A Walk In The Woods: Liminality And Its Benefits. Three Stories

20181010 A WALK IN THE WOODS LIMINALITY AND ITS BENEFITS

The imagination of the Ancients taught them wisdom that is lost to many today. Ancient Celts, Druids, Pagans and others knew more than we can guess, and yet many of the practices they observed are open to us today. They were ‘connected’ in a way that is only just being (re-)discovered, and the benefits, especially as regards liminality are enormous.

It was evening and the sun was sinking behind Cadair Idris, that wonderful mountain at the southern end of Snowdonia in Wales, that I frequented a lot as a teenager. Cadair Idris means the ‘Chair of Idris’ and was the giant warrior poet of Welsh renown. But, it was the setting sun that caught my attention.

The air temperature was dropping considerably as I stood on the mountain side, and long shadows ‘overwhelmed’ me, as the setting sun took my breath away. As I gazed in its direction the sun changed colour, diminished in brightness, but it was awe that embraced me, and that was so overpowering.

‘I have a thing for doors. I always think of them as a threshold to something new’. Jada Pinkett Smith

Yes, it was a liminal moment, a threshold event, a peak experience, a door to something or somewhere else as some might describel it.

Many shy away from the word surrender, but witnessing that awesome event, with no real thought prevalent in my mind, I basked in silence, motionless at the experience. I was in awe, connected to the universe and all that is. I had surrendered to the event, the handiwork of the Source of All, and the Source of All was palpable to me in some strange, unexplainable way. And, it was good.

Indeed, a liminal experience. Just then, the thought of capturing the moment occurred and I reached for the camera hanging around my neck, lifted it, took aim and photographed that amazing sunset. At I gazed through the camera’s viewfinder my eyes welled up, as I realised that I had left that liminal moment behind. In trying to preserve that wonderful moment of connectedness, I had lost it. Gone.

It was a group event, a workshop, and the first exercise was for the group to close there eyes, and having mentioned centering, beforehand, each member of the group was asked to imagine a walk in an imaginal forest, a walk in the woods, that started in the corner of the room they were in. The forest had a defined path, it was evening and quite dark, but in the distance there was a light, and each group member was asked to, imaginally, walk towards it. The path led to a clearing, and there each member was encouraged to imagine themselves sitting on a bench in the middle of the clearing and just ‘be’. After ten minutes I asked them to journey back on the path, out of the clearing and back into the room.

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

This was the first exercise of the day and was an essential step to cover the wonderful themes on the days curriculum, but in sharing their imaginal journey, it was clear that this was, indeed, the first step of many. Some shared and described the wonderful forest they were in and related as to how, as they sat in that imaginal forest, it took them back to their childhood. Another, related how a bird’s song sounded like a mobile ‘phone and they they really must ‘phone an old friend. Another, recounted how they felt cold and a small wind was rustling leaves and wondered if the central heating was on at home, and so it went on.

The first exercise of that workshop (as it was meant to) showed how easy it is to fill our minds with thoughts – the monkey mind – when meditating or when on an imaginal journey, as that exercise was, and what could be a liminal event of ‘being’, can so easily turn into a non-liminal event of thinking or ‘doing’. We then ‘step out’ of that liminal time and so miss out, or worse, we fool ourselves into thinking that we have had a liminal event when it was only a liminoid event (a near miss, but not the real thing).

‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.’ Albert Einstein

I was about nine years old, and my grandmother, having finished one of her amazing stories, looked at me and said, ‘It’s time for something a bit deeper, dear one. Time for an encounter’. The grandfather clocked had just chimed 7.30pm. ‘Good,’ she said, ‘No interruptions’.

She asked me to sit up, breathe regularly, close my eyes, and I did. She mentioned a few preparatory things to do, and then talked about a forest in the corner of the room, a walk in the woods, and asked me to imagine it, and to imagine that I was walking along a path. It was fun, and very easy for me to do – my childhood imagination worked ‘overtime’ at the best of times (and, still does!).

With my eyes closed, she asked me to imagine that I was walking towards a clearing, where there was a bench in the middle, upon which I was to sit, and do nothing else. I did as she asked, and in my mind’s eye saw an old stone bench in the middle of a large gap, a clearing in the trees. I approached it, and sat on it, and waited.

‘I looked for someone among them who would…stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land…but I found no one’ Ezekiel 22.30 (part), The Book

A few thoughts arose, and a stirring in the undergrowth at the edge of the clearing caught my attention, but I knew that I wasn’t to hold onto these thoughts, but just let them go. I sat. Little or no grasping thoughts arose, and it seemed to get easier, and I waited patiently.

As I sat there, in that imaginal clearing, even the trees and the edge of the clearing seemed to dissolve and to become unimportant. Was I sitting or standing? No thought arose, as whatever I was, was (just) there. There was silence. There was darkness, or was it light? There was nothing.

Just then, I heard my grandmother’s pleasant and melodic voice call out to me. ‘Tadhg, it’s time to come back’, and she guided me to that path I had taken earlier. In my mind’s eye I was walking along that path and back to the room, and sat down’. You can open your eyes now, but do it slowly, little one’. She also ensured that I was ‘grounded’, and then told me to relax. I did.

She asked about my experience, but all I could say was that, during the few minutes of the exercise, nothing had happened. ‘Aha, then you encountered for sure’, she beamed.

‘Encountered what? And, why did it last only a few minutes?, I pleaded as if I had been short-changed by the experience.

