Finding the gold

What is your bedside table telling you about yourself?

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My bedside table

It is believed that if you want to get a peek into a person’s soul all you have to do is take a look at their bedside table. I am not sure if this is true for everyone but in my case I feel what is by my bed is indeed stuff that is in my head finding its way to my heart at some stage.

I don’t read everything in any particular orderly manner. My head is filled with an eclectic mix of knowledge (otherwise known as chaos) and likes to be fed accordingly. I have still not figured out whether it is by serendipity or by pure chance why I pick up one book and not the other at any given moment. Whatever the spirit behind the scheme of things, something always jumps at me at exactly the right moment, leaving me holding on to a particular word or phrase as if it is the magic key to a new insight.

My perfect day starts, after having sent off my teenagers into another day of adventure and doing the domestic rounds at home, with a cup of coffee and 30 minutes with a book. This morning David Whyte winked at me with his Heart Aroused. I opened it up at a page I had marked and came across this passage:

‘To create the golden moment we must know where the gold lies in ourselves, but we must not have narrow, tidy images of what makes up our ‘gold’. Without the fiery embrace of everything from which we demand immunity, including depression and failure, the personality continues to seek power over life rather than power through the experience of life. We throw the precious metal of our own experience away, exchanging it for the fool’s gold of a superimposed image, an image of what our experience should be rather than what it actually is, the final element of creation’

The right words to understand emotions can be extremely powerful. I have discovered this not only through David Whyte and other philosophers, poets and writers but recenty in email contact with my friend Salley Knight. She is an artist. Full stop. Not only does she create incredibly beautiful silk pieces but the description of her artistic process is so poetic that nobody really wants her to ever finish it. Her journey is art. And it reminds me how the journey should always be the art. That that is what David Whyte means when he talks about creating golden moments. Not only the ‘tidy images’ of the process when everything is picture perfect and we know what we are doing and looking confident and in control. But also the moments of doubt, feeling lost in the forest of possibilities. Stuggling with our own limitations. Our fear of not knowing, messing up, even losing interest.

Sometimes the journey to continue working on your art may be looking at a rain drop on a winter day or stopping to consider that all art is in fact political. Opening up to the magic to feed our soul even if that means not doing anything directly related to what we feel we should be doing.

It is my son’s birthday today, he is 17. When I mentioned this in my e-mail to Salley she replied:

‘Such a tender vulnerable age all full of not knowing masked otherwise, often.’

Being able to sum up my emotions of a mother looking at her son and seeing him growing into an adult, in 13 words, is art.

Sharing our vulnerability is not welcomed by everyone. Neither is our art. Goethe begins a famous German poem with the admonition: ‘Tell a wise person or else keep silent’.

Preciousness is in the eye of the beholder.

(If you are interested in finding out more about philosopher/poet David Whyte you will enjoy this interview from On Being with Krista Tippett. )

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