A thought provoking visit to Aylesford Priory

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I fired up my computer tonight, all ready to write a pre-planned post about my recent trip to Canada. And I ended up writing this one instead in about 15 minutes – a sure sign that it needed to be written. Sometimes it happens that a post just comes pouring out, rather than me having to search for the words. I guess some would call it divine intervention…

Today I visited Aylesford Priory in Kent for its annual Summer Fair. I had heard a lot about this place so when my Mum suggested that we visit I was keen to go. I understand from my meditation teacher, Anne, that the Priory is built on important lay lines and is, therefore, a sacred and spiritual spot.

We wandered around for a while in the drizzle (you’ve got to love British summertime), taking in the sights of the fair – the dancers in the arena, the funfair rides, the stalls, the craft fair – we had a walk around the buildings and chapels, and queued up with the hordes for our BBQ food. Then we decided to book onto the free tour at 2.30pm. I wasn’t that fussed, but it was something Mum said she would like to do, so I went along with it. And it was absolutely enthralling. We were met by a charismatic and entertaining Friar (whose name we never did find out), who took us on a 90 minute tour of the grounds and educated us ignorant folk on the history of the Priory, the Carmelites and their beliefs and traditions.

Of the many things we learnt today, a few things stuck with me…lessons in love, being grateful for what we have and seeing the positive in people and situations (example quote from today: “rather than think, oh no it’s raining again instead think, great – I’m getting a free shower!”).

Much of the art around the many buildings was produced by Kossowski, and one of his pieces in the Chapel of Joseph depicted female saints, all with halos. Our Friar tour guide pointed out that the figure in the top right-hand corner was the only one without a halo, and advised that this represented us…the idea being that we all have the propensity to be a saint, to accept love and to give it back to others. Another mural depicted the Carmelite church as a centrepiece, but with all the other churches represented alongside it, and pieces on the adjoining walls representing the Jewish beliefs, as recognition that this is where all other religions started. I don’t profess to know very much at all about religion, but I wouldn’t imagine that there are many that recognise others as equal to their own?

After the tour, Mum and I took a stroll in the beautiful Peace Garden (see picture above), a place for quiet reflection and contemplation (not easy when Rihanna is blaring on the loudspeakers at the fair on the other side of the wall, but I imagine it is usually a lovely tranquil spot!). The sun came out as we took a seat for a few minutes here, which was rather fitting and welcome.

All of this talk of love, particularly of ourselves, reminded me of something I read a couple of nights ago in ‘Eat Pray Love’, which I am still painstakingly making my way through for a second time. It is about karma:

“Karma is a notion I’ve always liked. Not so much literally. Not necessarily because I believe that I used to be Cleopatra’s bartender – but more metaphorically. The karmic philosophy appeals to me on a metaphorical level because even in one lifetime it’s obvious how often we must repeat our same mistakes, banging our heads against the same old addictions and compulsions, generating the same old miserable and often catastrophic consequences, until finally we can stop and fix it. This is the supreme lesson of karma (and also of Western psychology, by the way) – take care of the problems now, or else you’ll just have to suffer again later when you screw everything up the next time. And that repetition of suffering – that’s hell. Moving out of that endless repetition to a new level of understanding – that’s where you’ll find heaven.”

I wasn’t sure how my experience today linked with the above passage straight away, I just felt compelled to write about them both. But having read through it a few times, the message I come away with is that yes, it is important to work out what your cycles are – the mistakes that you make over and over again (I am all too aware of my own), but I believe that in order to do so you need to have a sense of self love (and if you don’t, then you need to work on developing one). Without accepting and honouring your mistakes, and loving yourself regardless, how will you ever address and, therefore, learn from them?

I think that’s enough of the deep and meaningful for one Sunday. So I shall leave you (and me) to ponder a little on that.

Until next time, love and effervescent Friars, sm x

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