TOTNES is full of single mothers and hardly any single men – my new friends in Devon were quite adamant.
“I hope you’re not expecting to find a partner down here!”
But I wasn’t moving to Totnes to find a partner, not yet anyway.
After 16 years living in a Buddhist community in London, it was time to move on, and my longing for a rural lifestyle could no longer be ignored. But most importantly of all, my seven-year-old son, Jamie, deserved a more gentle upbringing than a city could afford.
Despite the good reasons, however, there was also an element of strange magnetism I couldn’t put my finger on. In many ways I was leaving a great situation and jumping into the unknown, but there was a compelling force drawing me on – and I had a daring, inexplicable knowledge that this was absolutely the right move.
So, one sunny September morning in 2001, I packed the back of my little grey hatchback to bursting, strapped Jamie in the front beside me, and set off for our new life in the country.
At 37, I was a free agent for the first time pretty much since my teens. I’d split amicably from Jamie’s dad two years ago. It was the most civilised split I’ve ever heard of, but even so, the impact of separating the family was utterly devastating.
My escape came in the form of a smouldering Spanish guy from my dance class. However it wasn’t long before I became emotionally trashed by this crazy sex fest of a so called relationship. I was so fragile that I clung on for far too long.
Moving to Devon would make sure it was over for good. For the first time in all those years, I was single, and I felt it. I was F – R – E – E !
My heart was soaring when we got out to stretch our legs at Stonehenge. What an incredible monument to mark the half way point to Devon. The sky was blue and the ancient stones seemed to be humming with affirmation that we were doing the right thing. We weren’t in dirty, frantic, complicated London now. Here was the gateway to a whole new magical realm.
Our first base was a caravan in a charming farm campsite not far from Totnes. We were leaving behind a lovely, secure and affordable home in London. It was part of a triangle of Victorian maisonettes with gardens backing on to each other so the kids were safe to roam around with each other. I was glad that Jamie still had some of that now – access to an indoor swimming pool and an adventure playground and a few other families who were temporarily living at the campsite during the offseason just like us.
There was a lot to do – a home to find, school for Jamie, money to earn, new friends to make.
I was fully occupied and completely excited by the experience of making this beautiful place our home. Originally a spa town, Totnes is known as the ‘alternative capital of the UK’ and has attracted all sorts of interesting people and progressive projects into it’s midst over the decades. And driving through the stunning countryside brought me out in mild bliss every day – very different from the tension that inevitably comes with ‘cheeky driving’ through London traffic.
But by night I was lonely and reeling from all the changes. Jamie was having a tough time too and was playing up at school. He was understandably disturbed and angry about being ripped away from all he knew, and I was feeling the strain and guilt. (What possessed me to think he’d settle at the fairy-like Steiner School after his formative years in inner city mainstream education?)
Sometimes the grief and disorientation were almost unbearable. It would have been so comforting to have someone intimate to share all this with – a manly chest to snuggle into…
So, in night time lonely autopilot, I reached out half heartedly for a liaison. Computer dating was a pleasant distraction, safe in the knowledge that everyone was at a reassuring cyber distance. The few dates I met up with soon dissolved any cosy illusions of romance I’d entertained myself with. There were also a few ‘real’ single men I ran into (despite what my friends had said, Totnes seemed to have plenty of them).
I spent a month with Martin no.1, and another with Martin no.2, and hung out with an attractive new friend while he was between girlfriends. But none of it was right and nothing got off the ground.
I knew that this was because I still had some healing to do, and at last I decided to co-operate with the process. I needed to do what usually has to be done when recovering from one relationship and preparing for another – to stay in the gap for as long as it takes and be with myself for a while.
I was overdue to complete some unfinished emotional business – to understand what had happened and why; to let go of hurts and fears; to re-asses who I am now; and establish what kind of relationship would be good for me next.
As a meditator I already had an invaluable tool at my disposal. Meditation gives emotional space and opens up a bigger perspective that allows us to face challenges positively. Along with regular chats with insightful friends and family, my meditation practise gave me the resources to navigate my way through the stormy emotional waters. So did my practise of ‘Movement Medicine’.
At my weekly class, and in the privacy of my own home, this wonderful form of free expression accessed and gave full voice to the stories and emotions stuck in my body. I danced and roared and stamped and cried (a lot!) and laughed and gave thanks and laid the ghosts to rest. Over the weeks I became clearer, free-er and more peaceful.
In early February I attended a sweat lodge held by a lovely local shaman down by the River Dart. In the dark, eerie beauty of a winter forest, we ceremonially heated huge stones in a roaring wooden pyre. Once ready, the hot stones were brought into the lodge one by one and sprinkled with sage water.
We sat in a circle inside the lodge, naked and in total darkness, sweating and singing and praying. It was like being inside a womb of pure spirit. We spoke aloud one at a time, each prayer seeming to come from infinite consciousness and be sent out into the entire universe. My prayer was spontaneous and ardent –
“Please help me let go of the past and allow me the time and space I need before I get involved in another relationship.”
