School of Movement Medicine - Mindfulness in Motion

Back to contents

Issue: October 2010
Lui and Louis

By Roland

“The man in this photo is much younger than you.” So said the hotel desk clerk as he looked up at me after examining my driving licence.  He laid a particular sneering emphasis on the word ‘much’ which I took somewhat personally. 

This situation had arisen following a problem with one of my credit cards. Now, wishing to extract myself as fast as possible, I gave up the struggle to pay by card and handed over instead some of my precious cash, retrieved my driving licence, hoisted my rucksack onto my back and stepped out into the open air. 

I tried to let the desk clerk’s words go by inhaling and exhaling deeply but they stuck with me like insects on sticky flypaper.  Perhaps it was true and I had aged considerably over the last few years.  Thoughts of death had been with me a lot recently.  Both a good friend and a relative have been pronounced as being near to death.  Also just before I left to come to Scotland I visited the site where those on Ya’Acov’s Ritual Burial Ceremony had dug their graves.  I had joked with some participants about how comfortable and cosy their graves looked.  I smiled wryly as I remembered some of the things we said.  Jokes and digging graves make good dance partners it seems.  

I did the burial ceremony several years ago and learned an important lesson about the acceptance of death.  What I now realised was that I had never really examined properly or faced that other life cycle often linked with death – old age.

These thoughts made me feel lonely.  A feeling that was magnified by the overcast sky, the deserted moorland and the mist that was shrouding the mountain I was approaching. Even an attempt to sing my Scottish medley where I join all the ten lines of lyrics of Scottish songs that I know together into one song with an approximation of the tunes of all of them, failed to rouse my spirits. 

I trudged on in silence and when, after 2 hours, I reached the first steep slopes of the mountain, I stopped to rest.  The mountain I was about to climb was called Ben Lui. It occurred to me that the name of this mountain which I had chosen to include on my route from Glasgow to Oban (the final stretch of the walk I was making in memory of my father), was very apt.  My grandfather, my father’s father, was called Louis, which was pronounced in the French way rather than the anglicised ‘Lewis’(Louis is the man in the photo on the left. He is with his friend John Cowper Powys).  I never knew my grandfather well but when I was 9 years old and he was 84, he came to live in our small house in order to die.  He was a troublesome, smelly, demanding and totally disruptive presence in our already crowded and chaotic household.  

One time he nearly killed a favourite cat of mine by sitting on it.  The cat squealed loudly as my grandfather’s bulk descended on it but not loudly enough for my grandfather to notice.  I was the only other person in the room at the time and now began a strange conversation in which he talked to me about Shakespeare while I tried to explain to him that what he thought was a comfortable cushion was in fact a cat being crushed to death under his bottom.  Eventually he raised himself just enough for me to retrieve the cat through the bars at the back of the chair.   While I stood nursing the cat I muttered a prayer to any power that might be listening to a small boy to bring about my grandfathers death quickly and allow our household to return to normal.  Louis didn’t hear a word but relowered his bottom and proceeded to elicit my opinion of the French poet Baudelaire and the influence he had on early 20th century western poetry.

A short while later when he did die, I was away from home on a walking holiday with one of my older sisters.   I did not hear the news with any sense of joy but instead felt very uneasy - I was surely responsible for his death as I had wished him dead.   When we learned there was a possibility that he had committed suicide as he had died with a bottle of pills by his bedside and a note which said that no-one else and, in particular, my father knew of the existence of these pills, my conviction of my guilt became certain.  It was only many years later that I learned that during the last few months of his life he always went to bed with the same bottle of pills and same note beside his bed and had been considering suicide well before he moved in with us, that I realised I was not responsible for his death after all.

It was while I was sitting having these memories of my grandfather that I was passed by an old man on his way up the mountain.  We exchanged a few words about the weather and he went on his way.  A few minutes later I caught up with him and asked him if he knew the best route to the top.  We end up walking together and we talked about his life, Scottish mountains and his wife who had recently died.  Eventually we reached one of the shoulders of the mountain that led to the summit.  The mist was now very thick and the wind was blowing very strongly.  “I think this must be gale force,” the old man said to me.  We stopped so he could put up the hood of his coat.  Then he said, “I’m sorry but I don’t think I should go any further.  This looks a bit dangerous to me.  But I’m concerned about you – will you be OK on your own?”  I assured him I would be fine and that he should look after himself.  We shook hands – my bare hand in his green woollen mittened hand. I glanced away a moment and then back to where he had been standing but he was gone.  The mist had swallowed him up.

I started up the shoulder of the mountain.  I could hardly see beyond a few feet ahead of me and the wind was continually growing in strength.  Often I was forced to crawl on all fours.  I was absolutely terrified, but I felt I could not go back – I had committed myself to this route.  I found myself wondering about the mythological qualities of being guided up a mountain by an old man who then deserts me just at the most dangerous place.  It even occurred to me that I might have died and that he had led me to some kind of in-between world.  Then a fearsome gust of wind knocked me off my feet and I found myself shouting “Oh God! If you think I’m going to do what I always do when I am scared and that I will say sorry for all the bad things I’ve done and beg your forgiveness in exchange for being a good boy you are wrong!  Let the wind blow me off the mountain if you want, but I am not going to make any silly compromising deals.” 

Very soon after this the wind dropped and I came to some rocks where two figures were sheltering.  They too had a strangely mythological look about them as their balaclavas made them look like Templar Knights which was strangely appropriate as the Templar Knights were established to protect pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem and I was on a kind of pilgrimage.   I found out from them that we were just below the summit of the mountain.  “What is the wind like up there?” I asked, convinced that it must be worse than what I had already endured but they didn’t seem to understand what I was on about.  In fact the wind on the summit was negligible.

I had got far too shaken to feel any immediate exaltation at climbing the mountain but as I made my way down on the far side I reflected that I had gained a better perspective on the prospect of growing old.  I remembered that my grandfather had in fact led a very good and fulfilling life nearly to the time of his death.  He had followed the doctrine of his friend the notorious magician Aleister Crowley ‘Do what thou Wilt be the whole of the Law.’ He was a sexual libertine, a wine connoisseur, and published author who had the sense to avoid fighting in the first world war by moving to America.  In fact, the more I thought about his achievements the prouder I felt of him.  There was not much I could do about growing older but I could take a leaf out of his book and live my life to the full for as long as I could.  But I did also resolved to have more consideration for others than he had done and definitely not to squash any cats.

For those who wish to explore their relationship with death or old age without endangering their lives up the top of a mountain, I would strongly recommend The Burial Ceremony which forms part of Ya’Acov’s Rituals workshops.    The other two workshops which form the Rituals work are the Vision Quest and S.E.E.R process.

More about these and all our other workshops in the 'Forthcoming Workshops' article  in this newsletter.

Wishing you all well on your life journeys




Back to contents

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of the School of Movement Medicine. Roland Wilkinson, Nappers Crossing, Staverton, Devon TQ9 6PD, UK Tel & Fax +44 (0)1803 762255 http://www.