Friday, 21 September 2018

Intriguing eBay

I often come across eBay listings that make me pause in a search and look at them with a kind of boggling wonder.

Like this outfit.

"Casual party" the accompanying legend describes it, and yes — as parties go it does look as though it would be on the casual end of the spectrum. Deconstructed to the max. 

And then there are some people in Jaipur who have chosen an unusual mannequin to display their wares. Here she is.

Goodness me!

It's always helpful to see how a kurta will look look when it's on, but even so I think there are times when simply laying it out on the floor would be advisable.

They clearly don't share my view, but prefer to press on with their mannequin.

Her face has a hurt, stoical, enduring expression that says it all.  And the kurta? That, too . . .

Well, I expect they did their best.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018


In my collection of music, I have a playlist called "Devotion" and another one called "Devotion Main".

The first has several favourite songs for worship and for upbuilding my spirit. The second has the spiritual songs that always feed my soul, and are guaranteed to steady and encourage me, restore me to peace.

This is one of them.

After my post yesterday, reading comments about friends' health struggles, I was reminded of something I once heard Tom Cruise say on the Graham Norton show, about an injury to his ankle that happened during a risky film stunt. Oh, look, there's a little YouTube video of exactly the interview I'm talking about here.

What particularly arrested my attention was something he said right at the beginning of that clip, when Graham Norton asked him how he was, following the accident. Tom Cruise replies, "I am well. The ankle's still broken, but I am well."

Tom Cruise has been a Scientologist for some years (though I read that he may leave the organisation because of the family difficulties caused by belonging to it; don't know if that's true).  His spiritual path will condition his outlook, of course, and I wondered if that underlay his interesting comment — making a distinction between his essential intrinsic wellness persisting despite physical illness or damage.

I stored his remark away as a helpful and interesting way of looking at the challenges of ageing, illness and difficult life conditions (whether neurological, psychiatric, social, relational, financial, political, or whatever). 

"I am well. My ****** is broken, but I am well."

And it seemed to me to accord with that lovely song, It is well with my soul — "Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say it is well, it is well, with my soul."

This approach can be a bit confusing to people, of course. I've had to limit my preaching for health reasons, and stop leading retreats and taking funerals, and withdraw from a spectrum of relationships and interactions for the same reasons. I have to apply very disciplined caution in what I take on and take in, to keep functioning.  And then when people courteously ask me, "How are you?" I will always say, "I'm very well, thank you." Not merely as a conversational convention, but because even though I do have some ongoing health problems, and have to take good care of myself, still I am indeed well. If you see what I mean.

I think Tom Cruise was on the right track, there, and the song helps foster the mindset he's describing.

Nine hundred and ninety

I've been reading an excellent book, With the End in Mind: Dying, Death and Wisdom in an Age of Denial, by Kathryn Mannix. 

I wholeheartedly recommend it provided you don't mind some memorably graphic descriptions of death that are likely to linger in your memory.

In particular I love her description of natural death as progressing over years, energy declining and need for rest and sleep increasing, until sleep gives way to unconsciousness and then to death.

This put me in mind of the natural life of an oak tree, which takes 300 years to grow, then rests for 300 years, then takes 300 years to die. It occurred to me there is a correlation with human longevity here. A human who lives into old age without being overtaken by a fatal disease, might expect to live to be ninety years old. Perhaps, like the oak tree (losing a nought for the corresponding human life span) they might grow and mature for 30 years, then maintain a level of vigour for another 30 years, then begin a 30-year decline to death. So death would begin at 60, but not be completed until 90. That makes sense to me.

I have seen numerous well-managed deaths (and a handful of markedly less well-managed deaths), but the most natural deaths I've had the chance to observe have been in animals.

