Nature’s ‘Quiet Teachers’ And The Three Lessons

20190214 NATURES QUIET TEACHERS AND THE THREE LESSONS

We all live in a fast-paced society, regardless of where we live. Things to do, places to be, people to see. Never with enough hours in the day, it seems. It creeps up slowly on us all, and only a determined effort will expose its grip on.

We live in an age of ‘fast’, as opposed to those Ancients, the Druids, early Christians, Pagans and others whose life resonated to a much slower, deeper time.

Today, society’s watchword is ‘busy’. But, that is not who we are.

‘Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going to fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why’. Eddie Cantor

With that thought in mind, and acknowledging that I had been caught, lately, in the trap of ‘fastness’, I took myself off for a break, and recently spent several wonderful days in the New Forest in the southernmost part of England, and loved it.

It was cold, wet, and muddy, and some might have described it as miserable. I would call it an opportunity to be alone with the Alone. And, what a blessing it was.

I’ve mentioned some of the thoughts and experiences of that New Forest encounter, already, and the blessing it was to me, but it seems to me that the Universe, the Source of All doesn’t delineate things quite as neatly as we want, and because of that there is always something to learn.

Here are some recent events, in no particular order, with learning experiences.

One: There is a guy who is homeless, local to where I live in London, and whenever I can I strike up a conversation with him, have shared information about helpful agencies with him, and sometimes given money. It can almost be ‘robotic’. It shouldn’t be, but sometimes when we see mass appeals on tv for this concern and that need, it’s possible to get ‘overloaded’ and blasé about those in great need and their needs. Without realising it, in our busyness we miss out.

And then it happened. I was in a café belonging to one of the large companies, inserted my debit card at the counter/check-out till and it wouldn’t work. I tried three times, and fortunately there wasn’t a queue behind me so no one was upset  – except me. But, it wasn’t working – the card had a ‘tear’ in it.

Just then a young guy who seemed about eight foot tall and looking down on me, it seemed (and that was a bit of hyperbole on my part), and who was in front of me, having paid and was waiting for his coffee, offered to pay. And, before I could say anything, he wafted his wrist over the contactless reader (just like Obi Wan Kenobi did in that movie when he said, ‘These are not the ‘driods you are looking for’) and the transaction for my latte and croissant had been dealt with. Just like that.

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

In my mind, the ‘accuser’ spring to life: ‘He thinks your down on you luck. He feels sorry for you because he thinks your card has been declined because of insufficient funds. That’s what he thinks of you.’ And so, I wanted to say to him, I do have enough money in the bank you, know! But, the ‘quietness within’ also spoke to me and urged me to accept this goodwill gesture, knowing that I needed to pay for it, and that the pay-er would be blessed. The most I could say to him, overjoyed at his assistance, was ‘Thank you, bless you!’.

What goes around, comes around. The blessings we send out, do come back in the same form, similar forms, or altogether different forms; but they do come back. I do believe that young man will be blessed. Reciprocity.

From that café event I learned humility and the need sometimes to allow others to act on my behalf – is that the same for you?

I will look at the homeless man in the alley near Putney Bridge differently – as a truly humble man and an example to me.

Two: Having spent some time in the New Forest, it gave me sometime to spend a few hours with some new friends in Portsmouth and to celebrate Imbolc and St Brigids Day. And it was wonderful. Many people there had parts to do and say in a wonderful ceremony, and they did so with passion. I was asked to call one of the Quarters. I declined. I didn’t have my hearing aids with me, but I was impressed at the welcoming, friendliness and inclusiveness of the grove. Isn’t that what it should be like? I guess so, but isn’t it wonderful when it really happens.

‘Everyone has a place. If we do not realize this we are not living in an inclusive world. Divisions are created by fear, anger and ignorance.’  Independent Zen

From this group I learned humility, and the need to accept graciously extended invitations. They were an example to me. Receiving.

Perhaps I could have managed with the hearing aids?

Three: Very recently I attended a Leaders’ course. It was in Solihull, near Birmingham and seemed to cover a theme that I’d like to discover more about. I will be polite. There was room for improvement in the logistics of the day, but those leading it were passionate and I liked that, even though they made no allowance for anyone’s slightly different theologies.

‘If you feel like there’s something out there that you’re supposed to be doing, if you have a passion for it, then stop wishing and just do it.’ Wanda Sykes

We had had the introductions from the front, the short course explained and ‘dipped’ in to the first theme. This was followed by a ten minute break and it was then that I hoped to find out about the twenty leaders, who, like me, were participants and might have travelled from the four corners of the country.

As soon as the break time had been declared, mobile phones came out, ipad computers were ‘fired up’, and all manner of busyness took place.

I looked around and wondered how these people’s organisations could do without them, if they had to check in like this at the first opportunity? Ofcourse, in a fast-paced and busy society the hallmark of having made it is to ‘look busy’!

It’s easy to point the finger and say that this display of busy-ness is ego (although, perhaps their organisations could not do without them), but it could be. But, another, deeper thought came to my mind.

The over-riding thought was: ‘this was you (and could it be you?). It’s easy to slip back into it. Pray for those who are still in the clutches of busy-ness’. I almost fell into the trap of judging them in a self-righteous way.

The cult of busy-ness is insidious, but we are more than that.

‘He showed me that there was another world where strangers helped strangers for no other reason than that it is good to do so, and where callousness was unusual, not the norm.’ Hyeonseo Lee

Today, society’s watchword is ‘busy’. But, that is not who we are.

The Ancients knew the art of slow, of perceiving deeply and leading an uncluttered life. They had their challenges just as we have ours. We are not in their situation, and so in many senses we need to ‘work’ at rediscovering  what they experienced.

I’m back in London now. The New Forest experiences were wonderful, but so were the events that followed it. Could it be that in any encounter with the Other, the ‘unpacking’ and assessment and application of it comes later, and do the blessings keep on coming as ‘distant echoes’?. I think they do. Residuality

Wherever we go, there are things to perceive, things to learn, things to share. We are surrounded by nature’s ‘quiet teachers’ – and such teachers are in wild places as well as in the city, in deep spiritual moments and in the ‘mundane’.  We are surrounded by such teachers and the One who is engaged in an everlasting conversation with us, should we only ‘stop and stare’, and listen, and put the cult of busy-ness in its place.

 

Tadhg, On The Road To The New Forest: Imbolc, Land-Healing & More 2

20190201 TADHG ON THE ROAD TO THE NEW FOREST 2

I’m in the New Forest in the south of England. The new Forest is a charmingly deceptive name, though. It is an ancient woodland delineated on the man-made map a thousand years ago and at that time declared ‘new’, and formed after the retreat of the last ice age some thirty thousand years ago. It is an old forest, indeed, and it’s bliss.

In a forest such as this, there is a wonderful feeling of catharsis, a peace in the midst of wild things. The Japanese knew of this and coined a phrase in the 1980’s prompting the health benefits of people spending time in forest.

Many call this ‘tree bathe-ing’, the Japanese call it ‘shirin-yoku’ (meaning ‘taking in the forest atmosphere’) and its benefits are felt just by being in a forest. It is said it helps to reduce blood pressure, stress, improves mood, accelerates ailment recovery, increases energy levels and intuition, increases happiness etc. Truly, there is something here, something beyond what just can be seen. 

