THE ART OF INTUITION
How would you describe or define the work that you do?
It's very difficult to put a word or label to what I do. I wouldn’t have had a word for it before my work sought me, and I don’t really have a label for it now. But what I've come to understand is that apart from anything else —and there is a lot else that happens— I am able to act as a kind of touchstone for my clients.
That’s to say, coming into contact with me helps others to become more grounded, to find their own center within themselves, and to be ...it’s a rather clumsy expression, but I think it's one that fits—to become the best that they can.
And can you speak a little about how your work began?
The process that led me to this work occurred or came to fruition after I was 35, in the second half of my thirties really. Prior to this process, you could say my life appeared to be rather ideal—I was a current affairs television reporter for the BBC, I’d written and published a book about refugees in the UK, I'd been married and had two lovely children... in short, I had a very successful life. Yet if I look back, I would say that ever since I was a child, I always had a sense of not fitting in... of being different.
At times this sense gave me great pain, and of course all that accelerated in my teens, and was pretty relentless throughout my twenties. I also found that I didn’t want anything—which is a curious kind of statement. When people asked me what I wanted to do or what I wanted to have, I didn’t seem to possess any desires. This state of being without desire is very odd, or was most certainly perceived as odd in the kind of world that I lived in, and perhaps many of us live in today. But that doesn't mean to say I didn't appreciate a great deal about my life.
At the same time my aesthetic sense, for example, had always been very strong. At times I found the sound of silence to be unbearably beautiful, and when I looked up at the sky above me, I could feel a profound sense of ecstasy.
I remember a great many of those kinds of sensations, and at the same time I always had this feeling of knowing that I was different. Perhaps in retrospect, I would characterize it as saying that I didn’t feel as if I belonged. Curiously, I also felt immensely driven, but for what? Towards what? I had absolutely no idea.
Now this feeling, or set of feelings intensified greatly during my thirties. Until finally I had a strong sense that I absolutely had to step outside of everything I was doing, and try and find out the cause of this inner pressure I was experiencing that by then was driving me quite crazy.
So I decided to take a sabbatical from my work and look for something relaxing to do, something that might help unwind me while I searched for answers... I liked to paint, and joined a painting class with a very proficient painter. I began to exercise diligently, and took up the yoga I had been rather playing with in a dilettantish way for years.
Yet I found that none of these activities made much difference to what was going on inside me... This was when the breakthrough actually occurred. It was a process that quite literally broke me into another reality ...and I’m hesitating and stumbling for words now... because I recognize that when I begin to articulate the process, I make it sound as if it was something that was external to myself, something other that entered into my world. But I don’t believe that was the case; I would say it was in fact a deeper, or higher part of myself that began to emerge at that time, and pushed open the boundaries of my reality.
The events of this emergence occurred over the course of several years; it's a long story, and I’m not going to take the time to tell it all to you now... but if you want to know more about it, I kept a diary of the process which eventually became a book titled: The Pool of Memory, an Autobiography of an Unwilling Intuitive.
It sounds like there was a relation between this constant sense of not belonging, of perhaps not feeling able to fully be as you are, and the disconnect you had previously felt with this deeper part of yourself that was beginning to emerge at this time...
Yes, and the first time I really got a clue about what was unfolding was actually in the painting class that I was taking...
It was during this class that I first began to see what I call energy. My instructor asked the class to paint a model who was sitting for us, using only two colors of our choice. I chose blue and yellow and began to paint, concentrating very hard, especially as I am not trained in life drawing.
During this process, I stood back and suddenly noticed I had painted a small red patch at the model's elbow. I had done this without thinking, automatically painting what I saw. My teacher was intrigued, noting that the red patch took the attention away from the proportions of the arm, which weren't correct as I had drawn them...
I couldn't explain why I had painted the red patch, except that I could actually see it, and had the simultaneous insight that this meant the model was experiencing pain at his elbow. I was utterly taken aback by this realization.
I then found that when looking at the model, I could see other colors as well, and later, lines and shapes between people, and inside people. And again, somehow I understood that all of these lines or shapes or colors had a meaning, and even more, that I thought I knew what they meant.
I didn't confuse my thinking I knew what they meant with actually knowing what they meant, as my rational mind held a strong grip on the situation. This experience was of course terribly frightening, and suggested to me nothing more or less than that perhaps I was suffering a breakdown.
It was around this time that an alternative practitioner who had cured a minor physical complaint I suffered from suggested meditation, saying ‘you should try it, it will be easy for you.’
