Chisholme Blog

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In Memoriam: Graham Ghaffar Falvey
John Hill | Monday, 17th September, 2018

‘If you want something done with excellence, ask Ghaffar, he doesn’t know otherwise.’ Bulent Rauf


Obituary for Graham Ghaffar Falvey

d.12 June 2018, Hanoi, Vietnam

‘If you want something done with excellence, ask Ghaffar, he doesn’t know otherwise.’ Bulent Rauf

Graham was a great man, a real friend, of not so many words but of strong purposeful action.

He was a devoted friend of Chisholme, running the Estate and Garden for ten years (1985-1995). He kept the garden immaculately, while looking after the woodlands during the winter. He set the standard for growing vegetables and flowers at Chisholme, with a keen understanding of the seasons and their needs. He took great pleasure in the process.

Soon after he arrived, the ring of shelter-belt woodland around Chisholme was acquired, largely with Graham’s help and involvement. He set to with a will in the replanting of these big areas of ground. This began with the wind-blasted Front Clearfell, which he planted nearly single-handedly. He successfully navigated the grant application process with the Forestry Commission, which set the scene for the larger forestry plantings with the Millenium Forest for Scotland some years later.

Under Bulent’s guidance he established the beginnings of a wildfowl and domestic fowl collection on the lake, which became a great passion for him.

He worked very, very hard. He enjoyed it. Great gratitude to him.

But Graham’s life was not just work. At Chisholme he met, fell in love and married Wendy, and they spent several happy years together.

During the end of his time at Chisholme, following a visit to Chisholme by Alan Ereira, and the showing of Alan’s film ‘From the Heart of the World’, Graham became passionately interested in the Kogi peoples of Colombia, and their message to humanity. This led him to work as administrator for the Tairona Trust, a small charity to help the Kogi. He made two trips to meet the Kogi in their villages high in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. He clearly felt immensely privileged to make these extraordinary journeys. In Graham’s words: ‘I spent that evening swinging in a hammock in the ‘nuhue’ or ‘world house’ listening to the ‘mamas’ give us messages of greetings and being given our news in return. It was a meeting with a truly dignified and courageous people and I cherish that meeting and another meeting in 1994.’

These journeys and more travels through America and Australia, where he spent time immersed in indigenous cultures, led him, after much soul-searching to plunge Into three years of academia. He read Anthropology and Religious Studies at the University of Wales in Lampeter, taking a first class degree in 1999. He was invited to continue in this academic world, but though he felt he had learnt much and valued his tutors and lectures many of whom became good friends, he felt the academic approach constrictive and took to the road again.

He travelled more in Australia, but returning to the UK, again took up horticulture, spending three summers looking after the gloriously remote gardens of Oransay Priory. This is the only garden on the island of Oronsay. In fact it belongs to the only inhabited house on the island that can only be reached by walking at low tide across a mile of sand from neighbouring Colonsay. A typically remote spot for Graham, but populated with a wealth of wildlife which he loved, and an ancient spiritual history reaching back to Saint Columba, which he much revered.

Graham was always moving into new territory, and during these winter months which he spent in the Borders, he developed an interest in IT which had started with his Tairona Trust work. He became skilled in website design and developed a number of sites for friends and colleagues.

In typical fashion he moved seemlessly on. In 2003, he trained in teaching English as a foreign language, gaining a TESOL certificate, giving him an additional passport to travel where his heart led.

The next thing we knew, he was living and teaching in Hanoi, a situation that seemed to suit him down to the ground. There he finally put down roots and made a career that suited his roving spirit, which he loved, and in which he was much loved in return. He met and very happily married Hop and set up home in Hanoi. Since then we have been treated to the occasional visit to the UK. He twice brought Hop to visit Chisholme and local friends. Though living in the Far East, he hasn’t seemed so far away. The wonderful article that he recently wrote ‘A Thing of Beauty...’ published on line in the Beshara Magazine, shows his depth of vision, and somehow kept him close as a friend.

