Sleeplessness & The Ancestors: Celtic Thought

20170727 SLEEPLESSNESS AND THE ANCESTORS

I mentioned yesterday that my doctor – ever-so cautious, but I’m not complaining – has loaned me some kind of electronic sphygmomanometer, the machine that measures my blood pressure, and this one bleeps and whirrs every half hour (for a day). And then the  ‘cuff’ around my bicep contracts for a minute, and then relaxes…for another thirty minutes. See here. It’s like an old Star Trek ‘tricorder’.

Well, having got off to sleep quite quickly tonight, it woke me up with its bleeping and whirring. Before I had fully woke up, it was as if an invisible assailant was gripping my arm as the ‘cuff’ contracted and squeezed my bicep. Or, it could have been the house bwg or (from Welsh to English, the boggart), See here. Every house may have one, according to my late Welsh grandmother.

But, alas, it was the digital sphygmomanometer doing what a programmed digital sphygmomanometer should do. But, at 2.33am, in the morning?

And so, I’m awake. I’m sitting in the study, in the dark, waiting for ‘sleep’ to revisit me. Right now, I’m wide awake. Oh, so wide awake. At times like these, I always believe there’s a reason for such unexpected alertness. Could it be an angel’s prod, an elemental speaking in hushed tones, the Companion, or something else that is calling, and prompting me to wake up and now stay awake? I gaze around the dark room. Well, almost in darkness – I lit a few candles on ‘the table’ a few moments ago.

I’m not sure if you have such ‘the table’ like this, or call it something else. It’s the focal point of this room, and perhaps, spiritual-energy-wise, the focal point of the house. It is changed from time to time to reflect the seasons or what’s on my heart, but right now it displays photographs and ‘memory-prodders’ relating to some of my family that have ‘gone ahead’ and whom I still love very much.

Love wins, every time.

In Christian Churches, in a few months time, All Soul’s Day will be celebrated. Sadly, such ritual services, along with others, such as Ascension Day, magnificent and full of meaning that they are, are ‘minimised’ or even forgotten in many places. In the Eastern and Orthodox Churches such ancestor commemorative services happen five or six times a year! Wonderful. And ofcourse, to ancient and latter-day Celts, Celtic-Christians, Druidic-Christians, Druids and others, such rituals may happen more frequently. I like that very much.

As I gaze at ‘the table’ I wonder if it is ancestor-worship? For some, it may be, and I don’t judge them. For others, and for me, at least, it is a revering of those who have ‘gone ahead’, being mindful of their lives, and giving thanks that if it were not for them that I (and you, with your respective ancestors and family-tree) would not be here now. A profound and sobering thought. And, one not lost to the ancients.

How much our society has lost in its ‘advancements’.

The UK £2 coin has an inscription on it, that is so relevant here. The edge inscription has written on it: ‘Standing on the shoulders of giants’. It comes from a letter written letter in 1676 by Sir Isaac Newton to his fellow-scientist Robert Hooke, acknowledging the debt he owed to other scientists, where he wrote: ‘if I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants’.

Nanos gigantum humeris insidentes [standing on the shoulders of giants]

We are indebted, all of us, to those that have gone ‘ahead’ of us – family and friends. Some of them we might have known, but others, who ‘passed on’ before we were born, may have had no direct effect on us, but would have had a secondary effect on us, still, because of their influence down the ages on successive generations….they would have influenced one person, that person would influence another and so on, right up until we we born, and even after. Just as you will have an effect on the next generation (of children, friends, the wider family, neighbours, clients and others) and on future generations to come.

We have all benefitted from the ancestors, and future generations will look back at us as their ancestors, and my prayer is that they will be grateful.

You are not alone. You are part of the cosmic human web. The Church of old called this ‘scala naturae, or the ‘ladder of being’. Others know it as the Great Chain Of Being.

And, so I’m looking at ‘the table’ displaying some of my ancestors, thinking that I would like to display more photographs of them, and will do so in time for All Soul’s Day later in the year.

And, I was grateful for that thought. Perhaps that had been why I was so alert: to plan for a future ancestor-thanking ceremony and to give gratitude to the One who has blessed me (and you, with your ancestors of the ‘blood’ and/or ‘life-devoting-because-of adoption kind) down the ages.

