The Telling Place In The Age Of Binary

20170921 THE TELLING PLAE IN AN AGE OF BINARYThere was a time when I was a child, when my friends and I would take a short walk to Clackitt’s wood, stay out as late as we could – dependant on our ages and parents’ wishes – and tell each other wild stories. We would scare ourselves, and we loved it. As we sat on felled trees, someone would start the story.

‘Memory… is the diary that we all carry about with us.’ Oscar Wilde

It might be the story of the Llamhigyn Y Dwr, a creature that is said to resemble a giant frog, but with a stinger on the end of its tail, and bat wings instead of front legs. Another might remind us that it would part-fly and part-jump across lakes and land, hence its name (in English), the Water Leaper. Someone would start the story, and someone would add to that fragment of information, and sometimes someone would go back in the story to add or correct someone’s memory about the story. For instance, someone might remind the person who had just spoken that the Llamhigyn Y Dwr was, infact, said to be the size of a cow. Oh, how we scared ourselves, and became more alert to the noises and scuffles in the undergrowth. Could it be that the Llamhigyn Y Dwr was lurking nearby, watching us? As children, we loved it.

‘The imagination of early childhood has no limits. This is why children are fascinated by stories. A story has permission to go anywhere….The child rarely experiences the story as an observer. The child enters the story, it experiences the drama from within.’ John O’Donohue

Now much older, I’m sitting around a garden table in my ever-so-small, but greatly appreciated garden in London, with a few friends. This evening we’ve already shared stories of myth and magic, sometimes fragments of memories of a friends’ childhood, and sometimes more recent events, events that actually happened to someone we knew, and other stories that were fictional.

Stories are important. And more so in our electronic, computerised, fast-paced age.

The ancients, those Celts and Druids of old, knew of the benefits of stories. They would regularly meet around the village fire, in the evenings and tell stories that were, perhaps sometimes of individuals around the fire, or of ancient heroes and their ancestors, or of stories of cosmic proportions eg creation stories and/or of the tribe’s origin.

‘Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future.’ Elie Wiesel

‘Do you remember when we all went fishing, and Tadhg fell in?’, one of my friends around the garden table said. They described a snapshot in time of yesteryear. I’m beyond being embarrassed by that event – yes it did happen, and I was only eight years old at the time, and I was, and still am surrounded by friends. And then another would share another fragment of memory. ‘And, yes,’ they remarked, ‘and when he was pulled him out he wouldn’t let go of the fishing rod. What a great fisherman!’.

And, bit by bit, these fragments of memory would be put together by individuals in the group to make a kind of cine film of activity, if you can imagine the old days when a movie was a long length of celluloid made up of individual frames of still pictures.

The ancients new the value of story-telling, when they met together at Telling Places. There, fragments of memory were woven together, and ‘bits’ become ‘whole’, and all added to the complete story, and all listeners were included. Fragments of memory, separate and ‘isolated’ were re-membered. The opposite of dismembered. ‘Re-joined’. Put back together again. And in community, too.

‘We keep stories alive because to re-member is to put broken pieces back together. We keep learning from stories how to make things whole.’ Mark Nepo

Telling our individual stories, or of those of our ancestors, and such stories can take the form of sharing the mundane (as if anything is mundane), of what happened a few days ago. Ofcourse, if something unusual happened, that would make a wonderful story to share with friends. But, every aspect of your life is important, and able to be shared, as your story minute by minute becomes part of the fabric of the universe and transcends time itself. Your story matters.

‘You didn’t think I would let go of a fishing rod that took me five months
pocket money to buy? I retorted to my friends. We all laughed. ‘And, I still have that rod!’

‘Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation.’ Joel 1:3, The Book

Story forms community, it brings individuals into the group, it enables us to see the ‘whole picture’, very essential in an age that likes to fragmentise information eg three-point sermons all beginning with the letter Q! Stories heal, bind, enable depth, encourage laughter and other deep emotions, they alter and clear our perception, challenge and can comfort us, and cause us to wonder at The Source of All.

‘It is not by accident that the Native American medicine men put the questions to the sick who were brought to them: When was the last time you sang? When was the last time you danced? When was the last time you told your story? When was the last time you listened to the story of others?’ Mark Nepo.

And so, one of the things on my list to consider on my imminent visit to Iona, is to think deeply about story, our society, and how, as latter-day Celts and Druids we can give more weight and opportunity to the telling of stories, and encourage groups, faith groups and others to have periodic Telling places, and reap immense benefits.

It’s now late. My friends and I are still around the garden table, wine bottles empty, and we’re still telling stories, and eating the last of the cheese and biscuits. I couldn’t let my watery encounter go without adding, ‘And besides, I didn’t fall in,’ I quipped, ‘I was pulled in by the Llamhigyn Y Dwr, the Water Leaper, which was the size of a cow’. I laughed. They laughed. And as our Telling Place impromptu evening came to an end, it felt that as a group we were closer than ever to each other. Sharing. Laughing. Joy. Affirmation. Inclusion. Community. Love.

‘Every human is an artist. And this is the main art that we have: the creation of our story.’ Don Miguel Ruiz

 

Become The Duet [Revisited]: Poem: Celtic Connectedness

20170912 BECOME THE DUET REVISITEDBeing in london for a while longer, I miss the wilderness of Capel Curig, north Wales. Capel Curig has such a wild-peace about it, and London by contrast is hectic. And, right now, though I miss the solitude, London is where I am. However, it is an amazing city.

The drawback is that it can be overwheleming, and ‘up close and personal’. It can be full of disctractions which pull you in competing directions, and yet for myself, one who loves the countryside and the lights of London, an ‘amphibian’, London is a wonderful, inspiring city.

But, oh the distractions. It’s easy to forget to ask those big questions, easy to forget to pause and ponder, easy to forget why each one of us is here. In London, a crowded city of eight million souls all of that is so, so easy. I am surmising it may be the same where you are (sometimes)?.

We can get so busy ‘doing’, instead of ‘being’.

We can get distracted.

We forget.

Status?

