As I approached the Hall this morning I could already hear the buzz of conversation and laughter inside. Choosing my seat, I noticed the chairs were arranged to create a circular space, around the candle in the middle, drawing us closer together.
The audience came to a natural quiet and Antonio introduced David Harrison and Vera Bohlen who were holding the session, Harmonic Temple, saying, “They have a resonance in heart and being that is beyond words.”
David invited everyone to stand for a warm up. “When we sing, our bodies are our instruments,” he explained. We shook our feet, wobbled our knees, hula’d our hips, gave our hands a good old shake, flapped the elbows, wriggled our shoulders and loosened our lips with a brrrrrr sound. With feet shoulder width apart and hands on our bellies we took a few deep breaths to ground our bodies and open our voices.
Our first harmony was a two-part setting of the words shalom, peace in Hebrew, and salam peace in Arabic. "They have a beautiful flavour if we alternate and sing them together." I noticed the men were sitting in one half of the circle and the women in the other, as David led the male voices, before Vera invited the female voices to accompany them.
Sing out as if a prayer to the world — Harmonic Temple
As the sounds and voices merged I felt bathed in love and tenderness, with a beautiful sense of cultures meeting in peace. “Sing out as if a prayer to the world.” My eyes were moist and in the silence afterwards we could almost hear the song continuing in the universe.
“Singing is the most immediate connection to spirit I know, through singing we can move beyond the mind and into oneness,” David said. “Nickomo Clarke created Harmonic Temple chants. The words come from different sacred texts and traditions, and the melodies often come to him in nature. In the harmonies we can hear the angels sing with us.”
They introduced our second chant, the Tibetan mantra for compassion, Om Mani Padme Hung. To paraphrase Thomas Merton, “It’s not about achieving a new state of compassion, instead it’s about returning to our natural state.”
We were to build up the chant in four parts, eventually singing it like a prayer wheel spinning around continuously. “It is a prayer going into our hearts and out into the world. With each turn of the wheel we send our prayers to liberate the suffering, with each turn we become our more loving, authentic selves.”
People gravitated towards the centre of the Hall to sing, a few walked in a circle symbolising the turning of the wheel, others stood with hands outstretched or palms resting on their hearts. The loving devotion was tangible in the air as the repetition of the chant moved into different layers of sound.
Our final chant of the morning was the Sanskrit word Namaste. “I honour the place in you where the entire universe resides. I honour the place in you of love, light, truth and peace. I honour the place within you where if you are in that place in you and I am in that place in me, there is only one of us.” The sounds of soprano, bass, alto and tenor came in one by one, merging together as people sang in greeting to one another. The paradigm shift into oneness inherent in the chant.
The miracle of healing — Sylvia Black
When I returned to the Hall after tea break the setting had changed to an intricately carved wooden lectern in the centre, next to a lower table draped in sheer lilac silk with a jug of water and a glass. This session was a talk on Miracle Healing by Sylvia Black who lives in The Park with her partner John Willoner. I noticed John sitting in the front row, next to Dorothy Maclean, our remaining co-founder and delightful presence in the community.
“To create a bridge between the sessions we need a Francois moment,” said Michael. With his delightful French accent, reminding me of Hercule Poirot, Francois explained the creation of a bird from the branches of a willow tree for the celebration ritual. “This afternoon white silk paper will form the body of the bird, a physical form of the invisible, and I invite you to join me in the Singing Chamber from 2pm.”
Michael then gave a warm introduction to Sylvia. She walked to the lectern and paused for a few moments before stepping forward with poise and presence.
“I’d like to start by sharing an extraordinary experience that happened to me, one I am still learning to understand. I was lying on the healing table of my healer, Tjitze de Jong, who worked with me throughout my cancer. An explosion of gratitude happened in my head, like fireworks. My body was shaking and then went stiff; it was extremely scary. I heard a voice in my head, saying that I need to ground Christ consciousness.”
Sylvia wondered how to do this. “I was already part of the Christ consciousness group that met every week. ‘That’s all you need to do,’ said the voice. Ok that’s not so difficult, I thought. I was told I would get the next download on Table Mountain. It was my intention to go to South Africa as soon as I was well enough. I was yearning for sunshine, to be outside.”
Just radiate who you are
She recovered there very fast and healed in the sunlight. “On the day I was on Table Mountain, I found a private spot and lay down on a rock. I felt I was sinking down into the rock, merging into the mountain. It was an amazing experience of oneness. The same voice came in my head, ‘You don’t have to do anything. Just radiate who you are.'”
Sylvia recalled a great sense of relief; there were no books to write or talks to give. “Here I am six years later. I don’t feel I have the answers; everyone has their own journey, especially through cancer. It’s a huge opportunity.” She acknowledged the people in the audience who have already been through a similar journey, or those who know people who have been through it.
“Some people die, some make it. Those who die haven’t failed, who knows what their soul journey is?” Sylvia made it clear she wanted the morning to be a group experience with time for sharing at the end. We were all witnessing a very personal journey that held a collective pain. Time and again I was struck by Sylvia’s positive attitude and the gratitude she expressed for the gift of learning along the way.
“I understood some of the patterns I developed early in life which led me into cancer.” One of six children, she learnt to be good, to stay in the background and put others first. Aged 18 months she broke her leg and was in traction in hospital. “When my parents left I cried so much and out of concern the nursing sister suggested that my mother stopped visiting until I’d forgotten them.” My heart sank at the pain of abandonment so young. “On some level I chose this,” said Sylvia with great optimism. “But the fear of loss and betrayal was deep.”
