I wrote this modern fable after a conversation with a dear friend and colleague. The image of the haunted cupboard under the stairs arose during the call. The transformation image arrived some hours later. Calling up something I’d seen online which gave me a heart leap (a common occurrence). As sometimes happens, the story asked, nay demanded to be told. I wrote it late one night and offer it to you dear readers to make of what you will.
As always I love to hear from you, with your reflections, questions or comments.
THE CUPBOARD UNDER THE STAIRS
Dark, dank, dusty, she didn’t like to look in there. Best to keep the door closed. Sometimes she thought she heard a wailing coming from the cupboard under the stairs.
One stormy night, when the wind was howling and the windows were rattling, she distinctly heard the sound of the latch on the door of the cupboard under the stairs.
She grabbed the broom from the kitchen and ran to force her weight against the door. Wind or not, she wasn’t taking any chances. She rammed the broom handle through the door handle. There. Now whatever was in there, for she feared there was something malevolent in there. Whatever it was. Would not be able to get out.
Weeks, months and years went by. Many summers and winters passed. The broom handle stayed put guarding the cupboard under the stairs. The door rattled. Sighs, groans, whimpers, cries and shouts came from the cupboard under the stairs. She gave it a wide birth. Sometimes she played loud music or went to town. She almost forgot about it.
One day she got curious in spite of herself. As she heard the foot stamping and the door began to shake instead of heading in the opposite direction, she stopped outside the door. She leaned her head closer and turned her ear to the door.
She heard whimpering which turned into an almighty wail. The sound was like the keening of a lost soul. It cut right through her and she found herself pulling the broom out of the door handle and flinging open the door.
It was so dark in there.
She turned the torch on her phone. At first all she could see was shapeless bundles. Old curtains stored years ago. A leather file case spotted with mildew. Some coats tossed on top. The keening had stopped but she could hear breathing. It was faint. Slowly, her heart thudding, she raised the torch to the far back of the cupboard under the stairs.
There she saw two brown eyes peering round an old eiderdown. It was a child. There in the torchlight, she gasped: it was like looking into her own face. Her own young face looking back at her with frightened eyes.
Her heart melted and all she wanted was to reach out and comfort this scared little scrap of humanity. Ghost or apparition, it didn’t matter. She knew she must bring this child into the warm but when she beckoned to her, the child sadly shook her head.
Whatever had the little one appearing here, could not sustain the form outside the cupboard under the stairs. She understood. Stepping inside, she leant across the bundles and reached out her hand.
Their fingertips met.
She felt the chill, dull energy of the form. It was wavering but still the likeness was true. Her. Aged maybe seven. Come here my love. She offered her curled arm, an invitation. The figure sidled up to her and leant briefly against her side.
So cold. She was so cold.
They sat together for some time. She began to tell the child a story. Once upon a time, there was a brave, strong little girl who lived long ago and far away. The child listened and after some time, her eyes drooped and she began to fall asleep. She laid her gently on the eiderdown and withdrew, leaving the door to the cupboard under the stairs ajar.
She went to the kitchen and made herself an oat chai latte. How to warm and care for the sprite? Ghost or not, she couldn’t abandon her now that she knew it was her own young self. I’ve got it. She pushed herself off the bar stool excited. She would turn the cupboard under the stairs into the most gorgeous reading nook.
There she would sit and read stories to her little self until they had told all the stories that needed to be told.
The next day, she set to, emptying the cupboard under the stairs of all the old and mouldy items. Soon the floor appeared. The little girl watched. Sometimes floating in the roof space. She worked like a demon. Soon everything was out.
Out came the old linoleum, torn and stained with desiccated mouse carcasses and shreds from bags and cushions.
She swept it all up. Over the next few days, she varnished the wooden walls, laid new ruby red soft carpet tiles. Fixed beautiful reading lamps along the wall. And filled the space with a soft futon mattress and deep soft pillows, shawls, blankets. Planks upholstered with wadding and deep purple and turquoise velvet made a Queenly Headboard.
The under treads were sanded and shelving fashioned. Then she rounded up all her books of folk tales and fairy tales from around the world and filled the shelves. She added mirror tiles, dreamy landscapes in gilt frames and a hook on the inside of the door. There she hung two robes, an adult size one and a child size one.
Just inside the door were two pairs of sheepskin slippers.
For the next few months, every day, after work, she’d slip off her shoes and slip into the Cupboard Under the stairs to sit cuddled with her younger self, reading tales from long ago.