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

 Wendell Berry

I’m in this ancient forest, suitably attired for my hike, or perhaps a saunter is a better word for it, in waterproofs with layers underneath and well-worn hiking boots on my feet. I am in my preferred environment. I’ve been walking for two hours now, and it’s raining, it’s wet and it’s muddy underfoot, and cold. I love it. I haven’t seen another soul in two hours. I’m alone.

Alone? That’s not entirely true. Sporadically a bird flies overhead in this dark, dense woodland. Most of the trees a bare, leafless except for the pine trees. Occasionally, an animal scurries away in the nearby undergrowth. Adders are very common in this area and care should be taken. I’m careful. The trees are far from lifeless. They’re sleeping. Deep roots are dreaming. And new shoots push up through the semi-decomposed duff layer here and there. Spring is returning. 

Alone? No. There is animal life here, tree and plant life, microbial  life and much more. Some talk of life as consisting of animal life, plant (and tree) life, fungi, protist life (that is, any multi-called organism not included in the previous three), archaea life (single-called organisms) and bacteria. These all form what is known as the Five Kingdoms of life. How can I be alone with all that going on around me? But there’s more.

‘If we opened our minds to enjoyment, we might find tranquil pleasures spread about us on every side. We might live with the angels that visit us on every sunbeam, and sit with the fairies who wait on every flower.’ Samuel Smiles

Alone? No. These are ancient woods and you can feel something more here. A presence or presences can be felt. Benevolent. Yes.

Perhaps it is Dryads (tree spirits); Salamanders (fire-beings seen in flames eg candle flame, and, some would say in everything that has the potential to burn); the Fae or pixies (nature’s carers); or Water nymphs, energetic beings, found in and by lakes (but why not in a wet and damp forest like the one I’m in, or present in your faucet.) Yes, maybe water nymphs are closer to you, in your home, than you imagined at first. 

Maybe there are Sylphs here. Yes, there are. Sylphs are said to be seen in light clouds or low-level mist, and indeed some would say they are the light clouds and low-level mist that we sometimes see. Here, in this forest the occasional wisp of mist can be seen moving between trees as a light breeze directs them.

Dryads, Salamanders, the Fae, Water nymphs, and Sylphs are here, and all these, sometimes collectively known as Elementals, are known by some as the Five Magical Realms.

Alone? No. I am in an ancient forest teeming with life, visible and invisible, ‘mundane’ and ‘spiritual’, known and unknown, silent and loud, jere and yet of the Other.  And maybe, there are angels here; maybe the ancestors, too.

‘…since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…’ Hebrews 12.1b, The Book

And then, I stop. And in this ancient forest, surrounded by Life itself, there at the base of a tree stump I ‘plant’ a small rainforest jasper stone (as I have done in two other location through the U.K.) and say a few words of peace over it; peace for the land, peace for all life, peace for this country’s government of people as it ‘doth err’. Remaining in silence I am aware of the presences around me. Presences? oh yes, and the Presence is here, known as the Friend, the Companion, the Happy One, the Wild Holy One.

We are never alone. Never alone, for we ‘swim’ through Life itself and Life pervades our very Being in an eternal dance of mutuality.

And, then I move. It’s still raining, it’s still wet and it’s still muddy underfoot, and it is still cold. Oh yes, and I still love it, but it’s time to walk back on my two hour journey to leave this wonderful place. But, what is here ‘travels’ with me, and oh yes, it “travels’  with you, too, for we are never alone.

‘Listen. Are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?’ Mary Oliver

Tadhg, On The Road To The New Forest: Imbolc, Land-Healing & More (1)

20190201 TADHG ON THE ROAD TO THE NEW FOREST 1

Yes, I’m on the road again, as this time (on Saturday, 2 February) I’m heading to the New Forest, in England.

Odd that it should still be called The New Forest, as it has existed as woodland since the end of the last Ice Age, and its heaths were first cleared and cultivated  in small areas by  Bronze Age settlers . The area was formerly known as ‘Ytene’ the land of the Jutes (an Anglo-Saxon tribe). However, it was grouped together as a ‘new’ forest by William the Conqueror in AD1079, hence its name. The New Forest of AD1079. And, it’s a wonderfully rugged and wild area, the place where things can happen, and nature abounds.

And, that’s were I’m headed. The New Forest. Over the next few days I will meet friends and celebrate Imbolc, then the following day will lead a house blessing, and then bury a pebble and recite liturgy as part of my small endeavour to be involved, along with others, in healing the land.

But first Imbolc.

Yes, the circle continues to turn, the Earth continues on its (elliptical) orbit around the sun, and yet another wonder, 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. It really is time to celebrate, to give thanks to That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves, the Beloved.

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 beginning of Spring and 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.

Brigid is the keeper of a sacred springs and the wells, patroness of sweet water. Water the nourisher. Water, sustainer of life on earth. And water, together with fire, 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, but 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.

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  your garden or in your window-box.

Blackberry: Sacred to Brigid, the leaves and berries are used to attract prosperity and healing.

Ginger: revitalises and stimulates the ‘fire within’

Prayer for Imbolc & Brigid – honouring Brigid and Mary

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)

Stories about Brigid

Stories about Brigid abound, and in the past two have caught my attention. There is a story about Brigid and a miracle or magic regarding her cloak, but its a story of justice and plenty. Do read about it here

And there’s another story I like about Brigid. It’s a story about her concern and love for strangers and travellers, and the extraordinary lengths she went to, to meet their needs. It’s a story of generosity and a miracle or magic of plenty. Do read about it here.

Finally…

Imbolc and St Brigid’s feast day is a time of celebration, so be encouraged to spend some time outdoors in nature, and celebrating in some way indoors. Celebrate. Enjoy. Be intentional.

 

That Celestial Café, That Magic Café: A Story From The Heart(h)

20190125 that celestial cafe that magical cafe

And so, there I was in the Magic Café in the heart London, today. It is one of my favourite haunts to rest, relax, read a deep and interesting book, and meet dear friends and chat. It has a ‘magical’ quality about it. Walk past it and you could be forgiven for thinking it is just another café. But, it isn’t. Things happen here. And today, in one of those moments of cosmic significance, as I sat there I gazed into a cup of coffee with a ‘galaxy-shape’ dollop of cream swirling around in the cup, and I pondered. And, I was reminded of something from oh so many years ago.

I was about five or six years of age, and was sitting at the foot of my grandmother’s rocking chair, and I was probably too near to the open fire in the hearth and so would constantly shift. I had been playing outside for some time, and had got bitterly cold, and was now trying to get warm.

My grandmother came into the room, gave me a cup of hot chocolate, and said, ‘This’ll warm you up, wee one’, and as I looked at it, there was a dollop of cream swirling around in a ‘galaxy shape’. I was mesmerised. My grandmother noticed and half-laughed.

‘Your heart knows the way; run in that direction’. Rumi

‘Imagine’, she said, ‘that in your cup you’re gazing at a galaxy containing a billion races of beings of all shapes and sizes, all living their lives without knowing that you’re looking at them’. I could imagine that, and I was in awe to think that I might have already sipped a few races to oblivion!

She told one of her stories, and the moment she opened her lips I was enthralled.
‘Imagine’, she said, ‘ that in your cup you’re gazing at a galaxy containing a billion races of beings of all shapes and sizes, all living their lives without knowing that you’re looking at them’. She continued, ‘Perhaps we all come from some kind of celestial café, and all the people we’ve ever known or even briefly met we’ve met before are in that galaxy somewhere.

