Indra, Hafiz & The Magic Café: Interconnectedness & Interbeing

20190514 INDRA HAFIZ AND THE MAGIC CAFE THOUGHTS ON INTERCONNECTEDNESS AND INTERBEING

Today, I was in one of my favourite locations when in London: the Magic Café in Fulham. And, as usual there was a latte not far from my hand on the table, my head was down and my nose was close to a book and I was in my element, reading a deep and intriguing book. I have to admit that I can be so absorbed in a book, so engrossed in it that I do believe that if the four horsemen of the Apocalypse galloped by I wouldn’t notice.

There is a game we should play,
And it goes like this:

Nothing distracts me when I’m transfixed by a book, well, almost nothing. Having been reading for some time, I noticed a slight but distinct temperature drop in the café, and it caused me to look up, momentarily. My grandmother, if she were physically present, would say an angel had entered the room.

It was if the café had suddenly been filled, instantly, with six people sitting at two or three tables. Ofcourse, they had been there for some time, but I had been oblivious to their coming and going.

I do like ‘people watching’, and so changing glasses (I wear varifocal but do like reading-only glasses for serious reading) I sat back in the chair, sipped my coffee, and slowly (but hopefully, not to obviously) looked around.

We hold hands and look into each other’s eyes
And scan each other’s faces.

Trying to be ‘invisible’, I noticed the people around me. Ah, there was the journal woman, so-called (be me) as she is constantly writing in her note pad. Perhaps, she’s  writing about the peculiar man in the corner who always seems to be reading and making notes in his books (and, that would be me). Someone, a younger person, was at the counter, ordering a take-away coffee but indulging in general chit-chat at a rather loud volume. Wearing dusty overalls it was likely he was redecorating or rebuilding one of the large, expensive houses in the area. And, there were two others I had seen on only a few occasions. My mind wondered as to who they were, what their occupation might be, and how they found this delightful café? And two others, older women, seated very close to me, were obviously old friends, reminiscing about the good old days.

And, then I say,
“Now tell me a difference you see between us.”

I picked up the coffee cup again, leaned back even more, and continued to look around. Compared to when I came into the café, I marvelled at the people now here, the differences in age, gender, look, accents, and even languages. Truly I am blessed to be living in a ‘kaleidoscope country’, as John Bercow the Speaker of the House of Commons described it some years ago. So many people, so many differences, and yet paradoxically we have that in common.

And you might respond,
“Hafiz, your nose is ten times bigger than mine”.
Then I would say,
“Yes, my dear, almost ten times”.

So, what is the difference between us? In all the variations of humanity, a small microscopic proportion represented here in this café, what is the difference between us? Do we have the same chemical composition? The same energy? The same aspirations? Oh, yes!

And, what about the coffee cup I’m holding? It, too, is composed of atoms, and at a deeper level quanta material that is similar to out elemental make-up. In one sense little difference there? You would expect me to say that as an animist. Oh, yes!

But let’s keep playing.
Let’s go deeper.
Go deeper still.
For if we do,
Our spirits will embrace
And interweave.

There is a story I was told many years ago, when I was a wee lad, about Indra’s web or Indra’s net. It is a much-loved story, a metaphorical one, about interconnectedness and interbeing all of things.

The story says that in the realm of the god Indra there is a vast net that stretches infinitely in all directions. At each intersection of the net or web (think of a spider’s web) there is a single brilliant, perfect jewel. And, each of these jewels on the web also reflects every other jewel, infinite in number. And, each of the reflected images of the jewels bears the image of all the other jewels — infinity to infinity. Whatever affects one jewel effects them all.

The metaphorical story illustrates the interpenetration of all phenomena. Everything contains everything else. And yet, each individual thing is not hindered by or confused with all the other individual things. Harmonious interconnectedness. A wonderful story.

Our union will be so glorious
That [maybe] even God
Will not be able to tell us apart.

We are more alike to our neighbour than different, more alike to everything around us, than different or separate. We’re connected. In another story-metaphor told by the Christ we’re told that, ‘The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Ah. Connectedness.

