The Forest’s ‘Quiet Teachers’ And Time

20180511 THE FORESTS QUIET TEACHERS AND TIMEIt’s a wonderful morning. Sunrise was about an hour ago, and the early morning high and mist-like clouds are slowly being ‘burned off’ by the sun – yes, I’m back in north Wales. Valleys, here, have their own micro-weather system – and it is glorious. It almost seems that time itself has stopped and you can see and hear elementals hopping from one flower or blade of grass to another. Bliss.

’Every blade of grass has an angel that bends over it and whispers, “Grow! Grow!”’, Talmud

Timeless, yes.

I am sitting in my garden, sipping a cup of nettle tea, my favourite, and words cannot really do justice to the wonders of nature that I am beholding. Wherever we are, rural or urban landscape, we are part of the wildness and beauty of nature – you are beautiful, and however much we are told we’re separate from nature or feel so, it is an illusion. We swim through nature, breathing it in, breathing in air as a fish swims in water and gulps in that water and ‘exhales’ it to live.

Nature is awesome, even though I can spy a few weeds growing here and there on the lawn.

’ Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better’. Albert Einstein

There are different schools of thought about creation, the origin of all that is. And, as I sit here sipping this tea, my mind wanders to consider two of them. Journey with me.

Firstly, there are some who read ancient sacred text and interpret it (because the notion isn’t actually present in the text, so we have to take that information and work with it where we are), and deduce that everything was perfect (or good) on Earth but somehow it ‘went wrong’ [emphasis on the latter]. Many call this ‘the fall’.

And then I got thinking a wee bit deeper.

But, suppose, secondly, the perfection we have in our mythic memory is of Home, before we ‘arrived’ on Earth? And, the Earth didn’t ‘fall’ and ‘go wrong’ (although it may seem so in comparison from our pre-life ‘Home’ – see Jeremiah 1:5a), but that the Source Of All created everything good, and left a just little bit of it for us to do in ‘finishing it off’? Rather like, perhaps, our mum did, when we were wee kids, when she baked a cake, say, and let us stir the mix so we could, with pride, understand that we had a small hand [no pun intended] in baking that cake. Then we can say ‘I did that’, and then our parent (and the Source of All) can say, ‘my child did that’.

This idea, some call tikkun olam.

Tikkun olam has everything to do with ‘finishing off’ or ‘repairing’ the world. It, along with the ‘fall’ idea really is only understood by our own particular viewpoint, whatever it may be: ‘fall’ and in need of ‘repair’; or ‘unfinished’? I prefer the latter.

As I look out at the length of the garden the gardener, who initially worked on the garden some years ago, ensured that about three-quarters of it was a well ‘manicured’ lawn with plants and small trees ‘sprinkled’ throughout and a few paving stones here or there, as I had suggested. And, now there’s a few weeds. But, I digress.

But, the furthest quarter of the garden, the part that leads into a wild copse is wild by every stretch of the imagination, and that’s exactlyhow I asked the gardener to leave it.

The lawn area is different to that wild area, but just as much as nature as anywhere else. That wild area does need a bit of attention from me every so often. Tikkun olam.

Most of my garden is easy to manage, but the wild area needs some extra special care, understanding and management, stewardship from me. It is forever requiring attention so that I can appreciate its wildness and yet walk through it rather than me being ‘crowded out’ by the unbridled growth of plants and trees.

A human presence is needed to ‘repair’ or ‘finish it’ depending on your viewpoint) until, ofcourse, the following year and growing seasons repeat themselves. And so it goes on. I love it. It grows, I tend it, It grows. Tikkun olam.

Perhaps, that ‘finishing off’ applies to every walk of life, and not just to garden weeds. What do you think?

That wild quarter of the garden is a ‘guiet teacher’. It ‘speaks’ words of wisdom to us and all who are attuned to it. The area of my garden is lovely, but it may not be perfect as some people define perfection. If I waited until that part of my garden was perfect in human terms I might have to wait longer than one life span!

Perhaps, nature, the ‘quiet teacher’ is informing us, that life is good, but until we get Home, it won’t be perfect or well ordered – there will be challenges and upsets along the way, weeds. We can do our best, but we will have to wait a long time before everything is orderly in our life (if ever), and if we are waiting to start a project or do something only when that happens, then we will probably wait ‘forever’.

’We carry these [to do] lists near our heart and finger them like worry beads. It doesn’t matter what is on them. They are thieves, and it is the insidious virtue to have everything in order before we live that is the greatest thief’. Mark Nepo.

Life is a wild and sometimes circuitous journey, with challenges along the way but always an adventure, with things to learn along the way as we move through it. Yes, move through it.

As I walk through the wild copse, now having no more nettle tea left in the cup, I look at the contrast in the garden, the lawned area (and the weeds) and the wild part, and though different and not perfect (from a gardeners point of view) I love it just the way it is.

It’s almost as if the forest and garden are saying to us, ‘You will always have a few weeds  here in your life, but embrace them and work with them, but don’t let them bother you and procrastinate or you’ll wait forever’.

For the moment we are in time. Are there things in our life that we’ve put off, and like me, can look back? It’s never too late to start! Maybe it’s an educational course, a new hobby, a project at work or at home, or maybe it’s a long overdue phone call to tell someone you miss them and love them, or something else that you’ve put off? Until now. Tikkun olam. Is there something to start, ‘repair’ or ‘finish’?

’I swing between procrastination and being really thorough so either way things aren’t getting done quickly’. Freema Agyeman

Finally, ofcourse, there are times when it is right to pause and wait, but invariably we know the difference between honest waiting for a good reason and kicking things time and time again into the long grass.