‘I think there was a time when in that celestial café you and I, along with everyone else, were having a cup of hot chocolate. Oh, it was a wonderful place. No one got ill, not one died, no one aged. It was bliss’, she said.

‘And then, one day you and I, and a few others were chosen to go on an amazing adventure. As we looked out of the window, we saw a wonderful created galaxy, or perhaps as you looked down into that cup of hot chocolate in the celestial café you saw it too. And as you released a cube of sugar, even before it fell into the hot chocolate we left. And so did millions of others who were chosen for that adventure.’ she said.

‘But, why leave?’, I asked. ‘Ah, she replied, ‘ that’s the mystery. There is always a reason even if we can’t fathom it out now. But, one day we will’

‘And so, having left that celestial café for a very good, but unremembered reason, adventure started here in Capel Curig for us, and we’re living our adventure now. Others ‘landed’ in America, France, Germany, China, Russia and on all parts of the globe’, she said with a slight glint in her eye. ‘And it’s a most wonderful adventure to be lived to the full each and every day. And everyone you meet ‘down here’ will be people you’ve known ‘up there’ but might not remember right now’.

‘And, here you, a wee lad of five, gazing into that cup of coffee with what looks like a galaxy swirling around on its surface.’
‘One day’, she said, ‘it’ll be time to go home. Hopefully, that’ll be after a hundred years ‘down here’, and can you imagine what it will be like ‘up there’ when you get home?
I pondered, trying to put all this cosmic timescale into some kind of order, and then after a number of minutes looking up to the left, then the right, starting to mouth an answer but stopping before even a word was uttered, with furrowed eyebrows I calmly said, ‘no!’.

She laughed as only grandmother could. ‘Why, she said, ‘we’ll be sitting in a celestial café, drinking hot chocolate, and as you look into the cup you’ll notice the cube of sugar just hitting the coffee’.

Now, even at that young age I had noticed what I thought was a flaw in her storytelling.

‘But Granma, when you told that story, right at the beginning you said I had just started to drop the sugar cube into the cup, then you said you hoped we all lived ‘down here’ for a hundred years. But, if you and I lived for a hundred years and went back to the celestial café, how come the sugar is only just hitting the chocolate as though only a second has passed?’ I was quick!

‘Yes, you’re right, little one, but a hundred years ‘down here’ is only like one second ‘up there’.

Years later the story was still poignant, and it was only years later that I could ‘unpack’ the story for its full meaning; a message of cosmic proportions told by an elderly Welsh woman of some great age, many years ago.

‘It’s as though we’ve stepped out of that celestial café for one second, lived a full life of a hundred years ‘down here’, and returned to that celestial café and picked up where we left off. So. only a second (or less) has passed’. ‘Infact, many’, she said, ‘believe we never left that celestial café, but we just think we did. We’re still there, looking down as if we’re gazing into a cup of hot chocolate with a dollop of cream on it resembling a spiral galaxy.’

That story was told to me many years ago. But, it makes you think doesn’t it?

We think of the after-life, but what about pre-life? And, if there is such a notion, and I, like my grandmother believe there is, then we’ve either just stepped out for a blink of an eye and lived (or are living) a full life here on Earth and one day will return; or we have never left, but maybe our ‘dampened consciousness’ has, and it’s that revelation we come to understand when it’s our turn to pass on and return to that celestial café.

‘…a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day”, 2 Peter 3.8b, The Book

Either way, I do believe it’s a story that encompasses a fragment of understanding of our ‘beginning’, our current life, and our return ‘home’ for everyone. No wonder there are some people I seem to know and give a friendly nod to as I pass them in the street, but can’t ever remember seeing them before. It’s as if our memory of that celestial café has been erased for the time being, but we get a glimpse every so often.

Perhaps that annoying neighbour, that traffic warden, that good friend or infuriating friend is, even now sitting with me (and you) in that celestial café looking down and watching events ‘down here’ unfold?

As a young lad I was mesmerised by my grandmother’s story. ‘Drink up, your hot chocolate won’t be hot forever’, she said. But she knew! She knew of a place where hot chocolate never gets cold.

My grandmother passed-on in 1986. She went back to that celestial café, known by a myriad of other names: the Summerland(s), Bliss, Heaven, Paradise, Moksha, Nirvana, Ynis Witrin (Glass Island), Glass Mountain or Fortress etc,, and in that kind of celestial time-scheme it could be that she never really left or if she did it have been me (or you or one of your loved ones) that may have been waiting at the table awaiting her return?

‘I firmly believe that when you die you will enter immediately into another life. They who have gone before us are alive in one form of life and we in another. ‘ Norman Vincent Peale

My grandmother told some wonderful stories. I know we might each have different views on pre-life or the afterlife, but you have to admit (I think) that my grandmother’s story, well,  they make you think, don’t they?

 

 

We Live In An Ocean Of Air: Connectedness

20190115 we live in an ocean of air

And so, I and five others waited in that darkened room. Suddenly startled, my eyes saw a myriad of trees around me and in the distance. Deep, dense green. Wonderful. There were birds flying around me and above me in this tropical rain forest, and I could hear their birdsong. Golden airborne seeds seemed to be wafted towards me on the wind,  and then away. Bliss.

To one side stood an old, thick, majestic and immensely tall tree. It was a sequoia tree, ancient and gnarled, standing over 200 feet tall. I moved towards it. As I did it got larger in my sight.

‘If a tree falls in the forest there are other trees listening.’

air cBreathing out my breath was a myriad of blue bubbles – about the size of garden peas. I inhaled. Exhaled, and there they were again. I moved my hand through those blue bubbles and they swirled about, affected by my hand’s swishing movement. My hand consisted of thousands of red bubbles denoting my blood supply, but always forming a handshape as I moved my hands about.

I was concerned about the other five people. Where were they?

I looked behind and to the left, and human shapes passed close. Millions of red bubbles, in human form, showed the outline and exact place of the others. Living cells of blood came closer. Male or female, local or foreign, black or white? I didn’t know.  It made no difference. Red cells full of oxygen and life, representatives of humankind, were coming close, then moving off, in some slow dance. And as they moved, their hands moved to experience this event. They seemed to be doing tai chi. Tian.

As they breathed out, so many tiny blue bubbles filled the air in front of their faces. I breathed out and moved my hands to show them where I was. I saw them, they saw me. No words were exchanged, but we communicated in some silent, deep, ancient and primal way. Summerlands.

’It’s like a ‘wood wide web’.’

air aI moved even closer to that large, splendid tree. Suddenly, as I looked down I saw winding ‘cables’, about six inches thick – some wider, some smaller, ‘cables’ with yellow light emitting from every inch of it. I could see the mighty tree’s root system, moving nutrients from the distance to its trunk, under my feet. I was in awe. My feet were it its root system!

I turned to see the tree roots become entangled with other trees in an amazing network of connectedness and mutual support. I turned back towards the thick trunk of the tree and stretched out my hand as if to touch it, and walked forward. Eden.

My sight changed. Around me were now a myriad of luminous ‘wires’ embracing me, and running down and up. I looked up and saw them disappear high above me. I looked around and moved my hand to touch these spaghetti-like ‘wires’ of luminous light – phloem, the trees ‘vascular bundles’ which draw water in and deliver it to all parts of the tree – those ‘wires’ of pink and white, yellow and light blue gently moved in response to my touch, and then they moved back.

