You Are Dust, Stardust: Reflections On A Wednesday

STARDUST REFLECTIONS ON A WEDNESDAY

If you’re in the United Kingdom and hold to those old traditions and customs then you will know that yesterday was Ash Wednesday. The day before, Tuesday, commonly known as Pancake Day, was when, so it is said, in years gone by,  it was the day to use up the flour as Lent, a time of fasting, was about to begin. And what better way to use up that flour than by making pancakes, coupled with sugar, syrup and/or fruit, and lemon juice. As a wee lad I can remember trying to flip the pancake over as it cooked in the frying pan and usually (but not always) getting it right. Great fun and a good tradition that many, even today, experience.

But, yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the day when, apparently, we are to remember the fact that we’re dust, animated dust, earth, or (poetically) clay! It’s a time of reflection, to consider our humility and frailty. And, what follows is a reflection on that!

We are (earthly) dust!

The ancients, living in a pre-industrialised, pre-scientific, pre-computerised age would have been more easily be able to reflect on this. It was there evident in their daily life: the cycle of birth, growth, death, re-birth etc. The changing of the seasons, growth from the soil, abundance and then decay as plant matter rotted and became fodder for the next year’s growth. All this would have been known to them, and death and dust would have been very familiar to them. As would their humility to the forces of nature, and their frailty.

‘…Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.’
(Genesis 3.19b, The Book)

It might seem morbid to dwell on this, but we live in an age of scientific marvels and do things in such a way that the experience of witnessing the demise of those around us is minimised, that we can become forgetful that we are dust! We are frail creatures! And, we only have a limited time here! Even if we don’t uphold the Ash Wednesday tradition, I do believe there is some mileage in thinking upon it, and what it means to us.

But, you know me – there’s more – and life here is followed by a returning to something else that continues onward, which some call the Summerland, heaven, elysium, arcadia, valhalla, nirvana or Jannah.

But, it’s good to remember that we are dust and will return to dust one day, for then it will encourage us to use the time we have here even better than we might hitherto have done. In this form, we only have now! And, Ash Wednesday is a great time to reflect upon that.

‘In reality, we are all travellers – even explorers of mortality’, (Thomas S Monson)

However if you didn’t get around to reflecting upon that fact today, and maybe wanted to have some form of quiet meditation, or liturgy, or poem reading to add to the event, you can always do that tomorrow. It’s intentionality rather than the exact timing that is important.

But, there’s more.

But, there’s always a flip side to these ideas, and always a balancing thought. We are dust, and will one day return to dust, and so we’re encouraged to make good use of the time. But. It’s not all negative. Apart from the Summerland, heaven, elysium etc, we can view our ‘dustly’ composition in another way.

We are stardust!

Yes, many of you will know that I’m an amateur astronomer. Nothing pleases me more than gazing up at the moon and its phases, the progression of planets across the night sky, and the constellations that rise, like Orion denoting the winter months are here, and fall in the sky as the seasons change. They are are great way to mark the seasons, and something the ancients, our spiritual ancestors, would have been doing for several millennia, quite naturally. Unlike them, I’m be blessed with such ‘tools’ as a Meade LX200 12 inch telescope (computer controlled), a planisphere, and a star atlas. But, the awe of gazing up and looking back into the distant past is always, always thrilling, as it must have been to them.

We are connected!

In looking up, we look at the Universe and a myriad of points of lights which are stars and galaxies. But, in doing so, we often make the mistake as though there’s some invisible barrier between us and the Universe. Yes, we live on the Earth and have a biosphere that makes life possible, but anyone looking this way, say from Alpha Centauri, would see our sun as just another point of light in their night sky, and not differentiate it from the Universe.

‘We are stardust,
we are golden,
and we’ve got to get ourselves
back to the garden’

(Joni Mitchell, Woodstock)

In many senses, there is no barrier, no separation, and the idea that the Universe is ‘out there’ and we are ‘down here’ is an illusion – and probably one that our ego quite likes as it makes us feel different, and therefore special.

But, the greater revelation, I believe, is to consider that we’re so special that we’re no different, in essence, to the Universe and have a special part to play in it. We are stardust, we are in the Universe and the Universe is in us, and we are the conscious part of the Universe looking back to itself. We are the stuff of stars! Star dust.

‘We are stardust, in the highest exalted way,
Called by the universe, reaching out, to the universe,
We are stardust, in the highest exalted way,
Reaching out, to the universe, with these methods and tools of science,

We are part of this universe,
We are in this universe,
The universe is in us,
Yes, the universe is in us’.

(We Are Stardust, Symphony of Science. Hear the song/see the video here.)

There are different ways of thinking about our connectedness to the Universe. The ancients celebrated the season and they believed what happened ‘up there’ affects ‘down here’. I don’t think they were far off the mark. NASA regularly montiors the sun for sunspots and coronal mass ejections of plasma, for instance, and issues warnings about ‘space weather’ which can affect national and corporate satellites, GPS, and even national electric grids. Others, may have ritualized that connection as in the first few chapters of Genesis, and still others by telling the story of Indra’s web (see here).

And, so today, as you read this do remember you are dust: connected, cosmic star dust!

 

The Heroes Journey For You & I: Return To Innocence

THE HEROES JOURNEY RETURN TO INNOCENCE

Many will know that I love to return to the wilderness, and especially to the wilds of north Wales periodically.

What is it that calls out to me?

One can only be in awe of the grandeur of the Welsh landscape, the rugged environment, the grey-green of the slate-grass, the heaven-ascending mountains, fresh valley streams, and wet, ragged sheep ambling this way and that, near Capel Curig. The call of the ancients still echoes on the mountains and in the valleys, here, and I must respond.

We are all on a journey , a heroes journey, and sometimes to advance on that twisting, unpredictable adventure of life we need to retrace our steps. We need to revisit those places of the past, and perhaps see them anew for the first time. Like a pole vaulter preparing for the high jump, he or she needs to pace backwards before starting the fast run to propel them over the bar.

‘The mountains are calling and I must go.’ John Muir

I’m back. I’m back at Drws i fyd arall (pronounced ‘droo zi fid arrah’), two trees in a forest clearing named by my friends and I when we were wee lads and lasses, and we imagined the two arched-together silver birch trees was a doorway to another place. And, those Welsh words aptly mean ‘door to another world’.

Such is the imagination of children.

Back in this place it seems to me that there is a circularity to each of our lives. As I look at those two leaning-together trees, forming an arched ‘door’, there is a remembrance that is unchanging, and yet something has changed.  We can return to the beginning and learn, partly because our  circumstances may have changed, partly because the world has changed, and partly because we have changed. Same places, new discoveries awaiting.  As I look at those two trees, they seem much, much smaller. It’s me. I’ve grown physically bigger.

‘The stuff of our lives doesn’t change. It’s we who change in relation to it.’ Molly Vass

Physically bigger and stronger than I was when I first encountered these trees as a child, there is deep down an ‘electric’ energy that seems to speak inwardly, now. Inaudibly I hear the words,  ‘Wait, for there is now more for you to know’. Doesn’t that apply to all of us? I  believe so. There is more, and if we pause in our busy schedules knowledge and wisdom will be revealed. Even in the mundane, places that we visit infrequently, places that we visit on a daily basis, in rural areas and in cities, the Voice speaks constantly, and if we still ourselves we will hear the Bat Kohl (the Daughter’s voice), the voice of the Source of All.

If, as a young lad, I believed that these two trees was a door to another realm, at least in my imagination, I don’t think I was far wrong. Now I have a greater understanding and more words to describe it. Now, I can comprehend deeper things, and yet know we all stand on the horizon of expectation and greater wisdom,  and are moving forward.

