Indra, Hafiz & The Magic Café: Interconnectedness & Interbeing

20190514 INDRA HAFIZ AND THE MAGIC CAFE THOUGHTS ON INTERCONNECTEDNESS AND INTERBEING

Today, I was in one of my favourite locations when in London: the Magic Café in Fulham. And, as usual there was a latte not far from my hand on the table, my head was down and my nose was close to a book and I was in my element, reading a deep and intriguing book. I have to admit that I can be so absorbed in a book, so engrossed in it that I do believe that if the four horsemen of the Apocalypse galloped by I wouldn’t notice.

There is a game we should play,
And it goes like this:

Nothing distracts me when I’m transfixed by a book, well, almost nothing. Having been reading for some time, I noticed a slight but distinct temperature drop in the café, and it caused me to look up, momentarily. My grandmother, if she were physically present, would say an angel had entered the room.

It was if the café had suddenly been filled, instantly, with six people sitting at two or three tables. Ofcourse, they had been there for some time, but I had been oblivious to their coming and going.

I do like ‘people watching’, and so changing glasses (I wear varifocal but do like reading-only glasses for serious reading) I sat back in the chair, sipped my coffee, and slowly (but hopefully, not to obviously) looked around.

We hold hands and look into each other’s eyes
And scan each other’s faces.

Trying to be ‘invisible’, I noticed the people around me. Ah, there was the journal woman, so-called (be me) as she is constantly writing in her note pad. Perhaps, she’s  writing about the peculiar man in the corner who always seems to be reading and making notes in his books (and, that would be me). Someone, a younger person, was at the counter, ordering a take-away coffee but indulging in general chit-chat at a rather loud volume. Wearing dusty overalls it was likely he was redecorating or rebuilding one of the large, expensive houses in the area. And, there were two others I had seen on only a few occasions. My mind wondered as to who they were, what their occupation might be, and how they found this delightful café? And two others, older women, seated very close to me, were obviously old friends, reminiscing about the good old days.

And, then I say,
“Now tell me a difference you see between us.”

I picked up the coffee cup again, leaned back even more, and continued to look around. Compared to when I came into the café, I marvelled at the people now here, the differences in age, gender, look, accents, and even languages. Truly I am blessed to be living in a ‘kaleidoscope country’, as John Bercow the Speaker of the House of Commons described it some years ago. So many people, so many differences, and yet paradoxically we have that in common.

And you might respond,
“Hafiz, your nose is ten times bigger than mine”.
Then I would say,
“Yes, my dear, almost ten times”.

So, what is the difference between us? In all the variations of humanity, a small microscopic proportion represented here in this café, what is the difference between us? Do we have the same chemical composition? The same energy? The same aspirations? Oh, yes!

And, what about the coffee cup I’m holding? It, too, is composed of atoms, and at a deeper level quanta material that is similar to out elemental make-up. In one sense little difference there? You would expect me to say that as an animist. Oh, yes!

But let’s keep playing.
Let’s go deeper.
Go deeper still.
For if we do,
Our spirits will embrace
And interweave.

There is a story I was told many years ago, when I was a wee lad, about Indra’s web or Indra’s net. It is a much-loved story, a metaphorical one, about interconnectedness and interbeing all of things.

The story says that in the realm of the god Indra there is a vast net that stretches infinitely in all directions. At each intersection of the net or web (think of a spider’s web) there is a single brilliant, perfect jewel. And, each of these jewels on the web also reflects every other jewel, infinite in number. And, each of the reflected images of the jewels bears the image of all the other jewels — infinity to infinity. Whatever affects one jewel effects them all.

The metaphorical story illustrates the interpenetration of all phenomena. Everything contains everything else. And yet, each individual thing is not hindered by or confused with all the other individual things. Harmonious interconnectedness. A wonderful story.

Our union will be so glorious
That [maybe] even God
Will not be able to tell us apart.

We are more alike to our neighbour than different, more alike to everything around us, than different or separate. We’re connected. In another story-metaphor told by the Christ we’re told that, ‘The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Ah. Connectedness.

Suddenly, respect for others, even those who ‘violently’ disagree with me, seems easier. We’re connected, we’re the same. Appreciation for nature all around me – whether in rural or urban environments – seems altogether more necessary because of that real and energetic connectedness. We’re the same. It was for that reason many years ago that Brother Francis could sing to Brother Sun and Sister Moon.

Connectedness. Interbeing. Something which those ancient cultures of Hebrews, Christians, Pagans, Druids and others of yesteryear took for granted, and from which we can learn.

There is a wonderful game
We should play with everyone
And it goes like this…

And, so having finished the latte there is only one thing to do. To order another coffee, to find my place in that book and resume reading, and, before I do that, to look around at the wonderful people around me and nature that abounds both outside and inside the café, and to wonder. In that respect, won’t you join me in this ancient game?

[The indented paragraphs above come from one of the poems of Hafiz, Persian mystic, AD1315-1390]

 

Tadhg, On The Road To The New Forest: Imbolc, Land-Healing & More 2

20190201 TADHG ON THE ROAD TO THE NEW FOREST 2

I’m in the New Forest in the south of England. The new Forest is a charmingly deceptive name, though. It is an ancient woodland delineated on the man-made map a thousand years ago and at that time declared ‘new’, and formed after the retreat of the last ice age some thirty thousand years ago. It is an old forest, indeed, and it’s bliss.

In a forest such as this, there is a wonderful feeling of catharsis, a peace in the midst of wild things. The Japanese knew of this and coined a phrase in the 1980’s prompting the health benefits of people spending time in forest.