But, there’s more. The next thought was: Stopping talking about, Tadhg, and do it, and not just for yourself, but for others, too!

And so, at 2.40am in the morning I decided on the ‘Nike principle’ of ‘Just Do It’. In addition to writing here, and I so enjoy that, and hope and pray that you get something out of it, too, but in addition, I’m going to ‘test the water’ and organise (planning now, and for two months or so ahead) a number of workshops and (actual) rituals along the lines of practical, and ‘earthed’ Celtic, Christian-Celtic, Druidic-Celtic and Druidic spirituality, in London and nearby.

‘All things work to the good..’ it says in one ancient sacred text, and how right that is.

Now there’s, a thought. And now its 2.50am and, yes, ‘sleep’ is revisiting me, and unless further paragraphs follow this, you will know that I eventually got back to sleep – after what was a useful ‘interruption’.

Blessings, Tadhg

 

The Child And The Beach: A Story Of Encouragement

20170725 THE CHILD AND THE BEACH A STORY OF ENCOURAGEMENTI always like feedback from the articles that I write, and love constructive and encouraging words. Over the last few days it has been heart-warming to read comments and emails – responses that underline that ‘it starts with us’, ‘we can contribute to the fabric of the universe, we matter, you matter, matter matters, and then someone mentioned one of my favourite words (well, two words), that is, tukkun olam. I love the concept. It has many broad and deep meanings, but the one that is in my mind now is that of you and I ‘repairing’ or ‘completing’ the world. Wonderful.

With that in mind, and you know how I love stories, here’s a story I found and mentioned some time ago but it bears repeating because it is so true, so profound and yet so simple, and it is so encouraging.

The ancient Celts, Celtic Christians and Druids of old would have sat around the evening’s camp fire  and told stories to each other – the ‘telling place’. Some of these stories would be of their tribal history, great leaders and heroes of the past, perhaps for amusement, and sometimes the stories would be great cosmic stories of creation, and sometimes stories would contain a deep moral buried within and which the hearer would have to discern. Latter-day Celts, Celtic Christians and Druids still tell wonderful stories, and here’s a meaningful story just for you:

A man was walking along a deserted beach at sunset. As he walked he could see a young child in the distance, seemingly playing.

As the man drew nearer he noticed that the child kept bending down, picking something up, and then running to the edge of the sea, and throwing it into the water. Time and again the child kept hurling things into the ocean and then ran back.

As the man approached even closer, he was able to see that the child was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at a time the child would run to the water’s edge and throw them back into the sea.

The man asked the child what they were doing, and the child replied,” I am throwing these washed-up starfish back into the ocean, Mister, or else they will die through lack of oxygen.

“But”, said the man, “You can’t possibly save them all, there are thousands on this beach alone, and this must be happening on hundreds of beaches along the coast. You can’t possibly save them all.”

The child smiled, bent down and picked up another starfish, and as they threw it back into the sea, gleefully shouted, “I know, but I can make a difference to this one.”

Little by little, in large and small ways, we can make a difference. Never give up doing good.

 

Ebb & Flow: Celtic Poetry, Liturgy, Words To Ponder Upon

20170724 EBB AND FLOW CELTIC POETRYIn life we witness and experience the great circle – the ebb and flow of the Spirit. In this world, and indeed, in this life all is in a state of flux. Everything changes. Therein lies hope. It’s summer. The circle turns, and it will soon be autumn and then winter. The circle turns, still, and winter becomes spring and so on. Ebb and flow. The following can be a(n enacted) poem, or liturgy for a ritual or service, or words for you to ponder upon in solitude, in gratitude of nature’s bounty and the Great Provider behind it all.

[Facing east]
Praise to you, Oh Supplier of air.
The wind rises as a mighty tempest and powers weather systems
and, yet as a gentle breeze, it moves leaves along the path.

Ebb and flow.

[Facing south]
Praise to you, Oh Provider of fire.
The fire scorches the earth, from which new life emerges
and, yet as small and humble flame it gives heat and light to all.

