Celtic Wisdom: The Caim

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The caim is a profound ‘circling’ prayer used by ancient Celts and others over the millennia. It is still used 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. Even, Evangelicals.

Yes, it can be used by anyone who knows the value of prayer.

The word caim is gaelic, and it has to do with ‘protection’ or ‘sanctuary’; it is derived from the root word meaning ‘circle’, to bend, or turn, and this becomes apparent when you start forming the caim.

Introduction

The rudiments of forming a caim are known to us, but much detail was not recorded or has been lost in the mists of time. I like to think it was the former, and that those who used the caim of old, didn’t want to legislate the minutiae of what should be done.

Rather, they wanted to pass on the idea and deep spiritual concept, the essentials, so that it could be purposely adapted to suit the group or individual using it in the future, and its contents changed to meet the circumstances or need of the pray-er, and so would remain vibrant.

It’s flexible.

Many, today, use a minimalist approach to the caim. This is:

  • making a caim and
  • using one of the prepared three-fold prayers, see the appendix, especially (but not only) when incorporating it in a formal, group service of some kind, and
  • closing the caim.

The minimalist approach is good, and is a great place to start, but there’s so much more to it, and so I’d also like to take your further on this exciting adventure.

Bearing in mind we have been left the essentials of the caim, I’ve found most benefit is derived, for me, when I ‘fuse’ it with something else: with creative visualisation to form an innovative variation.

That is, I use imagination.

In using imagination, I see this as thought-intentionality, to complement my words of any prayer said. I would encourage you to try the same.

Imagination? The I Am has given each one of us a great imagination, one to be used. Indeed you use your imagination when you watch tv. You might be watching a thriller or ‘spooky’ movie and suddenly someone or something jumps out of the shadows in the storyline, and you flinch. You do that because you’re engrossed in the movie; yes, your imagination was at work. It’s as though you were ‘in’ the movie. Such is the power of imagination.

Imagination is also at work when advertisers show you sun-drenched beaches for your prospective holiday on tv or in the newspaper. You imagine you’re there. You also use your imagination, when, say, you’re planning a big event and need to think about the decor, food, gifts etc. Or, maybe youre an artist, a writer, like to journal, or are a musician, or even just ‘doodle’? None of that would happen without imagination.

And, you can use your imagination here, in the caim, as a force for good. You can use it to draw near and encounter, to bless others, and bless yourself in a ‘visual‘ manner. It’s a win-win situation.

It may feel strange or ‘forced’ at first, but do persevere and do try it several times. Don’t be too analytical as you experience the caim (as to be analytical means you ‘jump out’ of the experience – a sort of ‘are we there yet’ event, which usually means ‘no’!). Don’t make it into a chore, but, rather, enjoy the adventure.

Many times my prayer time resembled a shopping list with the word ‘Amen’ tacked onto the end. I wanted something more. Something deeper. To spend more time with the Holy One. To ‘see’ afresh, in my minds eye. The caim was one answer.

So, find a place where you won’t be disturbed, and,  do mute the mobile phone. Take some time to centre yourself – that is, to slow down your mind and just lightly enter that ‘inner space’, that dreamy-state of the mind. Relax. You are always in control, but surrender. At this point, it is best to keep your eyes open.

Making a caim

As you stand (and it can be outdoors or indoors, in a room in your house etc) extend your arm, point to the floor, (say about four to six feet away from your body) and slowly turn your body through a full circle. There, you’re inscribing an invisible, imaginal circle, the caim.

As I stand in a candle-lit the room (and one that I use as a study, a sanctuary, and where discerning men and women come for liminal sessions with me), I stand and quieten my mind. There is no rush.

After a few minutes, I point to the floor. I have already marked out a circle, about six foot (2 metres) in diameter, with rocks (which are just smaller than my fist, and which can be removed later), and slowly I turned my body, revolving 360 degrees. I like to face east, but the choice is yours. I start off facing east and end up facing east. I also like to turn deosil, clockwise to begin the caim.

Sometimes I have a chair in that circle of stones to use after turning 360 degrees, but today I’m standing.