Graham was a man of great humility and integrity. He came from an RAF background and grew up on the move. Moving was his way of finding a still point. He travelled lightly, while maintaining a consistent and un-erodible commitment to a real spiritual life. He was a faithful friend and a great, great wit.

I met him first in the summer of 1975. He was living in a tiny tent in a cherry orchard in Kent, where he was one of very few who would dare to pick off the gigantic 60ft ladders that reached high into the highest trees. He took that in his singular stride, humbly but with strength. He was always like that. He will be remembered in many sweet ways, and sorely missed. But we can be confident that he will walk this last journey as properly as he did every journey on which he embarked during his life.

John Hill
Sherborne Glos. 2018

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August Conversation Notes
Robin Thomson | Thursday, 2nd August, 2018

This month is offered for conversation and enquiry. It calls for a contemplative approach but must be addressed honestly and courageously. Here are notes up to August 31st, compiled mostly by Robin Thomson


This month is offered for conversation and enquiry. While there is no formally predetermined topic, we hope to address the current state of the school, spiritually and materially, and to enquire as to the best approach to our own studentship, on the one hand, and the funding and sustaining of the place on the other. It calls for a contemplative approach but must be addressed honestly and courageously.
Here are notes on some of the conversations up to August 14th, compiled by Robin Thomson

Wednesday, 1 August 2018
To kick off, what is the best manner of our being here? Often, despite our efforts to practice presence, we find ourselves preoccupied with the temporal and material business of the place, which dominates over our simple presence and participation here. Additionally, many of us come and go between Chisholme and our outside lives, and there is a real perceived shift involved, one that requires effort to maintain freshness in both worlds.

As for those of us who have been students for a number of years, how do we keep our approach fresh and not impose on the current situation? Can we come here with all of ourselves and leave with all of ourselves? Can we allow the present situation to be, without comparing it to past situations, and thereby allow both newcomers and old hands to learn? Meanwhile what is the gift and wisdom that the many ‘old hands’ can bring? Surely the older generations cannot see the same vision as the young, who see keenly what is now; but the old have gifts of experience and wisdom that can complement the young vision, provided it is offered wisely.

The different ‘generations’ of students – measured along the axis of the school’s history rather than the specific ages of each person – will see different priorities and values for the school. The requirements have changed over that period. When Bulent was alive, his presence defined most of the activities. Subsequently the school was held by a principal, a situation that required a different approach, and today there is no principal, only a body of people, a collective, that strives to keep the place open and available for potential students. Because of these differences, ‘handing over’ the school to the next generation is not a simple matter.

This opening session was thus a gathering of many questions. What roles are required in the school today, in organisational and educational terms? And how rigidly or loosely need they be implemented? To what extent do we rely on tradition and to what extent do we seek innovation? We see innovation all around us, even in changes to our dietary preferences, well within our own lifetimes. Yet innovation that is merely contrived has little point, while that which arises from a place of vision must be responded to.

Ultimately, can any of us know the full potential of this place? Can any of us be fully up to that, perfected in order to support that potential perfectly? No, clearly not. But, recognising this, we can perhaps approach our tasks, our roles and our studentship more lightly and more freely, and in this way what is necessary can make itself known.

Thursday, August 2nd 2018
Today's conversation started with the question: 'In the phrase ‘In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful’, what is meant by compassion and mercy? And more generally, why do we say this apparently ritualistic invocation, for example at the start of meals?

A lively conversation ensued. Compassion is perhaps that all-encompassing quality that allows all other qualities to become and express their realities; mercy, while not unconnected, has a more private aspect to do with the ripening of one who seeks self-knowledge. As for the purpose our invoking the Real by these names: in doing so we affirm and reference the singular Being that is our being, turning away from our illusory selves; we give thanks for what is to be – in this case, sustenance, on which our lives depend, while also reminding ourselves of the eucharistic nature of gathering to eat. Perhaps we affirm our ultimate contingency (dependency) on Being itself.

