The Queen and the Dragon’s breath

The Queen and the Dragon’s breath

Once upon a time there was a Queen who lived in a beautiful castle high on a hill with commanding views of the fertile valley below where cattle grazed peacefully. Along the valley floor, the winding river gleamed with sea trout making their journey upstream to spawn.

This castle was furnished with the finest tapestries and beautiful oak tables and chairs. Silver candlesticks gleamed reflecting the glow of roaring log fires burning in huge stone fireplaces. The vast larders were full of the finest food and the soil of the castle farms was laden with crops tender and bountiful.

In the castle yards young girls practised archery and chased the boys through the market stalls. There was laughter and the sun shone.

The newly crowned Queen was melancholy. She sat in her opulent bedroom, before a small window and looked to the bleak wastelands of the north. The mountains in the far distance were dark and forbidding and her mind wandered to that cold and terrible day when her mother had set out to find the dragon of the Black Mountains.

Tales of the dragon and his terrible wrath began to fill her dreams. His fiery breath burnt through the chambers of her mind and left her with an endless chill in her heart as she mourned her warrior mother.

Her mother had never returned so she was declared Queen of this prosperous kingdom. But day after day the new Queen would sit in her bedchamber and sorrow filled her chilly heart. She grew pale and thin.

As the seasons turned, the sun sank lower and the laughter died away. Winter came and an icy wind blew in snow storms night after night. The chill in the Queen’s heart began to seep into the castle walls. The fires burnt night and day yet still the cold grew. The castle walls began to decay and a deep despair settled on the kingdom.

The ground was frozen hard and the winter crops remained stuck fast. The cattle grew thin as the hay ran out. Labourers drifted away, hearing things were better in the neighbouring kingdom.

The once overflowing pantries grew sparse and the children disappeared, fallen ill or gone away. All except one. Ana.

Ana was a distant cousin of the Queen. When she was born, she had about her head a halo of soft gold. As she grew, the halo shone brighter. When the kingdom prospered it did not show so much, as all the land and people in it were bathed in sunshine. Now in this dark winter, Ana’s halo shone like a golden fire around her head.

One day the Queen, walking listlessly to her throne in the great hall saw this golden light illuminate the dark walls of the narrow corridor.

‘“Who’s there?” she called in slight alarm.

“It’s me, Ana, your cousin, ma’am” the Queen was curious.

“Come,” she said.

Ana came and went into the great hall with the Queen. She talked and the Queen listened for three days and three nights.

On the third night, the Queen had a dream. She saw her mother’s warm and smiling face as she reached out to embrace her. Her mother beckoned and pointed to the small window.

The Queen looked and saw for the first time the glorious snow capped peaks, iridescent in the moonlight. As she gazed in wonder at the beauty, she saw in the outline of those craggy mountains, the shape of a dragon in mid roar.

At the foothills, the mist of the dragon’s breath wrapped tenderly round the small settlements shielding them from the icy cold of the clear skies above.

She felt her mother’s brave and generous heart and a peace descended on her such as she had never known. She fell into a deep and restful slumber.

The next morning, the sun rose higher and higher and the terrible frost began to thaw. The soil cracked open and new shoots appeared. The dogs shook themselves, the cattle lifted their heads and children appeared once again in the courtyard. Laughter rang out.

You may wonder what young Ana said to the Queen through those three days and nights. What great secret did she share?

She simply talked of her life in the castle: her love of running through the woods and climbing trees, of chasing the boys round the market stalls, of the smell of her father’s cooking and her joy at riding on horseback with her mother. She talked of finding a swallow’s nest under the eaves of the hay barn and watching every day. The thrill of seeing three pairs of eyes appear when the eggs hatched and waiting breathlessly until the day they fledged.

As she talked of the wonder and beauty of Life, Ana’s halo grew brighter and brighter. And the Queen saw all she was missing, in her beautiful vibrant kingdom.

The kingdom prospered. Ana and the Queen spent many hours laughing together in the woods, walking by the river and telling stories by the roaring fire with full bellies and happy hearts. Their halos shone brightly as did the halos of all the beings in the kingdom.

© Words and image Juliet Fay 2020, photograph of Carreg Cennen Castle, Brecon Beacons, Wales

What you appreciate, appreciates. And so it seems …. deeper and deeper …. wider and wider …. for me, for you, for everyone. It is one of those sayings we hear and we nod sagely. “Ah yes”, we think, that’s true, then return to our habitual worrying and fretting about things done and not done, said and not said. This modern fable is for all of us, to help us remember.

Juliet Fay is a poet & Three Principles Facilitator living on an estuary in West Wales, UK. She is dedicated to exploring and appreciating the wonder and power of the human spirit. Going deeper, beyond what we know. To do that she engages in heartfelt conversations pointing back home; mentors pioneers, creatives, community leaders, helpers and healers; hosts regular gatherings around books or topics close to her heart (by invitation only) and creates soulful poetry, podcasts, illustration, artwork & prose to awaken the heart. She welcomes curious new subscribers to her email list ~ subscribe.

