Chisholme Blog

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Remembering two dear friends
Frances Ryan | Thursday, 10th May, 2018

Mhairi MacMillan and Azim Colin Looker


Mhairi MacMillan (1941-2018) Mhairi was a student at Chisholme for many years. After completing two six-month retreat courses in 1990s, she took on an active role in the life and running of the School, serving as counsellor to students and staff. In this capacity she was not just a very kind but also a most excellent listener, and so was able to be of great support to many people. In addition she was involved in course development and became part of the team working on the 40 day course programme.

She was a woman of many talents and abilities, but above all we will remember her as someone who was very much her own person. Down to earth, courageous, frank and uncompromisingly truthful, Mhairi was never afraid to speak out, if a situation required it – she will be greatly missed here at Chisholme!
See here to read more about her life.

Azim Colin Looker(1952-2018) What could one possibly say about Azim to do justice to him?
He was an artist, a writer, a mystic, a traveller, an ardent lover of truth and much more - as Christopher Ryan says in his tribute, he was a true dervish of many colours; colours intensely bright, and yet informed by a profound certainty in the single pure light of existence.
For the full tribute, see here...

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Walt and friends to the rescue
Chisholme Blog | Friday, 2nd March, 2018

Despite our best efforts at snow clearing, one polytunnel collapsed under the weight of the recent snow. Walt Holland and friends devised a clever snow sweeper and managed to save the others from falling. See the video >>>


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News this month– February (8)
Frances Ryan | Thursday, 1st March, 2018

February was devoted to a time of ‘stopping’, in which residents and guests were invited to enter into a spirit of shared enquiry and deep questioning in which 'being' precedes 'doing'. Here are the notes for the last day of enquiry.


February was devoted to a time of ‘stopping’, in which residents and guests are invited to enter into a spirit of shared enquiry and deep questioning of what is to be next for the place and our place in it.
Here below is a short report for the last day of this enquiry, put together by Robin Thomson.
To start at the beginning of the notes, please click here...

Wednesday, 28 February

Swathed in white snow comes the last day of this month of ablution and conversation. People were asked to share any insights or other experiences gained during this period. The ablution of the house is a metaphor for abluting ourselves, shedding light on parts of ourselves we would rather avoid, and creating a clear space that can then be receptive. A strong sense emerged that the school must be based not on an idea but on sustained practice, covering every aspect of life and work here, including our very companionship.

Minutes before we gathered for this last conversation an e-mail was received at Chisholme, with perfect timing for the last day. Written by a young student who has previously undertaken the six-month course, it expresses concern that Chisholme may have abandoned its traditions and roots in a misguided attempt to appeal to new, primarily younger people. Yet what is really needed is that the school abide by and adhere to its root and thereby provide a rigorous grounding. This, writes the author, is what young people really need and increasingly know they want.

Surely this letter appeals to the very spirit that has guided this month now ending: to reaffirm the core education of the school, to ablute away our accretions and to request guidance so that the conditions for the Essential education can be sustained here. Cosmetic alterations based on conjecture are folly. Abandoning the spirit and essence of the wisdom offered here would be catastrophic. We therefore find a situation in which the essential is to be reaffirmed and we beg to be held in it, while requesting that any change that is necessary arises from the Real itself, out of Its own new configurations for the time, and not out of any artistry of our own.

We have to beware that unless there is at least a hint of taste or vision awake in us, this may be hard to see, and we may succumb to the temptation to rely on what we think we know. The writer of the letter had experienced the six-month course and had had a taste of the education, and now was writing, seemingly, with longing for that taste from somewhere that seemed far away.

Moreover, any order or tradition exists solely to serve the possibility of vision. It is the scaffold by which, as described in the Four Pills, one can ‘build in’, in order to then reach. Tradition has no other purpose and no sake of its own. The body of wisdom offered at Chisholme serves this possibility superbly and solely, and it does not constitute a badge or identity, far less a religion. But to throw it away would be to kick away the ladder one stands on and to attempt to reach vision from nothing.

The conversation was animated and sometimes heated as it came to its end. This dramatic finish poses the question over again of what we have received this month and how we can best conform to what is required and offered here. We ask and beg for help.

And all gratitude for what has been given this month.

Join the conversation from where you are.
Send your thoughts and contributions to info@chisholme.org.
Please use the subject line 'February Conversation' – many thanks!

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News this month (7)
Frances Ryan | Thursday, 1st March, 2018

February is devoted to a time of ‘stopping’, in which residents and guests are invited to enter into a spirit of shared enquiry and deep questioning in which 'being' precedes 'doing'.


Conversation Notes for February 26 - 27

February is devoted to a time of ‘stopping’, in which residents and guests are invited to enter into a spirit of shared enquiry and deep questioning of what is to be next for the place and our place in it.
Here below you can read short reports on each day, put together by Robin Thomson, and updated every day or two.
To start at the beginning of the notes, please click here...

Monday 26 February

Question: How is the governance of Chisholme to be in future? Its directors are ageing and nobody is replacing them; the finances are precarious; meanwhile there seems little opportunity for the people here to have a ‘say’ in the running of the place.

Various responses: Practical questions of this kind must have a real basis and not come from conjecture. The school here is for the Real alone and not for each person to bring their opinions. Rather, perhaps, if we all enter our studentship and agree to the real matter, necessarily leaving the ‘space’ to the Real, a truer space for our speaking will come about. There is also a sense in which being ‘on the brink’ – financially and in other senses such as staffing – is in the nature of the place.

The forms of what is to happen here are not defined. It is a school, and its primary function is education, though the courses it offers may vary to suit the situation. And other things can take place here in principle than courses alone. What is important, however, for all who come here is that we leave our ‘baggage’ at the gate – our beliefs, narratives, histories, opinions – so that we can be open to being educated. The only thing we possess is submission, and if we accept this, everything will flow from it.

Sometimes people come here and feel they are not listened to; or that they have been judged; yet this place is a strong mirror and it may be that the objection is in themselves rather than in those around them.

The ‘four pills’ offer clarity in our dealings with one another here.
– Accept the singular vision and build into it;
– keep everything clean;
– be helpful to each other;
– do not harm anybody.

These are very simple instructions. We can try and be true to them, in our own life, and here at Chisholme.

Tuesday 27 February

If you could see the ugliest leper with the eyes of Love, His beauty would out-dazzle in your eyes the starlit sea. If one drop of the Wine of Vision could rinse your eyes, Wherever you looked you would weep with wonder.

(Rumi, from Light upon Light, trans. Andrew Harvey, sent from Holland as a contribution to the on-going enquiry)

What then is beauty? How is it that some things appear more beautiful than others, and is this just conditioning on our part? Can we achieve the vision described in this poem?

There is the natural beauty of all things – of weeds as well as flowers. Things have intrinsic beauty, and then there is the beauty of order, of relationship, of things being in their proper place. But the origin is the Beauty of the Real – and that it is Beautiful is perhaps the only description of the Real available to us. That Beauty pervades all things and is the quality present in the one who sees beauty. That Beauty is the hidden treasure and is what gives rise to love and the love to be known; and the ‘eyes of Love’ in the poem above are the eyes of the vision of the perfect gnostic. Such a gnostic sees the beauty of all things and of their relationships.

As was said a few days ago, however, we do not have the vision of the gnostic, and our guide is in the discrimination of degrees, expressing preference for that which has more light over that which has less light. This is an inner compass for us. It is not equivalent to saying that ‘some things are more beautiful than others’, for all things point to beauty whatever their degree, but it is to align ourselves with Beauty for Its sake and not to judge the things.

Confronted with the extreme diversity of experience in the world – from great beauty to disasters and hideous atrocities – we rely on this guidance and the remembrance that all this is for vision alone. Someone mentioned the compassion shown by the Dalai Lama towards the Chinese, in the face of the latter's persecution of the Tibetans – he said ‘…that they too want stability, but are ‘just going about it the wrong way’. This is an extraordinary example of a way of containing one’s reactions and creating the possibility for compassion to flow in one’s self, and perhaps for vision to arise in spite of the extreme nature of what is being witnessed.

We have the opportunity today to witness both beauty and ugliness on a scale not previously known. This offers the choice to be moved and to be educated. We can see ourselves in all such situations and all parts of them. We can see ourselves in the rescuer and the rescued, in the person who acts bravely on impulse and the crowd who watch in fear and hope for someone else to act, in those who kill and those who are killed and those who grieve and those who seek justice. Here as an example Akong Rinpoche was mentioned, who had endured terrible hardship and starvation during his escape from Tibet. When he meets people who suffer, who are starving, he knows how they feel.

Can I see myself and the world as one self?

Is it that when we are witnessing, we can respond choicelessly, guided directly by the heart?
Can we be moved to act like the hero, who knows how and when to act and is not held back by personal considerations? ...and likewise to know when we cannot act?
And can we see that all these considerations are in relation to beauty?

For the final notes for this month, click here...

Join the conversation from where you are.
Send your thoughts and contributions to info@chisholme.org.
Please use the subject line 'February Conversation' – many thanks!

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News this month (6)
Frances Ryan | Sunday, 25th February, 2018

February is devoted to a time of ‘stopping’, in which residents and guests are invited to enter into a spirit of shared enquiry and deep questioning in which 'being' precedes 'doing'.


Conversation Notes for February 23-25th

February is devoted to a time of ‘stopping’, in which residents and guests are invited to enter into a spirit of shared enquiry and deep questioning of what is to be next for the place and our place in it.
Here below you can read short reports on each day, put together by Robin Thomson, and updated every day or two.
To start at the beginning of the notes, please click here...

Friday, 23 February

We sometimes talk about tests, such as ‘Sufi tests’.
What is the reality of such testing?

Traditional Sufi orders would arrange tests to highlight specific states or requirements in students. But here, where there is no sheikh or other authority to devise such tests, it is primarily an interior matter. Perhaps it arises naturally in response to an undertaking or an aspiration in the person concerned, as a kind of quality control – ‘am I doing this right?’ ‘what are my limits in this?’

We are tested in our desire for closeness and have then to respond and to work. Just as the sick who came to the Asklepion at Miletus had to make their own way along the road before being granted healing, we have to respond to the trials that confront us.

These are like mirrors to us and test our response, our allegiance, our level of education. And in this life of trial and testing, the knowledge that trial and testing are part of its very nature, is a mercy.

What is in fact being tested?
In the situations that we recognise as trials, we may try every possible remedy without success until we make the change of heart or alignment that it was actually calling for, at which point the external situation is likely to change too. Perhaps we are being tested in what we agreed to in pre-eternity, to the being of the Real as our being. In this temporal world this is asked of us again and again, in each moment, and when resistance or ambiguity arises we experience it as a trial, until it is dissolved through our conscious submission, returning authority to the Real. There may also be trials arising from our inability to remember the original pact and therefore not knowing who we are.

No matter how long it takes us to respond to the test by making the necessary change, there is no blame in it. ‘It’s all for you!’ There is no need to speak of regret, of ‘how I should have been long ago’, or how ‘I have wasted time’. This time, this moment now is the time for testing, and it is rightly so.

Is there a testing going on right now, with us here, all who feel a closeness to Chisholme?
Many would say yes, this seems to be what is happening.
There is a sense that the test is for bringing about a movement in the heart. This is something each of us has to do ourselves. And if this movement happens in us, then it can happen collectively.

Saturday 24 February

The end of this February month is approaching.
Can anything be said about what has arisen from our conversation and practice in this time?

While the actions and effects cannot be listed in any linear sense and are perhaps not known, some indications have been clear, such as those described in these notes for each day. We have learnt that our task is to keep the ‘place’ clean and ask for help; to request receptivity itself, rather than specific outcomes; to beware our assumptions and to allow what is to flow unimpeded; that our proper manner of approach is as students and not as teachers, holders of positions or knowers. Indeed the idea of fixed positions within the staff can be dangerous as it can crystallise into a limited arena of ‘doing’. Perhaps we are here as volunteers, or as ‘caretakers’, but in all cases we are here first and foremost as students.

When a student comes here, they are in a sense the teacher. The supervisor here becomes a student and listens. Thus the apparent situation is reversed in the interior. Moreover, education can be given without a teacher; or teaching can come through a person without making them a teacher.

This place – the school at Chisholme – has a special purpose and real establishment. It is universal, beyond forms of religion or culture, and is of extraordinary height. Yet we are not to assume an exclusivity because of this but to draw out the universal in it and to keep the place clear so that the universal flow is not interrupted. It is both a school of the Mohammedian taste and a place for all lovers of learning without fixity.

It is probable that we have limited the potential of what can be given here, through self-narratives and fixing, and the ablution now in progress is a request that this fixing be lifted. Recently two long-standing students met after forty years apart, and what was sensed in their greeting, alongside the historical elements, was the original meeting, in salam – perhaps a meeting or knowledge that had been known before time. Here is a hint of the source of the education and the reality of our relationships with one another.

Sunday 25 February

We received news last night of the death of our friend and co-student Mhairi Macmillan. In the conversation we honoured her with memories and recalled her qualities, notably her veracity and her ability to listen deeply, which found expression in her profession of psychotherapist. She had arranged to come and stay at Chisholme at exactly this time, to participate in the intention for February, then cancelled on the day she was due to arrive because she was feeling unwell; hours later she passed away.

We recalled the Qur’anic text on one of the gravestones of another student buried here: ‘O confident soul, return to your Lord, agreeing and agreed to; enter among My servants and enter My paradise.’ The confidence indicated here stands out: freed of conjecture and doubt, including self-doubt and regret, and fear of death, the soul hears its call and returns with certainty. This is the reality of death, for sure, and it is also the reality of life in each moment: compassion flows from the Real in every instant, otherwise the world would not be, and we can be confident in this.

Another sense of ‘O confident soul, return to your Lord’ is the invitation to be truly oneself and to refrain from imitating others or conjecturing how we ‘ought’ to be. All beings are in service at all times, and for humanity this consists in being our real selves. Being oneself and thus in service is something we can learn from our own body, which is always present and in service and does not succumb to conjecture or doubt.

To read the next notes, click here...

Fresh notes will be posted regularly.