These attempts to answer the question, however, were only half of the conversation. Of no less importance was the fact that this question had arisen when it did, and that the person who asked it was moved to do so at the start of this month of enquiry. The question is an expression of our studentship, in a learning environment in which there are no formal teachers, yet in which teaching can arise where it will among us. In turn our studentship expresses our dependency, for we cannot own knowledge and can only receive what is given.

The starting point of the enquiry concerns our proper studentship and presence, and the best way in which the school can be sustained. Thus it is surely a gift to us to be able to begin from the very approach, the very intention that we set at the beginning of any undertaking – yet which, left unexamined, deteriorates to ritual or even superstition. Surely the short answer to a question of how to approach the school and its running would be ‘In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful’!

Wednesday August 8th
Conversation today was a meditation on the nature of knowledge, our relationship to knowledge, how knowledge is known in us and where it is known. It was striking because the room was full, with a range of people from students of long standing to visitors here for their first day, and all contributed.

We are informed by things of themselves, like an artist drawing a still life, learning the form from the subject. ‘Knowledge is subject to the known’. Ultimately, to know is to be aware, that is, it is a condition of being, and that being can be again known deeply in us as that single Reality (or Being) knowing itself. This is where knowledge of the self, or self-knowledge, is realised. And knowledge is relationship to the known.

‘Everything is beloved. Until the lover knows that all is beloved, he/she is a corpse.’ So our state in unawareness is corpse-like in a sense, until we are opened up to the constant wonders of what we call a mundane experience. Mundane only because of unawareness. However, the sense of being a ‘corpse’ might also come from one who has known the Beloved and knows now that everything he/she is and has been has come to dust, for that is the fate of man.

We can be moved by peak experiences – when something profound happens, numinous, something is tasted. We can try to keep that experience in mind. But often we miss out, habitually, on the constant revelations all around us all the time. As a former student once wrote, ‘Today is an ordinary day. That is, a day in which many extraordinary things are happening and nobody notices.’

Thursday August 9th
What can we take with us when we move on from the school? What will sustain and nourish us and keep us close?

This is a rather general question, and there is no single practice or action that can be prescribed. Nor can what we take away survive if it is only an idea. Thoughts about ‘oneness’ will be tested to destruction by the world and its contradictions, because thoughts can never be large enough to embrace and comprehend oneness and the contradictions it includes. Rather, we trust and hope that we can find in ourselves a level of being that is not thought but real sentiment, that can see itself and know itself despite the contradictions and relish them.

How does this happen in us?
Oneness is not an abstract thing; in the world, in us, we can come to know it as a relationship of love, and there are practical things which we can do to establish this relationship, and to nurture it. They cannot be prescribed – what each one of us takes away when we leave Chisholme, and how we are with what we have learned, is private and up to us to decide.

Meditation, and by implication prayer, are core practices at the School. Both can be a huge help in our daily lives and, as Bulent explains so beautifully in his paper on Prayer and Meditation (see below), the best of ways is to let them be one.

Of course there is also the daily striving to learn, allowing life to inform us in all its modes and being informed by our own changing states. And embracing the contradictions: we are on a journey, yet there is nowhere to go.

Someone said: I’ve had to travel a long way to come here for this week, and I didn’t really want to; it’s hard, it’s tiring at my age. I am used to living in my comfort zone.
But I asked myself: what is the most important thing in my life?
And then I knew I had to come!
I’ve also wondered about service – what’s the best kind of service? To me, it is to have clarity, to ask for clarity. Clarity shows me what is important, what it is I really want.
...and stillness – listening to silence is very important!

Someone offered the image of the ‘subway’ – a busy public place that we don’t tend to associate with a contemplative atmosphere. From one point of view the quiet calm of Chisholme and the rough and tumble of the world are not different in their reality, yet as aspects they are different.
A noisy and crowded subway is a challenging environment.
And yet, we can practice awareness no matter where we are; there is space and stillness, even on a busy commuter train.
And there is the sense of simply waking up to the extraordinary in the everyday and being present to it.

Helpful reading: Bulent’s paper on ‘Prayer and Mediation’.