Suddenly, respect for others, even those who ‘violently’ disagree with me, seems easier. We’re connected, we’re the same. Appreciation for nature all around me – whether in rural or urban environments – seems altogether more necessary because of that real and energetic connectedness. We’re the same. It was for that reason many years ago that Brother Francis could sing to Brother Sun and Sister Moon.

Connectedness. Interbeing. Something which those ancient cultures of Hebrews, Christians, Pagans, Druids and others of yesteryear took for granted, and from which we can learn.

There is a wonderful game
We should play with everyone
And it goes like this…

And, so having finished the latte there is only one thing to do. To order another coffee, to find my place in that book and resume reading, and, before I do that, to look around at the wonderful people around me and nature that abounds both outside and inside the café, and to wonder. In that respect, won’t you join me in this ancient game?

[The indented paragraphs above come from one of the poems of Hafiz, Persian mystic, AD1315-1390]

 

[Any] Power [You Have Comes To You From Far beyond]

20190507 ANY POWER YOU HAVE COMES TO YOU FROM FAR BEYOND

There was a time, when I was a wee lad, when I would go to Llyn Tegid (also known in English as Bala Lake, in north Wales) and just spend the whole day in the area: walk around part of its shores, climb a little ( as much as a child dare climb) and swim in its icy cold waters, or just sit and be mesmerised by the light shimmering on the water’s surface, and then, later, walk back to my grandmother’s cottage.

And, so on that occasion, and this is some years ago at the age of seven years, I squatted along the shore of Llyn Tegid and prodded a small rock pool, which had formed – cut off from the rest of the lake, prodding it with a twig. Although a lake, rock pools often formed at its edge, especially when the wind gusted down the valley from the mountains in one direction, and waves had a chance to build up and lap at its shoreline.

As I poked various parts of the rock pool, I could see the huge amount of pond-like life it contained, insects and plants in abundance. And, the messier and slimier the twig became the more I, as a small child, revelled in the fun I was having.

Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.  Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

The words of my grandmother echoed the ‘short distance’ from the evening before, of how life is all around us, even when we couldn’t see it. As a young boy, it sparked my interest in nature and then, as I prodded parts of the rock pool, it excited my interest in insects and anything crawling in that microcosm of the world.

Other Elder words replayed in my mind: that everything contains energy, and, is energy. As a small child my understanding of that was limited, but as I scraped the earth by the side of the rock pool and the lake, and gouged out a trough for the lake’s ‘fresh’ water to gradually enter the rock pool, energy flowed via the water, where moments it did not. As a young boy I could understand that, especially as ripples of water entered the hitherto rather stagnant water of the rock pool.

Ofcourse, my attention span was limited, then (but, it has improved since), and I soon took to wandering around the lake, keeping a wary eye out for ‘Teggie’. In Scotland, Loch Ness has ‘Nessie’, the Loch Ness Monster, but here in north Wales – and it must be true as it was also one of my grandmother’s stories – we had’ Teggie, the Llyn Tegid monster, who it was said was able to eat a sheep in just one gulp.

That was then.

And, I’m in that place once again.

Now, sitting by another small rock formation on the shore of Llyn Tegid, many years later and somewhat older – can you believe, some fifty five years later – I’m gazing into a rock pool not unlike the one I prodded as a wee lad.

Gazing into it, it still fascinates me. Life, and life in abundance, what I can see and what I take by faith as much of it is invisible to me. The whole of Wales – and, indeed, the entire planet, cries out ‘life, life, life!’.

And what of energy?

Yes, even as an adult, now, I couldn’t resist finding a twig, gouging a trough in the earth to let the lake’s water enter this newly-found somewhat stagnant rock pool. Ripples, energy, minute ‘waves’ poured into the once-still rockpool, and it flowed.

‘I define subtle energies as movements in a sea of life and consciousness.’ David Spangler, ‘Working With Subtle Energies’

And, the words of my grandmother echoed the ‘longer distance’, from over the many years and took on a deeper meaning. Energy should flow.