Join the conversation from where you are.
Send your thoughts and contributions to info@chisholme.org.
Please use the subject line 'February Conversation' – many thanks!

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News this month (5)
Frances Ryan | Saturday, 24th February, 2018

February is devoted to a time of ‘stopping’, in which residents and guests are invited to enter into a spirit of shared enquiry and deep questioning in which 'being' precedes 'doing'. Conversation Notes for February 21-22nd


Conversation Notes for February 21-22nd

February is devoted to a time of ‘stopping’, in which residents and guests are invited to enter into a spirit of shared enquiry and deep questioning of what is to be next for the place and our place in it.
Here below you can read short reports on each day, put together by Robin Thomson, and updated every day or two.

To start at the beginning of the notes, please click here...

Wednesday, 21 February

Perhaps studentship consists in uncovering what is already and inherent in us – finding our real voice, our real being, and inhabiting it and speaking from it.

Each of us has a particular aspect, and it behoves to respect this and draw it out. At the same time we are each an iteration of the One Self, the singular image, and our own self is incomplete, provisional, until it achieves completion in that singular.

When we are with others we are almost certain to make conjectures: who the other is, what they are like, whether we like them and so on. (This also goes for countries, ideas, political movements and so on, and the conjecture can be collective as well as individual.) While we may not be able to stop this natural occurrence, we can practice awareness of it and try to listen for the real expression of the person and their voice; otherwise the conjecture will become the basis of our observations. Consider a portrait painter: the art of seeing not only the form but the qualities inherent in the subject. When the walls of conjecture are pulled down, we see the beauty and inherent expression of the things we regard; their beauty seems to increase. ‘Were it not for you, I would not have created the universes’.

Our service to one another is in mirroring each other – that is, reflecting the real ‘voice’ of each other back to them while being informed of ourselves by their reflecting at the same time. We become the place of the seer and we become the place of the seen. Our relationships are unequal – not in the sense of superiority and inferiority, but of uniqueness – just as three and five are unequal but neither is better than the other.

Thursday, 22 February

Who do we find ourselves to be, today?
Different experiences open: in one case in the sense of the arrival of a stranger, and in another, of being closer to my real self, such that habits have lost their claim and have fallen away.

So who are we in fact?
We have been told in our studies, but do we actually know? This knowledge is not ours; it is beyond our ken, beyond our limit.

And yet it is known who we are. That is a lodestone by which we can navigate. Our way meanwhile, not knowing, is that of the seeker on the way, who discriminates between the degrees – ‘not this, not that’ – not denying the reality in every thing, yet preferring those things that hold more light.
Maybe not yet the vision of the perfect gnostic, who sees the beauty in all the degrees.
But by discriminating we can come to see that all things are unique and not equal to one another.
Oneness is not that all things are the same; rather, they differ in their level and nature, but by virtue of oneness they are all of one reality.

As for knowledge, real knowledge belongs to the Real and is lent when the ‘place’ is receptive. But we do not attempt to accumulate or own knowledge, and cannot; all we can do is to be places in which it can flow.

One of the factors that creates this condition is the presence of questions. Answers, on the other hand, tend to block the flow.
It was emphasised that mystical knowledge is of a different order to intellectual results; ‘you can’t get there from here’.

For the next notes, please see here...

Fresh notes will be posted regularly.

Join the conversation from where you are.
Send your thoughts and contributions to info@chisholme.org.
Please use the subject line 'February Conversation' – many thanks!

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News this month (4)
Frances Ryan | Wednesday, 21st February, 2018

February is devoted to a time of ‘stopping’, in which residents and guests are invited to enter into a spirit of shared enquiry and deep questioning in which 'being' precedes 'doing'.


Conversation Notes, February 19-20

February is devoted to a time of ‘stopping’, in which residents and guests are invited to enter into a spirit of shared enquiry and deep questioning of what is to be next for the place and our place in it.
Here below you can read short reports on each day, put together by Robin Thomson, and updated every day or two.

To start at the beginning of the notes, please click here...

Monday, 19 February

Intimacy and familiarity: can we discriminate between them? When we admit that we do not know each other, but are facing the Real together, true intimacy can arise between us; contrast this with the seeming familiarity and conjecture that goes with personal histories of friendship (or lack of) with one another. Can we let go of the habitual and familiar and allow the freshness of intimacy to be known instead?

Jili (Jill Flowers) told us of her father’s funeral, which she had attended last week. Her father had been in active service during the Second World War, and distinguished himself in battle in Italy. His regiment of the Grenadier Guards had sent two soldiers to the funeral. Neither had known her father. She gave us this image, of the two soldiers, one old, one young, standing at attention over the grave of their deceased comrade: despite not having known him, their dignity and respect was total, in honouring him here, at the graveside. After receiving this story, we looked at ourselves: what we had just heard seemed in sharp contrast to the almost Pavlovian conditioning that some of us sense, on returning to Chisholme – so familiar to us, often so full of very familiar friends that we stop seeing what/who is really there.

The ongoing governance of the place is also compromised when we act according to habit or are too close or familiar with each other. It is like a weight that covers the reality of the place. Intimacy, by contrast, which can arise even when we don’t know each other, when we have no pre-conceived ideas of each other, other than that we share in our common origin, is what fundamentally belongs to Man (the word insan, man/human, derives from uns, intimacy). It is fresh and freshly informed, not stale.

Being shown how helpful it would be to let go of the familiar, and how there is a very real possibility of intimacy arising from not-knowing, this is a mercy and a gift and something to work with. It is of course vital if we are to be of service to students coming here. Meanwhile that which is good and real in our ‘historical’ relationships will not be lost.

Tuesday 20th February

What is the meaning of the collectivity and collective vision? It cannot be an ideology or a construct. It is surely the result of individual hearts that have agreed to gather together. There is however a reality in that collectivity, when it is like that, when it is not blocked by constructs about it. In the Message from the Hopi we are enjoined to enter the fast-flowing river, let go of the bank – and see who is in there with us.

Who am I really?
This question suggests a real process of letting go of our own self-constructs and personal narratives. And yet something had to be constructed first. A child needs a sense of who they are, the ground she or he stands on, so that it can be shed in maturity. And so it is with the education itself – one must undertake something, study and imbibe something, ‘build in and then reach’, but afterwards, once established, there must be a letting go. The ephemeral (which was the scaffolding and construction to bring one to this point) passes away, so that what is real and established can be known.

Again, perhaps it is the same situation for the school. What is the school, in fact? Can we let go of our constructs that constrict it – perhaps we need to shut down completely for a period and just stop? Then what is informing us could perhaps be heard above the cacophony of ‘busy-ness’…

To read the next set of notes, please see here...

Fresh notes will be posted regularly.

Join the conversation from where you are.
Send your thoughts and contributions to info@chisholme.org.
Please use the subject line 'February Conversation' – many thanks!

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News this month (3)
Frances Ryan | Sunday, 18th February, 2018

Notes for 16-18 Feb: The whole month of February is devoted to a time of ‘stopping’, in which residents and guests are invited to enter into a spirit of shared enquiry and deep questioning in which 'being' precedes 'doing'.


Conversation Notes for February 16-18th

February is devoted to a time of ‘stopping’, in which residents and guests are invited to enter into a spirit of shared enquiry and deep questioning of what is to be next for the place and our place in it.

Notes on the daily conversation, in the form of short reports, are made by Robin Thomson and updates appear here most days.

To start at the beginning of the notes please click here...

Friday, 16 Februaryb
How do we communicate what takes place in these conversations to our friends and the wider world?

What happens here is particular to the time and the people present.
And yet it has real effect and can thus be effective more widely, particularly given that the recent newsletter invited readers to agree with our intentions for February and for this year. If the effect is real, it will be effective whether one is informed of the detail or not. Meanwhile how is meaning conveyed at all? You yourself are the meaning.

The website, though virtual rather than face-to-face, can play a valuable part in announcement, and this can be explored further. Can we meanwhile allow the site to be used for reports and communication more spontaneously, without protracted editing and official approval?

But what is really needed is face-to-face encounter?
The human collectivity and the human singularity, the global human being that has so many manifestations.

We may be inspired in ourselves to come here by reading something, but Chisholme is to support the global evolution of mankind, not personal enlightenment. We invite people here for self-knowledge, but the kind of knowledge – and the kind of self – that they realise is not what they first expected. So, the self we think we want to know is not what we think it is. Yet we have been invited to ourselves and invited to extend the invitation.

Sat 17 February
Does or can Chisholme have a ‘mission statement’ – to make it clear to people what the place is for?

The articles of association give a loose indication, but the true purpose of the school seems difficult to communicate directly. The education here is by taste, and it has to be tasted to be recognised. The words on the website read differently after one has experienced Chisholme directly.

So how do we announce in mere words?
When the time is right, perhaps, people will find the invitation arising in them of itself; for now, it remains our task to announce in whatever ways present themselves.

And what is our task here, holding this physical place – the house and estate of Chisholme?
It is not that we can offer visions of Unity; that is for the Real alone to accomplish. Our task is simply to maintain and care for the buildings and the land, keep them and ourselves clean, so that what the Real desires can take place when it will. Meanwhile this work of maintenance and upkeep is itself nourishing and educational for those involved in it.

The estate could be worked more intensively so that we grow more of our own produce. This could be intended as a devotional act and as a demonstration of the nourishment of the Nourisher. This approach is commendable for its sentiment of commitment and engagement; but it should still be the case that all this is for the Real alone and not a ‘thing in itself’; an ephemeral form and not the unchanging essential vision.

In any case the intention for a school remains, and the place has been established in a real sense. The spiritual governs the material, so that what needs to happen will happen in a prepared place. Meanwhile our work is to hold the place, keep it clean, pay the bills, maintain it as an estate and a charity, and be present ourselves.

Sun 18 February
A larger group today, asking what has come up so far this month.
In summary, we mentioned ablution, clearing the spaces, letting go of old narratives and old accumulations.
And asking what now for the school?

How does the Real educate and invite?

For taste to educate, it has to be strong in oneself. Our own progress is our objective, each of us, and it is that which will draw others. The need for ablution, and the intention which we can sense within it, is surely to discriminate between what is fresh and of the spirit, from what is old, tired and received. The latter includes both our personal histories with one another and the system of beliefs we have constructed here as a cosy habitat.

Biological evolution has brought us here, and our own form, our body, has brought us together today for education.
Who in fact am I?
Who in fact has come into the room and sat down?

In order to receive the fresh, the ‘gifts of the spirit’, ablution is the primary requirement.
We have to be empty, clean – have no being of our own.
There is work in this for us, who are students and who yearn for closeness; this keeping clean, this letting go of histories and narratives and clinging is an ongoing effort.
‘We’ have to keep our relationships with each other clean – who in any case is this ‘we’? Is there a ‘we’, an easily assumed community, in fact? Another easy assumption is an exceptionalism (that ‘we’ are in some way extra special), the effect of which can be dangerous.

This conversation can become sharp, even confrontational, where real need for clarity is felt. Can we learn to speak to each other directly, within the strong intention for it?

Click here for the next set of notes...

Join the conversation from where you are.
Send your thoughts and contributions to info@chisholme.org.
Please use the subject line 'February Conversation' – many thanks!

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News this month (2)
Frances Ryan | Sunday, 18th February, 2018

February is devoted to a time of ‘stopping’, in which residents and guests are invited to enter into a spirit of shared enquiry and deep questioning in which 'being' precedes 'doing'.


Conversation Notes for February 5-13th

February is devoted to a time of ‘stopping’, in which residents and guests are invited to enter into a spirit of shared enquiry and deep questioning of what is to be next for the place and our place in it.
Notes on the daily conversation, in the form of short reports are made by Robin Thomson, and updated here most days.
To start at the beginning of the notes please click here...

Monday 5 February
How does Reality educate and how does Reality announce Itself?

How is the education at the School to be presented today?

Do we hold on to old forms because of the orders they once represented, or can we discriminate between order and form, so that the orders (which are realities and do not change) can be pointed to by new forms (that are ephemeral and subject to the era)?

Can we allow ourselves to be informed of this from a clear and empty place and refrain from conjecturing or hurrying to fill the space?

Tuesday 6 February How does the Real invite to Itself?

What is it in the invitation letter that draws people to participate in this month at Chisholme?

Perhaps that the concerns set out in the invitation are close to the concerns in our hearts? So, can the school offer a real invitation that will reach the concerns of people in the present time and likewise elicit in us a desire to respond?

If there is only the Real, the invitation is from the Real to the Real. The response will match the aptitude of each individual perfectly. This is the principle of the situation. It requires receptivity on the part of the one invited. We strive to hold the conditions in which this can take place, with presence and by ‘keeping everything clean’.

The mode of expression of the present era is fast-changing and new forms of communication may be required. Yet the vision itself, and its meanings, are unchanging, and are as essential to new generations as they were to all humans throughout history.

Wednesday 7 February Evidence of our presence in vision is the quality of our hospitality. The hospitality of Abraham towards the three strangers exemplifies the hospitality of vision (or of aspiration to vision), in which we see (or accept ‘as if we saw’) that every person is a face of the Real, a divine Name, and thus an aspect of the real collectivity and a revelation to inform our studentship.

Thursday 8 February
We were given the image of a person standing before a curtain, and wanting to draw it back, but unable to reach out to move it. This came with a sense of facing an unknown and a profound sense of incapacity and inability.

Friday 9 February
Out of our incapacity to know the Unknown comes the invitation to be taken ‘beyond the curtain’ by that which can carry us there. The self-revelation of the Unknown to Itself is the divine Love Affair. The world is ever in becoming, and our place as the lover is to enter the intimacy of the Beloved.

In this a merciful action takes place. The ‘tension’ of not knowing and wanting to know is released by the realisation that there is only the Real, and that the Real includes the time and manner of release. Then comes the possibility of vision, and the desire for this is from the Real even more than it is from the student. One can relax, trusting that what needs to happen will be given when the time is right.

Saturday 10 February
Back to incapacity as our starting point and place of refuge. We are invited to invite the Real to be our ‘Trustee’ – the one who takes care of our affairs. In this action of appointing arises the possibility of prayer.

So, if our way is not a religion, what is prayer?

