The Time Of Presence, Or A Permissible Walk In London: A Poem

THE TIME OF PRESENCE

It’s dark, it’s half past ten, right now
and around me shadows grow.
The city lampposts, try to cast their light.
Beaming radiant hope far into the night.
And, eight million people wonder what’s going on,
But no one knows.
This is the time of lockdown.

And yet we’re not alone, my friend
this is far from being the end.
In these strange days that we find ourselves in.
Elementals from above, descend,
and invisibly move amongst us,
so unknown, so quietly.
This is the time of new beginnings.

And so I walk fast, on and on,
past peopled houses in the night.
With our new time of self-isolation,
sweeping all across the nation.
There is one message we must never forget,
Forget, never.
This is the time, we’re together.

 

[With apologies to Simon & Garfunkel]

 

 

Greetings: Power & Praxis In Social Distancing

GREETINGS POWER AND PRAXIS IN SOCIAL DISTANCING

‘The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost…’ Galadriel’s voice, The Lord of The Rings, J R R Tolkein

And so the priest raised a hand and conferred a blessing, sometimes both hands were raised; the parent or guardian would say goodbye to their small child by bringing the palm of their hands to their mouth, bring that palm forward just a little and blow, to blow a kiss in the child’s direction; my grandmother would pretend to put her hand too close to the open fire and frown, blow her hand as she shakes it as if it is burnt. Such is the power of this type of symbolism.

From the small sample of the three actions of hand symbolism mentioned there is the conferment of a blessing, the issuing forth of love, and a warning instruction to be careful. Symbolism – we take it for granted but it is powerful as a symbol, but so much more. There is power there!

In the clearing, in ancient England the Druid stood next to the table, the altar, and there to one side was the cauldron. Opinions differ to its usage, but some believe it could have been used to burn fragrant herbs to be used as an offering. Smoke and a wonderful fragrance would fill the air and denote that this was a pure place, a special time, a liminal place, a ‘thin place’. Interestingly, the tribes of the First Nations of America would, at that time, be using their smudge sticks, ‘saging’, in a similar way. And, yes in Scotland similar practices would take place, except there it was (and still is) called saining. Great symbolic ideas seem to come alive, move and are adapted by many, and they gain from it. We gain from it.

Why concern ourselves with symbolism now?

As you know I do like to hug, or at more formal settings I like a handshake, or a combination of the two which is known as the pound hug, the man-hug, the dude hug or one-armed hug. None of which can be done today, and for some months to come, because of the coronavirus and the need for no physical contact.

‘We are symbols, and inhabit symbols.’ Ralph Waldo Emerson

So, what do we do? The world is changed. How do we use different hand and other  symbolism and actions to greet others?

Well, over the past few weeks there have been a variety of new options for greetings. The elbow to elbow tap is one, and some of the friendliest of people would do that with their right elbow to another’s right below, and then left to left. Others would tap their right foot against another’s right foot, and then left to left. And some combined the two so it became a little, comical dance. None of which can be done today and for some months to come because of the coronavirus, and the need to keep some social distancing (which, here in the UK is 2 metres apart, at least).

So, what do we do?

Below, are some fascinating alternatives from around the world, from ancient cultures and new, full of symbolism and power. There are many which can be used and adapted, imaginatively, to greet other people in this non-tactile period and so confer respect and act as a greeting from a distance (unless we’re in ‘lockdown’ in which case we shouldn’t be meeting people)… but these suggested symbolic greetings can also be used when communicating by video links such as FaceTime. Time to change. Time to experiment.

’Symbols are the imaginative signposts of life.’ Margot Asquith

Hand over the heart. The Bellamy salute was used in America, especially in respect to the flag when reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. It meant extending and  lifting the right arm just above the horizontal. Some may now think of this as the salute by Nazis and right-wing extremists. Not so, until the rise of Nazism in the second world war. But, around 1942 the Bellamy salute was superseded by placing the right-hand palm on the left side of the chest and over the heart to show love and respect to the American flag and for which is stands. What a wonderful gesture, and a good gesture to others we meet (online) to do the same as an initial greeting as we speak words of greeting, too. A heartfelt gesture?

For some, a variation of this might be a double tap over the heart with an open palm, to denote greeting. A heartbeat, perhaps, denoting the blessing of life? I think a double tap with a closed fist is acceptable too.