Many call this ‘tree bathe-ing’, the Japanese call it ‘shirin-yoku’ (meaning ‘taking in the forest atmosphere’) and its benefits are felt just by being in a forest. It is said it helps to reduce blood pressure, stress, improves mood, accelerates ailment recovery, increases energy levels and intuition, increases happiness etc. Truly, there is something here, something beyond what just can be seen. 

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

 Wendell Berry

I’m in this ancient forest, suitably attired for my hike, or perhaps a saunter is a better word for it, in waterproofs with layers underneath and well-worn hiking boots on my feet. I am in my preferred environment. I’ve been walking for two hours now, and it’s raining, it’s wet and it’s muddy underfoot, and cold. I love it. I haven’t seen another soul in two hours. I’m alone.

Alone? That’s not entirely true. Sporadically a bird flies overhead in this dark, dense woodland. Most of the trees a bare, leafless except for the pine trees. Occasionally, an animal scurries away in the nearby undergrowth. Adders are very common in this area and care should be taken. I’m careful. The trees are far from lifeless. They’re sleeping. Deep roots are dreaming. And new shoots push up through the semi-decomposed duff layer here and there. Spring is returning. 

Alone? No. There is animal life here, tree and plant life, microbial  life and much more. Some talk of life as consisting of animal life, plant (and tree) life, fungi, protist life (that is, any multi-called organism not included in the previous three), archaea life (single-called organisms) and bacteria. These all form what is known as the Five Kingdoms of life. How can I be alone with all that going on around me? But there’s more.

‘If we opened our minds to enjoyment, we might find tranquil pleasures spread about us on every side. We might live with the angels that visit us on every sunbeam, and sit with the fairies who wait on every flower.’ Samuel Smiles

Alone? No. These are ancient woods and you can feel something more here. A presence or presences can be felt. Benevolent. Yes.

Perhaps it is Dryads (tree spirits); Salamanders (fire-beings seen in flames eg candle flame, and, some would say in everything that has the potential to burn); the Fae or pixies (nature’s carers); or Water nymphs, energetic beings, found in and by lakes (but why not in a wet and damp forest like the one I’m in, or present in your faucet.) Yes, maybe water nymphs are closer to you, in your home, than you imagined at first. 

Maybe there are Sylphs here. Yes, there are. Sylphs are said to be seen in light clouds or low-level mist, and indeed some would say they are the light clouds and low-level mist that we sometimes see. Here, in this forest the occasional wisp of mist can be seen moving between trees as a light breeze directs them.

Dryads, Salamanders, the Fae, Water nymphs, and Sylphs are here, and all these, sometimes collectively known as Elementals, are known by some as the Five Magical Realms.

Alone? No. I am in an ancient forest teeming with life, visible and invisible, ‘mundane’ and ‘spiritual’, known and unknown, silent and loud, jere and yet of the Other.  And maybe, there are angels here; maybe the ancestors, too.

‘…since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…’ Hebrews 12.1b, The Book

And then, I stop. And in this ancient forest, surrounded by Life itself, there at the base of a tree stump I ‘plant’ a small rainforest jasper stone (as I have done in two other location through the U.K.) and say a few words of peace over it; peace for the land, peace for all life, peace for this country’s government of people as it ‘doth err’. Remaining in silence I am aware of the presences around me. Presences? oh yes, and the Presence is here, known as the Friend, the Companion, the Happy One, the Wild Holy One.

We are never alone. Never alone, for we ‘swim’ through Life itself and Life pervades our very Being in an eternal dance of mutuality.

And, then I move. It’s still raining, it’s still wet and it’s still muddy underfoot, and it is still cold. Oh yes, and I still love it, but it’s time to walk back on my two hour journey to leave this wonderful place. But, what is here ‘travels’ with me, and oh yes, it “travels’  with you, too, for we are never alone.

‘Listen. Are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?’ Mary Oliver

We Live In An Ocean Of Air: Connectedness

20190115 we live in an ocean of air

And so, I and five others waited in that darkened room. Suddenly startled, my eyes saw a myriad of trees around me and in the distance. Deep, dense green. Wonderful. There were birds flying around me and above me in this tropical rain forest, and I could hear their birdsong. Golden airborne seeds seemed to be wafted towards me on the wind,  and then away. Bliss.

To one side stood an old, thick, majestic and immensely tall tree. It was a sequoia tree, ancient and gnarled, standing over 200 feet tall. I moved towards it. As I did it got larger in my sight.

‘If a tree falls in the forest there are other trees listening.’

air cBreathing out my breath was a myriad of blue bubbles – about the size of garden peas. I inhaled. Exhaled, and there they were again. I moved my hand through those blue bubbles and they swirled about, affected by my hand’s swishing movement. My hand consisted of thousands of red bubbles denoting my blood supply, but always forming a handshape as I moved my hands about.

I was concerned about the other five people. Where were they?

I looked behind and to the left, and human shapes passed close. Millions of red bubbles, in human form, showed the outline and exact place of the others. Living cells of blood came closer. Male or female, local or foreign, black or white? I didn’t know.  It made no difference. Red cells full of oxygen and life, representatives of humankind, were coming close, then moving off, in some slow dance. And as they moved, their hands moved to experience this event. They seemed to be doing tai chi. Tian.

As they breathed out, so many tiny blue bubbles filled the air in front of their faces. I breathed out and moved my hands to show them where I was. I saw them, they saw me. No words were exchanged, but we communicated in some silent, deep, ancient and primal way. Summerlands.

