Another Tale From The Heart(h) Remembered: The Nwyfre Is…

20180327 TALES FROM THE HEARTH REMEMBERED THE NWYFREGathered together by the hearth, my granddad would listen, I would watch and listen so intently, and my grandmother, a seanchaí [pronounced ‘shawn-(a)-key’, Gaelic for a story-teller] would tell me a story. To me, she was the best at storytelling, and her stories were profound – so much so that I am learning more through them, now, even as an adult, in the re-telling. Here’s one.

It was many years ago – I’m guessing I must have been six or seven years old – on one of those still-bright August evenings, that I heard her tell another story. The hearth had a small flame flickering in it, as even in this part of Wales the evening temperatures could drop rapidly, depending on the wind direction as it blows through the valleys, even though it was the height of summer.

She told the story of the Nwyfre (pronounced ‘noo-iv-ruh’), and as I drew ever closer and closer to her feet – I always loved sitting on the rug around her rocking-chair – she told one of her ‘question and answer’ stories.

In the beginning, she said, before anything was created, the Nwyfre existed. The Nwyfre is the creative force of life, all life, and is Personal. To describe the Nwyfre at an ‘it’ would be to miss the point she said. The Nwyfre is Personal, both male and female and beyond those limiting ideas. It would be many years before I grasped that concept.

Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way’. Edward de Bono

She continued: The Nwyfre created light and dark for the first time, though I believe the Nwyfre is Light, too, but of a different kind. A life-force light. The Nwyfre created the sky and the air. And then, the Nwyfre being a creative and joyful Spirit, one of a kind, drew the water and the earth together, and made the seas and dry land. But, what was missing, she would ask me? Ofcourse, I would gleefully fill in the ‘blanks’ and answer the question – sometimes getting it right and sometimes getting in wrong. I loved those ‘tests’.

She continued: And the Nwyfre thought into being the sun, moon and stars, but who could see them? ‘No one’. I replied. She smiled and said. ‘Exactly right, little one……no one….except for the Nwyfre. I smiled and nodded that I thought I might have got the question half-right, but to this day I’m still wondering about it.

She digressed somewhat in that story and asked me, ‘So where was the Nwyfre?’ Without thinking I replied, ‘In the light and dark, the sky and air, the sea and land and rocks’, but I would end the answer, that time, with the tone of my voice ascending at the end, to make it more of a question than a statement. She smiled and said, ‘Yn wych’, (which is somewhere between saying ‘marvellous’ and ‘great’, colloquially), and my face beamed. I’m a little bit more reserved and adult now. Honest. But then I was a wee lad.

There was more she said: And then the Nwyfre created all the animals and fish and insects that you can possibly imagine, and many more that we can’t possibly imagine. All of them having the Nwyfre in them. But, still there was something missing, she said. ‘What could it be?’, she said in my direction, and paused expecting an answer from me. After a little thought and a little more, I tentatively said, ‘Us!’. ‘Right’ she said and laughed. Finally, the Nwyfre created men and women, and they too have the Nwyfre within them, even now, although many don’t know that.

My grandmother slumped back in her rocking chair, an indication that she wanted to rest, but I had a question. ‘Where can I find the Nwyfre?, I asked.

The eternal is not elsewhere; it is not distant. There is nothing as near as the eternal. This is captured in a lovely Celtic phrase: ‘tẚ tír na n-ổg ar chul an ti’, ‘the land of eternal youth is behind the house’….The eternal world and the mortal world are not parallel, rather they are fused’. John O’Donohue

Many years later my grandmother’s story still reverberates in my mind, though I know others have different stories, but most seem to agree that that life-giving Spirit is in everything. And even though her story, then, had been simple, yet profound, only part of it had ‘sunk in’, hence my childlike question (which had, effectively already been answered. But I was a young lad at the time).

‘The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.’ John 3.8a, The Book

‘Oh,’ she said, ‘In the grass on the little hill at the edge of the garden, in the birds and insects, in the air and storm clouds, in the rocks and pebbles, and more places’.

Without hesitation, I ran outside, and for the next hour I went in search of the Nwyfre.

Climbing to the top of the little hill – not that little for a wee lad as I was then, clambering up it on ‘all fours’ – I sat on the grass at the top. Yes, grass. Nwyfre! I felt the cold mountain air blow against my cheeks. Yes, Nwyfre. In the distance I saw Jones the dairyman drive past at some speed I think, and saw birds fly across the sky. Yes, Nwyfre!

And then I headed back to my grandparents’ house with my ‘research’ complete. I sat by my grandmother’s feet, she looked down, and said, Well?’. And then I recited my embellished  list at breakneck speed and without pausing for breath: ‘grass, flowers, trees, birds, Jones the Dairyman, the wind, the rain’.

‘And, there’s more’, she said. As she said that a lump of glowing coal fell from the fire and granddad used the coal-tongs’ to put in back. ‘Ah, I replied, ‘Coal and rocks and Lapis lazuli'(a semi-precious stone my grandmother had recently given me, and probably the longest word that I knew…apart from those lovely Welsh place names and words), and ‘You and granddad, and me’.

I looked up and said, ‘The Nwyfre is everywhere.’ And then after a pause I said, ‘The Nwyfre is everywhere….so I needn’t have gone outside! The Nwyfre is here!’. Her face beamed a most lovely smile.