Ebb and flow.

[Facing west]
Praise to you, Oh Bringer of water.
The great seas maintain the planet’s life-equilibrium
and, yet in our homes it provides our daily, individual and essential needs.

Ebb and flow.

[Facing north]
Praise to you, Giver of earth.
The earth provides vast fields for the seed, from which nourishment grows,
and, yet  it is a reminder of the great circle of life, and death, and new life.

Ebb and flow.

Enjoying The Journey One Step At A Time: Celtic Thought

20170721 ENJOYING THE JOURNEY ONE STEP AT A TIMESomeone once said that when we point the finger in judgement on others, there are three fingers pointing back. With that is mind, I sat on the covered porch at the back of the house today, having a mid-day snack and listening to the radio. The weather wasn’t too good today: the temperature’s had dropped, it was cloudy and raining. But, this is to be expected. It’s Wales.

Did you know that in this part of Wales it rains for about 330 days each year – albeit light drizzle and sometimes during the night and so it’s not noticeable, but it rains a lot. And I love it. We get our fair share of heat and sunshine, too, but at some point throughout a twenty-four hour period it will rain.

Listening to the radio, and as is common these days, it seemed doom and gloom was everywhere. I know there are many good things happening, and that if we just listen to the mass media our views can be skewed, and we can easily end up with ‘mean world’ syndrome – thinking that everything is horrid.

‘If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.’ (Rainer Maria Rilke)

As the radio newscaster talked about public borrowing, the rise in inflation, the rise in crime, and the uncertainties of ‘Brexit’, and the ineptitude of some politicians, my mind wandered as to possible solution. Ofcourse, the answer was for them to ‘sort themselves out’, ‘they’ should be more pro-active, ‘that group’ should desist, if only the government would do ‘this’ or ‘that’, and so my thoughts raced. The fault was them! Not me, ofcourse. At least that was one train of thought.

I came across an interesting story – and you know I love stories – and here’s one by Gabriel Garcia Marquez that I’d like to share with you, and it’s one that made me sit up and think. It goes like this:

A scientist who ‘wrestled’ with some of the world’s toughest problems was resolute in finding the means to reduce them. He would spend so many, many days in his laboratory searching answers for the challenges that he was working on.

One day his seven year old son invaded his sanctuary wanting to help him with his work. The scientist, nervous by the interruption, asked his son to go play somewhere else. But, his son protested, and so his father thought of something that would keep the child busy.

Suddenly, he found just what he needed. A magazine with a map of the world on one of its pages.

With a pair of scissors he cut the map into pieces and together with a roll of tape gave it to his son telling him, “Since you like puzzles, I am going to give you the world all cut up for you to repair without anyone’s help.’

He calculated that it would take his son about 10 days to reconstruct the map.
However, after only a few hours, he heard his son’s voice calling him, “Daddy, Daddy I’ve finished.’

At first his father didn’t believe him. He thought that it would be impossible that at his age he was able to reconstruct a map of the world that he had never seen before. He looked at his son’s handiwork, and the pieces had, indeed, been put back in the right places.

How was that possible? How could a child do this? The father dumbfounded asked his child, “My child you did not see what the map looked like, so how did you do it?’

‘Daddy,’ the child answered,  ‘I didn’t know what the world looked like, but when you took out the map from the magazine to cut it, I saw that on the reverse side there was the figure of a man. So I turned the pieces over and step by step began to reconstruct the man that I had seen and did know. When I was able to reconstruct the man I then turned the page over and saw that I had fixed the world.’

Ofcourse, the ‘blaming others’ train of thought, so easy to do, decreased and another train of thought sprang to mind. If we want to change the world, if we want to ‘fix the world’, then we need to ‘reconstruct the man’ (or woman) – that is, we need to start with ourselves.

This is not to say that we berate ourselves, not to say we have to be tough on ourselves, but that gently, lovingly, progressively, slowly we see ourselves as ‘a work in progress’, and daily make positive changes to grow, mature and be transformed. We don’t need to wait until we’ve made it or are perfect, and so we can start right now (if we haven’t already done so). And, it needn’t be a chore. There is much to do that is a delight, and other things that only you can do. Yes, you have a calling (to do, or to discover), and once we’re on that ‘journey’ of making a change in our lives we’ll also find that we’re making changes in other peoples lives and making a difference in the world.

