At Cnoc nan Angeal Or Sitheon Mor: Lift Your Heart Into The Wind

20180219 AT CNOC NANA ANGEAL OR SITHEON MOR FOUR MONTHS ONIt is difficult to believe that it was four months ago that I was on the Isle of Iona, the Isle of Druids, an island frequented by Columcille, also known as St Columba, over a millennia and a half ago.

With a longing to go back there, I set foot on Iona after a long gap of many years, and it felt like a home-coming. The desire to go there, was not a superficial visit to mark it as one more item ticked off my ‘bucket list’, but I believe the response to a deeply-ingrained inner longing etched onto the fabric of my soul. Have you been so called?

And on, or about this day four months ago I was walking around a grassy mound near Iona’s south-westerly beach.

This mound probably some fifty feet across and thirty feet high, is easy to overlook. And yet, it is so significant. It is known as Cnoc nan Angeal or The Hill of Angels, and to some it is also known as Sitheon Mor or the Hill of the Fae (the Fairy Hill).

However we view it, whatever we call it, it is a place of deep connection, another ‘thin place’ on an island that is itself a ‘thin place’.

I walked around the base of this mound, for no other reason than to ensure that, having entered the paddock by climbing a small fence, that I wasn’t sharing the field with a hefty Angus bull that might become angry at my intrusion. I was safe. There was no bull.  And knowing that, I climbed the small hill, paused and could then go ‘deep’ into matters spiritual and inhabit the place. What a privilege we all share.

‘…a ‘thin place’, the palpable presence of the Other in this place, time or event’

Columcille, it is said, often climbed this small hill to commune with angels. Others before him stood on that very hill-top, where my feet now pressed, and spoke with elementals, the fae and others. It is a place of energy and light, a place where the unexpected can occur, and if a place can exude peace and love, then Cnoc nan Angeal or Sitheon Mor can.

But, why was I standing there?

A Calling! A longing to do so, an echo from some distant land that I used to know, and to which I will return. We will return. Within each of us there is a longing etched into our very souls, woven into the very warp and weft of our being. A longing of self-discovery and transformation, a longing to know our true identity, a longing to ‘find’ our task in life, a deep longing to ‘be’.

‘We are homesick most for the places we have never known.’ Carson McCullers

This longing is there in all of us. Maybe it is buried under the weight of many years of material living and busyness. It’s time to revisit that longing. Such longing may be long-forgotten, bedazzled by the ‘bright lights’ of self-imposed habits that now seem to be ‘creaking’ or collapsing. The longing is still there. Can you hear longing, deep within you, calling out to you?

As I stood, four months ago, on that hill top where Columcille stood, I heard the wind and the birds, the nearby sea pound coastal rocks. I felt the wind, and rain and sea-spray, and then there was nothing. No-thing. And yet, everything! Without the need for dictionary or translator, as I stood there, windswept, alone (or was I?), and I was immersed in the song of the ages, and my soul sang back!

Perhaps, communing with angels or the fae or others, at that location (and indeed everywhere else), isn’t about hearing an audible voice or receiving a memorable instruction, but maybe it’s about being true to that calling, and true to ones innermost self?

‘You were created to be free; within you there is deep freedom.’ John O’Donohue

Four months ago I stood atop that hill, but not without some effort. Could it be that we need to ‘work’ at spirituality. Not in the sense of doing this or that to earn ‘points’, but in the sense of opening ourselves up to the moment, to surrender (and that’s not a word that many like), and to have a certain intentionality to enter into that moment. At other times it may take trauma or calamity to ‘open the eyes of our heart’. Other times, it may be purposely drawing aside. Then, we step out of our daily, materialistic, mechanical routine, and in doing so, we, at least for a while, enter into sacred time/space, and ‘be’, and encounter our longing, and recognise it as a dear friend.

‘Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.’

(David Whyte, The House of Belonging)

On that mound, I ‘returned’ to the beginning, and in the cold and the rain, the wind and salt-spray, the notion that I had been here (you have been ‘there’) all the time embraced me like a warm hug. It felt like a palpable hug. An angel? An elemental? A fae? I didn’t need to know. I didn’t want to know. To be there was sufficient. I can live contentedly with mystery knowing that, even if I am unaware, it is unfolding. That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves has our best interest at heart.

As I sit here typing now in hindsight of what happened all those months ago, and as you sit there reading this, are we all not ‘already there’? Isn’t longing knocking, still? And yet, there is ‘room’ to take hold of it, embrace it, dwell fully in the longing that longs to be known? Be aware.

‘Longing is a constant companion…It often comes in a dream. It may call from the trees outside. It often quickens at the hearth within our homes, and beckons us to come closer.’ Frank MacEowan

Oh, it was easy to scale that small hill, tick the box of ‘seen it, done it, and go onward….’, but isn’t there a wonderful need for all of us to pause and let the longing in us to be recognised, develop and come to fruition? Just ‘be.

Pause. Relax, and let that which is deep within ‘speak’ to you. The words may not be audible, and you may come in the form of a dream or an impression, a memory-flash, an indescribable yearning for that which is Other; and it may be immediate or it may ‘unpack’ itself over a number of days; or it may even be an inclination that becomes more noticeable over time as you look back.

