Chisholme Blog

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Ibn 'Arabi and the World of the Imagination
Frances Ryan | Thursday, 8th April, 2021

A beautiful, wide-ranging talk on Ibn 'Arabi and the World of Imagination.

This online talk was given by Cecilia Twinch as an online presentation on March 6, 2021, offered through the Monash University's 'The Hidden Treasure Seminar Series'.

To listen, please follow this link on the University website:

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Entangled Life
Frances Ryan | Monday, 25th January, 2021

Merlin Sheldrake on the remarkable world of fungi; Beshara Magazine

Here is the review of a book which seems to be of particular relevance to us today.

From climate change, consciousness and modern farming practice to city planning, well-being, philosophy or the meaning of life – whichever way we look, fungi seem to have something important to teach us.
Isabella Tree – of Wilding fame [2] – has said that it ‘changes the way we need to look at life, the planet and ourselves’ and it does, indeed, seem that almost every page reveals some new, hitherto unsuspected wonder.

Read the full review here in the Beshara Magazine – Entangled Life

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Penny Fund closes
John Brass | Saturday, 10th October, 2020

The Penny Fund was started in 1985 by Bulent Rauf, to support students at Chisholme.

The Penny Fund has been closed.

The Penny Fund for New and Needy Students, Santander R10841221BRA, was closed at the end of September 2020, and the remaining amount sent to The Chisholme Institute, as an aid to the students who are on the 40 day Course.

The Fund was started in 1985 by Bűlent Rauf, who was in Oxford at the time. He gave 50 pence to Adam Dupre and John Brass telling them to go into the Abbey National Building Society and open an account in their names, the purpose of which was for older students and friends to put in their loose change, and with this help new and needy students who wanted to attend courses.

Over the years an amount was sent to the Secretary at Chisholme for the beginning of each long residential course in October. The action resembled a slow breath, in that the fund would be almost depleted except for a token amount, and then slowly built again - emptied and filled up.

Bearing in mind the changes in banking since its inception, the present signatories, John Brass and Aliya Ryan, felt that the fund had served its purpose.

They would like to thank all those who contributed over the years.

If you have a red collecting box in your possession, please contact, so we can arrange for a new label for the box, with charity number and bank account details, to be sent to you.

You can also contribute directly to the Student Fund at Chisholme, by paying direct to this account:

The Chisholme Institute Project Fund
Lloyds Bank
Sort code 30-94-92
Account 07311214

Please quote as reference 'Student Fund'
Add link to Funding page and Student Fund

Many thanks!

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Update for the 2020/21 winter period
Frances Ryan | Friday, 11th September, 2020

The Chisholme Estate is open to visitors to walk the paths and woodland areas and visit the monument and graves. For ONLINE programme and residential winter courses see [Calendar](

Corona Virus and Chisholme:

Volunteers are welcome to come during the day and work in the garden and on the estate. Current social distancing guidelines and hygiene practices must be followed.

It might be possible to accommodate some visitors for overnight stays, but that will depend on government guidelines which are changing daily.

For ONLINE programme and residential winter courses see Calendar

Thank you all for your continued support from all at Chisholme.

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Corona Virus and Chisholme
Frances Ryan | Thursday, 12th March, 2020

Update September: The Chisholme Estate is open to visitors to walk the paths and woodland areas and visit the monument and graves. It is also possible for volunteers to come during the day and work in the garden and on the estate. Current social distancing guidelines and hygiene practices must be followed. A small number of visitors can be accommodated. Please read on...

Corona Virus and Chisholme:

In line with Government guidelines, Chisholme is unable to accept visitors or volunteers for the time being.

Please see Calendar for what is on offer now.

Thank you all for your continued support

from all at Chisholme.

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The Ways of the Heart
Beshara Trust | Sunday, 19th January, 2020

An online Beshara course exploring a spiritual life and unified perspective in the contemporary world. 26 May – 13 August 2020

An online Beshara course exploring a spiritual life and unified perspective in the contemporary world.

The course will run from 26th May – 13th August 2020
Cost: £35-50

“You start at a point beyond religion and go inwards from there.” So said Bulent Rauf, consultant to the Beshara Trust from 1971 to 1987. His striking and intriguing statement is the starting point for the Beshara online courses, whose aim is to acknowledge the one reality that underlies all religious and secular beliefs and to allow for the exploration of inner meanings.

The Ways of the Heart courses are designed to facilitate an understanding of the deepest aspects of the human being. To find out more, and to book, please see here...

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Let us go toward Union...
Frances Ryan | Sunday, 15th December, 2019

Listen, O dearly beloved! So starts one of Ibn 'Arabi's best known pieces of writing.

The Theophany of Perfection

Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi

Listen, O dearly beloved!
I am the reality of the world, the centre of the circumference,
I am the parts and the whole.
I am the will established between Heaven and Earth,
I have created perception in you only in order to be the object of My Perception.
If then you perceive Me, you perceive yourself.
But you cannot perceive Me through yourself.
It is through My Eyes that you see Me and see yourself,
Through your eyes you cannot see Me.

Dearly beloved!
I have called you so often and you have not heard Me.
I have shown Myself to you so often and you have not seen Me.
I have made Myself fragrance so often, and you have not smelled Me,
Savorous food, and you have not tasted Me.
Why can you not reach Me through the object you touch
Or breathe Me through sweet perfumes?
Why do you not see Me? Why do you not hear Me?
Why? Why? Why?

For you My delights surpass all other delights,
And the pleasure I procure you surpasses all other pleasures.
For you I am preferable to all other good things,
I am Beauty, I am Grace.
Love Me, love Me alone.
Love yourself in Me, in Me alone.
Attach yourself to Me,
No one is more inward than I.
Others love you for their own sakes,
I love you for yourself.
And you, you flee from Me.

Dearly beloved!
You cannot treat Me fairly,
For if you approach Me,
It is because I have approached you.
I am nearer to you than yourself,
Than your soul, than your breath.
Who among creatures
Would treat you as I do?
I am jealous of you, over you,
I want you to belong to no other,
Not even to yourself.
Be Mine, be for Me as you are in Me,
Though you are not even aware of it.

Dearly beloved!
Let us go toward Union.
And if we find the road
That leads to separation,
We will destroy separation.
Let us go hand in hand.
Let us enter the presence of Truth.
Let It be our judge
And imprint Its seal upon our union
For ever.

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Ecosystems as Love Processes
Frances Ryan | Tuesday, 22nd October, 2019

The Beshara Lecture From biological war ideology to understanding reality as alive Speaker: Andreas Weber; Saturday 16th November 2019, London

Does nature practise love?
Why is our economy still destroying the natural environment?
Is it built on a wrong image of life, where the strongest wins and fitness grants success?

Biological life is never about one winning, but rather an endless celebration of reciprocity.

Ecosystems are ways to organise giving that allow the whole to flourish and the individuals to take what they need. If we understand this desire for mutuality as inbuilt in the living world will we be able to imagine a culture that does not destroy life, but that mimics ecology, enacting what may be seen as a practice of love?

The Beshara Lecture is a lecture held annually, for the furtherance of the knowledge of the unity of existence and its ramifications in areas of human endeavour. Sponsored by the Beshara Trust

The Beshara Lecture: Speaker Andreas Weber, Saturday, 16th November, 2019 from 2pm
Venue: Royal Asiatic Society, Stephensons Way, Kings Cross, London NW1 2HD

See here for an article on this subject by the Andreas Weber, published in the Beshara Magazine

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Seeing something for the very first time...
Jane Clark | Thursday, 29th August, 2019

On Christmas Eve 1968 the first picture ever of our whole planet from ‘outside’ was taken. It has become one of the most powerful symbols of our age.

Jane Clark contemplates the view of Earth from the moon, first captured in the famous photograph ‘Earthrise’ in the following article, published this summer in the Beshara Magazine

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A message for our time
Message from the Hopi Elders | Saturday, 22nd June, 2019

At this time in history we are to take nothing personally. Least of all ourselves.

Message from the Hopi Elders

To my fellow swimmers:
There is a river flowing now very fast.
It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.
They will try to hang on to the shore.
They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly.
Know the river has its destination.
The Elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the stream, keep our eyes open and our heads above the water.

And I say,
See who is in there with you and celebrate.
At this time in history we are to take nothing personally.
Least of all ourselves.
For the moment that we do our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.
The time of the lone wolf is over.
Gather yourselves.
Banish the word ‘struggle’ from your attitude and your vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
We are the ones we have been waiting for.

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Happy Birthday, lovely table!
Charles Verey | Saturday, 8th December, 2018

The fabulous dining-room table at Chisholme is 40 years old this winter. Charles Verey tells its story.

The fabulous dining-room table at Chisholme is 40 years old this winter. It can seat up to 26 people and was custom-made to fit the room, by Charles Verey. He was a novice carpenter at the time, and – as he recounts below – had never made a piece of furniture before in his life…

Charles writes: It was made in 1978, in the workshops on the lower ground floor at Sherborne House in Gloucestershire, in response to a specific request for a dining-table for Chisholme. It was delivered to Chisholme 40 years ago, in or around the second week of December.

I had been a student on the first Beshara 6-month course held at Sherborne from Michaelmas 1976. My only experience of joinery came later from a 6-month government-funded retraining course in Carpentry and Joinery. I had lived in Radnorshire for several years and was eligible to do this course in Wales: and in the event I signed in at Wrexham in Clwyd in the winter of 1977-78.

While I was doing this carpentry course I took a room in a boarding house in Ruabon and drove down every week-end to the original Beshara Centre at Swyre Farm. It must have been around this time that a company called Beshara Crafts Ltd was set up, because when the Wrexham course ended in April 1978, I was given access to the large but rather dark workshop at Sherborne and started to work as Beshara Crafts Woodworking Division. I invested in two machines, a heavy mortice machine and a well-engineered German-made multipurpose woodworking machine with planer/thicknesser, saw bench and a spindle attachment. At the time however I had no experience in making furniture.

Chisholme House had been painstakingly restored by volunteers after the first 6-month course held there in 1975-76. In the summer of 1978 I was asked to make a dining table that would be suitable for the first advanced ‘second-course’ planned by Bulent Rauf, who at the time was consultant to the school. I was told that it would be needed in October. In the event it was delivered in time for Christmas.

Shape, size and style were specified by Bulent and the specification was passed on to me by John Boyd-Brent on a simple descriptive pencil drawing. It was to be 18 feet long by six wide and it was to be made using a felled Yew tree from the grounds at Sherborne House.

