I was stood on the banks of a swollen river. The far bank was green and forested. Melt water flowing from mountains from somewhere away to my left; all come together at this place where I stood; the waters were clear and blue heaving and surging, fast and unstoppable. The river had its own speed the waves churned and rolled, carried within and on top of this force flowing past me, emerging elastic and yet unchanging.
My point of view was from a few feet above this force. As I looked across slightly to my right I saw the Golden World Cup trophy, the soccer one with the goddess of victory holding up a globe, the world, out in the middle of the river bobbing up and down, it shot by. I watched it sweep past moving further and further out of view heading for a waterfall I sensed, in retrospect, further along but out of view from where I stood.
It didn’t really register right then, I was just looking on, but gold doesn’t float does it and a voice far away was talking about opposites, the heavy side of my body and the light side of my body. Part of me far away was listening but in my minds eye I suddenly remembered something, an idea came.
“Breath into your mind”
So I did and as I did right in front of me, close up, two huge wooden doors, maybe 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide swung open. A great hall came into view. I stood there on the threshold looking in. Inside on either side I registered tiered wooden stalls as if for a quire, lining the hall all the way to the far end, where I registered were two standing figures dressed in white; a marriage and the funny thing was that I knew the place, I recognized it, I had been here before. I would later realize it was finally; the marriage of a mind and a soul.
I came too laying flat on my back on the floor of a Reading Yoga studio. I’d come there on a Yoga Nidra teacher-training course. Yoga Nidra is the art of learning conscious deep sleep, to be awake but asleep just on the line in alpha/theta before a person drifts into the delta deeper dreamless sleep
It is of course what you make of these things, what the subconscious deeper self has given you, what is the message? Sometimes it takes a little time for the message to be understood but over the years I have come to trust them and this was unmistakable, something had changed, I was being shown something very positive, I felt it and that feeling has grown stronger every day since, a sense of expectation.
I call them “seeings” and have been doing this for many years now but it had usually been fairly casual, like this comprehensive working class boy had somehow stumbled into a university without the proper training but with an obvious natural flair and without really knowing what he had. I thought it was about time I did the discipline, the background work I had somehow managed to avoid all these years.
Over the years of my own searching I have come to realize that discipline is freedom and it has been possibly my biggest challenge, perhaps the word discipline is mis-understood, by me anyway. It is there in this sense to create a foundation not to lock a person in up or down and it seems to me at this moment, paradoxically, that if a person is not able to practice discipline they will never be free.
The Nidra course had been good and I had come back to Teignmouth overflowing with ideas. It has been quite a while since I have written anything, well I have but nothing has seemed to have any spark to it for the last year or two and so just haven’t had anything I’ve thought worthy to bat out there.I didn’t want to be putting out dull posts from holiday locations I see so much of on the social media, you know what I mean. I also didn’t want it to be a long list of moans and gripes about the unfairness of the world unfolding around me. Everything is a reflection of ourselves, of what is going on within us. I read recently “We do not see the world as it is we see it as we are” I have experienced this many times, it has been a great source of learning and wisdom when I have been able to recall it when in one of those ugly moments. The world is a beautiful place to be sunshine or a rainy day, these are the things that interest me.
So, I’d left the Ness; it was a tough and thankless place up there in Shaldon prime position looking down and across the Teign river mouth. It had some very good staff. I often wondered why they stayed and put up with the nonsense and poor wages, perhaps it was the tips, the tips were good there. There has also been the claustrophobia of a small village café life where the days moved like treacle.
But there are many people here to lift the spirits, mostly warm open and easy going. Many of the Clipper team and people we have met through Serenity have become firm friends. There are also the views of the Teign River and the estuary either from Teignmouth back beach or the Shaldon Bridge or from the strand and marine parade in Shaldon, it’s a jewel, we like the place very much.The river estuary ebbs and flows empties and fills into and from thecloudy waters of the English channel, the sheer force of the unstoppable waters forced through the mouth when the tides change is mesmerizing.There are the surreal sights of huge ocean tankers steering precariously into the river mouth to pick up the white clay delivered to the docks by an endless fleet of lorries from up on the moors 20 miles away down to the town. A far away bass hum vibrates the air as the horizontal monoliths glide slowly around the point. All around the harbour solitary figures, dog walkers, sentinels, individual islands, people, stop what they are doing to watch, everyone in their own thoughts; I have seen it so many times, a ship coming into port casts a spell.
