Monthly Archives: August 2014

Swirls and Spirals

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A former yoga teacher of mine used to say, “Everything’s connected to everything…” and she meant it in a physical sense, from the teachings of Joseph Pilates whose techniques based round the core muscles are familiar to anyone who has done yoga or Pilates classes. Pilates’ system combines deep breathing with the engagement of the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles which in turn is coordinated with movement and, once mastered, is great for building core strength.

But these days, I find that many things show themselves to be connected, in a more holistic, spiritual sense. I have written before of synchronicity, and today I am thinking less of that, than the circular, spiralling nature of the grieving process and how its connections weave one onto another, particularly via the internet.

 Recently, I was copied into some kind comments posted about ‘Into the Mourning Light’ by Californian Nancy Rigg, who runs the excellent US based support resource, the Drowning Support Network. Jackie is a bereaved mum living in Scotland who lost her son Owen in very similar circumstances to mine, just two years ago in June. He was also 19. Jackie was given the book by her husband, who thought it might help her.   She was very complimentary about the book and expressed her thanks that it led her to both Drowning Support Network and the Compassionate Friends. (For those who don’t know, the Compassionate Friends organisation (TCF) is a charity run by bereaved parents for bereaved parents and has branches worldwide).

Anyone who knows me will be aware that I have been immensely helped by both organisations and continue to have links with them.

I met my dear friend Linda Sewell via TCF and we ran our first  workshop for bereaved parents in April 2014 in the wonderfully healing surroundings of Harry Edwards Healing Sanctuary. We are planning to run another workshop next April. It is likely that my new friend Jackie from Scotland will attend … she tells me she can stay the weekend with a relative who lives in …Brighton….. where James went to University.

See what I mean?! Everything is connected to everything!

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https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/DrowningSupportNetwork/info

 

http://www.tcf.org.uk

 

http://www.harryedwardshealingsanctuary.org.uk

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Spiritual Dieting

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How times change. Before I lost James, I would never have recognised in myself a need for spiritual nourishment …. But since learning Reiki healing, and touching on other complementary and spiritual healing modalities, there are times when I find that nothing else will do.

Thus it was that my healer friend Linda Sewell and I set off on a mini pilgrimage to one of the most sacred and ancient places in England. Chalice Well nestles in the historically mystical Vale of Avalon near Glastonbury in Somerset. Surrounded by beautiful gardens it is a living sanctuary with a great sense of peace and healing that is felt from the moment one steps through the gate.

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This is a place where people of all faiths and denominations gather to drink the waters and find solace, peace and inspiration.

I am fortunate enough to have taken my Reiki Master course with Master Teacher Celia Marchisio, with our whole weekend course being based at Chalice Well. This includes access to the gardens early in the morning before they open to the public which makes for a truly moving and sacred experience. In fact I enjoyed the course so much I repeated it twice!

With Linda being an NFSH spiritual healer and myself a Reiki master, we have some lively discussions – but as Linda says, “we are all climbing the same mountain”, and we recognise in one another a shared sense of optimism and positivity as we work through the grief for our sons, supported by our spiritual learning.

I’ve often told Linda about the beauty of Chalice Well and she was keen to experience the place for herself. When we arrived I suggested that I lead her through the gardens on the same route that I have previously followed, which incorporates all the key sacred areas.

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 The well is at the top of the garden and the stream runs down through the land to open out into the pool below, with its symbolic male/female sculpture adding to its beauty and the overlapping circles an oft repeated theme.

poolAn apothecary’s garden filled with medicinal plants and herbs has been recreated close to the pool.
A pair of ancient yew trees stands sentry on the lawn. Between them the space itself feels sacred, as though this is a gateway to another world. The sound of traffic dies away and you truly feel as though you are in another time and place as you step forward. Passing through the gate brings you to a pool where you can wash your feet if you wish, or as I prefer to do, cleanse some crystals under the flowing water.

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After this I introduced Linda to the taste of the spring water at the lion’s head fountain. The water tastes quite metallic due to its high iron content.

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The well tended gardens are full of the sound of birdsong and the sight of beautiful flowers. It is impossible not to take time out to meditate and contemplate in such tranquil surroundings, and know that you are following in the footsteps of many others who have come here for healing and sustenance.

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The well itself feels mysterious and ancient. It is possible to hear the water far beneath the ground, and looking into it provides a myriad shapes and stories. Here is where Linda and I sat lost in our own thoughts. I sent out healing far and wide as I took in the atmosphere of my surroundings.

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 Onward and upward – no resting yet – off we went up the sloping path to the top of the gardens. I wouldn’t let Linda turn round until we reached the far point of the summit of the garden, which is the point at which one is directly in line with Glastonbury Tor, high up on its hill. The feeling of being atop this hill and glancing still higher upwards evokes strong emotion and a profound sense of being in the most sacred of places.

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We walked slowly back down through the gardens. “I am glad we got here early”, said Linda, “Now I understand your impatience to get on the road at an unearthly hour to get here before it became too busy”. In truth the gardens never feel crowded but if you wish to have some time to yourself, particularly at the well head, it is probably best to arrive in the morning.

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There is a retreat house at Chalice Well as well as the amazing Upper Room – a place of silent meditation which is only open to Companions – those paying a small subscription to support the charity. I joined the Chalice Well Trust to experience this on my Reiki course and it was well worth it. The Upper Room is a very special environment.

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After our spiritual sustenance it was time to nurture our shopping goddesses and we went into the town of Glastonbury to trawl the fascinating esoteric shops before enjoying a healthy organic lunch at one of Glastonbury’s many restaurants.