Just as it flowed in this rock pool I am now gazing at, so it should flow in our lives, body, mind, spirit, our life’s events, local communities and beyond. Energy becomes stagnant when it doesn’t flow, but positive things happen when it does flow.

Now, taking hold of my grandmother’s words I could understand more so;  that when energy is stagnant within our bodies an imbalance occurs, and the result is unhealthy, When our mind’s are stuck in old habits and unhealthy thinking and we can’t, or won’t move on, then negative thoughts take hold. We see the outcome of that in the way many treat the Earth. And, who cannot but ‘see’ the un-healthiness in our politics as politicians cling to ‘yesterdays’ formulas and don’t move on.  Energy that is stagnant causes problems at various ‘levels’; energy that flows produces beneficial results.

‘If it’s not flowing out of you, it’s probably because you’re not allowing it to flow toward you. Love can flow toward you in every moment: through a flower, in a grain of sand, in a wisp of cloud, in any one person whom you allow to delight you. You might be experiencing this flow of love when you find yourself smiling at things for no apparent reason.’ Richard Rohr

Ofcourse, some may disagree with my understanding about energy, and some may see all this merely as an analogy or metaphor only – but it seems to ‘work’, and as science advances my grandmother’s words seem more ‘orthodox’ and scientific as time passes. Energy to be useful, beneficial, wholesome and productive, is like the water now entering the rock pool I’m looking at, but it needs to move.

When it flows out, other energy replaces it. When we bless, a loving form of energy, we receive energy and are similarly blessed; and many believe that we receive even more energy and blessing. Give that energy away to others (in what we do for them in acts of helps, in words of encouragement, in what we think, pray for them, and in bless them), and to nature, too, and we obtain even more.

Hoarding that energy, as if we want to jealously guard what we have, just in case replenishment ceases, leads to a stagnancy. But, as we give that energy away, it is always (more than) replenished, others benefit, nature benefits, and we benefit too. A win-win situation.

“If you send out goodness from yourself, or if you share that which is happy or good within you, it will all come back to you multiplied ten thousand times. In the kingdom of love there is no competition; there is no possessiveness or control. The more love you give away, the more love you will have.” John O’Donohue, ‘Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom’

Energy, my grandmother said to me all those years ago, must flow.

Now, back in my cottage at Capel Curig , years later, I ponder on her words. Ah, the Caim – that wonderful (en)circling ritual of power and blessing that we’ve mentioned in the past. How does this flowing energy ‘sit’ with the Caim. In the ritual of the Caim we ‘stand’ and invoke energy from Above, and gladly direct it to people and places in need. Yes, energy flows when we invoke the Source of All when using the Caim and others and/or nature are blessed, and so are we. What we give out, comes back.

“Who touched Me?” Jesus asked. But they all denied it. “Master,” said Peter, “the people are crowding and pressing against You.” But Jesus declared, “Someone touched Me, for I know that power has gone out from Me.”. Luke 8.45-46, The Book.

‘Mae mwy’, as my grandmother used to say – there is more! How can we use that energy, deal with stagnancy, get it moving, invoke power from Above, bless others and nature, how can we empower ourselves and mature (more so), and what is our energetic mission on Earth? And, what is energy? Is it just bland electrons or a spiritual equivalent? Something that can be reduced to an equation and codified? Or, is it alive? Food for thought there, and those words just beg to be ‘unpacked’ over the weeks ahead.

 

Divine Essence Ablaze…

20190404 DIVINE ESSENCE ABLAZE
I’m in London. You know I love to walk, and like nothing better than to hike in the great outdoors and go there regularly to re-charge my ‘batteries’, and to ‘escape’ the city. I love to explore, to go new places, and love the wilderness, especially.

But, I am the first to admit that, wherever we are, rural or urban landscape included, we can be energised and commune with nature, encounter the Source of All, and learn some invaluable lessons wherever we are. True, there may be some reasons to take a break from our routine and head to the countryside once in a while, but today wasn’t one of them for me.

