That road less travelled

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The man who wrote ‘What is this life, if full of care, We have no time to stand and stare’ was a tramp for most of his.
And this was where the inspiration for his lyrical poetry about nature came from. He lived and moved and breathed nature, slept under the stars, lay in long grass, watched the seasons, observed the butterflies and flowers and birds.

And is it just coincidence that the man who wrote: ’Turn but a stone, and start a wing! ‘Tis ye, ‘tis your estranged faces that miss the many-splendoured thing’, was also a homeless street sleeper. One who lived beyond the fringes of the well-ordered world of habit and conformity.

Their words have been echoing round my mind in the last few days as I look at my life. Thoreau set me off with his magic words written during his time-out at Walden Pond:

‘There was a time when I could not sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of the head or hand. I love a broad margin to my life. Sometimes, in a summer morning having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a reverie, amidst the pines and hickories and sumacs in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sang around or flirted noiseless through the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window, or the noise of some traveller’s wagon on the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time.

‘I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance. I realized what the Orientals mean by contemplation and the forsaking of works.’

I think we all know these days that we need time for ourselves, but it seems to me that there is something deeper than that in the words and thoughts of these people who would probably have been called drop-outs today. At the end of his book ‘A New Earth’, Eckhart Tolle talks of such people, and says that in other ages they would have been called contemplatives, and he calls them the frequency- holders … ‘here to generate consciousness through the activities of daily life…. they endow the seemingly insignificant with profound meaning.’

He says the task of such people is to be absolutely present in whatever they do. ‘There is consciousness and therefore quality in what they do, even the simplest task…’, and Tolle goes on to say that since we are all connected, ‘they affect the world much more deeply than is visible on the surface of their lives’…

Depending on where we are on the spectrum of consciousness ourselves, depends on whether we accept this concept and deem these people valuable. For me, part of the significance of the outsiders and their lives on the far side of accepted modes of being, is that they had the courage to live their lives the way they wanted.
Most people, including me, struggle along doing what we think is expected of us. We accept and fulfil roles, which may range from our occupations – nurse, teacher, lawyer, sales rep, or our place in family and society – wife, husband, mother, brother, sister, daughter – or a persona we project – dutiful daughter, conscientious employee, playful friend, and try to fulfil the expectations of those around us.

Everyone else around us – fulfilling their roles too – expects that like them, we should do our duty, stick to our place in the scheme of things, and above all – not step out of line, rock the boat etc etc…
But to some, there comes a time, when the soul, or higher self or whatever you like to call it – but it is an inward voice – demands to be heard. Ibsen put it so well in ‘The Dolls House’ when he wrote the revolutionary lines:

HELMER: But this is disgraceful. Is this the way you neglect your most sacred duties?
NORA: What do you consider is my most sacred duty?
HELMER: Do I have to tell you that? Isn’t it your duty to your husband and children?
NORA:I have another duty, just as sacred.
HELMER: You can’t have. What duty do you mean?
NORA: My duty to myself.

By recognising her duty to herself and breaking out of her expected roles, Nora cracked open her life and the lives around her. She had found she couldn’t go on playing the part assigned to her by society, custom or duty. Her whole being demanded a greater authenticity from her, whatever it cost.

And it always does cost, because when a person takes this sort of step, it rattles the bars of the cages of those all round him or her. When Jesus said the truth will set you free, he didn’t add the other half, which is that the truth may also make you angry, but even more likely, the truth will probably make others angry too.

“Take what you want and pay for it,” goes the Spanish proverb, and resistance or hostility from others is often the cost of taking that leap into the unknown when a person listens to their inner promptings, and which if denied, makes them unhappy, frustrated, depressed, and feeling that their life is pointless and wasted.

Making a grab for freedom from the concepts of society can trigger many unforeseen consequences, but even in the dark night of the soul which is so often the lot of the person trying to become free and self-actualising, the one thing they can say is that however lonely or isolated they are, they are not a victim, for this is what they have chosen, whatever it costs.

“What price loyalty?” demanded one angry person, and the reply they received was: “I had to be loyal to myself.” As we all know this is a hard choice when all our conditioning is about putting others first…

Maybe Oriah Mountain Dreamer put it best when she wrote those telling lines in The Invitation:
‘I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.‘

Tough words, and like love only ‘for the strong’… but those who choose the fork in the road less travelled can console themselves with the knowledge that they are part of a growing band of brothers, who are all at this time in the world’s turbulent present trying to listen to their inner voice and act on it, whatever it costs. It may mean losing everything but it also means gaining the things that matter – like self-respect and authenticity – and maybe too, discovering those broad margins with that time to stand and stare, and savour those many- splendoured things.

