Inward Occupation

Well it’s now the end of May, and it’s time to put this blog to bed before June starts! It’s been a period of great contrasts, on the one hand frustrated with my seeming lack of progress health wise but on the other enjoying some lovely weather and fabulous sightings of new life around me.

Young foal on Dartmoor

Young foal on Dartmoor

Early April I travelled to Yorkshire to meet up with family friends and visit old haunts, it was nourishing to reconnect with my Yorkshire roots but I seemed to spend the rest of the month recovering. As the month went on into May bluebells abounded accompanied by first primroses, then ransoms, yellow rattle and red campion and all around that fresh vibrant spring green burst out on trees everywhere.  Early May must be one of the most extravagant times of the seasonal year.

Gorgeous bluebells and ransoms in Hembury Woods

Gorgeous bluebells and ransoms in Hembury Woods

I still walk early Selkie every morning, and just as I was wondering when I might see new life on the river, I espied a female goosander with seven ducklings. I have tracked them throughout the past two months, seeing them at different places along the river bank and watching them grow til they are now almost full sized. On my first swim in the river this year  I saw them down at the river at the same time as a pair of mandarin ducks with 19 young! Just yesterday morning I saw the mandarin family for the first time after the heavy rains of a couple of weeks ago – I had worried what their fate had been. They were feeding at the leat bridge along with the female, and the male keeping watch above. I counted about 12 young this time. Still impressive.

One of my first sightings of the goosander family

One of my first sightings of the goosander family

So that’s a brief summary of what went on externally, on the horizontal axis if you like. Part of the reason for delaying writing is down to lower energy levels but I also had a sense of something else going on internally. Initially I was hardly aware, then I wasn’t sure what “it” was, and now I have a bit more clarity as the end of May is upon us. It really started with the exhaustion post-Yorkshire. I realised I needed to pull back from some commitments. I’ve written before about my propensity for busyness, so I was surprised to notice that this was as much a desire as a necessity. It was the desire that made me question what was going on, as it felt unfamiliar.

Goosander female keeping watch

Goosander female keeping watch

When I was researching  the quote on the seat, I bought a book of Rumi poetry, which included the full poem from which the quote came. I started to dip into it and one morning, I came across some words which “zinged”:

“Beg of God the removal of envy,

that God may deliver you from externals,

and bestow upon you an inward occupation,

which will absorb you

so that your attention is not drawn away.

As the days went on, and it became clearer that I would need to readjust my living pattern yet again, I was more and more drawn to the phrase “bestow upon you an inward occupation”. I realised that’s what the desire was about – an inner, Divine led desire which seemed to coincide with the outer need for less activity.

The mandarin family at the leat bridge yesterday

The mandarin family at the leat bridge yesterday

I mentioned a Gurdjieff course last time, and in one email Cynthia Bourgeault  had written, “the sheer pace of life keeps our attention outwardly focussed” and went on to say “Holy desire is not something added on by an ego-agenda; it emerges from the core of your being so powerfully….”

As a practice she suggested we reflect on “what am I here for?”. Oh, I thought, that’s easy, I like this sort of activity, and even better, I already know the answer!! And on a walk in the woods one morning, I revisited the words I heard 30 + years ago about being called to be a friend. And I posted about it to the group. Then I read what she said in a follow up email, “The goal of “self-realisation” as its widely misunderstood is not simply about my private enlightenment (oops!) it’s the willingness to make your life a conscious laboratory of transformation”.

One stranded mandarin duckling (it found its way back!)

One stranded mandarin duckling (it found its way back!)

I now believe that the desire, and the need, to be delivered from “externals” is about exploring this. I have loved the work I do with the group that reflects on the gospel of Thomas, but have decided to draw this to a close. I want to see what emerges as I take some steps back from what I thought I was called to do, to see how the “laboratory of transformation” on the vertical axis might take shape. It’s not easy, we are so strongly defined by what we do, and it’s painful to let go of these self-images, especially the ones we feel come from a sense of calling. But the good news is that there are no wrong answers – it simply doesn’t matter what we “do”, if we can grasp that, I sense there is a wider and deeper well to draw on.

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