‘Nwyfre is ‘…this living, energising current of life that flows through all living beings’. Penny Billington

Many years later I was to understand that many people have different names for the Nwyfre – such is the creativity and grace of the Nwyfre – but most acknowledge that Life-Force in all things, in a web of loving connectedness throughout all that is, seen and unseen; and without the Spirit, the Nwyfre, nothing exists and happens. The Nwyfre is so important in what we say and do, not just in our prayers and rituals and ceremonies, but in our very life, in nature, daily life, the nine-to-five job, relationships of all kinds, and more. The Nwyfre is ubiquitous.

I never knew what ubiquitous meant, but now I’m seeing it everywhere!

Although the Nwyfre is everywhere, sometime ago I wrote about an encounter (or perhaps a greater awareness of the Nwyfre in a forest, devoid of distractions), and you can read it here.

Meanwhile, wherever you are, you can encounter the Nwyfre right where you are!

 

Celtic OrthoPraxis: Time To Dive In

20180320 CELTIC ORTHOPRAXIS TIME TO DIVE INToday, the day started off ‘fresh’. Temperature-wise, that was. The snow of a couple of weeks ago returned a couple of day ago, but it too, has almost melted away. A little remains in my little city aparment’s garden.

At one level it’s just snow – great to look at, and I do so love it. My inner child, never far below the surface, erupts with a simple joy. Look deeper and we know that snow is composed of water molecules and intricate crystals and atoms, and even small physical quanta. But, at another level it evokes a deeper response, a deep spiituality – it’s as if nature is reminding us that we dont control the weather, that the circle turns as it pleases and not at our behest, and that we are yet immersed in nature and not the other way around. There is always more.

‘Those who would search for pearls must dive below.’ John Dryden

Today, I greeted the day with a simple liturgy set in a simple ritual. At one level it’s just a prayer and ritual, formed of words and physical actions. Some stop there. At another level the words give voice to an inner intentionality, which is important. More than that, that liturgy and ritual has a deeper, spiritual, and more profound effect in a realm invisible to us, currently. Yes, there is more.

We can look at the surface of something, or go deeper, or go really deep.

Later, I was talking with a good friend. We spoke about calendars. I mentioned that I like nothing better to mark the months using a formala put forward by Graves, and which uses trees names to mark the unfolding year. It was pointed to me that that ‘tree calendar’ was fiction in that ancient Celts and Druids would have been unaware of that particular calendar. I know. But, fortunately we looked deeper.

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

At another level we both agreed that that calendar was nature-focussed, and eco-awareness-prompting, and that cannot be such a bad thing. It was also pointed out to me that ‘purists’ would still object, but we worked through that, noting that there seems to be more worth in celebrating months named after trees than ancient Roman gods and emporers as some do without further thought or objection. But, there’s more. At a deeper level, that kind of ‘tree calender’ worked very well (in conjuction with regular named months), does bring us into a deeper awareness and participation of the turning circle of the seasons. Okay, a little imagination is needed. But, there, is always more.

Out beyond 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.

Rumi

We can look at the surface of something, or go deeper, or go really deep. But, we live in a world that is, in many senses, quite, quite shallow. Very dualistic. And arguments, for instance, about particularly interpreting and applying ancient words, ritual and formulae, especially where over the years where ‘gaps’ have appeared, abound.

For instance, many years ago I wrote a prayer that had four verses, one to be recited at each of the compass cardinal points. The problem is part of it is missing. The ‘south’ prayer was missing. Lost somewhere. Now a ‘purist’ might say, ‘Tadhg, to be authentic to your work, you should recite the three verses you have, and remain silent when turning to the south’. I hope it doesnt upset my ‘purist’ friends, but I filled in the gap, by recently writing a ‘south’ prayer in line and in the style of the preceeding verses, and it worked wonderfully. It also occured to me, that we all do similar.

‘I would rather my heart be without words than my words be without heart.’ LaMar Boschman

But, there’s more as regards that prayer. Deeper than just words, there was intentionality, and deeper than that was the threshold opening of ‘touching’ another realm. All of which would be lost if we had just concentred on the challenge of the missing verse and discussing, at a cerebral, contemporary, dualistic, academic level, whether it should have been re-written or not.

‘Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.’ The Book, 1 John 3.8

There is an ancient Middle-eastern story that goes something like this:

‘There was once a time when some kind of calamity was threatening a village. The village elder knew what to do. He went a certain ‘Holy Place’ in the forest, lit a ‘Sacred Fire’ and said a ‘Special Prayer’. And, when this was done, calamity was averted.

Years later a similar threat arose, and so the village elder of that day went into the forest and spoke to the Source of All, and said: “I do not know how to light the ‘Sacred Fire’, but I still remember the ‘Holy Place’ in the forest, and I still know that ‘Special Prayer’. Then, he said the special prayer in the holy place. When he returned home, the calamity had been averted.

Some years later, the village found itself in trouble. The village elder of that day went again into that ‘Holy Place’ in the forest and said to the Source Of All: “I don’t know the ‘Holy Place’, in this forest, but I do not know how to light the ‘Sacred Fire’ and I’ve forgotten that ‘Special Prayer’. Yet,  have pity on us and save your people.’ This time, too, the tragedy was averted.

Yes, some years later, again, trouble arose. The village elder of that day wanted to avert tragedy. Sitting at home, he prayed to the Source of All from the depth of his heart: ‘I am so sorry. I do not know that site of the ‘Holy Place’ in the forest. I cannot light the ‘Sacred Fire’, and worst of all, I have even forgotten that ‘Special, Prayer’. Yet, I pray that you would have pity on us and deliver us from danger.’ And the Source of All listened to the elder’s heart and averted the calamity.’

Words, depth, heart. Words, meaning, intentionalty. Surface, go deep, go very deep.