We come to a situation in which we request of the Real because this is the Real’s request of us. Request, gratitude and praise form three strands of a rope that binds to Truth. Equally, prayer is an act of praise in which the praiser, praised and praise are one. The mystery of servanthood is in the participating in this situation. And the realised servant requests that the distinction between servant and lord be maintained so that this situation of requesting can continue.

Sunday 11 February
Since the beginning of the month, Janice McAllister has been working in the attic of the main house. She came from the US specifically with this purpose in her heart, to clear it and clean it and paint it, so that light can enter every corner of it. In the last two weeks, the attic has seen a remarkable transformation – see image at the top of the page.

We spoke of the value of this work being done. Not only is there a symbolic and energetic significance particularly to beginning at the top; the scale and rigour of this clearing out is such that all of us are under its effect.

So what is ablution?

Mere ‘cleaning’ is more than meets the eye. The one who cleans feels benefit, regardless of their level of awareness – it has an obvious, tangible effect and goes far beyond the physical.

It is an ongoing practice, like prayer, and like prayer, it becomes a condition in which we can abide. Like prayer, it is an approach to awareness and the constancy of awareness. So perhaps all the practices and actions envisaged in the School’s courses point to this same objective of maintaining awareness of the Real at all times.

Does all real action in this world directs us to that objective…?

Monday 12 February
T.S. Eliot spoke of the possibility of being ‘at the still point of the turning world… Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is… Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and there is only the dance…. In the dance, at the still point, is pure being, and being is joy.’

By being present to ourselves we become more present to each other, so that, together, we are present to the One Who is present to us.

‘The greatest beshara is that God is the Ipseity (selfness) of all things.’
(Fusus al Hikam ch. of Hud)

Tuesday 13 February
Movement loomed large today, arising from an offer of chi gong sessions. Movement can be understood in various ways. Meanwhile the body needs integration with the mind, and chi gong does this effectively. The body is the receptacle of real experience; in mindfulness practice the body is often a primary focus; the chapter on Moses speaks of the body as the ark in which knowledge resides.

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News this month (1)
Frances Ryan | Friday, 16th February, 2018

February is devoted to a time of ‘stopping’, in which residents and guests are invited to enter into a spirit of shared enquiry and deep questioning in which 'being' precedes 'doing'.


February is devoted to a time of ‘stopping’, in which residents and guests are invited to enter into a spirit of shared enquiry and deep questioning of what is to be next for the place and our place in it; and establish a culture in which 'being' precedes 'doing', so that all activity and work undertaken here be approached in a contemplative spirit. Then what is necessary can flow from an awareness of the real situation, rather than our attempting to act on the basis of conjecture in a purely doing mode.

Simply to agree to this movement constitutes acceptance of the invitation. It is surely our collective will and intention, wherever we may be, that can create the receptivity required.

Intrinsic in this request to be shown the best way forward for this school is ablution (in the sense of cleaning, clearing and decluttering, inside and out). Five objectives emerged to inform us of the purpose and quality of the ablution we have proposed to undertake:

  1. For the Real alone
  2. For a clear space
  3. To let go of attachments
  4. To lighten and elevate
  5. To be ready to receive

We have learned that 'First He prepares the place.' It naturally follows then, that ablution must precede the request in order to prepare the place to receive and be informed from the Real.

For how can we be ready to receive help if the place is cluttered with the accretion of stuff both interior and exterior?

The month of February marks the start of this intention and this request.
An important part of this intention is also to spend time every morning in conversation.
Conversation in this context is a devotional practice, particular to the time it occurs and to the people present. What appears below is no more than a summary of some of the salient points that have come up, put together by Robin Thomson.
We will keep this page updated as the month progresses.

One common factor in the conversations has been a restating, a sense of renewal perhaps, of key aspects of service to the Real and proper studentship, i.e. incapacity, presence, cleanliness, and our position in the ‘love affair’ as the basis of esoteric lore. Much of what follows may seem familiar to many of us, yet it has emerged with the quality of news.

Feb 1-4th
The month began with a request that we pray together Ibn ‘Arabi’s prayer, the Hisb al Wiqaya or Prayer for Spiritual Elevation and Protection, to set the intention and to request elevation and protection for the School and those entrusted with its care.
It is traditionally read before travelling or in times of difficulty.

Beginning from a recognition of our incapacity, the question arose of asking how the invitation to education at Chisholme, that is the ‘Beshara’ – the Announcement of Joy' - is to be made?

An indication is given in the prayer mentioned above ‘Admit me, O You who are the First and the Last, to the hidden domain of the unknowable secret and encompassing treasure of 'As God wills! There is no power save in God.’ We were further reminded of the need to be collected as one in the request: ‘Hold fast to the bond of God all together and do not scatter’.

How do we as seemingly disparate individuals, hold together in a unitive vision?

Clearly there has to be agreement from all sides, and that agreement has to come from a real place. Or one can speak of harmony – the science of beauty when multiple tones are sounded together.

How can we be harmonious together?

We begin with our own efforts but quickly discover that these are futile by themselves. For a vision to be unitive, it must come from Unity itself. We cannot reach it, nor recognise it, from our limited perspectives. So it is our task to request vision and clear the ‘space’ in ourselves – which is helped when we clear the space in our physical surroundings.

Monday 5 February
How does Reality educate and how does Reality announce Itself?

How is the education at the School to be presented today?

Do we hold on to old forms because of the orders they once represented, or can we discriminate between order and form, so that the orders (which are realities and do not change) can be pointed to by new forms (that are ephemeral and subject to the era)?

Can we allow ourselves to be informed of this from a clear and empty place and refrain from conjecturing or hurrying to fill the space?

Tuesday 6 February
How does the Real invite to Itself?

What is it in the invitation letter that draws people to participate in this month at Chisholme?

Perhaps that the concerns set out in the invitation are close to the concerns in our hearts? So, can the school offer a real invitation that will reach the concerns of people in the present time and likewise elicit in us a desire to respond?

If there is only the Real, the invitation is from the Real to the Real. The response will match the aptitude of each individual perfectly. This is the principle of the situation. It requires receptivity on the part of the one invited. We strive to hold the conditions in which this can take place, with presence and by ‘keeping everything clean’.

The mode of expression of the present era is fast-changing and new forms of communication may be required. Yet the vision itself, and its meanings, are unchanging, and are as essential to new generations as they were to all humans throughout history.

Wednesday 7 February
Evidence of our presence in vision is the quality of our hospitality. The hospitality of Abraham towards the three strangers exemplifies the hospitality of vision (or of aspiration to vision), in which we see (or accept ‘as if we saw’) that every person is a face of the Real, a divine Name, and thus an aspect of the real collectivity and a revelation to inform our studentship.

Thursday 8 February
We were given the image of a person standing before a curtain, and wanting to draw it back, but unable to reach out to move it. This came with a sense of facing an unknown and a profound sense of incapacity and inability.

Friday 9 February
Out of our incapacity to know the Unknown comes the invitation to be taken ‘beyond the curtain’ by that which can carry us there. The self-revelation of the Unknown to Itself is the divine Love Affair. The world is ever in becoming, and our place as the lover is to enter the intimacy of the Beloved.

In this a merciful action takes place. The ‘tension’ of not knowing and wanting to know is released by the realisation that there is only the Real, and that the Real includes the time and manner of release. Then comes the possibility of vision, and the desire for this is from the Real even more than it is from the student. One can relax, trusting that what needs to happen will be given when the time is right.

Saturday 10 February
Back to incapacity as our starting point and place of refuge. We are invited to invite the Real to be our ‘Trustee’ – the one who takes care of our affairs. In this action of appointing arises the possibility of prayer.

So, if our way is not a religion, what is prayer?

We come to a situation in which we request of the Real because this is the Real’s request of us. Request, gratitude and praise form three strands of a rope that binds to Truth. Equally, prayer is an act of praise in which the praiser, praised and praise are one. The mystery of servanthood is in the participating in this situation. And the realised servant requests that the distinction between servant and lord be maintained so that this situation of requesting can continue.

Sunday 11 February
Since the beginning of the month, Janice McAllister has been working in the attic of the main house. She came from the US specifically with this purpose in her heart, to clear it, clean and paint it so that light can enter as much as possible every corner of it. We spoke of the value of this work being done. Not only is there a symbolic and energetic significance particularly to beginning at the top; the scale and rigour of this clearing out is such that all of us are under its effect.

So what is ablution?

Mere ‘cleaning’ is more than meets the eye. The one who cleans feels benefit, regardless of their level of awareness – it has an obvious, tangible effect and goes far beyond the physical.

It is an ongoing practice, like prayer, and like prayer, it becomes a condition in which we can abide. Like prayer, it is an approach to awareness and the constancy of awareness. So perhaps all the practices and actions envisaged in the School’s courses point to this same objective of maintaining awareness of the Real at all times.

Does all real action in this world directs us to that objective…?

{CGSmartImage src='uploads/images/news-images/Attic.jpg' class='img-responsive'}

Monday 12 February
T.S. Eliot spoke of the possibility of being ‘at the still point of the turning world… Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is… Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and there is only the dance…. In the dance, at the still point, is pure being, and being is joy.’

By being present to ourselves we become more present to each other, so that, together, we are present to the One Who is present to us.

‘The greatest beshara is that God is the Ipseity (selfness) of all things.’
(Fusus al Hikam ch. of Hud)

Tuesday 13 February
Movement loomed large today, arising from an offer of chi gong sessions. Movement can be understood in various ways. Meanwhile the body needs integration with the mind, and chi gong does this effectively. The body is the receptacle of real experience; in mindfulness practice the body is often a primary focus; the chapter on Moses speaks of the body as the ark in which knowledge resides.

No notes for Wednesday and Thursday

Friday 16 February
How do we communicate what takes place in these conversations to our friends and the wider world?

What happens here is particular to the time and the people present. And yet it has real effect and can thus be effective more widely, particularly given that the recent newsletter invited readers to agree with our intentions for February and for this year. If the effect is real, it will be effective whether one is informed of the detail or not. Meanwhile how is meaning conveyed at all? You yourself are the meaning.

The website, though virtual rather than face-to-face, can play a valuable part in announcement, and this can be explored further. Can we meanwhile allow the site to be used for reports and communication more spontaneously, without protracted editing and official approval?

But what is really needed is face-to-face encounter. The human collectivity and the human singularity, the global human being that has so many manifestations.

We may be inspired in ourselves to come here by reading something, but Chisholme is to support the global evolution of mankind, not personal enlightenment. We invite people here for self-knowledge, but the kind of knowledge – and the kind of self – that they realise is not what they first expected. So, the self we think we want to know is not what we think it is. Yet we have been invited to ourselves and invited to extend the invitation.

Saturday 17 February
Does or can Chisholme have a ‘mission statement’ – to make it clear to people what the place is for? The articles of association give a loose indication, but the true purpose of the school seems difficult to communicate directly. The education here is by taste, and it has to be tasted to be recognised. The words on the website read differently after one has experienced Chisholme directly. So how do we announce in mere words? When the time is right, perhaps, people will find the invitation arising in them of itself; for now, it remains our task to announce in whatever ways present themselves.

And what is our task here, holding this physical place – the house and estate of Chisholme?

It is not that we can offer visions of Unity; that is for the Real alone to accomplish. Our task is simply to maintain and care for the buildings and the land, keep them and ourselves clean, so that what the Real desires can take place when it will. Meanwhile this work of maintenance and upkeep is itself nourishing and educational for those involved in it.

The estate could be worked more intensively so that we grow more of our own produce. This could be intended as a devotional act and as a demonstration of the nourishment of the Nourisher. This approach is commendable for its sentiment of commitment and engagement; but it should still be the case that all this is for the Real alone and not a ‘thing in itself’; an ephemeral form and not the unchanging essential vision.

In any case the intention for a school remains, and the place has been established in a real sense. The spiritual governs the material, so that what needs to happen will happen in a prepared place. Meanwhile our work is to hold the place, keep it clean, pay the bills, maintain its place in the worldly order and be present ourselves.

Sunday 18 February
A larger group today, asking what has come up so far this month. The responses: ablution, clearing the spaces, letting go of old narratives and old accumulations.

And asking what now for the school: how does the Real educate and invite?

The quality of presence and conversation has been strong and affirming.

For taste to educate, it has to be strong in oneself. Our own progress is our objective, each of us, and it is that which will draw others. The need for ablution, and the intention which we can sense within it, is surely to discriminate between what is fresh and of the spirit, from what is old, tired and received. The latter includes both our personal histories with one another and the system of beliefs we have constructed here as a cosy habitat.

Biological evolution has brought us here, and our own form, our body, has brought us together today for education.
Who in fact am I?
Who in fact has come into the room and sat down?

In order to receive the fresh, the ‘gifts of the spirit’, ablution is the primary requirement.
We have to be empty, clean – have no being of our own. There is work in this for us, who are students and who yearn for closeness; this keeping clean, this letting go of histories and narratives and clinging is an ongoing effort.
‘We’ have to keep our relationships with each other clean – who in any case is this ‘we’? Is there a ‘we’, an easily assumed community, in fact?
Another easy assumption is an exceptionalism (that ‘we’ are in some way extra special), the effect of which can be dangerous.

This conversation can become sharp, even confrontational, where real need for clarity is felt. Can we learn to speak to each other directly, within the strong intention for it?

Click here for the next set of notes...

Join the conversation from where you are.
Send your thoughts and contributions to info@chisholme.org.
Please use the subject line 'February Conversation' – many thanks!

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To stand in life is not to take sides, but to take heart
Chisholme Blog | Saturday, 20th January, 2018

Christopher Ryan considers our responses to ‘Terrorism’ and ‘The War on Terror’ following the bombs that killed 200 people, and wounded over 1500 in Madrid back in March 2004 – sentiments that still ring very true today.


Christopher Ryan considers our responses to ‘Terrorism’ and ‘The War on Terror’ following the bombs that killed 200 people, and wounded over 1500 in Madrid back in March 2004 – sentiments that still ring very true today.