During one of my more contented evenings, and inspired by Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s book, ‘The Invitation’, I did some reflective writing. In a deep, prayerful way, I wrote about what I longed for – the kind of loving partner that would be ideal for me. It was almost sacreligious to be so damn honest about what would be utterly wonderful for me.
I’d never given myself permission to state these things before. But once it was down on paper I found I was moved by the quality of person I was describing in those two dozen short paragraphs. And somehow, having committed my vision to paper, this man began to take on a tangible existence. It was spooky. It was as though I had begun to create a reality, or at least, call a reality towards me.
Having read widely about metaphysical principles since then, I know that this is exactly what is occurring when we make things conscious and decide to move towards them.
As my old Buddhist teacher used to say, ‘It’s not so much that man wills, but that will man’s’. In other words our will manifests into form not the other way around. We become what we wish for. We create our reality from our thoughts and feelings and expectations.
Now, in my work as a Love Coach, writing about ideals is an exercise that my clients use with unremittingly powerful results. But back then, I somewhat innocently placed my writings on my meditation shrine, and forgot about them. Little did I know that I’d planted a seed that would invisibly grow into a garden of opportunity, or that I’d soon be looking upon the face of the man who would become my husband.
At first I didn’t realise I’d met him. As far as I was concerned, this ‘Pat’ guy was just a housemate of a childminder friend I’d gotten to know at Jamie’s school.
Ann and I used to hang out at each other’s houses while our boys played together. So my first few meetings with Pat were incidental – brief interactions during a flurry of noisy, stampeding boys needing after school snacks. I was in ‘mum mode’ and, anyway, I had a background distraction still rolling with one man or another I was half involved with. I wasn’t paying attention where it was due. It took me a further couple of months to wake up. And what a wake up call it was.
Towards the end of April, my much loved, dear, wise, loving gran was painfully dying in Scotland. My sister was giving me bulletins every day, and I was waiting for news of her final passing. Life was sharp. My heart was so open. Contrastingly, I was experiencing impossibly crossed wires with Martin no.2 and decided to finish it.
The very night I broke it off he fell off his steep garden terrace and was hospitalised with a broken back. I was shocked into further acute awakeness.
That same week (intuitively picking up on what was about to happen, I’m sure) I had my ex-lover from London on the phone asking for one last chance. For the first and last time, I said ‘No’ properly. It was after the sweat lodge prayer and I was crystal clear. Now I was truly free from any involvement whatsoever. I was free to pay attention where it was due.
On the Tuesday I arrived for a session of Holographic Repatterning with my friend Christina.
I had booked the session a week ago to help with my relationship with Jamie, but there was something else on the menu. It soon emerged that the key theme I was ready to explore was meeting the right partner.
In the session, Christina revealed to me that I held the unconscious belief that ‘I could never meet a partner that could meet me on all levels’. This was a core reason I had been compromising myself in other relationships. She worked with me over 2 hours to shift this belief, and, three days later…
Pat was covering his childminder housemate’s shift for the day and we were looking after the boys together in the school yard. (Actually, Ann had been trying to set us up for a while as Pat had already eyeballed me with great interest, but I hadn’t noticed).
It was the first chance Pat and I had to really talk. I told him about Martin no.2 and the broken back. Knowing a little about me he commented that it’s very difficult to have a relationship with someone who isn’t spiritual if you are yourself. I liked him. I liked the way he sat on a rock in the playground and looked like a cowboy in the wild west.
Although I didn’t know why, I agreed that I might meet him for a drink that night. I was feeling incredibly sensitive and anti-social (and a pub is the last place I’d go at the best of times) but something led me into the Sea Trout Inn. The Sea Trout was Pat’s regular drinking hole, just a stone’s throw from the cottage Christina had found for us to move into after our stay in the caravan.
I laid aside my puritanical Buddhist prejudices and was pleasantly surprised by the level of meaningful communication happening amongst the public bar locals. Pat was typically animated and in full flood “You’ve gotta get outta yar head and intta yar heart” he was insisting. He sounded like a cowboy too, or maybe one of those charismatic American preachers.
“A bit full on” I thought to myself, but I was intrigued. And then, suddenly, in the middle of all the passionate discussion, Pat and I gazed intently upon each other.
‘I see you’, he said, slowly and knowingly. ‘I see you too’, I replied with equal gravitas. In that moment, we did indeed truly see one another. It was like a lightening flash had struck and lit up the entire vast landscape of who we are.
The moment returned to darkness, but the flash revealed something forever. In that moment I realised that I recognised Pat, that I knew him, and with that knowledge came the deepest trust and truest love.
We parted in the car park with us both feeling somewhat stunned. “I lo…lo…lo…” Pat stammered. He seemed to be saying something and stuffing it back into his mouth at the same time. He looked as perplexed as I felt. Was he trying to resist saying that he LOVES me? Nah. Surely not.
