December 2011 Archives



When he came home to die

You shed no tears

Knowing in your heart

The future that was yours.

You had watched him turn pale

 Fever dew descend

Surrey sanitorium swallow him.


You'd met at seventeen,

Romance undimmed by

Rationing, buzz bombs

And air raid sirens,

Shared a first kiss

 At Willsden Junction station

Two days after Christmas

Nineteen forty-two.


Your sparkling eyes

Gave him a reason to live

La Belle Dame Sans Merci

Fled from your ebullience.

Condemned as a callow youth

He spent a rich, full lifetime

By your side.


Greetings, dear ones! I send blessings to you from a wet and unseasonably mild Wales, where a few flowers are still blooming. It's a grey, rather than a white Christmas and winds make moan, but not frosty ones.

As we move toward the much-heralded 2012, I see a time of immense hope amid despair. And certainly this year has brought much cause for despair, from the ongoing catastrophe at Fukushima to the famine in the horn of Africa to the ineffectual response of world leaders at the climate summit in Durban. No longer a future prediction, climate change is upon us, as inhabitants of Pakistan, Britain, Australia, Africa, Thailand and the Southern United States can attest. At the same time, hope has come to us from the youth of the world. When twenty six year old Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, he lit a flame that set the world ablaze. Syrian-American poet Mohja Kahf wrote,

We were living in the dark;

Bouazizi said enough

half-existing, and stood up--

not for Tunis or the nation

or me, or Liberation--

for himself, his human self.

In despair of a life

worthy of a human being,

Bouazizi lit a spark,

and he had some kerosene

and the spark lit a spark

and he set us all on fire.

The fire Bouazizi lit has been blazing ever since, lighting hope in many hearts. Hope arose as Tunisia deposed her dictator, Ben Ali. Hope burned still more brightly as the call to dawn prayer rose over Tahrir Square on 12th February, the first dawn after Hosni Mubarak's resignation. Hope shone in the hearts of the people of Libya, leading them too, to rise up against a dictator.

Yet hope comes to us not only from those who have been victorious, but also from those who have not yet seen the fruits of their efforts. I find immense hope in the ten months of peaceful protests in Syria. Although we are rightly outraged and horrified at the manner of their death, we cannot but be inspired by the innocent bravery of thirteen year old martyr Hamza al-Khateeb and the courage of fifteen year old Thamer al Sahri, who refused under torture to say, 'There is no god but Bashir.' To quote Mohja Kahf again, this time her unfinished poem 'My people are rising,'

My people are rising my people are rising,

with olive branches and song, they are waking;

the earth underneath their marching is shaking;

my people are rising! They are not crouched;

they are not stooping; they are not hungry for bread alone;

we don't want your bread they say, we are hungry for more.

I find hope and inspiration in thirty two year old Yemeni journalist and human rights activist activist Tawakkul Karman, who won the Nobel Peace prize for her role as 'mother of the Yemeni Revolution.' And I have gained an improbable and truly inspiring bond with a young mother in Bahrain, Zainab al Khawaja, who tweets under the name Angry Arabia. Her commitment to Gandhi's teachings on satyagraha--soul force and non-violent resistance--led her to spend five days in jail recently. Her human rights activist father, and her husband too, have been tortured in Bahraini jails for months.

Hope blazed for us in the Arab world, but like a forest fire, hope is no respecter of national boundaries. Soon tent cities were springing up across Israel, as protesters demanded social justice and a solution to the housing crisis that did not involve building settlements. In tents in Jaffa, Jews and Arabs sat together discussing their problems and sharing ideas. Meanwhile, Los Indignados in Spain laid the foundation for a global movement. And like an Olympic torch held aloft by social media and people power, hope jumped across the Atlantic.

From its beginning on 17th September, Occupy Wall Street soon spread across the US and to eighty-two countries across the world. Occupy Boulder, the last encampment left in Colorado after police action closed Occupy Denver, persists despite snow and severe cold. The youth are rising, and with them, hope for the world. Finally, hope caught fire even in Russia, with unprecedented mass protests against the rigged election.