Bowing or head-nod. How many times have you crossed a busy street with bags of shopping, whilst a car ddriver has stopped to let you across. You say ‘thankyou’ but it’s unlikely the driver will hear you, and so in all probability you do a slight nod of the head in the drivers direction. That visual  ‘thankyou’ can also be used as a greeting. As is the case in countries such as Japan though the nod may be a bow from the hip upwards. That may be too formal for many of us, but the slight, brief head nod as a greeting seems special enough to be used.

It is customary when meeting the Queen of Great Britian for women to curtsey and for men to do that slight head-nod as she passes by. If you’ve seen the Queen move along a line of dignitaries you will see a myriad of curtsies and head-nods like pistons in and engine. However, there is a story, allegedly true, that Dennis Skinner, an MP (then) and not one for giving to respecting the office of the monarch, was determined not to head-nod as she passed by. It is said that the Queen, who occasionally stops to talk to some of the line of dignitaries, and having spied Skinner in the line, deliberately stopped to speak to him in the quietest of voices. His immediate and reflex action was to move his head closer to the Queen’s to catch her words to give a reply. Yes, the Queen in that one brief moment gained a head-nod of respect from Skinner even without him knowing it. Allegedly.

Hand wave. In British Sing Language the typical greeting of ‘hello’ is a simple wave of the hand. With the elbow bent and the hand brought up to shoulder level, you simply wave your hand. I believe in American Sign Language the right hand is brought up to the side of the head and the action resembles a military salute. Perhaps done with less formality and covering a shorter distance before the salute ends.

’As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelite were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalakites were winning…. When Moses’ hands grew heavy…then Aaron and Hur held his hands up, one on each side’. Exodus 17:11-12 part, The Book

The ‘v’ sign. Popularised by the hippie movement of the 1960’s the ‘peace’ sign, which can be used in these weird times, consisted of making the letter ‘v’ with the index and middle fingers, the other digits brought together, and with the palm of the hand facing the recipient. Ofcourse, many will now that to do this sign with the back of the hand to the recipient is a grave insult. Odd that Winston Churchill, the UK’s wartime Prime Minister used it that way when addressing crowds of supporters and at rallying speeches throughout the country! Perhaps, intentional and directed at the enemy at the time?

The ‘vulcan’ salute is a novel one. One your right hand bring all your fingers together, thumb apart, and then separate the middle finger from the ring finger. You can say or mouth the words ‘Live long and prosper’, or even say that in the Vulcan language and then it would be, ‘dif-tor heh smusma’, but that may be taking things too far.

Used copiously by Leonard Nimoy who played the Vulcan known as Spock in Star Trek, and by many others since, its origin comes from ancient Hebrew. At a certain part in their ritual the Jewish Kohanim, the priest, would raise his right hand and make that sign. It resembles the Hebrew letter ‘shin’ which has three upward strokes and refers to the deity.

Double-handed heart. Cupping the fingers of the left hand to form the shape of a ‘c’, and doing the same cupping action with the right hand and bringing them together forms a heart shape. Maybe best used for those you know affectionately, rather then the CEO of your company during a teleconferencing session. To ‘add’ power to that symbolism the hand ‘heart’ can be moved several inches toward the recipient to show the act of giving.

‘I think that a symbolism is attached to particular images, becomes marked in the unconscious. To exorcise it, to rearrange it, to reshape it, to make it my own, involves unearthing it, describing it, deploying it in form, and then rearranging it [again].’ Sarah Charlesworth.

Namaste. This is one of my favorites and is used by many throughout the world and in the west. It’s simply bringing both the palms of your hands together, in front of your chest, usually with arms as close to horizontal as appropriate, coupled with the spoken word ‘namaste’ (pronounced nam-ass-stay), which means something like, ‘I bow to the divine within you’.

However, there are some symbolic actions of greetings that might not quite make assimilation into western thought. In one ancient Asian country, a ninth century cruel king had a black tongue. Monks, after he died, would poke out their tongues to greet people to show they were not the reincarnation of that callous black-tongued king, and that action of greeting passed onto the people, even today.

