Thursday, 31 December 2015

The Rise of the Phoenix

The night before last my garden fire like my enthusiasm was in danger of burning out but all was not lost. Returning to the fire the following morning I discovered it like my dream for a healing garden had not died completely over night. A faint wisp of smoke, a message from spirit, caught my attention and by nuturing the glowing embers back to life and blowing my breath into the tiny flames my passion for the project was reignited.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Anger, Apathy and Avoidance

Greeted by blue sky and sunshine upon waking I decided it would be a great day to spend some time in the garden. My outer garden like my inner garden is I think it's fair to say a little cluttered. Wanting to create a healing space in a section that has become overrun by raspberries I set off all fired up to clear the plot. Accompanied by my grand pup Leif (an eight month old border collie who is a keen digger) I got to work. The canes I soon discovered were well rooted but I persevered and made reasonable progress. I also started a fire to burn the slowly growing mountain of twigs and dead vegetation as the garden waste bin was already overflowing. Little did I realise at this stage that I was about to learn just how much our inner and outer landscapes are connected.

As the hours passed I began to notice I was feeling a tad frustrated at the slow progress I was making. By the time the light was fading this frustration fuelled by a slow and constant trickle of negative thoughts was becoming uncomfortable if not to say unbearable. The relentless drip feed of "You'll never get the task completed. Give up it's too big a job. You don't know what you're doing" ad infinitum was seriously pushing my buttons and more than a little pissing me off. Yes I was no longer dealing with frustration I had crossed over the boundary into anger.

Anger for many of us is an uncomfortable feeling and if like me you are an Enneagram type 9 it is an emotion we try and avoid until it can no longer be suppressed. When we 9s do eventually reach detonation point our anger usually takes one of two routes. It either manifest as rage directed at some poor soul who happens to have irritated us with some minor misdemeanour or still not wanting to acknowledge it we turn it inwards and become depressed. Today for once in my life I did neither, I also fought that other huge urge of a 9 - the tendency to ruminate or over think. No instead I just said quite calmly to those around me that I was feeling fucking angry, did a good impression of a tantrum which we all laughed about and then contemplated spending some time complaining at the conscious complaining shrine. (For any of you not familiar with a conscious complaining check out
- I highly recommend the practice)

After dispersing the anger in a healthy way I suddenly had one of those aha moments. At times I really struggle with apathy and procrastination and today whilst tending my outer garden I learnt why. Putting off difficult tasks or delaying jobs that seem overwhelming is I discovered something I have a tendency to do as it avoids having to deal with difficult emotions. This is a flawed strategy as the jobs or tasks don't disappear but merely stack up until both my inner and outer landscapes are so cluttered I can't ignore the issues any longer. I then usually get angry with myself or someone else who also has a tendency to procrastinate. By projecting my apathy and procrastination onto someone else means I don’t have to acknowledge my shadow. I should really be more mindful of what I find most annoying in others for as Carl Jung wisely said “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves”.

Well I'm sure my garden has many more valuable lessons to share and I have an inkling the conscious complaining shrine might have a regular visitor over the coming weeks as work on both my gardens progresses!!

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Perfectionism and the Inner Critic

How many of us I wonder have a beautiful bound unused notebook or journal hidden away in our cupboard. If we were to dig it out we would probably find it in pristine condition, perhaps even encased in its cellophane wrapper. Why has it remained unused? What has held us back from making our mark upon its blank pages? Maybe we simply haven’t found a use for the book yet or perhaps there is another deeper and more uncomfortable reason. If we are prepared to dig a little into our shadows what can this flawless, new, immaculate, book tell us about ourselves?

Over my lifetime I have acquired a number of such notebooks. Some I’ve been given as presents and a few I’ve purchased myself usually during moments when I’ve entertained the thought of writing a journal or creating a sketchbook. Sadly many of these books where banished to the dark recesses of a cupboard to only be rediscovered during a much needed declutter or a house move. At those moments I’ve then been faced with the dilemma to ditch or redeem the items. Usually the latter has prevailed when I succeeded in convincing myself that I do have a need for the books.

So if I feel a real need to use these books what is stopping me? I could probably come up with umpteen plausible reasons and to an extent all would hold an element of truth but if I’m truly honest the main reason is the F word. Yes you guessed it FEAR. My fear of making a mistake on the pristine, unblemished pages of each and every one of these books is holding me back from expressing all those ideas and creations I have spent hours contemplating. My inner critic, that annoying little F….. (yes that’s the other F word!) has stymied my creative being. Oh but that can’t be so I hear you say, what about all those drawings you do or poems you write? Well yes I do have a note book for my poems but I only write in it in pencil. In that way I can rub out any mistakes. For my sketchbooks I have a different approach. I have books and paper which I draw upon before editing and putting in my sketchbook proper.  