Friday August 10th
What makes this school unique?
Do all roads lead to the same destination?
Among the many traditions, paths and schools, what is special about this one?

From one point of view, each person has his or her personal way to realisation (or salvation, or knowledge), and all are equally valid. The same is true of the traditions and ways all over the world and throughout history. Yet there is another perspective, in which Reality may reveal Itself to Itself, in this place we call ‘us’. This way is in conformity to the Real’s own ‘preference’, and requires us to relinquish our own inclinations to a greater or lesser extent. (‘Greater or lesser’ because someone who wishes for this to be their way may discover that their real, underlying preference is for this, greater than their previous understanding.) Perhaps it is a characteristic of this time that this essential orientation be found and adopted by mankind.

As for the details on the ground, what is it we value most about Chisholme?
Might it be some or all of the following:
– the deep and detailed metaphysics, which becomes the foundation for everything we learn at this School. How can one summarise it? Could one call it a metaphysic of love, which outlines the role and position of humanity and which is so completely and beautifully expressed in the works of Ibn ‘Arabi and Rumi?
– the explicit invitation to mystery, yet in a way that is lived in the here and now of practical life?
– the possibility of speech arising from silence, and a language of the heart that informs through taste and gives reality to speech and conversation?
– the invitation to let go of preconceptions and assumptions and submit to another way, a wider vision?
– the daily situation of living, working and practicing together and what is learned from it, and from every detail of that life?
– the intention for a specific and concentrated atmosphere of contemplation and presence, in which real education can take place?
– freedom from a tradition or order limited by time, place or culture, in which the Real is invited to manifest Itself in the individual hearts and the hearts to respond individually to that one request?

Perhaps it is that the courses (and hopefully the broader situation) places the sincere student in a context that represents the true place of the human, ‘between the two worlds’ – between the attributes of the divine and those of the created world, at once reflecting the divine image and dispensing over the creation, while participating in both. This is something we read about in metaphysical texts, and perhaps the school enables this role to be recognised in us so that we can be educated according to it.

Monday, August 13th
We visited the questions that we are seeking to address in this month of conversation:
– the best approach to the financial and practical sustenance of the school and its students
– this year’s ongoing review and quest to be informed as to the right way forward for the place and its people in all senses, both interior and exterior.
Since the material aspects are wholly an aspect of the overall holding of the school, they can be discussed with confidence and trust while not deviating from the overall request to be informed. They are not in any real sense ‘other’ than more interior aspects. Our conversation, if we come to it cleanly, can address these matters in the knowledge that it is held by the real and in response to our intention.

The topic of practice arose again:
Conversation, at its best, is a practice.
An urgent practice for this time is that of keeping everything clean – i.e. one of Bulent’s ‘Four Pills’. This ‘keeping things clean’ applies to all actions, from innermost thoughts to worldly and financial dealings. It follows on from the ‘first pill’, that of accepting that there is only one absolute, as also are the requirements not to harm anybody and to be helpful to everybody.

Later on in the morning, we read the ‘Esoteric exposition of Finance’ written by Bulent Rauf in 1986. This proposes that the world we experience can be described in terms of three ‘Souls’ – the Finance Soul, the Scientific Soul and the Spiritual Soul, each contemplating the Universe. Only by accommodating all three is the full scope of life to be comprehended.

The paper is 30 years old and was written in a different financial climate from today’s. Today the world of finance exposes extremes of disparity and injustice. Greed and uncleanliness are rife in many financial systems. It is a profound paper, but also quite difficult and we did not have the time to go deeply into it.

However we explored how the ‘economy of lack’ is a reaction and not the reality: and that in spite of appearances the principle acting in the universe is complete and unconditional generosity.

Tuesday, August 14th
Today we considered publicity – how do we keep existing friends and students up to date, and how do we make Chisholme be known more widely, so that whoever might benefit can find out about it.