’It’s like a ‘wood wide web’.’

air aI moved even closer to that large, splendid tree. Suddenly, as I looked down I saw winding ‘cables’, about six inches thick – some wider, some smaller, ‘cables’ with yellow light emitting from every inch of it. I could see the mighty tree’s root system, moving nutrients from the distance to its trunk, under my feet. I was in awe. My feet were it its root system!

I turned to see the tree roots become entangled with other trees in an amazing network of connectedness and mutual support. I turned back towards the thick trunk of the tree and stretched out my hand as if to touch it, and walked forward. Eden.

My sight changed. Around me were now a myriad of luminous ‘wires’ embracing me, and running down and up. I looked up and saw them disappear high above me. I looked around and moved my hand to touch these spaghetti-like ‘wires’ of luminous light – phloem, the trees ‘vascular bundles’ which draw water in and deliver it to all parts of the tree – those ‘wires’ of pink and white, yellow and light blue gently moved in response to my touch, and then they moved back.

I was ‘in’ that ancient tree. Part of it. Connected.

‘If a giraffe starts eating an African acacia, the tree releases a chemical into the air that signals that a threat is at hand. As the chemical drifts through the air and reaches other trees, they “smell” it and are warned of the danger. Even before the giraffe reaches them, they begin producing toxic chemicals.’

I remained there, in that tree. It was divine.

As I stood motionless, I could see light pulses moving up the tree, could see my breath as blue bubbles, could hear the tree moving water around its trunk and branches, and could hear my own heartbeat, could see the tree discharging oxygen: the tree and me (us) in a harmony of light and sound, together. Jannah.

But, it was time to explore, more so, and so I walked around.

A few minutes later, this green vision of that ancient forest disappeared and my vision went black. I stood motionless. The experience was over, but what an experience to remember!

air bAn assistant, one of two, who invisibly, were in the large room to assist fellow sojourners during this experience, took off my headgear which projected that ancient Gaia forest scene and which monitored my breathing. Next, she took out the earpieces throughout which I had heard birdsong and lovely forest sounds. Then, the wrist attachments, which showed me my hands in that ‘vision’, were removed. The strap around my chest which monitored my heart beat (and let me hear my heartbeat sounds) was unstrapped, and finally the backpack (which presumably contained battery and some kind of computer, and which weighed about 15 lbs) was removed.

I was ‘back’.

Along with the other five we discussed this moving and spiritual experience, and later, as I sat on the top deck of the number 22 bus in London I looked around at people – red blood vessels of light; trees containing ‘wires’ of light and wondered about the wonderful world we inhabit.

‘When you know that trees experience pain and have memories and that tree parents live together with their children, then you can no longer just chop them down and disrupt their lives with large machines. Machines’

I marvelled that humankind, animals, plants, the local and cosmic environment are one: we are all connected.

 

This ‘immersive’, thought-provoking and spiritual event is ‘We live in an Ocean of Air’, a virtual reality experience where the invisible connection between plant and human is revealed through breath. Visitors are invited to step through the canvas to explore a magical world where the invisible exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide is beautifully brought to life. The event takes place for a few weeks (more) at the Saatchi Gallery, Chelsea, London.

The indented quotes above all come from the book, ‘The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World’ by Peter Wohlleben,

 

The Teacher And The Question About Dawn: Tales From The Hearth

20181227 THE TEACHER AND THE DAWN TALES FROM THE HEARTH

There was a time when it used to snow heavily at Christmastime in north Wales, and there was a time when I would spend hours and hours playing with friends in the snow: tobogganing on an old tea tray (when really small), making and throwing snowballs, making a snowman, even making an igloo using old ice cream tubs as containers to form ‘snow bricks’.

Ofcourse, that was many years ago when I was a wee lad, and seeing on tv, recently, some scenes of the Sami people in the northern parts of snow-laden Finland, wonderful boyhood memories came flooding back.

On one occasion, as a wee lad, I had been playing outside for some hours, and though it was snowing and so wonderful for me, I was just a little bored on that occasion as all my friends weren’t allowed out to play. Nevertheless, I tried to keep myself occupied, loved the snow and the way on those oh-so-snowy days in north Wales the scenery would be bright white with snow, and the clouds would be a gloomy, dark, brooding grey – the ground was brighter than the sky and I loved it.

But, eventually, being alone, I got bored.

‘Look at the sky. We are not alone. The whole universe is friendly to us and conspires only to give the best to those who dream and work’. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

Going through the boot-room of my grandparent’s cottage (a small room for depositing of earth or snow-covered boots) I entered into a wonderfully warm and baking-fragranced kitchen, and ambled on into the living room, and settled by a roaring fire in the hearth, and beside my grandmother’s rocking chair.

Thawing out, the cup of hot chocolate my grandad had made and given me went down a treat. My grandmother asked about my time outside and I let off a series of complaints, centring on the fact that life wasn’t fair, that I had wanted to play with friends but they weren’t allowed out, that they were probably having a better time than me, and… and… and, so it went on. I really did feel sorry for myself as though I was the only person in the whole world that had a reason to be upset.

’The wound is the place where the light enters you’. Rumi

My grandmother was a patient woman, listened intently to me as she rocked in the rocking chair. Occasionally she would stoke the fire in the hearth. She waited for me to stop complaining. I did eventually stopped, and then she spoke.