Stage 1: The Separation

Now, it may be good to close your eyes as you enter into the first of three stages, the first being: separation. This is a leaving of worldly distractions, of slowing those thoughts down, and journeying inward to that place of peace, power and potential. You are still in control, but you make an effort not to focus on distractions. Trust me, you will get thoughts of what else you could be doing, who you should have telephoned, or what you should buy at the shops etc, but let them go.

My eyes are closed now, and in my mind’s eye I’m imagining that I’m journeying inward to a comfortable and safe place, a place that is full of power and potential. I slow my breathing, quieten my mind, and over the next few minutes enter a state of ‘rest’. I’m metaphorically journeying toward the Source, God.

Stage 2: Transition or ‘Gap’ Time

The space that you’ve entered is liminal space, the imaginal realm. Some like to call it the realm of the imagination, and that’s okay. For me, I like to call it the imaginal realm, as in our culture, when one talks of the imagination it is perceived as a place of pure fantasy and unreal.

That place, the imaginal realm, to me, is as real as the physical realm.

It is an intermediary space 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).

‘ I looked for someone among them who would…stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land…but I found no one. Ezekiel 22: 30 (part), the Book

The imaginal realm is the place of the soul. To me, it is ‘the gap’, a place of encounter that the Ancients boldly wrote about.

I feel safe, I feel ‘cocooned’ from all that is happening in the world about me. I am at peace within this circle. For me, I have inscribed a circle of the floor around me, but it is a circle when it touches the floor; I perceive it as a bubble of power, big enough to encapsulate me and more. It is, to me, the ‘closet’ or ‘room’ that  the Christ said we should enter.

Some, may like to pray an already-written prayer (only) at this stage (see appendix), and then move onto the final stage, that is stage three. This is the minimalist approach, but I like to go deeper. How about you? There is nothing to fear.

If we accept that there is place of Bliss which is, symbolically, a higher plane, then we need to use some of that power. And so, I raise both hands for about a minute, and visualise the blossom of golden trees, and the pollen of golden plants falling on me, power from on high. Not mine, but belonging to That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves.

There is no rush. Just enjoy the experience. If you find it difficult to visualise, or if nothing seems to happen, do continue, and don’t worry. Even if we don’t experience anything, I do believe things are happening, and I do believe it’s our intentionality that counts, and all this is rewarded by the great Rewarder of All.

The woman in great need, pushed through the crowd and, ‘…came up behind Jesus and touched the fringe of His cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.“Who touched Me?” Jesus asked. But they all denied it. “Master, said Peter, “the people are crowding and pressing against You.” But Jesus declared, “Someone touched Me, for I know that power has gone out from Me.”… Luke 8:45-46 (part), the Book.

We’re in a place of peace, power and potential, a place between the physical realm and the ouranic realm; and each of us in that place are intercessors. We’re standing in the ‘gap’ between the physical realm and the Other.

I lower my hands now. And wait for a minute or two.

Now, I like to hold my hands, gently, in front of me, as though I’m holding something. In my imagination I am holding something – a power-blessing. I like to mould it, and shape, and imagine it to be the size of a football.

Hopefully, you’ve already decided who you’re going to prayer for. It could be for a specific person in need, an event that has happened that has caused a major upset, or it could be a prayer for a future event, the locality, a sad event somewhere else on the planet, it could be an ecological need. Whatever the need is, the caim is a good spiritual ‘tool’ to use.

Whatever the need is, I imagine it outside this safe ‘bubble’.

And then, I like too ‘push’ that power-blessing in the direction I’ve imagined that that person or event to be. You don’t have to be locationally accurate – it’s the intention that’s important.

And, just to redouble my effort, I imagine that I have to use my body to sway back and forth, gently, for a minute, as if you really ‘push’ that power-ball of prayer-blessing to the recipient or location. I don’t do an exaggerated ‘push’ as though I’m meeting resistance – there is no resistance, here – but I like to be intentional about that ‘push’.

You might even want to vocalise who, or for what, the power-blessing was for, and the desired outcome. ‘Help [name],’ or ‘Heal [name] etc.

And, off it goes….and arrives immediately. You might imagine the desired effect already taking place, even though it may take some time in the physical realm to come about. This is faith.

And so, I lower my hands. And relax. The power-blessing has gone out. I give gratitude in my heart to the Parent of Lights, for enabling me to be a conduit.