On 15th December, imprisoned civil rights activist Mumia abu Jamal, sent a message to Occupy Wall Street.

You are the central movement of the hour. You're raising questions that are in the hearts of millions. Your motto, "We are the 99%," has been heard, heeded, and responded to by millions. You can be certain that the 1% have heard you clearest of all.

Your work, however, is just beginning. You must deepen, strengthen, and further your work until it truly reaches the 99%, almost all of us: workers, black folk, Latinos and Latinas, LGBTs, immigrants, Asians, artists, all of us, for we are integral parts of the 99%.

At this solstice season of giving gifts, the finest gift we could ever receive comes to us from the youth of the world. It is an expensive gift; one bought not with money or credit cards but with blood, with lives, with mothers' tears. And it is a gift we can repay only in kind, with our own commitment to the universal human values of dignity, freedom, and social justice.

I wish for each and every one of you a year of renewed hope, deep inspiration and lasting happiness.

With my love and blessings always,

Alakananda Ma

English: Rally for social justice, Beersheba, ...

Image via Wikipedia

Enhanced by Zemanta

Winter Solstice in Wales

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

For those of us who aren't Welsh: Ivy is the embodiment of underworld goddess Rhiannon, Alban Arthan is the winter solstice, Beli Mawr is the sun, Dewi Sant is Saint David, Llelwellyn the Last is the last king of Wales, Cymru is Wales, Edward of England hated Celts and conquered Wales, Pantycelyn was the greatest Welsh Methodist hymn writer and author of Arglwydd, arwain trwy'r anialwch (guide me o thou great redeemer, pilgrim through this barren land).



Winter Solstice in Wales


The ivy hangs green on the oak

This dark December day

Of leafless trees and dripping berries

She the goddess Rhiannon

Slayer of the mighty

Glossy tendrils drawing us

To her dark underworld.


The ivy hangs green on the oak

As she did when druids woke to Alban Arthan

And upon stone circle

Beli Mawr, the sun god, birthed anew.


The ivy hangs green on the oak

As she did when Romans mined the gold and tin

As she hung when the ground rose 'neath Dewi Sant

And white dove settled on his blessed shoulder.


The ivy hangs green on the oak

As she did when the trees were in turmoil

At the death of Llelwellyn the Last

Head severed from his body.


The ivy hangs green on the oak

As she did when Edward's army

Stormed across the Marches

And Cymru fell to England.


The ivy hangs green on the oak

As she did when Pantycelyn sang

'Guide me O Thou great Redeemer'

 And Rhiannon lay hidden

Under barren coalfields.


The ivy hangs green on the oak

As she did when villages emptied

And Welsh hymns rang

Through Colorado coal mines.


The ivy hangs green on the oak

As she did when Wilfred Owen

Found the pity war distills

In horror of the trenches.


The ivy hangs green on the oak

As she did when blackout paper

Covered lighted windows

And bombs rained down on Cardiff.


The ivy hangs green on the oak

Today, when the seasons falter

Faery folk forgotten

Sellafield plutonium

 Poisoning Irish Sea

 Nuclear warheads ready

For ultimate destruction.

From Rhiannon's dark womb

What rebirth awaits us?




Enhanced by Zemanta

Reflections on Turning Sixty

| 1 Comment | No TrackBacks

Reflections on Turning Sixty

Nanny, my father, me, Granny and my mother.jpg

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: 

The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,  

Hath had elsewhere its setting,           

And cometh from afar.


Sixty years ago, I was born into a Postwar Britain of bombsites, rationing and austerity. Neighbours dropped by to borrow sugar and stayed for a 'cuppa' at the kitchen table. Toys and furniture were scarce, optimism abundant. My parents wanted a child who would bring peace to a war-torn world and tell the next Hitler where to go. Their innocent aspiration invoked a tiny freckle-faced Tara.


This intention to benefit all beings,

Which does not arise in others even for their own sake,

Is an extraordinary jewel of the mind,

And its birth an unprecedented wonder.


