Diving for Pearls with Maggie Kay
Missing the Treasure
A Ceremony on a Hill
The friendly old Scottish hotel on the banks of a tree-lined river had seen its best, but it didn’t matter. We were glad to have found somewhere to stay and it meant there weren’t many people around. After a pleasant dinner, we sat in a corner of the big, airy, darkening lounge all by ourselves, talking intently, still so much to learn about each other. Pat was about to share with me one of the most pivotal experiences of his life.
It was a fair May in the Scottish Highlands, quiet before the main tourist season, yet light until nearly bedtime. Peaceful and awe-inspiring, the distant mountains were reassuring, while nearby Loch Tay hummed silently, reminding us of our own vast, inky depths.
Pat and I had taken this trip to Scotland for my dear gran’s ash scattering ceremony. We had only known each other for six weeks, but it was obvious Pat should come with me, even though it meant him stepping directly into the heart of the family. My sister, Katy, felt this too, instinctively inviting Pat to also take a handful of Gran’s ashes and scatter them, despite never having met him before.
High among the hills overlooking a favorite loch, a dozen of us gathered in a circle. We had chosen this spot because Gran loved her day trips to the area and said she felt “close to God” out in the countryside. Gazing out over the distant loch with small clouds of ash still wafting around us, we spontaneously broke into a Scottish lament. Pat – moved to the core by the haunting song, the glorious vista and the significance of the occasion – had, in that one ceremonial act, definitively become a full member of the family.
It seemed so right. After all, Pat and I had begun our relationship on the very night that Gran passed over. I felt her with me then, blessing my new union from the other side, and I felt her now, up there in the hills above Loch Lomond in her final resting place. For me, Pat and Gran will always be entwined in my heart: both fiery spirits, full of fun, life-force and affection; both so generous with their natural, earthy wisdom; and both havens of love, support and guidance in my life.
Walking Away from Themselves
The day after the ceremony, Pat and I set off to explore for a few days before driving back to Devon. Sitting in the hotel lounge that first evening, naturally dropping into deeper and deeper intimacy, Pat gave me a glimpse into the most hidden chambers of his soul. What I saw in there told me a great deal about the man I was falling in love with, stirring and haunting my spiritual imagination, as it has done to this day.
Pat described a vision he had recently experienced in meditation. He was almost destitute at the time, having just broken up from his relationship (his third marriage in so many decades) which also forced the close of their joint business – the same ruining conclusion as wife number two. Having persuaded friends to put him up in their shared house on an organic farm, he took refuge in their only space: a windowless loft, sleeping on a mattress on the floor.
Directionless, loveless, jobless, and penniless, Pat entered into a period of intense monk-like contemplation, or “cycling” as he called it. Spending much time alone, and being answerable to no one, he simply followed his natural inclination to meditate, commune with spiritual guidance, read, sleep, eat, drink and socialize in whatever random pattern arose throughout the days and nights.
One morning, he woke feeling especially drawn into meditation. Feeling he wanted to gain some higher perspective, he visualized himself ascending stairs while dropping deeper and deeper into trance. Eventually, he found himself sitting on the edge of a wooden jetty, feet dangling over a great sparkling lake that spread out before him. A wise, benign spiritual being was sitting beside him.
Gazing softly at the expansive lake, Pat watched scene upon scene appear in the water. He saw warring countries, he saw friends at odds with each other, and he saw spiritual seekers trying to find themselves. And in every case, his spiritual companion telepathically communicated the same message – “They are walking away from themselves.”
His wise guide showed him that the people who were walking away from themselves the most were, in fact, the spiritual seekers; striving to find themselves yet looking in the wrong place. They were trying to ‘go somewhere’, yet they need only stop and be where they were. They were looking for something outside of themselves that could only be found within.
In those few minutes, Pat’s world turned upside down and inside out. He was hit with the thunderous realization that: “Nothing matters and we need do nothing.” Reeling from this experience, he tried to conclude the meditation, but it was not finished with him. As the vision faded, a tsunami of pure spiritual energy poured towards him, engulfing him and smashing his old perspective to pieces.
Pat didn’t know what to do with himself. He came downstairs to discover he’d left some fish fingers (fish sticks) in the deep fat fryer which were now blown up like pufferfish. “The meaning of life is fish fingers,” he mumbled to himself like a mad man. Getting hold of his friend Ann (the child-minder friend who had orchestrated our meeting) on the phone, her advice to him was to go outside and walk barefoot on the grass. It was something, but it wasn’t enough.
Still desperate for some support and unable to contact his spiritual mentor and Reiki instructor, Mickey, Pat went to the pub. His drinking mates thought he was totally bonkers and tried to shut him up. Pat now wonders if the experience was not properly absorbed because he took himself into an environment where nobody would even remotely understand what he was on about. However, he did what he did and it was what it was – after all, nothing really matters!
