The Child And The Beach: A Story Of Encouragement

20170725 THE CHILD AND THE BEACH A STORY OF ENCOURAGEMENTI always like feedback from the articles that I write, and love constructive and encouraging words. Over the last few days it has been heart-warming to read comments and emails – responses that underline that ‘it starts with us’, ‘we can contribute to the fabric of the universe, we matter, you matter, matter matters, and then someone mentioned one of my favourite words (well, two words), that is, tukkun olam. I love the concept. It has many broad and deep meanings, but the one that is in my mind now is that of you and I ‘repairing’ or ‘completing’ the world. Wonderful.

With that in mind, and you know how I love stories, here’s a story I found and mentioned some time ago but it bears repeating because it is so true, so profound and yet so simple, and it is so encouraging.

The ancient Celts, Celtic Christians and Druids of old would have sat around the evening’s camp fire  and told stories to each other – the ‘telling place’. Some of these stories would be of their tribal history, great leaders and heroes of the past, perhaps for amusement, and sometimes the stories would be great cosmic stories of creation, and sometimes stories would contain a deep moral buried within and which the hearer would have to discern. Latter-day Celts, Celtic Christians and Druids still tell wonderful stories, and here’s a meaningful story just for you:

A man was walking along a deserted beach at sunset. As he walked he could see a young child in the distance, seemingly playing.

As the man drew nearer he noticed that the child kept bending down, picking something up, and then running to the edge of the sea, and throwing it into the water. Time and again the child kept hurling things into the ocean and then ran back.

As the man approached even closer, he was able to see that the child was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at a time the child would run to the water’s edge and throw them back into the sea.

The man asked the child what they were doing, and the child replied,” I am throwing these washed-up starfish back into the ocean, Mister, or else they will die through lack of oxygen.

“But”, said the man, “You can’t possibly save them all, there are thousands on this beach alone, and this must be happening on hundreds of beaches along the coast. You can’t possibly save them all.”

The child smiled, bent down and picked up another starfish, and as they threw it back into the sea, gleefully shouted, “I know, but I can make a difference to this one.”

Little by little, in large and small ways, we can make a difference. Never give up doing good.

 

Blessed Dawn: Book Of The Hours

20170720 BLESSED DAWN BOOK OF THE HOURSIt’s almost sunrise. To the east, from here in Capel Curig, sunrise will appear over some of the most scenic of north Welsh mountains of Carnedd y Cribau in a few moments. It’s almost the start of a new day. Nearly, but not quite yet. There’s a hush in the air. A sense of anticipation. All is still.

The sun’s rising is recounted in ancient Celtic and Druid stories of Lugh – dont forget the celebration of Lughnasadh, harvest celebration in about two weeks. Lugh, representing the sun would ‘die’ each evening some say, only to be ‘reborn’ each morning at sunrise. A quotidien resurrection. An opportunity to start afresh. A brand new day to do something positive, to change things, and to enjoy the moment.

There is something ‘magical’ about the dawn. It is a time when the night gives way to the oncoming new day, darkness gives way to light, and secrets and potential are ‘cracked’ open to reveal the glory and majesty of yet another day to enjoy. It’s easy to ‘roll over’ and miss sunrise, it’s possible to be so caught up in the fast pace of our society that we miss the new opportunities given to us each day, and probable that the pressures of the day will ‘crowd out’ this wonder time of spiritual encounter.

Today, the ‘slate is wiped clean’. ‘Seize the day’. Plattitudes? Yes, but nevertheless still ever-so true.

The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you;
don’t go back to sleep.

(Rumi)

And then the sun rises. Bright and new, yellow and fresh, dawn’s light floods into my eyes. A fresh start. A new beginning. Each sunrise is a call to our own daily resurrection. We rise in anticipation, and yet wonder what the day will unveil. For some it will be a happy day, for others a tough day, and for others a sad day – a mixture of these, and more. But, it will be a day like no other. Unique in ever way. Joyous? Joy is an attitude of mind they say, and so, at each sunrise choose joy, regardless of circumstances. The sun has risen.

And, then the day begins.
The son of Hyperion rises on the horizon
in all his brilliance, and
pierces the mist,
and heralds the start of a new day.
The Sun appears.
I find myself standing in awe, in praise of the Sun of righteousness.
Orans.

(Tadhg. Part of the poem: Gökotta [Revisited). Full poem can be viewed here).

Dawn provides us with ‘new’ time to do new things. At each dawn we can:

  • give praise out loud for the beauty of nature, for life itself
  • marvel at the fact that we are the consciousness of the Universe, able to look back on itself
  • revel in the love of That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves
  • desire to make this as good a day as possible whether in praising others, working well, relaxing, listening to others, or experiencing loss, and keening
  • praise and mature by ‘going deep’ and entering silence, or with ritual etc

Ancient sacred text is says: Walk in wisdom…making the best use of the time. (Colossians 4:5 part. The Book). Truly words of wisdom. It is easy to ‘kill time’, to get so caught up on dwelling in the past, over-planning for the future, and the hustle-and-bustle of daily ‘pressures’ that we miss the present moment, are oblivious to current opportunities, and before we know it dusk approaches fast. No, use the time we have, and use it wisely.

