Looking Afresh At What We Take For Granted: Awareness & Tea-Drinking

20190821 LOOKING AFRESH AT WHAT WE TAKE FOR GRANTED AWARENESS AND TEA DRINKING

We recently looked afresh at what we take for granted: at clouds and their beauty here and here, and then we looked afresh at deers and gnats and more in wild places and considered elements where we can be more aware of animals’ manoeuvres and there meanings, and learn from them, here.

And, now perhaps, it’s time to consider something that many will consider (at least the example) mundane (but hopefully, not enough to stop reading, as there is more, and I believe the following to be beneficial. Awareness and the mundane (as if anything can ever be considered mundane).

Time for the ancients, early Christians, ancient tribes, druids, celts and pagans of yesteryear was experienced differently to us. Now, if I use a mobile phone app to check  when the next bus arrives I calculate in minutes, to the minute, and on most occasions to app is accurate and usually never lets me down. Thank you London Transport and especially the bus drivers of Route 424.

Time-wise, we might want to hark back to those former days in totality, but that may not be possible – we have work to do, busses and trains to catch, places to go and most of us, therefore, work to the minute. But all is not lost. There are many occasions when we, like those ancients, can slow down, take a few minutes out of our busy schedules, pause and enjoy the moment.

My suggestion is, at least for each of us to consider a slowed-down event, call it a ritual, each day to enjoy slowing, deep thinking and appreciating life in all its fullness.

Perhaps, as I’m British, a cup of tea could be the physical metaphor or physical ritual to do this. Why not? If you’re not quite sure what to use to ‘slow time down’ and to ‘go deep’, perhaps a cup of tea is just what you need – doubly so if tea-drinking is not part of your normal day or custom. It’s not that tea is ‘magical’, its how we ‘receive’ it and appreciate it that matters. Slow! Deep! Meaningfully! With deep(er) awareness.

Just a cup of tea. Just another opportunity for healing.

And, so I make the tea. A tea bag in the cup or teapot? And if you use a tea pot, do you put one teabag in it and then one for the pot? When about, when putting the tea into a cup, do you put the milk in the cup first? It used to be said the milk would go in first to avoid the heat cracking the fine china cup. I’m using a mug. But you decide. They may be important decisions, to contemplate slowly, but once you’ve decided, do it slowly, with intentionality, with pleasure, with feeling and deep thinking. This, now, for me is more than just a cup of tea to slake my thirst.

Just this moment in newness. Just the hand touching the cup. Just the arm retracting.

Is it just a cup of tea? No, it’s definitely  more!

In this simple act there is deep meaning. It is part of my life and yours (if you choose to make it so). It takes time – time that we will never get back, time that will never be repeated. It is a unique act for this time, and so, it is full of meaning. The meaning we give it. Ofcourse, we might gulp the tea down quickly, quench our thirst and there may be times when that is necessary, but not now.

Slowly do I reach out. Observing with my eyes the milk patterns swirling around on the surface. For some reasons I feel led to half close my eyes, and do so. Pehaps there are less distractions this way. Perhaps I am ‘seeing’ without seeing?

I note the cup’s temperature, the smell of the tea, and more. In reaching out I notice the cool handle of the mug, but it’s getting warmer. Even as I ponder, there is change. Heat is ‘creeping’ to the cup’s handle. The cold, smooth pottery is now quite warm to my touch. Everything changes? But, I’m in no rush. I’m enjoying the experience.

Just this moment in newness. Just the hand touching the cup. Just the arm retracting.

And then, I lift the cup, bring my arm closer to my body. The weight of the tea means the cup slips, just a little in my grip, and so I tighten my grip.

Is it just a cup of tea? It could be – but to me, right now it is so much more. I could think about where the tea comes from, its processing, how vital water is in general, but right now I was to be ‘in the moment’. Deep thinking, perhaps beyond rational thought, and moving into that area of quietness is what I’m seeking. When people are first in love there is that period of chatter ie ‘whispering sweet nothings’ as they get to know each other, talk and laugh. But, there comes a point where, sometimes, chatter ceases and just being local to each other, in each other’s company is enough. Silence is then the order of the day, as it is now.

The fragrance increasing as the cup nears the lips.  So present.

I can smell the tea’s fragrance. It’s Assam tea- full bodied and strong, and it smells so rich. I am aware of the details, but I want to me even more aware. The awareness that is beyond words. The awareness of no-thought (or perhaps, the being present between thoughts. That gap of silence, where possibility dwells).

Noticing the bottom lip receiving heat from the cup, the top lip arched to receive the fluid within. Noticing the first taste of tea before the tea even touches the lips.

And then I raise the cup to my lips. It’s tea, but the thought of wine in a goblet runs though my mind. Careful not to burn my lips I blow a small stream of air across the tea’s surface. I know, I’m a big child at heart and this is not something that I would do if invited to the Savoy Hotel, but no one is looking and no one knows I’m doing it – no one except you, and I’m amongst friends.

I sip slowly. The strong and rich taste of the tea, even just a few drops ‘hit’ my tongue and my taste-buds go into action. From no-taste to a rich taste of Indian tea, the taste pervades my mouth. So different. So refreshing. Do delightful. Almost overpowering, taste-wise. So different.

The fragrance and the heat rising into the mouth. The first noticing of flavour. The touch of warm tea on willing tongue.

And, now I can taste not only the splendid flavour, but the tea’s heat on my tongue, inner cheeks and the back of my throat. my mouth is warming up, but. fortunately, it’s not too hot. It’s comfortable.

The tongue moving the tea about in the mouth.
The intention to swallow.

I want to swallow, but I don’t. Well, not immediately. To swallow immediately would be to do this by rote, unconsciously and without thinking. I want to go slow, to pause, to dwell in that moment. And, one of the best ways to do that is to linger here and not do what one would usually do. And so, like some tea-taster at the Twinings factory I ‘swill’ the tea around my mouth (and that’s probably another reason why I wouldn’t be invited to tea at the Savoy hotel), but the flavour of this tea is wonderful and I want to extract every last molecule of flavor.

The tea seems less hot and the flavour less flavoursome now, but this could be that my senses are ‘acclimatising’ to the temperature and the flavour. I so want to swallow, but pausing is beneficial.

I want to swallow the tea, but chose not too. Interestingly, I consider (now) which part of me was responsible for those two opposing thoughts? Did they occur in the same part of my brain, or from two different areas: the brain and the mind (after all there is a difference between those two. And oh, this thought occurred as I  drank tea. Imagine what you might discover doing this or something else, slowly?).

And so, I swallow that tea. Just one small gulp. It’s enough.

The warmth that extends down into the stomach.

I can feel the heat run down my oesophagus (well, actually it runs down a few inches of what is left of my oesophagus, down a modified stomach that resembles now an oesophagus and into what is left of my stomach – but you may not have wanted that information). But, I can feel the heat flow down and permeate my body in its very depths. It’s a heart-warming process – no pun intended.  And it’s an unusual experience when slowing down and focusing on the experience as if for the first time. Perhaps this newness is what the Buddhists mean by having a ‘beginners mind’ and seeing things afresh as if for the first time, over and over again; or what being born again (and again and again), means?