In particular I remember the last year of our dog Mary, who lived to a good age. On her last summer we took her camping with us as usual. I'd noticed that in recent months she seemed especially content, but keen to really savour life, stopping for every interesting smell on her walks, enjoying being out in the garden.  Granddad was a Boys Brigade officer and though all our children were girls, we used to go with the BB to their camp every year. That year I was struck by how happily Mary entered into it, more than usual, making me conclude that a dog could have a holiday as much as a human. She loved that time away in the countryside.

On our return, I and my husband and children had to go away again, this time to a big Christian conference where we would be so highly participative that it seemed unwise to take Mary along (we were again under canvas, this time on a huge site, and the events were not appropriate for her). So she stayed with my husband's parents. She and my father-in-law Norman really loved each other.

On our return home, it was instantly apparent that she should not be moved again. She had been slowing down for some time, and was now spending her time just sleeping on a blanket in the sunny warmth of the conservatory. So we didn't make her get up and get into the car, we just let her stay there through that week, dozing.

At the end of her life, Norman was with her. He bent down to stroke her, and she lifted her head to greet him, wagged her tail, and that was the end.

In my own life, now I am in my 60s, I am noticing the downturn of strength and energy. It's come quicker and more insistently than I imagined from what I've known others say. I still have the drive and commitment to see through what I really care about and believe in, but I have to husband my strength judiciously; I can no longer cope with draining relationships or high-stress situations and longer walks are tiring now. I can't multi-task any more (I used to be able to run a large household and write a novel; I don't think I could do either now — certainly not both). I can no longer eat just anything, as I once could — I quickly get significantly ill if I stray from the path of good nutrition. For instance, if I had a sandwich today and a pizza tomorrow I'd enjoy them but it would take me about three weeks to get better; and I can drink tea (I love tea) provided I don't mind the tearing gut pains that follow, along with the swollen tongue and ankles so full of fluid it's hard to walk upstairs! The old girl ain't what she used to be, but if I live and eat carefully I am really very well.

It is the beginning of dying, that may continue its leisurely pace for as much as 30 years if no specific disease process accelerates it in the meantime. It's interesting and peaceful and it doesn't trouble me. I have no fear of death, but I feel the importance of preparing well and of supporting my body systems appropriately. Complementary therapies, inner healing, herbal remedies, essential oils and naturopathic pathways have all proved valuable for the various health problems I've encountered. 

My fervent prayer is to keep my hair, teeth, continence, hearing, eyesight, mental faculties (such as they are) and self-possession to the end, to live with an absolute minimum of medical interference, and to die quietly, unexceptionally and alone when the time comes, leaving nothing untidy or distressing for anyone to find; a quick, neat, unheralded and unremarked death, in my own room. That's what I'd like. And I don't mind when it is. Ha ha, in your dreams, you may think — but actually I've known quite a few old people who lived and died that way. So I have high (and determined) hopes.

Monday, 17 September 2018

What Ted did

This cat —

— this clever, clever little cat, came into our lives as a rescue kitten. As time has gone on he has increasingly attached himself to Hebe; she, more than the rest of us is his human.

But something interesting happened when Hebe and Alice went away to their letter-cutting weekend, leaving the rest of us in charge. During those days, that coincided with the Badger moving down from his attach to the main floor of the house, Ted (this cat) formed an increased attachment to the Badger and me. He enlarged the place of his tent, as it were, to include us in.

Ever since then, he has spent a significant proportion of each day in the  Badger's new room, where he has adopted the armchair as particularly his own, and the bed as an acceptable secondary lounging area.

But that's not all.

He has also taken upon himself new secretarial duties. Now, whenever the Badger (who is a publisher) takes a phone call from an important author, Ted comes to help, rolling on the computer keyboard and kicking all the papers off the desk while the Badger is on the phone. 

This morning, the Badger came into my room looking somewhat wild-eyed to ask if my internet connection was okay (yes, it was). His was not.

He knew Ted had been standing on his keyboard — the H in particular, so that his emails began Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh . . .
but he hadn't discerned Ted's extra contribution. He'd managed not only to throw him offline but also to reconfigure the Badger's work internet settings and change his identity, so that the Badger was now locked out of his email. This brought an eerie respite from the usual influx of communication. The Badger eventually began to suspect the cause of the problem, and reconnection opened the floodgates to fifty plus new emails.

