Pure Light Painted Iona 1977
1. About 1971 aged 22 I left university where I had been studying psychology and headed towards Findhorn Community. I felt I needed to connect with people who were exploring a more spiritual and harmonious way of life than the prevailing state of society in contemporary 1970's culture. A friend asked me what I was planning to do. I said I was going to study The Arcane Philosophy. I do not remember using that term before or knowing exactly what it meant though I had been practicing meditation for several years and studying comparative religion, depth psychology and mysticism since I was about fifteen. When I walked into the library at Findhorn I saw a shelf called The Arcane School. I figured those were the books I was meant to read and most of them were by Alice Bailey. In those days the young men were kept busy most of the time doing manual work but we did have some spare time. I would get up early and go to the meditation sanctuary to meditate. After a while Eileen Caddy would arrive and there would be just the two of us. Then later everyone else would turn up and Eileen's channeled "Message from God" would be read aloud. Sometimes someone else would also channel teachings or messages. Those were inspirational times.
Word reached Eileen that in my spare time I was painting and drawing. At lunch one day she asked me "Are you painting something beautiful for God?" I do n't remember what I replied. Findhorn was a mixture of many kinds of people from the outwardly conventional to the outwardly unconventional which sometimes caused a certain amount of discord. Notably and humourously many of the young men had long hair. Peter Caddy being somewhat military in his manner tried to persuade us all to cut our hair short! In fact I think at one point he said it was a condition of me being able to stay at the community! So I went to the hairdressers and came back later with hair a few inches shorter. He said it was n't short enough... It was a bit like being back at boarding school in that respect!!! However we were all united in an aspiration to tune into the higher possibilities of human consciousness. At lunch on another occasion I was sitting with Peter and he was talking about death and suggested that it would be nice to die of old age after a long and fulfilling life but things turned out differently in his case... He was a somewhat paradoxical character as he was outwardly the ex Royal Air Force Officer and on another level extremely far out... I clashed with him on a regular basis... By the way it is not commonly known but Findhorn is right next to a large military airport so large airplanes would often fly overhead...
I was there at the same time as David Spangler. He would channel "Christ Consciousness". When he was doing so I can remember a powerful energy filling the room and going into deep meditation... I spent about 6 months at Findhorn and left under somewhat traumatic circumstances on two occasions but eventually it was apparent that my destiny lay elsewhere. Initially I headed to Iona which is a place of great beauty and power. From then on I joined the great number of young people who were traveling the world on a spiritual journey which took me to many countries and teachers...
Early Line Mandala drawn early '70's
2. My first stop of note after Findhorn was Iona. Iona is one of those magical places where it is easy to feel the presence of the divine and there are ancient and inspiring buildings indicative of a history of prayer and worship. I remember that when I entered the Abbey it was empty and I went to the back and chanted and sang. In those days I used to write and sing songs and before traveling play the guitar. So I expanded my lungs to full capacity and chanted Om. Later I became known for a while as "Barry Om" on account of my chanting but that was a year or two later... What I found on Iona on that visit and subsequent visits was that meditative states would occur frequently and spontaneously which I put down to the powerful energies prevalent on the island. I very rarely chant these days but sometimes when giving workshops do so and encourage participants to join in. I remember one man in Latvia (2005) at one of my workshops saying that what he would remember was the "Om Chanting"...
Initially I stayed on Iona briefly before proceeding to Wales with some friends I met whilst there. However I came back to Iona some years later and lived there for a couple of winters. One thing I remember starting on Iona after leaving Findhorn was a fast as in not eating. I had experimented with diet on and off since I was about 18 and been vegetarian and macrobiotic for a while. I had also done some fasting when at university. I had limited understanding of the subject but was aware that it could in some sense of the word purify the body and mind and enhance meditation. I "fasted" on and off for a while and do not remember any difficulties with it but I was young and fit! What I do remember is an elevation of consciousness. I have tried it in later years and found it much more difficult but maybe toxins have accumulated over the years. It is an ongoing process and I continue to study diet and healing.
In Wales I became part of what was considered to be the "Hippie Community". I am not sure if I saw myself as such immediately but do remember knocking on someone's door and a young boy calling his father and saying "There is a hippie at the door!" After a while I accepted it as a label that applied to what was a fairly large number of us living in Central Wales pursuing alternative lifestyles and philosophies. One issue that I was aware of but remarkably unconcerned about was money or my lack of it! I remember writing to a friend at Findhorn and saying I was learning to "trust in God". Although I had no money part of the ethos of the alternative scene was sharing and no-one ever went hungry. Fortunately someone always had a house or a farm or a car or food or all the things that humans rely on. However we did lead a very basic life by modern standards often without electricity or running water... I think we all felt it was better to follow our dreams rather than get caught up in the economic system... There was enough money flowing around to facilitate travel and I remember being offered a ticket to India. However on that occasion I declined because it involved a Guru I did n't feel particularly tuned into. I went to India some years later and visited the Ashram of my choice which was Ramanashram and many others... It was during my stay in Wales that I became known as "Barry Om" which lasted during that stay of a couple of years or so. I used to spend a long time meditating, chanting and reading about meditation and related subjects. I occasionally drew with pencils and I remember one friend saying perhaps I should consider being an artist. I was n't sure about that. I remember saying to another friend that I could n't think of anything better to do than meditate. She said I might change my mind in due course. She was some years older than me. I am sure we all have premonitions of the future. Two come to mind. When I left university the idea occurred to me to be an artist living quietly in the countryside. Also as a child sitting at home in Hampshire, England I suddenly had a strong impression of living in the West of Wales... It took another fifteen or so years for those two dreams to materialize. Meanwhile there were other dreams, visions and premonitions to work through... It was during that time in Wales that I experienced what I have called "Dream Initiation" which was my meeting with Ramana Maharishi on the astral planes... It set in motion a sequence of events which eventually took me to India in 1974. Meanwhile I was beginning to develop my artwork. Although deep meditation was in many ways very rewarding and blissful I was beginning to think I needed to find a middle way and relate the inner world that had opened up for me to the outer one... It occurred to me that mandalas might be an appropriate link between the inner and outer worlds... However up to that point in time I had had very little direct experience of painting mandalas. My early artwork was somewhat abstract though after the mystical experience I have written about elsewhere of "The Circle Dropping Into Consciousness" the circle did start to appear in images I drew or painted. Soon mandalas were to take centre stage in my artwork and life...
Early Line Mandala drawn early '70's
3. Reviewing events that took place over forty years ago can lead to some errors in detail and timing. I think I am jumping ahead somewhat in mentioning mandalas at this stage and have become aware that I have omitted certain relevant considerations. A prominent feature of life at Findhorn was the concept and experience of "Guidance". In particular Eileen was receiving guidance that was read every day at the morning meditations. Other members of the community received guidance and I found myself writing poetry and prose which was considered to fit into that quite broad category. Also certain inner and outer perceptions arose that I am not sure I had experienced previously in quite the same way. The general principle was that energy/information/visions and so on could arise and were arising in consciousness inspired by or connected to "beings" not "human" in the normal sense of the word. However some of the beings could have been or were considered to have been humans at some stage in their journey. Also there was some emphasis put on "Sacred Sites" and how they are connected to form a web of light. So for instance sometimes in the morning meditations we were all encouraged to visualize that web. Iona was one of the places which was included in such visualizations as Findhorn was considered to have a special link with it as well as Glastonbury. Both of these places were to subsequently feature strongly in my life but as I have mentioned earlier Iona was my first stop of interest after Findhorn or to be more specific after my first stay at Findhorn. Having found my way to Iona I synchronistically connected with some people who subsequently became friends who themselves were receiving guidance and had been guided to travel to Iona from Dorset. We then collectively received guidance to travel to Wales. The theme of making connections with other dimensions and receiving guidance from those dimensions is a widespread if not universal theme in all spiritual literature. One could possibly go as far as to say that it is an essential and inevitable part of the spiritual journey... However a term which was introduced to me in this context was "glamour" and the general caveat was that it is good to be open to receiving inspiration from higher dimensions but a degree of discriminating wisdom was required to differentiate between the true and the false... Having studied psychology I was aware that there was and is a fair bit of potential illusion to be found within as well as ultimate reality... So it was and for that matter still is a delicate balancing act. So having mentioned that aspect of things let's go back to mandalas... I had some awareness of them prior to visiting Findhorn but the Meditation Hall there had a "Sunrise Panel" which consists of multicoloured light radiating from the centre. After a while I began to feel a connection between that image and the experience of meditation and for a while the two became linked. This was one of my earlier experiences of linking an image to a meditative state. Prior to that The Empty Circle was such an image in my life. Also most of the caravans at Findhorn had "God's Eyes" in the windows which again suggested a connection between a geometrical image and a mystical philosophy... These "God's Eyes" were geometrical patterns made from wool woven onto wood and which I think were inspired by Mexican culture.
So meanwhile I was in The Cambrian Mountains of Central Wales experiencing the beauty and energy of the land. We became aware that a lot of the old place names correlated with astrological signs and research by a group of people who specialized in the subject subsequently discovered a landscape zodiac similar to the one at Glastonbury. I was not personally involved in the research but was and am open to such ideas. I remember one morning walking to a local stone circle and having the thought that the circle was in the appropriate place at the original time of it's placement but that everything in the universe is moving and that in the modern era it should be somewhere else... However I was not sure whether that would involve inches, feet or miles! I have never come across this idea in any literature so am not sure if it was a valid insight or not but forty or so years on it seems to me it might be! That is because my understanding was and is that the placement of such sites is to a certain extent to do with the energy of the land but also to do with astronomical factors. This would relate to what is called The Precession of The Equinoxes which I was introduced to about ten years later when I studied Astrology. The gist of it is that at a certain point in time the western signs of the zodiac did line up with the corresponding astronomical stars but as time unfolds they have gradually gone out of sync and will remain so until a cycle of 24,000+ years is completed... I specify the western signs of the zodiac because in India for instance they work with the Sidereal as distinct from the Tropical system so in India the signs are determined by current astronomical observations as I understand it. However I am not a Vedic Astrologer so may not be right but I think the general principle is correct.
Early Line Mandala drawn early '70's
4. So the next move in this particular journey was from Central Wales to Dorset with the friends whom had originally been guided to visit Iona and whom I met there. I am not sure but I think I may have initially undertaken the journey to meet the person who was guiding them. That person was called Rosamund and was a very lovely person. She must have been about 50 or 60 years old and I think she died within a year or so of a heart attack. She was a Trance Medium who channelled a Being called Sunstar whom had North American Associations. I was present on at least one occasion when she was channelling and also spent time with her socially.
I showed her the poetry and prose that I had written when at Findhorn and she read my work with interest. She surprised me by saying that she could tell from what I had written that my meditations had gone deeper than hers. I was not sure what to make of her comment at the time but was and am aware that psychic ability does not necessarily mean the ability to go beyond the mind. In fact sometimes it seems that psychic phenomena can prevent the person concerned from going beyond the mind partly because they can be somewhat fascinating and beguiling!
For instance I think it was about then that I woke up one morning feeling very vibrant and also aware of what seemed to be a circular window in my forehead. Inside that window a scenario was unfolding in which I was the central character. I appeared to be in the middle of a bombing raid in a city which I took to be London surrounded by old fashioned cars. After a while of observing this "show" I wondered if it would continue if I opened my eyes and did so which brought the "show" to an end. The experience seemed to suggest to me that I had been incarnate in either the first or the second world war... and I still sometimes find myself looking at old cars with that experience in mind... The experience did n't interfere with my morning meditation as I remember it and I did read subsequently that sometimes a person might be quietly meditating and then such an experience arise before subsiding.
I think Rosamund felt that I had explored meditation in greater depth than her because I had started when I was still a teenager and spent some time with the TM crowd and The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It is true that I immediately had some very powerful experiences which not everyone had which I did not realize at the time. However I remember telling someone later about it whom had also taken the initiations and he said that nothing like that had happened to him and that I must have been "ready". So the writings that Rosamund read covered some of those early experiences. I have included some of those writings in the poetry section of my book Sacred Circles which is primarily about Mandalas. Unfortunately because I was traveling for several years in my 20's most of those writings got left somewhere though some of them were published by a magazine called The Science of Thought Review. At that point in time I was in touch with the editor via correspondence but ten or so years later did get to meet her successor.
Early Line Mandala drawn mid '70's
So I had some interesting meetings with Rosamund but still was n't quite sure what to do. I felt that I would like to return to Findhorn for another stay which Rosamund/Sunstar approved of with the caveat that "I should not stay too long"... This eventually led to another "clash" with Peter Caddy but before returning to Findhorn which was in Christmas Holiday mode I visited and spent a couple of weeks at a nearby monastery. I had stayed at monasteries before and have done so since but not in recent years. On my way north before reaching the monastery I stayed in Edinburgh with Ogilvie Crombie or Roc whom was one of the early members of Findhorn and whom had had encounter with Pan in the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens. Roc was a very gentle man of the scholar/bachelor variety and I had very interesting talks with him. He was central to the early work at Findhorn with The Elementals and Nature Spirits. I also stayed somewhere else on route on the way to Edinburgh. In those days I used to assume like many others of my age that a person or place would materialize for the night. I remember staying somewhere in Central England in a cathedral type location and discussing Plotinus with a member of the clergy who put me up for the night... The discussion arose because in those days I used to read a lot about various mystical traditions and teachings including Plotinus.
So I spent some time at Pluscarden Priory which was considered by The Findhorn Community to be another "Powerpoint" in the sense of being a place of spiritual power. I certainly experienced it to be. The first time I visited The Priory some months previously to staying there was with a group from Findhorn during my stay in the Summer and I felt a powerful energy enter my crown chakra from behind where I was standing at the time. I looked round to see where it was coming from only to see a large statue of a saint... I was n't sure whether the energy was emanating from that point because it was a nodal point of energy or because energy was emanating from the statue or both... So I spent a couple of weeks meditating and praying with the monks... Afterwards I went to stay at Findhorn for a couple of months or so before the final show-down with Peter and my departure once again to Wales where I settled for a year or so moving from one community or group of friends to another... Rosamund's words were somewhat prophetic in that if I had left Findhorn earlier and not "stayed too long' I would have avoided the conflict with Peter. The experience somewhat marred my memories of Findhorn but I had no hard feelings towards Peter. It was clear to me that he was a man like everyone else who had his inner struggles and conflicts and had taken on a very great responsibility with regards to the community. However I felt more in tune with Eileen and the meditative encounters I had with her in the sanctuary... I did not return to Scotland again for several years as meanwhile it was my destiny to spend time in Wales, Dorset, Holland and India...
Early Line Mandala drawn early '70's
5. As mentioned earlier the '70's scene in Wales I became a part of fitted into the broad category of a loose knit "Hippie Community" though not everyone involved would have felt comfortable with such a label or fitted neatly into it. The community or group of friends concerned covered quite a broad spectrum of interests and activities ranging from the meditative and yogic variety already discussed to rock music and psychedelia, growing vegetables and keeping goats, renovating houses, traveling to India and abroad, and in a few cases starting families.... We were on the fringe of mainstream society but generally speaking functioned "within the law". However that was not entirely the case and sometimes people I knew of did get into trouble for illegal possession of psychedelics and so on. However my close friends of that time were at the yogic end of the spectrum! We were busy seeking enlightenment! Though having said that it is also true to say that at some stage most of us had explored psychedelic practices and substances which were very prevalent at that time . For instance a few years previously at university a group of us hired a van and went to Glastonbury Tor to celebrate The Summer Solstice. This would have been about 1969/70 I think. We also had with us a substantial amount of mescaline which we all took and shared a collective "trip" as the sun set and subsequently rose. It was a very memorable experience!
As also mentioned earlier somehow or other resources were available in Wales and shared in a spirit of friendship and community. We were still young or very young though at the time we might have felt quite old as age is a very relative concept! Generally speaking we were between the ages of about 18-30 with a few young children but not many. Being of that age most of us had living parents and had contact with them to a lesser or greater degree. Some of us as in my case had decided to take a break from family contacts in order to pursue a way of life which was disapproved of. Others had parents who felt more in tune with the alternative way of life we were exploring and in some cases were supportive in a variety of ways. We lived simply and from a contemporary perspective way below the poverty line verging on total poverty. However we were by and large young, happy and free. Life was an adventure full of inspiration and optimism. There was the feeling that humanity was on the verge of The New Age of Aquarius and that we were part of the vanguard movement! Complications did subsequently arise but for the time being all was well and as Eileen Caddy used to say or channel "very, very well!"
In terms of the specifics of my situation at the time, I spent some time helping renovate buildings, garden, look after animals and also a fair bit of house-sitting when friends went on journeys. I had a fair bit of time by myself which suited me fine in terms of further exploring meditation. I also read extensively. In particular I remember being inspired by and reading the book Tibet's Great Yogi Milarepa by W.Y. Evans-Wentz. I had come across Evans-Wentz's books some years before when I was about 18 and read them with great interest. However it was Milarepa's story which held my attention the most. The friend whom had the book gave it to me as he said I seemed much more attached to it than he was... This friend in question like several others was a devotee of the very young guru known as Guru Maharaji and sometimes traveled with him. On at least one occasion I accompanied a group who went to London to meet the guru. At that point in time I had very long hair, wore a blanket and walked bare foot quite a lot of time and did so in London. Our group from Wales were easily identifiable as the hippies from Wales! Interestingly and rather bizarrely several of the group dramatically changed appearances soon afterwards and started wearing suits and ties which seemed to be based on the suggestion of the guru! I was not one of them as I was not attracted to that particular guru or his teachings though I did also go to see him again in due course. It was those friends who offered me the ticket to India which I declined. Another friend was a student or disciple of the western born buddhist teacher known as Bhante or Sangharakshita who founded The Western Buddhist Order. He came to Wales and I felt more attuned to him but my mind and heart were set on Arunachala/Ramana. Both Bhante and Maharaji had certain controversies associated with them as did the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and I subsequently discovered that was and is true of many teachers though not all... It seems that the human drama does not stop just because a person is spiritually inclined! I was to find that to be true in my case also and the lives of more or less all the people I knew then and have since met... our early optimism and inspiration was to be tested in the cauldron of human experience.
Early Line Mandala drawn early '70's
6. As you can gather at the stage of life being described I was keen to explore spiritual traditions and meet teachers and as I recount this period of my life other details occur to me. So I have remembered that apart from meeting the teachers already mentioned I also met and spent time with Tibetan Buddhist, Sufi, Hindu, New Age and American Indian Teachers or teachings which I may or may not describe in detail in due course. These notes and memories that I am sharing were instigated by a discussion and meeting with a friend recently who encouraged me to share some biographical information as a matter of interest in it's own right and also to provide some background information to my work with mandalas. At the time in question I was not doing much art work, but I have always felt that these early experiences were an essential foundation for my work with mandalas which developed later. My work with mandalas grew out of the meditative explorations of my early 20's and were and are an expression of an inner understanding and perception.
Although I was not drawing and painting much if at all in my early 20's I was occasionally doing so and had also been doing so earlier in my life. The feedback I was getting was favourable and it was not unusual for someone to ask if I intended to be an artist or suggest it as a possibility. However I wasn't at that point thinking along those lines and did not really do so till a few years later when people started to express interest in buying my work or exhibiting it and/or using it in some way. The time of my life I am writing about is about 1971 when I was in Wales aged about 22. I did not start exhibiting or selling my art work till after I came back from India in about 1975 four years later...
Early Line Mandala drawn early '70's
7. The Circle dropping Into Consciousness: This is not an event which follows on from the ones recounted so far but precedes them by a few years. However since I consider it to have been a significant event in my life and directly related to my work with mandalas and explorations generally I feel it is appropriate to go into it in some detail. I have mentioned it in my book on mandalas "Sacred Circles" but not in depth. So here goes!
When I was eighteen I started a degree course in what is now Portsmouth University. The subjects were History, Economics and English I think... However my heart was not in it and it was more a question of not knowing what to do but needing to do something! Instead I was pre-occupied with some intense internal processes which were unfolding. I had read widely in previous years on the subjects of philosophy, religion, sociology, psychology, art, science and so on and for many years had been thinking and feeling that there was something going on much more profound than the prevailing Zeitgeist though I was also aware that many others were engaging in the same search so maybe it was part of the prevailing Zeitgeist afterall! Speaking generally I was engaging in a search for Truth and was acutely aware that I was experiencing something other than Truth and with that feeling arose an intense sense of dis-illusionment. What was arising was not just an intellectual enquiry into the nature of reality but something much more visceral. So for instance apart from reading books of a philosophical nature I was also reading books by R.D. Laing, exploring modern art and was fascinated with "The Theatre of The Absurd" amongst other forms of expression. I could feel that what I had grown up to view as reality was falling apart at the seams... The burning question was something along the lines of "If this is all an illusion what is real?!" This question which had been bubbling away for some years began to reach a certain intensity so that at night I would often wake up with thoughts and dreams that I would feel were important enough to make notes of for the morning. It was as though the answer was beginning to emerge from a part of my consciousness which was not my normal consciousness. Then as I remember it at a certain point consciousness "did a leap" and I experienced The One and/or The Underlying All Pervasive Unity. There were all kinds of things happening in the "outer reality" that were going on at the same time but the fundamental experience was of Oneness, Love and Peace. This experience knocked out my search for reality because I intuitively felt "This is it!". I remember waking up one morning and thinking how can the relative mind comprehend this Unity which is essentially beyond the mind. As that question arose simultaneously an empty circle appeared in consciousness and with it the message to the effect that the mind cannot understand that which is beyond it but can to a certain extent make contact with the beyond via symbols and in particular the circle. I did not question this as it seemed to carry with it a certain authority and I intuitively felt it to be true. I did not know at that point in time that I would go on to paint mandalas and that doing so would be my main creative focus in life. However I did feel the circle to be the symbol that most completely expressed what I was experiencing. Also when the circle first appeared I heard the words to the effect that the circle is the symbol of unity because it is whole complete and perfect.
Although this realization or insight or whatever you call it was essentially liberating it did throw up some problems notably to do with communicating or not communicating the experience to others and trying to work out how this effected my life in the world. In fact it knocked everything for six and took me many years to integrate into daily life. It might even be true to say that my adult life has been largely about integrating and expressing that experience of Oneness. This is what I call "The Ongoing Dance". The long and the short of it was that as a result of that experience I left that course and began to ponder further what to do. For a year or two I took a variety of temporary jobs before going to Birmingham University to study Psychology. This time I was genuinely interested in the subject. Meanwhile during the two years between the two courses I had extended my reading and studies to include meditation and visited various teachers and so on. Meditation was not entirely new to me though I had not formally practiced it. Nevertheless I had informally practiced it by being quiet and going into silence. Some time prior to the experience I have recounted above that tendency to go into silence seemed to increase. It was as though some inner force was pulling me inwards in preparation for the experience of Unity.
I could go into further details about this and may do so in due course. When recalling these experiences which happened earlier in my life I am reminded of many other incidents and experiences but my aspiration is to only include those which are relevant to my work with mandalas and explorations generally. So far I have not really mentioned personal details like my early family life and education, girlfriends and so on but may do so in due course if it seems relevant and appropriate...