I’m in London, and still liking to walk, sauntering whenever I can, and I had time to go for a gentle walk along Bishops Park, and then to Parson’s Green, and then along the river Thames.

Oh, the weather, you ask? The weather was changeable from one hour to the next – rain, cold, then dry and sunny and warm, then cloudy and windy. But, this is Britain.  Today, however, I revelled in nature around me, and within, and listened. And share this with you, for what happens here in this city, happens wherever you are, albeit in different ways, of that I’m sure.

From its winter’s sleep, Spring has finally arrived and new life is here. In everything.

The creative act was not consigned just to Genesis, but it happens each year – which is why as a Christo-Druid or Druidic-Christian I love to look deeper into nature, and the seasons and the calendar that marks out the seasons, and liturgy and ritual that accompany them, not in a religious, ‘fuddy-duddy’ way, not by a rote way of commemorating them, but in a lively, appreciative, life-affirming, joyous way – it’s the promise of seasons from the Life-Giver that is so affirming that encourages me to mark the time. It happens ever year, indeed in different ways it can happen everyday day and every moment, in nature, in nature in the city, and in you and I, depending on what we’re focussing on.

‘I, the highest and fiery power, have kindled every spark of life…I, the fiery life of divine essence, blaze in the beauty of the fields…’

Yes, spring is in the air. The local council, here in Fulham, London (UK) have ‘secretly’ and wonderfully planted fifty-two thousand daffodil bulbs around the borough – in local parks, commons, green areas along some streets – and they are blooming. [See the header photograph: Part of Parson’s Green, Fulham]

Many parts of this inner city borough are now awash with the green and yellow of daffodils standing to attention, and swaying gently in the wind. And, it’s marvellous to behold. In my mind I skipped through the ones on Parson’s Green as I saw them – but you’ll be pleased to know that, physically, I restrained myself just to gaze and be ‘mesmerised’ by them (but it’s intentionality that is most important!), but it was a lovely thought. It was an awesome sight.

The sun shone unhindered by clouds today, well at least for a couple of hours, but this is Britain. Nevertheless, when the sun shone, its brilliance hit the surface of water of the River Thames and a million stars twinkled back, winking on the water’s surface.

We take it for granted. Water. Perhaps there is a river near where you live that you can visit and just gaze at? Where there is water, there is life. It is suspected that there is water on Mars, and maybe there is life there – microbial, perhaps, they think?

Water means life. And, Hildegard of Bingen (one of my favourite mystics, a German Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, and visionary, AD1098 – 1179), reminds us that it is not just earthly life that is found in the water, but Life itself.

Yes,  the Source of All is ‘reflected’ in the waters. Not just the water of a river, but water itself, the very same water that flows through your home’s faucet/tap, that you drink or bathe in.

…'[I] am aflame beyond the beauty of the meadows, I gleam in the waters, and I burn in the sun, moon, and stars. With every breeze, as with invisible life that contains everything, I awaken everything to life. The air lives by turning green and being in bloom. The waters flow as if they were alive….’

That Which Is Bigger Than Us is ubiquitous. My walk took me across Wandsworth Bridge. I like baseball caps and in the summer they keep the sun off my ‘thinning’ pate, but today discovered a drawback. The centre of the bridge, ‘open’ to the breeze that blows along the River Thames, means that it can get quite windy and catch the ‘bill’ of the cap and had the potential to lift it off. And so, with cap in hand I had to laugh. The wind gusted at times and quite took my breath away. Invigorating wasn’t the word. Ah, the Source of All is in fire, water, rock beneath me and, I detected, in the air, in the wind, today, also.

‘I am also Reason, having the wind of the sounding Word by which all things were created, and I breathe in them all…’

The Life-Giver’s breath flows through everything. If you want to know if a person is alive, check for breath. Isn’t that what we’re told? But, that relates to earthly life.