‘Dawn is ever the hope of men’ (J R R Tolkien).

Dawn is a time of celebration, a time to greet the new day. The following poem or liturgy, depending how you use it, is so approriate, and has been used by me on many ocassions as verbal liturgy or an unspsoken prayer.

Slowly comes the morning,
softly comes the dawn
slowly and softly – softly and slowly.
Dear gift of Dawn, you come with rays of light.
I call forth my joy to greet the dawn.
In the marrow of my bones, I rejoice.
From the centre of my soul I rejoice.
In my heart of hearts, I rejoice.
From the home of my body, I rejoice.
With all my being, I rejoice.
Dear Gift of Dawn, I rejoice.

(Macrina Wiederkehr)

And, as I gaze eastward the sun is well and truly risen. The sun and all of creation are in a state of praise. Indeed as other ancient text recorded: we shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: and the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into joyous singing, and all the trees of the field, with their branches raised heavenward, will clap their hands…and, yes, stones, even stones and rocks will sing. What better way to greet the sun and the dawn of new hope than with praise by humankind. And so, do mark a sunrise whenever you can, and mark that time with verbal praise, liturgy, a poem or ritual…or with the silent witness of your soul. Sunrises are beautiful, ‘magical’, God-given times. Draw near.

But, there’s more. Remember Rumi’s wise words: Your light is more magnificent than that of sunrise or sunset.’ Now, there’s something to ponder on.

 

Things That Go Bump In The Night: Random Thoughts & One View On Meditation

20170712 THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT 1You could be forgiven, especially after my (likely) encounter with the Gwrach y Rhibyn early yesterday morning, for thinking that a night in the woods would be out of the question. Oh, but you don’t know me.

In north Wales I live in a rural and relatively remote area, and I love it. It is a complete contrast to city life and my time spent in London. Here, near Capel Curig, I can relax, breathe easily and walk lightly upon the earth. It’s a great place – even when peering out of the living room window at lush, grey-green mountains in the distance – to let thoughts meander. And, tonight (the evening of 11 July, 2017) thoughts, for no seeming reason, were rife.

There was only one thing for it – a hike (albeit a short one this time) and a night under the stars. I have my favourite nearby places and haunts to camp, usually about an hour’s trek away from where I live, but last night a walk into the forest lasting about ten minutes would put me in thick forest, and would suffice. And, ‘awalking’ I went.

‘The sky grew darker, painted blue on blue, one stroke at a time, into deeper and deeper shades of night.’ Haruki Murakami,

And, after erecting the tent under a deep blue-black, clear sky and a ‘starry, starry sky’, sometime shortly before midnight, those rampant thoughts raced even more.

Alone.

Firstly, the Gwrach y Rhibyn – the witch, that hag of the mist and portent of death! Fearful of the Gwrach y Rhibyn? No, when told numerous stories of that hag I was always taught to have a healthy respect for such beings, or if you’re not too sure whether such beings exist then insert the word ‘stories’ for ‘beings’. And, so I was taught to have a healthy respect, but no fear. However, as I sat there, outside the tent I can assure you that my eyes were wide open and I was alert. One cannot be complacent. I’m reminded of those people that rear lions from cubs and then invite a fully grown male lion into their house. I like reading about such events, but to me that’s one step too far.

Healthy respect.

If I encountered the Gwrach y Rhibyn out there, in the open, that’s okay…but to invite her into my house, where she could ‘turn’ and then I would have the problem of removing her, is quite something else. But, I’m not a fearful sort of person. Not silly, or ‘over brave’, but not fearful. I told you my thoughts were racing that evening. So, a healthy respect for the hag of the mist is good. But, all is well. She’s not here.

Other thoughts continued to flow like boats on an ocean. And, so it was an opportunity to meditate. There are different ways that word ‘meditate’ is used, and different forms of meditation, and for some of my friends the word and process is anathema, and it confuses me why they should think that.

Open mindedness.

The ancient and latter-day Celts and Druids are an imaginative lot. If you read some stories of old you get the impression of a myriad of shape-shifters and ‘magical’ things happening. Why, even dear St Patrick was said, at one time, to have shape-shifted into a deer to escape danger. And there’s at least one reference in the Book to a talking donkey. And, don’t even get me started on selkies and kelpies. Did these actually happen or where did they occur in the imagination of someone’s thoughts? And, does that really matter? They happened!

Joan of Arc at her trial: I hear voices telling me what to do. They come from God.
Robert: They come from your imagination?
Joan: Of course. That is how the messages of God come to us. (Scene I)

Those inner workings of the mind are important, and meditation is all-important. Bearing in mind different forms of meditation and interpretations of the word, here’s one definition: meditation is the ability to objectively hold a thought at arms-length, metaphorically’, and analyse it. It’s the one I was using last night in the forest, as I held each thought at arms-length and inspected it.

Analysis.

Meditation isn’t about letting your mind go blank (and so you don’t need to worry if anything will ‘crawl’ in that vacant slot (even if such negative things exist)). Right then, last evening, there was no probability of my mind going blank. As I sat there, quietly, a large number of thoughts moved through my mind, like boats endlessly sailing across the ocean.