What a wonderful cup of tea.
The tea of peace, of satisfaction.
Drinking a cup of tea, I stop the war.

It was a refreshing cup of tea. But, so much more. There was the act of slowing, pausing, appreciating the moment and experience, being aware and ‘in the moment’, which may be thought of as all acts of gratitude to the Source of All. Why not?

It was time wells-spent, a time when I ‘stepped out’ of ordinary time and into sacred time, and would invite you to do the same. There was a peace there, deep peace. A deep satisfaction. A veritable communion is a tea cup. What a wonderful physical metaphor, a physical ‘parable’, what a deep and meaningful way to ‘step out’ of the busy-ness of our daily life.

It’s was an opportunity to ‘go deep’ and know more about life, the universe and everything, or could it just be regarded  as just cup of tea with no cosmic importance? You get to decide. But, you would probably need to try it, or something similar, first to come to a conclusion, and there is my encouragement to do it, and to seek deep(er) awareness.

For me, it was (and when I do it, it is) a profound experience – but sometimes it does seem odd, peculiar, a waste of time, but that is to be expected. Our ego is ‘disturbed’ when we do something different, step out of our twenty-first century comfort zone, but it’s worth it if we are serious about reclaiming our ancient rights and practices, and thereby mature, grow and are transformed.

 

[All indented quotes above come from ‘Healing Into Life And Death’ by Stephen Levine]

Ancestral Thoughts At Llynau Mymbyr: Alternative Perception

20190808 ANCETRAL THOUGHTS AT LLYNNAU MYMBYR ALTERNATIVE PERCEPTION

Not far from Capel Curig in north Wales is the twin lakes of Llynnau Mymbyr (see this article’s header photo). It is a delightful area, full of myth and magic, legend and the feel of a ‘thin place’ about it. It exudes an energy that is both comforting and unnerving, it is an area where you can believe almost anything can happen. That expectancy flows though the very air like the ozone that one senses as a storm approaches.

As a child I used to frequent this area often – wonderful lakes, surrounded by tantalising (lake) beaches (albeit on the small side, but with intriguing rock pools, odd-shaped rocks and small pebbles of curious colours and shapes). And, I’m in that place again. It’s a sunny day, and a few clouds are sprinkled high above me.

Now, as I sit on a log with the water almost lapping at my feet, the view is a wonderful blend of grey-green, of slate rocks and mountains, and fern and lichen. In the very distance (in the photograph’s centre) is Yr Wyddfa, Snowdon, again, full of myth and magic, and though distant it dominates this area by is sheer presence.

The sun and clouds are reflected in the lake’s water, too,  and my thoughts drift. In what ways would those who went before us, our ancestors, think of this place: the pebbles on the lake’s beach, the few high clouds drifting by that I can see, and the sun shining down on me?

We often take if for granted that we know what they thought, and though we might get glimpses, I wonder if we can make that mental adjustment to ‘go back’ a thousand or two years and move about ‘in their shoes’. As a wee lad I used to love the Robin Hood tv series. Robin’s outfit was always clean and well pressed, and maid Marion’s hair was never out of place. I loved the series then, but in looking back now, ofcourse I know Robin Hood’s tunic would be muddy, smelly and probably patched. Maid Marion’s hair would have been devoid of conditioner (that hadn’t been ‘invented’), and if she lived in the forest she might have been missing a few teeth, and so not worry about ragged, dry, dishevelled hair. Apologies for being so graphic.

But we do get glimpses.

Our early ancestors may have had less knowledge of the way the world worked, but they had a greater and deeper appreciation of nature, and earthy wisdom.

With a notebook and pen in hand to take notes in wilderness areas – I don’t use computers in the field – my thoughts are drifting about: How would our ancestors have seen this environment or the world differently to us?

I do believe they would have had a deep(er) understanding of connectedness. As I look around my environment at Llyn Mymbyr I know that I am connected – but is it only a ‘cerebral’ understanding rather than a holistic one? How do I immerse myself in that belief? Or is it a case that understanding it then means I need only ‘surrender’ to that thought to imbibe its wisdom? Wise words about connectedness flow though my mind, words that I read some time ago:

‘Interbeing: If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are. “Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter-” with the verb “to be,” we have a new verb, inter-be. Without a cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are. [And,] If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow….”. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

Yes, we are all connected, ‘inter-are’, but not just with each other now; and in opening up ourselves to less limited thinking, we come to know that we are connected in deeper ways through space and time, and not only to humankind but to the rest of creation. Even the cloud above, we know now,  has an effect far more reaching than we might have realised than when this article began.

I’m still sitting on that log, and gaze at a pebble, just under the water, that has caught my eye. Did you know that this whole area is part of what is known as the Capel Curig Volcanic Formation? If you read the science books it will explain this means that the area comprises some 1400 yards thickness of compacted ash that erupted some four million years ago. This resulted in rhyolites (and igneous, volcanic rock which  rich in silica and sometimes have a glassy texture and appearance). I’m gazing at such a pebble. What an ‘ancestry’ for a small pebble about the size of a kidney bean.

I can’t resist it. I admit it – I’m a ‘feely-feely’ person. If I see an interesting tree, I not only want to look at it, but want to run my fingers over its bark. If there’s a market medieval cross in an ancient English village or a standing-stone in the middle of an expanse, I not only want to take a photograph but also want to touch it. Who knows what that tree has ‘seen’? Who else might have touched that ancient market cross or standing-stone and thought of future generations, like me, who might touch it. There’s connectedness right there!

And, so I pick up the pebble, and another thought flows through my mind, of something that I had read about some time ago. And it’s this:

‘A man, walking on a beach, reaches down and picks up a pebble. Looking at the small stone in his hand, he feels  very powerful and thinks of how with one stroke he has taken control of the stone. ‘How many years have you been here, and now I place you in my hand”. The pebble speaks to him, ‘Though to you, I am only a grain of sand in your hand, you, to me, are but a passing breeze [in comparison]’. Martin Lowenthal and Lar Short, Opening In The Heart of Compassion’.

This small pebble had also ‘spoken’ to me. We are each connected; the same, yet different; but we all ‘inter-are’. But, the story makes us think. We do get glimpses of a different and deeper perception of nature, the universe and our place in it, but there is always more. I placed the pebble back from where I had removed it. And sat there, and wondered.

In thinking of this article, I thought: what about where you are right now? What might someone have done and thought in your location a thousand years ago, what was their view of the universe, and in what way are you connected to them? Some would say that you are separated from them by time and space, but are you? I don’t believe so. We are all connected, but we think we’re not. And the latter is, in my humble opinion, error. We are far more connected than we release – just like paper and the cloud. There is always more to discover.

And, as I stood up, ‘dusted’ myself down, slowly strode back towards the car, another thought came to me:

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40b, The Book

I laughed out loud. Fortunately, no one was about – well no visible entities, at least. In thinking of connectedness and seeing things differently, and with that verse from ancient text flowing through my mind, a word formed deep within me: theosis. But, that awesome theme is for a future article.

 

[The article’s header photograph, cropped and overlaid with text is copyrighted by David Gill, and is used with permission: see here.]

