Thursday, 23 May 2019

A Journey In Seven Books by Steve Gladwin

Reading this I can hear you thinking, 'Ah, it's another of those posts where people list their favourite books and talk about why they like them.' But there, gentle reader, you would be wrong, for this is something completely different - an opportunity for you, the reader, to take yourself back into your own favourite books in the form of a hopefully both therapeutic and relaxing journey. So gather round, draw closer and join me on the magic carpet in the middle of the old library and let's see what we can remember. Let's see what we can find. Let's see if we remember who you truly - ARE!

So if you're sitting in the requisite comfortable attitude, we're going to begin in this library itself and the first of our books.

To begin with take about three quiet gentle breaths in and out to settle yourself and calm your mind.

A single bell sounds. Once. Twice. Three times!

The Book of your Childhood

It's entirely up to you if you choose to shut your eyes and give your imagination full reign, or get up and try and flesh out the bones of the place you're in by filling the library with books and members of staff and old maps and prints - anything to conjure up the atmosphere that suits you best.

So let's find the first of our books. Of all books it should be the easiest to find, but you never know, because doing so involves the furthest search of memory. But it is on one of the shelves in the library and - as you'l find - is actually the gateway to the next place and the next location. When you've found the book however, you'll know and recognise it straight away because it will have the smell and feel of your childhood about it, the ability to take you back to that time, that place, that space and that sacred book memory. Maybe the book has remained a favourite, which you've read many times since, still precious and dog-eared on your shelf or even ever handy on your desk, or maybe you keep several copies so that every so often you can give one to friends.

Now you've found your book, smelt its smell of dust and polish, sea and stair, earth and forest, castle keep and kitchen, enjoy for a brief while what it is and why you loved it so.

And when you're good and ready, find your favourite part - the very page you remember best and

enter into the time of your ancestors.

The Book of your Ancestors

Not everyone can recall the time of their ancestors, or even the time of their grandparents. It's usually either history books, or films, family diaries and journals, maps, stories or guesswork, or more often than not all at once.

But there are people who made us who we are and they of course go back a long, long way. So in order to find your ancestors I'd like you to pick an ancestor you'd like to meet, a time and place you'd like to see them. Right now you're standing on the brow of a hill and down there in the mist is the place where you will find your ancestor(s), experience what they experience, smell and hear what they smelt and heard, feel the cloth and sacking, the worsted and linen, the armour and chain mail they wore and felt. So go down to them now, to the place that you have chosen and into the world that is theirs.

When you've spent this precious time with your ancestor, you'll know instinctively and you'll want to remember it all as much as you can. So imagine that everything you can remember, all that is so precious, you have written, scrawled and scribbled, or painstakingly quilled in the form of an old book, stuffed with pages, with illustrations and maps, bound or loose in a bundle, or even carried in a satchel, rough and full of notes and crossings out, but loved and cherished above all else.

So loved and cherished is it that you are hardly ever aware that you are carrying it with you.
However, when you have seen enough of your ancestor and their life and recorded it all, you will find something waiting for you - an object to give you entrance through the next gateway. It may be a simple key with a door to go with it, but it might be anything; a ball of yarn, a banana, a magic carpet. As ever, you decide. But taking your object and finding your entrance you use one to fit the other, until you are ready to find the next book, which is --

The Book of your Heart

This book may be the smallest, perhaps not even visible, but the more you think about it and try to conjure it the more apparent and obvious it will become. It begins with you settling in your favourite chair, relaxed and warm in the sun, or snuggled up before a winter fire. Or maybe curl up by the fire, sit on a mat, lie down - anywhere you're most comfortable.

The book of your heart is the book that for you represents the most important thing or things in your life. It's quite literally your singing and beating heart, the place from where sheer joy springs and laughter echoes, the thing you want to embrace anew every time you see and feel it.

Of course, you may find it difficult to find it in the form of a book, so the best way is to find the book which most represents it and that particular feeling. You may have to dig deep in your memory, or it might just land on your chest with the light, soundless spring of a cat. Whether it happens that way or not, a cat or suitable furry animal is a good example, for when the book of your heart comes you will know it and snuggle it to you until it becomes part of you, filling all of the space you have left empty.

All good things have to come to an end however, and after a while the memory of the book leaves you and with its departure you decide it is time for you to rise. In the chair or mat or place you have just left, you see another book. This is -

The Book of your Wisdom

OK, you might never have even read a bible story, thumbed a myth or tried to internalise a koan, But sure as I cant say Upanishads when I've taken drink, there will have been something in your life which might have qualified as a 'wisdom' book. Quite possibly you'll have to dredge the memory a bit, or overcome a few prejudices, but trust me, there will be one there. It might not be the obvious thing either, no glowing lights or halos or visual speaking in tongues. It might take the form of a childhood autograph book, or an instruction man for Meccano or Scalextric or a copy of Smash Hits, but you will have that corner of religion somewhere, trust me!

