Monday, April 21, 2008


Staples Corner: a hell-realm interchange in North London (a pathetically over-simplified representation appears to the right). A driver's chance of emerging from the right exit to his destination is the same as a roulette ball's chance of landing on "0". I always allow an extra half an hour's driving-time for being catapulted off the M1 like a roulette ball, careering helplessly around the interchange for an eternity, then - eyes open again - peering over the dashboard to see where the Fates had landed me.

Chance that it might be the Cricklewood Road, 1 in 56. And if it's not Cricklewood Road I might as well go back to Essex and start again from scratch, I'm that lost.

Last Sunday I broke the bank, so to speak. Hole in One. No blind alleys, Mobius strips, and one-way systems took me miles away from my destination. No bladder-bursting sphincter-clenching nightmares over road humps in search of a Sainsbury's or Tescos where I could hobble for the Gents and shuddering relief. I made St Gabriel's Road, Cricklewood with three quarters of an hour to spare and my dignity intact.

This is a house that serves as a residence for members and guests of the Brahma Kumaris and a venue for a monthly meeting of VIHASA facilitators of which I am a newly adopted member. I've written elsewhere about VIHASA: it's a programme designed for health-care staff, allowing them to explore and develop themselves in the 'spiritual dimension', or - if they prefer not to acknowldege spirituality as such - to explore and develop the values that support their caring work, as distinct from their competencies or their professional performance.

Each time we meet - a group of about six to nine of us - we explore a part of the programme experientially, gaining experience as facilitators and as participants in the VIHASA process, through feedback and discussion. The house is very conducive: tranquil, orderly, aesthetically pleasing, yet homely. Because I arrived early I had time to relax into the tranquillity in my soft guest-slippers. I watched a grey squirrel climbing on a shed at the bottom of the garden. It lay outstretched, more cat-like than squirrel-like, on the shed roof, as if it were on a sun-lounger, for about five minutes.

The meeting convenor sat with me, peeling nuts and slicing dates systematically. As she sliced each date she introduced a nut into the the slice, laying the little fruits on a plate. When the plate was full, she stopped slicing more dates. She had a few peeled nuts with nowhere to go, so she popped them into her mouth. The whole process was lovely to watch, like a liturgy. We talked a little, and I asked if I could make myself useful in any way. She asked me to change an exhausted light-bulb in a wall lamp. I did so carefully and with a lot of pleasure in the simple, but never-before-undertaken task in that place.

At the meeting we explored compassion. I had been invited before hand to do the introduction and a warm-up exercise. I suggested we do a sufi body meditation, forming a ring with hands held, bending down in unison and uttering "Ya Huq!", then stretching up to the ceiling and uttering "Ya Hai!". The effect is not unlike a Sea Anemone, opening and closing, except that Sea Anemones are silent (or I think they are). We did this exercise and everyone judged it interesting and effective. It is warming, and can mobilise feelings, thoughts and intuitions that call for some kind of processing and integration afterwards.

to be continued....

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