Looking Afresh At What We Take For Granted: Wild Places: Deer, Gnats & More

20190720 LOOKING AFRESH AT WHAT WE TAKE FOR GRANTED WILD PLACES EVERYWHERE DEERS GNATS

Ah nature! It is true the ancients were far more ‘in tune’ with nature than modern humankind, but all is not lost.

It is possible to rekindle that which in us is muted and appreciate nature (in a rural setting as well as in an urban setting). There are benefits. Awareness of nature around us can give us new insights, not only about the universe, but ourselves; not only in preserving the planet and therefore preserving humankind; not only enlarging our wisdom about the physical world but also about that that inner world we also inhabit in our innocence and essence.

It’s a warm morning.

The temperature is rising and the current humidity level heralds an even hotter, balmy and sweltering afternoon ahead, and I’m in London. But, having travelled just a short distance, several miles west of London, I am quite comfortable sitting in the shade of a huge, ancient, gnarled and majestic oak tree. And it’s bliss.

This particular old and ancient oak tree is in Richmond Park in west London, a huge open area consisting of over 2,500 acres of unspoiled space, and which has protected status as an important habitat for wildlife. And, that’s where I am. I’m in a wild place.

‘All my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child. Marie Curie

There are six species of deer that inhabit the park, regal, wild and yet surprisingly tolerant of humankind. Red deer and roe deer are indigenous. Fallow deer were introduced after the Norman conquest, almost a thousand years ago. Other species arrived later.

And as I sit under this tree, wildlife, because of my earlier ambling has ‘retreated’, vanished, gone. And yet, within minutes, almost oblivious to me it returns. In many senses of the word, by being quiet and still I am becoming ‘invisible’.

It seems to me, that nature, once it has been disturbed, ‘returns’ seemingly in order of height, or weight or complexity. I’m aware of the insects returning first: butterflies, bees, assorted flies, and those black flies or gnats – the ones that seem to swarm and fly above your head regardless of which way you turn, or does that just happen to me?

I’m told the reason gnats fly around your head is because they are attracted to the carbon dioxide flume that you and I emit when we breathe out.

Most gnat  repellents rely upon us spraying ourselves with large amounts of chemicals or sweet smelling perfumes to help prevent gnats from landing and biting, but the trick, however, may be not to prevent the gnat from biting you, but rather to prevent them from finding you in the first place. If you wear a hat, allegedly, sprinkling it with Geranium or peppermint essential oil (properly mixed and properly applied) or anything that is peppery this will keep them at bay. You too, will become invisible to them.

I’m wearing a hat, yes, but no spray, and they’re back. So far, they seem to be leaving me alone, but they are there. Just a nuisance? Apparently not!

‘One should pay attention to even the smallest crawling creature, for these too may have a valuable lesson to teach us, and… may wish to communicate with…[us]’. Black Elk

Gnats are small flies of the suborder Nematocera, so I’m told, which also includes midges, craneflies and mosquitoes. And, whether we like them or not, they, even as small as they are, and sometimes as irritating as they can be, they do serve a purpose in nature. They are an important food source for birds, bats and larger insects, and they also pollinate flowers.

Should I move to avoid them? There is no point as they seem to follow me (and you), and hover over our heads! Nature is wonderful.

As I continue to sit quietly, bigger creatures seem to ‘return’ next. The tops of some long grasses ‘flick’ monetarily as grasshoppers spring off them, and maybe a mouse scuttles nearby, then a squirrel somewhat timidly draws closer. After many minutes, a small herd of deers come close – not too close, but close enough so that I can make out individual markings, and hear their grunts and sighs, and that distinctive ‘bark’ as the communicate with each other. Nature is awesome.

‘Every creature is full of God and is a book about God’. Meister Eckhart

Still some way off, but close enough to relate to them, eye contact to eye contact is made, and it feels like a secret communion has taken place. Soul to soul? Shy, vulnerable and gentle as they are they approach even closer. A few of them, particularly those nearest to me in this small herd, are ‘side on’ to me. It’s a defensive strategy. They know I’m here, pose no threat, and yet they are wary of me, and rightly cautious.

The closest deer licks its nose. This wets its nose with saliva and the moisture on its nose improves its sense of smell, and then its ears twitch. It is checking me out.

Having researched me, those deers nearest to me, join the others is foraging, lowering their necks below the ‘browse line’ of the tall grass, with only a periodic lifting of their heads as if to double-check on me. They’re acknowledging that I’m no threat.

I remain still, watching them for about twenty minutes, and as cramp sets in in my ‘nether regions’ I have to shift my weight as I sit under this tree, and a few small twigs crack. It is enough. Immediately, a few deer’s heads arch upward quickly, gazing over the ‘browse line’ of the long grass and look in my direction, their ears twitch, and the deers let out a muted, but distinctive ‘bark’ – an alarm call to the others. Nature is so balanced – we can learn a lot from it.

‘Only animals were not expelled from Paradise.’ Milan Kundera

I watch, now, as they run away from me, in a zig-zag motion. Some do a typical ‘bounce’ upward before the turn and scatter, others who were ‘side on’ to me only have to do a quarter-turn to flee (which is probably why they were not ‘face on’ to me as one would expect, because then they would have to do an about turn, a half turn to flee. That would take more time and energy. ‘Side on’ to me is more efficient, quicker and safer for them).

Even, there departure is beautiful to watch. They all run for about two hundred feet, and then stop, regroup after a few minutes, and start lowering their heads to feed, with the occasionally lifting of their heads above the long grass. And so it goes on.

‘The truly wise person kneels at the feet of all creatures’. Mechtild of Magdeburg

Over the millennia deer have been admired, revered and even worshipped. They have been the subject of children’s stories, fables and myth. In English folklore, Herne the Hunter is said by some to be a ghost associated with Windsor Forest and the Great Park in the English county of Berkshire. He is said to naturally have deer-like antlers upon his head, ride a horse, torment cattle, and rattle chains.

It has been suggested that the concept and name ‘Herne’ is derived from an ancient source, citing that ‘Herne’ may be a cognate of the name of ancient deity Cernunnos in the same way that the English ‘horn’ is a cognate of the Latin ‘cornu’. It makes you wonder, yes? Cernunnos being the conventional name given to depictions of the ‘horned god’ of Celtic polytheism. Cernunnos was/is a Celtic god of fertility, life, animals, wealth, and the underworld. Ofcourse, the aforementioned is a brief outline only, and others will know more and have varied beliefs on this theme. This is an outline only, and an attempt to show how marvellously nature ‘speaks’ to us even through story and myth.

Indeed, Some see the qualities of Cernunnos are thought to have been subsumed into the life of the fifth century Saint Ciarán of Saighir, who is acknowledged as one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. When he was building his first tiny cell, as his ‘sacred journal’ tells, his first disciple and monk was a boar, followed by a fox, a badger, a wolf and a stag.

It’s time to go.

And so, I’m  walking back to the car, and within half an hour I will be home. Whenever you can escape to wild places, and even if you can’t, my encouragement is to pause and look at the wild things around you. Nature abounds in all its wildness even in the city, even in London (or wherever you are) for those who are aware. And though our ancestors may have had a head start on us in relating deeply to nature, it is a ‘skill’ that we can develop, especially as in essence we too are part of the web of nature and not apart from it; and that awareness can be awakened and grow.