Food for threadbare gourmets

Raw food isn’t really my thing, but I found this recipe for mushroom pate rather delicious. Chop twelve to fifteen baby mushrooms or two really big portobello mushrooms, and marinate them in two tablespoons of olive oil and the same of tamari soya sauce, for half an hour. Put half a cup of walnuts in a food processor and pulse until slightly broken down, and add the mushrooms and a clove of garlic. Pulse until the mixture is slightly chunky and add salt and black pepper to taste. It’s good on crackers with a glass of wine, or sherry…

Food for thought

Evolution takes place inside. It isn’t a matter of pilgrimages, observances, and obeying religious rules. No code of conduct can alter the fact that every mind is on a soul journey. Dipak Chopra

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45 Comments

Filed under consciousness, cookery/recipes, family

45 responses to “That road less travelled

  1. Angela

    Oh Valerie…….this is such a timely reminder to me….and you hit the spot so accurately!! The joy of knowing that there are other souls out there feeling the same ‘pulls’ & plodding the same paths is a great comfort…bless you for sharing such truths

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  2. Dear Angela, so good to read your comment, and to know that something I have written helps… yes, it is a comfort to know that we are not alone as’ we step along the way’, isn’t it, and I found it encouraging to know that you too feel the same…warm wishes, Valerie

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  3. What a wonderful post to read as I prepare myself for the day ahead. You describe beautifully the thoughts that have been rattling around in my head for a while now. Thank you.

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  4. What a wonderful post you’ve written, gathering all these profound thoughts together to help us make sense of them. Twice in the last few days I have read blog posts about being true to oneself. When that happens it is always pause for deeper thought and meaning for me. It’s like someone tapping me on the shoulder and winking, “there is meaning and wisdom in this for you”. These things weigh on most of our minds from time to time, more on some of us than others, I imagine. Authenticity to ourselves and others does indeed have a price, but it also has the reward of satisfaction. No regrets. I tried and learned. I tried and succeeded. There is no failure. Aren’t we humans fascinating, as we try to ponder the meaning of life and how to live it?

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    • Thank you good friend for your thoughtful insightful comments ….you give me more food for thought… yes, consciousness and human beings who dip their toe in the field of consciousness are truly wonderful, I agree…

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  5. OneHotMess

    Simply gorgeous, and so true. Thank you for drawing such a lovely picture of my road.

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  6. Words of gold there Valerie. We rarely travel a journey alone.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

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  7. thank you David… good to know we’re all on the journey together… and linked by our blogs – hugs to you, Valerie

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  8. ‘Everyone else around us – fulfilling their roles too – expects that like them, we should do our duty, stick to our place in the scheme of things, and above all – not step out of line, rock the boat etc etc…’ I read your post and these words, in particular, in the light of the latest budget which, if passed, will make it a mother’s duty to society to go back to work when her child is 3. And for doing her duty, her reward will be a potential $25 a week extra income! And there is no change to a Govt policy which says a partner has a duty of care to an ailing partner and therefore no entitlement to compensation. It’s wonderful that we have people who can, and do, break away, but shouldn’t it be a fundamental human right that everyone of us is granted the opportunity to attend to the sacred duty of ourselves? It would surely make for a richer society for everyone.

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    • So much to say in reply to your thoughtful comments Amanda, and I agree with everything you say and feel…I suppose a government can legislate for a better deal for children but I think it would be harder to persuade them to assist those who recognise their sacred duty to themselves… we could have hordes of older women wanting to leave their boring elderly husbands!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I loved this. It struck me as very Quaker – the philosophy and the poetry, not the food, though a love of good cooking is probably quite well represented among modern Friends.

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    • Thank you so much Simon I really appreciate your comment – and your perspicacity… I was an attender at Quakers for some years before moving further right – or left…. chicken and egg stuff, – was I attracted to them because I already thought like them, or did I absorb some of their attitudes !!!!

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  10. “Take what you want and pay for it.” Love that one!

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  11. What a wonderful piece to read first thing on a Saturday. Thank you.

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  12. Life is a fine balance. Isn’t it? I can remember lively discussions in my English class on Nora’s decision to leave her family. One fellow sadly didn’t join in since his mother had done the same thing to his family years earlier. To this day, he has not recovered from his abandonment while his mom has truly found herself, is stable and made a new and meaningful life for herself. Tough choices in a cruel world. Someone suffers. Thought provoking post, Valarie.

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    • Great comment !
      I know exactly what you mean… and I totally empathise with your friend whose mother left.. so did mine when I was six. I’ve always found Nora’s decision hard to accept without judgement. And when it seemed like that course of action was in front of me, I chose loving commitment to my children.
      For me, I think when the love leaks out of commitment, that’s when it becomes duty… and that’s when it’s the challenge…and yes, suffering is often the lot of the one who doesn’t want to grow… and I feel that unless it’s a child we can’t be responsible for the feelings of another…and as you say, tough choice…

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  13. Your post reminded me. Thank you.

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  14. Thank you, Valerie. That recipe made my mouth water and I’m looking forward to trying it 😉 . The food for thought was nourishing and timely. Again, many thanks, my friend! xoxoM

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  15. To be true to our souls…it is the only way, but sometimes it isn’t an easy way.