 

How a shift in consciousness brings about more us and less them

How a shift in consciousness brings about more us and less them

.The world is changing fast, in ways we cannot predict and people are waking up. Waking up to what matters. We need to adapt to what is coming (whatever that may be). Already this year, we are facing challenges, previously unseen for many in the richest countries.

The shocks coming thick and fast are exposing systems that are not fit for purpose: economic systems, healthcare systems, criminal justice systems, food and farming systems, the media, our relationship with time, ageing, dying, systems of relating to our fellow human beings, the natural world and most of all how we relate to what and who we really are. Countless people know at first hand how unfit these systems are but they adversely affect us all (even those who appear to benefit from them)

We live as if we are separate entities who must exploit, belittle or destroy those we deem less than us and flatter, worship and ingratiate ourselves with those we deem to be more powerful. We search endlessly for security and status in the material world all the while knowing that is not what really matters. It looks as if we must constantly fight to get and protect resources for ourselves and our loved ones.

It seems we live in an age of judgement and separation which taken to extremes will destroy us

From this standpoint we look like crazed animals fighting for a piece of a finite pie. Dog eat dog. And the big dogs get the little dogs to do their dirty work. It seems like a world where everything is evaluated on its worth based on narrow and soul destroying criteria. In the richest nations, we are a product of this culture whether we know it or not (and mostly it is invisible).

There have always been cycles of birth, growth, decay and destruction but now it looks like we are witnessing an acceleration of the destructive phase without a corresponding rise in the rate of birth and growth: birth of new species, new ideas, new depths of being. Things appear to have got badly out of balance. And we all know this in our hearts. But there is hope.

There is another way. A way to live generously with love in our hearts. To live in wonder at the fact of being alive. To live from abundance of spirit. To engage fully in life with all its ups and downs. To extend compassion to the hurt and hurting. With love in our hearts we are open and curious to the richness on offer when we engage with others. Other people, other cultures, other religions, other beliefs, other species, other times, other stages of life, other world views, other skills, other experiences. And this is not for when we have fixed the problems of hunger, poverty, violence and destruction. This is urgently needed in order to experience a different world.

Witness the popularity of natural history programmes, where skilled wildlife presenters give us a window on the world of species from the tiniest to the most majestic. The lens they invite us to look through, is one of wonder and curiosity.

What kind of world would we experience through this lens?

Everything, means everything: including the atrocities, the genocide, the cruelty, the violence and destruction that humans inflict on each other, other species and the land. What might we see if we really looked?

There is seeming unbearable pain and horror there. Something we don’t want to see. Something it is easier to look away from. Our hearts may already be hardened against touching this suffering.

  • If you see children in cages and see only a good lesson to the parents, your heart is hardened.
  • If you see a homeless person on the street and see only a blot on the landscape, your heart is hardened.
  • If you see refugees risking life and limb in leaky boats and see only stolen jobs and benefits, your heart is hardened.
  • If you nurse bitterness and blame about family estrangements, your heart is hardened.
  • If you wring your hands in the face of injustices and then judge your neighbour for the way they voted, your heart is hardened.

What happens if we get curious about our hardened places? What might we discover?

We might discover we all have those hard places. How the hardness of heart shows up varies. Often we can’t see our own hard heartedness. These are our blind spots. They look to be ‘just how it is’. Our reality. If challenged we would come up with all kinds of logical justifications for treating others as less or more than us. We might begin to realise we learnt that hardness as a coping mechanism, from our families, our communities, our cultures, our leaders. We might realise that hardness of heart comes from fear and insecurity. We might realise that anxiety about our place in the world, our past, our future drives all kinds of behaviour that reinforces the idea of separation.

Yet for every moment our hearts are hard, we might also notice there are other moments when we experience the joy and connectedness of an open heart. And so does everyone else. Those who beat, murder, oppress and orchestrate and perpetuate systems that hurt others, also feel moments of love and understanding for their loved ones, for animals, for ideas, for nature:-

  • When your heart fills as the sun sets behind a hill, your heart is open
  • When you take your child in your arms as they cry their heart out, wanting only to reach out to them, your heart is open
  • When you sit at the deathbed of a loved one and feel profound, timeless peace and love, your heart is open
  • When you catch the eye of a stranger and laugh at the incongruity of a passing scene your heart is open

How do we do more of that?

We move between open heart and hardness of heart all the time and that is natural. One comes from being in contact with our essence and the other from the illusion of insecurity. When we recognise that, really see it and experience it, then we experience a shift. A shift in our relationship to our own experience.

