Tales From The Heart(h). There Is Only The Dance

20190323 THERE IS ONLY THE DANCE

It was the first few minutes of a two-day workshop, and with no time to get to know the dozen participants around me, the host opened in prayer and rushed into the outline for the day. Busy, busy.

As the minutes progressed, we all nodded, scribbled notes, maybe asked a pertinent question or two every so often, but the pace was fast and furious, with little time to pause.

Ninety minutes later, and I thought that then would be a good time to be introduced to the persons sitting near me, as a tea-break was announced. I was wrong. Out came mobile phones. Everyone of the participants was so busy, so important to their home churches and faith groups that they had to ‘check in’, and they led such busy lives that they could not rest and chat. Ofcourse, all of that may be true and is sometimes necessary I’m guessing, but I suspect that many of these people may have fallen foul to the ‘cult of busy’, or at least of being perceived as busy. I admit I could be a wee bit sceptical here, but it could also be egos at work, wanting to look busy and important, or perhaps their mobile phones were ‘shields’ to fend off people like me who might want to draw closer and get to know them. Such can be the fast-paced nature of modern life.

‘…stay visible…meet everything with the strength of vulnerability. Seven Thousand Ways To Listen, by Mark Nepo

We had walked for two hours in silence through the forest. It was bliss. Just then a bird on the ground, in front of us, panicked at our approach, flapped and squawked, and flew off. The person next to me panicked, let out a few expletives, laughed it off, and proceeded then to talk for the next half hour about politics. Ofcourse, I was interested in what they wanted to say, but somehow I was saddened that the intimacy in the silence that I had experienced with the forest was ‘lost’. The moment had gone. Such is the overwhelming din of modern life, politics etc.

‘…stay committed to the moment. The moment is our constant guide. It is a doorway to all that matters.’ Seven Thousand Ways To Listen, by Mark Nepo

She mentioned to me that she hadn’t slept properly for weeks, didn’t seem to be able to rest and there were many problems with her health relating to age, and problems in her family and work life, too. ‘What if….’, she asked? She talked. I listened. I shared some information about organisations that might be useful, but in the main I listened, and it seemed to help. Such is the worry that can accumulate about modern family and working life when we think ahead too much.

‘…stop rehearsing my way through life…Anticipating too much, we can catch ourselves crying ‘ouch’ even before we’re touched. Eventually this leaves no room for surprise.’ Seven Thousand Ways To Listen, by Mark Nepo

In our mind’s eye it always seems better in the past, in our past and perhaps in the ancient past when we think of ancient Celts, Druids, early Christians, Pagans and others. But, if we’re really ‘honest’ we know that life for them was just as frantic, overwhelming and worrisome, albeit in different ways. And, yet I do believe those Ancients can teach us a thing or two about priorities and what is important.

Our life doesn’t consist in being forever busy or even in giving that impression to others. We don’t have to be on the receiving end of endless data streams of information, though it might be necessary at times. And, though we might have ‘challenges’ at home and work, they do not define us, and if aware, they do not control us. We have the ability to rise above them – not just stoically, but in our being. We are more!

My grandmother, always one to tell a good story, was also known for her ‘one line’ pearls of wisdom. One time, when I was a wee lad she said, ‘In the storms of life, there is always a safe haven’. Taking her literally, and I was only a young child, I ran to the window of her cottage and said, ‘Where?’ She ambled slowly across the room, squeezed beside me, and pointed with one finger. I followed the tip of her finger as she moved it around in a swirling and purposely confusing pattern. My head moving back and forth, left and right, up and down. She laughed as she did it, which made me laugh. He finger eventually stopped when it touched my forehead. ‘Here’, she said.

‘…because the kingdom of God is in your midst.’ Luke 17:21b, The Book

Years later, I realised what she had meant. We may be subjected to the ‘storms’ of life, be cajoled into a frantic pace of life, and live lives that seems increasingly ‘loud’, but it doesn’t have to be that way all the time. We are more than that! We do have some control to our reactions, if not actual events! And, we have the ability to ‘step out’ of the situation and find rest, just as the Ancient did, though many find it difficult, and perhaps many are not aware of that ability to ‘go inward’ and beyond.

Out beyond
the ideas of wrongdoing and right doing,
there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’
doesn’t make any sense.

(Hafiz)

Perhaps, this is where ‘centering’, mediation, ritual, liminality or deep prayer comes in, where the value of communing with nature, elementals, angels and the Source come to the fore. It is the stillpoint that we each possess or have access to.

My grandmother’s prompting was always to maintain a friendship with all that is eternal, and to view whatever happens to us through the ‘lens’ of eternity. Then, things take on a different meaning, a different importance, and a different value. We are more!

‘Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and there is only the dance’. T S Eliot

 

Article header photograph: Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0). Attributed to Viapastrengo

Spring-Time Song For Alban Eiler[Revisited]: Spring Equinox

20190318 SPRING TIME SONG FOR ALBAN EILER

Spring equinox or Alban Eiler as it’s known in Wales (which, translated from Welsh, means, quite aptly, ‘the light of the earth’) is almost upon us in the northern hemisphere: Wednesday. 20 Match 2019. And, with spring in the air you might feel like singing.

Confession time! I love singing: singing in the rain (yes!) when no one is about, singing in the shower under that personal ‘waterfall’ that ‘transports’ us elsewhere (doesn’t it?), singing to myself (or are we really ever alone?), singing when leading a group (and acting as their cantor), and at other times, too.

‘The song of Lúthien before Mandos was the song most fair that ever in words was woven…. Unchanged, imperishable, it is sung still in Valinor beyond the hearing of the world…’ The Silmarillion, J R R Tolkein

Singing is wonderful. Try it! And, don’t worry about being in tune. Just enjoy it, and as it says somewhere, ‘Make a joyful noise…’ (Psalm 100:1a, The Book). It’s also beneficial.

Here’s a couple of startling facts.

