Nature’s ‘Quiet Teachers’ And The Three Lessons

20190214 NATURES QUIET TEACHERS AND THE THREE LESSONS

We all live in a fast-paced society, regardless of where we live. Things to do, places to be, people to see. Never with enough hours in the day, it seems. It creeps up slowly on us all, and only a determined effort will expose its grip on.

We live in an age of ‘fast’, as opposed to those Ancients, the Druids, early Christians, Pagans and others whose life resonated to a much slower, deeper time.

Today, society’s watchword is ‘busy’. But, that is not who we are.

‘Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going to fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why’. Eddie Cantor

With that thought in mind, and acknowledging that I had been caught, lately, in the trap of ‘fastness’, I took myself off for a break, and recently spent several wonderful days in the New Forest in the southernmost part of England, and loved it.

It was cold, wet, and muddy, and some might have described it as miserable. I would call it an opportunity to be alone with the Alone. And, what a blessing it was.

I’ve mentioned some of the thoughts and experiences of that New Forest encounter, already, and the blessing it was to me, but it seems to me that the Universe, the Source of All doesn’t delineate things quite as neatly as we want, and because of that there is always something to learn.

Here are some recent events, in no particular order, with learning experiences.

One: There is a guy who is homeless, local to where I live in London, and whenever I can I strike up a conversation with him, have shared information about helpful agencies with him, and sometimes given money. It can almost be ‘robotic’. It shouldn’t be, but sometimes when we see mass appeals on tv for this concern and that need, it’s possible to get ‘overloaded’ and blasé about those in great need and their needs. Without realising it, in our busyness we miss out.

And then it happened. I was in a café belonging to one of the large companies, inserted my debit card at the counter/check-out till and it wouldn’t work. I tried three times, and fortunately there wasn’t a queue behind me so no one was upset  – except me. But, it wasn’t working – the card had a ‘tear’ in it.

Just then a young guy who seemed about eight foot tall and looking down on me, it seemed (and that was a bit of hyperbole on my part), and who was in front of me, having paid and was waiting for his coffee, offered to pay. And, before I could say anything, he wafted his wrist over the contactless reader (just like Obi Wan Kenobi did in that movie when he said, ‘These are not the ‘driods you are looking for’) and the transaction for my latte and croissant had been dealt with. Just like that.

‘There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.’ Aldous Huxley

In my mind, the ‘accuser’ spring to life: ‘He thinks your down on you luck. He feels sorry for you because he thinks your card has been declined because of insufficient funds. That’s what he thinks of you.’ And so, I wanted to say to him, I do have enough money in the bank you, know! But, the ‘quietness within’ also spoke to me and urged me to accept this goodwill gesture, knowing that I needed to pay for it, and that the pay-er would be blessed. The most I could say to him, overjoyed at his assistance, was ‘Thank you, bless you!’.

What goes around, comes around. The blessings we send out, do come back in the same form, similar forms, or altogether different forms; but they do come back. I do believe that young man will be blessed. Reciprocity.

From that café event I learned humility and the need sometimes to allow others to act on my behalf – is that the same for you?

I will look at the homeless man in the alley near Putney Bridge differently – as a truly humble man and an example to me.

Two: Having spent some time in the New Forest, it gave me sometime to spend a few hours with some new friends in Portsmouth and to celebrate Imbolc and St Brigids Day. And it was wonderful. Many people there had parts to do and say in a wonderful ceremony, and they did so with passion. I was asked to call one of the Quarters. I declined. I didn’t have my hearing aids with me, but I was impressed at the welcoming, friendliness and inclusiveness of the grove. Isn’t that what it should be like? I guess so, but isn’t it wonderful when it really happens.

‘Everyone has a place. If we do not realize this we are not living in an inclusive world. Divisions are created by fear, anger and ignorance.’  Independent Zen

From this group I learned humility, and the need to accept graciously extended invitations. They were an example to me. Receiving.

Perhaps I could have managed with the hearing aids?