Thoughts such as: What would those Christian friends (who don’t know if my Druidic tendencies) think of me if they knew? What would my Druid friends (who don’t know of my (Christian) theological degree and ordination) think of me if they knew? What should I do now about the possibility of moving house after Christmas? Should I re-paint the outside of my house? Should I take up Ben’s challenge (after I ‘thrashed’ him at chess) of a wrestling match? Actually, that one is easy to answer. Self-preservation kicked in.

‘Each flying thought, a flying thought pursues.’ C B Langston

But, other thoughts, for no real reason, raced though my mind, like speedboats on the ocean. Infact, very much like ocean-liners on the ocean. Meditation, in the form I was practicing that night, was very much like peacefully gazing out to sea and looking, intently, only on the distant area where the sea ‘touches’ the sky. Focussing on that area, you’re then aware of vessels passing in the nearer field of view but you pay them no attention. I’m sure you’ve done that, in reality, when on the beach. And, that for me, was last tonight’s meditation. Not focussing on all distracting thoughts, except for the one that I wanted to analyse.

Objectivity.

Each thought – about the Gwrach y Rhibyn, what some of my Christian friends might think of me, what my Druid friends might think of me, and Ben’s challenge – was analysed. This is not to say they worried me, nor that  I had to work through them, frantically. Quite the opposite. This form of meditation is all about focussing on one thought, holding it at arms-length, and objectively analysing it from all possible angles. ‘Well, I didn’t know I had so much emotional baggage attached to that thought’, and ‘Why do you, dear thought, keep returning, and you seem bigger than before?’. And, ‘This is a powerful thought…only If I grant it that power’, or ‘That’s an interesting thought, but I’ll come back to you later, dear one’, and so on.

We, each, have that power to hold thoughts in an objective way, and as with any muscle, the more we do it, the more it grows. The more we say to ourselves we cannot do it, it’s too hard or give up, so the faculty reduces. You are not your thoughts. You are more!

‘You are more than your thoughts, your body, or your feelings. You are a swirling vortex of limitless potential who is here to shake things up and create something new that the universe has never seen.’ Richard Bartlett

And so, as I sat there, and it was gone 2am before I turned out the torch’s light, I had systematically worked though a number of thoughts – many which you will never know about.  And, that may be a good thing. After all, What would those Christian friends (who don’t know if my Druidic tendencies) think of me if they knew? What would my Druid friends (who don’t know of my (Christian) theological degree and ordination) think of me if they knew? You can see the irony here, I’m sure: those few detailed admissions here, that genie is now out of the bag, for all to see. But, I’m that kind of guy. And, I trust you, anyway!

Between friends!

As, I laid there, and with sleep descending quite fast, I heard a rustle in the undergrowth nearby. That thought was nipped in the bud quite quickly, analysed within seconds and dismissed. If that was the Gwrach y Rhibyn, she had better not come between me and my sleep! Oh no! Needless to say, after what seemed only a few minutes I opened my eyes to the most glorious yellow and bright sunrise, and assumed, after all, that it wasn’t the hag of the mist. But, it makes you think! And, there I go again!

A Close Encounter With The Gwrach y Rhibyn?: Tadhg’s Journal

20170711 A CLOSE ENCOUNTER WITH THE GWRACH Y RIBYNYes, I was awake very early this morning, and having coffee in the garden looking toward some of the wonderful distant mountains that comprise north Wales. This is ancient land – the land of ancient Celtic Christians and Druids, and a myriad of others whose wisdom and presence still, wonderfully, permeates the land and air.

For this time of the year – the day time temperatures have dropped over the last few days – the air temperature this morning was ‘fresh’…but the coffee was piping hot. Bliss.

As I looked into the distance the green-grey colour – mountains mainly of slate and usually grass-covered – became lighter, more diffuse and paler as the early morning mist played on them. Clouds hung low in the sky. The air was still, somewhat ‘heavy’ as though a storm was approaching, birdsong was quiet except for the odd screech. Indeed, distant thunder rumbled. Or, it could have been the wind ‘rumbling’ around mountain valleys. It’s difficult to tell when the sound is some way off, muted and intermittent.

This morning, however, more than ever, I could palpably feel the rawness, wildness and ‘dangerousness’ of nature pressing in, in all its beauty. It was quiet. And yet there was a seeming expectation that there was more. A foreboding.

‘So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and…all the people who were in the camp trembled.’ (Exodus 19:16 part, The Book)

Sound became muffled, except for that raucous and occasional ‘unearthly’ squawk. Was it, infact, a bird? I had heard that sound before, but had never identified what made it – but that was when out on some evening or night-time walk, and always low as in the undergrowth and not high up in a tree.

Was it a bird? A wounded animal moving about in nearby undergrowth? It was now closer to me than ever before. All was quiet apart from that noise. ‘Clumps’ of mist moved across the garden – quite thick, but moving quite quickly – and as I gazed at the mist, my mind and imagination wandered. A bird, a wounded animal, or could it be the Gwrach y Rhibyn?