I was actually affronted by her suggestion, as I had no interest in meditation, and indeed very little idea of what it was, except for the notion that it involved sitting around thinking about nothing. Thinking about nothing wasn’t very appealing to me. I’d always had a very active mind and enormous curiosity, and couldn’t quite see how this was going to work.
But anyway, desperate to be rid of my inner pressure, I decided to try, and so almost on autopilot one night I sat down and positioned myself in a particular way. I did so unconsciously, not for any specific reason —yet later I understood there was indeed a reason— and closed my eyes, preparing to be very bored.
Instead, something extraordinary happened. Through this process, I discovered and entered into what seemed to be another world—a world that appeared to have actual locations, and continuity. In it there were —I hesitate to use the word— beings, and a story of sorts running. Even more extraordinarily, it appeared that I was expected, and indeed even berated for being so slow in showing up. It was utterly compelling. Very soon I was meditating at least twice a day, for as long as I could carve the time from my schedule.
Through all of this I was able to take the very important step of suspending disbelief, so that I allowed what was happening to simply happen. Yet being a well trained reporter, with a highly rational and active mind, I also desperately wanted to understand what was going on. Had anybody else had experiences like this? Did they occur anywhere in literature?
Of course as I mentioned before, I was considering whether I was having some kind of breakdown, and now I went to have myself checked out. In fact, the well qualified psychotherapist I chose to meet with turned out to be a Buddhist —I had taken her name from a Buddhist center that I had briefly researched, and unsurprisingly she was a Buddhist— but by chance, she also turned out to be someone I had known at university many years ago.
She listened to the process I described to her from my meditations, and asked what seemed to be knowing questions. She clearly knew a great deal about the subject, and wanted precise details about what was coming up in my meditation.
I said something like 'look, it's huge, there are numerous characters, there are complicated stories... and today there was a particularly odd character.' She asked me to describe this character, and I said 'well, many arms...' and she said yes how many arms, and I told her, and what color, and I told her, and exactly what happened, and I described the sequence.
At this point she looked pretty serious, and I thought yes I know what's coming, she's going to say to me 'terribly sorry, but you really are having a breakdown.'
Instead she shook her head and said 'no, what's happening to you is extraordinary—it's very precious, and very rare; the sequence you've just described to me, it's a sequence that in my Buddhist community is only taught to our very senior students, which is astonishing because you know nothing about Buddhism.'
I was very relieved that she pronounced me mentally sound. However, I didn’t engage with the rest of her pronouncement, it seemed unlikely to me. Also, I was sure I did not want the involvement with the Buddhist community that she urged.
Some time later, the same therapist phoned me saying that she would like to see me as a client. She explained 'I know you may think that you don't have anything to offer anyone, but I believe what's happening to you is very special, and that you'll be able to help me answer a few questions I am struggling with at the moment.'
I thought this was absolute nonsense, that she was now really pulling my leg. But she insisted, so I asked if I could think about it and call her back in a few days. That night when I entered my meditation, which was now often full of specific instructions, or what I thought might be called teachings —though I had no idea of their reality status— I was given very clear guidance of how I was to be of help to her. Reluctantly, I phoned her back and agreed to meet, 'for tea,' I stipulated.
That afternoon marked the beginning of what became my work. The full description of what happened is in my book The Pool of Memory. Suffice to say, to my utter amazement, when I opened my mouth intending to say that I had very little to share, and no idea if it was relevant... other words began to pour out of me. I seemed to know exactly what to say, though I did not really understand what I was saying, and how to answer questions about a situation that I had no knowledge of.
Equally astonishingly, my words seemed to make perfect sense to her, and to answer the problems she was wrestling with.
I now know that some people describe this experience of speaking words one has no prior knowledge of and does not necessarily understand as 'channelling'. But I see it as the ability to connect with a much wider, deeper sphere of reality, and being able speak from that place, simply letting the words that come to flow. My therapist friend —she was a friend by them— again said that I had a great gift, and that I must start seeing others as clients.
I was very hesitant to do so. I had no understanding of my gift —if that is what it was— no certainty that the afternoon's events would be repeated, and no belief that what I said was true, or even necessarily relevant.
I was very suspicious of it all, though personally utterly committed to my own journey. I also suspected that making myself available in this way could draw others to me who were emotionally unstable, and that I had no training, or desire, to deal with people in those circumstances.
Finally, I agreed to a compromise. She could refer people to me who had a background in the psychological professions, so they were qualified and agreed to take responsibility for their own well being. But quickly I had what became a very large clientele from many walks of life, to whom I offered help of all sorts, and very soon my diary was absolutely full.
Over the years, I saw as many people as I could find the time and energy to see. Initially the internal voice, which became clearer and clearer, instructed me on what to do. But later the way I worked with others and the process changed. It took me a long time to understand, or to come to an understanding of what had happened to me, and what it was, or is, that I actually do.
