Have you heard about the beautiful crone of Cordoba?
She's my role model.
Everyone knows she's a witch but she's so kind and helpful that nobody minds.
And, even though she's very old, she walks with the gait of a young girl.
She gazes into her crystal ball and whispers magic words.
One day, the police come for her and drag her to the court room.
The judge is awed by her penetrating gaze, he sees the beauty of a magnificent waterfall in her hair, a vast lake in her eyes but his longing for power drives him to imprison her in the deepest cell.
In her cell, La Bruha, the beautiful crone of Cordoba, smiles and the chief of police, the man who arrested her, orders his men to bring a velvet chair and blankets, and he lights the fire.
The judge is certain that a week or so in the cell is all it will take for La Bruha to confess to being a witch.
He descends the stairs to her cell to confront her.
He unlocks the door.
He is awed by what he finds.
With charcoal from the fire, La Bruha has drawn a huge bird on the cell wall.
'Why La Bruha, you are an artist!' the judge exclaims.
'Tell me judge, is there anything that is missing from my picture?' queries La Bruha
The judge scrutinises the picture, every feather is perfectly detailed, the wings are outstretched, the beak so life-like. There is even a basket on the bird's back.
'It is perfect in every way,' stammers the judge, 'the only addition is perhaps a person to ride in the basket.'
And with that, La Bruha throws back her head and laughs, stretches out her arms and lifts herself into the basket. The bird's wings move and it flies across the cell and out through the ceiling.
The three-quarter moon, the purple moon, casts its hue across my path.
Magic arises in my life through the mundane joys of watching my daughters grow, observing the transformation a client makes through learning the grief recovery method, a richly cooked meal, a meditation on death, a lively conversation, loud music and dancing in the kitchen.
My meditation is more kundalini than crystal.
The magic words are thank you, I'm sorry, I forgive you
And, a well crafted story
I have encountered the patriarchy in the court rooms of the Family Division where 'truth' is but a game and the lives of children are the playthings of judges who know nothing about trauma and care even less about integrity, freedom and honesty.
I have encountered the patriarchy in the church where the message of welcome and love for all is quietly silenced.
I have encountered fear in the spiritual master, on a dusty lane in Ethiopia, not far from Addis Ababa, when he called to me, 'if you put a spell on me, I'll put a bigger one on you.'
I have encountered fear in myself and have taken the deep dive to find its source and root it out. It's a lifetime's work.
I'm still doing it.
I have discovered that even adversity brings its gifts in unexpected ways.
I have found freedom through laughter, in the practice of Grief Recovery, in the teachings of Jesus - scraped free from the accumulated debris of the institutional church, in the wild generative dance of Kali, in the company of fellow parents at Brockwood Park School, contemplating the meaning of education, performing a sensitive funeral.
Ganesha sits on my kitchen dresser
casting a benevolent blessing on
all who enter.
Freedom is seeing God in everyone.
Freedom is being annoyed with the word God and using whatever phrase is meaningful in the moment.
Sometimes the cell is death, and freedom is preparing to die, contemplating what I would like to happen to me if I am sick, what will happen to my body when I am gone, who will take care of my children and how will my things be distributed?
Sometimes the cell is imprisonment in society's norms. The norm that birth is a medical event. Freedom is the discovery of the power of the female body to give its offspring life.
The norm that a woman in midlife will keep trying to look as if she is thirty.
Freedom is wearing my hair white.
The norm that menopause is the harbinger of dottiness.
Freedom is entering the wisdom of the purple moon.
The norm that we are dependent on professionals and technology for our health.
Freedom is teaching my children the Emotional Freedom Technique to heal themselves.
Freedom is integrating the technologies of western medicine with the wisdom of the subtle body.
Freedom is the juxtaposition of knowing the mind and jettisoning the mind.
Freedom is authenticity discovered through a journey into the inner realms of the self.
Freedom is sharing this journey with you.
1. the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university.
I received systematic instruction at Great Ormond Street Hospital where I qualified as a paediatric nurse. I worked as a staff nurse with children who had cancer and AIDS and this made me wonder why our culture so ineptly accommodates a child's right to a good death. I took this preoccupation to the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, where I studied African and Asian Medical Related Studies and Study of Religions, driven to find out how other cultures perceive health. The interconnections between religion and healing intrigued me so much that I continued my enquiry at Bristol University where I completed a Master's degree in Contemporary Theology. Here I began my love affair with the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahado Church which drew me back to SOAS where I wrote my doctoral thesis on healing in the Ethiopian church under the dear Dr Julia Leslie. Attentive motherhood, perceptive feminism and spiritual enquiry combined with academic brilliance under Julia's tutelage. This prepared me well for the years that followed, mothering my oldest daughter. I've since combined motherhood with a certificate in integrated counselling from the Mary Ward Centre, a diploma to become a Funeral Celebrant at Greenfuse Funerals, certification training in the Grief Recovery Method and Before I Go Solutions to become an end of life planning coach. I have trained with the Yoga Nidra Network in Yoga Nidra for adults and children, participated in embodied yoga principles training, short courses in non-violent communication and the arts for people with dementia and I am one of Gary Craig's students in the Emotional Freedom Technique. I am at the end of a three year apprenticeship with the Scottish Storytelling Centre which has been a journey into the ancient wisdom of our ancestors.
2. an enlightening experience.
Less systematic, but more enlightening, gruelling and messy has been my path through motherhood. Four daughters, each born at home taught me the power of the female body to perform this vital task, without help or intervention. Motherhood also brought me into contact with Naomi Stadlen, author of What Mothers Do, Especially When it Looks Like Nothing. For three wonderful years, I was nurtured in the art of mothering at her group Mothers Talking held at the Natural Birth Centre in London. Home-making, home-educating, preaching at the local church, setting up The Bean Nighe Circle, Tiree Story Tent, Operation Meditation Tiree and opening the boutique Buttercups and Clover on the Isle of Tiree represent my attendance in the university of life.
I've had an education altogether unenlightening in broken relationships and through the family courts. Unenlightening? Well, here's the paradox because these traumas turned out to be the doorway into the unified field of the non dual. Dark days brought me to the work of Byron Katie and the Course in Miracles. I'm no mystic, but meditation has become a way of being and my formal education in mysticism and spirituality has spilled over into my day to day life.