‘The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough’. Rabindranath Tagore

‘Ah, those are good questions. Some believe they encounter elementals or their guardian spirit, others say that they encounter angels in silence and invisibly, and others say they encounter the Source of All. So, you did encounter Tadhg. You did’, she said. She was so pleased.

‘So, it’s like being in the company of a friend that you can’t see, can’t touch, can’t speak to, and can’t hear’, I said somewhat sarcastically, and looking a bit puzzled I think. ‘Exactly’, she replied, and laughed. ‘Exactly, so!’.

‘Then how do I know I encountered?’, I asked.

‘Well, you’ll know, you’ll just know, but usually always after the event’, she said in her lyrical Welsh accent. ‘The One you wanted to encounter is more eager to encounter you, so whether you know it or not, an encounter takes place,’ she continued.

‘What you seek is seeking you’. Rumi

Just then, the grandfather clocked chimed. It was 8pm. My grandmother gave me a knowing look! And smiled. She knew!

Even at that young age I was struck by the fact that that imaginal journey seemed to take less than five minutes, but it had, infact, lasted thirty minutes. I knew I had encountered. I knew I had experienced the liminal. Such thresholds are indescribable, take one’s breath away, affect us at a soul or spiritual level, and skew time, my grandmother later explained.

’But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.’ 2 Peter 3.8, The Book

As I look back, bearing in mind there have been numerous encounters, and I’m a regular traveller of imaginal journeys and meditation even today – I lead individuals in such imaginal journeys; both kataphatic and apophatic, but more of that soon – I often wonder, when time goes by so quickly in those sessions, what is actually happening? And at what level? Physical? Soulish? Spiritual? But, it doesn’t really matter. An encounter is an encounter, and it is beyond reason. It isn’t irrational, but ‘arational’. It is above and beyond, and it is good.

The benefits of such encounters, of which the accounts above are but one type, and there are many, are transformational. I would encourage you to undertake such imaginal journeys to encounter, and to be alone with the Alone.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s time to move on.

 

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

 

 

 

Let Your Light Shine: An Encouragement

20180704 LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE AN ENCOURAGEMENT NHS

‘Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.’ Og Mandino

She lit the candle, she sang a song, and then she went quiet. She gently touched the back of one of my hands. A Druid, a Pagan, a Christian, a Hindu? It didn’t matter to me. After several minutes she said she had concluded her prayer for me. Would the prayer ‘work’, would I be healed? Right there and then, what moved me to tears, was that she cared enough to go out on a limb, to make herself vulnerable, and be intentional for my sake. Right there and then, it was enough.

There is an old quote that I like: nanos gigantum humeris insidentes.

It translates as, ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’. It is said that Bernard of Chartres, some 800 years ago, used to compare us, metaphorically, to dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we can see much more and much farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature. Because of them.

It isn’t often that I write about a government institution, but Thursday, 5 July 2018 sees the UK’s National Service (NHS) reaching the age of seventy years. I’m never sure about the politics of other countries, when it comes to medicine, but I can only say the NHS is a Godsend, much-loved by millions in the UK, and has saved countless lives, including mine.

Happy 70th Birthday, dear NHS

On 5 July, 1948, a nervous, and very ill girl, Sylvia Beckingham, then aged 13 years, was admitted to Park Hospital in Manchester with a potentially fatal liver condition. Until then patients, apart from the few that were fortunate to gain access to the few free hospital, would have to pay. Not so, little Sylvia. She was the first ever patient to be treated on the NHS.

‘He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” The Book, Luke 10:25-37

It’s not often that I laud a politician, but Aneurin Bevan, the Minister of Health in 1948 is to be praised for his foresight and vision, and passion to found the NHS despite opposition by some at the time. I am so pleased he overcome that opposition.

Aneurin Bevan was born on 15 November 1897 in Tredegar in Wales. His father was a miner and the family were poor and working class, and Aneurin (or Nye) grew up in a setting that gave him first-hand experience of the problems of poverty and disease.

In his early fifties, Aneurin Bevan, on 5 July 1948, true to his ‘calling’ ensured that the government of that day took over responsibility for all medical services and there was free diagnosis and treatment for all. The NHS was born that day, because of him.

Angels walk amongst us, and they can usually be found in hospitals wearing tabards with the word ‘volunteer’ on the back or chest, or wearing white, or blue, or green.

It’s not often that I talk about my medical history, but sometimes it’s right to mention it. Oh, there was that eleven days in hospital a few months ago, which turned out to be pneumonia. Then about seven years ago it was necessary for me to undergo a thyroidectomy. And about eleven years ago I was admitted to hospital as I had oesophageal cancer. That necessitated umpteen appointments, endoscopies, CT scans, three cycles of chemo, a massive operation, and several weeks of radio-therapy. Following that were umpteen check-ups, and even voice ‘lessons’ (as part of the oesophagostomy operation meant going in through the side of my neck to ‘tie things up, and it bruised by vocal chords).

No one at any time sat me down to talk about money and payment, because the NHS was, and is, free at the point of need. I had the best service from a myriad of caring professionals, and all that was discussed were operation procedures, recuperation, follow-up and the like, with much encouragement. Four and a half years later, I received the ‘all clear’.

If it were not for others, I wouldn’t be here. I suspect that that is the same for you. If not healing via a hospital, you are here because of others, nevertheless.

It might be fairly easy to ‘look back’ and imagine ourselves as part of a family tree, the web of life, and wonder. The next step, I would suggest is to ‘look forward’, to imagine future generations, as that tree grows, and what they might look like and do, because of us; and to imagine how they might be grateful to us as they look back at us.