‘If you think you’re hearing something
And you can’t think what it is
If you feel a quiet longing
Lift your heart into the wind.’

(Cyndi Lauper, Kindred Spirits)

 

Reflections On A Puddle: A Quiet Teacher At Drws I Fyd Arall

20180125 REFLECTION ON A PUDDLE A QUIET TEACHER AT DRWS I FYD ARALLI am back in Capel Curig in north Wales for a while. I’m outside, and have walked the relatively short walk from my little cottage, Tŷ Gwyn (pronounced ‘tee gwin’, meaning White Cottage or White House), to an area that, for years, has been known to me as Drws i fyd arall. It’s raining hard – the ‘gift’ of storm Georgina that is sweeping across the United Kingdom.

Soaked, I sit on a felled log. It’s still about half an hour before sunrise.

‘Drip down, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds pour down…’ Isaiah 45;8a, The Book

And I feel wonderful, expectant, in awe at the two, old, trees in front of me. I sat there looking at these two trees, so different to the others around them, as these two trees had grown in a way that they bowed towards each other to form an arch. As children we noticed this, and I and my friends had called these two arched trees Drws i fyd arall (pronounced ‘droo zi fid arrah’) which means ‘door to another world’. Such was the imagination of us children that we played endless games by jumping through the arched trees, and in our minds eye believed that we found  ourselves in strange new worlds. Star Gate, the tv series, was still many years in the future. We got their first!

For more about Drws I fyd arall in previous articles, see here, and here.

And, now I’m sitting in the middle of this delightful forest, in suitably rain-proofed attire, and though its cold and there’s a great wind – I’m protected from that wind by the high trees around me – but not so from the rain. It’s raining even harder, and I love it.

By my feet, raindrops converge into puddles, multiple puddles and some of them quite deep, and as the puddles fill up with rain some of them join together to form even large puddles around me; and for a moment I am mesmerised by the sight of the rain splashing on the forest floor and into puddles, and by the soothing, continuous, hypnotic patter of fresh, cold, wonderful rain.

‘If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.’ Loren Eiseley

As I gaze at the large puddle in front of me, joining with another, and then being  ‘syphoned off’ into a larger deep depression on the ground inches to one side, I spied that water takes on the shape of that which it fills, and reshapes itself umpteen times, yet it still remains water.

‘I find inspiration in the movement of water. Sometimes I think about the journey the water has travelled, reconnecting me to the larger cycles of nature.’ Janet Echelman

How we could learn from water. If you’re like me, it is oh-so-easy to take on board the opinions of others sometimes; to be caught off guard and to be affected by their bad words and actions, and perhaps want to metaphorically strike back; or be adversely affected by ‘bad’ situations. Water is not changed by what it fills. It changes shape, but remains faithful to its nature. It loses nothing. How we could learn from water.

‘I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.’ John O’Donohue

Mark Nepo talks of this sort of awareness of nature. He calls them ‘quiet teachers’, for that is what they are: nature opening itself up to human awareness for the connection, which surely already exists, to be made understandable (at least in part) to us, in a quiet, authentic manner

And so this puddle, this ‘quiet teacher’, a puddle at Drws i fyd arall taught me that water adapts to fill the ‘shape’ of its surroundings, but remains faithful to itself.

And, in a ‘flash’ as I sat on that felled tree, I realised that, as humans, we are should (or perhaps, are encouraged, is a better way of putting it, to) adapt to situations in our daily life, albeit some tough events, or situations brought on by ‘difficult’ people, and yet remain faithful to our ‘humanness’, our core. It is possible to adapt and not take on board the negative ‘stuff’ around us.

And then, I experienced another ‘flash’ as if lightning had filled the sky: it dawned on me – our body and soul may be seemingly affected, but the lesson of this ‘quiet teacher’ was that that need not be the case, but it came to me that our soul, our being, our very essence is never affected by it at all – we just think it is. There is something in us that ‘higher’, still. And from ‘that place’, a place of Love, we can have compassion on others, and bear tough situations come what may.

I had to sit on the felled log for some time to ‘unpack’ those two ‘flashes’ of thought(s) from Beyond.

‘…the work of compassion: to embrace everything clearly without imposing who we are and without losing who we are.’ Mark Nepouiet

To Know The Dark…: A Thought

20180108 ENCOUNTERING THE KNOW THE DARKAnd so, having prepared the room for this ceremony – just me, this evening, I sat down on a cushion in the middle of the room. With the door slightly ajar and with my eyes now accustomed to the darkness, I could make out just a few things.

I lit the candle.

Such a small light, and yet its flickering light illuminating all the walls and the furniture in the room. And as the small candle flame flickered, so there was that ‘dance’ between light and dark. Sometimes darkness would move across part of the room, sometimes light, and seemingly in equal measure. No real competition. No angst. Just a natural interplay of light and dark, a paradox.

With the lighting of the candle I entered sacred space (and sacred time) and paused to Encounter.

‘Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again.’

(‘The Sound of Silence’, Simon & Garfunkel)

Oh, how some like the light. Oh, how some fear the dark. In many cultures and belief systems there seems to be a dichotomy between light and dark – one is liked, the other feared. And yet, ‘scratch’ a bit deeper and that dualism (so loved by the Greeks, and so (unwittingly) inherited by the West, dissolves.

