Canterbury

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“Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?” These word of King Henry II spoken nearly 900 years ago, began a series of events that we still talk about today. Henry II and Thomas Beckett were good pals until Henry made Thomas the Archbishop of Canterbury. Then, Thomas did the unthinkable and decided to not do everything Henry wanted, that started a power struggle that ended when Henry’s henchmen took him literally and murdered Thomas in the middle of the Cathedral. Within hours of the murder, miracles happened with the blood of Thomas. Henry regretted his words and spent a lifetime doing penance. The world began walking to Canterbury for miracles and salvation.

A hundred and fifty years later, Geoffrey Chaucer immortalized the Canterbury pilgrimage and the stories of medieval life. 600 years later. The Canterbury Tales are still part of almost every high school curriculum, except my high school where the stories were deemed inappropriate and not good for me. Oh my.

Since I love reading about pilgrimages as much as taking them I picked up Jerry Ellis’ book Walking to Canterbury. Last year, I read his book Walking the Trail about his experience walking the Trail of Tears backwards from Oklahoma to Alabama to feel more connected to his Cherokee heritage. Jerry wanted to honor his English roots as well by making a pilgrimage in England. He also walked from London to Canterbury along the traditional pilgrim route. Throughout the story, he perfectly weaves The Canterbury Tales and life in medieval England into his own experiences of the local people and places he encounters, walking in both worlds simultaneously. During the pilgrimage, he carved a walking stick with the faces of Christ and Sequoya, to honor both pilgrimages.

When I made my own pilgrimage to Canterbury in 2005 I had never read The Canterbury Tales or the story of Thomas Beckett. What I knew was that Canterbury is a magnificent cathedral and the Archbishop of Canterbury is the highest authority in the Anglican church, As an Episcopalian the prayers always included the current Archbishop. I didn’t walk to Canterbury but took a train from London with my husband, teen daughters and my dear friend Rachael. It was the first warm day of spring and the town was alive with people wanting to revel in the glories of sunshine, blue sky and flowers against the backdrop of Gothic perfection. The day had a magic and wonder I will never forget.

We met up with Rachael’s daughter Anne and her family and bought a family ticket that included all of us as we were family by choice. Rachael and I wandered silently through the cathedral slowly enjoying every detail we could possibly see. I particularly liked the zodiac roundels in the floor near Trinity chapel that date to the 1400’s. Our tour took us to the crypt where we admired the elaborate vestments and chalices. Just at the door to the garden were prayer candles. I lit one and made a vow that I didn’t expect to make that day, a vow to do what the Universe asks of me whatever that was. It was a sacred moment that changed me, a vow as important to me as my baptism and confirmation and marriage.

Rachael and I stepped into the sunshine and were greeted by her 7 year old granddaughter Louise who was impatiently waiting on a bench. “Hurry up Nanny, I’m 72 years old now.” Louise was right. Time had stood still that morning and at least 65 years had passed in a twinkling of an eye that beautiful day.

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A Pilgrimage and A Class

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A Pilgrimage

May 2017 I get to return to one of my favorite places Scotland and this time I get to take friends and fellow pilgrims with me for the adventure.   I’m going to be teaching as part of Audrey Press Tours  Awakening the Celtic Journey Within:  A Pilgrimage to Scotland May 24-June 5, 2017.   Highlights include Edinburgh, Rosslyn Chapel, Glen Lyon, Isle of Lewis and Callanish Stones and 2 nights on Iona.

http://www.audreypresstours.com.

 

A Class

Sunday July 17-Friday July 22, 2016  I will be teaching a week long class on pilgrimages and sacred sites, Pilgrimage:  A Journey for The Soul at The Great Lakes Retreat, Olivet, Michigan.   The class explores the history, stages, experiences and lessons of pilgrimage.  Each day we will explore sacred sites around the world.    On Thursday I will give a talk on Arriving Home and how to integrate your journey into everyday life.

http://www.thegreatlakesretreat.org

 

 

The Truman Show

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Last weekend I was back in southern California to visit Alexandra for some much needed mother/daughter time. On this visit Alexandra chose a tour of Paramount Studios for our adventure. She now works in the film industry and has an encyclopedic knowledge of film history so it was fun to go see this historic studio. Our tour guide Angelica drove us around the sprawling studio in a little golf cart. We saw fake New York City streets, an empty fake lake with fake sky background, fake school for a kid’s TV show, and a very worn out set for a talk show. But thanks to the magic of the camera you would never know any of it is an illusion. Each large building had a plaque that listed the movie and TV shows that were filmed in the building.

The Truman Show (1998), one of my favorite movies, was filmed in one of the buildings as well as at Seaside, Florida. I consider this to be a very spiritual movie, the hero’s journey, the stepping out of illusion into full consciousness.