“This threat is given the name terrorism. The basis of terror, the raison d’etre which is its fuel, and without which its combustive destruction could not take hold, is fear. Fear for one’s existence, fear for one’s life, or fear for ‘our way of life’ which we must ‘fight to defend’. But fear is due to ignorance, a lack of knowing the true situation. In this case, the ignorance is of the reality of our life, of our existence. So, could there be something missing in ‘our way of life’?

This threat, which manifests on the outside as a destructive force, is not allied to any body of people according to race or religion, social status, creed or system of political belief. It attaches itself to wherever there appears the vacuum of ignorance. It is simply the embodiment of qualities of lack, negativity and non-existence, and it places its weapon, fear, into our own hands. So who are we going to fight? Are we going to move into a dark age of fear, where we suspect everyone, our neighbour, the person sitting next to us on the bus, the ‘Islamic-looking’ person, the person with the funny accent, an age where we all become spies on each other as happened in East Germany during the period of division. This downward spiral is the real result of terrorism, and it brings about the destruction of the soul, the soul which loves its life, thus destroying the creative movement of beauty in Man.

Whichever way we look at it, we need to change the terms on which this war is being fought, if we are to progress as human beings. This means complete and deep questioning of this sacred cow which has been termed, ‘our way of life’. We need to be prepared for changes, not simply to the exterior forms of our life (although in respect of the properly exterior threat of climate change due to global warming, this may also be necessary), but the basis on which we claim our right to call ourselves human. We have to question first, what is this life, which we claim to possess a way with? Where does it come from? Why do we suffer when this life is taken from those human forms? And as we hold it so dear, what is it that gives it its real value? What is it that dies? Where does life go?

And we must ask this question, what does it mean to be human? Not just in our lacks and imperfections, dwelling exclusively on which only separates us further from each other and from ourselves until we risk drowning in a mire of negativity. Better we must examine those things which bring us together beyond our differences, the things that complete us and our hopes, those things which give us strength, the strength which overcomes the fears. Such things as love, and the certainty love brings to the human heart.

Love, and all that its wide cloak encompasses, is the first and last of our needs. Just as a child finds complete security in the love its parent brings, we must seek the breadth and depth of a love that is all-inclusive, a love which fills the lacks and perfects the imperfections. A love that informs the ignorances with knowledge from a deep well of knowledge which is the heart itself. For this our sense of heart needs expanding, if we are to find its true boundlessness. So, we need to pay attention to the heart and come under its sway, the true core of our existence, attention which some perhaps would have us give to ‘our way of life’. Perhaps what is the problem here is this ‘our way of life’. Perhaps we are in danger of defending a castle made of sand.

Politicians, because they believe vehemently that their particular system is in the best interests of their voters, are not necessarily correct in their beliefs, however much they may seem corroborated in the wishes of the voters. ‘Your old road is rapidly ageing’, sang the bard from Minnesota, and ‘the wheel’s still in spin’. It would be foolish to try and combat the forces that are now in play, because the world is truly changing. The so-called war on terror will undoubtedly continue, but terror will not be defeated from the outside.

But there is real recourse in changing our way of life from the inside, so that it be in conformity with life itself. To stand in life is not to take sides, but to take heart. It seems that what we have been given to effect this change is love itself, with all its ramifications. So, if life, the universe and everything means anything at all to us, rather than fight to defend, perhaps we should start by surrendering to the force of love, giving our life to that, letting its power act in us, not as some glorified latter day crusader in an emotion-driven battle of good versus evil, but simply, with complete humility, as if already dead to the ways of this world, come alive by life itself.

Transposing Christ’s words, the poet Wilfred Owen wrote:

‘The scribes on all the people shove
And bawl allegiance to the state,
But they who love the greater love
Lay down their life; they do not hate.’

In the same spirit of surrender, perhaps we can also live a greater life."

Christopher Ryan
Hawick, 2004

A shorter version of this piece was first published by The Southern Reporter in March 2004.

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Mansura Brenda Thomas - an exceptional life
Frances Ryan | Thursday, 3rd August, 2017

‘What a gift, what a great human!’, writes Richard Twinch in his obituary for Mansura Brenda Thomas, who passed away on July 7th 2017.


‘What a gift, what a great human!’, writes Richard Twinch in his obituary of Mansura Brenda Thomas, who passed away on July 7th 2017.

She was indeed a gift – a remarkable woman and dear friend, who witnessed and participated in the very beginnings of Beshara, Swyre Farm and the early courses at Chisholme.

Her documentation of the Further Intensive Course at Chisholme House (1979-80) provides a unique testament to the workings of this esoteric school and the wisdom insights of the school’s consultant Bulent Rauf.

Obituary:

Mansura was born soon after the First World War and remained Brenda to her largely conventional middle-class family all her life. She studied pianoforte at the Royal Academy of Music during World War II, but felt that this was not in the spirit of the war effort so gave up her studies to become a secretary at the BBC. She married and had one daughter, Gina, and completed her musical studies. The marriage failed and Brenda later married David Thomas. She became a grandmother to three bright boys, who later came to live with her and David. Eventually she became a great grandmother and enjoyed the company of yet another new generation. David died in 2012, after suffering from Alzheimer’s, and Brenda died peacefully, surrounded by her family, at 10.00 pm on Friday 7th July 2017. All-in-all a normal life, lived well.

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However, Mansura was not an ordinary person and lived an extra-ordinary parallel life of self-knowledge, inner discovery and service to the One Reality. Her name comes from the Arabic and means ‘helped by God’ - she shares the name with the great Baghdadi mystic Mansur al-Hallaj who was famously beheaded for his ecstatic utterances which went beyond acceptable ‘form’. Mansura, though occasionally subject to ecstasy, which I witnessed only once near the end of her long life, remained outwardly sober and always tactful. She was also very strong inwardly and was able to steer a middle way whilst things were falling apart around her.

In 1963, these qualities brought her together with a group in Cambridge known as the Epiphany Philosophers with whom she continued her love of music, studying sounds and energy patterns. Their number included the scientist Rupert Sheldrake and Brian & Elizabeth Dupré with whom she formed a deep friendship - their homes in Milton and Landbeach (where Brian was the Rector) being close together a few miles north of Cambridge. Mansura died exactly (7/7/17) on the 40th anniversary of Brian’s death on 7/7/77.

Around 1967-68, Mansura met Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, whose father Hazrat Inayat Khan was a famous musician from the Chisti family and founder of the Sufi Order of the West. Both Mansura and her husband David were drawn to him and he in turn saw their special qualities and invited them to be in charge of a study group in Cambridge - which included myself, my soon-to-be wife Cecilia, Brian’s son Adam , Adam’s sister Charlotte and her boyfriend Bob Turner . Mansura had also came across the work of Ibn Arabi, through Henry Corbin’s book ‘Creative Imagination’ , whilst at a conference held by Pir Vilayat in Suresnes, near Paris, and was much taken with the ideas.

This was a time of great change and some turmoil, and before long Mansura had met with Sir George Trevelyan of the Wrekin Trust, Reshad Feild (late of the Springfields pop group) and the Rev. Peter Dewey. They were all involved in the foundation of the community at Swyre Farm in the Cotswolds which became known as Beshara, where Mansura and David were to live for several months – ‘dedicated but not particularly happy’ as Mansura later describes.

Subsequently, Mansura met Bulent Rauf whose manner, advice and translation of Ibn Arabi’s ‘Fusus al-Hikam’ was to remain by her side for the next 40 years. It was while staying in Turkey with Bulent that she became witness to the departure of Reshad Feild from Beshara – and again she was able to convey the importance of the continuation of Beshara without its charismatic ‘frontman’.

Mansura has written all about this in her Beshara Memories which includes fascinating insights into the events of the time and the process of self-knowledge that ensued. Like others before him, Bulent Rauf also recognised Mansura’s special qualities and her position as a generational intermediary and calming influence upon a somewhat rebellious youth culture of which I was part!

After dedicated work establishing a Beshara Centre in Cambridge, misunderstood by both her family, some of whom disowned her, and our generation who lacked experience, Mansura continued to hold to the Real as her source of guidance and her recognition that in Bulent Rauf she had found somebody of real worth, and in Ibn Arabi a source of deep wisdom.

It became Mansura’s turn to respond to the invitation to attend the course at the Beshara School of Intensive Esoteric Education held at Sherborne House in 1978, leaving behind David to ‘mind the shop’ and an infirm father, who alone amongst her original family supported her spiritual quest. Mansura was invited soon after to attend the second Beshara School Advanced Course, again without David, being held at Chisholme House. Unusually, Mansura was given permission to write notes from the course in the shorthand she had learnt during her National Service – the notes coming to light in a trunk during the course of writing her memoirs. This is indeed a treasure-trove and includes the final talk she gave to all her co-students, including Bulent.

After the course at Chisholme life changed yet again: she had to attend to her father, who was soon to die, and to the needs of her daughter and grandsons who had become marital refugees. Mansura was never one to hang on to places and forms – the antique business that had been her mainstay was no longer seen as appropriate and she was one of the first to study aromatherapy seriously, through which she was useful to many people for the rest of her life. Her husband retired and wanted to go back to his native North Wales, so they moved to Porthmadog, at the edge of the Snowdonia National Park. They stayed for many years until David’s health and the needs of the family brought them back to Cambridgeshire.

We were not much in contact during her Welsh days as we lived on the other side of the country and were busy with a young family, so it was interesting to read of Mansura’s account of the people she met who again recognised her special qualities as she did theirs. Mansura was deeply empathetic in an age before the term became popular!

David died peacefully in 2012 and Mansura continued to live at their last home in Haddenham. By this time she was quite deaf (helped by hearing aids of various qualities), poor sighted and largely immobile – but the indomitable Mansura denied that she was in ‘failing health’ and took to conversing with the world through an iPad and shared numerous beautiful images of flowers and trees, some from her own garden. She also wrote many emails and revived old friendships. Her daughter Gina came to live with her and she helped Gina as much as Gina helped her – they were like two bookends that held a great deal of knowledge, experience and wisdom between them.

It was thus that Mansura was asked, agreed and wrote her Beshara Memories that will remain a legacy, I hope, both to what she witnessed, what she knew and who she remains.

Of Bulent Rauf, she wrote at the end of her Memories

Bulent was able to turn words like Reality and phrases like Unity of Existence into one intimate word HIM". "Go straight to Him!", and then to make the ordinary extra-ordinary. He used the word "sheer" to take everything beyond what can be imagined. Unbelievably simple and enlightening. What a gift, what a great Man!

All I can add of Mansura is ‘What a gift, what a great human!’

Tevfik/Richard Twinch Oxford July 2017

If anybody wants to read the Beshara Memories this is possible on-line. Please send a request to rtwinch@gmail.com. In due course it may be published.

Main photograph by Lawrence Ball.
Inset photos: As a young girl looking out on life and all its possibilities; a beautiful accomplished young woman; as a married middle aged woman with David, who is so much part of her story.

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Humans as purely materialist individuals?
Chisholme Blog | Saturday, 1st July, 2017

"Perhaps it’s time to (re)read Jung." writes Gwendolen Dupré for The European Strategist, an internet publication and research circle.


"Perhaps it's time to (re)read Jung", writes Gwendolen Dupré.

We’ve just had the second very successful Poetics of Science (PoS) weekend.

Gwendolen Dupre was the opening speaker and she set the tone for the whole weekend. She spoke on the metaphysics underlying different religions.

Gwendolen also spoke at the first PoS in April. Her talk then has now been published in the European Strategist an internet publication and research circle that seeks answers for European society in postmodern times.

In it she contrasts two fundamental theories of the mind: that of Freud and that of his younger contemporary, Jung. Freud’s is a materialist approach whereas Jung believed in the real significance of images and symbols. As she says, while ”Freud offers a cynical account of human life... Jung’s ideas... present a more positive image of human potentiality.”

Gwendolen’s article is very well worth reading – it’s a short and easy introduction to the importance of Jung. It offers real food for thought. We look forward to more reflections from Gwendolen and others on Jungian philosophy.

Read the article here

The next Poetics of Science seminar is September 15–17.
Read more and book here

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Shane Jagger: a tribute
Chisholme Blog | Thursday, 15th June, 2017

A great and much-loved man has left us. Shane Wakil Jagger passed away on 14 June having lived at Chisholme for 34 years.


A great and much-loved man has left us. Shane Wakil Jagger passed away on 14 June having lived at Chisholme for 34 years. He touched so many who passed through Chisholme over this long time including Willa Shiel, a young American who volunteered here last Autumn. When Willa learned of Shane’s passing she wrote to us. You can read her words and a new poem by Wakil below.

Wakil: a tribute

I was asked before I left Chisholme in November to try to put into words what made the place so special to me and all those who pass through. I couldn’t find the words at the time, but it seems very simple now: people filled to the brim with love. Every Chisholme heart is warm. Wakil’s was one of the biggest hearts I’ve had the blessing to come into contact with in my life.

Pinned to the headboard of my bed is a poem he wrote on my last night at Chisholme, when pain kept him awake. I still read it most nights, and it takes on a new meaning today as Wakil finds painless rest.

Restful

In the cloudy
hours of the night
we wait for
the clear light
of day
dawn is not
far away
thoughts leave
as gentle rain
falls
nothing left
to be said
in these
early hours
my head on pillow
empty
wake me later
with a gentle
call to prayer


Sending my love to the people of Chisholme, who I know are holding each other close and lifting each other up today and every day, and of course my love to Wakil, who helped make me feel like I'd found a home when I found myself so very far from home.

With love and gratitude,
Willa Shiel

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Building Peace: with Scilla Elworthy
Frances Ryan | Saturday, 13th May, 2017

Sunday 28 May: How can we be useful? A workshop with Scilla Elworthy


Many people feel powerless in the face of what they see on TV or read in the news - a world in crisis, with wars and violence erupting across the globe.

Chisholme is delighted to be hosting a one-day workshop on Sunday 28 May, for all those who want to step out of helplessness.

Come and apply your own personal skills to do something about the challenges now facing us.
We’ll spend time responding to the question“what can I do about all this?”
We’ll investigate not only the myriad opportunities for service opening up, but also look into the skills we all need if we are to be effective in our chosen actions.

