Image, Family gathering 1999. Tobias centre-left.
My Dad, Anthony, is standing in a field. A powerful feeling comes over him:
“This is where I’m meant to be!”
It’s his first visit to a farm. He’s 7 years old, on holiday with his alcoholic mum and industrialist dad. Up until now he has mainly seen built environments, like the Yorkshire mill town where his father runs production and design in the tweed works.
My mum… tells me she “was lucky.” “We got to see our mum for 20 mins almost every day. Not everyone did, but our mother insisted that nanny take us in to her at tea time whoever was visiting. Only if she was abroad or really too tired did we not see her”
My dad is alone in a street in Huddersfield (home) when he hears his name called. He turns but no-one is there. Looking around he sees a crucifix in a window. It is Christ calling him: “Will you serve me?” he asks. My dad is 14 and does not hesitate to say Yes.
My mum, Eve, is hearing the usual introductions her mother gives. “This is Anne my eldest. This is Ralph, my son. Here is Una my youngest and this is Eve my middlingest.” Though she knows her mum is trying to be kind by adding an …est to her place in the family she learns to accept that she is nobody special, just here to be ‘someone’s something.’ And, indeed, spends the next 60 years being daughter, wife, mother, and only sets out to discover a really independent identity in her 60s.
Mum went to Michael Hall School. Her parents adopted Anthroposophy with gusto following an Ita Wegman summer school in the 1930s. Mum met dad just after the war when he was following the BD lecture circuit. He pursued her for 3 years before she agreed to meet his parents.
When she does, Anthony’s father sets her a test: “what colour is this piece of cloth?” he asks, handing her a piece of subtle grey tweed. Looking closely, she confesses she cannot really answer as there are many different coloured threads in it. “Yes, seventeen colours” he says. “If you’d have said grey, as most do, I would have suggested Anthony find someone else”
My dad was always Anthony. Never Tony.
- Second of a planned four, that grew to six, my birth was a strange experience. The big house I was born in belonged to my great aunt. Since her husband’s death she was finding the Bio Dynamic farm a bit much to run alone. The farm hands in rural Ireland were suspicious of the BD practices, so she was employing my dad as farm manager. My gran was living with her sister and had one wing of the house as her domain, four rooms and a bathroom. There was a certain stuffiness around this 14 bedroom Georgian Mansion. Some vast rooms, none well heated, a domed entrance hall and a huge winding staircase.
I was the first baby to be born there for 100 years and the memories are strange. The cries of pain and distorted face made my mum unrecognisable and did frighten me a little so I abandoned my place in the corner of the ceiling and hid under the chest of drawers. Peering out from there I could see a man holding up a strange looking baby and smack its bottom. I immediately lost my vantage point and remember nothing more. When I told mum about this, years later she said it was ‘…quite impossible, no one would have fitted under the chest of drawers.’ This sort of logic dealt with quite a few of my experiences.
0.5 There’s a photo of me reading a paper at less than a year old. It shows me round as a ball, round head on top, holding up the paper miraculously and surveying it critically. In this you can see that I had good intellectual stimulus, good food and enough peace in my life to grow fat and round. Life was good in spite of the worrying.
- The managers house was soon finished and my parents moved in. Mum would park the pram under the bushes where I slept well in the day. The sun shining through the leaves left the air full of dancing shadows. The dancers in the shadows used to sing their invitation for me to join them. So leave the pram and body and dance in the air with them. All of life is a dance between light and shade, these guys were busy teaching me how to be human. I am a slow learner, cumbersome and awkward. Before any of that timeless time had passed, I would feel the pram move and have to return, to be mum’s little boy. Much as I tried to do this, I was never fully successful and my demanding and desperate nature, combined with a powerful voice left her exhausted and despairing. She took a holiday to visit some childhood friends leaving me, barely a toddler in the arms of a dear friend who was doing au-pair work with us. This left me uncomprehending and desperate to find some way to create myself worthy of love. A theme that runs through my life.
- Its midday meal at our table in the new house in Forest Row, Sussex, England. The sash windows are each open a crack at top and bottom. This creates a fine bar of light in the middle between the two frames. Right on this edge there’s a gateway and I slip through, out into that space where the light and the shade dance together and there I am happy. “Come back!” says my mother’s voice. I snap back and look at her with guilty surprise. I know she’d rather I didn’t escape, but there is such sweet comfort there. Seeing my face, she softens and explains: “It frightens me when you go off like that.” I realise that I have done wrong. It is not my place to frighten my mother. I must try not to go off when she’s around.