Lovingly, and with the most splendid of valley accents she quietly said, ‘You know, Tadgh, when you think you’re alone, you’re actually surrounded by lots of things, if you only give yourself time to look and listen. And, when you think your friends are so different. It’s then that you, and it applies to all us, need to know that we have a lot in common, that were very much alike, and more. And, once we realise that, we’re never really alone.’

’If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude’. Maya Angelou

Curled up, beside her rocking chair, I remember her saying, ‘Let me tell you a story’. With that, my attention was captivated as my grandmother told the most wonderful, ‘treasure-laden’ storyteller, who told stories that both entertained and enlightened.

‘A teacher once asked his pupils, ‘How do you know when the first moment of dawn has arrived?’. After a long silence, one of the pupils said, ‘When you can tell the difference between a dog and a sheep’. The teacher shook his head, tutted, and walked about the classroom hoping that another pupil would try to answer the question.

Another pupil chimed in, and said, ‘ When you can tell the difference between an olive tree and a fig tree’. Again the teacher shook his head, tutted, and walked about the classroom hoping that yet another pupil would try to answer the question. There were no more answers.

At this point my grandmother asked, ‘And what would you have said, dear Tadhg?. Open-mouthed and wide-eyed, engrossed in the story, as a wee lad, I could only but shake my head. An unvoiced unknowing was ‘loudly’ expressed!

She continued. ‘Well’, she said, ‘the teacher waited for a minute or two and then said, ‘You know the first moment when dawn has arrived when you look into the eyes of another human being and see yourself!’.

At this point my grandmother quickly chuckled to herself, ruffled my hair as I had a nonplussed expression on my face, and quietly rocked in her rock chair giving no further explanation.

I had a little understanding of the meaning of the story, but it wasn’t until many years later that the true import of the story made sense.

We are not really that different at all. On one level we all have the same needs and aspirations, all respond similarly to hurt and pain, and on a deep and very real level we can never be alone, because we really are one!

‘You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.’ Rumi

We are one. That was the ‘treasure’ contained deep within my grandmother’s story and which ‘dawns’ on those who are aware (which, like good, old, wisdom stories was ‘borrowed’ by her and others, and had been told to countless generations around the world in one form or another).

We are never truly alone. We are one. Indeed, everything is connected into one cosmic web.

‘The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these…you did for me’. Matthew 25:40, The Book

 

An Encounter With Vulpes Vulpes In London: Nature In An Urban Environment

20180619 AN ENCOUNTER WITH VULPES VULPES

Last night was one of those evenings where it occurred to me that I had been sedentary for far to long.

It was approaching midnight, and I had emailed a few urgent emails, completed a liturgy for an upcoming handfasting of two wonderful people, had watched the football on tv, and had just picked up a book to read. Sedentary, that the thought that occurred to me. It was if my whole body was experiencing restless leg syndrome and not just my legs, and it yearned for movement.

The best option seemed to be to go for a walk, and that’s what I did.

I’m back in the city, in my small ground floor maisonette in a central London borough, which nestles very close to the River Thames. I am surrounded by city parks, an abundance of wonderful cafes, and densely packed housing, And so, with the thought of movement in mind, I strode manfully out of the door at midnight.

’Solvitur ambulando.’ A Latin phrase meaning, ‘It is solved by walking.’

The streets, well at least the side streets, here, and not the main road in the distance, were deserted, empty of people and devoid of moving cars. It felt great to be in the city and yet have space to myself. Surrounded by thousands of people and yet no one in sight. Oh the people were there. Inside their houses, curtains drawn, and in some the light from the tv flickering away was perceptible, but only just, as I walked by.

I thought I might walk towards Parsons Green, and to get there I’d have to walk down a long, well-lit side street. It had now just gone midnight, and I was half way along that street, and it felt, unnervingly, as if I was being watched. I purposely stopped, looked around, expecting to see a stalker or some ne’er-do-well, but saw nothing. No one.

’Being a nocturnal creature myself, I often find myself in dark alleys or strange places late at night. If there were werewolves around, I’d be likely to run into them, being the night owl that I am.’ Dean Ambrose

I continued walking, and still the feeling of being watched persisted. I carried on walking and the line of cars parked either side of the road ended. I was passing by a school and the road marking prohibited parking at that point. I walked on about thirty paces further on, giving enough time for my stalker to be denied the shelter of parked cars, and I stopped, turned around in the most untimid manner I could muster, and faced my stalker. And, there he was.

Vulpes Vulpes.

Yes, my stalker, my ‘watcher in the night’, was a rather splendid, well-fed red fox. Fulham has many urban foxes on its street, and most can be heard, or seen, or smelled when they move about at night.

My companion was about twenty (human) paces behind me, and he too, stopped, and just looked at me. I didn’t move a muscle. Not afraid, but I didn’t want to scare this little chap away. I stopped for some time. He remained still.
Looking at me, his little head cocked to one side as if trying to solve a mystery of what I was doing. I felt the urge to do the same, but resisted it.

It is thought that there are about 150,000 foxes in the England. Here in London they scavenge their food from litter bins and so their food is usually an unhealthy diet of human food scraps, consisting of curry, chips, fish fingers and bacon butties, and as were near the Thames, maybe the odd water rat or two. Considered by man to be a nuisance, I have to admit that I am in awe of nature as it pushes back to reclaim, in part, the domain that was once solely its world. And, the fox is a particular favourite. I admit crows come a close second and they can be seen early morning and throughout the day in Fulham, but I love foxes, especially city foxes. And, this particular fox was still looking at me, and had sat down.