My grandmother used to tell me stories about the Gwrach y Rhibyn (pronounced ‘goo-rach ee ribb-in’. But the ‘ch’ in that second syllable is sounded like the ‘ch’ in loch, that is, a back-of-the-throat phlegm-clearing sound). Those words translate as ‘the witch of Rhibyn’. I had a wonderfully imaginative childhood! (And, it still goes on).

My grandmother always concluded those stories by saying that when you encounter the Gwrach y Rhibyn or the like, never fear or show fear, always be respectful and always learn with your ‘eyes wide open’. Such happenings she would say, always have a positive learning ‘message’ to impart to us.

The spirit-world around this world of sense
floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere
wafts through these earthly mists and vapours dense
a vital breath of more ethereal air.

(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

The Gwrach y Rhibyn was always depicted as an old hag, an ugly witch, sometimes with thick leathery wings, but always, so the story goes, the portent of misery and death. Rather like the wailing of the Irish bansidhe (pronounced ‘ban-shee’), or even the Cailleach from Scottish and Irish mythology.

She certainly got about – her name changes depending on the culture, but her reputation always remained the same. She was someone to avoid. Embraced in early-morning (or was it storm) mist my grandmother’s description of the Gwrach y Rhibyn as the hag of the mist made me shiver (or was the air temperature dropping even more?).

I sat there, now with limited visibility, the ‘thing’ that was squawking or screeching was even closer, but shrouded in mist. I was calm because I didn’t believe I was in any danger, but wary at the same time. Nature, the unknown, this mystery or was it the Mystery, was palpable, powerful, big, raw and wild, and so close, but (I believed) benevolent.

‘Live free, child of the mist – and with respect to knowledge we are all children of the mist.’ (Henry David Thoreau)

I sat there, transfixed (almost), in heightened awareness (and yes, everything did seem brighter) for some twenty minutes. Watching. Waiting. Listening. Observing. The periodic squawking or screeching seemed to be moving away into the distance now, further into the mist. Soon, the mist began to clear. I could see some distance now, and then, just then, out the corner of my eye I spied a dark shape some three hundred meters away, but only for a second or two! As I looked again, all I could see were the usual trees and boundary hedges. ‘Nothing untoward’, as my grandmother would say.

Was that’ shape’ the Gwrach y Rhibyn come to harass? Just a trick of the light? My imagination? Was the screeching of ‘something’ in the mist, a bird? I wish I could tell you, but I can’t. What I can say is that as I sat there embraced by that early morning mist (and I do believe it applies to us all), I experienced the unknown and the wildness of nature that was palpable, and I experienced it as an inclusive and yet powerful force, but also as an humbling experience.

‘A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born’ ( Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

There are some things we just don’t know. And there are some things we will never know. And there are some things we are not meant to know. That ‘event’, this morning, whatever is was, was one such event. And, you know what? I’m content with that ‘visitation’. I learned something vital about myself. I believe we all do in those infrequent but  amazing ‘encounter-awakening’ situations.

 

“…Of Great Worth”: A Story

20170628 OF GREAT WORTH A STORY TO MAKE YOU THINKIt seems most of my deep thoughts take place around sipping coffee or waking up at sunrise, and especially so when they both coincide. Today, then, was not unusual in that respect. Sitting at the garden table, drinking coffee, as the sun rose, I reminisced.

I was thinking of one of my grandmother’s, the one that used to live nearby when I was a wee lad in north Wales. I now know that she had had a tough life, but never seemed to go without, was always quite able to make ends meet by ‘recycling’ and darning – does anyone darn socks any more?. She lived on ‘slender means’. The world was different then, people (especially in Wales) were much poorer, and yet possessed in greater amounts a community spirit, a contentment and a resilience to meet come-what-may with a defiant smile, and they loved and laughed. My grandmother was always singing, always quite jolly, and always had an opinion. Ah, the older Welsh generations.

All this got me thinking, especially as she loved to tell stories, of a story I heard some time ago about ‘worth’, which always buoys me up, and I’d like to re-tell it here especially for you. You know how much I love stories and story-telling.

‘There is a story of an elderly lady reminiscing, thinking back to when she was a child. She said: Oh, I remember that it was pouring with rain and I was allowed to play in the house rather than the garden that day. I was enjoying myself so much, that I got a little careless and broke an old vase – a family heirloom – that stood in the corner. It had been there for years.

I knocked it accidentally, and it fell to the floor, and smashed into a thousand pieces. I screamed out loud. In shock? In terror (at what my mother’s reaction would be)? In fear? In disappointment (that I could be so careless)? I screamed. I cried.

My mother rushed into the room. Alarmed. Worried. My mother looked at me, then looked at the smashed vase, and then looked back at me. Her face changed. Her face appeared relieved, and then a smile appeared upon it.

I ran to her crying. She opened her arms and gave me a huge hug. Before I could say I was sorry, she spoke. ‘Thank God. I thought you were hurt’, she said. With tears in her eyes she consoled me, and it was that day that I realised that I was the family treasure, and to my mother, of great worth.”