‘Each of us has a unique part to play in the healing of the world.’
Marianne Williamson

What kind of difference will depend on you and I, and the part of the world we live in. But, I do believe we start with ourselves, and then by what we plan to do a major change will take place in the world, bit by bit, one step at a time. And it doesn’t stop there. I do believe, even without our knowing it, almost by ‘osmosis’ our lifestyle will ‘rub off on others’ and by just living that lifestyle positive changes around us will happen.

Haven’t you even been in someone’s company and they’ve just exuded life and love even without saying a word? By them just being close, a positive effect is wrought. Haven’t you been to a church service, a Druid ritual or listened to a piece of music and been inspired to ‘do’ something or to ‘be’? Or, it could be for us to pause, periodically, or stop, or surrender, perhaps? These are glimpses of energy – ouranic energy – portals to the Other, and the Spirit flows, and opportunities that do a wonderful work in us ripple outward in observed and unobserved ways. But, it starts with us, doesn’t it? All of us!

‘Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ (Revelation 21:5, part. The Book)

So, as I sat on the porch listening to the radio the predominant thought was then, that it has to start with us, and bit by bit, one by one, slowly the world changes for the better. It sounds naïve, but what have we to lose. We have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

As the child in that story said: ‘When I was able to reconstruct the man (or woman) I then turned the page over and saw that I had fixed the world.’ A new, transformed world is coming. Indeed, it has already started growing within this one, and it starts with us. But, don’t beat yourself up. We’re a work in progress. Enjoy the journey.

Blessed Dawn: Book Of The Hours

20170720 BLESSED DAWN BOOK OF THE HOURSIt’s almost sunrise. To the east, from here in Capel Curig, sunrise will appear over some of the most scenic of north Welsh mountains of Carnedd y Cribau in a few moments. It’s almost the start of a new day. Nearly, but not quite yet. There’s a hush in the air. A sense of anticipation. All is still.

The sun’s rising is recounted in ancient Celtic and Druid stories of Lugh – dont forget the celebration of Lughnasadh, harvest celebration in about two weeks. Lugh, representing the sun would ‘die’ each evening some say, only to be ‘reborn’ each morning at sunrise. A quotidien resurrection. An opportunity to start afresh. A brand new day to do something positive, to change things, and to enjoy the moment.

There is something ‘magical’ about the dawn. It is a time when the night gives way to the oncoming new day, darkness gives way to light, and secrets and potential are ‘cracked’ open to reveal the glory and majesty of yet another day to enjoy. It’s easy to ‘roll over’ and miss sunrise, it’s possible to be so caught up in the fast pace of our society that we miss the new opportunities given to us each day, and probable that the pressures of the day will ‘crowd out’ this wonder time of spiritual encounter.

Today, the ‘slate is wiped clean’. ‘Seize the day’. Plattitudes? Yes, but nevertheless still ever-so true.

The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you;
don’t go back to sleep.

(Rumi)

And then the sun rises. Bright and new, yellow and fresh, dawn’s light floods into my eyes. A fresh start. A new beginning. Each sunrise is a call to our own daily resurrection. We rise in anticipation, and yet wonder what the day will unveil. For some it will be a happy day, for others a tough day, and for others a sad day – a mixture of these, and more. But, it will be a day like no other. Unique in ever way. Joyous? Joy is an attitude of mind they say, and so, at each sunrise choose joy, regardless of circumstances. The sun has risen.

And, then the day begins.
The son of Hyperion rises on the horizon
in all his brilliance, and
pierces the mist,
and heralds the start of a new day.
The Sun appears.
I find myself standing in awe, in praise of the Sun of righteousness.
Orans.

(Tadhg. Part of the poem: Gökotta [Revisited). Full poem can be viewed here).