‘Life is not a solo act. It’s a huge collaboration, and we all need to assemble around us the people who care about us and support us in times of strife.’ Tim Gunn

Yes, we are here because of others, and others in the future will be here and/or affected by us because of our actions and the legacy we carve out, in our words now, our thoughts, our rituals and prayers for healing and guidance etc. Because of you. You cared, you prayed, you lit incense, you performed a liturgy, and That Which Is Larger Than Us heard, and responded.

And so for a very dear friend, I lit the candle, sang a song, and then went quiet as I meditated, visualised an ‘inner caim’. I gently touched the back of one of their hands. A Druid, a Pagan, a Christian, a Hindu? It didn’t matter to to the person next to me. After several minutes I said that I had concluded my prayer for them. Would the prayer ‘work’, would they be healed? Right there and then, what moved them, I believe, was that I cared enough to go out on a limb, to make myself vulnerable, and be intentional for their sake. Right there and then, I believe it was enough.

What is true for me, I believe is true for you. Follow your passion. Don’t hold back.

‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.’ Marianne Williamson

 

That Place Of Peace: A Personal, Celtic Perspective On Death, Mourning And After

20180604 THAT PLACE OF PEACE DEATH MOURNING AND AFTERWith white roses and lilac-coloured flowers in hand I strode across the busy, noisy, bustling road, full of cars and people, and entered the cemetery. Passing the huge wrought-iron gates the world changed. Crossing that threshold, I left the world of busy-ness and noise behind. All was now at peace.

It was one of those sunny hot, June days – yes, even in London they get good weather occasionally, and that’s where I am for a while. London.

This, then, is a personal view, and some of my exploratory thoughts about death, mourning and what follows. Hopefully uplifting. My thoughts may be different to your views, but they are shared in the spirit of love and openness, and should you want to share your views and I hope you do, please do so by emailing me, directly. I am always happy to receive emails, and by so doing ‘iron sharpens iron’, indeed, and we learn and grow.

So, walking slowly through the cemetery there is, even in the middle of London, an air or peace, quietness and seeming solitude. Today, 2 June, is the birthday of my late dad, who passed on, just over a year ago, and the flowers are for his grave – a grave shared by my late mum, and nestling alongside those of my two grandmothers.

It’s an old cemetery, and I can’t but help notice that much of it is overgrown and sorely in need of mowing and some tender loving care – Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Council please take note. I remind myself to contact them. Moving through the cemetery to the newer part I walk towards one of the few wooden bench seats around.

As I got nearer, and eventually sat on the bench seat, I spied my favourite tree, a dear and familiar friend, just a few feet away, that many years ago I named ‘Y llygad’ (pronounced ‘e hl-gad), and Welsh for ‘the eye’ (see header photograph). It feels like I’m being watched. I do believe am! I’m comfortable with that, and happy.

Resting there for a few minutes, thoughts come and go.

In Celtic Irish custom, and it moved throughout some of Welsh culture, too, there is a thought that when someone is about to pass on, the ban sidhe (pronounced ‘ban she’), a ghostly figure, would wail loudly. Many would say they have heard her cries in the distance, and many fear her for obvious reasons. She does get bad press. Perhaps rather than a ghoulish figure, the harbinger of death, maybe she is (as many would affirm) a fairy woman, a spirit who laments the loss-to-come to relatives, and who guides the way for the deceased, through the veil that separates this world from the next.

’…the Celtic…tradition recognises that the eternal and the transient world are woven in and through each other. Very often at death, the inhabitants of the eternal world come out towards the visible world.’ John O’Donohue.

More thoughts arise. At my grandmother’s death (and before the funeral) several women spent sometime keening. Keening being an old Celtic action involving deeply moving spiritual singing by older women – not quite wailing, then, but more uplifting, and with the benefit of drawing alongside grieving relatives. Nothing negative at all. Those keening women cared.

As I sat on that cemetery bench even more thoughts arose. Around me are dear people buried, who, like me, breathed, loved, knew ill-health, life’s ‘ups and downs’, and lived life to the full, and have now passed on. Passed where?

’ Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.

Rumi

In the peace and tranquillity of that place, lofty questions arose. As I looked at some very old gravestones, some so old that that much of the writing had been worn away, it seemed to me that the Book of Nature (and science) showed that nothing is lost, that cycles exist and continued, and transformation takes place. Some believe that those who have passed on are even more alive in Eden, or heaven, to others they are in the Summerlands, and to others they are in Hy Braesil. I suspect these are different names for the same place, the final destination of humankind.

’Life is eternal, and love is immortal, and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.’ Rossiter W Raymond

Hy Braesil is one of my favourite terms, as it is wrapped in mystery and ‘magic’. Thought by some to be the place of life here-after, it is also said by some to be a mystical (physical) land far off the coast of north-west or western Scotland, and known to Celtic Welsh people, Scots and Irish people of old. Some say it only appears every six or seven years. Hy-Braesil, an island, was first drawn on maps in 1325AD by Angelino Dulcert, an Italian cartographer. It continued to be shown on maps until the 1860s.

Having rested there on that bench for a while, I moved off to the short distance to the family graves. Once there, I pulled the dead flowers out the flower-pots, cut the new flowers, save for one, and put the flowers in the flower-pots: one-third for my parents’ gravestone, and one-third each for my two grandmother’s gravestone flower-pots.

Wiping the gravestones, I then wait. On this occasion I have no prayer to say, only silent gratitude. It is enough, I believe. Gratitude to my late parents, my passed-on family, my ancestors and others. After several minutes I walk away, but not before a momentary head-bow.