But what a clever, clever little cat, don't you think?


In our household we have a lot of breakfast-time conversations about health and Spirit.

The old Celtic people of the British Isles (like the Hebrew people) believed a day started at sundown — so the night and its dreams are seen as part of the preparation for the day to come, processing the experiences of the day past into useful material for what lies ahead. A bit like composting the scraps of past meal preparation into good fodder for growing future food. 

It certainly works like that for us. We wake up full of ideas to take us on to the next stage in our life pilgrimage, and breakfast time is when they get shared and discussed.

So it came about that this morning our Hebe made the point that the essential criterion of health is flow. Ping! That was like a lightbulb moment for me, connecting a variety of disparate things I've often considered in the past. She is so right! Flow is what characterises health in any system you care to consider — human physiology, human psychology, spirituality, ecology, finance, politics — any system.

One of my favourite sayings of all time, from Toinette Lippe's wonderful book Nothing Left Over, is "Problems arise where things accumulate." True without exception. As, according to Jesus, God said to the man who hoarded up more and more stuff into bigger and bigger barns: "Thou fool."

The heath of the human body is utterly dependent on flow — the vascular system, the lymph system, the endocrine system, the lumen of the gut, the excretory function of the kidneys and bladder, the exchange of nutrients and waste across spaces between vessels and tissues — all of it, all of it.

Earlier this year a previously undetected organ of the body was discovered — the interstitium. Again, vitally, its role is the promotion and maintenance of flow. 

When flow is blocked, health breaks down.

But you can see this in society too: our modern society is grievously labouring under the ambition of the wealthy to dam resources, hoping to control, acquire and divert into their own lives the good things of the earth. It doesn't work like that, though. As the Buddhists say, all people are selfish but there is foolish or wise selfishness. Foolish selfish people try to grab and keep good things for themselves alone: under this system society breaks down, and they find they have sawn off the branch they were sitting on. Wise selfish people know that by sharing and distributing the good things of life, the society that supports them is maintained and strengthened. Flow enhances life.

It's the same with currency. In our family, we say that you have to create a vacuum for prosperity to flow into! So even though our income is apparently low, we don't worry about scrimping and saving because we know the universe holds more than enough for our needs.

Life flows. That's why minimalism is so potent — you let stuff flow out liberally, let it go. Don't worry about inflow, there's always plenty of that — oh my goodness, is there not!!

In our homes, health is dependent on flow. It's important to open the curtains, open the windows, to let the sunlight and air in, preventing stagnation. It promotes wellbeing and harmony to limit, organise and arrange furniture and other possessions to allow easy handling, let you find things, let the family move comfortably around each other in the space: that's what the roots of feng shui actually are.

And in relationships, flow is essential: give and take, breathing space and connection, blessing toxic people on their way, letting things develop but also letting them leave.

This is why trees are so holy and wonderful — they manage flow and so promote health. They manage the movement of water through the landscape, protecting against both drought and flood. They manage the flow of water between the air and the earth, keeping us cool on the hottest day.

And flow is of the essence of spiritual work, as the Holy Spirit like a fountain wells up within us to eternal life.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

East Sussex friends — for this Sunday — service of healing

Hello friends

Just letting those of you know who read here and are close by, this coming Sunday (16th September) we have a service of healing at Pett Chapel.

We'll be thinking about what kinds of things we might need healing from, what are the channels of healing in our lives, and some basic New Testament principles of healing ministry. We'll be praying and singing and looking into the scriptures, and then laying on hands for healing if anyone there would welcome that.

If you're in the area and would like to join us, we'll be delighted to see you. This week our regular musician has other commitments so Buzzfloyd will be accompanying our singing on keyboard or guitar — whichever she feels is right for the song.