Early Line Mandala drawn early '70's
8. So to pick up where I left off in terms of my early 20's, sometime about '72 I began to feel I needed to take a break from Wales and visit friends in Dorset, in particular the friend, Dave, that I had met on Iona... In those days myself and many others used to hitch-hike around and I remember being dropped by a friend at a suitable roundabout and him saying something to the effect that we would meet again soon. However as it turned out it took me a year or two to return to Wales.... Dave lived in a quiet remote village in a lovely rural setting almost next door to an elderly lady called Ella whom knew Rosamund, the medium I mentioned earlier. Ella had spent some time living on The Isle of Erraid near Iona. Occasionally she would host meditations at her house and when the energies were especially powerful she might say "Columba was here"... She had a beautiful portrait of the saint and was something of a devotee. I think it's true to say that about then I drew some of the line mandalas that feature in my book Sacred Circles in the Line Drawings section. I remember clearly the peace and sense of beauty that arose as I explored the geometry of the designs as they unfolded. Dave was a potter and artist amongst other things and destined some years later to become well known as a Celtic Artist but not for another ten years or so. He had also been to Findhorn and knew various people in Dorset who were exploring ideas to do with healing, meditation and communities. I remember we visited a Franciscan Monastery, went to hear a well know healer Bruce McManaway speak and met up with a family nearby whom had and still have an organic market garden and farm. At The Franciscan Monastery there was a shop selling various items including cards with quotes. One of the quotes was "Life is only for Love; Time is only that we may find God". I think it was attributed to St Bernard and seemed to sum up the purpose of human life quite nicely! After a while I moved to the market garden as did Dave. I think the idea was that we would help one way and another with the gardening and other activities. I personally do n't remember being of much help in the garden but I did bake a lot of bread for general consumption! I was still very keen to live a quiet life in relative seclusion and pitched my tent at the end of a field a long way from everyone else! However I did see Dave and the family who owned the farm most days and also sometimes meet other people who visited either as helpers, guests or as holiday makers who were renting one or other of their chalets. It was a very friendly place and in a very beautiful location by the sea. I am not sure but I think I must have spent most of Spring and Summer '73 there.
One of the expressions that was prevalent at the time was "Blissed Out" which referred to the state of bliss that arose during meditation. I remember on one occasion I was in the lotus posture at the end of the field and Dave came to tell me that I was invited to lunch... I was somewhat "blissed out" having been meditating for an hour or so and needed some time to get out of the lotus posture. A few years later my knees became "hyper-mobile" meaning they would slip out of joint and thereby immobilize me! Since than I have tended to go easy on the lotus posture... I continued to read the teachings of Ramana Maharishi and was seldom without a book of his on my person and I was increasingly feeling a need to travel to his ashram even though he was no longer there in person having died in 1950. I therefore wrote to my mother to ask her to send my passport and also had the necessary vaccinations and so on which I think were a legal requirement at the time. The idea of me traveling to India alarmed my parents somewhat and they came to see me to try and persuade me on a different course of action such as "being sensible and getting a job!" but to no avail. I was pretty much determined to go though no offer of another ticket was in sight. However one of the ideas I had been introduced to at Findhorn was that circumstances tend to unfold according to ones thinking processes and that the universe supports worthy projects... On that basis I assumed the necessary ticket and funds would become available in due course which indeed turned out to be the case.
Between my time there and leaving university three or so years earlier I had had very little or nothing in the way of romantic involvements but that was soon to change... Various people would visit the market garden and farm, some to stay on holiday and some to work in the fields. They would come from various parts of the country and from abroad. One such person, Nicoline, came from Holland and we became friendly. The consequences of this friendship were considerable and have consequences to this day in that we have three grandchildren... but to start off with it precipitated me leaving Dorset and beginning a long journey which would take me to Arunachala and the ashram of Ramana Maharishi...
Photographed about Summer 1973 in Dorset
9. So about October 1973 myself and Nicoline left Dorset and traveled through Somerset to Wales, back to England and across the channel to Holland via Belgium. The idea was to go to India but how to do so was not clear quite yet. However within a few months we were back in England at Heathrow Airport ready to board a plane to Bombay. Before catching the plane we stayed with one of my friends in London and amongst other adventures visited Douglas Harding in Suffolk. He was known for his work with paper bags which he used as an aid to facilitate "headlessness". I did not see him again for about thirty years when he visited Wales to give a talk and a workshop...
Arriving in Bombay was a bit of a cultural and climatic shock and took some getting used to! Having read all about yogis and so on in meditative bliss it took some adjustment to accept that they are a small minority and the rest of the population are quite if not very noisy! I subsequently met a westerner in the Himalayas who said that most visitors from the West get the biggest disillusionment of their lives when they cross the border into India. That was not my experience but I knew what he meant! I remember seeing what looked like a never ending row of beggars on both sides of the street in Bombay and wondering what could be done to help people in such a level of poverty. I never did really learn to deal with that frequently recurring feeling or thought other than learning to develop a degree of detachment which did n't feel quite right. Landing in Bombay was perhaps landing in the deep end so to speak in terms of noise and density of population and was just a place on the way to Arunachala as far as we were concerned. So the next step was to head South and we did so by taking a boat along the coast down to Goa. We stayed there for a while before traveling across country to Bangalore and onto Tiruvanamalia at the foot of Arunachala. From Tiruvanamalai it was a short journey by rickshaw to Ramanashram. My friend in London had visited the ashram a few years earlier and had encouraged me to write in advance rather than to just turn up. He had also suggested I write to Lucia Osbourne whom he had stayed with and helped edit the ashram magazine The Mountain Path.
Arriving at the Ashram expectations were high but on the other hand I had felt for some years an inner connection with the energy I called and still call Ramana Arunachala. I was and am aware that although in some sense of the word that energy is located in a specific time and space it is also not! So there was the experience of arriving but at the same time the awareness of being already there. In the physical world the actual details were somewhat confusing. Firstly the person selling books in the hall decided to start preaching to us about the teachings in the ashram and secondly the person who showed us our accommodation started lecturing us about how the ashram did not approve of unmarried couples and that therefore we would have to sleep in separate rooms. So I went to the room offered me feeling a bit disoriented by our reception. However on sitting down I immediately went into a deep meditation and felt a wonderful sense of inner peace...
In those days there were not that many westerners visiting the town or Ashram. That was to change twenty years later when Papaji, a direct disciple of Ramana Maharishi became famous in the West and recommended his devotees to visit Arunachala. So here we were in South India about February 1974. It did feel like a great adventure and also a great blessing to be in India at the ashram though as I have mentioned it was not all "flow and bliss". I think the arrangement at the ashram was something like visitors were welcome to stay for three days and after that were expected to make their own arrangements. Having written to Mrs Osbourne (Lucia) we went to see her and she kindly offered to help us. Her initial offer was a place down the road in a small hut where we stayed for a few days. However from our perspective Southern India even in February was uncomfortably hot and a small hut offered no protection from the heat so we did n't last there long! Next stop was a room in some kind of accommodation block. After a night there we encountered Lucia at the ashram and she could see that I was also finding that a bit stressful, this time because of the noise. She kindly offered us the upstairs of her house which she kept for visitors so finally we had a comfortable and peaceful place to stay. Apparently the last person to stay there was Bubba Free John and a disciple of his. Her comment was something along the lines that they were very quiet and she hardly knew they were there. Having settled into our new accommodation we were in a good position to visit the ashram which was only a few minutes walk away, explore the area, meditate and study the various ashram publications. One of the activities highly recommended was to walk around the mountain of Arunachala. This is termed pradakshina. I remember we set off one day but the heat got the better of us and we retreated to a nearby temple. However we did explore the mountain and visit places where Ramana Maharishi had stayed earlier in his life notably Skandashram and Virupaska Cave. We also met several direct disciples of Ramana Maharishi and there was at least one other guru in town whom westerners were visiting called Yogi Ramsuratkumar but I was pretty much focusing on the teachings and vibrational presence of Ramana. I did meet several old and not so old Ramana devotees and enjoyed hearing about their stories and experiences. On one occasion I went exploring and entered an ashram right next door to Ramanashram and came across a very friendly sadhu who appeared to live there by himself. For a few minutes I imagined I was a single man and asked if I could stay there to which he replied in the affirmative. I asked this partly because I was struck by his "good vibrations". However when I mentioned this encounter to Nicoline she said something along the lines that I keep wandering off and meeting interesting people and she would like to meet him too! I knew that what was possible as a single man was not appropriate in the context of a couple but we went to see him. I do not remember much communication happening other than him immediately understanding the situation and the complete absence of any judgement or mental movement! I subsequently learnt that he had been one of the personal attendants of Ramana, had been the engineer who had overseen the building of many of the ashram buildings and was enlightened! I was not surprised to learn all this many years later as he had a certain lightness and luminosity about him. He was Annamalai Swami and I bought two of his books about thirty years later. I also met Saddhu Om whom is well known to the Ramana community through his writings and teachings. Both of these devotees like all the devotees I met were very humble and ascribed any wisdom they has acquired to the grace of Ramana.
Although I do not remember working on any mandalas during my stay near the ashram I was aware they were very prevalent in the temple architecture and local culture. On first entering the ashram temple dedicated to The Mother I noticed that there is a six pointed star carved into one of the walls near the inner sanctum. I had previously not been aware that the symbol was part of Indian culture. Also as I remember it in the very centre of the temple there is a Sri Yantra, a symbol I spent several years working with about twenty or so years later. Another example of a mandala that was everywhere to be seen is the ashram symbol which is an OM sign radiating light and every day mandalas were drawn on the temple floor in chalk. These chalk drawings were also drawn by the local people in front of their houses.
Several weeks passed by with a variety of inner and outer experiences and I was quite keen to stay indefinitely. However where we were staying, upstairs at Lucia's house, was lined up for some other visitors so we had to move. I do not remember how the decision was made but we decided to do some traveling around India and considered various options. Another ashram that westerners were visiting was Sai Baba's near Bangalore, but Lucia strongly advised us against that, for reasons that have since become well publicized. Instead we decided to go to Pondicherry and the ashram of Aurobindo... I do n't think she was that keen on that idea either but the prospect of being by the sea and experiencing a cool sea breeze was highly attractive! One thing was certain I was not going to fly back to England anytime soon...
Early Line Mandala drawn early '70's
10. For me the main reason and focus of traveling to India was to visit Ramanashram and Arunachala but I was also interested in exploring India. Nicoline who had only just left university was relatively new to the whole world of meditation and was interested in exploring India in general and was not as focused as me on the teachings of Ramana Maharishi. In fact a few years later after our paths had diverged she took sannyas with Bhagavan Rajneesh and was given the name Mira. She spent many years in Rajneesh communities including Poona. So from Tiruvanamalia I think we went to Pondicherry via Chennai or Madras as it was then called. Amongst other places we visited the Theosophical Headquarters near Chennai as I had had some contact with the organization some years previously. In the hotel in Chennai where we stayed we were prevailed upon to buy ganga or hash from a very insistent seller. The way I eventually got rid of him was to produce a picture of Ramana upon which he did pranams and departed! Many westerners were in India partly because of the wide availability of ganga but myself and Nicoline were giving it a miss. In The Himalayas where it grows wild it was especially available and I remember on one occasion entering a temple and being offered many different varieties which I declined which may not have been either polite or diplomatic but was my stance at the time!
So we proceeded from Chennai to Pondicherry which was not far away. By then we must have been in India almost two months and were getting acclimatized but on the other hand it was getting hotter! I think it is true to say that both Goa where we had visited earlier and Pondicherry are vestiges of Portuguese influence and are both by the sea. Both places offered a rest from the more intense and hot inland locations. They were also from my standpoint not so spiritually powerful as Arunacahala and The Himalayas where we traveled to later and that also allowed a certain relaxation. Somewhere along the line I had come to the conclusion that high energy centres, locations and teachers are a great aid to awakening but also demand and require considerable focus and dedication and facilitate or precipitate transformation and purification. They are not places to go for a holiday as far as I'm concerned!
So Pondicherry and Aurobindo Ashram offered a gentle pause and place of rest. I do not remember swimming in the sea there but we did walk by the beach. In Goa we had gone swimming. We stayed in accommodation that was part of Aurobindo Ashram which was comfortable and peaceful and I remember getting out paper and compass and working on a mandala. On one occasion I made the pronouncement to Nicoline that I thought I had drawn as many mandalas as I needed to for this lifetime but she disagreed! She was correct as I have spent most of my adult life drawing and painting mandalas. I also started work on some notes and poems which featured in my first book which was never published called "Ramana Samadhi". However extracts from it have appeared in my book "Sacred Circles". We visited the tomb or samadhi of Aurobindo and maybe The Mother though she had died late 1973 so there may not have been a shrine for her yet. We were there 1974. I remember Lucia not being that impressed by the circumstances of The Mother's death but it does seem that often these prominent spiritual teachers suffer what appear to be excruciating deaths most notably of course Jesus, assuming he died on the cross that is! On the other hand some such teachers have what appear to be very blissful departures... I'm not sure why but we did n't visit Auroville but were aware of it's presence. Maybe we were a bit exhausted from all the traveling. Twenty or so years later I was to visit Mother Meera in Germany whom had previously lived in Pondicherry...
On one occasion Nicoline came back from a walk and said she had met some Tibetans and liked their vibes or words to that effect. She thought it would be good to travel to Dharmasala in The Himalayas where The Dalai Lama was based in North India. We were in South India so it would be a long journey if we decided to do so. I had previously been very inspired by Tibetan Buddhism so was open to the suggestion. I am not sure about the timing but I think we may have stayed in Pondicherry about a week before proceeding North. In those days someone like myself with a British passport did n't need a visa and could stay in India for anything up to ten years I think. However Nicoline with a Dutch passport needed a visa and had one for three months so time was limited.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step and so we set off. As anyone who has had the experience knows, traveling by train in India is not for the faint hearted and from Pondicherry via Chennai to Delhi which was on the way to The Himalayas took at least a whole day and night. At one point during the journey there was the sudden boarding or appearance of young and very noisy men into the carriage. They eventually got off the train and meanwhile I kept a low profile and went within. One of our fellow passengers seemed favourably impressed by my reaction and befriended us. He invited us to stay with him and his family in Delhi. His home was in The Gandhi Centre and provided us with a place of rest between arriving in Delhi and departing further north for The Himalayas. This visit gave me my one and only experience of staying with an Indian family and it took me a while to get used to the way women fitted into their scheme of things. For instance his wife did not eat with us but rather served us at the table. Also when Nicoline asked for some detergent to wash clothes she received a completely different response to me. In her case the request was considered quite normal but in my case it was made clear that someone else should do such tasks. By then the temperature was seriously hot and we slept at least one night outside under mosquito nets. A few days later we set off north first traveling by train and then coach deep into the mountains...
Devi, first coloured mandala 1976
11. There is only One Infinite Consciousness, and I am that, you are that, everyone and everything is that! The Himalayas are like a stairway to heaven. You ascend a thousand meters and another thousand appear. You ascend a further thousand and yet more mountain peaks appear ad infinitum. I have never reached the top of the Himalayas or any of the highest mountains in the world but I can understand what motivates and compels people to do so. I have reached the top of smaller mountains in the UK and Europe and feel that the process is one of the many ways that humans reach out for and experience the infinite. On the top of a mountain there is a strong sense of the power of the earth and also a strong sense of the infinite expanse of the sky. It activates the vertical axis in the human body and energizes the chakras. In some cases mountains are near the sea as is the case where I live in Wales which further emphasizes a sense of expansiveness.
So after a long journey by train and coach we arrived at Mcleod Ganj The Tibetan village near Dharmasala. The higher altitude brought with it amongst other things a welcome lowering of the temperature. One of the things that many if not all visitors to India experience is various health problems. In my case both when I arrived at Arunachala and Mcleod Ganj I developed a strong fever. At Arunachala when in the fever I also experienced a certain amount of hallucinatory or visionary experiences... However in both cases after a few days my temperature returned to normal and I felt fine. As far as I can remember Nicoline did n't get ill but she did get bitten by various small creatures! She sought the help of the Tibetan Doctor who prescribed gold tablets in homeopathic form! I do not remember if it helped or not.
I think we must have arrived in Mcleod Ganj late April as I had my twenty fifth birthday there early May. Birthday treats included locally grown Hunza Apricots which were abundant and delicious! Nicoline stayed a couple of weeks or so in the hut in the forest which we were renting but then because of visa issues and one thing and another had to return to Europe. I stayed on for longer. It was a fairly exotic and colourful kind of place in that there were lots of lamas, temples, the Tibetan Government in exile and library and incredibly beautiful scenery plus visitors from every corner of the world. However there was also a certain tragic element as refugees would come over the mountains from Tibet half starving and desperately in need of help. The juxtaposition of great beauty and great tragedy seems to be part of my impression and memory of all things Tibetan. I have almost certainly had past lives in Tibet and have known both tears of bliss and tears of anguish when tuning into all of that. One week I went for a retreat in a local monastery which involved staying in one's room all day and having food put through a small hole in the door. Weather could be quite dramatic in that location and the rainy season or monsoon was beginning to gather momentum. One day there was hail the size of golf balls and I had my stainless steel compass in my hand. Something caused me to put it down and immediately there was a flash of light and it was struck by lightening. I am not sure what would have happened if I had still been holding it! It was a good place to meditate but in my case meditation can sometimes lead to excessive sensitivity to vibrations in general and sound in particular. Lamas are no different to any other people in the sense that they like to chat! One day I found the noise totally unbearable and it was a case of leave the hut or ask them to chat somewhere else or more quietly. I chose the second option and they were understanding and quietened down. I was n't sure about the food and being vegetarian was concerned that it might have meat in it. The lama serving the food or putting it through the hole in the door was most upset when I asked him about it. He rushed off and came back with a package of textured vegetarian protein to prove to me it was meat free!
After the meditation retreat I rented a small hut not far away, continued to explore the area and to visit local lamas and Rimpoches. Although I felt pretty much in tune with the Tibetan and Buddhist scene generally I was also somewhat ambivalent as my heart was still at Arunachala... One day I was walking along a mountain path and thinking about Arunachala a thousand or so miles South and Nicoline ten thousand or so miles North West and I experienced the strong sensation or awareness that "consciousness which I am is omnipresent". Words can never quite express these experiences but it has been an abiding memory which in some sense of the word is also current and has always been... The backdrop to phenomena which arise in time and space is the timeless and spaceless Eternal Now which is also the Omnipresent Here... Of course The Himalayas are famous for this effect on people!
At some point I moved from one hut to another one. A lama had been sleeping there the night before I moved in. When I awoke I had the strong sensation that my body was in reverse in the sense that my head was where my feet were! I figured I must have been sleeping in a different direction to the lama and that his powerful vibrations had caused my astral body to switch directions. This has also occurred when I have slept on ley lines. Yoga systems place emphasis on sleeping in the right direction in relation to magnetic north so that our electromagnet or etheric bodies are in correct alignment with the earths electromagnetic field.
Occasionally I visited the Tibetan Library. There was a small book by the American born now deceased Guru Subramanium. As a young man he had "awoken" in Sri Lanka. He described the experience as seeing that there is nothing above or below, behind or in front or left or right... A few years later I had some correspondence with him. In his teachings he wrote something like that when we invite happiness into our lives in the phenomenal sense of the word there is always and uninvited and unwelcome guest called unhappiness! This could be seen as a somewhat depressing statement if it was not for the emphasis he also placed on the fundamental underlying peace and happiness which is our true nature!
After a while I was beginning to think I needed to return to a more Hindu environment and considered various options... The River Ganges was calling me...
Early coloured mandala 1976, inspired by rose window in Basilica of St Francis
12. I think I must have made the journey from McLeod Ganj to Rishikesh about August '74. I am not sure but I may have written in advance to Niketan Ashram to arrange a visit. I certainly stayed there to start with. It is positioned in Rishikesh more or less on the bank of the Ganges, though as I remember it there was a slope down to a road and then another space and then the river. Initially it took a while to get used to the roar of the water because by then the river was very full due to the monsoon which I think was still happening. I was told to consider the sound from the river to be a form of "OM" and to tune into it which I think helped me adapt to it! They had a big meditation hall where we all meditated together and it was generally speaking a nice peaceful location to stay. It was close to other ashrams including the well known Sivananda Ashram. Some years previously I had read about Ananda Mayee Ma in "Autobiography of a Yogi" by Yogananda and news reached us that she was in Hardwar not far away. I decided to make a short visit to see Her along with a few others who were interested in doing so and then return to Niketan afterwards. I think it took an hour or so to get to Hardwar and then a bit more to find The Ananda Mayee Ma Ashram where we waited for darshan. There were some of her female disciples dressed in white harmoniously chanting mantras and devotional songs. After a while we were invited to go and see her and I was one of the first to enter her room. Initially she was seated on a bed and then later a chair. My first impression was that she was floating above the bed which I think was a subjective interpretation of a certain levity and weightlessness that seemed to be emanating from her. She seemed both very close and very distant at the same time. After a while the room filled up and she moved to a chair. By then she had come out of what appeared to be a meditative state and was more lively and engaged in conversation with those sitting near her. I did not understand the language so probably they were talking in Hindi. However the mood of the discussion was obvious. There was much mirth and laughter and she seemed to be almost falling off her chair with amusement. There was a very joyful atmosphere. There was a crowd at the door all trying to get in which required someone to leave. After some time I figured that since I had been one of the first to arrive I should volunteer to leave. When I got up she looked at me with great love and compassion and her eyes were very luminous, soft and bright. Strangely when I left and went downstairs the doorman decided to talk to me. That was not so strange but what he said was! He said something along the lines that as a westerner I should be wearing a suit and tie! I think he and many others were having a hard time adapting to the exit of their British rulers twenty or so years previously being replaced by a bunch of guru visiting hippies! When I left I must have explored the town a bit as I ended up staying the night in one of the ashrams there and the next day returned to Rishikesh.
I had heard about Rishikesh many years before because it received a lot of publicity in the context of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who had a large ashram there the other side of the river, though by the time I got there it was more or less deserted. Rishikesh is one of the major pilgrimage centres in India and has many ashrams on both sides of the river which I decided to explore. I also moved at some point to another place to stay down the road where there were several others from the West and met some new friends. On one occasion I was sharing devotional poems and mantras with a friend and was chanting one of The Five Hymns to Arunachala. When I got to the words "I have always been at your feet like a frog which clings to the stem of a lotus; make me instead a honey bee which from the blossom of the heart sucks the sweet nectar of Pure Consciousness" my friend completely collapsed in a fit of the giggles... I am still in touch with that friend and we spent some time together throughout the '70's. He and a few others had been disciples of a guru whom had recently attained Mahasamadhi which is another way of saying "left the body" which is another way of saying died! I think my friend actually used the expression "kicked the bucket"... His body like many others had been thrown into the river after an appropriate ceremony. It was not unusual to see a corpse which had been thrown in upstream being carried along by the strong currents.
The temperature was still hot by British standards but I think the heat of Summer was over, and Rishikesh is in the foothills of The Himalayas. Also by then my body may have acclimatized. Anyway I do not remember having any problems with the climate and enjoyed walking around visiting various ashrams and gurus. On one occasion I went with a group into the forest and up the hills to visit a Western woman whom had moved into a cave and been there for some years... I met some sadhus including one Westerner whom had embraced that way of life... As far as I can remember Rishikesh was a very interesting and enjoyable place to stay but my funds were beginning to run out and the return flight to the UK seemed to be beckoning which would involve first traveling to Delhi.