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

After all that deep thought, here I am walking back to the house thinking that I deserve a second cup of nettle tea. How about you?

 

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

 

Extreme Gratitude: Post-Pneumonia Thoughts

20180426 POST PNEUMONIA THOUGHTS

‘It is through gratitude for the present moment that the spiritual dimension of life opens up.’ Eckhart Tolle

Some of you will know that I’ve been absent from the ‘net for a while, and articles and posts haven’t appeared for a little over three weeks. Although I’m home now and resting – and will be back to normal next week as regards the posting of articles etc – I’ve spent a couple of weeks in hospital.

What I thought was flu, and jokingly referred to as man-flu to a few friends, got much, much worse,  and turned out to be pneumonia (and a collapsed lung).

I’m much better now, as the antibiotics ‘kicked in’ very quickly, the UK NHS ‘free at the point of need’ health system and its staff were absolutely wonderful (and yes, I even liked hospital food), and the Source of All was evident all around me. The hospital did find an ‘anomaly’ at the base of one lung and I have to go back for tests, so I’d appreciate your prayers, well-wishes, light and love for that, please.

It is interesting, hospital stays. In one sense I was completely helpless, in the hands of doctors, nurses and other specialist staff, whose expertise in that field far exceeds mine. And yet, there I felt a ‘call’, a sense of urgency and priority to ‘do’ something, or at least to be positive and intentional in my slow ‘climb’ back to wellness.

Did you know, that, sadly, some twenty-nine thousand people die in the UK every year because of pneumonia.

‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…,’ Psalm 23.4, The Book

Do angels’, elementals, good-spirits exist?

Oh yes. My stay in hospital, if there ever was any doubt (and there wasn’t) confirmed that they do exist, albeit in disguise. Throughout the day and night, nurses worked. I saw them. Doctors and student-doctors visited me, prodded me, cared for me and others. Other staff, those who cooked the meals, and those who kept the bays/wards clean and tidy were relentless in showing their love. All of them are, to me, angels, elementals, good-spirits in disguise, sent by the Source of All.

‘Love flows richly into all things; she is greatly exalted from the depths up to the stars and most loving toward all things, for she gave the highest king the kiss of peace.’ Symphonia (Songs) 25, Hildegard of Bingen

My spirit was buoyed, my heart was cheered, and slowly my body began to recover. Love flowed in Bay D, in the David Erskine Ward at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London, and beyond, as countless hospital staff worked hard in their works of service to the infirmed. Grace, love in action, was ubiquitous and palpable.

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

John O ‘Donohue, Beannacht/Blessing,

And so, I’m now at home, resting. I would ask that you remember those who succumbed to pneumonia and are now ‘home’, praying for them and their loved ones here on earth. And also, perhaps, send light and love, and well-wishes to those known to each of us who are having a tough time at the moment. And, please remember that ‘anomaly’ in one of my lungs.

Prayers, well-wishes etc work. Such intentional positivity does have an effect, perhaps more than we can know on this side of that ‘thin veil’.

This is somewhat different to my usual posts, but I wanted to share with you what had happened over the past few weeks, to let you know that I am thinking of you, and to request your prayers etc for myself and others. I do appreciate your well-wishes.

In your prayers and well-wishes, in your intentionality, and in the rituals that you might do, you do have a positive effect, perhaps with unknown outcomes and far beyond our imaginings, but you do have a positive effect.

‘Do not despise the day of small beginnings…’ Zechariah 4:10a, paraphrase, The Book

And so I give thanks to the Source of All for healing, for my nearly being back to good health and continuing journey toward full health, and for being surrounded by spiritual-kin, loving friends and fellow-sojourners, good people, full of love and light, of which you (as you read this) are one, and are similarly prayed for by me. Extreme gratitude.

Light and love be to you and yours, Tadhg.

 

Another Tale From The Heart(h) Remembered: The Nwyfre Is…

20180327 TALES FROM THE HEARTH REMEMBERED THE NWYFREGathered together by the hearth, my granddad would listen, I would watch and listen so intently, and my grandmother, a seanchaí [pronounced ‘shawn-(a)-key’, Gaelic for a story-teller] would tell me a story. To me, she was the best at storytelling, and her stories were profound – so much so that I am learning more through them, now, even as an adult, in the re-telling. Here’s one.

It was many years ago – I’m guessing I must have been six or seven years old – on one of those still-bright August evenings, that I heard her tell another story. The hearth had a small flame flickering in it, as even in this part of Wales the evening temperatures could drop rapidly, depending on the wind direction as it blows through the valleys, even though it was the height of summer.

She told the story of the Nwyfre (pronounced ‘noo-iv-ruh’), and as I drew ever closer and closer to her feet – I always loved sitting on the rug around her rocking-chair – she told one of her ‘question and answer’ stories.

In the beginning, she said, before anything was created, the Nwyfre existed. The Nwyfre is the creative force of life, all life, and is Personal. To describe the Nwyfre at an ‘it’ would be to miss the point she said. The Nwyfre is Personal, both male and female and beyond those limiting ideas. It would be many years before I grasped that concept.

Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way’. Edward de Bono

She continued: The Nwyfre created light and dark for the first time, though I believe the Nwyfre is Light, too, but of a different kind. A life-force light. The Nwyfre created the sky and the air. And then, the Nwyfre being a creative and joyful Spirit, one of a kind, drew the water and the earth together, and made the seas and dry land. But, what was missing, she would ask me? Ofcourse, I would gleefully fill in the ‘blanks’ and answer the question – sometimes getting it right and sometimes getting in wrong. I loved those ‘tests’.