Did you know that researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, found that the heartbeats of the choristers synchronised when they sang together, bringing about a calming effect that is as beneficial to our health as yoga.  And the same scientists asked a group of lively teenagers to try three choral exercises – humming, singing a hymn and chanting. The scientists monitored their heart rhythms during each. It showed that singing had a dramatic effect on heart rate variability, which is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. This all formed part of a fascinating UK national newspaper article and can be read here.

Singing, then, is good for your body and you soul. So, this Spring equinox sing, and with that in mind, below is a song (penned by me about a year ago), and set to an old, memorable, Irish/Celtic tune

The following (and yes you can recite it as liturgy or read it as poem to complement what you might be doing to celebrate this time) is a song which can sung to the old, wonderful and mysterious Gaelic tune ‘Siuil a Ruin’. It is a song of praise about nature, and to the One behind it all, That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves.

Lord of the Spring we honour you,
we thank you for na-ture’s green,
(for) the Earth’s beauty no-ow seen.

Light and darkness dance together well,
in perfect, balanced humility,
in flower, plant and mighty tree.

Chorus: Slowly, slowly the Circle turns
and nature’s smile is seen by all.
Ho-ow is nature good to us.

Sacred time as the moon rises high
New life comes from that which did die,
new birth comes to us in the by and by.

Wolf and lamb, lion and leopard, too
Shall live one day in sweet harmony
As nature moves , and the Circle turns.

Chorus: Slowly, slowly the Circle turns
and nature’s smile is seen by all.
Ho-ow is nature good to us.

If you’re interested in the tune that ‘works’ with the abovementioned words, do check the link of Siuil a Ruin (as sung by Anúna) here. The words above ‘coming in’ at fifteen seconds into the tune.

And, just to recap that a few days ago, still with the Spring equinox in mind there was an article on this blog: Spring-tine blessing liturgy (see here). There, two resources to enhance your celebration of the Spring equinox and to give thanks to the That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves.

Wishing you and yours much light and love this Spring Equinox, Tadhg

 

Spring-Time Earth Blessing: Spring Equinox Liturgy

20190312 SPRINGTIME EARTH BLESSING LITURGY

Spring is coming. Acknowledging that in some places it seems to be delayed, it edges ever closer, however, as the Circle turns. The Spring Equinox is just a week or two away (20 March 2019 in the northern hemisphere).

In many pats of the UK Spring flowers grow and buds appear on many trees. It is a time of reflection, to think upon new life. After a long winter, Spring unfolds at the behest of the God of Green Hope, and blesses the Earth with a wonderful bounty, and so it’s a time of extreme gratitude, as well.

You know I love liturgy. Our breath is holy, our words of each person sacred and full of meaning; and the sentiment behind them, that of which we speak, are ‘metaphors’ of great meaning, and words of intentionality, and power.

Some believe the universe began with a word being spoken, others a song being sung, and the word and song continues to sustain all that is. Who, as a child never said the ‘magical’ word ‘abracadabra’ out loud? A word of great meaning? We may not have thought so at the time, but I’m told it comes from Hebrew or Aramaic and means, ‘I will create as I speak’. Yes, words have power.

And, with the Spring Equinox coming closer here is a form of words (penned some time ago and adapted), a liturgy that you can use (and adapt as necessary). It’s time to celebrate, to give thanks, to say words of power in response to the Spring-time promise of the Source of All.

Spring-Time Earth Blessing (adapted)

(Facing east)
Blesséd be the One who crosses boundaries,
who is evident in the lengthening day,
in the turning of the Great Circle, and
who is felt in the soft, refreshing Spring wind.

Response: Blesséd be the One who crosses boundaries.

(Facing south)
Blesséd be the One who is evident in the greenness of nature,
Viriditas,
who makes plants grow and flower,
and the trees to prepare for blossom, and
who warms the earth as the sun rises higher in the sky.

Response: Blesséd be the One who is evident in the greenness of nature.

(Facing west)
Blesséd by the One who causes nature to stir from her sleep,
who waters the earth, and calls to the deep;
and the deep joyfully replies and stirs to life, and
who changes the slow, icy brooks into life-laden babbling streams.

Response: Blesséd be the One who causes nature to stir from her sleep.

(Facing north)
Blesséd be the One who speaks to the earth,
and from the rocks new life appears,
who showers the earth with rain from your storehouse of abundance, and
who blesses the earth, which, in turn, blesses us.

Response: Blesséd be the One who speaks to the earth.

(Facing east)
(Together): Lord of the elements, ‘Three-Personned’ Life-Giver, we praise you.

 

In Praise Of Blue, Green, Grey: World Water Day

20190308 IN PRAISE OF BLUE GREEN GREY WORLD WATER DAY

As a concerned person, (in my case) a latter-day Celt, Druidic-Christian or Christo-Druid I am, like you, intensely aware of nature and its cycles around us, but know that that in many cases we take it for granted. Timely reminders are important, hence the usefulness of faith, natural, and stellar calendars to mark and note the changing seasons, the passage of time and important occasions.

World Water Day is an annual UN observance day (always on 22 March) that highlights the importance of freshwater.

The day is used to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. World Water Day is celebrated around the world with a variety of events. These can be educational, theatrical, musical or lobbying in nature.

Some time back I wrote the following poem. Indeed, it was penned by me when at Dyffryn Ogwen, north Wales on 22 March 2016, World ‘Water Day’. Depending how you use it, the piece below could form part of a liturgy or prayer for that occasion (on that date or, indeed,  on any other), for a ceremony you might hold for World ‘Water Day’, or similar.

Although it may contain place-names that you may be unfamiliar with, they can still be included, if you wish, as locations of beauty to give thanks for, even if not witnessed (yet). But, please feel free to adapt.

Under the canopy of an oh-so-blue sky
I’m sheltered from the howling wind by spine-like mountains on either side.
The tempest may soar high above me, of that I testify
but all is at rest here, in this place, this hide,
this azure-domed valley, of Dyffryn Ogwen.