We had to agree that it is difficult to communicate the essential Beshara – this invitation which is for mankind and for each one of us, that the Real, God, the One, is the Self of all existence. This is not, after all, like simply advertising a product or even an idea, and has to address that part in us that can truly hear and respond to this invitation. It appears that most people who come to Chisholme, come as a result of personal contacts and face to face conversations, and rarely through impersonal publicity.

A visitor shared his memories of coming here for the very first time: …on his way he stopped off for lunch at a place which is also dedicated to spiritual enquiry. It was a very busy centre, with lots going on – the dining hall packed; he had a good lunch, but no-body spoke to him. Later he arrived at Chisholme. Someone was waiting for him at the front steps, showed him round, answered his questions. There was an intimacy and welcome here that was tangible and present right from the start…’I was acknowledged as a person, and that felt good and special. No judgement here - it was just the right place for me.'

While we have the task of making the school known, it is not our task to bring people here. Our task is to keep the ‘place’ – the school, ourselves, our actions – clean, and make the place shine. Whether the guests and students come or not is God’s business. We should not have to worry.

Returning to the initial question about the day’s news, we heard a report from a meeting of the directors and estate staff the previous day. There is a plantation of spruce trees on the estate (Fathill) that is now mature and ready for felling. This could provide heating fuel for up to twenty years for the school. This represents a substantial asset and reminds us of the value – in more than one sense – of the estate and physical setting of the school. It is a matter that requires our attention now, and is a gift, and so comes as good news.

Tuesday, August 21st

The first question this morning was: How can we make Chisholme more sustainable?

From that came – who is ‘we’ – or who are ‘we’?

Who is ‘we’? Is it everyone here in the room today, or everyone who loves the place, and considers it his/her home? And is the ‘we’ like a body of people collected as one, with some collective accountability, or are we simply a whole bunch of individuals, and each personally responsible, to whatever extend we each deem ourselves responsible – or not?

Someone remembered a story from one of their long courses: Bulent had gone into the larder to look for something, and when he tried to leave, the doorknob came off in his hand, and he found himself locked in. As a result, he was furious, and furious for a long time, and notably with the whole of the student body on that course:
‘This is your home and you are not looking after it!’
…and it took a lot more than mending the broken door-knob before he was appeased.

One person was reminded of the question they had been given as their essay title on a long course: ‘What is ‘private facing’, and how is it a key to collectivity and expression?

This also connected with the question of sustainability and support. Of course Chisholme needs to become sustainable, and that can only happen through many people making themselves available to support the place, through whatever means they might have at their disposal.

One person said she did not like to use the word ‘support’ in connection with Chisholme. She felt that first and foremost it was Chisholme which supported her, because it was here that she had been given to understand something about who she was, and she continued to be increased and nourished and sustained by this knowledge. In this we also were reminded of something a dear friend had said to one of her visitors, shortly before her death: ‘We are all very ordinary people. But we have been given just a glimpse of our potential!

One person felt the matter of the private facing was to do with awareness of how things really are: God is the support and the one who supports me. Whatever support I give here to Chisholme, that comes through me, but in fact God supports me through what I am given by coming here in the first place.

…and to be supported and to support – they don’t need to be seen as two separate things, they are one movement.

We also acknowledged that Chisholme potentially is here for every human being – but it comes with its own requirements.

Wednesday, August 29th

The morning started with a nice story: One of the people responsible for Chisholme just now recounted how yesterday he had been overcome with a sense of bewilderment, just not knowing where to turn, as there seemed to be so many different things which needed to be done. He was aware that – among many other things – the yurts needed to be taken down from their platforms in the woods, so he went there to lend a hand. Just as he was picking up a bedframe to carry away for storage, this van turned up on the drive. It was forced to stop right by the yurts as there was a tractor in the way; out stepped two friendly people who – on their way from the Outer Hebrides to Halifax – had spotted a sign to the Chisholme Institute, googled it, liked that it was about finding a spiritual orientation without dogma and had decided to find out more. They were very happy to stay for a bit and lend a hand.

Someone remarked that this was the fourth time this has happened recently – people just appearing out of the blue, without any apparent reason. But every time it turns out they had come just at the right time, both for them and for Chisholme.

