A collection of short aphorisms pointing to greater truths:

You are loved; and so are they (Douglas Wood)

Transcend and include (Ken Wilbur)

All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone (Blaise Pascal)

We may spend our whole life climbing the ladder of success, only to discover that when we get to the top our ladder is leaning against the wrong wall (Thomas Merton)

The five great human issues - love, death, god, suffering and infinity (plus sex probably) - cannot be grasped by the calculating mind; only approached through the contemplative mind (Richard Rohr)

It becomes more obvious ... as we grow older that figures of authority are usually troubled adolescents (Joseph Campbell)

Your life is not about you. You are about life.

In life, understanding is the booby prize (Werner Erhard)

The answer is never the answer (Bill Plotkin)

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? (Mary Oliver)

A mistake is only a mistake if you make it twice

During August 2013, I attended an inspirational retreat on Iona guided by Bill Plotkin and Geneen Marie Haugen entitled Coming Home to an Animate World - conversations with the sacred other. This was a magical and mystical process that awakened many voices and wove a thread between many facets and past experiences. Of particular significance was a poem by Anita Barrows entitled Questo Muro.  I was inspired to write this response to that poem, reflecting my own journey of inner discovery and animate communications:

You will come, at a turning of the trail,
to a wall of flame ...

One last memorial mountain to climb again
the Centre of this land
The hollowed clay atop the cairn
now broken open

Northwards lies the man
who promised lifelong care
to father and to mate

Eastwards is the boy
who dreamt the breasts of brotherhood
returning now
as elder in that ancestral clan

Look south to distant bay
where eros' edges meet as elements
and magic makes them whole

Yet still the pull is quickly down
You still beside me urging
Immanent as bird and butterfly
through brightly flowered meadows
festooned with mushroom balls
lead west to virgin shore

'Beloved knows my longing
Longing knows my love
Love lies in the Mystery
Mystery is my love

'Deeper still and deeper
as the ocean's swell
Love lies in the Mystery
Mystery is my love'

Curtain wall before me
threshold to the soul
Your light holds still beside me
I stare the flamed edge

Unbounded leap of YES
into Your deep unknown
The pyre behind me burns to ash
the mountains looking on

In recent weeks I have been re-entering some very familiar aspects of my own spiritual growth with the aid of some new tools. I first engaged with Gestalt therapy techniques in the 1980s; now I am seeking to adapt and add these techniques to my existing approaches to spiritual enquiry, using what has become known as 'Gestalt pastoral care'.

What has called for attention most clearly in this work has been my Anger. I have worked with feelings of anger on several previous occasions. I have explored those critical incidents where anger has either been suppressed or released in my life. I have looked deeply at the triggers for my feelings of anger. And I have sought to get in touch with the original childhood events that led to my patterns of anger response. All this is familiar ground - emotionally, therapeutically, and spiritually. I 'know', for example, that the three main triggers for my feelings of anger are:

  1. A childhood moment of perceived 'abandonment'
  2. My growing up experiences of sexual awakening, fear, and homophobia
  3. Particular moments of feeling strongly judged (disapproved of) by others in positions of perceived power.

Consciously applying some new Gestalt techniques to these feelings has made me aware of quite different aspects. I have known for many years that the root of much of my anger lies in early experiences of homophobic prejudice and judgement (even if I didn't have the language for this at the time). What I now see - as with a fresh shaft of clear light - is that these experiences have a far deeper root. My anger also carries a historic and generational energy. At the soul level, I am carrying a memory of historic prejudice against men-loving-men that is encoded within my experience. This is akin to Soul DNA: it is not just my own personal experience that is surfacing in my consciousness, but the similar experiences of many generations of men who have gone before.

As soon as I 'saw' this, it felt immediately true. This is not just my hurt that is fuelling my anger, but that of past generations of groups and individuals. My commitment to reclaiming the long history of gay men's spirituality makes complete sense when viewed in this light. Through faith imagination, in prayer, in visualisation, and in spiritual connection, this historic dimension is very much present now. It shows up in many forms in my spiritual practice:
  • Recurring visualisations of 'conclaves' of gay men, across generations, offering affirmation and support
  • The channelled writings of an ancient (mythical?) gay men's community known as Thelki in the writings of Andrew Ramer
  • The appeal of the ancient legends from Greece and Rome
  • The appeal of the shamanic and tribal traditions of sacred male teachers / healers / priests
  • The calling of the gay poets and mystics
  • The subtle awareness of unfulfilled gay men in my own family's history - the 'black sheep' of the family, the marginalised members, and others.

