Developing ‘Soft Eyes’: Apophatic ‘Day-Dreaming’

20170818 DEVELOPING SOFT EYES APOPHATIC DAYDREAMINGYesterday we looked at kataphatic ‘day-dreaming’ as one way of thinking in a visual and imaginative way, that is vital if we are to rekindle that childhood and deep perception of the world around us.

Then, with the ‘soft eyes’ of exploring mystery, rather than only with the use the analytical eyes of modernity we can regain that way of ‘seeing’ the ‘magic’ that exists and appreciate all that is around us. We can look at things more deeply, rather than at surface level.

In that previous article I mentioned an Anishinabe (First Nations) man from Canada wrote:

‘When most humans go into the forest they enter with so much of the world on them that any possibility of feeling the sacred is removed. When we go into the forest we must become soft like the animal people and the tree people’.

Today, I’d like to introduce apophatic ‘day-dreaming’. If kataphatic (see here) ‘day-dreaming’ is the using of mental ‘pictures’ and the imagination to grow, mature and be transformed, then apophatic ‘day-dreaming’ could be viewed as being the opposite.

As I extinguish the candle on the garden table, and losing the small but significant light, I’m plunged into darkness. I can’t see anything for a while, and it’s a wonderful feeling. And then as my eyes get used to the dark, I begin to make out shapes, and realise that I can see a few things, after all. This is very much like apophatic day-dreaming.

Now some may call it apophatic meditation, but for this article I’d like to call it apophatic day-dreaming because we all ‘day-dream’. Some are fearful of exercises which seek to empty the mind of thoughts, but I’d like to suggest that what apophatic day-dreaming really does is encourage us to disregard those annoying and extraneous thoughts that ‘flutter’ into our minds all the time. It’s a ‘down-playing’ of thoughts that get in the way. And, many churches and faith-groups are finding apophatic ‘day-dreaming’ useful, though they may call it centering prayer.

‘Another way to think about Centering Prayer is training the mind to become free from distractions so it can “rest in God.’ Amos Smith

It’s rather like, when I’m at the north Wales coast, and sit on the beach, and gaze at the horizon where the sea seems to meet the sky. I’m sure you’ve done similar. You can gaze away for what seems like a few minutes and yet half an hour or more has gone by. Call it lost in thought, focussed attention, or being ‘mesmerised’, but I’d like to suggest this is apophatic day-dreaming.

And, as you gaze at the horizon, maybe a dog  runs across the beach between you and the water’s edge. You may be mildly aware of the dog but you pay no attention to it. That’s apophatic day-dreaming. However, it you ‘focus’ on the dog, metaphorically, and think about it, then you’ve lost that wonderful ‘horizon-gaze’, and the moment has gone and ‘you’re back’, and you’re out of apophatic ‘day-dreaming’.

Now apophatic day-dreaming has a vast number of uses, and there are many exercises to assist us develop skills to assist us.

For instance, if you wanted to dwell on the Source of All, Nature or God, then what do you think of? I’d suggest that not concentrating on what the Source, Nature or God looks like – to take the apophatic approach – is one good way forward. After all, whatever image we have in our minds about the Source, Nature or God is going to be wrong. By definition, how can the finite mind imagine the infinite? And so, not dwelling on imaginative and extraneous thought can draw us closer. And, before you know it, that Time of Quiet, which you thought lasted only a few minutes, had infact lasted half an hour – a sure sign that you achieved apophatic day-dreaming.

This is in contrast to yesterday’s way of ‘day-dreaming’ and isn’t contrary to it – it’s another useful ‘tool’ for us to use.

With our eyes closed, and distractions abated, apophatic ‘day-dreaming’ brings us ‘closer’ to Source of All, Nature or God. Ofcourse, locationally we’re no closer or further away, but in our awareness we have drawn ‘closer’. This type of day-dreaming isn’t about doing, it’s about ‘being’. It isn’t about visualising anything, but not dwelling on thought(s). It’s not about recieving a ‘picture’, message or guidance, but revelling in that inner silence and stillness, in that inner place that some call le point vierge (the virgin point).

‘It’s very, very simple. You sit, either in a chair or on a prayer stool or mat, and allow your heart to open toward that invisible but always present Origin of all that exists.’ Cynthia Bourgeault

It’s being in a ‘place’ where effort isn’t needed. There is a point in any new human relationship where there is an sharing of views, a time of vocalisation to get to know someone – laughing, joking, teasing etc – and then there comes a point when you know each other sufficiently so that words aren’t need. Your’e madly in love and words just seem cumbersome. They’re now not needed in the courtship, and you’re comfortable with silence and each others company.

Apophatic ‘day-dreaming’ is very much like that. As you enter that area where the Source of All, Nature or God is, as the Beloved draws closer to you all you can do, all you need do is rest, relax, surrender, and bask in each others company. Words are not needed.

Time will fly, and what seemed to be a few minutes might be half an hour or more. Any analytical thinking (such as ‘Am I achieving apophatic day-dreaming, yet?’) will actually ‘pull you out’ of that wonderful liminal space-time. And so it’s usually afterwards as you leave sacred space-time that you realise, in hindsight, that you have had an encounter. Or, maybe you don’t feel that afterwards. Nevertheless, you are more than ‘feelings’ and the fact that you entered that liminal space with the intention of apophatic ‘day-dreaming’ means you have, indeed, encountered.

‘The mystery of seeking God is that God is the One who finds you.’ Kingsley Opuwari Manuel

This is one small aspect of apophatic ‘day-dreaming’, and something we’ll come back to from time to time, perhaps with the addition of local and online workshops soon.