The yew had not been planked, but it was clear that it would need to be cut through into thicknesses that would suit the cutting lists for the table. It was also clear to me that it would be too difficult to make a flat surface of the required size of the table-top out of solid timber. In any case there was nothing like enough yew to even consider it as an option. I decided to make the top in three sections and to use the best quality ply-wood. In principle the table would be made in ply-wood and beech and the structure would be hidden under applied pieces of cut and shaped yew. The twelve legs are the only solid yew pieces.

So before we took the trunk to the Sherborne Estate wood-mill, plan and elevation scale-drawings were needed, as well as a good calculator and a lot of rough paper. Experiments had also to be made to find out how wide a board could be cut back to three-millimetre-thick fillets on the table-saw. The final width of the yew boards that are laid down onto the ply-wood tops would initially be dictated by the capacity of the multi-purpose machine: but in the event when we came to planking the yew-tree trunk it was clear that although I could calculate optimum thicknesses for each plank, the width of boards would be dictated by the markings, knots and irregularities of the timber.

Finally after many hours’ work, I had help from Judy Kearns and others, away from the dusty workshop in the great hall at Sherborne House, to clean the surface in order to take the finishing oil. The long hours of wood-working had come and gone: in spite of lack of experience and the narrowest of margins between the amount of yew required and the potential of the timber that was given for the work, the process had progressed with a sense of ease.

Some concern has recently been expressed about the fading from the morning sunlight and from heat marking. The surface however has its own natural mellowness. I am not however the right person to advise on any treatment that might help its further natural aging: a good antiques restorer would surely give better advice.

The dining-table, like every act of recognition that Chisholme has inspired both in its interior facing and in its exterior face, is held without any possibility of doubt under a single order of hearing and taste. For this there is only gratitude to the unknowable author of the mysteries of absoluteness.

Charles Verey 5th December 2018

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What Is Private About the Private Face?
Rachel Gordin | Friday, 12th October, 2018

It was in 1989 that I first came to the school at Chisholme House. In the exterior, it was an invitation to a wedding celebration... writes Rachel Gordin

It was in 1989 that I first came to the school at Chisholme House. In the exterior, it was an invitation to a wedding celebration of a friend which served as an excuse for my visit. Interiorly, it was in response to a poem by Ibn 'Arabi included in that letter of invitation, and which I perceived as a wild call of my heart to be known and recognised. It was written as a love letter from God, and said:

"Dearly beloved, I have called you so often and you have not heard me. I have shown myself to you so often and you have not seen me... Why do you not see me? Why do you not hear me? Why? Why? Why?... I am nearer to you than yourself, than your soul, than your breath..."

Ever since then my relationship with the school has had this unique taste of an almost paradoxical combination between the most vast impersonal perspective, and the most intimate secret, sweet as well as piercing, whispered to the heart. On the one hand - the metaphysics of Ibn 'Arabi, telling us that there is only One Unique Being, and that coming under this truth, and letting it be realized in us, can define a new space of unfathomable possibilities; and on the other hand - this secret invitation, as if special to you, that no one else can understand or touch. And "your life" is suddenly perceived as a Moebius Ring, in which the Exterior and the Interior constantly change places. And you yourself seem to be a puzzle in which time is of no consequence and things that happened years ago are seen in a completely new light in the most unexpected way.

Love takes so many forms! There is love for that which is unknowable, unimaginable and entirely other than you; that which is completely pure and cannot be contaminated by my "selfness". Ibn 'Arabi writes about this sort of love: " Wild she is. None can make her his friend". There is love which derives from similarity to anything human. Meister Eckhart writes that he wakes up to pray at night like a mother hearing her baby calling her. There is love that takes shelter under the wing of a Divine Name, which serves a more or less specific quality, like giving praise, or serving beauty or subtlety. This can be private and personal according to the Names each of us is destined to serve, according to our taste and capacity. But there is also the mysterious possibility that Ibn 'Arabi calls "the Private Face of God", which seems to be not private at all. Or, maybe more correctly, it's privacy is not ours but God's. And it is not according to our capacity or value. The Private Face of God seems to be entirely the work of the Wahab - that aspect of God which is of pure Opulence and Richness-Beyond-Need; Which grants gifts because it's in its nature. That aspect which Ibn 'Arabi was advised to take as his sole companion on the Way. The Private Face is not personal, yet it is most unique. There is nothing like it, and apparently no one ever experiences it in the same way. This is apparently what is hinted at when we say about a saint: "Let God sanctify his secret".

It is said that Beshara, or the school at Chisholme House, is not offering a way. The way, says Ibn 'Arabi, is created by the feet that tread it. The only function of the school is to clear the obstacles that might prevent advance. And the invitation to us, as students, is to love the Real as deeply and sincerely as we can, and receive with gratitude whatever comes. Let It find Its unique way into our heart. I have trod, and am still treading, my own path: There are times of pure magic, when that which is given abundantly is almost too much to bear, and there are times of helplessly being exposed to myself (and others) as false and pretending. But all extremes are engulfed by the love and compassion that cover the whole issue. Paraphrasing Simon Veil: 'Thank you, God, for exposing all my faults. Not necessarily in the aim of correcting them, but so that I'll be in the presence of Truth.'

In speaking about the intimacy of the Private Face one can easily fall into pretence, thinking that something was gained, deserved and owned. But love (for truth or beauty) is not like that. I've lately read about a Japanese poetess who is over ninety years old and she writes that when she is sad - she cups in her hands the sunlight that creeps under the door and dips her face in it. As for me, at the present stage of "my life" (closer to the end than the beginning) I pay attention to what it is that people lean on as the meaning of their life, and I feel extremely grateful for what was given to find as meaning by Ibn 'Arabi and the school. And I ask for no better than to be able to say, in the words of my dear friend and companion on the way, shortly before she died (said in a heavy Lancashire accent): "Gee-e-e, We are such ordinary people, all of us, and yet we were given to see a glimpse of our potential".

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Beauties of the night, and of the day…
Frances Ryan | Tuesday, 17th July, 2018

A walk on the wild side with the Scottish Wildlife Trust, around the Chisholme Estate

Beauties of the night, and of the day…

In early July the Scottish Wildlife Trust arranged a walk around the Chisholme Estate.

We were fortunate enough to have as our guides Alison Smith, Malcolm Lindsay and Sarah Eno, all extremely well versed in things to do with nature. Malcolm, who knows a lot about moths, suggested setting traps the night before. The day could then start with a look at what the traps had to offer, followed by a tour of the estate, ending with a hike up to Chapel Hill and back down for afternoon tea at Chisholme. Would that be enough to fill a day, we wondered?

Saturday morning arrived, and more than 30 people assembled from all corners of the Borders; for many this was their first visit to Chisholme.

Malcolm had set two traps – one near the house and one at the top of Whitrig Wood. There is a good variety of deciduous trees around the house, and an abundance of birch in Whitrig which would attract different kinds of night-flying insects. Once in the trap, moths tend to crawl into shelters made up of egg-boxes, where they can safely stay until daytime, and after inspection be released unharmed.

Everyone collected near the garden table on the front lawn and Malcolm opened the traps. Taking the greatest possible care he gently prised out the egg-boxes one by one, to see what the previous night might have yielded.

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You may be forgiven to think that of all the lovely things the Chisholme Estate has to offer, moths would be somewhere very low down on a list of priorities….but for those of us present on that Saturday morning, there was a very pleasant surprise!

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Starting top right and going clockwise:
Poplar Hawk Moth; Green Carpet; Lt Emerald & Burnished Brass & Dark Marbled Carpet; Beautiful Golden-Y; Brimstone moth; 2 Mottled Beauty (above and below) then from the left Lesser Swallow Prominent, Green Carpet, Lempke’s Gold Spot, Pebble Prominent

Just two traps in one night in July produced over 65 different species of moth – each with a beautiful and poetic name, doing justice to their delicate and subtle differences – such as Common Lutestring, Angel Shades, True Lovers Knot, Smoky Wainscot, Burnished Brass, Mottled Beauty… We spent a spellbinding hour delighted by these lovely creatures, who gave us a glimpse into just one tiny facet of that extraordinary world of the night, of which most of us are usually quite unaware.

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Lesser Swallow Prominent; Lempke's Gold Spot; Garden Tiger and Peppered Moth; Elephant Hawk Moth

We then moved to Jili’s beautiful woodland garden, overflowing with foxgloves and other woodland flowers, to look for red squirrels, admired the swan family on the lake, and proceeded down the drive to enter Whitrig Wood.

Whitrig Wood, or the Wild Woods, as many call them, is indeed a wild and wonderful place. The woods had been partly clear-felled in the early 1980s and then left virtually untouched to re-generate of their own accord. For unknown reasons, a few trees, including oak, rowan and Caledonian pines, had been left standing and these have now matured into magnificent trees of great character. They stand between the half-rotten trunks of old windfalls and thickets of young birch, adding a touch of magic and mystery to these woods and providing food and shelter to a myriad of creatures, from fungi and lichen to orchids, woodpecker, deer, fox and buzzard.

We spent hours in the woods, being shown countless details large and small, in particular by Sarah Eno, who is a very experienced botanist. Here are some of the things she pointed out: the easily visible woodland plants at that time year are typical ferns like Male Fern, Broad Buckler Fern and very fine scrambling Bedstraws - Marsh Bedstraw especially. Many flowering plants like Marsh Avens had finished flowering and were left with their little spiky seed burrs like a bad hair day. There was a beautiful 'Melancholy Thistle' in flower in the lower part of the woods; it is named so because apparently it was used to treat melancholy; certainly when in flower it does! There were several Heath Spotted Orchids, which flower slightly later than other orchids, and up on the moor there was the very bright yellow of the iris family plant, Bog Aspodel. It is known also as Bonebreaker (Narthecium ossifragum) because it was thought that lambs feeding on it got brittle bones, but the truth is, that it was calcium deficiency in the pasture. However a known side-effect of eating the plant is apparently that it increases the sensitivity of lambs skin (esp. ears) to sunburn, if they eat the plant.

Once we reached the top of the hill, there was only time for a quick sortie to the moorland, and then it was time to return to the house.

Colin, Julie, Hiroko, Lucy and the many volunteers at Chisholme House had prepared a magnificent afternoon tea for us, with poppy seed cake and banoffi pie, and we all left happy, well fed and deeply nourished by the beauty of the day.