There are ‘doors’ set before each one of us – doors of opportunity that we might walk through easily, say, at work; doors of relationship and commitment that might take some work; doors of adventure, always. And, other ‘doors’ that present themselves in a myriad of forms, and at odd, awkward or unexpected times that are of a different. Drws i fyd arall is such a door. They are ‘doors’ which enter our daily life and take our breath away or speak deeply to us of that which is Beyond. Each encounter, each liminal or threshold experience is different, but you will recognise it as something deep and spiritual when it happens. The Causer of Deep Things will ensure you notice the encounter.

‘What you seek is seeking you.’ Rumi

It might require some effort to put ourselves in the way of such adventures,  if we feel the need. But, if the Source of All wants an encounter, then it will happen. The event’s production and occurrence isn’t up to us, thankfully. However, I do believe it is important to draw to one side, and that may mean pausing, or meditation in a forest or our even in living room, to pray in a group or singly, to recite some liturgy or perform a ritual so that we are attentive and accepting of them when they occur. Such activities are not for the benefit of the Source of All, nor to appease the Source (and why ever would we feel the need to do that?). No, pausing, meditation, prayer, liturgy and ritual are for our benefit.

Those two trees, Drws I fyd arall are in front of me, and as I sit on a felled log, I half-close my eyes and listen, inwardly. The forest sounds seem to ‘retract’ into the distance, and even though I can still feel the damp air on my skin it means less to me that it did. And, I wait. And listen. And wait.

’Every particle of creation sings its own song of what is and what is not. Hearing what is can make you wise; hearing what is not can drive you mad.’ Ghalib

I can feel damp, dead leaves under my feet. The life of trees is circular. Leaves grow to catch sunlight for photosynthesis, and are discarded when the sun is low in the sky and the temperature  drops. Leaves then become an incumbrance to the tree. But, in shedding them, much needed nutrients are released by them into the soil as they rot, and are collected by the tree’s roots, and the tree benefits in other ways. And, the following spring, trees adorn themselves with leaves once more. The perfect economy of nature.

Behind me, I can hear the soporific sound of a babbling brook. I’d stepped across it an hour ago – and at this point in the forest it is less than one foot deep and not more than three feet wide.  It’s quite fast for it’s size, and it meanders through the forest without a care in the world – except to be a babbling brook, to flow, and to do what a babbling brook does. And, it moves exquisitely along its course.

’How can you follow the course of your life if you do not let it flow?’ Lao Tzu

And, as I relaxed and bask in the forest around me, high above I could hear birdsong. Sitting in the trees, I could pick  our several birds by their unique birdsong. It was beautiful.

Resting high above me, they sang songs of joy. ‘Our hearts are just small birds waiting’, wrote mark Nepo.

An hour later, I was back home. But, I just had to sit quietly and ‘unpack’ the encounter. Some encounters can take your breath away, metaphorically or physically knock you off your feet. Others are more subdued in effect, but nonetheless real. Do not let ego, or other people’s ego inform you that the subdued kind of encounter is of a lesser quality than theirs or of any other kind. An encounter, is an encounter, is an encounter.

What was the commonality between those three experiences of damp leaves, a babbling brook, and birds and birdsong? It may vary from person to person, and it may be that you have your own ideas. And, ofcourse, it could be that you are experiencing an encounter now in reading this, in which case do meditate deeply on the ‘message’ from Beyond, for you! Who is to say that in reading this you are not encountering?

For me, the ‘message’ was that trees do what trees do and there is a (circular) purpose to it; brooks do what brooks do and enjoy their meandering course through the forest, almost oblivious to everything else; and the birds in those ancient trees burst into joyful birdsong and are scattered, they fly away, when something ‘big’ takes place – a noise, a nearby predator etc. They wait until an opportune time.

Everything flows.

Everything has its place. Everything, including you and I have our place in the great cosmic dance of life, which is unending – it changes in many ways (just as we grow in stature etc), it is transformed, it moves (in unexpected ways), and it flows, and it is unending.

And now for the application. It is necessary to earth such experiences. A good, in-depth and internal experience, however meaningful, will stay there unless it is earthed, grounded, and worked out in our daily life.

How do I apply that encounter and the ‘message’ to my daily life? Major decisions lay ahead for me. It might sound too easy to say I will emulate the tree and shed what is unnecessary – but isn’t that the lesson here for me?. I believe so. We do need a periodic ‘spring clean’ to offload what is holding us back. What was good and beneficial then, might be a ‘boulder on our back’ slowing us down, now. Decisions need to be made – tough choices. And, doubts will creep in. That’s part of what it means to be human. We have the ability to reflect and be objective. And the greater the decision, perhaps, the greater the doubts. And, the greater the reward. Do not lose heart.

But, don’t be perturbed as if you are being singled out – and it probably will feel like it – but it’s common to all humanity especially when we face major challenges ahead. But,  I need to offload some things and travel lighter. The brook meanders this way and that way effortlessly. Perhaps, there are times when no resistance is needed. The concept of wu wei wu (Chinese words, pronounced ‘woo way woo’) is ‘action-no-action’, a free -flowing spontaneity, that is, that sometimes the best way forward is acceptance.

…The Spirit is like the wind that blows wherever it wants to. You can hear the wind, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going’. John 3.8b, The Book.

 I need to accept more of what is coming (but that’s not to say we cannot and shouldn’t make course corrections along the way – that too is part of our humanity). And, those chirping birds that rest in high and ancient trees, and then fly. I need, having rested, to trust in flight (more), and be borne on the high winds, to have faith, to travel to diverse encounters, adventures and happenings.

Don’t be afraid to be weak.
Don’t be too proud to be strong.
Just look into your heart my friend.
That will be the return to yourself.
The return to innocence.

(Song by Enigma)

And now, to action! ‘Allons-y’, as the French say. ‘Let’s go!’.

Energy Is Precious: An A-Z Of Energy: Introduction

ENERGY IS PRECIOUS 2

As children, then, and as adults now the imaginal is important to each one of us. When asleep our imagination, our imaginal dream state runs rampant, forming pictures to inform us about our psyche (our inner self or soul) or of other matters prompted by our psyche.

But, even when awake that part of the mind is still active, sometimes showing itself in those daydreams we might have, in our power-naps, too, or in our daily life as it ‘runs in the background’ of our mind. Our imaginal faculties can be a great asset. Imagination is a facet of the mind along with reason, emotions, and the will, and by using our imagination we can understand, explore and even make commitments of intentionality.

’Imagination is more important than knowledge.’ Albert Einstein.

What follows is an A to Z on the theme of energy, and though not in order, it will, I hope, encourage you to go deeper into this fascinating and rewarding subject.

I am moving through a much-beloved forest near Capel Curig, the sun is setting, and the temperature is dropping. Weather forecasters might say a cold front is closing in. A dendrologist, concerned with trees would describe the situation entirely differently – not wrong, but they would use different words and ideas to convey what they were interested in. A person interested in fungus would have other appropriate words and ideas, and wouldn’t be looking skyward, but closer to the earth! A theologian would have his/her own set of words and perspective. I’m not a meteorologist, nor a dendrologist, nor a mycologist, and so I write as me, Tadhg, and share with you one man’s perception, this time on energy.

I am moving through a much-beloved forest near Capel Curig, the sun is setting, and the temperature is dropping. But, for all purposes I could be in inner London or elsewhere – I could be where you are.

‘Live out of your imagination, not your history.’ Stephen R Covey

In rural or urban areas my perception, words and ideas are different as I’m concerned with energy! I use knowledge, yes, but in this place, at this time I will endeavour to allow my ‘gut instinct’, my intuition, my imaginal senses, my imagination to take me further in my exploration of this forest, and deeper into this adventure.