I was ‘in’ that ancient tree. Part of it. Connected.

‘If a giraffe starts eating an African acacia, the tree releases a chemical into the air that signals that a threat is at hand. As the chemical drifts through the air and reaches other trees, they “smell” it and are warned of the danger. Even before the giraffe reaches them, they begin producing toxic chemicals.’

I remained there, in that tree. It was divine.

As I stood motionless, I could see light pulses moving up the tree, could see my breath as blue bubbles, could hear the tree moving water around its trunk and branches, and could hear my own heartbeat, could see the tree discharging oxygen: the tree and me (us) in a harmony of light and sound, together. Jannah.

But, it was time to explore, more so, and so I walked around.

A few minutes later, this green vision of that ancient forest disappeared and my vision went black. I stood motionless. The experience was over, but what an experience to remember!

air bAn assistant, one of two, who invisibly, were in the large room to assist fellow sojourners during this experience, took off my headgear which projected that ancient Gaia forest scene and which monitored my breathing. Next, she took out the earpieces throughout which I had heard birdsong and lovely forest sounds. Then, the wrist attachments, which showed me my hands in that ‘vision’, were removed. The strap around my chest which monitored my heart beat (and let me hear my heartbeat sounds) was unstrapped, and finally the backpack (which presumably contained battery and some kind of computer, and which weighed about 15 lbs) was removed.

I was ‘back’.

Along with the other five we discussed this moving and spiritual experience, and later, as I sat on the top deck of the number 22 bus in London I looked around at people – red blood vessels of light; trees containing ‘wires’ of light and wondered about the wonderful world we inhabit.

‘When you know that trees experience pain and have memories and that tree parents live together with their children, then you can no longer just chop them down and disrupt their lives with large machines. Machines’

I marvelled that humankind, animals, plants, the local and cosmic environment are one: we are all connected.

 

This ‘immersive’, thought-provoking and spiritual event is ‘We live in an Ocean of Air’, a virtual reality experience where the invisible connection between plant and human is revealed through breath. Visitors are invited to step through the canvas to explore a magical world where the invisible exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide is beautifully brought to life. The event takes place for a few weeks (more) at the Saatchi Gallery, Chelsea, London.

The indented quotes above all come from the book, ‘The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World’ by Peter Wohlleben,

 

Table Talk: One Day In November. [Elementals/Angels, Life, Quantum Physics, Dogs’ Souls & More]

20181114 TABLE TALK ONE DAY IN NOVEMBER

Have you ever thought about ritual and the need to go to certain locations, ever wondered about quantum physics, whether dogs have souls and other gnawing questions? Seven people did!

It had been a couple of months, but a few of us met earlier today in a local café, and as we ate croissants or pain au chocolat, and imbibed various types of coffee with seasonal syrups we sat back and talked about those lofty themes. We all aired our views, asked our question, all learned something from each other, and laughed a lot. It was a great time of deep and meaningful fellowship.

‘Learning life’s lessons is not about making your life perfect, but about seeing life as it was meant to be’. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

There was no set agenda, and what follows is a record of our ‘table talk’, albeit a brief outline of what followed.

Someone asked: So, is it important to go to specific places to perform a ritual?

Tadhg replied: Ah, the answer is no and yes. But I don’t think you would be happy with me if I left the answer just there.

In one sense, it isn’t important to go to a specific place to perform a ritual, because you could perform it, as a group or by yourself, anywhere, even in your house.

On many occasions I’ve used the caim and other ritual, and used visualisation with it, using my imagination to imagine being at that place in my mind. If intentionality is important, and it is, then a ritual in a substitute place, will suffice and be effective. So, if sending light and love to an area in need or of concern to you, to say, Chengdu in China, or to California, USA, or Jaipur in India, one doesn’t need to visit. A ritual, time set aside, somewhere else,  with time to visualise and imagine deeply is just as effective.

‘Ritual is able to hold the long-discarded shards of our stories and make them whole again. It has the strength and elasticity to contain what we cannot contain on our own, what we cannot face in solitude.’ Francis Weller

Having said that, there are times when it may be good to go to specific places, physically. For instances, I’ve been invited to a wedding, and to support the bride and groom I will attend, physically. And, it would be bad banners to stay away.  Other Druidic and Christian, and other faith celebrations do sometimes mean physical attendance is needed to show support, to give ‘out’ to others, and to ‘receive’ from them. For the benefit of others.

I went to Maen Lli in Wales to perform an Earth-Healing ritual, and in that case, I felt it necessary to actually go there to do that ritual, in part because it would mean something even deeper to me (or to others looking on). It was a kind of pilgrimage. So, it was mainly for my benefit in that case. But, being there, on that occasion, meant so much more.

Someone asked: So, what then are the important ‘ingredients’ to ritual, at the essential and deepest level?

Tadhg replied: Two major ‘ingredients’ are intentionality and sincerity, and those attributes I do believe, can change things.

In the strange, infinitesimally-small world of quantum physics/mechanics it is scientifically accepted that matter, at its deepest level, acts differently when it is observed by humans compared to when unobserved. The Universe changes the outcome depending on human input. Also, Carl Jung talked about the collective unconscious and the way it affects humankind, and perhaps in some way we are adding or changing this in some way by ritual at the deepest level.

‘If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.’ Attributed to Richard Feynman

I think it is not too great a step to imagine a changed outcome when ritual (done with intentionality and sincerity) is employed. Ofcourse, the outcome may be subtle, it may be delayed or work its way out in a way that we cannot perceive, but I do believe ritual (prayer etc) changes things.

Someone asked: Each of us sitting around this believe different things – some minor difference and some major. How do you reconcile this?

Tadhg replied: It could be that we’re closer to a unity of belief than we thought. For instance, which one of us holds the same kind of belief that we held, say, ten years ago?

I hope there has been some change because that denotes growth and a maturing. Anything else means no growth! So, our commonality is that we’re all on a journey the same journey, experienced in different ways. And, maybe we’re all at differing stages of development? And, that’s the area for fundamental comparison. It’s good to discuss with others their belief and ours, as in part, that’s how we grow together, if done in love – but if we discuss our individual changes and growth then we understand each other and the Universe a bit more than we would otherwise have done. Then, our task could be to build each other up, further, along our chosen paths.

’In essentials, unity; in differences, liberty; in all things, charity.’ Philipp Melanchthon

Also, where we have differences maybe they could be because of different words used, or seen as different metaphors of the same thing? You might see an angel, I might see an elemental, others might see a ghost? Who is to say what is more accurate?

What we can say is that each of us saw something awesome, unusual and other-worldly.

I might talk of the soul, others might use the term psyche, and yet others might use the word ‘atman’. A Jewish person talking of God’s bounty might refer to the miracle of manna and quail in the desert, whereas a Christian might refer to the first miracle at Cana – the changing of water into wine by Jesus. Others might tell the story of Brighid changing bathwater to beer to quench the thirst of weary travellers. All declare the provision of the Source of All.

‘The longer we listen to one another – with real attention – the more commonality we will find in all our lives. That is, if we are careful to exchange with one another life stories and not simply opinions.’ Barbara Deming

We have more in common, and a closer affinity to each when we understand our fundamental beliefs, than we can at first imagine.

Someone asked: Do animals have souls?

Tadhg replied: That’s an interesting question. You will find a huge amount of research on this. Many mainline Christian denominations and many Jewish groups, and others, are adamant that only humankind have souls.