I don’t think I can add to that story, except to say that it applies to you, to all of us. Never doubt that you are of great worth, and are much loved by That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves.

 

The Art Of [Experiencing] The Presence: Celtic Thought

20290616 THE ART OF PRESENCEThere’s an ancient story of a man wandering in the desert, and though he had done this for many years, on this specific occasion he noticed something strange, something out of the ordinary, something that caught his attention like it had never done before. He saw a bush in the distance that was on fire, and yet it wasn’t being destroyed by that fire. He drew closer to look.

From that ancient story it looked as though an angel was responsible for that burning bush, but when the man went to investigate it seems, from the one who then spoke, that the angel deferred to a higher power, the Presence. One wonders for how long that angel had been trying to catch his attention – days, weeks, years? Nevertheless, the man went to investigate.

This old, old story goes on to tell us that the burning bush spoke to the man by name, and told him to remove his shoes because the ground he was standing on was, indeed, holy ground. He did so. He drew aside, and in silence and in the desert, and experienced the Presence.

There is another story, more recent about a woman called Catherine Doherty. Arriving in Canada as a Russian refugee and living in the poorest parts of Toronto, she spent almost all of her life seeking to encounter the Presence, the Source of All, God, in the desert. She wrote in her book, ‘Poustinia: Encountering God in Silence…’, that deserts (and the Russian name for desert is Poustinia, hence the title of her book), those times of silence and solitude are ‘not necessarily places but states of mind and heart’.

These deserts can be found in busy cities, in sparsely populated area, as well as in places where we live each day of our lives.  These deserts of encounter, where the Presence can be experience, can be ‘tiny pools of silence’. They can be anywhere.

But how do we achieve this silence?

How do we experience the Presence? She says, ‘By standing still!’. Catherine Doherty

However we define the Presence, that Mystery, That Which Is Bigger Than Us, that which some call God (and that’s a word that is much overused hence my search and usage of other words), the Elements or Elementals, the Spirit, that Presence is much needed. Not to experience the Presence is not to experience Life in all its fullness.

If perception is looking at something and understanding it from some way off, then encountering the Presence is all about experience, communion, one-ness with and the acceptance of a relationship with the Presence, initiated by the Presence, and which is always beneficial.

And, yet we can ‘distance’ ourselves from the Presence, from that Great Flow, The Spirit, call ‘it’ what you will.

We can ‘distance’ or remove ourselves from the experience of the Presence by being too busy – we all live such busy lives, after all, and some seemingly quantify their worth by a ‘crowded’ diary; by being too precise  – we can so want our words of liturgy and ritual to be word-perfect that we focus on the words rather than the encounter; by being analytical – to use our minds to objectively observe what is going on with the Presence at the time of the encounter  immediately puts us at some distance and we step outside of the basking of sacred-time, and step back into ordinary time; by ‘crowding out’ the Presence by an excess of words, especially if we have limited time and a shopping-list of prayers to recite; by ‘doing’ rather than ‘being’.

Ofcourse, in one very real sense removing or distancing ourselves from the Presence is impossible – because the Presence is ubiquitous and is always close at hand – but we can remove ourselves from the knowledge and experience of the Presence by focussing on what really isn’t important at all.

Why do we do that?

We might fear the Presence and so don’t want to draw close, or we might not fully understand the loving and invitational presence of the Presence, we might be too busy (and if so, please find time to slow and stop occasionally), we might not realise the importance of ritual and prayer (that puts us in a position of being receptive), or (and this is true of some ‘old hands’, mature and ‘holy people’) some may not really want to draw close to the Presence because their lives may be changed (and even if for the better, it can be worrying for some to have Someone Else in the ‘driving seat’). And so, some may prefer an ‘arms length’ approach, to be in control of the ‘on-off’ button, and in such cases may actually be angry and upset with those that point to a closer communion.

Yes, it’s good to encourage greater communion in others, but if you do, be aware that there will some well-meaning people (even using Bible verses) to counter your good works and declare you to be a heretic. But, I can sense that you’re a principled, determined and passionate-for-the-truth sort of person, and that that wouldn’t stop you.

‘All I did was light candles.
Did God find me or did I find God?
Hush!
The time for words is past’.

(Barbara Brown Taylor)

So, how do we encounter the Presence?

Well, liturgy, prayer and ritual are some ways to put us in a position of being receptive to the always-there Presence, but they are ‘doorways’ to step through and enter that ‘inner sanctum’ of sacred-space. They are ‘tools’ to usher us into an awareness of the ‘Divine Ubiquitousness’.

There are many other ways to encounter the Presence (eg music, art, works of service, a numinous event, a tragic event, a loving event, a huge surprise etc) But the encounter of Presence always leads to silence, perhaps perceived in (inner) darkness (‘luminous darkness’), and without analytical thought. It is experience that takes place in time-out-of-time, without words, is a state or mind and being, and it is only after the experience, as we look back analytically, that we ‘remember’ being in the presence of the Presence. This is one of the purposes and uses of the Caim.

‘Your hand opens and closes,
opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralysed.
Your deepest presence
is in every small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
as birds’ wings.’

