“…Of Great Worth”: A Story

20170628 OF GREAT WORTH A STORY TO MAKE YOU THINKIt seems most of my deep thoughts take place around sipping coffee or waking up at sunrise, and especially so when they both coincide. Today, then, was not unusual in that respect. Sitting at the garden table, drinking coffee, as the sun rose, I reminisced.

I was thinking of one of my grandmother’s, the one that used to live nearby when I was a wee lad in north Wales. I now know that she had had a tough life, but never seemed to go without, was always quite able to make ends meet by ‘recycling’ and darning – does anyone darn socks any more?. She lived on ‘slender means’. The world was different then, people (especially in Wales) were much poorer, and yet possessed in greater amounts a community spirit, a contentment and a resilience to meet come-what-may with a defiant smile, and they loved and laughed. My grandmother was always singing, always quite jolly, and always had an opinion. Ah, the older Welsh generations.

All this got me thinking, especially as she loved to tell stories, of a story I heard some time ago about ‘worth’, which always buoys me up, and I’d like to re-tell it here especially for you. You know how much I love stories and story-telling.

‘There is a story of an elderly lady reminiscing, thinking back to when she was a child. She said: Oh, I remember that it was pouring with rain and I was allowed to play in the house rather than the garden that day. I was enjoying myself so much, that I got a little careless and broke an old vase – a family heirloom – that stood in the corner. It had been there for years.

I knocked it accidentally, and it fell to the floor, and smashed into a thousand pieces. I screamed out loud. In shock? In terror (at what my mother’s reaction would be)? In fear? In disappointment (that I could be so careless)? I screamed. I cried.

My mother rushed into the room. Alarmed. Worried. My mother looked at me, then looked at the smashed vase, and then looked back at me. Her face changed. Her face appeared relieved, and then a smile appeared upon it.

I ran to her crying. She opened her arms and gave me a huge hug. Before I could say I was sorry, she spoke. ‘Thank God. I thought you were hurt’, she said. With tears in her eyes she consoled me, and it was that day that I realised that I was the family treasure, and to my mother, of great worth.”

I don’t think I can add to that story, except to say that it applies to you, to all of us. Never doubt that you are of great worth, and are much loved by That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves.

 

Sweet Surrender: Celtic Thought

20170627 SWEET SURRENDERI’m still in London, and today for some reason I was up before sunrise, but it was good to do.

‘Amor vincit omnia, et nos cedamus amori.
Love conquers all things, so we too shall yield to love.’ Virgil

At that time of the morning the air was clean (relatively), London traffic and noise hadn’t started, and I was alone with a cup of coffee in my tiny, but greatly appreciated garden, and alone with my thoughts – albeit a myriad of thoughts, some vying for dominance, some seemingly passing through.

‘Muddy water, let stand, becomes clear.’ Lao Tzu

I’m not one to lose my temper, infact I’ve been described as being ‘quite Buddhist’ (and no disrespect to Buddhists, as I think that’s a compliment). On a few occasions I have been known to try and use reason and logic to present a case, but sometimes the other party are just not having it, and in such cases, inwardly, I declare, ‘I give in, I surrender’. Not in a nasty way, but that I’ve used all the resources I have at my disposal and there’s nothing more to be said . And so, in those cases I change tact and surrender. I quit talking, after all, what more can be said?

‘Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.’  Ann Landers

As I recounted those occasions, the word ‘surrender’ remained with me.

Have you ever been in the presence of someone you truly love, and when you first meet them, there’s that time of frantic, nervous conversation and of getting to know each other. Do they drink latte or skinny wet latte, espresso or double espresso, Americano, short or long macchiato, ristretto or even tea, amongst other things? These things are important. But, there comes a time, when just gazing into your lover’s eyes is enough, words only get in the way and you surrender to the moment of stillness.

There’s that word again. Surrender.

Sweet, sweet surrender, live, live without care
like a fish in the water, like a bird in the air.’ John Denver, song.

Surrender has got bad press over the years, at least it seemed to me as I continued to sip that ever-so-welcome cup of coffee this morning as the sun was about to rise. Surrender can seem like a cowards way out, a giving up when perhaps one shouldn’t, or taking the easy route. But, surrender is a wonderful word.

Those who frequent forests, who witness a sunrise at the beach, those who gaze upon lofty mountains in the distance, perform a ritual in a wood and appreciate all that is green and alive, those who look upon a new-born baby’s face or the face of a loved-one know no words to sum up those experiences. When you encounter That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves the only response is a holy and awesome surrender. The event is beyond words. Surrender is the only, and thankfully the most wonderfully appropriate response.

