Viscountess Marina Cowdray describes how her awakening to the spiritual life and sculpting brought her inner peace
I am in the fortunate position of having found two profoundly rewarding passions in my life – following a spiritual path and sculpting. I was 18 when I first had a taste of the changes that are possible through turning to a life of inner reflection and spirituality. At the time I spent many days as a teenager with a monk who guided me in my exploration of inner awareness. Through him I discovered the importance of specific breathing techniques and the necessity to connect with Nature.
Certain books also filled the void of inquiry, notably Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving, which I read many times.
I was a typical, volatile adolescent, pushing the boundaries of society, but enjoyed a very close relationship with my grandmother, a very simple, loving lady who became my anchor. She introduced me to her dearest friend, The Reverend Dr Martin Israel, a distin- guished pathologist, and a former lec- turer at the Royal College of Surgeons and a priest in the Church of England.
He has been described as ‘one of the most sought-after spiritual guides in this country’; he was also a co-author of the bible of pathology. Martin married Michael and I, and christened all our children, becoming a very close and val- ued family friend; I have a lovely sculp- ture of him in the Chapel, which he left me when he died.
Society has expectations of people in my position and during my life I have also taken on the pressures that come with such a role. I quickly fell into the routine of taking on responsibilities in the community, sitting on different com- mittees and raising money for various charity events, etc, and generally acqui- escing to any requests on my time. After some years this began to affect my health and, after a period of evaluation, I de- cided to give up most of these duties.
Instead I chose to nurture my spirit, which seemed to have been totally over- shadowed by my sense of duty and responsibilities, a theme common to lots of busy women. This decision has been hugely beneficial and has wider reper- cussions on the people with whom I come into contact.
Some people may look upon these aspirations as being totally selfish. Personally I feel it to be possibly the most selfless act one can perform, not just for oneself but for humanity, involving a path of total commitment and a yearning for peace and understanding.