Dawn provides us with ‘new’ time to do new things. At each dawn we can:

  • give praise out loud for the beauty of nature, for life itself
  • marvel at the fact that we are the consciousness of the Universe, able to look back on itself
  • revel in the love of That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves
  • desire to make this as good a day as possible whether in praising others, working well, relaxing, listening to others, or experiencing loss, and keening
  • praise and mature by ‘going deep’ and entering silence, or with ritual etc

Ancient sacred text is says: Walk in wisdom…making the best use of the time. (Colossians 4:5 part. The Book). Truly words of wisdom. It is easy to ‘kill time’, to get so caught up on dwelling in the past, over-planning for the future, and the hustle-and-bustle of daily ‘pressures’ that we miss the present moment, are oblivious to current opportunities, and before we know it dusk approaches fast. No, use the time we have, and use it wisely.

‘Dawn is ever the hope of men’ (J R R Tolkien).

Dawn is a time of celebration, a time to greet the new day. The following poem or liturgy, depending how you use it, is so approriate, and has been used by me on many ocassions as verbal liturgy or an unspsoken prayer.

Slowly comes the morning,
softly comes the dawn
slowly and softly – softly and slowly.
Dear gift of Dawn, you come with rays of light.
I call forth my joy to greet the dawn.
In the marrow of my bones, I rejoice.
From the centre of my soul I rejoice.
In my heart of hearts, I rejoice.
From the home of my body, I rejoice.
With all my being, I rejoice.
Dear Gift of Dawn, I rejoice.

(Macrina Wiederkehr)

And, as I gaze eastward the sun is well and truly risen. The sun and all of creation are in a state of praise. Indeed as other ancient text recorded: we shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: and the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into joyous singing, and all the trees of the field, with their branches raised heavenward, will clap their hands…and, yes, stones, even stones and rocks will sing. What better way to greet the sun and the dawn of new hope than with praise by humankind. And so, do mark a sunrise whenever you can, and mark that time with verbal praise, liturgy, a poem or ritual…or with the silent witness of your soul. Sunrises are beautiful, ‘magical’, God-given times. Draw near.

But, there’s more. Remember Rumi’s wise words: Your light is more magnificent than that of sunrise or sunset.’ Now, there’s something to ponder on.

 

Sacred Twilight: Book Of The Hours

20170719 SACRED TWILIGHT BOOK OF THE HOURS

My eyes scan the horizon of your goodness.
The incense of gratitude rises as an evening prayer.

(Macrina Wiedekehr)

To the west, in the distance, is one of my favourite haunts, a holy place to me – though, isn’t the whole Earth holy?. I can just about make out Glyder Fawr (pronounced ‘glider vor’). And, it is there, over Glyder Fawr, that the beautiful sun is now setting, becoming paler and seemingly less luminous as it does.

Sunset is so marvellous that even the sun itself watches it every day in the reflections of the infinite oceans!

(Meh e Murat Ildan)

But to me, after you have spent many times climbing Glyder Fawr to its ‘prehistoric monster, ‘spiny-looking” top; that’s what it reminds me of: a stegosaurus’ back – it is a holy place, and as I gaze at it from afar, so, too, is this a holy place (and, indeed, wherever you are is holy, too).

At this time of the day, twilight, a time of gloaming, ancient and present-day monks would attend vespers – monastic evening prayers. At the end of a busy day that they may have had, that you and I have had, this hour, the twilight hour, the sixth hour, sext, is a time of courage, recommitment, and passion.

Oh send out your light and your truth; left them lead me;
Let the, bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling.

(Psalm 43:3, The Book)

It is a time for each one of us to pause and remember who we are. As Celts, Celtic-Christians, Druidic-Christians, Druids etc, we are invited to reclaim our status of: The Cosmos made conscious, Caretaker of the Earth, And Temple of Divine Light.

So, this evening, here’s a few thing I gently thought about, and which you might want to gently consider one evening:

  • What was your greatest received blessing of the day?
  • Did you have an opportunity to bless another?
  • What one task can you smile about?
  • Was there anything that went unfinished (and which you can do tomorrow and so be blessed, then)?
  • What occurred today for which you are grateful?
  • How will you relax this evening – otium sanctum? How can you ensure you have a ‘sacred pause’?
  • Is there anyone you need to make peace with before the day finally ends?