There are the seagulls too, mostly the Herring Gulls, we know them quite intimately now, we love them, beautiful confident incredible aerial acrobats, intelligent emotional and very strong. We’ve watched and listened in April and early May as they begin making subtle different new sounds that we realized were affection. We noted their heads become a brighter white, all very attractive. We noted in late May the eerie silence descend upon the town and the chicks begin to hatch the first week in June. We watched their tentative steps and the rhythms of the adults as they searched for food gathering together socially in the late afternoons around the harbour on the rooftops, where ever you look up a pair of yellow eyes is looking back at you, and I mean always, at times too the skies above filled with circling calling birds, just incredible sights and sounds.Then in July the town really erupts into a deafening cacophony of competition and the dive-bombing begins, astonishing bravery and skill, we have been robbed of a sandwich or a chip on numerous occasions. People are intimidated by it; we find it fascinating. The squeaky chicks loose their fluff growing in confidence take their first flights, we have taken damaged chicks to the vets, picked them up off the streets and put them back on a ledge or an awning, even swam out into the river to rescue a downed bird from a territorial dispute. September the noise begins to subside and their white heads begin to become streaked with grey again, we think it’s the stress of endlessly demanding offspring and their heart wrenching broken whistle cries for food.When I lived in Blackpool I never noticed the gulls being so daring or so confident as they are here. One day at the Clipper I gone out the back of the restaurant and looked down along the beach towards ness point. An adult female with two chicks was flipping over seaweed as the chicks looked on, it struck me as odd behavior, she wasn’t looking for crabs or shells she was testing the seaweed.
I have sat and watched them many times, but this was strange to see, were they were hungry? You cannot miss the seagulls Teignmouth they are ever present. Why are they all in land? I’ve supposed because they are smart, because there is food here, but surely the ocean is more plentiful than the ice cream stalls on the prom and the chip shop on Teign street or Northumberland avenue, but it seems not.The ocean has never been under such threat, there are so many species of fish on the critically endangered list, Atlantic Halibut, Acadian Red fish, Winter Skate, Groupers, Rays, Tuna, to name just a few, some it is said are beyond critical, possibly extinct. Have you ever stood and just looked out onto the ocean? Bountiful endless forever… it seems it is not anymore. It’s a terrifying thought, what has happened? The seagulls aren’t in town because they like Salcombe ice cream or John’s chips; are here because they are hungry? Has their natural food source become scarce or worse, vanished?
It brings me neatly onto the subject Greta Thunberg the teenage Swedish environmentalist. Why are all these middle aged older men so angry with her? Sitting in suburbia typing angrily on their laptops and phones going on about the nerve of her accusing us the older generation, spouting “when I was a lad we used to recycle” type of nonsense, they seem to forget there was an infrastructure set up by the adults and businesses at the time that made it possible for them to recycle and come on; it wasn’t done for the good of the planet or future generations it was done so you got and tupence ha’pney extra in the pocket money. I remember being beaten unconscious by older men for having the nerve to speak up and express myself as a youth and you know what, we the youth were right and things changed because we luckily had the right to protest.Somebody I have known for over 40 years from back at that time actually asked on facebook recently why somebody hadn’t “bumped her off” Astonishing; another forwarded a tweet about locals going down to beat up the “lentil sniffing wankers” because they’d disrupted their commute. It’s disturbing just how asleep and entrenched much of the population is, people I know and love, close to home. It’s an emergency and thank god for the kids and people like Greta who have the nerve and the energy to express what seems by now to be pretty damned obvious.
I don’t believe she is pointing the finger at individuals, though when it comes down to it, it is about the individual, it is more at what our culture has become. When was the last time you took a glass bottle back to the corner shop, no of course not, because it isn’t set up like that anymore, it’s just in the recycling bin at the end of the drive, there because somebody at some point protested. I wonder when was the last time they, me included, wrote a letter of complaint or a suggestion to a major corporation or government, to those who do have the infrastructure to put things in place? Our culture is disconnected from nature.
Greta in my book your a god send, I don’t mind being late for work if it means that those who work in positions where change can be made for the benefit of us all, are made aware that we would all like to live cleaner healthier sustainable lives. More power to the kids, and you, you bitter old moaners should be ashamed of your lazy complacent selves.