There is always more. Mae mwy as they say in Wales. So, my encouragement to you and myself is to go very deep. And in using of prayer, liturgy, ritual and personal encounters with That Which Is Bigger Than Us, let us not to be hung up on mere ‘surface’ concerns and miss the Encounter and other delights that await us when we leave ‘the shallows’ and when we dive deep. There is always more.

 

 

 

Encountering The Òran Mór

20180226 ENCOUNTERING THE ORAN MORI’m sitting cross-legged, in a darkened room. Dark, save for one, small candle with its gentle flickering light projecting barely-seen shadows on the wall. It’s peaceful. I’m at rest.

Tonight my meditation is kataphatic – that is I’m going to use thoughts and ‘pictures’ from my imagination to be my ‘silent teachers’, and then in an unstructured way – that is non-directed, and I aim to be open to the Awen (pronounced by some as ar-wen; though I like the three syllable pronunciation, ah-(w)oo-ern), that Spirit of creativity known to ancient (and latter-day) Celts and Druids, and others (and known by various other names).

As I sit here, eyes closed, there is no sound except for the sound of the wind, outside. I’m back in London, and my small apartment is one of a few, that, like most modern architecture can be prone to ‘funnel’ the wind and create a sound – like that of a long moan. I love it. I can hear it now. The wind is blowing from the east, and it’s cold air. As I begin a time of quietness, it is nature reminding me that, even in the city, nature predominates.

My mind wanders, and I let it.

The mournful sound outside reminds me of a story I once heard when I was a child. The flickering candle light, even with my eyes closed, gently reminds me of the glow of the hearth as that story was told. My mind conjures up pictures of yesteryear, of childhood, of innocence.

My grandmother, would tell me that: In the beginning, and it varies between cultures, nothing existed. But all that is, was brought forth by a sound. Some call it the word or Word, others of a Celtic or Druidic persuasion call it the Òran Mór (some pronounce this Oran-mor, others oh-ran mohr). The words differ, but the wonderfully deep meaning persists.

Òran Mór, the Great Song or Great Music, song of the universe, was (and is) the continual love song of the Source of All, and through it everything that is, was brought into being, and continues because of the Òran Mór, my wise grandmother would say to me.

‘…while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy’. Job 38.7 The Book

Everything vibrates, my grandmother would remind me, and so everything is ‘dancing’ to the music of the Òran Mór. Then, the former was a difficult concept to understand as a child, but the latter was understandable. As a child I loved dancing. And so, Òran Mór is nature’s dance, such as a bird chirping, a frog croaking, leaves making a sound in trees when the wind blows, the sound of rain or the waterfall, our breath, a babies cry, our cells, and for those with scientific instruments to measure it, the very rocks and stars oscillate and participate in Òran Mór.

‘As you entered the world, your first independent action was to breathe, and then to make sound – the sound of your creation. Since then, each time you’ve made a sound you’ve re-created yourself’. Stewart Pearce, The Alchemy Of Voice

Oh, she was clever, if not confusing, especially to a wee lad to me, as I was then. I only partly understood then what my grandmother was saying about about the Òran Mór, but in remembering now, I can piece together much of what she said, and now understand it more so.

‘All things emanate from this Great Song of power that is spinning vibrantly through all life, from the microcosmic level of electrons, atoms…to the giant swath of whole galaxies…’, Frank MacEowan, The Mist-Filled Path

My grandmother would often ask me to listen out for the Òran Mór, as for us, it can also be heard as a barely audible whisper of wisdom, heard in nature, those ‘silent teachers’ or on the lips of others. Have you heard the Òran Mór as an audible sound, or as an inner whisper, or a paradoxical unheard ‘sound’ of inclusion that seems palpable, or through nature?

For humankind, we share in the ‘dance’ of the Òran Mór along with nature, but are blessed to acknowledge it – to be both part of it, and to ‘understand’ it (in part), objectively. In that sense our very words and singing can form part of the Òran Mór. Our breath has power. What a blessing to add to it. To be embraced by it. How important it is for us to speak words of ritual or ceremony, to speak positively to others, to utter gratitude, to sing or chant in groups or individually to nature and/or the Source of All. When we do so, we join in with the Song of the Universe, and the latter joins in with us. We become part of a magnificent cosmic symphony.

‘The Òran Mór is already within us waiting silently for the activation of our memory…The human soul enlivened with the Great Song becomes aware that it is a manifestation of the theophany of Creation…’ Frank MacEowan, The Mist-Filled Path

And so, often, my grandmother would send me out into her garden to listen. I have a feeling that it gave her time to attend to other things or to be by herself for a while, but it fascinated me – I was sent on an adventure to discover…who knows what?

When I returned she would ask me what I heard. And like the small child I was I would recite at breakneck speed, and without many pauses for breath, everything – listing the buzz of flies, the sound of birdsong, the bleat of a ragged sheep, the sound of thunder reverberating in nearby mountains, the sound of my footsteps, the sound of a babbling brook, the crack of a tree branch breaking nearby and falling from a great height, and the sound of an aircraft overhead.

‘And which of those was the Òran Mór?’, she would ask. ‘All of them?’, I would answer, hedging my bets and phrasing it as a question. ‘Ofcourse, all!’, she replied, and smiled as only she could.

I’m sitting here now in this darkened room, eyes half open, listening to my breath as those wonderful  ‘picture’ images of yesteryear disperse in my mind. The candle flame dances and splutters, as I realise that’s Òran Mór. The wind outside is howling like a ban-sidhe (pronounced bann-she), that’s Òran Mór, and as I sit here and chant then I, and you too, as you sing or chant or speak now or later, join in with the Òran Mór, and we add something valuable to the fabric of the Universe, and the Source of All joyfully sings with us.