Twilight is a special time of the day. The day is ending, night has not yet come; and we’re in that in-between time period, a ‘magical’ moment, the soul’s hour, a ‘thin place’ (Caol áit in Irish-Galeic, and pronounced ‘kweel awtch’). Here and now it feels as though anything can happen. At this hour ‘doors’ open to untold possibility and encounter. It is no wonder the ancients would gather together at this time to eat, to enjoy each other’s company and to hear the stories of those heroes of old.

As I drive home on a narrow curving road,
someone tailgates, itching to go faster,
not knowing he’s flesh and fragile.

Slowed by sadness and sick of pressure,
I pull onto the gravel shoulder, let him shoot by.
And on my right
catch sight of a great blue heron
standing tall and still in the aisle
made by two rows of towering trees.

Like a priest in feathered robes,
he bows his head three times
before an altar of mountain bluffs.
It’s dusk, and the moon, just rising,
illuminates his wings as they open in benediction
for evening flight.

His parting call:
‘Stay awake,
Holiness may spread its wings for you at any moment.’

(Patricia A. Lunetta (quoted in Pilgrim Walk by the Sea by Susanne Hassell))

At such a time as this, where and when ‘thin places’ occur, the veil between this world and the Other is ‘thin’, ‘thinner’ than before, and Earth and heaven touch. Glimpses of the Divine occur in a myriad of ways: the felt embrace of the Presence, an elemental or dryad spied out of the corner of your eye, something inexplicably alerts you to the glory of nature all around you, or some other glimpse of significance occurs externally or internally.

The Presence is here, with you now; and mysteriously, this time, twilight, is nature’s cool breath as she exhales love. It is time for you to inhale.

 

Learning To Breathe Under Water: Celtic Thoughts On Life

20170718 LEARNING TO BREATHE UNDER WATERI’m sitting in the garden again. The sun has just risen. It’s early. The day is fresh. I’m sitting at the garden table with a coffee in one hand and a book of poetry in the other hand.

Hush. The Presence is here.

My actions feel like a pre-ordained ritual and the book of poetry a time liturgy. Around me are ‘pews’ cunningly disguised as hedges and fences, and the ‘parishioners’ are trees and their branches are really hands raised heavenward in praise. Nature is my church. The Source of All is all around us. The God of Green Hope is gracious to all.

And, I thought deep thoughts as I sat at the garden table, and I read some ‘liturgy’.

There are times in life when things don’t run smoothly. We so often want the life-journey to be smooth and without any ‘judders’, and yet life is seldom like that. I do believe the aim is not to get to the end of this life without any cracks and dents. But maybe the aim is to have lived fully the hand that has been dealt us, and as we stand, one day, covered in scars, slightly scorched, and covered in band-aids, and to look That Which Is Larger Than Us in the eye and give thanks for the ride that involved love (and yes, because we loved there will be heartache too, maybe in proprtion to our love).

I build my house by the sea.
Not on the sands, mind you,
not on the shifting sand.

Each one of us is different. Unique. What we experience, a facet of reality, will be different to the way it is experiened by everyone else. Our reactions will be different, too. The thing we have in common…is that we’re all so different. And, so our life is like a house by a storm-tossed sea that we inhabit…for now. We do our best, we make the most of things. And life is good.

And I built it on rock.
A strong house
by a strong sea.
And we got well acquainted, the sea and I.
Good neighbours.
Not that we spoke much.
We met in silences,
respectful, keeping our distance
but looking our thoughts across the fence of sand.

We get familiar with the way things are, and yet if we’re honest, bit by bit we know things are changing. I find it easy to make new friends. I love it when their are new births to celebrate, new joys like new jobs that arise, or a handfasting or engagement, or wedding etc (whether it’s of a family member or close friend, or I’m the celebrant at such events).

Boundaries are wonderful things to hem in joy. But, I weep when a family member or close friend goes ‘home’, and passes through that boundary. Are we not all alike? Isn’t the beach a boundary between the land and sea, like a ‘gap’ between here and the Other, metaphorically, like the barrier between life and Life here-after, Heaven, the Summerland or Caer Wydyr (the glass fortress).