Go out, go out I beg of you
And taste the beauty of the wild.
Behold the miracle of the earth
With all the wonder of a child.

Edna Jaques

 

Looking Afresh At What We Take For Granted: Clouds (2/2)

20190624 LOOKING AFRESH AT WHAT WE TAKE FOR GRANTED CLOUDS 2

How we perceive clouds, when we stop and stare, pause and look up depends on our intensity, or mood, our worldview.

For some the cloud they see might only be a combination of water billowed along by barometric pressure, for others there might be a recognition that that type of cloud heralds a storm, for others it may be a portent of a future event, for others it might initiate something deep inside. Whatever it does, clouds have a certain mystery about them, and hold a wisdom from which we can learn if we are open to that natural awareness like the Ancients were.

‘Never lose hope. The darkest clouds precede the loveliest rain!’ Avijeet Das

Last time [see here] we looked at low level and mid-level clouds, and now we consider those above that level.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At about 7000 feet to 23000 feet are altostratus clouds – mid-level layers of thin, featureless grey cloud. Usually thin enough to reveal the position of the sun, and sometimes the moon at night, and because these diffuse clouds may contain ice crystals you might also see a halo, a coloured ‘corona’ around the sun or moon in the clouds.

Laying on my back, aged six years (and so, some years ago), at home in Capel Curig, with friends and gazing at the sky, and spying a halo around the sun we would make a wish. I would like to say that the wishes were lofty and noble, but we were only young and on the few occasions we saw those halos we would wish for (more) sweets, a tree-house or new bicycles. Typical children. Happy days.

‘Ring around the Moon, Rain Real Soon’. Anon

cloud b BrockenspecterWith that kind of diffuse cloud in mind, it is worth mentioning the Brocken Spectre. Sometimes called Brocken bow or mountain spectre, this is the magnified (and apparently enormous) shadow of an observer cast upon clouds opposite of the Sun’s direction. The projection is often surrounded by the halo-like rings of coloured light.

The phenomenon can appear on any misty mountainside or cloud bank, but the frequent fogs and low-altitude accessibility of the Brocken, a peak in the Harz Mountains in Germany, have created a local legend from which the phenomenon draws its name. The Brocken spectre mentioned by Johann Silberschlag in 1780.

‘The colour has faded out of the sky. It is grey, becoming darker as the world turns herself round a little more. The clouds are long and black and ragged, like the wings of storm battered dragons.’ Keri Hulme

If you’re thinking of thick grey clouds that bring heavy rain, hail or snow, then look no furtheNimbostratus virga. Bearbeitung: Unscharf maskieren auf HS_V_, Weiche Kanten.r than nimbostratus clouds which reach altitudes of 2000 feet to 18000 feet. These are the clouds that you might see in the distance and actually see the rain failing as a thin, diaphanous ‘curtain’.

The word ‘Nimbo’ comes from the Latin word nimbus, which denotes precipitation. And, whilst on the origin of words – and you know how I love myth – nephos is Greek meaning “cloud”. In Greek legend Nephele was created from a cloud by Zeus, who shaped the cloud to look like Hera in order to trick Ixion, a mortal who desired her.

‘Clouds are just nature’s stepping stones to the heavens.’ Anthony T Hincks

clouds 33 untitledLeaving the mid-level clouds behind we look at those high level clouds, the first of which are cirrus clouds. The clouds ‘reside’ at altitudes of between 17000 and 45000 feet. These clouds are usually detached from each other, and appear as patches or bands of cloud. These are fast-moving clouds, buffeted by high winds – think of aircraft turbulence; but because they can be so high, as anything far away, the ‘illusion’ is that they are slow moving. But, this isn’t the case.

clouds 4 Cirrocumulus_clouds_Thousand_Oaks_July_2010If there are to be any clouds about on a summer’s day, then the lofty cirrocumulus clouds at 17000 feet to 45000 feet are the ones that will delight. These clouds are high and are really tiny ‘cloudlets’, regularly spaced, and maybe with a ‘rippled’ effect. Cirrocumulus clouds tend to reflect the red and yellow colours during a sunset and sunrise, and so they have often been referred to as “one of the most beautiful clouds”. This occurs because they reflect the unscattered rays of light from the early morning or evening sun.

‘Clouds are on top for a reason. They float so high because they refuse to carry any burden!’ Jasleen Kaur Gumber

clouds 5 cirrostrat 240px-Clouds_CH7Finally, in our brief look at clouds, the ‘high-flyers’ are cirrostratus clouds, ‘floating’ above 20000 feet. These can often be referred to as ‘the clouds that aren’t really there’, as they can cover hundreds of square miles, but can be so ‘thin’, so high and so subtle that they’re often overlooked by earth-bound observers.

Hopefully, this and the previous article has (re)kindled your love of the nature of clouds, and further your knowledge, wisdom and awareness (of them).

‘A parade of clouds
and little puffs behind them
they follow as their Mother’.

Julia Hartwig, Spojrzenie

Clouds, I would suggest are not just to be seen as objects to be scientifically analysed (though there is nothing wrong with that), but also to be understood as part of weather-lore, and something more – that they might trigger a deeper spirituality of awe in you, and yes, for some, to be seen as wonderful objects that give us some other-worldly wisdom, and/or entertain us for hours as we gaze at their majesty and changing shapes. Was that a whale? A television? An angel?

Next time you see a cloud (and it’s safe to do so), why not pause, and when you can, let me know what you ‘saw’, and if it had a deeper meaning to you. Perhaps it’s a ‘message’ from the Great Cloud-Giver? Happy cloud-spotting!

 

20190624 LOOKING AFRESH AT WHAT WE TAKE FOR GRANTED CLOUDS 2

 

 

Looking Afresh At What We Take For Granted: Clouds (1/2)

20190620 LOOKING AFRESH AT WHAT WE TAKE FOR GRANTED CLOUDS

Since the dawn of time, when our first ancestors were capable of craning their necks and looking at nature in awe, the sky has mesmerised humankind. The blue sky, insects buzzing and birds flying, the stars in the night sky forming a myriad of patterns in which to form their mythology and track the course of time, enthralled the ancients. And clouds. Clouds, too, caught the imagination of those giants of old.

For those wanting to journey further along that path of awareness, living life to the full, and being close or closer, or at one with nature, ‘cloud spotting’ is an awe-inspiring, encouraging, ’enveloping’, enlivening, and entertaining event.

‘To think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted’. George Keller

As I lay on a picnic blanket in Richmond Park, west London, with my mother beside me – and I should point out I was about six years old at the time – we played that game of looking up at the clouds and imagining what the various cloud shapes looked like. ‘It looks like a television’, my mother said. As the high winds slowly changed the cloud’s shape, I waited, laughed and then exclaimed loudly, ‘It now looks more like a whale.’ And, so it went on.

