Monday, June 29, 2009


"To relax, to feel the love in your heart and keep to that as your focus in every situation - that's the meaning of spiritual surrender. It changes us."

A Return to Love

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Solitude, Stillness and Silence

An Interview by Diane Covington, The Sun Magazine, April 2007
"The Unseen Life that Dreams Us" with John O'Donohue on the "Secret Landscapes of Imagination and Spirit"

Covington: Solitude seems central to your work. Why is it so necessary?

O’Donohue: Solitude is the sense of space as nourishing. What usually happens with solitude is that people equate it with loneliness, which frightens them. But I don’t know anyone who has a good friendship or love relationship in which there are not long periods of solitude. There is a way in which we treat our relationships almost like a colonial expedition: we want to colonize the space, all the territory in between, until there is no wilderness left. Most couples who have deadened in each other’s presence have colonized their space this way. They have domesticated each other beyond recognition. Sometimes you see a beautiful woman who quickens your heart. Then you meet her again years later, and she has become a domesticated relic of who she once was, and you think... Where is the dangerous vision that I saw in her? The same happens to men.

I think it is more interesting to be with somebody who still has his or her wilderness territory — and by that I don’t mean bleak, burned-out, damaged areas where wounding has occurred; rather, I mean genuine wilderness. Upon seeing that in the other person, you promise yourself: One thing I will never do is try to domesticate her wilderness. Because the authenticity of her difference and the purity of her danger and the depth of her affection are all being secretly nourished by that wilderness, as all of my spirit is being nourished by my own wilderness. There is a great tradition in the U.S., even more so than in other countries, of the solitary person going out into the wild. It’s a shame that this model is not now being revived for the voyage into our inner wilderness.

Covington: Stillness and silence are natural companions to solitude.

O’Donohue: Yes, all three are necessary for a mystical life, a harmonious life. Stillness is just being still. There is no great mystery about it. Your body is an object in space — not an inanimate object, but an object nonetheless. I will be putting my body-object into a tin machine on Tuesday and flying over the ocean. My body will emerge all shaky on the other end, and it will take time for it to recover its native tranquillity. Spending time being still is a simple and modest requirement that we face each day, not just when traveling. If you could sit still for twenty minutes every day — just sit in your chair and look at a place on the rug — your body would love you for it. Your body loves the simple relief of stillness. And it’s great for your health.

The third thing is silence. When someone is talking, try to listen to the silence between the words. This is what a good therapist does. She is listening for what your words are saying, and she is also listening between the words for the things that your unconscious wants to say, but which your conscious mind does not know about or is not yet ready to make heard. To be a great listener is to be a listener on that level.

Silence depends on stillness and solitude. If you do not have solitude and know what wilderness is, and you do not have stillness and know what tranquillity is, then you are not able to listen with that sort of refinement and subtlety. Bring a rhythm to your life that has a share of solitude, stillness, and silence in it, and you will gradually come home. That is what spirituality is: the art of homecoming.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Microcosmic Unity

"Are we willing to go into the questions of knowing oneself? Because oneself is the world. Human beings right throughout the world - whatever, their colour, their religion, their nationality, their beliefs - suffer psychologically, inwardly. They go through great anxieties, great loneliness, have an extraordinary sense of despair, depression, a sense of the meaningless of living the way we do.

Throughout the world, people are psychologicaly similar. That's a reality, that's truth, that's actuality. So you are the world psychologically, and the world is you; and when you understand yourself you are understanding the whole human structure and nature. It is not mere selfish investigation, because when you understand yourself you go beyond yourself, a different dimension comes into being."

This Light in Oneself

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Less Alone

What is art?

Isn't it interesting to watch how when a question comes to mind, the universe swings around to provide you with all you need to find the answer....

Air travel picks you up by the scruff of the neck, out of one familiar life and plonks you down into a completely fresh environment. It's like someone giving you a second chance.

Here you go, new place, new culture, new people. What are you gonna to do about it?

Can you adapt and mould?

Or does the mind require the external to re-form around IT?

In other words, being somewhere new can shine a light on how stuck you are.

It is fasinating to watch the whole thing going on.

Your external persona as it adapts to the new world it finds itself in. And then to be, at the same time, aware of the parallel reality of the mind. That one that is still playing out old habit patterns.

How much of the mind is affecting your behaviour?

How much is conditioned?

How much is spontaneous?

In the moments of space, of moment to moment, beauty floods in, or should I say out....?

Everything seems to be art.

It could be the way a grubby old silversmith's hat hangs...

It could be the colour of the ropes or the fold of a sail...

It could be the way the frangipani had been placed, just under the pillow...

Or, as Mozambique presents the natural world so easily, the froth of the waves on the seashore...

The shadow hiding in the heel....

The sun lighting up the leaves...

Or edges around a cloud....

Are these things art or merely a subjective observation of the beauty that is around us? A subjectivity that is changing, like a person does, from moment to moment, from day to day, from week to week?

Is photography art or skill?

Does a cushion become an art form if it is framed in a rectangle and 'click', photographed in a particular way?

Art is said to be a vehicle for the expression or communication of emotions or ideas. Perhaps this is the purpose of art?

Krishanmurti suggests, in relation to meditation that, "One sense of the word 'art' is to put everything in its right place, so that there is no confusion."

Van Gogh said, "I did not paint it as I saw it, I drew it as I saw the spirit in it."

And along the same lines, my grandfather once wrote that art is, "a manifestation of God throught he agency of man."

Sitting on the plane, destined for Jo-burg, I was flicking through Time Magazine where I found a definition that made sense to me....

"Art is whatever makes you feel less alone." Meg Ryan

If, indeed, artists communicate the universal spirit, it only follows that when we see that art, we feel more joined, more united and so......less alone.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Women on Vamizi Island have been painting their faces in a white cream for centuries.