Three: Very recently I attended a Leaders’ course. It was in Solihull, near Birmingham and seemed to cover a theme that I’d like to discover more about. I will be polite. There was room for improvement in the logistics of the day, but those leading it were passionate and I liked that, even though they made no allowance for anyone’s slightly different theologies.

‘If you feel like there’s something out there that you’re supposed to be doing, if you have a passion for it, then stop wishing and just do it.’ Wanda Sykes

We had had the introductions from the front, the short course explained and ‘dipped’ in to the first theme. This was followed by a ten minute break and it was then that I hoped to find out about the twenty leaders, who, like me, were participants and might have travelled from the four corners of the country.

As soon as the break time had been declared, mobile phones came out, ipad computers were ‘fired up’, and all manner of busyness took place.

I looked around and wondered how these people’s organisations could do without them, if they had to check in like this at the first opportunity? Ofcourse, in a fast-paced and busy society the hallmark of having made it is to ‘look busy’!

It’s easy to point the finger and say that this display of busy-ness is ego (although, perhaps their organisations could not do without them), but it could be. But, another, deeper thought came to my mind.

The over-riding thought was: ‘this was you (and could it be you?). It’s easy to slip back into it. Pray for those who are still in the clutches of busy-ness’. I almost fell into the trap of judging them in a self-righteous way.

The cult of busy-ness is insidious, but we are more than that.

‘He showed me that there was another world where strangers helped strangers for no other reason than that it is good to do so, and where callousness was unusual, not the norm.’ Hyeonseo Lee

Today, society’s watchword is ‘busy’. But, that is not who we are.

The Ancients knew the art of slow, of perceiving deeply and leading an uncluttered life. They had their challenges just as we have ours. We are not in their situation, and so in many senses we need to ‘work’ at rediscovering  what they experienced.

I’m back in London now. The New Forest experiences were wonderful, but so were the events that followed it. Could it be that in any encounter with the Other, the ‘unpacking’ and assessment and application of it comes later, and do the blessings keep on coming as ‘distant echoes’?. I think they do. Residuality

Wherever we go, there are things to perceive, things to learn, things to share. We are surrounded by nature’s ‘quiet teachers’ – and such teachers are in wild places as well as in the city, in deep spiritual moments and in the ‘mundane’.  We are surrounded by such teachers and the One who is engaged in an everlasting conversation with us, should we only ‘stop and stare’, and listen, and put the cult of busy-ness in its place.

 

In The Depth Of My Soul….: Anamnesis

20170913 IN THE DEPTH OF MY SOUL ANAMNESIS REMEMBERINGAs you know I love ritual. Not just for the pomp and ceremony, but I love it because of its power and vitality, for the fact that it connects us to That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves, intensifies the moment, and can have such a deep meaning that we are transformed, and transported in delight.

I was watching a video recetly which had several recorded events of the hongi. The hongi is the ancient traditional Maori greeting, and is done by a gentle pressing of one’s nose and forehead to another persons nose and forehead. The ‘ha’ (breath of life), also seen as one’s soul, is then exchanged. Then the visitor, the ‘manuhirim’ is no longer a visitor but, wonderfully becomes a ‘tangata whenua’, one of the people of the Land.

As the video progressed, one act of hongi stood out from amongst the others. This person, a westerner, probably nervous and feeling out of place, went a long a line of Maori people, touched nose to nose, but at breakneck speed. The act was performed, but that person had forgotten the true meaning of the hongi, and so missed out on ‘something’. It was, sadly, rather shallow. There was no real meaning, no depth, no transformation, no sharing of the ‘ha’, the breath of life.

Ritual is important, because it slows us down. In ritual we remember. Remembering is so important. And when involved in ritual, and when remembering we go deep(er) and may be transformed, we enter sacred-time and sacred-space and encounter. Things, then are different.

The challenge, today, is that instead of going deep we are encouraged to operate at a shallow level. It seems to be the way of the world.