Some time ago I wrote:

Wonder sees beyond the physical world,
with eyes beyond eyes.
Wonder makes us still and tremble in awe
as we consider our lowliness and humility of heart.
Wonder is never small, never a dim light and never disappoints.
It can be fleeting, momentary, even fragile, but it is never meaningless.
It is the sun rising above the horizon as the cool wind blows.
It is a flock of birds making huge circles in the sky as they prepare to migrate.
It is the friendly hand extended by a stranger when we stumble.
It is a baby’s innocent smile, a lover’s kiss, a kindly word or deed.
It is the knowing, empathetic, tearful glance when words fail.
It is the unexpected,
the daily synchronicities of the Creator we so often ignore in our busy-ness.
Wonder is the Creator’s gift to us to declare who He is,
what He is doing, and how He loves us.
And, as we observe and so participate in wonder,
it is His way of including us in the cosmic dance of creation.

That which can arrest us, jar us out of our only-seeing-the mundane world around us – and don’t feel too bad about that, as I do believe we are ‘amphibians’, that is aware sometimes of the numinous, but at other times unaware (and when at work or driving etc those may be good times to be unaware of the numinous) – can occur at any time.

‘Always say “yes” to the present moment. What could be more futile, more insane, than to create inner resistance to what already is? What could be more insane than to oppose life itself, which is now and always now? Surrender to what is. Say “yes” to life — and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.’ Eckhart Tolle

As I sat there with just a little coffee left in the cup I was pleased with the thought of ‘surrender’ rattling around in my mind. If you encounter the numinous today, my encouragement to you is not to analyse it, not to verbalise it, not to objectify it – in each of those responses we ‘step out’ of the moment – but to surrender. Surrender, enjoy and bask in the love of the Lover of All, whoever that Love is manifested.

‘When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.’ Lao Tzu

____________

Yesterday, the photo link to the article ‘Be Of Good Cheer: Words Of Encouragement For You’ may not have taken you to the article, but rather to just a photo store. Apologies. If you thought there was no article yesterday, it can be accessed and read here. Blessings, Tadhg

Be Of Good Cheer: Words Of Encouragement For You

20170626 BE OF GOOD CHEER

‘The best of healers is good cheer’. (Pindar 517-438 BC)

Some time ago, a young lady sat opposite me – the group I was with had just come from a church service – and we were in a nearby pub for a drink and discussion. It seems the most interesting things happen when we’re at rest or relaxing, don’t you think? The topic in the group centred around the GoodNews (however we define that), and at the mention of that word (or is it two) the young lady burst into tears, sobbing uncontrollably. As positive a person as I am, I suddenly realised then, that for some, the GoodNews (or some peoples version of it) isn’t good news at all. I wept inwardly.

And yet, ‘God is the happiest being in the universe’ (G. K. Chesterton).

I visited Speakers’ Corner in central London yesterday. It’s a place where, usually on a Sunday afternoon, anyone can get up and voice their opinion, and many do just that. There are some who will be articulate about alien abduction, chat about chem trails, be erudite in their discussion of the finer points of existentialism, and there’s one man there who wears a sign upon which are scribed the word, ‘I know the secret to eternal youth’. Ofcourse, when asked what it is, he refrains from revealing it by replying, ‘Well, if I told you it wouldn’t be a secret!’. That was funny. I laughed.

‘Humour brings insight and tolerance. Irony brings a deeper and less friendly understanding.’ (Agnes Repplier)

This isn’t a rant.

If what you think, say or do is good news, is the GoodNews, that is, whatever you do – whether it’s sending light and love, prayers or liturgy or ritual, energy-sending, works of service, (even) paid work, if it is positive and life-giving, wholesome and/or serving others, then please, please, please by what you say and do, spread that positivity, and do it with a passion. This is my hope. Do not hold back. The world needs you. And you don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to have everything ‘sorted’ in your life…being human is sufficient!

This is a plea.

‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.’ (Marianne Williamson)

There is an old story about the plague in medieval England that I told to a group of friends, recently.  I hasten to add that this was in my small garden in my London place (and not the pub!). The story goes that a village – and about one in three in England died of the plague at that time – had been infected with the plague. Each day more and more people died. Some moved away, and that probably assisted in spreading the plague, but you couldn’t blame people for doing so. The doctor of that village decided that he would stay and continue to treat people, make them comfortable and possibly clear the village of the deadly plague. One of my friends tried to finish the story for me by saying, ‘..and you’re going to tell me that the plague left that town and the doctor lived happily every after’. To which I added, ‘No, the townspeople died of the plague and so did the doctor. No miracles happened. Just passionate, costly, selfless love by the doctor, and that’s why that story is known and still told, today’.

The world has many people in ‘darkness’ and, sadly, it has some people who ‘darken that darkness’.

The world needs you.