Meanwhile, I would highly recommend that you put yourself in a position to make time for apophatic ‘day-dreaming’. A deep encounter with the Source of All, Nature, God or the Beloved in that place of inner stillness is beneficial. Through such encounters we can grow, mature, and are changed, transformed. Through such practises we can (re)develop ‘soft eyes’ to see beyond seeing and rekindle that childlike trust, innocence of the world around us, and original perception.

 

Developing ‘Soft Eyes’: Kataphatic ‘Day-Dreaming’

20170817 DEVELOPING SOFT EYES KATAPHATICRecently I mentioned about my childhood adventures with friends in north Wales, and how our imaginations ran riot. Oh, how we loved mystery. Then, albeit an adventurous and daring group of boys and girls, like most children, there was a limit. And beyond our physical comfort-zone, our immediate locale, lay the ‘even more’ mysterious area that we, as children, called ‘Yr ardal anhysbys’ or the ‘unknown place’ (see here).

And then, we all – you and I – grew and matured, and we generally lost that ability of childlike perception and love of mystery. Busyness or disinterest set in, or we became so mature that we might have believed all previous ideas were naive, or perhaps we became fearful. And, bit by bit we forgot to use our imaginations as a child does.

In that previous article I mentioned an Anishinabe (First Nations) man from Canada wrote:

‘The Four-Leggeds and the Windged Ones live to a different rhythm. Theirs is the rhythm of soft eyes and soft feet. Two-Leggeds have hard eyes and hard feet. When most humans go into the forest they enter with so much of the world on them that any possibility of feeling the sacred is removed. When we go into the forest we must become soft like the animal people and the tree people’.

As adults I would suggest that we can recover our childhood ‘soft eyes’, and rekindle that ‘focus’ on the mystery that is around us, and ‘see beyond’, with the use of kataphatic and apophatic ‘day-dreaming’.

‘There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.’ Aldous Huxley

Yes, I’m sitting in my little garden in my London apartment, and there’s one candle lit on the garden table. I’m in a restful mood, and my eyes keep half-closing. It’s not tiredness. it’s just that I am quite relaxed and very comfortable. And as I look at the candle, my mind thinks about its light, its warmth, how small but significant it is, and then my mind wanders to consider the light that a lighthouse emits and how useful to mariners they are. Somewhat of giant leap from candle to lighthouse, I know, but such is the imagination and its strength.

And, that is an example of kataphatic thinking.  It’s about thinking on an object or theme, and mulling it over deeply to an end.

This way of thinking is vital if we are to rekindle that childhood perception and to view the world around us with the ‘soft eyes’ of exploring mystery, rather than only use the analytical eyes of modernity.

Now some might call it kataphatic meditation or contemplation and that may upset some or make others fearful, and so, in this instance I’d like to call it kataphatic day-dreaming, because we all day-dream at times. And, usually we’re quite comfortable with the idea of day-dreaming and are familiar with it.

This kind of thinking around a theme or dwelling on object, in my case a candle, has many uses and there are so many exercises that are of benefit to develop that skill. It is much-beloved by advertisers, who months ago on tv and in magazines will have ‘seeded’ your imagination with thoughts of sun-drenched beaches, a new car or the latest fashion, even without you knowing it sometimes.

Did you know, for instance, that August Kekulé, a German organic chemist (1829-1896) said that he discovered the ring-shape of the benzene molecule after having a day-dream of a snake seizing its own tail (this is an ancient symbol known as the ouroboros)?

We might use this kind of kataphatic day-dreaming to imagine a story – maybe ‘putting ourself into the story’. It is one thing to objectively read a portion of sacred text or part of the chronicle of a latter-day hero who may have fought with dragons and to consider it analytically, but it is entirely another thing to ‘enter’ the story using our imagination. Then, we can ‘picture’ ourself as a bystander or having a significant role in the account, and imagining our interactions as well as the sights, sounds and smells etc that we might encounter. We might ask ourselves what we would have done? Isn’t that a function of those ancient parables and koans eg ‘Consider this….’. Isn’t this very much like some of the St Ignatian programs and imaginative exercises that many churches and faith groups use and are finding so useful? We can learn so much more this way.

‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.’ Albert Einstein

And, ofcourse, for those wanting to be a good footballer, who hasn’t had an imaginary conversation with their footballer-hero of yesteryear and asked for hints on how to improve their game, or who, as a writer, hasn’t imagined going back in time to interview Shakespeare and ask him for writing hints or tips, or imagined Sherlock Holmes peering over their shoulder to assist with a knotty plot problem? You havent? You should try it.

And if you do try one of those examples above, or perhaps you might like to try kataphatic day-dreaming in a forest, your local park or your garden to be at one with nature, then allow yourself to be fully immersed in the moment and let thoughts come and go, and ‘play’ with your imagination. Make copious notes at the end of that time, rather than as you go along, as that will ‘draw you out of the moment’, and dispel the ‘magic’ of your newly kindled imagination. Enjoy it.

‘Set your imagination free and do your best to keep up with it.’  A R Fagundes

Developing ‘soft eyes’ to appreciate nature and the mystery around us, to gain wisdom and nature-peace, healing, guidance, energy, the awareness of Presence and more, with the use of the imagination is a good start. Try it!

This is one small aspect of kataphatic day-dreaming’, and something we’ll come back to over the next few weeks (perhaps with the addition of local and online workshops etc).

This is a brief outline of kataphatic ‘day-dreaming’. There’s so much more. And, tomorrow, we’ll look at Apophatic day-dreaming.