Ofcourse, we can talk about being the dark, meaning ignorance; we can talk about seeing the light, meaning we now know something we didn’t formerly know. And, so in that instance it all seems easy to understand – but only because we have used light and dark in one way and as one metaphor to suit our purposes for that event. Life is much more complex. The universe is much more complex. Spirituality is…you get the picture.

The acceptance and meaning of light and dark depends on the circumstances, our use of them as metaphors, and the context. Be comfortable with ‘opposites’, with paradox.

For instance, it is in the darkness that wonderful things happen; planted seeds in the soil grow into might plants or trees, the baby in the womb is ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ and develops, and the Source of All moves.

‘[God]… made darkness his secret place; his pavilion… were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies’.

(Psalm 18:11 part, The Book)

It is no secret that I love the great outdoors, and being from north Wales I am well-used to expect rain and storms. Did you know in the part of Wales I hail from it rains some 330 days per year. And I love it. Cold, and damp and raining and windy….are all wonderful weather patterns to me. For some reason, I feel an Encounter more in the storm and/or the night than on a bright summer’s day when the sky is blue and there is not a cloud in sight. Indeed some of you will have read some of my previous articles where Encounters or significant events took place in forests on sleepless nights – see here for an example.

Could it be that when it is dark, wet, cloudy, stormy we aren’t distracted by the sun and the things that it encourages: sunbathing, picnicing, wonderful scenic walks – all good in themselves and to be enjoyed, but which may make deep Encountering difficult sometimes?

And so, having lit the candle, I waited to Encounter. In the darkness as well as the light, and maybe even more so in the darkness, I Encountered. With no visible distractions in that darkened room, I was alone with the Alone. And it was wonderful.

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is travelled by dark feet and dark wings.

(Wendell Berry, ‘To Know the Dark’ from The Selected Poems of Wendell

And then, wanting to go deeper, I blew out the candle flame. And paused for what seemed just five minutes – but when I checked afterward a full half hour has passed. In the darkness, I met the Friend. In the darkness, with no distractions, with no pre-conceived ideas or expectations, we can Encounter.

‘And the vision that was planted in my brain
still remains,
within the sound of silence’.

(‘The Sound of Silence’, Simon & Garfunkel)

 

Wisdom 2: Resources For Wisdom Day

20180105 WISDOM 2 WISDOM DAY RESOURCESThe 6 January, for some people (myself included), is associated with wisdom and the celebration of wisdom: a time to seek wisdom’s infilling, a time of gratitude, a time of pausing, reflection and meditation upon the theme of wisdom.

Here are some resources that you might like to use (and adapt as necessary) for your wisdom celebration (whether done individually, as a family or faith group etc).

Explanations precede the liturgy here, that can be said as invocations, prayers and blessings etc, but you might find that even the explanations can be recited (by the leader, or to yourself) to inform others of what is about to happen and why, and so may be beneficial.

So, here are some resources for you to use:

—o0o–

Wisdom is present throughout the universe. The Source of All is ubiquitous, and so wisdom is to be found everywhere. Indeed wisdom permeates every atom of the universe.

Wisdom calls out to all who would hear her
She cries aloud in the streets,
she shouts in the  marketplace,
she speaks in forests, mountain tops and valleys, and
she whispers to men and women, and to the children of mankind.
Wisdom calls out to all who would hear her.

Wisdom says, ‘I will pour out my spirit on you; to you will I make my ways known.’

‘When calamity strikes you, when anguish comes upon you, and when distress seemingly overtakes you, I will be there,’ says Wisdom. ‘My hand will be outstretched, and I, Wisdom can be found’.

Wisdom is better than choice gold. There is no deceit in her voice, nothing crooked in all her ways. All that you desire cannot compare with Wisdom. Wisdom says, ‘Look for me, and live’.

[With Proverbs 1:20–33 and Proverbs 8:1-11, the Book in mind]

—o0o–

A celebration or invocation wouldn’t be the same without the lighting of candles, the light of which reminds us of the elemental nature of fire, simplicity, the harking back to a former age, or focusses our minds on spiritual matters and sacred time/space. It ushers us into liminality.

And, so a candle can be lit just before you recite the phrase that relates to the earth, and then light another candle just before you recite the phrase that relates to the air, and so on as regards the other two elements. There is no rush – so do take your time, pause, and meditate (safely, with your eyes open – always conscious of fire safety), between phrases.

Wisdom from above, come to us at this time.

Wisdom of the earth, come and be the foundation upon which we stand.
Wisdom of the air, blow through us and dispel obstacles, and make way for the new.
Wisdom of fire, come and fill our hearts with wisdom that empowers and radiates.
Wisdom of water, flow through us to nurture us.

Wisdom from above, come to us at this time.

—o0o–

Perhaps, a time of prayer is called for. Below are sugestions of people and groups that you might like to pray for. If you have a form of words already for prayer you can add the following topics, and perhaps pause between each topic and think deeply and/or visualise the outcome.

However, you pray, it is intentionality that is important, so don’t worry if you don’t get it quite right (in the opinion of some).