Scilla Elworthy PhD has been three times nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She is founder of Peace Direct, which works with local peace-builders in conflict areas, and was adviser to Peter Gabriel, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Sir Richard Branson in setting up ‘The Elders’. She co-founded Rising Women Rising World in 2014, and teaches self knowledge to young social entrepreneurs.

We need individuals like Dr Elworthy to start the work of preventing war…This has been my personal dream for many years.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Find out more...

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Nescio Ensemble
Chisholme Blog | Tuesday, 2nd May, 2017

The Nescio Ensemble from Holland at Chisholme, 28 April 2017


The Nescio Ensemble at Chisholme, 28 April 2017
Posted by Richard Gault

The email came out of the blue and with an unusual request: could we put up 12 young musicians for a night or two? In return they’d play for us. Perhaps because the musicians were Dutch (I have a Dutch wife) and the writer’s name meant wisdom, or perhaps simply because it seemed such a lovely idea, I immediately said yes.

Back in December the visit seemed far away. But as time went on and the April date drew nearer I did begin to wonder if not worry. Coming from Holland and including someone called Sophie was no guarantee that they would be good. And no matter how good they were, would anyone come to hear them? They called themselves Nescio - which means ‘I don’t know’ and I truly didn’t know. Had I been a bit hasty in committing ourselves to this event and adding to our workload?

I had not. The arrangement turned out to be perfect.

The Nescio Ensemble came; they played (to a full house: extra chairs had to be put out); and they conquered their audience’s hearts. It was a fabulous evening, the wonder of it heightened by the special ambience the beautifully decorated pavilion offered.

We were all dazzled. Nescio’s performance was a celebration and affirmation of the human potential both in the music they played and the way in which they played it. This was virtuosity and passion made manifest. Particularly stunning was Ana Termeulen's rendition of Ysaye's Ballade for Violin Solo. Equally impressive were the haunting sounds which Nescio produced in performing the String Quartet by the contemporary Turkish composer Fazil Say. This latter piece featured the violin of Burcu Ramazanoğlu – herself a Turk from Fazil Say’s home city of Ankara.

Burcu felt an immediate affinity with Chisholme and left hoping to return in the summer. We would love to welcome not just her but all of the other musicians of Nescio back. They have left us with an unforgettable memory and an appetite for more.

You can get a glimpse of their talent with this clip from their concert the previous evening at Cornucopia, Unit Four in Hawick – an excerpt from the third movement of Bartok's Divertimento for Strings.


Main photo by Sanne Gault

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Chisholme Then and Now
Chisholme Blog | Sunday, 16th April, 2017

Alastair Redpath traces the estate's history for The Hawick Paper's, April 14 edition.


Huge thanks to Alastair Redpath and The Hawick Paper for his excellent article published on 14 April, giving the history of the estate and bringing readers up to date with this month's Poetics of Science seminar weekend.

Download the article pdf

Full text below

Chisholme House is set on a beautiful estate in the hills beyond Roberton, an hour and a half from Edinburgh, Newcastle and Carlisle. The main house looks out over glorious landscaped grounds and woods of native trees – once the seat of the southern branch of Clan Chisholme. Chisholme offers a range of courses throughout the year and welcomes volunteers to work in the house, grounds and its organic walled gardens. This year’s highlight is undoubtedly a series of three seminar weekends exploring the Poetics of Science, to demonstrate the many ways in which science shapes and is shaped by literature, music and other inspirations.

Chisholme House was built in 1752 on historic lands formerly held by the Douglases of Drumlanrig and Scotts of Buccleuch. In the 18th century it passed into the hands of Sir William Douglas of Drumlanrig, then to Lord Hume. When the owner fell from royal favour, the estate was ceded to the Crown. In about 1826, William Chisholme, a member of the Selkirk branch of the family who made a fortune in Jamaica, bought back the estate and it remained in his lineage until 1871. At the end of the 19th century it was bought by a Mr Henderson, who added a wing, modernised the estate cottages, installed a new water system (including a hydraulic ram for supplying water), and built the approach road and bridge at Woodburn.

Following his death in the 1930s, the estate was bought by a Mr Bruce before being put on the market by his nephew two decades later. This led to large areas of the estate such as Parkhill and Woodburn Farms being auctioned off. Due to complicated property exchanges, deaths, and bankruptcies during the decade, Chisholme House was left without a resident owner and gradually fell into decay. Historic Scotland moved to list the site in March 1971. The house, open to the sky, became a shelter for sheep - the garden wall crumbled and the grounds and woods reverted to wilderness.

Chisholme’s fortunes changed for the better in 1973 when it was taken on by an English educational charity, The Beshara Trust, to become a school and retreat centre. In the true pioneering spirit of that time, a group of intrepid young people embarked on a renovation project, despite a total lack of funds and most basic facilities such as electricity, hot water, or even glass for the windows. Parts of the main house were made serviceable and the farm steading was transformed into student accommodation so that a six-month residential retreat could take place there in 1975.

In 1978 an independent Scottish charity, the Chisholme Institute, was set up with the specific aim of maintaining and developing the educational facility at Chisholme. The Institute maintains close links with The Beshara Trust to this day and collaborates with it in certain projects. By 1986, most of the land belonging to the original Chisholme estate had been re-purchased. Today the Chisholme Institute's focus is to provide education in the art of self-discovery to students from all over the world, and to promote an increased awareness of the real value of our connection to the world and each other.

The Poetics of Science: Inspiration seminar weekend offers a rich programme of interactive presentations and workshops, with speakers from diverse backgrounds including Buddhism, literature, psychology, art, the greater ecumenism, as well as films and music nights.

The compelling idea that inspired these seminars is inspiration itself. Speakers will include, among others: Edie Irwin, a trustee and director of the Tara Trust in Edinburgh who studied under the guidance of Dr. R.D. Laing and Akong Rinpoche from Samye Ling Tibetan Buddhist Centre; local author and filmmaker Dorothy Alexander, a proponent of visual poetry and former tutor of Creative Writing for the University of Strathclyde; Narda Azaria Dalgleish, a Hawick-based Israeli-British designer, contemplative poet and moving image and installation artist.

The seminar weekend begins on Friday, April 21 and continues through to Sunday, April 23. For more information, email info@chisholme.org, telephone 01450 880215. Discounts are available for students, under 25s, and Chisholme volunteers participating in the Gardening Fortnight preceding the seminar weekend.

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Distance does not exist in what we aim...
Frances Ryan | Thursday, 9th March, 2017

Notes from a conversation in January


The series of conversation weeks for this winter, under the heading 'Single Vision', has now concluded.

From the Notes of the January conversation; Chisholme House, 7-14 January 2017
A week of open conversation and enquiry

The questions for the week were:
“What on earth is happening in the world today?
And how are we with it?
How does the education at Chisholme connect with the unfolding of this unsettling yet hope-filled era?”

We sat in the presence of these questions, feeling urgency, with Chisholme as an extra-ordinary clear, profound and infinitely merciful mirror and needless to say – in this place dedicated to ‘His vision of Himself’ there was response and education.

What is happening in the world today?
...and the 'happening' came right into the room: the pain, the destitution, self-interest gone mad, corporate greed, false truth, environmental destruction, racial abuse, and much more. Not by people saying: "I've heard this, I've read an article and isn't it terrible, etc." No, these things arrived in the room as lived experience:
‘I've been racially abused’,
‘I am suffering’,
‘I’ve been homeless’,
‘I have witnessed the destruction of my beautiful environment’,
‘I feel alienated’, and so on and so on.
With the stories came the anger, frustration, sorrow, constriction, anguish, and more anger... This did not make for comfortable sitting and listening. One could not transcend this, talk it away or smooth it over.

So how are we with it?
There was no choice but to sit and to listen, or sit and speak from our own experience. When someone looks you in the eye and says they are in pain, when you feel your own anger or frustration rise up - you cannot turn away. Some of us in the room listened better than others, some found what seemed like honest words to express, or respond to, and that was good to witness. But essentially we all knew we were in the same boat: We don't know. We don't know the why or how of it, or what to do about it. The 'not knowing', and knowing that I don’t know, and seeing that from myself alone I have nothing to give, was made very, very real.

It was recognised early in the week that the problems found in the world are exterior effects of something happening in the interior, the Unseen. If ‘every day He is in a new configuration’, then change is inevitable – and change in the interior results in shifts in the exterior. If there is resistance to change, the exterior effects become more drastic. Yet there is such resistance.
In most cases, it appears to be caused by fear and self-interest, and it is this resistance that perpetuates suffering. Self-interest, however, relates to things of the exterior, and takes the form of greed for resources that are inherently limited. In the exterior this leads to misery and global degradation and probably will lead to our own destruction.
It seems that there is a view that more is better.
It isn't true.
Outside, in the world, the right amount is best.
In our interior there are things which are infinite.
Compassion, vision, love are given without limit.
There, more is better.
We are asked to be increased in knowledge. ‘Give me more real wealth!’
It's good to be greedy in the interior, in that sense.

A very simple choice; what is required is a switch in consciousness.
A shift from self-interest to interest in the self
And one of the roles of this place, Chisholme, is to investigate this switch, joining the worlds of the exterior and the interior.
Something is going to happen, and we need to be in a real place to meet it.
Our real place is 'sitting on the carpet of ‘Adab’ – ‘tact, good form', listening in humility for the Truth.

How does the education in Chisholme connect with the unfolding of this unsettling yet hope-filled era?
Given that what we are seeing are external effects, it was quickly recognised that the natural knee-jerk reaction of ‘But what can we do about it?’ is not an adequate tool for understanding and still less for attempting to remedy the situations we see. Trying to remedy an effect at the level of effects is likely merely to cause more accidents of a similar kind. If the world situation is the exterior effect of an interior happening, one must turn to the interior to gain a sense of the cause. Only from such an interior perspective can vision be received, from which the most appropriate action can follow. The proper response of persons or groups who wish to understand and respond to the situation is therefore primarily contemplative in nature.
What came up in the conversation on this is that a distinction can be made between the ‘way of the world’ and the ‘way of the heart’ as two different approaches to life and to understanding, in which the former is response to effects at the level of effects and tends to be based on counting and rules, while the way of the heart comes from the heart, relies on receptivity and rests in sentiment and meanings.

The education at Chisholme is to do with the interface between what is happening in the world and the knowledge, which is accessible here. What is this interface?
We are the interface.
Our heart is the interface.
It is simple.
But the heart has to be ready to receive.

This conversation (and all the weeks of conversation this winter) is a request to be given to see clearly, to see from a place of single-ness.
There is a place in oneself where help can arrive and flow through. Unless we stay with it, it will be just another week where we 'talked about things' - and nothing will have happened.
Real receptivity is needed, before any necessary action can be known. Such receptivity cannot be established by our own efforts alone; it is conferred from the interior itself. It requires the sincere request to ‘Show me things as they are, clearly’, and the constant effort to remain empty, letting go of what we think we know, including what we think we have learned here at Chisholme.

It has often been said that the saint or gnostic is ‘…in the world but not of it’. This must surely be the condition inhabited by Man (the completed human being). He or she lives fully in the world, – but his/her nature is not of the world. In aspiring to the human potential, we might strive to practice knowing what it is to be in the world but not of it – (living fully in the world but not identifying with its apparent effects). This is the task of a spiritual warrior – and not, we laughed, of a ‘spiritual worrier’!

One might further describe this condition as ‘resting in awareness’. The word ‘resting’ is not accidental: it is key to the notion of non-doing, as spoken of by Lao Tzu in the Tao te Ching: …the sage does nothing – and yet all things are done. This is wholly in contrast to any sense of action or achieving by oneself. When the sage, the one in constant awareness, knows from vision that action is required, action flows from them but it is not their own. In the face of the state of the world and the grim news stories we hear constantly, our service can be simply to receive these situations without judgement or reaction, without rushing to remedy them, and simply accept what is indicated by them. We considered the necessity to ‘agree to’ what happens, whether or not we ‘agree with’ it. This is already the mark of one who is in the world but not of it. We need to consider what to do with our opinions. While it is deemed a weakness to ‘have no opinion’ according to the way of the world, those who seek to understand from the Real are advised to step back from their opinions so that the situation or thing can speak from itself. However well-intentioned or well-founded, opinions are incomplete knowledges and they blind us to the whole truth of the matter; further, acting on opinions is to assert lordship where none belongs.

Could action ever be taken before clarity and understanding is granted, rather as a cook learns to cook by undertaking to cook? Such a question, asked in the abstract, remains speculative until one is really in submission and has given up one’s own capacities in favour of the reality of all capacity. Only then can one be the sage who does nothing and yet everything is done. So meanwhile we (and the sage) refrain out of tact from actions that are not indicated to us clearly.
The mind can’t grasp this.
It does not mean sitting idly in a corner until some grand revelation happens, but rather continuing and enquiring into our lives with presence, engaging with what is in front of us, with constant questioning, vigilance and readiness to be informed.
This work is so deep and radical in our interior that we cannot do it on our own; we can only request to be ‘given up’ - and long for this - it has the taste of non-existence. This longing becomes an embodied sense and something we can ask for, moment by moment.

‘This gathering has a huge potential, but it has its conditions.’
‘You can't be a knower to go through that door.’
‘It is a real matter, and the realness of it is so attractive!’
‘Have I taken this on?’
‘How can I be here without trying to control things, control this place, even in some really subtle way?’
‘It's very difficult to ‘not know’ what I know.’
‘We've talked about listening, really listening to people. There is a tremendous challenge in practicing receptivity. It requires an altogether different manner!’

Towards the end of the week mention was made of the 18th-century Ottoman sheikh Osman Fazli. The following extract from his writings was read and had an immediacy with regard to what has come up this week – the quality of the encounter was astonishing for many of us. Here is part of the extract:

Man does not possess anything else but his sensibilities as his real organ of intelligence and without Divine action man cannot even use his memory, which is his sacred treasury of experience acquired long ago.
The initiate, the saint … is he who possesses the faculty of being able to recognise the true non-existence of his faculties of thought and his own impotence in putting them in motion.
It is he who leaves all the space to God and who passes all his life in controlling his intimate faithfulness, in actions, thought, or in the acts that materialise them.
It is he who prays constantly to God, even if it be only by a breath or by a movement of the heart, when he perceives the natural and constant phenomena of thought.