‘And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and the loud rumbling of thunder. And the sound I heard was like harpists strumming their harps. And they sang a new song…’. Revelation 14:2-3a The Book

I blew out the candle flame. Sat cross-legged in the silence of the room, but still  hearing the howling, moaning sound of the wind outside. Yes, wherever we are, rural or urban centres, in a forest or an apartment block, we are reminded that Òran Mór is ubiquitous. It is with us now (though many would say the Òran Mór is personal, and so ‘it’ is not quite the word to use, but such is the limitation of language in dealing with major spiritual themes) . Even as you read this, rest assured that you and I, and all of creation are part of that glorious, ancient, powerful, connection that is the Òran Mór, the Great  Song.

 

Reflections On A Puddle: A Quiet Teacher At Drws I Fyd Arall

20180125 REFLECTION ON A PUDDLE A QUIET TEACHER AT DRWS I FYD ARALLI am back in Capel Curig in north Wales for a while. I’m outside, and have walked the relatively short walk from my little cottage, Tŷ Gwyn (pronounced ‘tee gwin’, meaning White Cottage or White House), to an area that, for years, has been known to me as Drws i fyd arall. It’s raining hard – the ‘gift’ of storm Georgina that is sweeping across the United Kingdom.

Soaked, I sit on a felled log. It’s still about half an hour before sunrise.

‘Drip down, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds pour down…’ Isaiah 45;8a, The Book

And I feel wonderful, expectant, in awe at the two, old, trees in front of me. I sat there looking at these two trees, so different to the others around them, as these two trees had grown in a way that they bowed towards each other to form an arch. As children we noticed this, and I and my friends had called these two arched trees Drws i fyd arall (pronounced ‘droo zi fid arrah’) which means ‘door to another world’. Such was the imagination of us children that we played endless games by jumping through the arched trees, and in our minds eye believed that we found  ourselves in strange new worlds. Star Gate, the tv series, was still many years in the future. We got their first!

For more about Drws I fyd arall in previous articles, see here, and here.

And, now I’m sitting in the middle of this delightful forest, in suitably rain-proofed attire, and though its cold and there’s a great wind – I’m protected from that wind by the high trees around me – but not so from the rain. It’s raining even harder, and I love it.

By my feet, raindrops converge into puddles, multiple puddles and some of them quite deep, and as the puddles fill up with rain some of them join together to form even large puddles around me; and for a moment I am mesmerised by the sight of the rain splashing on the forest floor and into puddles, and by the soothing, continuous, hypnotic patter of fresh, cold, wonderful rain.

‘If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.’ Loren Eiseley

As I gaze at the large puddle in front of me, joining with another, and then being  ‘syphoned off’ into a larger deep depression on the ground inches to one side, I spied that water takes on the shape of that which it fills, and reshapes itself umpteen times, yet it still remains water.

‘I find inspiration in the movement of water. Sometimes I think about the journey the water has travelled, reconnecting me to the larger cycles of nature.’ Janet Echelman

How we could learn from water. If you’re like me, it is oh-so-easy to take on board the opinions of others sometimes; to be caught off guard and to be affected by their bad words and actions, and perhaps want to metaphorically strike back; or be adversely affected by ‘bad’ situations. Water is not changed by what it fills. It changes shape, but remains faithful to its nature. It loses nothing. How we could learn from water.

‘I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.’ John O’Donohue

Mark Nepo talks of this sort of awareness of nature. He calls them ‘quiet teachers’, for that is what they are: nature opening itself up to human awareness for the connection, which surely already exists, to be made understandable (at least in part) to us, in a quiet, authentic manner

And so this puddle, this ‘quiet teacher’, a puddle at Drws i fyd arall taught me that water adapts to fill the ‘shape’ of its surroundings, but remains faithful to itself.

And, in a ‘flash’ as I sat on that felled tree, I realised that, as humans, we are should (or perhaps, are encouraged, is a better way of putting it, to) adapt to situations in our daily life, albeit some tough events, or situations brought on by ‘difficult’ people, and yet remain faithful to our ‘humanness’, our core. It is possible to adapt and not take on board the negative ‘stuff’ around us.

And then, I experienced another ‘flash’ as if lightning had filled the sky: it dawned on me – our body and soul may be seemingly affected, but the lesson of this ‘quiet teacher’ was that that need not be the case, but it came to me that our soul, our being, our very essence is never affected by it at all – we just think it is. There is something in us that ‘higher’, still. And from ‘that place’, a place of Love, we can have compassion on others, and bear tough situations come what may.

I had to sit on the felled log for some time to ‘unpack’ those two ‘flashes’ of thought(s) from Beyond.

‘…the work of compassion: to embrace everything clearly without imposing who we are and without losing who we are.’ Mark Nepouiet

Imagination: In Between Are The Doors…: A Thought

20180111 IMAGINATION IN BETWEEN ARE THE DOORS

‘The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination.’
(Albert Einstein)

With the candle lit, and sitting crossed-legged, I waited. Eyes gently closed and breathing being slow but regular, I waited a little more. Slowly I started to relax and the sense of mechanical time receded into the distance. Intentionally, I moved deeper within.

Liminality approached.

Gradually my thoughts stilled – oh there will always be a stray or nagging thought, or two, or three, but the way to deal with them is to spend no time or energy on them, but to ignore them. If you pay heed to them, even mentally note them and ‘file’ them for later attention you have ‘stepped out’ of this special time of Encounter. Just let the thoughts go.