This shift does not come from trying to be compassionate or kind, from writing in a gratitude journal, from striving to be a ‘better’ person than your ex, your neighbour, your parents or your adult children. It comes from a shift in consciousness. When we get a glimpse of what is beyond our sense of separation. When we feel, really feel life coursing through us, unadulterated, unfiltered, without judgement or commentary. When our sense of self expands to include all life. Then, then, we cannot help but feel compassion, love and gratitude for all life: the rocks, plants, insects, algae, animals, trees, humans, living and dead.

Does it come all of a sudden? For some. Mostly, it is a gradual movement towards wholeness and away from separation. The fear and insecurity the progeny of separation that creates and experiences so much suffering begins to look less real, so we pay it less mind.

Made as it is by the incredible, infinite power of thought. The same power of thought that creates a symphony, feeds the hungry, opens shelters when homes are shattered and which we can experience as profound and timeless love on looking into the eyes of a newborn.

At any moment, we can wake up to our humanity

The word humanity is from the Latin humanitas for “human nature, kindness.”

As we wake up to our humanity, we naturally do less harm to ourselves and others. There is more us and less them. Day to day, just as the tide ebbs and flows, we can move in and out of a sense of our humanity, a sense of something beyond our temporary ever changing states of mind. But every day we have the opportunity to wake up, over and over, deeper and deeper.

If this article gets you curious, follow where that curiosity leads you.

© words and artwork Juliet Fay 2020 Artwork: detail from ‘Heartfelt’, acrylic on canvas 30cm x 30cm

Juliet Fay is a poet & Three Principles Facilitator living on an estuary in West Wales, UK. She is dedicated to exploring and appreciating the wonder and power of the human spirit. Going deeper, beyond what we know. To do that she engages in heartfelt conversations pointing back home; mentors pioneers, creatives, community leaders, helpers and healers; hosts regular gatherings around books or topics close to her heart (by invitation only) and creates soulful poetry, podcasts, illustration, artwork & prose to awaken the heart. She welcomes curious new subscribers to her email list ~ subscribe.

Reflections on Discernment

Reflections on Discernment

Discernment is one of those less fashionable attributes. It’s not showy or pushy. It doesn’t demand the limelight and slips in quietly without an entourage. Appropriate for these times.

When the foundations of western society falter as we realise they were built on sand, it can be a disorientating time. And this is where discernment is an ally.

Discernment is an attribute we can cultivate

It’s easily overlooked. In the incessant din of opinion and counter opinion, who needs discernment when you can open any social media feed and be told what to wear, what to eat, what to do and what to think depending on your inclinations.

And this, this is something at the heart of our predicament. We have outsourced our wisdom to those who shout loudest or flatter our egos the best or reassure and soothe our fears in the most dulcet tones.

Discernment comes to our rescue, giving us pause before we jump on someone else’s train

Insecurity comes in many forms. Not knowing what to think and asking others to do that for us, is just one form. But it infantilises us.

Now more than ever, it looks to me, we are being asked to grow up. To use our powers of reflection and contemplation so we can discern where to put our attention, where and how to spend our time and money, when to act and when to pause.

In learning something new, in my case about anti-racism work, it can be tempting to jump in with the right phrases, the cool memes and a show of activism but we know when it feels off (and so do others). When it is about being seen to be or do something simply because that recognition shores up our ego or fragile sense of self, then our actions are at best hollow and at worst counter productive or damaging.

Unlearning old habits of thought can be uncomfortable at times, but discernment is our ally

Just as we know when we are tired and hungry our mood is likely to drop and in that state, our judgement gets clouded; so too, when we discern we are wanting to act from a place of insecurity, we can pause and wait for a settling that will allow an action to arise that promotes connection rather than taking us further away

Pausing, allowing ourselves to settle, allowing love to fill us, can have far greater impact than a load of social media shares done in a rush of ‘I must do something.’

Discernment is not something to learn or acquire; it’s always available when we settle and get intimate with that felt sense that tells us we’re home.

Note: Written 6 August 2020, published 18 August 2020

 

‘Everything I do is dedicated to exploring and appreciating the wonder of the human spirit. Going deeper. Beyond what we know. I do that through heartfelt conversations, sharing the 3 Principles as expressed by Sydney Banks, pointing people home and through writing, poetry, art and illustration.’ Juliet Fay – For the curious, subscribe to my list, that’s where you get to hear about upcoming gatherings and get original content direct to your inbox
 

Consumption versus creativity

Consumption versus creativity

consumption, creativity: in breath, out breath.
every day, consuming food and drink: essential to life

but not all of it

every moment creating: things, relationships, ideas, experiences.
consuming ever more information, drama, energy, fuel, food, time,
the planet’s, ours, other people’s

always wanting more

over consumption driven by desires that cannot be met
for comfort, excitement, security, power, immortality even.
short term dopamine hits to soothe over-excited systems
if all we are is a lone separate human among 7 billion others

why wouldn’t we go on a binge?