I digress, but enjoying it. So where was I… oh yeah.It was during this shall we say particularly quiet period, when the spell of Shaldon lay heavily upon me, the thing about a spell is that you don’t realize there is one till it is broken, like a glittering mist, like the spell of the sun glittering upon the surface of the ocean, suddenly its gone and your back and you move and wonder how long it is that you’ve been stood still.
I’d done some pop up Indian Head Massages up in Exeter at coffee bars to promote the Serenity Center, one of them we found out a few weeks later was looking for staff. The Coffee Cellar on the quays. I called Cathy the owner and the job was mine. I remember travelling up that first day from Teignmouth on the train, it had been like waking up.
The GWR train rattles and hums right along the sea front from Teignmouth to Dawlish and Dawlish Warren then turns inland along the edge of the River Exe estuary past Starcross, and up to Exeter. The spires of Exmouth silhouetted on the other side of the bay about a mile away. When the tide is out the place is alive with hundreds of birds feeding along the edge of the muddy waters. It’s a beautiful sight.I stepped of the train that first day, it wasn’t just arriving in Exeter, it was like arriving back from a dream, a beautiful dream though it was, I was glad to be back. Turns out after a few days Eddie, Cathy’s husband was the drummer in a band called the Angel Hearts in London in the 90’s we knew many of the same people and it turned out the two of us had played the Marquee on the same bill and both of us had kept the poster. I liked them both very much. I went home that evening saying to Orsi“Orsi, I’m normal after all” I’d suspected I was, but the past year or so with all its subtle undermining undercurrents had cast shadowy doubts in my mind and on my abilities.
We were ready for change but I suppose looking back change really began whilst we were in France working with Quaternity Yoga at Domaine Du Mournac a few miles outside Quillian in the Languedoc region. A place I had travelled to many years earlier looking for Mary Magdalene in the hills in and around Reins Le Chateau. It was astonishing to me that Mournac was only 5-6 miles away from there and about 10 miles from the grave.We were up 5.30am most mornings to prep, though Orsi gave me the space to sit out on the veranda for a few hours with a jug of coffee writing. The first week warm gentle breezes wafted up from the valley below opening me up, some mornings a lightning storm flashed across the ripped black outline of the Pyrenees on the horizon, the coolness tightening my skin. Claps of thunder smashing down across the land; whiplash cracks, great cavernous booms everything shaking. Some mornings it would be Jacobs’s ladders moving across the olive forested landscape like fingers of light I imagined turning over another green page of yesterday and into today
I loved those moments of warm pleasant stillness. Gazing out across the valley towards the foothills of the Pyrenees, great rock ripples jagged white cliffs softened and soothed by thick green forest turning pastel orange reflecting the suns rays as it emerged into the world
I would note the church bells every morning ring 6 slightly bent chimes and the stirrings in the kitchen behind me, cutlery, plates, a hushed voice and just below the coffee coloured tiled roofs and creamy pink and brown walls of the tiny village of Antugnac coming clearly into view
Then the bats who’d been entertaining me in the twilight vanished as if on some invisible signal, and in the silence between that change of shift, there was anticipation, just before the chatter of the birds began, one, then two then three at a time and then; the chanting at the start of the Yoga class, 13 beautifully blended voices gently joining the birds. An hour had passed, a new day. It really was beautiful there
Sara and Lindita the mother daughter team were amazing yoga teachers committed and genuinely knowledgeable. Orsi had been on their Teacher Training course the year before and had been invited back to cook, we drove all the way there and back, it was fantastic. Orsi had prepared and anticipated the vegetarian and vegan food so well; we were both well trained and drilled from our time at the Chalet In Morzine. It was a great success, we watched, we shopped, we saved money, Orsi, was in charge and I was happy she was, we had a lot in common now. Later in the evenings I stepped into my own field combining Indian Head Massage with Hypnosis and Healing with some remarkable results.
The most glaring thing to us was here was a receptive audience, there was no hard sell, people wanted and were open to what we brought with us, realized they were in good hands, that we were practiced professional and very good at what we did. Sara and Lindita encouraged us, the veil fell from our eyes, this is what we wanted to do. It was through sessions I did with them that they introduced me to Yoga Nidra and that I should be teaching it and we returned back to the UK inspired.
That’s all for now, there will be more to come, it has been beautiful, it has been glittering, the metamorphism in that safe harbour within that dreamy seaside chrysalis, but now….