But, there’s more.

As I stand, and continue to face the direction that that power-blessing was sent. I wait for a minute or so. With my arms out, at shoulder height, I wait. I breathe deeply several times in anticipation, believing that what was sent out, comes back – although it may work its way out in my life in a different way to that original power-blessing, I do believe it comes back as a ‘gift’ so that we also benefit.

I do believe a blessing comes back to the sender, in one form or another, immediately or some time in the future. And, that’s one good reason to send out something positive, rather than something negative.

I inhale to, metaphorically, accept the return blessing.

Just a little more!

Time for more gratitude to the Power who supplies all that we need. Here you can add vocal prayers, vocal praise, vocal gratitude. I, then, lower my arms.

It’s about time for us to return and leave the imaginal realm, that liminal place.

Stage Three: The Return

This is really a reversal of stage one, and is something that need not be rushed. Take a minute or two to still your mind. Just bask in the closeness of your encounter…even if you can’t feel anything. The Friend is close.

As you stand there, allow your breathing to return to normal, slowly open your eyes, perhaps not focussing on anything in particular, but just ease yourself back to that former state.

With my eyes open, I point to that circle, I used stones, but you can point to where the invisible circle, the one you inscribed earlier, is.

Slowly I turn my body through 360 degrees. I like to face east, and so face east once I’ve gone full circle. But, I move in the opposite direction this time – anti-clockwise (or widdershins, as it is known) – to close the caim.

And then I wait for another minute, and leave the circle.

If the outline I’ve used seems overly complex, don’t be deterred. It’s the way I choose to use the caim, and it comes naturally, having done it many times. Use it as a framework, but not as a rigid formula. You will develop your own ‘habits’, and then you’ll find, over time, most of them, as you perform the caim, will change, but that’s okay. You cannot make a mistake. It’s all about intentionality.

The caim is a spiritual ‘tool’ for you to use – one amongst many – and not a magical formula that won’t work unless you get it absolutely right. Adapt it, and use it to best serve you needs, and that of others.

That’s it. Well almost.

A Gesture To ‘Ground’ The Power-Blessing, And More

Having sent out an power-blessing, there is always some work to be done, to work towards making the prayer come about, in the physical realm. I do believe the One Who Answers Prayer does indeed answers prayer, but I also know that people like you and me, are used to bring it about, and that is an amazing privilege.

It doesn’t mean that you have to do everything to bring about that specific power-blessing, but just be open to work towards it.

We need to do something in the physical realm, after using the caim. Even a small gesture is good.

For instance, if you’ve prayed for someone to get though their exams, the action now needed might be that you give them some verbal encouragement, rather than, say, spending days teaching them. If someone is not well, maybe a get well card could be sent to them. If you’ve prayed for assistance to rectify an environmental calamity in another part of the world, you don’t have to sell everything and visit that place, but it could be that you might consider sending a small amount of money to a relief agency, as a gesture.

You don’t have to do it all by yourself – a small gesture to ‘ground’ that prayer-blessing, and ‘cement’ that intentionality, maybe, is all that is needed.

And, all action should be legal, decent, honest, borne out of love, and with a healthy ‘dollop’ of common-sense added for good measure.

I also usually journal

I like to record what I’ve used the caim for, and what I’ve done, practically, ‘to ground’ that prayer. It’s always good to look back, and see what a difference you have made, or may have made, and add the outcome to the journal. If you see no tangible outcome, then write that at a latter date, but I do believe you can, and have, made a difference, even if you can’t see it.

If you want more information or have a question, or have tried the caim (perhaps for the first time and want to share your experience), please do contact me. I also lead workshops about the caim and other liminal events (in physically locations, as well as online via skype, individually and in groups).  Email: tadhg@tadhg.cymru

Regards

Tadhg

 

Appendix: For introductory set prayers (if needed):

If you’re praying for a need that you have, you might like to pray, as a start:

Circle me, Lord. Keep protection near and danger afar.
Circle me, Lord. Keep light near and darkness afar.
Circle me, Lord. Keep peace within; keep evil out.