- The large living room has a red silk carpet on yellow Lino. The sun is streaming in over the sofa as I play with some toys. Slowly, I realise I am alone. Mum has left. I go over to look for her. There’s some sort of gate in the doorway. Through it I can see her down the passage in the kitchen. I examine the gate looking for the problem, why I am held back. I soon find it and am able to release the catch and get through. Toddling down the passage I am able to reassure my mum that we are united again in our joy. Carrying me back to the living room she settles to playing with me. All is well, all is as it should be. Absorbed in my toys it is some while before I realise that once again cruel fate has separated us. – I am able to crack the logic again and release the complex catch. Soon I am able to reassure my mum that we will not be kept apart for long.
To my unspeakable astonishment mum is not pleased. A strange horror dawns on me. Mum did not want my company. I am not worthy of her love.
3.5. From this point on I learn about who I am by listening in to mum’s conversations. If I do not look at her, if I keep quietly busy, she will tell friends things she would not tell me. Clearly, because I am not articulate, she believes I do not understand longer sentences. It turns out that I was such a problem that mum consulted a child psychologist about me. The psychologist tells her that I need more love. Mum is utterly defeated. Committed to giving her kids far, far more than 20 mins a day she still cannot abide physical contact. I hear her confess that if we put our arms around her, she feels strangled. Even around her legs.
- A large flat lawn behind our house is sunlit in my memory. There we play all sorts of games from making dens in the hedge to climbing the beech tree and hours on the swing mum had hung therefrom. Mum also stopped a roadwork gang and asked if they’d dig a pond in one corner. There we would spot newts, frogspawn and other wonders. Dad built a slide down the 15 steps that led to the lawn. Play was good. Two cats and 6 chickens taught us about life in other skins. Digging potatoes, picking apples, messing in the large greenhouses, all made life so much richer.
4.5 Dad was off saving the world. Bio Dynamics, Wholefoods, Anthroposophy, Love as an active principle in an intellectual world. He started companies, imported top quality Holle brand Swiss organic Baby foods and lost money substantially, tilting at windmills long before they were weakened with public awareness. We hardly saw him.
4.5. I am miles away from home, maybe 1000yards! This quiet pool in the brook supports my dreaming. Though hidden behind a copse of trees it’s in plain view of the golf course and maybe 10 feet across with a tiny island in the middle. Mum has brought us all out to play in the sun. clay, water, gravel and grass make the perfect play place. We come here often, there is much to keep a child busy.
- Mum worked hard to give her children courage and independence, even without Dad around. Full of encouraging words from a safe distance she taught us how strong and able we were. She taught us to really look at the world and to name what we saw. She taught us moral codes that set us free from social norms and she taught us intellectual rigour from an early age.
I’m 3. “Mum, how does the light come on when you to touch that box on the wall?”
“There are hidden wires under the plaster Tobias, they bring electricity from miles away all the way overground and underground to the house. You can see the fuse board in the cellar where it comes in. When I move that little lever it connects the positive and the negative and the current flows into the light bulb where it heats a very fine wire inside and light comes out”
I’m 5 “mum, which is greater, ¾ or ⅔?”
“well, think of a shilling. There’s 12 pennies in a shilling, so what is half a shilling?” …. And she works me through the subdivision of fractions till I have discovered for myself the answer I asked for.
A few years later mum and dad become founder members of Mensa. When they are unable to persuade the board to engage with world problems and discover this is to be a club for stroking intellectual egos they leave.
- I’m five, maybe six. We are in the playground at school. Mum is doing something indoors. I’m playing under the apple trees, watching another child and wondering why they won’t play with me. Suddenly I realise that the centre of the universe is in that child. I am astonished.
I had realised some while back that I was the centre of the universe and am truly flabbergasted to realise it is in everybody.
- It’s my 7th birthday. I have decided to be perfect, without sin, all day. All year.
I have learnt that if you die before you’re seven you don’t have to go through purgatory, the ‘cleansing of the soul’ before heaven is accessible. So, from today, I am NOT going to tease my brother, I am NOT going to lie about anything, I am NOT going to steal sweets or ANYTHING like that.
I know this is not going to be easy for I have spent HOURS, alone in my room when these things have happened. So from now on, for ever, I am going to be perfect.
By the end of that day I am a bit depressed. Over the next few days I get more depressed. This being perfect thing is proving harder than I dreamed possible. I had thought that the application of some determined will power would squash bad behaviour and I’d be out and free. Not so.