Picking up the single rose, I walk in a certain direction – it differs each time. And then, on a gravestone, a different one each time, that is so weathered that no names can be read, or perhaps a gravestone that looks unkempt, I leave that single flower, as a mark of respect to that person, to acknowledge that they have not been forgotten.

But, for now they sleep. Or do they? From our perspective maybe they do, but in reality, maybe they are all more alive than ever, in a place where they no longer age, where there is no want and no sickness. Perhaps our perspective is wrong and needs to change? Maybe they are alive and it is we who sleep?

‘Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:’

William Wordsworth

Walking towards the large iron cemetery gates there are many profound, unanswered questions on my mind. Perhaps, there are somethings we will not know until we are ‘there’, and then those questions will evaporate as we will then know even as we are known. But, for the time being we revel in mystery and I am content with that.

‘We are all stories in the end, just make it a good one, eh?’, Dr Who.

Now, back in that busy street, cars speeding and people rushing about doing their shopping, it is easy to forget that we are more than just flesh and blood, as we unknowingly match the dizzying speed of a hectic world. But there is a distant echo, the voice of the Source, the bat khol, maybe the voice of our ancestors, or even an angel or elemental that whispers to each one of us that we are ‘Much more’. Be heartened.

 

A CountDown To Alban Hefin: Celebrating The Sun

20180528 COUNTDOWN TO ALBAN HEFIN CELEBRATING THE SUNFor many people today, and certainly in ages past the four compass points were important to daily life and ritual. Those four points represent winter (north), spring (east), summer (south) and autumn (west). Tonight I have the sun, summer, fire, the south in mind as we are in the season of summer and are racing toward the summer solstice.

The summer solstice, Thursday, 21 June 2018 is the time of the longest day of the year, and a time to consider the sun. In Wales that event is lovingly known as Alban Hefin, which means ‘The Light of the Shore’. That event and the shoreline are mystical times and places, liminal, they are ‘thin places’, a meeting of two realms, places and times where things happen.

’Brother Sun and Sister Moon
I seldom see you seldom hear your tune.’

(Donovan: Brother Sun, Sister Moon)

Midsummer’s day is also celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox church, the Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican churches as a feast day, celebrating the birth of John the Baptist, who was the herald to the (incarnated) Light.

And so, the following then has summer and the sun in mind, in general and might6 be useful to you now, and then over the next couple of weeks more articles will appear with the summer solstice in mind, and with ideas of how to celebrate that time in action and ritual.

On midsummer’s eve many people stayed up all night (or perhaps even more woke up early the following morning) to watch the sun rise on the longest day of the year. Candles were carried, bonfires were lit on hilltops and aromatic herbs were thrown into the fire.

‘This is the solstice, the still point of the sun, its cusp and midnight, the year’s threshold and unlocking, where the past lets go of and becomes the future; the place of caught breath.’

(Margaret Atwood)

It was thought that if sick cattle or any poorly people passed through the smoke of that bonfire they would be healed, whilst others might chose a ‘tame’ part of the bonfire and jump across it to ward off bad luck and/or to seek an abundance that year in fertility of the land etc.

Don’t worry If you’re not attending a bonfire celebration, a token and just-as-meaningful candle can be lit as a focal point for to think of the summer solstice and to celebrate that time. Ritual ideas, words and ideas will follow over the next week or so.

But, to whet your appetite the amazing words of that mystic, Hildegard of Bingen spring to mind.

’I, the fiery life of divine essence, am aflame beyond
The beauty of the meadows, I gleam in the waters,
And I burn in the sun, moon and stars.’

(Hildegard of Bingen)

The summer solstice is a dual celebration: on one hand there is much revelry and enjoyment because it is the longest day of the year and the sun is in its ascendancy, but it is also the time when days start to grow shorter, nights longer and the darkness begins to grow. Yes, the circle turns, and the great cycle continues. Tempus fugit.

Although not the summer solstice tonight, there is nothing to stop us celebrating the sun (especially, but not only, in the season of summer) and giving thanks to That Which Is Greater Than Us for it, and so, tonight, I lit a candle.

In the middle of one of the busiest cities on the planet, in my small city garden (okay, a yard), occasionally interrupted by ambulance sirens,  a small oasis of calm ‘blinked’ into existence for a few minutes. On this occasion I didn’t move in ritual, but I revolved the candle in its arrow-marked ‘saucer’: first ‘aiming’ it at the west and pausing, then slowly turning it to face north, then east, and then slowly, and reverently turning it so that it ended facing the southern compass point; the south, representing fire,  the sun.

I closed my eyes and spent a few minutes in silence, aiming not to produce a thought, but just to revel in that inward solitude as best I could, and in the light that the candle was giving out.

And then, quietly I gave thanks using an adapted prayer of ancient Hebrew origin as a basis for my words. Intentionality is all-important.

‘Praise to you, Oh Source Of All, that the celestial heights, the messengers and other hosts, the sun and moon and shining stars should praise you, and here I am, praising you, too, for everything. Sun of righteousness, thank you’.

(Ancient Hebrew prayer adapted)

I sat there for a few more minutes, in silence, and then extinguished the candle flame. The little flame, creating so much light before was dark was gone, and the darkness closed in.

I sat there in the darkness, with the occasional ambulance siren wailing in the distance, a helicopter flying quickly overhead, and despite the busy-ness of others, it was awesome. This oasis of quietness and light slowly, and very slowly,  ‘folded up’, and it was gone (or was it?). And yet, in darkness that surrounds me now, the sun’s light yet blesses someone else with its vitality and abundance.