You might like to prayer for

– the wisdom of elders, who grown older with poise, grace and dignity, and are there for others [you might know of some, and might like to name them]

– the wisdom and energy of those who seek to heal the earth [and you might say some names of individuals or charitable ecological organisations that deserve support]

– the wisdom of those who are in leadership at a local, regional, national or international level [and you might like to voice their names or the offices of leadership they hold, whether or not they maybe be your ‘favourite’ leader or politician]

– the wisdom of those who work with people to alleviate their suffering, poverty, loneliness etc [and if you know of individuals do name them, or name charitable agencies]

– the wisdom of tireless, quiet workers, who with joy spread wisdom throughout our society, in large and small ways – these may be people who are known to you, a neighbour, a school-teacher, someone who is their for you eg a family-member etc

– the wisdom of nature – of trees, animals, the elements etc, all of which are ‘silent teachers’ that  are faithful to the cycle of nature and which impart their wisdom for those willing to pause.

These are just a few suggestions – do add to them. If you don’t have a form of words for prayer then speak from the heart – and ofcourse, I hope that you would be doing that anyway. Ofcourse you are. But don’t hold back. It’s intentionality that is important, not whether you get the wording or pronunciation just right.

—o0o–

And, enjoy it, too. Be joyful. There is wisdom in joy. Blessings to you on Wisdom Day, Tadhg.

 

 

 

The Saining Ritual For New Years Night

20171229 THE SAINING RITUALIt’s coming up to the end of the year, and the new year is just around the corner. This time of year always brings back fond memories for me, and one of the most vivid and joyful is that of the ritual of the sain.

And so, the hallway grandfather clock ticked loudly, in its countdown to midnight, as the old year passed away. All of us had gathered there, and waited.  My grandmother came out of the kitchen. In one hand she held a few twigs of juniper that had been soaked in water (and shaken to remove the excess water), and in the other she held lightly smoking juniper twigs to ‘smudge’ each room.

It was a family custom and one held by many in Scotland and Ireland, and quite a few in north Wales. Saining, or blessing was an old ritual, done especially at this  time of the year. In it we each ‘saw’ out the old year and ‘saw’ in the new, asked for blessing and protection for the upcoming year, and came together as one. It was a happy event.

And then the grandfather clock juddered, gears and cogs deep inside it ‘whirred’ and then it chimed midnight. With some reverence we walked, following my grandmother around the house. At each room my grandmother would open that room’s door (and leave it open), shake the juniper with water on it, say the (shortened) sain blessing (see below), allow the smoking juniper to let off its fragrance in that room (and, maybe give those twigs a bit of a shake), and then move onto the next room, as we all followed.

In each room , including the hallway and toilet, the ritual was the same, and the sain (or blessing) was spoken and repeated:

The sain put by Mary on her Son,
From the crown of thy head
To the soles of thy feet.
From the edge of thy brow,
To thy coloured soles,
To preserve thee from behind,
To sustain thee in front,
The sain put by Mary on her Son.

And then, at about ten minutes after midnight we would be at the front door. That door would be opened, as we all stood outside, and the final sain ritual would be said. The person who had performed the ritual would imbibe a small glass of whisky, and in our family everyone else would then follow suit.

And then it was over. Talking and singing of that wonderful song ‘aud lang syne’ would probably take place, maybe accompanied by another glass of whisky for all, or we would all go back inside the house for more revelry (and probably a closing all the doors now as the new year had been ‘invited’ in, and each room had been blessed), and we wanted to keep warm

Happy times to remember; and a great ritual to perpetuate.

Saining is a old Scottish, Gaelic, Celtic word for blessing, protecting or consecrating, the word (or similar) is also used in Ireland and Wales.

Traditionally saining rites, done at the stroke of midnight, involved water, and/or ‘smugding’ with juniper twigs, and moving from room to room (and maybe field to field), and/or the recitation of a prayer or poetry. This role might primarily fall to the lady of the house, but that wasn’t always the case. Flexibility rules the day, here. The ritual might conclude with the person performing the rite opening all the windows and doors in the house to ‘let our the old (year) and let in the new (year) and might involve imbibing just a small glass of whisky. The ritual was varied and might not include all of the aforementioned, but it was always an occassion that all looked forward to, and was quite joyful, with all the members of the family following the one performing the ritual around the house etc.

So, this new years night, how about performing a sain in each room of your house – don’t forget the hallway or the ‘smallest room’.

You can use the abovementioned paragraphs as a template but do vary it to suit your needs: instead of ‘smudging’ with juniper twigs you might light a candle or use a scented joss-stick; instead of whisky, you might use fruit juice; you can use the saining invocation used by my grandmother (or the longer version , below, or choose something else relevant to your faith or belief or write something yourself. Enjoy it, and make it a memorable occasion as you celebrate the end of one year and the start of the new year.

The prayers used by many of old in this ritual are Christian-based, a historical/family fact, but they can be adapted or replaced; and indeed have been successfully adapted and replaced and used by friends of mine of other faiths and beliefs – and so whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Druid, Pagan etc, I would suggest the ritual of the sain to you as a wonderful ritual for you and/or your family and friends at this time of the year.