Rabbi Moses Cordovero,  a leading mystic in 16th-century, recognised that animals do have some kind of spiritual energy, which he calls nefesh heyuni, but his view was that it was not a soul in the conventional sense. Once the animal dies, nothing survives.

‘A Druid is likely, then, to acknowledge a tree, river or stone to have spirit, or soul, or consciousness. This consciousness is as different from human consciousness as a stone’s nature is different from human nature.’ Druid Network

However, Plato on the other hand believed that animals and plants possess souls, and he’s quite convincing, as were some of the saints of old.

It’s noteworthy that St Francis Paola called his pet animals by their names even after their earthly lives had ended. He apparently believed they continued to exist after their deaths. And let’s not forget St Francis of Assisi who preached to animals and creation for a reason. Why preach to them if they have no soul?

‘That is why such a person never ceases to pray also for the animals… that they may be preserved and purified’. St Isaac.

I am convinced that all animals, plants, indeed all of creation possess a soul and continue on – they live, they die or change and continue on, made new; and that’s part of my Druidic Christian (or Christo-Druid) belief.  I have no misgivings in blessing animals or any part of nature, or organising a ritual for animals’ healing etc, and have done so in the past, and infact I consider it a joy to do so.

‘And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Revelation 21.5a, The Book.

Someone asked: Earlier you mentioned ritual, and visualisation, but what about actions, what about action or work. Aren’t they necessary.

Tadhg replied: Another good question. Once you’ve experienced a ritual, or visualised or made a prayer request, there is usually a need to ‘do’ something allied to the ritual, visualisation or prayer.

If for instance I am concerned about the plight of those caught in the California fires and who need shelter, after a ritual, visualisation or prayer for them I might be led to ‘do’ something. Now that could be something connected with that situation and might involve sending money to the American Red Cross, but it could be something loosely connected with it, such as planting a tree (or sending money to a tree-growing charity) so that each time you look at, or think of, that tree you’ll remember those caught in the California fires.

‘You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth. For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons… When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.’ Kahlil Gibran

So, action or work may be needed, but it need only be loosely connected with what the ritual, visualisation or prayer was about, and it can be a token action and something achieved within minutes. Don’t ever feel you need do so much that is becomes a burden and troublesome. You may not be called or able to resolve the issue. Small efforts can reap huge benefits.

Conclusion: Now you know what was on the hearts and minds of friends in that café. Do stay in touch, do sign up to receive notifications of future articles. Also, the thought occurred to me to have ‘open’ or limited-number café events in London so that you might be able to savour the experience of ‘table talk’ if in/near to London?

Would you believe this is the 500th article I’ve written. Thank you for reading this, and for being loyal and reading my previous articles. Do stay in touch, even if it’s to say ‘hello’.

Much light and love be to you and yours, Tadhg

 

Power & Practice: Blessing 101: When? Now? Are You Sure?

20181021 BLESSING 101 WHEN NOW ARE YOU SURE

Here are three accounts from my journal about blessing and awakening, which I believe may have parallels with your life, albeit the working-out may be different for all of us as individual Celts, Pagans, Christians, Druids etc. But, as regards the theme and nature of blessings, its timing, power and efficacy, do read on.

‘A blessing is the very soulfire made manifest’. Blessing: The Art And Practice. David Spangler

Un/1
There was a time, many years ago, when I was, as they say, ‘wet behind the ears’. At the age of eighteen years and during the summer breaks between college terms I would assist in the church office. The church was a sleepy, little church, where nothing much seemed to happen, and if the telephone rang I was told it would probably be a utility company chasing an unpaid bill, in which case I was to make a note and pass it to the treasurer when I saw her next. It seemed like a good thing assisting in the office as it gave me something to occupy myself and meant I’d have some work experience, and it was a worthwhile summer endeavour.

At that time, my assistance was administrative only, that is until I found myself alone in the church office, and the telephone rang, and it wasn’t a utility company.

Caller: Hello, this is Charing Cross Hospital. May I speak to the Pastor, please?

Me: I’m sorry, he’s away on a church conference for the week. Is it something I can deal with?

Caller: Are the Church elders available?

Me: They are normally here at this time, but I’m afraid both are out of the office right now leading a service at a school at the moment. Could I be of assistance?

Caller: We have a male patient who is in a critical condition and is asking for someone to visit for prayer. Could you come quickly, please?

It was one of those ‘jarring’ moments when time seemed to stand still. I knew I had very little religious knowledge, certainly didn’t have any official church credentials, and yet here was a call, as it were, from out of the ether, a cry, a call for help by an unknown person who, I was told, was in a critical condition. Within the space of one second my mind seemed to come up with every possible disqualification not to attend that I could imagine, and yet I found myself saying, ‘I can be there in twenty minutes. Can you give me the details, please?’

Who can bless?

There were at least a dozen reasons for me not to go, but the only one that mattered was that someone’s life here on earth was about to expire, they had got the hospital to call on their behalf and fate, the universe, or God had ensured that that call had come through to me, and I didn’t want that person to die alone.

I got to the hospital, saw the middle-aged man in need in the critical care unit, introduced myself, took his hand, listened to him, prayed and blessed him. Ofcourse, there was more than that, as I left the ward sometime later I felt both concerned for that patient and yet quietly assured that I had responded appropriately.

Who can give a blessing? Well, as I was (then) part of an organised hierarchical group the leaders could and do bless. It’s true that they sometimes delegated on an ad hoc basis, but what was one to do in an emergency when they weren’t around? The answer in my mind is: any action based on love is acceptable, and indeed, necessary.

At that young age I was thrust into the heady world of life and death, hospitals and ensuring unhindered access in that time of emergency. Doors opened, and it was as if I had a companion beside me to empower me and guide me. I do believe the universe, my guardian angel, my favourite elemental, my coimimeadh, or God was with me that day. It was one instance of being nudged into awareness.

There is an account in the Book where Peter miraculously escapes from prison and goes to the house of Mary the mother of John. He knocks and Rhoda goes to answer the door. It’s almost comical in that she is so surprised, she leaves Peter outside.

It says: Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”

“You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his [spirit, though some say, angel].” Acts 12: 13-15, The Book

Oh, you may have noticed the word coimimeadh? To ancient (Irish) Celts and Druids this is a mysterious being, an ‘other-us’. The coimimeadh (pronounced koym-imah) according to the Reverend Robert Kirk (writing in the seventeenth century) is our ‘co-traveller’. He thought that it is part of us (our soul), who walks beside us, generally, but sometimes can even go walk-about (in which case you, too, can be bi-locational).

We are guided into awareness and action by That Which Is Unseen, and this belief is global and spans may tribes, belief systems and cultures.

‘All blessings come from a single source: the soulfire of an intelligent love and compassion willing to give itself’. Blessing: The Art And Practice. David Spangler

Who can bless? You and I can bless.

Dau/2
There was a time when, many years ago, when, at the age of nineteen I found myself clearing away things that had been used in the church service. The service had ended half an hour earlier, and there was no one was about, just me, or at least so I thought. It was late, a December evening, and it was pitch black outside and only minimal lights were now on in the worship area of this old, rustic, heavily stone-clad, somewhat dusty building. Dark shadows abounded within the building.

