Tag Archives: visibility

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #14

With each drip, arriving to my forehead I accepted the invitation to go deeper into the generosity. It was a steady flow of herbal infused oils onto my brow, or where the ‘third eye’ is said to reside – considered by many to be the place of human consciousness. It wasn’t easy to relax and I found myself trying to breath in a way that would support the flow and release me from thoughts and whatever it was that was getting in the way of me accepting this gift. It took quite a while for me to relax into the experience and literally ‘go with the flow’. I had booked into this ayurvedic treatment after I had a strong vision of how I needed to learn how to receive first before I could embrace the financial gift bestowed upon me for the crowdfunding campaign to note my role in community as an “equity weaver”.

This therapeutic treatment is known as shirodhara, is renown for its ability to support, sooth and heal an agitated nervous system. I chose it to reflect what I had received, individual drops fused together in a bountiful golden flow. Before the flow started a vigorous head massage took place, and for some reason, more than once I thought about the song from South Pacific I’m gonna wash that man right out of my hair.  I did try to banish the thought and soak into the moving around of molecules inside and outside of my scalp. After this preparation took place, I moved to the other end of table, my feet now facing a new direction, offering another layer of meaning. How often have I had to pivot 180 degrees, to see a new perspective?

In this new position, and in stillness, eyes closed and with a person on either side of me the pouring began. It took me a long time to take it in, my breathing wouldn’t settle in with ease, and while I wasn’t fidgeting in my body, my mind was certainly fliting and flaying around. I turned to a mantra with the in breath to say thank and exhale to say you which I became very dissatisfied with quickly and reverted to Sat Nam which held and faded away.

All these tiny invisible moments of interiority, happening while oil is flowing onto my head in a visible and visceral way! There is plenty going on behind our eyes, in our hearts, in our guts all the time. Some of this comes out for the whole world to see on a stage in front of squillions of people, but for the rest, it is microworld soup of feelings, thoughts, impressions. And the soup is not for others to sip – it is our work to determine who gets to sip and savour, taste and see – and when we can be truly honest with ourselves, hold the mirror up to nature as Hamlet instructed.

This mirror we are all seeking to tell us what we see in ourselves may be closer than we think. I’ve found it on a wall, over dinner, in an email, at the end of zoom. Others notice and see what I may not – an invitation to consider a future leadership possibility, a welcome mat being put out to take up a role with trusted peers, a request to be the one to hold a particularly important relationship on behalf of a community, an AI message to ask what if we have the power to stop the mind running away with turbulences. 

The AI of the mirror at the Invisibility exhibition at MOD, delivered the poem below and I wondered what was in my eyes that the algorithm detected from my facial features – a call to stillness as a proven crime prevention strategy? What we need is weighed up with risks, which is all part of a grand design. Regardless of all that is going on, there is still wonder and not knowingness.  The gift of just receiving, not knowing the cost, not knowing the risks, not knowing the reasons … just receiving … or maybe it is a 180 degree turn around and is to receive justly with dignity and grace, the therapy of this prescription of Gratitude?

The glad tidings that a crime has been prevented, a thought has escaped us

Justice has been interrupted

But surely all this could have been prevented, if we had the power to stop the mind from running away with

Its turbulences.

Science which is based on sound principles,

Has asked us to believe in a supreme being,

Who has arranged all

This machinery for us and who knows the meaning of our risks

While he is concerned with our daily needs, he is not bothered

By our innermost desires, we are his

concern

today

Meanwhile the daily goings on of our human body

Are going on without us

We are no nearer to understanding these than a school boy

should

At MOD Photo credit: Dr Kristin Alford, Director MOD

2022: Visibility and Invisibility #2

Under a spiky juniper bush, between rocks and a little sand a tiny skin recently shed was discovered as I pottered in the garden, tidying up after an escapee hen who had taken the idea of free-range to the next level.  Probably the first time the creature, clearly a snake, had shed its skin and while not visible to me, I was fairly confident if something as small and slim as this moult, a larger adult version was likely to also be about. The residue left behind of something now invisible perhaps a warning, perhaps an invitation to caution, perhaps a crumb to a trail of more curiosity?  I collected the gossamer phantom remains and reserved them to show a younger member of the family, who when presented with this information wanted to know where its owner was likely to be living. That is an excellent question.

 When we leave something behind, we no longer need and shed the skin that we have grown out of where exactly are we now living? Moving to a new frontier to continue to transform away from public view is a kind of retreat many of us find useful as we disappear into our own landscape to test out new skin. The great resignation that seems to be a worldwide phenomenon is making visible what has been in many hearts, meaningless work, a lack of purpose and what David Graeber coined in 2018 “bullshit jobs” where he argued the existence of meaningless employment and the psychological destruction that inevitably follows. 