7.5 My best friend Adam lives less than half a mile away. I’m allowed to go there alone. Bracken and overhanging bushes line the rough track to the last houses on the heath’s edge. In the winter I learn that torches make the dark more scary, in summer I learn that though I may be up and out with the sun others do not want their doorbell rung at 5am.
He and I love to do cycle-leaps in and out of the old bomb-craters from the war. We are strongly advised not to pick up any old metal we find, children still die from unexploded grenades and such WWII ordnance each year.
- It’s my birthday again. I am deeply sobered by a year of consistent failure.
8.5 With my sisters and brothers we build bracken dens out on the heath. Just under the edge of the forest the bomb craters can be covered with sticks and bracken laid over to create a house big enough for three or four kids. A whole summer can pass in a week of such wild-play.
- I have just come home from the optician. I had thought going there was a bit of a joke, a test I’d sail through. No, I’ve come home with glasses, horn rimmed NHS ubiquity. Not being able to see the board at school was causing problems but this is serious. It seems I am imperfect. Right down into my physical body I am imperfect. Nothing I can do will ever measure up. The shame goes deep, deep, deep.
After that I begin to get tired easily and to take more and more time off school. We go to various doctors, no-one mentions depression, children don’t get depression.
- It’s a grammar class. We are discussing our homework on participles. My hand goes up. Jess Darrel is our 66-year-old, kind hearted, wise and loving teacher. My question is:
“I can say ‘my pen.’ I can say ‘my hand,’ I can even say ‘my mind.’ I understand that. But I can also say ‘My self.’ If I say My Self, Who am I?”
Mr Darrel said: “Would you stand up please Tobias” Confused I obeyed. “Could you ask your question again please” So I did. Then he said:
“I want you to remember that question”
I really wanted an answer. But………
Thanks to the wisdom of his response I now know that words contain no answer. Only asking that question again and again and again begins to approach the place from which I can see my self. Thanks to Jesse Darrel’s answer I have continued to search.
- The sun pours through the window behind me. I’m happily absorbed in the paper, compass and inks. Alone in the house, my siblings at school. I’m creating perfect circles within circles, orbital patterns in which all is harmony, nothing is sloppy, nothing lets down the geometric perfection. No straight lines cut through the encircling comfort. Everything is curves, perfect curves. Mum comes in from hanging out the washing and starts creating a meal in the kitchen. She sympathises with my needing time alone. I feel this as a kind of love. Everything is OK with the world. So long as I do not try to do anything beyond creating perfection on paper the world is good.
- I’m not quite fourteen. I’m such a nuisance at school that I’ve been shifted into the parallel class in the hope things will change. Watching my fellows, I begin to notice from one day to the next a mask coming down. Suddenly the other person is pretending to be themselves rather than just doing it. I am clear that this is part of growing up but I decide never to wear a mask.
- Around this time I get fed up with being tired, with trying to be perfect, with hoping to be loved and I decide to be a fucking nuisance instead. Loud motorbikes, antisocial behaviour, alcohol and kicking out at the self-righteous, becomes a pattern. – It’s a huge relief.
But I never fit into the social group. I cannot recognise when people like me and try to get liked by those that cannot.
The nightmare goes on in changed form. When asked what I want to be when I grow up I say “A dropout. I’ll wander from place to place living under bushes like that old man that lived in our garden for a while when I was small.” Mum’s friends are scandalized but mum says “You can do whatever you like Tobias. I am sure you’ll be good at it, whatever you choose.” I am annoyed that she won’t fight but secretly feel supported.
I get chucked out of school at 17.
- Erich Bunzl runs a little Steiner book shop in Forest Row. His supermarket chain is running itself, mostly, so he spends his time here. He doesn’t want to sell me Guidance in Esoteric Training. “not a good first book on Steiner” he says. I have seen it in the hands of an Emerson College student who helped conduct our class 12 art tour of Italy. (I was allowed back into the class for this event)
I tell Erich I have set my aims and will not discuss. Either he sells it to me or I walk out.
The exercises in this are quite complex and after a few weeks of working at it I let it lie.
18.5 Working in a pub I find myself getting unaccustomed levels of positive feedback. Someone compares my general positivity favourably with their experience of ‘other people.’ Reflecting on this seems to improve the situation and the positivity grows and grows. I have the feeling that I have reached some level of soul perfection and bask in the beauty of this. A friend diagnoses a moon-return and I recognise the concept of a doorway through which the intentions of the soul flow. The feeling lasts 3 or 4 months.