’Brother Sun and Sister Moon
I now do see you, I can hear your tune
So much in love with all that I survey.’

(Donovan: Brother Sun, Sister moon)

 

Ephemera: The Bright Moon [Full Moon, 29 May 2018]

20180524 EPHEMERA FULL MOON 29 MAY 2018Another full moon approaches, and so we have another opportunity to meditate as we gaze upward to the ‘silver penny’ that smiles down upon us, or extend gratitude, or pause for thought, or go for a walk looking at our moon-shadow.

Full moon. Time to stop.

It’s time to celebrate the wonderful satellite that guides the Earth’s seasons and weather, controls its oceans and tides, that makes life possible on this blue planet, and when one thinks of the Source behind it all, it has a deeply, deeply spiritual dimension.

’The moon is beautiful only when the mind is seeking beauty and the heart is loving.’ Debasish Mridh

Many ancient cultures measured time using the moon and its phases. For instance, to the ancient Hebrew tribes Rosh Chodesh, celebrating the new moon, was an awesome event though its observance waned over the centuries, despite clues to the event in the Torah. And, ofcourse in the West our calendar is still dominated by irregular months imposed by Roman emperors of yesteryear for political and egotistical reasons, rather than for religious or spiritual reasons.

It’s time to reclaim the spiritual.

And, with the spiritual side of the full moon is mind, and although written for the new moon, the following, might be useful as a form of liturgy at this time:

‘Praised be to the moon
as she rises tonight:
a round white pearl
in the velvet earlobe of the world.

Praised be to her light
that fills my empty teacup,
and across the jagged city
strokes your sleeping cheek
as you reach through your dreams…’

Lesléa Newman, part of her contribution to Celebrating The New Moon, edited by Susan Berrin. In the liturgy/poem above the last two lines could be amended to read ‘Strokes my/our sleeping cheek, as you reach through my/our dreams.’

So, this month’s full Moon falls on Tuesday, 29 May 2018 (at 14.19 GMT/UTC) from a UK aspect.

While the moon is officially at its fullest during the day, the rising satellite will provide fine views by night-time, though it may be low in the sky, rising at 9.48pm (from the UK aspect).

The May Full Moon is known by some as the Full Flower or Big Leaf Moon. In medieval England it would have been called the Hare Moon and later on the Milk Moon. Others call it the Grass Moon, and I and a number of latter-day Celts (and others) know it as the Bright Moon. Perhaps you have a special name for this month’s full moon?

’We are all like the bright moon, we still have our darker side’. Kahlil Gibran

The full moon, having a tendency to be so bright that it ‘drowns out’ stars and planets, will, nevertheless share the sky with some of the planets that are visible to the naked eye, such as the planet Venus in the western sky. Those in the Southern Hemisphere will also get views of Venus on that night, though Venus will be lower in the sky.

For the astronomically minded, the moon will be near the cusp of the constellations of Libra and Scorpio, and near the bright, red supergiant star, Antares, some 550 light years away. With its reddish appearance that star can look very much like the planet Mars. Hence, its traditional name Antares which is derived from the Ancient Greek meaning ‘rival to-Ares’ (‘opponent to-Mars’ or ‘ant(i) Ares’).

’May you touch dragonflies and stars, dance with fairies and talk to the moon…’ Unknown

And, for those whose gardening is governed by moon folklore and/or are interested in the rural ways of yesteryear (especially, but not only of Welsh folklore), tt is generally reckoned that lettuce, spinach, grass, cabbage, cress and any leafy plant will thrive if planted now, as energy at this time goes to the leaves.

So, how will you celebrate this wonderful event?

However you mark this event, I ask for the Source of All to bless you and yours at the time of this full moon, Tadhg.

 
[Many thanks to Pennie Ley for the use of the moon ‘header’ photo above. Copyrighted]

 

 

The Quest: A Story From The Heart(h) From Beyond The Veil

20180521 THE QUEST ANOTHER STORY FROM THE HEARTH BEYOND THE VEILIt’s a great evening here, as I sit in my garden of Tŷ Gwyn cottage, north Wales. It’s one of those evenings that, after a fine, sunny, cloudless, quite warm day for the time of year, it has now become somewhat cold, or as they say around here, ‘bracing’ or ‘fresh’.

‘Imagination is the true magic carpet.’ Norman Vincent Peale

As I sit here with a glass of good red wine on the old wooden garden table, my mind wanders and I remember former times. My stomach is full, some of that red wine is coursing through my veins, a pleasant glow seems to envelope me and my imagination is fired up, especially as my eyes seem now to be half-veiled.

As a wee lad I would gather by the hearth and listen to one of my grandmother’s stories. She was a seanchaí [pronounced ‘shawn-(a)-key’, Gaelic] a story-teller, and would tell me many a profound story that only now, in some respects, do I see a yet deeper layer of meaning in the retelling.

‘Lift the veil that obscures…and there you will find what you are looking for’. Kabir

As the sun sets, so in my mind’s eye I can see the past, me as a wee lad, the golden glow from the hearth, and I can feel its heat on just one side of my face, something which periodically causes me to move from the side of the rocking chair, where my grandmother is sitting, to the opposite chair. There is a satisfying and protective feeling of warmth around the hearth, and not just from the fire.

I can remember telling my grandmother, somewhat reluctantly, that I had forgotten to do something that she had asked me to do – it had slipped my mind as such things do when a child is engrossed in play especially when surrounded by the majestic beauty of valleys, lakes and streams, mountains and an abundance of wildlife, such is north Wales.