The story is about Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) a baby adopted by a TV studio to be the star of a 24/7 reality show, except Truman doesn’t know he is on TV, he is just living his life. Around 30, Truman starts to notice a few things that don’t make sense. A spotlight labeled Sirius falls out of the sky, the rain machine is only in one spot, the radio starts announcing his location. His wife Meryl (Laura Linney) is constantly make strange statements that really are advertisements imbedded in the dialog. A girl he meets in school tries to give him a clue before she is fired from the set. His long dead father shows up as a homeless man.

Truman tries to go on a trip with Meryl but is stopped by a fire wall, a nuclear disaster and his own fears that have been carefully orchestrated by the creator of the show Christof (Ed Harris) who directs all the action from a fake moon in a giant enclosed set. We see people around the world watching Truman’s story unfold in their living rooms. Everyone wants to know “How will it end?”

Like Truman (True Man) we live in a world that keeps us unconscious. Religions tell us they have all the answers, just be a good follower. Media scares us and makes us fearful of immanent dangers and disasters. Science says that if you can’t see and measure it then it doesn’t exist. Adverting tells us what we desire and how hard we need to work for it. Christof is asked how he keeps Truman from knowing the truth. “We accept the reality of the world which we are presented. It is as simple as that.”

Every once in a while a crack appears in the fabric of our reality, a miracle, a moment of bliss, a Truth that can’t be ignored, an experience that can’t be explained. It is just enough to make us question, gives us a clue that there is so much more to our world. That there are infinite worlds to explore, new ideas, new ways of living, freedom.

Truman takes the tiny clues, overcomes his fears and makes a break for freedom. Christof tries to stop him by almost killing him. When Truman’s sailboat runs into the end of his fake world, he gets out and “walks on water” to the staircase into the painted clouds and opens the exit door to a new reality, a new consciousness, his new life.

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Empty fake lake used as a parking lot with fake sky

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Studio where “Frasier” was filmed

Music of the Spheres

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A few weeks ago an acquaintance called to see if I would be up for hosting a solo piano recital in my house. Sarah has a month-long concert tour arranged and wanted a chance to have a trial run in front of a small and adoring audience. Nothing could make me happier. I love classical piano and an hour of Chopin, Brahms and Rachmaninoff played live in my home is pure heaven to me. We agreed on a date and I emailed some friends for my first of hopefully many salon concerts.

My mother’s wonderful piano is perfect for such concerts but was in need of a good tuning. The move from Colorado last year and the climate and altitude change made the tuning go out quickly as it adjusts to my humid climate. Fortunately a few weeks before Caroline had a party for some of her physics friends and one of them happen to have a first career as a piano tuner before deciding to be an astrophysicist. I texted him and we set up an appointment for the next week.

Noah showed up with equipment in hand ready to start tuning when I asked him about the trend back to tune instruments to the traditional 432hz for A rather than the modern 440hz. He checked the current tuning and the A was naturally falling at 432hz. He said that it would be no problem to keep it there and it would be a more stable tuning for my piano.

I first started to hear about 432hz tuning a few years ago and did some investigating then since I love classical music, am an amateur pianist and a devoted violin mom, so music is an integral part of my everyday life. Tuning A to 432hz is a more natural vibrational alignment to the patterns of earth, time, math and sacred geometry, it is also a component of the phi ratio, 1.618, also known as the golden mean, the divine proportion, the building code of nature that sets the proportions of our world to be in harmony. The Great Pyramid, Stonehenge, seashells and our inner ear are a few examples of this natural pattern. Harmony, frequency, vibration are all important to becoming in tune with the cosmos and our enlightened selves.

The standard tuning of 440hz was introduced early in the 20th century, a time when humans were increasingly out of tune with our natural environment and the rhythms of nature, a consequence of high speed travel, artificial light and world wars. We seemingly conquered nature and thus fell out of harmony with our own natural self. The advancements of our modern world aren’t going away but we can do much to restore our own personal vibration to be in harmony with the Universe. Nature, beautiful music, sunlight, silence, sacred sites are a few of the ways that we can bring our bodies back into alignment with the music of the spheres.

The concert was glorious, an hour of beautiful music masterfully played. The intimate setting of a few friends and small room made the music even more tangible and I felt that my whole being was part of the experience.

Chopin played with 432hz tuning

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mi145S-HfQ

Krishnamurti

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Road to Ojai, California

I had one more stop to make on my library tour of southern California. After leaving the Joseph Campbell library I headed inland along a beautiful twisting road through the mountains and down to the town of Ojai. I had put Ojai on my wish list several months before because I wanted to go to the home and library of its most famous resident Krishnamurti. Over the months before my trip, I read about its charming shops and restaurants and watched some yoga videos that originated in a local studio.

