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Since Feeling is First: Hélène Demetriades

Every quarter, a writer or an artist or a musician tells us about the things that inspire them.

Wild Swimming

The natural world has always been my greatest source of relief and inspiration. As a small child I lived in the Alps. Mountains surrounded my village. The beauty of the natural world, the primroses, narcissi and yellow globe flowers, suspended me in awe. In my middle years, after spending many years in London, I moved to South Devon. I am now surrounded by moor, sea and river.

From April (at a push) to October I swim in sea and river as much as I can – I used to be shy of cold water, but now I can't get enough of it, though getting in is never easy! When I am fully immersed it's a feeling of coming home every time. Floating on my back I notice how my mind discharges into the water. I am left empty-headed, floating in a deep sense of peace. My body is revitalised.


Nature calls us back to presence – to the background peace that is always present. Yesterday I read: "If we enter any war-torn environment – any experience of conflict – and remove all human beings, what becomes immediately self-evident is the resonance of peace. The entire planet is blanketed in peace." (From Michael Brown's The Presence Process).

I remember a pivotal insight I had some years back when I realised that everything, every sound (think birdsong), arises from silence, and dissolves back into it – including ourselves.

To quote a well-known saying from Einstein: "I think ninety-nine times and find nothing. I stop thinking, swim in silence, and the truth comes to me." Truth (a type of sound) is born out of silence, the word silence being interchangeable with the words peace and space.

I Am by Jean Klein

During lockdown I started reading the books of Jean Klein. He was a French musicologist, doctor and spiritual teacher. What he said on "listening" throughout his six books (transcripts of his talks) transfixed me.

"Listening arises from wonderment, to which it also points – a state where there is no projection, where nothing appears. It is as if you had suddenly opened the windows of a dark room full of objects, and in streams daylight. Everything becomes clear in an instant."(From I Am pg 121)

"At first the accent is on what is listened to, the sensation, feeling or thought. But the more the listening is sustained the more the emphasis is shifted to this listening itself without a listened to. Then you are at the threshold of the source from which the listening derives." (As above).

Why I was Drawn to my Work as a Therapist

In my debut collection The Plumb Line the title explores a shared sense of stillness (call it listening); the shared presence that exists between two people even if the relationship has been very difficult. When my father thanked me for "protecting him" in his last year I had a dream in which a voice/thought woke me up with: "It’s not me, it’s not me the safe-keeper, it’s the plumb line between us".

Some years ago I was invited as a therapist to write an article for a therapy directory with a non-dual/spiritual perspective. I chose a theme I am passionate about and called it "The Kindness Cure".

I wrote: "Kindness has the deepest listening ears, and in that listening we are received."

And: "In this field of 'welcome', the deeper truth may also be discovered that it is neither myself as the therapist, nor my client, who is doing the 'welcoming': hanging out in the field of kindness we discover that we are the welcoming itself."

Fellow Writers

This is what we as writers and poets do: we listen. We listen with our bodies, and, as we practise, our listening ability deepens. If we are lucky, we are drawn back to the creative source behind the words. The listening, the precision, draws us into the bull's eye.

It occurred to me recently that I have never felt part of a "tribe". I didn't feel part of a tribe growing up, nor as an actor, nor as a psychotherapist – but what I also realise is that I do feel part of a tribe of poets. I discovered writing eight years ago (though I wrote a tiny clutch of poems at university). Why do I feel part of this tribe? Words make the web of universal connection tangible – they spread far and wide, they reach out, create synapses where minds and hearts connect. In this tribe, I've been struck and nourished by qualities of generosity, precision and an impersonal love for the craft. In the poetry editing groups I am part of we are all in it together and want the best for and from each other. I imagine musicians must feel something similar.

To quote Jean Klein again: "An artist is only a receiver. He knows that if he is a producer he will only produce from memory. The artist must thus lay himself bare to inspiration. His own well is very shallow. He must tap into the global source of creativity. Inspiration always comes as a gift, suddenly, from the deepest layers of being, which are completely impersonal".

Marie Howe

Her eye is deeply human yet impersonal. In the poem "The Mother" she conveys the unimaginable – the sexual abuse of a daughter by her father – through the listening ears of a mother and a brother, inviting us to freefall into the depth of what it is to be human. I especially like the following lines.

"...the same woman who stood many nights at the foot of that attic stairs

as her husband weaved and stammered into the room where her daughter slept."

" the laundry chute, unmoving,

like a statue in the children's game her children play."

"...and the scrape of her son's chair pushed back from his desk,

the air thick now with their separate listening."

"In the game, someone has to touch you to free you.

Then you're human again."

EST (Esborn Svensson Trio) - Seven Days of Falling

I would like to leave you with the exquisite E.S.T or Esbjorn Svensson Trio (see above) and the title track from their album Seven Days of Falling. (I was torn between sharing this track and another equally beautiful one called "Ballad for the Unborn".)

My husband introduced me to this album in 2004, the year our daughter was born. Esbjorn, the pianist and leader of the trio, died in a scuba diving accident in 2008 at the age of forty-four.

Hélène Demetriades is a psychotherapist and poet living in South Devon. Her debut collection The Plumb Line was joint winner of the Hedgehog Press Full Fat Poetry Collection Competition in 2020 and was published in June 2022. She has been published in magazines and anthologies including One Hand Clapping, Envoi, Dream Catcher, Obsessed With Pipework, Ink Sweat & Tears, The Ofi Press, The Lake and Snakeskin. She is winner of the Silver Wyvern Poetry Prize, International Poetry On The Lake 2022 and was highly commended for the Silver Wyvern in 2021, shortlisted in the Wells Festival of Literature Open Poetry Competition 2021, twice commended in the Teignmouth Festival Poetry Competition 2021 and highly commended in Marsden the Poetry Village Competition 2019.


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