She re-imagined those old tales, telling of brave and strong little girls who overcame loss and betrayal to dance under the moon and bring magic into the world. She told of worlds beyond the known and night skies full of brilliant stars. Of mythical creatures who came to aid our heroines and evil monsters they pursued and vanquished.
Little by little the child grew transparent until all she could detect of her was her breathing. One day as Spring appeared, she went to the Cupboard under the Stairs and found it empty. She continued to go and read in there and many years later, her grandchildren loved to go in the reading nook.
They told of the little girl who appeared now and then in the mirror, smiling and encouraging them to tell all their stories aloud.
Decades passed and the house changed hands but a warm glow always seemed to emanate from the Cupboard Under the Stairs. The house lay empty for some years but then a new family arrived and soon enough the children found the nook, a little worn and tired now but there laughter and stories soon livened it up and so a whole new generation of tales were told and the little child smiled on them all.
For those on Facebook, here is a reel by Making it with Abby, I saw some years ago that caused the heart leap. A cupboard under the stairs transformation 😍
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A while back, I got curious: could I stand up from sitting cross legged on the floor without using my hand? NO WAY! I haven’t comfortably sat cross legged on the floor since I was in primary school (first school) let alone getting up from that position with no hands. I had a pretty fixed idea that my hips are stiff and inflexible. What the heck, I’ll give it a try anyway, I thought.
The first few times I tried? No way Jose. My bum wasn’t budging and everything screamed no, when I tried to push myself up. Talk about dead weight. How could I ever do this? Surely it would take weeks or more likely months of gradual stretching or else get me a body swap! It’s was NO, NO, NO. Are you getting what a hard NO, it was?
But something interesting happened. One day, I thought, what if I WAS someone who could get up from sitting cross legged. I started to imagine it despite having tried a half dozen times, in my living room with absolutely no improvement. Funnily enough, I didn’t go to You Tube for hints and tips.
Then, one summer day, I was in a wood, with my husband. We were stretched out under a tree on a blanket, looking at the sun dappled leaves above us. Suddenly, I thought to try again. The ground was sandy and yielding. I stood up and moved to one side and sat down, with my shoes on.
How exactly it happened I can’t explain but one minute I was sitting cross legged, the next, after leaning forward and pushing up I stood easily, without using my hands, all in one movement. Where was all that resistance, difficulty and solid NO? I laughed with delight. And of course had to do it again for good measure.
I got to wondering how teachable I was with this little project and did that make any difference to the outcome? Was there something about state of mind here that allowed this magic to happen? What about in our understanding of the way the mind works and the spiritual nature of life, can we be more teachable?
Here are 5 ways I’ve seen to be more teachable (and they come naturally as our consciousness rises):-
- Be grateful for the nudge to learn
- Be willing to learn
- Be grateful for discomfort
- Imagine yourself as the person who’s got this
- Measure your teachability by what shows up in your experience
While the process of waking up and having insights is beautifully mysterious, I wonder whether we can’t prepare the ground as it were. Let’s take those one at a time:-
1. Be grateful for the nudge to learn
Gratitude is a doorway to raising consciousness. When you get the nudge or longing to go deeper in your understanding you might have all kinds of feelings. Excitement, doubt, impatience, frustration, self-criticism but how often are we grateful for those nudges? We’ve had them all our lives. Those nudges spark learning in every area of our lives. Take a moment to wonder at where those nudges come from. I’ve no idea. As we appreciate the nudge to learn, it beautifully opens up space, for wisdom, insight and learning. It brings us into the present moment. It’s a catalyst for our state of mind to begin to rise. Put another way, it is a turning away from being caught in our heads.
And what about willingness to learn?
2. Be willing to learn
What does it mean to be willing to learn? You have to be a beginner again. A student. To relish that student status. To open to not being good at something. Enjoy it. You get to ask, be curious and open to listening more deeply. What are we listening for or to? Right now, I’m interested in listening to the aliveness and motion of the life energy within and all around us. Even to becoming that energy as it expresses itself, in walking, sitting, playing, working, in everything that shows up in our experience. If we can tap along to that beat, wisdom gets revealed effortlessly. As our consciousness rises our capacity for learning increases as the noise of our personal thinking moves into the background or quiets down altogether. We get less interested in it.
And sure, it can be uncomfortable, not knowing.
3. Be grateful for discomfort
To not know can be very uncomfortable in our culture. Usually that’s because we’ve been taught we should always know things, have strong opinions and sound confident and assertive. This is only one way to be in the world. And it tends to lead to separation and repetition of what has already been created.