The name Fazli means 'plenty', or better: 'super-abundance of grace'

It was said many times that the way of this school is the way of non-existence. What does it really mean? It seems true that we need to take a step, and it's a step out of the belief that holds us in what we think we are. Something very different might be asked of us now. The only thing to hold on to is the ever-present beneficence.

The miracle is that even when we’re ‘right in the thick of it’ we can be open to receiving that help, aware of the origin of the source, sometimes apparently from ‘another’ …and sometimes it is apparently from me, or you, or her, or him.

The conversation week was rounded off with thanks and with the following extract from a letter written by Bulent:

“So, God be with you in all you are doing. Distance does not exist in what we aim. Sweet company remains not through distance only, but also through aeons of time. May the Himma (spiritual will, help) arrive upon us from whichever channel it may take, but definitely from the source of all Himma, the Memed al Himmam” (the source of all help)

Thanks to all the people present for the week. And thanks to Robin Thomson and Frances Ryan for taking notes, and Rachel Gordin for her help with editing these.

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What truly moves you towards a state of happiness...
Frances Ryan | Saturday, 18th February, 2017

This week Eleanor Wray sat down with Shane Jagger, a month after the publication of the second edition of his book: 'My Heart is Too Big for my Pacemaker'. His powerful words and gentle simplicity have charmed the hearts of many.


This week Eleanor Wray sat down with Shane Jagger, a month after the publication of the second edition of his book: My Heart is Too Big for my Pacemaker. His poems release a message of love that can be understood by any one of us, and his powerful words and gentle simplicity have charmed the hearts of many.

What was the first poem you ever wrote?
The Angels, it was a surprise

Have you wanted to be an artist all your life?
Of sorts, either a painter or a writer

What is your definition of poetry?
How do you even define poetry? God. It's a way of saying something which gives a magical twist the things you want to express without being dishonest. You know, you don't have to make it up. It just comes from the heart.

What does poetry mean to you?
It's my legacy, it gives meaning to my life, and shows something for it.

How does a poem begin for you?
It's a kind of agitation and a compulsion.

What conditions help you with your writing process?
Concentration, quietness and happiness

Where does your influence come from?
Oh, many things. Some poets I've read in my youth like Dylan Thomas, Christie Brown, T.S. Eliot and the rhythms of popular music. And I want to keep it simple and clear.

Did you learn anything when writing these poems?
Yes, I surprised myself and realised that these poems are beyond me. And I feel these were inspired rather than constructed. And that I am loved.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Keep it simple and say what truly moves you towards a state of happiness.

If you had to convince a friend to read this book, what would you tell them?
If you'd look at it, you'd want to read it. Just by looking at the production of the book and you'll find it's quite a beautiful thing in itself. If I showed you a copy now, you would be like 'wow, this is great', and you would be inspired to read it.

Is there a sequel to come?
I think this book is a one-off, and I haven't felt able to write since. One – because I was asked to write it, and two – because I'm either satisfied or something's changed for me.


Order Shane's book for £10 plus p&p from Beshara Publications

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...leaving all the space to God
Frances Ryan | Friday, 13th January, 2017

What is the intimate inner work of a person aspiring to live life in complete awareness?


Osman Fazli, one of the great Ottoman saints of the 17th century, lived in interesting times. His response to the needs of his particular era, informed as it was by his education in the Unity of Existence, may illuminate our own, no less interesting, times. He brought himself to mind and heart during the current ‘Single Vision’ conversation week at Chisholme.

Man does not possess anything else but his sensibilities
as his real organ of intelligence
and without Divine action man cannot even use his memory
which is his sacred treasury of experience acquired long ago. The initiate, the saint, the insani kamil, is he who possesses
the faculty of being able to recognise the true non-existence of his faculties of thought
and his own impotence in putting them in motion. It is he who leaves all the 'space' to God
and who passes all his life in controlling his intimate faithfulness,
in actions, 'thought' or in the acts that materialise them. It is he who prays constantly to God,
even if it be only by a breath or by a movement of the heart,
when he perceives the natural and constant phenomena of thought. Osman Fazlı

To read an account of Osman Fazli's life and times, see here...

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A treat for the New Year
Chisholme Blog | Friday, 9th December, 2016

Announcing the new edition of Shane Jagger's poems


Beshara Publications is delighted to announce the 2nd edition of My Heart is Too Big for My Pacemaker, by Shane Jagger.

This beautifully presented edition includes a review by Alan Williams and an interview with the author by Christina Mark.

About the poems

Shane Jagger was drawn to poetry early in his life. Influenced by the work of Dylan Thomas, Christy Brown, Wilfred Owen, TS Eliott and Walter de la Mare he wrote a number of poems but, deciding that they were too self-centred, burned them and planted potatoes in their ashes. When he dug up the potatoes he boiled and served them with mint and butter and remembers them as the most delicious he had ever eaten.

Shane says that the words came easily as if writing for someone he loved. He believes that the inspiration came from something far beyond him. When he reads the poems he asks himself ‘How do I know that?’ Shane acknowledges this mystery saying: ‘I don’t own these poems, they come through me, rather than written by me’.

This new edition is now available from Beshara Publications for £10 plus p&p.
Order your copy here

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Chisholme Kedgeree
Chisholme Blog | Tuesday, 6th December, 2016

John Brix's recipe captures the Indian-Scottish origins of this much loved dish


Kedgeree is thought to have originated with an Indian rice-and-bean or rice-and-lentil dish Khichri, traced back to 1340 or earlier. It is widely believed that the dish was brought to the United Kingdom by returning British colonials who had enjoyed it in India and introduced it to the UK as a breakfast dish in Victorian times, part of the then fashionable Anglo-Indian cuisine. However the dish was listed as early as 1790 in the recipe book of Stephana Malcolm of Burnfoot, Dumfriesshire. The National Trust for Scotland's book The Scottish Kitchen by Christopher Trotter notes the Malcolm recipe and other old examples, expressing the belief that the dish was devised by Scottish regiments hankering for the tastes of India.

Kedgeree

Serves four

Main Ingredients: guide-line weights
8 ozs salmon
8 ozs cod or haddock
5–10 ozs smoked haddock or smoked white fish
8–10 ozs peas cooked
4 eggs hard boiled and quartered
8–10 ozs basmati or good long grain rice
1 pt strong fish or chicken stock

Curry sauce
2 onions, chopped
5–10 gms fresh ginger
10–15 gms tomato paste
10–15 gms madras curry paste
1 pint strong fish or chicken stock

Sweat chopped onions in butter till light golden, add tomato and curry paste, cook 5 mins add stock and cook for half an hour or until it reduces to the consistency of thin cream

Rice
8–10 ozs basmati or good long grain rice

Fry 5 gms tumeric in butter with some lemon zest and salt, add the rice, and lightly fry together. Add twice as much boiling water as rice, which should just cover the rice, then cook covered on a low heat 15–20 mins.

Fish
Cook fish in oven 180C for 10–15 mins, till just cooked.

Mix together the fish, peas, and boiled eggs.
Place in a cooking dish and keep warm 150c for ten mins.
Serve with chopped parsley on top and the curry sauce on the side.

Enjoy!

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Bedtime for the garden
Chisholme Blog | Wednesday, 16th November, 2016

As we put the organic gardens to bed for the winter, Eleanor Wray reflects on her time as gardener and looks forward to the spring.


Posted by Eleanor Wray, Chisholme Gardener

I first came to Chisholme when my Dad, Stephen Plant, became the Estate Manager back in the mid-late 90’s. I was about 5 years old, my brother 3, and every weekend until 2001 we would live in the Gate Lodge, explore the estate and have a great time, without ever realising what this place really means.

I have now been working at Chisholme for 11 months. When I first started in the garden at the end of March I was still the secretary, and it was a trial run to see how I would manage. I studied publishing at university, and worked for Oxford University Press, Summer 2015, so I began with no knowledge of gardening. I knew, mostly through common sense, that there were plants you planted and wanted to grow, and those you didn’t plant and didn’t want to grow. I worked to clear out the nearly empty polytunnels of weeds (all that was left at the end of March was some spinach and chard). Eight of those months were spent learning as much as I could from John Hill and other 'Chisholmites', WWOOFers and volunteers, and books.

It has been a hard year, and I have pushed myself further than I believed was possible, but it hasn’t been difficult. There is a real innate joy in helping plants grow. There is a honourable pleasure you get from seeing something that used to be a tiny seed in your hand, grow into a plant that curls around the top bars of the polytunnel, and is served as a salad to the people at the table. Or holding a small bean, knowing that in a few months’ time, it will be taller than me and yet only a few of these plants will produce enough beans to feed a family.

I used to think “But I’ve never done this before! How can I be expected to ‘trust my senses’ when I don’t have a sense for gardening?” Either necessity or courage would lead to me finally trying to hoe, finally getting a feel for it, and standing back with satisfaction as the whole cabbage patch sits weed free. Then I’d get to watch with horror as, over the week, all that hard work, all that hesitation, had been for nothing, because it had returned to exactly the way it was before. Pretty daunting for a newbie gardener, I must say.

But one of the many incredible things that I have discovered about gardening is that you can ‘just do it’. Who cares if I had never seen a kale plant before, let alone knew how to harvest it? I read that you take the bottom leaves to allow the plant to grow upwards and keep producing healthy young leaves, and so that’s what I did. If I was doing it wrong, the plant would eventually tell me by beginning to show signs of discontent.

Shane Jagger told me that he and my Dad had been trying to grow aubergines here for years – the whole time my Dad was here. And so, in August, when I saw the small aubergines growing on the spiky plant, and in September, when they came out on the table, we were beaming. I was proud of the aubergines for trying so hard. And carrots – oh, carrots. Let me tell you, I never expected people to be so adamant that something couldn’t be grown here. Many, many people had told me it was impossible to grow carrots: “the soil isn’t sandy enough”, “carrot fly is a real problem”, “carrots haven’t been grown here successfully for 20 years”. Yet here we are, 8 months on and the carrots are long, straight, almost ready.

The most important, valuable lesson I learned early on in the Chisholme garden is that the plants are working with you. They aren’t constantly telling you to reboot them so they can update their system. They don’t require you to spend 10 minutes sifting through tabs and menus to find that one command that will help you finish the task. They don’t ask you to sign in, or connect to the internet to access their information. Plants are pure and they are simple. All they ask from you is a little water, some fresh air, healthy soil and good amount of sunlight.

The plants want to grow. They share with you the deep spiritual need to exist, to flourish with all that is given to them, to cooperate with their surroundings to live to their full potential. They don’t spend their lives trying to restore their separation, because they are already so completely part of the whole. They just are.

To know that you are in service to these plants, to the ground they thrive in, is humbling. It helped me see how irrevocably connected to nature we are. No matter how fancy our houses or how many possessions we have, we never truly escape that feeling. The easiest beauty to see, for me, is that beneath my fingertips – in the soil, in the water, in the lettuce leaves I harvest and parsnips I pull from the ground. I see the beauty in furniture and the written word, see how it has been created by another human being who imagined the beauty before making it a reality, but it is hard to compare to the raw Natural Beauty of life.

So it’s hard to say goodbye. I find myself reluctant now to pull out the tomatoes, who have probably taken up the majority of my time in the garden – just from removing the mouldy leaves and nodes. In only a month, the garden has changed from a field of dying paths and browner patches, to a sea of black tarp as our efforts to kill off the last of the weeds begin. We are preparing for winter. We are closing down the garden, and now, with the beans, lettuces, onions, potatoes, and much of the polytunnel produce gone, it has become reduced.

My attentions are turning to publicity and the kitchen. But winter is also the time for projects – it’s when we reconstruct the garden, shaping it for the next year by doing things such as turning the greenhouse into a polytunnel for next year.

I was stumbling along, nearly blind to the outcomes of planting those tiny seeds, and to what already lay in the earth (I think we pulled out enough chickweed to clog the lake!), but next year I will be prepared. I have so many things I want to experiment with; different growing and planting methods, different ways of constructing supports, different ways of working together. I can’t wait until next year, to see how my memory will be refreshed, and experience the joy of working with lots of people again.

Even in just a small patch of courgette plants, there are so many memories. The number of people who have harvested from them, weeded among them, asked questions about them or just had the courgettes pointed out to them on a tour. As I say to the volunteers who come to Chisholme: ‘You all make your mark – whether you’re here for a day or a year, we remember you, the place remembers you' – and so do the plants.

Eleanor Wray, November 2016

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Single Vision: week two
Chisholme Blog | Saturday, 12th November, 2016

Join us for our second week of conversation and take in Lloyd Ridgeon's talk on Awhad al-Din Kirmani on Sunday November 20th.


Conversation week: Saturday November 19 to Saturday November 26

Following the first in-depth conversation week dedicated to serving what Chisholme can offer for the future, you are invited to a further week of open enquiry. You can also attend Dr Lloyd Ridgeon's talk on the life and times of Awhad al-Din Kirmani on the morning of Sunday 20th.

This is a wonderful opportunity to hear a speaker of this calibre in the intimate, contemplative setting of Chisholme, and to engage with Dr Ridgeon on what he has uncovered. Read more about the talk here

Come for the whole conversation week, or for as long as you are able.

It feels really essential that as many as possible come and participate in this open enquiry. It is for all of us.
Costs for participation will be just by donation, both for residents and non-residents.
Give according to your own means. To book please email secretary@chisholme.org, Tel 01450 880 215.

Read the full report on the first week of conversation here
The report is long, covering the entire week, but don't be deterred by this. Many valuable insights are being uncovered.

If you are not able to attend in person, but would still like to join the conversation please email Richard Gault principal@chisholme.org with your contributions. These will be shared during the conversation in the Mead Hall.

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Early days
Chisholme Blog | Sunday, 30th October, 2016

A Single Vision: returning to the spirit of the starting place. Week one: the conversation in the Mead Hall


A Single Vision: returning to the spirit of the starting place

Week one: the conversation in the Mead Hall

To quote from the September newsletter:
'Forty years on and the world has changed. Are we being asked to serve in new ways? How do we do so while remaining ever true to the unchanging starting vision?'