It was a bit of a cultural shock to travel from Rishikesh to Delhi and culminated with an episode with a rickshaw driver. He was meant to take me from the station to the travel agency where my ticket was due to be collected. However he took me on a very roundabout route and then wanted a much inflated fee. Since I was seriously short of money by then I contested his charge. The next thing I knew was a group of young Indians had surrounded us and were chanting Hare Krishna which I think was the name of a film which featured westerners with long hair! It was quite good natured if a bit bizarre. Then as all this was going on a policeman turned up to settle the dispute! I think the outcome was favourable to me! However the visit to the travel agent was not a success. Somehow the ticket had gone missing and was not there for me to collect. Strangely both when I traveled from London to Bombay and Delhi to London the tickets temporarily disappeared which led to something of a drama on both occasions. Meanwhile I had a place to stay at the Gandhi Centre where I had stayed before. In both cases the tickets did eventually turn up but in the Delhi case it was largely due to an Indian doctor befriending me and coming to the travel agency with me. He said a few words and mysteriously the ticket was available soon afterwards... He came to see me off at the airport and I was grateful for his help. So there I was after about seven months in India about to return West. I had already informed Nicoline who was in Holland of my flight details...
Early coloured mandala 1976/7
13. The flight from Delhi to London was fairly uneventful accept for a prolonged search by customs at the airport. At that stage in my life my appearance and lifestyle did attract a certain amount of unwanted attention! Somehow the telegram I had sent to Nicoline reached her in time for her to travel from Holland to meet me. I do not remember the details of our re-union at the airport but I think we can assume it was a happy occasion after three months apart. Also unbeknown to me an unusual coincidence, case of synchronicity or an "assist" from higher planes had meanwhile occurred! Nicoline had only a day or two's notice of my flight and had told no-one in England. I also had told no-one apart from Nicoline. As described earlier we had met at a farm in Dorset which we had left almost a year previously which was the home of Arthur and Josephine. Since Nicoline arrived in London some time before my plane arrived she decided to go to The Theosophical Bookshop to buy "The Collected Works of Ramana Maharishi" to give me. At the shop she "bumped into" Josephine who was visiting London for the day! They were extremely surprised to see each other and when Josephine learnt that we did not know what we were going to do or where we were going to stay she invited us to visit! As you will have gathered I was living pretty much day to day at that stage in my life with relatively little or no thought for the morrow. Sometimes this seemed to flow pretty well and at other times not! This was a case of it flowing in an extraordinary fashion. So once we had left the airport we set off by road to Dorset. Our method of transport was hitchhiking and late at night or possibly early morning we arrived at the farm.
So here I was/we were back where we had started geographically speaking and considering our various options. The intention was for me and Nicoline to continue being together but I am not sure if we knew exactly where though I think by then Nicoline may have arranged something for a month or so later near Maastricht. That is certainly where we spent the winter of 1974/5 but meanwhile we spent some time in Dorset and then later Wales. I was dealing with a mild climatic shock in reverse. I remember one friend saying that I was the only person she had seen wearing a scarf in September! Life back in the West was not particularly easy but I had begun to feels certain stresses in India take their toll and the relative "normality" of a familiar and temperate climate was welcome. It was also good to see old friends and share experiences. So one way or another we wound up on the Dutch/Belgium/German border. It was a beautiful house in a beautiful part of the countryside. We had no running water but drew water from a well at the front of the house. It was one of several in a row and there were friendly people on either side. In those days there were restrictions of movement from one country to another in what is now the EU which did cause one or two practical problems. We led a simple life and I continued to work with mandalas and took part in a group mandala exhibition at Maastricht. One strange thing I do remember is that I used to have somewhat disturbing dreams there to do with the First and Second World Wars. I think it must have been a hot spot in that respect or not far from one! I have just googled it and learnt that it was indeed very close to military activity in both wars. I certainly could n't have stayed there long and in fact have always felt "safer" on the English side of The English Channel! Nicoline and I were gradually becoming aware of our different aspirations in life and a parting of the ways began to seem fairly likely. We also had serious financial problems. Sooner or later it seemed inevitable that I would return to England by myself. We had been visited by the friend I had met in Rishikesh on his way by land back to England from India and he had invited me to visit him in Wales where he was currently based. I also had an invitation to visit the friend I had met on Iona who lived in Dorset. A further issue between me and Nicoline was she was getting very "broody" and I felt I had not the will nor resources to accompany her along such a path. So eventually Spring 1975 myself Nicoline and her dog hitchiked across Belgium to a port where I caught a boat to England. It was a sad occasion.
14. When writing about the past it is easier to write about the highs than the lows partly because to a certain extent one relives the experiences involved. However any narrative which focussed just on the highs with no mention of the lows would be somewhat unbalanced! So far the sequence of events I have covered have unfolded fairly harmoniously with no real dramas. There were some ups and downs and some challenges but nothing earth shattering and there were many uplifting and enjoyable experiences. However I was about to be initiated into the world of relationship breakdown, conception of a child, subsequent birth of child, further much more dramatic breakdown of a relationship and a year or so later an emergency operation which involved me being air lifted by helicopter from a remote part of Scotland to Glasgow Hospital. This all took a while to unfold and there was a certain amount of peace and harmony in between these dramatic episodes but I mention them now to place things in some kind of perspective. Prior to these events I was still young and though estranged from my parents and having decided some time previously that the "worldly life" was not very appealing I had yet to really experience heartache, poverty, health issues or any of the other things that can facilitate and precipitate suffering. I was destined to experience all these things first hand and also vicariously in the lives of my friends. In other words I was about to experience first hand that life can be hard which was not entirely without it's benefits! I think probably as long as these experiences do n't break us which they sometimes do they make us more compassionate and understanding of others whom almost inevitably sooner or later have similar experiences. It seems it is all part of taking a human incarnation. Ten years or so later when living near Glastonbury I undertook a serious study of astrology in an attempt to understand how and why life circumstances unfold the way they do. To a certain extent astrology threw some light on this in terms of transits and progressions but more of that later.
So to get back to specifics I was back in England by myself in transit to Dorset via Brighton where I stayed with a friend. There was some sadness but it soon passed and I felt good. I was looking forward to seeing my friends in Dorset and Wales again. Myself and Nicoline corresponded on a daily basis but in those days that meant by post and a letter took a few days to travel from England to Holland. A decision had in some sense of the word been made and we had split up. I was clearly not cut out to be a father as apart from anything else I had no money or means of livelihood. I also still felt young at twenty five and was not ready to take on such a responsibility! As far as I remember my stay in Dorset went well and then I was given a lift to Wales to where my friend Rob was staying at St Ann's on the extreme West Coast of Wales in Pembrokeshire. He had use of a lovely cottage near the sea and that stay also flowed well except that we were on the edge of not being able to afford food to eat but somehow managed. I remember on one occasion a large bag of root vegetables came our way and also a visit from his parents who were probably helpful in that respect. When they were staying we visited St Davids Cathedral and some other beautiful places that I was to get to know better later in life. I had met Rob in Rishikesh and he had given up a well paid job as an accountant to travel across land to India. He had visited me and Nicoline in Belgium on his way back. Like me he was discovering that life without any means of income had it's downside. Some days he worked on a local farm but I think we agreed that sooner or later we should travel back to Dorset via some friends of his who lived near Bath. One memorable incident was that when near Bath we went to see a portrait of Ramana Maharishi that I had heard of. The owners of the painting were very friendly and kind and insisted on giving us some money. I think they saw us as western sadhus or mendicants whom had renounced in order to pursue our spiritual aspirations.
After that we went to the farm I mentioned previously where Arthur and Josephine lived. As also mentioned people stayed there in various contexts. I do not remember the details but I think Rob may have helped a bit on the land and I may have done some baking. It was not a sustainable arrangement but both Rob and I were finding our feet after a longish time out of the UK and friends were understanding and supportive. Meanwhile Nicoline and I had been experiencing some mutual heartache but it was manageable as far as I was concerned and I was not proposing to do anything about it! However things took a sudden unexpected turn. One day I was approaching the post box to post a letter to her and looked up the road and saw a familiar figure about half a mile away. She had decided to be spontaneous and make a surprise visit. This turned out to be a life changing event with consequences to this day.
Early coloured mandala 1976
15. The concepts of destiny and freewill are prevalent or given serious consideration in many if not all types of philosophical enquiry of whatever persuasion. It does often seem that actions not only have consequences but also have unintended ones which themselves continue the process. As is well known, in Eastern Philosophy this is covered to a certain extent by the term "karma". It also sometimes seems that events occur which are not of one's making but in some sense of the word "destined". All the indications are that if we have any control of our destiny and life generally it is partial and determined by the opportunities and choices we are presented with. What we do with those choices could be considered to be the domain of freewill but even those choices are determined to a considerable extent by a combination of nature and nurture which we may or may not have any control of. Once Ramana Maharishi was asked if only the important things in life were destined or everything and he replied everything. Another teacher said something along the lines that the concept of freewill pertains by definition to an individual but who or what is that individual. The implication was that if investigated it would be revealed that the individual as such does not exist and therefore nor does freewill. If there is not freewill then the question might arise what determines how and when events unfold or for that matter causes anything and everything to happen. In mystical circles the answer tends to be Divine Will. These ideas are not particularly in alignment with much contemporary New Age Philosophy which places emphasis on "taking responsibility" and "taking control of or creating your destiny..."
I do n't think any of these thoughts were going through my mind as Nicoline walked towards me. I think I was surprised and somewhat confused but also pleased to see her as there was still attachment between us. However Hari Dass had written on his chalk board to Baba Ram Dass "Attachment is pain" and I was beginning to understand the truth of his words. The relationship had already become somewhat fraught. However I had already come to the conclusion that the only way to successfully navigate human incarnation was to go with the flow but that sometimes brings up the question "Which Flow"?! This was not clear as we walked towards the farm to see Josephine who welcomed Nicoline and we stayed and slept together in a chalet overlooking the sea. As I previously mentioned Nicoline had expressed interest in starting a family but I was not keen on the idea. I do n't think she consciously came to see me in order to facilitate conception but I decided to "surrender and go with the flow". It seemed to me that it was either that or call the whole thing off and I did not have the will or the heart to do so. As soon as conception occurred she seemed to know that it had happened and I felt and looked very worried by this development. Seeing this she said to me something along the lines that she would not expect anything of me. However life is not that simple and so this visit which only lasted a few days set in motion a trail of consequential events which are ongoing thirty eight years later though during that time I have only spent a few days most years with Nicoline and/or our daughter Devi. In the early days or years meetings were somewhat stressful but as the years unfolded there were some nice meetings and shared adventures. However we lived separate lives and had relationships with other partners. I felt at the time that the soul of our daughter saw an opportunity to incarnate and took the plunge just as we did and that in some sense it was meant to be. Some days later Nicoline left and returned to Holland and discovered that she was pregnant which brought up considerable confusion for one and all. Meanwhile my journey continued from Dorset to Wales, onto Samye Ling in Scotland and then further north to near Oban and Iona. Nicoline visited me and spent some time with me in my tent at Samye Ling and also near Oban. However my lifestyle was not a great help to her in her expanding state and she returned to Holland to look for somewhere to live on the understanding that I would follow as and when she found somewhere. I remember she wrote on one occasion "I would take anything (meaning a house) but there is nothing to take!" However she did find something and I went over there a month or two before she gave birth.
As well as that happening as I mentioned I had travelled through Wales where I stayed with the friend we had stayed with before we went to India as well as other friends in Wales. I am not sure but I might have been looking for a community or place where I could live and pursue my interests as that was an ongoing theme at that stage in my life. Having been favourably impressed by the Tibetans in the Himalayas and having visited Samye Ling some years previously when I was at university that seemed an option to explore. When I got there I met a friend who invited me to stay with him near Oban which is how I ended up there. He lived in a caravan and I lived in a wood in a tent in a nearby forest. It was an incredibly beautiful location with mountains and sea far away from any town or village. As I remember it all of that flowed fairly well and particularly at Samye Ling I had some deep meditations. While staying near Oban I think myself and my friend went to Iona which is a place I have always considered to be truly inspirational. A few years later in about 1977/8 I lived on Iona and painted mandalas and one in particular called "Pure Light" circulated widely when I printed it in the '80's as a card and print. However most of that was to develop later.
So about December 1975 I travelled to the house which Nicoline had found. Just getting into the country was quite an ordeal as in those days there were much stricter border controls than there are between what are now EU countries. Having very long hair and looking somewhat suspect my bag was searched in great detail and a phone call to Nicoline's parents had to be made to vouch for me and one thing and another. Once I arrived at Nicoline's house tired and exhausted by the journey I had to adjust to the new environment which was a far cry from The Scottish Highlands being in a city and rather noisy. I was also due to become a father in the near future. One way and another it was all too much for both me and Nicoline and within a week it was agreed that I should leave and I was back on the train heading for England and the farm in Dorset. This was right up there in the list of the most disturbing experiences in my life! It was similarly pretty ghastly for Nicoline as well. We both took a long time to get over it though she did travel to Dorset a few months after our daughter was born to introduce us to each other but the damage had been done and we were never together again romantically speaking.
We both subsequently had other relationships some of which turned out better than others and we both sought out ways and means of healing our respective wounds. A few years later Nicoline became a sannyasin and spent some years with Osho and in sannyasin communities and later married. I continued on my path as will be described later in this narrative. The interpersonal events I have described here were a bit grim, however it should be mentioned that the outcome was or is a beautiful daughter and three beautiful grandchildren... Also although both Nicoline and I were down we were not out! We both had good supportive networks in our respective countries and went on to find happiness and fulfillment in our respective lives independent of each other. We learnt to a lesser or greater degree over time the lessons of acceptance, forgiveness, letting go and moving on. In terms of relationships I have subsequently lived a single life though I have had many girlfriends and relationships. I decided not to father any more children unless I was in a long term stable relationship which has never been the case except perhaps in one instance but by then I was much older. The single life has had many advantages including space, independence and silence. However I have also enjoyed friendship, intimacy and sharing. One of my ex girlfriends summarized my situation by saying I was or am a bachelor. I asked her if this was a criticism. She said no and listed a series of positives...
As I said at the beginning of this section it is not easy to write about the more painful episodes in one's life as to a certain extent in doing so one relives the experience. I have only done so because these events were life changing, highlighted the issues of freewill and destiny and introduced me to the full spectrum of human emotions. Also they represented a low point which followed on after a high point. I have subsequently come to the conclusion that in this world of duality that is by and large how it works and if the pendulum swings one way it swings the other. So my interest in seeking and finding highs of whatever nature diminished after that experience. It does not mean I did not continue to meditate but rather the emphasis changed towards establishing some degree of stability. In my book Sacred Circles I describe that process as the downward pointing triangle which balances the upward pointing one to form the six pointed star. In other words to be able to sustain awakened states of consciousness it is necessary to have a degree of balance, harmony and stability in all the chakras or energy centres.
Early coloured mandala about 1978
16. So once again I was back on the farm in Dorset. I was initially staying in a caravan in some trees and after all the recent turmoil it provided me with the peace and quiet I needed to recuperate. My friend Dave who lived nearby kindly donated some food and also there was probably still some growing in the fields, so I had all the basic requirements of life. However by any normal standards this was not a comfortable existence as being Winter it was damp and cold. I did not mind the cold at that stage in my life but my long periods of living on the edge of survival may have been beginning to take their toll on my health which manifested somewhat dramatically as described in the next section. As Spring approached the weather began to warm up and I moved into the barn adjacent to the caravan and slept on straw bales. It was the Summer of 1976 and by June I think the problem was not cold and damp which the caravan did n't help much with but heat which the barn did n't help much with! However I was very grateful for the time, space and peace to recover my equanimity. I was also able to continue my life of meditation and artwork. At that time I was still working primarily with geometry and pattern as distinct from colour. As I mentioned in the last section Nicoline with our baby daughter Anna Devi visited for a few days and when they were doing so we dropped into a local gallery and I showed the owner my work. He liked it and invited me to exhibit which was encouraging. I even sold some of my work at the exhibition and also some cards and began to think I could find my way in the world as an artist. I called the exhibition "Circle Designs - Cathedral Art - The Mandala". I wanted the title to draw attention to the connection between Sacred Art of the East and West. Also about the time I first met my daughter I started to work with colour so my first painted mandala was named after her. I was very much on the breadline and sometimes this caused friends in my immediate vicinity some concern. Josephine on one occasion asked if I would be prepared to do work on the farm as well as baking the bread which I think I was already doing. I said I would if someone else would take on the responsibility of the mandalas! I felt strongly that the mandalas needed to "come through". I also felt that it was in some sense of the word my destiny to facilitate that. Josephine never mentioned the subject again. Maybe I should say that Josephine and Arthur were by and large very "sympatico". Their farm was run on an organic basis which was quite unusual at that time and Josephine, myself and Dave attended meditation gatherings, visited healers and psychics and so on. They had a large family with six children. As described earlier the farm was located on the coast in a very lovely part of the world. Another person I became friendly with was a social worker and he said that I should not have to as he saw it endure such hardships. He urged me to let him sort the situation out and wanted me to sign on and receive benefits. I was n't keen on the idea as I said to him if I did so I would be expected to take on work of a sort I did n't want to do. However he prevailed and the situation unfolded accordingly. I do n't think the arrangement lasted long on that occasion or if it came together atall but in later years I did learn to work more within the system and get some help. That help ultimately enabled me to become self employed as an artist but it took some years to materialize. I have since learnt that a lot of artists and musicians have gone through such a period of material difficulties and received help in various ways including state benefits before achieving some success. Certainly it is not unusual for people who choose to explore uncharted territory of whatever kind to go through some challenges on the way and they have to be highly motivated and believe in what they are doing to see it through. To place in context this period of my life in which I lived on the edge of society in relative material poverty perhaps I should say it was preceded and succeeded by periods in which my life was more comfortable in material terms. As I saw it at the time I was materially poor by choice in order to free up time and energy for me to explore meditation and creativity. By and large I did not in any way feel deprived as a result of my lifestyle in my 20's. In fact I felt privileged and grateful to have so much freedom and to explore the world and meet interesting people on a similar path.
My friend Dave whom I had previously stayed with near to the farm was still very much in the frame as he also stayed at the farm now and then and had met and become involved with a Belgium woman called Devi. They later had three children together. I think Devi was a disciple of Swami Satchitananda who was well known in the West at the time. He had been a disciple of Sivananda whose ashram I had visited in Rishikesh. Dave and Devi had some financial resources and the idea developed that they would buy somewhere and we would all live there and create an art and craft centre or community and business of some sort. I think this must have been on the cards for some time and had involved discussions and explorations with Nicoline the previous year. Initially possibilities in Dorset were explored but that did not come together, so Dave whom I had met on Iona and whom was tuned into all things Celtic suggested Scotland as a possibility. In particular a farmhouse on The Mull of Kyntyre that had come on the market was considered as a possibility. That may not be the exact way the events unfolded as I'm not sure of the details but that was the gist of it. Dave was not a keen traveller so myself and Devi drove to Scotland to look at the house. Once in Scotland we picked up my friend Tim who was also interested. I think we looked at several places and travelled quite widely in Scotland which makes me wonder if we initially knew about the farmhouse on The Mull of Kyntyre called Breakachy Farmhouse. However it happened Dave ended up making an offer on it and buying it after Devi and I had returned to Dorset. The paperwork, financial transactions and so on took a while so there was probably a further month or two in Dorset. Then probably about October I set off to Breakachy and Dave and Devi followed later as did Tim. On the way to Scotland in a car that Dave had loaned to me I called in to see a friend called Lynne in Birmingham. We had been friends at University and had kept in touch. Some years later she was to play a major part in my life and be part of my further initiation into the feminine dimension and the domain of relationships. She liked my art work and in particular the one I had named after my daughter and her mother secretly bought it for her to give to her as a Christmas present. We kept in touch and she also drew up my astrological chart having made a study of the subject. Lynne was a yoga teacher in the Iyengar tradition and I think had a picture of Ramana Maharishi on her wall. So I was back in Scotland in a farmhouse overlooking The Isle of Islay. Dave, Devi and Tim later arrived and another new phase in my life began.
Early coloured mandala mid about 1977
17. Soon after I arrived in Scotland and we were all living at Breakachy Farmhouse or in my case an outlying barn I developed a severe pain in my abdomen. It kept me up all night and when I mentioned this to Devi whom I think had trained as a nurse she suggested we call a doctor. The doctor diagnosed appendicitis and I was taken to the hospital in Campbeltown nearby to see how it did or did n't develop. I would know nowadays to consider alternative possibilities but in those days had limited understanding and knowledge of the subject and there was no internet! The pain intensified and I was airlifted in a helicopter to the very large hospital in Glasgow to be operated on. After the operation which was in some sense of the word successful I stayed in the hospital to convalesce one way and another and then returned to Breakachy. However I was not feeling well and complications and an infection developed which required further treatment. The wound opened and puss started to pour out of me! It was somewhat concerning but eventually healed. I had previously had promonitory dreams about being in an operation theatre so I was not that surprised by the development! I remember after I had had these dreams thinking something like, Oh, maybe I will have to have an operation sometime! So it turned out to be the case. I have had several such dreams in my life pertaining to significant events. This experience highlighted that I should give more attention to the physical body and diet though I do n't think I was eating an unhealthy diet. It was certainly vegetarian and wholefood but may or may not have been organic. However there may have well been other relevant factors of an emotional and vibrational variety plus hereditary factors. Another health issue which developed in the next few years was my knees tending to go out of place rendering me incapable of movement. Sometimes this had a humourous element but not always. Two or three years later I was camping by myself in the middle of a forest a long way from the nearest human habitation and my knee went out and the only way I could move was on all fours! After a day or so I figured this could be a problem so I decided to pray. In particular I decided to take out a symbol associated with a meditation and healing group I was in contact with and ask for help. Soon afterwards I was "told" or "shown" how to manipulate my knee back into place and all was well. My knee still sometimes goes out but the method I was shown still works and I have not had to have an operation. The knee problem may or may not have been related to long sessions in the lotus posture and exposure to damp but I do not really know the cause. I mention these episodes partly because I have had a long term interest in healing which developed quite young in life but these two events on top of some previous ones made my study of healing of direct personal interest. So for instance I called my web site when I created it in about 1997 "Mandalas for Meditation, Healing and Creativity." I am of the view that a good understanding of health and healing is relevant to meditation and creativity and that all three are closely related. Certainly it helps to feel fit and well!
In subsequent years I made a study of nutrition and diet, various forms of touch therapy especially reflexology, and took part in workshops which explored psychological, emotional and relationship issues. Also I studied and explored astrology. This all unfolded alongside my ongoing work with mandalas which are a healing modality in their own right. However it was still early days and in a remote farmhouse in Scotland with in my case little or no money access to books and so on was limited. Nevertheless we must have been in contact with the outside world because apart from anything else the next year we took part in the first Festival of Mind Body and Spirit in London. This involved collaboration with some other artists and craftsmen and women we had met in the area. One of them in particular called Mike was to become a significant friend with whom I shared a number of creative and business projects notably the establishment of Mandala Prints about seven years later. He went on to become prominent in the world of colour healing and aura-soma. Dave went on to become prominent in the world of Celtic Art and began to create some of his early works at Breakachy. The stand that we had at the festival we called Painted Shields which was inspired by the book of that name which was about the American Indians and featured many circular designs and mandalas. I personally did n't attend the festival as I was still in "hermit mode" as was Dave but Mike and others took our respective works to the festival. This would have happened in the Summer so by then we had been at Breakachy at least six months. During that time I worked on and developed new designs and also printed some cards. Living and working conditions were not ideal by any means but I felt I was making some headway as an artist.
