from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Wednesday 29 August 2018

a question of balance

Wiki Commons image from a C15th Norman manuscript
The other day, warming up at a dance class, I found myself standing for long minutes on one leg, and then the other. Without wobbling. 

This might seem like a small thing – but despite decades of (very erratic) yoga practice, I can't actually do this. Except I just did. So it seemed worth noticing.

I read this, of course, as symbolic. What were the conditions that allowed this? – Well, apart from the dance teacher, Kay, occupied with setting up, I was the only person in the room. Kay was some distance from me, and there was very gentle music playing. I was already deeply relaxed. I'd had a little while when, for family reasons, I hadn't worked as hard as I usually do. 

Most significantly, I was in touch with my own centre.

We're only a few weeks from the autumn equinox, a time when day and night are briefly in perfect balance before the season rolls on again, with dark in the ascendant in the northern hemisphere.

I was born on the equinox. Not surprisingly, then, my life has been a continual quest for bringing the opposites together, whether in my inner or outer life. Esoterically speaking, I 'seek harmony through conflict'. Usually this has meant my being extremely unbalanced, as I try and find a midpoint, the 'Middle Way'.

My life no longer veers between the extremes of emotion, experience, lifestyle and the like that it did when I was younger. I no longer crave (mostly, anyway) the deep intensity of feelings that is closer to addiction than to love via my romantic interpersonal relationships.

I do still continue to want inspiration and passion, which I find in barrowloads through my work, through the arts, through my spiritual practice, through the experiences, friendships and other relationships, situations, people, creativity and most frequently my time alone outdoors with other species that enrich my life.

The reason I'm writing about this is because I've known for a long time that I can be thrown off my own centre of gravity, my own axis and balance, by important others, usually but not exclusively the men, in my life.

Sometimes it's a conflict between what someone else wants of me, and what I need to do for myself.

Sometimes it's a conflict between my need for a settled land-based growing lifestyle and my need for something more transitory, unpredictable and as I experience it more adventurous. 

Sometimes it's conflict between my love of human engagement and my need for solitude (solitude and intimacy, and getting this balance right, is I believe a big issue for many people in the Western world). 

Or silence and conversation. 

There's the perennial thing about trying to live ethically to the greatest extent possible when I have limited time, energy and money to do so as much as I'd like. 

There's the equally-perennial conflict between work and downtime.

I also know I'm not alone in this. Many women, in particular, have spoken to me of this issue (most commonly in relation to their own love lives), whether in the professional aspects of my life such as mentoring or workshops, or in my friendships. (I'm not qualified to know how frequently this applies to men, or to non-heteros who identify as differently-gendered.)

In some circles, this is known as 'giving away your power'. No matter how strong we are as individuals, many of us find that once in intimate relationship we feel in some ways less empowered. This is very deeply enculturated, I think, and still applies despite feminism. Perhaps it's less so in younger women? - I'm not sure my daughter would say she does this. On the other hand, I mentor younger women who seem to be strong, confident, well-qualified to be assured in their place in the world who still find themselves and their personal power-axis (I emphasise as always this is power to, not power over) compromised by relationships with perfectly nice and kind partners.

The thing is, giving away your power in this way is a sign of co-dependency, or emotional fusion (too often confused with love). What does this mean? – In its simplest form, giving over to another things you need to be responsible for yourself, such as determining your way in the world. Basically, making another responsible for your happiness.

For me, my interest is in how we can live, and love, openly – fully engaged, from our core, living in our own centre, while being sufficiently mindfully non-attached to notice what happens and how we relate to it: to relate from the heart but not driven by the emotions – two very different states of being.

In the latter, we tend to react rather than respond.

In the former, we know how to listen to our deeper wisdom, how to care for another, and how to remember that, no matter how much we love, we are still two autonomous individuals, responsible for our own paths, our own lives, our own happiness.

It was Rainer Maria Rilke who said: 'Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest individuals great distances will always exist, a wonderful living side-by-side can grow if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole and against a wide sky.'

In this way, we learn to give without giving ourselves away. That is a burden for another, not a gift.

The upshot of all of this is that we truly inhabit our souls, our deep selves, rather than live 'beside ourselves'.

Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.
Read more at:
Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.
Read more at:

Thursday 9 August 2018

the next day – a poem

The next day

Above my head the mouse
has started nibbling again

perhaps this time it’ll be
the wiring – who knows –

and above a single swallow
arcs over the ash’s bare twigs

above both ash and swallow
a pigeon purposeful and fast

the ash is dying

and who knew that the sky could bear
such an absence of swallows

the world has its ten thousand
ways of being born    living

and leaving this world
and I am still here writing

about these things
because I can’t write about her

but look the evening
has its ten thousand ways

of being beautiful
look how you can see

right through the sky now

© Roselle Angwin 2018


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