As children, I and my friends loved sci-fi programs on our old black and white televisions. And so, playfully, then, we called those two arched trees, ‘Drws i fyd arall’ (pronounced ‘droo zi fid arrah’). It means ‘door to another world’. How about that for an imagination, for a glimpse into the imaginal realm? And we would run back and forth through the arch, laughing, and giggling and let our imaginations run riot. [For more information about that, do click here]. Although it is the imaginal realm, that continual domain of the imagination, please don’t dismiss it as just imagination as many adults would, and regard it as unreal. It is real.

As I move between trees, now, turning this way and that, the temperature seems to change as I encounter energy eddies. If you’ve ever filled a bath with hot water and then cold (or vice versa) you will know that you have to ‘swish’ the water around to mix it. And, the really clever ones amongst you will have plunged their hands into the part of the bath where the cold water is, and ‘swish’ from there. Bath users of yesteryear will tell you that hot and cold water doesn’t see to mix by itself, not without some physical agitation. Energy eddies are like energy ‘hot’ spots in a bath, that seem to linger.

‘If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency, and vibration.’ Nikola Tesla

Ofcourse these energy eddies could be negative energy or positive energy. By momentarily loitering I might be able to detect a faint echo of dread or joy that seems so faint that some effort is required to be objective enough to detect it. How many times have you felt energised when someone has walked into a room? How many times has a feeling of unease come upon you when you’ve been in the presence of others? Or, perhaps, when someone has said something, their words may have been eloquent but deep inside of you ‘alarm bells’ ring? This is energy awareness or energy attunement.  Words have power, and negative energy has been detected.

However, in this forest at twilight I want to press on, and I don’t want to stop, and so walk on deeper into the forest.

In many cases small energy eddies will dissipate in time, whether they are negative or positive energy. Like a piece of hot coal falling from the hearth which loses heat quickly when separated from other hot coals, so small amounts of energy in energy eddies will dissipate and become undetectable. Energy isn’t lost, though, it is just spread over a wider area or changed. Energy can be transformed.

Larger energy eddies may last some time before dissipation. Some, are so large they seem to be self-perpetuating – just as many hot coals in a hearth may last longer together – so larger energy eddies may last months, or years or much longer. The greater these energy eddies the easier to detect.

‘The world is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.’ W B Yeats

Could it be that the elementals that the ancients spoke of, the dryads (tree spirits), the Cailleach (see here for an article on the Cailleach); gnomes, or undines, or sylphs and salamanders (the last four relating to the elements of earth, water, air and fire), are localised energy patterns that communicate with us using our imaginal faculties, and have a character, a personality, having taken on an energy form?

Some of these energy forms may be cosmic forms, and even today many have encounters angels or similar eg the Watchers, just as the ancients did. (See here for my encounter with the Green Angel).

Some of these maybe be localised forms, that is localised in a particular place, such as in a forest or part of it, and then they may be known as genii loci. A boggart, for instance, (see here for a bestiary article), in English folklore would fit this description as it was said to inhabit fields, marches, and some households. If you have one of these in your house you probably don’t need to worry – they are more mischievous than harmful.

And so, now in the middle of the forest, I pause. Feeling physically tired, having spent a fair amount of  personal physical energy in trudging through the soft earth to get to this point, I sit on a fallen log to recuperate. But, what other about forms of personal energy?

As I sit on a fallen log and gaze at the two bowed silver birch trees that featured in my childhood games with friends – the twin trees we called drws I fyd arall (see here about a recent encounter there) the place almost buzzes with energy, and I meditate deeply, day dream. Meditation, (night) dreams an day dreams are part of the imaginal ‘tool kit’ that takes us deep.

‘You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just weather.’ Pema Chodron

We know about physical energy depletion, and the need for rest and sleep, for nutritious food and exercise, but what of psychical energy – the energy of our inner being? As I sit on this log it seems that they are several different types. A few thoughts amble in and our of my mind. There is the energy we have that gives us life. This is given when we’re born and taken, or changed, when we leave this form on earth. Some believe that we each have a determined number of breaths and then we expire here. Others, notably the ancient Romans believed that Atropos, one of the three Fates, but the cloth of life to determine our death here. That fate was Clotho, and so a working name for that energy, which we have no control over, as it resides with the Source of All could be called clothic energy?

Another form of psychical energy could be the inner influx of energy we sometimes feel, or an inner depletion depending on where we have been or who we have encountered. Some negative energy or negative-energied-people can cause energy depletion. But, of what kind of energy? Not clothic energy as that is given by That Which Is Larger Than Us, and over which we (nor anyone else) has control. Perhaps, (and it’s a working name) there is an operating energy at work in us which can increase or decrease, as we are empowered or exhausted? It is this energy we use when we work psychically, that is when working in any way other than physical work. In that sense there nothing ‘spooky’ about the word psyche, psychic or psychically.

How is that operating energy depleted? Perhaps it needs ‘topping up’ occasionally even when at rest, perhaps it is depleted when we encounter others, and especially interact or advise or minister to them? When we take time to drew alongside someone who is upset or in distressing circumstances, or when we move through a local of negative energy, all these can ‘energy deplete‘ us.

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

As I continue to sit on the log, my mind turns to how we renew that energy, just to complete the cycle of thoughts running through mind. Each person has their own way, but rest and forest-walking might assist. Prayer and ritual may work, too! Deep thinking, meditation, day-dreaming, and deliberately meditating in such a way as to use liminality to encounter and/or draw operating energy are some vital ways. Liminality is a useful ‘tool’ and can be used in several ways – it’s the ‘threshold between ‘here’ and ‘there’.

Linked with visualisation one can enter the imaginal realm and picture, for instance, a power station and draw energy that way, or imagine walking under an energetic waterfall to re-energise, or encounter ones guardian angel or power animal etc.

‘You can offer your vibration on purpose. That’s what visualisation is. That’s what imagination is: projecting thought energy on purpose.’ Abraham-Hicks

All these are visual representations of something else – the psyche uses pictures and symbols to communicate and that’s why dreams are so visual and confusing at times, because they are representational – and all are intentional ‘pictures’ that have a beneficial effect of energy renewal.

I remember as I sit on this log of an encounter some fours years ago. Then, having woken up in the early hours of the morning and unable to get back to sleep, I walked to this very spot. And, there the following words came to me. The Voice spoke to me, inwardly:

Slowly, unhurriedly, powerfully, the Voice said:
“As above, so below,
there are things you should know.”

And so, I mention,
with your hands at your side, walk humbly,
take seven half-steps forward, it’s a journey of intention.”

“And now, raise your hands in simple ‘surrender’,
and point both to Heaven, that domain of awesome splendour.”

“Widen your arms, and so scoop, and harvest
pure energy, pure ‘gold’, and be prepared to be feel blessed.”

“Draw in that power, by folding your arms like an ‘x’ on your chest,
and feel its benefits, its warmth; you’re at peace, at one, ‘at home’, at rest.”

“Then stretch forth your arms, and mould with your hands
as if a ball, that ‘globe-like’ power-blessing from the ouranic meadowlands.”

“With one foot leading, and with knees part bent,
sway back and forth, in preparation for that ‘goodness’ to be sent.”

“In your mind, name the loved-one, the recipient, the friend,
and in your heart, see them, imagine them, to that end.”

“‘Push’ with your hands, that power-blessing from you to them,
and sigh the sound of the ages, the ‘so be it’, the ‘amen’.”

“And then, your hands drop to your side,
power has gone out; but there is no lack,
for the power-blessing that went forth, also comes back,
in another way and at another time, and so you, too, are blessed.”