    Linda
    http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com
    https://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com/sherlock-boomer

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    • Your comment speak volumes to me dear friend..
      I’m replying to your beautiful letter tomorrow, – today was spent at the very distant emergency medical centre with a friend in dire straits…always something !!!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Dear Valerie,
    “Evolution takes place inside.”
    Amen
    Peace and love to you, my friend.
    Rochelle

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  17. Valerie, so beautifully said and so, so true!

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  18. Oh Valerie, so badly did I need to read this right now, today. I didn’t know I needed it, but need it I did. Thank you for your great compassion, truly it shone through every single word.

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    • Dear Val, it is such a gift to know that something one has written has made a difference to someone else. Thank you for your gift, and may you go well, travelling along that road, you deserve it.

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  19. What a thought provoking post! We are so many things to so many people but not always true to ourselves. Mother, daughter, wife, employee – always trying to still be ‘the good girl’ and the pacifier in so many situations. The comments show that so many of us feel the same. Thank you for this post and for the delicious sounding mushroom pate.
    Take care of your self, with love 🙂

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    • Hello Sally, lovely to hear from you… I’m running late as usual at the moment..hope life will settle down soon !!!!
      Glad you enjoyed the post.. we all seem to face the same challenges don’t we…Love, Valerie

      Liked by 1 person

  20. I have been thinking about this subject myself lately so good to read your thoughtful post. I love The Invitation, it’s long been a favourite of mine.

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  21. Ah, my dearest Valerie. You do have a way of reaching the souls of your readers. Thank you for sharing your gift – it speaks to the story of humanity. It is so much easier to cling to “duty” or to follow a stringent set of rules. There is comfort in absolutes, of knowing where we “fit” into our society. After all, we have been conditioned to behave in a certain way. And yet, it is the unknown that brings out the very best. Stepping forward into a new dimension, of listening intuitively, of believing in the potential of more. Thank you!!!! Hugs coming across the cables…

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    • Dear Rebecca,
      how lovely to hear from you, and receive your thoughts… always so thought provoking this end… I take it you are still exploring either the high road or the low road to the isles? Hope you’re having a wonderful time…
      Thank you as ever for your loving encouragement… you always make me feel so good, Love Valerie

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Beautiful words and thoughts Valerie and I do think that you’re one of those people who gives consciousness to the simple things of life through your writing.

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  23. Thank you so much Andrea for your lovely appreciation, and thank you too for your beautiful words… I am so fortunate to have discerning readers like you, who are on the same wavelength… and I feel the same about you and your blog.

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  24. You have here opened a Pandora’s Box – without the contents only having Hope as anything not bad, of course – of aspects for consideration and debate. Is one meant to live a life stifled by duty? Is breaking free a selfish betrayal? When it goes against the grain to lie, should one do so nevertheless to protect the feelings of another?
    Perhaps all the answers are what is almost always the ideal – a compromise. One remains true to a self which is balanced to accept duty within limits, and to demand freedom where demands interfere with higher aspirations or have become unreasonable. A doormat gets walked on; a thorn bush is shunned.

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    • What a wonderful comment good friend…all the questions you ask have to be answered and only the one trying to hear their own voice knows what the answers are…. so often, in my experience, it’s the expectations of others which cause me to blunt my own wishes and ignore my needs… though not any more….I can only fall back on Shakespeare now, and to my own self be true !

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  25. Valerie – it’s so lovely to read your words again. As usual, you’ve gathered together so much food for thought, always clarifying a path of rich awareness and contemplation through all the difficulties and complexities. Those lines ‘What is life if full of care…’ often echo through my mind too…

    And how wonderful that quote from Thoreau is! Even just that phrase ‘the bloom of the present moment’ balances such a weight of meaning – and an instant, heart-felt recognition of that need.

    So good to see you back blogging again. I’ve long wanted to add comments here, but have been in a kind of torpor of mixed retreat and over-busyness (if that makes any sense!) But I know I don’t need to explain; I know you’ll understand. We both seem to have had times – more or less at the same time! – when words have eluded – and we’ve badly needed that retreat into the ‘bloom of the present moment’.

    I’m late in telling you this – as I did intend to come here a long time ago (before Christmas!) to let you know that, during my retreat time, I read ‘The Sound of Water’ – and it was so special to have the company of your voice through that time. Your wonderful book contributed in no small way to me finding my balance again… Thank you for that, Valerie. I so hope you are recovering your own balance – and I so look forward to reading more of your beautiful prose, insights and reflections…

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  26. Dear Melanie,
    So lovely to be back in touch again, and hear your eloquent voice…
    and I’ve just discovered your other comment on your blog… thank you so much – you are always so generous with your comments and your insights.

    I’m so thrilled, as you can imagine – that my book made a difference for you… I just hope you got the right edition… my immaculate copy was mangled by a publisher I had to dis-entangle from but not before he published before I even saw a proof copy, a version in which someone just out of UNi mucked up all the punctuation, inserted italics and left them out, etc etc…
    I nearly wept when I saw what had been let loose on the internet !!!!
    Que sera sera !!!
    I’m looking forward to reading more of your beautiful blogs, You have such a gift.

    Like

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