It was lunch time so I had found a little Mexican restaurant with an outdoor patio that had wonderful food. I wished I had time to do a little shopping but I was on a mission. I headed out of town a couple of miles to the Krishnamurti Library and nearby Pepper Tree Retreat Center, only open three afternoons a week for a few hours. The library is in Krishnamurti’s white house surrounded by gardens and a very old pepper tree. The main room of the house is spacious with large windows and a fireplace at one end and two walls of bookshelves with his many books in several languages. There are pictures of Krishnamurti standing in the room 40 years ago and it still looks the same.

Krishnamurti Home

I had known about Krishnamurti for a long time. One of my teachers has taught Theosophy for many years and Krishnamurti is an integral part of the story. Theosophy is a philosophy founded by Helena Blavatsky and Henry Olcott in the 1870s that is still active today. It combines Eastern and Western thought about the nature of God and mysticism. The headquarters of the new movement moved to India where a young Jiddu Krishnamurti was discovered and expected to be the next “World Teacher” by Charles Leadbeater and Annie Besant. Krishnamurti and his brother Nitya were then educated and lectured all over the world to promote Theosophy and the Order of the Star in the East.

In 1929 Krishnamurti rejected his ties with Theosophy and his messianic status. He chose to take a different way which he call the pathless land. He and his brother had moved to Ojai for the climate and made his home there for the rest of his life. Despite his rejection of being a world teacher he continued to teach, travel extensively and write dozens of books. He also founded Brockwood Park School in England. He had great influence on the changing cultures of the 1960s and 1970s and on the great thinkers, musicians, world leaders and scientist during that time. You might not have heard of him before but his influence on modern society is great. He did fulfill his role as a world teacher but in his own way.

I spent some time in the light-filled room surrounded by Krishnamurti’s writings and then went into the small bookstore and visited with a lovely young women who was there for the next year as a student and intern. I actually have not read much of Krishnamurti’s work so I got a book and some DVD’s to watch.

I headed out to an organic herb garden on top of a nearby hill and had a seat to just relax and breath in the fresh air and sunshine. The garden was so peaceful and the surrounding mountains magnificent. What a beautiful day of gardens, libraries and deeply spiritual men, Joseph Campbell and Jiddu Krishnamurti. They both changed the way we see the world and interestingly enough met on a ship crossing the Atlantic when they young men. I felt I too got to meet them that blissful day in a garden in California.

herb garden

“We all want to be famous people, and the moment we want to be something we are no longer free.”

“I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect.”           J Krishnamurti

Krishnamurti Foundation of America  www.kfa.org

Brockwood Park School   http://www.brockwood.org.uk

Theosophical Society  www.theosophical.org

 

Joseph Campbell

Pacifica

Joseph Campbell Library, Pacifica

I was 26 a new mother when I decided I wanted to be an Episcopalian. I liked the local parish so I had a meeting with the priest to talk about joining the church. We talked about my childhood church and it’s very literal interpretation of the Bible. The priest then said something I will never forget that rocked my world. “You know the Bible is a myth.” Holy Cow! What? Everything stopped in that instant as the foundation of my world view cracked wide open. I barely knew what a myth was, in my narrow world novels, fairy tales, myths and Santa were lies and not allowed. The priest told me to read Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth. I read the book but didn’t understand it much, I had no context for the stories or concepts but I knew it was important. It took me an entire year to just wrap my mind around the idea that the Bible was not literal. The stories began touching my heart instead of baffling my brain.

I kept going to church and joined a book club and slowly, stone by stone, dismantled the cosmology of my childhood. When my world view lay in pieces all around me I started to rebuild with the good from my old life but now with the new materials. I read more mythology, Jung and archetypes, and novels. Each new book lead to the next and I spent all my spare time building a new and expanded paradigm that was much more open with plenty of room to grow.

I kept reading Joseph Campbell and watched The Power of Myth. I listen to interviews and kept a copy of Reflections on the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion in the side pocket of my car. When I had a few minutes waiting in the school pick-up line or for ballet to finish, I would read the wise words. The book was tattered and coffee stained, underlined and loved. The myths, gods and goddesses became an important part of my life. When I went to Egypt for the first time, I knew little of the history but a great deal of the cosmology, I went to live the myths and stand before the gods. I was on the heroine’s journey.

Joseph Campbell was a professor at Sarah Lawrence College and wrote about universal themes of mythologies in all cultures. His book The Hero with a Thousand Faces has been very influential in our modern culture and the ideas helped create new myths for our time. Luke Skywalker is a classic mythological hero that bravely journeyed to the unknown to recover his lost self and bring back the wisdom for his society.