(Rumi)

 

The Coimimeadh & You: Celtic Thoughts When Out Jogging

20170609 THE COIMIMEADH WHEN OUT JOGGING 1Thoughts from earlier today: I’m in London. It’s early, probably about 6.30am and I’m out jogging. Well, walking now as I’ve done my stint for the day. I’m walking back home. The weather is mild, a little cool, grey cloud overhead, and it’s threatening to rain. There are few people out and out, but there are a few.

Strangers?

Have you ever noticed that when people are not in a rush, perhaps when you pass them first thing in the morning, such as I’m doing now, that there is a ‘connection’. They are more willing to look you in the eye, albeit momentarily, as you pass them by. A friendly nod of the head, perhaps a verbalised greeting and eye contact ensues. This happens a lot in this part of London – I like to think of the city as a friendly place – but there’s a deeper looking into each others soul – if that’s what it is – when passing by, unhurried, early in the morning.

Recognition?

‘When we can look into each others eyes, however briefly, without any agendas or scheme of desire or need, something indescribable and essential takes makes us more than we…’ Mark Nepo

I don’t know if it’s just me, but it’s as if I know them from some other place or time, but don’t know where and when. Odd. There’s something familiar about them. And then it’s gone as we pass each other by.

Could it be that that recognition that I see, and presumably they see in me, and I’m sure the same applies to you, is something deep and profound. It certainly feels like it.

‘Ninety-nine percent of who you are is invisible and untouchable.’  Rhonda Byrne

Could it be that in some way I am ‘seeing’ myself in them, and they see themselves in me. Do we ‘see’ ourselves in others. Not just the human condition reflected back, not just separateness, not just another human being passing you and me by, but a genuine soul-connectedness. Perhaps a recognition that is soul-to-soul, deep within, and/or of having even one-soul such as, say, at the centre of a wheel’s hub and waking up to that commonality or oneness?

‘Each time you say hello to a stranger, your heart acknowledges over and over again that we are all family.’ (Suzy Kassem)

Could it be, allied to that soul-to-soul link, that each one of us has another! Yes, you are not just one! That you have something like a spiritual doppelganger. There’s an unusual and wonderful reference to this in the Book (see Acts 12:15, The Book).

‘The angel seeing us is watching through each other’s eyes.

To ancient (Irish) Celts and Druids this mysterious being, this other-us, is the coimimeadh [pronounced koym-imah]. In the late 17th century, Reverend Robert Kirk wrote about the coimimeadh (literally the ‘co-traveller’), and wrote that it is part of you (your soul), who walks beside you, generally, but sometimes can even go walk-about (in which case you, too, can be bi-locational).

Have you ever felt another presence nearby? An elemental in the forest? An angel? Your (own) coimimeadh? Who knows?

Could it be, and I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m amongst friends, so here goes, could it be that that person and I have, indeed, met before? Yes, I’ll nail my colours to the mast and declare that I’m a firm advocate of not only accepting the existence of the life hereafter, but also of pre-life. Perhaps, that’s where I know them from. Perhaps all the people in your (earthly) life and mine, all those that we fleetingly ‘see’ deeply in the early morning (or in similar settings) are friends from that realm of pre-existence? And, they have been put here as your companions to assist each you on our journey back home, and you for them?

‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you..’ Jeremiah 1.5a

Meanwhile, I’m almost back home, and the person passing me right now has quickened their pace and is looking down. Perhaps, they’re not someone I met in pre-life, perhaps not a coimimeadh, perhaps not my soul-reflection or an angel as no deep connected is felt. Perhaps they aren’t soul-open?. Or, perhaps I’ve got it completely wrong.

Now time for a shower, and to make myself look presentable again.

‘My soul is not asleep. It is awake, wide awake. It neither sleeps nor dreams, but watches, its eyes wide open far-off things, and listens at the shores of the great silence.’ (Antonio Machado)

But, in any case, it’s only good manners to be polite, and smile and greet strangers, first thing in the morning (and at other times), isn’t it? As it says somewhere, ‘Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.’

But, what do you think?

FIREFALL 2017: A POEM/HYMN/LITURGY FOR THIS TIME

20170601 FIREFALL 2017 22This Sunday it is fifty days since Easter and in the calendar of some people that makes it Pentecost. To others, it’s about three weeks to the summer solstice (and the time when I shall be joining my Christian/Celtic-Druidic Brethren and Druids (and others) at Stonehenge) and a time of preparation and looking forward.

Respecting others’ traditions, it struck me that fire is the common thread here. Fire, blessing, newness, understanding, outpouring, gratitude, regardless of our many and splendid, varied and awesome traditions and interpretations it is a time of remembrance and celebration.

This commonality ‘lifts’ us out of the mundane-only way of thinking and propels us to a higher plane, an objective way of understanding and perceiving, a new way of looking at the world around us in all its splendour. Spiritual experience, regardless of our spiritual pedigree, takes us higher and higher, and as we look around the dross that is burned off – one usefulness of fire – we see  what is left behind, and  what really matters – and for all of us that can, and should be, surprising.

We need that fire, today. Pentecost and/or the summer solstice are wonderful events to give gratitude and to seek (another, or further, or greater awareness of) infilling.

