Sunday, 2 June 2013

World Events and Your Inner Castle

Shit Happens

     Driving through the idyllic coastline of the Beara Peninsula the other day I was enjoying this...

...when I had to slam my foot on the brakes because as I turned a corner I came across this...

     I had to suppress my automatic emotional reactions of anger and frustration. Anybody who has ever spent any time in Ireland will be familiar with the odd mix of idyllic rural scenery and its disruption by industrial activities, such as waste metal collection. The poor relation of waste metal collection is fly tipping and it's just as much of a problem. 

     Someone, in their wisdom, had left this container of crushed cars by the side of the road to enhance the experience of passing tourists, no doubt. It was parked up at an earlier date for collection at a later date. Unfortunately for me, this was the designated later date. I had no choice but to sit tight whilst the driver's mate yelled "Left a bit! Right a bit! Forward! Come on... Come on... Ah, shite! You'll have to do it again you Eejit!" It was a pretty good imitation of the old 70s game show The Golden Shot crossed with one of the less entertaining episodes of Father Ted.

     The Apollo 13 type event, as I came to identify it in my mind, turned from minutes to tens of minutes as the team of scrap metal merchants made several attempts to hook the trailer to the larger lorry. They made no apology and it seems you just can't rush this kind of job.

     During this time I had no choice but to stay put. I couldn't turn around and return to Bantry. A queue of equally frustrated tourists had built up behind me. The only option was to accept the situation. Slowly it dawned on me that I had other options. I didn't have to continue to stare at the drama unfolding before me. It was a beautiful day and there was plenty of breathtaking scenery to please the eye in every other direction.

House Clearance

     Being stranded in such an idyllic spot has its advantages. Firstly, the air is beautifully crisp and clean. This is possibly one of the most western points of Europe and there's very little between us and the next landfall, the USA. I once heard that there are air currents that sweep all the pollution out into the Atlantic. This results in us having some of the least polluted air in Europe. The Isle of Wight, apparently, comes a close second. Having the opportunity to experience the air whilst sitting in the car with the window down I can well imagine this is true.

     The second advantage is that I had the breathing space to take a really good look around at the scenery. This is not the kind of road you'd normally choose to do that. It's one of those distant relations of a scenic route where you'd speed along on your way somewhere else. The scenery, amazing as it is, is destined solely to be enjoyed literally in passing.

     As I resolved to enjoy the situation rather than gnaw at the steering wheel and curse I really started to take in my surroundings. A short while back down the road I found there was a large field I'd passed. With my new vantage point I was able to see more of the field. To have done this whilst driving would have been positively suicidal. I saw a large tower in the field.

     In my rush to get from Bantry to Skibbereen I'd missed this tower. It's built in such a remote spot and has awe inspiring views of the sea and coastline. Suddenly I could imagine what it must once have been like to live in a place like this.

A Beautiful Life

     I particularly liked the fact that this tower was so solid in its construction. The weather in this part of the world can be extremely fierce. I've been on a course in Dublin and returned to find a large trampoline (the previous tenants' addition to my otherwise tasteful garden) tossed on its side and rammed unceremoniously through the garden fence by the raging wind. On that occasion they were recorded at 130 kph. This tower faces no such worries of being uprooted from its foundations. It is immovable in any storm.

     The 16th Century mystic, St Teresa d'Avila likened our inner spiritual state to just such a tower. She referred to it as our inner castle. We have to enter it and furnish it with the spiritual matters that are important to us. It's also a place where we can sit in a chair by the fire and confront the darker aspects of our lives. Any scenario can be played out within its walls and though the effect on our internal life will be immense, it's a safe place on which the rigours of the external world have no bearing.

     This is really important. How can we cope with what happens in the world at large if we don't have a firm foundation of calm peace within us? It's achieved with all sorts of imagery and visualization. That differs between cultures and religions but the more I research this subject the more apparent it becomes that every culture and religion has its own version of the inner castle.

What's Love Got to Do with It

    If you lived in this tower and had this view every morning wouldn't you love that state? I know I would. I've had some amazing experiences standing on barren cliff tops and staring out at the raging sea in a storm. For me the weather is not that important. If you had the sheltered protection of this tower you'd probably feel the same. If you furnished your inner castle with a raging fire and the furnishings that created peace then it would be an even better platform to observe the passing storms.

     We spend so much time worrying about the storms that we forget to spend an equal amount of time tending to our inner castle. The tower itself is like the foundation of love and respect you have to show yourself. It becomes the basis of protection whilst you confront your demons. I've been dabbling with this stuff since my early twenties. It's only recently that I've started to see real change in my life. It's only recently that I've been making concerted efforts to build that tower. Although I notice the change in the way I feel, the most surprising thing is the comment I often receive from friends that something is just "different" about me.

     I think the difference is that I've started to pay more attention to what's happening inside me. This doesn't mean I ignore world events or deny the terrible things happening. But it does mean that I try not to worry so much about how they'll affect me. I try not to dwell on the 'what if' scenarios.

Set in Stone

     At the moment that I was stuck in my car there was nowhere else to be. I couldn't go backwards, there were too many cars behind me. I couldn't go forwards because there was about 20 tons of metal preventing me from doing that. I was simply stuck in the moment. There was nothing wrong with that. In fact, it became one of the highlights of my day. We never really have anything other than the moment, in any case. Now, when I meditate, that image of the tower overlooking the bay from the Beara Peninsula has become one of the strongest images I can use to invoke a state of inner calm. What I really want is for my inner peace to be as undisturbed and immovable as that mighty tower.