On my walk today, Hldegards words whispered in my mind. None die (that is none are annihilated) her words reverberated deep within me, as she echoed words given to her. Imbued with life, we, as is everything else, cannot die. Many think that the opposite to life is death. There is no death. Change yes, but we do not die. Eckhart Tolle said, ‘Life has no opposite. The opposite of death is birth. Life is eternal.’

‘…so that none may die…’

I’m now in my London place, its now raining and the temperature is dropping a little, again, and I’m thankful for central heating. Yes, I’m still in London, have had my batteries ‘re-charged’, have encountered nature (even) in the city, listened deeply and learned a thing or two on my walk, and would encourage you to be open to Life itself, wherever you are.

‘…because I am Life…’ [This, and all indented quotes above are the words of Hildegard of Bingen, speaking about the Life-Giver].

 

In Memoriam: Thoughts On Death And Life

20190330 IM MEMORIUM THOUGHTS ON DEATH AND LIFE

As a Druidic- Christian or Christo-Druid, I love to honour the ancestors, and make it a joy to do so. This Sunday it’s Mother’s Day in the UK, and I’ll be buying a huge bunch of flowers.

It’s now been over five years – time flies – since the sweetest and most wonderful lady ‘went home’. A few days later and it will be two years since the gentlest and ‘toughest’ man I ever knew also ‘passed on’. Oh, what child doesn’t miss their parents, following a bereavement?

‘Honour your father and mother…’ Ephesians 6.2a. The Book

It is something many, especially in our culture, don’t like to talk about: death. It can seem such an ugly word. And yet, in balance, I do believe it is healthy to dwell upon it for an appropriate amount of time. Talking about it can be cathartic. However, this article is my opinion and belief (and I accept the following may not be appropriate for the recently bereaved, and won’t be offended should such people stop reading now. If this applies to you, rest assured, you are still in my thoughts and prayers, and even more so).

Death can seem such an ugly word. And regrets? Regret is seemingly just as bad. From ‘our side’, I am sure there will always be a few stray thoughts that ‘bounce’ about. Should I have said this? Should I have done that? Those thoughts are natural, but in many ways they are mentally and emotionally tortuous, and draining, but, once worked through the healing process begins, and death and our ‘departed’ loved-one can be seen in a different way. Healing begins.

‘A deathbed is not a dead place; it can be a place of intense energy’. John O’Donohue

It was a privileged to be there, at the bedside of my mother when she died, and then a few years later at my dad’s beside when he died. There was no ‘additional’ atmospheric phenomena, no rush of wind in the room, no ethereal light seen bathing them, no angelic music that I could detect – such is the substance of tv programs like the Ghost Whisperer, (though perhaps shallow of me, it would have been comforting – but upon reflection who knows what was happening invisibly and inaudibly to me? I now have wonderful thoughts now of just that: light, love, music, angels at every persons ‘departure’. Now, that’s comforting, and the seeming lack of it is only a limitation of current perception).

Then, someone at my side says;
“There, she is gone!”
“Gone where?”
Gone from my sight. That is all.

Part of a poem regarding a ‘heavenly’ sailing boat: carrying a loved-one, entitled ‘I am standing upon the seashore’ by Henry Van Dyke

In each case, however, there was a body with breath one minute, and a body without breath the next. They were present one minute and gone the next, and it was that that was comforting. An absence. A real Presence that was there in each case one moment, but had then gone, had ‘moved on’, and that ‘inner’ feeling of soulish movement and Presence departing was almost palpable.

To see death as loss is to look at it in only one way. There is another way. There is more or ‘Mae mwy’ as my grandmother would say. Something more profound is happening beyond the veil. In essence, many of the events surrounding the journey of death, from our viewpoint, take place in the imagination, but that makes it no less real and no less comforting.

Regardless of the physical circumstances of anyone’s death, they close their eyes one moment and open them, immediately, as a being of Light that they already were. I do believe that no one dies alone. If we were not physically present (or even if we were) those in that invisible-to-us realm are present leading them to Bliss. There is told an old story, a parable, of a poor man who suffered much during his earthly life. When he died, the Master said, ‘the angels carried him to Abraham’s side (a poetic way of describing Bliss. (Luke 16:22b The Book). Whatever our ‘theology’ companions, ‘lights’ will guide us ‘home’.

