Dwellbeing: An energy of positivity that wells within us when we remember a place or time. Memories contain energy and can be a wellspring of goodness that we can draw upon for inspiration and a refuge to retreat to in difficult times.
Visiting The Past
Dwellbeing may erupt and overflow feeding us with joy when we dwell on a place we may have spent time. For me visiting my maternal grandparent’s old farmhouse has this effect on me of long hot summers in Malta.
Yet dwellbeing can come from the briefest of moments – remembering the moment we met the love of our life; or simply standing on the cliffs with the wind howling from across the far corners of the sea and wanting to plunge headlong feeling that you could fly; it can come from sitting contentedly with a cup of tea in a pool of sunlight on a winter’s day.
Dwellbeing is when we are psychically tied to a particular time or place, and like a homing pigeon we naturally know our way back home. Dwellbeing is that place in our heart that lives in every cell in our body, a memory that when released gives us energy, inspiration, joy, comfort and gratitude.
Dwelling: a place of habitation, a house, a home where memories dwell, whether a physical locality or one within our heart. Dwellings are places where people live or lived, as do stories and memories.
These places are where energy remains long after people no longer live there. This energy is like an after image that persists in our vision even after we have moved on.
Dwellings are repositories of memories yet we need to be mindful not to let the ghosts of the past haunt our presence, lest we embellish our past and drown in it. We shouldn’t rely on the warmth of the afterglow to keep us warm forever.
Today after almost 25 years I entered the farmhouse of my deceased maternal grandparents. Opening the door was like letting open the floodgates of joyous memories of childhood summers in Malta. An old skeleton key on a stone bench bring back visions of an old frail man, my grandfather, holding his trembling hand, looking into his eyes.
It had been raining quite heavily. The days over the past week have become progressively cooler and wetter as we enter winter in Malta. Still dressed for the hot summer after walking for the past 5 months, walking around my mum’s home town of Mosta I have garnered some strange looks with my suntanned legs, shorts, and large hooded raincoat.
Dwelling In The Present
It is so easy to get lost in the past to the point that it affects our present living. As I wandered I was mindful not to drown in the well of the past.
When we dwell in the past too long there is a danger we may literally [D]rown in the [Well]. The drowning happens when we paint our past in a way that causes us to compare it with our present. Where we embellish our past and wish we could live it again now instead of our present.
The Power of Memory
Instead of drowning in the past, I decided not to compare the past with the present. Happiness is about taking responsibility – to exercise ones ability to respond to our thoughts in ways that enlighten us, empower us.
Walking through the farmhouse and garden some things hadn’t changed, others did. A garage had replaced mulberry and fig trees where I used to gorge on ripe mulberries and figs.
As a child the juicy dark fruit of the tiny mulberries stained my face and fingers deep purple. Ripe juicy figs in this garden remind me the most of these summer days.
There were two wells in the big garden. Both wells were covered in brambles and prickly pear that I could only guess where they once were.
There was an air of disrepair – broken hinges, flaking paint, overgrown vegetation. Yet the garden was very different – it was much more open then I remember it. Many of the trees had been removed to maximise area for the vegetable plots. This had the effect of making the boundaries easy to see, losing much of the secret garden feel it once had.
It didn’t feel so much like the wonderland I remembered as a child. As I skirted the edges of the ploughed empty vegetable plots my shoes sunk deeply into the soil drenched with the winter rains.
Dusting Away The Past
The old farmhouse, which is about 400 years old, was much cleaner than I remembered. An uncle had begun to whitewash the walls, and to install a rudimentary outdoor bathroom for use in summer.
I remember the farmhouse rooms being dim with a thick layer of dust and filled with ancient farm equipment. This memory just like an after image had been burned into my mind and heart, and so seeing it cleaned up created dissonance.
It felt that the layers of dust and the abandoned equipment held onto the story of the past, and their removal desecrated this past. I felt for a moment that my childhood has been desecrated.
That is when I realised I was holding onto a past so tightly. I was holding onto the joyous childhood summers spent with family – grandfather, parents, sister, uncles and aunts, cousins in this special place.
In that moment I let go and decided to accept things as they are now. Life is a series of happenings, moments of change. It is in the present that I can ever hope to find joy. The most I could hope for was that the past can help to inspire and energise the present.
I was releasing my my mind’s hold on the past, so that I may have a lease on life in the present. It is in this present that I hold a current lease. It is in this present I may gain presence. Dwelling in the present ensures that my lights are on and that I am at home, that I can make the most of my current lease on life.
How Do You Present Your Past?
How you present your past may have a great bearing on your present moments. I think your past can drag you from living the present if we dwell there too long. Making comparisons with the present may lead to suffering.
When we begin to compare our past with our present we run the danger of losing our present joy. It is easy to do.