- Early computers are rattling and humming around me as the night shift grinds into its final hours. Strange dreams appear to muddle my thinking as the unyielding light insists I do not sleep but continue to monitor the progress of the flashing lights on the console in front of me.
Each time I fall towards sleep I realise the sounds detach themselves from the machines and wash into my ears just before I actually leave my body. Catching myself up and awakening again I notice how the sounds suddenly re-attach themselves to their machines. At 19yrs old this is an early lesson in who keeps the world in place and I relish this edge-of-sleep, hallucinogenic feeling. I also learn to use that inrush of sound as an alarm call that sleep is about to catch me out.
Recreational drugs do not feature in my days or nights. I discovered through this computer work that even the day after dope-smoking my sense of personal skills and efficiency rises but my actual output falls heavily.
One day while working on my motorbike, my guides tell me clearly that hallucinogens are not part of my path and would seriously damage chances of achieving my life-goals.
- During the last day of a Christian Community Youth Conference, that a group of us youngsters help to organise, in the Sheilings at Ringwood, I agree to become a co-worker at the village-community/school for children with severe learning difficulties (then called mental handicaps.)
This decision actually has me in tears as I can sense-in-advance that it will destroy my sense of control over who I am. That feeling comes true: I am not good at this work. I last two terms, and come out broken, yet hopeful. I have just turned 21 and believe that this means my ego is now in place and I can actually apply my desire for self-control effectively and get the better of this slack bastard who has been letting me down since I was seven. I take up meditation again, choosing Rittlemeyer as my guide.
On top of that I have seen archetypes of the human soul-conditions in the children there and now understand the people around me in new and profound ways. Henceforward I have a seeing of people that sometimes charms but mostly terrifies them. I learn not to speak what I see. I travel through Europe and the USA hitchhiking many thousands of miles, meeting many extraordinary people, discovering landscapes and social attitudes that leave me breathless, wider, hollowed out from what I was.
- I am walking down a dust-track in Ireland. In front of me a young woman is dancing along in an exaggeration of spring-time joy. She’s clearly slightly nuts and totally delightful. We get together.
She drives me slightly nuts. Her nuttiness distracts me from my rigid focus on disciplining that slack bastard that has been occupying my life. Love is more fun.
- Delivering my first set of turned-wood balusters to a building conversion in Gloucester. The customer looks at them, – shrugs and says, “Hey, it’s a nightclub, its dark, no-one will see them, they’ll do.”
What I find encouraging is that I actually get paid. That’s enough for me. Actions speak louder than words. My career as a wood turner sets off. My workshop, in the cellar at Wynstones School, where I’ve been doing childcare for 3 years, becomes a bridge between employment and self-employment.
- High beams echo over my head. Stone walls with strange corbels support the ancient oak church roof. Heavy traditional pews support over 100 people as I say “I Will” with such determination that the echoes grab people’s attention.
My best man has warned me “You will have to husband her in every sense of the word if this marriage is to succeed.” – I have taken this on as my project.
Suddenly I am all embarrassed and cannot stand still for the traditional photos. I carry her out, running to the car and would have driven off there and then had she not innocently asked if we were not meant to go the reception.
It’s a bring-&-share. It’s lovely.
When we get home there’s an owl sitting on a branch outside our cottage, wide awake.
- We have moved to Devon, so I phone the Western Morning News:-
“One of Britain’s best woodturners has just moved to Buckfastleigh.”
“Oh yeah? … You?!? How can you claim that?”
“I’m one of only three accepted to sell in the British Crafts Centre in Covent Garden”
So the arrogance of the shop in naming itself the guardian of national standards allows my arrogance to con a Devon paper into featuring me. Funny thing is it never occurred to me it was arrogance. I simply saw it as marketing. So busy searching for the true self I never saw the personality dancing rings round me.
- Working on one of Steiner’s longer meditations I am interrupted (again) by an image. This one is wooden bowl with a string stretched across inside it. A musical string.
I start to make bowls with strings inside. The NHS starts to buy them. At the same time a magazine enlists me as a columnist on woodturning.
I take on a mission. Everyone needs to discover that craftsmanship is a meditation, a Presence exercise. Without using spiritual language, I set out to spread the awareness of the value of paying attention to HOW we do things and not just What we do.
My name spreads worldwide, beginning to confirm what I have always wanted to believe,
“I am a really important person, my opinion matters.”