 

‘Oh Day Of Fire And Sun’: Poem With The Solar Eclipse In Mind

20170818 OH DAY OF FIRE AND SUN ECLIPSE POEMNext Monday, 21 August 2017 there is a (very) partial solar eclipse from the UK’s aspect, as the moon moves across the face of the sun, and a total eclipse takes place for several states in the USA. With the sun and that eclipse in mind, here’s a poem to celebrate the event.

Oh day of fire and sun,
pure as a naked flame.
Your golden light came
down smiting me with eternity.

The night is now gone; shadows have fled away,
and we now most sure that it is day.
And yet, mysteriously, the darkness falls
as a feather wafted from an eagle in flight,
as the moon succeeds the sun.
For a while, the sun eclipsed. Twilight.

The sun is our Lord and father.
The bright face of the gate of day.
Let’s celebrate this Sun of Righteousness
for light and life he brings in his sway.
And so we will be glad and exult in You, oh yes!

May the sun shine brightly each day,
warming us deeply in our soul.
And, with promises sure, it is so.
For, we are the all one, all the children of the Sun.
That’s all we really need to know.

The poem is a ‘found poem’. That is, rather like a paper collage but it uses words, lines or phrases from other sources, other existing poetry, fusing them together, making minor alterations here and there, to make something new, different and original. For the sources for this poem, see below:

Lines 1, 2 Sarah Teasdale; Lines 3, 4 Sri Aurobindo; Lines 5, 6 John Bunyan; Lines 7, 8 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; Line 9 Robert Louis Stevenson; Line 10 – ; Lines 11, 12 Reel Around The Sun (Poem), Riverdance; Lines 13, 14 Christmas Carol based on Malach ch4v2, The Book; Line 15 Psalm 9v2, The Book; Lines 16, 17 Ermestine Northover; Line 18 -; Lines 19, 20 Tinie Tempah.

‘Tis Mystery All: Perception: The Need Of Soft Eyes And Soft Feet

20170815 TIS MYSTERY ALLI’m reminiscing. I’m in London and in my very little garden, and there’s part of me that remembers Capel Curig, in the deep in the wilderness of north Wales, many years ago.

As a child the garden of Ty Gwyn (translated as the ‘white house’, and so called because of its painted external stone work,) and where I live now when in Wales, seemed large and mysterious. It doesn’t seem as large now, though it is a fair size, but it is just as mysterious.

‘Mystery is a resource, like coal or gold, and its preservation is a fine thing.’ Tim Cahill

As I grew older, becoming physically bigger, the garden seemed to reduce in size. And yet, at the far end of the garden the rivulet, that I called Bach ac yn gyflym (meaning ‘small and fast’ in Welsh, because that sums up this rivulet) seemed to mark the boundary between the somwhat mysterious (that was all around me – it’s Wales, after all) and the very mysterious (that which was ahead of me and over the boundary marker of the rivulet).

Beyond Bach ac yn gyflym lay the ‘lightning tree’ and two arched trees, that as children, we called the ‘door to another world’. We played for many a long hour in those places – cautious about what might happen and daring each other to just be there for what might happen. Beyond those areas was ‘even more’ mystery. Beyond that was, to us, the ‘Yr ardal anhysbys’ or the ‘unknown place’.

It wasn’t that we were afraid, as children, to venture further into that unknown area, but there was part of us that wanted to preserve the mystery, to be in awe of it, and to regard it as a reminder of….

A reminder of what?

Sitting here at the garden table in a very small London garden, thoughts form and suggest an answer.

Crane your neck, arch your head heavenward at the night sky, and on a clear night you will see a myriad of twinkling stars. Some close, comparatively, some many hundreds of light years away. But, as you look at the cosmos, scientists tell us that about ninety percent of the universe is invisible, invisible to our our meters and scientific instruments, invisible to us. And, they don’t mean that some things are just too distant to be seen – though that is true – but they mean in essence. If you hold the tip of one hand’s index finger at arms-length, then ninety percent of matter between that finger tip and your nose is invisible. A real mystery.

As an adult I like mystery. It keeps things in proportion, reminding me that I don’t know as much as I thought I did.

As I child I was in awe of mystery, and hope that that’s still the same, now, as an adult. It is…sometimes. And, as a child my friends and I, until we were older, never ventured into ‘Yr ardal anhysbys’ or the ‘unknown place’. We revelled in the mystery. It harkened back to something other-worldly, of an ancient age, of a time-before, of sacred-time, sacred-space, of liminality (or ‘thin places’).

‘Under the guise of emptiness, the invisible keeps its secrets to itself. Yet the invisible remains the great background which invests your every gesture and action with possibility and pathos’. John O’Donohue.

It is easy to miss mystery. This can happen as our knowledge increases, and it can happen when we’re too busy or pre-occupied with modern life. It’s for that reason that I really enjoy and benefit from apophatic meditation (a meditative state focussing on nothng in particular), and kataphatic meditation (such as the Caim, or creative visualtion etc). And, as a child with a more limited vocabulary and without such understanding, we had ‘Yr ardal anhysbys’ or the ‘unknown place’ – a real place of mystery.

Perception matters. If we don’t ‘see’ the mystery or at least catch a glimpse, impression or ‘feeling’ of it, then we will miss it. The harsh light of modernity cannot uncover mystery. Mystery is subtle, it’s illusive and even shy, but it is real for those who revere and honour it, and are patient enough to wait for its emergence.