Oh, Sun of Righteousness for All
as on that ancient day
when you looked upon us,
you smiled on humankind
and let your fire fall.

Let your fire fall
Let your fire fall
Let your fire fall on us, today.

Oh, Benevolent Sharer of All
shine your light and understanding now,
newness in mind, and body,
and in spirit, too.
Whisper long-sought words of wisdom to all.

Let your fire fall
Let your fire fall
Let your fire fall on us, today.

Oh, Power Behind It All
may we know the heat of pure desire.
To be, to do, to act in love, authentically,
May our hearts and minds be open
to hear your enlightened call.

Let your fire fall
Let your fire fall
Let your fire fall on us, today.

In a world of long shadows,
grant us, yet another fire-fall.

Celtic Lifestyle: Time For Our Souls…

20170518 TIME FOR OUR SOULS CELTIC LIFE4STYLE

‘I know you’re a Type A personality, but right now you really need to slow down, or even stop for a while’, was a phrase I overheard recently. It wasn’t directed at me (as I think I probably qualify as being a Type B personality), but it was well-intended, and in hindsight it was probably exactly what that person needed to hear.

I know we all live in a busy society, but my encouragement to myself and yourself (so far as is possible and practical) is to slow down and find the opportunity to stop for a while. Ofcourse, this is not a reason to do this when we’re working in paid employment clients depend on us, or when it is otherwise inappropriate, but a ‘nudge’ to find time at other times, or even ‘gouge’ out time, then, to slow down and even stop for a while, may be beneficial to each of us.

‘Busy is the enemy of peace. Busy takes us away from our purpose…Busy means life’s joys and surprises can’t find a way into our lives because we’re moving too fast to see and experience them. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to move so fast that I miss my life.’  [Lara Casey]

The ancient Celts, Druids, proto-church Christians and other ancient people lived life to a much different timescale to us, and we have many things to (re-)learn from them. Indeed, they even to a different time-measurement than us. Could it be that we really are missing out by being so busy all the time?

‘Faster is fatal, slower is safe.’ [Amit Kalantri]

A half-way decent fictional movie – I do like Robin Hood – was on tv recently, and  it was spoiled for me when one of the protagonists lined people up and gave them orders to see him, privately. Each one was told by him to report to him ‘ten minutes later’, that is ten minutes after the previous one! Would the Sheriff of Nottingham, some six hundred years ago, be using time in that way? I don’t think so. Time measurement may have been in hours, then, or even half hours, but probably not quarters of an hour or so many minutes. It’s only since the advent of clocks and wristwatches (and railway timetables, apparently) that we, as a society, have been obsessed with the measurement of time to the minute, to such a precise scale. And yet, in looking back it ‘feels’ like it may have always been this way. To the film’s script-writers it obviously seemed like a normal thing to do – to schedule visits to the Sheriff of Nottingham down to ten minutes – but it wasn’t always that way. Nor for our society.

‘Stop talking, stop thinking,
and there is nothing you will not understand.’ [Seng Ts’an]

There’s an interesting story, that goes like this: An archaeologist once hired some local  tribesmen to act as bearers  and paid the to lead him to an archaeological site deep in the mountains. After they had been moving for some time the tribesmen stopped, put down their cargo they were carrying, and insisted they would go no further. They sat down and waited. The archaeologist grew extremely  impatient, and then  became angry. But no matter how much he cajoled them, or even bribed the tribesmen with more money, they would not go any further. Then, some hours later, and without any prior announcement the local tribesmen changed their attitude, picked up the cargo and set off once more. When the bewildered archaeologist asked them why they had stopped earlier, and had refused to move for so long, the tribesmen answered in matter-of-fact manner, ‘We had been moving too fast, and had to wait for our souls to catch up.’

‘…life  always seems vacant and diminished when I accelerate beyond my capacity to feel what is before me.’ [Mark Nepo]

Could it be that we’re all too busy? It may not be the case for you, but it’s always worth periodically checking to ascertain if we’re moving to fast, and need to ‘wait for our souls to catch up’. A busy diary is not necessarily the mark of an efficient or important person, though our egos would like us to think that.

Here’s something you might like to consider: Take some time to think of four things that you must do today. Carefully, relinquish three tasks. And then give yourself fully to that one task.

I admit writing the abovementioned is a risk, and I do advocate using ‘sanctified common-sense’ in doing this exercise, as it may need to be adapted, or it may not be feasible to do it today, or because doing it will cause great offense or pain to others. That’s where we may need to adapt, but I’m sure you get the point. But, if not today, what about tomorrow?

What is this life if, full of care,
we have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
and stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
and watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
we have no time to stand and stare.

[W H Davies]

Maybe it’s time to wait for our souls to catch up?

 

Encountering Silent Teachers: That Ancient Oak Tree / Coeden Dderw Hynafol

20170517 ENCOUNTERING SILENT TEACHERS

Go out, go out I beg you
and taste the beauty of the wild.
Behold the miracle of the earth
with all the wonder of a child.
{Edna Jaques]

Near the perimeter of my garden in north Wales, before you reach the rivulet which is the unannounced boundary of my garden, just 20 yards/meters short of it is a wonderful, old, somewhat gnarled oak tree, standing slightly apart from other trees. Of all the trees in the garden, it is the oldest and most majestic, commanding respect from all.