- Lying on a massage bench contorted in pain and wrestling with the emotional overtones of an Alexander Technique lesson. The teacher says “adopt the foetal position, there is no need to put yourself on the rack.” The room changes, I see a priest by the door instructing the man next to me to keep the pressure on the wheel that tensions the rack. My body is roped by wrist and ankle and huge pains are pulling me apart. I understand the pains now and realise that I have been involved in conflicts greater than my inner one. Unable to accept a victim position I immediately invert the image believing that I must have been that priest by the door and am now experiences these pains as a kind of karmic consequence. ‘Aggressor’ better fits my image of being wrong, wrong, wrong. The effect on my life is, as if I have re-discovered that I was in prison for murder for five years then wiped the memory. A colleague comments on how shocked I look these days but I cannot tell him what has led to this. It is some years before I learn that substituting oneself into the aggressor position is a common previous-life trauma response and accept that I have been both on different occasions.
- Though there are 55 people in this circle, working through Scott Peck’s Community building workshop system over three days, still I feel as if I am alone, at some moments, with the workshop leader, Rusty ‘Bald Eagle’ Myers, over from the USA. There is an understanding there, since I first saw him enter. Timeless connections weave between us. Later that year he flies back over. He tells us there are 3 people in the UK he has this connection with and 9 in the US and Canada, invites us to join a week’s retreat he has organised. He’s interested what may happen if all of us come together. The event is mythical. Snowbound in a Shaker house lent by a Sufi community where I learn a profound respect for the Native wisdom and Rusty.
- As we enter the house I feel the atmosphere here is all wrong. We have been invited in but are held back, standing in the kitchen. We are not allowed to see the baby we’ve come to visit. The foster mum’s idea of how to make this a special occasion is a total mystery to me but I realise there’s nothing I can do but play along. Shortly someone comes into the kitchen carrying the 7-month old Christopher. My heart simply falls out of my body, it is leaping towards him on first sight, shouting “Of course! I should have KNOWN it would be you!”
We don’t get to take him home for another 5 or 6 weeks. – Meantime my wife’s father dies of cancer.
- Standing in front of rows of seated music therapists at a conference in Oxford, amazed that they want to listen to a woodturner. I am seeking to be relevant to their world view by trying to give a Goethian perspective on the evolution of a musical instrument. Pacing myself with hand gestures to contain my effusive tendencies I begin to realise they are actually listening, actually taking me seriously. This talk seals the NHS approval of the Sounding Bowls and take-up rises.
- The vast iron and glass roof of the Alexandre Palace echoes over my head the crowd passing my stand are full of questions. The editor of a new woodworking magazine persuaded me to write a monthly column and I have become a celebrity within the tiny circles of amateur woodworkers and turners. This is a national woodworking show, I am paid to demonstrate woodturning skills and equipment, selling tuition-courses (with me) while I do that. Sounding Bowls are nowhere near providing a steady income and I have fallen back on writing and tuition in woodturning to sustain me. Becoming a celebrity is also a huge boost for my self-esteem and the Sounding Bowls beings have assured me that, though this would be the perfect moment to develop their work, I must follow the path that I need, they will wait and be there when I am ready.
Bit by bit I realise that the things I say are being heard by those in front in a different way. My words are not carrying my meaning. In writing articles, I have also become aware that meaning and words are two separate things. That there is far more to being understood than using the right words. In writing I use a flow-of-consciousness, conversational style that goes down well but faced with specific questions I realise that my intent to convey the meditative consciousness of the creative process, the Presence-of-Mind space of true craftsmanship is impossible to put over in words. The feeling arises that I am behind a window, that we humans can but wave at each other and hope that the other may grasp our meaning. There is a deep loneliness and a powerful sense of truth-awakening in this:~
It is indeed as the old myths say: Meaning it is not already present in the world. It is we human beings who give the world meaning.
- A sweat lodge on the plains in Kansas. A small group from far flung countries gathered around Bald Eagle and two other native teachers. I am shaken, deeply, as though there is no ground. Is it possible for my determination, alone, to hold me up or must I fall? The heat and the steam refresh me, I am back in Ancient Greece, releasing vows that mattered then. I do not understand love, what is it, how does it flow, where might it lead me, can I trust it. – Determination seems a safer ally. What I have suspected for about 5 years is now in process. Tobias is beginning to break up. I do not understand, at this point what this means, yet, what I am is beginning to shake free of all that I have become.
- We are dancing down the steps from the court house to the car park. We are all celebrating the deep, huge delight of a judge having said that these two kids are totally ours. Adopted, just as if they had been born to us. On my shoulders bounces a one year-old Sam, holding my hand, dancing alongside, a three year old Christo. My heart is full. I feel deeply connected. From behind me I hear a social worker say, probably to my wife “Don’t let anyone tell you he’s not a wonderful dad.”