 When I was ten, the Cuban Missile crisis erupted. I didn't expect to see eleven. That October Sunday, we sat around the television, watching Russian ships approach Cuba, waiting for JFK to press the button. Mutual Assured Destruction. Slowly, the ships turned.  I saw a world reborn, a hope renewed.

Morning has broken,

Like the first morning

Blackbird has spoken,

Like the first bird.


At seventeen I read On the Beach, post Nuclear Holocaust novel, watched Children of Hiroshima, learnt about ICBMs. It seemed impossible that I would live to be twenty. I would be turned into a shadow, only that. Adult insanity ruled.


This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.


Today I celebrate sixty years in a world on the brink. Sixty years of adult insanity. Nuclear weapons, My Lai massacre, Chernobyl, TMI, Fukushima, global warming, Age of Stupid, species extinctions, African famines, gulf oil spill, Twin Towers, Afghanistan, Iraq--war and still more war. Sixty years, waiting to be turned into a shadow. Sixty years, yearning for peace. And still my spirit is strong.


Drinking a cup of green tea

I stop the war.


 I have seen that all faith traditions are true and good and all religions tainted with misogyny and fear of fleshly lusts. Fear drives adult insanity. Fear turns us into shadows, with or without a nuclear holocaust. I have seen that life can be rich and full, even on the brink. I have seen that joy abides in all, beneath the horror, beneath the pain, beneath the fear, for joy is our true nature.


From joy all beings come

By joy they live

And unto joy they all return.



I have learnt that simplicity, contentment and humble pleasure are revolutionary acts capable of transforming the world. And I have seen that Eros, a much-maligned god, deserves a place of honour in my pantheon.  He gives much more than sexual ecstasy. He imbues my life with all-embracing love and transcendent passion, colouring everyday things with his radiance. Eros will never allow me to be turned into a shadow.

To see a World in a Grain of Sand 
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, 
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand  
And Eternity in an hour.

As a teenager I made friends with Roman pagan poet Horace, translating his poetry and even visiting his house in the Aniene valley. Horace has walked with me ever since, tapping me on the shoulder when I sip a glass of water--how good it tastes!--or wander round the garden--see the flowers, feel the warmth of the sunlight, smell the fragrance, pluck today!


Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.

Don't trust tomorrow's bough for fruit

Pluck this, here, now!


For decades I have studied Vedanta, Hinnayana, Mahayana, Tantrayana, Kabbalah, Hasidut, Sufism, Taoism and the Desert fathers. The essential teachings of all mystic traditions are summed up in a hymn I learnt in St Mary's Infant School.


Little drops of water,
Little grains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean
And the pleasant land.


Little deeds of kindness,
Little words of love,
Make our earth a Heaven,
Like the one above


In sixty years, I have learnt that this world, with its pains, its wars, its catastrophes, this world on the brink, is the birthplace of compassion, the ground of tenderness. And I have come to know that the greatest treasure we can possess is the human heart, in all its love, in all its sorrow, in all its pathos, for the human heart is where time meets eternity.


The clouds that gather round the setting sun

  Do take a sober colouring from an eye 

 That hath kept watch o'er man's mortality;

  Another race hath been, and other palms are won. 

 Thanks to the human heart by which we live, 

 Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears, 

 To me the meanest flower that blows can give 

 Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.




 Related Posts:

Remembering St Mary's Infant School


Three Victorian classrooms

Glossy green paint over brick

Windows too high for little ones to see out

Fifty children in a class

 Reciting "Three twos are six"

Playing Mary's Little Lamb on triangles

Putting hands on head for quiet time.

In the playground

Pinches, Chinese burns, hairpulls

Handbell clanging

Time to get in lines....Shhhh!


And yet the day

Of the first April shower

Teacher brings us all outside.

We smell fresh earth

Gaze at sparkling raindrops

Sing a little hymn

To thank God for all this.

That eternal moment

Never-forgotten birth

Of nature mystic.




Powered by Movable Type 6.1.2

Follow alakanandama on Twitter

Twitter Updates

    Natural Health Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

    About this Archive

    This page is an archive of entries from December 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

    November 2011 is the previous archive.

    January 2012 is the next archive.

    Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.