Here’s a poem I write some time ago, revisited.

Poem: Become The Duet

If we were to travel from the wild, ruggedness of Capel Curig,
near the foothills of Yr Wyddfa,
that place of green, of open-space, of dragons, myth and power;
Myrddin’s lair.

If we were to travel to the busy-ness of Old London,
that place of the ancient river of the Celts,
of crowded streets, of neon lights, Druid-energy and oh-so many people,
the Voice can be heard.

If we were to pause,
wherever we are, just for one moment,
to revel in life that is happening around us, to us, in us, through us,
we would hear the Voice.

Distractions come,
and a distancing from all that is natural seems to happen.
But, only seemingly, so.
The Voice that spoke creation into being,
thunders in the wilderness, whispers in built-up places,
but speaks, still.
The Voice can be heard, if….
…if we have ears to hear.

If we would but listen to the music of our life,
our body would sway in time to the primal beat of times of old.
If we would but gaze at beauty around us,
our mind would laugh crazily with delight at the colours seen.
If we would but ponder, and feel deep within our soul
the love-song of the Friend,
then we would know the reason why we are here.

Become the duet.

 

Perceiving Anew: Doors To A Close Encounter: Imagination

20170908 PERCEIVING ANEW DOORS TO A CLOSE ENCOUNTER

‘Those who are Awake live in a state of constant amazement…’. (Jack Kornfield)

It was my first real full-time job and the journey across London, taking this bus, and then that train, alighting there and taking that particular escalator down to another platform for another train, and so on, was all new to me. Several years later, I was doing the same journey but without noticing much at all about the journey. And, on some occasions as I walked onto the platform to get my second train I’d stop, pause and think about the last minute or two of my journey, and not really have any memory at all of what had just happened. It was as if it had become so lost in the mundane that I hadn’t noticed anything at all, and my mind had gone blank. I couldn’t remember the advertisements on the wall, or who had passed me in the tunnels that connect one platform to another, and not even the direction signs.

I’m sure that happens to us all at various times.

Our minds not only wander, but they can seemingly ‘shut down’ or filter out much of what is really going on. It’s like reading a page from a book, maybe you’re in a hurry, and you suddenly realise at the end of the page that, although you’ve read it, you haven’t really read it and you no understanding of what the words meant. And, so you re-read it, and then it makes sense.

When perceiving anew, I think we need to ensure that we’re perceiving deeply. I love liturgy, I love poetry, but just reading the words on the page, as if by rote, academically, in a shallow manner only gives a surface-level of understanding. I want that liturgy, those wonderful words, to embrace me like a warm hug, to be like a Mediterranean sea that I can fall into. I want to connect. To be enveloped.

‘Nowness’

To perceive anew, I’d suggest being present in our mind is a first step. Thinking back is good, and planning for the future is good, but being present ‘now’ is even better.

And so he knelt down, closed his eyes, and prepared for a deep encounter. Around him, and invisible to him, hosts of powerful and ancient benevolent beings assembled. Some might call them ‘companions’, others elementals, other might call them the fae, or the Watchers, or angels. But, these Watchers crowded in to see how this person would encounter and interact with the loving-energy of the Source of All. A minute went by.

He could almost feel the distractions of the world being ‘unpeeled’ as he moved, inwardly, to some kind of inner stillness and peace. The wristwatch he was wearing, suddenly bleeped. It distracted him, and as he looked at it he remembered all the things he had to do. Opening his eyes, and getting to his feet, he rushed to the door to catch the 9.05am train. The moment had passed.

We can miss an awful lot by not being present. That ‘slipping back’ into not being present will happen, but perhaps an aim for us might be to work towards more times of ‘nowness’, and specified times of being present. Good habits are good. And, when present to be aware of what might be, what we might not see but can ‘sense’ or intuit, and that we’re surrounded by That Which Is Bigger Than Us. To be aware of the Mystery.

Aim: To be present in our mind, and to give our all to the moment, task, and event. To be fully alive. To realise there is more, and to be expectant.

Meaningful Actions

She now found himself, as usual, at the main service. She loved this service, all the pomp and ceremony, and ofcourse she loved the rich, majestic words that were used. They had the ability, as it were, to whisk her back in time, almost, and connect her to those that had gone before. Continuity. She listened intently.

It was then that she realised that the pace of the words spoken said by the person at the front seemed to be speeding up. Getting noticeably quicker. Instead of those words ‘inviting’ her ‘into’ the service and depth, they seemed to repel her. Could it be that the person saying those wonderful liturgical words was in a hurry, had important things to do? Were they even caring about those in the pews who were listening and willing to be transported into that Place of Encounter? She wondered. But, she had lost the thread of what was going on, and then seemed to just looked on at the liturgical activity as though she was an outsider. Things felt a bit ‘shallow’. She left. The effect of ‘distancing’.

It is easy to go through the actions and miss the meaning. I am sure you, like me, have been part of a ceremony where certain events have to take place in a certain order, or we’re involved in some kind of task at work where we had to process things in a certain order. It’s easy to get blaise. And, then you suddenly realise that someone will be buying the product or will be relying your calculations, or depending on you, and you’re not quite sure if your actions gave the process the due weight it needed. If someone is going to buy that product, we might ask ourselves did I put enough care and effort into making it, wrapping it etc? If leading a ceremony or providing a service we might ask ourselves if we have helped or hindered someone?

It is easy just to go through the motions. In any ceremony, the words and actions are important, but their ‘effectiveness’ stems not from the actions themselves, necessarily, but from the care and attention, the love, intentionality and time we put into them. Depth.

Aim: To take time for meaningful actions, and to enjoy the liturgy and actions, and see them an a conduit to something more.

And, it may be here that many people might stop. But, not you.

Imagination
Le Point Vierge

But there’s more.

Accepting that being present is necessary, and the ‘invitational’ liturgy, actions, words and songs are wonderful, to be used and appreciated, and can usher us closer to the Source of All, there is more

Imagination is all important. Frowned on by some, seen as something relegated to childhood only, and seen as unreal, imagination is seemingly used only by advertisers who know its power, and then proceed to sell us this holiday, or that car, or entice us to spend money in yet another sale.