My grandmother called it ‘coeden dderw hynafol’ (pronounced ‘goh-dun dare-ooh hin-af-foll’, which is Welsh for ‘ancient oak tree’, and that’s what I’ve always called it.

Interestingly, the word Druid, also comes from that Welsh word, dder, pronounced ‘dare-ooh’, for oak, and shows the high esteem that that tree was, and still is, held by them.

Oh, coeden dderw hynafol is a sight to behold. Even when ‘speaking’ to it in English, I’ve always addressed it, as though by a title, by its name in Welsh. I want to be respectful, after all.

Whether one believes that it has a dryad, an associated elemental, a spirit (or a spirit in the metaphorical or romantic sense), or wishes to personify or anthropomorphise this splendid tree, that is beside the point in many respects. It (still) has a presence, a nobility about it, and as it creaks and ‘moans’ in the wind it seems to ‘smile’ and declare to me and others that it was here long before we were born, and…and, yes, it will be here long after we’ve shuffled off this mortal coil.

It is a tree that evokes awe and humility in equal measure.

And so, there I was…nothing on tv….slowly walking, barefoot, toward coeden dderw hynafol at some time shortly after 11.30pm. There was hardly any light, the air was damp and cold – such is springtime in north Wales at this time of night – and the faint outline of  coeden dderw hynafol was etched, flat, without three dimensions apparent, against the dark, cloud-filled sky. The clouds seeming somewhat low and moving briskly, caught by an easterly wind.

I sat on the log just under the outstretched arms of the coeden dderw hynafol, and waited. The wind picked up and it started to rain, and the desire to run back indoors and avoid the rain was almost overpowering. Almost.

‘Only when we stop…do the stones begin to speak’. Mark Nepo

I love the rain, and though there was part of me that didn’t relish the thought of getting drenched, the ‘dominant’ inner voice was content just to let nature take its course. Any, why not? And so I sat on that log, gazing at coeden dderw hynafol and got drenched. Fortunately, there was no one around, and neighbours live some distance away,  so no one noticed my apparent foolishness.

Coeden dderw hynafol creaked, and groaned as it swayed in the wind, ‘moaned’ as the wind caught the top of its branches, and it provided only momentary shelter from the rain – its leaves now conveying downward all the rain it had ‘collected’. But, I will let you into a secret: it felt wonderful.

As I sat there with rain running down my forehead, onto my nose and running off the end of it, this ancient oak tree taught me: that regardless of what forces impact upon it, it stands. When buffeted it moves just a little, is pliable, and doesn’t stand so rigid that it breaks. Oh no. It ‘gives’ just a little. The noise it made wasn’t a cry of pain, but a delight that it was ‘dancing’ to the tune of the wind. And the rain it collected and which fell down on me was like the effect of a shaggy dog shaking itself to get dry and soaking everyone else in the process – something which ‘includes’ me, rather than excludes me, and which can bring on a wry smile. It was as though there was some giant, invisible aspergillum ‘flicking’ holy water on me, and blessing me. And it was comforting.

‘For a true contemplative, a green tree works just as well as a golden tabernacle’. Richard Rohr.

Now drenched, I realised that whatever life sends us, we are in control of our reactions and have the ability to come through the storm. As I sat there I could have been angry at being drenched, and angry that that oak had not provided sufficient cover to keep me dry. However, positive thoughts flooded my mind like warm honey. Coeden dderw hynafol had, in its own way ‘instructed’ me that I (and you, so ‘we’) have the resources to face adversity, and though we might ‘bend’ a little and feel the wounds, we will prevail. Coeden dderw hynafol also blessed me with the rain it had collected and which was now falling on me at quite a pace. It was a though this ancient friend was blessing me with holy water and including me. To be befriended by an oak tree is an amazing thing.

‘We inter-breath with the rain forests, we drink from the oceans. They are part of our own body.’ Thich Nhat Hanh

Soggy, cold, drenched but feeling blessed, I headed back to the house. I hadn’t gone too far when I stopped. It seemed wrong just to walk away. And so I stopped, and as mud oozed between my toes, I turned, and for just half a minute gave my silent thanks to coeden dderw hynafol, nodded and acknowledged my indebtedness to the lessons it had taught me that night.

Ofcourse, some might say it was crazy and puerile to regard that tree in such a way. A tree is just a tree, they might say. But, it didn’t (and doesn’t) feel like just a tree, in its presence. Ofcourse, if people regard it as just a tree, I would add that something deep still stirred within me, and I learned invaluable lessons.

However, I’d like to add that it is more than just a tree to me. There is more. Mae mwy, as they say in these parts, there is more. Coeden dderw hynafol is a silent teacher, and if you and I give ourselves time to draw aside and be still (wherever we are), each day we can learn something from these (and it may not be an oak tree) silent teachers that cross our life-paths.

‘And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet, and the winds long to play with your hair’. Kahlil Gibran