And, who is to say that the distance between us and a ‘departing’ loved one is a hindrance to them, anyway? I don’t believe it is. Geo-physics doesn’t apply now. [And, additionally, there is a view that the soul remains close until the third day, anyway]. We can feel so guilty, so regretful, and in most (if not all) there is no need – and no desire from our loved ones for us to heap ‘coals of fire’ upon ourselves.

Annihilation? No, I don’t believe that. As a Druidic-Christian I take to heart innumerable promises of the continuance of life and the personality in ancient text, and see the continuing life-death-life cycle in nature around me.

Isn’t it pleasant, at this time of year to witness trees that have been dormant for months coming to life (oh, they were never dead, just sleeping). And in Fulham, London the local council, here, ‘secretly’ buried thousands of daffodil bulbs some months ago that are now busting through their earthly vault, and local parks and commons are wonderfully awash with green and yellow flowers, and much more.

Life goes on. Not just ‘down here’, though it should: those who have ‘gone ahead’ would certainly want us to do our best and enjoy ourselves here. But, it does go on ‘up there’.

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

Part of the poem: ‘I am standing upon the seashore’ by Henry Van Dyke

It is only my opinion, but life ‘there’ will be totally different to life ‘here’. No more ailments, no more aging, no more death, everything is new and perfect, and peace abounds. All will be light and love. And our loved-ones, our ancestors, the ‘ascended ones’ those inhabitants of Bliss, now beings of Light will prosper in all ways, having come into their ‘fullness’ (though I have a feeling that that change is already happening in each of us, unawares. In that respect it is us who have a perception ‘challenge).

And so, tomorrow, I’ll be putting flowers on the grave that marks the physical resting place of my dear mum and dad, and my feelings will be mixed. Yes, I’m only human and I do miss them; but there’s more! And so, as I honour my mother and father, the ancestors, I know in my heart of hearts that life goes on in a myriad of ways,  much of which we cannot possibly comprehend (yet), and I will give thanks, and look forward to each day in a welcoming and positive way.

Your body is away from me
But there is a window open
from my heart to yours.
From this window, like the moon
I keep sending news secretly.

Rumi

 

Header photo: Photo taken by me in October 2017 having lit a candle in memory of my parents and the ancestors at St Oran’s Chapel (built during the 12th century), Isle of Iona, Scotland. Do click here for that journal/article entry.

 

 

Our Primal Calling & Status: City Park Thoughts

20190326 OUR PROMAL CALLING AND STATUS

There is a place I go, when in London, a place in the midst of eight million people; it is a place of relative solitude. Situated at the far end of a pond in Bishop’s Park, part surrounded by mature trees and thick undergrowth you could imagine that you were miles away from the hubbub of a busy city. Tree, bushes, dryads, elementals, and if ancient text is to be believed then angels are sometimes found under mature trees such as these.

I was in that place today. And, I just sat there and ‘basked’ in nature.

It was a delight to ‘switch off’ from the challenges of listening to the politics from across the pond, and politics of the self-inflicted wound this country has caused itself. The question on everyone’s tongue is: why?

But, it got me thinking.

Is our life, the reason we were inculcated with the Divine ‘spark or crawled out of the primeval swamp a billion years ago, depending on your viewpoint, just to be a consumer or worried with ‘things’, possessions, attachments? Why? Are we just saving up for that moment when we can buy this and that?

I don’t believe so. We are more.

Ofcourse, we do consume things (but hopefully, we do so responsibly, whenever we can), we can get concerned with things and possessions (but hopefully, such things do not become the master of us), and we may have attachments (but hopefully, work towards ‘zero’ attachments or at least ‘seeing’ them for what they are. Perhaps, it’s all to do with priorities?

It’s bliss in this place. Trees and bushes, sensing spring, are pushing through leaves, flying insects are starting to buzz, and an assortment of birds fly overheard or resting near the pond, with others swimming in the pond.

