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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

The Art Of Being Awake: Celtic Thought

20170615 THE ART OF BEING AWAKEIt’s 6.30am on a bright, sunny, wonderful London morning, and I’m sitting at my garden table, coffee in front of me, and I’ve just splashed a little cream on top of it. The sun is still low in the sky and the world is ‘fresh’. The cream on the coffee swirls around, effortlessly forming a galaxy-like spiral shape. Interestingly, did you know that the word galaxy comes from the ancient Greek meaning ‘milky’, and the English name for our galaxy – that smoke-like veil that stretches across the sky when there are no artificial lights about and especially when one is nearer the equator – is the milky way! Milky just like the pattern on my coffee. And, that got me thinking.

‘Dance above the surface of the world. Let your thoughts lift you into creativity that is not hampered by opinion.’ Red Haircrow

Apparently, the UK’s Astronomer Royal believes that all of us, indeed everything that we see around us in the created universe, is part of a sophisticated computer program run by aliens. According to him we all ‘apps’ or sub-routines in the program, and are ‘asleep’ to true reality. True! When I say ‘true’ I mean that’s what he believes, not that we are, necessarily, part of an alien’s computer program.

But it make you think about…..awareness…sleep…illusion…reality, doesn’t it?

There’s an ancient story of a young man who, part of a dysfunctional family, decided to do his share of cheating, and got what he wanted. However, he had to avoid his (now) angry older brother who had been cheated out of his inheritance – the older brother was, allegedly, of a size and stature to dismember his younger brother if he so wanted, and he probably wanted to do just that. So, the younger one, quite wisely, fled the scene.

Some time later in the day, tired from running he looked around for a make-shift pillow. The locale was quite ordinary looking, but he noticed a flat stone that would be an ideal pillow. He lad his head upon it, and fell asleep.

‘Therefore it says: “Awake you, the one sleeping…’, Ephesians 5:14a, The Book

He started to dream, a most vivid and real-type of dream. In his dream he saw a huge ladder fixed between earth and heaven, with celestial beings of some description ascending it, and descending it. Whether it was minutes or hours later, the young man awoke. His blurry eyes once again scanned the terrain, and it didn’t look any different. However, the dream had made a difference, and he declared, ‘God is in this place, and I didn’t even realise it’.

Yes, one man had to fall asleep to really wake up to reality!

The Lady Julian lived about some 650 years ago and was the recipient of several visions. She recorded them, and of one of them she wrote. ‘And in this [God] showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand… And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’ Creation in her hand? She was awake for that ‘showing’ to a different view of reality.

There’s another story of a young man, one of his kind – we know that because his name is an anagram of ‘one’! You’ve probably seen the movie. In the movie, Morpheus (also the Greek god of dreams) declares to this young man, that, ‘The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

Yes, Neo was living in a dream-world, and had to wake up to reality.

‘Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures. Jessamyn West

Are we asleep? I mean, are we asleep?

I don’t want to suggest that this reality we find ourselves in, is a mere illusion and inconsequential, because then I would be concerned that some may erroneously believe that they don’t need to be responsible for their actions toward other people, nature or the universe. And, we do!

But there is a sense in that we are ‘asleep’.

It could be the kind of ‘rote living’. Years ago I used to travel the London Underground system quite a lot – hop on this train, walk through that tunnel, down the escalator and turn right, jump of that train and I’d reach my destination. And yet, for part of that regular journey, as I reflected say as I was boarding the last train for that journey, I’d have no memory of some of the tunnels and escalators taken. It was if I was asleep. Maybe you’ve encountered the same on a regular train trip or car journey?

Or, it could be that we’re asleep when it comes to looking at what’s happening around us. We can be so focussed on (what many call) the mundane, the material or human-event world around us, that we fail to ‘see’ a greater universe, a greater Universal Power at work. Using different ‘eyes’ we can catch glimpses, And then maybe it’s gone from our perception – but we know it’s there, we can ‘feel’ it, we can remember it, and can take heart from that encounter (until the next encounter).

‘Not only is the Universe stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can think.’ Werner Heisenberg,

And, there’s more. Even for those that have had glimpses of awareness, of being awake, there is a pertinent question that just begs to be asked: If we were asleep and have woken up, have we (1) unwittingly fallen asleep again, or (2) are there greater degrees of awareness yet to be experienced and so we shouldn’t be complacent or proud. This is not to unnerve you (or me) or cause any anxiety, but a gentle reminder to us that we live in a most splendid mysterious universe, at that at the heart of it is The Mystery . So, there could be, and I’ll go out on a limb, and declare that there is more. Even when we believe we’re awake, there’s more. Mae mwy.

