It’s interesting the memories that spring to mind when one looks at old photographs and the stories they remind us of, of what they can teach us (even years later).
I’m looking at a photo of me when I was, perhaps, aged about seven or eight, taken a mile from where I lived, and still live. In that dense old forest where the photo was taken, stood Y goeden mellt, a special-to-us (then) children. It was an old, gnarled, twisted, yet majestic tree – Y goeden mellt was our childhood name for the tree. In English we called it ‘the Lightning Tree’ (See here).
On one occasion, at about the time that that old photo was taken – oh, so many years ago – having misjudged the time I was walking alone in that area at twilight. I was a very confident child, usually. Always, ‘at home’ in the forest. Infact, I loved the forest, and still do.
But on that occasion a little seed of doubt was sown in my mind. The sky grew darker, perhaps a storm was coming. The trees seemed somewhat taller and formidable. Sounds in the forest undergrowth seemed amplified and eerie, or certainly unnerving to a wee lad as I was then. There are lots of myths about elementals and others in the forest, stories that my grandmother would tell me. Always, she would say that there was no harm to be had from them if one respected them. Oh, I was a respectful boy.
On that occasion, I can remember my mind went into ‘overdrive’ and I quickened my pace toward home, our little cottage called Ty Gwyn (that is, the White House due to its brilliant white exterior) in the wildness of Capel Curig, north Wales.
It grew quite dark, and the wind started to blow strongly, and so, as a wee lad, I broke into a trot. It was as if there was a voice in my mind which said, ‘Run, little boy. I’m on your tail.’ It didn’t seem a friendly voice.
I started to run, dodging the branches of low trees, almost instinctively, turning this way and that. I had never been fearful of this area of the forest, but on that one occasion that had changed. ‘I’m closer than ever, and I’m coming to get you’, the voice seemed to say. I ran faster and faster. Now, quite fearful, I was colliding with some small twigs and would find out later that I sustained some small bruises on my bare arms and legs.
‘I’m all around you, little lad. Behind you, to the sides, and yes, in front of you’, the voice in my mind seemed to say. With my heart beating faster and faster, and sweat upon my brow I ran even faster, and then stopped.
Even at that age I realised that if this animal or ‘entity’ was all around me, then stopping, standing still was probably the best course of action. My heart was racing. Could it be a wild animal? A bear? (such was my fertile imagination as a child). Perhaps it might be that hag, the Gwrach y Rhibyn (see here). Similar stories of mythical and supernatural creatures occur in ancient Celtic, Druidic and Hebrew-Christian thought and/or writing, and elsewhere. Leviathan? Scylla and Charybdis? Grendel in the story of Beowulf? Spring-heeled Jack in more modern times? Monsters?
I stopped. Waited. With my heart beating fast, still, I looked around. Everything seemed brighter, my senses were more alert, everything louder, and I waited. And, I waited. And,……nothing. No monster!
Words of my dear Christian-Celtic-Druidic grandmother permeated my mind. ‘You have nothing to fear, except fear itself’, she would say. I was reminded also that somewhere in ancient text it was written ‘Do not fear’, written some 366 times. Though my child-body was reacting – heart beating fast, quick breaths, sweat on my brow and cheeks – I was determined to stand still and be intentional about not fearing. Slowly my body conformed to my inner state.
In the years that followed that childhood event I read about the story of Milarepa. He was a clever man. So clever that many people shunned him and thought him weird. He was a hero, one of the brave ones, albeit a loner, for he lived in a cave, well away from people. And, yet in times of stress and trouble some sought him out for advice and encouragement.
One evening returning home to his cave, Milarepa found it full of nasty spiritual entities. They were eating all his food, reading his books, sleeping in his bed, and generally making a nuisance of themselves. He believed that they might be a projection from his own mind, yet he was anxious and confused as to how to get rid of them.
Later, it occurred to him that one way forward was to teach them about oneness and how they were a projection of his mind. And, so he sat down and spoke to them about compassion. Little happened. He got angry with them. They laughed at him and carried on.
Then he sat down on the floor of the cave and said, ‘Well, I’m not going to leave and I guess you’re not, so I suggest we all live here in harmony’. As he said that, all of them disappeared. Except one!
Milarepa saw that this spiritual entity, or rather, his mind’s projection, was particularly nasty-looking. He wasn’t quite sure what to do, but slowly approached that entity and stopped just in front of its bloody, sharp-fanged mouth. He surrendered himself to the situation and said, ‘If you want to eat me, here I am’, Milarepa said to it. Immediately that nasty spiritual entity left him.
It is said that Milarepa discovered that when resistance is gone, so too are demons or nasty spiritual entities, or mind-projections or negativity.
And, so I stood there in the middle of the forest. Nothing came for me. Nothing bothered me, and so I purposely, intentionally, walked slowly (as if to prove a point, as best an eight year old can). It took me another ten minutes to walk to Ty Gwyn. My grandmother, I discovered, was right: show respect, don’t resist, and do not fear.
I got home. My grandmother noticed the few, small cuts and bruises on my arms and legs. She asked, ‘So what was pursuing you that made you run so fast, judging by those cuts and bruises?’ I can remember myself looking up at her and replying, ‘I thought something was, but…when I stopped I couldn’t see anything after me. So, I then walked home’.
‘Good man’, she said. I remember thinking that she called me that, even though I was only 8 years old, but I felt encouraged. I felt as though I was ten feet tall. It felt good.
In the tough times that we all inevitably face – and perhaps are facing now – it seems to me that we all need a timely reminder of our status and power. To realise who we are – much loved by The Source of All, the Universe, The One behind It All. And, a reminder of our power – I can do all things….’ it says in ancient text. Meanwhile: And, as my grandmother used to say: Please, do not feed the fears.