The words still resonate with me today, and are as meaningful as ever. The abovementioned is a ‘tool’ that is both a prayer and liturgy, which you might consider using. In the words above is the idea of a circling ritual, the caim, of energy emanation and a receiving it back – energy reciprocity. And therefore a reminder to send out good words, good deeds and good energy to receive such back. We get back what we send out! And also, a hint that all our energy, and our operating energy which we need to ‘top up’ comes from the Source of All, hence the reference to ouranic (heavely) meadowlands.

Ofcourse, there’s more to be said, and this is still an article of introduction. What about energy and ailments, energy and trauma? What about using other visualisation to tap into that energy to heal? How can visualisation assist us to encounter energy in the form of angels and power animals? And can the latter, by encountering them in that imaginal realm give us a daily word? What about energy residuality, energy attachment, psychic pollution, energetic self-light, ritual and energy, energetic oneness (Indira’s web’, or energy awareness ‘tools’?  Perhaps more articles are needed, and even workshops on energy, liminality, encounters, power animals, angels, guardian spirits, genii loci, and the aforementioned.

‘If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.’ William Blake.

 

Celebrating Spring: Imbolc / Candlmas: Ephemera

imbolc snowdrop-4026893_960_720

It’s nearly that time. Half way between the Winter solstice and the Spring Equinox is the beginning of spring. It’s called Imbolc, or Candlemas by many Churches.

And, so the circle continues to turn, the Earth continues on its (elliptical) orbit around the sun, and yet another wonderful, major festival is almost upon us. It’s time to celebrate in large ways and small, in groups and by yourself.

It’s intentionality that’s important, so I would encourage you to do something this Imbolc, and to enjoy it, to celebrate, to give thanks to That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves, the Friend.

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

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

About Brigid

Brigid, so loved as a pagan Goddess that her worship was woven into the Christian church as St Bridget, and rightly remembered and revered. To some she is a Goddess of healing, poetry, of fire, of the Sun and of the Hearth. To others, a saint. What matters is that she is remembered. It is awesome that such a person can unite us in deep spirituality, if we let that deep spirituality take hold.

Brigid is the keeper of a sacred springs and wells; she is the patroness of sweet water. Water is the nourisher. Water, sustainer of life on earth. And water, together with fire 9a symbol denoting Brigid), are the instruments of the forge. Brigid is the goddess of the forge and smith craft. Heat and fire tempered by water. Perfect balance.

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

Symbols of Brigid

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

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

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

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

If you’re interested in making a St Brigid’s cross, do click here.

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

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

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

Blackberry. Sacred to Brigid, the leaves and berries are used to attract prosperity and healing.
Ginger. Ginger revitalises and stimulates the ‘fire within’

Prayers for Imbolc & Brigid

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

(Tess Ward, Celtic Wheel of the Year 2007)

And

O most noble Greenness, rooted in the sun,
shining forth in streaming splendour upon the wheel of Earth.
No earthly sense or being can comprehend you.
You are encircled by the very arms of Divine mysteries.
You are radiant like the red of dawn!
You glow like the incandescence of the sun!

Hildegard von Bingen
English version by Jerry Dybdal and Matthew Fox

And

For the cycle of life
Which brings death and rebirth
Response: We rejoice in the promise of Spring

For lengthening days
And sunlight’s warmth upon the soil
Response: We rejoice in the promise of Spring

For a snowdrop’s beauty
Reflecting its Creator’s artistry
Response: We rejoice in the promise of Spring

For new born lambs
Their joy and exuberance
Response: We rejoice in the promise of Spring

For all of creation
And the majesty of its Creator
Response: We rejoice in the promise of Spring

Copyright © John Birch, 2016. A link to his page here.

And, so this Imbolc or Candlemas my encouragement is for you to celebrate it and give thanks to the Source of All. If you want ideas about celebration meals to mark the festival please see here.

Meanwhile, the Green blessings of the season be you and those whom you love. Tadhg.

 

 

Blessing Creation: All Creatures Great And Small

20200116 ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL

We live in an interconnected universe, where inanimate touches the animate, immaterial (in spiritual terms) touches matter, and the quality, depth and sacredness of life, to many people, is becoming all the more apparent and precious.

There is a need.

We can learn a lot from each other, and from creation. Those who have (or have had) dogs and cats as companions, will know we can learn a lot from animal-kind, especially.

’But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. In his hand [the Source of All] is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. Job 12:7, 8, 10. The Book

Which of us never climbed a tree when younger and enjoyed it’s ‘company’. Ah, trees!  Yes, we can learn a lot from trees, plants, too. And so, we are all connected to the whole of creation, to enjoy, to journey with and, when necessary, to protect. Yes, we have a responsibility to the environment – the garden in which we have been placed for a time.

Creation-kindness is important.

We can absorb much wisdom from ancient and current ‘tribes’: Celts, Druids, Pagans, ecologically-aware main-stream believers and others. Perhaps one place to start in in our intentionality to step up to the plate, and begin with understanding the needs of the hour and to respond with blessing, liturgy and well-wishes (prayer) etc to and for creation.

‘Blessed are you…Maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired Saint Francis to call all of them his brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless this pet. By the power of your love, enable it to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation. Blessed are you…[Source of All], in all your creatures! Amen.’ The Blessing of Pets at Franciscan Churches. Part/adapted.

Over the next week or so, formulated ceremonies for blessing our companions at the birth or home-bringing, their birthdays, passing-on or for those animals who have passed-on some time ago, remembering them will be penned. There will be rituals and liturgy for them, and for the general environment in which we find ourselves – even in the city there is a need for blessing and well-wishing of flora and fauna for good things. And, then there is the wilder world in need.

Global. Local. Glocal!

But, for now, here are some general blessings and minor liturgy to get us started, that you might use for animal-companions (present or deceased) and for wild flora and fauna present in your local eco-community. As always do adapt the following words to best suit your requirements. The power and efficacy of the words lay in your intentionality and the Source of All who hears and expedites.

For all living beings:

Leader: Whatever living beings there are,
All: Either feeble or strong

Leader: Either long or great…
All: Either seen or which are not seen, and which live far or near,

Leader: Either born or seeking birth,
All: May all creatures be happy minded.

From the Sutta Nipata, 8:145-146. (Buddhist scripture)

And, for dogs (deceased):

With my hand upon his head,
is my benediction said, therefore, and forever.
Blessings on thee, dog of mine,
pretty collars make thee fine,
sugared milk make fat there!
Pleasures wag on in thy tail –
Hands of gentle motion fail
nevermore, to pat thee

Yet be blessed to the height
of all good and all delight
pervious to thy nature.
Only loved beyond that line,
with a love that answer thine,
loving fellow-creature

Elizabeth Barret Browning, from ‘To Flush, My Dog (Deceased)

And, for spiders:

Spider, your threads are well stretched.
Wily hunter, your nets ar well woven.
Spider, you are assured of abundant food.
Forest/nature), be propitious.
May my hunt/life be joyous as spider’s.

Pygmy blessing (adapted)

And, for frogs:

In am moonlit night on a spring day,
the croak of a frog
pierces the whole cosmos and turns into a single family.

Chang Chiu-Chi’en (Zen Buddhist poet)

And, for cats:

Then my best friend
on all the Earth
Sit upon my lap
not to be comforted
but to soothe.

Wizard of the heart,
my cat,
when the world fails,
or the day weighs,
with a wave of the tail
or soulful glance
makes the Universe
shine once more.

Magician, Arlene Gay Levine

And, for trees:

I part the out thrusting branches
and come in beneath
the blessed and the blessing trees.

Though I am silent
There is singing around me.
Though I am dark
there is vision around me.
Though I am heavy
there is flight around me.

Woods by Wendell Berry

Specific ceremonies and liturgies will appear over the next few weeks to give thanks, to pray or well-wish for certain ecological needs, or as eco-caims using visualisation to send support to certain areas, as well as ceremonies and liturgies for specific types of animals. flora and fauna blessings in our local community and worldwide.