If we find discomfort hard to tolerate we can rush to fill that space with some knowing, however spurious. But what if we turn that on its head. Rather than set down neural pathways identifying ‘not knowing’ as a problem, what if we again find gratitude for our discomfort. Not knowing is the most fertile ground where fresh insights and ideas grow. The discomfort is letting you know that you can loosen your grip. Being grateful for that signal turns you towards something fresh and new. Gratitude is a beautiful tonic for the soul. It relaxes our grip and opens us to the present moment.
Once we relax, we can begin to play.
4. Imagine yourself as the person who’s got this
It’s wonderful to consciously use our imagination to play in this realm. Consider what you are longing for. Is it for a peaceful loving heart, to move through life’s ups and downs with more grace and ease. Is it to feel safe and comfortable in your own skin?
Just as I began to imagine getting up from sitting cross legged on the floor without using my hands, what would it be like to imagine ourselves as someone with a peaceful, loving heart, or someone who felt safe and comfortable in our own skin?
In my experience, this bypasses the resistance, the limitations of what we’ve already experienced. It moves us away from our existing, fixed ideas and beliefs. The realm of the imagination is very fertile. It opens us to a world not yet created. It is in fact the first step in creating something new. If you can’t imagine something, how could it ever come into your life?
And how might we measure our teachability? How open, willing and grateful we are? There’s a sure way to see.
5. Measure your teachability by what shows up in your experience
During a wonderful conversation about learning horse riding skills, I heard this, ‘My first teacher, was very good. She didn’t lavish me with praise, she would let the results of her teaching show in my riding, so I got to know when I’d learnt something.’
This is very powerful. If you want to live a more loving life for example, the only place to measure how that’s going is in your own experience. Are you having more loving relationships? Are you spending more time in feelings of contentment? If not, maybe gently reflect on how teachable you are just now? Note: this is not an opportunity to criticise yourself. So stop that. Look to bring loving kindness to it all: the self judgement, the resistance, the low state of mind. Loving kindness, like gratitude is a gateway to something fresh.
Whether it is trying to get up from sitting cross legged on the floor without using your hands, or trying to integrate the glimpses of innate health and wellbeing you’ve seen, here are 5 ways I’ve seen to be more teachable: be more grateful for the nudges to learn, more willing to learn, more grateful for discomfort, imagine yourself as the person who’s got this and look to your own experience to measure how teachable you are.
And the great news? Every moment is a new teachable moment. Every moment has infinite possibility. So even if there is something in your life you’ve longed for but feels elusive, at any moment, you can have an insight that can change everything. We can’t get insights on demand but I think we can prepare the ground.
Or as Sydney Banks, who uncovered the Three Principles, summarised so well, I paraphrase, ‘look to the beautiful feeling, well, you might as well ……. in the meantime!’
As I return to hosting conversations, I see more and more how my job as a facilitator is simply to be in that feeling where wisdom can flourish. That in itself invites others into the feeling where they can hear their own wisdom. In these conversations we are preparing the ground, making ourselves teachable, so wisdom can arise and guide us. What you need to hear, I have no idea. What I need to hear tomorrow, I have no idea. When we tune into that deeper dimension, we can trust that we will hear and see what we need to hear and see. That is the beauty and magic of this work. I’m so looking forward to being in conversation with you again.
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Acceptance: accepting what is. It’s a tenet of many spiritual teachings and like so much wisdom, we can get to see this deeper and deeper. As an understanding of how our experience gets created and an awareness of what is creating our experience comes more and more into view, all the myriad ways we take ourselves out of alignment with reality get more and more visible.
This can be by turns shocking, comic and very ordinary. We begin to notice all the places we argue with what is, particularly in the realm of our feelings. For many, policing how we feel has been a lifelong past time. It is common for people new to the Three Principles understanding to go off on a tangent of subtly trying to control their reactions, believing erroneously, if they understood the Principles deeply enough then they’d never feel irritable, frustrated, bored, angry, critical etc. Ironically, the one they miss, is the self-judgement!
They are all made of thought and therefore at their essence, they are all neutral. Just vibrations passing through the system. There is nothing to be done with them, just let them roll through.
Accepting how we feel, means acknowledging that a sensation or thought form is present, however it shows up. There’s no need to label it. Better yet refrain from spending much mental energy concocting a story about why you are experiencing what you are experiencing.
A simple example showed up for me recently. I feel cold every now and then and I suddenly became aware that for me feeling cold is subtly wrong. As a result, I reach for what is wrong such as, I feel the cold more when I am tired; or I should move more; or my heating isn’t very effective. In this way I add meaning to feeling cold. The main meaning being, ‘I shouldn’t be cold’.
