Dec 28 2011

‘Mary waits’ – the light in the darkness

Having been spared a vicious start to our first winter in Scotland, my husband claims he’s the one who’s brought freakishly warm weather over from the Caribbean with him. Today, I’m looking out onto a gloomy, typically rainy day interspersed with alarming gusts of wind (in the Caribbean we associate this with a hideously destructive hurricane fast on its way) which has spared the children a long, bracing walk in the park, a fact which they are delighted about. I suppose this is what Scots call ‘dreich’, a wonderful new word to me, and wonderfully descriptive of this Edinburgh weather. On Christmas morning, I allowed myself a rare moment of ‘cloud- watching’ in the vaguely blue sky through the window, pretending that I was still asleep. I quietly smiled at the background sounds of thumping between rooms, wrapping paper being uncaringly ripped, and early morning sweets surreptitiously consumed. The clouds sped by, rapidly changing their hue, each with a tinge of golden pink sourced from the late sunrise.  My sun salutation that morning was one of simple gratitude for the beauty of the sky, while lying under the warm duvet. As my worry about whether the children had enough presents this year evaporated into joy at us being alive and being together, I knew why I’d had to insist we live in a flat with a view of the park. 3 days before, on the 22nd, our 7 year old son had woken up relieved, saying ‘Phew, the longest night is over!!’ I had assured him that he wouldn’t always have to get up in what felt like the middle of the night, and walk up a hill dressed in more layers than he knew existed, to be left in an alien building and made to line up in queues with noisy strangers.  Of course, he’d be doing all of that from now on, but at least eventually leaving the house in daylight, and find that those slightly intimidating children with new accents in the line up had become good pals.  The 21st of December, though always a time for shedding negativity and destructive attitudes, this year’s solstice was supposed to be energetically much stronger than usual, and the whole transformative energy of the Winter Solstice was going to be lasting 3 whole days. I did indeed have a very fruitful and connected meditation in the evening of the 24th. I wasn’t about to let that pass me by, even though I nearly missed it! I have to thank Michael Winn and his newsletter/blog on that he sent me for alerting me to this fact; this time written with his new bride-to-be, Jen for inspiration about this time of year, and the value of trust, patience and trusting your own feelings and vision. I think if you ask most people they will tell you that in 2011 they have had a tumultuous year with a great deal of instability and insecurity, lots of movement and restlessness, often fraught with anxiety as change announces itself. I have scoffed at various warnings about 2012, and reassured two anxious children that the world is not about to blow up and cease to exist, but I do understand on a gut-level that this year has already begun a process of radical change in readiness for next year, in terms of new thoughts and beliefs of how we want to govern ourselves politically and economically, and also how we deal with money, equity and sustainable living. It certainly seems to be a time where all the cards in the pack are being thrown up in the air, and we are waiting to see how they are going to land. It is also time for us to figure out individually and collectively how we want things to be from now on, and try to guide the process firmly but kindly. I would also like to thank Lorna Brown for her beautifully-inspired painting of a pregnant Madonna. Lorna is an Edinburgh-based artist who kindly invited me to the viewing of her work along with delicious drinks in her elegant home one evening after I had babysat her two lovely children.  One painting she had done immediately resonated with me and its message (for me, anyway) has since stayed in my consciousness. It was called ‘Mary waits’ and it was a dark indigo painting, with the subtle impression of Mary sitting cross-legged, with a swollen pregnant belly, waiting to give birth. It was something I have never given much thought to, seeing how the emphasis is always on the end result of Jesus in the modern tradition of this Christian festival.  It reminds me of the fact that in West Africa it’s not the person who was actually born who receives the presents and the fuss on a birthday, but it’s the mother of the child – the one who actually made/let it all happen through a lot of patience and a lot of pain. Sometimes we are too eager to see change, and anxious for results, without being willing to go through the necessary growth through pain.  I think it is the faith that something better will come from the pain, and even the belief in a vision of a better future, is the key to allowing ourselves to go through letting ourselves embrace sorrow, grief, pain in order to let it go and move on in what ever way is best.  ‘Mary waits’ reminded me of why I enjoy the symbolism of Christmas, even though I am not a practicing Christian in a traditional sense. I really love the idea of the Madonna (Isis) bringing forth the Christ child; reminding us that allowing the nurturing side of ourselves and having unconditional love for ourselves is necessary for us to bring forth the light; our best qualities; our higher consciousness, if you like. Remembering that in the depth of winter, and during the longest nights, it’s the sitting quietly, patiently, trusting, being faithful, listening to our inner voice that speaks so clearly if we let it; that these things will help us to follow our true path and allow us bloom again when Spring comes. When we are too eager to see change, we make our New Year’s resolutions with a sense of unkindness towards ourselves; that we’ve passed another year not doing what we would like to do, and doing things that sabotage our health and our happiness. What has happened to the way you make New Year’s resolutions over the years? Do you, like most people, start with gusto (way too much to sustain) and then fall off after about 3 weeks, laugh in a slightly guilty way, and by Spring time have totally forgotten what resolutions you even made? Maybe you despair of your power to create any meaningful and lasting change? If you ever made them, have you stopped bothering at all ? This year I know I need to focus on quite a few things; the main one being the cultivation of patience (which I thought I had, but realize I have a long way to go) and while we’re on the subject – the discipline to finish things that I start with a careful focus and following up of all the important details; the courage to tackle things I find unpleasant and normally avoid as long as I can get away with it; developing a strong core, both physically and emotionally; and allowing myself to fast (and simultaneously rest) on a regular basis – in order to recharge without any feelings of either guilt or deprivation (which are of course both sides of the same coin).  The Sivananda yoga tradition encourages you to take a positive quality of character each month and actively develop it. Think I’ll start with patience.  Patience and passion share the same root word ‘pati’ which means ‘to suffer’. Sometimes we need to suffer during the birth process, with faith in the resulting joy.  Since I’ve written this, by the way, the sun has come out!