She continued: And the Nwyfre thought into being the sun, moon and stars, but who could see them? ‘No one’. I replied. She smiled and said. ‘Exactly right, little one……no one….except for the Nwyfre. I smiled and nodded that I thought I might have got the question half-right, but to this day I’m still wondering about it.

She digressed somewhat in that story and asked me, ‘So where was the Nwyfre?’ Without thinking I replied, ‘In the light and dark, the sky and air, the sea and land and rocks’, but I would end the answer, that time, with the tone of my voice ascending at the end, to make it more of a question than a statement. She smiled and said, ‘Yn wych’, (which is somewhere between saying ‘marvellous’ and ‘great’, colloquially), and my face beamed. I’m a little bit more reserved and adult now. Honest. But then I was a wee lad.

There was more she said: And then the Nwyfre created all the animals and fish and insects that you can possibly imagine, and many more that we can’t possibly imagine. All of them having the Nwyfre in them. But, still there was something missing, she said. ‘What could it be?’, she said in my direction, and paused expecting an answer from me. After a little thought and a little more, I tentatively said, ‘Us!’. ‘Right’ she said and laughed. Finally, the Nwyfre created men and women, and they too have the Nwyfre within them, even now, although many don’t know that.

My grandmother slumped back in her rocking chair, an indication that she wanted to rest, but I had a question. ‘Where can I find the Nwyfre?, I asked.

The eternal is not elsewhere; it is not distant. There is nothing as near as the eternal. This is captured in a lovely Celtic phrase: ‘tẚ tír na n-ổg ar chul an ti’, ‘the land of eternal youth is behind the house’….The eternal world and the mortal world are not parallel, rather they are fused’. John O’Donohue

Many years later my grandmother’s story still reverberates in my mind, though I know others have different stories, but most seem to agree that that life-giving Spirit is in everything. And even though her story, then, had been simple, yet profound, only part of it had ‘sunk in’, hence my childlike question (which had, effectively already been answered. But I was a young lad at the time).

‘The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.’ John 3.8a, The Book

‘Oh,’ she said, ‘In the grass on the little hill at the edge of the garden, in the birds and insects, in the air and storm clouds, in the rocks and pebbles, and more places’.

Without hesitation, I ran outside, and for the next hour I went in search of the Nwyfre.

Climbing to the top of the little hill – not that little for a wee lad as I was then, clambering up it on ‘all fours’ – I sat on the grass at the top. Yes, grass. Nwyfre! I felt the cold mountain air blow against my cheeks. Yes, Nwyfre. In the distance I saw Jones the dairyman drive past at some speed I think, and saw birds fly across the sky. Yes, Nwyfre!

And then I headed back to my grandparents’ house with my ‘research’ complete. I sat by my grandmother’s feet, she looked down, and said, Well?’. And then I recited my embellished  list at breakneck speed and without pausing for breath: ‘grass, flowers, trees, birds, Jones the Dairyman, the wind, the rain’.

‘And, there’s more’, she said. As she said that a lump of glowing coal fell from the fire and granddad used the coal-tongs’ to put in back. ‘Ah, I replied, ‘Coal and rocks and Lapis lazuli'(a semi-precious stone my grandmother had recently given me, and probably the longest word that I knew…apart from those lovely Welsh place names and words), and ‘You and granddad, and me’.

I looked up and said, ‘The Nwyfre is everywhere.’ And then after a pause I said, ‘The Nwyfre is everywhere….so I needn’t have gone outside! The Nwyfre is here!’. Her face beamed a most lovely smile.

‘Nwyfre is ‘…this living, energising current of life that flows through all living beings’. Penny Billington

Many years later I was to understand that many people have different names for the Nwyfre – such is the creativity and grace of the Nwyfre – but most acknowledge that Life-Force in all things, in a web of loving connectedness throughout all that is, seen and unseen; and without the Spirit, the Nwyfre, nothing exists and happens. The Nwyfre is so important in what we say and do, not just in our prayers and rituals and ceremonies, but in our very life, in nature, daily life, the nine-to-five job, relationships of all kinds, and more. The Nwyfre is ubiquitous.

I never knew what ubiquitous meant, but now I’m seeing it everywhere!

Although the Nwyfre is everywhere, sometime ago I wrote about an encounter (or perhaps a greater awareness of the Nwyfre in a forest, devoid of distractions), and you can read it here.

Meanwhile, wherever you are, you can encounter the Nwyfre right where you are!

 

Earth Hour 2018: A Joyful Response

20180319 EARTH HOUE 24 MARCH STEWARDSHIP MEDITATIONSoon it will be the time of Earth Hour 2018.

Earth Hour started in Sydney, Australia, in 2007. That event saw over million homes and businesses turn their lights off for one hour to make their stand against climate change that year. Now, Earth Hour is a worldwide movement organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and annually encouraging individuals, communities, and businesses to turn off all non-essential electric lights for one hour, from 8:30 to 9:30 pm on a specific day towards at the end of March, as a symbol of commitment to the planet.

‘Eventually, we’ll realize that if we destroy the ecosystem, we destroy ourselves.’ Jonas Salk.

The ancient Celts, Druids, ancient Hebrew tribes, first century Christians and others were Earth-focussed, in-touch with the seasons and the land, and knew that their livelihood depended on the Earth’s bounty. Somewhat removed, now, in modern society it is easy to forget our inter-connectedness and dependence upon the Earth, and a feeling of helplessness can overtake us.

What can we do?

Earth Hour this year will be on 24 March, and so all of us can participate in large ways and small, and all are encouraged to turn off all non-essential lighting and other non-essential power-consuming devices, wherever we are on the planet from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm (our) local time. A symbolic easy-to-do act just for one hour.