‘People care much more for how things look than how things are.’  Donna Lynn Hope

I have been to some fine ceremonies. Last Christmas, for instance, I was at an event where we sang wonderful tunes and awesome words, recited meaningful words from a bygone age, listened intently to a transforming story, and then afterwards I sipped coffee with the congregation. I was still in the ‘liminal zone’, but others around me were not. I’m not judging them because on other occasions I’m probably in their shoes, and maybe you have been, too? It happens.

After that ceremony those  near me talked about the weather and their rhumatism, the need to leave early to start cooking the Christmas turkey, they talked about a several-hour car journey to visit a relative, and one remarked that the minister was wearing a rather fetching stole.

‘Either you decide to stay in the shallow end of the pool or you go out in the ocean.’ Christopher Reeve

Ritual is important, because it slows us down. In ritual we remember. But, those around me may have misunderstood the nature of the ceremony we had just witnessed, and had forgotten. It is here that ritual and stories come in useful, because through stories we remember.

There is an ancient story, one that we heard at that service, that includes the words, ‘Do this in remembrance of me…’. When I hear those words it’s like warm honey being poured down my spine – they are awesome and have moved me to tears on occasions. In them is power and love, invitation and joy. In them we remember.

In thinking of those words, we can view them merely from an academic point of view. There is nothing wrong with this, but there’s more. Go deeper. We can view them as words said by the One some two thousand years ago, and look back from a historical, ‘legal’ or dogmatic point of view. There is nothing wrong with this, but there’s more. Many in that congregation seemed to stop there – many do, and so miss out. Many stop at a shallow understanding of ritual and ceremony and story, but there is more. Go deeper.

When those words – and it could be other words and events that we ecnounter – are spoken or encountered they are deeper than deep. ‘Do this in remembrance of me’ is so significant because the ‘remembering’ is anamnesis!

Remembering is important. Anamnesis is so important.

In its weakest sense, and common today, anamnesis it is merely remembering an act, and carrying it on in the absence of the originator. It’s a looking back along that distant horizontal time-line. Oh, how the spirit of this age wants us to quickly move on to something else, so we miss the depth.

‘In the depth of my soul there is a wordless song.’ Kahlil Gibran quotes

There’s more for those who want to go deeper, and who really want to benefit.
In its deepest, purist sense, and the one I would encourage you to engage with, anamnesis has a vertical connection. It (ritual, ceremony or story etc) ‘lifts’ us off the normal time-line, and upward to the higher realm. Not just an act, but a participation; not with an absent host but one who is ever-present; not looking back in time, but living in continual ‘nowness” of the event; not earthly, but cosmic.

An example of anamnesis can be read in a previous article entitled, The Telling Place: Ritual And Anamnesis. (See here)

Anamnesis in ritual, in our times of meditation and quiet, in our services and ceremony is a ‘transporting’ back or coming into full partcipation with the event in mind – it is the time-frame you and I are living in, being superimposed over some major event so that the two are happening together.

Synchronous. Participation. Transformation.

My encouragement to you is: Don’t miss out, but to go deeper, and resist the spirit of the age to remain shallow. Go deeper, and revel in anamnesis, true remembering and true participation. True encounter. Liminal, not liminoid.

 

Celtic Thought: Deep Calls To Deep In An Age Of Shallow

20170418 DEEP CALLS TO DEEP CELTIC THOUGHTIs it just me, or has the world moved into the ‘shallow end’ of the swimming pool, metaphorically? And, if it’s always been this way, perhaps more so nowadays? I’m used to politicians alarmingly giving glib and shallow answers (and doubly alarming when the public or journalists swallow wholesale what they say without question), but it seems to me that in other  spheres of life there’s been a movement to quick and shallow, rather than slow and deep.

I hear your voice on the wind
And I hear you call out my name.