And, finally:

Blessed be you Tree of Life,
with your roots reaching down to the dark centre of the universe,
your leaves yearning towards the light beyond heaven.
Shelter me with all your creation as I rise up this day.

(alternative last line)
Shelter me with all your creation as I take my rest this night.

Tess Ward, The Celtic Wheel Of The Year

 

January’s Full Moon: The Quiet Moon: Ephemera

moon blog

To the ancients, ancient Celts and Druids, Wiccans, pagans and other ancient tribes-people the moon played a great part in their calendar, their daily and spiritual calendar, working and social life. It governed, not just the progression of the month, but also related life to the seasons, to the days’ length, to the planting and reaping of seed in agricultural communities. To them is was also a mystical body, shrouded in secrets, and many cultures have lively and interesting myths about the Moon.

’The moon looks upon many night flowers; the night flowers see but one moon.’ Jean Ingelow

And yet today many tend to minimise their focus on the moon. And even then, many of those who look at it do so only from a scientific viewpoint, and many urban dwellers may miss its birthing and dying and re-birthing all together, as it moves across the sky, blocked by city high-rise buildings, as it faithfully revolves around the Earth every month.

It is worth making the effort to travel to a less-cluttered environment to gaze at the Moon at its fulness. To ponder, to wonder, to give thanks.

‘When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator.’ Mahatma Gandhi

For the astronomically inclined the Moon orbits the Earth in the prograde direction and completes one revolution relative to the stars in about 27.3 days (a sidereal month), and one revolution relative to the Sun in about 29.5 days (a synodic month). But, there’s more.

Yes, the first full moon of the year occurs on Friday, 10 January 2020 at 7.21pm (UTC/Greenwich Mean Time) in the constellation of Gemini.

It will appear low in the eastern sky at that time, near the stars Castor and Polux (The Twins), and close by the Moon will be the star Wasat (Arabic for ‘the middle’), and interestingly it ‘sits’ in the middle of the waist of Castor and Polux. As the night progresses so the Moon will climb higher in the night sky.

’The full moon – the mandala of the sky.’ Tom Robbins

To the Celts this full Moon was/is known as the Quiet Moon, but the Wolf Moon to those of medieval England and ancient and latter-day Wiccan. Others may know it as the Cold Moon, the Ice Moon or the Old Moon. But, there’s even more.

Some time ago I penned this poem about the moon:

Arianrhod in all her splendour, moves by an invisible hand
and wanders companionless, like a silver wheel in the sky. She ascends.
This full moon’s lucid beam dominates the now darkened canopy, and
there, in her smiling face, we find sweet, unbridled understanding.
She befriends.

Her ‘lesser light’ moves across the sky above the city, grey.
Oh, robed in splendour, her surge of silver-light fills every window pane
and skips across rooftops, trees, streams, fairy fires, and silent railway,
and falls unbeknown on those who sleep now, and refreshment regain.
A blessing.

Arianrhod, spill your beauty on a thousand Earthly races,
on happy flowers that bloom in a myriad of hues,
on laughing, smiling, sad and all up-looked faces,
who, in wilding spaces, drink your wine of sweet, bless’d fallen dew.
A gracious infilling.

And paled now is her light,
as onward she moves lower in the sky. For the sun, opportune.
But, for now, dear Arianrhod reigns with love. She is mistress of the night.
A timely witness sent by the Truth who is beyond the Moon.
A glorious remembrance.

I’m not sure if you will seek out the Moon this Friday (and the weekend, why not?), but my encouragement is for you to do so. Gaze in silence for a few minutes at that bright disk with its smiling face looking back, maybe verbalise a prayer (see below), or raise a glass to it, and ponder on the awesomeness of the Moon and the Moon-maker.

O Divine Presence
Bless to me the lustre of your signs and wonders,
traces of our final home in land and sea and sky.
As you have made the mark of heaven in a human face,
may I see the imprint of your family likeness in every living thing
that your blessing might radiate
each day and each night,
until heaven and earth are One.

The Celtic Wheel Of The Year, Tess Ward

Wishing you and those whom you love the blessings of the Moon-maker

Tadhg

 

 

The White Stone Ritual: A Time Of Beginnings

20191229 WHITE STONE RITUAL

It’s coming up to the start of a new year, indeed, a new decade and the following White Stone Ritual may prove useful  to you (as an individual or group) in starting the new year.

Although the ritual can be used, say, within the first week of the new year or later, or at the start of a new project or on a feast day or event, as it can be adapted in many other ways to be used on many other occasions).

To recap, we recently looked at the Burning Bowl Ritual. That’s a form of ‘letting go’ ritual which can be performed in a group setting or by an individual. More can be gleaned by clicking here.

And, now having obtained some kind of ending, of closure, the next ritual is about moving forward, positively – it’s the White Stone ritual.

 ’When you become the image of your own imagination, it’s the most powerful thing you could ever do.’ RuPaul

Outline
For the White Stone Ritual you will need a white stone, but any palm-sized stone will do, and you can improvise with paper etc if no stone is to hand. Be inventive. It’s intentionality that is important, here. You will also need a pen, preferably a marker pen or pencil.

In this White Stone ritual we are doing two things.  We are meditating to glean what it is we need that is positive: a new name to denote a new start (and this could be a spiritual name to run alongside our given name),  or a word to focus upon for the coming year or so, and then, secondly, to take part in a simple but profound ritual of writing that onto the white stone (or improvised item).

White Stone: Significance
The symbolism attached to the white stone is ancient and profound. It is said that, in antiquity, when a prisoner was freed from prison he (or she) would be given a white stone. By this stone he/she could prove they had served their time, that something significant had happened (that is, that they were in prison, but are now free), and could look forward to the future with some positivity.

 ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says…I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’ Revelation 2:17 (part), The Book

The White Stone Ritual, then, is about new beginnings, a new name or spiritual focus, positivity, moving forward, and about energy.

 The White Stone Ritual
You may want some sacred music playing in the background, and/or recite some relevant spiritual verses or a relevant poem (some of which are used throughout this article at various points, but if you use them you may need to ‘relocate’ the words/poems used in this article to different places within your ceremony for it to ‘flow’).

I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.

And nothing happens!
Nothing…Silence…Waves…

Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?

Juan Ramón Jiménez

You might want to recite some words of liturgy. Be open, be adaptable, but don’t disqualify yourself or belittle the ritual in any way for any lack perceived, for at the end of the day a simple but (improvised) ritual can have a significant effect of positivity and power.

So:

  • Close your eyes, and hold the white stone, or other stone, or small piece of paper in the palm of your left hand and place your right hand over it. Take a slow, deep breath and exhale. Meditate. Remember, we might be asking for a spiritual name, but a name  can also mean the ‘nature of’ something, your spiritual identity or spiritual focus
  • Ask yourself quietly, ‘What is the main spiritual quality that is need to move forward ?”
  • Take a slow, deep breath again and exhale. Now, think of one or more words that describe your highest spiritual essence. Listen intently.

‘I have great respect for the past. If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going. I have respect for the past, but I’m a person of the moment. I’m here, and I do my best to be completely centred at the place I’m at, then I go forward to the next place.’ Maya Angelou

  • Just allow a few words to ‘bubble up’. There is no need to force the name or the words of your intended spiritual focus. Just allow it to surface from your depths. It can be words such as: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, forbearance, gentleness, faith, self-control, energy etc.