Ofcourse, saining doesn’t only have to be done at the turning of the year. It could be done when moving into a new apartment or house, on the anniversary of moving in, or maybe once or twice a year as you feel it’s appropriate to bless a place, or invoke protection or if you want to ‘lift’ a place energetically. Try it. Enjoy it.

Enjoy. Blessings of the Sain be to you and yours, Tadhg

Note: The complete version of the Sain, invocation of for protection and blessing, is as follows:

The sain put by Mary on her Son,
Sain from death, sain from wound,
Sain from breast to knee,
Sain from knee to foot,
Sain of the three sains,
Sain of the five sains,
Sain of the seven sains,

From the crown of thy head
To the soles of thy feet.
Sain of the seven paters, one,
Sain of the seven paters, two,
Sain of the seven paters, three,
Sain of the seven paters, four,
Sain of the seven paters, five,
Sain of the seven paters, six,
Sain of the seven paters, seven
Upon thee now.

From the edge of thy brow,
To thy coloured soles,
To preserve thee from behind,
To sustain thee in front.

Be the helmet of salvation about thine head,
Be the corslet of the covenant about thy throat,
Be the breastplate of the priest upon thy breast,
To shield thee in the battle and combat of thine enemies.
If pursued, oh youth, from behind thy back,
The power of the Virgin be close to succour thee,
East or west, west or east,
North or south, south or north.

(Sain, From the ‘Carmina Gadelica’)

Tadhg’s Thoughts: Night Is Now Far Spent [Or, ‘What A ‘Gritty’ Year That Was’]

20171224 NIGHT IS FAR SPENTI wanted to write my thoughts out, to put them down on paper, and promised myself that I wouldn’t undertake endless revisions. So, here’s my ‘end of year’ heart-sharing with you.

Oh, it’s nearly that time. Christmas Day approaches. I admit to being a big kid at heart – my inner child is always dominant, and more so at this time of the year. I love the fairy lights, the brightly lit shop windows, the Christmas trees with tinsel on it, the candles, the carols in the shopping mall.

And yet, issues requiring mature responses have raised heads. At least for me. And, especially this year.

Is it possible to allow ones inner child dominance: to be childlike and yet not be childish? I think so. I hope so.

‘…become like little children…’ Matthew 18:3b, The Book

It is a ‘thin place’ time of the year. For those in the northern hemisphere it is the darkest time of the year – and yet there, in the middle of the darkness, when the night is at its longest, there is an inbuilt hope of the days (now) getting longer. In the middle of winter, the trees are sleeping, and deep roots are dreaming of spring. Change.

When, in our lives things seem darkest, and it is never easy going through emotional and jarring events, there is hope that the light shines brightest in the darkest of settings. One bearevement, a ‘body-blow’ sustained this year by me, and on ongoing ‘judder’ regarding property  – which will be resolved in January – makes the going tough. This isn’t a rant, but an admission that I’m human. And if you’ve had an ‘up and down’ year then you’re human, too. And being human is good.

Oh, but how easily we can be ‘pulled out’ of that liminal, dream-like, spiritual state by jarring events, or sometimes by others…if we allow. But it is the latter that concerns me most, today.

‘The dance between darkness and light will always remain— the stars and the moon will always need the darkness to be seen, the darkness will just not be worth having without the moon and the stars.’ C JoyBell C

However we interpret or understand the Nativity story – it is a story that, when the Earth was at its darkest point, Light appeared. When forces of anger were arrayed, a child was born. And when ‘unlove’ seemed dominant, Love loved. Love can do no more, nor needs to do more, because Love always wins.

It is childlike to accept that Love wins? It is childish to believe that we are immune from hurt? It is a mature response, I believe, to know that Love wins, but that we may, unfortunately, be hurt sometime, somehow, but you, as a spiritual person know that you are not alone, and things change? I think so. I believe so.

‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well’. The Lady Julian

And so, at this time of the year, when its darkest on the face of the Earth (physically, maybe emotionally for some, politically for others, for me, for you etc), I will light a candle for peace, for hope, for Love, for you. And would suggest, that if you feel so led, to do the same.

It is a small ritual – and I love ritual for in it we place ourselves in the gaze of the Source of All – to align ourselves with the Light, with Love, with the Source of All, to allow that Power to soak through our very being, and to acknowledge that we are not alone. It as, after all, at this time of the year a time when we remember that the Power-Behind-The-Universe was ‘poured’ into human flesh. We are not alone. You are not alone. And, there is a Light that shines in the darkness.

And, I’m reminded of that Light by every brightly decorated shop window I pass, every Christmas tree with fairy lights on it and every candle I see, and I think of hope. of change, of Love.

And if, like me, you’ve had a tough year, my candle-lighting ritual will also be a prayer for you, to lift you up. You are included. You are not alone.

Into the void
His word went forth.
What was not. Is!
Light and life accompanied His utterances
and in response, nature danced in the song of creation.
He formed the man of clay, and the woman who is the mother of all life.
And they, too, danced in the light of the morning.
Night has now come, and is far spent,
and the man and woman crane their necks and gaze upwards.
And their words go forth into the vacuum, that is space.
‘Is anyone out there? ‘.
Out of the void another sound is heard.
This time, a baby’s cry echoes in some dim and dusty street of old.
And in the darkness of the world, words of hope are once more heard.
‘My children. Did you think I would leave you as orphans to stray in the night?
I am with you, evermore! ‘.