Later that Summer I decided to visit Mike and his family a few miles from Breakachy and camped in a nearby forest overlooking the sea. It was a very beautiful location and I can remember seeing herons frequently as it was near a heronry and also eagles and on one occasion when I was walking on the beach a number of Whales. Later still I moved North to visit Tim who had moved back to near Oban and we went to Iona where I spent the Winter. I was still on the breadline and on one occasion began to be aware of some symptoms of malnutrition but we lived in a very beautiful house with powerful vibrations near The Abbey. I became friendly with members of the Findhorn Community whom had a retreat house on Iona and was invited to exhibit at the community which I did with some success. Iona was an extremely uplifting place to live with powerful sites from early Christianity and before. The house I lived in was said to have been built on a temple originally dedicated to the sun and sometimes vibrations in one particular room were so powerful we felt that a gathering of cosmic beings was taking place... The house had a good library as did the Abbey and one of the books I read in depth was about Assissi and the life of St Francis which made a big impact. So for that Winter at least I had a solid roof over my head and a beautiful place to stay. Incidentally I was introduced to the house by a friend I met on the island who was of royal descent in the Scottish Scheme of things and had grown up in a palace but was very dedicated to helping those less well off than himself. He was the oldest boy in the family so was due to assume the mantle and as far as I know did so some years later but I am not sure about that. I think his parents were concerned he might renounce! Meeting him and being able to live at that house was certainly very fortuitous. I have just googled his name and it appears he did n't renounce but has maintained and is still practicing his idealism!
Somehow this reminds me of something Mike said to me when he returned from the festival in London. He had said that my parents had come to the stand in the hope of seeing me. I must have told them my work would be there and they had hoped that meant I would be too. I had seen them four years earlier when they came to see me in Dorset to try and persuade me to give up the idea of going to India and meanwhile there had been some intermittent correspondence between my mother and myself and the occasional phone call. As it turned out I did n't see my parents for about ten years and my mother once said to me that it was like having a child whom had died. To place this in context I should say that they were n't in any sense of the word bad parents but just had no understanding and sympathy with my way of life. They could n't understand why I should want to do what I was doing and throw away all the advantages in life they felt they had given me. That involved amongst other things sending me from the age of of nine to eighteen to one of the most expensive boarding schools in the country. Of course it is questionable whether sending anyone away from home at that age is doing them any favours but my father had been to such a school and it was assumed that myself and my brother would too. The rebirthers whom I associated with in the '80's said that everyone needs a minimum of ten rebirthing sessions but boys who have been to English Public Schools need rather more! Obviously our early conditioning has a great effect on us and I was no exception in that respect. This relates to what I was saying earlier about healing. This aspect of my life needed to be addressed sooner or later but it was not to happen for the time being. It required a further emotional crisis in my life to precipitate and facilitate that particular development...
Early coloured mandala about 1977
18. I think I spent Winters of 1977 and 1978 on Iona. I also must have spent some of that time on the mainland North of Oban because I remember camping in a foot or so of snow at one point. In the warmer months I was on the mainland and created a rather unusual dwelling which was a cross between a Tipi and a polytunnel! When on the mainland I was mainly in a beautiful forest by the sea and mountains where Tim lived. Sometimes we would go on journeys as I remember going to Skye to visit some of his friends and also other places. Sometimes I think I travelled by myself. In terms of premonitory dreams the location in the forest was an example. I had been living in Wales a few years previously away from the coast but in the mountains. I was thinking it would be nice to have both! At that point I either had a vision or a waking dream of the place I lived at on mainland Scotland. It has a very beautiful coastline and magnificent mountains.
Life on the mainland was fairly quiet as both Tim and myself had hermit inclinations though there were a few friends in the area. When on Iona there was more going on because it is an international centre of pilgrimage so I met people from all over the world. In particular I often met people in the context of the Findhorn Retreat House and the Island of Erraid where they had a satellite community. As I mentioned that led to an exhibition and also making some contacts which greatly helped the distribution of my prints and cards when they started to manifest a few years later. In the forest where Tim lived there was an unusual artifact in the form of what appeared to be a perfect stone sphere. It was at least four or five feet in diameter and must have weighed a great deal. One had the feeling that it had been there for a very long time. I have been told that there are similar stones in Wales but I have never found them. There was also at least one prominent fairy ring between the forest and the sea.
Occasionally I would write poetry and prose. For instance I wrote an article about St Francis and also this poem was inspired by my stay on Iona.
Open Sea and Sky.
The land that is nowhere is the true home,
A place of illumination.
Here is another piece written about that time when on Iona.
We come to you when your thoughts are pure.
We never leave you.
Never doubt or fear,
The Higher Being, The Self, is continually drawing you to the centre,
waiting to embrace you in reality.
We are always being guided
to the people and circumstances necessary for our further evolution.
Even suffering is a blessing which can help us to go beyond duality
and to be established in the Self.
Your real work is to remain centered.
Through your being,
and through your creative expression and action
You should express and be the centre.
That is all that is required.
The article about St Francis reflected on his teachings regarding Poverty, Chastity and Obedience which I was reflecting on. I had visited various Christian Monasteries over the years in various countries and had liked the peaceful life but could not really tune into various aspects of the teachings. I did n't have the same issues with Buddhist and Hindu monasteries or ashrams but was aware of what Alice Bailey and her Master Djwal Khul had said about the matter. The gist of it was that in the Piscean Age it had been appropriate to separate spiritually inclined men and women into single sex communities but that in The New Age of Aquarius people would need to pursue their spiritual path in the context of living together. In any case having spent nine years of my childhood in a very disciplined and restrictive environment I was enjoying my freedom and was not about to sign up to any arrangement that curtailed that! However having been through a good deal of turmoil to do with Nicoline I was happy to be single for the time being. As for obedience and poverty, I figured the former was about being true to ones Inner Self and the latter about keeping life simple. It was quite a long article but I mention it because I had felt a powerful vibrational connection to St Francis on Iona and that led me to consider his teachings. For those of you who are n't familiar with St Francis and Franciscans, they wear a brown robe with a rope belt. The belt has three knots to symbolize their three vows. I think it may have been a fairly inconclusive article! Some years later when living near Glastonbury I became aware of the concept of Prosperity Consciousness. I also in due course reflected on that again somewhat inconclusively! Having a Libran ascendant I am entitled to sit on the fence... I reflected on Poverty and Prosperity partly in an intellectual sort of way and also because having been on the breadline for some years I was wondering if that was how I wanted to live indefinitely. Again I was n't sure about that either way and so decided to see how things unfolded.
The Tipi cum Polytunnel was a good place to sprout my beans and seeds which was a valuable addition to my diet. I was beginning to learn about "living foods" and their benefits. I had first heard about sprouted mung beans when staying with Lucia Osbourne near Ramanashram. She said that sadhus would go up on the mountain with just sprouted beans to sustain themselves. I also heard that one of Ramana's devotess was given a mantra and told by Ramana that if he repeated the mantra he would never have to eat again. I do not know why that particular devotee was singled out in that way but that is the story. I do n't think I painted many mandalas in the forest but I did some. I painted many on Iona. Some years later when I started to publish my work I used some of the designs that I painted in Scotland including the ones I did freehand in hospital.
By 1979 I was beginning to think that a change was required. I was still in touch with my friend Rob in Wales and had an invitation to visit. I was considering that as a possibility. However before doing so I stayed with some friends nearby whom later became members of The Bahá'í Faith and subsequently lived in a Bahá'í community near Durham. I visited them there some years later about 1985. So about May 1979 I set off South. I hitched a lift and was on my way. Even though it was May it was snowing. The weather in Scotland can be rather chilly! I was thirty years old. A new adventure was about to begin!
Radiant Star about 1980
19. As far as I can remember the journey from Scotland flowed fairly easily and I broke the journey by staying with some friends I had met previously on The Mull of Kyntyre. I think they were in the vicinity of Shrewsbury near the English Welsh border but I'm not sure. Then I proceeded onto South West Wales to near where Rob was living and he picked me up. You may remember from earlier in this narrative that I had stayed with Rob some years previously when we were both in "sadhu mode". Meanwhile at some point he had married Pat and bought a house. They had a lovely little cottage near The Preselis in Pembrokeshire. From the back garden one could see the hills in particular Foel Eyre which Rob felt particularly tuned into. He was soon to introduce me to The Preselis and some years later I also bought a house near them by which time Rob had moved to England. I will write about The Preselis later. Rob had learnt to make pottery which he sold locally and was also doing some accountancy work. Pat was working with cloth. They had a small caravan in the garden and I stayed there for a while and then later moved into a nearby forest where I camped for the summer. That was where the incident with the knee happened which I recounted earlier. Occasionally they had visitors including some mutual friends from Belgium whom had also visited Rishikesh.
In the forest I somehow managed to paint mandalas but the tent distorted the colour balance. However I was beginning to get quite skilled with colour by that time and had developed a way of creating fine tones and recording the details of how I had done so. Nevertheless I had to take the canvas outside the tent every now and then to check the colours were as intended. On one occasion I think I was looking after the house and feeding the cats and so on and painted a mandala I called Radiant Star. When I showed it to Rob he was very impressed and subsequently gave me some money to get it printed. I think the process of getting it printed was probably quite a learning curve but eventually the desired result was achieved. It may not actually have come together till the next year by which time I had moved again but that card started a further development in my life. I think I printed a thousand initially and within a short time needed to reprint. That led to other designs being printed and within five years I was posting cards and prints sometimes in large quantities to outlets in the UK and abroad. However that was after I had moved again.
Meanwhile as I remember it life in the forest flowed by peacefully but eventually as the months progressed the cold and damp got the better of me so I decided to visit a local monastery on The Island Of Caldey and also see if I could find a bigger caravan to live in for the Winter. The monastery on Caldey is Cistercian and I had a very peaceful and enjoyable stay in the guesthouse for single men attached to the monastery itself. I took part in the various services, meditated, spent some time in my room working on a mandala, explored the very beautiful island and met the other guests and guestmaster. Apart from the place I stayed there is also a guesthouse on the island for women and families where I stayed a year or so later. I remember one of the other visitors was considering the possibility of joining the monastery and becoming a monk. However he also seemed to want to be able to take the occasional holiday to visit his wife and children... I think he was told it was all or nothing! Having said that I think they may have later loosened up their policy due to falling numbers of monks so lay people could work and visit. The monastery had a good library and had books about philosophies and religions other than Christianity as well of course a lot about Christianity. One of the books was by Brother Philip called The Secret of The Andes. It mentioned beings which I think were called "Els" as in short for Elder Brethren. The book referred to such beings as having "Popped the balloon of individuality and transcended MEST" (Matter, Energy, Space, Time.) There were also books on Buddhism and all sorts of things! I'm not sure how she managed to be there but an exception must have been made because there was a rather lovely young woman staying in the guesthouse as well. Her presence made me aware that I had yet to go beyond attraction to the opposite sex but it was not the time or place to explore that area of life! The guestmaster Father Anselm was a very friendly and gentle man who looked after us all very well. It was Autumn but I can remember we sometimes sat in the guesthouse garden and had tea there. For one reason or another it was time to leave and I returned to the mainland. Meanwhile I had heard of a suitable caravan and moved into it. Unbeknown to me it was very close to a Steiner School and was in a very lovely spot by a river. I also did not know till later that it was on the sign of Leo according to the little known Preseli Zodiac.
The caravan was fairly comfortable by my standards and I was able to live quietly there for the Winter. I worked on some mandalas and saw a few friends round and about. I also learnt about a local Ashram called The Temple of The Many Names of God which is in the middle of the Welsh countryside complete with temple elephant. I visited there and subsequently asked if I could stay there as a hermit but was told it was not a place for hermits. The guru called Guru Subramanium believed in keeping the residents busy doing service one way and another and attending chanting and meditation sessions. I think the residents were largely if not entirely monks and nuns. I also met and became friendly with the parents of children who often passed my caravan on the way to the Steiner School. I would sometimes wander up the road to see how the building work which was an ongoing project was developing. Both the temple and school continue to flourish to this day thirty plus years later though the guru passed on some years ago. I had been continuing to correspond with Lynne whom I mentioned earlier and whom I had met at university ten or so years previously. She had drawn up my astrological chart and sent it to me which made for interesting reading. It was the first time I had had my chart done properly and in depth and led me to consider studying the subject as well. I did so some years later. Winter turned to Summer and once again financial constraints and the improving weather led me to consider camping somewhere. I wrote to Lynne to say I might be moving again soon. Having observed that I often travelled and thinking that if I moved on this occasion it might be somewhere further away from Solihull where she lived she decided the time was right to visit. She later said that she feared that there may not be another opportunity and we had n't seen each other since about four years previously. Her visit which must have occurred about May 1980 was to re-introduce me to the world of romantic love and made a deep and abiding impression on me sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.
Soon after Lynne visited I remember Arthur and Josephine called by as they were in Wales on holiday. I remember saying to Josephine that Lynne had visited and that something was going on and she laughed and said "But what are your feelings Barry?!" I was n't sure having been single and celibate for at least five years which I think was also more or less true in Lynne's case. Anyway whatever our respective concerns we both took the plunge and began a love affair which lasted about eighteen months. Lynne's favourite symbol was the yin yang and she gave me a pendant with the symbol on it which I still have. The yin yang featured strongly in a mandala I painted a year or two later. We were certainly different even possibly opposite in many ways but I think we shared the idea that that polarity was part of the magnetism between us. However polarities can generate quite an attraction but can also lead to a certain incompatibility. So our relation was somewhat up and down and very intense. Furthermore she lived several hours drive away so she did n't come to visit me that often. On top of that when walking by the river one day I met another young woman who subsequently moved into the caravan I soon vacated and was camping a few hundred yards from. Suddenly it seemed my relatively quiet life of solitude and celibacy was about to take a very different course. I was about to learn more about the intricacies of human relationships and all that they have to offer. All in all this led to some confusion as well as happiness but this time instead of heading for the nearest forest or mountain I decided to hang in there because I felt I had some valuable lessons to learn in that area of life. In other words I decided to go further into the experience rather than withdraw from it though I continued to live alone and have my own space. Apart from anything else no woman I have ever met has found a damp tent at the end of a field an inviting prospect! On re-reading I should say it was sometimes sunny and therefore camping near the river in a beautiful Welsh valley was a very nice location to be. Nevertheless it was n't a great space to receive visitors.
So when Lynne visited we stayed somewhere else. On one occasion she had been visiting and we were saying goodbye. She had a young son whom she wanted to send to a Steiner School somewhere and we discussed her moving to Wales. It was an intimate and loving moment and suddenly I heard this loud voice in my head! It was not a thought or an intuition but was like someone had put a speaker in the middle of my head and spoken! The words were simple and straight to the point and were: "This will not work!" This took me back somewhat but I kept quiet about it. Clearly it was a warning and it turned out to be true. If I had listened to that voice and called it off I might have saved myself a lot of subsequent suffering but on the other hand I would have missed learning valuable lessons about human emotions and relationships. In retrospect it might have been better to have listened to the voice and called it off but somehow I did not so so. The relationship continued for another year or so. Such was the depth of feeling it generated or facilitated I decided to take a further look at psychology, psychotherapy and everything associated with it. I was not alone in that respect. Many of my friends whom had experienced transcendent states with meditation or psychedelics or both were discovering that there were areas of the psyche which still needed healing. This was to be highlighted before long in a very dramatic way in the life of someone I had been close friends with.
Recounting these events makes me aware that there are many details that I have to skip if I am to proceed at a reasonable pace! However it would be remiss not to mention that during the Summer of 1980 I received a visit from Nicoline and Anna Devi. By then Nicoline had become Mira and she and Anna Devi were wearing orange clothes and had malas around their necks with a photo of Osho attached. They stayed with Rob and Pat and their visit coincided with Lynne also visiting at the same time. We all got on pretty well and I remember we visited St Nons and St Davids. By then Devi as she subsequently chose to be called was a very pretty and delightful four year old and it was a heart warming and heart opening encounter. This was the third time I had seen her as they had also visited Scotland but that visit had been somewhat traumatic. I was not to see her again for another three years in 1983 when I visited the Osho community in Holland where they lived.
Preliminary line drawing for rainbow Lotus abouut 1980
Rainbow Lotus about 1981
20. Last night I dreamt that I was with a friend who seemed lost in thought. In the dream I wrote on a sheet of paper that "Thoughts are like a wall that obscures enlightenment." Although I do to a certain extent agree with that there is also the view that thoughts themselves are not the problem so much as the close identification with them. I learnt in my early practice of TM as a teenager sometimes in the presence of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi that thoughts can dissolve into their source and then re-emerge without any sense of them being "mine". The conclusion I have reached is that there is certainly a place for concentration in all areas of life including meditation but there is also a place for relaxing and letting go. In that context concentration might be considered to be yang and letting go yin. When thoughts arise without any sense of personal ownership they are not binding because they do not pertain to a me. When a person is permanently established in that state they are referred to as being enlightened. However they may not refer to themselves as such because they know that they do not have any existence as an individual self. They simple are!
These ideas were often discussed and considered amongst my friends of the time and we were all reading various teachings which dealt with the subject. I was almost always reading a book about the teachings of Ramana Maharishi. As you will have also realized we were considering and exploring how the meditative dimension interfaces with life in a human body and the modern world and trying to work out how to explore a meditative way of life in the modern era. I remember for instance that when I became involved with Lynne, Rob said that he thought I was going backwards because I think the general feeling was that the life of renunciation was in some way more advanced than the life of social interaction. I did n't question his statement or draw attention to his own situation but I did take note of it! The three franciscan vows were beginning to loose their appeal. Celibacy had definitely been dropped in Summer of '80 and being permanently broke was beginning to seem like a disadvantage in life. As for obedience I have always been weary of authority and authority figures. I remember as a young child my father saying how wonderful childhood was. I was only about four at the time but I remember thinking very clearly that I could n't wait to grow up because I was fed up with people telling me what to do all the time!
Meanwhile my life flowed on and once again camping in a field did not seem like a realistic proposition as the Summer changed to Autumn. I once read in "Pilgrims Guide to Planet Earth" which I had a copy of and which had used some of my line designs as illustrations that sadhus follow benign weather patterns! In their case it meant traveling south when it got cold and north when it got hot. In my case at that stage in my life it meant camping in the Summer and all being well finding something more substantial in the Winter. I was still occasionally signing on and receiving social security benefits as they were called at the time. I had signed on the previous Winter when I was in the caravan and off for the Summer when I was in the tent. When I signed off I received a very friendly note from the office saying "Good Luck" and a drawing of a tent in a field with an artist outside with an easel! In those days when you signed on someone had to come and see you. By October I was still in the field and the mud was beginning to accumulate so I decided to sign back on. A youngish immaculately dressed woman in high heels came to see me. I felt a bit sorry for her because she really needed wellington boots! Her words were something like "You know you do n't have to live like this!" Soon afterwards I moved into another caravan a few miles away and settled in for the Winter.
Lynne occasionally came to see me and did sometimes stay in the new caravan and I also went to meet her in mid Wales on one occasion. That was when I did the pencil drawing which formed the basis of Rainbow Lotus. My experiences with Lynne were an integral part of the development of that design which is one of my most widely circulated mandalas. When I mentioned we were in some ways opposites I should also say we also had a lot in common. She had been vegetarian most of her life, taught and practiced yoga to an advanced level, and was tuned into Ramana Maharishi and Baba Ram Dass amongst other teachers. On the other hand she was much more lively and outgoing than me. She was pursuing a more "normal and conventional life" and was happy with her situation in that respect. We were still in love and she wanted a partner but I was not really fulfilling her needs in that respect.
Further North in Scotland my friend Tim was being true to his high ideals and was still living alone in a hut in a forest but it was not all going smoothly. Traditionally the path of solitude is not recommended unless one is well established in one's meditation practice and generally it is considered helpful to have some backup of a material and spiritual nature. In other words hermits are often associated with a monastery or some such establishment. Tim had no backup and was struggling to keep it together. Occasionally he would write or phone and was obviously falling apart and getting desperate. He was hearing unfriendly voices in his head and one thing and another. He was in deep trouble. On one occasion he phoned me up to say that he had attempted to take his own life and joked about how his efforts to drown himself did not work because he would not sink and that when he took arsenic one night he woke up in the morning. A close friend of his who lived nearby had persuaded him to promise not to persist. However he was determined to end what had clearly become a nightmare. The next thing I knew was that I heard from several sources simultaneously that he had been found dead in the forest by the local farmer. It was a sad situation but that was not the end of it. He then contacted me telepathically for several days, explained to me the process of dying and what happened to people who had committed suicide. I told Lynne about all this who suggested that I chant from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying to help him with the transition but I did not do so. As far as I could gather he was doing fine and was in good hands.
Nevertheless however you look at this development it was something of a shock one way and another and highlighted the need to find balance in one's life. He was n't the first or the last person I knew who took their own life but he was the only person I knew well. The reason I said earlier that this related to healing and looking at areas of one's life that needed addressing other than or as well as spiritual ones is because it seemed apparent to me that his case highlighted that. In my case I had always been interested in healing and was at that point in time very inspired by the Book "Survival into the 21st century". The book is very holistic in its approach and looks at healing from many angles especially that of raw or living foods. In the next year or two I was to meet people doing various trainings in a variety of healing modalities and Rob for instance went on to train as a psychotherapist. Lynne went on to train in massage and I attended various courses and workshops. We all continued to be interested in the mystical dimension but also were seeking to function in a harmonious way in the relative world. I had studied science "A" levels at school with the view to train as a doctor but had switched to psychology at university. However I have always had an abiding interest in all approaches to healing and continue to have to this day. Incidentally Tim's father was a doctor and may even have been a psychiatrist...
I am not sure of the exact timing of Tim's demise but it must have been sometime about Spring or Summer 1981. Later that year things took a turn for the worse between me and Lynne. For various reasons to do with her family situation she moved to Ayrshire in Scotland which made what was already a long distance relationship even longer. She did come to see me after she had moved but things had come to a head between us and we parted company. In my case considerable attachment had taken hold during our time together and it took several years for me to become free of it. However I had a certain amount of support from friends round and about which helped me deal with the loss. Unfortunately we never really communicated after that to any significant degree but I am aware that I played my part in that. My preferred option is to stay friends with old girlfriends but on one or two occasions that has not been possible. This was such an occasion. Relevant to this and also touching into astrology, it seems that certain energies sometimes repeat themselves or reappear in a closely related manner. So some years later I met someone born a few days before Lynne and became lovers with her. After a while our paths diverged but I am pleased to say we have remained close friends.
Other developments relevant to this narrative are Eileen Caddy giving a presentation locally that I attended, going to regular meetings not far away inspired by The Findhorn Community, spending time at a local healing community and living for a while in The Preselis. Incidentally Peter Caddy in due course left Findhorn Community and as I understand it became a Babaji devotee as did Rob and they got to know each other in the 80's so the networks were forming cross connections one way and another. I was also to have another premonitory dream concerning a further significant event in my life. In terms of my work with mandalas, I was continuing to design publish and print my work as cards and these included Radiant Star, Radiant Cross, Radiant Lotus and White Eagle Rainbow Star. All the designs involved me making colour separations by hand so I had to break each design down into a specific colour and create a special piece of art work for that colour. In the case of one colour designs I had to paint a blue design in tones of black and grey ready to photograph or scan. This was a skill I developed at that time. Later when I went into full colour printing and when technology moved on this process was no longer necessary. I was also selling the occasional original mandala painting. I will explore these developments in the next section.
Oneness: A design which has been unfolding in various forms over many years...