Did you know: The red fox is the most common type of fox, but there are about 47 different subspecies of red fox; Foxes belong to the dog family and use similar facial expressions and body postures to pet dogs, such as wagging their tails when greeting family members; Foxes have strong family ties. Young foxes often stay with their parents for a few years and help raise future cubs.

Having watched this wonderful beast for sometime I turned away and carried on walking. But only for a few paces. I stopped and deliberately turned. He had moved, about the same distance I had covered and had stopped when I had stopped, and was still twenty paces behind me. I laughed, and walked on and stopped. I turned and there he was. Twenty paces behind. I was nearing Parsons Green, and so stopped one last time, turned, and…he was gone. I felt a little loneliness creep in, having lost my companion and that feeling of being watched.

There are some who say that when humankind was in its infancy and we lived in peace with all animals, that communication between humans and animals, and vice versa, was possible. Others say that in that world of blurred boundaries, even shape-shifting was possible. Are these ideas true, or metaphorical or romantic? That’s a rhetorical question, as I don’t need an answer as I love mystery, and however we interpret those ancient-world notions, there is always something to learn.

There are some others who believe that animals that appear ‘out of nowhere’ and come unusually close to us are attracted by our inner being, our soul. Have you ever been somewhere and an animal or insect has come close, perhaps too close, and unexpectedly so, to surprise you?

Or, perhaps, they say, the animal companion (for a while) is a manifestation of our soul.

In Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy ‘His Dark Material’, Lyra Belacqua has an (external) animal representation of her (inner) soul which manifests itself as a red moth when she’s a child, but as a red-gold pine marten when she’s an adult.

Or perhaps an unexpected animal, the red fox in this case, is a messenger from That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves (and who cannot but remember those old Sunday School stories of Balaam’s donkey and its urgent spoken message?).

’We need another and wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals…We patronise them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form far below ourselves. And therein we err, and err greatly. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost…living by voices we shall never hear.’ Henry Beston

Being a man in this age, ofcourse I wanted to know. And so, I researched something about the red fox, and sadly discovered that they are generally hated as a terrible nuisance on city streets. Okay, I accept in January, or thereabouts, the cry of the vixen, can sound like a baby’s cry, and can be somewhat unnerving or alarming on city streets, and the result of all those curries they eat does make a mess on the pavement – and what an awful smell! But, they are wonderful creatures.

They have lost much of their habitat to humankind (and if truth be known it is us who are a nuisance to them, as they were her first), are they are sorely misunderstood, and present no real danger. I like the idea of nature ‘pushing back’ in the city, as if to say, ‘I’m still here, and I don’t mind sharing, but just share with me, too, please’.

Understanding wild creatures is one thing, but there’s more. There is a point where we can so draw near to them that we can sense them – and I do believe that being ’watched’ feeling I had, or the surprise you might have had when an animal or inset came unusually close to you, is part of an intuitive sensing and connectedness with that animal that we might experience in short bursts, but our ancient ancestors, druids, celts and others would have experienced it much more or perhaps all the time. Lucien Levy-Bruhl, a French philosopher, calls this ‘participation mystique’ (mystical participation) and it occurs beyond our logical, rational thought processes. It is like a ‘sense’ that we have but seldom use now , but it can be increased by usage, like a muscle, if we choose to exercise it.

Foxes, I believe, are a gift from the Universe, from That Which Is Bigger Than Us, and are a reminder that nature is abundant and beneficent, ubiquitous (even in the city) and to be enjoyed, and can be understood at a cerebral and knowledge-level, but also by that ‘sensing’, by taking hold of that mystical participation of deep connectedness at a soul level that our ancestors possessed.

And so, I’m almost back home, having completed my walk. I’ve walked for almost an hour, my fox-companion is nowhere to be seen, the streets are still deserted, but I am left wondering: just a chance encounter, a shape-shifter, an outward reflection of my inner soul, or a guardian of some kind who kept me safe from an otherwise dangerous event, or a messenger from Beyond? Thank God for Vulpes Vulpes.

What was the meaning of that encounter? No, don’t answer it. I want to revel in the mystery of not knowing cerebrally, as it brings me (and us) closer to the Mystery.

 

 

Eyes Wide Open: The Luminous Web And You

20180501 EYES WIDE OPEN THE LUMINOUS WEB OF LIFE AND YOUAt the end of my garden in Capel Curig in north Wales, where it meets a rather distinctive, mysterious and therefore much-valued copse, there are a small number of gorse bushes growing wild. I love them.

I could tell you, as I looked at them, that their botanical name is Ulex europaeus, but that’s rather an academic and clinical view of them. Not very interesting. But, there’s so much more about them.

‘Everybody loves to tell me I was born an old soul
Better keep my eyes wide open’

Sabrina Carpenter, singer

I could tell you, and it is so true, that they are wonderful to look at, and when they flower between January to June their flowers are a most vivid, breath-taking and brilliant yellow. It is an also an important shrub as it provides shelter and food for many spiders, other insects, and birds such as Dartford Warblers, Stonechats and Yellowhammers. But, there’s more. Even more. There is always more. Mae mwy as they say in Wales

What if our perception is stunted? Our understanding limited?

What if our perception of other people, of nature and the cosmos, what if the view we hold even about ourselves is arrested, partial and limited by our twenty-first century thought? Like looking into a dirty, in-need-of-a-polish mirror. We do, after all, live in a society which idolises science, and which is very much the offspring of ancient Greece with its dualistic view of the world.

What if we’re blind to what is really out there?