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Read and download the full moth survey

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To stand in life is not to take sides, but to take heart
Chisholme Blog | Saturday, 20th January, 2018

Christopher Ryan considers our responses to ‘Terrorism’ and ‘The War on Terror’ following the bombs that killed 200 people, and wounded over 1500 in Madrid back in March 2004 – sentiments that still ring very true today.

Christopher Ryan considers our responses to ‘Terrorism’ and ‘The War on Terror’ following the bombs that killed 200 people, and wounded over 1500 in Madrid back in March 2004 – sentiments that still ring very true today.

“This threat is given the name terrorism. The basis of terror, the raison d’etre which is its fuel, and without which its combustive destruction could not take hold, is fear. Fear for one’s existence, fear for one’s life, or fear for ‘our way of life’ which we must ‘fight to defend’. But fear is due to ignorance, a lack of knowing the true situation. In this case, the ignorance is of the reality of our life, of our existence. So, could there be something missing in ‘our way of life’?

This threat, which manifests on the outside as a destructive force, is not allied to any body of people according to race or religion, social status, creed or system of political belief. It attaches itself to wherever there appears the vacuum of ignorance. It is simply the embodiment of qualities of lack, negativity and non-existence, and it places its weapon, fear, into our own hands. So who are we going to fight? Are we going to move into a dark age of fear, where we suspect everyone, our neighbour, the person sitting next to us on the bus, the ‘Islamic-looking’ person, the person with the funny accent, an age where we all become spies on each other as happened in East Germany during the period of division. This downward spiral is the real result of terrorism, and it brings about the destruction of the soul, the soul which loves its life, thus destroying the creative movement of beauty in Man.

Whichever way we look at it, we need to change the terms on which this war is being fought, if we are to progress as human beings. This means complete and deep questioning of this sacred cow which has been termed, ‘our way of life’. We need to be prepared for changes, not simply to the exterior forms of our life (although in respect of the properly exterior threat of climate change due to global warming, this may also be necessary), but the basis on which we claim our right to call ourselves human. We have to question first, what is this life, which we claim to possess a way with? Where does it come from? Why do we suffer when this life is taken from those human forms? And as we hold it so dear, what is it that gives it its real value? What is it that dies? Where does life go?

And we must ask this question, what does it mean to be human? Not just in our lacks and imperfections, dwelling exclusively on which only separates us further from each other and from ourselves until we risk drowning in a mire of negativity. Better we must examine those things which bring us together beyond our differences, the things that complete us and our hopes, those things which give us strength, the strength which overcomes the fears. Such things as love, and the certainty love brings to the human heart.

Love, and all that its wide cloak encompasses, is the first and last of our needs. Just as a child finds complete security in the love its parent brings, we must seek the breadth and depth of a love that is all-inclusive, a love which fills the lacks and perfects the imperfections. A love that informs the ignorances with knowledge from a deep well of knowledge which is the heart itself. For this our sense of heart needs expanding, if we are to find its true boundlessness. So, we need to pay attention to the heart and come under its sway, the true core of our existence, attention which some perhaps would have us give to ‘our way of life’. Perhaps what is the problem here is this ‘our way of life’. Perhaps we are in danger of defending a castle made of sand.

Politicians, because they believe vehemently that their particular system is in the best interests of their voters, are not necessarily correct in their beliefs, however much they may seem corroborated in the wishes of the voters. ‘Your old road is rapidly ageing’, sang the bard from Minnesota, and ‘the wheel’s still in spin’. It would be foolish to try and combat the forces that are now in play, because the world is truly changing. The so-called war on terror will undoubtedly continue, but terror will not be defeated from the outside.

But there is real recourse in changing our way of life from the inside, so that it be in conformity with life itself. To stand in life is not to take sides, but to take heart. It seems that what we have been given to effect this change is love itself, with all its ramifications. So, if life, the universe and everything means anything at all to us, rather than fight to defend, perhaps we should start by surrendering to the force of love, giving our life to that, letting its power act in us, not as some glorified latter day crusader in an emotion-driven battle of good versus evil, but simply, with complete humility, as if already dead to the ways of this world, come alive by life itself.

Transposing Christ’s words, the poet Wilfred Owen wrote:

‘The scribes on all the people shove
And bawl allegiance to the state,
But they who love the greater love
Lay down their life; they do not hate.’

In the same spirit of surrender, perhaps we can also live a greater life."

Christopher Ryan
Hawick, 2004

A shorter version of this piece was first published by The Southern Reporter in March 2004.

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Humans as purely materialist individuals?
Chisholme Blog | Saturday, 1st July, 2017

"Perhaps it’s time to (re)read Jung." writes Gwendolen Dupré for The European Strategist, an internet publication and research circle.

"Perhaps it's time to (re)read Jung", writes Gwendolen Dupré.

We’ve just had the second very successful Poetics of Science (PoS) weekend.

Gwendolen Dupre was the opening speaker and she set the tone for the whole weekend. She spoke on the metaphysics underlying different religions.

Gwendolen also spoke at the first PoS in April. Her talk then has now been published in the European Strategist an internet publication and research circle that seeks answers for European society in postmodern times.

In it she contrasts two fundamental theories of the mind: that of Freud and that of his younger contemporary, Jung. Freud’s is a materialist approach whereas Jung believed in the real significance of images and symbols. As she says, while ”Freud offers a cynical account of human life... Jung’s ideas... present a more positive image of human potentiality.”

Gwendolen’s article is very well worth reading – it’s a short and easy introduction to the importance of Jung. It offers real food for thought. We look forward to more reflections from Gwendolen and others on Jungian philosophy.

Read the article here

The next Poetics of Science seminar is September 15–17.
Read more and book here

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Shane Jagger: a tribute
Willa Shiel | Thursday, 15th June, 2017

A great and much-loved man has left us. Shane Wakil Jagger passed away on 14 June having lived at Chisholme for 34 years.

A great and much-loved man has left us. Shane Wakil Jagger passed away on 14 June having lived at Chisholme for 34 years. He touched so many who passed through Chisholme over this long time including Willa Shiel, a young American who volunteered here last Autumn. When Willa learned of Shane’s passing she wrote to us. You can read her words and a new poem by Wakil below.

Wakil: a tribute

I was asked before I left Chisholme in November to try to put into words what made the place so special to me and all those who pass through. I couldn’t find the words at the time, but it seems very simple now: people filled to the brim with love. Every Chisholme heart is warm. Wakil’s was one of the biggest hearts I’ve had the blessing to come into contact with in my life.

Pinned to the headboard of my bed is a poem he wrote on my last night at Chisholme, when pain kept him awake. I still read it most nights, and it takes on a new meaning today as Wakil finds painless rest.


In the cloudy
hours of the night
we wait for
the clear light
of day
dawn is not
far away
thoughts leave
as gentle rain
nothing left
to be said
in these
early hours
my head on pillow
wake me later
with a gentle
call to prayer

Sending my love to the people of Chisholme, who I know are holding each other close and lifting each other up today and every day, and of course my love to Wakil, who helped make me feel like I'd found a home when I found myself so very far from home.

With love and gratitude,
Willa Shiel

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Building Peace: with Scilla Elworthy
Frances Ryan | Saturday, 13th May, 2017

Sunday 28 May: How can we be useful? A workshop with Scilla Elworthy

Many people feel powerless in the face of what they see on TV or read in the news - a world in crisis, with wars and violence erupting across the globe.

Chisholme is delighted to be hosting a one-day workshop on Sunday 28 May, for all those who want to step out of helplessness.

Come and apply your own personal skills to do something about the challenges now facing us.
We’ll spend time responding to the question“what can I do about all this?”
We’ll investigate not only the myriad opportunities for service opening up, but also look into the skills we all need if we are to be effective in our chosen actions.

Scilla Elworthy PhD has been three times nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She is founder of Peace Direct, which works with local peace-builders in conflict areas, and was adviser to Peter Gabriel, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Sir Richard Branson in setting up ‘The Elders’. She co-founded Rising Women Rising World in 2014, and teaches self knowledge to young social entrepreneurs.

We need individuals like Dr Elworthy to start the work of preventing war…This has been my personal dream for many years.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Find out more...

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Nescio Ensemble
Chisholme Blog | Tuesday, 2nd May, 2017

The Nescio Ensemble from Holland at Chisholme, 28 April 2017

The Nescio Ensemble at Chisholme, 28 April 2017
Posted by Richard Gault

The email came out of the blue and with an unusual request: could we put up 12 young musicians for a night or two? In return they’d play for us. Perhaps because the musicians were Dutch (I have a Dutch wife) and the writer’s name meant wisdom, or perhaps simply because it seemed such a lovely idea, I immediately said yes.

Back in December the visit seemed far away. But as time went on and the April date drew nearer I did begin to wonder if not worry. Coming from Holland and including someone called Sophie was no guarantee that they would be good. And no matter how good they were, would anyone come to hear them? They called themselves Nescio - which means ‘I don’t know’ and I truly didn’t know. Had I been a bit hasty in committing ourselves to this event and adding to our workload?

I had not. The arrangement turned out to be perfect.

The Nescio Ensemble came; they played (to a full house: extra chairs had to be put out); and they conquered their audience’s hearts. It was a fabulous evening, the wonder of it heightened by the special ambience the beautifully decorated pavilion offered.

We were all dazzled. Nescio’s performance was a celebration and affirmation of the human potential both in the music they played and the way in which they played it. This was virtuosity and passion made manifest. Particularly stunning was Ana Termeulen's rendition of Ysaye's Ballade for Violin Solo. Equally impressive were the haunting sounds which Nescio produced in performing the String Quartet by the contemporary Turkish composer Fazil Say. This latter piece featured the violin of Burcu Ramazanoğlu – herself a Turk from Fazil Say’s home city of Ankara.

Burcu felt an immediate affinity with Chisholme and left hoping to return in the summer. We would love to welcome not just her but all of the other musicians of Nescio back. They have left us with an unforgettable memory and an appetite for more.

You can get a glimpse of their talent with this clip from their concert the previous evening at Cornucopia, Unit Four in Hawick – an excerpt from the third movement of Bartok's Divertimento for Strings.

Main photo by Sanne Gault

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Chisholme Then and Now
Chisholme Blog | Sunday, 16th April, 2017

Alastair Redpath traces the estate's history for The Hawick Paper's, April 14 edition.

Huge thanks to Alastair Redpath and The Hawick Paper for his excellent article published on 14 April, giving the history of the estate and bringing readers up to date with this month's Poetics of Science seminar weekend.