‘What I want to tell people is that you can mix the culture a little bit and it’s not always appropriation.’ Jain

I hope the abovementioned has given you a passion to take what is out there and adapt it appropriately to your need and sensitively depending on its origin. For thousands of years action and symbolism has passed from one tribe to another, one country to another, and each have shared their beliefs and actions, which , in turn, have ‘evolved’ over time. And, we are the better for it.  In the tough days ahead of temporary self-isolation and ‘lockdown’ because of the coronavirus we need a new ‘alphabet’ of symbolic greeting, and I do believe that societal journey, a remarkable one, has only just begun.

 

Fear Knocked At The Door [Cosmic Thoughts At Sainsbury’s]

FEAR KNOCKED AT THE DOOR

And so, I extinguished the single candle, symbolically showing that the ceremony was over. As I sat there, imaginally coming out of that sacred time-space into the mundane (if there is such a distinction) I clapped my hands. The latter, is grounding, and a good way to physically declare that ‘normality’ has been achieved.

Having tidied up, I picked up the shopping list and headed towards the door.

We are ‘amphibians’, of sorts. We live in the world of the physical universe where it’s necessary to be aware of time, to buy food and eat it, and yet we commune with the Beyond. Probably not at the same time, usually, but in one sense that demarcation is artificial and an illusion, and those who are aware of that joining of ‘the two rivers’ are best placed to experience liminality, a ‘thin place’, a peak experience, and go deeper.

’She was half human….half universe’ (A R Lucas)

But, we are ‘amphibians’ moving through two realms. Sainsbury, however, in these days of the coronavirus, was an experience that ‘brought me down to earth’. The long aisle which usually houses a glorious mix of vegetables on either side of the aisle, empty. Completely empty. I turned the corner, and entered the aisle where fridges on either side would normally house meat. Empty. Completely empty.

Some people ambled around with a single shopping basket, others meandered with those huge shopping trolleys full and overflowing with toilet paper, pasta, and bottled water. And not just one or a few of each products, but dozens!

’It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair …’ (Tale of Two Cities. Charles Dickens)

Shopping at Sainsbury’s was an experience. Some people were even tempered and moderate in their buying prowess. Others seemed to exude fear and panic. Electric tension filled the air.  They had that grim look of determination on their faces that declared that all should move out of their way as they charged towards the checkout with more than enough. Ofcourse, ordinarily, that wouldn’t have mattered, but these are extraordinary times. Their shopping trolley abundance meant that, perhaps, others with their shopping basket would go without.

As a species have the ability to dance with the gods, and yet some still persist in picking up the jaw bone of an animal to slay their neighbour, metaphorically. Now, I know people are frightened, scared of what might happen, but we have a choice.

Fear or hope? We need to choose well.

There is a story, a fable purportedly that comes from one of the American First National people. ‘One day a small child ambled towards their grandfather, and said, ‘Why is it that it feels like there are two dogs fighting within me, grandfather?’.

‘Indeed’, he said, ‘there are two dogs fighting within every person. One dog is crafty, wicked, greedy and violent. He looks out only for himself. The other dog looks out for all people. And, he is honest and kind, full of grace and generous. But, they fight.’.

‘So, grandfather,’ the small child said now rather worried, ‘which one wins?’

The small child’s grandfather replied, ‘Ah, whichever one you feed!’

We’re living through tough times at the moment, and we have a choice. It’s easy to be nice and loving, to declare our spirituality or religiosity to others when the going is good. But, the real test of our faith, our spirituality and love for humanity is how we react when the going is tough. It doesn’t matter how many Bible verses we’ve memorised or whether we can recount major parts of the work of Talisin, whether we wear a fish badge or the hammer of Thor if we don’t have a spirituality that is deeper than that, that looks at fear and replaces it with hope, and acts in a way that shows love to others whatever happens.

‘Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. No one was there’. (English proverb)

This article is an encouragement to you and myself not to give in to any fear we may experience – and we may, but to rise above it and to consider others as much as ourselves. We have a choice. Choose well.

These times are ‘…a test of our solidarity, our common sense and our love for each other’. (Angela Merkel).

It is difficult for each one of us, but it is the Golden Rule, and it’s logical, and it works, and it’s great to do and receive; that is to ;treat others as you would want them to treat you’.