Surrounded by the life-colour. I shout, ‘Viriditas’.
It echoes the Deity’s handiwork of creativity and love.
Trampling underfoot lichen, moss and occasionally witchgrass
it harks back to an earlier day, a remembrance of
times of innocent, pure, green-childhood.

And onward, like time, to Afon Ogwen, that bountiful river of power and flow.
To stand, to meditate, and commune, and wait
and purposefully gaze upon it, and know
of the life-industry of former times, of Celts, of Romans, of purveyors of grey slate.

And I give thanks to you
The Source of all for blue, green, grey.

 

Playing With Dirt: Alternative Perspective On Ash Wednesday

20190301 PLAYING WITH DIRT ASH WEDNESDAY

Even as a Christo-Druid (or Druidic/Celtic-Christian) I admit it sounds bizarre, but letting someone smear ashes on your forehead while telling you that you are dirt is a good experience. And, though it isn’t as obvious, it is also a declaration of stupendous importance and of great news.

‘Technology and industry have distanced people from nature and magic and human values’. Laura Esquivel

There was a time when I would do it religiously. Yes, at school when I was a wee lad, at the time of Ash Wednesday, we would all have to line up, then kneel at the front of the church in groups of about twenty. The priest would walk about in all his robes, dipping his thumb into a plate of ashes and mark a cross on our foreheads. Our only thought was: let me be the third one, please.

That was then.

They were great days at school – although with hindsight it did so very much resemble Hogwarts!. To save time at those Ash Wednesday services and to save ash the priest dipped his thumb into the plate of ashes every third student, but it also meant that the third student would, fortunately for him/her, only get a few ashes, hardly visible on the forehead.

The student who was number one each time the priest’s thumb was dipped into the ashes, unfortunately from his/her viewpoint, would receive a huge dollop of black ash on the forehead, so much so that some of it would usually fall onto the cheek or nose. Wiping it off during the day – even with studies in the afternoon – was frowned upon.

‘There is a comfort in rituals, and rituals provide a framework for stability when you are trying to find answers’. Deborah Norville

Oh, when I left school I dismissed the ‘religious’ stuff as something that meant little to me. And, because of that I had little to do with the ritual behind it. It meant little to many of the teachers at school, too, and that thought ‘rubbed off’ on to me any many students.

That was then; this is now.

Fast-forward a number of years and now having attended a number of Ash Wednesday services, and led them, they mean something more, something much more. I’m never an advocate of blind or shallow ritual. But,…..?

But, what about meaningful ritual? What about ritual that touches the very core of your being? What about ritual that is deeply moving and seemingly opens us up to sacred-time, and ushers us into a ‘thin place’? What about ritual that is physical-metaphor or intentionality that ushers us into the imaginal realm of the Other, a place of peace, power, potential? Yes, now that is altogether very different to what I experienced at school.

What sparked this trip down memory lane?

Well, next Wednesday, 6 March 2019 is Ash Wednesday and many people will be receiving those ashes on their forehead. Ofcourse, some will receive them unthinkingly, some will ensure they don’t take them for a variety of reasons (and I do support those people, too, but would ask them to periodically ‘review’ their position as should we all, myself included); and some will receive those ashes on their forehead and for them it will be a deep and meaningful experience that is a liminal, threshold experience, a glimpse of the Other. And, that is the point of this article.

‘The only way we’ll know where we’re going is to look at the past and to remember who we were through ceremonies and rituals’. Laura Esquivel

And, so next Wednesday, a few of us will be in a busy London city street, and for those  unable to get to a church service, we’re bringing to them the ability to be blessed in the street, to receive ashes on their forehead too, as I, and the few others administering the ashes will also say to them: ‘Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’ In this sense it can apply to all, and that street blessing and ash-application wont be exclusively Christian, but will be open and available to all those who want a blessing and experience that ritual (perhaps for the first time).

It sounds like a negative but for those willing stop for a few minutes I would share that is extremely positive: it means we’re here in this form for a limited time and we’re encouraged to make good use of the time; we’ve come from dust, even star dust, we’re part of nature, and to that state of dust we’ll return; we’ve come from somewhere which some call heaven, and we’ll all return ‘home’. I find that immensely life-reassuring and positive, and love the depth of meaning to life that ritual can apply, and which many miss.

‘As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.’ 1 Corinthians 15,22, The Book

So, taking a few minutes out of our busy lives, and letting someone smear ashes on your forehead while telling you that you are dirt is an experience that I would heartily recommend.

And, no I wont be dipping my thumb into the ash for every third person blessed, but I will take ‘pity’ on them and will wipe the excess off my thumb each time before applying and blessing them. And if you can’t get to participate in such a ritual, then rest assured that evening I will be thinking of you, blessing you (as I do now; be blessed) and will apply ashes to myself vicariously so you benefit.

We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden…

Woodstock, Crossby, Stills & Nash

 

The Caim And ‘The Inner Accuser’

20190221 THE CAIM AND THE INNER ACCUSER

Here’s a story, a childhood memory of mine.There was a time when I was a wee lad that I would sit on my Dad’s stomach as he lay down, his knees bent forming the back rest of an imaginary car seat, and as he held my plastic toy steering wheel my imagination would run riot, and I would be ‘off’. Off where?

I can’t now remember, except years of watching my Dad move a gear-stick and turn the steering wheel in our car, as he drove us all about, gave me desire to do the same: move my hands, changing gear on the steering column and turning that pretend steering wheel. I loved it, and then, it seemed so real. I wanted to get the movements just right – it was important to my playing. Oh, very important to me! Ah, the power of a child’s imagination. Fun. No responsibility. I loved it.

‘Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere’. Albert Einstein

There was a time, many years later, when I was sitting in my Dad’s car, with him in the passenger seat beside me, and I was trying to get that, then, elusive ‘biting point’ on the car as I had my first driving lesson. Beads of sweat ran down my brow as I tried, and failed. And, once again, the car would ‘kangaroo’ forward, start-stop, start-stop.