It needs quiet, sober, passionate light-workers, pray-ers, energy workers, liturgists and/or ritualists, poets and musicians and writers, people who will listen non-judgementally, people who will hold space for those suffering, people of good-cheer, aye-sayers and not nay-sayers, it needs Celts and Celtic Christians and Druids and other well-meaning people of other faiths and none. It needs awesome people, like you!

In large ways and small, please spread light and love. Never belittle what you do, who you are. That Which Is Larger Than Us has put you here for a purpose (whether or not others understand that purpose).

‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.’ (Martin Luther King Jnr)

Back in that pub, recently, a few of us were sharing our favourite quotes. I hope I don’t give the impression that I ‘live’ in pubs. It’s just that the local one has a cosy, comfortable, living-room atmosphere, complete with a nice carpet which just invites the kicking off of shoes, it has a sofa and books! Two of my favourites! It also does a mean tomato juice drink with Worcestershire sauce. There, we shared our favourite quotes and maxims, and all the quotes were uplifting and love-centred. The only one I can now remember, and which is offered here to you by way of encouragement, is…

‘All shall be well; and all shall be well; and all manner of thing shall be well’. (Lady Julian of Norwich)

That made me, inwardly, weep…but this time, for joy. Please be encouraged. I don’t know what you’re going through, but you are needed, loved, and you’re doing a great job, and my prayers are for you.

Love, Tadhg

[PS: Apologies if you got several notifications about this post. I had to ‘trash’ previous versions before arriving at this one. Blessings, Tadhg]

Beauty Beyond Beauty: Celtic Thought

20170623 BEAUTY BEYOND BEAUTYGo into any art gallery or museum and you will see priceless objects. Some of them contemporary to us today, and some, especially from antiquity, can seem to us out of place, unusual or just odd, but, nevertheless, there is some special captivating quality that defies explanation, and which draws us closer.

Which one of us isn’t enthralled to see the Celtic and Druid patterns on rocks of old, on tors and other places, or early pagan  petroglyphs on hillsides or early Christian drawings in the Roman catacombs?

Look closely and there’s usually a story to tell, a certain significance in the symbolism and/or something which warms our hearts. Some element of beauty abounds, however we define that word.

‘Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.’ Confucius

Beauty can be glimpsed everywhere. Such as, the first time a baby recognises mum and dad’s face (and sometimes the baby does a ‘double take’ roll of the head to focus) is beautiful, as is a murmuration of starlings swirling overhead which can sometimes almost seem to incorporate the observer in the patterns they make, an ancient and noble tree seen is a wonderful sight, or an awesome sunrise or sunset is seen, or for me, the distant mountains as seen from Capel Curig in Wales quickens the heart, or when a plot twist or description in a book or in a poem is noticed and taken to heart, or deeply moving music. Beauty is everywhere.

‘Devotional singing induces in you a desire for experiencing the truth, to glimpse the beauty that is God, to taste the bliss that is the Self. It encourages man to dive into himself and be genuinely his real Self’. Sai Baba.

Whether it is before our eyes, a temporary event, the luminous truth ‘flashing like a kingfisher’, something at our peripheral vision, something heard or something sensed alone, beauty comes in many guises, indeed in many disguises.

But, is that it?

John Pritchard, in his book ‘Encountering the beyond in the everyday: Something more’, talks about beauty, and surmises there is more. There is a surface beauty – which is beautiful and not to be diminished, but there is even more.

Ah, ‘there is more’ is my favourite Welsh phrase – mae mwy!

‘The book or music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust them [alone]; it was not in them, it only came through them…They are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never visited’. Eveyln Waugh.

Beautiful works of art, artefacts, musical pieces or awesome events are, indeed, beautiful, but there’s more. Such beauty comes to us from beyond. Beauty (from) beyond beauty.

This storehouse of all that is good and holy and beautiful, this ‘Beyondness’ is known to some as Heaven. Others call it the Summerland, and still others call it Jannah. In the Welsh language it would be called Caer Wydyr (the glass fortress). The latter is my favourite, but I do confess to being a wee bit biased.

So, though you might only see an old tree, something mundane but which catches your attention and sparks something deep within your soul, or you might gaze when you gaze upon a wonderful work of art or hear music which lets your spirt soar, then, and in those circumstances you’ve caught a glimpse of the which is Beyond.

And, it’s not that you just caught a glimpse of Beyondness at a distance, rather, you have In some way been ‘flooded’, ‘immersed’, momentarily caught in the interactive two-way Flow between object and observer, and ‘incorporated’ in that beauty from Beyond.

It may not be able to be captured and stored; play the musical piece again and it may not have the same effect – such glimpses can never be artificially reproduced – but you can content yourself with knowing that you have witnessed a glimpse (and been part of That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves) of that which comes from Beyond, knowing that in another way, at some time in the future you may be so blessed again, if you have eyes to see!