21. Oneness can manifest in an infinite number of ways. In fact I would go as far as to say that everything in the universe is an expression and manifestation of Oneness but it does require a certain perspective to see this! There are many ways people arrive at this understanding of Oneness and sometimes it can reveal itself to people at unexpected moments. On one occasion a few years later in this narrative I was driving along the road in Southern England and there was nothing unusual about it except that consciousness seemed to be expanding and expanding and expanding... There was the sensation or perception of it getting bigger and bigger and bigger so that first the earth and then the solar system and on and on were all inside of it. What was interesting was that however expansive the sensation or perception was it did n't effect my ability to drive the car. That went on quite happily by itself! It turns out that the much prized reflective consciousness and sense of "I" when left to it's own devices works remarkably well if not better by itself than if it is our primary focus of awareness. I am not sure if that particular ever expanding "balloon" popped and MEST was transcended but it certainly got close! It maybe that there was still a part of me which was concerned about staying on the road! Someone once said to Ramana Maharishi that if one behaves like a Jnani (Enlightened Being) in the Western world one would be put in a mental hospital. He replied something like "Yes, but the hospital would be inside one's consciousness!" I'm not sure if the person who made the initial observation understood the reply or not but my experience in the car may have thrown some light on it for me. Stated simply consciousness is Infinite. Everything arises and subsides in the context of that consciousness which is not affected one way or another by what does or does n't arise in it or from it. It is eternally free. Furthermore in essence we are all that consciousness! I remember when David Spangler used to channel at Findhorn people used to joke that he used the words consciousness every other sentence... I do n't know but maybe he agreed with Ramesh Balsekar's statement that "Consciousness is all there is!"
To continue the narrative, I was becoming increasingly aware of a "New Age Network" in South West Wales where I was living. As I mentioned Eileen Caddy gave a presentation locally and I learnt of some group meetings not far away which I started to attend. I think I must have known about them for some time as I had attempted to find the place with Lynne and got lost but we did find it later. Meetings there took their inspiration from various sources but the centre was loosely affiliated with Findhorn as far as I can remember. At the meetings someone took on the responsibility of providing a focus and the person changed from meeting to meeting. On one occasion I took on that role and led the meditation and shared my poems and read from the teachings of Ramana Maharishi. I think usually there was a meditation followed by a discussion and some circle or Sufi dancing. I met many new friends there and still know some of them. I also displayed and sold my work in that context. The centre also hosted events and that is when I first walked the whole range of The Preselis from Foel Eyre to Foel Drygarn. That event was focalized by Peter Dawkins who is well known in the field of Pilgrimage, Sacred Landscape and Esoteric Philosophy generally.
Life had moved on since the early '70's. Many of my generation now had children and were concerned about how to educate them. The Steiner School I have already mentioned and represented parents wish to provide their children with an education alternative to the mainstream option. At the meetings I referred to in the last paragraph I met people who had started a Montessori School with the same idea in mind. In Europe both Steiner and Montessori schools are considered mainstream and I think my daughter eventually went to a Montessori School in Amsterdam. The local Montessori School was in the village of St Dogmaels and I think about late 1981 I visited there though I'm not sure of the exact timing. The school was in a state of transition and in the process of become a Healing Centre. There were regular group meditations every morning and various people living there some of whom were trained teachers and healing practitioners or undertaking some related training. They had been visited by Peter Caddy at some point but that was before I heard about them. They had a Findhorn connection but were inspired by a variety of teachings. I was to become close friends with some of the people I met there and spent a good deal of time there one way and another over the next year or two. The next Summer and Winter I also stayed in a house in The Preselis which they were temporarily caretakers of.
I think the meditations at the healing centre were guided ones followed by a period of silence and then in some case "sharings". I remember one of the guided meditations did involve imagining or visualizing consciousness expanding rather like my later experience. I think it is almost certainly true that many if not all guided meditations and other similar practices are based on an experience someone has actually had and are an attempt to replicate it. So for instance Ramana Maharishi is considered to have taught self-enquiry and that related to his own spontaneous experience in that respect. As mentioned I had split up with Lynne and was not to get romantically involved to the same degree for some time but I did get together with someone at the centre later in the year though I continued to spend a lot of time by myself.
For the next year or two through from 1981 to 1982 I shared my time between the caravan, the cottage in The Preselis and the community. I said earlier I would say something about The Preselis. They are a beautiful and powerful range of hills in the middle of The Pembrokeshire National Park. They are often mentioned in the context of Stonehenge because the bluestones that are part of Stonehenge have been proven to have come from The Preselis though there is some controversy as to how that came to be. The hills have a powerful magnetic quality and there are many sacred sites in the vicinity. Foel Eyre which was the first summit that Rob introduced me to features in the book called "The Light in Britain" and is referred to in that as Eagle Mountain. The Preselis are also not far from and closely connected to St Davids, St Nons and other sites further West. There is also a big ley line running from the Preselis to Glastonbury and beyond. There are many perspectives when it comes to sacred sites and landscapes too numerous to cover and I am not an expert in the field. However I do feel very blessed to have been able to live for many years near such powerful places and they have been an abiding inspiration in my life and work. Not only are there the hills but there is also the coastline as Pembrokeshire is a peninsula and in a different way the coastline is equally inspiring and uplifting.
Various events happened in 1982 relevant to this narrative. Probably about August I took part in a local Findhorn inspired gathering called The One Earth Gathering. I exhibited and sold my work there, met up with some old friends and made some new ones and took part in a workshop or two notably a rebirthing one. I found the rebirthing workshop a powerful experience and thought it would be good to explore it further if and when opportunity to do so arose. Later when I moved to England I went on to have many rebirthing sessions and took part in a number of rebirthing workshops of one sort or another. There were a few speakers at the gathering including Sir George Trevelyan. I had met him at Findhorn some years previously when he had opened the craft centre there and also got to see him again on various occasions.
As I mentioned I had another premonitory dream during that period. It's content was as follows. My father appeared in a dream and said he did n't want to argue with me anymore and that it was n't worth it and it did n't matter or something like that. He also said he wanted to say goodbye. The dream was so vivid I woke up thinking he must have died but I heard from my mother in due course and he was obviously still very much alive. I had not seen either of my parents for almost ten years. The dream remained a clear memory and I gave it some consideration for a while and then forgot about it. Sometime in 1982 at some point I travelled to England with Rob to visit a friend I had met on Iona and whom had become friendly with Rob and whom had attended The One Earth Gathering. The friend lived in Gloucester or nearby. Somehow or other I got to connect with people living near Glastonbury and thus begun a time when the Sacred Isle of Avalon became a place I frequently visited and then lived. That move from Wales to Glastonbury would have happened about 1982/3 but I maintained a base in Wales for the time being and came and went till settling near Glastonbury early 1984...
Lace Light about 1984
22. I am not sure exactly when I made the transition to Glastonbury but I do remember one evening planning to travel the next morning and waking up surrounded by snow. I was in the cottage in The Preselis so to leave would mean crossing the hills before reaching any large roads. I decided to press on regardless, walked through the snow and eventually managed to get a lift! I am not sure but that may well have been early 1983. I think my destination on that occasion was a healing centre in Butleigh, near the centre of The Glastonbury Zodiac and a few miles from the town of Glastonbury. I spent several months there that year and had a room in what is a very beautiful, old and probably listed building. A variety of people lived there communally and there were occasional workshops. Also at about that time I sometimes stayed at a house in Glastonbury and I remember Mike the friend I had met in Scotland calling in one day with his partner Claudia whom he later married. They were living in or near Dorchester and I also spent some time there later that year. It turned out that Glastonbury was a good place to be for a mandala artist! I discovered that there were a lot of people round and about as well as visitors from all over the world who liked my work so my stay in that part of the world in the '80's helped a great deal with my work with mandalas. Also in due course myself, Mike and later Claudia printed our respective designs in full colour and thereby expanded the publishing side of my activities. Things had changed somewhat when I painted Rainbow Lotus as many people who saw it wanted to buy it so I painted and sold many copies. I later printed it as a small and large card, a print and a window transparency and it continues to be one of my most appreciated designs thirty years after I first painted it.
As I mentioned in the last section at The One Earth Gathering in 1982 I took part in a rebirthing workshop and thought I would like to explore it further and did so in Glastonbury by having individual sessions and taking part in groups at The Healing Centre where I was staying. A lot of information is available about rebirthing but stated simply the idea is to use the breath or to be more specific conscious connected breathing to heal the person concerned of any blockages often going back to birth and early childhood. The implication is that once those blockages are released then the person concerned will feel healthy happy and whole! There are also various ideas and practices associated with it to do with physical, emotional, mental and spiritual healing. There was also a fair bit of emphasis on relationships and how they reflect, express and mirror internal processes. All of this can and often does facilitate an opening of the heart and a releasing of any longheld resentments and one thing and another. This often concerns close family members in particular parents. Somehow my mother must have sensed this because she phoned and arranged for my parents to visit which they did a month or so later. At that meeting my father behaved in a conciliatory manner as in my dream described earlier. They were also favourably impressed by where I was living or staying and the other people present whom put them at their ease. It was not a long meeting but was to be the last time I saw my father and it was also the first time I had seen him for ten years. He did not know he was ill but was soon to find out that he was. At short notice he had to go into hospital for an operation and never recovered from it and died soon afterwards. I think this must have happened in late Summer so various aspects of my premonitory dream came to pass.
Mike, Alice and myself at the exhibition Opening Glastonbury 1983
Meanwhile between my parents visit and my fathers transition various activities, meetings and journeys were proceeding! I was making new friends, getting to know Glastonbury and traveling between Wales, Glastonbury and Dorchester. A group of us decided to put on an exhibition in Glastonbury and that involved several people including at least one or two I had known in Wales. This was because when I started visiting Glastonbury so did some friends I knew in Wales. A few of us were traveling up and down the ley line I mentioned earlier! In fact I think two of them had bought a house in the the town of Glastonbury or were soon to do so. I do n't remember selling much work at the exhibition but did make some good contacts. Also a friend called Monika whom I had met the previous year at The One Earth Gathering came to see the show. In due course she and I became close and spent quite a lot of time together that year at various locations in England and Wales including her homes in London and Cornwall. I was occasionally receiving commissions and one in particular I remember. I was asked to design a mandala for the opening of The Bristol Cancer Centre which was attended by The Prince of Wales and possibly Princess Diana. The mandala was required to represent the time and date of the opening. At that point in time I had not yet made a study of astrology but was friends with a local and well known astrologer called Palden. He helped me get all the planets in the right place and I painted the mandala. I did so when Monika and I were staying in Cornwall that Summer and then delivered it to the client when we travelled back from Cornwall to Somerset. I think I may have known the client whom is called Michael as a result of a shared connection with The White Eagle Lodge. I had been in contact with The Lodge since the early '70's and they had started to buy my mandala cards in quantity. Unusually Michael had a Stone Circle in his garden made from stones from The Preseli Hills. As I understand it he used the mandala I painted for him in his presentations to illustrate certain cosmic principles and as an aid to meditation and healing.
One thing of note that did happen about then was my appearance changed somewhat dramatically and unintentionally! I had not cut my hair to any degree for about fourteen years and it was quite long. I asked a friend to trim it and then the cut needed some adjusting and so it went on till it was considerably shorter. I felt somewhat disoriented by the outcome and rather self conscious. However I did notice what was by and large a favourable response from one and all so after a while I got to accept the change or even like it! However that did take a while! The only person I know from that era who still has long hair is Muz Murray. He visited The Healing Centre near Glastonbury in the Summer. I became friendly with him and also his girlfriend and we have kept in touch over the years. So life was changing. I was spending more time in the company of others and was also back in England. I must have also occasionally visited the friends near Gloucester because I have remembered that one of the memorable events of that Summer was attending what I think may have been the first Green Gathering. I travelled from Gloucester to the event. It was quite a liberating experience one way and another and the first of many camps and festivals that I was to attend over the next twenty or so years. I attended some talks including one on astrology by Palden, took part in a Sweat Lodge, met some new and old friends and generally enjoyed myself. I remember as we left and got onto a main road feeling something of a culture shock!
As mentioned earlier I sometimes stayed with Mike and Claudia in Dorchester. They had a Buddhist teacher at the time called John Garrie or JG who lived near Mike and there were many of his students in the area. I went to see JG on one occasion to consider the possibility of attending one of his retreats but never did so. I did n't see him after that for many years but did bump into him in the mid '90's at St Davids in Wales. By that time both JG and I were living in Wales and again I got to know at least one of his students and hear about his centre not far away from where I was living and still live. As readers of this narrative may remember I met Mike in Scotland about 1977 and we shared a stand with a few others at the first Festival of Mind Body and Spirit in London. He was and is also a mandala artist and so when visiting him we were often both working on mandalas. We decided to print two each of our designs in full colour. We distributed the resulting cards under the name of Mandala Prints. This was to begin a shared creative project which lasted many years and resulted in an extensive number of designs being published in various formats. A few years later Mike and Claudia became involved with the healing system known as Aura-Soma and are well known in that field. Sometimes Monika would visit and on at least one occasion all four of us stayed with her in London and attended a concert by Keith Jarrett and also a healing workshop given by a well known healer and teacher of that time whose name I have forgotten. I do however remember that one of the presenters was Malcolm Stern who led the circle dancing. While visiting Monika in London she and I also sometimes attended other events. As you will have gathered my taste is for silence and space but fortunately where Monika lived had both so though we were in London the circumstances were conducive! Sometimes she also visited me in the caravan in Wales and I remember showing her various local Sacred Sites. She particularly liked St Nons Well and opted for full immersion! Also that year I attended another workshop or two with Peter Dawkins in Wales and Glastonbury. In Wales I remember we explored St Nons and St Davids Head.
Life was unfolding in a way I had not consciously anticipated but I think the feeling was that I was heading in the right direction! After my father died in 1973 I went to see my mother. Over the next ten years till she died in 1983 I saw her on a regular basis usually at her home in Hampshire. Things were developing on the Mandala Prints front and also Mike, Claudia and I were considering finding a house to share. Mike found somewhere near Langport which is not far from Glastonbury. Between us we found the necessary funds to rent it and moved in about January 1984. It was a very beautiful house set in the countryside of Somerset on the periphery of The Glastonbury Zodiac. This was to begin a new period of my life which lasted about five years. I was now in my mid 30's.
Another event which occurred in 1983 was I travelled to Holland to see my daughter Devi and her mother previously named Nicoline and now named Mira. They were living in an Osho community in the Dutch countryside. It was good to see them but what with the traveling, the general intensity of community life and emotional factors to do with past present and future karma to do with being a father it was somewhat exhausting and I was ill for a while and had to lie low! However on another level it felt good to have made the contact having not seen them for at least four or so years. I personally was and am not that tuned into the Osho scene though I have read and appreciated quite a few of his written works. Nevertheless it is true that many of my close friends especially in the '80's were inspired by him and his name and presence were very prominent at that time. I had taken part in some of his meditation practices like "dynamic" and "kundalini" on more than one occasion in both Wales and Somerset with interesting results! Personally I find it difficult to fit into communities which require a high degree of conformity. I do n't think it was Osho's intention to encourage conformity as he stood for freedom but the Osho network was being taken over by authoritarian influences. A year or so later the network collapsed precipitated by and causing considerable confusion for all concerned. It was subsequently reborn a year or so later back in India as is well known and documented. On the way back from Holland I travelled through Southern England and stayed at Chithurst Buddhist Monastery and also stayed at The White Eagle Lodge. I got quite friendly with one of the monks at Chithurst and gave him a Metamorphic Massage which was a technique I had learnt and was practicing that year. He had been a millionaire whom had given it all up to meditate. I remember humourously quoting one of Osho's sayings which was "The essence of my teaching is you can have your cake and eat it!" At the White Eagle Lodge I was given a warm welcome as we had been in contact for a while and they were selling my cards. I was given permission to camp near the temple and greatly appreciated the ambient peace, tranquility and loving friendship. The Temple is quite near to where my mother lived and I took her there for a visit a few years later.
One of the shops I have visited and supplied with cards etc. is called "Way out there and back again!". If the '70's were for me "way out there" the '80's represented something of a "and back again", though of course one never returns to exactly where one started off from. Rather perhaps the spiral is a good symbol for the unfolding process so the horizontal axis might be considered to represent the swinging of the pendulum from one polarity to the other and the vertical axis the progressive element. When I reflect on 1983 it feels it must have been a busy year. Not only did I do and travel what I have already described but also attended with Monika another One Earth Gathering this time on Anglesey, visited my mother on several occasions including spending Christmas with her and acquired a car. So one way and another it was a full year! I was ready to settle down and to a certain extent did so in 1984.
Asterope about 1987
23. In about February 1984 myself, Mike, Claudia and their two young children Fraser and Daisy moved into Wick Manor near Langport which is not far from Glastonbury. It was to be my base till about November 1987 when I moved back to Wales. The house was big so I had a considerable degree of independence though we did see a lot of each other and work together on the Mandala Prints Publishing business. The house had two "wings" and an adjoining section and I lived in one of the 'wings". It is a very lovely house with a beautiful garden in a very scenic part of the Somerset countryside known as the levels. We all felt very fortunate to be living there. Every now and then the house became a bit busy for me and then I would go off to various places to get some space but by and large it was a peaceful and conducive place to live. I spent a lot of time working with mandalas but also attended various courses including several to do with rebirthing which I continued to explore in Glastonbury. I also attended courses and workshops to do with Astrology and in due course started to draw up charts. A healing practice which was becoming prominent in the '80's was Reiki. In those days there were only two well know branches of Reiki and one of them insisted that they were the "real thing" and the other was n't! I did n't find that side of things very edifying but it is not unusual for students of a shared teacher to take mutually opposed positions after the teacher dies. I was the only person I knew who studied with both branches partly because I was friends with both the people promoting the workshops. Nowadays there are many different schools of Reiki but I think the one known as The Radiance Technique still claims to be the only authentic one. Once a week or so a group of us whom had taken The Radiance Technique attunements got together to share healing in a group context and to deepen our healing experience and practice. It may be that having the attunements did n't happen till 1985 in my case... The process was quite expensive but I painted a mandala in exchange. It took me several months to paint the mandala which is called Radiance. I think I also added another one possibly for the second attunement and that was Flying Lotus which I had painted the previous year. I think I printed Flying Lotus as a large card later in the year.
In 1984 we participated in a New Age Festival at Malvern and had a stand to show our work. Myself, Mike and Claudia went up for the event and shared the stand. I think it was the first time I had attended such an event in person though my work had been taken by others to such events several times already. I made some new friends and also explored the town. As it turned out I have spent quite a bit of time at Malvern one way and another and have visited it on several occasions and often walked the hills and drunk the famous healing waters. Such New Age Festivals used to attract a variety of exhibitors including people giving psychic readings. I remember one of them saying that Mike would travel the world extensively and teach or words to that effect and that did soon come to pass. I had stayed in Malvern the year before at a healing centre called Runnings Park to work on a mandala commission for the centre. During or soon after the festival a friend and myself called in and had a swim in their indoor swimming pool... The mandala I had painted for Runnings Park or to be more specific for Ann and Tony Neate is called "Atlantis". Last year almost thirty years later they commissioned me to design another called "All Being". In both cases there was extensive collaboration. After the event at Malvern I travelled South via a friend who lived in Bradford-Upon-Avon which is near Bath. I had met that particular friend at The Green Gathering the previous Summer and we had kept in touch and met up a few times. A year or two later we travelled to Iona together. In terms of big events or in this case very big events, for the first time I visited the local and famous Glastonbury Festival. In those days locals such as myself could come and go as they pleased. I did experience something of an "overwhelm" but was also very impressed by the creativity and general "high energy" that was much in evidence. The next year I was invited to exhibit in what was called The Peace Tent and over the next twenty or so years often presented my work at the festival usually in The Healing Field a long way from where most of the action was! My friendship with one of the main organizers resulted in one of the biggest commissions or series of commissions I have had but that was not to happen till twelve or so years later.
Myself with Wick Manor in the background. About 1985.
I am not sure of the exact timing but either 1984 or 1985 Mike took our work to various events including The Festival of Mind Body and Spirit. Generally speaking Mike is more outgoing and active in the world than me and was happy to handle that side of things and I tended to do more of the mail order and pack and send out orders. In later years I also attended large festivals and so on to present and market my or our work but I did not do much of it and always found it somewhat exhausting. One development of note was that Nicoline and Anna Devi came over for Christmas firstly to Somerset to stay with me and then we all went to my mother's. This set in motion a series of meetings involving all four of us mainly at my mother's but also in Holland. Their visit to Somerset coincided with some Reiki teachers or Masters as they call themselves visiting to give a talk. The two people concerned are Opera singers and I seem to remember them breaking into song at one point! There was also a big Solstice celebration in Glastonbury and I remember Nicoline expressing appreciation of the spirit of community and comparing it to being in an Osho Commune in that respect. As I have said earlier in this narrative I had been keeping a look out for many years for a community that I could feel part of. I think it is true to say that Glastonbury in the '80's was such a place for me. I had not spent any signifiant amount of time in a town for many years. However I found Glastonbury to very different from all other towns I had known or have since known. In later years I started to feel less attuned to it but still like to visit.
I entered into certain practicalities of life at this stage in my life which were new to me which were part of running a business but by and large was happy to do so. It also meant that I had some funds flowing in and out which was a welcome change from many years of living on the breadline. This relates to what I mentioned earlier about finding balance in one's life which was a bit of an issue for many of us at that time. When I travelled from Scotland to Wales some years previously I went to see a homeopath about my knee problem and one thing and another. His first words were something like "you should eat meat" which I declined to do because I am a vegan for ethical as well as nutritional reasons. He said this because his view was that meat "grounded" people and made them less sensitive to one thing and another and stabilized their energy. It was a widespread and prevailing idea at the time and some of my friends did start to eat meat after having been vegetarian for many years. However as I said I did not adopt these ideas but considered the principle to be an interesting one. The question was and is how can one be tuned into the finer sensibilities and vibrations and function in what is often a harsh, noisy and insensitive world. The conclusion I had reached some time previously was that the way was to be careful with whom one associated and also avoid as far as possible unnecessarily stressful situations. There are a variety of perspectives on this or similar issues. In astrological circles the outer planets are considered to deal with transpersonal issues and the inner planets personal ones. If one's chart has a fair bit going on between the outer and inner planets then a process is unfolding of integrating the energies that the inner and outer planets are associated with which can be quite tricky. Anyway however you look at it I was feeling a need to in some sense of the word "come back to earth" and began to welcome mundane tasks such as packing parcels of cards to send to customers as well as the more inspirational side involving painting the mandalas. As anyone who has known Glastonbury over the years it might seem a strange place to "come back to earth" but I think it helped many of us find a way of being in the world and functioning creatively in it and maintaining a link or connection with the Divine. On the other hand it was and is full of people who go there to make the connection with the Divine so it is not always the easiest place to maintain one's equilibrium! After I left a few years later I was ready for a break even though I was sad to leave... However there are a few more years to consider before that happened.
In terms of romance and close personal relationships, there was a lot of love flowing around at that time in my life. Having got seriously unstuck during my twenties with Nicoline and then later with Lynne I was keen to avoid such difficulties and learn from my experiences in that respect. Some of the rebirthing workshops did look at relationships and how psychological factors are operative in them. At the very least it was very helpful and supportive to address these issues in a collective context. I had already started to do this at the healing centre at St Dogmaels in Wales during the previous year or two but explored this area of life further during my time near Glastonbury. As I said in a previous section I spent nine years of my childhood in a boys boarding school and feelings were never discussed there and they were also avoided in the family home so it was quite a revelation to tune into them! I am not sure what the outcome of all these explorations of relationships and emotions was but it did probably help me be more open and empathetic. It certainly felt like a worthwhile exploration at the time.