Ofcourse, years later, I took the photograph that appears at the top of this article. What an amazing cloud. Isn’t that an angel?

cloud cumulus 799px-GoldenMedowsThe lowest clouds are cumulus clouds. They’re usually fast, floating around about 3000 feet above the ground. Low, puffy clouds with flat bases, generally, their upper parts often resemble cauliflowers, and they are not the harbingers of rain. But, it may be these that are the ‘shape-shifting’ clouds that, in my boyhood, resembled animals and inanimate objects.

‘I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
And the nursling of the Sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die.’

(The Cloud. Percy Bysshe Shelley)

cloud cumulonombus Wagga-CumulonimbusAbove this layer of cloud lie the slow-moving, rather majestic cumulonimbus clouds, soaring from about 4500 feet to 45000 feet. With their huge height and volume, these are the clouds that bring rain and storms, and even thunder and lightning.

There is an ancient Hindu tradition that says that high above the earth it is elephants that are the bringers of rain, and that clouds themselves were the celestial relatives of the white elephants that roamed the earth. And the rain? Well, the elephants would use their trunks to shower the earth below with rain.

cloud stratus UntitledStratus clouds are those are fog-like, misty, diffuse clouds. They are the kind of widespread cloud that uniformly blanket the whole sky, and which can be seen especially, but not only around mountains and coastal areas.

They can form at ground level as fog or mist, but can also reach up to an altitude of about 7000 feet.

cloud stratocumular jacobs ladder 450px-Sun_over_Lake_Hawea,_New_ZealandStratocumulus clouds, about 7000 feet above us, are thick, but usually patchy clouds, with ‘gaps’ that allow you to see the blue sky occasionally, or if its near dawn or dusk allow the suns rays to shine through in several shafts of light. This effect is called crepuscular rays, God’s rays, Buddha rays or Jacob’s ladder.

Boats sail on the rivers,
And ships sail on the seas;
But clouds that sail across the sky
Are prettier far than these.

There are bridges on the rivers,
As pretty as you please;
But the bow that bridges heaven,
And overtops the trees,
And builds a road from earth to sky,
Is prettier far than these.

(Christina Rossetti)

To the Moari’s these ‘fingers’ of sunshine were known as the ‘Ropes of Maui’ (from the Maori tale of Maui Potiki restraining the sun with ropes to make the days longer), or the sun drawing water, from the ancient Greek belief that sunbeams drew water into the sky (which isn’t altogether odd as it seems to be an early description of evaporation).

cloud altocumulus mackerel sky 220px-MackerelskylincolnshireAbove these clouds, at about 16000 feet are altocumulus clouds. They can be a multitude of rounded ‘clumps’ of cloud, almond shape, and resemble fish scales – hence it may be called a ‘mackerel’ sky. In France it is sometimes called a ciel moutonné (fleecy sky); in Spain a cielo empedrado (cobbled sky); in Germany it is known as Schäfchenwolken (sheep clouds), and in Italy the clouds are known as a pecorelle (little sheep).

Hamlet: ‘Do you see that cloud that’s almost shaped like a camel?’
Polonius: ‘By the mass, and it’s like a camel, indeed’.
Hamlet: ‘Methinks it is like a weasel’.
Polonius: ‘It is back’d like a weasel’.
Hamlet: ‘Or like a whale?’
Polonius: ‘Very like a whale’.

[Hamlet. Williams Shakespeare]

Still laying on my back, this time a few months later, and back home in Capel Curig, in Wales, I was looking up at a mackerel sky, one evening. I have found the ‘cure’ for insomnia, not that I suffered from that at six years of age. But, in laying down, looking up, I decided it would be a good idea to count those clumps of altocumulus clouds, the ‘scales’ of that mackerel sky, and promptly fell asleep. For me, then, it seemed better than the proverbial counting sheep in one’s mind’s eye.

Clouds are fascinating, and there’s more. But, meanwhile, I would encourage you to sit, pause and gaze heavenward, and just meditate on clouds. Enjoy their beauty, the bounty of the Cloud-Giver, recapture your childhood and see if you can see a dog, a whale, and elephant, a television in cloud shapes, or even an angel? What are you missing?

[Part 2, soon]

20190620 LOOKING AFRESH AT WHAT WE TAKE FOR GRANTED CLOUDS

 

Ephemera: June’s Full Moon. The Moon Of Horses

20190615 EPHEMERA MOON OF HORSES JUNE 2019

The next full moon is almost upon us, and you know how I love the full moon. There is something mystical, ‘magical’ and calming about the Moon as it brightens and glides higher into the sky. No wonder the ancients paid particular attention to the Moon and each month it ushered in. This one will be in its fullness on Monday, 17 June 2019, in the constellation of Sagittarius, low in the south-southern-eastern sky in the northern hemisphere.

Some will know this full moon as the Strawberry moon, to me and the ancient and latter-day Celts and Druids it is the Moon of Horses, to Wiccans many call is the Dyad Moon, and the Chinese people call it the Lotus Moon. In the southern hemisphere where the seasons are switched this full moon is known as the Oak Moon, Cold Moon, or the Long Night’s Moon.

The moon is a silver pin-head vast, that holds the heaven’s tent-hangings fast. -William R. Alger, ‘The Use of the Moon’

The moon was so important to ancient cultures, and even so today to those who understand, or revere nature and the old ways. But, whatever name you call it, the full moon is a time for celebration: perhaps by walking in the light of the full moon (and have you ever seen your moon-shadow?) and pondering its awesomeness, raising a glass of wine to its glory, meditating on the Moon-Giver, or reciting liturgy or a poem in its honour.

Here’ such a poem I wrote some time ago:

Arianrhod in all her splendour, moves by an invisible hand
and wanders companionless, like a silver wheel in the sky. She ascends.
This full moon’s lucid beam dominates the now darkened canopy, and
there, in her smiling face, we find sweet, unbridled understanding.
She befriends.

Her ‘lesser light’ moves across the sky above the city, grey.
Oh, robed in splendour, her surge of silver-light fills every window pane
and skips across rooftops, trees, streams, fairy fires, and silent railway,
and falls unbeknown on those who sleep now, and refreshment regain.
A blessing.

Arianrhod, spill your beauty on a thousand Earthly races,
on happy flowers that bloom in a myriad of hues,
on laughing, smiling, sad and all up-looked faces,
who, in wilding spaces, drink your wine of sweet, bless’d fallen dew.
A gracious infilling.

And paled now is her light,
as onward she moves lower in the sky. For the sun, opportune.
But, for now, dear Arianrhod reigns with love. She is mistress of the night.
A timely witness sent by the Truth who is beyond the Moon.
A glorious remembrance.

The ancients loved their stories (and perhaps we still do, but do so through going to the cinema, watching a movie on tv), and here’s a few mythical and magical stories from ancient times, though not notably Celtic or Druid in essence but still entertaining and through-provoking, about the moon.

There is a very interesting Chinese myth about this woman who was said to live on the moon. There are several variations of the myth but the essential story is that she and her husband were once immortal beings but were made mortal because of their extremely bad behaviour. They then attempted to regain immortality through the use of a pill but Chang’e became greedy and took too much of the it, and ended up floating up to the moon where she remained stuck over time. She is the subject of much Chinese poetry and is one of the central reasons for celebration each Autumn during the Chinese Moon Festival.