As I stepped onto the dais, the platform, there was a polite, somewhat high-pitched cough from the far row pews, and as I looked I could see the outline of a young lady in the shadows. Without wanting to act surprised, I slowly made my way to the back and politely asked if I could assist.

Person: I need a blessing.

Immediately I thought, how should one bless?

Me: Ah, I’m the only one here now. The Church leaders have now left but you could contact them tomorrow if you need. I can give you details.

Person: I need a blessing now. What’s to stop you blessing me?

Me: Nothing. Nothing at all.

For the next ten minutes this young woman spoke about a recent family tragedy of heart-rending proportions. All I could do was but listen as she unburdened herself. She took my hand and asked me to bless her. As I said the words, ‘Bless this young lady…’. She cried out, wailed loudly, rocked as she sat on that pew, and sobbed like a small child as her grief tumbled  out like a breach in a dam.

It was one of the moments that one just knew that what was needed was already being accomplished in the life of that young lady, even without (more) words. Who knows what was happening in the spiritual realm? More minutes passed by.

Person: I feel a little better, I have to go.

Me: I’m pleased I was able to help, but do ‘phone the Pastor tomorrow, please.

With that, she left.

‘Every time you create safety and reassurance where before there was fear…love where there is loneliness, comfort and encouragement where there was despair and depression, you are being a blessing.’ Blessing: The Art And Practice. David Spangler

How does one bless? It seems in many cases we are guided as we surrender to the moment, and sometimes just being there for someone, listening to them, is all that may be required.

Tair/3
Ofcourse, since that tender age the learning experiences of awakening have continued over the years. We never stop learning. We never stop experiencing, if we are open to new experiences.

There was a time, just a year ago, at the age of sixty-two years of age (yes, I am as ‘old as dust’), when I was sitting in a café in Clapham Junction, London, reading a great, deeply spiritual book, and as I sat at a high bench table that faced the huge pane of glass that allowed me to look out onto the busy high street, I had that feeling of being watched. I carried on reading the book and ‘endured’ the strange feeling for a few more minutes, then looked up and there, outside, looking at the cover of the book I was reading (it had a butterfly on in denoting new life) stood a middle-aged woman. I smiled, she smiled. At that was it, or so I thought.

My glancing up was only fleeting, and my eyes were soon buried back into that fascinating book. Except, that that feeling of being watch manifested itself, again. I looked up and looked out at the busy high street, but the woman had gone. Except, the feeling was still there. Yes,  she was now behind me.

Woman: I just had to come in because I was intrigued by the cover of the book you’re reading.

Me: Ah, It is a fascinating book.

Woman: What’s it about?

It was at this point that I was conscious of the fact that a few other people in the café had noticed the peculiar event and were also listening intently. Not one for being shy I explained as best as I could – without understating or overstating the book, trying to use everyday words so as not to seem from another planet, and yet try to convey the awesome spiritual nature of the book to the woman.

However, events overtook all this, and within a few minutes we were chatting, back and forth, sipping coffee and talking as though we had known each other for years. We must have chatted for about half an hour and then she left. She seemed to enjoy the conversation and got something from it, but it was as she left that I realised that I, too, had been greatly blessed by her and her uplifting and stimulating conversation.

What is a blessing?

A blessing is not meant to ‘impress but to touch and to connect. It could take whatever form would make that connection’. Blessing: The Art And Practice. David Spangler

Who can bless? You can. How should one bless? In any appropriate way, being open to being guided by That Which Is Bigger Than Us. What is a blessing? It is whatever makes that soulfire connection manifest.

 

Table Talk: One Evening In September. [Life, Sex, Faith/Belief And More]

20180916 TABLE TALK ONE EVENING IN SEPTEMBER

A few of us had met and had the most wonderful three-course meal, recently. And now, with the crockery and cutlery cleared away and the dish-washer chugging away in the kitchen, we settled, with full stomachs, in the lounge.

Such post-meal evening discussions like this had happened before – there was no agenda, everyone’s viewpoint was valid, the conversation might be tossed too and fro in a myriad of directions, and Chatham House rules applied (which meant that nothing could be mentioned outside this meeting that identified any member without their consent – and so the following identifies me, Tadhg, but no one else.

What follows is ‘table talk’. [With apologies to Martin Luther].  It may ramble, it might not cover some of the things relevant to you (or it might), but through this I hope that interest is sparked and maybe some questions are raised (and answered), and that you find the article informative.

Someone asked: Tell us about the importance of ritual that you speak so much about on TadhgTalks.

Tadhg replied: Ritual is important to me, and I would encourage it in the daily life of others. In one sense we already live lives that encompass daily rituals, or yearly ones in the form of anniversaries. But, they are important reminders to us, can help us to make time for the essentials in life, and if done with intentionality they can have great meaning and effect.

The flip-slide of that is that they can so easily be done by rote and lose meaning and effect.

’What matters is not the idea a man holds, but the depth at which he holds it.’ – Ezra Pound

With a ritual there is a ‘surface level’ meaning that observers can see and understand, easily. But, it shouldn’t stay there at that level. There is a deeper meaning, and it is possible, and advantageous, to go ‘inward’ in contemplation. For instance, for the last two months I’ve done an Earth-healing ritual. On the ‘surface level’, anyone watching would have seen my physical actions (and physical actions are important), but there is a ‘deeper level’ of contemplation, the imaginal realm where ‘inwardly’ I am was performing that ritual without physical limitation, and others taking part in the ritual would be encouraged, similarly, to go inward.

’The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.’ Albert Einstein

That ‘deeper level’ some might call prayer or meditation.

Someone asked: But, in any group that uses contemplation in a ritual won’t each person ‘see’ something different?

Tadhg replied: Absolutely. That’s to be expected, and in one a very real sense it is to be encouraged. For instance, in leading a ceremony someone might refer to the Fae, another to elementals, others to gods of all descriptions that area meaningful to them, others might refer to the wolf aspect of nature, and I might refer to the Source of All. To me, these are all manifestations of the One in creation.

’A group of blind people heard that a strange animal, called an elephant, had been brought to the town, but none of them were aware of its shape and form. Out of curiosity, they said: ‘We must inspect and know it by touch, of which we are capable’. So, they sought it out, and when they found it they groped about it. In the case of the first person, whose hand landed on the trunk, said ‘This being is like a thick snake’. For another one whose hand reached its ear, it seemed like a kind of fan. As for another person, whose hand was upon its leg, said, the elephant is a pillar like a tree-trunk. Another blind person who placed his hand upon its side said, ‘the elephant is a wall’. Another who felt its tail, described it as a rope. The last felt its tusk, stating the elephant is that which is hard, smooth and like a spear.

We might each get a glimpse of That Which Is Bigger Than Us, and describe it in out own way, but that can’t mean that any of us know more than others, as the Truth is beyond comprehension. We each get glimpses that are different, and that’s why sharing and listening to each other’s experience and understanding, accepting the different ways to describe things, especially when different to our own, can only be a good thing to enhance our journey. Its a learning curve.

Someone asked: So, what about sex?

There was a little bit of laughter, but the questioner was encouraged to be specific. Refilling the glasses helped everyone here.

Someone asked: Well, one of the reasons I’m A Druid is that I like the way it deals with sex, life and death and rebirth, and isn’t prissy or embarrassed about procreation. And, that’s different from when I was a Christian. The Church then  seemed uptight about even using the word. So, Tadhg, as A Christian-Druid what would you say?