‘Words are containers for power, you choose what kind of power they carry.’ Joyce Meyer

  • You can select a word or two now (but, if circumstances dictate, then you may choose to change it later, so the name or word(s) that come to you today can be kept, or altered depending on the guidance you receive from the bay kohl, that still small voice.
  • When you’re ready, you may open your eyes.
  • Write your name or the words given to you in that time of meditation on the white stone with a marker or pencil (if the ink runs off, don’t worry. It may be aesthetically nice for the word(s) to remain on the stone (or paper etc) but it’s intentionality that counts. You wrote it once, the ink didn’t remain as a word or more, but you did it! And, that intentionality, not the inks permanence or impermanence that is important.

’I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it until it begins to shine.’ Emily Dickinson

  • Reflect on the name or words that came to you and on the significance of the whole white stone exercise. Place your stone  or paper in a prominent location now, and over the next few days and weeks, so you will be reminded of your new name, or new spiritual focus.
  • You might want to just sit/stand there for a few minutes. Something wonderful has occurred, whether you know it or not. A new beginning is underway. A new determination has been rooted in your psyche, and new energy is at your disposal, energy from the Source of All.

’Determine that the thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way.’ Abraham Lincoln

Earthing
This ritual, like any other ritual moves us from ‘mechanical time’ to the realm of sacred-time, sacred space. In ‘returning’ it is important to mark that returning occasion with a physical action. If outside, you might like to walk about a little. If indoors, then a small hand clap to mark your return is sufficient. Some small, token, physical action is important to end the ritual.

Blessings, Tadhg.

[To ensure you’re kept informed of other rituals and articles in the future, do ‘sign up’ on Tadhg’s  ‘TadhgTalks’ blog or his FaceBook site, or email him, or drop him a line to say ‘hi’.]

 

 

The Burning Bowl Ritual: The Year’s End

20191227 BURNING BOWL RITUAL

As we come to the end of the year, you might find the Burning Bowl ritual useful.

‘Attachment is the source of all suffering.’ Buddha

Many of us (if not all of us) have things that seem to cling to us and hold us back. Attachments.  It could be something that some have said to us, or unfortunate events that we’ve experienced, inappropriate reactions, uninspiring thoughts, outdated ideas that have served their purpose in the past but which now serve no useful purpose, or negativity etc. All these seem to cling to us, and other things, too,  and can hold us back from being who we are meant to be.

Our reactions to life events, if we’re not careful, can become something like a weight that clings to us, that weighs us down, but it is so subtle sometimes, or we’re so used to the same actions and reactions, that we are hardly conscious of it.

‘The original, shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead we live out all the other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather’. Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets.

This is where the Burning Bowl Ritual can prove to be useful.

It is a form of ‘letting go’ ritual which can be performed in a group setting or by an individual, and what follows is the rationale behind it, its purpose, along with some resources that you can use or adapt, as needed.

If it is time to release that which is holding you back (and there are ‘seasons’ so there is no pressure to perform the ritual as a ‘must do’ at this time), then do read on.

A Burning Bowl ritual is a transformative ritual.

It is traditionally performed on New Year’s Eve or other meaningful holidays or dates. There’s some flexibility here, and so, with the end of the year coming up you might like to move the ritual around by a few days (or more). It is a good way to release that which we’re clinging to and which is unhealthy: the past, negativity, or pain, of dealing with old resentments, hurt, grudges, regrets, or suffering. It is a another step on the adventure of becoming who you really are, and embracing the benefits now.

However, as you prepare or, indeed, perform the Burning Bowl ritual it is important to try to be in a positive, peaceful mood.

In the process of letting go you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself. – Deepak Chopra

It’s a celebration of the end of all that is holding us back, and the release into something new.

Step-by-Step Guide

Essentially, you start by writing what you want to let go of, and then you’ll burn that piece of paper. But, there’s more. So for this you will need:

• Paper
• Pen
• Matches or a lighter
• A safe, burn-friendly surface (like a metal or glass bowl, fireplace, etc.)

Safety
Do not burn something valuable out of spite, like legal documents, photographs, or something that could be important to another person. It is a symbolic act, and so writing on a small piece of paper will suffice.

Also avoid burning something that is highly flammable or something that can cause you harm, and any burning should take place in a safe area outside. Ensure you, others and the environment are safe,

Use a large enough unburnable bowl or a container (like metal), and do be aware of your environment or surroundings. Ensure no harm.

Intentionality
Throughout the burning ceremony, remain calm and grounded in your intent. The ceremony should not be performed to shake away anger or frustration. There is no ‘wrestling’ with negative emotions or feelings – it is a ritual of serenity.

You might like to think or voice out loud your intentions, such as:

• I am peaceful
• I am grounded
• I let go of attachments
• I find peace when I let go

The Four Quarters
For those that like to acknowledge the four quarters, the cardinal compass points the abovementioned could be recited as you face, first phrase to the west, the turn and recite the second phrase to the north, the third to the east, and the fourth to the south. The reason for ending facing the south is that symbolically south represents fire (the main element in this ritual), but you can start or finish at other cardinal points as you feel are appropriate.

When your intentions are clear and focused, you can determine what you want out of this ceremony.

Grounding
Here, you can sit down or stand firmly with both feet on the ground for a few moments until you feel present and grounded. As negativity or tension releases from your body, let it pass. Stand quietly in prayer or meditation, while you honour your commitment to change.

Writing & Burning
Write down what you’re ready to let go of on your piece of paper. It could be a word or a phrase that sums up that which is holing you back. It may be best just to spend a minute or two doing this, and avoid writing more than a few words. Being succinct is good.

‘Nothing releases like forgive. Nothing renews like forget.’ Ray A Davis

Now that you have listed what you want to let go of, hold it for a few minutes. Read it, reflect on it, but try not to react negatively.

Now, it’s time to burn. Light the piece of paper on fire or throw it, carefully, into the pre-lit burning bowl. Watch it burn, take a few deep breaths, and you might like to rub your hands together for a final release  of the attachment you just let go of.

In burning that piece of paper, you have symbolically ended any power that attachment had over you, and have embraced that which is positive and which is about to come (or, its already there, depending on your viewpoint).

So…
By burning away clinging, negative attachments, you can free yourself from any regret, sorrow, or pain, and look forward to a brighter future. Let the burning ceremony allow you to sense a feeling of closure, that will allow you to move on.

So, as we come to the end of the year, and if it feels like the right time, and you feel its right to let go of attachment, do try a burning ceremony.

But…
But, if you’re performing the ritual indoors where an open flame may not be appropriate or safe, and the same may apply if you live in the city, then do adapt the ceremony.

If a (literal) burning bowl is inappropriate or unsafe, then after you have written what you want to release on paper you might like to ‘feed’ it through the shedding matching,  or rip it into little pieces and put it in the rubbish/garbage bin (in small enough pieces that no one can read it), or write it on rice paper and watch it dissolve in a bowl of water (and in a very symbolic action, it occured to me that you might substitute ordinary paper for toilet paper, write on that, and afterwards flush it down the toilet! How symbolic is that?).

‘When you reach the end of what you should know, you will be at the beginning of what you should sense.’ Kahlil Gibrán, Sand and Foam.

The abovementioned are a few ideas for a Burning Bowl ritual, an ending to that which is holding us back.

Earthing
This ritual, like any other ritual moves us from ‘mechanical time’ to the realm of sacred-time, sacred space. In ‘returning’ it is important to mark that returning occasion with a physical action. If outside and having faced the four quarters then you might like to walk about a little. If indoors, then a small hand clap to mark your return is sufficient. Some small, token, physical action is important to end the ritual.

But, There’s More
Within the next couple of days, in time for the first day (or few days) if the new year, I’d like to mention the White Stone ritual which is a way, after releasing that which was holding us back, will move us on it a positive and life-affirming way (and for which one or two white stones that can fit in the palm of your hand may be needed – but as always, do improvise).