He got home from work. Feeling tired he slumped onto the sofa, and his eyelids started to become heavy and close. He felt himself drifting off, and it was such a lovely feeling, he just lay there. In his mind’s eye it was as though he was in a busy room. As his mind focussed it became recognisable as a café.

There were about ten tables, and about seven other people drinking coffee. It was a warm and cosy café. Not too light, not too dark. The walls were a magnolia colour, and had prints of paintings on them of the great masters. He looked around at the other people in the café. Others looked at him, momentarily. They looked normal. And yet something within him saw something was not quite as it should be, something was different. He didn’t have the words to describe it but the was more going on than meets the (minds) eye.

He let this dream-like episode play on. With a cup of coffee now in front of him, he sipped it. It tasted heavenly. It was then that he noticed all the other occupants had left, and it was just him and the barista, alone.

He could hear himself talking to the barista. ‘We’re alone, how extraordinary that it should happen just like that’,  he said as he clicked. The barista, a person who looked like she had been doing this work for a long, long time, learned over his table, and with the voice of an angel , said, ‘Honey, you ain’t never alone’.

He woke up. But sat there quietly pondering on the meaning of that encounter.

Using our imagination  as we move through the day and especially when in quiet times of prayer, ritual, ceremony etc – is of paramount important, and is yet another vital step of moving closer to an encounter with the Source of All. Imagination complements our actions, and ‘adds’ to them.

Ofcourse, in one sense we’re always close(r), never alone, and so why use imagination? But, it seems to me we benefit from those times when we know we’re close, and we can use imagination as a conduit to step into that Place of Encounter. Times that usher into that awareness are important.

Aim: To draw near using our imaginations as a ‘tool’ for liminal encounters, both externally and internally.

These inward encounters have been called various names down the ages. Some call them liminal doors, le point vierge, ‘thin places’, peak experiences, or to the Quakers they are known as the Inner Light. But, they exist, and imagination is one way of putting ourselves in the flow of events and times that lead to a deep, meaningful, ‘inner’ encounter with the Beloved. It’s the Meeting Place, and you’re invited.

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

Rumi

 

Perceiving Anew: Seeing Through A Glass Darkly: 1 To Catch A Tiger…

20170906 PERCEIVING ANEW SEEING THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY 1Every so often there is talk about DNA advances, prehistory and the idea that some scientists have some of using the preserved DNA of the extinct mammoth. The thought goes that, although the mammoth DNA is incomplete it might be possible to use ‘bits’ of current-day elephant DNA to fill in the gaps. In theory, you might then end up with a living-breathing elephant-mammoth hybrid, but it could be the nearest thing to a living mammoth that has not existed for the last five thousand years.

‘The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost; for none now live who remember it. (The voice of Galadriel, The Lord of the Rings (movie))’

For some (few) years there has been a revival in all things Celtic and Druidic, and long may it continue. For through such passionate beliefs of people from all ages and walks of life, will come a greater community spirit, a greater appreciation and protection of nature, and a great appreciation of the things of the soul and spirit, and of spirits, elementals and the like, and a renewal of all that is good, wholesome and holy. and, the world needs it, fast.

But, the world has changed from the heyday of the Druidic society of yesteryear and much has been lost. The Celts, the Druids were a story-telling community and the passing on of traditions and history was done orally. There are gaps.

Some try academia to fill in those gaps – much like using elephant DNA with mammoth DNA, and ofcourse this is right to try (academia, that is). It will take us so far, but it will not take us all the way.

Those that pin all their hopes on academia to fill in the gaps will find huge blanks, still.

Nevertheless, academic study as one tool amongst several is to be encouraged. The ‘challenge’, however, in academic argument is that proponents of it might think it is the only way, and also fall into the ‘trap’ of using Greek and modern-day dualistic thought (eg black and white, right and wrong, left and right, I’m right and you’re wrong etc) to advance their understanding of a non-dualistic culture. It cant be done.

To catch a tiger, you have to think like a tiger.

‘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)

The greater the culture is technologically-advanced, the more likely its people are to ‘see’ through dualistic eyes, and the more likely to miss the point.

It has been suggested that to fill in the gaps in Celtic/Druidic stories, understanding, liturgy and ritual, perhaps memory is needed. The kind of ‘cellular’, ancestor-linked memory that can be ‘tapped’ through meditation (at various places), through ‘thin-place’ encounters, through the Caim, through intuition, or through dreams, prayer or imagination etc. I think there is some (great) mileage in this.

‘Pass it on to your children, and from your children to their children, and from their children to the following generation.’ Joel 1.3, The Book

Then, one places oneself in the path of the ancient-future memory-stream of the ancestors, and those stories of old, knowledge and wisdom are re-kindled in our hearts, and come alive in our daily living and daily practices, to be told and shared.

‘I believe that there is a place where our vanished days secretly gather. The name of that place is Memory.’ (John O’Donohue).

To the purist and the academic this is nonsense, and yet this is the very way it was done by the very culture the purists and academics wish to know more about. To find out more about the Celts and Druids of yesteryear, to rediscover their ways, one need only to enter into Celtic/Druidic culture, ‘philosophy’, beliefs and practices, today, and many are doing just that. And, benefitting.

The wise amongst you will quickly realise that this will mean that I will perceive memories of the ancients differently to you. I may rediscover parts of the gap that are different to the gaps you ‘recover’; and we may even be at odds over some things if we compare (if we were to ‘see’ things from a dualistic, modern approach). But, why resort to current-day perception and understanding when dealing with an ancient culture?

Theirs was a culture where truth was not contained in a science manuals, not catalogued, cross-referenced or even written down, but it flowed, was debated and told as stories around the village camp fire. And, it didn’t matter if their were lose or ragged ends, or various versions of the same story.

We need to be encouraged to see things through ancient eyes.