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
and every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
and daub their natural faces unaware.

(Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

The Longest Day: An Encounter With Truth Through A BBC Soap Opera

20170621 THE LONGEST DAY BBC DOCTORSI have a confession to make: today, because I had left the tv on, I watched ‘Doctors’, the BBC soap opera.

It’s about a medical practice in a fictional town called Letherbridge (near Manchester), and each program, so I’m told, has a few sub-plots,  and today my interest was piqued.

I promise I won’t watch it again. Honest.

I wouldn’t normally watch it, but the fact that it opened with a druid enticed me to watch further. It is summer solstice today and this topical theme on ‘Doctors’ (entitled ‘The Longest Day’) required further ‘research’, and so I watched the program for the next thirty minutes.

So here’s the story: It opened with an older man talking to his teenage son in a forest clearing or large back garden, and it was clear that a ceremony was being prepared. See header photo – from the BBC episode. The older man was a druid by what he said and from the ‘tools’ and symbols and decorations around him.

He said that to complete the preparations he need to take something from the Church grounds! Cue sinister music, perhaps? Well, in some circumstances tv programs like this might do that, but not this time.

I have to go and get a key element for your initiation, if I can get it out of the Churchyard’. Quote from ‘Doctors’, ‘The Longest Day’ episode.

But, what did he need? A skull? Some bones? Steal some Christian relics? It all sounded so mysterious.

Next we see this Druid in the Church building, and in comes dear Mrs Tembe. She is the doctors’ receptionist at the local practice, a devout church-goer, and a wise but sometimes too-straight-laced lady. She askes him, politely, what he’s doing there.

Trouble?

No trouble. But, a conversation ensues, and the scriptwriters have done their home-work, and a wonderfully informed and entertaining subplot unfolds. The Druid introduces himself and explains his path; dear Mrs Tembe listens intently, non-judgementally, and accepts the basket of organic fruit he brought to the Church as a gift. He explains the fact that some Druids are an amalgam of nature-based beliefs and Christianity or other beliefs.

The man continues and says that he’s noticed mistletoe growing in the Church yard and would like permission to take some for a ceremony, and Mrs Tembe agrees to ask the Vicar.

Had this been the product of scriptwriters who had encountered, perhaps, Dungeons and Dragons, or episodes of Hammer House of Horror, it might have been bones the Druid had wanted – because there are many sources that depart from the truth, and for the sake of an enticing tv fictional program some are happy to write scripts that mislead people about druidry. But, all our Druid friend wanted was permission to take a little holly. My first ‘happy feeling’ was the innocuous nature of the dear Druid’s request. Wonderful. No stealing. Nothing sinister. Just a simple request, and a gift to the Church of fruit, come what may.

I can offer you home-grown organic fruit and vegetable. It’s yours without or without the mistletoe’. Quote from ‘Doctors’, ‘The Longest Day’ episode.

Shortly after this, when the program returns to that subplot, there’s dear Mrs Tembe in the forest or is it a large back garden, with a basket of mistletoe. A gift from the local Church. Wonderful.

Okay, she encounters the Druid with his son – the son’s mother is going to Canada that evening with that young man, and this has come like a bolt out of the blue to his father, the Druid, who is preparing that evening to welcome his son, officially, into the grove. Words fly. Again, Mrs Tembe excels – I’m sure she was in Dr Who for a program or two.

Mrs Tembe listens to the father talk about the aspirations he has for his son. My second ‘happy feeling’ was that the program showed the plight of a son ‘torn’ between his parted parents, and the youngster wanting to please both, but unable to do so. Mrs Tembe ‘rescues’ the situation by saying that the son, now grown up, must decide his own destiny and both parents must accept it.

‘…then you are going to have to trust him’, says Mrs Tembe. Quote from ‘Doctors’, ‘The Longest Day’ episode.

The scriptwriters sincerely captured the fact that people – whether Christian or Druid, or of some other faith (or none)  – have challenges, and particularly parents sometimes have to make tough choices. Mrs Tembe assisted the Druid guy to make a choice (and his parted wife, too) to let their son decide without any pressure. It should come as no shock to discover that Druids and Christians are human, too. And, being human is okay. This was my third ‘happy feeling’. Druids and Christians are human, too! And so, that subplot finishes.

‘You have taken a different path from the one I would have you take…I allowed my own selfish desire to cloud my judgement…Wishing you a safe journey and great joy in your new life…Blessings, your father’. Quote from ‘Doctors’, ‘The Longest Day’ episode.

It may seem strange, but am I so pleased, that a soap opera program like ‘Doctors’ can be so informational and correct, contain a captivating and lively subplot, be so ‘human’, and show that a Druid- Christian commonality and dialogue – where one honours and accepts the path, the Way of the other – is possible. And, that was my fourth ‘happy feeling’.

