There’s a theory in magic/paganism that there are times for spells and otherworldly things and there are times for just concentrating on ‘hearth and home’. Neither is considered better than the other, both equally ‘spiritual’. Like my favourite saying, one foot in the visible and one foot in the invisible, that I used to keep me sane enough or behaving sane enough to not to mess up all my jobs and relationships, but it was at the same time exhausting to do this.
At the yoga class I do at the Buddhist centre sometimes, she gives little slips of paper out about mindfulness and metta in our day to day lives. I have one at home, one in my car, and one on my monitor at work. Thinking about it now, all that just made it harder for me: it was harder for me to manage at work if I was simultaneously trying to hold onto something of what I did outside of work spiritually, it was doing two things at once, which isn’t very mindful, and it didn’t always help. Whereas hearth and home implies more a switching between states, and doing one or the other, not both at once.
Contrast this with a period just leading up to Christmas, when I was driven with energy and did all the objectives for the year, loads of client contact, staff appraisals, etc, and felt almost like I was on the edge of mania (fear again: just like when you first tip into a spiritual journey/awakening and fear that you are going mad, just like when things are going really well and I start worrying about how things could go wrong, this is just a nasty habit that a bit of the mind, or some say the ego, has a tendency to do) and just was totally immersed in work while I was there, and that was so much better in terms of how I functioned. If we are on a spiritual path, then isn’t everything we do a spiritual practice? And isn’t the best way to do a spiritual practice to totally devote oneself to it in the time you are doing it, whether that be meditating or replying to an email?
It’s like when people who are alternative outside of work try and express themselves at work and fight the dress code instead of just going with it. Maybe it’s easier to forget about the other worldly stuff… Just as I thought this, an outrageously lit up lorry passed me, then immediately after, just in case I hadn’t got the message, another one. Validation that I am thinking along the right lines, or reminding me that the otherworldly is everywhere, always, whether I think about it or not. Or even, reminding me that this is the otherworldly…
What is my life’s purpose/mission? I just want to pray all the time, to drop to the floor and say: Thank you. I’m here. What can I do?
For sensitive people, the smallest things can set you off on the path to growth again. That’s why you sometimes see those little articles in magazines that suggest things like sleeping up the other way (head to toe not upside-down like a bat) or walking to work a different way. Even ‘awake’ people can find a seemingly conventional event can do the trick. In fact, if you are used to thinking unconventionally, maybe the conventional really can knock you sideways.
We got given a red sofa, it had been handmade in Tunbridge Wells, we collected it from a mature, wealthy couple who lived in a huge and breathtakingly expensive looking barn conversion. They were nice to us and only wanted a donation to the local arts centre, and even invited us to a party they were having. The sofa had a small cigarette burn in the arm, evidence of a previous party. We borrowed a friend’s van and got it in with barely an inch to spare.
For a few weeks, no one ate on the sofa, and we somehow kept the rest of the house cleaner too, and even told each other not to sit on it in old clothes, ‘You have to consider we have a middle-class sofa now you know.’ We bought a new carpet after years of living with a filthy one. (In an insane fit of optimism I had bought a cream carpet when I moved in, with the idea that everyone would ‘step up’ and keep the super smart environment clean. This didn’t work on a teenager let alone a dog, and the once-cream carpet was stained with blackcurrant juice and years of carelessness. I said to Anthony, do you think we will look back at the time we got the red sofa as some kind of locator beacon, before and after, that was before, that was after. Will it mark some kind of change?
But since a sofa is where you sit it’s natural that it is the home of all the big stuff. My previous sofa was big and blue with removable cotton covers and big squashy cushions. I had bought it from a man who lived in some very nice riverside retirement flats, it was in immaculate condition and was a very good price. It came apart so I could fit it all in my little car. I got a parking ticket but it was still worth it and didn’t dent the happiness I felt.
Scenes from the blue sofa:
Newly in love, lying with each other
‘It doesn’t matter if you’re happy balanced on the edge,’ Anthony- he was actually referring to our position on the sofa
Telling him of my childhood shame; DIY therapy for PTSD
Later when it had completely bottomed out and broken, Anthony took it out into the front garden and chopped it up with an axe.
This exemplifies/perfectly illustrates our lifestyle: for a few weeks all talk was about The Field, but then that is quickly dropped- when Anthony finishes the book and we begin talking about something else, but also, we don’t always talk about stuff like that- the sofa was almost as much of an event, in some ways.
Photograph: the red sofa a few years later, in the next house. The previous occupant had left behind 1970’s furniture which we kept, and we bought the old black record player from a charity shop. One night we played Are ‘Friends’ Electric by Gary Numan and Tubeway Army and for a few minutes we were transported back to the 1980s. Oh and the cats! You can’t take a cat in a backpack around India (sob).
Thank you very much for reading