Can we look at these questions together over the coming months?

Read the report here

Photograph by Chris Ryan

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Visiting
Chisholme Blog | Tuesday, 18th October, 2016

A poem from Shane Jagger, our resident poet


Visiting

soon they visit some hearts
though they won’t find them
except by singular
intention and concentration
on the giver of all hearts

here they will be found
in the love of an open mind
free of worry
and clean of all clutter

here they will be waiting
knowing they are to be found
and accepted
like an old memory
of long before

These hearts are blessed
with eternity
and extraordinary happenings
will subtly occur

December 3, 2015

An excerpt from the review by author Roger Norman:

'This little book of poems arrived out of the blue one morning, at a postal address where nothing ever comes except gas bills. I read the first poems to see what was afoot and was caught by these lines: ‘Soon they visit some hearts / though they won’t find them / except by singular / intention and concentration on the giver of hearts’. There was no mistaking the weight of singular intention and concentration, as the seven ‘n’s sounded their gong-like chimes. By the end of the poem, we still don’t know who are ‘they’ of the first line, but we suspect that it might be ourselves – the uncertain ones, the seekers. Probably it is of us that the ‘singular intention’ is required.'

Read more...

You can still order copies of the first edition of the book here

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Where is home?
Chisholme Blog | Monday, 17th October, 2016

Hannah Dalgleish speaks of her experience of Chisholme for Ignite London


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In the beginning...
Chisholme Blog | Tuesday, 4th October, 2016

Introducing 'Luna River Voices' – a Chisholme memoir


Sarah Snyder first came to Chisholme from Montana, USA in 1998.
In Luna River Voices, her 36-part blog, she tells of her time at Chisholme working on the estate as a member of staff. She records her first impressions, doubts and imaginings, then develops her narrative over the course of her two-year stay recording her experiences and insights. Her blog uses pseudonyms – Chisholme itself, for example, is named Braemar. Luna River Voices is personal, quirky and very entertaining, and easily accessible for the general reader. For those who were here at the time there is the added enjoyment of being reminded of a special time – and fun in trying to decipher the pseudonyms.

Start reading here...

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September Newsletter
Chisholme Blog | Friday, 23rd September, 2016

We prepare for winter and look back on the highlights of the summer


Winter is coming

If the sun did not always shine on Chisholme this summer, there was never any shortage of warmth and light here. We have been able to put on a great variety of courses and all the feedback from those on them has been as good as could be wished. Along with satisfied students, there has been a steady stream of visitors and youthful volunteers, and their appreciation of this place has been very real. But now summer is nearly over and the winter period approaches.

Regrettably this winter will not feature the 40-day retreat and the other elements which together replaced the traditional six-month course (i.e., no Turkey trip, no 99-day retreat). Though a number of people showed very real interest there were too few to allow the courses to run. Instead a programme of weekend and week events is being put together.

The first of these will be a conversation week starting on 23 October. With the fee kept very low,we hope many of you will be able to come. More details of this week and other events will be posted on the website shortly.

The 40-day retreat itself will be offered again next winter and also in the early summer – probably starting around mid-May. But before thinking about summer 2017 there are still a couple of events to round off this very memorable one.

Richard Gault
principal@chisholme.org

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Looking ahead

The major event this month comes right at its end - the conversation with Colin Tudge about the future of food and farming. For humanity there is no future without food and there’ll be no food without farming. Right now there are real doubts about the way we farm and feed ourselves. Exploring ways of bringing about change is vital. Chisholme can serve this future in three ways. Firstly, we do indeed offer an ideal venue for conversation. In fact ‘ideal’ is too much of a cliché to do Chisholme justice. This is a very special place. We offer a space for conversation that cannot be found anywhere else. Here those who normally might never easily and freely talk with another, such as organic farmers and representatives of major food processing companies, can do so and find support in doing so. Secondly Colin argues that right food and farming practices can only emerge out of proper understanding of humanity’s relationship with reality. This school enables the search for this understanding. Thirdly, on a more practical level, Chisholme can offer examples of good practice. Ambitious aims perhaps but this is a time to be ambitious.

The Future of food and farming: deepening the conversation
30 September–2 October

Colin Tudge joins a weekend conversation that examines how the future of food and farming can be shaped to lead to a happier future for everyone on the planet. We are delighted that Chris and Denise Walton from Peelham Farm will be joining us, and they have kindly invited participants to visit their organic farm on the Monday.

Winter Wood Week, 8-15 October
Winter is coming – and we need to prepare for it. Would you like to help as a volunteer? The Winter Wood week will be a week spent gathering winter fuel. There’ll be sessions in the wood yard splitting logs for the boiler or chopping hard wood for the wood-fired stoves, such as the one in the Mead Hall. You will also go out on the estate helping gather wind-blown wood. In addition to healthy, outdoor activity there will be opportunities for study, informal conversation and, of course, you will enjoy fine meals. We will also be happy to accept help in the kitchen and house during the week. The usual financial contribution is requested: £10 per day or £6 student concession.

Single vision: the spirit of the starting place, 23–30 October
This will be the first of a series of conversation weeks to be held over the winter. Forty years on and the world has changed. But what are the truly significant changes? What do these changes mean for us? Are we being asked to serve in new ways? How do we do so while remaining ever true to the unchanging starting vision? More details on the website soon. To enable as many people to come as possible, the fee has been set at just £150 (£100 non-residential). Course fees are always charged at less than their actual cost and are subsidised thanks to the generosity of covenanters and donors. If you can afford more than the £150 fee please think of adding a little more if you can. This can help others come to Chisholme in the future.

Devotional Practice Retreat, Saturday 4–Sunday 19 February 2017
A two-week Retreat Course, led by Peter Young
This intensive retreat is for those with some prior experience of reading Ibn 'Arabi and who have an ongoing spiritual practice. Applications are invited both from those who have done this form of retreat (Wazifa retreat) in the past and from those who are new to it. Week 1: Intensive week of study of selections from Ibn ‘Arabi’s Tarjuman al-Ashwaq and the Lawa’ih of Jami, together with daily practice and group conversation. Week 2: A week of private seclusion engaging full-time in devotional practices, as prescribed by Ibn ‘Arabi for his students. These practices are undertaken for the completion of the various levels of the self through the realisation of their unity with the One Absolute Self. The retreat will be limited to ten participants. If you would like to take part please apply to secretary@chisholme.org Cost: £700 fully residential with single room.

And further ahead...

Summer 2017
Missing from this summer’s programme were any specifically family-friendly events. Children should be welcome here. We hope to offer something special for families next year beginning perhaps over the May Bank Holiday weekend.

And looking back: recent courses and events

Discovering Unity Seven-day Retreat: Service and Freedom, 13–20 August
A new course which will probably be offered again. It also suggests similarly structured thematic courses. “Fantastic! At times overwhelming, at times reassuring.” (L)

Discovering Unity, Introductory weekend 19-21 August
“I have had a weekend of true communication.” (O)

Ibn ‘Arabi Study Retreat week 27 August–3 September
Peter Coates led study of the 29 Pages and the chapter on Jonah from Ibn ‘Arabi’s Fusus al Hikam. Students from Australia, Egypt, the USA as well as the UK greatly enjoyed this course which benefited from the experience of Peter Coates. ”An enlightening experience, an affirmation of the value that study provides.” (E)

Retreat in the Woods: Foundations of Natural Intelligence, 27 August–3 September
Chisholme staff were privileged to be invited to coffee in the yurt camp kitchen at the end of this FNI week. On arriving it was immediately clear that the participants had shared a really special experience. This is an extraordinary course. “It was so much more than I could ever imagine or explain.” (V)

Rememoration, Sunday 4 and Monday 5 September
The annual Rememoration for Bulent Rauf took place early this month. Zikr on the Sunday evening was followed by conversation the next morning and a delicious celebratory lunch of roast lamb. Conversation flowed. A question was posed which all were invited to reflect upon: “What is your passion? Theophanic prayer and the revelation of God to man was also mentioned. Importantly, we have been reminded again recently that Bulent never veered from the premise that union with God was the sole purpose for the existence of man and this certainty coloured all that was accomplished through him. Read more>>

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Youth weekend meet-up, Friday 9th to Sunday 11th September
Over the weekend a good number of young people came together for conversation. Along with talking there was walking, wood-oven baked pizzas in (of course) the woods and more. A fuller report next month.

Come to stay or to work

Working at Chisholme
Hannes, our development officer, left a few days ago and our secretary will go at the end of October. Can you fill their shoes? Learn more about working at Chisholme: here http://www.chisholme.org/jobs.html or email info@chisholme.org to find out more.

Weekly programme
Visitors and guests are welcome to join our morning meditation at 7am daily and come for zikr on Thursday evenings at 9.30pm. There is a Fusus reading most Saturday evenings after supper (8.30pm) and another study session on Thursday mornings at 8.30 am. A walk is usually organised after lunch on Sundays.
Please email info@chisholme.org or phone 01450 880 215 to confirm.

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We look forward to welcoming you and to hearing from you

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What can I say?
Chisholme Blog | Friday, 9th September, 2016

A tale of the unexpected


Posted by Andrew Forsythe

Hello. What can I say? I am from the Scottish Borders. I was expelled from school at fifteen and spent most of my youth in and out of jail. I finally straighten out and worked as a painter and decorator for some years. A change in my career took me to working on estates as a gamekeeper and in estate maintenance in different parts of Scotland.

Somewhat disillutioned with the UK I moved to Canada, and there I worked painting skyscrapers in Toronto. I then moved to rural Ontario where I won a bar on the flip of a coin. Tails... I won!!!

After a few hard slogging years at that I sold the business and went to live on a Native Indian Reservation with the Mohawk warriors. There I did seasonal work on an apple orchard, then being involved in the growing of marijuana which was a great insight.

I returned to Hawick in 2009 and never really settled down. I was a volunteer at Artbeat Studios for five years, which is a grassroots group helping people with physical or mental difficulties. I really enjoy helping people or just being there for them. After squatting in a property in town for four years I was evicted and on the streets again.

A friend told me about Chisholme House and I went there as a volunteer, and then I was fortunate enough to do a six-month course there. Doing the course was an amazing journey into my truer self. I now work there maintaining the lawns, splitting wood, and looking after the chickens. Its a great place to work and I really enjoy the study sessions.

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Bulent Rauf: a personal account
Chisholme Blog | Sunday, 4th September, 2016

In a very personal account written in 2012, John Brass pays tribute to this remarkable man.


A man of wisdom, scholar, guide and dear friend to so many, without whose vision and foresight the school at Chisholme would never have come about.

In a very personal account written in 2012, John Brass pays tribute to this remarkable man.

Read the full article here

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Summer Harvest Bonanza
Chisholme Blog | Monday, 15th August, 2016

Our August volunteers reap many rewards


Posted by Eleanor Wray, Chisholme Gardener

This week, six volunteers joined us for the August volunteer week. Every day was jam-packed with the volunteers splitting their time between the kitchen and the garden. John Hill, our garden advisor, came up for the beginning of the week and imparted wise words to the new volunteers. The weather was really good to us at the start of the week, and we were able to spend the first day out in the sunshine harvesting all the berries from the garden that were made into preserves. One night, the blackcurrants we harvested were turned into a coulis that was served with ice-cream and went down a treat!

We helped the outdoor runner beans secure their growth by adding horizontal canes to their supports. Once the runner beans reach these canes, they should hopefully begin to grow along them, creating a canopy of runner beans that I’m sure will look incredible. I can’t wait to be able to delve into the thick mass of sticky leaves, dotted with bright red flowers and the long hanging beans, collecting enough to feed us this winter.

Friday and Saturday were huge days for us, as we all banded together to harvest as much as possible for our first day at the Hawick Saturday Market. We spent the whole morning collecting lettuce, celery, rhubarb, purple gooseberries, runner beans and loads of other tasty things. With help from Aziza our cook, the volunteers tied up and packaged the lettuce and herbs into beautiful bunches, laid out in baskets, ready for the people of Hawick.

We also harvested an entire patch of new potatoes, and a huge number of them had grown so big that one night we had thick, crispy potato wedges with coleslaw made from some of the beautiful kohlrabi that thrived thanks to the warm weather. We also collected the first harvest of peas that became the renowned pea puree served with Saturday’s fish and chips, along with a giant harvest of broad beans.

It’s so incredible to see the tiny seeds we planted in April growing into massive courgette plants that have been feeding us for the past month. Or the broad beans, no bigger than the tip of our thumbs, sprouting into 7-foot-tall plants, each producing a hundred more beans for us to eat. I feel so lucky to have been here to watch them grow, to take care of them for the volunteers and students who helped plant them, and to watch others enjoy them as they are prepared in the kitchen and finally served to the table.

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A simple soup
Chisholme Blog | Saturday, 13th August, 2016

Leek and potato: a soup to please all preferences


From Ann Marie Burbidge

Today it was a pleasure for me to cook in the kitchen at Chisholme. I had at my disposal several very good, but simple, ingredients from the garden, which included new leeks and potatoes as well as the first two onions harvested. We cooked a leek and potato soup for lunch, which was very tasty and very welcome since we did not have a particularly warm day here in Scotland. Every drop of the soup was eaten and was served with börek made the previous evening along with the fresh bread that we make every day.

At our table we have a variety of people from a variety of different cultures. We also have several fellow students and volunteers with special dietary needs and we consider it very important to address these needs. Mindful of this we made a soup which was dairy free, meat free and gluten free. As one may imagine this is not always an easy task, but in asking for help, this invariably comes in the form of inspiration, generosity and love.

I have often contemplated whilst in the kitchen that it is not a simple matter of producing and edible meal for the table on time each day. I have reflected on the obligation to bring out the very best in the food provided for us, both from the garden and many other sources and the further obligation to waste as little as possible in the process. This bounty is given to nourish us in every possible way and therefore must be honoured as the miracle that it actually is. Bulent Rauf's ‘Notice to Cooks’ displayed in the kitchen states that ‘there is nothing in the divine order devoid of beauty’. Therefore the fresh produce we have is beautiful! And in my experience, the processes involved in the cooking of a meal are also really quite beautiful. Let me share with you the recipe for this soup. Obviously I have cooked a large quantity for the table here at Chisholme but I will give you a recipe that should feed four.