‘And like me, he believes that this place has a great deal of power.’ Quote from ‘Doctors’, ‘The Longest Day’ episode.

Obviously, the Truth can proceed even through soap operas.

Well done Mrs Tembe, played by Lorna Laidlaw (and I’m sure she was in Dr Who for a short while), and well done BBC soap department.

PS: I’ve since found out the scriptwriter Was Tina Walker, so well done, Tina Walker, too.

‘When I finally stopped struggling, I guess it left room for something else’. Quote from ‘Doctors’, ‘The Longest Day’ episode.

PPS: In the story, the son actually decided to stay with his father and go through with the initiation ceremony.

Blessings At This Time Of Alban Hefin / Summer Solstice

20170620 SUMMER SOLSTICE BLESSINGS CARD

Sorry, there’s no article today, but if you clicked and arrived here,  then I wish a double blessing on you for checking this page, and because of the wonderful event of Alban Hefin (Welsh for ‘the light of the shore’) on 21 June 2017.

With deep gratitude.

And now at this time, may the blessing of the Blesséd Three be upon you and those whom you love. Love, Tadhg.

 

 

Hymn For Alban Hefin [Summer Solstice 2017]

20170621 ALBAN HEFIN 1111The Summer Solstice, known to the Druids of old in the Welsh language as ‘Alban Hefin’ (which means ‘the light of the shore’) is almost upon us.

And to celebrate Alban Hefin, this Wednesday, 21 June 2017 at 5.24pm (UK time), I’ve written a poem, and have set it to music –  using a well-known and (personally) much-loved, delightful old Gaelic tune called ‘She moved through the fair’ – and so as well as a poem, it’s also a hymn for Celtic Christians, Druidic-Christians, Druids and others who might like to use it at the upcoming wonderful event of Alban Hefin.

The words are below, and so, at this stage it’s a poem or liturgy. But, I might find a way and be ‘brave’ enough to record it and sing it ready for tomorrow’s post. Meanwhile, the tune (though the unknown-to-me musician/singer breaks into singing at one point – singing the original song – can be found at here to give you an idea of the tune. )

So, happy Alban Hefin to you and yours, and here is ‘A Hymn For Alban Hefin 2017’

Great Light above.
All hail the sun
from whom all life proceeds,
Oh Glorious One.
Unending, unbroken
you traverse the sky.
Turning night to day.
With joy we cry.

Unresting, unheeding
in beauty you shine.
Full of health and vigour
poured out like new wine.
For all humankind
your riches bestow
from heaven above
to the Earth below.

All life you create
in the circle of love.
And we celebrate
your end-less gifts.
Laud and honour
for-ever be,
to you Bless-ed One,
For-ever Three.

Great Light above.
All hail the sun
from whom all life proceeds,
Oh Glorious One.
Unending, unbroken
you traverse the sky.
Turning night to day.
With joy we cry.

Tune: She moved through the fair
Words inspired by: Light’s Abode, Celestial Salem, attributed to Thomas á Kempis

The Art Of [Experiencing] The Presence: Celtic Thought

20290616 THE ART OF PRESENCEThere’s an ancient story of a man wandering in the desert, and though he had done this for many years, on this specific occasion he noticed something strange, something out of the ordinary, something that caught his attention like it had never done before. He saw a bush in the distance that was on fire, and yet it wasn’t being destroyed by that fire. He drew closer to look.

From that ancient story it looked as though an angel was responsible for that burning bush, but when the man went to investigate it seems, from the one who then spoke, that the angel deferred to a higher power, the Presence. One wonders for how long that angel had been trying to catch his attention – days, weeks, years? Nevertheless, the man went to investigate.

This old, old story goes on to tell us that the burning bush spoke to the man by name, and told him to remove his shoes because the ground he was standing on was, indeed, holy ground. He did so. He drew aside, and in silence and in the desert, and experienced the Presence.

There is another story, more recent about a woman called Catherine Doherty. Arriving in Canada as a Russian refugee and living in the poorest parts of Toronto, she spent almost all of her life seeking to encounter the Presence, the Source of All, God, in the desert. She wrote in her book, ‘Poustinia: Encountering God in Silence…’, that deserts (and the Russian name for desert is Poustinia, hence the title of her book), those times of silence and solitude are ‘not necessarily places but states of mind and heart’.

These deserts can be found in busy cities, in sparsely populated area, as well as in places where we live each day of our lives.  These deserts of encounter, where the Presence can be experience, can be ‘tiny pools of silence’. They can be anywhere.

But how do we achieve this silence?