Looking around Malta I remember a place less populated, less congested with traffic, less built up. I remember a people more in tune with the present, less stressed and less time poor. I remember a time when all there was was summer. Yet by comparing Malta then to now there is the danger of painting a rosy embellished picture of the past that we can never physically return to. We set ourselves up for suffering.
Memories are held within every cell of our body. Our heart is the dwelling place of this energy, the wellspring providing us with wellbeing.
Instead, by visiting the past yet not dwelling there, we don’t drown in the well that sustains us but allow it to be the wellspring of energy. A place we can draw upon for inspiration, comfort and gratitude when our own inner reserves run low.
Memories are powerful that way. They are energy. Memories are held within our bodies even long after places we knew have crumbled away, or we cannot physically visit. They are always with us.
Life of Learning Not Yearning
With every step as I wander through the past, I am careful to draw from it just what I need. To not drown in the yearning of a childhood bathed in summer light and warmth on this cold wet winter’s day.
To not dwell on a past long gone. But to draw from the spring of memory to fill my present with joy. To overflow my heart with gratitude that I had such beautiful memories. To take this past and see how it has held me in good stead. To use the past as a tool to understand who I am, and how this past has fed me, and will continue to feed me as I step forward in life.
The rain and cold has helped me to wash away the longing, to stay present and draw from the energy that presence brings.
There have been times that dwelling on past memories for a short while has brought me dwellbeing, just when I needed it the most. Times when we lose hope, I have been able to draw from this well without dwelling too deeply.
There is a fine line when we dwell too long and drown. Dwelling is a place we cannot live in too long.
Like the after image that persists when we have looked at something for a few moments, I take away with me new images to burn deep into my soul.
Not of times long gone but of having learned to stop for a moment, in this beautiful place filled with memories. To burn new images that teach me about presence, even if tinged with a little past.
Of walking around and burning new images on my retina, new images of return – a ploughed and muddy vegetable plot, the soil clinging to my shoes with each step making them heavy to walk with.
Rain soaked wildflowers and weeds on the fringes. Impenetrable brambles and prickly pear bearing ripe fruit concealing wells from my past. These wells were mysterious places. As children we were told not to go near them. Ghosts lived there. Hidden in the shadows of trees and prickly pears, we used to approach them gingerly. I would stand at the wells and gingerly drop a rock into the dark hole and listen to the rippling echoes. Any slight sound would send me running.
I step past an olive tree bearing heavy with fruit. Great big olives dripping with raindrops and ripe for the picking.
There are plum trees whose fruit remain dried and shrivelled from summer. Unattended and rotting on the tree. There are flowers alongside last summer’s bounty.
I pass orange trees with green and ripe orange globes on fresh rain wet leaves. There is a freshness in the air after the rains together with the scent of orange blossom.
I walk back gingery along the edges of the ploughed field but for no use. My clean shoes are caked in mud and I try to clean them initially by scraping my shoes on the wet vegetation.
I walk past the assortment of stone outhouses that once held pigs, goats, sheep and chicken in days of my mother’s youth. The walls like an archeological dig are covered in layers of multi-coloured flaking paint. Each layer like strata of times past. If only these walls, the dust and paint that covers them could talk. What stories they would speak of.
Speaking to my aunt who lives close by who opened up the door to the farmhouse or razzett, I see that as people pass or move away, those stories are lost. Stories are like the layers of paint that when stripped back reveal layers of history.
After washing my shoes at an outdoor tap fixed to a wall, my feet and socks cold from the experience I explore the farmhouse and all its small maze of whitewashed rooms. There is a broom with sweep marks on the patterned vintage tile floor. It looks like it has not been used for some time. The sweeping has caused the combing back of the layers of dust.
I stand for a few moments in the farmhouse or razzett. I close my eyes. My heart is filled. As I walk towards the old painted timber front door I see a newspaper clipping that some relative must have fixed to the inside face of the door. It was written in Maltese and read:
Nghidu r Ruzarju u Nersqu lejn Alla biex ikollna I-PACI.
My Maltese is quite rudimentary, but to me it reads:
We need the rosary to walk towards God if we are to have peace.
As I close the door behind me, I feel God’s presence, I have been given a rosary of new memories, new present moments embedded in each cell of my body. I have been given the gift of the present as well as a wellspring of distant memories, stories, a history, to sustain my future present moments when need be. The flood of memories, the life sustaining water of our lives, has taught me to swim in its waters, go with the flow of the current and not drown in them.
May you create rosary beads in your present moments. Little floating islands or life buoys, rocks thrown in a well that you create every day. May the ripples fill your heart, give you hope, let you know where you have come from. May they sustain you, inspire you, give you energy. May they fill you with gratitude. With joy. With love and renewed life. May you walk in peace and dwellbeing.