This is the second visit by Philip to our house by the sea, and this time, in brilliant sunshine.
The first visit came in torrential rain and storms, just after Mark was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and given weeks to live.
Philip left us with great wisdom, which we turned into our ‘Ganesh moment’ where we sit quietly round our table and light our ‘kitsch’, turquoise elephant candle and wait for someone to speak about the moment, or sit in silence. Despite the raised emotions, we leave feeling very calm and Mark’s face relaxes and looks happy.
We met Philip when he gave a talk at Villa Events in Lewes in 2011.
I came away with three important messages
- Walk the land and enjoy the moment – live in the day
- Discover the ancient histories of the landscape
- Celebrate the seasons and pay attention to how the land and the plants change with the year.
The magical landscape of Sussex has little known stone circles, ley lines, powerful alignments to historic monuments and ancient folklore. Philip, the chief druid, talked about his work and shared his knowledge on the stories and legends of the ancient sites of Sussex. We learnt about giants throwing stones at each other across the South Downs Way, and the eight ancient rituals to celebrate the seasons. Many of these are held on the Tump at Lewes, when a group gathers to pipe in the dawn and acknowledge the power of the earth.
Today we widen the discussion. Mark shares that he is not afraid of death, just sad that he is leaving us all behind. He hopes that the tiny silver elephants that he has commissioned for us will give us strength and contact when he has gone. Philip talks about people visiting in dreams.
By coincidence, my niece has just sent a text that she had a visit from my father in a dream, and that he came to reassure her, and she hopes he will come again. So I guess you never know. As Philip say, the world is all energy that swirls around.
The elephant in the room today are the issues that surround us. I mention despair, and Philip suggests we spend time just thinking of it, and like pain, we may be surprised how a resolution is found.
It’s called ‘paradoxical intention’ – I write notes on it – where ‘what you resist persists’. A concept developed by Dr Viktor Frankl. We need to focus on the tension or problem, not resist it, and discover how to let it go.
The brain, Philip says, if tuned into the bigger picture. I just hope we both can learn this new skill.
Viktor Frankl wrote of his time being marched to a concentration camp –
My mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise. I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which Man can aspire.
I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when Man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way – an honorable way – in such a position Man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment.
Viktor Frankl survived the war but his wife died in Bergen Belsen.
What wise words I will take with me for today.
Annabel and myself are going on Philip Carr Gomm’s Spring retreat