Once, I had mastered it, ofcourse then I had to work out the gear stick, clutch, ‘gas’ pedal, steering wheel turning, indicators etc . It was extremely important to learning to control that car safely. Not really fun, and some responsibility, but I was determined.

‘To steer, you need both the hands. Try to change the appropriate gear and then ensure both of your hands are on the wheel before starting to turn the steering wheel.’ The UK Highway Code.

Shortly after that, I had it worked out, and then, and you’ll be pleased to know, now, years later, all of the abovementioned has become effortless, and second-nature. Working the gear and pedals, indicators and turning that steering wheel had become quite natural, and I am even able to do ‘clever’ things such as stepping down the gears, as I approach red traffic lights, to slow the car and save the break pads, before applying the brake gradually. Impressed? Now, it is quite fun driving, but still a responsibility to get it right.

Throughout the serious business of learning to drive a car, and in other areas of life I’ve found, and you may be the same, that the ‘inner accuser’ surfaces. You will recognise his or her voice when you’re doing something new or important and he or she says things like, ‘you’ll never master it, so why bother?’, or ‘you’re wasting your time’, or ‘whatever do you want to do that for, especially as you’ll look an idiot’, and so it goes on. Or, does that just happen to me?

Tonight, I sat in a darkened room, with just one solitary candle lit. I wanted to perform a caim ritual. The caim is a profound ‘circling’ prayer or ritual-liturgy that ‘taps’ into the power and energy of the Source of All. It was used by Celts of old, Druids and Pagan, early Christians and by others. It is still used in various forms by latter-day Celts, some Churches who value its benefits, and by some wiccans, pagans, light-workers, mystics and fellow-Druids friends known to me. Individuals as well as groups. Yes, it can be used by anyone who knows the value of prayer or ritual-liturgy.

Tonight, I sat in a darkened room, with just one solitary candle lit, about to perform the Caim and that ‘inner accuser’ spoke words of doubt. Normally I wouldn’t entertain such doubt – I can always address such issues after the ritual – but on this occasion it felt right to do so.

This Caim was, like others, opened by making a circle, turning clockwise. Sometimes I like to visualise that I’m in a wonderful forest and enter a clearing that is well-lit. A kataphatic approach.

That inner space that I entered is liminal space. For me, I call it the imaginal realm. Not to be confused with ‘mere imagination’ as some others call it, and then  immediately dismiss it as powerless.

The Caim is an intermediary space, the gap between the physical realm (which we can all relate to and understand – it is the place of the body) and the ouranic realm (the place of the Spirit, where all that is good and holy originates), and it is the place of power, potential and transformation.

With the UK on the verge of making a political and economic disaster on 29 March 2019 at 11pm, I wanted to enter that circle, with the intention of seeking to empower politicians to make the correct decisions over the next few weeks.

The ‘inner accuser’ came to life. ‘What difference do you think you can make? Do you have delusions of grandeur? Don’t you think that the Universe, the Source of All can do this without you? And, so it went on.

‘And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land…but I found none.’ Ezekiel 22:30, part, The Book

And, that’s where those early driving lessons came back to mind. I recognised that defeatist voice of old. Ah, there may be an element of truth in what it said, but not the total truth. Had the ‘inner accuser’ spoke all falsehoods then he or she could be easily dismissed. But, which was truth and which falsehood? Mixing the two makes what the ‘inner accuser’ says seemingly credible. But, only seemingly.

There was a time when I couldn’t drive a car. A time when I played at it. Then, a time when I went through the motions – moving this hand, moving that foot, checking them mirror, indicating, and then finding that now oh-so-easy ‘biting point’ to move the car.

This memory defeated the ‘inner accuser’ as I sat cross-legged in that Caim, that circle. I had accomplished something then, I can do it now. I might only make a small effect, but that, coupled with many more people doing similar, can have a big impact. And, yes the Universe might be able to do it without us, but it seems to me that the Source of All regards us as co-creators and desires our participation. Isn’t what the way the Universe has configured the universe?

Lucy has to enter the house and read a spell for making hidden things visible. She knows at once that she’s got it right, because colour and pictures start to appear on the pages of the magic book…and wonder of wonder, Aslan himself…is also made visible. ‘Aslan’, said Lucy, almost reproachfully. ‘Don’t make fun of me. As if anything (such as the spell she recited) would make you visible.’ ‘It did, said Aslan, ‘Do you think I wouldn’t obey my own rules?’. ‘The Chronicles Of Narnia’, C S Lewis

You and I can make a difference, and ritual and liturgy coupled with action in the physical world can reap great benefits. The Universe could do it without us but has chosen you and I to be involved. What a responsibility? What a privilege?. And so, what we say and do in ritual is important.

I had opened the Caim ritual as I had many times before. The ‘content’ and aim was different as I had never used the Caim before for Brexit. But, why not? I wouldn’t use it for my own political views – and that’s where responsibility comes in – but it is right, I believe, to intervene and seek, ‘imaginally’, for the right outcome to come about. Our responsibility.

Let your steps dance silently
To the rhythm of the Beloved’s Name.
My finger and my hands
Never move through empty space
For there are
Invisible golden lute strings all around,
Sending Resplendent Chords
Throughout the Universe.

Hafiz

In that Caim, that circle I imagined Parliament and its Members, I imagined ‘cornfields’ of pure power and love, scooped up the latter and ‘hurled’ it, ‘imaginally’ at the former. Later, I closed the Caim, closing that circle. Ofcourse, this is only the Caim in brief, but it was the doubt and overcoming that doubt that seemed to be the important topic, here, just this once

Moving our feet and hands in ritual does have an effect, just as moving our feet and hands propels a car along. Could the car analogy and ritual itself be ‘physical’ metaphors to describe and effect change in the Universe – physical actions leading to deeper, spiritual and invisible (or partially seen) actions? Hafiz suggests so. Hafez, I believe, suggests so. Ritual, moving our feet and hands, as well as uttering words, and intentionality can have an effect, even though the cynic might disagree. Never listen to the ‘inner accuser’ (who is clever enough to use other peoples ‘inner accuser’ against you, if you’re not listening to your own ‘inner accuser’).