The veil has dropped for many and not just in employment, in relationships, in cultural institutions, bringing a more potent energy to the signs of climate justice, health justice, racial justice. The retreats being taken to ‘down tools’, go on sabbatical, take an early retirement, embrace a shorter week are showing up all around me and like the skin shed by the invisible snake in the rocks in my garden, something bigger is brewing and growing out of sight.  We shed our skin because it doesn’t fit any more, we have outgrown what has been holding us in, and in shedding the old, like a snake, the very act takes the parasites en route. The fragile, translucent quality of the experience means many will miss the transformation taking place, and then, what has been emerging invisibly becomes visible, sometimes to others, before you can see it yourself.

Shedding what is no longer alive in us, the dead cells cast away to enable new life to come forth, shiny, immature, now visible, is quite an overture. It doesn’t come as easily to me as it does to the snake who routinely has the process built into its biology. This process is both an act of dying and rebirth with the precious liminal space between these two movements. It happens when we are fully aware of a new role like parenthood, widowhood, new job, or loss of a job. It happens when we don’t notice our thoughts, feelings and experiences evolving, gaining depth, and meaning and we realise old friends no longer share the same values. It happens when we journey through a season in tact, but not quite the same as we were when the season started. It happens invisibly and becomes visible in an empty, turned outside sock, no longer able to contain what is emerging new and asking ourselves: Where are we living? What cells are alive in us, what ones are dead? What is longing to be shed?

2022: Visibility and Invisibility #1

Photo by Andrew Bui on Unsplash

2022 has begun and the theme for this year is invisibility and visibility. These are concepts which have pre-occupied me for years and they have taken on more potency in recent time. I will be exploring this theme and these concepts, like other years, in how they turn up in my everyday life.  I am struck about their relationship to one another and the idea that not all invisibility is inherently bad, not all visibility inherently good. There is also room for the dappled light when things may shift from invisibility to visibility and visa versa. In these spaces, often liminal spaces, where the potential for transformation happens, the place where we are in-between, and the emergent is finding its way to visibility, and navigation instruments are required to the new. We may look up to the skies for guidance and pathways, we may find the tools within ourselves, perhaps the universe, introduces us to a new set of steps in the dance, somehow, somewhere, we do find a way to the other side which has been patiently waiting for us to get there.

The visible world is the first shoreline of the invisible world.

John O’Donohue, In an interview with Krista Tippett, On Being

In my view, one of the biggest reasons we haven’t quite grasped what COVID19 is all about for our species is because of its invisibility. We can’t see the virus as so don’t recognise it like any other natural disaster. If it was a fire coming towards us, a rising tide at our doorstep or a devasting wind blowing topsoil or roofs into the sky, we might understand it better. It is also one of the reasons in my view why climate change has taken so long to hit home, we are like frogs in the warm water as it gets hotter ending up boiling rather than jumping out early while we had a chance.

Getting a spiritual grasp on invisibility and the sacred space it occupies in our transcendent life, will perhaps, become a bridge, and help us appreciate what we can’t see. We have plenty of experience of in the invisible coming to life, shape shifting and taking form in our emotions – love, fear, hate. Seeing ourselves as connected to one another, with the capacity to impact on each other’s worlds and outcomes has a lot to offer us as we find our way through understanding both visibility and invisibility.  We don’t have to see everything to have a way of knowing.  There is a difference between hidden and invisible too – hidden is when something has been removed out of sight, while invisible is that it can’t be seen. There is a lot of effort that has to go into hiding and it feels like something that must be orchestrated, while invisibility has dimensions not of this world, it is the form of the unknown.

I was witness to a wedding on New Year’s Day, joining virtually, I was struck by the way love in all its glorious invisibility was made visible. How it came into view through the words of witnesses, the look of the newly weds as they gazed into each other’s eyes, fumbled with rings, held steady as they declared their vows.  No longer invisible, love had come to town. This witness however was invisible choosing to follow via a You Tube live stream. I chose this method over others, to be like one of the cloud of witnesses invisible and watchful with love. The mysterious and mystical opportunities for invisibility are not wilful acts to avoid being seen or to run from transparency, but instead, are an intentional practice to find ways to mimic nature where what is unseen and seen invite us to a deeper resonance with creation. 

.. the beauty of the earth is a constant play of light and dark, visible and invisible.

John O’Donohue Beauty: The Invisible Embrace

How we too play with the light and dark, in our human condition calls us to imagine, and reimagine how we show up in the world, how we accept invitations to be visible and invisible and exploring those invitations with visibility and invisibility in mind, is full of delicious opportunities.