Unfortunately, her judgement is not completely correct, but my failures as a parent are hiding behind another secret. Our marriage is falling apart. There are other men pulling at my wife’s heart and I am at a loss for how to live with her. A year later my orbit blazes me out of there into a new hell.
- Standing at the altar, I open my eyes after taking communion to see a hand stretched out towards me. As it is coming from the altar itself, I close my eyes again quickly. When I open them again it is still there. It’s holding a baby. I shut them again. It’s not in there, behind my eyelids. I open them again and it is still out there. “What’s this?” I ask.
“It’s a baby” they say.
This is Palm Sunday, you don’t expect babies on alters on Palm Sunday.
“Yes, I can see that, but whose baby is it, why are you showing me?”
Now the voice from the alter is over-toned, there are various meanings in a few words. “It’s your baby” .. “the Christmas baby” .. “I want you to look after it”
Now that is painful. Impossible. “Look, I’ve just had to walk out on two kids that only a year ago I promised the judge I’d look after. I’m a total failure as a parent. You can’t ask me to look after this one!!”
“I am asking if you would look after this one”
You don’t generally refuse requests that come from behind the alter.
“Well, Listen. If I do take this on, I am going to need a LOT of help with it”
“What you ask for will be available”
Days and nights my mind is torturing me. Every bit of carefully trained thinking is now focussed on the things I have done wrong. Things I could have done better to make that marriage work. Things I should not have done. But even more, things I should have done better or should have tried. In VAIN I tell the mind that I did do those things and that I did my level best and could, really not have done any more than I did do. It just wasn’t possible. The mind is not listening.
My wife is running a quiet popular-opinion campaign and most people are shunning me. Three people only, who know her and hear her still support me. One says “I saw your flame burning lower and lower. I am really glad you left. I feared you would have got ill, seriously ill.” I choose to let the campaign run. It would be more painful to enter the battle than to walk alone.
In a meditation, dreaming, I see myself chasing that slack bastard whose been occupying my life. He’s right there, hiding behind me. His weakness has got me into all sorts of trouble and I go after him. I’ve got a big sword. He dodges around my body, I chase him. Suddenly I get a glimpse of him. – It’s that baby.
- Two or three weeks in Park Attwood (an Anthroposophical clinic.) Sometimes, in the nights, I cry and am not always able to stifle the sounds. So strangled is my pain that at breakfast people are wondering which of the woman-patients they heard. Aoine, the masseuse there, who was a child, a boarder when I was caring at Wynstones School is now caring for me, (and with far more skill) explains: ‘one can turn one’s errant mind to simple tasks like watching the movement of the muscles.’
Within a week or two I have developed this skill and am able to completely quiet my mind by focussing entirely on will-activity. Night crying ceases, the heart begins to slow, days become bearable and my focus on the will becomes so total that, each night, I fall asleep watching the muscles softening. In the mornings I can feel the soul begin to seep back into the body and rest there, at harmony, before the patterns of a life rustle up the mind, causing awakening.
I have a wonderful trainer who helps me stay with this, non-thinking, observation of the movements of my body: If I ever drop my attention from this movement or that, from this very moment of activity, the guy with the sword is after me immediately – Determined to hold me responsible for every last little failure Tobias ever committed he slashes and slices at me till I focus again on this little ripple of finger that allows me to touch my thumb or that miraculous movement that lifts my foot forward without kicking my other leg and then touches the earth again.
My legs begin to tingle. For some days I wonder what is wrong before I realise that I have never been in them before. This is pins and needles, like the end of a forty two year dead leg, dead lower half of my body. I watch as, over the months, my occupational-awareness of the body creeps lower and lower down my legs.
Many months pass without me listening to those old thinking patterns and the universe opens its secrets to the non-inquiring mind. In meditation I feel the universal I AM, as though I can look out through the eyes of any human ‘me’ anywhere on the earth. From the place of stillness it seems the whole of Anthroposophy also becomes open to me, as though I can answer questions from within that network-source because I AM of that pattern.
- I took it for granted that I was now alone for life. One beautiful but complex girl had wanted me for a while before she chose someone else. Now I would have to learn to live alone. Then……
Suddenly I was bewitched, enchanted. Suddenly I was in the full sunlight of someone’s adoration. What a shock. We agreed to walk out across the moor and see if this was for real.