Will this Caim I performed be effective? I can’t prove that it will be, but I would like to think that it, accompanied with action in the physical realm, ‘earthing’ action, and with others doing similar will be effective, and good will come out of it. Now, how that then works out  may be the work of the Universe, but we’ll see.

’For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…’ Proverbs 23.7b, The Book

Perhaps as children, with vivid imaginations there is awesome power at play, in play, but that as adults we grow up and lose that recognition and understanding. Certainly, as a wee lad sitting across my Dad’s stomach and driving that pretend car, it seemed real at the time. Maybe, as ‘children’ in the Universe it’s our work and delight to be imaginatively involved in co-creating. Not as children, childishly: but as adults using that powerful and child-like power and faith in ritual, as enabled and empowered by That Which Is Bigger Than Us.

Now, as regards the Caim, I am determined to take it further. Some have emailed me, many others have read and re-read articles about the Caim from yesteryear, and expressed an ongoing interest. And, it seems to me that that interest and the power, and benefit of the Caim is something that can be taken forward in workshops and in online videos.

Ofcourse, you guessed it. The ‘inner accuser’ just woke up. ‘No one will come, everyone is too busy’. ‘Who on earth will watch that kind of video’. ‘You’ll be better of taking it easy and putting your feet up, Tadhg’, the ‘inner accuser’ says. But, guess what? I’m not listening to him or her.

Do watch this space – and for information about the Caim and future events and articles do ‘sign up’ so that you’re notified when articles are published online and events diarised (if you haven’t already signed up to with my FaceBook site, or TadhgTalks (the worpdress blog), or contact me direct.

 

Nature’s ‘Quiet Teachers’ And The Three Lessons

20190214 NATURES QUIET TEACHERS AND THE THREE LESSONS

We all live in a fast-paced society, regardless of where we live. Things to do, places to be, people to see. Never with enough hours in the day, it seems. It creeps up slowly on us all, and only a determined effort will expose its grip on.

We live in an age of ‘fast’, as opposed to those Ancients, the Druids, early Christians, Pagans and others whose life resonated to a much slower, deeper time.

Today, society’s watchword is ‘busy’. But, that is not who we are.

‘Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going to fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why’. Eddie Cantor

With that thought in mind, and acknowledging that I had been caught, lately, in the trap of ‘fastness’, I took myself off for a break, and recently spent several wonderful days in the New Forest in the southernmost part of England, and loved it.

It was cold, wet, and muddy, and some might have described it as miserable. I would call it an opportunity to be alone with the Alone. And, what a blessing it was.

I’ve mentioned some of the thoughts and experiences of that New Forest encounter, already, and the blessing it was to me, but it seems to me that the Universe, the Source of All doesn’t delineate things quite as neatly as we want, and because of that there is always something to learn.

Here are some recent events, in no particular order, with learning experiences.

One: There is a guy who is homeless, local to where I live in London, and whenever I can I strike up a conversation with him, have shared information about helpful agencies with him, and sometimes given money. It can almost be ‘robotic’. It shouldn’t be, but sometimes when we see mass appeals on tv for this concern and that need, it’s possible to get ‘overloaded’ and blasé about those in great need and their needs. Without realising it, in our busyness we miss out.

And then it happened. I was in a café belonging to one of the large companies, inserted my debit card at the counter/check-out till and it wouldn’t work. I tried three times, and fortunately there wasn’t a queue behind me so no one was upset  – except me. But, it wasn’t working – the card had a ‘tear’ in it.

Just then a young guy who seemed about eight foot tall and looking down on me, it seemed (and that was a bit of hyperbole on my part), and who was in front of me, having paid and was waiting for his coffee, offered to pay. And, before I could say anything, he wafted his wrist over the contactless reader (just like Obi Wan Kenobi did in that movie when he said, ‘These are not the ‘driods you are looking for’) and the transaction for my latte and croissant had been dealt with. Just like that.

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

In my mind, the ‘accuser’ spring to life: ‘He thinks your down on you luck. He feels sorry for you because he thinks your card has been declined because of insufficient funds. That’s what he thinks of you.’ And so, I wanted to say to him, I do have enough money in the bank you, know! But, the ‘quietness within’ also spoke to me and urged me to accept this goodwill gesture, knowing that I needed to pay for it, and that the pay-er would be blessed. The most I could say to him, overjoyed at his assistance, was ‘Thank you, bless you!’.

What goes around, comes around. The blessings we send out, do come back in the same form, similar forms, or altogether different forms; but they do come back. I do believe that young man will be blessed. Reciprocity.

From that café event I learned humility and the need sometimes to allow others to act on my behalf – is that the same for you?

I will look at the homeless man in the alley near Putney Bridge differently – as a truly humble man and an example to me.

Two: Having spent some time in the New Forest, it gave me sometime to spend a few hours with some new friends in Portsmouth and to celebrate Imbolc and St Brigids Day. And it was wonderful. Many people there had parts to do and say in a wonderful ceremony, and they did so with passion. I was asked to call one of the Quarters. I declined. I didn’t have my hearing aids with me, but I was impressed at the welcoming, friendliness and inclusiveness of the grove. Isn’t that what it should be like? I guess so, but isn’t it wonderful when it really happens.

‘Everyone has a place. If we do not realize this we are not living in an inclusive world. Divisions are created by fear, anger and ignorance.’  Independent Zen

From this group I learned humility, and the need to accept graciously extended invitations. They were an example to me. Receiving.

Perhaps I could have managed with the hearing aids?