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

A much happier couple-based mythological story about the moon comes from Africa. It says that Mawu is a moon god who is forever linked in unity with the sun goddess Liza. It is believed that lunar and solar eclipses are related to the lovemaking times of this celestial couple. This myth is clearly about the power of the moon, the sun, the sky and love and desire.

Selene and Luna are the names of the Moon Goddess in Greek and Roman mythology respectively. In these myths associated with these goddesses, the goddess is paired with the god of the sun. He travels throughout the day and she takes over the journey at night. She is typically considered to be a passionate goddess who takes many lovers and who represents the desire associated with the moon.

‘The moon does not fight. It attacks no one. It does not worry. It does not try to crush others. It keeps to its course, but by its very nature, it gently influences. What other body could pull an entire ocean from shore to shore? The moon is faithful to its nature and its power is never diminished.’ Ming-Dao Deng, Everyday Tao: Living with Balance and Harmony.

Wishing you and yours the blessings of the Moon-Giver at the time of this full moon, Tadhg

 

 

Life, An Ever-Widening Circle Of Discovery

20190606 LIFE AN EVER WIDENING CIRCLE OF DISCOVERY

There was a time, as a very wee lad in Capel Curig, when I believed I was so brave and knowledgeable. I could navigate the distance between my grandmother’s house at the small stream at the furthest boundary of her garden. And, there it was, a rivulet I called ‘Bach ac yn gyflym’ [see here]. It means ‘small and fast’. Very apt. Very Welsh.

I thought of that watery boundary as almost the end of the world, and indeed it was then the end of my known world. And, such is a child’s imagination that I imagined that beyond it lay a wild place, full of dangerous animals, and half expected a lion to stroll by.

You’ll be pleased to know that as I grew up little by little, and so my boundaries changed, and widened. Some time later I ventured to step over the rivulet, and with my friends I ‘discovered’ Y Goeden Mellt [see here], a place to play together. This was our name for a most unusual, lone tree in a clearing, which seemingly had an ominous presence. It means ‘the lightning tree’, as we knew then that lone trees had an increased chance of being struck by lightning.

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.

And, ever outward, as a young explorer I strode even further into the Welsh countryside, and I and my friends then spent considerable time, still children, playing around a tree that seemingly was two trees that grew apart and then arched back to form a ‘door’. Yes, as children, with vivid imaginations we saw this as the door to other words, and named it Drws-i-fyd-arall [see here], the ‘door to another world’. Oh, the fun we had there.

As I grew so my knowledge of geography, boundaries and perception changed. My circle of geographical ‘comfortableness’ widened. I like the idea of the metaphor here of the circle – ancient Christians, Pagans, Druids and other cultures revered or understood the circle to be a representation of the eternal, immortality, the never-ending journey, a ‘finger’ pointing to the Mystery, and more.

And, so my boundaries widened, perhaps almost imperceptibly, until one day I reflected upon how I thought as a child I was knowledgeable and brave, but actually how limited I was. However, I would never disparaged that younger version of me even  in my memory – we all have to start somewhere – but now I can see clearly (as that old song says).

But, my views today are different to then, and one would expect that. Fast-forward to the present, and very recently I found myself at the Festival of Mind, Body & Spirit (Wellbeing) Festival in London, where my new views came to the fore.

The Festival is a wonderful kaleidoscope of peoples and philosophies, a cacophony of rhythm and sound, bright lights, and a myriad of vying energies, and yes, to be honest, a rather large dose of money-orientated materialism – but it gets everywhere.

But, I love the Festival.

I had a long talk with a guy who held a Bible close. We talked, we laughed, we agreed on much, and yes, disagreed on a few things. We looked at verses in the Book and he interpreted them one way – the way I might have twenty years ago – and I shared how another (maybe a better) interpretation existed. I would like to share with you that he accepted my interpretation without question, but he didn’t.

I may not complete this last one
but I will give myself to it.

Oh, how I wished that, when I was his age, someone would have come up to me with a new, different and challenging interpretation, less materialistic view of the Book to ‘open my eyes’. As we concluded our discussion – and it was all very pleasant and cordial – I really wished, inwardly, that I was able to write to my younger self what I know now, and that his future self was doing the same for him, now.

And, now here’s the irony. I’m Tadhg Jonathan (and I’m happy for people to use one or both names, whichever is easiest), and as I wished him all the best and said, ‘I’m Tadhg Jonathan, and by the way, you are….?’, he replied, ‘Jonathan’!

As I walked away it struck me. In speaking to the guy with the same name as me, with similar views I held some twenty years ago, even if we  wrote a letter to our younger self (or our future self wrote to us today), would we  accept the content of that letter, or would the knowledge or wisdom contained therein be too odd, bizarre or unsettling for us? I don’t think I would have? Would you?

Life is a mystery that slowly unfolds. A series of enlarging boundaries. What I knew twenty years ago is different to what I know now, and I’m hoping it is the same for you. Because we move toward the edge of our current boundary filled with new ideas of knowledge and wisdom, only to see a further boundary of knowledge and wisdom in the distance urging us ever forward. We then realise that we may know more than twenty years ago, but at the next boundary we will look back at ourselves knowing we really  only knew in part, and so it goes on and on and on.

It’s a never-ending journey, and perhaps each step of the way we’re given what is sufficient to us to spur us onward, and in some cases that knowledge, wisdom or experience is for us and no one else?

I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years

Perhaps the great mission we each have is to support those around us on their journey, realising that events in their life will, inevitably, be different from ours. ‘You cannot put an old head on new shoulders’, so the saying goes. Perhaps, then, our work (or part of it)  is to ‘travel’ with those around us on their journey, encouraging them to experience things for themselves, realising that they will appreciate the assistance of encouragement, as we do from those further along the journey than us. Because, in the end, there are many things we don’t know. ‘…to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25.40b, The Book).

and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?

There is a time, and for me it’s now (and it may be the same for you), when I realise that I know a lot, and the ‘biggest’ thing I know is that I, and you, have only just started out on our never-ending cosmic adventure, our journey to get ‘back home’, and for that we need each other because there is so much we don’t know. And as we peer into the distance, there, just there, can you see it, is another boundary urging us ever onward.

 

[The indented words, a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke]

 

Become The Duet [Revisited]: Hearing That Ancient Voice…

20190529 BECOME THE DUET REVISITED

There is an interesting line of thinking that says that the Source of All is always communicating with us through a myriad of ways, if we only paused long enough to take notice.

Sometimes communication from the Source of All (perhaps via an angel, an elemental, the elements etc) can be heard through anothers’ words; or witnessed in a kindly act; read in written form; experienced in an activity or art, dream, music or thought; observed in nature, and in many other ways.

Throughout the ages the Ancients were adept at hearing The Source of All in nature and other ways. Modern-day understanding, it seems, leaves little room, and current working practices leave little time to ‘hear’, sadly. Even in our prayers, lists may be recited, but we leave little room for a reply! And, what if we got a reply?

‘Then God answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said…’, Job 38.1, The Book

‘Bom-di bom-di, bom’, a friend says whenever it goes quiet.