I am walking out on the high moor basking in the full sun of love that pours from the delightful woman next to me. Astonished that I am not alone for the rest of my life, I am bewitched by her charms, made new by her love. Halfway down the trackway around Benchtor, I noticed that we were being followed by invisible beings. When they were still behind us some miles later I accepted that they were not local elementals but unborn children and asked if she had noticed them. There followed a brief conversation with the invisible ones in which they identified themselves as a boy, eagerly pushing to be born and another, possibly two more, shy, gender unclear but also warmly looking forward to being part of our family. I was nervous of taking on another family and asked them to give us time to build a relationship first. The boy was already clear when his best birthdate was, (though he didn’t name the day) and he was not up for any delay. As his mum was an astrologer, she could accept this and he was born the very next summer.
- I am in Torbay Hospital. As the birth of our second drew closer more and more doctors came into the room, there was a buzz of concern around us. Swiftly lifted from birth, the child is wrapped in towels on a resuscitation table given oxygen and loads of attention. The nurses are worried, they don’t really want me to look but I know whose child this is and unwrap a little of a towel. His skull is too soft, far too soft, not a bony top at all. I am stunned by this level of vulnerability. Vulnerability is something I have striven for since I noticed my classmates drawing masks down, but this level of softness speaks of a courage I could hardly dream of. His broad chest also speaks of this immense courage, he has broad hands too, yet his fingers taper out delicately, fine like a lute player’s.
I am in awe. This level of sensitive softness, this level of delicacy with this level of courage is beyond what I could dream of.
We Christen him. For some reason I know the formula of words that must be used, and we Christen him with the names Ciarán Ambrose Uther.
He lives for seven hours then slowly fades, back, through…?
The gate he came through is not closed yet, but still a new one opens, the light is so different on the other side it leaves me yearning, yearning to be free of this hard earth…
Standing between these two gates, each one revealing a realm flooded with light, tears aspects of my personality apart. Bits of me are drifting, being pulled in these two directions, I become thinner and weaker, while clearer.
But I am needed here, Ciarán’s mother is also fading, her blood pressure falling fast. Nurses are bustling around, they are genuinely afraid they may lose her too. Her one desire is to be with Ciarán. In this, nothing else seems to matter but this new motherhood that is pulling her. I have to help in holding her back with all the love I can find.
Three days in hospital.
Then a funeral. Just one.
- The wife of a colleague has become my wife’s advisor. Together they have evolved a picture of me as an aggressor. I made the terrible mistake of seeking to help my wife delve into hidden pains, beyond where she actually asked for my support. This has become extremely unhelpful. My attitude of picking up on her negative self-talk and exposing it, instead of bringing light and relief, has turned into a kind of bullying. I do not know how to change this, there is an opposition between us that has become locked-in. The advisor looks into the karmic background and decides that I am responsible for having both her and my wife tortured and killed during the purge of the Cathars in the C13th. They do not share this conclusion with me, though I am asked random questions, whose answers support their thesis. This turns into an image of me as so negative that my attitudes are actually responsible for Ciaran’s death and any other suffering the family experiences. I do not find out that this is going on till some years later. The advisor becomes the godmother of our youngest, Auriel Rose who is born at home in 2002.
- I am standing outside the bedroom door playing a little Sounding Bowl and singing lullabies, hoping Raphael and Auriel will go to sleep. It’s a nightly ritual of desperation and part of my feelings of torn inadequacy as a parent. I have so many ideas of how things could be good, but none of them seem to work. It might take 40 minutes of this before they go to sleep, and it’s the only strategy I have that stops trouble breaking out. Trouble is breaking out all over these days. The two older boys who came with this family are finding me increasingly difficult. Five years on, the shadow of Ciaran’s death still sucks at any unresolved aspect of the marriage. My days are filled with tension and concern. I do not know where to turn. I have not the courage to say “Enough, I have done all I can.” The man with the sword is chasing me again, saying: “There is always more. You could do better, – do better”
- I am reversing out of the drive, determined to engage socially. Sitting alone upstairs in the workshop, where there’s a bed behind a curtain, evening after evening is not doing me good. As I’m reversing there’s a knock on the car window, Swinging my head around I see a man who used to be a good friend but seriously adopted my first wife’s side after the split. He is actually wondering if he can stay the night. His marriage has blown up and he tells me that he has been living a double life, pretending to himself that one side need never know what the other side is up to. Now the veil of pretence has been torn and he’s at a loss how to pick up all the pieces. He stays the night. I try to engage, but in truth I feel really sorry for his wife. She was one of the three who held me dear after that first split and became godmother to my firstborn, Raphael.