Liminality, the ‘threshold’ is the ‘gap’ between Here and There. It is a wonderful place, accessed here by the imagination, and sometimes unwittingly visited when we relax and daydream (or dream). It is a place of peace, power and potential. A place of Encounter.

‘You say God speaks to you, but it’s only your imagination.’ These are the words spoken by the inquisitor to Joan of Arc during her trial for heresy.

‘How else would God speak to me, if not through my imagination?’ Joan replied.

This time, one of many, I was to use a kataphatic approach. Using mental pictures and symbols, I imagined a spiral staircase ascending before me. It had a rich, red stair carpet that felt thick underfoot.

The event was a guided event but not directed – that is the outcome was not scripted, and in this way I was hoping for a word of information, of direction. Ofcourse, sceptics and those firmly entrenched in twenty-first century thinking will question this approach, but it seems to work, at least for me, and so I commend it to you – even if you try it only because you’re curious or you think it might be fun to do.

Did you know that Friedrich August Kekulé, the German chemist, told of two dreams he had at key moments of his work. In his first dream, in 1865, he saw atoms dance around and link to one another. When he awoke, he immediately began to sketch what he saw in his dream. In another dream, in which he saw atoms dance around, then form themselves into strings, moving about in a snake-like fashion. This dream continued until the snake of atoms formed themselves into an image of a snake eating its own tail. This dream gave Kekulé the idea of the cyclic structure of benzene.

And so, I found myself at the top of the staircase, and pushing the large oak door open, I was in the corner of a large room, a hall, a library, infact. Just the right place to find a word of guidance, information. I could smell the dust of old books and the smell the polish used on the two dozen long wooden tables, which spanned, almost, the breadth of the library. Books ‘hugged’ all the walls, and huge frosted windows high up, tinted yellow, let in the light. The room was bathed in an other-worldly sunlight glow, or warming yellow. My heart leaped.

To my left and about twenty feet away, sat three librarians . They were indistinct  and glowing a deep yellow. Angels? Elementals? Was this Library a representation of Heaven, The Other Place, or Caer Wydyr (the Glass Fortress, as they call it in. Wales)? Apart from those three librarians and me, there was no one else in the room.

Was this a dream, a day-dream, a vision or the rambling thoughts of neurones ‘firing’ randomly in my brain brought on by the digestion of too much cheese? Or, was it a deep encounter? To consider that at this point would have ‘broken’ that ‘connection’ and allowed rational thought to overpower this experience. Right now, it didn’t matter to me. I was enjoying this experiential encounter.

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

I wandered around the Library, occasionally stopping and exploring the bookshelves to see if anything significant manifested itself. What was the word for me? Nothing. After what seemed like many minutes I found myself near the Librarians’ desk. One of them beckoned to me. Still indistinct, and glowing yellow, and without a word being spoken, I was handed a large, dusty, ‘dog-earred’ book. I took it, bowed (for some reason, but odd things like that can happen in such experiences), and turned to a long table behind me to explore the book.

I came into this liminal realm for a word of information, and believed the book would assist. As I was about to open it I was aware that the three Librarians were now behind me, peering over my shoulders. Benevolence. I was cocooned in the yellow glow they were emitting and a peaceful warmth like honey seemed to ‘pour’ over me. It made me laugh heartily for no reason.

I looked at the cover of the book, it read: The Count Of Monte Cristo. I had read that book at school many years ago, so it wasn’t on my mind and there was no reason for it to appear in this event, but this was a guided event, and not directed, and so events can seemingly take on a life of their own. But it it my belief that The Guide of All does permit encounters in this manner and prompts ‘from a distance, if ‘we have ears to listen’, if we are receptive. After all, Joseph was ‘spoken to’ in a dream. I have no doubt that the  Source of All speaks, similarly, today in dreams, in the physical realm, through others, through nature.

I gradually leafed through the pages of that book, and at page 12 I felt the Librarians draw back as though they had done all that was necessary. Near the very top of page 12, a word leaped out at me. ‘Patience’. That was my word. That was for me. I knew it. In the busy-ness of all that had happened to me over the last few months, and which was now (thankfully) drawing to a close, the word I needed was, that I was to have just a little more patience (and for a little longer).

‘Patience is not sitting and waiting, it is foreseeing. It is looking at the thorn and seeing the rose, looking at the night and seeing the day. Lovers are patient and know that the moon needs time to become full.’ (Rumi)

For that second time in that event I laughed inwardly. I turned to thank the Librarians. But, as soon as I had said the words ‘thank you’, I was ‘back’, and the Library had gone! The dream, day-dream, vision was gone. I was  conscious of sitting cross-legged in a dark room, and of the flickering candle in front of me, aware of mechanical time, and noticed now many thoughts crowding in. I had left that liminal experience, sacred time/space (and a type of ‘access’ I would commend to you) and was, indeed, back from that imaginal realm and firmly in the sensible realm (that is, this realm of the senses). Back, but different. Changed.

‘ Love is patient and kind…’ (1 Corinthians 13:4a, The Book)

Patience was what was commended to me, and a word that I took to heart, and would apply (more so) in my daily life. I extinguished the candle but sat there for some time, dwelling on that encounter which to me, (still) means a lot.

‘Imagination creates reality’. (Richard Wagner)

 

The Enchantment Of Snow: Tadhg’s Journal

20171211 The Enchantment Of Snow Lessons From Frozen PrecipitationComing down the stairs, with my eyes looking at my feet so as not to trip, I blended in with a myriad of other people beside me, in front of me, and behind me, all intent on leaving the underground station as quickly as possible. It was dark, it was damp, and dreadfully cold. It was Sunday evening, 10 December, and it was snowing in London – the first snowfall locally for the winter (apart from a five minute ‘snow storm’ last week). It had been rumoured that even the fountains at Trafalgar Square had frozen, so I heard.