If you’re praying for someone else, you might like to pray:

Circle (name of the person in need), Lord. Keep (name the good you want revealed) near and (name the negativity you want removed) afar.
Circle (name of the person in need), Lord. Keep comfort near and discouragement afar. Keep peace within and turmoil out.
Circle (name of the person in need), Lord. Keep hope within and despair without.

Confessio #6

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One of my confessions is that…I find prayer, which is so useful and beneficial, so boring, or at least I used to. Infact, had I come across a piece on prayer like this, a few years ago, I would have stopped reading by now.

I disliked prayer intensely, then. Not, the actually ‘communing’ bit, but the actual doing it in a group, church context. I would rather have had root canal treatment than take part in group prayer…

…until, I re-defined, or properly understood, what it is!

So, what is prayer?

Years ago, I think I probably had the view that prayer was a way to coax God to do what I wanted, regardless.

My earliest recollections of ‘corporate’ Christian prayer, years ago, whether it was before the evening church service or for some special event, was of meeting with a motley group of much older people, in a little, darkened room, the vestry, which was badly in need of decoration, smelled of dust, and was cold, damp and uninviting. And, the language? I don’t mean swear words, but all those ‘thees’ and ‘thous’, as if God spoke like middle-class England did some three hundred  years ago?

Dost thou understandeth me? You catch my drift?

If that room and prayer was a food it would be cold semolina pudding. It didn’t encourage me as an older teen to pray.

The collection of prayers, as one person prayed and then the next in the circle prayed – always ‘intimidating’ and artificial as I might not want to pray next in the queue – seemed to be fear-based, a ‘warding off’ of something, rather than something more positive, say, of inviting God ‘in’. Although my theological understanding now is that even that is unnecessary as God is already here, there and everywhere, and it is the Deity who invites us, anyway!

But, thankfully, knowledge gave way to wisdom.

Now, a few years older than a teen – cough, cough – okay, may years older, my understanding of prayer has changed, so that I regard it as a conversation with the deity, and two-way, at that! That last claim still raises a few eyebrows from my local evangelical Christian friends, some of whom look at me with that ‘humour-the-poor-fellow-as-his-mind-is-obviously-addled’ look. Inwardly, I look at them and think, you don’t know what you’re missing, and that, too, forms part of my prayer for them.

But, I’m ‘so old’ now I really don’t care what they think of me. I’m having a great time with my redefined view of prayer. Don’t stop me know, Queen (the band) said in another context.

Right now, I’d like to suggest three forms of prayer.

I know there are more than three, and it depends what you’re really looking at, as there are different ways to slice a cake, but, here’s three forms or stages of prayer to think about, that I’d like to offer.

The first is vocal prayer. This might be the staple diet of many, and/or it might be seen as the first stage in prayer, and one that is commended. It’s certainly the only stage of prayer that was used in that dust-laden vestry. It’s where we might say aloud our prayers, and it includes prayers that we ‘say’ silently as thought-prayers, inwardly, and might consist of list of needs for us or others, or things to give gratitude for.

It’s a two-way conversation.

It could include adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. It could also use spontaneous words or formulaic, written prayers of old. I’ve also discovered contemporary language is acceptable to the Deity!

The second is imaginal prayer, along the lines of that attributed to St  Ignatius. Here, the imagination can ‘dance’. I sometimes like to read a holy text, and then imagine that account and myself ‘in’ it. What would I have heard? What would I have seen? What would I have felt? What would I have done? What would it have been like to listen to, say, Jesus, deliver a parable? Imagine!

Maybe to counter that old view of prayer I had years ago, and to ‘combat’ the sedentary nature in many places, I also – and this happens only when I’m alone, I assure you – like to move about!

Yes, in this second level of prayer, actions are possible. I discovered that if the prophets of old in the Book can use ‘enacted parables’, and Jesus used ritual, then I (and that includes you) can use movement in prayer, though you might like to call it ‘dance’ or ‘exaggerated ritual’. Infact, you might want to keep it a secret like me – though it’s a secret no longer.

It’s dancing with the Deity. You can even ‘lead’, such is the Deity’s grace and humility, and desire to ‘connect’ with you.