‘Bom-di bom-di, bom’, fills up a gap quite nicely, but it seems to me to be a form of self-defence. I’m walking in a forest and a friend engages in talking about the increase in his stocks and shares. We undertake a type of silent meditation and some find themselves becoming restless and need to hum.

Could it be that all these are forms of self-defence?

The ‘bom-di bom-di bom’ sounds and other activities draw us away from ‘the moment’ and fill our world with a cacophony of noise and thought, and ‘insulate’ us against hearing, witnessing, reading, experiencing or observing the communication to us from the Source of All?

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
(W H Davies)

I do believe much of our busy-ness is a form of self-defence.

If we were to pause, we might understand the Source of All’s communication, however it ‘arrives’, but then it may require a reply – from us a word, us writing something or doing something, and that can feel quite traumatic, weird as others look on who have successfully ‘drowned out’ the Voice and wonder what you’re up to, unnerving, unsettling, demanding perhaps.

But, also what a privilege?

A privilege to receive a message From Beyond, and a privilege to respond. Some have likened this to a dance, others to a two-part harmony! Yes, you get to participate in that dance or song, whichever metaphor you choose. Two-way action!

Duets are not about individual skill, but about the relationship between the two players. (Daisy Goodwin)

I often find that inner Voice ‘speaking’ to me in solitude, in a forest, in deserted places that are devoid of people but full of life. There, I can revel in the ‘moment’, and would suggest that you do the same.

Sometime ago I wrote:

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.

 

Ritual: Body Prayer: Getting Started

20190522 RITUAL BODY PRAYER GETTING STARTED

I am, as you know, fascinated by liturgy and ritual. I use ritual a lot, value it, and would encourage you to try it, too. Experiment. Adapt. Be playful.

Ritual is, for me, a powerful and physical action, an enacted metaphor that can aid us. Here’s an outline of what ritual or right action can do, an account of an intriguing event in Capel Curig in north Wales some time ago, and some examples of body-physical movements you might like to try in your ritual, prayer-times, meditation etc. Here’s an opportunity to add deep meaning to what we do.

There is power in words. With a word all that is visible and invisible was made by the Maker Unmade. With our words we can encourage someone to new heights, and yes, with an unkind word we can destroy.

There is, indeed power in words. But what of actions? The common maxim is: actions speak louder than words. This is true, too!

Orthopraxy is one of my favourite words. Orthopraxy is all about how someone acts. Right action as opposed to right belief. And, its actions, particularly regarding ritual action that I believe is most beneficial to us.

Orthopraxy in ritual actions can physically demonstrate our passion and intentionality to ourselves, to others, to the Source of All. Our actions can denote a request, a blessing, an intention, or declare adoration. They inform, invite or dismiss, and maybe reinforce our words.

I saw a photograph in the newspaper of a president. There was no caption. A caption was unnecessary. The picture showed that is was pouring with rain – the kind that would soak anyone within seconds. And, there was the president with his wife in a rainstorm. He carried the umbrella and ensured his wife was the one to remain dry. He got soaked. No caption or words were needed. The picture exuded love. Right action.

Perhaps, it’s right action at the right time. What is appropriate one moment, maybe not be so the next moment. Awareness is needed.

Sometime ago I wrote: A warm feeling enveloped me. Palpable. And not only an external feeling, but internal too, pervading my whole being. And then, as has happened albeit infrequently in this place in the past, I heard the Voice once again. Some will say that it’s only imagination, but I can only say, to me, it was and is, more, oh much more.

From an interrupted, shallow sleep I awoke early, and walked into the night, as if called by a Voice deep within. An elemental? The Awen, An ancestor? The Deity, An angel? The Bat kohl, my imagination?

There is a story in an ancient text of a major battle, the battle of Rephidim. It is a short account of an unprovoked attack against Moses’ people. Fighting ensued and lasted all day. While Moses raised both his arms aloft, perhaps to encourage his people or perhaps in supplication, it was noticed that his people got the advantage over their enemy. When his hands dropped, the opposition gained the upper hand in the battle. Moses raised his arms, and once again his people prevailed. But, what about when tiredness got the better of him? No one can hold their arms aloft for any great length of time, and before long Moses’ arms began to feel the strain. As his arms became tired and started to drop Hur and Aaron placed themselves either side of him, and gave his arms the support they needed. No other words needed. Right action.

Perhaps, in ritual, our right actions are akin to charged physical metaphors that have a far greater effect behind the Veil that we can yet imagine? Metaphors always relate to something other (or Other).

One night, about three years ago, I woke up from a shallow sleep and went for a walk to this place, and this is what I wrote:

The air was cold and damp, the darkness seemed to envelope me, the trees ‘closed in’, and all was quiet. Nothing stirred. Nothing at all. And with some trepidation, into a forest clearing I slowly strode. A fallen tree provided a seat, and I sat, and waited.

The air felt ‘electric’ as though something would happen, like a ‘silent storm’ approaching. And I waited. And shivered. Waited. And got damp. Waited. And then from within, or without, almost undetectable, a quiet, loving, voice was heard. The Voice.

Rituals remove us from the ordinary flow of life and place us in sacred space. It’s for that reason that some might, say, light a candle at the beginning of a service or at home, or at the beginning of a prayer or time of meditation. Right action. This is a significant action for it declares our moving out of the realm of ordinary space and time and into sacred space and time. Action within rituals create their ‘magic’ and have their power through the mysterious and mystical vocabulary of symbolic re-enactment. Symbolic action either ‘allows’ things to happen or puts us in the right frame of mind to ‘see’ them and appreciate them. At the end of the service, mediation or individual prayer-time the candle flame is usually extinguished and we return to physical space (although the astute will know there is no real dualistic division). Right action.

Slowly, unhurriedly, powerfully, the Voice said:

“As above, so below,
there are things you should know.”

And so, I mention,
with your hands at your side, walk humbly,
take seven half-steps forward, it’s a journey of intention.”

“And now, raise your hands in simple ‘surrender’,
and point both to Heaven, that domain of awesome splendour.”

“Widen your arms, and so scoop, and harvest
pure energy, pure ‘gold’, and be prepared to be feel blessed.”

“Draw in that power, by folding your arms like an ‘x’ on your chest,
and feel its benefits, its warmth; you’re at peace, at one, ‘at home’, at rest.”

“Then stretch forth your arms, and mould with your hands
as if a ball, that ‘globe-like’ power-blessing from the ouranic meadowlands.”

“With one foot leading, and with knees part bent,
sway back and forth, in preparation for that ‘goodness’ to be sent.”

“In your mind, name the loved-one, the recipient, the friend,
and in your heart, see them, imagine them, to that end.”

“‘Push’ with your hands, that power-blessing from you to them,
and sigh the sound of the ages, the ‘so be it’, the ‘amen’.”

“And then, your hands drop to your side,
power has gone out; but there is no lack,
for the power-blessing that went forth, also comes back,
in another way and at another time, and so you, too, are blessed.”

Having done everything as directed, I stood there in awe. The air was cold and yet I felt warm, the night so dark but in my mind’s eye it seemed to glow. The Voice had gone. The Voice? An elemental? The Awen, An ancestor? The Deity, An angel? The Bat kohl, my imagination?

