance, gazed on in amazement. And you are by no means the least of these.

You are not the least of these.
You are not the least of these.
You are not the least of these.

So where have I been?

Just under two weeks ago, our house caught fire, and while my partner, our dogs and I are completely unharmed, we lost almost all of our belongings.

We are… really not as bothered by that as we imagined we might be. Resilience and non-attachment appear to be at the max, so far.

Our lives are at present an exercise in receiving, and receiving, and receiving. The generosity of our neighbours has been humbling, from donations of clothes and toiletries to putting a roof over our heads. The speed with which our insurance company is operating is exemplary. I feel carried and supported, by means both human and divine. Alongside the shock and grief is a deep, deep well of gratitude and experience of being held by Love.

I leave you with a Sufi blessing which a dear friend of mine left for me in a voicemail message this weekend:

May the blessings of Love rest upon you,
May Love’s peace abide with you,
May Love’s presence illuminate your heart,
Now and forever more.

Elinor ♥

A post of happiness and joy :-)

First, something to make you smile:

Now onto the main point of the post – which was also the point of the picture: happiness.

Happiness projects

There are several different projects to increase happiness going on around the world, and  thus around the Internet.

The very first Happiness Project I ever came across was the one started in the UK by Robert Holden. I met Robert at the A Course In Miracles group that he and his then wife Miranda Macpherson hosted at their house in Birmingham (UK). At the time, he was running the UK’s only NHS Happiness Clinic.

In 1996, the BBC broadcast a documentary featuring his work, called How to be Happy, and the rest, as they say, is history. Now The Happiness Project is a joint project between Robert, Ben Renshaw, Avril Carson and Ian Lynch.

Built on the insights at the core of mystical philosophies the world over, Robert’s work focuses on choice, gratitude, clarity, forgiveness and loving relationships. The Project’s work is largely built around books and courses to enable people to implement Robert’s proven tools, to increase their own happiness and that of the people around them.

The second Happiness Project I’ve come across is that of Gretchen Rubin, based on her book The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun. 

As well as the website for the book, with videos and links to local groups. An associated website is The Happiness Project Toolbox, on which you can create your own toolbox of resolutions (both individual and group), personal commandments, inspiration, lists, brief journal, ‘Secrets of Adulthood’ and ‘Happiness Hacks’.

All I know about Gretchen Rubin and her Happiness Project is what I’ve read on her websites; certainly the toolbox looks like a good, practical, daily regime for increasing your happiness. It doesn’t appear at first glance to have the depth of Robert Holden’s work, but the simplest practices can reveal surprising inner vistas and joys.

The third Happiness Project is a music project of Charles Spearin.

Charles Spearin is a multi-instrumentalist who has been an active and influential member of Canada’s independent music community since the mid 1990’s. He is primarily known as a founding member of the instrumental post-rock ensemble Do Make Say Think and an original member of the indie-rock collective Broken Social Scene. Spearin’s most recent work – his first solo album – innocently titled ‘The Happiness Project’ centers around recorded conversations with his downtown neighbours and plays with the cadence of their voices as though they were songs.”

How about you? What have you found helps you to maintain inner happiness? What tools, techniques or attitudes of mind work for you?

How connecting with the earth can open the door of heaven

Yesterday I spent most of the morning making a video for my December spiritual practice email newsletter. (Of course, then I couldn’t get it to render properly — thank you, Mercury Retrograde — but that’s not the point of this post.) December’s newsletter is about grounding, connecting oneself energetically with the earth. I demonstrated four different methods for grounding in the video, and the video took three takes, so I was well and truly earthed by the end of filming!

When I took the dogs out for a walk shortly afterwards, I felt a sense of calm, peace and joy in the environment that I’ve not been aware of feeling for a very long time. Each leafless tree, each dried up plant, each rock, the sky, the stream, all seemed filled and overflowing with life: glowing.