Download the article pdf

Full text below

Chisholme House is set on a beautiful estate in the hills beyond Roberton, an hour and a half from Edinburgh, Newcastle and Carlisle. The main house looks out over glorious landscaped grounds and woods of native trees – once the seat of the southern branch of Clan Chisholme. Chisholme offers a range of courses throughout the year and welcomes volunteers to work in the house, grounds and its organic walled gardens. This year’s highlight is undoubtedly a series of three seminar weekends exploring the Poetics of Science, to demonstrate the many ways in which science shapes and is shaped by literature, music and other inspirations.

Chisholme House was built in 1752 on historic lands formerly held by the Douglases of Drumlanrig and Scotts of Buccleuch. In the 18th century it passed into the hands of Sir William Douglas of Drumlanrig, then to Lord Hume. When the owner fell from royal favour, the estate was ceded to the Crown. In about 1826, William Chisholme, a member of the Selkirk branch of the family who made a fortune in Jamaica, bought back the estate and it remained in his lineage until 1871. At the end of the 19th century it was bought by a Mr Henderson, who added a wing, modernised the estate cottages, installed a new water system (including a hydraulic ram for supplying water), and built the approach road and bridge at Woodburn.

Following his death in the 1930s, the estate was bought by a Mr Bruce before being put on the market by his nephew two decades later. This led to large areas of the estate such as Parkhill and Woodburn Farms being auctioned off. Due to complicated property exchanges, deaths, and bankruptcies during the decade, Chisholme House was left without a resident owner and gradually fell into decay. Historic Scotland moved to list the site in March 1971. The house, open to the sky, became a shelter for sheep - the garden wall crumbled and the grounds and woods reverted to wilderness.

Chisholme’s fortunes changed for the better in 1973 when it was taken on by an English educational charity, The Beshara Trust, to become a school and retreat centre. In the true pioneering spirit of that time, a group of intrepid young people embarked on a renovation project, despite a total lack of funds and most basic facilities such as electricity, hot water, or even glass for the windows. Parts of the main house were made serviceable and the farm steading was transformed into student accommodation so that a six-month residential retreat could take place there in 1975.

In 1978 an independent Scottish charity, the Chisholme Institute, was set up with the specific aim of maintaining and developing the educational facility at Chisholme. The Institute maintains close links with The Beshara Trust to this day and collaborates with it in certain projects. By 1986, most of the land belonging to the original Chisholme estate had been re-purchased. Today the Chisholme Institute's focus is to provide education in the art of self-discovery to students from all over the world, and to promote an increased awareness of the real value of our connection to the world and each other.

The Poetics of Science: Inspiration seminar weekend offers a rich programme of interactive presentations and workshops, with speakers from diverse backgrounds including Buddhism, literature, psychology, art, the greater ecumenism, as well as films and music nights.

The compelling idea that inspired these seminars is inspiration itself. Speakers will include, among others: Edie Irwin, a trustee and director of the Tara Trust in Edinburgh who studied under the guidance of Dr. R.D. Laing and Akong Rinpoche from Samye Ling Tibetan Buddhist Centre; local author and filmmaker Dorothy Alexander, a proponent of visual poetry and former tutor of Creative Writing for the University of Strathclyde; Narda Azaria Dalgleish, a Hawick-based Israeli-British designer, contemplative poet and moving image and installation artist.

The seminar weekend begins on Friday, April 21 and continues through to Sunday, April 23. For more information, email, telephone 01450 880215. Discounts are available for students, under 25s, and Chisholme volunteers participating in the Gardening Fortnight preceding the seminar weekend.

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Distance does not exist in what we aim...
Frances Ryan | Thursday, 9th March, 2017

Notes from a conversation in January

The series of conversation weeks for this winter, under the heading 'Single Vision', has now concluded.

From the Notes of the January conversation; Chisholme House, 7-14 January 2017
A week of open conversation and enquiry

The questions for the week were:
“What on earth is happening in the world today?
And how are we with it?
How does the education at Chisholme connect with the unfolding of this unsettling yet hope-filled era?”

We sat in the presence of these questions, feeling urgency, with Chisholme as an extra-ordinary clear, profound and infinitely merciful mirror and needless to say – in this place dedicated to ‘His vision of Himself’ there was response and education.

What is happening in the world today?
...and the 'happening' came right into the room: the pain, the destitution, self-interest gone mad, corporate greed, false truth, environmental destruction, racial abuse, and much more. Not by people saying: "I've heard this, I've read an article and isn't it terrible, etc." No, these things arrived in the room as lived experience:
‘I've been racially abused’,
‘I am suffering’,
‘I’ve been homeless’,
‘I have witnessed the destruction of my beautiful environment’,
‘I feel alienated’, and so on and so on.
With the stories came the anger, frustration, sorrow, constriction, anguish, and more anger... This did not make for comfortable sitting and listening. One could not transcend this, talk it away or smooth it over.

So how are we with it?
There was no choice but to sit and to listen, or sit and speak from our own experience. When someone looks you in the eye and says they are in pain, when you feel your own anger or frustration rise up - you cannot turn away. Some of us in the room listened better than others, some found what seemed like honest words to express, or respond to, and that was good to witness. But essentially we all knew we were in the same boat: We don't know. We don't know the why or how of it, or what to do about it. The 'not knowing', and knowing that I don’t know, and seeing that from myself alone I have nothing to give, was made very, very real.

It was recognised early in the week that the problems found in the world are exterior effects of something happening in the interior, the Unseen. If ‘every day He is in a new configuration’, then change is inevitable – and change in the interior results in shifts in the exterior. If there is resistance to change, the exterior effects become more drastic. Yet there is such resistance.
In most cases, it appears to be caused by fear and self-interest, and it is this resistance that perpetuates suffering. Self-interest, however, relates to things of the exterior, and takes the form of greed for resources that are inherently limited. In the exterior this leads to misery and global degradation and probably will lead to our own destruction.
It seems that there is a view that more is better.
It isn't true.
Outside, in the world, the right amount is best.
In our interior there are things which are infinite.
Compassion, vision, love are given without limit.
There, more is better.
We are asked to be increased in knowledge. ‘Give me more real wealth!’
It's good to be greedy in the interior, in that sense.

A very simple choice; what is required is a switch in consciousness.
A shift from self-interest to interest in the self
And one of the roles of this place, Chisholme, is to investigate this switch, joining the worlds of the exterior and the interior.
Something is going to happen, and we need to be in a real place to meet it.
Our real place is 'sitting on the carpet of ‘Adab’ – ‘tact, good form', listening in humility for the Truth.

How does the education in Chisholme connect with the unfolding of this unsettling yet hope-filled era?
Given that what we are seeing are external effects, it was quickly recognised that the natural knee-jerk reaction of ‘But what can we do about it?’ is not an adequate tool for understanding and still less for attempting to remedy the situations we see. Trying to remedy an effect at the level of effects is likely merely to cause more accidents of a similar kind. If the world situation is the exterior effect of an interior happening, one must turn to the interior to gain a sense of the cause. Only from such an interior perspective can vision be received, from which the most appropriate action can follow. The proper response of persons or groups who wish to understand and respond to the situation is therefore primarily contemplative in nature.
What came up in the conversation on this is that a distinction can be made between the ‘way of the world’ and the ‘way of the heart’ as two different approaches to life and to understanding, in which the former is response to effects at the level of effects and tends to be based on counting and rules, while the way of the heart comes from the heart, relies on receptivity and rests in sentiment and meanings.

The education at Chisholme is to do with the interface between what is happening in the world and the knowledge, which is accessible here. What is this interface?
We are the interface.
Our heart is the interface.
It is simple.
But the heart has to be ready to receive.

This conversation (and all the weeks of conversation this winter) is a request to be given to see clearly, to see from a place of single-ness.
There is a place in oneself where help can arrive and flow through. Unless we stay with it, it will be just another week where we 'talked about things' - and nothing will have happened.
Real receptivity is needed, before any necessary action can be known. Such receptivity cannot be established by our own efforts alone; it is conferred from the interior itself. It requires the sincere request to ‘Show me things as they are, clearly’, and the constant effort to remain empty, letting go of what we think we know, including what we think we have learned here at Chisholme.

It has often been said that the saint or gnostic is ‘…in the world but not of it’. This must surely be the condition inhabited by Man (the completed human being). He or she lives fully in the world, – but his/her nature is not of the world. In aspiring to the human potential, we might strive to practice knowing what it is to be in the world but not of it – (living fully in the world but not identifying with its apparent effects). This is the task of a spiritual warrior – and not, we laughed, of a ‘spiritual worrier’!

One might further describe this condition as ‘resting in awareness’. The word ‘resting’ is not accidental: it is key to the notion of non-doing, as spoken of by Lao Tzu in the Tao te Ching: …the sage does nothing – and yet all things are done. This is wholly in contrast to any sense of action or achieving by oneself. When the sage, the one in constant awareness, knows from vision that action is required, action flows from them but it is not their own. In the face of the state of the world and the grim news stories we hear constantly, our service can be simply to receive these situations without judgement or reaction, without rushing to remedy them, and simply accept what is indicated by them. We considered the necessity to ‘agree to’ what happens, whether or not we ‘agree with’ it. This is already the mark of one who is in the world but not of it. We need to consider what to do with our opinions. While it is deemed a weakness to ‘have no opinion’ according to the way of the world, those who seek to understand from the Real are advised to step back from their opinions so that the situation or thing can speak from itself. However well-intentioned or well-founded, opinions are incomplete knowledges and they blind us to the whole truth of the matter; further, acting on opinions is to assert lordship where none belongs.

Could action ever be taken before clarity and understanding is granted, rather as a cook learns to cook by undertaking to cook? Such a question, asked in the abstract, remains speculative until one is really in submission and has given up one’s own capacities in favour of the reality of all capacity. Only then can one be the sage who does nothing and yet everything is done. So meanwhile we (and the sage) refrain out of tact from actions that are not indicated to us clearly.
The mind can’t grasp this.
It does not mean sitting idly in a corner until some grand revelation happens, but rather continuing and enquiring into our lives with presence, engaging with what is in front of us, with constant questioning, vigilance and readiness to be informed.
This work is so deep and radical in our interior that we cannot do it on our own; we can only request to be ‘given up’ - and long for this - it has the taste of non-existence. This longing becomes an embodied sense and something we can ask for, moment by moment.