My grandmother used my forgetfulness as the basis for another story.

‘There was once a small child’, she said,‘ who lived in a palace with fine food, luxuries of all kinds and who never wanted for anything. His father was the King, his mother was the Queen, and the small child was a prince.

There came a certain day when the King and Queen told the prince of a quest they had set before him. Giving him provisions for the journey they took from him his prized purple toga and glittering white robe. They instructed him to head west and to bring them back a most beautiful pearl and he would be rewarded, but to be careful as the pearl was guarded by a ferocious huge serpent. And so, off the prince went with his two guardians.

The prince travelled far and arrived on an island, his guardians left him. He asked many questions of the locals about the pearl and the huge serpent, and as he bided his time, for he wanted the huge serpent to fall asleep, he got bored and lonely. He really missed his home and his family.

He shared his provisions with his new neighbours and became good friends with them. Why, he even started to talk like them and to dress like them. Dressing like them, talking like them, eating their strange-but-now-familiar food he forgot that he was a prince, home seemed a distant memory or a fairy tale now, and he even forgot his quest for the unique pearl.

Years went by. When their son didn’t return home the King and Queen wrote a letter to him, signed by the King and Queen and all the nobles, which was delivered to their son by an eagle.

The young man, for he had now grown up into a fine young adult, awoke with a start. The eagle spoke to him and gave dropped the letter on the young man’s bed. He read the letter and remembered that he was indeed a prince and his home were there is no want, and he remembered his quest for the pearl. The veil of forgetfulness immediately fell away from his eyes.

He manfully went about his quest, located the pearl and the huge serpent, and sang, and sang, and sang until the huge serpent fell asleep. Then he took the pearl, went back to the village, cleaned his clothes, and embarked on the long journey, eastward, to his home.

Just as he reached the city gates to his home he saw his family running to greet him, and they brought with them his favourite purple toga and his bright, glittering, white robe. As he put on his fine clothes, he thought of how many years had passed, but his over-riding emotion was of joy at being back home with his family.

Giving the King and Queen the wonderful pearl, they rewarded him with even more fine clothes, luxuries of every kind, and as promised he inherited the kingdom to rule, along with his bother.

My grandmother finished the story by asking, ‘Do you think you might be that prince, the one who forget and then remembered?’. Ofcourse, I knew the cue, nodded, and she let out a hearty laugh.

‘Awake, O sleeper…’, Ephesians 5:14a. The Book.

‘Yes, yes, yes you are, ‘she said. ‘We all are. It’s as though we’ve all fallen asleep, we’ve all forgotten where we come from, our purpose in life and where our true home is. But, some of us are now waking up, starting to remember, aren’t we?’. Again as a small boy I knew another nod was required.

And even today, many years later her story rings true.

We have all forgotten our real home, our status, our purpose, and our return. But, some, maybe I as I retell this story and you, as you read it, are getting glimpses of the truth behind the veil.

Research showed me that my grandmother ‘borrowed’ that story from the Acts of Thomas and loosely adapted it. Nevertheless, it does contain gems of truth about our origin, status, purpose and journey home, and that we currently live in a world where many have forgotten the most important thing in life. Many are asleep.

The sun has now gone below the horizon here in north Wales, and my eyes are now wide open. There’s a distinct chill in the air and its pitch black. But, it’s a wonderful evening. It’s dark. There are many walking in darkness, but not you, and not those you draw alongside. As my grandmother passed the lighted-truth onto me in that ancient-future story, so you and I pass it onto others, sometimes even without knowing it by what we do and say. The veil is lifting. Don’t go back to sleep.

‘The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open
Don’t go back to sleep!’

(Rumi)

Dark Of The Moon: 15 May 2018 [Ephemera: New Moon]

201800512 THE DARK OF THE MOON 15 MAY NEW MOON EPHEMERASome of you will know that I am an amateur astronomer, having been encouraged to observe the night sky and especially the constellations many years ago by my dad.

It was my dear mum and dad who also bought me my first, albeit small, telescope when I was a wee lad. Oh, I loved that telescope. Treasured it. It opened up a hitherto unseen dimension and gave me a different perspective, and not just astronomically-scientifically. That passion has never left me.

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

My long-time fascination with astronomy – then a small pocket-size telescope and now many years later with a motorised, computerised ‘tracking’ 12 inch Meade telescope – also fits well with my nature-inquisitiveness and nature-appreciating disposition, as well as the chosen path of being a latter-day Celt and Christo-Druid (or is that a Druidic-Christian?). Amazing how life unfolds.

In thinking about astronomical, cyclical events (something which Celts, Druids, ancient Hebrews and Christians, and many other ancient and noble cultures would have celebrated, and later-day adherents still do) I would commend some kind of pausing, ritual, appreciation to the Source of All at the time of the full moon and/or this new moon.

Tonight the moon kisses the stars.
O beloved, be like that to me.
(Rumi)

When we look up we view the heavens we might think that we are separate from them, but in essence we ‘swim’ through space as if in a rocket and there is no separation. We ‘swim’ through space because our feet are firmly planted on the Earth, which as a planet in the solar system and ‘swims’ through space. We are space explorers and space-citizens, indeed we are space-connected, in every sense of the word(s).

For me the full moon is most energising and awesome for giving thanks and for ritual, as well as pouring out its light in abundance for the practical purposes of late evening ritual and safety. However, recently some have email me to ask for some consideration to be given to the new moon, which for them is equally energising and awesome for ritual. I am most happy and privileged to oblige. New moons, like full moons, are great times to praise The One Behind It All, That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves.