A Spiritual Seeker
One thing was for sure, Pat had just had one of the biggest insights of his life. As he recounted the tale to me, sitting in that hotel lounge, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I could feel the power and truth of it and, having been an ardent ‘spiritual seeker’ within the Triratna for the last 18 years, felt shocked yet intrigued to consider that maybe he and his spirit guide had a point!
I had indeed been ‘striving’ all those years – looking, searching and seeking – to find enlightenment. After all, the Buddha’s dying words were reputedly, “With mindfulness, strive on!” And yes, I had turned within, practiced meditation daily and learned a great deal about myself. However, there was still an attitude of (what Pat calls) ‘over-there-ness’ subtly inherent in my spiritual quest.
My experience of total immersion in the Triratna was stimulating, educational and insightful, but it also had limitations. It seems to me that there is inevitably some form of institutionalized ideology at work within a spiritual community, even a community that professes the dangers of institutionalized ideology, as ours did. (Maybe even particularly when it does; we can be fooled into thinking we are immune from it.) Sure, we were all taught that we needed to break free of the fetter of getting attached to ideology, rules and practices – and even Buddhism itself – as ends in themselves, rather than simply using them as practical means to an end, but it is so easy to become blind to unconscious, creeping institutionalization when your whole world consists of that institution, as it did to us.
We were all familiar with the Buddha’s analogy that once you cross the river of Samsara (suffering) in the boat of the Dharma (spiritual practice) you didn’t need to take the boat with you onto the other shore. It had done its job and you could let it go. However, in my experience, it was easy to accidentally hang onto the boat. Or worse than this, it was possible to get so fixated on your boat that you forgot you were on a journey to the other shore at all!
One of the main limiting beliefs I unconsciously created during the time I was in Triratna was a lack of faith in my individual spiritual discernment, my intuition and inner wisdom. This was a bit ironic considering that we were all supposed to be committed to achieving our own enlightenment.
I think this was an accidental consequence of Triratna’s emphasis on spiritual friendship. Running everything past our spiritual friends, we were encouraged to open ourselves up to feedback on every matter. This was well intentioned and very helpful and growth-inducing up to a point, but ultimately led to me not having true belief in myself. It was also implied that we should be suspicious of our ‘intuition’; that it was probably just our ego in disguise, duping us into thinking we were being wise. Nothing could be trusted unless we had checked it out with our spiritual friends for validation.
During the time I was deciding to leave my community in London for fresh pastures in Devon, I had a vivid dream. The beautifully restored former Victorian fire station that housed the London Buddhist Centre was being flattened. Watching the epicenter of the Triratna’s flagship urban village being inexplicably and completely demolished, I felt very sad and disorientated, but also strangely liberated.
My Buddhist friends in London were extremely dubious about my urge to move to Devon. Why would I move out of the most dynamic center in the movement to live away from my spiritual friends in Totnes? Sure, there were spiritual seekers in Devon, but not any of my brothers and sisters in the Dharma. Sangharakshita had warned us about spiritual liberalism. ‘Shopping around’ different spiritual influences was not deemed as effective as committing yourself to one clear path with one unified community.
In retrospect, that open-ness to all spiritual traditions was exactly the kind of culture that was attracting me to Totnes, but at the time, I couldn’t answer my spiritual friends in London. I just knew I had to make the move. Fortunately, for once I listened to my inner promptings over the opinions of my friends and made the move.
Known as the Inner Wisdom Coach and formerly an ordained Buddhist, Maggie specialises in meditation, mindfulness, law of attraction, metaphysics and spiritual intelligence for life, love and business.
As well as coaching one-to-one, she trains accredited Thrivecraft life coaches and meditation teachers and runs retreats and workshops for soulful entrepreneurs, coaches and well being professionals.
In 2016, with her son Jamie grown up, Maggie established Thrivecraft Home Hub, a riverside country retreat in Cornwall, UK, where she lives with her soul mate husband, Patrick.
Her new book – Diving for Pearls: A Wise Woman's Guide to Finding Love (O Books) – is a highly readable true love and spiritual adventure story laced with tips and teachings on meditation, Buddhism, inner wisdom and relationships relevant to all.
Maggie's vision for the future includes taking Thrivecraft worldwide via a new online academy; continuing to mentor coaches, well-being professionals and meditation teachers to grow and prosper their businesses; producing audios of her full range of guided meditations; and writing further books to inspire and support everyone to create rich, happy and fulfilling lives.
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Thrivecraft with Maggie Kay
Wisdom. Inspiration. Self-belief.