An Anishinabe (First Nations) man from Canada wrote:

The Four-Leggeds and the Windged Ones live to a different rhythm. Theirs is the rhythm of soft eyes and soft feet. Two-Leggeds have hard eyes and hard feet. When most humans go into the forest they enter with so much of the world on them that any possibility of feeling the sacred is removed. When we go into the forest we must become soft like the animal people and the tree people’.

I believe that ‘softness’ of perception is what children have, innately. And it was that that I was remembering at the garden table in my little London apartment’s garden. It was a reminder of how it used to be – a world of mystery, everywhere. Of having a ‘softer’ perception.

And, as adults we can lose that perception of the reverence of awe and mystery. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Even as adults we can regain soft eyes and soft feet, and ‘see’ the sacred all around us. Such seeing is a skill, and like a muscle, it can be developed and honed with practice.

‘To respect a mystery is to make way for the answer.’ Criss Jami

 

The Unbelievable Strangeness of Soul

20170814 THE UNBELIEVEABLE STRANGENESS OF SOULI’m back in London after a few days break, and I’m in my inner London apartment, which is graced with a back garden (some would call it a yard), and though small it may be, it is greatly appreciated by me as a modest space to imbibe a steaming hot cup of coffee, read a good book, and in the evening or early night hours, like now, it’s a good place to rest with a few candles burning away to provide light, and to think.

The last few days have been relaxed. Very busy before that – hence the need to get away for a few days – and the next few days have the potential to be ever-so busy, and more so, if I let them. I’m not going to let that happen. As far as possible I intend to pace myself, plan ahead, and move smoothly through some complex issues regarding house-selling.

But, at times it can feel like a distant storm is approaching, such is modern life today. However, here in my small patch of garden or yard, I’m at peace. Come what may, we determine the effect events have on us.

And right now, ‘it is well with my soul’.

In the twilight, with nearby lamp posts just lighting up, their light is harsh and abrasive. The candle-light offers no competition, and is gentle and seems to hark back to more leisurely times. Candle light, just is. In the fast pace that modern life can move at, the soul can be buffeted even without us knowing. Buffeted, fragmented, parts lost, chipped away. The soul is indeed a vital part of ‘us’ some would say, and delicate, but one many do not consider at all.

‘I plucked my soul out of its secret place,
and held it to the mirror of my eye,
to see it like a star against the sky. Claude McKay)

There is a notion that the eyes are the windows of the soul. And, it certainly seems that our soul resides behind our eyes, and in our skull. For those that are unsure about soul nature, that’s a good start. But, I do believe the soul is stranger than that. There’s more.

Why should we surmise that our soul is behind our eyes and located in a small ‘box’ where our brain resides? Like most people, the idea is that the soul, infact, inhabits part of the body.

The candles on the garden table number seven distinct, small candles and yet their light travels far. At first, their light seemed to travel just a few inches, but now it seems their flickering light can be measured in yards or metres. The change is no real change at all. The candle light travelled just as far as it ever did. What changed was my perception of their light and the ‘acclimatisation’ of my eyes.

Strangeness #1: Could it be that your soul doesn’t inhabit your body, but that your body inhabits a much larger and all-pervading soul, and that your soul is the size of an apartment block? Ofcourse, the soul is immaterial, but to be ‘materially-minded’ for a moment, yes, your soul is bigger than your physical body. I think so.

Have you ever looked deeply into someone’s eyes, and had that ‘ocular swap’ episode, that sensation, feeling or ‘shock’ where you can see (of feel) yourself looking back, even for a moment? And that may happen in rapid succession in a few seconds?

The idea that the soul is separate may be useful at times and it may be the dominant view in our society – but then we live in an individualistic age – but it isn’t the best way of looking at the soul.

Some of the small candles on the garden table are flickering, spluttering and for a moment one or two emit less light, and yet no shadow is cast. Together, whether glowing at brightly or reduced in light, they work together.

Strangeness #2: There is also a soul-connectedness to other people. It’s as if, as we move pass people (whether physical or otherwise) we ‘connect’ and influence them, and they affect us. Sometimes, just their presence does that.

‘…as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:40b

And, perhaps there’s some reciprocity occurring. What we do, send, think about others comes back to us. Perhaps, by way of analogy, our soul appears individually like the spokes on the outer rim of a wheel, so that we can see another soul at a short distance on the rim, so to speak. And, then as we travel nearer the hub our souls become ‘closer’ and entwined, so that we are ‘soulishly’ connected to each other.

Strangeness #3: ‘Soulishly’, we are all connected to One! But, there’s more. At the hub we become one with the Hub of All, that which some might call the Source of All. Simultaneously individual, and yet connected and entwined, and yet One!

‘There is something strange, hidden in the symmetry of the soul. When you diminish another person, you diminish yourself. When you diminish yourself, you diminish others’. John O’Donohue.

It’s late. The air is cooling, and it’s time to take the now-cold cup of coffee and book indoors. Extinguishing the candle-light the garden or yard (I like to think of it as a small garden) is plunged into darkness. No more light. No more analogies. Except that speeding away from the little garden table, and at the speed of light, that candle-light is indeed continuing on a journey, unbeknownst to me, but seen by others if there were twenty light-seconds away. [I worked it out: potential observers would be about 3.75million miles away, and would just now be seeing me extinguish the candles].

Perhaps I can ‘sneak’ in another strange theory (Strangeness #4) that: however it looks from our perspective, the soul continues on, just like that candle light.