And of all the creatures about this place, me, humankind is the only one that can obsess about inconsequentials. And, yet for a short while I was able to ‘switch off’ and merge with nature, to be one with everything around me as though there was  no division (and there isn’t), and any concerns about politics etc were lifted off my shoulders. It was bliss.

The rose is without why,
it blooms because it blooms,
It pays no attention to itself,
asks not whether it is seen.

(Poem, ‘Without why’ from ‘The Cherubinic Wanderer’, by Angelus Silesius (1624-1677), a mystical poet)

In this simple and profound state the rose is, just is. It doesn’t fret about its function or the processes of being a rose. Infact the notion of what and why and how doesn’t enter into the picture. Using the analogy of the rose it is an encouragement for us to exert our original identity, to realise our wonderful status, and revel in the freedom of being ourselves.

We are more than just consumers, voters, workers etc. In one sense, we do not need to strive. Want to be one with nature? We already are! Though I accept that sometimes our actions seem to ‘distance’ us and there is a need to act in accordance with our being. Want to be one with the Divine? We are already at the feast, though we might not realise it, nor act accordingly. Want to step along that path of the journey of your life? You’re already on it, so enjoy it. You’re already there!

Though we need a roof over our heads and we work and buy and sell, I do believe we miss out when we forget the primal calling which each of us responded to, as ‘chosen people’, by virtue of the fact that we are here!

As I sat in that park, today, thoughts ran through my mind: What really matters is what money cannot by. What really lasts in what cannot be quantified? What makes a difference is what is invisible.

We need to develop to look beyond, with eyes beyond eyes.

Once I asked my Master, “What is the difference between you and me?” And he replied, “Hafiz, only this.

If a herd of wild buffalo broke into our house and knocked over our empty begging bowls not a drop would spill from yours.

But there is Something Invisible that the Divine has placed in mine. If that spilled from my bowl, it could drown this whole world.’

(Hafiz)

In that park, in that place of solitude it was clear: we think our life is empty or it is so because we try to fill it with things that don’t really matter, and the bowl is metaphorically empty. However, if our priorities are correct and we’re aware of our primal calling and status, then when the bowl of our life, our being, is spilled, then we understand it contains invisible contents, and  something wonderful spills over.

Now, were those thoughts mine, as they occurred in the park, or prompted by someone else, an angel, a fae, an elemental, a subtle being? Who knows? Ask that question, and we’re back to square one. Ask that and we’ve jumped out of the mystery and into rational thought. When we were infact dealing with the ‘arational’ (above the rational, not irrational). Perhaps the question isn’t important, nor one we should really  be asking. Perhaps, just accepting the thoughts from any origin, dwelling on them, mulling them over is what is most important. It is, surely, important to exert our original identity, to realise our wonderful status, and revel in the freedom of being ourselves.

Now, the park as I sit on this park bench seems even more alive, more wonderful, more mysterious than I had formerly imagined. It is the case, with eyes to see beyond, the same where you are, too!

And so, I leave the park. Those concerns I had, and our need for work and shelter etc still persist, but for a short time, the benefits of that time in the park have put those things into perspective. And, it’s bliss.

 

Tales From The Heart(h). There Is Only The Dance

20190323 THERE IS ONLY THE DANCE

It was the first few minutes of a two-day workshop, and with no time to get to know the dozen participants around me, the host opened in prayer and rushed into the outline for the day. Busy, busy.

As the minutes progressed, we all nodded, scribbled notes, maybe asked a pertinent question or two every so often, but the pace was fast and furious, with little time to pause.

Ninety minutes later, and I thought that then would be a good time to be introduced to the persons sitting near me, as a tea-break was announced. I was wrong. Out came mobile phones. Everyone of the participants was so busy, so important to their home churches and faith groups that they had to ‘check in’, and they led such busy lives that they could not rest and chat. Ofcourse, all of that may be true and is sometimes necessary I’m guessing, but I suspect that many of these people may have fallen foul to the ‘cult of busy’, or at least of being perceived as busy. I admit I could be a wee bit sceptical here, but it could also be egos at work, wanting to look busy and important, or perhaps their mobile phones were ‘shields’ to fend off people like me who might want to draw closer and get to know them. Such can be the fast-paced nature of modern life.