‘This gathering has a huge potential, but it has its conditions.’
‘You can't be a knower to go through that door.’
‘It is a real matter, and the realness of it is so attractive!’
‘Have I taken this on?’
‘How can I be here without trying to control things, control this place, even in some really subtle way?’
‘It's very difficult to ‘not know’ what I know.’
‘We've talked about listening, really listening to people. There is a tremendous challenge in practicing receptivity. It requires an altogether different manner!’

Towards the end of the week mention was made of the 18th-century Ottoman sheikh Osman Fazli. The following extract from his writings was read and had an immediacy with regard to what has come up this week – the quality of the encounter was astonishing for many of us. Here is part of the extract:

Man does not possess anything else but his sensibilities as his real organ of intelligence and without Divine action man cannot even use his memory, which is his sacred treasury of experience acquired long ago.
The initiate, the saint … is he who possesses the faculty of being able to recognise the true non-existence of his faculties of thought and his own impotence in putting them in motion.
It is he who leaves all the space to God and who passes all his life in controlling his intimate faithfulness, in actions, thought, or in the acts that materialise them.
It is he who prays constantly to God, even if it be only by a breath or by a movement of the heart, when he perceives the natural and constant phenomena of thought.

The name Fazli means 'plenty', or better: 'super-abundance of grace'

It was said many times that the way of this school is the way of non-existence. What does it really mean? It seems true that we need to take a step, and it's a step out of the belief that holds us in what we think we are. Something very different might be asked of us now. The only thing to hold on to is the ever-present beneficence.

The miracle is that even when we’re ‘right in the thick of it’ we can be open to receiving that help, aware of the origin of the source, sometimes apparently from ‘another’ …and sometimes it is apparently from me, or you, or her, or him.

The conversation week was rounded off with thanks and with the following extract from a letter written by Bulent:

“So, God be with you in all you are doing. Distance does not exist in what we aim. Sweet company remains not through distance only, but also through aeons of time. May the Himma (spiritual will, help) arrive upon us from whichever channel it may take, but definitely from the source of all Himma, the Memed al Himmam” (the source of all help)

Thanks to all the people present for the week. And thanks to Robin Thomson and Frances Ryan for taking notes, and Rachel Gordin for her help with editing these.

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What truly moves you towards a state of happiness...
Eleanor Wray | Saturday, 18th February, 2017

This week Eleanor Wray sat down with Shane Jagger, a month after the publication of the second edition of his book: 'My Heart is Too Big for my Pacemaker'. His powerful words and gentle simplicity have charmed the hearts of many.

This week Eleanor Wray sat down with Shane Jagger, a month after the publication of the second edition of his book: My Heart is Too Big for my Pacemaker. His poems release a message of love that can be understood by any one of us, and his powerful words and gentle simplicity have charmed the hearts of many.

What was the first poem you ever wrote?
The Angels, it was a surprise

Have you wanted to be an artist all your life?
Of sorts, either a painter or a writer

What is your definition of poetry?
How do you even define poetry? God. It's a way of saying something which gives a magical twist the things you want to express without being dishonest. You know, you don't have to make it up. It just comes from the heart.

What does poetry mean to you?
It's my legacy, it gives meaning to my life, and shows something for it.

How does a poem begin for you?
It's a kind of agitation and a compulsion.

What conditions help you with your writing process?
Concentration, quietness and happiness

Where does your influence come from?
Oh, many things. Some poets I've read in my youth like Dylan Thomas, Christie Brown, T.S. Eliot and the rhythms of popular music. And I want to keep it simple and clear.

Did you learn anything when writing these poems?
Yes, I surprised myself and realised that these poems are beyond me. And I feel these were inspired rather than constructed. And that I am loved.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Keep it simple and say what truly moves you towards a state of happiness.

If you had to convince a friend to read this book, what would you tell them?
If you'd look at it, you'd want to read it. Just by looking at the production of the book and you'll find it's quite a beautiful thing in itself. If I showed you a copy now, you would be like 'wow, this is great', and you would be inspired to read it.

Is there a sequel to come?
I think this book is a one-off, and I haven't felt able to write since. One – because I was asked to write it, and two – because I'm either satisfied or something's changed for me.

Order Shane's book for £10 plus p&p from Beshara Publications

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...leaving all the space to God
Frances Ryan | Friday, 13th January, 2017

What is the intimate inner work of a person aspiring to live life in complete awareness?

Osman Fazli, one of the great Ottoman saints of the 17th century, lived in interesting times. His response to the needs of his particular era, informed as it was by his education in the Unity of Existence, may illuminate our own, no less interesting, times. He brought himself to mind and heart during the current ‘Single Vision’ conversation week at Chisholme.

Man does not possess anything else but his sensibilities
as his real organ of intelligence
and without Divine action man cannot even use his memory
which is his sacred treasury of experience acquired long ago. The initiate, the saint, the insani kamil, is he who possesses
the faculty of being able to recognise the true non-existence of his faculties of thought
and his own impotence in putting them in motion. It is he who leaves all the 'space' to God
and who passes all his life in controlling his intimate faithfulness,
in actions, 'thought' or in the acts that materialise them. It is he who prays constantly to God,
even if it be only by a breath or by a movement of the heart,
when he perceives the natural and constant phenomena of thought. Osman Fazlı

To read an account of Osman Fazli's life and times, see here...

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A treat for the New Year
Chisholme Blog | Friday, 9th December, 2016

Announcing the new edition of Shane Jagger's poems

Beshara Publications is delighted to announce the 2nd edition of My Heart is Too Big for My Pacemaker, by Shane Jagger.

This beautifully presented edition includes a review by Alan Williams and an interview with the author by Christina Mark.

About the poems

Shane Jagger was drawn to poetry early in his life. Influenced by the work of Dylan Thomas, Christy Brown, Wilfred Owen, TS Eliott and Walter de la Mare he wrote a number of poems but, deciding that they were too self-centred, burned them and planted potatoes in their ashes. When he dug up the potatoes he boiled and served them with mint and butter and remembers them as the most delicious he had ever eaten.

Shane says that the words came easily as if writing for someone he loved. He believes that the inspiration came from something far beyond him. When he reads the poems he asks himself ‘How do I know that?’ Shane acknowledges this mystery saying: ‘I don’t own these poems, they come through me, rather than written by me’.

This new edition is now available from Beshara Publications for £10 plus p&p.
Order your copy here

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Chisholme Kedgeree
John Brix | Tuesday, 6th December, 2016

John Brix's recipe captures the Indian-Scottish origins of this much loved dish

Kedgeree is thought to have originated with an Indian rice-and-bean or rice-and-lentil dish Khichri, traced back to 1340 or earlier. It is widely believed that the dish was brought to the United Kingdom by returning British colonials who had enjoyed it in India and introduced it to the UK as a breakfast dish in Victorian times, part of the then fashionable Anglo-Indian cuisine. However the dish was listed as early as 1790 in the recipe book of Stephana Malcolm of Burnfoot, Dumfriesshire. The National Trust for Scotland's book The Scottish Kitchen by Christopher Trotter notes the Malcolm recipe and other old examples, expressing the belief that the dish was devised by Scottish regiments hankering for the tastes of India.


Serves four

Main Ingredients: guide-line weights
8 ozs salmon
8 ozs cod or haddock
5–10 ozs smoked haddock or smoked white fish
8–10 ozs peas cooked
4 eggs hard boiled and quartered
8–10 ozs basmati or good long grain rice
1 pt strong fish or chicken stock

Curry sauce
2 onions, chopped
5–10 gms fresh ginger
10–15 gms tomato paste
10–15 gms madras curry paste
1 pint strong fish or chicken stock

Sweat chopped onions in butter till light golden, add tomato and curry paste, cook 5 mins add stock and cook for half an hour or until it reduces to the consistency of thin cream

8–10 ozs basmati or good long grain rice

Fry 5 gms tumeric in butter with some lemon zest and salt, add the rice, and lightly fry together. Add twice as much boiling water as rice, which should just cover the rice, then cook covered on a low heat 15–20 mins.

Cook fish in oven 180C for 10–15 mins, till just cooked.

Mix together the fish, peas, and boiled eggs.
Place in a cooking dish and keep warm 150c for ten mins.
Serve with chopped parsley on top and the curry sauce on the side.


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Bedtime for the garden
Chisholme Blog | Wednesday, 16th November, 2016

As we put the organic gardens to bed for the winter, Eleanor Wray reflects on her time as gardener and looks forward to the spring.

Posted by Eleanor Wray, Chisholme Gardener

I first came to Chisholme when my Dad, Stephen Plant, became the Estate Manager back in the mid-late 90’s. I was about 5 years old, my brother 3, and every weekend until 2001 we would live in the Gate Lodge, explore the estate and have a great time, without ever realising what this place really means.

I have now been working at Chisholme for 11 months. When I first started in the garden at the end of March I was still the secretary, and it was a trial run to see how I would manage. I studied publishing at university, and worked for Oxford University Press, Summer 2015, so I began with no knowledge of gardening. I knew, mostly through common sense, that there were plants you planted and wanted to grow, and those you didn’t plant and didn’t want to grow. I worked to clear out the nearly empty polytunnels of weeds (all that was left at the end of March was some spinach and chard). Eight of those months were spent learning as much as I could from John Hill and other 'Chisholmites', WWOOFers and volunteers, and books.

It has been a hard year, and I have pushed myself further than I believed was possible, but it hasn’t been difficult. There is a real innate joy in helping plants grow. There is a honourable pleasure you get from seeing something that used to be a tiny seed in your hand, grow into a plant that curls around the top bars of the polytunnel, and is served as a salad to the people at the table. Or holding a small bean, knowing that in a few months’ time, it will be taller than me and yet only a few of these plants will produce enough beans to feed a family.

I used to think “But I’ve never done this before! How can I be expected to ‘trust my senses’ when I don’t have a sense for gardening?” Either necessity or courage would lead to me finally trying to hoe, finally getting a feel for it, and standing back with satisfaction as the whole cabbage patch sits weed free. Then I’d get to watch with horror as, over the week, all that hard work, all that hesitation, had been for nothing, because it had returned to exactly the way it was before. Pretty daunting for a newbie gardener, I must say.

But one of the many incredible things that I have discovered about gardening is that you can ‘just do it’. Who cares if I had never seen a kale plant before, let alone knew how to harvest it? I read that you take the bottom leaves to allow the plant to grow upwards and keep producing healthy young leaves, and so that’s what I did. If I was doing it wrong, the plant would eventually tell me by beginning to show signs of discontent.