This let to a wider conversation about what is happening at Chisholme this year?
What has this year showed us so far?
There seems to be a sense of shared responsibility – expressed in simple things such as that there is no longer a ‘head of the table’.

It seems important to stay completely open to all possibilities and not to project an outcome or aim.
It seems imperative to affirm that regardless of whether we have just walked in through the door or have done countless courses over many years, we are all students and always will be.
If we can refrain from imposing our ideas, not grasping at answers, then it seems, what is asked for emerges of its own accord.
It seems the original intention for Chisholme – what it is for – is asserting itself so very strongly now, and it does not depend on any particular person to make that happen.

Someone remembered the lovely quote:
And you – if you want to know the beauty of the Real beloved, initiate your intention to the love of God according to ‘I was a hidden treasure, and I loved to be known.’

We ended the morning talking about praise and gratitude, and how it seems that the human heart is made for praise and to be moved by beauty.

Friday August 31st - final conversation

Appreciation of the great variety of people who had passed through Chisholme over the summer – it feels like something very beneficial is growing.

Real friendship has been present, and has been established, and a spirit of sharing.

Does the value of something blossom when it ends, do we appreciate people more once they have left? The good of something or of someone is of the Real, and that is what remains even when they have left.

Someone remembers how the month started – an intention to arrive fresh, to de-familiarise ourselves from ourselves and from each other. We spent quite a bit of time over the month with this sentiment, dug this ground over the month and she was grateful for that.
‘It feels really important to give up my assumptions’.

On the second day of August, someone had asked about why we start things with ‘In the Name of God’? Exploring this question at the very beginning of the conversation month had been good and informed the whole month.

People expressed their feelings about having been at Chisholme at this time:

*…conversation has at times been torrential, and at times like a gentle stream and I feel blessed to have been part of it.

*…I am really grateful for all the new and old seekers I met, and I thank you for keeping this well replenished for all of us – like a well-spring of goodness and I am grateful to witness this.

*…I found a big family here, which I had not expected and I want to simply say ‘Thank you!’.

…in all this there is a meeting of hearts, so that the Mystery, which at times can be terrifying, or beautiful, is not so mysterious. This is exactly what this (conversation, or Chisholme) is for – when the hearts are at that point of both knowing and not knowing – situated in the Real, in the Good – not restricted by the temporal but embraced by the eternal.
One instant of Love is forever – that is really how it is!
…then, talking in reference to people leaving today: The real connection between people is by virtue of the Real, each person being a place where the Real meets the Real – and when someone leaves, well, you are departing, and not departing. The world is a very awesome expression at times, very difficult to not be swept away by it – but always it is covered by love. This room, this place is for becoming established in love.

Someone else: Does this conversation have to have an ‘outcome’? I don’t think it has to have that - it’s not like for example when we rallied round and paid off the mortgage – that was an outcome – this is different; we simply end with gratitude.

Last but not least, here is a short text sent by Rachel Gordin, an old friend from Israel, who had spent a week at Chisholme in August. She wrote it after she was home again.

What Is Private About the Private Face?
It was in 1989 that I first came to the school at Chisholme House. In the exterior, it was an invitation to a wedding celebration of a friend which served as an excuse for my visit. Interiorly, it was in response to a poem by Ibn 'Arabi included in that letter of invitation, and which I perceived as a wild call of my heart to be known and recognised. It was written as a love letter from God, and said:
"Dearly beloved, I have called you so often and you have not heard me. I have shown myself to you so often and you have not seen me... Why do you not see me? Why do you not hear me? Why? Why? Why?... I am nearer to you than yourself, than your soul, than your breath..."

Ever since then my relationship with the school has had this unique taste of an almost paradoxical combination between the most vast impersonal perspective, and the most intimate secret, sweet as well as piercing, whispered to the heart. On the one hand - the metaphysics of Ibn 'Arabi, telling us that there is only One Unique Being, and that coming under this truth, and letting it be realized in us, can define a new space of unfathomable possibilities; and on the other hand - this secret invitation, as if special to you, that no one else can understand or touch. And "your life" is suddenly perceived as a Moebius Ring, in which the Exterior and the Interior constantly change places. And you yourself seem to be a puzzle in which time is of no consequence and things that happened years ago are seen in a completely new light in the most unexpected way.