For instance, take some of the books of the Hebrew Testament. Dualists or academics will scratch their heads as they discover that the books are not in chronological order. To ‘moderns’ they should be! That’s the way they would appear on a modern-day bookshelf, after all. However, to the ancients, the book order was decided by the length of each book – starting with the shortest books first (or, was it the longest book, first), and ‘it worked’ for them. And, when we hear the stories and legends of (Saint) Brigit, sometimes she’s firmly placed at the end of the fifth century, and then in other stories is described as a ‘nanny’ to the baby Jesus, five hundred years earlier! The ancients would have known about this ‘discrepancy’ and not batted an eyelid. The point is, scientific understanding and dualism was not important to the ancients, indeed, it was unknown. To them, the stories and the benefits it wrought to the village and individuals, the moral and deep spiritual meaning, and the comfort it brought was most important, was paramount.

We need to be encouraged to see things through ancient eyes.

‘Celtic spirituality is a kind of somatic archaeology, a study of unearthing the deep resources of spirit within ourselves by accessing the wisdom, power, and inherent knowledge of the body. We have largely been taught to ignore the body and the deep resources of spirit within ourselves’. The Mist-Filled Path, Frank MacEowen

The Singing Moon: Full Moon On 6 September 2017: Tadhg’s Ephemera

20170904 SIGNING MOON EPHEMERA

Yes, it’s nearly that time again – the time of the full moon.

This full moon takes place on Wednesday, 6 September in the constellation of Aquarius, in the south-southern sky. From a London, UK aspect the moon rises above the horizon that evening at about 8pm, and climbs to its highest point in the sky just after midnight.

‘Sun adores the body
Moon romances your soul …’

(Shonali Dey)

I love the times of the full moon. Whether I’m in the wilderness of north Wales surrounded by huge, sky-hugging mountains, or in London surrounded by huge, sky-hugging buildings of concrete, metal and glass (as I’m am, now), the full moon rises, peaks down, and her warm light bathes me in ‘moon-magic’. Whatever you do, do look up. Whatever you do, do make time for her. Wherever you, are do pause. She smiles down upon us all. I do so love the full moon.

This full moon is know by many names: some know it as the Corn moon because it traditionally corresponds with the time of harvesting corn; others call it the Mulberry moon; still others call it the Fruit moon; and to ancient and latter-day Celts, and Druids it is (usually) known as the Singing Moon. The Singing Moon is my preference for it.

To ancient, and latter-day Welsh Celts the moon was personified as dear Arianrhod (pronounced ah-ree-ahn-rhohd). From ‘arian’, meaning silver, and ‘rhod’ meaning wheel’ or ‘disc.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.

(Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon, Francis of Assisi)

The moon was long thought to affect those of unsound mind, hence the term lunatic. And, a calf born near the time of the full moon was thought to be more prone to deformity, and if it was, indeed, born deformed it was called a moon-calf. The term moon-calf also became an insult in late(r) medieval England. Ofcourse, we cannot forget the legend of the werewolf who, it is said, changes shape and transforms into a wolf at the time of the full moon.

‘Tonight the moon kisses the stars.
O beloved, be like that to me!’

(Rumi)

Ofcourse, these are myths and legends, and yet the moon does affect us all. The moon, as it resolves around the Earth affects the tides of the sea, and therefore affects our climate and seasons. But, it affects us in other ways.

For instance, a three-month psychological study of 1,200 inmates at Armley gaol in Leeds in 1998 showed a rise in violent incidents in the days either side of a full moon. And, in a study of 1,000 tonsillectomy operations, some 82 per cent of post-operative bleeding crises occurred nearer the full moon than the new moon, according to the Journal of the Florida Medical Association. And, the chances of being bitten by a dog are twice as high during a full moon according to a study at Bradford Royal Infirmary, which reviewed 1,621 cases of dog bite between 1997 and 1999.

‘The night walked down the sky with the moon in her hand.’ (Frederic Lawrence Knowles)

But the moon affects us all in deep and spiritual ways.

A face that gazes down upon us. A celestial body, so regular, providing a clear and bright light, and moon-shadows, too, if we’re fortunate. A reminder of nature and her benefits to us in placing the moon there to regulate the day and night, and seasons, so vital to life on Earth. A reminder, too, of the One who placed the greater lighter, and this lesser light, the Moon, in the sky. The Moon is truly ‘magical’, and doubly so for young lovers and the romantic among us, to those able to look beyond.

‘She used to tell me that a full moon was when mysterious things happen and wishes come true.’ (Shannon A. Thompson)

So, this magical full moon is a time to give thanks: a time to celebrate with a walk under the moonlight, perhaps stopping and lifting a glass of wine as a libation (which you can drink, if you wish) in honour of the moon. Or perhaps you might like to recite a poem or hold a small liturgical ceremony at the time of the full moon.  It need not be anything elaborate, but whatever you do, do enjoy this upcoming full moon.

‘The full moon – the mandala of the sky.’ (Tom Robbins)

Wishing many blessings to you, and those whom you love, at this time of the Singing Moon. Tadhg

 

Photograph, above, copyrighted and used by kind permission of Pennie Ley (click here). Bless you, Pennie.

 

‘Eucharistic Planet’ : Celtic Thought About Life & Geography

20170824 EUCHARISTIC PLANET CELTIC THOUGHT ABOUT LIFE AND GEOGRAPHYI am back in that place of paradox. Fulham cemetery in central London, so ancient and full of the remains of human bodies and ashes, and yet with the lush trees and foliage that abound here , it is a place teeming with life. To the materialIst, to those steeped in twenty-first century (maybe so, even without knowing it), to those who see only with physical eyes, there is no more.

But, there is more.

We are surrounded by ‘biological’ life: insects, animals, trees and plants etc, but even there, there is more. I’m in a physical location that has pebbles for pathways and a myriad of other stones with etchings on them, but there is more. There are things I cannot see – some would call them spirits or entities associated with this place (and, the Romans called the genii loci), and then there are the ancestors. How materialistic and limiting to presume that because we cannot see something that it does not exist (especially as ‘our science’ informs us that more that 90% of the universe is invisible to us).