I look again at my own forward commitments, to the work of Stonewall and the Peter Tatchell Foundation for gay equality, and the work of various non-profit organisations to establish tangible gay communities and co-living enterprises. These all contribute to the same process of awakening, change and healing.

With these new insights, two avenues open. The first is to embrace this awareness of the historic and generational experiences and to use it as a nourishing pool from which to draw strength and commitment to engage in this work in the future. The second is to consciously create pastoral ministry to offer generational healing for all the historic hurt that has occurred.

I have been strongly reminded of an 'anger incident' that happened to me in 2010. During the Men's Rites of Passage that year I was engaged in a big process of grief and release. By nature, I am usually relatively quiet, but in this particular ritual I found myself releasing great shouts of exploding anger about my earliest experiences of homophobia; these had led me to suppress many of my natural instincts at the time. A day or so later, another participant on the Rites came up to me and offered an amazing apology: "Throughout my career I was one of those people whose attitude was judgemental and prejudicial to people like you. Although I never met you before, I can now see the impact of my behaviour. I want to apologise - to you, and to all the other men that I treated like this, for what I did. What you have said has opened my eyes."

So it feels right that this is the time to create a ritual for the healing of historic and generational homophobia. I have been constructing a shrine-altar of appropriate symbols. Around this focus, there will be prayer, meditation and visualisation for healing. This ages-old hurt can be released. The anger which I have been holding for several decades is already shifting and 'feeling' different; this is the power of Grace to transform and heal.

The engagement is announced between Sittichai Pumpo (Aod) of Bangkok and Tim Pickles of Keswick.

As I write this issue of the periodic newsletter about my practical ministry and spiritual reflections, there is a Buddhist monk chanting a blessing beside the 'spirit house', below the balcony of the apartment in Bangkok where I have been living since November. It's a calming sound amidst this bustling city of noise. Since my professional and career retirement last July, there has been a wonderful space for simple, non-egoic, 'being' - an extended period of contemplation, self-enquiry, and patient waiting to see what opens up in this new void. These notes give you a flavour of events and directions in 2013.

Sharing presence in SE Asia and the UK ...

As well as continuing to serve from my home in Cumbria, and throughout the UK, I am now able to spend several months each year in Asia, with a base in Thailand. It's an interesting contrast - one that combines my desire for quiet mystic contemplation with the third-way practices of eastern Buddhism and Taoism. In the UK, I am a registered member of the Interfaith Ministers Association in the UK. Here in Asia, I have become a founder member of the Association of Interfaith Ministers in the Australasia region. Both professional bodies provide local directories, and assure the highest standards amongst their practicing members.

... and an expanding global practice

Travel and a shared location has not diminished the volume of enquiries. Whilst many people seeking mentoring, counselling or spiritual direction found travel to the Lake District somewhat less than convenient, the number of people opting for regular sessions by phone or Skype has steadily increased. Today, I am able to continue offering support to a range of men and women through effective internet technologies from this chair in Thailand. Meanwhile, requests for various ceremonies, including baby namings, funerals and relationship blessings come in from contacts in Britain, Ireland and Australia.

Interesting events

Two events this summer that are well worth looking at are:-

The Men's Rites of Passage 2013 which will again be held near Perth, from 24-28 July. This annual male initiation programme has now been completed by around 6,000 men around the world. It's a powerful experience that takes you into a liminal space beyond your familiar comfort zone to engage you in a process of transformation and entry into male adulthood and elderhood.

Shortly after, on 16-20 August, the renowned author of 'Soulcraft', Bill Plotkin, co-leads an event on Iona entitled Conversations with the Sacred Other, offering greater depth and encounter with the sacred amidst nature on an island of the 'thin veils'

Recent writings

This extended period of contemplation has given me plenty of opportunity for more reflective writing. There are several recent articles published to the website including:

  • Journalling the Inner Life - an exploration of the value of writing a personal journey of the inward spiritual journey
  • Desert Contemplation - a photo-essay seeking to capture the essence of desert mysticism
  • Ego and Age - reflecting on how my own self-ego and need for control has diminished with age, retirement and greater self-awareness
  • Re-thinking Sustainability - a critical analysis of how our consumerist, capitalist, abusive and exploitative life-style cannot continue to support human life on this planet.

I hope you found something of interest here; and if you have any questions, or if I can accompany on your spiritual path, please do get in touch.

In peace, Tim