Flying Lotus about 1983/4
24. Glastonbury and the area around it is a very magical place full of Sacred Sites and locations associated with various legends notably the Arthurian ones and also the ones to do with Jesus and his uncle Joseph of Arimathea. Most if not all of the people I was friendly with were conscious of this all pervasive magical ambience and it was one of the reasons or in many cases the main reason we were all living there. The energy of the area drew to it pilgrims, mystics, magicians, artists, astrologers, healers and so on from all over the world. I would often visit local Sacred Sites like The Tor, Chalice Well, Glastonbury Abbey, Cadbury Castle and Wells Cathedral all of which were quite close to each other. Other attractions were The Michael Line which runs near to where we were living, Avebury which is a bit further away and a host of lesser known sites. All my adult life I have tended to live in locations where the inner worlds intermingle with the physical world and this has greatly enhanced the sense of connection to the One and also facilitated artistic inspiration. So in that respect Wick was an ideal location. Various themes were prominent at that time in my life which to a certain extent I have already mentioned, such as healing, finding a balanced way to function in the world which incorporated and expressed Oneness and generally aspiring to live in harmony with oneself, others and the Universe. It was a fairly interactive and sociable time relative to my previous and subsequent life in Wales though I also a enjoyed a fair bit of peace and seclusion. In 1985 an interesting synthesis between working with colour and healing came into our lives... We (Mike, Claudia and myself) were already aware of the healing power of colour as apart from anything else that is an integral part of working with mandalas. Also at some point I had visited Theo Gimbel's Centre of Colour Healing and was shown how they use colour there for healing. However we were about to meet a system which was destined to become prominent worldwide. I am referring to the colour system known as Aura-Soma.
In the Summer of 1985 we had another stand at Malvern and displayed and sold our work and met a variety of people. One of the other stands was exhibiting very colourful and beautiful bottles and was attended by Vicky Wall who had "created" them. Vicky was the founder of Aura-Soma and was registered blind. However she saw with the inner eye and in many respects could get around quite well as she saw energy fields and auras. When Vicky met Mike they both felt a strong resonance with each other and Vicky said that they had worked together in the past and would do so again in the future which indeed did come to pass. I was aware of all this going on and also other friends going to see Vicky's stand and did so myself. However I was interested but not attracted to the same degree as many others. Not long afterwards Vicky gave a workshop at the house where we were living and several of my friends took part and subsequently explored the system further. Mike and Claudia went on to play a major part in the development of Aura-Soma first with Vicky and then after she died. Although I never studied Aura-Soma I have had a fair bit to do with it over the years through my work with mandalas and that connection is ongoing. Another event we showed our work at that year was in Brighton. Vicky was there also. It was when I was driving back from Brighton that I had the experience of consciousness expanding to Infinity.
So life flowed on. I was continuing to work with mandalas, attending various workshops mainly to do with rebirthing and astrology and taking part in a variety of other events and gatherings. I was also getting to see my mother again fairly regularly and things were flowing better in that area of my life. Gradually Mike and Claudia's focus was moving towards Aura-Soma and in the next year or two they spent increasingly long periods of time helping and studying with Vicky in a variety of locations. One of the rebirthing workshops I took part in was a "hot-tub" one! I think it took place at Portishead and was a week-end residential workshop. I remember that when it came to deciding whether to attend these workshops I sometimes felt torn in both directions and in a high state of tension. On this occasion the decision eventually was affirmative but when it came to what was known as LRT or Loving Relationship Training I backed out just before the event. These workshops seemed to be very challenging until I got there! Making the decision to go or not to go was the problem... Anyway in this case I went. The idea of a hot tub is that the water and heat facilitate a greater depth of experience than a normal "dry" rebirthing session. I think there are cold ones as well but I have n't experienced those. It was certainly a memorable week-end and I do remember feeling a considerable sense of openness and expansion. Reflecting on these experiences I am wondering how they compare with my earlier meditation experiences. In both cases I experienced a certain "expansion of consciousness" but maybe the interactive nature of rebirthing also opened the heart in a way that solitary meditation did n't. Comparing experiences is never entirely satisfactory. Oneness has many flavours, and yet remains One.
Two principles amongst others that many people in the rebirthing movement were considering and exploring were "Physical Immortality" and "Prosperity Consciousness" and there were several people in Glastonbury collectively referred to as "Immortalists". I had come across the idea of Immortality in various contexts but did not join that particular set of people because then as now I favoured the idea of immortality of the soul as distinct from the body but am certainly open to the idea. I did read once that Tibetan yogis sometimes practice a specific set of exercises which rejuvenate the body and thereby do not have to go through the time consuming process and inconvenience of rebirth! Also having read and reread many times "Autobiography of a Yogi" I was familiar with the idea of Immortal Himalayan Yogis... Exponents and teachers of Physical Immortality said that there were quite a few such beings moving in society incognito and that they had met them. I remember attending a talk or conference about the subject. As for prosperity consciousness it seemed to be diametrically opposed to that of renunciation and at that point in time I was still weighing up the pros and cons! I think many of us who had renounced to a lesser or greater extent in our 20's reconsidered the matter in our 30's! However some took the step or change in approach more convincingly than others! As mentioned earlier having a Libran ascendant I feel entitled to sit on the fence when it comes to these philosophical conundrums. One thing I did notice in India was that people who were radiating Love and Happiness did n't seem to go hungry and in some cases were inundated with more food than they could possibly eat whereas some less radiant sadhus who tried very hard to get offerings and gifts and donations from passers by were less successful. I have noticed this principle being operative just about everywhere and am reminded of the saying "Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all else will be given unto you." Fortunately the sadhus being inundated with food and gifts generally speaking were sharing them so they were good people to be around for several reasons! I am not sure if this principle of sharing extrapolates or applies very well in a secular context but the saying itself is one of my favourites and I do consider it to be true and a good principle to live by. It is about making Truth one's priority. One thing was certain and that was that I had moved on from considering the three Franciscan vows as options for me in this lifetime!
Sacred Centres originally painted about 1985. This slightly modified version was painted about 2001
25. The guru associated with rebirthing was and possibly still is Babaji but I never made that particular connection feeling already connected to Ramana Maharishi whom continued to inspire me with his life and teachings. I would always have a photo of Ramana in my proximity and also his books though as far as I can remember I did not do a lot of reading of his teachings at that stage in my life having done so earlier. I did however remember that at one of the Malvern festivals Mike and Claudia bought and gave me a book by David Godman about Ramana that was being sold on one of the stands. On another occasion they gave me the Ribhu Gita with a photo of Ramana on the cover so His Presence continued one way and another in my life. Also I did know two people in Glastonbury whom had been to Ramanashram and one of them travelled there regularly. On one occasion about 1985 I remember going to see Guru Maharaji whom many of my friends had spent time with in the '70's and whom I had also seen at that time and on another occasion went to see Baba Ram Dass. Other gurus who were making their presence felt were Master Da also known as Bubba Free John and Bhagavan Rajneesh later known as Osho. Papaji and all the subsequent teachers sometimes referred to as neo-advaita teachers had yet to appear but did so in the '90's. I followed all of this with interest but never felt sufficiently attracted to join in any of the activities or events associated with these teachers but many of my friends did so. Having written that I have just remembered that Monika and I had gone to a Master Da presentation in London and on more than one occasion I took part in Osho type meditations not to mention a Babji fire ceremony a year or two later...
There were at least two mandalas I painted around 1985/86 with astrological associations. One was specifically intended to be an astrological mandala and was a commission based on the client's chart. The other was one of my best known and is Sacred Centres which has the astrological elements and signs represented around the circumference of the design. The coming into being of Sacred Centres was another of those synchronistic events! As I mentioned I sometimes travelled to have a change of scene and also to be in a less busy environment. In this instance I travelled from Wick in Somerset to St Dogmaels in West Wales to visit the healing community already described. When I arrived my friend Charlene said that a local musician called William had asked her the previous evening if she knew any New Age artists because he would like someone to create a design for his latest piece of music to go on the cassette cover. She had told him about me and here I was! So she called him to let her know and William came round and we discussed possibilities. A few days later I returned to Somerset and started work on the design and submitted to William a line design outlining the image and when he gave the go ahead proceeded to paint it. He later changed it somewhat with the help of another artist so when I first printed it, since this was prior to digital editing, I had to overprint the background with a special printing plate to be true to my original painting. It was first sold as a card at Glastonbury Festival on a friend's stand and he told me that it was being very well received and he needed more. It currently circulates widely on the web but I am rarely mentioned as the artist but I have got used to that... and am pleased that the design is so widely appreciated. Life is a continuous process of letting go so letting go of attachment to being the artist who painted Sacred Centres is a good starting point! Though having said that I have to admit that when I am recognized as the artist and paid royalties I am grateful. I mention that because the design became available about thirty years after I painted it as a woven wall hanging or blanket and cushion. It has also been used one way and another in many other contexts and seems to have a universal appeal.
In those days printing involved having the original design scanned at a place which specialized i n that and had all the necessary very expensive equipment. We were fortunate to have found a very friendly and good printer about an hours drive away from where we lived and often went there to discuss the cards and prints and to collect the finished products. The printer was capable of and experienced in fine art printing and as time progressed we managed to get some good results. This continued till the advent of digital printing about fifteen years later. I now do all my printing "in house". However that was not possible till I had delved into the mysteries of all things digital which did n't happen for many years after the time I am writing about. So life flowed on. There may have been a few ups and downs but as I remember it that time of my life was relatively flowing. It became apparent that where we were living would not be available indefinitely and also that Mike, Claudia and family would be moving to work with Vicky and Aura-Soma in another part of the country so I was considering where to live next. I started looking around Somerset and also Wales about 1986 but for the time being remained based at Wick. The following year 1987 we heard that the owners wanted to return from abroad and that we had to move out but that was not till after a major event and celebration in August 1987 known as The Harmonic Convergence.
From an astrological perspective life is an unfolding dance with cyclical processes happening on various levels. I remember when I was reading the books of Alice Bailey at Findhorn in the early 70's coming across a passage which highlighted the years 1975-2025 as being a significant fifty year window of opportunity and crisis for humanity. Jose Arguelles who amongst other things was a mandala artist was a major player in drawing the world's attention to a twenty five year process from 1987-2012 associated with the ending of the Mayan Calendar as he understood it and also astronomical information to do with the position of the Galactic Centre as viewed from the Earth. Jose considered 1987 to be a specific point in time of great significance and instigated what became a world wide celebration and meditation called The Harmonic Convergence. Whatever the ins and out of the calculations involved to arrive at these dates both 1987 and 2012 were considered to be significant though there is some ongoing discussion as to whether the dates fulfilled people's expectations! In any case one way and another The Harmonic Convergence was celebrated in Glastonbury August 1987 on a grand scale. Speakers came from all over the world and there were meditations, workshops, celebrations and so on. In particular I remember a large group of us on Glastonbury Tor at a critical or specific time, drumming, chanting and generally feeling and expressing the joy of Oneness and appreciating the miracle of Existence, Life and Love. In terms of workshops and talks I think the Immortalists were well represented and I remember being with a small group involving Sondra Ray of Loving Relationships fame sitting on Wearyall Hill. At another talk or workshop given by one of the leading lights of the rebirthing movement of the time called Fred Lehrman I remember him saying that when the population reached a certain point that perhaps each person would become like the cell of a superbrain and humanity as a whole would ascend to a higher level of intelligence and integration. I thought that was an interesting take on what is sometimes referred to as the population crisis! The whole event lasted a few days and was an inspiring and memorable one.
However my time at Glastonbury was drawing to a close as we had to leave Wick Manor in the next few months and my search for a new home was in full swing. Attempts to find places in or near Glastonbury were not coming to anything as although there were options none of them seemed quite right. I think we had to move out on November the first and I was assuming something would come together but was not sure what. Then occurred another example of synchronicity in my life. Previous to my time in or near Glastonbury I had sometimes been living in a very lovely cottage in The Preselis but had not been in contact with the owners for some years. For some reason they phoned me up out of the blue and said that the cottage was empty and I would be their preferred choice in terms of a tenant and that the cottage was available from November the first. After some deliberation as I was reluctant to leave Glastonbury which had been so helpful to me on many levels for at least five years I decided to go with the flow and accept what the universe appeared to be offering me. Thus I came to return to Wales or to be more specific Pembrokeshire where I have lived ever since. I spent Winter of 1987 and Spring of 1988 in the cottage and then August 1988 moved to where I have been living ever since.
26. I have used the word "synchronicity" on more than one occasion. However I am not sure I am using it according to the definition by C. J. Jung which is an "acausal connecting principle" or "meaningful coincidence". Speaking generally when I use the word I am implying that something has happened which is auspicious or even very auspicious and might also be termed by some people "luck". I remember once someone asked Maharishi Mahesh Yogi if he believed in luck and he said something like "We leave a little room for luck". I recounted this to a friend once when we were sitting in Chalice well about 1987 and he was not impressed and countered with another quote "The Tao is that from which nothing deviates". This reminds me of someone asking Ramana Maharishi if everything in life was destined or just the major events and he said 'everything". My feeling is that events in life occur which are not always as intended or planned and sometimes it feels like or appears that there are intelligent forces at work over and above one's own, planning everything behind the scenes! This could be an impersonal concept which regards "intelligence" as an all pervasive energy or more personal in the sense of involving "individual entities" or groups of them. This does of course raise the question of what is happening when it all goes "pearshaped" and does that mean less sympathetic forces are at work? First let's consider a situation such as the one I referred to about Nicoline and Josephine meeting unexpectedly in an unlikely situation and facilitating somewhere for me or us to stay on my return from India. One possibility is that it was "luck", another that it was "synchronicity" and another that "sympathetic forces were at work on my or our behalf", just to name the first three which come to my mind. If we take the view that where there is yin there is yang or the opposite then there must be "bad luck" etc. The conclusion I have reached is that there are well wishers on the "inner planes" and sometimes their goodwill is more evident than at other times depending on our receptivity and also the urgency of the situation. In the interests of consistency I have to acknowledge the possibility that the opposite could be or is true. It may seem a bit of a leap but I think this all relates to the quote I mentioned before which is "Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all else will be given unto you". My interpretation is that if we are tuned into universal harmony then things will flow and if we're not they won't. This sometimes may appear not to be working! However once Ramana Maharishi apparently said or is said to have said that the sage is never disappointed or frustrated because he or she never desires or wishes for anything other than that which is destined to happen. I may not have got that quite right but I think the gist of it is correct. In other words the sage does n't just "go with the flow" but is "one with the flow".
However one looks at this I found it of interest that I had to leave Wick Manor on a given date and then someone I had n't heard from for a long time phoned up out of the blue and offered me somewhere to stay from that same date. On the other hand there was the awareness that the development had two sides to it in that I once again found myself living in an isolated location and winter was approaching fast! It took a while to adjust to the new circumstances and keeping in touch with my friends in England was made more difficult by high winds knocking out the telephone system on a regular basis so I would often be having a deep and meaningful conversation for it to suddenly end! I did sometimes miss the relatively comfortable life I had left behind in Somerset but on the other hand I have always loved the remoteness and wildness of West Wales. Also I had some local friends from when I lived in the area five or so years previously and soon made some new ones. So life flowed on. One of the things I have not mentioned is that when living near Glastonbury I sometimes got involved in groups which were not from my standpoint entirely helpful. It seems that the line between inspiration and confusion can be quite thin and which is which is not always clear. In that respect I was glad to be somewhere different and in a part of the world where not everyone one met was in an altered state of consciousness.
I continued to paint mandalas and to manage Mandala Prints as Mike and Claudia were very busy with Aura-Soma and had no time for anything else. However it did remain a collaborative enterprise for another ten or so years and we kept in close contact and met up sometimes. So for instance about May 1988 I stayed with Mike and Claudia near London and took our work to The Festival of Mind Body and Spirit where we had a stand. They were busy on the Aura-Soma stand and I looked after the mandalas with a friend or two helping. In fact I have just remembered that there was a large exhibition of New age Art at the festival that year and we were given a large area to show our work. Another business related activity of that time involved my designs being put on the faces of watches. This involved being flown to Munich to meet the person running the company to explore ideas. Meanwhile I was still looking for a place which could be a permanent home and visiting estate agents and so on to find out what might be available. I knew the cottage I was in for the winter would be required in the warmer months by the owners so there was some urgency. As I mentioned in a previous section there was a lot of romantic love in my life in the '80's but I have not gone into the details as I did in the two major instances in the '70's as the repercussions were not so life changing. However I should mention in general terms that I was in a relationship when I left Wick but that did no survive the move. However by early '88 I had met someone in Wales and began a new relationship and throughout the remainder of the decade and into the '90's relationships came and went.
By about May '88 I had to leave the cottage and stayed at The Healing Centre in St Dogmaels previously mentioned. I then put an offer on a bungalow where I have lived for the last twenty five years and moved in about August. It was n't what I originally had in mind but I decided it would do fine for a year or two! It was small but over the years I have extended it so that it is about twice it's original size and it may or may not expand further in due course... In many ways it has been an ideal place for me to live and work as it is a very peaceful place but I can walk to the local post office to send out orders, have many friends in the area and am near The Preseli Hills and famous and very beautiful Pembrokeshire Coast. There is also an extensive alternative network and an abundance of organic wholefood suppliers! When staying for a month or so at The Healing Centre I showed my work to the groups that were being hosted there which led to some new sales and commissions which set a pattern for life in my new home. Over the last twenty five years I must have painted a lot of mandalas... By then my work was traveling far and wide in the printed medium and was leading to various contacts. One of those contacts was a literary agent who was keen to see my work published. That involved an extensive three or four way exploration which unfolded over the next year or two and which I will write about in the next section.
27. My mother who had been a major driving force and facilitator of me acquiring somewhere to live helped me move in. Between us we had accumulated quite a lot of furniture and so on in her garage so I rented a large van and collected it all and she accompanied me. She was seventy five and approaching the end of her life and one of her wishes was to see me established somewhere before she dropped her body. She stayed for about week and then returned to her home in England. We were keeping in touch with each other on a regular basis at that point in time and she visited me every Summer and I occasionally visited her. I think towards the end of her life she took the view that I had not made such a terrible mistake by becoming an artist but she would have probably found it easier if I had chosen a more conventional path and had a reliable and regular income. So here I was thirty nine years old and starting my life as a "householder". As I have mentioned a literary agent called Ayeshah was interested in publishing my writings and images in book form and also wanted me to illustrate or help in that respect with another book she was involved with. I also had other commissions on the go and new mandalas were manifesting so creativity was flowing. The communication with Ayeshah, who subsequently changed her name to Asia, involved extensive communication with Lana for whom I had painted an astrological mandala a year or two earlier. A lot of correspondence and images and so on were flowing back and forth through the post as this was before we all shared images and text via email and the internet.
Words by Lana Wooster
The book that Ayeshah asked me to help illustrate was called The Atom And The Octave and explored mathematical and geometrical correspondences in nature and human culture. It covered a theme that I was already exploring myself so I was happy to tune into the subject and receive the commission to work on the illustrations. My own book which was a collaboration with Lana was called Open Space and consisted of my mandalas and her mandalas and assorted images and our respective writings in prose and poetry. Ultimately neither of these projects resulted in printed books but were part of an unfolding creative process which bore fruit in other ways. The same is true of another project which has been ongoing since the mid '80's and is to do with incorporating mandalas into a video one way and another. This project has involved extensive collaborations with other parties particularly in the context of Aura-Soma but the original intention or aspiration to make a mandala video has never quite come to fruition though there have been quite a few attempts! As it turned out my mandalas did get made into videos and also an interactive application or app. but was largely put together without my direct input other than me providing the images. As for my book writing intentions they did eventually become self published about 1998 in the form of the book I have called Sacred Circles. Lana and I have continued to keep in touch but our combined creative activities did n't ever get published. Similarly as far as I know the mandala watch making company did n't really come together but some years later with the help of modern technology and printing methods the idea did result in my mandalas appearing on clocks...
On a personal note my daughter Devi and her mother visited for a week soon after I moved into my new home and as I remember it we had a nice time though I think at that stage Devi now aged twelve was not that interested in walking in the countryside. She was more interested in being with friends of her own age but there were some around so that was good! Devi had also started her fashion modeling activities and career which lasted several years so was very smartly dressed! During their visit a group of us went canoeing down the local river Teifi which involved going over some rapids and was quite an adventure... I do n't think either Devi or her mother were wearing orange by then so I think they were living independent of the Osho communes as many of them had been disbanded after the scandals and problems associated with Rajneeshpuram in USA.
Remembering past events from long ago can sometimes seem like remembering a dream as the sequence is not always according to date and time and the details can come back in a random sort of way. This reminds me of something Ramesh Balsekar once said which was: "We are not dreamers; We are dreamed characters." For some reason or another a memory which has come back but which pertains to a few years previous to the time being narrated was one of my early rebirthing experiences. This would have been about 1983 when I first moved to Glastonbury. I was taking part in a rebirthing week-end. Everything was going fine. I was breathing strongly and feeling a great deal of clarity and inner peace which I found often occurred with conscious connected breathing which is considered to be a form of pranayama. At the height of this clarity and awareness I would completely blank out and loose consciousness, make a loud scream, throw myself off the mattress I was lying on and land a few feet away! Naturally this attracted the attention of everyone especially the workshop leaders who asked me what was happening. I told them and they suggested I keep breathing and then exactly the same thing happened all over again. I am not sure if there were just two incidents of this nature or more. I was told that this was a classic rebirthing experience and all was well though my rebirther of the time said it would have been better if I had managed to remain conscious and recall the event involved. Sometimes the rebirthing process can take one back before rebirth and into past lifetimes. I do not remember experiencing past lives with rebirthing but unusually I do remember re-experiencing conception. It was a very vivid and clear experience involving the sperm making contact and fusing with the egg! It was like I was hovering in space whilst this was happening.
It is certainly easy to think in terms of life being a dream when dealing with the long past and not that difficult when dealing with events which have occurred more recently. The idea that we are not the dreamers but dreamed characters does lead to the question "Then who or what are we?" which brings us back to "Who am I?" and the vichara taught by Ramana Maharishi and others. In my case I felt the question had been answered a long time previously but abiding permanently in the state of Pure Awareness or what is called Self-Realization is another matter altogether! When I used to sit in the meditation sanctuary at Findhorn many years previously I had written prose and poetry and one piece included the words: "One day you will awaken as it is the destiny of all souls to awaken, then you will know the bliss of being and dance and sing in ecstasy the song of eternity." My feeling was and is that awakening and liberation are inevitable happenings that are part of the "universal dream" and will happen as and when they are destined to. This does not mean effort is or is n't required but in either or both cases is part of a larger scheme of things way beyond human comprehension. Surrendering to The One seems to hold the key... Actually when it becomes apparent that there is only one anyway, it becomes inevitable.
28. I have touched on many topics in this narrative, including relationships, spirituality and related areas, healing, traveling, accommodation or lack of it, survival and/or earning a living and so on but the nature of life is such that everything is interconnected. So whatever aspect of life I explore sooner or later it morphs into something else weaving patterns like a mandala which in it's totality represents the "All that is". I touched on the idea that life has a dreamlike quality in the last section and that when reflecting on the past memories can come up in a way which is not always sequential. However I think it is true to say that in my fortieth year amongst other things I exhibited at Painswick north of Stroud in Gloucestershire and was invited to teach at an Arts and Crafts Camp near Avebury in Wiltshire. I am sure I did many other things as well but these are the two events which spring to mind! There was one unusual incident at the exhibition which involved a woman visitor commenting on my work. She basically said it was rubbish! At the time I was reading the teachings of the guru known as the Italian Babaji and feeling tranquil and meditative so I did not react to what she said and she did not realize I was the artist who had painted the work she was referring to! After a while she started chatting to me and we had a friendly talk about this and that. Then she asked me what I did and I said I painted the work on view. This time it was for her to react or not to react and we somehow navigated that tricky moment and then she started to find some positive things to say about my work. I mention this because in the early days of presenting my work some years before, I did find it somewhat discouraging if people did n't like it. However by then I had received enough positive feedback from enough people to have developed a degree of confidence in the value of my work.