Shane Jagger told me that he and my Dad had been trying to grow aubergines here for years – the whole time my Dad was here. And so, in August, when I saw the small aubergines growing on the spiky plant, and in September, when they came out on the table, we were beaming. I was proud of the aubergines for trying so hard. And carrots – oh, carrots. Let me tell you, I never expected people to be so adamant that something couldn’t be grown here. Many, many people had told me it was impossible to grow carrots: “the soil isn’t sandy enough”, “carrot fly is a real problem”, “carrots haven’t been grown here successfully for 20 years”. Yet here we are, 8 months on and the carrots are long, straight, almost ready.

The most important, valuable lesson I learned early on in the Chisholme garden is that the plants are working with you. They aren’t constantly telling you to reboot them so they can update their system. They don’t require you to spend 10 minutes sifting through tabs and menus to find that one command that will help you finish the task. They don’t ask you to sign in, or connect to the internet to access their information. Plants are pure and they are simple. All they ask from you is a little water, some fresh air, healthy soil and good amount of sunlight.

The plants want to grow. They share with you the deep spiritual need to exist, to flourish with all that is given to them, to cooperate with their surroundings to live to their full potential. They don’t spend their lives trying to restore their separation, because they are already so completely part of the whole. They just are.

To know that you are in service to these plants, to the ground they thrive in, is humbling. It helped me see how irrevocably connected to nature we are. No matter how fancy our houses or how many possessions we have, we never truly escape that feeling. The easiest beauty to see, for me, is that beneath my fingertips – in the soil, in the water, in the lettuce leaves I harvest and parsnips I pull from the ground. I see the beauty in furniture and the written word, see how it has been created by another human being who imagined the beauty before making it a reality, but it is hard to compare to the raw Natural Beauty of life.

So it’s hard to say goodbye. I find myself reluctant now to pull out the tomatoes, who have probably taken up the majority of my time in the garden – just from removing the mouldy leaves and nodes. In only a month, the garden has changed from a field of dying paths and browner patches, to a sea of black tarp as our efforts to kill off the last of the weeds begin. We are preparing for winter. We are closing down the garden, and now, with the beans, lettuces, onions, potatoes, and much of the polytunnel produce gone, it has become reduced.

My attentions are turning to publicity and the kitchen. But winter is also the time for projects – it’s when we reconstruct the garden, shaping it for the next year by doing things such as turning the greenhouse into a polytunnel for next year.

I was stumbling along, nearly blind to the outcomes of planting those tiny seeds, and to what already lay in the earth (I think we pulled out enough chickweed to clog the lake!), but next year I will be prepared. I have so many things I want to experiment with; different growing and planting methods, different ways of constructing supports, different ways of working together. I can’t wait until next year, to see how my memory will be refreshed, and experience the joy of working with lots of people again.

Even in just a small patch of courgette plants, there are so many memories. The number of people who have harvested from them, weeded among them, asked questions about them or just had the courgettes pointed out to them on a tour. As I say to the volunteers who come to Chisholme: ‘You all make your mark – whether you’re here for a day or a year, we remember you, the place remembers you' – and so do the plants.

Eleanor Wray, November 2016

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Early days
Chisholme Blog | Sunday, 30th October, 2016

A Single Vision: returning to the spirit of the starting place. Week one: the conversation in the Mead Hall

A Single Vision: returning to the spirit of the starting place

Week one: the conversation in the Mead Hall

To quote from the September newsletter:
'Forty years on and the world has changed. Are we being asked to serve in new ways? How do we do so while remaining ever true to the unchanging starting vision?'

Can we look at these questions together over the coming months?

Read the report here

Photograph by Chris Ryan

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Chisholme Blog | Tuesday, 18th October, 2016

A poem from Shane Jagger, our resident poet


soon they visit some hearts
though they won’t find them
except by singular
intention and concentration
on the giver of all hearts

here they will be found
in the love of an open mind
free of worry
and clean of all clutter

here they will be waiting
knowing they are to be found
and accepted
like an old memory
of long before

These hearts are blessed
with eternity
and extraordinary happenings
will subtly occur

December 3, 2015

An excerpt from the review by author Roger Norman:

'This little book of poems arrived out of the blue one morning, at a postal address where nothing ever comes except gas bills. I read the first poems to see what was afoot and was caught by these lines: ‘Soon they visit some hearts / though they won’t find them / except by singular / intention and concentration on the giver of hearts’. There was no mistaking the weight of singular intention and concentration, as the seven ‘n’s sounded their gong-like chimes. By the end of the poem, we still don’t know who are ‘they’ of the first line, but we suspect that it might be ourselves – the uncertain ones, the seekers. Probably it is of us that the ‘singular intention’ is required.'


You can still order copies of the first edition of the book here

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Where is home?
Chisholme Blog | Monday, 17th October, 2016

Hannah Dalgleish speaks of her experience of Chisholme for Ignite London


In the beginning...
Chisholme Blog | Tuesday, 4th October, 2016

Introducing 'Luna River Voices' – a Chisholme memoir

Sarah Snyder first came to Chisholme from Montana, USA in 1998.
In Luna River Voices, her 36-part blog, she tells of her time at Chisholme working on the estate as a member of staff. She records her first impressions, doubts and imaginings, then develops her narrative over the course of her two-year stay recording her experiences and insights. Her blog uses pseudonyms – Chisholme itself, for example, is named Braemar. Luna River Voices is personal, quirky and very entertaining, and easily accessible for the general reader. For those who were here at the time there is the added enjoyment of being reminded of a special time – and fun in trying to decipher the pseudonyms.

Start reading here...

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September Newsletter
Chisholme Blog | Friday, 23rd September, 2016

We prepare for winter and look back on the highlights of the summer

Winter is coming

If the sun did not always shine on Chisholme this summer, there was never any shortage of warmth and light here. We have been able to put on a great variety of courses and all the feedback from those on them has been as good as could be wished. Along with satisfied students, there has been a steady stream of visitors and youthful volunteers, and their appreciation of this place has been very real. But now summer is nearly over and the winter period approaches.

Regrettably this winter will not feature the 40-day retreat and the other elements which together replaced the traditional six-month course (i.e., no Turkey trip, no 99-day retreat). Though a number of people showed very real interest there were too few to allow the courses to run. Instead a programme of weekend and week events is being put together.

The first of these will be a conversation week starting on 23 October. With the fee kept very low,we hope many of you will be able to come. More details of this week and other events will be posted on the website shortly.

The 40-day retreat itself will be offered again next winter and also in the early summer – probably starting around mid-May. But before thinking about summer 2017 there are still a couple of events to round off this very memorable one.

Richard Gault

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Looking ahead

The major event this month comes right at its end - the conversation with Colin Tudge about the future of food and farming. For humanity there is no future without food and there’ll be no food without farming. Right now there are real doubts about the way we farm and feed ourselves. Exploring ways of bringing about change is vital. Chisholme can serve this future in three ways. Firstly, we do indeed offer an ideal venue for conversation. In fact ‘ideal’ is too much of a cliché to do Chisholme justice. This is a very special place. We offer a space for conversation that cannot be found anywhere else. Here those who normally might never easily and freely talk with another, such as organic farmers and representatives of major food processing companies, can do so and find support in doing so. Secondly Colin argues that right food and farming practices can only emerge out of proper understanding of humanity’s relationship with reality. This school enables the search for this understanding. Thirdly, on a more practical level, Chisholme can offer examples of good practice. Ambitious aims perhaps but this is a time to be ambitious.

The Future of food and farming: deepening the conversation
30 September–2 October

Colin Tudge joins a weekend conversation that examines how the future of food and farming can be shaped to lead to a happier future for everyone on the planet. We are delighted that Chris and Denise Walton from Peelham Farm will be joining us, and they have kindly invited participants to visit their organic farm on the Monday.

Winter Wood Week, 8-15 October
Winter is coming – and we need to prepare for it. Would you like to help as a volunteer? The Winter Wood week will be a week spent gathering winter fuel. There’ll be sessions in the wood yard splitting logs for the boiler or chopping hard wood for the wood-fired stoves, such as the one in the Mead Hall. You will also go out on the estate helping gather wind-blown wood. In addition to healthy, outdoor activity there will be opportunities for study, informal conversation and, of course, you will enjoy fine meals. We will also be happy to accept help in the kitchen and house during the week. The usual financial contribution is requested: £10 per day or £6 student concession.

Single vision: the spirit of the starting place, 23–30 October
This will be the first of a series of conversation weeks to be held over the winter. Forty years on and the world has changed. But what are the truly significant changes? What do these changes mean for us? Are we being asked to serve in new ways? How do we do so while remaining ever true to the unchanging starting vision? More details on the website soon. To enable as many people to come as possible, the fee has been set at just £150 (£100 non-residential). Course fees are always charged at less than their actual cost and are subsidised thanks to the generosity of covenanters and donors. If you can afford more than the £150 fee please think of adding a little more if you can. This can help others come to Chisholme in the future.

Devotional Practice Retreat, Saturday 4–Sunday 19 February 2017
A two-week Retreat Course, led by Peter Young
This intensive retreat is for those with some prior experience of reading Ibn 'Arabi and who have an ongoing spiritual practice. Applications are invited both from those who have done this form of retreat (Wazifa retreat) in the past and from those who are new to it. Week 1: Intensive week of study of selections from Ibn ‘Arabi’s Tarjuman al-Ashwaq and the Lawa’ih of Jami, together with daily practice and group conversation. Week 2: A week of private seclusion engaging full-time in devotional practices, as prescribed by Ibn ‘Arabi for his students. These practices are undertaken for the completion of the various levels of the self through the realisation of their unity with the One Absolute Self. The retreat will be limited to ten participants. If you would like to take part please apply to Cost: £700 fully residential with single room.

And further ahead...

Summer 2017
Missing from this summer’s programme were any specifically family-friendly events. Children should be welcome here. We hope to offer something special for families next year beginning perhaps over the May Bank Holiday weekend.