And, then, as an after-thought. Our language has limits (hence the use of analogies and metaphors) and our journey into the strangeness of the soul is  a slow one – slow is good – and so in talking about us having a soul, perhaps we should bear in mind, as a timely reminder, the words of C S Lewis.

‘You do not have a soul.  You are a soul.  You have a body.’ C S Lewis

A Great Cloud Of Witnesses: Celtic Thought

20170811 GREAT CLOUD OF WITNESSESAs you may know, I’ve spent the last few days in in a beautiful, secluded, thick, old, ‘magical’ forest to ‘re-charge my batteries’, and be ‘primal’. Without creature comforts, no tv, no mobile phone, no internet. And it worked. Batteries ‘re-charged’. And, I’m back.

A lot has happened over the last few months and I needed this break.

There were a jumble of reasons for the need of a break of some kind, and sitting on a log, now, in this secluded forest, overlooking a wonderfully still lake I realise the benefits to me of taking this ‘time out’ in a rural area.

In the tranquillity of these surroundings thoughts pour out in an unstructured way, and I’m content with that. It needs to happen.

Thoughts flooded my mind. I had thoughts of being absent from my Dad. My Mum passed-on about three and a half years ago, my Dad about four and a half months ago. I miss them. I have fond memories of them both, and now the grief at my Dad’s passing-on is changing, like my Mum’s did.

Could it be that the greater the love for someone, the greater the grief at their passing-on. And even if so, this wonderful, new-to-me, strange and unfamiliar place is helping me.

In ancient Roman ‘theology’ they would say that each area, such as this one, has its own genii loci – its own ‘spirits of the place’. To ancient and latter-day Celts, Druids and others we might talk of the elementals and dryads that inhabit each area, and in modern parlance some might talk of the ‘feel of a place’, though I suspect ‘modern’ people are interacting with the spirits of the place without knowing, and yet lack the ability and language to be fully aware or describe it. This place is different, but just as welcoming as any rural, natural wilderness. There is a peace here.

‘…there is still a beauty in grief. Your grief shows that you have risked opening up your life and [gave]…your heart to someone’. John O’Donohue

It’s starting to rain now. Could they be tears? There’s part of me that reckons this may be so, but there’s a deeper feeling, a ‘voice’ deeper inside, deeper ‘out there’, that subtly hints that the rain is a ‘washing away’ of the old, and a ‘cleaning’ in preparation for the new, for the next stage. I remain on that log. Expectantly. And soaked.

Grief changes, and our memories of loved-one may never fade (I hope not), but how we consider them, daily, does change. In this ‘Eden’ of a forest something is changing in me. No longer do I just look back to my parents’ form of bodies, for that for me, would now be to ‘entomb’ them in the past and be backward-looking, and ‘restrictive’. Something has changed. I’m content.

‘Now you glimpse the possibilities of being with them in a new way. If you loosen the sad grip of grief, a new belonging becomes possible between you…the belonging between us and our loved ones in the unseen world. It is a subtle and invisible belonging…’. John O’Donohue.

Birds are still singing high in the trees, and though the light rain is making ripples, occasionally on the lake, fish can be seen coming close to the shore and gobbling food. The clouds are high and sparse, and so the rain is more of a drizzle. There is mist ‘rolling’ slowly down nearby mountains. It is bliss. I’m happy.

Everything seems so right. I look around and there is a natural balance to everything, a harmony, that everything is as it should be. A calmness pervades everything here, including me. For now, we only see in part.

‘Depth is height.’ Meister Eckhart.

The thought comes to me, that it is time to view my ‘loss’ in a different way and if I were to remain at the stage it would be as if I were held back. It’s now time for me to move on. Not to forget, but to remember and to do so with deep gratitude, but in a new(er) way. Now, it is time to realise that my, indeed, our loved ones live on – just as real and energetic as they did before when in physical-body form, but now in an unseen and subtle realm (from our point of view, at present), and just as close to us as ever. Perhaps, more so.

‘From their side, our friends in the unseen world are always secretly embracing us in their new and bright belonging’. John ODonohue.

It’s stopped raining, but I am joyfully soaked. A jumble of thoughts still flood my mind, but that’s all right. I find myself laughing – not a hearty laugh, but not a keep-it-to-myself laugh, after all there’s no one around. No one, except nature and elementals, dryads, companions, and angels maybe. Who knows? And that’s the overriding thought as I get up off this log, and as cold, wet clothes now brush against parts of my body as I walk – not entirely clothes-comfortable – but it makes me laugh even more. Oh, the overriding thought….is that there’s more. That’s my favourite Welsh phrase that I quote and which has been quoted to me in sacred places, in liminal encounters, and in ‘thin places’.

There is more! Mae mwy (pronounced ‘may mee-oh) as it is in Welsh. And there is more. There is more to our surroundings than we have so far imagined if we have eyes to see. More to life. And, for those who have loved-ones who have passed-on there is more, for them, for you, for me, and not only by way of fond memories, but the fact that they are still with us, loving us, encouraging us, embracing us in real, but albeit subtle ways.

‘…we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,..’ Hebrews 12:1b, The Book

I rose up, walked back to the small cottage I was staying in, soggy but joyful, cold but content, missing my parents, yes, but ‘energised’ by the fact that they live on – as do all of those that we have said ‘goodbye’ to as they enter Bliss, that which some call the Summerland, and still others call it Jannah. In the Welsh language it is called Caer Wydyr (the glass fortress). Life goes on there, and the ancestors are not far from any us.

Take heart. Blessings to you and yours, here and there, Tadhg

(Many thanks for your prayers, well-wishes and energy sent during my break. Greatly appreciated and felt).