Nov 10 2011

My first post!

by Lisa in Uncategorized

I’ve been asked to write my first ever blog. Slight panic set in. What, now? What, today? Can’t I find an excuse to put it off for later on when I’ve taken time to think about it, refine it and make it the most amazing articulate, profound and touching blog anyone’s ever read? What, do I have to do it now? Do I have to speak from the heart as I’ve no time to do otherwise? I’ve been thinking about writing a blog for years but it’s taken a move from the Caribbean to Edinburgh for this to happen. I’m starting a new phase of life in a new city and there’s nothing like a fresh start to give you a kick where it’s needed. I dithered for a while about what subject I was going to start with, this being my maiden speech, my coming out party, this website the birthing of my ‘new baby!’ It had to be right; honest or it was going to come out hollow, empty and ultimately worthless. I’ve advised friends about starting a blog – being the douala to their birthing process, helping them through the fear of exposing themselves to scrutiny, and perhaps criticism and ridicule. I’ve advised them enthusiastically that worrying about the reception and the outcome just puts a block on them sharing their gifts with the world. I distinctly remember advising my Canadian friend in Grenada that worrying what people would think and say was just a form of vanity – part of your ego, even though we can go on painting it to ourselves as being humble and meek and self-effacing. There was a bit of shock on her part, until she agreed with me, took a deep breath and plunged into the world of blogging. Each blog she publishes is written entirely from the heart, with no pretension, and the joyful outcome is that it touches everyone who reads it very deeply. So with thanks to my friend Maureen’s bravery and inspiration, I am going to publish my first blog today – and it would be great if people like it and gain something from it, but I cannot afford to worry if you hate it! I am really happy to be here in Edinburgh. I came here three years ago with my husband and son (who was four at the time) to visit a good friend. He extolled the virtues of his home town, and we reveled in the arresting architecture, the warmth of the people, the eclectic range of creative people clustering around the kitchen table on a regular basis. The clincher for my husband was the clean fresh drinking water coming straight out of the tap! We’d been living on rainwater for the past few years on a tiny island in the Grenadines, and he’d spent the three weeks prior in London attempting to survive on as little ‘London water’ as he could get away with. Two months ago. I returned to Edinburgh, again, just for a ‘visit’; fully expecting to go down and live in Hertfordshire where our daughter has been going to school. However, I was very wrong. I woke up on my first (bright and sunny!) morning in Edinburgh to the backdrop of the majestic, imposing, somehow comforting Arthur’s Seat. The first person I passed on the street had a head of wild, unruly hair, a kilt and a beaming smile. “YES!! I thought, as he returned my morning greeting, “I love this place!!” So – not just on a whim of meeting a cheerful stranger who answers your greeting – we have decided to live in Edinburgh. Everyone I meet looks at me with curiosity and expresses amazement that I should swap an ‘idyllic’ Caribbean island for a cold, grey city way up in the Northern Hemisphere, not renowned for its hot sunny days and white sand beaches. ‘Why??’ is the first question I’m asked when I explain we’re moving to Edinburgh. They might be wondering if I’m a little out of my mind, or whether I’m on the run from Interpol. A cheery man in a tourist shop in the Royal Mile asked me that very question. ‘On the run from the police are you?’ “Oh no!”, I think. “Do they know something I don’t? Am I going to feel the same way in the middle of February after (and if) I survive my first Scottish winter?” But right now, I love waking up to the meek, tentative rays of sunlight. It feels gentle after the intensity of the blaze of the Caribbean sun. I enjoy walking through the park seeing the leaves turn into a medley of colours. I like watching the subtle changes of the leaves each day. Some days I feel old, like the leaves dropping on the ground, knowing that I’m getting closer to the winter of my own life. The cycles of the year are more obvious here, and it makes it easier to pay attention to the cycles of life and eternal renewal. I won’t always be like the leaves dropping off, drying out and curling up. I’ll be in the ground, part of the ground, enriching the ground for the next stage of life and continuing through in a new form onto another stage of life. Already I’m looking to embrace the dark nights; an opportunity to turn inward, to reflect, to gather energy. I’m looking forward to embracing myself, my family and my new friends and students.