Leek and Potato Soup
Gluten and dairy free

2 medium onions diced
4 medium leeks washed and thinly sliced
4 large potatoes washed, peeled and cubed, about 1cm squares
2 medium sticks of celery washed and thinly sliced
2 pints of vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh chopped parsley to serve

Sauté the onions in olive oil until translucent. Add the sliced leeks and continue to sauté until the leeks are soft and tender. Add the celery and continue to sauté the combined vegetable until all are soft and tender. Add the cubed potatoes and cook for a few minutes then add the vegetable stock. If you do not have any home made vegetable stock you can use a good organic gluten-free bouillon. Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow the soup to come to a boil and then simmer for approx. 30 mins. Some of the potatoes will break up and provide a natural thickener for the soup. Serve the soup with fresh chopped parsley sprinkled on top.

You may decide to blend the soup once it is cooked but it is very enjoyable served chunky with nice crusty bread. I hope you enjoy making this quick but very nutritious soup.

Ann Marie, Aziza Burbidge
Cook and kitchen manager

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Hello weeds!
Chisholme Blog | Wednesday, 3rd August, 2016

Our gardener Eleanor Wray reports on a satisfying few days in the organic garden


Posted by Eleanor Wray, Chisholme Gardener

Hi folks,

It’s been another busy few days in the garden. Two new volunteers joined us and we started by building a little woodland for the peas, collecting large twiggy branches from around the estate and setting them into the ground to give support to the peas planted during the April Volunteer Fortnight. Chaffinches and blackbirds are now using them to rest as they explore the garden, catching midges and other tasty bugs, and they can be seen perching on the branches during the day. We also planted in more peas in the empty spaces, and hopefully we’ll see some more coming up by the end of the month.

On Monday, we got to work weeding out the huge onion patch beside the garden hedge, the three of us ploughing through the lines with our hands, pulling out the weeds to give the onions a chance to catch the rain and bask in the sun. After lunch, we were joined by Nissa and Andy, and as Nissa worked away at clearing the weeds around the leeks, Andy proved to be the cog that kept the weeding wheel turning as he ferried our brimming buckets of weeds off to the rubbish pile. As we were weeding, we found that a lot of the onions had been using the dense weeds for support, and they flopped over when the area around them was cleared. With some good weather (and maybe a helping hand from us), they’ll pick themselves up again and there will be some lovely red and white onions for the kitchen come Autumn.

By Tuesday, we were back out on the estate, collecting a huge pile comfrey from behind the Steading. After coffee, we took our secateurs to the rhubarb patch and harvested four plants-worth of rhubarb (and if you’ve seen the rhubarb down in the kitchen garden, you’ll know just how large a harvest that is) We won’t be wanting for rhubarb this winter! Once we had harvested the rhubarb, we clambered into the open greenhouse. The almost-drought a month or so ago (up 24 degrees of relentless sun for 16 days!) triggered the old grape vine that creeps along the back wall to start sprouting. We picked the vine leaves, which will be soaked in brine by the kitchen to be used for dolmas. We also harvested the young yellow and rainbow Swiss chard from the salad bed. After lunch, we covered the chard area with a tarp, and once the weeds have died, the space will be ready for a new crop.

We then laid the comfrey in between the lines of broad beans. Comfrey is extremely fertile, as it has long roots that feed deep into to the soil and draw up nutrients that other plants cannot. This makes it brilliant mulch, and with its wide leaves, it can cover a lot of ground, stopping the weeds coming back up. It can also be piled up in a compost bin or barrel and left to decompose, where it will turn into a liquid fertilizer that is perfect for young plants. The comfrey mulch also helped define the broad bean lines, and supports were placed along the lines in the form of bamboo canes and thick, straight branches, strung up with twine. After tea we weeded out the rest of the greenhouse, and then we all set to work weeding out the last few lines of onions by the stone path.

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Huge thanks to our volunteers and helpers for a very satisfying few days.

If you would like to join us in the garden next month and learn new skills in a fabulous setting, please get in touch.

info@chisholme.org
+44 (0)1450 880 215
Or see our Volunteer page

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From the Heart
Chisholme Blog | Tuesday, 26th July, 2016

Prof. Alan Williams reviews Shane Jagger's poetry.


My Heart is Too Big for my Pacemaker
by Shane Jagger
White Stone Publishing, 2016
Rrp £10

Reviewed by Alan Williams, Senior Lecturer in Comparative Religion at the University of Manchester and the translator of Spiritual Verses: Jalaloddin Rumi, (Penguin Classics, 2006)


I cannot think of another book of poetry that has made me well up just as I came to the end of it, but Shane Jagger’s slim volume did, and quite unexpectedly with his last poem, ‘Three Words’. By this point, after having read 25 of his other poems, I thought I had become familiar with his voice. But the sincerity of this short poem grabbed me by the collar, and still makes my hair bristle to recall it.

Shane was asked to write these poems by Richard Gault, the Principal of the Chisholme Institute. They seem to be collected from a long and much-lived lifetime: some are almost diary entries, one – the enigmatic and beguiling ‘Visiting’– with an actual date. In so many ways these poems reflect Shane’s love of Chisholme, the people and what he has learnt there. The title of the collection tells it as it is – it’s an unlimited heart he has. He locates it as a spiritual organ in the first poem ‘The Heart’, in six double beats. Many that follow are little jewels of reflections, like ‘Love’, ‘The Moment’, ‘Stars’, and ‘Winter’ – the last of which uses such a singularly poignant and esoteric word, ‘mercified’, which takes it to a new level beyond the personal. In fact many of the poems are like this. Some are quite imperative, and tell us, from what he has come to know, just how it is, even with a line or two in italics from which the poem flows. In the short poem ‘Compassion’ there are six commands! No, Shane’s poetry is not as simple as it might first appear, and it demands our attention. In ‘Moments Between’, for example, there is a wonderful balance between personal reflection, and a more commanding observation of our state. To take another example, I think ‘Onion’ is delightful in formal terms, and must be quoted to allow any comment:

Today I’m like an onion
Sad with separation
Grief makes me cry
Chop and cook me gently
Add a little saffron
for joining together and laughter
Serve me to those whom I love

With breath-taking speed he gives us the image, and moves from vegetable to kitchen chopper, cook, to the table and the guests who will consume it – all with a simple plea for tenderness. Here is optimism that is a lifetime of pain away from naïveté, sensitised by his vulnerability and the caring he has received, and which is acknowledged on every page of this wonderful book. It is a lesson about love – thank you, Shane.

Alan Williams, July 2016

Order the book here
£10 inc p&p worldwide

Read the review by Christopher Ryan

Read more about Shane Jagger on beshara.org

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Sound bath
Chisholme Blog | Thursday, 30th June, 2016

Our volunteers in June were plunged into a sound bath


Posted by Hannes Rohtsalu

During the June Volunteer Week a special treat was provided for everyone at Chisholme: a 'sound bath' session was offered by Marco Florio, one of our volunteers from Italy.
Javier Rodriguez reports:

Marco works with the medium of sound frequencies and it’s healing properties. A sequence of quartz crystal and Tibetan singing bowls are played, each one keyed to the energy centres of the body, where sound nourishes the nervous system. Crystal singing bowls are composed of quartz crystals, which have the ability to transform, store, and amplify energy.

Everything in the Universe has a vibration or frequency, including our physical body. A system in each living organism: flower, plant, cell, organ, has its own vibration. Thoughts, emotions, colour and sound also have their own specific pulsation. We experience them and perceive them through our different senses and at different levels

The experience was indeed powerful, and made me wonder why I had never come across it before. I was most struck by the Turkish gong (very familiar from mealtimes at Chisholme) which acquired a deep and rich sound with Marco’s beater.

Many thanks to Marco and Javier for organising this memorable afternoon.

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Poetry by Shane Jagger
Chisholme Blog | Sunday, 26th June, 2016

The author Roger Norman reviews 'My Heart is too Big for my Pacemaker'


My Heart is too Big for my Pacemaker : poems by Shane Jagger

Reviewed by Roger Norman

This little book of poems arrived out of the blue one morning, at a postal address where nothing ever comes except gas bills. I read the first poems to see what was afoot and was caught by these lines: ‘Soon they visit some hearts / though they won’t find them / except by singular / intention and concentration on the giver of hearts’. There was no mistaking the weight of singular intention and concentration, as the seven ‘n’s sounded their gong-like chimes. By the end of the poem, we still don’t know who are ‘they’ of the first line, but we suspect that it might be ourselves – the uncertain ones, the seekers. Probably it is of us that the ‘singular intention’ is required.

Wary of false prophets, we require in return a sense of authenticity. For me, it was the appearance of the angels that decided it. Of these angels, ‘they say some don’t even know / of the existence of humankind’. Angels unaware of us? We have been led to think we created them. But ‘they exist you know / out of the corner of your eye / as perceived by the ill and frail … Oh yes they whisper / clear inspiration like / an idea half-remembered from childhood / they listen to hearts / and without judgement / watch the human failures pass away.’ Watch the human failures pass away? I’m reminded of a peremptory line from one of the Desert Fathers: ‘The whole active life is regarded by God as nothing but leaves on a tree which bears no fruit.’

In another of the poems came this, about death: ‘Each aspect of a person is / taken on a return / to its origin. / Death then / is returning to / that single point / where the request to / live began.’ The idea of death as return is familiar, but ‘each aspect … is taken’ is surprising and ‘the request to live’ is astonishing. The voice of Shane Jagger, Wakil as he is known, acquires authority as he treads untrodden ground.

His angels appealed to me at once, perhaps because the angel Gabriel had caused me problems years ago. He’s the only magical being in the Christmas story – I mean wholly fantastic – big muscular wings, a shining light. When the rule of reason reared its head in my life, it was the angel in the Christmas story that stood out. The rolling away of the stone from the crypt might have been a tall story issuing from the imagination of the disciples, but the angel? It’s like a Harry Potter phoenix. Wakil’s angels are deft, silent, nearly invisible.

As I read the poems I found myself thinking of Rumi, Anatolia’s greatest poet. The association may have been triggered by a reference to the ‘essential friend’, which to an admirer of the Mevlana recalls the amazing Shams of Tabriz, Rumi’s teacher and soulmate. But there was a sense in other poems too of that mixture of the devoted and the unpredictable that is characteristic of Rumi, especially if read in the Coleman Barks translation.

Wakil’s poems are followed by a short life of the author, who ‘found his way to Chisholme House, a school of esoteric education’. The internet reveals that this school was founded by Bulent Rauf, a Turkish mystic. Rauf published books on the sufi sage Ibn Arabi, who in the 13th century AD taught the oneness of being. This pedigree sheds light on Wakil ‘trying to understand / there is only one thing going on / nothing else’ but the poems need no positioning within this or that tradition. ‘Keep sharp and awake,’ the same poem exhorts. They all said that, didn’t they? From Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane to Buddha under the pipal tree.

Back to the poem I started with – visiting the hearts. Free of worry and clean of all clutter ‘these hearts are blessed / with eternity / and extraordinary happenings / will subtly occur’. How I love that ‘subtly’! That whole sentence! It is what I have wanted, all these years.

Roger Norman
Eskişehir,
Anatolia
June 2016

Order Shane's book here

Read the review by Christopher Ryan

Read more about Shane Jagger on beshara.org

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Fish See Water
Chisholme Blog | Wednesday, 15th June, 2016

The new book by John Brass is now available to order


Fish See Water

by John Brass
Mallet Press, Oxford
£10 plus p&p

Order from Malletpress@yahoo.co.uk

"Through the works of two of the finest intellects from the Medieval era, Jalalu'ddin Rumi (1207–1273) and Muhyiddin ibn al-'Arabi (1165–1240), a conservator comes to understand the changes he has to make in facing himself so he is able to restore a 14th-century Sienese Renaissance masterpiece of The Annunciation... one that is not what it seems.

Does the restorer restore? Or, does the restoration restore the restorer?

Tales of selflessness and heroism from Peru to Constantinople drift through the refined settings of an enigmatic country house while the conservator works on… Then an unexpected and astonishing configuration begins to reveal itself, throwing all those present into awed perplexity."

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Recipe of the Week
Chisholme Blog | Tuesday, 31st May, 2016

This week's recipe is John Brix's 'Fillet of Cod with Braised Fennel'.


Fillet of Cod with Braised Fennel

Serves four
Recipe by John Brix

Ingredients:

Please ensure you buy sustainably fished cod. Or use pollack which is an excellent alternative!

  • 4 Cod fillets, 6oz (180g) each (without skin)
  • 2 or 3 Fennel bulbs
  • 1 onion or a couple of shallots
  • Chicken or fish stock 1pint (1/2 litre) medium strength
  • 120g clarified butter
  • Cayenne pepper, salt, sugar

Slice fennel bulbs and onion into 1/4" slices (trim off the fennel stems and use in stock making or reserve for roasting with meats)

Sauté onion and fennel in clarified butter till golden, place in roasting tray or casserole dish.

Add some stock (along with a tsp. sugar) and braise for 3/4 hour at 180C, adding more stock as required. When cooked, the fennel should be very tender, so that a cocktail stick goes into it with ease. The stock should have reduced by about half, and the juices should have the consistency of thin cream. Take into account the fish will release some of its juices.

Roll the fillets into three, skin-side in, brush with clarified butter, season with cayenne pepper and salt.

Place the fish on top of the braising fennel and cook for about 20 minutes or until the fish is firm to the touch.

Adjust seasoning to the juices, and serve with sauté or boiled new potatoes and a seasonal green vegetable.

You can also use cod loin or cod steaks for this dish. If they still have skin on them, sauté the skin side first. No need to roll them, just continue as above.

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RELATED LINKS

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The Red Sail
Katharine Tiernan writes about St Cuthbert's years
in retreat, for Beshara Magazine


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The Twenty-Nine Pages
An Introduction to Ibn 'Arabi's Metaphysics of Unity
is available from Beshara Publications