Below are some ideas, quotes, liturgies/poems and memories etc that have been used, and that you might like to use, adapted, or which can be used as prompts to encourage each of us to do something symbolic for the planet, this Saturday, and live simply for one hour, and joyously. The latter is important, as it shouldn’t be seen as an arduous task or a chore, but as a profound time, an enjoyable time in the main.

Blessing:
And so, before eating, by candlelight, we used the following as a blessing:

‘All praise be Yours, my God, through Sister Earth, our mother
who feeds us in her sovereignty and produces
various fruits and coloured flowers and herbs.
[St Francis of Assisi]

Meal:
We wanted to meet as friends and have a simple meal together. Just bread and soup in gratitude of the immense bounty of the Earth that we often forget. A simple meal in good company was perfect.

As a centre-piece on the table, as a reminder of why we had gathered was symbolism to represent the elements (five in this case, but you might have less or more), and so we had: a flower to represent earth/soil/rock, a small bowl of water, a joss-stick to represent air, a few candles to represent fire, and a small clay wild goose (an ancient Celtic representation of the Spirit).

We ate, we laughed, we enjoyed the occasion immensely. Ofcourse, afterwards you can supplement the time with music and/or singing.

Meditation:
Bathed in the light of a few candles, each member of the group was asked to close their eyes and imagine a scene. Initially, the co-ordinator asked the group to visualise the Earth as seen from space, blue, cloudy, majestic, full of life, a planet set in a sea of stars. One by one each person described what they had imagined.

After a short pause, the co-ordinator, asked each member of the group to visualise one distant land, perhaps seen on tv, full of animals and vibrant nature, and to describe it, and one by one each person did in just a few words. The co-ordinator summed up with a few words of gratitude to the Source of All.

After a sort pause, each person was asked to imagine an element of nature from their local neighbourhood, some to be thankful for. Each shared, and the co-ordinator summed up with a few words of gratitude to the Source of All.

Then, the co-ordinator asked each to imagine one scene where the Earth was ‘distressed’, through pollution or over-farming, through the loss of natural habitat, the further extinction of species, and each member shared what they ‘saw’. The co-ordinator summed up with prayerful words.

Lastly, the co-ordinator, asked each to imagine the Earth as it was when they started this meditation – a wonderful blue planet set in a dance amongst the stars, and to ‘flood it’ with our thanks, well-wishes and good-thoughts.

Sharing-time:
We shared prayers and poetry in a circle of fellowship lit by the light of one candle. Each invited person was asked to bring some prayer or relevant poem to share, and after each recitation a few minutes of silent meditation and reflection ensued. One such prayer was:

Deep peace of the quiet Earth to you,
who herself unmoving, harbours the movements
and facilitates the life of ten thousand creatures,
while resting contented, stable, tranquil.
Deep peace of the quiet Earth to you.
(Old Celtic Blessing)

A variation of this, one year, was to ask those attending to prepare a piece about their favourite mountain, or animal, flower, tree, ocean or river, as a way of giving thanks.

For instance, one person talked at length about trees and their connectedness, and how they actually ‘communicate’ with a beneficial and ‘joined up’ root system. Something similar was televised recently with Judi Dench, and can be seen on Youtube, here.

Another person shared about a written piece (and a short video) wolves and what remarkable animals they are, and something similar can be seen here.

Another shared a short video about Snowdonia – my favourite, and I admit to a slight bias here, see here.

Eucharist:
We shared a simple breaking of bread and wine in the home. One person blessed the bread and wine, and we passed the bread around. Several minutes later, the wine was passed around (and as we also wanted to think about the Earth, on many occasions the wine was substituted with unfermented red grape juice). And then several read relevant verses from the Bible, such as:

‘In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.’ Psalm 95.4 The Book.

All very simple, easy to plan and expedite. Very profound.

Baraka:
On this occasion, with lights off and the tv turned on, we watched part of the video ‘Baraka’. If you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a treat. It is a wonderful series of profound clips and ethereal music that is nature-based, deep and spiritually moving, and highlights  our interconnectedness with all that is around us. It can be seen on Youtube, here.

Conclusion:
How will you commemorate Earth Hour? Whatever you do, by yourself or in the company of friends, my wish is that you do something simple, symbolic and joyful to mark the event, which ofcourse, is a prompt for us all to have a greater regard for the planet thereafter.

Blessings of Earth Hour be to you and yours, Tadhg.

 

Celtic OrthoPraxis: Time To Dive In

20180320 CELTIC ORTHOPRAXIS TIME TO DIVE INToday, the day started off ‘fresh’. Temperature-wise, that was. The snow of a couple of weeks ago returned a couple of day ago, but it too, has almost melted away. A little remains in my little city aparment’s garden.

At one level it’s just snow – great to look at, and I do so love it. My inner child, never far below the surface, erupts with a simple joy. Look deeper and we know that snow is composed of water molecules and intricate crystals and atoms, and even small physical quanta. But, at another level it evokes a deeper response, a deep spiituality – it’s as if nature is reminding us that we dont control the weather, that the circle turns as it pleases and not at our behest, and that we are yet immersed in nature and not the other way around. There is always more.

‘Those who would search for pearls must dive below.’ John Dryden

Today, I greeted the day with a simple liturgy set in a simple ritual. At one level it’s just a prayer and ritual, formed of words and physical actions. Some stop there. At another level the words give voice to an inner intentionality, which is important. More than that, that liturgy and ritual has a deeper, spiritual, and more profound effect in a realm invisible to us, currently. Yes, there is more.

We can look at the surface of something, or go deeper, or go really deep.