When I say a long time, I mean many years. At different points throughout the years, I have conceptualized what happened to me, or what I did, in slightly different ways. I should also add that it saved my own life, literally. But that is all in The Pool of Memory.
That was the journey, or the conscious beginning of the journey that pulled me into this work. And it's gone on ever since —for more than 25 years now— and I’m sure it will be with me for the rest of my life.
Alignment & Creativity
That moment you were just describing —when a deeper part of yourself came forward to speak— sounds very similar to how artists describe the process of creativity, in the sense that something flows through oneself that has emerged from a deeper and less conscious place within us. Have you ever worked with artists in this type of context?
Yes, I've been lucky enough to do a great deal of work with artists of all different sorts, and would agree with you that the ability to open oneself to a deeper, wider reality and allow what was in this case the words that came, to come, is akin to the creative impulse. I’ve explored this state a great deal, and have discovered there are different aspects to it, but most significantly my work involves helping others to reach the core of this place, be they creative artists, entrepreneurs, professionals, or people from other walks of life.
In this place one is open to ever-deeper, truer aspects of oneself, and able to reach out to connect with a wider, multi-dimensional reality. It is the place that feeds creativity, intuition, relationships, and much more. But to get there, to the true deep place, we must first reach a state of what I call alignment—the condition in which you are energetically integrated or at one with yourself. It is only when you are aligned that you have a chance of reaching real authenticity, and all the rest.
Looking at this energetically —because I see and work with energy— in its simplest terms energetic alignment is when the energy that forms our backbone or spine is correctly located at the mid point of the back, running freely from top to bottom, and when the energy that flows within the rest of our bodies is balanced. This state corresponds with (or enables) authenticity, intuition, integrity, and creativity, as well as potentially giving access to our deepest domains. Of course there are other energetic factors to consider, and other states that produce a variety of creative work, but this is the true 'place' to aim for, and it is enormously powerful and freeing.
And how does being in this state then translate to the artistic process?
Most artists who come to me are looking to be more true to themselves, both in their lives and in the expression of their art. Often in their creative process they have become entangled in both inner and outer debates about form, or the demands of a following, or the pressures of contemporary society, or wishing to honor a tradition of the past, or pursuing 'success'. As a result they are in some state of confusion, because they know they want to express themselves, but are somehow dissatisfied with what they produce.
Usually when I look into these artists bodies, it’s very clear how their energy is distorted. My task then is to align their energy, and help to guide them back into their true selves, so that they can come directly from the place or energy that is truly them—their greatest selves, and the reflection of their connection to a greater reality. The work we do together frees the creative process to flow smoothly, allowing the artist to express themselves in a more natural and authentic way —a more profound way— whether through painting, or music, or dance, or any other medium.
You mentioned how some cultural and social aspects can disrupt or distort one's authentic relationship to oneself, contributing to a state of misalignment. Can you say more about these types of influences that artists face today?
We are in transit culturally, and transit is the mildest word that I could use—our world is basically in chaos, with wildly conflicting values and allegiances at play. For those of us attempting to find our way and contribute positively to the world today, as well as fulfilling ourselves, whether by raising a family or creating works of art—the most important thing is to be true to ourselves, and equally to be true to the core of our humanness.
In every endeavor the state of our world plays its part. So for artists today, as a result of facing these wildly conflicting values and allegiances, a great deal of the artistic endeavor has become tied up in form—it's about breaking new boundaries and finding new forms, or meeting academic or peer group standards. Essentially this often means it is about style, rather than content.
Yet for me, within all art it's the content that endures. The purpose of form is to facilitate or contribute to content. Content is something very, very special, and the energetic state of the artist inevitably affects the content of their art. The most complete and truest content is created when the artist is aligned, and able to offer themselves, entirely, truly, openly, to the endeavor.
Of course in creative endeavors like architecture or landscape gardening for example, form has a slightly different role because it is form itself that has to transmit. The shape of the building is the content. The harmony of the construction is the essence of the endeavor, but that’s more to talk about another time.
Art that is created from the state of alignment touches what it is to be human, and produces a special resonance between the creator's connection with humanity and themselves, and the audience as a whole. Of course different energetic states from despair to ecstasy produce different artistic material—but again that's a subject for another day.
In short I think works of art carry the energy of the creator, and the more aligned the creator, the more powerful and satisfying the work. Therefore, when an artist lets go of egotistical constraints and the conflicting values of culture, is energetically aligned (which is crucial), and is in a place where boundaries are open, he or she can fully transmit him or herself into a work of art, and be led by this process.