Three: Very recently I attended a Leaders’ course. It was in Solihull, near Birmingham and seemed to cover a theme that I’d like to discover more about. I will be polite. There was room for improvement in the logistics of the day, but those leading it were passionate and I liked that, even though they made no allowance for anyone’s slightly different theologies.

‘If you feel like there’s something out there that you’re supposed to be doing, if you have a passion for it, then stop wishing and just do it.’ Wanda Sykes

We had had the introductions from the front, the short course explained and ‘dipped’ in to the first theme. This was followed by a ten minute break and it was then that I hoped to find out about the twenty leaders, who, like me, were participants and might have travelled from the four corners of the country.

As soon as the break time had been declared, mobile phones came out, ipad computers were ‘fired up’, and all manner of busyness took place.

I looked around and wondered how these people’s organisations could do without them, if they had to check in like this at the first opportunity? Ofcourse, in a fast-paced and busy society the hallmark of having made it is to ‘look busy’!

It’s easy to point the finger and say that this display of busy-ness is ego (although, perhaps their organisations could not do without them), but it could be. But, another, deeper thought came to my mind.

The over-riding thought was: ‘this was you (and could it be you?). It’s easy to slip back into it. Pray for those who are still in the clutches of busy-ness’. I almost fell into the trap of judging them in a self-righteous way.

The cult of busy-ness is insidious, but we are more than that.

‘He showed me that there was another world where strangers helped strangers for no other reason than that it is good to do so, and where callousness was unusual, not the norm.’ Hyeonseo Lee

Today, society’s watchword is ‘busy’. But, that is not who we are.

The Ancients knew the art of slow, of perceiving deeply and leading an uncluttered life. They had their challenges just as we have ours. We are not in their situation, and so in many senses we need to ‘work’ at rediscovering  what they experienced.

I’m back in London now. The New Forest experiences were wonderful, but so were the events that followed it. Could it be that in any encounter with the Other, the ‘unpacking’ and assessment and application of it comes later, and do the blessings keep on coming as ‘distant echoes’?. I think they do. Residuality

Wherever we go, there are things to perceive, things to learn, things to share. We are surrounded by nature’s ‘quiet teachers’ – and such teachers are in wild places as well as in the city, in deep spiritual moments and in the ‘mundane’.  We are surrounded by such teachers and the One who is engaged in an everlasting conversation with us, should we only ‘stop and stare’, and listen, and put the cult of busy-ness in its place.

 

Tadhg, On The Road To The New Forest: Imbolc, Land-Healing & More 2

20190201 TADHG ON THE ROAD TO THE NEW FOREST 2

I’m in the New Forest in the south of England. The new Forest is a charmingly deceptive name, though. It is an ancient woodland delineated on the man-made map a thousand years ago and at that time declared ‘new’, and formed after the retreat of the last ice age some thirty thousand years ago. It is an old forest, indeed, and it’s bliss.

In a forest such as this, there is a wonderful feeling of catharsis, a peace in the midst of wild things. The Japanese knew of this and coined a phrase in the 1980’s prompting the health benefits of people spending time in forest.

Many call this ‘tree bathe-ing’, the Japanese call it ‘shirin-yoku’ (meaning ‘taking in the forest atmosphere’) and its benefits are felt just by being in a forest. It is said it helps to reduce blood pressure, stress, improves mood, accelerates ailment recovery, increases energy levels and intuition, increases happiness etc. Truly, there is something here, something beyond what just can be seen. 

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

 Wendell Berry

I’m in this ancient forest, suitably attired for my hike, or perhaps a saunter is a better word for it, in waterproofs with layers underneath and well-worn hiking boots on my feet. I am in my preferred environment. I’ve been walking for two hours now, and it’s raining, it’s wet and it’s muddy underfoot, and cold. I love it. I haven’t seen another soul in two hours. I’m alone.

Alone? That’s not entirely true. Sporadically a bird flies overhead in this dark, dense woodland. Most of the trees a bare, leafless except for the pine trees. Occasionally, an animal scurries away in the nearby undergrowth. Adders are very common in this area and care should be taken. I’m careful. The trees are far from lifeless. They’re sleeping. Deep roots are dreaming. And new shoots push up through the semi-decomposed duff layer here and there. Spring is returning. 

Alone? No. There is animal life here, tree and plant life, microbial  life and much more. Some talk of life as consisting of animal life, plant (and tree) life, fungi, protist life (that is, any multi-called organism not included in the previous three), archaea life (single-called organisms) and bacteria. These all form what is known as the Five Kingdoms of life. How can I be alone with all that going on around me? But there’s more.

‘If we opened our minds to enjoyment, we might find tranquil pleasures spread about us on every side. We might live with the angels that visit us on every sunbeam, and sit with the fairies who wait on every flower.’ Samuel Smiles

Alone? No. These are ancient woods and you can feel something more here. A presence or presences can be felt. Benevolent. Yes.

Perhaps it is Dryads (tree spirits); Salamanders (fire-beings seen in flames eg candle flame, and, some would say in everything that has the potential to burn); the Fae or pixies (nature’s carers); or Water nymphs, energetic beings, found in and by lakes (but why not in a wet and damp forest like the one I’m in, or present in your faucet.) Yes, maybe water nymphs are closer to you, in your home, than you imagined at first. 

Maybe there are Sylphs here. Yes, there are. Sylphs are said to be seen in light clouds or low-level mist, and indeed some would say they are the light clouds and low-level mist that we sometimes see. Here, in this forest the occasional wisp of mist can be seen moving between trees as a light breeze directs them.

Dryads, Salamanders, the Fae, Water nymphs, and Sylphs are here, and all these, sometimes collectively known as Elementals, are known by some as the Five Magical Realms.

Alone? No. I am in an ancient forest teeming with life, visible and invisible, ‘mundane’ and ‘spiritual’, known and unknown, silent and loud, jere and yet of the Other.  And maybe, there are angels here; maybe the ancestors, too.