Later, I was talking with a good friend. We spoke about calendars. I mentioned that I like nothing better to mark the months using a formala put forward by Graves, and which uses trees names to mark the unfolding year. It was pointed to me that that ‘tree calendar’ was fiction in that ancient Celts and Druids would have been unaware of that particular calendar. I know. But, fortunately we looked deeper.

‘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

At another level we both agreed that that calendar was nature-focussed, and eco-awareness-prompting, and that cannot be such a bad thing. It was also pointed out to me that ‘purists’ would still object, but we worked through that, noting that there seems to be more worth in celebrating months named after trees than ancient Roman gods and emporers as some do without further thought or objection. But, there’s more. At a deeper level, that kind of ‘tree calender’ worked very well (in conjuction with regular named months), does bring us into a deeper awareness and participation of the turning circle of the seasons. Okay, a little imagination is needed. But, there, is always more.

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

Rumi

We can look at the surface of something, or go deeper, or go really deep. But, we live in a world that is, in many senses, quite, quite shallow. Very dualistic. And arguments, for instance, about particularly interpreting and applying ancient words, ritual and formulae, especially where over the years where ‘gaps’ have appeared, abound.

For instance, many years ago I wrote a prayer that had four verses, one to be recited at each of the compass cardinal points. The problem is part of it is missing. The ‘south’ prayer was missing. Lost somewhere. Now a ‘purist’ might say, ‘Tadhg, to be authentic to your work, you should recite the three verses you have, and remain silent when turning to the south’. I hope it doesnt upset my ‘purist’ friends, but I filled in the gap, by recently writing a ‘south’ prayer in line and in the style of the preceeding verses, and it worked wonderfully. It also occured to me, that we all do similar.

‘I would rather my heart be without words than my words be without heart.’ LaMar Boschman

But, there’s more as regards that prayer. Deeper than just words, there was intentionality, and deeper than that was the threshold opening of ‘touching’ another realm. All of which would be lost if we had just concentred on the challenge of the missing verse and discussing, at a cerebral, contemporary, dualistic, academic level, whether it should have been re-written or not.

‘Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.’ The Book, 1 John 3.8

There is an ancient Middle-eastern story that goes something like this:

‘There was once a time when some kind of calamity was threatening a village. The village elder knew what to do. He went a certain ‘Holy Place’ in the forest, lit a ‘Sacred Fire’ and said a ‘Special Prayer’. And, when this was done, calamity was averted.

Years later a similar threat arose, and so the village elder of that day went into the forest and spoke to the Source of All, and said: “I do not know how to light the ‘Sacred Fire’, but I still remember the ‘Holy Place’ in the forest, and I still know that ‘Special Prayer’. Then, he said the special prayer in the holy place. When he returned home, the calamity had been averted.

Some years later, the village found itself in trouble. The village elder of that day went again into that ‘Holy Place’ in the forest and said to the Source Of All: “I don’t know the ‘Holy Place’, in this forest, but I do not know how to light the ‘Sacred Fire’ and I’ve forgotten that ‘Special Prayer’. Yet,  have pity on us and save your people.’ This time, too, the tragedy was averted.

Yes, some years later, again, trouble arose. The village elder of that day wanted to avert tragedy. Sitting at home, he prayed to the Source of All from the depth of his heart: ‘I am so sorry. I do not know that site of the ‘Holy Place’ in the forest. I cannot light the ‘Sacred Fire’, and worst of all, I have even forgotten that ‘Special, Prayer’. Yet, I pray that you would have pity on us and deliver us from danger.’ And the Source of All listened to the elder’s heart and averted the calamity.’

Words, depth, heart. Words, meaning, intentionalty. Surface, go deep, go very deep.

There is always more. Mae mwy as they say in Wales. So, my encouragement to you and myself is to go very deep. And in using of prayer, liturgy, ritual and personal encounters with That Which Is Bigger Than Us, let us not to be hung up on mere ‘surface’ concerns and miss the Encounter and other delights that await us when we leave ‘the shallows’ and when we dive deep. There is always more.

 

 

 

Activity For Alban Eiler 2018 [Celebrating Spring Equinox]

20180315 ACTIVITY FOR ALBAN EILER CELEBRATING SPRING EQUINOXIt’s coming ever closer. Spring equinox, is on 20 March 2018. In Wales, Spring equinox is known as Alban Eiler, which means ‘the light of the earth’, and it’s a time of new life, restoring energy, and re-birth. Having looked at words (liturgy/poem and song) and myth associated with it (that is, dragons) over the last few days, I’d like to suggest some activities for you to consider as part of your celebration of the Spring equinox, and as a way to give gratitude to the One behind it all.

Go Outside
Go outside, purposefully: Whatever the weather on the day of the Spring equinox, whyspring tree eye 11 not go outside, find a green space, and take a long, leisurely stroll, spend some time surrounded by wild nature. It could be a short trip to a forest or wood, a wide open space, or even a city park. And then sit there, and as you sit there, observe all that is going on around you – even those things that we might consider interruptions. Even then, nature ‘shines’ through in large ways and small. Relax, be at peace, be aware and give thanks. You might want to find a tree that catches your attention, sit under it or near it, and take time to meditate.

‘To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to.’ Kahlil Gibran

Share A Breakfast
Whether you cook it yourself or meet in a local cafe, why not share breakfast with a few friends to mark the occasion? It can be seen as a great time of friendship, of making or renewing friendships, or ‘mending bridges’ as regards estranged friends etc.

‘Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares’.  Hebrews 13.2 The Book

To make it even more special you might like to simply start the time and conclude it with a relevant poem, a short prayer or even a time of silence to think deeply about the Spring Equinox, and of new life returning. It is a liminal time.