Now at ground level, and at the exit barriers, for a moment, I was lined up with half a dozen other people who looked as though they were just about to run several furlongs in the 2.40 at Haydock Park. And then we were off. Through the barrier and homeward bound.

‘Snow provokes responses that reach right back to childhood.’ Andy Goldsworthy

The street was busy. So many people.  Traffic noise blared. Traffic lights seemingly overly bright, glared; and the snow-laden wind howled and caught us all by surprise as we turned the corner. Gasps could be heard as a bitter and raw wind hit the face of an unsuspecting people. In the distance the Salvation Army, in their favourite annual spot, just outside the pub, could be heard singing Carols to a moving sea of people who seemed not to notice them.

The snow underfoot had become ice and my pace slowed, not wishing to fall and crack a rib as I had done this time last year.

I know, for many, snow can be a nuisance, but for me, right here, right now, it was amazing. I love it, and admit to having let my inner-child run loose. But, please: don’t stop me know. Nature in all it’s glory had bathed the city in a white dress as only nature knows, and it was pretty, it was awesome, and inviting. But, an invitation to what?

In the middle of the park, I stopped. And yet, as I remained motionless, I had the perception of moving.

The falling snow, caught in the yellow street lamps that were in a line at the path’s edge, looked like twinkling, falling stars. And, in a horizontal wind, the snow passed my face to the left and to the right, and it felt as though I was moving and tit was stationary.

Without moving it seemed as though I had stumbled into unfamiliar and alien territory. I felt like a stranger, lost, and unable to recognise any familiar landmarks around me.

Silence descended. The traffic noise seemed a million miles away, and the neon traffic lights’ glare seemed like lights shining below the horizon, and the hustle and bustle of people rushing to get home was now a distant memory. All was still.

‘The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?’ J B Priestley

Mechanical time had given way to another perception of time that seemed to flow and yet not flow. A still point. It was nature’s dance and I was included. ‘Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and (yet) there is only the dance’.

Could I, indeed, be moving through an unchartered part of space, a field of stars? Should my intention be to ‘bodily go’, or was that happening anyway?

Had I entered some kind of liminal access point, a ‘thin place’, a portal to another realm, unknowingly?

Had I stepped back in time? Certainly childhood memories of playing in the snow flooded my thoughts. Wonderful memories!

Had I stepped out of our world, into some altogether much more expansive , connected and mysterious?

‘A snow day literally and figuratively falls from the sky -unbidden – and seems like a thing of wonder.’ Susan Orlean

Was my imagination running riot – that faculty that children wonderfully indwell and many adults rarely visit. Was this the key to this odd out-of-time event?

I wanted to analyse, research, detail what was happening, but knew that had I done so I would have been catapulted back into mechanical time, and so I just revelled in this fleeting experience and enjoyed it. Have you encountered this? Have you encountered?

‘Snowflakes are kisses from heaven.’ Anonymous

And then, without any apparent reason, I was back. Back from where?

People seemed to appear as if from nowhere, traffic noise seemed louder now, lights brighter, and I saw where I was:  in the middle of snow-laden Parson’s Green on a cold, dark, dismal, snowy December evening.

I started to walk, albeit slowly, but roughly keeping apace with other people around me, thinking of what I would cook for dinner that evening, what presents I would buy, and who I had to telephone. Yes, I was back in the realm of mechanical time. And yet, in the back of my mind was the memory of that encounter, that place, that still point ‘of the turning of the world’.

We are all ‘edge-walkers’, straddling two realms (and possibly more). Someone once said, ‘Seek and you will find’, and that is so. Don’t look at the world except with physical eyes and ‘physicality’ is all you will see. Seek and delve a bit deeper, and the world opens up to us all, into an altogether mysterious and more wonderful place, and at this time of the year, ‘thin places’  and ‘magic’ abounds…if we seek them.

 

A Walk In The Woods: ‘But In The Dark….’

20171113 A WALK IN THE WOODS BUT IN THE DARK...

I could be anywhere. It’s cold. It’s dark. There are no visual references. It’s gone midnight, and I’ve walked several miles from my little place near Capel Curig, in Wales. I’m back home.

There are scuffles in nearby undergrowth, animals, perhaps not liking my presence, scurry away. It’s now very cold, and pitch black, and I am very much in my element, as they say. I love it. Alone.

Earlier, I had done the usual daily chores, cooked a scrumptious steak and ale pie meal (yes, now you know I’m a meat-eater and imbibe alcohol, but have the greatest admiration for those who abstain from one or both), unwound by reading a book, and yet as the evening wore on, a ‘divinely-prompted fidget’ set into my being. Ofcourse, there could have been another reason for the disquiet I was experiencing, but I’m happy with accepting that it was a ‘calling’ from That Which Is Bigger Than Us. Could it be that such a ‘prod’ is a calling, albeit a non-verbal ‘call’? I think so, and maybe it happens more often than not. What do you think?

‘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’

Lyrics, ‘The Voice’, by Brendan Graham

And so, it’s cold. It’s dark, and as I keep to a small path there are no visual references, as it is pitch black. Except, that now the path now peters out, and on goes the flashlight. Trees nearby and in the mid-distance suddenly appear, but they appear flat against what’s behind them, as perpective is lost, and what was familiar during the day now looks somewhat alien. And yet, using memory, and an acceptance of the way things are (now) and a love of the dark – yes, I really do love the dark – I am ‘at home’ right here, right now.

