Month: June 2011

Observing as Audience

Whatever it is that stops us in our tracks matters less than what we are being asked to notice. Whether it be malady, loss, impasse, disturbance or discontent, our emotional system is the indicator that data exists for us to decipher. To be able to examine the data we need to move into the role of observer. This capacity illustrates that it is possible to be both the experiencer and the observer of our own life.

To be one without the other may create a singularity of self absorption or cold detachment. However, when held together a balance point occurs: To experience – I am part of, and, To observe – I am separate from. This balance point enables movement between the two states, thereby acting as an enabler of conscious choice.

Conscious choice is alchemised in the crucible of purposeful attention. It arises from the process of separation. Through an observant eye, experience is observed thereby allowing the experiencer to separate from the experience and become the observer. Once observed the experience itself can be: held, considered, turned through perspectives, evaluated, tested for meaning, relevance and usefulness. Hence the pattern of the experience is revealed.

We think and behave in patterns. The human brain is a pattern making instrument. Neurologically everything that exists in memory is a pattern. That which is learned becomes a pattern. In some cases our patterns have run so long and so deep that we have become blind to them. The thing that stops us in our tracks, sometimes felt as an emotional ‘derailment’, or ‘ailment’ can act as the inciting incident that eventually causes us to discover the unseen pattern.

The benefit of such an experience is that it can catalyse an exploration of self enquiry that leads to the discovery of patterns of thinking or behaving that have hitherto gone unobserved. This is referred to as a ‘blind spot’. Our emotional system acts as an indicator of blind spots, particularly when we repeatedly experience emotions that we do not enjoy. These emotions accompany the story: ‘I am unhappy’, or ‘I am unwell’, or even ‘I am a failure’.

The benefit that derailment offers us, cannot be explored while we remain locked into the pain of: defeated expectations, beliefs, rules, or judgements that no longer serve us. The first movement that will offer respite and facilitate the ability to observe ourselves is to practice acceptance of what is happening. If we remain in non-acceptance of what we are experiencing we remain stuck within our patterns. Unable to separate from them, we experience emotions of non-acceptance such as: resentment, resignation and depression. Achieving acceptance ultimately brings relief and a deeper state of peace.

To ask ‘Why is the pattern happening?’ is not as useful as ‘What is the pattern I need to see?’. When we ask ‘why’ we are seeking to find the answer from within the pattern and the answer remains elusive. The ‘what’ question invites us to sit outside the pattern. To watch, reflect and learn. To watch and separate from the pattern allows new data to emerge.  With new data and new perspectives we move to insight. These ‘aha’ moments set us free. We see with clarity the pattern that our habitual, experiential selves had not allowed us to witness.

Once seen and evaluated the old pattern can fall away and a new pattern can emerge; one that is more consciously and deliberately developed. To find the element of conscious choice we sit at the balance point between being the experiencer and the observer. It is possible to move between them and embrace both simultaneously. By practicing acceptance of what is happening we are ready to evaluate what is useful and what is not. Whatever it is that stops us in our tracks matters less than what we are being asked to notice.

Martin Challis © 2011

Blue to You (lyric re-worked)

Blue to you may be a room with a view.
To me it’s an ocean turned sideways.
It’s the colour of air gone thick with the sea,
it’s the largest and highest of high-ways.

Blue to you may be one without two,
and all of the times you’ve landed,
feet thick with dew – stuck to each hue
where you thought for a time you were stranded.

Blue to you may be a day that is new, to
me it’s the place where I’m standing.
It’s the home of the eye and the reach of the tree.
It’s the wave of the wind and the wave that is we.

Blue is the deep and the shallow the same,
it’s just where I’ll be when you’re calling my name.
Searching and spreading. Dividing our wings.
Soaring the gentle, the sharing of things.

Come endless, come empty, full with your sound
call the vast harmony and arms that surround.
Come to the blue that touches all things
come with me gentle, come let us sing,

sing the high rising, sing the low mark
sing the blue heaven that covers the dark,
and chorus the carol, the carol of being,
and the blue that is given to those that are seeing.


from a mine in chile
a word is surfacing
a phrase is taking flight
is lifting story

The Something & Cameo Appearance by Charles Simic

The Something

Here come my night thoughts
On crutches,
Returning from studying the heavens.
What they thought about
Stayed the same,
Stayed immense and incomprehensible.