How do we experience the Presence? She says, ‘By standing still!’. Catherine Doherty

However we define the Presence, that Mystery, That Which Is Bigger Than Us, that which some call God (and that’s a word that is much overused hence my search and usage of other words), the Elements or Elementals, the Spirit, that Presence is much needed. Not to experience the Presence is not to experience Life in all its fullness.

If perception is looking at something and understanding it from some way of, then encountering the Presence is all about experience, communion, one-ness with and the acceptance of a relationship with the Presence, initiated by the Presence, and which is always beneficial.

And, yet we can ‘distance’ ourselves from the Presence, from that Great Flow, The Spirit, call ‘it’ what you will.

We can ‘distance’ or remove ourselves from the experience of the Presence by being too busy – we all live such busy lives, after all, and some seemingly quantify their worth by a ‘crowded’ diary; by being too precise  – we can so want our words of liturgy and ritual to be word-perfect that we focus on the words rather than the encounter; by being analytical – to use our minds to objectively observe what is going on with the Presence at the time of the encounter  immediately puts us at some distance and we step outside of the basking of sacred-time, and step back into ordinary time; by ‘crowding out’ the Presence by an excess of words, especially if we have limited time and a shopping-list of prayers to recite; by ‘doing’ rather than ‘being’.

Ofcourse, in one very real sense removing or distancing ourselves from the Presence is impossible – because the Presence is ubiquitous and is always close at hand – but we can remove ourselves from the knowledge and experience of the Presence by focussing on what really isn’t important at all.

Why do we do that?

We might fear the Presence and so don’t want to draw close, or we might not fully understand the loving and invitational presence of the Presence, we might be too busy (and if so, please find time to slow and stop occasionally), we might not realise the importance of ritual and prayer (that puts us in a position of being receptive), or (and this is true of some ‘old hands’, mature and ‘holy people’) some may not really want to draw close to the Presence because their lives may be changed (and even if for the better, it can be worrying for some to have Someone Else in the ‘driving seat’). And so, some may prefer an ‘arms length’ approach, to be in control of the ‘on-off’ button, and in such cases may actually be angry and upset with those that point to a closer communion.

Yes, it’s good to encourage greater communion in others, but if you do, be aware that there will some well-meaning people (even using Bible verses) to counter your good works and declare you to be a heretic. But, I can sense that you’re a principled, determined and passionate-for-the-truth sort of person, and that that wouldn’t stop you.

‘All I did was light candles.
Did God find me or did I find God?
Hush!
The time for words is past’.

(Barbara Brown Taylor)

So, how do we encounter the Presence.

Well, liturgy, prayer and ritual are some ways to put us in a position of being receptive to the always-there Presence, but they are ‘doorways’ to step through and enter that ‘inner sanctum’ of sacred-space. They are ‘tools’ to usher us into an awareness of the ‘Divine Ubiquitousness’.

There are many other ways to encounter the Presence (eg music, art, works of service, a numinous event, a tragic event, a loving event, a huge surprise etc) But the encounter of Presence always leads to silence, perhaps perceived in (inner) darkness (‘luminous darkness’), and without analytical thought. It is experience that takes place in time-out-of-time, without words, is a state or mind and being, and it is only after the experience, as we look back analytically, that we ‘remember’ being in the presence of the Presence. This is one of the purposes and uses of the Caim.

‘Your hand opens and closes,
opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralysed.
Your deepest presence
is in every small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
as birds’ wings.’

(Rumi)

 

The Art Of Being Awake: Celtic Thought

20170615 THE ART OF BEING AWAKEIt’s 6.30am on a bright, sunny, wonderful London morning, and I’m sitting at my garden table, coffee in front of me, and I’ve just splashed a little cream on top of it. The sun is still low in the sky and the world is ‘fresh’. The cream on the coffee swirls around, effortlessly forming a galaxy-like spiral shape. Interestingly, did you know that the word galaxy comes from the ancient Greek meaning ‘milky’, and the English name for our galaxy – that smoke-like veil that stretches across the sky when there are no artificial lights about and especially when one is nearer the equator – is the milky way! Milky just like the pattern on my coffee. And, that got me thinking.

‘Dance above the surface of the world. Let your thoughts lift you into creativity that is not hampered by opinion.’ Red Haircrow

Apparently, the UK’s Astronomer Royal believes that all of us, indeed everything that we see around us in the created universe, is part of a sophisticated computer program run by aliens. According to him we all ‘apps’ or sub-routines in the program, and are ‘asleep’ to true reality. True! When I say ‘true’ I mean that’s what he believes, not that we are, necessarily, part of an alien’s computer program.

But it make you think about…..awareness…sleep…illusion…reality, doesn’t it?