There is more.

‘It’s life Jim, but not as we know it…’ Quote/Misquote from Star Trek

There are some who believe that all things – that which we call animate and inanimate – are ensouled. Even the pebbles on the pathway that I’m currently looking at are ensouled. They have a story to tell, are part of the created order, and though many would say that that idea is nonsense their was a time when those who thought the earth was the centre of the solar system would have argued vehemently that they were right and others were wrong.

‘I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’ Luke 19:40, The Book

Having the view that everything has a soul, may sound bizarre to some, but even to sceptics there are benefits. If I gaze lovingly at a tree – and their are two beautiful, old, gnarled and noble trees to my left and right with stories to tell, and I believe they are ensouled and I’m in error, then nothing has been really lost. I slowed down, I might have given the trees some ‘respect’ that some materialists would say I didn’t need to do, but nothing is really lost.

‘Every flower is a soul blossoming in nature.’ Gerard De Nervalok

However, even then there are benefits. I will not be so quick to view these trees, and creation in general, as a commodity to be dug us, used, and causally discarded. Even if the is no ‘ensoulment’ of all things and we act as though there is, it makes for a kinder, cleaner and more nature-based world, and one that is appreciated because it is reverenced. However, currently at the hands of materialist-thinkers the planet is being merely being ‘used’ and poisoned. ‘Ensoulment’-believers are very good for the planet and for future generations, at the very least.

There’s more.

For me everything is ensouled, and using the wisdom of ancient Celts, proto-Christians and Druids etc that ‘theology’ is wonderfully (and logically) life-preserving.

‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ Hamlet, Shakespeare

I’ve now relocated. I needed to stretch my legs and I’ve walked about a mile south-west of the cemetary, and I’m now in the delightful Bishop’s Park (see header photo, above) which nestles against the River Thames .

And what of other entities? We live in such a materialist age that even many of those who frequent churches, mosques and synagogues etc struggle with the concept of angels. Call them Angels, elementals, genii loci, dryads, ancestors; there are things known, and there are things unknown. Perhaps we’re not meant to solve this mystery, but just to admit that this mystery exists, to experience it, and to revel in it.

These other entities, the spirits of the place, they exist. They exist here in this ancient land called by some, myself included, Clas Myrddin (or Merlin’s Enclosure), and they exist where you are. Even if you’re the other side of the globe, and in a ‘new’ country with a modern history of several decades or a just a handful of hundreds of years, the land is more ancient than that and so are those who inhabit it in the unseen realm. If I said this land was more special that would be for my ego to gain the upper-hand, or to give credence to some kind of ‘purist’ or arrogant fantasy. I would say every place on the face of the earth is special, and holy, and inhabited by genii loci. So, make friends with yours, wherever you are.

‘What if the universe is not merely the product of God but also the manifestation of God – a ‘eucharistic planet’ on which we have been invited to live?’. Joseph Campbell quoted by  Barbara Brown Taylor

In Bishop’s Park just a short walk away from that cemetery, the geographical location is different, my view is different, the ‘feeling’ is different, but the spiritscape shares an ancient commonality wherever we go, wherever you are, wherever I am. Different, but the same. Indeed, a ‘eucharistic planet’. Ensouled.

Developing ‘Soft Feet’: A Celtic Lifestyle/Perspective

20170821 DEVELOPING SOFT FEET CELTIC LIFESTYLEA few days ago we looked at a quote from an Anishinabe (First Nations) man from Canada, who wrote:

‘The Four-Leggeds and the Windged Ones live to a different rhythm. Theirs is the rhythm of soft eyes and soft feet. Two-Leggeds have hard eyes and hard feet. When most humans go into the forest they enter with so much of the world on them that any possibility of feeling the sacred is removed. When we go into the forest we must become soft like the animal people and the tree people’.

We also looked at seeing with ‘soft eyes’ when we considered kataphatic ‘day-dreaming’ or meditation – the kind of deep, mental exercise that uses ‘inner’ pictures, visualisation or symbols for growth, maturity, transformation.

And, we looked at apophatic ‘day-dreaming’ or meditation, which encourages the ‘releasing’ of distracting thoughts to arrive at that ‘inner’ place of peace and solitude that some refer to as ‘le point vierge’.

Today, we’re looking at having ‘soft feet’.

What does that mean,  how we can interpret that, and what does it mean to practice it? There are many ways to view that phrase, but I’d like to suggest three.

Firstly, walking on the earth with ‘soft feet’ can be interpreted as ensuring minimal damage to the environment. So, if hiking in the wilderness, the aim would be to leave no trace that we have moved through that way.

‘All the animals and creatures of this earth are our former brothers and sisters but because we believe that we have “dominion” over them, we have become cruel little emperors.’  John O’Donohue,

If we live in a city, it may mean trying to reduce our carbon footprint by buying food as local as we can to where we live, perhaps using energy-saving lightbulbs, or turning the central heating down by a degree or two, or something similar. Small adjustments to reduce energy etc, to be aware of nature, can make huge gains for the environment and its preservation. In this sense, it’s a practical adjustment of removing or minimising negative effects. A good move.

But there’s more!

Secondly, walking on the earth with ‘soft feet’ can be interpreted as doing something ‘in addition’ to ‘repair’ and damage to the natural world. It may be one thing to try to reduce our carbon footprint by buying locally, but maybe there’s something we can do, to ‘add’ to our local environment.

For instance, many have noticed the reduction in bees. Did you know that bees are attracted to crocus, hyacinth, borage, calendula, and wild lilac, all of which provide enticing spring blooms. But, they also like echinacea, snapdragons foxglove, and in the summer, and in the autumn they adore zinnias, sedum, asters, witch hazel and goldenrod. And some of these can be grown on balconies, and so we don’t need a large garden. We can all ‘additionally’ plant bee-encouraging plants, perhaps? Or something environmentally similar.

But walking with ‘soft feet’ may also encompass our honouring and respecting others…..to ‘walk softly’ through their lives?

‘The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.’ – Chinese Proverb

But there’s even more!