And looking back: recent courses and events

Discovering Unity Seven-day Retreat: Service and Freedom, 13–20 August
A new course which will probably be offered again. It also suggests similarly structured thematic courses. “Fantastic! At times overwhelming, at times reassuring.” (L)

Discovering Unity, Introductory weekend 19-21 August
“I have had a weekend of true communication.” (O)

Ibn ‘Arabi Study Retreat week 27 August–3 September
Peter Coates led study of the 29 Pages and the chapter on Jonah from Ibn ‘Arabi’s Fusus al Hikam. Students from Australia, Egypt, the USA as well as the UK greatly enjoyed this course which benefited from the experience of Peter Coates. ”An enlightening experience, an affirmation of the value that study provides.” (E)

Retreat in the Woods: Foundations of Natural Intelligence, 27 August–3 September
Chisholme staff were privileged to be invited to coffee in the yurt camp kitchen at the end of this FNI week. On arriving it was immediately clear that the participants had shared a really special experience. This is an extraordinary course. “It was so much more than I could ever imagine or explain.” (V)

Rememoration, Sunday 4 and Monday 5 September
The annual Rememoration for Bulent Rauf took place early this month. Zikr on the Sunday evening was followed by conversation the next morning and a delicious celebratory lunch of roast lamb. Conversation flowed. A question was posed which all were invited to reflect upon: “What is your passion? Theophanic prayer and the revelation of God to man was also mentioned. Importantly, we have been reminded again recently that Bulent never veered from the premise that union with God was the sole purpose for the existence of man and this certainty coloured all that was accomplished through him. Read more>>

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Youth weekend meet-up, Friday 9th to Sunday 11th September
Over the weekend a good number of young people came together for conversation. Along with talking there was walking, wood-oven baked pizzas in (of course) the woods and more. A fuller report next month.

Come to stay or to work

Working at Chisholme
Hannes, our development officer, left a few days ago and our secretary will go at the end of October. Can you fill their shoes? Learn more about working at Chisholme: here or email to find out more.

Weekly programme
Visitors and guests are welcome to join our morning meditation at 7am daily and come for zikr on Thursday evenings at 9.30pm. There is a Fusus reading most Saturday evenings after supper (8.30pm) and another study session on Thursday mornings at 8.30 am. A walk is usually organised after lunch on Sundays.
Please email or phone 01450 880 215 to confirm.

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We look forward to welcoming you and to hearing from you

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What can I say?
Chisholme Blog | Friday, 9th September, 2016

A tale of the unexpected

Posted by Andrew Forsythe

Hello. What can I say? I am from the Scottish Borders. I was expelled from school at fifteen and spent most of my youth in and out of jail. I finally straighten out and worked as a painter and decorator for some years. A change in my career took me to working on estates as a gamekeeper and in estate maintenance in different parts of Scotland.

Somewhat disillutioned with the UK I moved to Canada, and there I worked painting skyscrapers in Toronto. I then moved to rural Ontario where I won a bar on the flip of a coin. Tails... I won!!!

After a few hard slogging years at that I sold the business and went to live on a Native Indian Reservation with the Mohawk warriors. There I did seasonal work on an apple orchard, then being involved in the growing of marijuana which was a great insight.

I returned to Hawick in 2009 and never really settled down. I was a volunteer at Artbeat Studios for five years, which is a grassroots group helping people with physical or mental difficulties. I really enjoy helping people or just being there for them. After squatting in a property in town for four years I was evicted and on the streets again.

A friend told me about Chisholme House and I went there as a volunteer, and then I was fortunate enough to do a six-month course there. Doing the course was an amazing journey into my truer self. I now work there maintaining the lawns, splitting wood, and looking after the chickens. Its a great place to work and I really enjoy the study sessions.

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Bulent Rauf: a personal account
Chisholme Blog | Sunday, 4th September, 2016

In a very personal account written in 2012, John Brass pays tribute to this remarkable man.

A man of wisdom, scholar, guide and dear friend to so many, without whose vision and foresight the school at Chisholme would never have come about.

In a very personal account written in 2012, John Brass pays tribute to this remarkable man.

Read the full article here

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Summer Harvest Bonanza
Chisholme Blog | Monday, 15th August, 2016

Our August volunteers reap many rewards

Posted by Eleanor Wray, Chisholme Gardener

This week, six volunteers joined us for the August volunteer week. Every day was jam-packed with the volunteers splitting their time between the kitchen and the garden. John Hill, our garden advisor, came up for the beginning of the week and imparted wise words to the new volunteers. The weather was really good to us at the start of the week, and we were able to spend the first day out in the sunshine harvesting all the berries from the garden that were made into preserves. One night, the blackcurrants we harvested were turned into a coulis that was served with ice-cream and went down a treat!

We helped the outdoor runner beans secure their growth by adding horizontal canes to their supports. Once the runner beans reach these canes, they should hopefully begin to grow along them, creating a canopy of runner beans that I’m sure will look incredible. I can’t wait to be able to delve into the thick mass of sticky leaves, dotted with bright red flowers and the long hanging beans, collecting enough to feed us this winter.

Friday and Saturday were huge days for us, as we all banded together to harvest as much as possible for our first day at the Hawick Saturday Market. We spent the whole morning collecting lettuce, celery, rhubarb, purple gooseberries, runner beans and loads of other tasty things. With help from Aziza our cook, the volunteers tied up and packaged the lettuce and herbs into beautiful bunches, laid out in baskets, ready for the people of Hawick.

We also harvested an entire patch of new potatoes, and a huge number of them had grown so big that one night we had thick, crispy potato wedges with coleslaw made from some of the beautiful kohlrabi that thrived thanks to the warm weather. We also collected the first harvest of peas that became the renowned pea puree served with Saturday’s fish and chips, along with a giant harvest of broad beans.

It’s so incredible to see the tiny seeds we planted in April growing into massive courgette plants that have been feeding us for the past month. Or the broad beans, no bigger than the tip of our thumbs, sprouting into 7-foot-tall plants, each producing a hundred more beans for us to eat. I feel so lucky to have been here to watch them grow, to take care of them for the volunteers and students who helped plant them, and to watch others enjoy them as they are prepared in the kitchen and finally served to the table.

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A simple soup
Chisholme Blog | Saturday, 13th August, 2016

Leek and potato: a soup to please all preferences

From Ann Marie Burbidge

Today it was a pleasure for me to cook in the kitchen at Chisholme. I had at my disposal several very good, but simple, ingredients from the garden, which included new leeks and potatoes as well as the first two onions harvested. We cooked a leek and potato soup for lunch, which was very tasty and very welcome since we did not have a particularly warm day here in Scotland. Every drop of the soup was eaten and was served with börek made the previous evening along with the fresh bread that we make every day.

At our table we have a variety of people from a variety of different cultures. We also have several fellow students and volunteers with special dietary needs and we consider it very important to address these needs. Mindful of this we made a soup which was dairy free, meat free and gluten free. As one may imagine this is not always an easy task, but in asking for help, this invariably comes in the form of inspiration, generosity and love.

I have often contemplated whilst in the kitchen that it is not a simple matter of producing and edible meal for the table on time each day. I have reflected on the obligation to bring out the very best in the food provided for us, both from the garden and many other sources and the further obligation to waste as little as possible in the process. This bounty is given to nourish us in every possible way and therefore must be honoured as the miracle that it actually is. Bulent Rauf's ‘Notice to Cooks’ displayed in the kitchen states that ‘there is nothing in the divine order devoid of beauty’. Therefore the fresh produce we have is beautiful! And in my experience, the processes involved in the cooking of a meal are also really quite beautiful. Let me share with you the recipe for this soup. Obviously I have cooked a large quantity for the table here at Chisholme but I will give you a recipe that should feed four.

Leek and Potato Soup
Gluten and dairy free

2 medium onions diced
4 medium leeks washed and thinly sliced
4 large potatoes washed, peeled and cubed, about 1cm squares
2 medium sticks of celery washed and thinly sliced
2 pints of vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh chopped parsley to serve

Sauté the onions in olive oil until translucent. Add the sliced leeks and continue to sauté until the leeks are soft and tender. Add the celery and continue to sauté the combined vegetable until all are soft and tender. Add the cubed potatoes and cook for a few minutes then add the vegetable stock. If you do not have any home made vegetable stock you can use a good organic gluten-free bouillon. Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow the soup to come to a boil and then simmer for approx. 30 mins. Some of the potatoes will break up and provide a natural thickener for the soup. Serve the soup with fresh chopped parsley sprinkled on top.

You may decide to blend the soup once it is cooked but it is very enjoyable served chunky with nice crusty bread. I hope you enjoy making this quick but very nutritious soup.

Ann Marie, Aziza Burbidge
Cook and kitchen manager

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Hello weeds!
Chisholme Blog | Wednesday, 3rd August, 2016

Our gardener Eleanor Wray reports on a satisfying few days in the organic garden

Posted by Eleanor Wray, Chisholme Gardener

Hi folks,

It’s been another busy few days in the garden. Two new volunteers joined us and we started by building a little woodland for the peas, collecting large twiggy branches from around the estate and setting them into the ground to give support to the peas planted during the April Volunteer Fortnight. Chaffinches and blackbirds are now using them to rest as they explore the garden, catching midges and other tasty bugs, and they can be seen perching on the branches during the day. We also planted in more peas in the empty spaces, and hopefully we’ll see some more coming up by the end of the month.

On Monday, we got to work weeding out the huge onion patch beside the garden hedge, the three of us ploughing through the lines with our hands, pulling out the weeds to give the onions a chance to catch the rain and bask in the sun. After lunch, we were joined by Nissa and Andy, and as Nissa worked away at clearing the weeds around the leeks, Andy proved to be the cog that kept the weeding wheel turning as he ferried our brimming buckets of weeds off to the rubbish pile. As we were weeding, we found that a lot of the onions had been using the dense weeds for support, and they flopped over when the area around them was cleared. With some good weather (and maybe a helping hand from us), they’ll pick themselves up again and there will be some lovely red and white onions for the kitchen come Autumn.

By Tuesday, we were back out on the estate, collecting a huge pile comfrey from behind the Steading. After coffee, we took our secateurs to the rhubarb patch and harvested four plants-worth of rhubarb (and if you’ve seen the rhubarb down in the kitchen garden, you’ll know just how large a harvest that is) We won’t be wanting for rhubarb this winter! Once we had harvested the rhubarb, we clambered into the open greenhouse. The almost-drought a month or so ago (up 24 degrees of relentless sun for 16 days!) triggered the old grape vine that creeps along the back wall to start sprouting. We picked the vine leaves, which will be soaked in brine by the kitchen to be used for dolmas. We also harvested the young yellow and rainbow Swiss chard from the salad bed. After lunch, we covered the chard area with a tarp, and once the weeds have died, the space will be ready for a new crop.