Yes, with my eyes closed, I imagine that when standing, and with my hands raised in ‘surrender’ in prayer. Orans is what the ancient Believer would call this; it’s very similar to the   I am being allowed to ‘harvest’ some heavenly power.

It’s a moving out of normal ‘time-space’, into the liminal, where things happen!

When I then place my hands on my heart, that power is ‘linked’ to the person, metaphorically, on my heart at that time. When I mould my hands around an invisible ball in front of me, I like to imagine that that prayer-power is almost ready to ‘go’. And then, adopting a zen-like pose of putting my weight more on one (slightly bended) leg, I use both hands, open-palmed, to ‘propel’ that prayer-power in the direction of the person prayed for. I would also say a brief verbal prayer for them.

Sometimes prayer can be too brief, too easy, too shallow. This helps me, and it might help you. Ofcourse, you can vary and/or adapt the ‘dance’.

Afterwards, I take my time to ‘return’ to normal time-space, and I let my hands ‘hang loose’.

I know some may find this totally unnecessary and time-consuming, or even bizarre, but I find it beneficial, and much better than sitting and just saying ‘Bless Fred, he’s not at all well!’.

The third way is that of the prayer of silence or the prayer of Presence. It’s a going deep, and deeper still. I imagine at first, maybe being in a forest and I’m walking along a path to encounter the Deity. In this type of prayer, I quickly, purposely, lose the idea of ‘picture-thought’, and just rest. Thoughts come and go all the time – but they’re metaphorically like ships on the horizon and I pay them no attention to them. Grab onto a thought and you ‘jump out’ of that ‘no-thought’ space.

This prayer is the way of just sitting, relaxing, resting, being. Revealing in the Deity’s Presence.

It is being in the Presence of the deity. Bask in it. No effort is needed. The interesting thing is, that the moment you ask yourself, ’Have I encountered yet?’, then you haven’t, because that’s a thought, and you’ve moved out of just resting, just being, just being in the Presence. Similarly, if you work at it, you’ve missed the point. Understanding that you’ve been in the Deity’s Presence is in hindsight, and never during the event. It’s known only after the event, when one thinks back! And it’s awesome! It’s apophatic meditation (or contemplation, however you use those words) or centering prayer.

Some find this third idea of prayer odd, unnatural, and some of my evangelical friends say it is ‘rather un-christian’, little realising that it was the ‘staple diet’ of many Believers for over a thousand years before the Reformation – but, sadly they trace their knowledge and understanding of such things only as far back to their particular denominations start-date, some three hundred years ago or less.

Oh, they don’t know what they’re missing.

No, this third level of prayer, basking in the Deity’s Presence is very similar to that of human lovers. Initially, in most young relationships there is the ‘whispering sweet nothings’ stage when just the voice of your lover is exciting; then there is the working together and planning together stage, dare I say imagining together; and as the relationship grows and matures there is ‘silent-togetherness’ stage. Then, just being in each other’s presence is more than enough. No words, no actions, no thoughts are necessary! Just being together is everything! This is the third level of prayer, that I would recommended – that of encountering God as the all-embracing, Loving Presence, available to all!

So, there you have it. I hope, in my praying, things are more dynamic, lively, interesting and relevant.  I certainly feel as though I’ve taken the J-Cloth and Fairy Liquid to my previous notion of dusty, old, irrelevant and archaic prayer, and swept away the prayer cobwebs of shallowness. Hmm, I feel better already!

Be An Undercover Agent For The Day

pixabay wall-e-933315_640 copyHave you ever had one of those days when nothing seemed to turn out right?

One of those days when people annoy you – could the bus driver care any less as I got on the bus, or did that car driver really have to cut in like that and at great speed? Blame!

Or what about when  events conspire against you – did those birds really have to ‘bless’ my car with the contents of what they ate? I blame the birds or the council department that planted so many trees in an urban environment. Blame!

Or, what about when you turn on the tv news program – was that right, that someone, a sportsperson and so much fitter than me, and two-thirds my age had just passed on? I blame competitive sports councils or God? Blame!

The problem with blaming others is that it is a very real, and very potent form of attack, and it doesn’t solve anything. Infact, it probably makes matters worse.

And, on top of that, at the end of the day, you relax and reflect, and then you have a sneaking suspicion that it just seemed a bad day because of your perception. There’s a nagging feeling of…something amiss!.