The abovementioned are all good and wholesome steps (and you’re probably doing much more), but I would suggest there’s a foundational, ‘inner’ and essential step that takes place first.

The foundational step I would suggest is our inner attitude – and kataphatic and apophatic meditation can assist here – that ‘spills over’ and so affects us, others, and the larger environment in a beneficial way

”The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.’ Thich Nhat Hanh

If, inwardly, we are ‘asleep’ or  are ‘sleepwalkers’ or operating out of base motives then our view of ourselves, others, nature and the wider universe will be severely limited. Those who constantly read bad news, for instance, or allow themselves to be bombarded with gloomy news, can, psychologically be said to be suffering from ‘mean world’ syndrome. In that frame of mind everything seems awful, and the good is unintentionally ignored.

Someone said that the light of the body is the eye and if your eye be single, then your whole body shall be full of light. (Matt 6:22 The Book). There is much debate about this odd sentence, and some believe it could mean that if our eyes are working properly, that is if we are fully aware, then we can see deeply what really is, and see beyond just the surface-level, and the result is that we will see deep beauty around us and in very situation; and conversely, if our perception is limited (if we’re asleep’ and so our senses are dulled), then we will miss the deep meaning behind everything and only observe in a shallow manner. We will miss much.

And so, walking with ‘soft feet’ or having a ‘single eye’ could mean something like: being fully aware, observing the good that surrounds us, and being aware of the need to go deeper, and to do so, in love.

And so it could be that when it’s time to prune a tree, we will acknowledge the beauty of that tree and prune away to the best of my knowledge and skill. Now, some may want to ask the dryad and other elemental characters (as their belief requires) beforehand, and others will just cut away, but hopefully do so now in a way that acknowledges the ‘aliveness’ of that tree and give it the respect it deserves. But, walking with ‘soft feet’ surely means….with due consideration, and having a reverence of nature.

And it could be that we will ensure that we draw alongside those who are easy to get along with. Ofcourse. But, what of those who are difficult to get along with? Maybe they’re having a bad day or maybe the way they are has to do with being brought up in a  difficult environment when growing up, or maybe they’re dealing with bad news, or bad health? We don’t know. However, walking with ‘soft feet’ surely mean that, regardless of the way they (mis)treat us, that we will, so far as is practicable, treat them well. Unconditional respect and love for others – and don’t forget to include yourself.

After all, at the depth of their spirit they, like us, are one with the Source of All, and are good. Julian of Norwich, one of my favourite mystics,  believed that. Perhaps deep within them, if we have ‘eyes to see’, we might discern the face of God or the Universe smiling back?

‘As you change your point of view, your views bring about a change in you.’  George Alexiou

And it could be that we’ll take time to make time to appreciate the wonderful creation that we indwell. The art of slowing down is important here. And the latter is one function of ritual. Walking with ‘soft feet’ is also about ritual, for ritual ushers us out of ‘ordinary time’ into sacred-time and sacred-space, and it is there/then that we can catch glimpses or feel impressions beyond the ordinary. Then we get glimpses of what could be, and realise that there is more going on than we were first aware of. So, slow done and joyfully work on anything that enhances your awareness of what really is.

There are many ways to think of what having ‘soft feet’ means, and the abovementioned are but a few – if you think of others please let me know.

‘If you hold to Nature, to the simplicity that is in her, to the small detail that scarcely one man sees, which can so unexpectedly grow into something great and boundless; if you have this love for insignificant things and seek, simply as one who serves, to win the confidence of what seems to be poor: then everything will become easier for you, more coherent and somehow more conciliatory, not perhaps in the understanding, which lags wondering behind, but in your innermost consciousness, wakefulness and knowing.’ Rainer Maria Rilke,

 

Developing ‘Soft Eyes’: Kataphatic ‘Day-Dreaming’

20170817 DEVELOPING SOFT EYES KATAPHATICRecently I mentioned about my childhood adventures with friends in north Wales, and how our imaginations ran riot. Oh, how we loved mystery. Then, albeit an adventurous and daring group of boys and girls, like most children, there was a limit. And beyond our physical comfort-zone, our immediate locale, lay the ‘even more’ mysterious area that we, as children, called ‘Yr ardal anhysbys’ or the ‘unknown place’ (see here).

And then, we all – you and I – grew and matured, and we generally lost that ability of childlike perception and love of mystery. Busyness or disinterest set in, or we became so mature that we might have believed all previous ideas were naive, or perhaps we became fearful. And, bit by bit we forgot to use our imaginations as a child does.

In that previous article I mentioned an Anishinabe (First Nations) man from Canada wrote:

‘The Four-Leggeds and the Windged Ones live to a different rhythm. Theirs is the rhythm of soft eyes and soft feet. Two-Leggeds have hard eyes and hard feet. When most humans go into the forest they enter with so much of the world on them that any possibility of feeling the sacred is removed. When we go into the forest we must become soft like the animal people and the tree people’.

As adults I would suggest that we can recover our childhood ‘soft eyes’, and rekindle that ‘focus’ on the mystery that is around us, and ‘see beyond’, with the use of kataphatic and apophatic ‘day-dreaming’.

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

Yes, I’m sitting in my little garden in my London apartment, and there’s one candle lit on the garden table. I’m in a restful mood, and my eyes keep half-closing. It’s not tiredness. it’s just that I am quite relaxed and very comfortable. And as I look at the candle, my mind thinks about its light, its warmth, how small but significant it is, and then my mind wanders to consider the light that a lighthouse emits and how useful to mariners they are. Somewhat of giant leap from candle to lighthouse, I know, but such is the imagination and its strength.

And, that is an example of kataphatic thinking.  It’s about thinking on an object or theme, and mulling it over deeply to an end.

This way of thinking is vital if we are to rekindle that childhood perception and to view the world around us with the ‘soft eyes’ of exploring mystery, rather than only use the analytical eyes of modernity.

Now some might call it kataphatic meditation or contemplation and that may upset some or make others fearful, and so, in this instance I’d like to call it kataphatic day-dreaming, because we all day-dream at times. And, usually we’re quite comfortable with the idea of day-dreaming and are familiar with it.