- Raphael’s 10th birthday at Woodlands. His godmother and I have been appointed as queue-holders for each next ride while he and his friends dash around trying out others. With time to chat she and I decide that there is a future in this holding-space together. Living alone over the workshop I had felt incomplete, as well as not knowing when to stop work. Life with this good hearted woman completes me. Further, her skills in parenting make being with my children much, much easier. We spend the next 13years together, though her 3 daughters campaign to separate us. Why each of my marriage/partnerships has had a major character in my partner’s life campaigning against me is a mystery. Clearly some part of me lives in this truth but I am not able to really put my finger on, much less resolve this issue.
- I’m sitting in a circle. We meet regularly. We are learning though doing (nothing). Discovering that though we come from widely diverse backgrounds, we can trust each other, by a process of learning to know ourselves. There is no agenda in the group except this deepening of self-awareness through community awareness.
By choosing a field of human life about which to share individual experience we open up understandings of how our ways of being with ourselves affect others. Discovering ourselves faced with our own prejudices as reflected in the other, we come to the realisation that any aspect of ourselves that we do not accept, others have to carry – and any shadow we are willing to be aware of becomes a strength. This is not a head learning but a growing ability within myself.
Over 10yrs in these groups the man with the sword and the baby become friends. I learn to be grateful for them both.
- I’m in a hall in Brussels surrounded by weird and wonderful musical instruments. From Conch shells to sansulas, singing saws and computers wired to wail if you come close. And, of course, Sounding Bowls.
Here are people determined to look beyond the conventions of music. This open mind is exciting.
Most of them have abandoned a sensitivity to what feels good. This is painful. Occasionally I meet someone who has deep listening skills as well as an open mind. A woman stops to listen and to play the Bowls. We chat for a while. I learn that she is also a maker of healing instruments and a healer herself. Then she says: You are entering into your Elder powers. Be prepared to be there for others in what you have gathered so far.-
- As Christmas approaches the lack of sales is worrying. I am no longer enjoying my work but I do not allow myself to question that this is my life’s task. During this year two new apprentices both dipped out after a few days or weeks. Now the one who did complete a 14 month training here, goes home for Christmas with no agreement to come back. Suddenly I feel tired. Why bother any more. No-one wants to learn from me, no-one wants to work with me, I truly might as well sell up. Yes. If I get a good price for the workshop, I could then drop all this turning-up-for-work malarkey and get down to writing the books that need to be written. I decide to give it 12 holy nights to soak in, then make a decision. Come New Year it still feels good and the workshop goes on the market. I have agreed with the makers I trained that I will keep the website open and continue to pass them any sales I can get. We make a video “End of an Era” telling the world to buy any they’ve hoped for before it’s too late, and get a good response. My last trainee comes back from holiday to make a few last bowls before we close.
I have plans for three books that need writing. I am on chapter 4 of the first one, developing understandings for the second one and have mapped out the plot of the third one.
63/64. Orders continue to flow in and no offers-to-buy appear. The bowls we make are bigger and, in some ways, better than ever before. Some Joy and enthusiasm return. The books stall. A chain of care-homes starts to place multiple orders. The trainee/graduate leaves to set up his own studio and I continue to make.
- The appearance of the Corona virus fulfils, for me, the expected trend in world-control and population reduction that has, for a decade or so been quietly but widely discussed as desirable. I am clear in my own mind that this is a political expediency, and a plan for one-world government with A.I control of the world but I am surprised how many do not see it this way. Lockdown is, surprisingly, a real joy. The sun shines, the major road running by the studio goes quiet, the sky goes quiet as the local airport goes bankrupt, neighbours stop to chat like never before, my relationship with my work changes. I feel almost retired in the ease with which time floats in my hands. Sitting in the sun in a quiet garden with my beloved and with friends is good. Very good.
One of my first apprentices, who worked with me for years phones up. He wants to buy the workshop and take over production. He has about 1/5th of the money saved and wants to return to a life that puts meaning before profit. This actually means that I begin to work harder again, the five-full-day rhythm returns as he saves up the deposit to buy, and we take on more orders. Now that I cannot travel to do workshops I begin to communicate more via the internet and, slowly, requests to assist people with personal spiritual development trickle in. I also decide to hold small scale local workshops where people can meet face to face and tackle the “Being Human” question in an integrated heart-head-will circle. I am learning new skills.
The mood of this life so far seems best carried by a few lines from T.S.Eliot
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
Is that which was the beginning;
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree.
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.