Composition

Once, as I gazed at those gorse bushes after a rain storm they bristled with light, the reflected light of the sun in thousands of water droplets on their spiny leaves and stems, caught in their flowers and on a myriad of spider’s webs that had ‘colonised’ them. As I half-closed my eyes and let my imagination flow I could see the shrubs, the water, the lights were Life itself. And what’s more it wasn’t only the shrubs the exuded such Light-lIfe. It was everything.

‘…there is another way to conceive…life…not [as] a clockwork universe in which individuals function as discrete springs and gears, but [as] one that looks far more like a luminous web, in which the whole is far more than the parts.’ Barbara Brown Taylor, The Luminous Web.

In our mind’s eye, in our imaginations – which are no less real (and maybe more so) than the physical world we see with our two eyes – Life is not separate parts that are autonomous but are facets of the One, that Life Web. Each seeming part, an observable node, is invisibly connected to that one Luminous web, but for now we might only be able to glimpse it periodically using our mind’s eye. It is enough.

The universe, then, shines and shimmers with an ancient light that is, currently, too fantastic to behold. And what of you and I? Oh, yes, as people who are connected to that Life-Web, we too shine. ‘I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being’, said Hafiz, and ‘Let your light so shine…’, said The Christ (Matthew 5:16a, The Book). Ofcourse, there are those who will find it hard to believe, and those who will fight against such a notion, but I do believe it is true.

There is always more. Mae mwy as they say in Wales. Our composition, our outlook, our very status are all wonderfully, graciously entwined and part of that Luminous web of Life.

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship…’ (C S Lewis)

No Limitations

That Web stretches outward and is more luminous and expansive than we can yet imagine, touching everything in the universe. Why, that Web connects you, as you sit in front of your computer or iPhone reading this, with, say, the Crab Nebula, some 6500 light years away. Send out a ray of light to the Crab Nebula today and it will arrive in AD 6718. But, I would venture that that connectedness takes no travelling time should you ‘jangle’ the web of which you’re part (by sending a good-thought, a prayer, light and love in that direction, or elsewhere). Physical limitations don’t apply. The web in the Crab Nebula instantly responds. It can do no other.

There’s a wonderful book by one of my favourite ‘old’ Brit authors, John Wyndham. Amongst his great books, he was renowned for writing ‘The Day of the Triffids’. But he also wrote a book called ‘Chocky’, a delightful book that has twists and turns that causes challenges along the way. Matthew is the main character in that book and he gets into awful trouble at school for being different and acting oddly. His drawings and paintings in art classes, for instance, have odd colours for the sky and sea. Perhaps, purple instead of blue, and orange instead of green-blue water. And why do the buildings he paints seem odd and compressed? Matthew is getting his ideas from beyond, from someone else in another part of the universe – it is a sci-fi book, and a very good one at that. And this is what happens in his physics class:

‘It arose…from Mr Caffer’s assertion during a physics lesson about the speed of light was the limit; nothing, he dogmatically stated, could travel faster than light.

Matthew, put up his hand. Mr Caffer looked at him.

‘Oh’, Mr Caffer said, ‘I might have expected it. Well, young Matthew Gore, what is it you know that Einstein didn’t?’

Matthew already regretting his impulse said, ‘It doesn’t matter, sir’.

Mr Caffer insisted on a reply.

‘Well, sir. It’s just that the speed of light is only the limit of physical speed’, said Matthew.

‘Indeed. And perhaps you can tell us what travels faster?’

‘Thought, sir,’ said Matthew.

In sending a good-thought, a prayer, energy, light and love in any direction, you and I, as we’re part of that shimmering, Luminous Web, do so instantly. There is no time, no time delay involved. It’s instantaneous. Quantum physics, too, now seems to be hinting at this.

The physics that we’re so used to – and it does perform a good task when driving, shopping, mending the toaster etc – do not apply at the very deepest, spiritual, cosmic, energetic, intimate and ‘magical’ level of the Universe, of which we’re part.

Limitations do not apply, and you are not what you (probably) thought you were!

And finally…

You, too, shine with a myriad points of ancient and cosmic lights, and one day ‘when we’re there’, we will see each other as we really are, and know each other even as we are known, as it says in ancient sacred text. Meanwhile, so look deeper, more intently, intentionally, with your mind’s eye. An amazing world awakes  for those keeping their (spiritual) eyes wide open.  There is always more. Mae mwy as they say in Wales

‘There is a radiance in all things that is indestructible and almost unperceivable.’ Mark Nepo

 

Celtic Thought: The Luminous Web Of The Universe

20170606 THE LUMINOUS WEB OF THE UNIVERSEThere is a ‘shy’ linkage of everything at all levels, but especially at the unimaginable small and energetic levels; and there’s an interconnectedness of which we are part, at least that’s what quantum mechanics infers. The universe is part of us, and vice versa, and really does see through our eyes. Through us it obtains consciousness. That was yesterday’s theme. But, the journey continues.

‘So what?’, I hear some say.

If that linkage is real, and I believe it is, then we are all connected in one amazing ‘Great Chain of Being’, as some describe it. Others call it ‘the Kingdom’, or ‘the Nested Holarchy of Being’, in ancient sacred text it is personalised as ‘members of one another’, and to others, like Barbara Brown Taylor it is ‘the Luminous Web’ which spans space and time in its totality.

Connectedness.

web unspash demi-kwant-17364

Touch one part of a web, and every part of it vibrates

But with this connectedness, apparent by intuition and imagination and a new awareness, there is a need for a new understanding and outworking of this deep and profound kinship. After all, we (and that includes all humankind, earthly creatures and trees etc, and indeed, the whole cosmos) are one.