‘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

Of Pond-skaters And Kingfishers: Spiritual Stages & Progression

161227-pondskaters-1-celtic-thoughtIt occurred to me that, in one sense, that there are two sorts of people, whether they be Celtic, Celtic Christian, Druid or of another tribe or faith family.

The two sorts? Pond-skaters and Kingfishers. And, here’s why:

Pond-skaters: Pond-skaters are wonderful little insects that walk on water. With large and wide legs, relative to their body and weight, they can manoeuvre across the surface of ponds, and no doubt obtain all the food they need to satisfy them from other insects who, similarly, live in their 2D world; a world of north-to-south or east-to-west, or any combination of degrees, but always on the surface of the pond.

People who are like pond-skaters, are similarly living in a (spiritual) 2D world. Believing they can navigate anywhere, they too navigate north-to-south or east-to-west, or any combination of degrees, but always on the surface of their belief. It’s all they’ve known. They cannot, ofcourse, navigate anywhere living in that restricted in 2D realm, but they think they can, and so limit themselves unknowingly. They may be content and so not experiment. They may even be unaware of another dimension, and so not try.

Such people know their Christian liturgy or Druidic prayers and ritual, or that of another faith, but see it as something ‘mechanical’ or ‘magical’: if I do ‘this’, then ‘that’ results automatically. If I do this, because it’s expected, then a benevolent result will….ummm result. They, as ancient text states, ‘hold to the outward form of our religion, but reject its real power’.

Such people, may not even try to go deeper, but prefer just the ‘outwardness’ of ritual and prayer, and thus declare those who have gone ‘deeper’, those that are Kingfishers, those who are different, to be heretics, and therefore ‘write them off’, ignore them, or even declare them as dangerous.

Kingfishers: And, this brings me to people who are like Kingfishers. Those people who have undergone a change in perception.

Kingfishers are marvellous birds, well-adapted to fly at great heights and then descending at speed to catch a fish, dive deep into the water – yes, they break the surface of the pond and go deep. Kingfishers operate in air and water, in two realms, they move about in in 3D: they can navigate anywhere, they too navigate north-to-south or east-to-west, or any combination of degrees, but they have added the high-to-low dimension, and so thus have greater freedom that only Kingfishers (and not Pond-skaters) can experience.

Kingfisher-type people are those that love the outward appearance of ritual and liturgy (like Pond-skaters), and have the added dimension of going ‘deep’, of peeking behind the veil, and of being open to encountering the Source of All to whom that ritual and liturgy ‘connects’, albeit just a glimpse of the Source, ofcourse.

Kingfisher-type people would have a tough time relating their experiences to Pondskater-type people, and so it may be best, if you’re a kingfisher-type person, not to even try in earnest (though a hint, an encouragement to Pondskater-type people would be good, so long as it’s not too obvious – remember, to Pondskater-type people, Kingfisher-type people are heretics, and are therefore dangerous).

There’s more: James Fowler says something about this, and divides the growth of personal faith into seven stages, with a major division between stages three and four. Two things are noteworthy.

To bridge the gap between stages three and four, and so become a kingfisher-type person, demands some ‘judder’, some huge challenge in ones life (such as a close death, trauma, major illness etc, and an eventual overcoming of it and moving through it), and not everyone passes through this ‘judder’ to stage four and beyond. The other interesting fact that Fowler mentions is that each stage cannot comprehend the stage above it (especially at stage three when a major change needs to take place to enter level four, and so those especially at level four look as though they have ‘lost it completely’ to those at level three).

A question for you: So, are you a pond-skater of kingfisher?

It could be said that one sign that you’re a pond-skater is if you haven’t read this far (and so you won’t be reading this) and have already dismissed the abovementioned out of hand or branded me a heretic. If however you honestly recognise yourself at this awesome level, do contact me.

In all probability, if you’ve read this far then maybe you’re a kingfisher-type person, at Fowler level four, maybe, or beyond. Do contact me, because stages five and above promise much, but each transition to another stage has it’s (minor) challenge(s) to work through, lest ‘arrestment’ settle in.

And, so there you have it. Pond-skaters or Kingfishers. What do you think?