‘…stay visible…meet everything with the strength of vulnerability. Seven Thousand Ways To Listen, by Mark Nepo

We had walked for two hours in silence through the forest. It was bliss. Just then a bird on the ground, in front of us, panicked at our approach, flapped and squawked, and flew off. The person next to me panicked, let out a few expletives, laughed it off, and proceeded then to talk for the next half hour about politics. Ofcourse, I was interested in what they wanted to say, but somehow I was saddened that the intimacy in the silence that I had experienced with the forest was ‘lost’. The moment had gone. Such is the overwhelming din of modern life, politics etc.

‘…stay committed to the moment. The moment is our constant guide. It is a doorway to all that matters.’ Seven Thousand Ways To Listen, by Mark Nepo

She mentioned to me that she hadn’t slept properly for weeks, didn’t seem to be able to rest and there were many problems with her health relating to age, and problems in her family and work life, too. ‘What if….’, she asked? She talked. I listened. I shared some information about organisations that might be useful, but in the main I listened, and it seemed to help. Such is the worry that can accumulate about modern family and working life when we think ahead too much.

‘…stop rehearsing my way through life…Anticipating too much, we can catch ourselves crying ‘ouch’ even before we’re touched. Eventually this leaves no room for surprise.’ Seven Thousand Ways To Listen, by Mark Nepo

In our mind’s eye it always seems better in the past, in our past and perhaps in the ancient past when we think of ancient Celts, Druids, early Christians, Pagans and others. But, if we’re really ‘honest’ we know that life for them was just as frantic, overwhelming and worrisome, albeit in different ways. And, yet I do believe those Ancients can teach us a thing or two about priorities and what is important.

Our life doesn’t consist in being forever busy or even in giving that impression to others. We don’t have to be on the receiving end of endless data streams of information, though it might be necessary at times. And, though we might have ‘challenges’ at home and work, they do not define us, and if aware, they do not control us. We have the ability to rise above them – not just stoically, but in our being. We are more!

My grandmother, always one to tell a good story, was also known for her ‘one line’ pearls of wisdom. One time, when I was a wee lad she said, ‘In the storms of life, there is always a safe haven’. Taking her literally, and I was only a young child, I ran to the window of her cottage and said, ‘Where?’ She ambled slowly across the room, squeezed beside me, and pointed with one finger. I followed the tip of her finger as she moved it around in a swirling and purposely confusing pattern. My head moving back and forth, left and right, up and down. She laughed as she did it, which made me laugh. He finger eventually stopped when it touched my forehead. ‘Here’, she said.

‘…because the kingdom of God is in your midst.’ Luke 17:21b, The Book

Years later, I realised what she had meant. We may be subjected to the ‘storms’ of life, be cajoled into a frantic pace of life, and live lives that seems increasingly ‘loud’, but it doesn’t have to be that way all the time. We are more than that! We do have some control to our reactions, if not actual events! And, we have the ability to ‘step out’ of the situation and find rest, just as the Ancient did, though many find it difficult, and perhaps many are not aware of that ability to ‘go inward’ and beyond.

Out beyond
the ideas of wrongdoing and right doing,
there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

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

(Hafiz)

Perhaps, this is where ‘centering’, mediation, ritual, liminality or deep prayer comes in, where the value of communing with nature, elementals, angels and the Source come to the fore. It is the stillpoint that we each possess or have access to.

My grandmother’s prompting was always to maintain a friendship with all that is eternal, and to view whatever happens to us through the ‘lens’ of eternity. Then, things take on a different meaning, a different importance, and a different value. We are more!

‘Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and there is only the dance’. T S Eliot

 

Article header photograph: Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0). Attributed to Viapastrengo

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?