 

The Night Of Long Shadows: 2. More Thoughts

20191207 THE NIGHT OF LONG SHADOWS 2 MORE THOUGHTS

At the time when the world seems to come alive, at Christmas time, when the glare of neon fills the shops, ‘tumbles’ of out the tv in the shape of even more ‘over the top’ tv adverts, and store music seems altogether louder, this time of the year can make some people, the bereaved, those celebrating anniversaries or Christmas alone, feel even more lonely.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

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

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.

[Rumi]

I’m not convinced, and it’s a personal thought, that many of those people want to be continually despondent, and they do acknowledge the gaiety of the season around them, it’s just that they may need some acknowledgement of their deep feelings and need for someone to hold space for them, and the ‘Night Of Long Shadows’ service may be the vehicle to assist them. See here for the #1, earlier article.

I had hoped to organise such an event this year, but the response has been somewhat low (and there are a number of understandable reasons for that) and many churches already had their programs arranged.

Relevant to you? Read on.

Nevertheless the following may be of use to you in planning a group event, or an event for yourself – you can still benefit, I believe, from the article, even if it’s to offer one-to-one comfort to a bereaved person. You might be just the person the Universe, ‘That Which Is Bigger Than Us’, The Source uses tomorrow?

So, what follows are thoughts about the shape of such a service, a plan with suggestions, that can be downsized and adapted if it is for a ‘solitary’ event with one person, or ‘up-scaled’ and adapted should there be a dozen or more people attending. Notes are included as to the rationale behind suggestions.

‘And when the stream that overflows has passed,
A consciousness remains upon the silent shore of memory;
Images and precious thoughts that shall not be
And cannot be destroyed.’

[William Wordsworth]

The following, then is an idea:

The Welcome

The environment might be one of subdued lighting. A few candles could be lit to welcome people, and project an other-worldly setting for a sacred-space, liminal encounter. Welcoming and being made comfortable is all-important.

If it’s for a group, then the celebrant would remember their two key roles. Firstly, to explain at the beginning and as the service progresses what is about to happen, to put people at ease, and so there are no unwelcome surprises. Secondly, to be sympathetic to those attending and to encourage them in their grief to participate and so benefit. They are, ofcourse, our primary concern, and some maybe want to just sit and watch – but they too are benefiting.

The atmosphere and tone of voice by the celebrant should reflect the occasion – one of a welcoming tone to draw alongside the bereaved person(s) and yet celebrating the life of those who have passed-on, but without any ‘over-solemnity’. Be natural, be understanding, be yourself.

Going Deep

In such an event we move from ‘clock time’ into ‘sacred-space’ time. Liminality ushers us into an altered state. This may sound jarring to some, but it just means we acknowledge that we have gone, and are going deeper into the real meaning of things – and similar happenings occur when we witness a christening, a wedding or major event. It’s a ‘magical’ time. We move out of the mundane, into the sacred.

‘Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints in the snow…’

[Mary Elizabeth Frye]

Music, particularly background music can assist us, to ensure our souls to ‘fly’, and move us into that liminal state where things happen. Music takes us deep(er). For me, I love Taize chants which have profound words and amazing harmonies (but if you didn’t want words sung or specifically Christian words sung, then Taize instrumentals are amazing (and a long sample of that can be found here).

The nature of this service is to ensure the group know what to expect, and to know what is expected of them, but to keep them in the ‘moment’, and so some forethought of what happens next and how to announce i,t and introduce it are important. Here, ‘unhurried’ is my favourite word.

At the very end of the event, musicwise, as it is Christmas time, as people file out, perhaps a seasonal song could be played. A moving ending such as ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel’ by Enya (see here) is a wonderful finale. For those wanting an instrumental version only, the Piano Guys have a wonderful version [here].

Tributes

It could be that some might want to share anecdotes about their loved-ones. They should be encouraged. No one should feel coerced or forced. Gentle invitations to share can be given, and accepted, even if some get tongue-tied, tearful or use words that we might feel inappropriate. The bereaved person needs to be heard – this is their time – and all are accepted.

‘I’d like the memory of me
to be a happy one.
I’d like to leave an afterglow
of smiles when [the] day is done.’

[Helen Lowrie Marshall]

At some point early on some might like to display photograph copies of their loved-ones on an altar or table for the duration of the service. They would need some advanced noticed to bring copied photographs, and copies are best for fear of original, old, memorable photographs getting damaged or lost.

Also, if pebbles and chalk is available, some might like to write their loved-ones name on a pebble at some time during the event, and place it on the altar or table. The memorial stones or pebbles are a wonderfully profound idea. Or messages or loved-ones names could be written on post-it notes and displayed.

Honesty

Getting the balance just right is important. Feelings with be raw in some people, and need to be expressed – and yet the event should not be without hope.

Several things spring to mind. Interspersed throughout the event comforting readings can be made, and read out by pre-arrangement, so ensuring that you have a few people who can assist you is important. Such readings could be from sacred text or uplifting poems, the kind used throughout this article.

Silences will abound, and these can be cathartic, so never be in a hurry to fill them with words or music. Yet, be sensitive, and do move the event on if it feels right.

Comforting

By prearrangement it might be best, to have several people primed and able to sit alongside, or move to those who become tearful.

Comforting words, could be used:

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.’ John 14:1-3

‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ Matthew 11:28-30

One of my favourite uplifting poems (and it can be adapted) is by Henry Van Dyke, entitled ‘I am standing by the seashore’.

I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white
sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until at length
she hangs like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come
to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says;
“There, she is gone!”

“Gone where?”
Gone from my sight. That is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull
and spar as she was when she left my side
and she is just as able to bear her
load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment when someone
at my side says, “There, she is gone!”
There are other eyes watching her coming,
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout;
“Here she comes!”

Other comforting words can be found in the writings of Seneca, ‘In the presence of death’; ‘No man is an island’ by John Donne; ‘The unknown shore’ by Elizabeth Clarke Hardy etc

Conclusion

Ofcourse, the abovementioned is but an outline, and will need adapting for a larger group or for yourself, if you want to celebrate the life of a loved-one at this time, in a solitary manner. Adaption and sensitivity is important.

Perhaps the final corporate act would be closing music, as mentioned earlier, proceeded by an announcement to those that wish to stay, to stay for refreshments and conversation, are encouraged to do so. As regards the latter it would be good to have several mature and sensitive people on hand to draw alongside those taking up the offer of refreshments, and to engage in polite conversation. For some attending, even that, may be too much. But some may welcome it. Additionally, it might be good to have other people available that could go deeper still, only if requested, and then comforting words and prayer can be offered.

Even then, it is imperative for those on hand to know their role is to hold space, to draw alongside the bereaved person, and that listening is absolutely necessary. Many of those who are bereaved will appreciate you and others listening to them. Our role is not to ‘fix’ people, but to be there for them.

‘Grieve for me, for I would grieve for you.
Then brush away the sorrows and the tears.
Life is not over, but begins anew,
with courage you must greet the coming years…’

[Navaho prayer]

 

One Evening In November: An Encounter

20191127 ONE EVENING IN NOVEMBER AT HOME WITH TADHG

And so, my two guests arrived for an ‘at home’ at my  place in the centre of London – a small, informal dinner cooked by me for them as they celebrated their first wedding anniversary. I had officiated at the handfasting sometime back so it was good to see them again, this time for a meal.

What follows is a journal entry of an evening of ‘myth and magic’, of touching ‘That Which Is Larger Than Us’, and of our growth, maturity and transformation.

‘What if the task is simply to unfold, to become who you already are in your essential nature—gentle, compassionate, and capable of living fully and passionately present? How would this affect how you feel when you wake up in the morning?

Alistair and Aideen arrived promptly that evening (a few days ago) and over the starters we all talked about our previous week’s workload, life in general and got to know each other more. There were laughs and smiles, and more. ‘Mae mwy’ as they say in Wales, ‘there is more’. There is always, and much more for the open-minded, intentionally adventurous, and the curious.