Tadhg replied: It is true, that in many cases churches are hung up on the word, and I know some that flatly refuse to use the word ‘sex’ in any way. The word ‘pregnant’ comes a close second in the tables of banished words in those places, and they prefer to use the phrase ‘with child’. It’s odd.

Right now, I can see two reasons why some, perhaps most, churches are ‘afraid’ of using sex or talking about it. One could be pure ego. It’s a constructed taboo which sets them apart from society, and perhaps they like that. I can’t understand that desire for artificial separation or ‘distancing’ from society, but it could be ‘ego’.

Or, it could be a plain (or wilful) misunderstanding of ancient text and its application. The challenge, and church history, provides proof, is to understand what St Augustine did when he became a Christian. Now, some may say he brought in much good theology, but he brought in more. When Manichaeism was banned, many Manichaeists became Christian almost ‘over night’. And St Augustine was a Manichaeist who converted, and sadly brought in some Manichaeists anti-sex notions which were seized upon by Reformers, and others ever since.

It seems to me to be a false dichotomy, and unnecessary ‘distancing’ from the One who created everything good.

’Sex is a part of nature. I go along with nature’. Marilyn Monroe

For me, ancient text provides a healthy understanding of procreation and the God of Procreation and our responsibility, but its interpretation is (still, unknowingly by some churches ‘seen’) through Manichaeist spectacles which have little to do with essential foundational, balanced, responsible beliefs of the early Church.

I apologise for the course in Church history, but sometimes it’s important to divide what is foundational, and what is more recent and which just appears foundational.

Someone asked: Tell us about the standing stone you just visited in Wales, where you did an Earth-healing ritual.

Tadhg replied: Ah, that was Maen Llia, at the very north of the Brecon Beacons national park. And bearing in mind what we’ve mentioned about glimpses of knowledge and wisdom, and misunderstanding things (because of relatively new ideas which weren’t there at the beginning), Maen Llia is a wonderful reminder of how little we do know.

The current view is that our ancestors dragged that stone there some forty-thousand years ago and laid it flat, and about four thousand years ago it was upended (and now stands about twelve feet talk, nine feet wide, and two feet thick), and no one has a clue what its purpose was. I quite like that admission, because we can all share our ideas, tonight, about it, and no one is wrong.

So, what was its use for (when flat and then, later, when stood on its end)?

Various people said:

  • Perhaps it when flat it was used as a raised platform for the Druid to stand on to address the crowd.
  • Maybe it was used as a seat for someone to tell stories to people seated around it, sitting on the ground.
  • And/Or, when flat, maybe it was some kind of throne or seat to dispense judgement from.
  • Maybe it was upended when the crowd grew to big, and then the Druid would conduct rituals in front of it, and it was some kind of ‘backdrop’ to ‘push’ the sound forward to amplify the speaker’s voice
  • Or, perhaps it was used as a marker to show a nearby village, or denote a holy location, rather like Celtic crosses or the many cairns (piled-up stones) throughout the UK

Joshua said…’Each of you bring back one rock, one for each tribe of Israel, and carry it on your shoulder.  They will be a sign among you. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these rocks mean?’ ‘Tell them the water stopped flowing in the Jordan…’’ Joshua 4. 5b-7a, The Book.

And, so it went on. Do you have any thoughts about Maen Llia or standing-stones in general?

Someone asked: So, is ritual enough?

Tadhg replied: That’s good question. Bearing in mind there’s the physical, ‘surface level’ ritual of doing that is important, and there’s the inner ‘deeper level’ aspect of ritual which involves the imagination or mind’s eye. There is more. There is always more.

It’s my belief, and others may disagree, that both aspects of ritual need to be ‘earthed’, and that something (more) needs to be done. For instance, the Earth-healing rituals consisted of words and actions, the imaginal aspect. But then I ‘earthed’ the rituals by burying a Rainforest Jasper stone.

The ‘earthing’ can be varied and roughly associated with the ritual, but it can be a loose connection. So, I think it would be acceptable, in ‘earthing’ that ritual to have planted some seeds in a city plant-box the next day, or by writing to the local council to preserve some city park trees, instead of burying the rock. True, the aforementioned examples don’t accomplish anything in the national parks where I conducted the ritual, but a loose connection is, I think, good enough. And, with all things being inter-connected, maybe the seed-planting and writing to the local council will affect things further afield, in ways we cannot ‘see’.

’I had to decide what I was going to do, and what I was going to be. I was standing there, waiting for someone to do something , till I realised the person I was waiting for was myself.’ Markus Zusak,

There were many more questions  in the lounge that evening, but I think I’ll save them for another time. Meanwhile, drinks were refilled and the evening continued to flow. Maybe next time, you’ll be here. Youre more than welcome.

Now you know what was on the hearts and minds of friends after that meal, how about you sharing something of your spiritual journey (either here or by email to me), if you wish. Whether you do or don’t, rest assured that I appreciate you taking the time to read this and other articles of mine, and you are in my thoughts as we travel along this Path.

Much light and love be to you and yours, Tadhg

 

As Above, So Below. Thoughts On Status & Responsibility At The StarDisc

I’m in Derbyshire, England for a few days, and soon to have the privilege of leading a baby-naming ceremony. But, I’ve ‘built’ some rest and relaxation into this trip, which means exploration and adventure, and who knows what might happen. 

Right now I’m at the heart of Stoney Wood…known as the Gateway to the stars. It’s been raining on and off for the last two hours, there’s a wind blowing and the clouds are grey and low, and I’m now venturing ever closer to the StarDisc. My first encounter. 

The StarDisc is a wonderful work of art that is arresting, intriguing and profound. It is a 21st century stone circle and celestial amphitheatre created by Aidan Shingler. It spans 12 meters (40 ft). Carved into black granite floor is a star chart that mirrors the night sky of the northern hemisphere. The surface of the stone circle is inscribed with the constellations and their names, and also a depiction of the Milky Way. Around the perimeter of the StarDisc are twelve silver granite blocks which are seats denoting the months of the year.

I’m gazing at the StarDisc, standing on it, looking down. I can seen the stars etched into the black granite floor, but with a light coating of rain on the surface I can see the reflection of the clouds (and little patches of blue sky, now) as I look down. As above, so below. 

The fact that we can glimpse and in a small way comprehend something of the universe declares the paradox that we find ourselves in when we think about our status in the universe. We are part of the universe, built of clay (or carbon) and yet we have the ability to see the universe. Are we not the universe looking at the universe?

The tallest, and heaviest,  and richest, and grandest of us pale into seeming insignificance when measured against the vast distances involved in the planet we inhabit. Becoming less significant as we think about the solar system in which out planet could go unnoticed. Then consider the millions of solar systems, many of them larger than this one, in the galaxy, and then – yes, mae mwy, there’s more – and the millions of galaxies, some of them ‘super galaxies’ that populate the known universe. And now scientist suspect other universes. We’re small. And our status matches this? A paradox.

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving, how express and admirable in action, how like an angel in apprehension, how like a god!’ Hamlet, William Shakespeare 

It’s a paradox because although we are seemingly small and seemingly insignificant we are here because That Which Is Bigger Than Us has called us into be, chosen us from before the beginning of time. You being here is not an accident. Seemingly small, we are bigger. Seemingly insignificant, we are significant. We are loved by The Source of All.