Blessings, Light and love be to you and yours this Christmas-time, Tadhg

 

[PS: In acknowledging that it was an ‘up and down’ year it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge that I have learned a lot – experience is a good teacher – that I have experienced the love of friends (Christian, Druid, Pagan and others), and made some new and wonderful friends – ‘make new friends, but keep the ‘old’ ones, one is silver, the other is gold’ (says a child’s song), and it’s true. I was also deeply moved by my Iona pilgrimage, and am very appreciative of those, you, who read these articles and comment.  I am, and I hope you can look back at 2017 and say that, despite some tough times, we have been journeyed onward and been blessed, too. Love wins.]

 

 

 

The Enchantment Of Snow: Tadhg’s Journal

20171211 The Enchantment Of Snow Lessons From Frozen PrecipitationComing down the stairs, with my eyes looking at my feet so as not to trip, I blended in with a myriad of other people beside me, in front of me, and behind me, all intent on leaving the underground station as quickly as possible. It was dark, it was damp, and dreadfully cold. It was Sunday evening, 10 December, and it was snowing in London – the first snowfall locally for the winter (apart from a five minute ‘snow storm’ last week). It had been rumoured that even the fountains at Trafalgar Square had frozen, so I heard.

Now at ground level, and at the exit barriers, for a moment, I was lined up with half a dozen other people who looked as though they were just about to run several furlongs in the 2.40 at Haydock Park. And then we were off. Through the barrier and homeward bound.

‘Snow provokes responses that reach right back to childhood.’ Andy Goldsworthy

The street was busy. So many people.  Traffic noise blared. Traffic lights seemingly overly bright, glared; and the snow-laden wind howled and caught us all by surprise as we turned the corner. Gasps could be heard as a bitter and raw wind hit the face of an unsuspecting people. In the distance the Salvation Army, in their favourite annual spot, just outside the pub, could be heard singing Carols to a moving sea of people who seemed not to notice them.

The snow underfoot had become ice and my pace slowed, not wishing to fall and crack a rib as I had done this time last year.

I know, for many, snow can be a nuisance, but for me, right here, right now, it was amazing. I love it, and admit to having let my inner-child run loose. But, please: don’t stop me know. Nature in all it’s glory had bathed the city in a white dress as only nature knows, and it was pretty, it was awesome, and inviting. But, an invitation to what?

In the middle of the park, I stopped. And yet, as I remained motionless, I had the perception of moving.

The falling snow, caught in the yellow street lamps that were in a line at the path’s edge, looked like twinkling, falling stars. And, in a horizontal wind, the snow passed my face to the left and to the right, and it felt as though I was moving and tit was stationary.

Without moving it seemed as though I had stumbled into unfamiliar and alien territory. I felt like a stranger, lost, and unable to recognise any familiar landmarks around me.

Silence descended. The traffic noise seemed a million miles away, and the neon traffic lights’ glare seemed like lights shining below the horizon, and the hustle and bustle of people rushing to get home was now a distant memory. All was still.

‘The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?’ J B Priestley

Mechanical time had given way to another perception of time that seemed to flow and yet not flow. A still point. It was nature’s dance and I was included. ‘Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and (yet) there is only the dance’.

Could I, indeed, be moving through an unchartered part of space, a field of stars? Should my intention be to ‘bodily go’, or was that happening anyway?

Had I entered some kind of liminal access point, a ‘thin place’, a portal to another realm, unknowingly?

Had I stepped back in time? Certainly childhood memories of playing in the snow flooded my thoughts. Wonderful memories!

Had I stepped out of our world, into some altogether much more expansive , connected and mysterious?

‘A snow day literally and figuratively falls from the sky -unbidden – and seems like a thing of wonder.’ Susan Orlean

Was my imagination running riot – that faculty that children wonderfully indwell and many adults rarely visit. Was this the key to this odd out-of-time event?

I wanted to analyse, research, detail what was happening, but knew that had I done so I would have been catapulted back into mechanical time, and so I just revelled in this fleeting experience and enjoyed it. Have you encountered this? Have you encountered?

‘Snowflakes are kisses from heaven.’ Anonymous

And then, without any apparent reason, I was back. Back from where?

People seemed to appear as if from nowhere, traffic noise seemed louder now, lights brighter, and I saw where I was:  in the middle of snow-laden Parson’s Green on a cold, dark, dismal, snowy December evening.

I started to walk, albeit slowly, but roughly keeping apace with other people around me, thinking of what I would cook for dinner that evening, what presents I would buy, and who I had to telephone. Yes, I was back in the realm of mechanical time. And yet, in the back of my mind was the memory of that encounter, that place, that still point ‘of the turning of the world’.

We are all ‘edge-walkers’, straddling two realms (and possibly more). Someone once said, ‘Seek and you will find’, and that is so. Don’t look at the world except with physical eyes and ‘physicality’ is all you will see. Seek and delve a bit deeper, and the world opens up to us all, into an altogether mysterious and more wonderful place, and at this time of the year, ‘thin places’  and ‘magic’ abounds…if we seek them.