I’m passing a felled tree, an old and familiar friend. As children, playing in this area, my friends and I called this tree, Y goeden mellt, the Lightning Tree. They were wary of it and kept some distance from it; I loved it, treated it as a wise and trusted friend, and approached it knowingly. And here it is. Constant. Noble. Powerful. Bigger. A faithful companion. To many it is just a felled tree, unless they have an imagination. A felled tree, only? Oh no, it is more.

‘Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.’ Helen Keller

And, still I walk on. Taking it slower now, as the scenery changes and grows somewhat unfamiliar, and the light from the flashlight falls on less of the substantial trees and more on shrubs that grow and change quickly from season to season, when compared to trees – making ‘landmarks’ more difficult to ‘fix’. Some things change.

And then I spy two arched trees. Drws i fyd arall. As children, that’s what we called them. It means ‘door to another world’. Such was our imagination as children. I’ll let you into an ‘open secret’, my imagination never ‘gew up’. You don’t know how precious it is to have a child-like imagination. But, in your case, as you read this (and the fact that you’ve come this far), I think, maybe, you do know; that you also have such a wonderful and active imagination, and one that lets you see reality and the ‘reality beyond reality’.

In the past, it is here that, for me, encounters happened, however you define them. Would such an encounter happen tonight? Have you, or will you today experience an encounter with That Which Is Bigger Than Us?

I’m now sitting on a log, overlooking Drws i fyd arall. These two arched trees are bigger, the opening between them smaller, but they are still there. Somethings never change.

Imagination is important. Imagination isn’t just make-believe, but a way of seeing that let’s us see with eyes beyond eyes, to view what is really there. Seek imagination. And perception is imporant, if we are to lay ‘layer upon layer’ each of these different realms. Not always easy to do, hence the need for patience. Patience. How many times might we have encountered or Encountered, but missed the opportunity because of being too busy? Or missed it, because we dislike or have a mistaken idea about the imagination or the dark.

‘So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.’ T S Eliot

And so, it must be coming up to 1am, but I refuse to look at my wristwatch. I don’t want to be pulled our of sacred time into the time governed by minutes and hours. In sacred time, in sacred space, in liminal places such as this – maybe where you are – things happen. And so I sit on a log overlooking Drws i fyd arall, and I wait. Indeed, we wait.

So, here’s my question to you: Keeping within the realms of safety and social acceptability to yourself and others. have you ever placed yourself, even in a small way, into the Flow of a possible encounter with That Which Is Bigger Than Us’?

‘The meaning is in the waiting.’ R S Thomas

[To be continued]

 

Alone With The Alone At The Machair: Poem

20171026 ALONE WITH THE ALONE AT THE MACHAIR POEM

This is one  of several poems inspired by my pilgrimage to those wonderfully ‘thin places’ of the Isle Of Iona (also known as the Isle Of Druids) and the Isle Of Skye – rugged and awesome islands off the west coast of Scotland.

This poem is based on thoughts, feelings and an encounter at the Machair. The Machair is a Scottish/Gaelic word for ‘fertile beach’, and is pronounced ‘makkah’. It is a delightful, part sand-part grassy coastal area on the Isle of Iona with a unique eco-system, and is a windswept and wild,  liminal place, a place of myth and magic, indeed. Things happen here. Visit, and you will not be unchanged.

The weather changes and the blue sea turns white.
Dark clouds speed from the horizon
to where I am standing, and the wind blows a gale.
The light dims.
The tide recedes as a mighty storm approaches.
And I wait.

There was a time when the Voice was heard
speaking words of peace, and love, and hope.
Now the age of neon shines
and a cacophony of sound fills the air.
And I wait.

For a moment I hear murmurs in the wind.
Could it be the sound of martyrs and monks of yesteryear?
Could it be angel-sound, or the gleeful chattering of the fae?
Perhaps it’s the  words of Druids of a bygone age?
And then it’s gone.
And I wait.

The waves crash against mighty rocks
and yet the rocks are unmoved, unchanged.
Gulls  squawk in the distance, but have moved inland.
The wind blows a mournful sigh.
A howling that increases and decreases in volume and pitch.
And I wait.

At the Machair
I am alone with the Alone. I listen.
Could it be that the Voice still speaks
words of peace, and love, and hope?
Love personified, prevails. Surely?
Doesn’t Wisdom cry out to all who listen to her?
I listen but shrill sounds fill my mind.
And I wait.

In a time of plastic
I yearn for that age of myth and magic.
And when all that matters, that is substantial and real
seems, oh so far away,
something calls to me to stop and look.
And in waiting,
I notice that,
ah yes, the tide is turning’.

 

‘Thin Places’ In The City: Poem

20170929 THIN PLACES IN THE CITY POEM

Atop a high mountain or in the dark valley below,
in the corner of your room,
or in the hustle and bustle of the busy city centre,
may you find a ‘thin place’.

It is a place, or time, or event so unique, so full of wonder, so sublime.
A place where Heaven and earth collide,
and the diaphanous veil of separation is unusually thin.
A time where you can almost feel angelic wings beat against your cheeks,
and see the Divine smile shining through.
An event where your heartbeat quickens,
and you experience the mystery of the Other in the ‘mundane’.

A ‘thin place’ is a threshold, a limen, a holy bridge,
a door to the Throne Room, slightly opened.
It is a moment in time and space,
in which we can dwell, and dance, and move, if aware.

A ‘thin place’ is an encouragement, a sacred invitation to draw near,
to approach barefoot, in humility, in reverence and awe.
It is both seen and unseen.
Invisible we see you!