My mother and father smile at each other
Knowingly above the mantel.
The cat sleeps on, the dog
Growls in his sleep.
The stove is cold and so is the bed.

Now there are only these crutches
To contend with.
Go ahead and laugh, while I raise one
With difficulty,
Swaying on the front porch,
While pointing at something
In the gray distance.

You see nothing, eh?
Neither do I, Mr. Milkman.
I better hit you once or twice over the head
With this fine old prop,
So you don’t go off muttering

I saw something!

Cameo Appearance

I had a small, nonspeaking part
In a bloody epic. I was one of the
Bombed and fleeing humanity.
In the distance our great leader

Crowed like a rooster from a balcony,
Or was it a great actor
Impersonating our great leader?
That’s me there, I said to the kiddies.
I’m squeezed between the man
With two bandaged hands raised
And the old woman with her mouth open
As if she were showing us a tooth

That hurts badly. The hundred times
I rewound the tape, not once
Could they catch sight of me
In that huge gray crowd,
That was like any other gray crowd.

Trot off to bed, I said finally.
I know I was there. One take
Is all they had time for.
We ran, and the planes grazed our hair,
And then they were no more
As we stood dazed in the burning city,
But, of course, they didn’t film that.

Variation On The Word Sleep – Margaret Atwood

I would like to watch you sleeping,
which may not happen.
I would like to watch you,
sleeping. I would like to sleep
with you, to enter
your sleep as its smooth dark wave
slides over my head

and walk with you through that lucent
wavering forest of bluegreen leaves
with its watery sun & three moons
towards the cave where you must descend,
towards your worst fear

I would like to give you the silver
branch, the small white flower, the one
word that will protect you
from the grief at the center
of your dream, from the grief
at the center I would like to follow
you up the long stairway
again & become
the boat that would row you back
carefully, a flame
in two cupped hands
to where your body lies
beside me, and as you enter
it as easily as breathing in

I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
& that necessary.

On Prayer by Czeslaw Milosz

You ask me how to pray to someone who is not.
All I know is that prayer constructs a velvet bridge
And walking it we are aloft, as on a springboard,
Above landscapes the color of ripe gold
Transformed by a magic stopping of the sun.
That bridge leads to the shore of Reversal
Where everything is just the opposite and the word ‘is’
Unveils a meaning we hardly envisioned.
Notice: I say we; there, every one, separately,
Feels compassion for others entangled in the flesh
And knows that if there is no other shore
We will walk that aerial bridge all the same.

Regal Visitor

We were sitting in the study in the wee hours
you on the couch
me leaning back in the office chair
our quiet conversation matching the stillness of the evening.

I could see through the hall to the kitchen,
into view stepped the King of Rats
he halted when our eyes met
holding for some moments.

Snake-like, his tail wrapped several times around the room.
His regal gaze, considered me with no trace of fear
while mine was possibly one of surprise
and slight supplication.

Unhurried he stepped off
left the room and went on up the hall
– I did not follow.
You asked me who I’d seen
yet in yours eyes I saw you did not want the answer.

Later, servant like – I mopped the kitchen floor,
upon return – chambers would be ready.

With each sweep of the mop I heard them amplifying:
– a rifle-crack of hardened wire
– a snap of neck-bones breaking
– an aftermath of silence

Sounds of uprising.

Morning Prayer Suburban

Sunrise a


Tucked under and lifting a symphony of cloud
The sun beams in lay-lines from its horizon.
Yet, the scientist who explains this phenomenon
Cannot describe my feelings for such a spectacle
Cannot describe the song in me that dances
The miracle of light and spectrum.


You are mighty, you are ethereal
Your many fingers rake aberrant their spatulas of light
Your beauty makes all else ghastly or at least ordinary.
The trifles of each day’s turnings are insignificant in comparison.
A conscience of orb, mist, shadow, light
The Gods derive pleasure from your presence
Else their thunderous growls bemoan your magnificence.


There is no darkness just the absence of light
There is no cold just the absence of heat
There is no disbelief just the absence of your benediction.
Uncapturable, delicate, infamous portent.
In the implausible silence you are where I worship
Without beginning or ending – Yours is an ultimate mantra.

martin challis © 2011


To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure [enjoy] the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded! ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Be Patient – RMR

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
— Rainer Maria Rilke

© 2019 martin challis

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