‘Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.’ John Muir

Plant Something
If you have a garden you might like to plant a tree. There, or if you have a window-box because you live in an apartment, you might like to plant a few seeds. You might even buy one of those tomato grow bags, for instance – then not only do you see tomatoes grow and enjoy that miracle, but you get to eat the tomatoes, too! Or, you might consider sending a small donation to one of the wonderful charities that plant trees on your behalf, such as: the Woodland Trust. Which is also a great way to commemorate the passing-on of a loved one.

‘The earth laughs in flowers.’ e e cummings.

Consider Wildlife
Additionally, you might like to think of a way of giving thanks for wildlife, yes, in urbanspring wolf areas as well as rural areas. Feeding birds is one consideration, but there are other ways. How about planting bee-friendly flowers such as Lavender (Lavendula), rhododendron, or heather (Calluna) etc. All great ways to celebrate new life, and preserve nature under threat.

With the re-introduction to the UK of the beaver, you might like to mark this time of the year by supporting the work of a wildlife charity – perhaps the ‘Rewilding Britain’ charity who amongst of things, are considering a project to ‘rewild’ part of the UK with wolves (a remarkable animal which was, sadly, hunted to extinction here some three hundred years ago).

Home Sacred Area
If you have a sacred area or special table within your home, you might like to consider changing it a few days before the Spring equinox, so that you’re ready for it. You might like to place some small spring flowers on it (or photographs of flowers).

You might like to represent the five elements – perhaps a feather to represent air (for theSPRING bird-3196077__340 east), a candle to represent fire (for the south), a small bowl of water to represent water of the west, and a rock or sand or soil to represent earth (for the north). How you represent the fifth element will depend on your philosophy or theology, but for me, the Spirit or Awen is represented by a wild goose (‘Ah Geadh-Glas’ as it’s known in Scottish Gaelic), and so I’ll display a photo of a wild goose on the sacred table.

Positive Affirmations
If you wanted to make a new year’s resolution, but didn’t, then the Spring equinox is a great time to commit a positive affirmation to your heart, and maybe to paper, too, as a reminder, and then ‘go for it’.

‘ To give someone a blessing is the most significant affirmation we can offer.’ Henri Nouwen

And finally….
These are just a few suggestions, but in other ways, large ways and small, my encouragement to you is to find a way, another way, perhaps, to mark this wonderful time, and celebrate, and give thanks to That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves.

20180315 ACTIVITY FOR ALBAN EILER CELEBRATING SPRING EQUINOX

 

Dragons And Alban Eiler 2018 [Celebrating Spring Equinox]

20180313 DRAGONS AND ALBAN EILER CELEBRATING SPRING EQUINOXWith the Spring equinox, 20 March 2018, still in mind, a time of balance between light and dark (equal night and day lengths), this time of the year is a timely reminder to celebrate the life-energy returning to the earth, of re-birth, of new beginnings, especially with Easter just under three weeks away . In Wales, Spring equinox is known as Alban Eiler, which means ‘the light of the earth’.

In Iran, the festival of ‘No Ruz’ begins just before the Spring equinox. The phrase means ‘new day,’ and this is a time of hope and rebirth. Usually, a lot of cleaning is done, old broken items are repaired, homes are freshly repainted, and bright flowers are gathered and displayed indoors. A spring-clean!

In ancient Rome, a ten day celebration in honour of Attis, son of the great goddess Cybele, around this time. A pine tree, which represented Attis, was chopped down, wrapped in a linen shroud, decorated with violets and placed in a sepulchre in the temple, involving a ceremony with blood. Sacrifice!

And in old England, Wales, and other cultures around the world, the two equinoxes of the year were known as Dragon Days, and these wonderful creatures were celebrated in fairs, processions and in general merriment. Here the dragon, or representations of it (especially, but not only in Chinese and Japanese cultures) were carried through streets,  to carry the Fire energy into the inner realms, to activate the fire within. It is said the dragon goes underground for the winter, but surfaces in the Spring. The dragon, then, is also an ancient energy symbol representing Earth energy, dynamism, fire, will and courage!

And who cannot but be amazed at the intricate dragon designs by (latter-day) Celts and druids.

‘I believe in everything until it’s disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it’s in your mind….’. John Lennon.

Yes, dragons are associated with the Spring equinox (and the Autumn equinox).

Dragons also capture the public’s imagination in many fantasy books and films, appearing in the 2010 film ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ to the more adult-oriented ‘Game of Thrones’ books, and to ‘The Hobbit’ book and movies.

Did you know, the ancient Japanese believed quartz was formed from the ‘solidified’ breath of the dragon. To them quartz represented power, perfection and purity.

And, even in God’s own country, Wales, the dragon appears on the national flag. There, the story is told that long ago a Celtic king wanted to build a castle at a particular location, but for a variety of reasons was continually thwarted. He was advised to sacrifice a young boy (who turned out to be Merlin). Merlin warned the king that his chosen site for a castle was above an underground lake where two dragons lay sleeping. The king’s men dug down and did find two dragons (one red, one white) who started to fight fiercely. The red dragon triumphed and was said to represent the king’s people, thereafter. And, ofcourse, a representation of that dragon appears on the flag. A myth? Well, in 1945 in an excavation of that area, Dinas Emrys, the site revealed evidence of a lake and a fortress dating back to that Celtic king’s time. Food for thought, eh?

Yes, dragons are associated with the Spring equinox (and the Autumn equinox).

Did you know that in Chinese and Japanese cultures to have a dragon statue or picture or painting in the house was said to bring immense good fortune.