May you, in the wilderness of the countryside, or the city,
find a ‘thin place’ today, and be blessed.

 

Deep Calls To Deep: Iona Pilgrimage 2017: The Plan

20170913 IONA PILGRIMAGE PLANPeriodically, it is right, I believe to take stock of where we are, where we’ve ‘come from’ and where we’re headed, and where we would like to head to, where we feel called.

It seems an age away, when I last visited the isle of Iona, off the Scottish rugged and wild west coast. Infact it was twenty-eight years ago to the month. Then, in my mid-thirties and with umpteen years of informal study, theological practice and experience under my belt, I stepped out of seminary, after a three year period of formal study. [Tadhg’s Journal: 1989]

Quote: ‘Too often we don’t trust our own deepest truth; it makes us feel too vulnerable or it seems incongruous with the person we think we are or must be.’  Emily Hanlon

And, right now, with various significant things that have happened this year, and a number of major decisions ahead, I need to return to the beginning, to where it all began in earnest for me.

Twenty eight years ago I was on the isle of Iona. Just south-west of the island’s centre is a path that leads westward. It leads to the seashore, but just before you get there, there is a small hill. The hill has two names. Some know it as Sithean, the Fairy Mound, others know it as Cnoc nana Aingeal, the Hill of Angels.

It was in AD563 that columcille, also know as St Columba, sailed from Ireland and settled on Iona, founded the Abbey on eastern part of that island, and from there (officially) set out to evangelise the Pictish tribes (of what is now Sctoland) and the rest of the country.

And so I sat on the top of the hill and pondered. To me, this place is Sithean. It was humbling. Humbling to know that 1426 years ago, that Columcille had sat or stood here, on this very spot – and according to Adomnán, Columcille was seen meeting with angels.

There is a power here.

I know that we don’t need to travel to far off places to encounter, that we can encounter wherever we are, and can even encounter using our imagination, our mind’s eyes or what some call our vision-eye. But, at this time, this place assisted me.

There is a peacefulness about the island, a ruggedness, and yet in the wind one can hear the soul of the island, or is it angels or the fae?

And as I sat there, I lay back, half closed my eyes, and rested. It ‘felt’ as if a ‘thin place’, a liminal-door had opened. In the distance, when the wind changed it sounded like children playing. Then the wind blew from another direction and the sound was lost, and then it was, again, ushered along with the breeze. I could hear the sound of children in the distance, high-pitched laughing and giggling. Playing? I immediately opened my eyes, sat up and looked around. No laughing. No children could be seen. There was just the silence. Silence, apart from the low ‘murmur’ of the continual wind blowing from the sea.

Wherever we are, we are encouraged to expect the unexpected. There is a story from ancient times, of a man sitting at his tent door. In the heat, desert heat, of the day, he looked over at the oak trees of Mamre. Suddenly, he saw three men standing there. He was gracious to them and offered them food. It is said that these three men were infact angels, and some believe that the man had, infact, encountered The Source Of All.

Expect the unexpected.

I lay back, again. Half closed my eyes. Some minutes later the sound of children laughing was back, but this time I remained still. It grew louder. And then suddenly the giggling sound, subdued but distinct, was all around me. I was bathed in innocent laughter. I remained there, not moving a muscle, enjoying the experience – knowing there was nothing I could do to enhance the experience. It was a sacred time, a sacred place. I just enjoyed it. So much so, that after many, many minutes I couldn’t help but fall into a light sleep.

I woke up about half an hour later. The was no sound, except for the howling wind. It had started to rain.

But, this is Scotland and I had come prepared. The rain was fine, but constant. Typical for this area. The Scots call it dreich (pronounced ‘dree-ch’. The ‘ch’ sound is like that in loch. It’s not a ‘k’ sound, but a guttural sound as if you’re clearing you throat).

I walked back to were I was staying, and pondered further my experience at Sithean, the Fairy Mound, or Cnoc nana Aingeal, the Hill of Angels, and that encounter

That evening, I considered the reason I was here.

It is good to draw away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, and if that means not going to a remote area like Iona, then perhaps a change of habit and a relocation of a few miles for a couple of days. But, then there’s always the imagination.

I sat there, pondering. As I gazed at the horizon the word reverence sprang to mind. John O’Donohue wrote: ‘Our world seems to have lost all sense of reverence…Ultimately, reverence is respect before mystery…Reverence is also physical – a dignified attention of body showing that [the] sacred is already here.’

Having finished theological studies, it was time to embark on further studies and a ministry centred on Christian Celtic, and then later, Druidic theology, but inclusively. In a way that would draw alongside all people, to share and to learn as iron sharpens iron, and to know them as friends. A fledgling ministry in serving The Way, that would grow, was my Iona prayer, then.

And so it started, twenty-eight years ago. And now with major changes ahead, I plan to go back to Iona, and to Sithean in the next few weeks. It will be a time of return, re-energising, and renewal for me. A time to decide the future of this ministry as vows need to be re-made, tasks finish but new ones approach, and a time to decide whether to write as I do here or write and lead workshops, and more. Good challenges ahead.

In your heart and mind’s eye, your vision-eye, in your imagination, I want to invite you to join me when I embark on my journey to Iona, and will write daily. It will be a time of return, re-energising, and renewal for me. And, hopefully for you, too.

Quote: ‘Life is a journey. When we stop, things don’t go right.’ Pope Francis

However,  articles continue as normal, and your company is always sought now, and even more so on the planned Iona pilgrimage.

Blessings, Tadhg.