One purpose of our meeting was to discuss our next bereavement workshop which we are planning to hold at Harry Edwards Healing Sanctuary in April 2015. We talked much of this on our journey home and were debating the theme for our programme. Linda’s spiritual sign from her son Tom is the rainbow and somehow we were not surprised when a small smudge of rainbow grew and grew as we travelled onward. We finalised our theme – which is the use of colour in healing grief. By this I mean we will explore ways in which colour therapies can help when we are moving forward from the monochrome world of early loss back into living in our colourful world again.

As we chatted, the rainbow finally arched across the sky ahead of us above the motorway and formed itself into a double. “There you go”, said Linda, “Of course! – that’s not only Tom but James too, it’s no surprise that both our boys are coming by to say hello…”

This was the icing on the cake of our spiritual nourishment. What a special day we shared!   Addendum…. I thought it would be good to end this piece with a photo of both our boys :)…. James on the left and Tom on the right, saying “Cheers!”

 

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Links

Celia (Seeliana) www.spiritualvoice.co.uk

Chalice Well www.chalicewell.org.uk

Harry Edwards Healing Sanctuary www.harryedwardshealingsanctuary.org.uk

My involvement with the RNLI summer campaign Respect the Water

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Earlier this year, I was contacted by Andy, the Teddington RNLI Helm, who had read a local press article about the publication of my book, “Into the Mourning Light”. He asked me if I was aware of the RNLI’s work at Kingston which has become an intrinsic part of the liaison between the Council, Police, licensing trade and other authorities in working towards a safer riverside. Naturally I was able to tell him that we played a large part in instituting major changes at the riverside over the first three years following the accidental loss of James in 2005.

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Riverside before

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Riverside after

Following on from this, I was asked if I wished to become involved with the RNLI’s Respect the Water campaign, highlighting the risk of drowning around the coasts of the UK, including the tidal reaches of the River Thames. I was told that nine locations around the UK had been chosen for Respect the Water campaign activity, with Kingston upon Thames among them. The campaign would run from July 24, over the summer holidays.

I had a long conversation with Guy Addington, the RNLI’s Coastal Safety Manager in the South East, whose message for the campaign in regard to the Thames is very clear. He said,

“We’re trying to make people, particularly men, realise that they are at risk from drowning if they don’t follow some basic but important safety advice. Of course we want people to enjoy the river but we want them to understand there are risks, and that they should not underestimate the power of the water.

‘Thames water is cold year-round – not many people realise this. If you enter the water, intentionally or otherwise, you are at risk of cold water shock, which seriously impairs your ability to swim, and causes uncontrollable gasping, which can draw water into your lungs. Although you might want a few drinks in the sun by the riverside, remember that alcohol and water don’t mix, so if you have a drink, stay clear of the river’s edge and don’t enter the water”.

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Ultimately I was put in contact with Ross Macleod, the RNLI’s Coastal Safety Manager who is coordinating and leading the marketing of the campaign. Ross visited me at home to learn James’ story and tell me all about the campaign. It was a long and fruitful afternoon. In particular, Ross told me of the aims of the campaign: to use facts about the water and its dangers, where possible to share life stories, ensure communication is adapted to local areas and to target the appropriate high risk group.

We agreed that I could usefully contribute by sharing what happened to James via articles and interviews. More specifically I was able to add my own input into the text incorporated into bespoke pint beer glasses. These would be available in pubs and clubs along the Thames, in an informed attempt to impress the dangers of the river on the target group of young men, who are most at risk.

It took great emotional toll for me to compose the words describing the loss of my son in such stark, succinct terms. I grappled with the concept for some time and I am glad that I was able to distance myself emotionally to the level of ability to do what was required.

Ross later told me of the feedback of the control group who tested the impact of the glasses, saying, “They all agreed that personalising the glass with James’ details added impact to the message – which already carries a great deal of power.”

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The other innovative marketing tool which is being used in the RNLI campaign is the presence of a cubic metre of water, weighing one tonne and formed into a visual framed representation of a weight, placed at key locations. It was agreed that one of these would be placed at the riverside in Kingston and it was put in place in time for the ninth anniversary of our loss, when we made our annual visit to lay sunflowers at James’ memorial plaque.

This particular visual trigger has enormous impact. It is backed by England rugby star, James Haskell, who is supporting the Respect the Water campaign. He said, “As a rugby player, I train to be as strong as I can be. But I know from experience, that even I’m no match for the strength of the water. This campaign isn’t telling people not to go into the water – in fact, quite the opposite. The water is a great place to have fun and relax in the summer. This is about being smart and safe when you’re there. Water is the opponent that never tires, so make sure you’re never put to the test.”

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Ultimately, this year I have learned a great deal about the RNLI and its operations. I have a far better understanding that their remit is to become proactive in terms of drowning prevention, rather than reactive after an event has happened. Historically, I think that in the UK we believe that the RNLI act as another emergency service, called out when people are in difficulties in the water. But I have learned that the scope of what the RNLI do is far wider than that. A visit to the RNLI College, which is also a hotel, further informed me with the free guided tour on offer, which is educational and thought provoking.

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Today’s RNLI ethos accords with my own attempt to proactively traverse the grief path.

We have no way of measuring whether the safety improvements at Kingston have prevented further loss of life, but I am very glad to have been able to become involved with the RNLI’s measurable campaign. The aim of the RNLI is to halve drowning deaths by 2024 and I have no doubt this can be achieved, given the enthusiasm and support that is evident thus far.

Everything I do in my grieving process honours James’ memory and the telling and re-telling of his story is, for me as his mother, part of his legacy.

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Written in loving memory of James Edward Clark.  Never forgotten, always in our hearts. 

July 2014