Maybe related to this confidence and because over the previous fifteen or so years I had painted many mandalas some of which were at that time well known, I was asked to give a workshop or series of workshops at The Oak Dragon Arts and Crafts Camp and this sharing of my work in this way was to continue for about twenty years in the UK and Europe and may or may not continue in years to come. Having attended many workshops and witnessed how others taught I was mindful of the saying from The Course of Miracles "Teach what you need to learn." I entered into the process in a way which was designed to facilitate creativity especially of the mandala variety and to expand and deepen consciousness. In the early days I was also aware that some of the participants were older than me and more experienced in their field and had something to offer to all concerned. In more recent years the age factor has reversed and I am aware that younger people have a new and fresh offering to share... Certainly giving workshops has been a learning experience for me on many levels and also hopefully for those who have attended as participants. Some years later I took a teacher training course which could have enabled me to give my workshops in a more conventional context but I never followed that up. However the course was interesting in it's own right and I found it helpful in a variety of ways. I have put on my web site quite a lot about some of the workshops in the mid 2000's which took place in the UK and Eastern Europe but earlier events in the UK, Spain and Switzerland are not covered but I will mention them as and when they occurred. Giving workshops is a much more outgoing process than painting but was an adventure and also an opportunity to share my originals and prints and meet people who appreciated my work. It also resulted in many commissions.
Elektra Painted about 1988
For me meditation has always been an integral part of painting mandalas and I consider mandalas to be a meditative art form inspired by meditative states of awareness and designed to activate or facilitate the meditative process. So when giving mandala workshops I have generally incorporated meditation into the process usually at the beginning of the first session and often assisted by collectively chanting OM. When I first started giving workshops I tended to focus on creating the vibrational space in which creativity could flourish without much technical or formal input. However as the years went by it seemed people wanted more specific details and input from me such as how to draw specific symbols and how to create certain colour effects. Nevertheless I have learnt that everyone arrives at a mandala workshop with a unique perspective and aspiration and as far as possible I tune into that... In terms of the first workshop at the camp in 1989 I remember it being very hot and sunny and a small and interesting group of people participating. We worked and played together in the sun and shade and I have happy memories of the event. Apart from spending time on the camping field we also visited Avebury and Glastonbury.
During 1987/8 and possibly 1989 I was working on a series of mandalas which were based on or incorporated the number seven. I initially intended to paint seven of them and name them after The seven Sisters of The Pleides. I think the first in the series was Asterope which I painted towards the end of my time at Glastonbury. Others in the series were Merope, Maia, Alkyone, Elektra, and Taygete which I subsequently renamed Agape as that somehow seemed more appropriate. So I did n't complete the series or it became a series of six! Elektra turned out to be the most popular of the series and originals found their way to several countries, including the UK, USA, Switzerland, Germany, Spain and possibly one or two other places. When I use the term original I mean a copy hand painted by myself. It is an extremely detailed design and rather demanding on the eyes and hands so I decided after having painted it several times that I would n't so so again. I still have the original or one of them as it has been my policy to keep my best work for reproduction purposes. It has also been used in at least one case as a CD cover. Another reason for keeping my best work is to have it available to exhibit and also to share at workshops. I know some artists paint new work especially for exhibitions sometimes at short notice but I do not or cannot work like that. I often take several months working on a mandala and any sense of a time limit tends to mess up the process. I have found that creativity flows best when there are no or few time constraints. I came to name the designs after The Pleides partly because of esoteric reasons and also because in those days I used to take part in saunas. During the cooling off phase we would sit outside and on a clear night look at the sky. On one occasion this inspired me to name the mandalas after The Pleides which was clearly visible that night.
29. An unusual event or series of events which occurred in the late '80's and early '90's was as follows. I would go to bed but would not sleep for some or much of the night. Instead it was as though I was "plugged in" to some kind of strong vibrational current which conveyed to me energy, insight and a heightened state of consciousness. To start with I thought I would be tired the next day but as far as I can remember that was not the case. Sometimes it seemed the "transmission" went on for quite a long time and then I would fall asleep. The ideas which were being conveyed to me were not new and were of the "advaita" variety but were delivered with considerable conviction and authority. It was as though I needed to be reminded over and over again that there is only One Reality and I Am That. This went on for weeks and possibly months. The follow up to this experience or sequence of experiences was that a few years later I was in Spain giving workshops by the invitation of a teacher whom was considered to be enlightened by those whom had gathered around her. She would sometimes go into "spontaneous satsang" meaning that she would when inspired start talking and giving teachings. On one occasion I said to her that what she had been saying and the way she said it reminded me of my nightly transmissions. Her take on it was that I had been tuning into Shambhala which continuously emanates the teachings and which can be received by those who are receptive. As you may know Shambhala is a mythical or actual place in The Gobi Desert where teachers gather and have teaching centres of one sort or another. These nightly experiences were not accompanied by any visuals. I did not find myself in "The Hall of Wisdom" in magnificent buildings which had happened some years before but the process seemed to be somewhat transformative.
The principle of repeating the same message or teaching ad infinitum with very few if any modifications is not that unusual in mystical literature. If one reads "Talks" which records conversations between Ramana Maharishi and devotees the theme which is mainly "enquire within" more or less never changes. In such a context more complex ideas or teachings are considered something of an unnecessary or distracting digression. While these nocturnal experiences were going on life continued to unfold on a daily basis. One notable event was that I painted a mural for a local friend which set in motion or was part of an already ongoing process which resulted in a new series of designs which I have called The Shunyata Series. In some way these designs relate to my nocturnal experiences because along with Pure Light they are as close as I think I have achieved to expressing the formless source of all that is. Hence the name Shunyata which as I understand it is a Buddhist term which refers to what is sometimes also called The Plenum Void. Unusually these designs effectively disappear when contemplated so do to a certain extent literally represent and express the formless. This "visual effect" involves subtle transitions through tone and hue which seems to effect both consciousness and vision when focussed on.
Shunyata first painted about 1992This would have been about 1991/2. After I had painted the mural a friend of my friend for whom I painted it commissioned me to paint a version for her on paper. The original colours were similar to the ones used in Pure Light which range from a pastel green blue through to a pure blue and then on the outside a lilac blue. In other words the main colour is blue but at the centre the colour is moving towards green and on the outside moving towards lilac. Both the tone and hue are critical. The effect is not achieved if the colours are not just right and also there is a subtle geometry so that the most intense colour has to be a certain distance from the centre. I have never worked out the mathematics of this but I know from experimenting that the point of maximum colour intensity has to be not too close and not too far from the centre. I think speaking generally it has to be about half way. Later on I explored the principle using different colours and eventually produced a series which involved all the colours of the rainbow. Later still I experimented with incorporating a greater range of colours. One thing I do remember is that when I completed this commission my mother died which takes us to Autumn 1993.
A week before she died she had phoned me up by "mistake". She had a phone which stored numbers with shortcuts and had pressed the wrong shortcut key. We had a slightly strange and on the face of it unintended conversation. At the end of it she said something like "I have done all I can for you" which I thought at the time was a rather strange thing to say! I do not know whether she had a premonition of her coming demise or not but towards the end of her life we did discuss such matters and the possibility of an afterlife. In fact she even started to subscribe to a magazine which dealt with spiritual matters that I had introduced her to. The evening before she died and was lying unconscious in her house unbeknown to anyone else I had friends round for supper. At one point I found myself saying the prayer that Ramana Maharishi said to spare his mother from death so that she could live and later arrive at enlightenment. The words spontaneously arose in my mind but were cut short by a very clear message. The message was simply "It is not for you to interfere with another persons karma!" So I let the poem or prayer go and continued with my evening. The next day I heard my mother had been taken to hospital and shortly after I arrived there she left her body. I had to drive at speed and was feeling somewhat emotional but was receiving a message to the effect that this was the day for her to depart and not me and that I should drive carefully! The drive was a five hour journey from West Wales to Hampshire which is in Southern England. I was now forty four years old and both my parents had departed as my father had died about ten years earlier. So my mother's words turned out to be true though I think I have had the occasional "assist" since then from her though I'm not sure about that. An "assist" is a term sometimes used in reference to souls who have departed helping those who are still incarnate. The general impression I have is that this happens rather more than most people are aware of but would be determined by individual karma.
Another development at this time was that I was doing a teacher training course for a year with the view to being able to teach mandala painting in formal circumstances such as colleges and adult learning centres. I never actually did do any of that but did soon afterwards start to give mandala workshops in various locations including initially the UK, Spain and Switzerland. These were fairly small informal affairs though sometimes in Spain there were quite large numbers. I am not sure whether the training course (PGCE) was helpful or not but was quite an enjoyable experience. It basically looked at how best to convey to others whatever ones specialized subject was and provided theoretical and practical teaching. It also involved teaching a few sessions in a local art college supervised by one's mentor or personal tutor. It was the beginning of a journey which lasted for at least twenty or so years and involved me giving talks and workshops about mandalas and on one occasion astrology.
Sometime about then and prior to my mother's departure I also painted another mural for a client whom subsequently became a friend in Gloucestershire. Maybe it was about 1992. The mural was for a healing centre and the mandala is the one I call Radiance. This began a long and creative process as I ended up painting many mandalas for the friend concerned and in fact the last time I saw her which was at least twenty years after our initial meeting she gave me another commission. Many of the mandalas are in the healing centre but some are in her house.
Somehow the passing of my mother started or was part of another stage in my life unfolding. It was definitely a different feeling from knowing she was around. On one level it was a loss and on another a liberation. Maybe it was for both of us!
30. In Autumn 1993 I was invited to go to a community in Spain to give a workshop called "Colour, Light and The Sacred Circle". I think I had put an advert in Kindred Spirits magazine saying I was open to such a possibility and this was the first response. The idea grew out of my work generally and also in the context of the teaching course mentioned in the previous section. It was the first of three workshops I gave at the community that year. It was quite an adventure. Creativity flowed and connections were made. Being January it was quite cold by Spanish standards but the sun was shining! Somehow the first workshop morphed into astrology for the second workshop in the Spring which further morphed into relationships for the third workshop in the Summer. By then I was way out of my specialist subject and comfort zone but the hostess whom was regarded as a Guru by members of the community was also teaching. Sometime between the second and third workshop I travelled to Switzerland and gave some small workshops there which was hosted by an aura-soma practitioner and friend so 1994 involved a fair bit of traveling. On the way back from Switzerland I went to see Mother Meera and was met by my daughter and her mother with whom I afterwards travelled to Holland to stay with them for a few days. I also visited Mother Meera the following year.
It was during my visit to Switzerland that Shunyata began to move towards being one of a series. As many of you reading this will know aura-soma is a colour healing system and I met a doctor who was involved with aura-soma with a clinic whom thought it would be good to have six or seven variations with a specific colour for a specific healing room. So he bought the existing blue variation and commissioned me to paint six more going through the spectrum. In Switzerland I met quite a few people who liked my work, bought it and gave me commissions which kept me busy during the following Winter months. Some of the commissions I posted but many I took with me by car the following year in Summer 1995. On that occasion I drove to a port on the South coast of England took a ferry to France and then drove to Chartres Cathedral which I think was a few hours journey from the ferry. I have always been impressed by Cathedrals and Temples and so on in general but Chartres had a particularly powerful effect on me. Although there was plenty of opportunity to do so I did not adopt at any stage during my visit the kneeling posture. For some reason or another it felt awkward or inappropriate to do so though I think many people were doing so in various locations in the cathedral. I felt slightly uneasy about that and returned to my car. Then as has often happened in my adult life my knee clicked out of place and I was immobilized. To put it back into position I had to kneel and manipulate my knee. In the process I suddenly became aware I was in the kneeling position and facing the cathedral! Under the circumstances that seemed entirely appropriate... I remember once a friend said that my work was unbelievable. I was not sure initially whether this was a compliment but she assured me it was. However I did not really understand the sentiment. After my visit to Chartes I did. I felt it was unbelievable that a building of such extraordinary beauty and architectural complexity could have been created but there it was. It has occurred to me recently that these structures exist in the etheric and then "come down" into the physical... They are a manifestation of a higher intelligence and order in the universe. My ambivalence towards such buildings is not to do with the buildings themselves which are clearly amazing manifestations of divine and human creativity so much as the whole Christian heritage which is something of a mixed bag! One of the unusual features at Chartres is the presence of a labyrinth. Some years later I was in Latvia giving workshops and a friend asked me why I had n't painted a labyrinth. I had actually done so on a small scale based on The Glastonbury Tor Labyrinth but had never shown it publicly. It was and is in one of my many folders! I subsequently gave the matter further thought and at one workshop some years later myself and the group created a large rainbow Chartres Labyrinth and then walked it... Chartres is particularly famous for it's stained glass windows and although I have never worked with that medium except in printed form I appreciate it's transcendent quality. I remember an advert in a magazine advertising decals which are window transparencies and it contained the words "May all beings realize the transparency of their own minds" or something like that! The light shining through the colours helps inspire and uplift consciousness and reminds one of one's true nature. I am fortunate to live near St Davids Cathedral which is also an outstanding example of cathedral architecture and art. After my visit to Chartes I proceeded onto Switzerland but stopped at various places on route. One of those places was Taizé well known for it's meditative chants and community.
Photo taken at Aeshi, near Bern in Switzerland.
Switzerland is famous for it's scenic beauty amongst other things and in both 1994 and 1995 I stayed high up in the mountains where the workshops were held. I have never returned but the terrain and general vibration made a lasting impression on me. So it was a fairly busy time of my life. I was traveling a fair bit, giving workshops and had quite a few commissions to be going on with. I continued to be based in Wales and remember that whenever I returned home I was reminded of the beauty and peace of this part of the world. On my return journey from Switzerland by car in 1995 I visited my aura-soma friends, Mike and Claudia, in Lincolnshire and was introduced to the world of digital imagery by the two designers working in the aura-soma design studio. I am not sure of the exact timing but about 1995 or 1996 I started to get involved in working with computers and photoshop in particular and also video programs. The video side of things involved collaborations with several others and was set in motion by my and Mike's aspiration to make a mandala video. Some of you reading this will be aware that myself and Mike started a mandala publishing business some years previously and that Mike was and is prominent in the world of aura-soma. I personally never have learnt to use video software but between about 1995 and 2000 I did make an extensive study of various programs directly related to my work as in preparing images for publication, desk top publishing programs and web design ones. Initially I was watching others do this and then gradually became more directly involved and eventually went on to work in that field on and off for many years and still do so though less than previously. About that time I also became more involved in photography. I remember when visiting Holland in 1994 and showing my daughter some photos I had taken she basically said I should get myself a decent camera as the quality of the photos was very low. So I initially bought myself a fairly large and heavy "Zenith" and later a compact more high tech "Canon". This enabled me in the next ten years or so to explore my childhood dream of taking nature photographs which I subsequently published in card form.
The video project first began in about the mid '80's which was pretty much pre-digital, started to take form in the '90's using the digital medium and has continued to come and go ever since without reaching fruition or completion. However one way and another my mandalas have found their way into that medium in the form of at least three videos featuring my work and also an interactive app. for iPhones and iPads. So although the original aspiration to make a video involving myself, Mike, musician and video editor James Asher and others has never come together it was part of a creative process which has! Life is an unfolding dance and outcomes are not always as planned or expected... Reflecting on this era I am reminded that apart from visiting Spain, France, Germany, Holland and Switzerland I also travelled to other countries in the next few years, including Ireland, Australia, Japan and then a few years later Eastern Europe. I also visited some of the countries mentioned more than once. I will explore these adventures in the next section or two. Meanwhile various teachers and teachings came by way. I have already mentioned Mother Meera but there were others some of whom I met and others whose books I read, notably Jean Klein, Ramesh Balsekar, Nisagargatta and more... However the guiding light and main inspiration in my life continued to be Ramana Maharishi.
31. In most cases I sold my work direct to shops or individual customers. However I also had distributors especially overseas. On one occasion in the '80's a young woman called Heather came to visit me and expressed interest in distributing my work in South Africa. I had learnt that all such ideas don't necessarily come to fruition but was certainly open to them doing so. As it happened a few years later I did start to receive large orders from Heather and so my work found it's way to South Africa. When Heather visited she came with her mother. What I did not realize at the time was that I was destined to meet Heather's sister Vivika about fifteen years later about 2000, fall in love and live with her for a while. That was something that turned out to be an auspicious connection.
The meeting with Heather must have been about 1985/6 when I was still living near Glastonbury but this narrative has now got to about 1996 by which time I was regularly sending cards etc. to South Africa and also many other countries. I was also exhibiting my originals now and then including exhibitions at the Aura-soma centre in Lincolnshire (1998), a gallery run by friends near me in Wales (1997) and a healing centre in Dublin (1998) and also at The Mind Body Spirit festival in Dublin. There were probably other shows and exhibitions as I was quite active at the time presenting and distributing my work but those are the three main ones I think. I continued to receive commissions often for mandalas that I had already painted and which were in effect hand-painted copies. As the years have passed different images have come to me and resonated. In particular at about that time I spent a long time tuning into and drawing and painting the indian yantra or mandala known as Sri Yantra. I had first come across it India in the early '70's but had not quite tuned into it sufficiently to want to work with it. I was however aware that it was considered to be the most powerful and significant mandala or yantra in the Indian system. I am not sure why it came into my life in the mid '90's but it did! During my time in Switzerland I worked out or tried to work out how to draw it because the geometry is not straight forward unless you know the "method". At that point I did not know there was a method though I assumed there was and tried to find the geometry myself. Eventually I managed to draw it by experimentation and practice and that is how I first drew and painted the Sri Yantra. A few years later I came across the geometry presented in one of the texts in the Indian scriptures or Vedas and later versions I drew and painted using that system. I go into this system in my book Sacred Circles. There are all kinds of ideas about The Sri Yantra and it's geometrical and symbolic significance and also various ways of drawing it but all I know is that for a while I felt very tuned into it and painted more than one version and then also created some more versions digitally. Although the geometry or structure of the Sri Yantras I painted were fairly true to the traditional form the colours were chosen by myself and were not traditional. One version I painted used shades of blue through to lilac and another spanned the whole spectrum. I also created a series digitally which took the basic principle of the second version and intensified the colours so that I ended up with seven images the first of which was predominantly red and the second orange etc. The turquoise version in the series I made into a window transparency.
Variation of Sri Yantra painted about 1999
It was in the mid to late '90's that I became aware of several teachers sometimes described as being neo-advaitins. These teachers are often but not always associated with Papaji who for some years was based in Lucknow in North India and was visited by many devotees from the West. I think I have mentioned earlier in this narrative that I came across a book about Papaji in 1993 when visiting Glastonbury. I went to talks given by some of these teachers and also in the case of Gangaji watched many videos. There is something of a discussion or one might say dispute as to whether such teachers advocate "effort" or "effortlessness' or "effortless effort" and so on! The same applies to whether there is a "path" or "no path" or "a path which is in fact no path"! Some people fall firmly in the "no effort" camp and some in the "effort" camp. It all reminds me of one of Leonard Orr's sayings. Leonard Orr was one of the founders of the Rebirthing movement and a devotee of Babaji. The saying is either "confusion is a higher state of consciousness" or "a little confusion is a sign of mental health!" he may have said both... or neither but my point is that whether effort is advised or advised against a certain flexibility and willingness to let go of mental preconceptions is required to receive any teachings. Personally I like the way Ramana Maharishi sums it up by saying something to the effect that effort is inevitable prior to realization and impossible after it. I found it helpful on several counts to engage with the teachings of these neo-advaitins and also other contemporary teachers. Firstly there was the feeling that inspiration and guidance was being transmitted and also a sense of community or Sangha. Although I have generally lived alone as an adult I do consider it helpful and also enjoyable to share the journey. On the other hand I am aware that sharing the journey can also sometimes take one off course somewhat and then I tend to retreat to relative solitude. This consideration of effort/effortlessness etc. reminds me of something I wrote in 1974:
"The only way to resolve contrary concepts
is to transcend them.
Aspiration and acceptance,
good and evil,
freewill and fate...
If one can empty the mind and be still,
all these dualities are not."
Although in the '90's I was n't in any long term or committed romantic relationships I was close to several women and in a relationship with one or other at some point. Having got into serious difficulties in this area of life when I was younger I had in the '80's taken part in workshops that explored relationships and how they reflect and express internal processes and conditioning. Also being aware of the astrological significance of the sign, house and aspects associated with the planet Venus I was aware of certain dynamics at work in my life. I have never reached any conclusion about this area of my life other than a recognition that it is all part of the healing, wholing journey and is sometimes easy and sometimes difficult. One of my girlfriends of the late '90's once said to me something like "You do not understand the dark side of love". I thought at the time that I did n't really want to do so. However I think what she was implying lines up with what Sondra Ray, famous for her Loving Relationships courses once said. She said "Love always brings up it's opposite for the purpose of healing". I think this suggests that a loving space allows feelings and thoughts that might normally be suppressed to surface and that some of these will be "negative" but that a loving space will allow and transform such energies for the better. Invariably the women I became involved with were on some kind of spiritual journey so both the meditative side of life and the romantic side were intertwined. Oneness can and does take many forms.
32. In about 2000 when staying in Glastonbury I met up with Heather whom as I mentioned earlier was distributing my work in South Africa. We met at Chalice Well and she was accompanied by her children and sister Vivika. It was the first time I had met up in person with Heather for over ten years and was the first time I met Vivika. We had a nice time in the Chalice Well Gardens and then later in Glastonbury town. Heather was in the country for a limited length of time and staying with her mother but Vivika was living in Somerset and I invited her to visit me in Wales which she did a few weeks or so later. When she visited I showed her the local sacred and scenic sites at least one of which she remembered from a childhood visit many years previously. One of the places I took her to was the local Wildlife Park which is a few miles from where I live. We enjoyed the scenery, had a meal and then went to walk by the river. It was at that point a double rainbow appeared which I managed to photograph. It seemed like an auspicious omen. One question I have often considered when it comes to photography is the interaction between the photographer and subject. In the case of portraits the connection is obvious but sometimes it feels like there is also a similar interaction occurring with nature. A while later I visited Vivika at her home in Somerset and so our friendship and relationship unfolded. For a year or so we visited each other and then a year later she came to live with me in Wales and stayed for about a year and then returned to Somerset. We continued to see each other for about another year though there were some spaces. Vivika is amongst other things a very accomplished artist and when she was here she focussed on that side of things and we took part in the local Open Studios. This meant that in the Summer on specified days visitors came to see our work. Vivika is also interested in the meditative journey or spiritual path and we visited at least two teachers during our time together.
