Excerpt from Tadhg’s Journal: Winter is nearly upon us. We’re in that time of shedding. As I sit here with a hot cup of coffee, I can see outdoor plants ‘slumbering’, leaves falling from trees, and animals scurrying about, storing up food for the winter.
Well, we can use this ‘shedding time’ to strip away all that has served its purpose but no longer does, to look back and also to look forward, albeit for different reasons.
I have a friend who is a pole-vaulter, and like a pole-vaulter, it’s sometimes necessary to look back, go back, ‘walk back’, and reflect and sometimes, momentarily remember those past moments, as they contributed (in part) to what we are today.
However, we cannot stay in the past.
For me, in looking back, I remember that thirty years ago I graduated from theological ‘school’, was ordained at Steyne Hall some twenty-seven years ago, and twenty years ago took up additional studies in Celtic theology, then esoteric theology, then literature, acupressure, herbalism etc, ‘battled’ oesophageal cancer ten years ago (and interestingly, the anniversary of that major operation (which was preceded by three cycles of chemo and umpteen weeks of radio-therapy) is on 31 October!), got the ‘all clear’ six years ago (as all the ‘follow-up’ tests we’re good), and more.
But, what about you?
And along the way there’s been (even more of) the usual ‘life ups-and-downs’, that we all experience. Oh, and a year ago I fell and broke a rib (or two). All these ‘negative’ events I wouldn’t change. I’ve learned from them, but not like a Superman. I was ‘intimately’ involved with each one of them – the really tough events caused sleepless nights, pain, anguish and tears. If you thought I could ride the ‘storms of life’ and say ‘ha’ to them, you’re wrong. It was more of an ‘ughhh’, punch-to-the-stomach sort of sound (metaphorically), and grim determination. They hurt, deeply. But, deep down inside the spirit encouraged me, as it does the same for you. If I’m honest (and I do try) those experiences, even the tough ones, taught me a lot. If I’m very honest, I wouldn’t want to experience them again, though.
I’ve moved on.
They contributed to make me the person I am today, but none of us can live in the past. They were useful memories and experiences, but they contributed to the ‘me’ of today, just as experiences today may mould you and I, the ‘future us’, and so we realise we live in a state of transience. The season of winter is a good time to reminder that.
‘There was never a dawn, regardless how beautiful or promising, that did not grow into a noontime. There was never a noon that did not fall into afternoon. There was never an afternoon that did not fade toward evening. There never was a day yet that did not get buried in the graveyard of the night. In this way transience makes a ghost out of everything that happens to us.’ John O’Donohue
And, so this time of year, Winter, is a time of shedding. What is holding us back? What can we release? And, what can we do in our life to shed the old and embrace the new?
Like a pole-vaulter pacing backwards before he or she jumps, we look back, pace backwards, and then run forward. Looking forward is important. What do we want to accomplish?
Walking backwards, running forwards, like a pole-vaulter is really about ‘nowness’. We look back for one reason, we look to the future for another, but we only have ‘now’ in which we live, in which we have the ability to do.
Carpe diem. It’s about ‘nowness’.
What are we doing today, now? Having shed all that holds us back, its time to move forward. And yet, we live in a culture that encourages us not to ‘rock the boat’. Our tv advertisements, politicians’ speeches, and life in general, urge us to just dip our toe into the water. We might become like pond-skaters – those insects that ‘run’ across the pond’s surface but are unable to go any deeper. Shallow? Are we skating across the surface of our faith, our belief, our life and unwilling to go deeper? Are we aware of that depth, that calls to us, if we have ears to hear? It’s time to move on.
If we’re stuck, if we’re living a life at half-speed, remember: There is more!
I’m not disparaging a friend’s prayer-life, but he said his prayers consist only of a shopping-list of wants! And, that’s it! Oh, but there’s more! There’s nothing wrong with that kind of prayer and it may be a good place to start, but I encouraged him to explore the prayer of gratitude, and then prayer as a time of encounter using his imagination, and to go to an ‘inner place’ beyond imagination, where stillness abounds and encounter is palpable. Going ‘inward’ is good. Go deep. But, as my liturgical (Celtic) Christian and Druid friends will know, there are times when it’s right to engage in (public or private) ritual – an outward affirmation and invocation -and that can be just as deep!
I suggested to this friend that it was time to shed old inhibiting ways and move forward. A challenge? An adventure? Yes. But, potential that could unearth great benefits.
It’s that time of the year to shed, and go deep. Shedding is a stripping away, but what will you put in its place? Winter is a time of storing up ‘goodies’, making a food-store, or perhaps storing up energy for the future, as in tomorrow, maybe?
What will you shed? What will we store up?
Like seeds buried in the soil, apparently ‘dead’ and ‘frozen’, asleep in the dark, it is there that much activity will soon take place, maybe is already taking place, invisibly to us! In our ‘inner place’, much activity takes place and we can benefit, if we visit. Do you visit that inner place, that imaginal realm of power and potential, by using your imagination, or ritual etc, and benefit – and not just you, but others, also!
Like a pole-vaulter, it’s time to look back, and then, mightily, to propel ourselves forward into the new life.