Relationship.

As I look through the window to the outside world – I’m not outside in my little inner-city garden today – It’s raining hard – and, I ponder, ‘Does that mean we have to hug trees? What does it mean in relationship to my immediate neighbour and, say, those in need on the other side of the planet? What does that mean for us as individuals? (in one sense of the word) or as a group, nation, species?

Responsibility.

Richard Rohr talks about ‘the flow’, a personal and energetic ‘river’ of grace that infills everything, and others would take this further and say that its conduit is the luminous web, or even that they are one of the same!

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Relationship is ‘in’ the gaps, too!

So, if you want to hug and tree, do so – if by that you mean you will actually hug a tree and do more, because something else, something extra is needed. If you are upset when you see injustice or badly malnourished people on tv – and who isn’t moved at such tragedy – and feel led to make a considered response, do so, but bear in mind that something else is need.

‘The energy in the universe is not [so much] in planets, or in the protons or neutrons, but in the relationship between them’. Richard Rohr.

The ‘extra’ and much-needed ingredient is relationship, and it is here that awareness, intuition, and imagination comes in. We can do things, but without the right attitude and a two-way relationship there is no love.

Refusal?

‘Sin [however we view that word] is always a refusal of mutuality and a closing down into separateness.’ Richard Rohr.

If we act, and believe it right to do so, then act, please….act favourably towards others and the environment in a way that is appropriate and resource-affordable to you, but remember love (which was also the title of an interesting song sung by Yoko Ono. Was that really released in 1968? Time flies!).

There’s more. Mae mwy

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Love is foundational

It is one thing to understand and delight in connectedness, but we live in a materialistic and shallow world, and unwittingly we can reduce our response accordingly (and even unknowingly). Connectedness, hugging a tree (literally or metaphorically), or even prayer, well-wishing, sending energy etc isn’t just mechanical – like a boardroom flowchart – something that can just be done and it’s over. It’s living and active, and it is about deep relationship. It’s about love.

Love.

It’s one thing to hug a tree (or the environment, or others etc) or do all those beneficial things, it is entirely a different order of action-relationship when it is based on love.

‘To become fascinated is to step into a wild love affair on any level of life’. Brian Swimme.

 

laniakea_nrao_960 nasa

The universe is a web

After thought: From the smallest imaginable point to the biggest structure in the universe, the universe is a web. A web of quanta, atoms, molecules, solar systems, and the galaxies. A web. Interestingly, just as stars clump together in a web that we call a galaxy – and we’re on the outer edge of an ‘arm’ in a spiral galaxy – so galaxies clump together to form a web. The picture, right, is an accurate representation of millions of galaxies forming a web in space. ‘Our’ local neighbourhood – a small part of that picture – spanning over 500 light-years, is known as Laniakea [The name Laniakea means “immense heaven” in Hawaiian]. The universe is a huge web! Isn’t that fascinating?

 

20170606 THE LUMINOUS WEB OF THE UNIVERSE

Celtic Thought: The Eye Of The Universe

20170605 THE EYE OF THE UNIVERSEIt’s 5.30am and I’m up early and back in London. For what passes as a small back garden – some would call it a yard – I’m here, sipping a nice cup of coffee, at the garden table, and reading a science journal. There is a fascinating article about quantum mechanics and  the Large Hadron Collider, and consciousness. Yes, consciousness.

I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics’. Richard Feynman

Random thoughts stream through mind, and gradually coalesce, centring on remembered writings by Barbara Brown Taylor. She wrote about the universe and connectedness, and then used her imagination to ‘earth’ it, by citing examples of connected-bizarre events such as a mother ”knowing’ something has happened to her child…the strange communication between twins’, and so on.  Maybe things that we’ve experienced in some way. Intuition. Synchronicity. Serendipity etc.

And then, I returned to reading about quantum mechanics. 

[On being asked about the practical applications of particle physics research with the Large Hadron Collider.] Michio Kaku said, ‘We do this because we want to understand our role and our place in the universe.’

Ofcourse, the Large Hardon Collider is all to do with experiments specifically relating to the first few seconds on the universe’s birth. And, that’s where our imaginations have to come into play. You can see I was having a nice cup of coffee this morning, albeit with deep and profound thoughts arising (from somewhere). But, our place, our status in the universe is important.

Can you imagine: every thing on this planet, and indeed, every structure in the universe came from something the size of a grain of rice some 14 billion years ago. Some call this event ‘the Big Bang’ (though it’s debatable that any noise would have been emitted), others call it the Point of Singularity, and still others, call it the Cosmic Christ. Amazing.

Everything that exists came from that tiny dot of ‘something’. Every quanta, atom, molecule, cell, human, animal, planet, star, galaxy etc it all came from that ‘seed’. But, potential exists, love exists, desire or passion exists, energy in a myriad forms exists – did all these come from the Big Bang? And, if not, from where?

I’ve got paving stones in this small inner-city garden, and there seems to be a superabundance of little weeds now, between the paving stones, just seeking a morsel of earth in which to grow. Life is precious and seeks any stronghold. Perhaps that’s the reason buddleia is so prolific. 

There’s a view that if you get one of these quantum particles and split them, and then spin them, they will spin in the same direction. Change one’s spin and the other will adjust automatically to follow suit. If one particle is at the far end of the galaxy it will change its spin immediately – no time delay. This has led some to think of a connection between them that travels instantaneously, that is, faster than the speed light.