Rainbow over Rver Teifi about 2000
I think it was about 2000/2001 that I first went to Latvia to give workshops. Somehow my work had found it's way to that part of the world and I was invited to go there and give mandala workshops. When visiting my daughter in Berlin a year or two previously we had explored East Berlin and so I had already had a taste of what life had been like behind the Iron Curtain but not really met or been friends with anyone in that context. When I went to Riga in Latvia I met many lovely people and also learnt more about what life had been like in the context of the Soviet Union. I was initially somewhat shocked by the stories people told me. Almost all of the people I met both of Russian and Latvian origin but especially the latter had somewhat traumatic tales to tell. Some seemed to be more affected by this than others but on one occasion my translator took me aside and said "You must understand that we have been an oppressed people for the last fifty years." I think how this had affected everyone depended a good deal on their age and basically the older people had more memories and worse memories of the Soviet Era than the younger ones. However almost everyone one I met seemed to have some terrible story to tell about their lives or if they were young their parents or grandparents lives. It made a big impact on me. It did not adversely effect my workshops as I found that the people who attended them had a sincere and deep interest in the deeper aspects of life which they had been deprived of previously. I was shown round the city and learnt that all the churches and cathedrals had been "secularized" during what was referred to as the Soviet Occupation and so I think the Cathedral had been a library or cafe. After the collapse of the Soviet Union the government of Latvia returned such buildings to their original intended purpose and as far as I could see were often full of worshippers to a much greater degree than in the UK. It was a time of great change for the country and eventually over a six year period I visited the country four times to give workshops and in 2006 continued to neighboring Lithuania to give a workshop in Vilnius. Apart from giving workshops I did some sight seeing and also sold my work in a shop in the centre of Riga. Interestingly I learnt that all the shops had to give protection money to the mafia whom were clearly active and influential! I was given the impression that the influence of the mafia was diminishing and so it may or may not be necessary to pay "protection money" now. My last visit to Latvia was in 2006 and I have not returned since and may or may not do so in the future.
Group mandala Riga 2006
I continued to spend most of my time at home in Wales and at one point also opened my house up to visitors in the context of "Mandala Workshops and Celtic Pilgrimages" to see how that went. Because my house or bungalow was initially rather small I extended it sideways and backwards to create a bit more space. I had already extended it upwards in 1998 by converting the loft. Various visitors came to stay on that basis and I found it an interesting and by and large enjoyable way to make contact. I have always enjoyed painting mandalas and sharing that with others and also visiting sacred and scenic sites so I felt the two went well together. I also took part in Open Studios again on one or two occasions by myself and also one year was part of the local arts and craft trail. My romantic life went through a quiet spell after Vivika but I did meet and get involved with someone whom was and to a certain extent still is a Krishna devotee and then later became romantically involved with someone in Latvia. However I should have learnt by then that long distance relationships carry with them potential and unavoidable pit falls. It was nice while it lasted but the parting of ways was not a happy one. On first visiting Eastern Europe or in this case Latvia the first impression might be of relative poverty compared to the UK but on my second visit I stayed in somewhat luxurious circumstances. On one occasion my host said that one in a hundred or maybe he said a thousand Latvians are millionaires. I questioned his figures but we had a discussion about the distribution of wealth in the country. I think the conclusion is or was that in about 2004/5 there were indeed many rich people in Latvia and also many poor ones with not so many inbetween. By and large the workshops I gave were well attended and my work was well received and I sold quite a lot of originals and reproductions in one form or another. During that time I also gave workshops in various locations in the UK but by 2007 things were beginning to wind down in that respect. This was not as a result of a conscious decision by me but may have been an unconscious one. I have always known that life is cyclical like an ongoing inbreath and outbreath. I was feeling the need for an inbreath! What I did not realize at the time was that the need would turn out to be somewhat protracted!
Some of the workshops I was involved with were initially just about mandalas but later involved sound and collaboration with a musician and sound therapist called Felicity. Astrology also played a part in those particular workshops as they were attended by Lana whom I have mentioned earlier in the context of an astrological mandala. The process unfolded because Felicity also known as Flick who was originally hosting the mandala workshops suggested a collaboration or maybe it was already arising spontaneously! It was fairly experimental. There were periods of painting and also periods exploring sound and sometimes both together. I have collaborated with various people over the years and am keen to present the view that mandalas are not a closely defined or confined area of exploration and creativity but blend in with and relate to everything else. In that context they can fit into a lot of environments and subjects!
Cygnus Mandala 2006
I had various commissions during this period, in some cases copying my previous work and in some cases breaking new ground. One commission involved working with Ann and Geoff of Cygnus Newsletter. This was a long process and after an initial painting not working I decided to explore ideas digitally. I had tried this approach before as it is easy to make modifications with pixels as distinct from paint marks! An aspect of this mandala which was unprecedented in my experience was the inclusion of a swan at the centre of the mandala. Being inexperienced in that kind of imagery I called upon my various friends to help by referring me to images on the web. This is when the internet can come in really useful as a means of immediate communication of ideas and images. One of my friends is also a bird expert so one way and another I was able to draw freehand the image of a swan to an acceptable standard and likeness though having said that it was a somewhat symbolic rather than a representative image. The rest of the mandala incorporated ideas that I have often used such as light emanating from the centre and at Ann's request there is also an equidistant cross. So once I had created the mandala digitally and it had been approved by Ann and Geoff I proceeded to paint it. I think the image finally came together Summer 2006 ready for their fifteen years Cygnus anniversary celebration. At the event the mandala was projected onto a large screen which was pretty impressive! Unfortunately I did n't have my camera with me so have no record of that event. I was too busy exhibiting and selling my work. About then I met and became close to a new friend called Mina whom is a therapist. Partly because of her I once again became involved with experimenting with diet and a year later the two of us and a few others undertook a month's cleanse which was an eventful and interesting experience! As I mentioned earlier I have always been interested in health and healing but my enthusiasm and level of involvement have varied over the years. In recent years perhaps because of the consequences of growing older I have given the subject more thought.
33. As mentioned in the last section I was beginning to feel a need for an inbreath around 2006 and that turned out to continue for a few years. I did travel a bit in 2007 notably to Holland to visit my daughter whom had recently given birth to a son but I do n't think I travelled much to do with my work with mandalas though my web site records another mandala/sound workshop in the east of England. I think there were one or two other workshops as well and also some visitors to explore mandalas and the local sacred and scenic sites. I continued to paint mandalas and sell them and continued to sell reproductions in a variety of media as well as doing work on the computer in a variety of ways. I also explored the local area with Mina who lives near me in the beautiful village of St Dogmaels. My Latvian girlfriend of 2005 liked to walk in and explore the local Preseli Hills partly because she felt very tuned into their energy and also because Latvia is almost entirely flat. Mina liked to walk the coastal path for which this part of the world is famous, so we spent many delightful days out in nature exploring and appreciating the beauty of the local landscape and terrain.
Ceibwr Bay, Pembrokeshire Coast about ten miles from where I live
As mentioned at the end of the last section I was giving some thought to healing and on reflection this may have been set in motion in 2005. I had been having recurring dental problems and the dentist was perplexed as to why this was happening. She recommended that I seek medical help both conventional and alternative. This started a journey or restarted a journey that has been ongoing since I was quite young as I have always been interested in healing. I think I was interested in the subject partly because of various health issues and also because I saw it as a field of study and practice which is of value to one and all. This interest encompasses quite a wide spectrum of life including the spiritual to the physical and everything in between and also extends to the environment and the cosmos! In other words I am interested in what is called Holistic Healing and consider mandalas to have a part to play in such a context both in terms of colour and form. I am not sure that visiting either the doctor or the nutritionist was particularly enlightening but it did focus my mind somewhat. Amongst other things the nutritionist said that it's not possible to be healthy if one has amalgam fillings and recommended I have them replaced. I could see the logic of her thinking but my dentist was very against the idea and although I later visited an alternative dentist never got round to having the amalgam replaced but may still do so. Further reading and study suggested that root fillings are potentially as much of a problem or worse. More or less everything I have read in recent years suggests that most if not all dental and medical care I have ever received is disadvantageous in the long run and to a certain extent needs to be undone. This is a long haul but may relate to my earlier statement that "toxins accumulate". That being the case or possibly the case I undertook from about 2007 onwards several cleanses designed to help the body eliminate toxins using herbs and diet. The general theme seemed to be "cleanse and rebuild" which approximately meant eliminate one way or another what the body and soul did n't need and which was causing problems and replace that with health giving thoughts, feelings and nutrition that the body and soul do need. I have found this principle helpful and am continuing to explore it one way and another with some positive results.
As you will have gathered I have had my share of ups and downs in relationships but as far as possible I try to see this as part of the unfolding dance and healing journey. As a teenager I became interested in psychology and later studied it at University and took part in various workshops and encounter groups. Some ten or so years later I took part in workshops at Glastonbury and other places which sought to understand and explore the intricacies of the human psyche. The search for Peace, Harmony and Love is a universal one whether one sees that in terms of human relationships or spiritual awakening or both. There are a lot of people with a lot of ideas about the subject! One of the teachers I came across in the '90's is called Lester Levenson. On one occasion he said something like "I give you the theory but you get the practical out in the world". On another occasion he said something along the lines of "You seek love outside of yourselves in this person or in this thing and it is never there. Love is within and is your true nature." So we hear the teachings and explore and meditate on them but somehow or other we need to be able to maintain an awakened state of consciousness at all times under all circumstances both favourable and unfavourable. By any standards this is a challenging task but all the indications are that this is the path to true freedom. As discussed earlier there is some debate as to whether to make effort or surrender or both or neither but one way or another I was told early in my life that we are all destined to awaken. I do consider this to be true and inevitable and this conviction has helped me through the inevitable ups and downs of life.
"One day you will awaken
as it is the destiny of all souls to awaken.
Then you will know the Bliss of Being
and dance and sing in ecstasy the Song of Eternity."
(Findhorn about 1970 - Sacred Circles)
One of the themes that I was tuning into around this time was that of "Letting go". Letting go is the opposite to "Holding on!". I think speaking generally letting go is a process of surrender, expansion and softening and holding on is a more tense state and a contraction. It may be that to a certain extent this is an example of a balancing process and that there is a happy mean or middle way but in the context of my Latvian ex girlfriend there was some persistent disturbance that was bothering me and disturbing my peace of mind. The experience seemed to highlight the need to let go of attachments. It is probably true to say that if there is the feeling of a need to let go then there is still some holding on occurring. I have experienced this a few times in my life as have many others. I have observed that even if the experience is an unpleasant or unhappy one it can somehow persist in it's influence for some time. What I mean is that commonsense says that if a memory is painful then let it go! However sometimes it seems that the more painful it is the harder it is to do so. This is further complicated by the fact that sometimes there is a juxtaposition of both happy and unhappy experiences associated with the same person. According to some books I have read on the subject these sorts of feelings and issues that arise in life generally and in particular in the context of intimate loving relationships do so to facilitate healing of pre-existing wounds or hurts. In other words their impact is as much to do with the past as the present and are a way to access parts of the psyche which may otherwise be closed off. In terms of the rebirthing view of life this was considered to be related to early childhood conditioning and the birth trauma or events which precede birth in the womb or even in a previous life. I remember on one rebirthing workshop we were encouraged to seek out within ourselves through some visualization process when our first sense of separation arose. In my case it seemed to start at the very beginning when the notion of an individual "I" arose. The workshop leader was quite surprised that I came up with this so quickly and was expecting people to go through early memories and so on and then eventually trace it back to the very beginning. It may well be that this sense of separation from the source is the essence of suffering and that all the times we experience closeness and then the pain of separation are modifications of that original separation... What I became aware of is that it is not enough to let go! That leaves one in a somewhat neutral state. Rather one needs to let go into a greater love and into the state of Oneness. I have always felt an affinity for the yin yang symbol. It beautifully represents the way the polarities of life co-exist and flow in and out of each other. I have often included the symbol in my mandalas. The two sections of the symbol are in some sense of the word separate but closely related and part of the circle which represents the underlying or all pervasive Oneness. So whether one's healing journey involves clearing out the physical body or the emotional body or any other body one can conceive of such as the etheric, mental and spiritual bodies the idea is to align with a higher harmony which is inherent and all encompassing. This higher harmony is sometimes called Divine Love.
I let go and keep letting go into the One
and create space for Peace, Love, Harmony and Bliss
in my life.
Meanwhile life flowed on and I was seeing Mina regularly and to a certain extent sharing these thoughts and ideas with her. However one of the fundamental principles of life is change and that seems to be particularly so in my case when it comes to relationships. By Summer 2008 which was two years after we became close Mina and myself were beginning to drift apart. I was n't consciously seeking for someone else as far as I can remember but I must have been open to other possibilities arising because that is what happened...
34. In late Summer 2008 a new friend and love entered my life. A local friend came round with a friend of hers called Fiona whom had recently moved to the area. It was a brief visit as I think they were on their way to the station but I invited Fiona to call back another time and she did so. I remember that when she first entered the room where many of my mandalas are displayed she sat on the floor for a long time looking at them! Fiona was and is deeply into Plant Medicines and Shamanism of the South American variety and also was and is an exponent of Space Clearing. For various reasons I never got involved with the shamanic plant medicine side of things but space clearing was unavoidable! It seems the principle that applies to psychological, physical and purification in general applies to one's immediate environment. For example if over a period of time one puts things in a cupboard in a fairly unconscious sort of way and continues to do so problems gradually accumulate. So on one occasion we were clearing out such a cupboard and found at the back a damp mouldy area due to lack of air circulation. It seems that in all areas of life energy needs to circulate and flow. At the best of times Wales is a rather damp place! However weather seems to be getting more extreme and there have been local floods the last few years which do n't normally affect me as I am quite high up. However due to some building work I have had done I had indirectly blocked the natural flow of water and it found it's way into one of the rooms which is slightly lower than the rest of the house. I won't go into the details but my point is that we need to be conscious in all areas of life otherwise we end up with problems! Certainly we need to be careful not to block the flow whatever we are dealing with as if we do so pressure builds up and then there is a crisis. It could of course be a "healing crisis" and ultimately for the good! It has sometimes occurred to me that I have needed to meet and be closely involved with so many different people rather than just one because each person introduces me to something new! I guess that some people can be with the same person for many years and still keep learning but certainly I have felt each person I have been close to has opened up a new set of possibilities and ideas. So a fair bit of energy has gone into my immediate environment in the last few years in terms of endeavoring to keep the space clear and flowing and this is ongoing. I have never made a serious study of Feng Shui but have taken an interest in it and as far as possible aspire to tune into and adapt to the way energy is flowing.
Snow Rainbow. This image reminds me of the discussion about the dome...
One of the things Fiona said when I first knew her was something like she wanted to live near or in the "dome" she perceived or felt to be present in this area. I have not known many people who use this term though my aura-soma friends do so and also one or two others. Certainly I shared the feeling that this is the place to be in the sense of being near to The Preseli Hills and associated ancient sacred sites and also near to the sea. Also somehow this area has always attracted people of the alternative variety. For instance there are some quite large towns in the UK which don't have a wholefood shop whereas there are several within a ten mile radius of where I live and this has been the case for a long time in spite of a low level of population. One event of note in my personal and family life about this time was I received a visit from my daughter Devi, her partner Martijn and their son Joppe. It was very nice to show them some local places and enjoy outings with them and Fiona.
Angel Wings photographed 1999, Pwllgwaelod Dinas Head, Pembrokeshire Coast about ten miles from where I live
I have called this narrative The Unfolding Dance or The Dance Unfolds and writing it is an unfolding process and I have gone from the time of my life when I was relatively young to approaching now when I am relatively old. The concluding theme of the last section seems to me to be summarized by the well known saying "Let Go and Let God." I have covered some times in my life when things have been flowing well and also the less flowing times. Ramana Maharishi once said that people express gratitude towards God when things are going well but not when they are going badly and that this is the big mistake. Lester Levenson says that both happiness and unhappiness can be great teachers. He says that relative happiness gives us a foretaste of true happiness and thereby gives us encouragement and also some indications where happiness is to be found and that unhappiness helps us realize where happiness is not to be found! In other words both polarities of a dualistic universe or perspective can help guide us back to the source or centre and are therefore to be appreciated as great teachers. Perhaps an obvious example of such a polarity is life and death. People tend to celebrate birth and mourn death but both are an integral part of each other and according to the perspective of reincarnation birth and death are events that have occurred and will occur many times in many dimensions. It is said that awakened beings have died whilst they are still alive in the sense that their ego is no longer operative as a separate individual but rather they have become One with the all. They have died to the limited life and stepped into the Infinite Life. So life unfolds and continues to unfold and this seems to apply to one and all.
In 2008/9 which is about where I have got to so far in this story the world entered into am economic meltdown which had been long predicted by a variety of people such as psychics and astrologers. In my home town of Cardigan many shops closed down and this was occurring throughout the UK. There is some debate as to whether this crisis was a one off or the first wave of a series of waves of a similar nature. I remember one of the things they taught at Findhorn in the '70's was that there is no point trying to prop up the old world order. Rather it is better to focus on and build something positive based on universal and holistic principles. Clearly there is a high degree of chaos and disharmony in some parts of the world and contemporary civilization and I do not wish to speculate as to outcomes. However there are prophecies to the effect that after a period of considerable upheaval humanity will enter into a more harmonious phase. Meanwhile we can each aspire to create our own world of harmony, peace and love knowing that everything is interconnected and that we are thereby contributing in a positive way to the state of the world. During this time there was a notable decline in my activities with regards to all areas of my business activities such as selling cards and prints, giving workshops, commissions, work on the computer and so on and this was the case for a while. I have however continued to do most of these things but to a lesser degree than before but I think 2009/10 was especially quiet in that respect. In 2011 things livened up somewhat in that I was invited to exhibit at the Aura-soma centre in Brighton and to paint a mural at their healing centre in Lincolnshire.
As I have mentioned earlier I have shared various creative projects with my aura-soma friends and exhibiting my work at Brighton was a further exploration of that nature. I also stayed with my friend James Asher who lives near Brighton and with whom I have collaborated on various projects often to do with aura-soma as he has also been connected to them for many years especially in a musical capacity. In Brighton I stayed with Fraser whom I had known when he was a small child at Wick Manor and whom is now well over six feet tall and works in the medical field. The exhibition was n't a success in terms of sales but was an enjoyable adventure one way and another! It lasted about a month and during that time I spent time with James and other friends on the east side of England including Tetford where I painted a mural at the aura-soma centre. The mural is of the "Shunyata" variety and I painted it whilst Mike was giving a workshop so the group saw it progressing and I also benefited from the peaceful vibrations and general ambience. Some weeks later I travelled back to Brighton to take down my exhibition and subsequently returned to Wales via friends in Somerset and Gloucestershire. I received two commissions from these friends which I then worked on during the following months. Meanwhile Fiona had been exploring other avenues and our paths were beginning to diverge though we have continued to enjoy each others company on a regular basis as friends.
Flower of Life digital version
Around this time a few new mandala images took shape. One was a further exploration of the theme of energy radiating from the centre in the context of a rainbow spiral which is light in the centre, then gets deeper and then fades out. I have called this mandala Spectral Harmony and I have explored this idea on many occasions. Technically speaking for me it is not that difficult to paint my Shunyata series as the range of colours is limited to about twenty four. However if the whole spectrum is involved then the number of colours is greatly increased and also the process of blending the colours is much more complex. The intention of the design is to represent a synthesis of multiplicity as represented by the spectrum and all the colours of the rainbow and Unity as represented by the pure white light permeating the colours. It is closely related to the mandala I call Oneness which is lighter due to more light permeating the image. I think I was working on Spectral Harmony late 2011 to early 2012. In 2013 I spent a good deal of time exploring the mandala known as The Flower of Life. I had been lent a book by Fiona which explored this symbol and after a while felt drawn to work with it. Initially I think I created various versions on the computer and then later painted it. Another two designs came together about this time which were commissions and which I created using photoshop. The first one was for the couple I had painted the mandala Atlantis for in 1983 and is a symbol called Allbeing which they feel is a more appropriate symbol for their current work. The other design was for a QiGong teacher and healer called Nadia. I visited Nadia on my way back from Holland in December 2012 and saw the beautiful woodland environment where she practises and teaches QiGong. The visit was a sign of things to come because in 2013 I started to take part in Qigong classes with a local teacher and sometimes they take place in the woods. In 2012 I had a visit from someone I have known and been close friends with for many years though contact has been somewhat intermittent as we live in different parts of the country. Unusually she had suddenly been inspired to paint mandalas and came with quite a selection of her work. I enjoyed very much this sharing of mandala energy. I have met many people whom paint mandalas in the context of giving workshops but very few who actually make it their occupation. So the creative process continues. When I was living in Iona with friends one of whom also painted mandalas or at least drew and coloured them, he used to write on the back of his mandalas "From Infinity to Infinity The Golden Eagle Flies". I remember adding "Even Now Infinity Alone Is"...
The Non-Existence of the Individual Self
Truth is like a leaf falling from a tree
Somehow the above phrase has Buddhist connotations which is not my intention! One day Autumn 2016 I was standing by the local river Teifi when I had the sudden awareness that I was “emptiness” or that there was nothing substantial about “myself’. It was a fleeting experience but left a strong impression. Some months later a new friend came into my life on New Years Day 2016/7 and we started watching Mooji Satsangs online together and with a few other friends at my house. I became aware that at night instead of feeling sleepy I would become “hyper awake”. I have had this experience before in the early ’90’s which I think I have referred to in an earlier section of these notes. In the 90’s I was aware of a stream of “teachings’’ entering into consciousness as though I was ‘plugged into” a source of energy and knowledge. It also co-incided with the awareness of “Unity” or “Non-differentiation”. On this more recent occasion it was somewhat more “visceral”. I had the experience of “going up in flames” and intense heat. There was not a lot going on in terms of ideas but there was a lot going on energetically. There have been a few periods like this in my life and I have come to the conclusion that they come and then go and then there is a period of assimilation and integration. Sometimes the energy has been so intense I have wondered if I would survive. I think that is why they come in small doses over time otherwise the energy would be overwhelming and that may account for some people not being able to handle these states. In some systems great emphasis is placed on preparing the body and mind to be able to receive these powerful energies. So this was all going on early 2017 and at some point I experienced “the non-existence of the individual self”. I was nowhere to be found! Simultaneously a tremendous amount of Love and Bliss arose and I realized that when the individual self dissolves it is like a great weight being removed from one’s shoulders. It was not a permanent realization but has also left a strong impression.
Recently I remembered an encounter I had with some Jehovah’s Witnesses about thirty years ago. My girlfriend of that time invited them into her house and we all had a lengthy discussion. At some point I got fed up, stood up and said “Truth is like a leaf falling from a tree” and left the room. Two or so years later when I had moved to my current home there was a knock on the door and there was one of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. He said to me “I have been trying to work out since I saw you what you meant when you said “Truth is like a leaf falling from a tree”. I said something like his guess was as likely to be as true as mine as I did n’t want to have another discussion! However the phrase has come back to me because the dissolution of the individual self does feel like a leaf falling from a tree…
I used to be and still am somewhat reluctant to explain what I term “intuitive insights” because they come from beyond the mind and cannot really be explained in any rational way. However in recent years I have become more open to the idea that even if they can’t be explained some understanding may be communicated though it really depends on participants in the discussion being able and willing to go beyond the mind… A few years after the encounter with The Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1988 a couple of Mormons turned up on my doorstep on Christmas Eve about 1995 but that is another story!
Over the last year or so this image has been active in my psyche and on my easel… It is a combination of a mandala I painted in the ’80's called Flying Lotus and in the centre I have added a variation of The Flower of Life which I have been exploring over the last few years... so it a synthesis of the old and new!
more to follow...
1.Findhorn 2.Iona 3.Wales 4.Dorset 5.Wales 2 6.Mandalas 1 7.The Circle dropping Into Consciousness 8.Dorset 2 9.India 11.Himalayas 12.Rishikesh 13.Maastricht 14 Dorset 3 15.Destiny and Freewill 16.Dorset 4 17.Kyntyre 18.Iona 2 19 Wales 3 20. Dream 21 Oneness 22 Glastonbury 23 Wick 24 Aura-Soma 25 Sacred Centres 26 Synchronicity 27 Dreaming 28 Workshop 29 Shunyata 30 Workshop 2 31 Sri Yantra 32 Yin Yang 33 Healing 34 Now 36 2018 35 Early Days