Whilst these approaches represented a quantum leap for me and got me out of my thinking head and into doing mode I would have to agree they are a little OCD. Yes my number of notebooks residing in the dark is diminishing but my negative inner critic is not. No this ever present and persistent voice from the shadows is most definitely still requiring a script rewrite. With this in mind I have decided to embark on a new approach. Inspired by Sandra Ingerman’s book How to Heal Toxic Thoughts my negative inner critic is about to find itself in the alchemist crucible where hopefully in time it might be transformed into a more encouraging and compassionate voice.  

Now in case you aren’t aware all good alchemists have a recipe book or some would call it a spell book or book of intentions. Well with no shortage of notebooks I am assigning a particularly beautiful red silk bound notebook with handmade paper pages to this task. It will become My Little Book of Intentions and Prays. I am under no illusion about the enormity of this transformation task. Rewriting fifty years of negative scripts isn’t going to be a walk in the park, for a start I have to write in my newly assigned book!  Dilemma number one - should I use pen or pencil? If I use pencil I can rub out any mistakes. Alternatively I could write on a piece of paper which I can stick in the book once it has passed my, as yet to be agreed, stringent criteria. Using this approach might avoid the need to tear out any pages. Yes my school exercise books were probably thinner than most, I wonder if my teachers noticed? Perhaps they thought I was a particularly diligent student who wrote a lot.

In case you are wondering, yes I have written in my book and yes it was directly onto the page and in pen. It wasn’t easy I admit but I managed and the book still has its full quota of pages!! Finally a wee poem for all you perfectionist out there, I know your problem oh so well but rest assured you too can tell your inner critic to shut the f… up; compassionately of course.


I cannot write
For fear this white
Unblemished page
I might just blight

Stories, poems, odes
All remain untold
Trapped within
This human hold

An exquisite red silk book
A pristine gift, a writer’s hook
My inner critic screams

A misspelt word, a blemish, a blot
Will never I’m told be forgot
Safer then
To forgo the lot

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Rooting out the Truffle of Truth

It's funny how things come into our awareness. How our outer landscape mirrors our inner landscape. This whole thing about dishonesty, deceit and the search for truth that has been going on in my outer world is, as always, a story of two parts. I realised this yesterday when I looked out my window and saw a wild boar in the top of a Scots Pine tree. Not a real boar of course but the shape of a boar created by the needles. Curious I looked up the meaning of the wild boar totem and to my amazement discovered the symbology of the totem is truth, courage and confrontation. As I pondered this a wee while an image of a boar rooting out a truffle of truth came into my mind (see doodle below). Soon after other articles and images started to mysteriously pop up on my Facebook page.

It began to dawn on me that these messages weren't to do with vindicating my own behaviour in a recent altercation with a mate although I am sure my ego would love that to be the case. No these messages were telling me something about my own inner landscape. They were telling me that if I am to find my true self, my connection with the greater consciousness, the divine, the universe, whatever you choose to call it, I need to excavate through my own lies, dishonesty and deceit.

I now see my obsession with finding out the truth as to what was going on between my mate and I was ironic as I have hardly been living an honest life myself. Me seeing him at times as being narcissistic was merely a projection of the narcissist that lives within me. He is part of my shadow. I was denying he existed because I didn't want to accept and own my own shadow, yet in truth there is a narcissist residing within all of us. We are after all beings of duality - yin and yang. I find it interesting I label my narcissist he, may be that says something about how I view men. (A note to self - further work required on men and narcissism). Anyway I project my narcissist because I fear him and cannot own him, yet in reality he probably represents the most wounded aspects of myself. I am now going to do what Rumi advises and welcome him into my human guest house with all the emotions and feelings he brings for he has much to teach me.

The Guest House by Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought,
the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015


The storm on Friday night felled the old horse chestnut tree in the wood behind my house. In Autumn when the leaves fall from a horse chestnut it leaves a scar on the twig which resembles an inverted horse shoe with nail holes. It started me thinking about the Goddess Epona again. Epona was called 'Mare' (MAH-ray) by the Irish of Dalriada, she was the bringer of dreams good and bad. The English word 'nightmare' is derived from her Irish name and her association with horses and dreams. Epona is often depicted riding a white horse. Anyway all these thoughts swirling around in my head found their way out in a poem.


Beneath the gnarled contorted skin
A nightmare stirred deep within
She feared not the baying pack
It wasn't her scent the rabid beasts tracked
Their quarry, her protector, her cage
Who's ravaged ageing frame
Stood testimony to countless battles raged
Against Winter gales and torrential rain
He'd held his ground
He remained unslain

In for the kill the howling hounds attacked
Splitting, stripping
The wooden armour from his back
Eighty strong they tore at him
Ripping limb for limb
Then I heard that final ear splitting crack
Slain, his dismembered trunk
Lay strewn across a storm teared track
Now freed from a Horse Chestnut skin
A white nightmare soared from deep within