So when you've found it in your memory, you can allow the wisdom of your particular take on life to fill the empty pages, just as it will refill your own consciousness, reminding yourself- just in case you've forgotten - of the something you may have lost or forgotten. Maybe the background fills in with song or music or a certain kind of silence.

When you have gazed on your forgotten wisdom for long enough, it is time to close the- now full - book, but you have a surprise in store.

The Book of your Life

And what a surprise, for you hardly have time to shut the book before you are lifted from the ground . As it falls from your fingers, you reach out and a single piece is ripped from the book with you hanging on to it in a terrifying plummet.

But the road of your life often becomes rockier the older you become and more often than not you need to steady it in order not to suffer from constant motion sickness. So much to your surprise, you discover that the moment you grab for the sheet, it slows and quickly steadies your descent, enabling you to come down gently until you are on an unlit path in a darkness which has suddenly descended. But just before the lights go out, you have chance to see the single thing that is written on the piece of paper - the words 'The Book of your Life.' 

As you worry about the darkness around you, you hold up the piece of paper. To your surprise it bursts into flame and you can see the path ahead of you. And as you do so you realise that there is one book which has always helped you to see ahead of you and put your life in perspective, something that reflects the uniqueness of you. 

As you walk the path now illuminated by the book, you see that book in front of you and you walk towards it until its pages seem to embrace the whole landscape. You stand facing it for a while and then watch as it reduces gradually to the size and familiar shape of the original book. You pick this up, thumb through its familiar pages, smile and - let it go. Perhaps you don't need it any more, but it's nice to be reminded of it.

Perhaps you're expecting another book to make itself known - but you're probably going to be surprised by the way it appears. You see, this book is on the ground, for this one is --

The Book of your Journey

The path of our life and journey is forever laid out in front of us. Of course it all may have already happened, or all be happening consecutively, as many religions preach. But one thing is certain and that's that marring fire, flood, illness or accident, it will go on. All lives however have at least one thing in common and that's how they start at the beginning.

So in front of you now, the book of your life is facing you, and you have the choice of how much of it to walk. You can do this now, or simply find a book you've read which reflects your life. But if you do this, rather than take the longer, more reflective road, then you must make a promise to go back to that book and read it again. It might be anything from 'Winnie the Pooh' or the Ladybird book of 'What to look for in Winter', 'The Lord of the Rings' or' Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' Just go back and read it again and you can guarantee you'll find something.

NB The books of Wisdom and the Journey may seem a bit similar, so here's the difference; the book of wisdom is about one or a few things you've learnt, whereas the book of the journey is about the entire path you've taken, not anything specific. But as in all the best things, everything is as you need it to be.

Which brings us to the final book, which brings us back full circle to the old library and  --

The Book of the Mind

This time we're in the library but sitting in one of the many comfortable chairs. We're sitting with our heads back. We can't remember how we made it back from the path of the journey, but it doesn't seem to matter. Because, having undertaken a journey both creative and spiritual, we've come back to the place we started, to the land of books.

Because there's just one book at the moment that we want to grab and read, one that always stimulates our minds, gets us asking and questioning, takes us deep into its narrative or wisdom. You might call it a favourite book, or just one you turn to regularly. But it's usually not just for entertainment. This book means something to you and when you read it there is some kind of meeting of minds.

And as you think about the book, the power of your mind forms its shape and gives it to you. You pick it up, intending to either begin again or resume. Much to your surprise there is a bookmark in there which you don't remember placing there.

But at that place in the book, on that page, paragraph and line you will find the sum total of all this journey's wisdom. You look at the place and the line. You only need to read it once.

You allow the book to dematerialise. You sit back in the comfortable chair, take some gentle deep breaths in and out.

A bell sounds. Once. Twice. Three times!

You're back!

But the journey will always continues.

Hope you enjoyed this. Would love to hear more about your book choices.

Mine were as follows:

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, The Gladwin family photo album, The Summer Tree, The Storyteller,my book 'The Seven', The Lord of the Rings, and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I've also thrown in Mr Norrell's library for good measure!

Steve Gladwin
'Tales From The Realm' - Story and Screen Dream
Connecting Myth, Faerie and Magic
Author of 'The Seven' - Shortlisted for Welsh Books Prize, 2014


Penny Dolan said...

A wonderful visualisation piece, Steve, and I'll return to for a longer read and thinking time.

Ann Turnbull said...

Yes, me too! I'd like to try this myself.

Steve Gladwin said...

Thanks, Penny and Ann. I hope you enjoy doing it and am glad you appreciated something a bit different.

Anne Booth said...

This looks so interesting.