In mid-March I was traveling home from Alabama listening to some tapes of Michael Toms’ 1979 interview of Joseph Campbell. I had those tapes for many years and was going to listen to them one more time. I nearly had to pull over, on those tapes where exactly the validation I was needing about some materials I was working on about alchemy. Alchemy is not a subject usually associated with Joseph Campbell but there it was, an interview from nearly 40 years ago, perfect in that moment. The timeless quality of Joseph Campbell’s work is an indication of the deep universal Truths he was able to convey to the world. His work become new again as I grew and could hear it on a new level.

Two weeks later I was in southern California and had a day free to “follow my bliss” as Joseph Campbell so famously taught. I headed up the coast to just below Santa Barbara to Pacifica Graduate Institute and the Joseph Campbell Library. Nestled in a beautiful garden of a campus was a small library that holds all of Joseph Campbell’s personal books. Usually only accessible a few hours a week, the archivist happened to be free so he ushered me into a small dark room with bookshelves from floor to ceiling and a few display cases in the middle. I started to ask questions about alchemy and the librarian got on an old wooden ladder and pulled down a book. It was Carl Jung’s book on alchemy, Mysterium Conjunctionis. In it was Joseph Campbell’s prolific and very tidy underlining and notes. In front of me, under my fingertips was the meeting of two great minds. I turned the pages and read passages and notes and breathed in the magic of those two men who together restored the mythical journey to our modern world. Their work has restored the magic and mystery to my barren, literal life.

I spent a blissful hour and a half in that library, looking at the books that influenced such a great mind. There was an entire shelf of books on the Grail legend, some of them hundreds of years old. I saw his personal copy of his first book and a copy of The Joseph Campbell Companion with its familiar cover. In the display case were some of his favorite artifacts of ancient deity and a small metal ruler he used for underlining. Joseph was once asked if he meditated, he replied “no I underline.”

The Joseph Campbell Foundation   http://www.jcf.org

Pacifica Graduate Institute  www.pacifica.edu

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California Poppys,  Pacifica

The Huntington

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I had visited Southern California once as a teenager and a few times in my early 20’s but it really wasn’t a place that called me. It is too populated and large and the glamour of Hollywood really wasn’t my thing. But now that Alexandra lives in Santa Monica, trips to California will be a regular part of my life. When I mentioned I was on my way to LA, everyone asked if I was going to Disney or Universal, I’m saving those places to enjoy when I have grandchildren but that is many years from now, I’d say around 2032. So in the meantime, I went searching for a place to feed my soul now. I’m happy to say I found a little piece of heaven on earth in the middle of the enormous urban sprawl.

Huntington Gardens and Library combines all my favorite things in one spectacularly magical place: extensive gardens, huge library, art galleries and a beautiful mansion. Really, everything in one amazing package. It was a clear, cool day in March and my precious girl was with me, the day was going to be perfect.

We started along the path and meandered by the buildings to the Shakespeare garden that was in full bloom with purple and white delphiniums. The tall flowers had every conceivable version of purple, lavender and white with a touch of blue. Alexandra’s favorite part was a vast lawn with tall classical statues lining the edges with a final view of the stunning mountains.

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Next to the delphiniums was the rose garden in full bloom, with its intoxicating smell. The large beds featuring hundreds of different breeds of roses with their fun names and unique colors, every color of the rainbow was there and some colors I didn’t know existed.

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We passed through the arches of climbing roses into the next level of heaven, the Japanese garden. The path wound past the Spirit House with a big bell and down into a small koi pond with a classic Japanese curved bridge. We walked up to the walled garden containing dozens of bonsai, miniature trees I had no idea could be miniaturized. The path lead to the Chinese garden with pagodas surrounding a peaceful lake.

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Our hearts and minds were full but it was lunch time and we wanted to see the library rested and fueled up. The library has a large room filled with rare manuscripts, from a Gutenberg Bible and Chaucer to Thoreau and Twain. It is so exciting to see the writing of people who changed the world with their words, ideas and stories.

The large mansion has an extensive European art collection. The most famous paintings are Gainsborough’s Blue Boy and Lawrence’s Pinkie. These large paintings are on either end of a gallery of other large portraits, each one a masterpiece. On to the next building with the American art. I loved the Mary Cassatt of the mother and rosy-cheeked daughter cuddling on the bed, and the Hopper of the sailboat peacefully sailing along the shore.

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Alexandra and I had the time and energy for one more garden, so off to the desert garden, a world we had never entered before. We didn’t know if we were on another planet or had entered a Dr. Seuss book. The plants had unique shapes, colors and patterns, none of the leafy, flowery abundance of our world but a strange beauty of odd confined shapes and prickles. A few acres of this alien world satisfied our curiosity and we headed to the ice cream shop to share a gelato

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I plan on many more visits to the Huntington Gardens, each trip will have new things to see and memories to enjoy, but most of all, I will be with my precious girl soaking up the beauty of our amazing world full of flowers, trees, art and words.

http://www.huntington.org