As I look down at that black granite floor I cannot but be in awe that we, humankind, have the ability to ask questions, posit answers, and gain wisdom. We are sufficiently mature to know that we know a lot, and yet know that we need to be in a state of humility for there is much more to know. Like children.

You are…’the lifter up of my head’. Psalm 3.3b, The Book.

As I look down, in the rain-soaked reflection I am seeing what is above – not just the star fields of the night-sky etched into the granite floor which is awesome, but the clouds and sky reflected to. In moments of quietness and solitude, in meditative states, and when humble we ‘see’ more. As below, so above. 

So in our ‘small-bigness’ what are we to do? 

We each have a responsibility. That maybe a word that some shun, but just as a parent has a responsibility and knows the joys of parenthood, so we have a responsibility and can realise the joy of being chosen for a specific task (or many) in ministering to others.

But, the ego can ‘kick in’ here. There are some who would say that much training is needed, and that may be so. But, the ‘trap’ seems to be to remain in a perpetual state of training for the ‘big day’ when you and I will be ‘ready’. The ‘big day’ never arrives. We then never mature, and others will never hear your words or be ministered to by your actions. Ofcourse, some training is needed, and the alternative ‘trap’ is to eschew any training at all and just leap into ministering without much foundation. Balance is needed.

I believe in trying to get a balance between individual freedom on the one hand and social responsibility on the other. Chris Patten

As I look at the StarDisc, which has a Stone Henge feel about it I cannot but feel humbled that those who built Stone Henge and those that worshipped there some time later, though they never left written records, did leave us a legacy, from which we can benefit, because they took their responsibility seriously. They studied and trained, and gave out – they ministered in thought, word and deed. And I dare say, some of them sometimes got it wrong. But I do believe that That Which Is Bigger Than Us understands. Better some study and then ministry, than all study and no ministry, or all ministry and no study.

What is our responsibility? No answer can be given here to the level of maturity we each find ourselves at, or need. Some may need much training before ministering (however we define that word, or believe our calling to be). But, some practical outwork is always needed so that study isn’t all…well, study. Some, may know that they have only studied and for such a long time that ministry is long overdue. Balance is needed. 

And, perhaps that is where the Anamcara, the ‘soul friend’, is useful. The Anamcara, and it could be a good friend acting in that role or it could be a latter-day Anamcara, is someone who has a mature knowledge of spiritual matters, is grounded, and who has your best interest at heart. They will tell you honestly your surrender ‘walk’. Do you have an Anamcara?

In everyone’s life, there is great need for an anam cara, a soul friend. In this love, you are understood as you are without mask or pretension. The superficial and functional lies and half-truths of social acquaintance fall away, you can be as you really are. Love allows understanding to dawn, and understanding is precious. John O’Donohue

I’m still standing on the StarDisc, the rain is coming back and it’s time for me to go. But what of you? Is your current study-ministry ratio in proportion? Do you have an Anamcara?  It’s now pouring with rain, and as much as I like the rain, I’m moving, somewhat fast, towards shelter. My last thought as I seek shelter under a huge old tree, is, bearing in mind that each of us are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses down the ages, what are our priorities in ministering to others? What is our ministry? What is our calling? What is our responsibility to each other?

These questions, the answers of which will differ for each one of us,  are so important when ministering as a Celt, Druid, Christian etc, but they need to be asked, even if the answers are elusive.

It’s time to move on.

 

[Unable to upload ‘header’ photo as I’m ‘on the road’ and current computer program won’t allow photo uploading.]

 

 

 

Dreams, The Gate To Eternity?

20180810 DREAMS THE GATE TO ETERNITY

Ancient cultures, Celts, Druids, Hebrew nations and others have long held great store in dreams. Perhaps, we can learn something from them?

That evening, as I sat alone reviewing the day, his depression weighed heavily on my heart. A myriad thoughts vied for space in my mind as I thought about that young man in need. As I slowly dozed off, I fell into a deep sleep and began to dream – one of those profound dreams that seemed to be lived in ‘real time’, a lucid dream.

I was in a thick, old, dense forest, walking towards what looked to be a clearing in the distance. I laboured onward, slowly and with considerable effort. As I walked on there was, indeed, a clearing that was well lit as if it had an encampment fire in the middle of it, except, there was no camp fire. Just a bright light without a visible source, lighting up the clearing and the perimeter trees, but not permeating further into the dark forest.

’Trust in dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.’ Khalil Gibran

I was standing near the centre of the clearing, and the plight of that young man, his depression was on my mind. Looking at the surrounding trees, the light played on them and I perceived creatures hiding behind many of the trees. Angels? Elementals? The Fae etc? No one at that time said a word but in my heart, as I looked around, I felt that these hidden creatures were of enormous power, and were hiding not because they were fearful of me, but because they were so powerful that they were fearful of doing me harm.

I stood there and ‘heard’ what one of them, or was it all of them, said. ‘Learn what you can about Juniper trees’. Still unable to speak, and standing there for what seemed hours, nothing more transpired. I awoke.

Over the next few days, I did some research, but even without trying too hard, synchronicity ‘kicked in’.

In ancient sacred text I re-read of a man named who had carried out, what he believed to be God’s will, but was running in fear of his life from a ruler. He laid under a Juniper tree and fell asleep, twice, and on both occasions was woken up and nourished by an angel. Later, having believed himself to be alone and retreating to a cave he had an encounter in the cave. A voice spoke and said, ‘What are you doing here’. I get goose bumps every time I read that account. The Voice was in the cave, too (and not outside), thus assuring Elijah he wasn’t alone. The Source of All never leaves us (even if we think the Source does). And, confessing his fear and depression that man received power and boldness from perceiving things differently. The circumstances may not have changed, but his outlook did change.

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

In some cultures, I found out that the Juniper tree is thought to be a guide and gatekeeper to the Imaginal realm, bringing humankind in contact with the powers and blessings of the Invisible realms. In Germany, I’m told the name for the Juniper tree is ‘wacholder’. It means the ‘tree of awakening’.

I found out that Juniper is used cross-culturally to bring blessings, and to make sacred. Thus, it is said, it can help one to listen more closely to our inner wisdom, uncover our true path, and connect more deeply with matters of the Spirit, bringing one in touch with the Sacred in your life. Truly, there was great wisdom to do as those creatures had tasked.

Over the next few days as I pondered on such things, and an assurance ‘tumbled’ across my spirit, and it seemed to me that that young man, currently depressed, was undergoing something much more profound and deeper than I had first envisaged. Something deeper than he knew, too.

Also, in the ‘cave’ he found himself in, he needed to know that he wasn’t alone, and so, so far as I possibly could, I drew alongside the younger man and ‘held space’ for him – walking along with him, without judgment, sharing his journey to an unknown destination. I knew that this was his current path, and that there was nothing I could materially do, except to be there for him. Sometimes the best aid we can give someone comes not in words but in the simple action of being there for them.

’ Perhaps the oldest working truth of self-discovery is that the only way out is through.’ Mark Nepo

Maybe there are some dreams that you have dreamed that were significant, or perhaps with hindsight you now see them as significant to you. Dreams can be very powerful wisdom-givers, for when we’re asleep we’re free from distractions and our barriers are lowered. And the Source of All, who communicates profound matters in metaphors and ‘pictures’ (as there is no other way) has our undivided attention. When asleep and dreaming we are (more) receptive to That Which Is Bigger Than Us. Truly, dreams can be very important.

After some months that young man’s depression lifted.