Taking back my power
Her first husband died in a car accident with another woman. “It was a huge experience to go through that still affects me even though I’ve worked through a lot.” Sylvia learnt how to meditate and joined various courses. “I thought I’d done a lot of healing when I met my second husband. It was a very dependent relationship and I realised it was easier to betray myself rather than him. The cancer gave me the courage to leave. I had lost my self and leaving was a big step in taking back my power, a huge part of my cancer journey.”
Sylvia spoke of the incredible support she received from her sister and the unconditional love of her two sons and the fun they had along the way. She was determined to heal emotionally before having medical intervention. “You name it, I tried it,” she said. “I followed my guidance all along, through books, dreams and my inner voice.” However she continued to go downhill and Tjitze recognised what was happening, “You’ve handed over your power.”
She realised the decision to have the operation was the attitude of ‘you fix me’, rather than the more co-creative attitude of complementary therapy. It took her a long time to get her power back. Sylvia remembered being close to death when a meditation tape helped her face her biggest fear, death itself. After facing it through visualising the different stages she felt incredibly peaceful. “I really surrendered, it was a big turning point.”
The operation itself had nothing to do with curing her from cancer. “The medical team discovered there was no trace of cancer in the remains of the tumor they removed,” Sylvia said. “I was clear before the operation that nearly killed me which was an absolute miracle and my oncologist and medical team said they were gobsmacked!”
Sylvia described having cancer here at Findhorn as another miracle, with so much support in the community. “One of my wonderful friends asked, ‘How are you going to celebrate when you're better?’ It was incredible to set the intention. I imagined playing golf again which I've always associated with having fun.”
Life is a miracle
Six years later she describes life as quite remarkable and the learning continues. “I still sometimes lose my way, but now it’s easier to get back on track. It’s wonderful that I can now give back to others. It was a huge miracle to walk the Camino de Santiago recently and I live with the most wonderful man, our great relationship is a reflection of where I am.”
Her closing words, before the audience were invited to share their personal journey with cancer, were a gift to us all. “What I heard on the mountain I now understand. The voice said to me, ‘Just living and radiating who I am is a gift.’ Not because I’ve come through cancer, this applies to every single human on the planet, just by being born. Life itself is a miracle. We all need to radiate who we are. We are love.”
National Poet’s Day — Jay Ramsay
Tonight’s session is Poetry and The Greater Love with Jay Ramsay, a leading and influential poet in the transformation of consciousness, and Herewood Gabriel, an artist-musician who Jay describes as a great friend and fellow 5Rhythms® dancer. The Hall has a more intimate feel to it this evening, with the lights down low and the mellow sounds of piano and guitar creating a relaxed atmosphere. Several rows of chairs have been set up down on the floor, facing the front of the Hall where conga drums, a ballaphon (African xylophone), singing bowls, a rainstick and an Indian Shruti Box (drone instrument) await. I sense this is going to be a very different kind of evening.
We have a light-hearted start as Michael introduces Jay with the help of a poem Michael hastily wrote upon learning that today is National Poet’s Day. We all enjoy a good laugh together and then sit back as Jay and Herewood approach the stage, Jay on djembe and Herewood on Native American flute. The sound is haunting, yet soothing at the same time.
Jay’s poetry walks on the ground of mysticism and vision, and he cites as his influences the English Romantic tradition of Wordsworth and Shelley, the sacred tradition of Rumi and Gibran and a long study of alchemy. He tells us that his “sense of language is that it needs to serve the great transparency of our time.”
From conditional to unconditional love
Though Jay also writes political poems, he has specially chosen tonight’s poems to be stepping stones from conditional to unconditional love. He speaks of love as a great mystery, and the poems as being about what love does with us. To illustrate this, Jay quotes Rumi as translated by Andrew Harvey:
Blood must flow he said
For the garden to flower
And the heart that loves me
A wound without a shield.
Inviting us to close our eyes while we listen, Jay begins to recite while Herewood creates a soundscape appropriate to the feel of each poem.
Through the four sections of poetry and music to accompany each poem, we are taken on a rollercoaster ride of human emotion: the longing for the authentic self, for the other, for a connection to something greater than ourselves; the pain and suffering of separation; the joy that comes from being accepted as we are. The themes of loving ourselves, empathy, being open, living in the unknown, serving one another, and faith and trust are all explored.
Each poem has a power all its own and together they reach into my soul, touching me as an individual and connecting me to all of humanity.
I’d like to share with you a few of the lines that in particular penetrate through to my inner sanctum:
“The pearl we are has to be cracked open to become the pearl.”
“If you haven’t learned to praise and dance, your inner being stays closed like a door.”
“Only the heart can see who we are; only the heart can see true gold.”
“All this time a rose secretly has been opening in you.”
The last poem is simply called Lullaby and through it Jay reminds us that in this time we are held by something greater than ourselves. The music that follows is an invitation to us all to ‘praise and dance’ and we joyfully accept, stomping feet and clapping hands keeping time to the rhythm that Jay and Herewood create with the rainstick and ballophon.
The clapping in time with the music turns into a standing ovation for these two men who have created an evening that can truly be described as being filled with a greater love.