And, so having bought a bottle of bleach (you can never have too much bleach), a jar of Marmite (you either love it or hate it), and having bought half a dozen small beers (someone said beer was a sign that God loved us), I headed towards the self checkout area, scanned the products, knowing that the green, amber and red lights on the pole would blink red. A sign for one of the shop assistants to come over, put a code in the machine to show I was of an age to buy alcohol. And, it blinked furiously.

She saw the red, blinking light. A stony-faced woman (the kind you would never play power with), tired and fed up, headed towards my direction. It had obviously been a tough day for her. She had probably had to deal with a myriad of impatient, complaining customers arguing over the last toilet roll in this massive supermarket.

‘It’s blinking red because I’ve bought alcohol’, I said. As she came closer I pulled out my driving licence and waved it in her direction, theatrically, and said, ‘Here’s my age ID’. She looked at my driving licence, looked at me – seeing me as a youthful sixty-five year old face – and laughed. I laughed too. Her stony-face and the angst of many angry customers simply melted from her face, disappeared into the Universe, and she cheered up. ‘I appreciate what you do,’ I said. She responded with a pleasing, ‘Thank you, that means so much to me’.

I am just like you, knowing that we often undervalue people who do the toughest of jobs. But, your mission and mine, should you and I choose to do it, is to treat others the way you would like them to treat you, tomorrow.

In AD 1416 at about the age of seventy-three Julian of Norwich passed on. She had spent most of her life as a deeply spiritual woman, wrote some great words and spoke out, about hope, in an age when institutions around her were negative, blaming the poor, and a plague killed millions of people in Europe. Like a beacon of hope in a dark, fearful, seemingly hopeless world, she reached out, bucked the trend, got into an awful lot of trouble for speaking the truth, and her words are as important today to us as they were then.

’All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well’. (The Lady Julian of Norwich)

These are tough times. Don’t feed the fears, please. It’s going to get better. We can do it. It’s not easy. We have a choice. We can do it – tomorrow is yet another opportunity to brighten someone’s day and be a beacon of hope and love. And, I believe that what we give out, comes back to us a thousand times bigger. So, get ready for a huge blessing.

 

The Caim Ritual: When Healing Is Needed: Coronavirus

THE CAIM CORONAVIRUS ACTION

Many are sick. The virus is spreading. Here is something you might consider doing. Ritual! Or, more specifically a caim ritual adapted to the need of the moment.

We are all aware of the coronavirus and the effect is it having. A few have written to me and asked for a simple ritual that can be conducted, in requesting a healing of people and the planet. The following ritual was conducted by me a few days ago, and you might like to use it in your ritual, quiet time or meditation time as a one-off or periodically. Do adapt it, as needed.

Introduction To The Caim: What Is It?

The caim is a profound ‘circling’ prayer used by ancient Celts and others over several millennia. It is still used by the discerning and those who know its power. The word caim is gaelic, and it has to do with ‘protection’ or ‘sanctuary’; it is derived from the root word meaning ‘circle’, to bend, or turn, and this becomes apparent when you start forming the caim. It is pronounced like the word ‘came’.

The rudiments of forming a caim are known to us, but much detail was not recorded or has been lost in the mists of time, but I like to think it was the former, and that those who used the caim of old, didn’t want to legislate the minutiae of what should be done.

The caim can be adapted, and has been adapted for the healing ritual that follows.

The Caim For World Healing In The Light Of The Coronavirus

You might like to use the following caim, either with your grove, church or group, or by yourself. It is a simple ritual that should take no more that ten minutes or so, and can be a stand-alone ritual or incorporated in a larger ritual you might have. It was used by me and a small group a few days ago.

The Caim Ritual 1: Preparation

It is preferable to have a time of entering into sacred space, and there are many ways of doing this – some have been mentioned in previous articles, but sitting quietly, meditating, perhaps lighting a candle is the simplest way. It marks an entering into liminal and sacred space and time – a place of power.

The Caim Ritual 2: The Threefold Prayer

On the central table lay a map of the world. Those present, as we all looked at the map, focussed on the plight of people affected by the coronavirus and its spread.

As the group remained seated, at a pre-arranged time designated people stood, moved nearer the table, to the space around it, and, one by one, spoke the following:

‘Let us think about all those at risk of catching the coronavirus, the general public and public service workers, that the virus may be eradicated’, someone said. We thought on this, and for a full minute we meditated in silence and power.