This kind of thinking around a theme or dwelling on object, in my case a candle, has many uses and there are so many exercises that are of benefit to develop that skill. It is much-beloved by advertisers, who months ago on tv and in magazines will have ‘seeded’ your imagination with thoughts of sun-drenched beaches, a new car or the latest fashion, even without you knowing it sometimes.

Did you know, for instance, that August Kekulé, a German organic chemist (1829-1896) said that he discovered the ring-shape of the benzene molecule after having a day-dream of a snake seizing its own tail (this is an ancient symbol known as the ouroboros)?

We might use this kind of kataphatic day-dreaming to imagine a story – maybe ‘putting ourself into the story’. It is one thing to objectively read a portion of sacred text or part of the chronicle of a latter-day hero who may have fought with dragons and to consider it analytically, but it is entirely another thing to ‘enter’ the story using our imagination. Then, we can ‘picture’ ourself as a bystander or having a significant role in the account, and imagining our interactions as well as the sights, sounds and smells etc that we might encounter. We might ask ourselves what we would have done? Isn’t that a function of those ancient parables and koans eg ‘Consider this….’. Isn’t this very much like some of the St Ignatian programs and imaginative exercises that many churches and faith groups use and are finding so useful? We can learn so much more this way.

‘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

And, ofcourse, for those wanting to be a good footballer, who hasn’t had an imaginary conversation with their footballer-hero of yesteryear and asked for hints on how to improve their game, or who, as a writer, hasn’t imagined going back in time to interview Shakespeare and ask him for writing hints or tips, or imagined Sherlock Holmes peering over their shoulder to assist with a knotty plot problem? You havent? You should try it.

And if you do try one of those examples above, or perhaps you might like to try kataphatic day-dreaming in a forest, your local park or your garden to be at one with nature, then allow yourself to be fully immersed in the moment and let thoughts come and go, and ‘play’ with your imagination. Make copious notes at the end of that time, rather than as you go along, as that will ‘draw you out of the moment’, and dispel the ‘magic’ of your newly kindled imagination. Enjoy it.

‘Set your imagination free and do your best to keep up with it.’  A R Fagundes

Developing ‘soft eyes’ to appreciate nature and the mystery around us, to gain wisdom and nature-peace, healing, guidance, energy, the awareness of Presence and more, with the use of the imagination is a good start. Try it!

This is one small aspect of kataphatic day-dreaming’, and something we’ll come back to over the next few weeks (perhaps with the addition of local and online workshops etc).

This is a brief outline of kataphatic ‘day-dreaming’. There’s so much more. And, tomorrow, we’ll look at Apophatic day-dreaming.

 

‘Tis Mystery All: Perception: The Need Of Soft Eyes And Soft Feet

20170815 TIS MYSTERY ALLI’m reminiscing. I’m in London and in my very little garden, and there’s part of me that remembers Capel Curig, in the deep in the wilderness of north Wales, many years ago.

As a child the garden of Ty Gwyn (translated as the ‘white house’, and so called because of its painted external stone work,) and where I live now when in Wales, seemed large and mysterious. It doesn’t seem as large now, though it is a fair size, but it is just as mysterious.

‘Mystery is a resource, like coal or gold, and its preservation is a fine thing.’ Tim Cahill

As I grew older, becoming physically bigger, the garden seemed to reduce in size. And yet, at the far end of the garden the rivulet, that I called Bach ac yn gyflym (meaning ‘small and fast’ in Welsh, because that sums up this rivulet) seemed to mark the boundary between the somwhat mysterious (that was all around me – it’s Wales, after all) and the very mysterious (that which was ahead of me and over the boundary marker of the rivulet).

Beyond Bach ac yn gyflym lay the ‘lightning tree’ and two arched trees, that as children, we called the ‘door to another world’. We played for many a long hour in those places – cautious about what might happen and daring each other to just be there for what might happen. Beyond those areas was ‘even more’ mystery. Beyond that was, to us, the ‘Yr ardal anhysbys’ or the ‘unknown place’.

It wasn’t that we were afraid, as children, to venture further into that unknown area, but there was part of us that wanted to preserve the mystery, to be in awe of it, and to regard it as a reminder of….

A reminder of what?

Sitting here at the garden table in a very small London garden, thoughts form and suggest an answer.

Crane your neck, arch your head heavenward at the night sky, and on a clear night you will see a myriad of twinkling stars. Some close, comparatively, some many hundreds of light years away. But, as you look at the cosmos, scientists tell us that about ninety percent of the universe is invisible, invisible to our our meters and scientific instruments, invisible to us. And, they don’t mean that some things are just too distant to be seen – though that is true – but they mean in essence. If you hold the tip of one hand’s index finger at arms-length, then ninety percent of matter between that finger tip and your nose is invisible. A real mystery.

As an adult I like mystery. It keeps things in proportion, reminding me that I don’t know as much as I thought I did.

As I child I was in awe of mystery, and hope that that’s still the same, now, as an adult. It is…sometimes. And, as a child my friends and I, until we were older, never ventured into ‘Yr ardal anhysbys’ or the ‘unknown place’. We revelled in the mystery. It harkened back to something other-worldly, of an ancient age, of a time-before, of sacred-time, sacred-space, of liminality (or ‘thin places’).

‘Under the guise of emptiness, the invisible keeps its secrets to itself. Yet the invisible remains the great background which invests your every gesture and action with possibility and pathos’. John O’Donohue.

It is easy to miss mystery. This can happen as our knowledge increases, and it can happen when we’re too busy or pre-occupied with modern life. It’s for that reason that I really enjoy and benefit from apophatic meditation (a meditative state focussing on nothng in particular), and kataphatic meditation (such as the Caim, or creative visualtion etc). And, as a child with a more limited vocabulary and without such understanding, we had ‘Yr ardal anhysbys’ or the ‘unknown place’ – a real place of mystery.