This is known as muciro face painting.

The cream is extracted from an indigenous plant called Kipalo which is cut in the bush, and left to dry in the sun for five days. It is then crushed on a stone with a little water and applied to the face with help of a traditional brush hand made from coconut fibre.

Here on Vamizi space is made for this special rictual.

The mask is usually applied in the morning at around 5am and removed only after the sun has set.

It shows up better on black faces rather than white, but it was a good excuse to chat with the local women. Women around the world always find something to talk about, even if only in sign language..

Tradition goes that women about to wed should always use a muciro face mask to signal their purity and virginity, and to keep their skin soft and healthy.

These days many women of all ages use the paste as a beauty routine.

My skin felt good after I took off the mask.

Better than Clinique perhaps....?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Less Ordinary

"Meditation is not an escape. It is not something mysterious. Out of meditation comes a life that is holy, a life that is sacred. And therefore you treat all things as sacred."
This Light In Oneself

Sunday, June 14, 2009


"There is only one question: How to love this world?"

Friday, June 12, 2009

Action in Consciousness


Let me simplify things by making some suggestions about action in each of the five Koshas:

Annamaya Kosha, the physical body: Nourish and respect your body. Appreciate its incredible inner intelligence. Do not fear it or taint it with toxins. Take time to really be in your body. Take it outside and let it play!

Pranamaya Kosha, the vital body: Go out into Nature and sink into the feeling that this is your home. Respect and nourish the ecosystem. Do not harm other living things. See Nature without fear or hostility. Reverence for life is the key here.

Manomaya Kosha, the mental body: Develop positive uses of the mind. Read and appreciate what is finest in human expression. Become aware that you are a wholeness, and allow ideas to come in that support wholeness over separation. Resist us-versus-them thinking. Examine your automatic reactions and secondhand beliefs. Find every opportunity to welcome signals from your higher self.

Vigyanmaya Kosha, the ego body: Find a vision; go on a quest. Fit yourself into the larger pattern of growth. Seek ways to evolve personally. Celebrate the vast traditions of spirit and wisdom that unite cultures. Be as humane as you can in every way, following the dictum "The world is my family."

Anandamaya Kosha, the body of bliss: Develop your own practice for transcending and finding bliss. You already know the phrase "Follow your bliss"; now put it into practice through some kind of "alpha wave" exercise like meditation and deep relaxation. Devote yourself to discovering what Samadhi, the silence of deep awareness, is really like.

Experience your own being as a reason to be here.

Life After Death

Have Love, Will Travel

24 years of travel to Africa finds me continually impressed by how vibrant, energetic and open the people are - especially when it comes to music. They’re just there, doing it, in it, with a natural rhythm and swing.

Vamizi Island, Northern Mozambique, is no exception.

Vamizi threw my mind out of its familiar, monotonous, grooves by its sheer beauty.

Vamizi is completely unspoilt and has a special vibration.

Palm trees sway in the wind; the turquoise sea shimmers and heals. The blue sky reflects something deeper and the white, soft sand is home to a whole world of shells and sea creatures.

Vamizi is a true Robinson Crusoe hideaway. I lay awake listening to the soft snoring of Barbara, an excitable but completely lovable (Italian) room mate, as my fantasies turned from Robert Reford to Man Friday...

Vamizi isn’t a cliché, it isn’t just a picture postcard.

Travelling to Africa as a Product Manager of a well-established travel company, you carry a price tag. There are expectations to fulfil. With potential business to offer it goes without saying that everybody is interested to know you. The red carpet is rolled out (sometimes literally), taps are polished, food is prepared with extra care and smiles are set to impress.

In other words, to begin with there is an agenda. Everybody has their roles. The boxes have to be ticked. Contracts exchanged and then hopefully a flow of tourists and money is set up from developed to developing, from north to south, from richer to poorer. Efforts are being made to redistribute wealth and this 'trickle down' effect can be clearly seen on Vamizi.

But, almost without exception, relationships develop beyond this. Friendships are formed and a genuine interest in Africa, its culture and its wildlife is shared.

Music is just one way to dissolve these roles and time and time again i've seen it form a firm bridge between cultures.

As we walked into Vamizi Village, the villagers were there to meet us. There was a buzz in the air. White smiles in black faces greeted us as the children rushed forward to present us with fresh coconuts to drink from.

The music started....

A circle formed and we watched as hips swayed, hands clapped and the sheer exuberance for life burst over. What I liked about the atmosphere is that these guys were enjoying themselves regardless of our presence. We were just an excuse.

These villagers had seen tourists coming in before. Maybe spending a lot of time with cameras held up to their eyes? Smiling a little awkwardly perhaps and then leaving?

So often our conditioning holds us back. I know because i've suffered the pain of constraint many times. The result is that so often in these sort of situations the sharing of music is one sided.

However, thankfully this time around Ganesha (the Hindu elephant God of happiness) came to the rescue.

The tune seemed to be a hit and people picked it up quickly. (Check the woman with the yellow scarf wrapped around her head and the nice body moves..).

With the expanding process of globalisation, I feel it is becoming more and more essential to share that part of our self that is universal. To shift our attention from outer appearance and language, which serves only to divide, and to move further towards the thing that unites.

Music is one of the many vehicles that we have at our disposal to express, what has the potential to be, our purest feeling.

As the chocolaty voice of Nat King Cole suggests............

“Love Is The Thing.”

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Stay Young

"He has a sort of bottomless capacity for wonder. The magic of history, of the cosmos, of words and of love keep him rapt. He is at their mercy the way a poet is. All that wonder keeps him happy and humble and wide-eyed."