‘…people…are not the only creatures capable of praising God, after all, There are also wolves and seals. There are also wild geese and humpback whales. According to the Bible, even trees can clap their hands.’ Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar In The World.

The next new moon is on the morning of Tuesday, 15 May 2018.

Did you know, that even today, in Cornwall, south-west England some people nod to the new moon and turn the silver coins in their pockets. In Edinburgh some men and women turn the rings on their fingers at that time and make a wish, and on the islands of Barra (off the west coast of the Scottish mainland) it is said that some women curtsey and men bow low in the direction of the new moon.

King of the moon,
Though King of the sun,
Though King of the planets,
Though King of the stars,
Though King of the globe,
Though King of the sky,
Oh, lovely Thy countenance,
Thou beauteous beam.

(Part of the Rune of the ‘Muthairn’, Carmina Gadelica)

So, the next new moon rises above the horizon (for those in the northern hemisphere) at 5.39am, about half an hour after sun rise, and for that reason (as the moon, this time, ‘tails’ the sun so closely there will be nothing to see.

Even then, because the new moon reflects no light and won’t be seen – and in astronomical terms is called the dark moon or dark of the moon – it is usually only a day or so after that that it is seen as a slim crescent in the sky. And then, that is the time when some celebrate the new moon. However, the slim-crescent moon starts to distances itself from the sun and may be visible low on the horizon when the sun has set below the horizon late in the day on 16 May.

’There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.’ George Carlin

This time, the new moon may be disappointingly close to the horizon for those in Europe and America. But, there is nothing to deter you from celebrating the wonderful event on, say, the evening of 15 May, in the absence of (even a thin crescent of) the invisible-to-us)  new moon.

So, however you celebrate this new moon – whether it’s a pause in your busy schedule and a gazing upwards on that evening, a word of gratitude whispered to the Source of All, a glass of wine held aloft, or a full-scale new moon ritual with others or by yourself, or something else, I send you the blessings at this time of the new moon to you and yours, Tadhg.

 

The Web Of Time And You: Eyes Wide Open

20180504 THE WEB OF TIME AND YOU EYES WIDE OPENI’m back home in north Wales, and the weather at this time of day…is fresh!

Throughout my life a lot has happened, and still sometimes happens, at Drws i fyd arall (pronounced ‘droo zi fid arrah’), a rather  special and mystical part of a nearby forest. As children, I and my friends had called two arched trees in that forest, a short distance from our homes, Drws i fyd arall which means ‘door to another world’.

Such was the imagination of us as children, and an indication of the games we used to play and the effect of children’s tv sci-fi at the time. We would spend hours in play having walked between those two arched trees imagining we were somewhere else, and probably as many hours just sitting on felled logs gazing at the two trees pondering and talking with each other about what we would find if we went between them. We all had vivid imaginations as children, and we loved that area.

And, here I am, now, years later, some would say only a little bit more mature (yes, my inner-child, is alive and well), sitting on a felled log in the very early morning mist, looking at, somewhat larger versions of, Drws i fyd arall. Time flies.

In a previous article we looked at the interconnectedness of space, and that invisible, luminous web which binds us all, indeed binds everything, together, recently. The benefits of that, is that we are never alone– see here.

And now it’s the turn of time.

The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.
Albert Einstein

If the invisible, luminous web connects everything spatially , then what of time?

Some, and it is a modern thought, believe that time is linear, a straight line. In that scenario, the past might be seen as behind us, and the future in front of us. The present is, ofcourse, where we stand.

But, here’s a thought: suppose time is circular.

We know the seasons are governed by the movement of the Earth around the sun (a huge circle) and by the regular tilt of the turning planet on its axis. All regular, all circular, all periodic. And, the moon, too, moves around the Earth in a circle. Animals and insects procreate, live and die in cycles, circles. Trees too, as governed by the cycle of the seasons. Wherever we look, in the physical realm, circles seem to predominate. And in the spiritual, too.

The appearance of the wheels and their workmanship was like sparkling beryl, and all four of them had the same form, their appearance and workmanship being as if one wheel were within another. Ezekiel 1.16, The Book

And, personal experience seems to infer time moves in a circle as we navigate it. I can think of instances where, months or years later, events seem to have repeated themselves. Is that the same for you? Why, then time would be a great circle that we move around, rather than a straight line. I like the idea of time as a circle.

But, maybe time is a complex circle. Things seem to repeat themselves in my life, but there is always a slight twist, a slight difference, something has changed. Not quite the same, but similar. Is that the same for you?

‘Like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning
On an ever-spinning reel’.

Dusty Springfield, The Windmills Of Your Mind

Then, maybe time is circular but there is some ‘movement’ or progression that allows the difference, so that time more resembles that toy, the coil spring-like toy that ‘walks’ down stairs – a slinky – see the banner photo. And, then that too is only a simplification. Perhaps time more resembles a three (or four) dimensional web (or slinky) that ‘shoots out’ in all directions of time and eternity, and we’re at one point or node now, and tomorrow we’ll be at a different juncture.

As I sit on his log in with the early morning mist billowing around me, I quite like the idea of time as a multi-dimensional web, because it declares time to be interconnected and purposeful, connected with us, indeed with everything, and that there is a Divine Plan.

If today, it is a tough day for you, then tomorrow as time ‘moves on’ around that circle and there’s a ‘forward progression’ in some direction, then things may be different for you. Everything changes from our viewpoint of time. Everything is as it is from that time-web point of view, and it’s good.