Perception matters. If we don’t ‘see’ the mystery or at least catch a glimpse, impression or ‘feeling’ of it, then we will miss it. The harsh light of modernity cannot uncover mystery. Mystery is subtle, it’s illusive and even shy, but it is real for those who revere and honour it, and are patient enough to wait for its emergence.

An Anishinabe (First Nations) man from Canada wrote:

The Four-Leggeds and the Windged Ones live to a different rhythm. Theirs is the rhythm of soft eyes and soft feet. Two-Leggeds have hard eyes and hard feet. When most humans go into the forest they enter with so much of the world on them that any possibility of feeling the sacred is removed. When we go into the forest we must become soft like the animal people and the tree people’.

I believe that ‘softness’ of perception is what children have, innately. And it was that that I was remembering at the garden table in my little London apartment’s garden. It was a reminder of how it used to be – a world of mystery, everywhere. Of having a ‘softer’ perception.

And, as adults we can lose that perception of the reverence of awe and mystery. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Even as adults we can regain soft eyes and soft feet, and ‘see’ the sacred all around us. Such seeing is a skill, and like a muscle, it can be developed and honed with practice.

‘To respect a mystery is to make way for the answer.’ Criss Jami

 

The Unbelievable Strangeness of Soul

20170814 THE UNBELIEVEABLE STRANGENESS OF SOULI’m back in London after a few days break, and I’m in my inner London apartment, which is graced with a back garden (some would call it a yard), and though small it may be, it is greatly appreciated by me as a modest space to imbibe a steaming hot cup of coffee, read a good book, and in the evening or early night hours, like now, it’s a good place to rest with a few candles burning away to provide light, and to think.

The last few days have been relaxed. Very busy before that – hence the need to get away for a few days – and the next few days have the potential to be ever-so busy, and more so, if I let them. I’m not going to let that happen. As far as possible I intend to pace myself, plan ahead, and move smoothly through some complex issues regarding house-selling.

But, at times it can feel like a distant storm is approaching, such is modern life today. However, here in my small patch of garden or yard, I’m at peace. Come what may, we determine the effect events have on us.

And right now, ‘it is well with my soul’.

In the twilight, with nearby lamp posts just lighting up, their light is harsh and abrasive. The candle-light offers no competition, and is gentle and seems to hark back to more leisurely times. Candle light, just is. In the fast pace that modern life can move at, the soul can be buffeted even without us knowing. Buffeted, fragmented, parts lost, chipped away. The soul is indeed a vital part of ‘us’ some would say, and delicate, but one many do not consider at all.

‘I plucked my soul out of its secret place,
and held it to the mirror of my eye,
to see it like a star against the sky. Claude McKay)

There is a notion that the eyes are the windows of the soul. And, it certainly seems that our soul resides behind our eyes, and in our skull. For those that are unsure about soul nature, that’s a good start. But, I do believe the soul is stranger than that. There’s more.

Why should we surmise that our soul is behind our eyes and located in a small ‘box’ where our brain resides? Like most people, the idea is that the soul, infact, inhabits part of the body.

The candles on the garden table number seven distinct, small candles and yet their light travels far. At first, their light seemed to travel just a few inches, but now it seems their flickering light can be measured in yards or metres. The change is no real change at all. The candle light travelled just as far as it ever did. What changed was my perception of their light and the ‘acclimatisation’ of my eyes.

Strangeness #1: Could it be that your soul doesn’t inhabit your body, but that your body inhabits a much larger and all-pervading soul, and that your soul is the size of an apartment block? Ofcourse, the soul is immaterial, but to be ‘materially-minded’ for a moment, yes, your soul is bigger than your physical body. I think so.

Have you ever looked deeply into someone’s eyes, and had that ‘ocular swap’ episode, that sensation, feeling or ‘shock’ where you can see (of feel) yourself looking back, even for a moment? And that may happen in rapid succession in a few seconds?

The idea that the soul is separate may be useful at times and it may be the dominant view in our society – but then we live in an individualistic age – but it isn’t the best way of looking at the soul.

Some of the small candles on the garden table are flickering, spluttering and for a moment one or two emit less light, and yet no shadow is cast. Together, whether glowing at brightly or reduced in light, they work together.

Strangeness #2: There is also a soul-connectedness to other people. It’s as if, as we move pass people (whether physical or otherwise) we ‘connect’ and influence them, and they affect us. Sometimes, just their presence does that.

‘…as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:40b

And, perhaps there’s some reciprocity occurring. What we do, send, think about others comes back to us. Perhaps, by way of analogy, our soul appears individually like the spokes on the outer rim of a wheel, so that we can see another soul at a short distance on the rim, so to speak. And, then as we travel nearer the hub our souls become ‘closer’ and entwined, so that we are ‘soulishly’ connected to each other.

Strangeness #3: ‘Soulishly’, we are all connected to One! But, there’s more. At the hub we become one with the Hub of All, that which some might call the Source of All. Simultaneously individual, and yet connected and entwined, and yet One!

‘There is something strange, hidden in the symmetry of the soul. When you diminish another person, you diminish yourself. When you diminish yourself, you diminish others’. John O’Donohue.

It’s late. The air is cooling, and it’s time to take the now-cold cup of coffee and book indoors. Extinguishing the candle-light the garden or yard (I like to think of it as a small garden) is plunged into darkness. No more light. No more analogies. Except that speeding away from the little garden table, and at the speed of light, that candle-light is indeed continuing on a journey, unbeknownst to me, but seen by others if there were twenty light-seconds away. [I worked it out: potential observers would be about 3.75million miles away, and would just now be seeing me extinguish the candles].

Perhaps I can ‘sneak’ in another strange theory (Strangeness #4) that: however it looks from our perspective, the soul continues on, just like that candle light.

And, then, as an after-thought. Our language has limits (hence the use of analogies and metaphors) and our journey into the strangeness of the soul is  a slow one – slow is good – and so in talking about us having a soul, perhaps we should bear in mind, as a timely reminder, the words of C S Lewis.

‘You do not have a soul.  You are a soul.  You have a body.’ C S Lewis