When I was a teenager I sang in choirs a lot. One of the choral pieces that has stayed with me from that time, and that rang in my head as I walked among life’s glory yesterday, was a setting by Brahms of Psalm 84:

“How lovely are Thy dwellings fair, O Lord of Hosts.
My soul ever longeth and fainteth sore
for the blest courts of the Lord:
My heart and flesh do cry to the living God.
O blest are they that in Thy house are dwelling:
They ever praise Thee, O Lord, for evermore.”

Everything around me, from the smallest pebble and the lowliest worm to the flowing waters and the sky itself, was clearly the dwelling place of the Divine, of Life Itself at its most complete, its most ecstatic – and these dwellings were lovely indeed.

The experience of ecstasy is often associated with escape from the ‘earthly’, a journeying away from and stepping out of the world of form. The very word means ‘to stand outside’. When I have experienced ecstasy in that way, it has always been a sublime and transformative experience, but not one that I can easily hold onto, or integrate in day to day life. My experience yesterday, though, was one of grounded ecstasy – a realisation of the Presence of the Divine within the ordinary things and activities of the day to day.

I have heard teachers of Kaballah and other mystical traditions say that “you have to go down in order to go up”. The repeated grounding practices I did prepared and enabled me to have this realisation; I went ‘down’, connecting my energy to the earth, and was thus able to go ‘up’ into the experience of the Divine-in-all, while staying fully present in the world of forms.

I already knew how useful and important grounding practices are in keeping me on an energetically even keel. I now also have a renewed respect for and commitment to grounding practices as a path to integrating the heavenly and the earthly in my interactions and perceptions, as well as in myself.

How do you ground yourself? What, for you, are the benefits?

Science Fiction Wisdom: Litany Against Fear – Dune, Frank Herbert

I must not fear.

Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.

I will face my fear;

I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

And when it has gone past,
I will turn the inner eye to see its path.

Where the fear has gone there will be nothing:

Only I will remain.

I have a confession to make: I’ve never read any of the Dune novels; I’ve only seen the film of Dune once, and I didn’t manage to follow what was going on.

But the Litany Against Fear still had a profound effect on me when I heard it spoken by Paul Atreides as he placed his hand in a device that causes excruciating pain, at the instruction of a member of the Bene Gesserit Order.

Paul Atreides with the leader of the Bene Gesserit order.

The possibility that fear was something that one could face, and come out the other side unscathed, was one I’d been introduced to before, but the idea that “only I will remain” struck me deep.

The context for the Litany is vast – far too vast for me to introduce here, even if I had read all of the Dune novels and properly understood it. What matters here, what struck home for me, was not the world created by Frank Herbert, but the lesson at the heart of the Litany itself.

Fear is a bad idea

The Litany, although short, to my mind is clearly divided into four sections.
The first is an injunction to the self: “I must not fear,” while the second is a really good reason why: “Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.”

A dead mind and total obliteration are pretty powerful negative motivators! If that’s what fear does, I sincerely want nothing to do with it!

But how not to fear? “Do not fear” seems to me rather like being told “don’t think of pink elephants.” Thankfully, the Litany doesn’t leave us hanging with the injunction and the reasons to follow it, but provides instructions to follow.

Fear must be faced

The third section gives the real heart of the Litany: the action which must be taken in order not to fear. “I will face my fear; I will permit it to pass over me and through me.”

Here, it seems clear to me that the Litany is instructing us that fear is to be treated as a separate entity. Regardless of what our experience tells us, or what psychologists discover, however much we may feel that fear is part of us, or even is who we are, in order to follow the Litany we must perceive it as something not of us, which we then face. Whether fear is or is not of us, the mental trick of displacing it to outside of us – but not projecting it onto another person or thing – allows the work of the Litany to be done.

Rather than fighting this fear which we have mentally displaced, the Litany instructs us to permit it to pass over and through us. We are to be passive in the face of fear, allowing it to flow through us, until it has gone – perhaps an appropriate analogy would be with allowing a container of water to be poured over us, and sink into the desert sands.