‘A particle way over there responds instantly to a particle way over her, as if the two were not two, but one. What if our mental torture [about faster-than-light travel between these two separated particles] only comes about because we insist on conceiving reality as many when it is truly and deeply one? All appearances to the contrary, ‘ the universe remains as it was in the beginning, when all places were one place, all times one time, and all things the same thing’, writes Barbara Brown Taylor, quoting Timothy Ferris.

Perception is important.

An aircraft soars overhead, momentarily interrupting my coffee-drinking, an ambulance siren can be heard a mile away, and when the wind’s in the right direction, like now, the sound of railway carriages moving can just, but only just be heard. The world is waking up. Or has it never slept, but only my perception of it has?

Awareness.

So, rather than separated particles mimicking each other through faster-than-light communication, it seems quantum particles are not separated at all, and may still be in their ‘just-at-the-time-of-big-bang created’ state. Still connected, albeit invisibly.

‘…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us…’ John 17.21a, The Book

So, maybe, just maybe, we and energy, objects and events, everything visible and invisible – all of which came from the ‘Big Bang’ – are still in that ‘Big Bang’ connected state (though we may use a multitude of different words to describe that state), and if so,  that places a huge and wonderful responsibility on each of us.

‘The universe continues to unfold, continues to reveal itself to itself through human awareness… Humanity… [was] brought forth to enrich the total life of the planet with our science and technology and everything else’. Brian Swimme.

Whatever we do – our hobbies, art, nine-to-five jobs, family events, mundane or humdrum chores, our rest periods, our successes (and our non-successes), our ritual, yes our ritual, too, all of this has a part to play in the connected universe at the levels of deep and profound mystery, and it is the universe enjoying consciousness through us – through me and you, right now!

Status.

It’s now 6am, and the universe is about to experience a continental breakfast, delayed only because a butterfly has just landed on the table’s edge, and I refuse to move and miss  this example of interconnectedness. Besides, its quite a lovely butterfly, that landed there just by chance. Chance?

‘Butterfly effect:  The scientific theory that a single occurrence, no matter how small, can change the course of the universe forever. For instance, the flap of a butterfly’s wings changed the air around it so much that a tornado broke out two continents away.

You matter, and are an integral part of the universe, and indeed, you are the eye through which the universe sees itself.

Celtic Thought: Are We There Yet? [Connectedness In A ‘Disconnected’ World]

20170424 ARE WE THERE YET CELTIC THOUGHTI’m sure you asked the same or similar question when you were a child. Maybe, like me, you were in the back of the car, drifting in and out of sleep, journeying back home, and during those waking moments you would ask nearest adult, probably several times, the question, ‘Are we there, yet?’.

Now, as an adult we might rephrase that question, and apply it to other instances, but essentially we often ask that same type of question, whether it applies to a physical journey, a task in hand, repayments left on the mortgage, our place in the universe or in relationship to the Source.

And, where it matters most, say, in relationship to those cosmic, huge questions, those last two questions mentioned above, the answer could be…is, an outstanding, ‘yes!’. Surprised?

There is a school of thought that says we’re on Earth, and space starts a few miles above us. Point a telescope upward and you’ll see stars.

I asked a child family-member, ‘Would you like to go into space?’ They, ofcourse replied with a resounding, ‘Yes’. And, I replied, ‘Well, you already are!’. Naturally, they were a bit disappointed, having a childish understanding of what I was on about and really hoped that somehow they could be ‘catapulted’ above the Earth’s atmosphere – but, as regards their understanding, it’s okay, because they are a child!

‘Astronomy compels the soul to look upward, and leads us from this world to another.’ Plato, The Republic

As you probably know I’m an amateur astronomer, and the proud owner of a 12 inch telescope. Point it 180 degrees to the east at night and you would see a myriad of stars, Point it in the opposite direction and you’ll see just as many stars. Stars to the left, to the right, stars above and below. Yes, we are in space. Not separate, not different, but in space in one glorious feat of connectedness. Part of the universe, already. It’s just that some don’t think that. It’s true, but they don’t get it! Ego confuses the issue. But, in essence if we asked the question, ‘Are we there, yet?’ ‘Ofcourse we are!’, is the reply.

‘The wonder is, not that the field of stars of so vast, but that man has measured it.’ Anatole France

We’re included, not excluded.

There is a theological view that we’re separate from the Source of All. And, if we like those renaissance paintings where God is depicted as above and maybe sitting on a cloud, and humanity is below, then we can be forgiven for thinking that we’re separate. God up there, us down here. However, one commentator whom I shall call ‘The One Who Knows’ prayed a prayer to the Source along the lines of,  ‘That they may be one, even as we are one’. Taking that at face value, then we’re already one, already connected. Yes, we’re already there and always have been, essentially. It’s just that, existentially, some don’t know it. Ego confuses the issue.

‘For in him we live and move and have our being…’ Acts 17.28, The book (part)

We’re included, not excluded.

Ofcourse, the same could be said of people (that we’re essentially separated from others), or nature (that we’re somehow so different as to be separate from it), and so on. Is it so, or do we just think that? Included and part? Or Excluded and separate?

And, if we believe  we’re separate (even when we’re not) it could mean, and I would suggest it does mean, that we’re mistaken to the point that we’re are not (fully) exercising the Source-given responsibility, and not utilising loving-energy toward each other and nature around us, in what we think and say and do, that we should be exercising. Egoic limitations then abound.

‘Unless one’s philosophy is all-inclusive, nothing can be understood.’ Mary Ritter Beard

But, what do you think?