And so I innocently suffer not so much from being cold, but from the idea that I shouldn’t be cold. When I saw this at play, it was funny and then quite simple to just acknowledge ‘feeling cold’ FULL STOP, without the additional commentary. What was interesting was, ten minutes later, my awareness of being cold had disappeared. The arguing with reality, ironically was holding the feeling (of wrongness) in place.
To come fully into acceptance of your experience in any moment does not mean to be stuck with it. On the contrary, fully embracing what is occurring (on the inner or outer level), allows for flow, for fresh thinking to come in, for helpful ideas to occur, new perspectives. Paradoxically, acceptance is a powerful agent of change.
What have you seen around this?
© words and photograph Juliet Fay 2022
Disbelief at first.
but then ~
Weep for the people
Let the horror sink in.
All the way in.
Let your heart break.
Feel the despair,
the fear. And then
be lifted by the courage,
the unity of the Ukrainian people.
The sudden remembering
of our shared humanity.
The rejection of
aggression & war
corruption & lies
killing & destruction.
North, South, East & West.
for freedom, peace,
equity and solidarity.
Countries unite, people unite.
Acting from strength & compassion.
The human spirit rising
strong and clear.
No time for self-interest
Equivocation, pussy footing.
No time for arguing, bureaucracy.
No time for misplaced loyalty
for short term gain.
No time to hold on
to shady promises & dirty deals.
Time for wisdom.
For serving the common good.
Wake up. Step up. Come clean.
Turn around. It’s never too late.
Bury the hatchet.
Cast it into the sea.
Shake off the shackles of
corruption, greed & fear.
Be inspired by
Ursula Von Der Leyen
Look them up
Learn their names.
And the names of many more.
So many beacons
Of strength and hope.
True leaders show up
To remind us
who we are,
Who we can be.
To inspire us
To bring hope
To speak from the heart
To act with courage
To join hands
To free the oppressed
To open our arms and our hearts.
Be inspired. Be a leader.
For your children, siblings, parents, colleagues, neighbours, friends.
Reach out. Help your neighbours.
Hold loved ones close.
Add your hands, your feet,
Your prayers, your words
Your art, your music
Your surplus goods
Your table, your love.
Rise up. Speak up.
Show the world.
We the people,
Stand with Ukraine.
Words by ©Juliet Fay, 2nd March 2022 Carmarthenshire
It is a joy to be in conversation with a small group, slowly exploring the writings and words of Sydney Banks. As we look in the direction of a deeper dimension of being we may meet fierce resistance, difficult emotions, frustration, impatience and a great big fat no.
This is a time for more gentleness and more love. To give up the fight is a great act of courage and power. I’ve been musing on tenderness and wanted to gift you the piece below.
Where there has been a tendency towards violence: of thought, word or deed, a bout of inner conflict can leave a felt residue of weakness, of being unequal to the task of living. As consciousness plummets the world can seem unbearably hostile, harsh or overwhelming. The mind can look like the enemy and Life a series of obstacles designed to deplete. Coping mechanisms kick in to numb the pain, at least for a while.
As consciousness rises, the logic and innocence of such inner and outer scenes playing out becomes visible. Not innocent, in the judicial or moral sense. Not devoid of consequences but innocent psychologically. Where understanding dwells, experience can only reflect the feeling of that plane. There is an undeniable logic. Fighting for more understanding from a low state of consciousness, is a game of dissatisfaction and more exhaustion. The invitation is to surrender.
Deep within, is a salve that may come unbidden: tenderness
Tenderness, when it arrives can be unbearable. The gentle loving warmth of such softness can render the habitual identity defenceless. Well worn coping strategies of denial, distraction, dissociation, self-criticism, self pity, drama, self-harm and exhaustion are no match for the all encompassing embrace of tenderness.
In some, tenderness has only been felt by its absence. It can sneak up unawares and completely undo the narrow sense of self.
When a word, a look or a winter bloom touches deep within, releasing tenderness, it can be mistaken for some sign of imbalance or deficiency. Rushed past in the pursuit of something better or different or more appropriate. Pause, tarry a while. Let tenderness wash through.
In that deep feeling, is a love, so powerful it can dissolve unconscious, habitual stories we hold
The power of tenderness has struck me freshly recently. Not the rigid, loud power of force but the much greater power of softness. To open to it fully, is an act of courage. It is a doorway. An invitation.
The initial sense of being unequal to its power is an illusion. How could our Being be unequal to anything it experiences? Tenderness is a beacon, lighting the way home.
Home to what you are truly are.
When tenderness knocks, open the door wide.
I’d love to hear how this lands for you; comment below or email me your thoughts, reflections, comments and questions.