Chisholme Blog

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What Is Private About the Private Face?
Rachel Gordin | Friday, 12th October, 2018

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... writes Rachel Gordin


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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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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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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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!

Link to post


Snowdrops.jpg

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!

Link to post


WoodRoad.jpg

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 2017-05-13 at 15.11.11.png

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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...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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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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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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RELATED LINKS

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


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