We then laid the comfrey in between the lines of broad beans. Comfrey is extremely fertile, as it has long roots that feed deep into to the soil and draw up nutrients that other plants cannot. This makes it brilliant mulch, and with its wide leaves, it can cover a lot of ground, stopping the weeds coming back up. It can also be piled up in a compost bin or barrel and left to decompose, where it will turn into a liquid fertilizer that is perfect for young plants. The comfrey mulch also helped define the broad bean lines, and supports were placed along the lines in the form of bamboo canes and thick, straight branches, strung up with twine. After tea we weeded out the rest of the greenhouse, and then we all set to work weeding out the last few lines of onions by the stone path.

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Huge thanks to our volunteers and helpers for a very satisfying few days.

If you would like to join us in the garden next month and learn new skills in a fabulous setting, please get in touch.
+44 (0)1450 880 215
Or see our Volunteer page

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From the Heart
Chisholme Blog | Tuesday, 26th July, 2016

Prof. Alan Williams reviews Shane Jagger's poetry.

My Heart is Too Big for my Pacemaker
by Shane Jagger
White Stone Publishing, 2016
Rrp £10

Reviewed by Alan Williams, Senior Lecturer in Comparative Religion at the University of Manchester and the translator of Spiritual Verses: Jalaloddin Rumi, (Penguin Classics, 2006)

I cannot think of another book of poetry that has made me well up just as I came to the end of it, but Shane Jagger’s slim volume did, and quite unexpectedly with his last poem, ‘Three Words’. By this point, after having read 25 of his other poems, I thought I had become familiar with his voice. But the sincerity of this short poem grabbed me by the collar, and still makes my hair bristle to recall it.

Shane was asked to write these poems by Richard Gault, the Principal of the Chisholme Institute. They seem to be collected from a long and much-lived lifetime: some are almost diary entries, one – the enigmatic and beguiling ‘Visiting’– with an actual date. In so many ways these poems reflect Shane’s love of Chisholme, the people and what he has learnt there. The title of the collection tells it as it is – it’s an unlimited heart he has. He locates it as a spiritual organ in the first poem ‘The Heart’, in six double beats. Many that follow are little jewels of reflections, like ‘Love’, ‘The Moment’, ‘Stars’, and ‘Winter’ – the last of which uses such a singularly poignant and esoteric word, ‘mercified’, which takes it to a new level beyond the personal. In fact many of the poems are like this. Some are quite imperative, and tell us, from what he has come to know, just how it is, even with a line or two in italics from which the poem flows. In the short poem ‘Compassion’ there are six commands! No, Shane’s poetry is not as simple as it might first appear, and it demands our attention. In ‘Moments Between’, for example, there is a wonderful balance between personal reflection, and a more commanding observation of our state. To take another example, I think ‘Onion’ is delightful in formal terms, and must be quoted to allow any comment:

Today I’m like an onion
Sad with separation
Grief makes me cry
Chop and cook me gently
Add a little saffron
for joining together and laughter
Serve me to those whom I love

With breath-taking speed he gives us the image, and moves from vegetable to kitchen chopper, cook, to the table and the guests who will consume it – all with a simple plea for tenderness. Here is optimism that is a lifetime of pain away from naïveté, sensitised by his vulnerability and the caring he has received, and which is acknowledged on every page of this wonderful book. It is a lesson about love – thank you, Shane.

Alan Williams, July 2016

Order the book here
£10 inc p&p worldwide

Read the review by Christopher Ryan

Read more about Shane Jagger on

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Sound bath
Chisholme Blog | Thursday, 30th June, 2016

Our volunteers in June were plunged into a sound bath

Posted by Hannes Rohtsalu

During the June Volunteer Week a special treat was provided for everyone at Chisholme: a 'sound bath' session was offered by Marco Florio, one of our volunteers from Italy.
Javier Rodriguez reports:

Marco works with the medium of sound frequencies and it’s healing properties. A sequence of quartz crystal and Tibetan singing bowls are played, each one keyed to the energy centres of the body, where sound nourishes the nervous system. Crystal singing bowls are composed of quartz crystals, which have the ability to transform, store, and amplify energy.

Everything in the Universe has a vibration or frequency, including our physical body. A system in each living organism: flower, plant, cell, organ, has its own vibration. Thoughts, emotions, colour and sound also have their own specific pulsation. We experience them and perceive them through our different senses and at different levels

The experience was indeed powerful, and made me wonder why I had never come across it before. I was most struck by the Turkish gong (very familiar from mealtimes at Chisholme) which acquired a deep and rich sound with Marco’s beater.

Many thanks to Marco and Javier for organising this memorable afternoon.

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Poetry by Shane Jagger
Chisholme Blog | Sunday, 26th June, 2016

The author Roger Norman reviews 'My Heart is too Big for my Pacemaker'

My Heart is too Big for my Pacemaker : poems by Shane Jagger

Reviewed by Roger Norman

This little book of poems arrived out of the blue one morning, at a postal address where nothing ever comes except gas bills. I read the first poems to see what was afoot and was caught by these lines: ‘Soon they visit some hearts / though they won’t find them / except by singular / intention and concentration on the giver of hearts’. There was no mistaking the weight of singular intention and concentration, as the seven ‘n’s sounded their gong-like chimes. By the end of the poem, we still don’t know who are ‘they’ of the first line, but we suspect that it might be ourselves – the uncertain ones, the seekers. Probably it is of us that the ‘singular intention’ is required.

Wary of false prophets, we require in return a sense of authenticity. For me, it was the appearance of the angels that decided it. Of these angels, ‘they say some don’t even know / of the existence of humankind’. Angels unaware of us? We have been led to think we created them. But ‘they exist you know / out of the corner of your eye / as perceived by the ill and frail … Oh yes they whisper / clear inspiration like / an idea half-remembered from childhood / they listen to hearts / and without judgement / watch the human failures pass away.’ Watch the human failures pass away? I’m reminded of a peremptory line from one of the Desert Fathers: ‘The whole active life is regarded by God as nothing but leaves on a tree which bears no fruit.’

In another of the poems came this, about death: ‘Each aspect of a person is / taken on a return / to its origin. / Death then / is returning to / that single point / where the request to / live began.’ The idea of death as return is familiar, but ‘each aspect … is taken’ is surprising and ‘the request to live’ is astonishing. The voice of Shane Jagger, Wakil as he is known, acquires authority as he treads untrodden ground.

His angels appealed to me at once, perhaps because the angel Gabriel had caused me problems years ago. He’s the only magical being in the Christmas story – I mean wholly fantastic – big muscular wings, a shining light. When the rule of reason reared its head in my life, it was the angel in the Christmas story that stood out. The rolling away of the stone from the crypt might have been a tall story issuing from the imagination of the disciples, but the angel? It’s like a Harry Potter phoenix. Wakil’s angels are deft, silent, nearly invisible.

As I read the poems I found myself thinking of Rumi, Anatolia’s greatest poet. The association may have been triggered by a reference to the ‘essential friend’, which to an admirer of the Mevlana recalls the amazing Shams of Tabriz, Rumi’s teacher and soulmate. But there was a sense in other poems too of that mixture of the devoted and the unpredictable that is characteristic of Rumi, especially if read in the Coleman Barks translation.

Wakil’s poems are followed by a short life of the author, who ‘found his way to Chisholme House, a school of esoteric education’. The internet reveals that this school was founded by Bulent Rauf, a Turkish mystic. Rauf published books on the sufi sage Ibn Arabi, who in the 13th century AD taught the oneness of being. This pedigree sheds light on Wakil ‘trying to understand / there is only one thing going on / nothing else’ but the poems need no positioning within this or that tradition. ‘Keep sharp and awake,’ the same poem exhorts. They all said that, didn’t they? From Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane to Buddha under the pipal tree.

Back to the poem I started with – visiting the hearts. Free of worry and clean of all clutter ‘these hearts are blessed / with eternity / and extraordinary happenings / will subtly occur’. How I love that ‘subtly’! That whole sentence! It is what I have wanted, all these years.

Roger Norman
June 2016

Order Shane's book here

Read the review by Christopher Ryan

Read more about Shane Jagger on

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Fish See Water
Chisholme Blog | Wednesday, 15th June, 2016

The new book by John Brass is now available to order

Fish See Water

by John Brass
Mallet Press, Oxford
£10 plus p&p

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"Through the works of two of the finest intellects from the Medieval era, Jalalu'ddin Rumi (1207–1273) and Muhyiddin ibn al-'Arabi (1165–1240), a conservator comes to understand the changes he has to make in facing himself so he is able to restore a 14th-century Sienese Renaissance masterpiece of The Annunciation... one that is not what it seems.

Does the restorer restore? Or, does the restoration restore the restorer?

Tales of selflessness and heroism from Peru to Constantinople drift through the refined settings of an enigmatic country house while the conservator works on… Then an unexpected and astonishing configuration begins to reveal itself, throwing all those present into awed perplexity."

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Recipe of the Week
Chisholme Blog | Tuesday, 31st May, 2016

This week's recipe is John Brix's 'Fillet of Cod with Braised Fennel'.

Fillet of Cod with Braised Fennel

Serves four
Recipe by John Brix


Please ensure you buy sustainably fished cod. Or use pollack which is an excellent alternative!

  • 4 Cod fillets, 6oz (180g) each (without skin)
  • 2 or 3 Fennel bulbs
  • 1 onion or a couple of shallots
  • Chicken or fish stock 1pint (1/2 litre) medium strength
  • 120g clarified butter
  • Cayenne pepper, salt, sugar

Slice fennel bulbs and onion into 1/4" slices (trim off the fennel stems and use in stock making or reserve for roasting with meats)

Sauté onion and fennel in clarified butter till golden, place in roasting tray or casserole dish.

Add some stock (along with a tsp. sugar) and braise for 3/4 hour at 180C, adding more stock as required. When cooked, the fennel should be very tender, so that a cocktail stick goes into it with ease. The stock should have reduced by about half, and the juices should have the consistency of thin cream. Take into account the fish will release some of its juices.

Roll the fillets into three, skin-side in, brush with clarified butter, season with cayenne pepper and salt.

Place the fish on top of the braising fennel and cook for about 20 minutes or until the fish is firm to the touch.

Adjust seasoning to the juices, and serve with sauté or boiled new potatoes and a seasonal green vegetable.

You can also use cod loin or cod steaks for this dish. If they still have skin on them, sauté the skin side first. No need to roll them, just continue as above.

{CGSmartImage src='uploads/images/page-images/FennelFish.jpg' class='img-responsive'}

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