There’s an ancient story of a young man who, part of a dysfunctional family, decided to do his share of cheating, and got what he wanted. However, he had to avoid his (now) angry older brother who had been cheated out of his inheritance – the older brother was, allegedly, of a size and stature to dismember his younger brother if he so wanted, and he probably wanted to do just that. So, the younger one, quite wisely, fled the scene.

Some time later in the day, tired from running he looked around for a make-shift pillow. The locale was quite ordinary looking, but he noticed a flat stone that would be an ideal pillow. He lad his head upon it, and fell asleep.

‘Therefore it says: “Awake you, the one sleeping…’, Ephesians 5:14a, The Book

He started to dream, a most vivid and real-type of dream. In his dream he saw a huge ladder fixed between earth and heaven, with celestial beings of some description ascending it, and descending it. Whether it was minutes or hours later, the young man awoke. His blurry eyes once again scanned the terrain, and it didn’t look any different. However, the dream had made a difference, and he declared, ‘God is in this place, and I didn’t even realise it’.

Yes, one man had to fall asleep to really wake up to reality!

The Lady Julian lived about some 650 years ago and was the recipient of several visions. She recorded them, and of one of them she wrote. ‘And in this [God] showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand… And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’ Creation in her hand? She was awake for that ‘showing’ to a different view of reality.

There’s another story of a young man, one of his kind – we know that because his name is an anagram of ‘one’! You’ve probably seen the movie. In the movie, Morpheus (also the Greek god of dreams) declares to this young man, that, ‘The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

Yes, Neo was living in a dream-world, and had to wake up to reality.

‘Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures. Jessamyn West

Are we asleep? I mean, are we asleep?

I don’t want to suggest that this reality we find ourselves in, is a mere illusion and inconsequential, because then I would be concerned that some may erroneously believe that they don’t need to be responsible for their actions toward other people, nature or the universe. And, we do!

But there is a sense in that we are ‘asleep’.

It could be the kind of ‘rote living’. Years ago I used to travel the London Underground system quite a lot – hop on this train, walk through that tunnel, down the escalator and turn right, jump of that train and I’d reach my destination. And yet, for part of that regular journey, as I reflected say as I was boarding the last train for that journey, I’d have no memory of some of the tunnels and escalators taken. It was if I was asleep. Maybe you’ve encountered the same on a regular train trip or car journey?

Or, it could be that we’re asleep when it comes to looking at what’s happening around us. We can be so focussed on (what many call) the mundane, the material or human-event world around us, that we fail to ‘see’ a greater universe, a greater Universal Power at work. Using different ‘eyes’ we can catch glimpses, And then maybe it’s gone from our perception – but we know it’s there, we can ‘feel’ it, we can remember it, and can take heart from that encounter (until the next encounter).

‘Not only is the Universe stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can think.’ Werner Heisenberg,

And, there’s more. Even for those that have had glimpses of awareness, of being awake, there is a pertinent question that just begs to be asked: If we were asleep and have woken up, have we (1) unwittingly fallen asleep again, or (2) are there greater degrees of awareness yet to be experienced and so we shouldn’t be complacent or proud. This is not to unnerve you (or me) or cause any anxiety, but a gentle reminder to us that we live in a most splendid mysterious universe, at that at the heart of it is The Mystery . So, there could be, and I’ll go out on a limb, and declare that there is more. Even when we believe we’re awake, there’s more. Mae mwy.

‘The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open
Don’t go back to sleep!’

Rumi

The Art Of Encountering: Celtic Thought

20170614 THE ART OF ENCOUNTERINGAnd so there I was last evening, sitting in my little inner-city garden – some would call it a yard, but this is Fulham – with a lit candle on the garden table. The sun was now below the horizon, the sky was cloudless and a most wonderful deep, deep blue. Even a few swallows could be seen darting overhead, near the bridge.

All was fairly quiet. Peaceful. Lovely.

With my eyes closed, I said some silent prayers to send light, energy, well-well-wishes for family, friends, and, yes, for those who will be reading this, like you. And, then I stopped. Quite abruptly.

‘During each encounter, ask yourself: How does this incident bring greater awareness into my life?’ Azim Jamal & Brian Tracy

As I sat there, at that garden table, now with thoughts racing, I wondered at how easy it is to engage with people when they look like us, speak like us, have the same views as us or come form the same tribe as us. That’s encountering, I guess some would say. But, it shouldn’t stop there, I’m saying to myself, too. There’s more. Mae mwy.

What about the ones who don’t look like us, don’t sound like us, and who are marginalised and sometimes dehumanised? What about them? Ofcourse, they must be included. Yes? Isn’t that the meaning of philoxia? [Philo, an ancient Greek word for love, xenai meaning stranger].

Sometimes, it’s not until we’re the excluded ones, not until we are the strangers that the penny drops, and we realise how awful such distancing can be.