Love takes so many forms! There is love for that which is unknowable, unimaginable and entirely other than you; that which is completely pure and cannot be contaminated by my "selfness". Ibn 'Arabi writes about this sort of love: "Wild she is. None can make her his friend". There is love which derives from similarity to anything human. Meister Eckhart writes that he wakes up to pray at night like a mother hearing her baby calling her. There is love that takes shelter under the wing of a Divine Name, which serves a more or less specific quality, like giving praise, or serving beauty or subtlety. This can be private and personal according to the Names each of us is destined to serve, according to our taste and capacity.

But there is also the mysterious possibility that Ibn 'Arabi calls "the Private Face of God", which seems to be not private at all. Or, maybe more correctly, it's privacy is not ours but God's. And it is not according to our capacity or value. The Private Face of God seems to be entirely the work of the Wahab - that aspect of God which is of pure Opulence and Richness-Beyond-Need; Which grants gifts because it's in its nature. That aspect which Ibn 'Arabi was advised to take as his sole companion on the Way. The Private Face is not personal, yet it is most unique. There is nothing like it, and apparently no one ever experiences it in the same way. This is apparently what is hinted at when we say about a saint: "Let God sanctify his secret".

It is said that Beshara, or the school at Chisholme House, is not offering a way. The way, says Ibn 'Arabi, is created by the feet that tread it. The only function of the school is to clear the obstacles that might prevent advance. And the invitation to us, as students, is to love the Real as deeply and sincerely as we can, and receive with gratitude whatever comes. Let It find Its unique way into our heart.

I have trod, and am still treading, my own path: There are times of pure magic, when that which is given abundantly is almost too much to bear, and there are times of helplessly being exposed to myself (and others) as false and pretending. But all extremes are engulfed by the love and compassion that cover the whole issue. Paraphrasing Simon Veil: Thank you, God, for exposing all my faults. Not necessarily in the aim of correcting them, but so that I'll be in the presence of Truth. In speaking about the intimacy of the Private Face one can easily fall into pretence, thinking that something was gained, deserved and owned. But love (for truth or beauty) is not like that. I've lately read about a Japanese poetess who is over ninety years old and she writes that when she is sad - she cups in her hands the sunlight that creeps under the door and dips her face in it.

As for me, at the present stage of "my life" (closer to the end than the beginning) I pay attention to what it is that people lean on as the meaning of their life, and I feel extremely grateful for what was given to find as meaning by Ibn 'Arabi and the school. And I ask for no better than to be able to say, in the words of my dear friend and companion on the way, shortly before she died (said in a heavy Lancashire accent):
"Gee-e-e, We are such ordinary people, all of us, and yet we were given to see a glimpse of our potential".

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Beauties of the night, and of the day…
Frances Ryan | Tuesday, 17th July, 2018

A walk on the wild side with the Scottish Wildlife Trust, around the Chisholme Estate


Beauties of the night, and of the day…

In early July the Scottish Wildlife Trust arranged a walk around the Chisholme Estate.

We were fortunate enough to have as our guides Alison Smith, Malcolm Lindsay and Sarah Eno, all extremely well versed in things to do with nature. Malcolm, who knows a lot about moths, suggested setting traps the night before. The day could then start with a look at what the traps had to offer, followed by a tour of the estate, ending with a hike up to Chapel Hill and back down for afternoon tea at Chisholme. Would that be enough to fill a day, we wondered?

Saturday morning arrived, and more than 30 people assembled from all corners of the Borders; for many this was their first visit to Chisholme.

Malcolm had set two traps – one near the house and one at the top of Whitrig Wood. There is a good variety of deciduous trees around the house, and an abundance of birch in Whitrig which would attract different kinds of night-flying insects. Once in the trap, moths tend to crawl into shelters made up of egg-boxes, where they can safely stay until daytime, and after inspection be released unharmed.