Also, if that time-web reaches out in all directions, then maybe our energy, well-wishes, prayers and good-thoughts can ‘travel’ that time-web in all directions? Why, from our perspective in time – where we believe the past is unchangeable and the future unwritten (or written but not knowable yet) – perhaps we can affect not only the present, but the past and future, too. Could it be that your energy, well-wishes, prayers and good-thoughts can ‘travel’ back in time from our perspective?

Time does not change us. It just unfolds us.
Max Frisch

If you are sending energy etc or praying for someone’s health today and they call on their mobile, for example, to say that they started feeling better yesterday, who is to say that your current sent-energy or prayer didn’t have a retrospective effect. I cannot but believe that the Source of All, who is both ‘in’ time and ‘outside’ time, cannot effect a change  borne on the intentionality,  energy and prayer that you, say, ‘sent’ the day (or some time) after. And, perhaps past thoughts and energy can travel from the past into the present. What about the obtaining and understanding of mythic stories?

Never underestimate the effectiveness of intentionality, energy, light and love, prayers for others, in time.

‘For the present is the point at which time touches eternity.’
C.S. Lewis

This is quite a thought and some will dismiss that idea, and I am prepared to ponder upon the idea that maybe the ‘magic’ and mystery at Drws i fyd arall is affecting me, or perhaps it’s an ‘echo’ of some kind from childhood that has been re-ignited in this place, or perhaps it is the whisper to you and I from an angel, an elemental or a genii loci, but if so, does it make it any less true?

‘We have to stop and be humble enough to understand that there is something called mystery.’ Paulo Coelho

 

In Praise Of Sister Water: A Westward Ritual

20180428 IN PRAISE OF SISTER WATERIt’s evening, and so like some I face the west in this simple ritual.

The four compass points, to many, represent the winter (north), spring (east), summer (south) and autumn (west); but in this ritual of thankfulness, north corresponds to the night, east corresponds to the morning, south corresponds to the afternoon, and west corresponds to the evening. It’s evening and so I faced west.

Ofcourse, some may suggest that a ritual of thankfulness for water is not needed, and all that is required is merely to set aside time to be thankful using thoughts alone. So simple. To me, ritual assists. In many cases ritual isn’t for some other cosmic power or elemental entity, but it is for our benefit. It is an aid to us.

How many times have I intended to set aside time for good-thoughts, and yet other events ‘crowded in’ and prevented me? How many times have ‘obstacles’ been placed in your way that stopped you from that special time of sending ‘up’ good-thoughts? How many times have our good-thoughts and prayers resembled ‘shopping lists’ or have been said at breakneck speed – we are all busy people, after all. And yet, ritual and liturgy have the power to slow us down, encourage us to ‘go deeper’, and to allow our total self, mind, body and spirit, to ‘dance’.

‘Any ritual is an opportunity for transformation. To do a ritual, you must be willing to be transformed in some way. The inner willingness is what makes the ritual come alive and have power.’ Starhawk

Never underestimate the benefits of ritual and liturgy.

No, ritual is for our benefit and important. In making that time different to other times, perhaps by wearing slightly different clothes, lighting of a candle or two, having special words that usher us into sacred time, into sacred space, we make an effort to step outside of mundane time. In purposefully doing things differently, however simple they may be, we declare our intentionality. And, that’s important. That Which I Bigger Than Us, I do believe, honours such intentionality.

The symbolism for the west, then, is water. From the UK perspective this is easy to remember as to the west of the UK is that great body of water, the Atlantic Ocean. And, so in facing west, I encouraged myself to give thanks for water.

We take water for granted, and yet 845 million people do not have access to clean water, and 2.3 billion do not have decent toilet facilities. There is not to heap guilt upon you and I, rather an encouragement to give thanks for what we have, (and later) to send out prayers or light-love or positivity etc to those who don’t enjoy fresh water, and perhaps to take a physical effort in contacting a water-aid charity to make a small difference.

‘I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.’ Matthew 25:35, The Book.

And so, I lit a candle. At the foot of the candle I had placed a small, white sea-shell representing the sea, and which contained a few teaspoonfuls of water. I gazed thoughtfully at the shell and the water; and the only thought that ‘bubbled’ up continuously was ‘thankyou’, and yet it was enough.

‘Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water who is so useful, humble, precious, and pure.’ Francis of Assisi

In front of me I had also placed a glass of cold, fresh water. I sipped it, slowly as a ritual act. Each little sip of water slid down my throat and was so refreshing. In my minds eye thoughts danced. I visualised the turbulent sea, clouds forming above it as the water-cycle played out, I recounted streams where I had walked barefoot in cool water, and times when I had got caught, unprepared, in a rain storm and could do nothing but laugh. Each sip of water produced a feeling of gratitude. With water we bathe or shower daily and are refreshed, perhaps we pour out a libation of water occasionally, and with water holiness is ‘flicked’ onto the faithful and places. It is a dynamic symbol of new life in baptism etc.

Having drank all the water, I stayed silent. In those next few moments I moved from gratitude to thinking of all those without fresh water around the world, and sent out well-wishes, good-thoughts, prayers and positivity to those in need and to relief agencies in the form of a visualised prayer to all near and far. Might you do the same in a similar ritual?

Some ten minutes later, I extinguished the candle, bowed to the west and gave thanks to the Great Supplier Of Water without whom life would cease. The ritual was over and I had left sacred space/time (or, do we ever really leave it?). The simple ritual had ended, but life goes on….because of water.

‘Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.’ Lao Tzu