chasing connection, inner fulfilment, chasing away our demons
with every click, glug, fight and scroll we get further away
draining the life blood from ourselves, our planet, our children
weary, frightened, ready to attack, we cower, duck or dive

the frenzy of desire takes us to the brink

to go forward is to fall into the abyss, chaos, destruction
we pause, catch a different note and hear a different song
the song of creation, re-formed in every out breath
our stories swirl like bridal gowns released from moth balls

but beyond is the crucible holding each sacred act of creation
fixing your hair, taking out the trash, typing a text
reading aloud to a child, waving at the neighbour
tiny acts unnoticed, forgotten, yet weaving this web of experience

acts of love, reciprocity, generosity and service
made daily, often unremarked, acts of humanity
everyday creation, pulling the threads that bind us
when we’re already swimming in the same sea

only we forget and flounder and flail about
and create the illusion of drowning when
all we’re doing is making a wave
in the sea of belonging, the sea of love

to notice, to see, just to see, is enough
to wake up and worship at the altar of creativity
go out, with glad hearts and celebrate
the daily acts of creation that connect us

© words and artwork, image of original watercolour pencil artwork, sun & moon abstract by Juliet Fay 2020

This piece is in a new style for me, neither prose nor poetry, inspired by the writing of Bernadine Evaristo, author of Booker Prize joint winner with Girl, Woman, Other. In the book she uses no capital letters, just line breaks. I was amazed how quickly I got over the initial feeling of disruption and adjusted to it as the new normal.

Juliet Fay is a poet and Three Principles facilitator and local admin of a Buy Nothing Project group. Subscribe to her list to hear news of gatherings (virtual for now), and receive original writing and artwork direct to your inbox. Find out about being mentored by Juliet or Wellbeing Sessions

Joy: a poem an reflection

Joy: a poem an reflection

So often a fleeting state, seen as hard won or not relevant to the cut and thrust of daily life. A momentary dazzling of the senses, a peak experience, snapped for Instagram. Yet there is more to joy than meets the eye. A potent healer of self and others. A transformative, contagious state, where all that has been can be swept away in an instant as something new is revealed. How might we nourish joy in our hearts? If, as it seems to me, it is there, lurking, ready to break through the surface of our awareness at any moment, is nourishment simply relaxing into it, recognising the constricted, fearful thinking that takes us away from it?

And what of avoidance, bypassing, living in la-la land. That’s not joy. That takes as much effort, in terms of denial and wilful head in the sand blindness, as living in negativity. It just dresses itself up as positive when in fact it requires the same degree of dehumanising as its opposite, wilful cruelty.

Joy is something else. A willingness to be joyful is a good start. Knowing it brings healing is all the encouragement we could want, isn’t it? Joy in being alive, joy in the foibles and ridiculousness of ourselves and others, joy in the millions of unseen movements that make up this living, breathing planet. Joy in the fierceness of the human spirit, the resilience of the tiniest plant clinging to life on a windswept rock. Joy in being part of this unknowable, incredible whole. Joy in the journey with all its ups and downs.

What are you seeing?

A new perspective on perfectionism

A new perspective on perfectionism

PERFECTIONISM

Perfectionism has rolled back around into the spotlight. It gets a bad rap and rightly so for it tends to be used against oneself. In discussion, my partner said ‘it’s a kind of violence’. And that really landed for me. It can be violent, where it suffocates creative expression or taking action and invites us into excruciatingly, uncomfortable procrastination.

Can we expand our view of perfectionism, get a new perspective?

What even is it all about? Some imagined idea of how something should be? Holding that as the only possible outcome, seeing only how our efforts fall short of that imagined outcome? When we know, it is in taking action that new horizons appear. By letting ideas out, formed into action, new ideas occur. Mis-takes can be seen as opportunities that open up new possibilities

Perfect ~ as made

A few years ago, a dear friend told me one of the root meanings of ‘perfect’ is ‘as made’ from the Latin ‘per’ – completely and facere – to make, to do. I love that idea. Something is perfect in the sense, it has come into form, it is perfect simply as an expression of form. When we get to wondering at the miraculous diversity of form constantly showing up, then the word perfect suddenly goes far deeper.

I wonder how that would be to see ourselves too as ‘perfect’ ~ ‘as made’?

You’ll be able to hear me and Carla Royal exploring this topic on our new podcast, Riffing on Realness, launching in the Autumn. We had a blast.

What are you seeing around perfectionism?

***

PERFECTIONISM

as violence
when used
to stymie
creative action

© words & illustration Juliet Fay 2020

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Juliet is a poet and Three Principles facilitator & mental health educator, living on a small estuary in West Wales UK, follow her Insta-poems and photograph @juliet_k_fay. Get in touch to hire her to facilitate your next poetry workshop.