I went back to the cottage and received the news that my gran had just passed away. Dear Gran. Dear kind, loving, strong, simple, generous, understanding, fiesty, affectionate gran.
My spirit couldn’t help but elevate to commune with her and God and the afterlife and all of that other indescribable stuff that these words just don’t do justice to. Her love and essence were filling the Devon skies and I just had to fly with her for a while.
As if in a dream, I found myself popping into the pub at Sunday lunchtime to find Pat. It was completely unplanned. All of a sudden I was there inviting him to take a walk on Dartmoor with me.
We talked about gran and meditation. Sitting by a rock pool, he told me he would have loved to study psychology if he’d ever been able to. I told him that psychology had been my main subject at University. Without thinking about it, I took his hand as we walked back to the car. It was as though a greater force was acting through me. I certainly didn’t have the where-with-all to acknowledge what was going on, or make any judgements with my head. I was in the spontaneous and innocent world of my heart alright.
We shared our first kiss in the Sea Trout car park the next night. I was preparing to go to Gran’s funeral later that week. “Come. Back. To. Me” Pat said plainly. I’d already explained that I had a few romantic loose ends to tie up and couldn’t promise anything.
“Take whatever time you need”, he replied. The day before I flew to Scotland, he appeared in the school playground at pick up time. Pressing a rose quartz into my hand, he wished me well on my trip. Keen interest and support, understanding and freedom. This was a recipe for love. I recognised these qualities from my ideal man list.
It took me another couple of weeks to fully absorb the significance of what was occurring, but in the aftermath of my gran’s funeral, it was a simple and inevitable fact that we would love each other and be together. “Shall we love each other, then?” Pat had asked after an evening of endless, sublime kissing. “Yes, let’s” I replied, but it didn’t really need an answer.
I’d never experienced anything like it. There was no posturing or trying to impress each other and no attempts to hide our less favourable attributes – we were just relaxed and unselfconscious with each other from the very beginning.
And there was no question about whether or not we’d be together – no push-pull fear of rejection or of being overwhelmed, no insecurity whatsoever. Likewise, there was no great destabilising intoxication – the feelings were immediate and profound, but our heads were clear and our feet were on the ground. It was so straight forward – complete harmony, complete certainty – and left nothing to negotiate.
Sixteen months later, we were married.
As I was to discover, Pat had also prepared well for the arrival of what he called a ‘divine relationship’ in his life. A long time meditator like me, Pat had worked through all the issues raised by previous relationships. He particularly practised forgiveness (including himself) and was unusually clear, more so than me, of the sort of relationship backlog that we often carry into future relationships (and mess up by referring back to ghosts instead of the person with us now).
He had also used a specific manifestation meditation to call his vision of a relationship into being. Popularised and taught by Wayne Dwyer in the 80s, this ancient practise brings together the power of the chakras, the voice, and creative visualisation. We call it the Ah/Om meditation.
Most importantly of all, perhaps, Pat adopted an attitude that he referred to as ‘100% intention with 100% surrender’. Although he was very clear about the partner he sought and would not compromise with less, he was also prepared for it not to happen and would be perfectly happy to stay alone should he not find his match.
This is the fine and paradoxical art of being open to one’s aspirations and creative possibilities while at the same time being fluid with our expectations. Many people either don’t let themselves dream through fear of not suceeding or strangle their dreams by having too much at stake and therefore too desparate for them to come true.
Often we don’t let ourselves aspire by assuming we won’t succeed (‘Can’t have’), or corrupt our aspirations into egotistical ambitions by having too much self-worth at stake if they flounder (‘Must have’). Either way, it betrays a lack of self-knowledge and self-belief. When we see ourselves clearly and believe in ourselves, we don’t need to push things away or grab things towards us to shore up a hollow sense of ourselves.
We can allow things to be what they are, free from what we have invested in them. In this freedom we can experience the natural flow of coming and going, and somewhat magically, all our true needs are satisfied (‘Having-ness’).
Like the lack of belief I had that I could find someone who could meet me on all levels. But, with Christina’s help, I addressed that hidden and restrictive belief. Pat certainly can meet me on all levels. This relationship is easily the most satisfying and stimulating either of us has ever known on the domestic, physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual levels.
It is grounded and it is sacred. We are plumming depths and scaling heights together that would have been hard to access alone. Of course it is also intense and challenging. We share so much. As well as living together and joining our families, we have jointly lauched our life, business and spiritual coaching practise, Thrivecraft.
One day last year, I came across the description of the ideal partner I wrote all that time ago. As Pat and I re-read it together, I was filled with a strange, joyful realisation. The man who those words described was now nuzzling my neck, sharing my life and my deepest aspirations. It’s amazing what we can magnetise into our lives with clear intention and positivity. Now I understand a little more about those compelling forces that brought me to Devon.
Life, business and spiritual coach, meditation teacher and founder of Thrivecraft.