‘…since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…’ Hebrews 12.1b, The Book

And then, I stop. And in this ancient forest, surrounded by Life itself, there at the base of a tree stump I ‘plant’ a small rainforest jasper stone (as I have done in two other location through the U.K.) and say a few words of peace over it; peace for the land, peace for all life, peace for this country’s government of people as it ‘doth err’. Remaining in silence I am aware of the presences around me. Presences? oh yes, and the Presence is here, known as the Friend, the Companion, the Happy One, the Wild Holy One.

We are never alone. Never alone, for we ‘swim’ through Life itself and Life pervades our very Being in an eternal dance of mutuality.

And, then I move. It’s still raining, it’s still wet and it’s still muddy underfoot, and it is still cold. Oh yes, and I still love it, but it’s time to walk back on my two hour journey to leave this wonderful place. But, what is here ‘travels’ with me, and oh yes, it “travels’  with you, too, for we are never alone.

‘Listen. Are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?’ Mary Oliver

Tadhg, On The Road To The New Forest: Imbolc, Land-Healing & More (1)

20190201 TADHG ON THE ROAD TO THE NEW FOREST 1

Yes, I’m on the road again, as this time (on Saturday, 2 February) I’m heading to the New Forest, in England.

Odd that it should still be called The New Forest, as it has existed as woodland since the end of the last Ice Age, and its heaths were first cleared and cultivated  in small areas by  Bronze Age settlers . The area was formerly known as ‘Ytene’ the land of the Jutes (an Anglo-Saxon tribe). However, it was grouped together as a ‘new’ forest by William the Conqueror in AD1079, hence its name. The New Forest of AD1079. And, it’s a wonderfully rugged and wild area, the place where things can happen, and nature abounds.

And, that’s were I’m headed. The New Forest. Over the next few days I will meet friends and celebrate Imbolc, then the following day will lead a house blessing, and then bury a pebble and recite liturgy as part of my small endeavour to be involved, along with others, in healing the land.

But first Imbolc.

Yes, the circle continues to turn, the Earth continues on its (elliptical) orbit around the sun, and yet another wonder, major festival is almost upon us. It’s time to celebrate in large ways and small, in groups and by yourself. It’s intentionality that’s important, so I would encourage you to do something this Imbolc, and to enjoy it. It really is time to celebrate, to give thanks to That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves, the Beloved.

Event: Imbolc (favoured pronunciation ‘ih-mulk’), Brigid’s Day, Candlemas
Date: 1 or 2 February (but many will celebrate it on Sunday, 3 February this year)
Thought: ‘It’s the start of spring. Let’s celebrate’
Incense: Rosemary, Frankincense, Myrrh, Cinnamon
Decorations: Corn Dolly, Spring Flowers, St Brigid’s Cross, Candles
Colours: White, Orange, Red

Imbolc, in the Celtic seasonal calendar marks the beginning of the lambing season and signals the beginning of Spring and the stirrings of new life. It is traditionally the great festival and honouring of Brigid (Brighid, Bride, Brigit). She is one of my favourites.

About Brigid

Brigid, so loved as a pagan Goddess that her worship was woven into the Christian church as St Bridget, and rightly remembered and revered. To some she is a Goddess of healing, poetry, of fire, of the Sun and of the Hearth. To others, a saint. What matters is that she is remembered.

Brigid is the keeper of a sacred springs and the wells, patroness of sweet water. Water the nourisher. Water, sustainer of life on earth. And water, together with fire, are the instruments of the forge. Brigid is the goddess of the forge and smith craft. Heat and fire tempered by water. Perfect balance.

She is also said bring fertility to the land and its people and is closely connected to midwives and new-born babies.

Symbols of Brigid

With the coming of spring, the following are some symbols that you might like to consider in some form of quiet time, some form of meditation on that day, but there are also some ideas listed below of things that you can do, things you might like to bring into the house and/or put on your home altar, such as:

Snowdrops. The first gift of Spring in the bleakness of Winter.

Candle(s). Imbolc is a Fire Festival and fire of all kinds is associated with Brigid – the fire of creativity, the protective hearth fire, and her fire wheel – the Brigid Cross, which heralds her, according to some, as a Sun Goddess. A lit candle as you have your meal or as you gaze or meditate upon it, is a wonderful way to celebrate her and the return of spring, to give thanks to the One Behind It  All, the Source of All.

Brigid’s Cross. This is a traditional fire wheel symbol – found at the hearths of homes throughout Ireland and beyond as a symbol of protection. A customer in the shop recounted finding a hearth in Ireland, in recent years, adorned with over 200 Brigid Crosses – 200 years in the life of a hearth and a family, overlit and protected by Brigid.
Brigid Doll. A very old tradition involved the making of a Brigid doll which can be included in ceremony and/or placed in ‘Bride’s Bed’ to bring fertility and good fortune to the home.

The Serpent. In Celtic mythology Brigid was associated with an awakening hibernating serpent which emerged from its lair at Imbolc. Traditionally serpents were associated with creativity and inspiration – the powerful Kundalini energy of the Eastern Mysteries. Paths of earth energy were called serpent paths and at Imbolc they are stirred from their slumber. And in the Hebrew Testament a bronze serpent is lifted up and all who gazed upon it were healed.

Sheep. Brigid’s festival is at the beginning of lambing – you might be fortunate to try eat ewe’s milk cheese!

The seed: From the seed new life sprouts. And you might like to consider planting a seed, or more. It need not be an expensive plant, but a packet of inexpensive seeds that you might like to grow on a piece of common ground, in your  your garden or in your window-box.

Blackberry: Sacred to Brigid, the leaves and berries are used to attract prosperity and healing.

Ginger: revitalises and stimulates the ‘fire within’

Prayer for Imbolc & Brigid – honouring Brigid and Mary

Praise to you O Caring one,
midwife of our newness and growth,
nurturing, generous and milky kind,
yet defiant as the snowdrop in a cold climate,
tend the fresh shoots of our emerging as we set foot this day.