‘Ah, Moon And Star’: Full Moon Poem [Found Poetry]

20170807 AH MOON AND STAR FULL MOON POEMAs you know, I like to write poetry, and in the past have done so for the time of the full moon. As well as previous moon poems, and the last few days writing here about celebrating today’s full moon, here’s a poem for this particular full moon.

Ah, moon and star
you are so very far,
and yet, the moon came into the forge
in her bustle of flowering nard. *
Then fairy fire enkindles it
like a gossamer by a taper lit.

Art thou pale from weariness
of climbing heaven and gazing upon the earth?
As I gaze upon thee in the sky
a single tear of joy does moisten mine eye.

Once upon a time I heard
that the flying moon was, infact, a Phoenix bird,
but the moon has a face like the clock in the hall
and she shines on thieves on the garden wall.

When, round and full, her silvery face
swims into sight, it lights all space.
It is so sad and so beautiful, and yet
so tremulously like a dream.

Direct my footsteps through the woodland shade,
the lovers guardian, and the Muse’s aid.
Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
at the full moon, and on our feast day.
For a million light-years away
we three will meet again,
deep in the milky way.

There’s a lunar surface rarely seen.
There’s a face on it!
Maybe God’s? Who knows?

You are the moon, dear one, and I the sea.
Pour down your unstinted nimbus energy, sacred moon, on me.

This poem falls within the ‘Found poetry’ genre. That is, it ‘is a type of poetry created by taking words, phrases, and sometimes whole passages from other sources and reframing them as poetry (a literary equivalent of a collage), and by minor making changes in spacing and lines, or by adding or deleting text, thus imparting new meaning.’ It’s also an interesting way to be introduced to numerous different poets and their style. The poem, above, comes from many sources. See below:

Lines 1, 2 Emily Dickinson; Lines 3, 4 Federico Garcia Lorca; Lines 5,6 Robert William Service; Lines 7,8 Robert Louis Stevenson, Lines 9, 10  William Topaz McGonagali; Lines 13, 14 Sappho; Lines 17, 18 Dylan Thomas; Lines 19, 20 Ella Wheeler Wilcox; Lines 21, 22 Psalm 81v3 (The Book); Line 23 John Tiong Chunghoo; Lines 24, 25 Li Po; Lines 26, 27, 28 Kelly Vinal; Line 29 Lady Mary Wortley Montagu; Line 30 Walt Whitman.

*Nard (plant) or spikenard, or an aromatic oil derived from that plant.

The Corn Moon: Celtic Full Moon: 7 August 2017: Tadhg’s Ephemera

20170804 TADHGS EPHEMERA CORN MOONThis Monday, 7 August 2017 sees another full moon. Known to some as the Fruit moon, Sturgeon moon, the Grain moon, it is known in China as the Harvest moon. Latter-day* and current-day Celts know it as the Dispute moon or the Corn moon. I prefer the latter as it’s more descriptive of the season, as we’re in the season of the first harvest of the year.

Did you know: The Moon is moving away from us by 1.48inches (3.78cm) a year.

In the early hours of next Monday morning there is a partial eclipse of the moon at 4.50am UTC and this is something for early-risers to look out for. And, then in the evening the full moon can be seen in the constellation Capricornus, is the south-eastern part of the sky.

Did you know: According to astronauts, Moon’s dust smells like gunpowder.

You know I like stories, and though to us the following two stories may seem strange, they both come from ancient and noble people, and from them we can learn so much.

Story #1: Tipä´ke‘so: A Menominee Tribe Story:
Once upon a time Ke´so (the Sun), and his sister, Tipä´ke‘so, (the Moon) lived together in a wigwam in the east. The Sun dressed himself to go hunting, took his bow and arrows and promptly left. He was absent for such a long time that when his sister came out and up into the sky to look for her brother she became distressed. She travelled for twenty days looking for the Sun; but he finally returned, bringing with him a bear which he had shot.

The sun’s sister still comes up into the sky and travels for twenty days; then she dies, and for four days nothing is seen of her. At the end of that time, however, she returns to life and travels twenty days more.

And the moon steps lower,
quietly changing
her luminous masks, brushing
everything as she passes
with her slow hands
and soft lips…

(Harvest Moon  by Mary Oliver)

Story #2: Heng-O and The Twelve Moons: Chinese Story:
In ancient times, it is sais that Chinese people believed that there were twelve Moons, just as there are twelve months in one year. Some also believed that there were ten Suns as there were ten days in the Chinese week. The mother of the twelve Moons was the same of that of the ten suns.

At the beginning of each month, the mother, Heng-O, washed her children in a lake at the far western side of the world. Then each Moon, one after the other, would travel in a chariot for a month and journey to reach the opposite eastern side of the world.

There, the Suns would begin their journey. It was believed that the Moons were made of water, and either a rabbit was living in their interior. The story exists in many cultures, prominently in Asian folklore and Aztec mythology.

This rabbit, Jade rabbit, was also the name of the successful Chinese probe to the moon which sent back valuable data for an amazing thirty-one months – though the expectation was that it may only operate for three months! Well done, China.

Conclusion:
The ancients celebrated the journey of the moon across the sky and it’s phases, they revelled in the turning of the circle, the seasons, and were in awe at those lights in the sky, the stars and comets. Our understanding of the sky may be greater than there’s – but they were (and are) wise and can still teach us many things – nevertheless don’t let scientific advancement dampen your awe. Enjoy the upcoming full moon in a significant way: by reciting a poem, enjoying a special meal, an evening walk in silence pondering upon the moon’s beauty (‘moon bathe’), perhaps use some liturgy or ritual, but whatever you do, my encouragement is for you to mark the wonderful time of this full moon in some special way to you.