Everyone collected near the garden table on the front lawn and Malcolm opened the traps. Taking the greatest possible care he gently prised out the egg-boxes one by one, to see what the previous night might have yielded.

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You may be forgiven to think that of all the lovely things the Chisholme Estate has to offer, moths would be somewhere very low down on a list of priorities….but for those of us present on that Saturday morning, there was a very pleasant surprise!

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Starting top right and going clockwise:
Poplar Hawk Moth; Green Carpet; Lt Emerald & Burnished Brass & Dark Marbled Carpet; Beautiful Golden-Y; Brimstone moth; 2 Mottled Beauty (above and below) then from the left Lesser Swallow Prominent, Green Carpet, Lempke’s Gold Spot, Pebble Prominent

Just two traps in one night in July produced over 65 different species of moth – each with a beautiful and poetic name, doing justice to their delicate and subtle differences – such as Common Lutestring, Angel Shades, True Lovers Knot, Smoky Wainscot, Burnished Brass, Mottled Beauty… We spent a spellbinding hour delighted by these lovely creatures, who gave us a glimpse into just one tiny facet of that extraordinary world of the night, of which most of us are usually quite unaware.

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Lesser Swallow Prominent; Lempke's Gold Spot; Garden Tiger and Peppered Moth; Elephant Hawk Moth

We then moved to Jili’s beautiful woodland garden, overflowing with foxgloves and other woodland flowers, to look for red squirrels, admired the swan family on the lake, and proceeded down the drive to enter Whitrig Wood.

Whitrig Wood, or the Wild Woods, as many call them, is indeed a wild and wonderful place. The woods had been partly clear-felled in the early 1980s and then left virtually untouched to re-generate of their own accord. For unknown reasons, a few trees, including oak, rowan and Caledonian pines, had been left standing and these have now matured into magnificent trees of great character. They stand between the half-rotten trunks of old windfalls and thickets of young birch, adding a touch of magic and mystery to these woods and providing food and shelter to a myriad of creatures, from fungi and lichen to orchids, woodpecker, deer, fox and buzzard.

We spent hours in the woods, being shown countless details large and small, in particular by Sarah Eno, who is a very experienced botanist. Here are some of the things she pointed out: the easily visible woodland plants at that time year are typical ferns like Male Fern, Broad Buckler Fern and very fine scrambling Bedstraws - Marsh Bedstraw especially. Many flowering plants like Marsh Avens had finished flowering and were left with their little spiky seed burrs like a bad hair day. There was a beautiful 'Melancholy Thistle' in flower in the lower part of the woods; it is named so because apparently it was used to treat melancholy; certainly when in flower it does! There were several Heath Spotted Orchids, which flower slightly later than other orchids, and up on the moor there was the very bright yellow of the iris family plant, Bog Aspodel. It is known also as Bonebreaker (Narthecium ossifragum) because it was thought that lambs feeding on it got brittle bones, but the truth is, that it was calcium deficiency in the pasture. However a known side-effect of eating the plant is apparently that it increases the sensitivity of lambs skin (esp. ears) to sunburn, if they eat the plant.

Once we reached the top of the hill, there was only time for a quick sortie to the moorland, and then it was time to return to the house.

Colin, Julie, Hiroko, Lucy and the many volunteers at Chisholme House had prepared a magnificent afternoon tea for us, with poppy seed cake and banoffi pie, and we all left happy, well fed and deeply nourished by the beauty of the day.

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Read and download the full moth survey

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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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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!

Link to post


Attic.jpg

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.

Link to post


IMG_4822.jpg

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!

Link to post


Screen Shot 2018-01-21 at 12.12.04.png

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.

Link to post


MansuraT.jpg

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.

{CGSmartImage src='uploads/images/page-images/Mansura3.jpg' class='img-responsive'}

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
Willa Shiel | 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...
Eleanor Wray | 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
John Brix | 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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