Ofcourse, there is no right or wrong way to use ritualistic action. It’s intentionality that counts.

But, I would encourage you to incorporate and/or adapt physical action into any ritual you do. This can involve the whole body, as above, or part. It’s also enjoyable and may make the ritual, prayer or special time even more meaningful.

The following is an outline – consider it like a dictionary or vocabulary of hand-signs for ritual – to encourage you to use them, adapt them or to form your own. Here’s three:

Acceptance: In the early stage of any group or solo event I need to ‘open up’, to accept power from Beyond. And so, with one hand I form an ‘acceptance’ hand: My elbow is bent at right-angles and one hand is in front of my chest, maybe about 9 inches away from my chest. The palm of my hand is upright, and fingers and thumb gently parted. I ready to catch ‘it’. Accompanied by a few words asking for energy and power from Beyond, out loud and prayerfully, I move my hand towards my chest, so that the palm of my hand ends up against my chest. Power sought by that open hand, symbolically, then accepted, and then indwelling.

Aid someone: With a person’s name in mind, an area in need, or a request for the Source of All to aid a part of the world in need, I bring that hand away from my chest, but only just. I ensure the palm is, again, upright. My other hand forms a fist and lays on that open-palmed hand so that the fist-hand  lays on it (so that the veiny back on the hand is facing up). Then, saying out loud the request, I move both hands, still together, away from my body about a foot. It’s as though a gift is on a plate and both move towards the one needing aid. The prayer request is symbolically ‘delivered’.

Thankfulness: It seems right to give gratitude to the Great Giver. With your fingers together, touch your chin with the fingertips (of perhaps the longest finger or two) of one hand. Let them remain there for a second or two (or three), and then bring your hand down, slowly, to naturally arc through the air, to stop in front of your chest so that your arm is at right-angles. That’s being thankful.

The abovementioned is the start of a ‘ritual vocabulary’. These three are from the Dictionary of British Sign Language. But, there is no reason why you shouldn’t make your own. Please let me know how it works for you.

 

Ephemera: The Bright Moon: Full Moon

20190516 EPHEMERA THE BRIGHT MOON 18 MAY 2019

There’s a full moon soon, and you know how I love full moon’s, and use these events for some kind of ritual and/or celebration.

The next full moon is this Saturday, 18 May 2019, rising around sunset from a UK vantage point, above the head of the constellation of Scorpio.

To some this full Moon is known as the Milk Moon or Planting Moon. To those of Medieval England and Wicca it was/is known as the Hare Moon. Whilst Celts and many Druids Of yesterday and today know it as the Bright Moon.

The Moon is most happy
When it is full.
[Hafiz]

And, as we head towards a full moon, here’s an opportunity to look at the physical moon in awe from a scientific point of view; to marvel at it from a deeply spiritual point of view, too; and to think about how to celebrate this wonderful event.

The Physical Moon
Did you know: The Moon is shrinking! Yes, as its interior cools, a new NASA study suggests that the change is shrinking, and as it does it triggers moonquakes.

Nasa said only a few days ago that the Moon is about 150 feet (50 meters) smaller than it was – though this shrinking has taken place over the the last several hundred million years or so. So, you won’t see it shrink, but its enough for any brittle fissures on the Moon to collapse and cause the Moon’s surface to rumble.

The ‘Magical’ Moon
But, the Moon is more than just a rocky satellite to the Earth. As you gaze up at the full Moon, and see that eternal face smiling down, the Moon does hold a certain romantic charm, some would say ‘magic’.

The moon is the reflection of your heart
and moonlight is the twinkle of your love.
[Debasish Mridha]

Whenever I can I like to celebrate the time of the full Moon. Sometimes it’s just a case of going for a silent walk, even in the city, to ‘bathe’ in its light. Sometimes it’s just lifting up a nice glass of red or white and drinking to its glory, or meditating on the Moon-Giver.

Full Moon ‘Releasing’ Ritual
Sometimes, there is a ‘releasing’ ritual I like to do at this time – to release me from all that is holding me back. Full Moon’s are a great time to start new projects and rekindle intentionality. You might like to try the following, too.

The moon looks upon many night flowers;
the night flowers see but one moon.
[Jean Ingelow]

As with any ritual, it is an outward sign and activity of an inward occurrence. It can be done outdoors on the night of the full moon, but equally, it can be done indoors, and it can be adjusted to make it even more meaningful to you.

So, find a quiet place, and:

1. Light a candle (to denote entering into sacred space/sacred time). If you want, you can place crystals, power-rocks and other positive-tools around you. On occasions I’ve opened the Bible to the place where it mentions the Moon and Sun. Opening a book, sacred to yourself is one way of making this a special occasion, and declaring that you’ve entered sacred space and sacred time.

2. De-clutter your mind of thoughts, clear your energy. This can be done by imagination, and so why not close your eyes, and visualise that you are standing under a silver waterfall that cascades down from the Moon. As you so do, in your mind’s eye, imagine that all negativity being washed away.

3. Take a few deep breaths to ‘center’ yourself, to move deeply within your being, and then ‘ask’ what it is that you wish to be released from. What is it that is holding you back? What is your limiting belief? What no longer serves a positive purpose in your life. In your mind’s eye, write it on a piece of paper. Wait for a short while.

4. As you breathe in, think of that piece of paper with that limiting belief written on it, and as you breathe out, imagine that that piece of paper moves into the candle and is burnt up. It no longer exists. Do this several times. [Remember, this is all taking place in your imagination, so please don’t use that physical candle and actually set fire to anything you have with you!].

This type of breathing in/out with visualisation is like tonglen, in reverse.

5. After a short while open your eyes, fully enter this ‘realm’ by gazing gently at the candle for a few minutes. There is no rush. And then, to denote a closing of that sacred space/sacred time, blow the candle out and/or close any sacred book. Wait for a few minutes. Doing things slowly, here, is good. To ‘ground’ yourself completely you might like to walk around just for a few seconds.

6. Ofcourse, this is a ritual, an outward sign or action of an inward occurrence, and you will still need to ‘do’ the necessary things in the physical realm to bring about a releasing of what is/was holding you back, to ‘earth it’, and to work towards a positive outcome.

7. You might like to keep a journal of your experiences in that ritual, what you ‘released’ and what you intend to do to ‘earth it’ and work towards releasing negativity, and what you’ll do in working towards positivity, detailing actions and how you felt at the time. It’s always good to look back, weeks, months or even years later.

Poem
Sometime ago I wrote a poem about Arianrhod, the personification of the Moon. You might use it as a mediation as you gaze at the upcoming new Moon, or as part of a more formal liturgy or ritual you might perform in honour of the Moon and/or the Moon giver.

To read the poem ‘Arianrhod in all her splendour ‘, please click [here].

And finally…
At this time of the full Moon, much light and love to you and those whom you love, Tadhg.

‘I arise today through the strength of heaven, light of sun, Radiance of moon, Splendor of fire, Speed of lightning, Swiftness of wind, Depth of sea, Stability of earth, Firmness of rock.’
[John O’Donohue,]

 

[The header photo for this article is copyright protected, 2019 by Pennie Ley, and is used with permission. Kind regards to Pennie]