The same is true in all walks of life. For me to be able to be truly helpful to others, I need to be absolutely aligned, completely open, and without boundaries. (Psychologically, the statement about being without boundaries in my work leads to other important considerations that I have had to learn to deal with.) In this state I am able to receive the impression and the imprint of the other, and offer myself to them. And that offering is a vibrational or energetic offering. Does that make sense?
For an artist in the present time it’s terribly easy to be influenced —as it has always been— by cultural factors, which today seem particularly destructive... money is another big driver, and indeed some very successful artists are not contributing to the evolution of humankind at all, but are simply catering to their own success, or to a fashion, or something other, but not to the evolution and well being of the human race. This has always been the case. It is interesting to consider how many artists recognized as great today were not recognized in their own time, and were not conforming to cultural norms.
You have mentioned the issues of placing form before content as an artist—how would you describe a constructive approach to form?
It goes without saying that application is necessary in all walks of life, and very few individuals become masters of their craft, art, pursuit or profession without serious application and often study. But for artists the ability to utilize and transcend the knowledge of form gained by that serious application and study to create truly great art, art that will endure over the years —not just the next ten years, but perhaps the next ten centuries, and contribute to the positive evolution of humanity— I believe will only come from being able to access this deeper core within oneself, and through this core a greater reality.
Walking the Path
I would say that much of the art created today is in fact very poorly aligned, or very weak on that level of resonance. I feel this is due to precisely the issues you are describing, which is why it's very important for artists to become more aware of these issues, and recognize the profound importance this type of transformative work can have for their art, as well as for the greater culture in general.
I believe that an understanding, but even more an application, of the energetics of personal development is absolutely vital for everyone. But what I also appreciate is how difficult it is to make this developmental journey. It's not hard to find books or pundits who will tell you all about energetic processes or whatever else, but simply consuming that information is absolutely not the same as following the journey and truly transforming oneself. For that, there needs to be something else, usually a guide. And that is precisely why those who work with me do so.
I always say to my clients, talking the talk is irrelevant, you have to walk the talk, and it's precious to find the help that will enable you to walk the talk. People find that help in all sorts of ways, some of which can be very unexpected. On rare occasions some individuals even need to make the journey on their own, stage by stage, and their teachers are what they see in the world around them.
And in a sense your own path has been a very unique example of this kind of unexpected help, being that it emerged from the very depths of your own self...
Yes, I don't know why my teachers came from within in the form they did, but I am immensely grateful that they did. As I mentioned, they literally saved my life. And I also know that the world around me constantly teaches me a great deal too. It has not been an easy way, though it has brought many great rewards...
For the past 25 years, my time has been dedicated to understanding the process that initiated with the unfolding we talked about, and offering the benefits that I gained —my own journey— to others.
Over the course of this time I have mapped out this process and uncovered a clear path through it, and teach this path to anyone who feels drawn to making the journey with me.
At the same time, as an artist, if one does decide to enter this work, it's very important to stay grounded, and engage directly with life, and not to deny it. That can raise question about how to be in life in a world that seems to be so discordant, so at odds with the reality that one is holding within oneself?
I think it’s the same process for anyone who is truly on the path. Sometimes it can require considerable time in a space where you can be protected, or you protect yourself, as necessary; even occasionally in isolation for a short period, so you are able to follow the inspiration that inhabits within.
Yes, and there's tremendous pressure to not take the time to make that connection with oneself—whether it is social, technological, financial, academic, etc... but I believe more and more people today are desiring this deeper connection, and we at The Autumn Salon are very much trying to give a voice and a forum to artists who are committed to following this path of greater personal and cultural authenticity.
That’s why I support what you are doing wholeheartedly. I think the work of The Autumn Salon is important, from encouraging authenticity and integrity in creative work, to supporting energetic alignment and development, and finally the supreme importance of developing that deep personal, inner connection. There are increasing numbers of people who are hungry for this development in all walks of life, hungry to move onto... I have to call it a higher or a different consciousness.
This is the place where people are able to be creative in ways that they never thought they could be. I am honored and glad to be able to stand beside those who are following this path. I believe it's a necessity for everyone who is involved in serious aesthetic endeavors.
But I’d also say the same to anyone who is building a business, a relationship, a family, or making a garden or pursuing any other constructive path... in all areas authenticity, integrity and energetic development matter greatly. Which is why I believe the work that you are doing at The Autumn Salon, providing a space and forum for artists who are following this path, is so important. For my part, for the rest of my life, I will hold open this path to the deeper, more authentic reality that we so wish to live in, for the benefit of us all.