There’s also an post from a few days back, which is a Hymn For The Moon, that you might like to use as a song of praise, or as a poem or liturgy in a ritual (click here).

Photograph, above, copyrighted and used by kind permission of Pennie Ley (click here). Bless you.

 

[* Addendum: In the opening paragraph where it’s written ‘Latter-day and current-day Celts know it…’, it should read ‘Ancient Celts and latter-day Celts know it…’. Oops!

 

An Encounter With The Voice At Drws I Fyd Arall

20170803 AN ENCOUNTER AT DRWYS I FYD ARALLThe Voice. Since the dawn of time humankind has heard that inner voice.

Some call it the voice of the imagination, self-reflection, or conscience. Others call it the whisper of an elemental or dryad, the higher self, or even the ancestors. And yet still others, particularly amongst the tribes of the middle-east today and especially so in ancient times call it the bat kohl, that is the voice of the Unseen One, and yet, interestingly, it means the ‘voice of the daughter’. Ah, The Voice. Think of the young Samuel being woken up at night by the voice (as recorded in the Book) for example, or Joan of Arc with her waking visions, or others who have been alerted to danger by a ‘whisper’. Such is the Voice.

It’s 11pm and I’m out and about in the nearby forest, not far from Capel Curig in north Wales where I live. I continued walking in the darkness and passed Y goeden mellt, the Lightning Tree (see here). As children we would all avoid Y goeden mellt – that’s the name we gave it – all would avoid it, except for me. I loved the power and mystery that both seemed to repel and invite, in equal measure.

And tonight I carried on walking through the dark forest, with flashlight in hand. It was all quiet, the sky somewhat cloudy, but dry and with only just the faint murmur of wind in the tall tree tops.

And then there they were: the bowed, arched, silver birch trees that I also remembered as a child and had frequently visited over the years: there was Drws i fyd arall.

As children we played here, imagining the arch of the trees were a portal to another place. We had all grown up with the tv program ‘Lost in Space’ and our imaginations were primed. ‘Drws i fyd arall’ was our name for that arch. It means ‘door to another world’.

Now in the presence of Drws i fyd arall (pronounced ‘droo zi fid arrah’), I remembered past times of play and awe. (See here), and now as an adult I revelled in its mystery and awe.

If places can be special, places of power, if they can be ‘thin-places’ of liminality where the veil is ‘thin’ between Here and The Other, The Source of All, then this is such a place. Yes, even as a child, without the words to describe it I was drawn to this place, and tonight I have the same feeling, but some words – but, only a few.

I sat on a moss-covered rock and looked at Drws i fyd arall  lit up in the flashlight light, and then turned the light off. It seemed disrectful to bathe such a natural beauty and ‘object’ of power in articificial white light. And so I sat there in the darkness.

A warm feeling enveloped me. Palpable. And not only an external feeling, but internal too, pervading my whole being. And then, as has happened albeit infrequently in this place in the past, I head the Voice once again (see here).

Some will say it’s only imagination, but I can only say, to me, it was and is, more, oh much more.

For this record the Voice is typed in Italics. My response is in ordinary type.

‘Sacred place. Dear one, remove your shoes and socks. Let your feet connect with the earth.’

Who are you?

‘You know me well. I’m no stranger to you and many, and I never stop speaking words of wisdom, though many do not listen.’

‘Are you the Companion, an ancestor, or some of my friends might say that you’re just my imagination?’

‘You already know the answer. You already know that I am not going to reveal more about myself. If you knew more, you would concentrate on that, rather than my words which are to follow.’

‘I understand. What is it that you want to tell me?’

‘This is for both of you?’

‘But, I’m alone here. There’s only me here’.

‘ You write online and some read. My words and for you and for those reading this. As they read it they will now that I am with them too, closer to them than their jugular vein, and like you, they will sense my presence and peace.’

‘I understand.’

‘Sacred time. You are low in your spirit, knowing both the joy of acclamation of the crowd and the distress caused by others’ correction for no good reason or their disapproval even when you do good. The latter seems to last longer and saps your energy. It doesn’t have to be this way. Your status is not governed by what you do, what others think, and not even  by what you think about yourself. Your status, and of those that will read this, is governed by the Source of All, and the opinion of the Source of All does not vary. You all are much-loved and are of infinite worth.’

‘It doesn’t feel like that sometimes, though I try to have faith and…’

‘Your feelings will change. But you are not your feelings. You all are much more. There is a life beyond ‘feelings’, where you stand, now, in your spirit if you want to ‘see’ it that way. You are correct: Faith is important. But don’t think that it’s your faith in the Source of All that keeps the world spinning or that is all important. Rather, faith does, indeed, matter, but it is the Source of All’s faith in you that matters, and that faith is total, immediate and unswerving for you all. Nothing you can do or say can diminish that faith in you, and nothing can increase it. It is already infinite, and you and those that will read this, take heart. 

‘…what is the next step?’

The path to growth is like a labyrinth. Unlike a maze, there is only one route towards the centre of a labyrinth, but seen from the centre, sometimes you will be walking away from dead centre and sometimes walking closer to dead centre. In reality each step does, indeed, take you to where you are heading, closer to the centre, though it may not ‘feel’ like it. Yes, each day you will receive ‘nudges’ to spur you and those reading this, onward, though sometimes you won’t detect them and sometimes you may feel that you have slipped, and feel down in your spirits, as you do now. Do what you believe is correct and appropriate, in love, for each situation you find yourselves in. Intentionality is important, and love always empowers and triumphs. Take heart. That is all.