Somewhere, deep inside you, there’s a voice that so wants to recite all the good things that happened – you can just feel it – but you oppose it. And, why not, you say to yourself, after all, you’ve invested so much time and effort  in one point of view, the negative, that you’re just not going to change your mind.  It was an awful day, you say to yourself.

It was an awful day, or was it? Someone else should be blamed, or not? Was it just that we were looking for the negative things, and didn’t even notice the good. And, if we’re honest, it’s more than likely that lots of good things did happen, but we were just suffering from the twenty-first psychological ‘ailment’ that we’re all subjected to, of ‘mean world syndrome’.

Could it be that what we saw, all those negative things, was a reflection of how we felt deep  down inside, or maybe it’s an unwelcome habit or tendency we’re prone to? Why, then might start to blame ourselves? Blame!

The problem with self-blame is that it is self-attack, it enhances that negative cycle as we misperceive the world around us, and it doesn’t solve anything. Once in the cycle of negativity and blame, it’s difficult to break out of it – but not impossible.

What if there was another way to react?

Here’s one spiritual exercise you can try – and that I sometimes use in group workshops, usually at the end of the session, so it’s like homework, but good homework. It’s about stopping the blame game, forgiving and blessing because we ‘see’ the bigger picture (but sometimes forget).

I think you’ll enjoy the exercise – it’s a bit of fun, too.  And hopefully you’ll benefit from it, so I do heartily recommend that you try it.

So, sit back, relax, enjoy, read and imagine…

— o0o —

Here’s one exercise, from many. This one is about you forgiving other people and forgiving yourself in the process, and blessing others. You can it try right now. Imagine:

You come from a far off country, and the Ruler of that country is called The Celestial Toymaker. And he or she has sent you on a mission, here. Yes, you’re an undercover agent. A good one.

Everyone here, everyone you will meet today is a toy robot, made by the Celestial Toymaker, and that includes you. And, all those robot toys you meet today will provide you with endless hours of amusement – that’s what toys do – unless they’ve forgotten that they are toys in which case their programming may go awry. Then, you may find they don’t provide you with any entertainment at all, and some of them, on occasions, may irritate you.

You might find it easy to react badly back to them, but you know two things. Firstly, they’re only acting that way because they’ve forgotten they are toy robots and so misbehave. And secondly, you know that you’re a toy robot and so know that you don’t have to ‘misbehave’ back to them because you know you’re a toy robot – though you also know you sometimes forget (and that affects fellow toy robots that you then come into contact with).

The Celestial Toymaker has asked you to contact him (or her) with a progress report as you encounter all those toy robots, today.

There is only one thing to do, well two things really, and these form your mission, today. Here is your mission, should you choose to accept it.

  • Firstly, if you come across a misbehaving toy robot, one that annoys or upsets you – remembering that this behaviour is only because they’ve forgotten who they really are, and have forgotten the Celestial Toymaker – you are to report to the Celestial Toymaker using certain code words. And these are, ‘I forgive you’. This can be done as a thought-communication, rather than out loud, so no one (apart from the Celestial Toymaker) will know. He (or she) will then know you are forgiving a wayward toy robot, and will work on that misbehaving toy robot in the most gracious of ways.
  • Secondly, if you come across a toy robot that pleases you in any way, then the coded report to the Celestial Toymaker that will alert him (or her) to the fact that you’ve encountered a well-behaved toy robot is, ‘Bless you’. The Celestial Toymaker will know that you have found a well-behaved toy robot, and will bless them, too.

Ofcourse, once you’ve sent that coded message you can interact with those toy robots in any appropriate way – working well with the behaved ones, and extending forgiveness and understanding to the wayward ones. After all, the Celestial Toymaker is ultimately in control.

And, you’ll also notice that the Celestial Toymaker will bless you, because of your faithfulness, and because he (or she) loves all his toy robots. Every single one of them. Even the ones that go wrong. Bless them!

So, fellow agent, fellow toy robot, do you accept your mission? I hope so. Try it for twenty-four hours. Imagine, a whole day of ‘forgiving’ and/or ‘blessing’ fellow toy robots.