 

A Storm Is Headed Our Way: Tadhg’s Journal

20171207 Storms And Us

A Storm is heading our way. Storm Caroline is battering Britain, and the ferry services between Oban and the Isle of Mull, and Mull to Iona have been suspended. Radio bulletin

One of the things I like about London is the museums and art galleries, and cafes, and the exhibitions it hosts, and especially the Festival of Mind, Body and Spirit. So many stands, and so many wise and wonderful people, and not a wrinkle in sight (on many of the exhibitors). I have a confession: I avoid those who have ‘answers’ and yet have no wrinkles and scars. It’s just me, perhaps, but I wonder what they have in common with me. I mean, their life is so blessed and worry-free?

When I’m staying in London there are a number of churches (and I’m not anti-church, as they are great institutions) that are nearby. But, I find it difficult to join in with many of them, as they all seem to have problem-free lives, and that bears little resemblance to my life at the moment.

Ah, when I was younger, I used to love reading those Superman comics (and I even had a deal with the local shop: if I bought three comics, read them and returned them in mint condition, then I could have a fourth one, free of charge!). Supeman, then was ‘immune’ to any kind of injury and you always knew he would triumph. And, even at that young age I realised that he had little in common with me.

Here is my confession, yes, another confession in just the space of a moment or two: I am not immune to the ‘storms’ of life. In my relatively short life I have been a single-parent family and am immensely proud of my two sons, have been a cancer patient and subsequent survivor by the grace of God (working through the wonderful NHS in the UK), a thyroid patient, had a year-long dreadful reaction to precscribed medicine and got through it, fell down and cracked two ribs a couple of years ago and healed, and now I’m facing a ‘storm’ over the administration of my late-Dad’s house, when it could have gone so well but for ‘forces’ beyond my control. It is tough going, and there are no easy answers.

I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship. Louisa May Alcott

It’s for that reason that I like stands at the Festival of Mind, Body and Spirit with ‘real’ people on them, people with wrinkles or scars, or a ‘tough’ life-story to tell. I love genuine people. People, who like me, have and are facing life-storms. I like churches where I know the people admit their flaws and still have hope. Authentic people. Wonderful. And I like that story, where the Source of All, who was perfect, took on the shell of humanity and even though perfect died a messy death (and overcame it, demonstrably). Life, seemingly snuffed out, comes back more ‘alive’ than before. Love wins.

And it’s one reason I like those who call themselves Druid. In latter days it used to take forty years to become a Druid, and so feasibly you would never meet a Druid or Druidic leader under the age of about 60. They would have lived life to the full, known a few ‘storm’s and have a few wrinkles on their countenenace. Awesome. Ofcourse, for many groups it doesnt take forty years now, but I ‘warm’ more with older Druids in leadership because of their experiences

‘Storms make the oak grow deeper roots’. George Herbert

It has been said our response to challenges and negativty can go one of two ways: make us better or bitter. In my current stortm – and I cannot tell you how excruciatingly emotional and draining it is – I am choosing to use the painful experience to be better. This ‘storm’ is temporary. It won’t last. It will not bring me down to respond negatvily. I choose to learn from it. And, it is teaching me that I am surrounded by a myriad of supportive family and friends, and that is an amazing comfort.

‘Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.’ Vivian Greene

Perception is important. I might look at the ‘externals’ only, and I see painful events. But, I know I need to read what I have written here previously, and look deeper. For then, whether I can see it or not, or experience it or not, I know that things are not what they seem, and good is coming out of this. Love prevails.

‘Storm Caroline will last approximately 48 hours and move eastward’. Radio broadcast.

If you’re going through a ‘storm’ now, I wish I could wave a magic wand and rectify things. But, I am with you dear bother/sister for this journey albeit rough right now, and though we might weep now, we will laugh together tomorrow and through eternity. And, we have the Companion with us. Something now, somehow, is being wrought out of the present ‘storm’.

Meanwhile, there are no easy answers. Perhaps, there aren’t meant to be any easy answers, but that we are changed for the better (whether we know it or not) in the process, and there will be a time (perhaps in the next realm) where it will all make sense. Love prevails.

‘And the one sitting on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new!” Revelation 21:5, The Book

 

Perception And The Llamhigyn Y Dwr: Story

20171204 Perception And The Llamhigyn Dwr A Story From YesteryearYou know I love stories, and here’s one from yesteryear about perception. It’s easy to be fooled into seeing things at face value, but the discerning , and that includes you, know that in many cases there is more going on than meets the eye.

There is always something more to perceive, to see, to understand, even to ‘guess’ at what might happen. Our imaginations are an important ‘tool’ and can come in uderful here, and its a ‘tool’ that many forget to use. Our imagination can allow us to see beyond and consider a realm that might otherwise have been invisible to us.

Yes, I love stories, and here’s one from my childhood, that highlights the necessity of perceiving things differently.

As a child I used to love to fish in one of the nearby local lakes. For those who believe that fishing is a cruel sport. It’s okay. I never caught anything, but I used to love the experience of being there, by a lake, in a forest, and in such a beautiful place.