And, as nature blossoms at this time of the year, what can be more awesome than spending (more) time in sunlight and in forests. Not only, then is the pineal gland stimulated (physical action), leading to well-being; but there is a (greater) spiritual connection (a spiritual action) in and through nature. Some call the interaction and feeling of more vital energy between these two, dragon fire!

If you want to find out more about much-misunderstood dragons, and especially the difference between them and wyverns, do check an earlier article by Tadhg, here.

‘People who deny the existence of dragons are often eaten by dragons. From within.’ Ursula Le Guin,

 

Words For Alban Eiler 2018 [Celebrating Spring Equinox]

20180310 WORDS FOR ALBAN EILER 2018 CELEBRATING SPRING EQUINOXThe Circle is turning, and in less than two weeks it will be the time of Alban Eiler as it’s known in Wales (which, translated from Welsh, means, quite aptly, ‘the light of the earth’), otherwise known as the Spring equinox.

That day, Tuesday, 20 March 2018, is when the length of day and night, light and dark are of equal length, and thereafter we move slowly toward summer (in the northern hemisphere) when the sun climbs higher and days lengthen even more.

Alban Eiler is a time of balance, the half-way point in this season of Spring, and time to celebrate. And more so in ‘old’ cultures and farming and earth-based communities such as the ancient Celts, Druids and middle-eastern cultures of yesteryear and others, and even today where the acknowledgement and tracking of the seasons is vital to life and well-being.

In Wales, the grey and rugged, majestic mountains take on a grey-green hue now, and upon closer inspection many wild, spring flowers erupt in a joyful profusion upon them – and some flowers are ‘protected’ in Wales so that their exact location is a secret. And, springtime it maybe, but it (still) rains a lot if north Wales and clouds are a constant feature, but it is spring and ‘green’ makes another timely re-appearance, and everything changes, and, yes, it’s time to celebrate.

To celebrate this wonderful event, here’s some words and a song that you might consider using and/or adapting as a liturgy for Alban Eiler, for your own celebration. Ofcourse, you might like to use them (only) as poetry to supplement your litugy or non-liturgical ‘quiet time’ in marking the event, and that too is good. So do feel free to use some of the words below, adapting to suit your outlook or requirements.

Earth Blessing (adapted)

As Spring flowers grow and buds appear on many trees, this can be a time of reflection. After a long winter, Spring unfolds at the behest of the God of Green Hope, and blesses the Earth with a wonderful bounty, and so it’s a time of extreme gratitude, as well.

(Facing east)
Blessed be the One who crosses boundaries,
who is evident in the lengthening day,
in the turning of the Great Circle, and
who is felt in the soft, refreshing Spring wind.

(Facing south)
Blessed be the One who is evident in the greenness of nature,
Viriditas,
who makes plants grow and flower,
and the trees to prepare for blossom, and
who warms the earth as the sun rises higher in the sky.

(Facing west)
Blessed by the One who causes nature to stir from her sleep,
who waters the earth, and calls to the deep;
and the deep joyfully replies and stirs to life, and
who changes the slow, icy brooks into life-laden babbling streams.

(Facing north)
Blessed be the One who speaks to the earth,
and from the rocks new life appears,
who showers the earth with rain from your storehouse of abundance, and
who blesses the earth, which, in turn, blesses us.

(Facing east)
Lord of the elements, ‘Three-Personned’ Life-Giver, we praise you.

For Personal Renewal

For those celebrating by themselves, or indeed, in groups, a time of personal in-filling or ‘energising’ may be desirable, and the following may prove useful.

Lord of Springtime, Lord of All,
refresh us and awaken our senses.
Cleanse us inwardly,
and dispel the dust of resistance and old habits,
and fill us with your love and grace,
that the blessings you give us, we can give back to you
in eternal praise.

Alban Eiler Song: Nature’s Smile

A time of celebration wouldn’t be much of a celebration without a song. The following (and yes you can recite it as liturgy or read it as poem to complement what you might be doing to celebrate this time) is a song which can sung to the old, wonderful and mysterious Gaelic tune ‘Siuil a Ruin’. It is a song of praise about nature, and to the One behind it all, That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves.

Lord of the Spring we honour you,
we thank you for na-ture’s green,
(for) the Earth’s beauty no-ow seen.

Light and darkness dance together well,
in perfect, balanced humility,
in flower, plant and mighty tree.

Chorus: Slowly, slowly the Circle turns
and nature’s smile is seen by all.
Ho-ow is nature good to us.

Sacred time as the moon rises high
New life comes from that which did die,
new birth comes to us in the by and by.

Wolf and lamb, lion and leopard, too
Shall live one day in sweet harmony
As nature moves , and the Circle turns.

Chorus: Slowly, slowly the Circle turns
and nature’s smile is seen by all.
Ho-ow is nature good to us.

If you’re intrested in the tune that ‘works’ with these words, do check the link of Siuil a Ruin (as sung by Anúna) here.

And, Finally….

Meanwhile, the blessings of Alban Eiler be to you and yours, Tadhg.

Appendix

Technical stuff follows regarding the tune: The first few seconds of that video/music, on the above-mentioned link, is a preamble, and the tune for the first verse is from 16 seconds in, to 30 seconds; the second verse’s tune is from 31 seconds to 47 seconds; and the chorus’s (non- italicised above) tune is from 45 seconds to 58 seconds. It is best to use the above-mentioned timings/tune again, as a repetition for the abovementioned song’s next two verse and chorus, rather than let the video play on beyond 58 seconds. If all that is confusing, don’t worry, as I might even be persuaded to sing it for you. Do contact me, in that eventuality. But be warned, I am no John Denver!