Yes, liminality descended.

Liminality is that state of ‘inbetween’ or crossing over. Imagine it as a doorstep or a bridge between Here and There, between us and The Other.  It can be those times and events when we see a sunset and it takes our breath away, we witness a baby’s unfocused smile and our soul leaps within us, or it can be times of fellowship with each other when ‘something’ seems to be changed and we are ushered into a different state of being – one that we just accept, as the more we think about it the more we ‘slip’ out of it.

Yes, communitas arose.

Liminality also can bring about a state called ‘communitas’. Communitas according to Victor Turner is a relatively structureless sense of group identity and being (large or small groups) which is based on relations of equality and solidarity.

As we talked and laughed, liminality descended and communitas arose, unplanned by us, but expected and greatly felt. Transformation is constant, but without understanding it, for a short while we all moved into a ‘higher gear’, such is liminality that moves us from chronological time into sacred-space.

As we ate, talked and laughed we shared stories, and I shared some quotes, too, to guide the evening is towards a meditative outcome, slowly.

‘Every day, sometimes when I am doing my meditation practice and sometimes when I am working at my computer… or sharing a meal with friends, I turn my attention to my breath and visualise myself on some inner plane of the imagination turning my face toward That Which Is Larger Than Us – the Great Mystery.’

The main course was still about twenty minutes away, before it was ready and the conversation turned to meditation and The Great Mystery. I mentioned the concept of apophatic mediation. Both Alistair and Aideen expressed an interest, and within a few minutes (as it was an ‘at home’ and not a workshop) I outlined that way of meditating, and suggested the best way forward was to try it for, say fifteen minutes.

Apophatic mediation is a ‘tool’ or a way of mediating, of going deep into The Great Mystery, of touching our ‘inner core’ through the use of no thought, no ‘pictures’, no dialogue (that is the opposite to kataphatic meditation and visualisation techniques).

And so, as we sat still, my guests closed their eyes, breathed slowly. Background music played – Om chanting by monks, at 528Hz. For some, especially those new to this form of meditation it may be best to use ones imagination of walking from where you are into a forest which is ‘next door’, and walk deeply into at as the forest gets darker, and then jettison the ‘picture’ or imaginative ‘forest’ and just rest, just be. Kataphatic meditation can give way to apophatic meditation. Alistair decided to do just that.

Slow, ethereal music or chanting is best for this, as it doesn’t prompt the mind to discover rhythm or words, and 528 Hz or thereabouts is a useful pitch. It has been called the ‘DNA repair’ frequency or the ‘Love’ frequency’, so-called as it is thought to reside at the heart of everything, connecting your heart, your spiritual essence, to the spiralling reality of heaven and earth..

‘When we surrender when we do not fight with life when it calls upon us we are lifted and the strength to do what needs to be done finds us.’

For fifteen minutes we all mediated, silently to: an OM meditation chant [click here].

Afterwards, we chatted about the experience. In many respects they declared that they had been present,  had been in the company of their core, that which some call the virgin point (le point vierge) and experienced That Which Is Larger Than Us, that which some call God. Words failed them, as the experience is experiential (only), to be individually savoured, and is really beyond words!

All three of us heartily tucked into the next course, and laughed and joked. Sometimes serious, sometimes frivolous, as friends do.

Aideen expressed an interest in kataphatic, imaginal visualisation. I spoke by way of an introduction to it – highlighting the fact that one can use it in various ways – as a tool of discovery where outcomes are interpreted, as a way of understanding ourselves at a deeper level (that which we call the good parts and the ‘shadow (a source of strength, nevertheless),  as a form of guided tour of events to meet a need ie to answer a question, to obtain healing, or to ‘interview’ ones higher self and other characters (which many would call pictorial representations of ones psyches, though others would think differently), and in many other ways that may lead to our growth, maturity and transformation.

Aideen wanted a ‘word’ (or words) to guide her for the following day, and Alistair wanted similar for project he was working on at work. For Aideen I suggested a visualisation where, after closing her eyes and relaxing, I spoke words for her to imagine, inwardly, a visit to the Library – a cosmic Library with a friendly Librarian who would point to a relevant book. It took only about ten minutes, but Aideen was very good at using her imaginal powers and, still in the moment, spoke the words written on the spine of the book: ‘Stronger than you think’.

A veritable word of encouragement. Aideen opened her eyes, and recounted how that was just the words she needed to her as an important decision was pending.

‘Within each of us there is the heart of a lion, the courage to simply be who & what we are regardless of others opinions or our own fears. Sometimes this courage has been buried beneath years of shaming that may have been so implicit or insidious that we breathed it in, unaware of how it separated us from knowing our own beauty of being’.

Alistair was also eager to try kataphatic imaginal visualisation. For him, I outlined the process but, once he was in the moment, as agreed, led him (using my voice) into the Great Hall of Cledon. I mentioned that the moment he was in that Hall, a hall full of the noise of the conversations of a myriad of people, one word of phrase would stand out.

The Cledon is a message delivered to you through an unknowing stranger. It could be a word from a song on the radio that gives an answer to a problem you’ve been mulling over, or you may overhear a snippet of a conversation of two people walking past you, and which applies directly to the circumstances in your life.

Alistair, deep in that visualisation, whispered that he was in the great hall and the doors were closing behind him. His hands immediately gripped that table. Still with his eyes closed, and still in that moment, he then gently laughed. He whispered. ‘As soon as the doors closed, all the people faced me, and all the voices spoke the same words. It was as loud as the noise of a jet engine, and knocked me over’.

‘My invitation, my challenge to you here, is to journey into a deeper intimacy with the world and your life without any promise of safety or guarantee of reward beyond the intrinsic value of full participation.’

Once out of that moment, and with his eyes open, Alistair mentioned the words. He said, ‘It’s a mystery what the words mean, but the shout of ‘The donkey and the angel’ was stupendously loud. I mentioned that in many cases, the working out of the words given might take days or weeks, but when it did happen you would know – the memory of it could come back at an appropriate time and it would make sense. However, in this case I did ask Alistair to consider the ancient story of Balaam and his donkey. The latter whose progress was impeded by an angel.

We then tucked into the desert, followed by more laughing, talking and merriment.

The evening progressed, and my guests would soon be leaving. I mentioned the idea of coming back from sacred-space into chronological time – it was a though we had been in a ‘magical, mythical, timeless realm’ (and I actually do believe that is the case, as regards liminality), and were now returning to the mundane (as if anything is really mundane).

One way to do that is through ritual, another way is through action such as eating food (as we had done), and one way I do it (without the need of pomp and ceremony, but with physical action) is to use two fingers from each hand to do a drum-roll on the table for a few seconds. I gave them an example, but need not have done more, as both Alistair and Aideen joined in, and we all laughed heartily. Was that drum-roll just fun? Was it necessary? I believe it was both. Fun because we laughed and it brought us closer together, and to some it may have been silly; necessary as it brought us ‘back to earth’ and effectively ‘grounded us’ – guarded us against the effects of being in that realm whilst operating in this.

May the dreamer and poet and pirate be awake within in us… loving the adventure of looking for the treasure as much as we love finding the inner gold that guides us.’

Alistair and Aideen left, but have booked for another session in December using different aspects, ‘tools’ and scenarios of apophatic and kataphatic mediation.

[I normally change names used is articles, but in this case both Alistair and Aideen were happy for their names to be used, and additionally asked me to state that they really do recommend this form of transformational event. I will include information about future events that you might like to join as a group, couple, individual, soon, both here on this blog and on Facebook]

All indented quotes above are by Oriah Mountain Dreamer.