Fear is nothing

“And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing: Only I will remain.”

Here is the key to the Litany. Fear, which left unchecked could kill my mind and bring total obliteration, is nothing. No thing. I am real; fear is not. And it is only by allowing my fear, allowing fear to flow in me and through me, that I can come to learn for myself that fear is not real, by turning my inner eye to see its path, and seeing nothing – not even the tiniest trace.

Returning to the first line of the Litany, we see that it is perhaps not an injunction never to fear, but an injunction never to be possessed by fear, never to give it power over our thoughts, our minds, our selves.

And so endeth the first spiritual lesson from science fiction!

How do you manage fear? What spiritual lessons from science fiction (or, indeed, fantasy) have helped you through life?

Three spiritual teachers worth checking out

Today I’m giving you another recommendations post; this time, spiritual teachers.

I’ve chosen just three people to focus on, three people whose work I have experienced first hand. All three are mystics, all three live in or near the San Francisco Bay Area but teach internationally, and all three are, as far as I’m concerned, the Real Deal.

I don’t mean that they’re perfect: they’re still human beings with feet of clay. But what my experience of them tells me is that they can catalyse your spiritual development and help dramatically shift your perceptions.

Llewellyn Vaughan Lee

Llewellyn Vaughan Lee is a Sufi mystic and lineage successor in the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya Sufi Order. His upbringing was in the UK, but he went to northern California to found the Golden Sufi Center after working for many years with Irina Tweedie, author of Daughter of Fire.

Llewellyn’s specialism is dreamwork, and he integrates the ancient Sufi approach to dreams with the insights of Jungian psychology. While Sufism traditionally eschews the concerns of the world, Llewellyn’s recent writing and teaching has focused on spiritual responsibility and global consciousness in this time of global crisis.

I have only attended two seminars with Llewellyn, and did not interact with him directly, but the quality of his presence and the simplicity of the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya meditation technique changed me profoundly.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle is a Pagan, a mystic and an activist. Her body of work extends from teaching, mentoring and spiritual direction, to writing books and creating sacred music, to non-violent activism on social and environmental issues, to regular work in a soup kitchen.

I first met Thorn, as a teacher at a Reclaiming Witchcamp, in 2003. From 2005 to 2008, I undertook a two and half year apprenticeship with her and a group of other seekers from the UK and Europe. The work we did together coincided with a period of dramatic change in my life, and enabled me to step more fully into my life, with confidence and passion.

Thorn’s work is always shifting and developing, as she herself continues to learn and grow: the work she is doing now will not be the same as the work I did with her some years ago. But what I can say with absolute confidence is that Thorn has deep wisdom, a warm heart and a wicked cackle, and she doesn’t let you get away with anything. She knows when you need a challenge, when you need comfort, and when you just need to get down and do the work!

Miranda Macpherson

Don’t let the ‘golden girl’ picture fool you. Miranda is a power to be reckoned with, channeling grace and catalysing people’s healing process and spiritual awakening like no-one else I’ve ever experienced.

Originally from Australia, Miranda moved to the UK in the 1990s, and then to California in the mid-2000s. I got to know Miranda very well, first as a regular attender at her weekly A Course In Miracles study group during 1994-1995, then as one of the first students, mentors and trustees of The Interfaith Seminary, which Miranda founded in 1996 and led for ten years.

Although I have not worked with Miranda since her move to the States, my understanding of her current approach is that it is a synthesis of Self-Inquiry, spiritual psychology, and focus on Divine Feminine grace, embracing our everyday human experience as an entry point into the depths of who we truly are.

In my experience, Miranda has absolute clarity about the nature of reality, the purpose of spiritual practice and the nature of healing, and puts that clarity to work with amazing effect.

Which spiritual teachers have helped you along your way?