(Tess Ward, Celtic Wheel of the Year 2007)

Stories about Brigid

Stories about Brigid abound, and in the past two have caught my attention. There is a story about Brigid and a miracle or magic regarding her cloak, but its a story of justice and plenty. Do read about it here

And there’s another story I like about Brigid. It’s a story about her concern and love for strangers and travellers, and the extraordinary lengths she went to, to meet their needs. It’s a story of generosity and a miracle or magic of plenty. Do read about it here.

Finally…

Imbolc and St Brigid’s feast day is a time of celebration, so be encouraged to spend some time outdoors in nature, and celebrating in some way indoors. Celebrate. Enjoy. Be intentional.

 

Ritual & The Dream: An Encounter At Twilight

20190129 ritual and the dream

I hear your voice on the wind
And I hear you call out my name
“Listen, my child,” you say to me
“I am the voice of your history
Be not afraid, come follow me
Answer my call, and I’ll set you free”

Brendan Graham, and sung by Celtic Woman (see here)

Even with my eyes closing, I saw her. In a clearing in a forest at twilight, she was there, dressed in a long white flowing robe. It was quite dark but I was able to see more and more as my eyes slowly grew accustomed to the darkness.

There was no one else around, and yet I could sense somethings or some ‘people’ nearby. It was like the heaviness of air pressure due to an approaching storm, but there was no storm. Like the energetic cacophony of a room, ‘noise’ made up of many voices but without being able to distinguish any one voice. It was like the faint echo of something that had been said but was said no more. And yet, a presence or presences, invisibly persisted.

Even with my eyes closed, I saw her in my mind’s eye. She lit a small candle and placed it at her feet.

‘What is the purpose of ritual?,’ a kindly, deep Voice enquired from the forest around the clearing. Without hesitation she answered, ‘It is to wake up the ancient mind within each of us, and to weave the personal and communal in such a way as to relate the local to That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves’. Silence filled the forest once more. As I looked on and listened, it seemed the Voice had been edified.

‘What is the origin of ritual?’, another Voice enquired from the forest, the voice ‘hidden’ amongst the trees. It sounded feminine, evoking beauty, patience and youth, and almost encapsulated a laugh, gaiety as words tripped toward the woman. The woman turned to face the area where the Voice seemed to come from. ‘Rituals arise from the land and its guardians, and enter the imagination of all people, though some are unaware. They reflect the totality of our lives: the terrain, animal and nature in all its glory, the weather, stories and myth, individual and communal wounds, and hope’, she said. Silence filled the forest for some minutes. The Voice seemed content with now knowing that truth.

I moved closer to observe the woman. As she spoke I noticed she moved her hands as if ‘signing’ similar to that used for the hearing impaired, indeed her whole body was in motion when she had spoken. I was intrigued.

‘What is the benefit of ritual?’, yet another Voice asked from another part of the clearing, sounding rather like a child’s Voice this time, and making several attempts to get the sentence out. It seemed that the owners of these Voices were an inquisitive lot, eager to learn and enthusiastic with deep and searching questions. The woman, ‘signing’ and swaying gently, answered and said, ‘In ritual we become transparent and open to That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves. It ensures that the tears of our souls, those deep wounds, sometimes forgotten or buried, and which we all experience are sutured and repaired’. The forest fell silent again.

Sometime past and no Voice spoke. In a somewhat trembling Voice the woman added, ‘And in ritual that which is within us shimmers and shines, and aligns itself with the Source of All’. She smiled in my direction. Then there was silence. I looked around to gauge where the next Voice might come from.

Suddenly a loud, booming Voice, very loud infact, but benevolent, came from behind me, but alarmingly close to me. ‘What does ritual provide?’, it asked. Without hesitation and very confidently the woman turned to face the Voice, looking at me and beyond me, and replied, ‘It helps in our transformation. Fear, grief, rage, shame, or worry, hopelessness, confusion, that borne by the individual, community or nation is transformed with the aid of That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves’. The forest fell silent once more.

After what seemed like an age, the women bowed to the four quarters, the cardinal compass points, picked up the candle and walked slowly toward me. As an observer I expected to ‘wake up’ at this point, or perhaps for her to pass right through me as if in a dream, but she stopped in front of me. Unnervingly I was aware for the first time that she was aware of me now, and had been all along.

She stopped and through my nervousness I spoke to ‘break the ice’ and to fill that silence with something. ‘You answered the Voices well, and instructed them in the essentials of ritual. You must be pleased?’, I said to her.

She smiled, half laughed and sat on a nearby felled log in the clearing, and invited me to sit, too, and she put the candle the candle on the log between us. ‘You have it all wrong, she said, the Voices are not students but the Teachers.’

‘So, you’re the student and they were testing you?’, I enquired. ‘You’re getting closer to the truth, but you’re not there yet,’ she said, ‘The Voices are indeed the teachers, and if you like I was their assistant, but the student is you and those that read what you write!’.

I thought about it, and drew a breath to ask a question. ‘There is more, but not just yet’, she said. She blew out the candle flame and the forest went totally black. Somehow I knew that she and the other presences, the Voices had left, and I was alone. After what seemed like many minutes, I opened my eyes, with her voice saying ‘There is more’, clearly echoing in my mind. Just a dream?

A few days later, I tuned the radio into a Sunday morning ‘thought for the day’ type of short program. The voice of an elderly gentleman could be heard. ‘And’, he said, ‘there is more… We need to build faith in ourselves as ritually literate people that can dress the wounds of suffering…’.

‘There is always more’, my grandmother used to say but in Welsh (which is: mae mwy). Perhaps those Voices (the bat khol, the Source of All, elementals, angels etc are speaking to us always, in our sleep and in our imagination, through our neighbours and other people, through the man on the radio program, and at other times, too, but, perhaps we seldom listen. Just a thought.