‘You shall love the stranger first of all because you know what it is to be a stranger yourself. Second of all, you shall love the stranger because the stranger shows you God [the Source of All, The Great Spirit]’, Barbara Brown Taylor

When travelling I sometimes like to visit churches on a Sunday, and though I’m a mature person, not easily ‘thrown’ and very inclusive and chatty, it is often the case, sadly, that I’ll worship alone even when the building has dozens of worshippers in it, and afterward drink coffee alone, surrounded by others who are obviously of the ‘in’ tribe. Not always the case, but it is sometimes the case. To them, I’m guessing it felt like I was an ‘it’. They were persons (an ‘I’) and it felt like I was regarded by them as less than a person. An ‘it’.

Being in an I-It relationship is no real relationship at all. A jug of water is an ‘it’. Apple peel is an ‘it’. A paving stone is an ‘it’. And, ‘it’ can be ignored and discarded.

However, just to even things up, I did have to laugh, inwardly, when at one particular church service some time ago, a person came up close and sat next to me, explained everything, absolutely everything that was going on and in great detail (although I knew the Anglican form of service very well), found the hymn for me each time (yes, I know the hymn book is arranged numerically for ease of use and the numbers are up there on the board), and then found the Bible passage for me (even though I’ve been a Christian for over forty years), but I felt welcomed, at that’s the point. To that person I was a person. Not an ‘it’, but a ‘thou’ (a ‘you’, a person approachable in some kind of relationship). They were an ‘I’ and I was a ‘thou’ from there viewpoint. From mine I was the ‘I’ and they were the ‘Thou’, and there was the relationship, the bonding,  and it worked.

Another reason I stopped praying as I sat in my little inner-city garden was that my prayer had turned into a mere shopping-list of wants, albeit for other people, but in some way I wasn’t encountering them, even spiritually. I had turned these good people into ‘its’.

‘I am not a number, I am a free man!’, ironically said #6 in the old tv series ‘The Prisoner’.

How many times have we sat in a glade or a church building and communed with the elements, elementals, angels, or God, participated in a ritual without meaning it deeply, and unknowingly distanced ourselves by doing things by rote, and regarding one or all of the aforementioned as an ‘it’, instead of focussing on the relationship between us and them, and so forging an ‘I’ to ‘thou’ (I to another ‘person’) bond? How many times have we prayed a shopping-list of prayers or conducted a ritual and speedily worked through it, only to feel a little ‘hollow’ at the end and have to acknowledge that we had been a bit glib and superficial. That we had accepted the ‘liminoid’ rather than the liminal. Sometimes that happens, doesn’t it?

Still sitting at my garden table, with rampant thoughts now subsiding, I encouraged myself to move into the ‘le point vierge’ (the virgin point), liminal space, sacred-space, that area deep within each one of us where, in silence, we can come closer to others (in an I-Thou) relationship, and indeed into such a relationship with the Other. Isn’t that what the Caim is about?

Martin Buber wrote that we may address existence in two ways: (1) The attitude of the “I” towards an “It”, towards an object that is separate in itself, which we either use or experience. Or (2), The attitude of the “I” towards “Thou”, in a relationship in which the other is not separated by discrete bounds.

Ofcourse, if the other person is a ‘person’ then I should imagine none of us would have a problem in being able to relate.  If the other is the Source of All, that which some call God, an angel or elemental etc then, even then,  if we have the right mind-set and are ‘open’ then we can encounter deeply.

But, what about an animal? A tree? An insect? A star? Ofcourse, that is up to you to work through, depending on your theology. I must profess to finding it easier to forming an ‘I-Thou’ relationship with another person or God, than, say a tree. But, I can’t end this here. Nevertheless, in some profound way the tree, and all of creation is still more than an ‘it’. So much, much more! And so I do try to regard them, too, as part on an ‘I-Thou’ relationship. After all, I am a panentheist (like most Christians are (or were), and some Druids and others. Please note that I’m not a pantheist (but some of my best friends are pantheists), but am proud to declare that I am a panentheist).

‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’. Acts 17:28, The Book.

Still, in my garden, it is now late evening. A cup of hot chocolate sits on the table – a ‘reward’ to myself and a great way to end the evening. I have now finished sending well-wishes, light, prayers, energy and positivity to others, and feel power has, indeed, gone out. And it feels good. It took some time to move into an ‘I-Thou’ relationship tonight, to move into that ‘inner sanctum’, to encounter, especially but not only when people are some geographical distance away, but that exquisite task, nay privilege, was accomplished, and it is so worth it. This is my encouragement to you, to encounter.

Relationship. Bonded. Oneness. Sameness. Achieved. Deep, deep satisfaction.

Encountering, then, is a soul-to-soul connectedness, a oneing, a relationship, rather than just proximity or geographical location, and it embraces the whole of creation.