And, then:

‘Let pray and send good-thoughts to those who are have the coronavirus, that they may be quickly restored to full health’, someone said. We thought on this, and for a full minute we meditated in silence and power.

And, then:

‘Let us remember those who have passed-on, those now in the Place of Peace, acknowledging and honouring their passing-on, and let us remember those grieving at this time’, someone said. We thought on this, and for a full minute we meditated in silence and power.

The Caim 3: The Quarters

And, then I then moved to central table.

After a minute or so, I encouraged all to face south, the place of fire. I said, ‘Let us lift up holy hands to the south, and seek the healing purity of fire at this time’. And, all faced south and raised their hands. Some repeated the words, whilst others said ‘amen’, or ‘awen’ or their word of affirmation.

After, a minute or so I encouraged everyone to stand.

After a minute or so, I encouraged all to face west, the place of water. I said, ‘Let us lift up holy hands to the west, and seek the healing freshness of water at this time’. And, all faced west and raised their hands. Some repeated the words, whilst others said ‘amen’, or ‘awen’ or their word of affirmation.

And, then:

After a minute or so, I encouraged all to face north, the place of earth/soil. I said, ‘Let us lift up holy hands to the north, and seek the healing abundance of the soil at this time’. And, all faced north and raised their hands. Some repeated the words, whilst others said ‘amen’, or ‘awen’ or their word of affirmation.

And, then:

After a minute or so, I encouraged all to face east, the place of the wind. I said, ‘Let us lift up holy hands to the east, and seek the healing breath of the mighty wind of (the) Spirit’. And, all faced east and raised their hands. Some repeated the words, whilst others said ‘amen’, or ‘awen’ or their word of affirmation.

In facing the cardinal points I started with facing south. This ensured we ended up facing east, the place of the wind, especially pertinent bearing in mind the quote below (though you can vary the cardinal start point).

The words of ‘peace’ and ‘healing’ are intertwined. In the spiritual realm to seek or ask for peace is to seek healing; to seek or ask for healing is to ask for peace. Either word can be used. Or, you can use both.

The raising of ones hands, healing hands, is symbolic of sending a blessing and/or healing, and could be viewed as an enacted parable (something which the sages or prophets of old, as recorded in ancient sacred text, did). I like to think of each person being a conduit – receiving power from Beyond and disseminating it through their hands to the world (rather like the thought behind the powerful and meaningful dance of the whirling dervishes).

‘The Spirit is like the wind that blows wherever it wants to. You can hear the wind, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going.’ John 3:8b, The Book (Contemporary English Version)

And, then:

And then, facing inward, facing the table as all raised their hands, I put a pebble of Larimar on the world map on the table, and said, ‘Great Spirit of All, heal the world of this virus’. Some repeated the words, whilst others said ‘amen’, or ‘awen’ or their word of affirmation.

Optionally. As we lifted hands this time, I asked that, those who wished to, to imagine a golden light moving from this place and encompassing the world – this is the healing light of the Spirit reaching all.

Now, Larimar is a special stone, known by some to have healing properties, and to associated with the elements of water and fire – both necessary for healing, both relevant to this ritual. The placing of the Larimar stone on the map is symbolic, so you can substitute something else for it. Other stones that you might use, instead, are agate, jade or quartz – or perhaps, something symbolic of healing and wellness such as soap or a tissue or even a vitamin tablet. This is not to belittle the ritual, but rather to work out a physical action of an inner and spiritual request, and place it on the world map. Or, you could write the word ‘healing’ on a piece of paper, and place it on the world map. Ultimately, it is intentionality and powerful symbolism that is important.

The Caim 4: Conclusion

We sat in silence for a while and ended the ritual, except that we were reminded that in all rituals, physical action follows. So, all were reminded to be vigilant and follow health officials’ suggestions of catching sneezes in tissues and binning the tissues, of not touching your face, and of handwashing with soap thoroughly at regular intervals. The ritual is in addition to the usual hygiene needed to ward off the coronavirus, and isn’t a substitute.

We concluded the ritual by grounding/earthing ourselves – that is I extinguished the candle; and all clapped, a physical action to denote a moving from liminal and sacred space and time to ‘ordinary time’ (as if there really is such a thing) and an action which many believe raises the power.