Could it be that, though the mass media, we’re conditioned to accept the quick answer, the frivolous and not wait and ponder? In many cases we’re so caught up in the moment, the noise, the neon glare of the city, that we miss that still, small voice. Richard Rohr quotes a psychological phenomenon that states if we don’t ‘anchor’ a new experience and encounter as something unique, then within fifteen seconds it will be stored in the brain as a run-of-the-mill event and hardly remembered. Dwell with mystery.

Be not afraid, come follow me
Answer my call, and I’ll set you free”

Why is it that we so easily pleased? To ‘dive deep’ demands that we slow down, really allow information and experience to ‘sink in’, but that way of working is alien to the world we live in. And yet, for those who do take time, the rewards are out of this world.

Why are we so content to swim in the shallows? For some, it’s fear. Many shun solitude and quietness, run from experiential knowledge or body wisdom, because they feel they will be out of their depth. Actually, that’s true. But, it’s when we’re out of our depth that we experience the guiding on the Unseen One, who is more than capable to buoy us up.

Why are we so busy? Many have the mistaken notion that ‘a full diary, makes for a happy life’. True, many people have jobs that demand that we’re time-conscious, but sometimes, maybe many times, that way of working spills over into our recreation time. Remember: you don’t have to answer your mobile phone immediately it rings.

And then, often, we miss out on dolce far niente – my favourite Italian phrase which means ‘sweetly, doing nothing’. Try it!

I am the voice of the future, bring me your peace
Bring me your peace, and my wounds, they will heal

Why are we so fearful? Our society encourages us to be in control at all times. Why would anyone dive into the deep end, and risk being caught up in currents that take one to unknown places? And, yet if we don’t we well miss out. Surrender.

To put ourselves in the way of the Source, to encounter the Source by slowing down and listening intently, and responding deeply is a risk, but it’s worth it.

It’s like diving or swimming in the ocean. Immense. Frightening. Powerful. And yet, amazingly refreshing, beautiful and rewarding. Then, deep calls to deep. In that liminal space,  answers don’t come easily, and pain is exposed rather than covered over, but it is where healing and transformation takes place. It is dealing with the real wound, rather than just applying a zeitgeist ‘band-aid’.

We live in a time where it is easy to avoid those tough questions, to ignore our own foibles, to fill our days with busy-ness and sometimes meaningless activity, to turn on the tv etc. But, deep calls to deep, and yet often we resist and we long to stay at the shallow end.

I am the voice that always is calling you
I am the voice

Take for example, ritual. Any ritual can be done glibly. The words can be recited, actions done automatically and quickly, and before we know it we’re saying ‘amen’, ‘so be it’, ‘so mote it be’, or awen, or similar.

But, the take time, to slow it down, to ponder upon each phrase and to use intuition and imagination to take ourselves into that ‘magical’ and powerful place of liminality, and we can encounter the Source, The Voice, The Friend. Deep calls to deep, and we benefit when we respond in kind. It is one of the reasons that I (as a latter-day Celt, Druidic Christian etc) cherish, love, and waste no time in finding ways to celebrate events and the seasons in liturgy and ritual. Ritual opens the door to another place of power, purpose and potential, it ushers us into a ‘thin place’, and we benefit in so many different ways. Have you experienced a ‘thin place’, liminality?

Ne’er do I sleep throughout all the cold winter long
I am the force that in springtime will grow

Right now, the voice of the Source continues to speak deeply to each one of us. I do believe the Source never stops providing us with opportunities to encounter, and ritual is one way in which the Source reminds us to draw near, or dive deep, to ‘lose ourselves’ in that Great Ocean of Encounter.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing more about how we can grow and be transformed, can move into that liminal realm of encounter, and benefit – infact, some have asked for day workshops on this very theme, and so, it’s very much as case of ‘watch this space’.

Meanwhile, my encouragement to myself and to you is to go deeper in the things that make for Encounter. Deep really does call to deep. Respond in kind.

Blessings, Tadhg.

 

Quotes above from the song, ‘The Voice’, by Celtic Woman