‘So, who are you?’

[Silence]

Some ten minutes after this, and still sitting on the rock the ‘warm fuzzy’ feeling left me, and the sound of animals scurrying around me, and the sound of wind in the trees became evident, seemingly for the first time that night. That portal, the Presence of Drws i fyd arall had left – rather ‘it’ never really does leave us, but in (only) felt like it. The Voice is with you now.

Was it pure imagination, an elemental, an ancestor or the bat kolh, that which some call the voice of God, was it a waking-dream or tiredness getting the better of me? Does God still speak? In the stillness and silence? I make no assertions here and now, but leave it to you to decide and to ‘test the spirits’ as ancient sacred text recommends. You decide. After all, it is clear that this message was not only for me, but you as reader of this, too.

I put my socks and shoes back on, and headed home.

The Celtic Month Of The Hazel Tree (5 August – 1 September)

20170802 CELTIC MONTH OF THE HAZEL TREEIn a few days time, on 5 August we leave the old month of Holly tree and move into a new Celtic month – the month of the Hazel tree.

Now the ancients started their days (and, so new months) from the prior evening from our reckoning, and so that would make it the evening of 4 August,  but the choice of which evening/day to celebrate the new month is up to you). But do celebrate and mark the time in some way. The month of the Hazel tree ends on 1 September.

Did you know…Turkey is the largest producer of hazelnuts in the world with approximately 75% of worldwide production.

Celebration
It’s always good to celebrate a new month in large ways or small. I would encourage you, at the very least, to draw aside one evening to ‘welcome in’ the new month, even if for say, twenty minutes. It’s can be a deeply moving, profound, spiritual event.

Slow down, and maybe read and/or recite some poetry and spend some time mulling over the words, and meditate upon them. A glass of wine or two might assist. The Hazel tree is connected with knowledge and wisdom, and so a poem or quote associated with knowledge or wisdom might be appropriate, or maybe use a quote from here  that evening. There’s also a link to a great and relevant story, below.

And, also, how about giving thanks for all the good things that have happened in the previous month, and think ahead to what might happen this month, seeking light and love and energy, and guidance for the month ahead from the Source of All.

‘All our wisdom is stored in the trees.’ (Santosh Kalwar)

The Tree
The hazel tree, corylus avellana, itself, is a deciduous broadleaf tree native to the UK. Usually coppiced, but when left alone they can grow to a height of about thity-five feet (12m) and can live for up to eighty years (and, perhaps, four times that age, if coppiced).

The hazel tree has a smooth, grey-brown bark, which peels with age, and has pliable, hairy stems. Leaf buds are oval, blunt and also hairy.

‘The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.’ (John Muir)

Bees usually find it very difficult to collect hazel pollen and can only gather it in small quantities. This is because the wind pollinated hazel has pollen that is not that sticky and actually repels one grain from another.

Once pollinated by wind, the female flowers develop into oval fruits, which hang in groups. They mature into a nut with a woody shell surrounded by a cup of leafy bracts (modified leaves).

Hazel trees grow across much of Europe, as well as parts of north Africa and western Asia. In the UK it’s often found under the canopy of the lowland oak, ash or birch woodland, and is also found sometimes in scrub and hedgerows.

Did you know…The hazelnut became Oregon’s official State Nut in 1989.

As with the harmony of nature, hazel tree leaves provide an abundance of food for the caterpillars of many moths, including the large emerald, small white wave, barred umber and nut-tree tussock. They may support many species of butterfly, particularly fritillaries. Coppiced hazel trees also provides shelter for ground-nesting birds such as the nightingale, nightjar, yellowhammer and willow warbler.

Hazel nuts are also eaten by woodpeckers, nuthatches, tits, wood pigeons, jays and a number of small mammals. Hazel flowers provide early pollen as a food for bees. And the tree trunks are often covered in mosses, liverworts and lichens, and the fiery milkcap fungi grows in the soil beneath.

‘She said that the planting of trees, like the education of children, was a gift to the future.’ (Cassandra Danz)

Myth & Symbolism
The Hazel is associated with ‘knowledge’ and there is a wonderful story about a young man named Fionn, which includes the hazel tree and the salmon of knowledge, and is a story to tell, retell at this time of the year or on the evening of your new month celebration, and to quietly ponder upon it (see here).

Hazel has a reputation as a’ magical tree’. In many parts of Europe, a hazel rod is supposed to protect against evil spirits, as well as being used as a wand and for water-divining. In some parts of England hazel nuts were carried as charms and/or held to ward off rheumatism. The hazel’s connection with the Well of Wisdom is evident by the tree’s frequent presence at holy wells throughout Britain and Ireland, where pilgrims. still continue to this day, festoon its branches with votive offerings in the form of pieces of cloth.

‘Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.’ (Kahlil Gibran)

The hazel’s association with wisdom extends to other cultures of the ancient world. In Norse mythology it was known as the Tree of Knowledge and was sacred to Thor; the Romans held it sacred to Mercury; and Hermes’ magic rod may have been made from hazel.

Conclusion
Whatever you do, my encouragement to you is to celelebrate the new month one evening as we enter the new month of the Hazel tree.  Appreciate the marking of time, the new month, and trees. Yes, love trees. Wishing you and yours a blessed Hazel tree month, Tadhg.

‘Make peace with people, make peace with animals, make peace with trees!’ (Mehmet Murat ildan)