 

 

Lessons From The Heart(h) Remembered

20180304 TALES FROM THE HEARTH REMEMBEREDMy grandmother, always having time to tell a good story, passed on some thirty years ago. Times flies. And yet, the legacy of her stories lives on in my memory and life. She was what many would call a seanchaí [pronounced ‘shawn-(a)-key’, and Gaelic for a story-teller], and she was a good one at that.

Even now there are times, in looking back, I can remember myself sitting by her chair, by the hearth, and as her sweet voice told yet another wonderful story, the fire would ‘roast’ one side of my face, making it red for some time after. I’d move to another position by the hearth, but as a small child, I would always ensure that I could hear every word she spoke.

Each of her stories encapsulated some nugget of wisdom, a lesson to be applied. And each was a lesson for an authentic Celtic lifestyle. Here’s three such lessons.

Un

They were a great times of hearing this consummate story-teller tell her stories of myth and ‘magic’. But they were stories, albeit stories that were so memorable and encompassed such deep truth that they were unforgettable. I can remember my grandmother telling me stories of Brigid. One story she told was of Brigid, the saint, who was also known as ‘Mary of the Gael(s)’, and who flourished around AD500. Brigid, then, turned bathwater into beer. Another story was of Brigid who was an ancient and timeless Celtic godess. And yet another story was of Brigid who was nursemaid to the Christ-child and so lived two-thousand years ago.

On one occassion, when I was a little older, I asked my grandmother, ‘But, which Brigid is the true one?’. Always one to answer a question with a question, she replied, ‘What do you think, little one?’.

‘I don’t know’, I replied after some time of thinking about my reply and getting confused in the process.

‘That,’ she said, ‘was the best reply. There’s an element for doubt. Room what ‘what could be’, and so then all the stories will continue to be told and enjoyed’.

‘When a wise man points at the moon the imbecile examines the finger.’ Confucius

It was many years later that I understood what she meant. If we adopt the twenty-first century approach, the Greek dualist approach, the academic way of ‘squaring the equation’ and wanting a definitive answer, and treating ancient writings and stories as though they were science books, then one story must be true and the other two would eventually be forgotten as untrue, and their wisdom would be lost.

If we accept the non-academic approach, the poetic, and I would say that is the ancient Celtic and Druidic approach (as well as that of many other ancient cultures eg Hebrew), then we can accept all three stories, not be overly concerned that they don’t fit neatly into our modern understanding of time and place, and their ancient wisdom can and will benefit us as they get told and retold, as the stories unfold. Oh, but how we fall into the trap of being ‘so sicentific’ that we lose the meaning, the light and love on the journey to understanding.

Lesson: Look for the deeper meaning, and not sentence construction, academia or historicity as ancient wisdom needs a little effort sometimes to get to, and an open-mind. Look to the ancient writings, to the deep words of others, to those ‘silent teachers’ in nature eg the trees, flowers, animals, elementals, the environment etc.

‘…the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.’ Matthew 13.45-46 The Book

Dau

On other occasion my grandmother would tell me stories that would ‘make my toes curl’. Scary ones, which as a wee child I would actually love to hear. Stories about the Cailleach (pronounced ‘kie-lich’), that ugly hag that wanted a respectful kiss, the Tylwyth Teg (pronounced ‘ter-loo-ith tehg’) a playful but misunderstood fae, or  The Gwrach y Rhibyn (pronounced ‘goo-rach ee ribb-in’) who was always depicted as an old witch, sometimes with thick leathery wings, but wasn’t so bad.

My grandmother’s stories were usually interactive, and she would insert a question or two throughout the story or at the end. She would say something like, ‘Now the Gwrach y Rhibyn is an awful sight to behold, but do you need to be frightened?’ I would shake my head, guessing that was the right thing to do, and say, ‘No’. And she would smile, and say, ‘Quite right, my dear one. The Gwrach y Rhibyn and others are sorely misunderstood and just want a little bit of respect. Just keep your distance, nod and be courteous to them, go on your way and all will be well’.

Lesson: In life, all is not as it seems. Treat everyone and everything with respect and you will prosper. Never be fearful. Always look for the ‘lesson’ in the event, realising that usually the ‘answer’ is in the ‘challenge’ or event. Be inclusive and welcoming to others, to circumstances etc. Welcome strangers, for by so doing some have entertained elementals unawares.

‘Do not judge by appearances; a rich heart may be under a poor coat.’ Scottish Proverb

Tri

One another occasion, and I was a little older by then, I asked a question of my grandmother, and she went silent, looked at me, and quite cheerfully said, ‘I don’t know the answer to that one’. Many years later I reminded her of that event, and she explained: sometimes life will be confusing and answers won’t be forthcoming. Sometimes, in this journey of life, we must accept that saying ‘I don’t know’ is the best answer. I pressed her further, and said, ‘Do you still think that’s true now?. She laughed to herself, looked at me, beamed a gorgeous smile and said out loud, ‘I don’t know!’. And we both laughed hilariously.

Lesson: Sometime in the journey of life, answers won’t always be forthcoming until we finish this journey. Until then, be content to enjoy the journey. It’s the journey and not necessary the destination that’s important. Keep forward-looking and not backward-looking. You’re not going in that direction.

‘The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.’ William Arthur Ward

Conclusion, Or Is It?

Thirty years on, and though my grandmother has passed on, her words of story and wisdom still ring in my ears. They are remembered. ‘Mae mwy’, she would always say.  Welsh, for ‘There is more’. And, there always is. Life is an amazing adventure, and the deep truths of the Source of All cannot be comprehended by knowledge, but only ‘glimpsed’ in metaphor, story, myth, poetry, intuition and music. And it’s enough.

‘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

Mae mwy. There is more. The Great Story, which also incudes you and I, continues. There is always more!