With a flask of tomato soup, a packed sandwich for later, I was in my element, and could sit there all day, and did.

This lake was about a mile from my grandparents’ cottage. My grandmother was an avid book-reader and an avid storyteller.

She once told me about the story of Llamhigyn Y Dwr – the water leaper – a creature that is said to resemble a frog, but with a stinger on the end of its tail like a scorpion, and it had bat wings instead of front legs. It is said to frequent lakes. The really worrying thing about the water-leaper, and something to bear in mind, was that it was said to be the size of a cow.

And so, there I was fishing one day. The sun was shining on the water and I was mesmerised. Unknown to me, by all accounts, I moved slowly, ever so slowly towards the waters edge. And then the inevitable happened. I fell in with a huge, ‘splash’. I couldn’t get out that quickly as I fell and sat down cross-legged. Thankfully, my granddad was close by, ran towards me at great speed for a portly fellow, and pulled me out. Sopping wet, but still clutching my ‘bought at Woolworths’ fibre/glass fishing rod, I was quickly pulled out.

Of course, that evening my granddad just had to recount the story over and over again. It was so embarrassing for me. Sometime time later, however, my grandmother, sitting by the open fire hearth, beckoned me. And in a subdued voice and a twinkle in her eye, she said, ‘Pay no attention to your granddaddy. You and I know that you didn’t fall in. You were, infact, pulled in by the Llamhigyn Y Dwr which was the size of a cow, and were brave enough to wrestle it and keep hold of your fishing rod. Well done!’.

I think my grandmother had the right idea, used her imagination, and could see things in a new and exicting, deeper way than many people could. At least as a child I could, for a moment, glimpse the world in a different way as she retold that story. And, using imagination you and I can see ‘deeper’ still, today. It is the way to perceive spiritual things and the Divine at work. Eyes beyond eyes.

Magic Café Revelations: All Life-Stories Matter

20171121 MAGIC CAFE REVELATIONS ALL STORIES MATTER

I am sitting in a café in London, and it’s magic. I know this to be the case, as over the door it says in big bright lettering, ‘The Magic Café’, and it’s one of my favourite places to relax. As a regular I’ve got to know the other regulars that frequent this awesome place.

I’ve probably mentioned it in the past: there is the yachtsman, the Portugese lady, the journal lady, the nanny, and the taxi drivers. As I sit here today, I wondered if they had a name for me, or if the journal lady had written about me as she writes copiously at her table, right now, supping coffee and chewing on a croissant?

Each one of us has a story to tell.

I was once at a meeting where a speaker, originally from London and had spent a number of years in a remote corner of Africa, only to return and recount his story. After fifteen minutes or so he said that each one of us has a story to tell, and suggested that one by one – there were twelve us in this group – we might tell something of our story. It hadn’t got far, infact only two people had shared their story, when the third person said something like, ‘But you’re story is so much more important, so full of awesome events, that we would like to hear more’, to the speaker. And so the story-sharing came to an abrupt end. Disappointed.

‘A bruised reed He will not break.; Isaiah 42.3 The Book

As I sit in the Magic Café, now, I imagine what each of the regulars’ story might consists of. I can imagine, and do. I wonder in what way their lives are similar to mine, and their will be similarities. In what ways different, and there will be great differences. I wonder in what ways your life story and mine co-incide. It does! At the very least it co-incides as I write these words and you are reading them. Interaction. And, there’s more. In a spiritual realm my thoughts ‘flew’ as I write these word, and your thoughts ‘fly’ as you interpret them. Mingling.

We participate in each others story because of that interaction via the internet, via physically meeting or emailing or commenting, or even thinking about each other; and participate in each others story on a cosmic level which, right now might be more than we can conceive, but one day we will understand fully. Imagine that.

‘If I’m gonna tell a real story, I’m gonna start with my name’. Kendrick Lamar

But for now, I use imagination to understand the depth of our connectedness. And would suggest the same to you. Imagination is a spiritual gift even though we play it down, or use it just as a figure of speech. And, imagination, right now, fuels my desire, our desire to get to know each other (more). The more I think about, say, the journal lady in this café, sitting just a few feet away from me, the more inquisitive I am about her (in a wholesome way), and imagination does change things.

‘…we are talking about spiritual transformation, mediated by the imagination.’ Sandra M Levy

Using my imagination piqued my interest, and that in turn brought about a desire to know that person as a friend, and that in turn lead me to talking to her, and interacting on a verbal level (and more). Ah, she’s a retired doctor, and yes, she loves to journal. I know part of her story now, and she knows part of mine.

Each one of us has an awesome story to share, and unlike the third person in that group, mentioned above, your story is as great as anyone elses. And our stories connect us.

‘Your story is different from mine because of different experiences. Even so, somehow or other we fit them into a Big Picture, we develop a sense of how our own stories fit into a larger one…’ Sandra M Levy

Our individual stories connect us to each other because our stories form part of the chapters of the ‘big picture’ of the cosmos or the big Book, and in such a Book there are no incosequential stories, no inconsquential people. Your life story counts, and it’s writ large upon the universe. All life-stories matter. Share your story. It’s a good one.

But, there’s more…