Always the fence of sand our barrier,
always the sand between.

And yet, life like sand in an hour-glass continues to flow. Time flows. Relentless. Make the most of each day. Life maybe built on solid rock, but sand around it flows. Tempus fugit.

And then one day
(and I still don’t know how it happened)
the sea came.
Without warning.
Without welcome even.

Life is never smooth. Unexpectedly there are ‘ups and downs’, life-traumas, ailments (and doesn’t it seems that when such things are witnessed in family and dear friends, and we look on, it is worse than it actually happening to us), the loss of family and dear friends and other ‘judders’ occur. Such events catch us by surprise.

This is life, isn’t it? For now.

Not sudden and swift,
but a shifting across the sand like wine,
less like the flow of water than the flow of blood
Slow, but flowing like an open wound.

And, as I sit here drinking the final gulp of coffee, thoughts continue to flow.

So many family and friends have it tough. Perhaps if they look at my life they will think the same. We each have life-trauma we keep covered, but it’s there, and it’s a mark of our ‘human-ness’. And yet, when we’re ‘going through it’, the last thing we want is an academic appraisal, someone to tell us that ‘they know’. It feels so personal. It is! How can anyone else know. We experience life differently, and react differently.

If this is ‘you’, then you’re not alone.

And I thought of flight, and I thought of drowning, and I thought of death.
But while I thought, the sea crept higher till it reached my door.
And I knew that there was neither flight nor death nor drowning.

When ‘judders’ occur, we change. When I was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer about ten years ago (and by the grace of God and the NHS health-care system in the UK ‘defeated it) my motto was ‘business as usual’, but deep down I knew nothing would be the same.

We adapt.

That when the sea comes calling you stop being good neighbours,
Well acquainted, friendly from a distance neighbours.
And you give your house for a coral castle.

This maybe life for now. There is an ancient story about King Solomon wanting a ring that would make a happy man become sad if he looked at it, and a sad man happy. He sent a servant by the name of Beniah to look for it. He had a year in which to find it. Beniah travelled the globe, returning without it and with only one day to go. And yet. on that final day he found the ring in the local market. That evening he approached King Solomon. As soon as King Solomon read the inscription on the ring the smile vanished from his face. The jeweller had written three Hebrew letters on the gold band: gimel, zayin, yud, which began the words “Gam zeh ya’avor” — “This too shall pass.” At that moment Solomon realized that all his wisdom and fabulous wealth and tremendous power were but fleeting things. Yes, everything changes.

And you learn to breathe under water.

We change.

Life teaches us that when the wind blows; lean into the storm. When the sun burns, seek shadow. When it rains, seek the shelter of a mature tree. And, when we seem to be engulfed by water, up to and over our heads, we adapt, we really do – you do – we, metaphorically, learn to breathe underwater. It’s a times like that that we ‘step out’ of ‘normality’.

It is one of the reasons I believe that I am blessed with great friends who are latter-day Celts, Celtic Christians, Druidic Christians, Druids, Pagans and others, who ‘see’ life differently, share their buoying-up worldviews and beliefs with me, and I see life differently, anew, bigger than the life-trauma, bigger and brighter than anything previously imagined. As in says in ancient text: For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

With no more coffee left, I had finished reading that poem – the liturgy for life. For all its difficult times, and whatever we’re going through right now life has a habit of reminding us that we’ve come this far, and to take heart for the rest of this wonderful journey, that we will make it through this ‘storm’.

And that barrier between life and Life here-after, Heaven, the Summerland or Caer Wydyr (the glass fortress), that event when this life ends is really just the beginning. Mae mwy – ‘there is more’, is my favourite Welsh phrase. Oh there is so much more. But, not just yet. Today, we live life to the full and seek joy – which is not dependant on felt events – and are blessed in doing so, whether we feel it or know it or not. Hush, the Presence is (t)here.

You are blessed.

(The poem read at the coffee table this morning, this life liturgy, was by Carole Bialock and is entitled ‘Learning to breathe under water’, and is used here interspersed through my writing as indented block-quotes)

Consider The Oak & Be Wise: Celtic Thoughts On Being Human

20170713 CONSIDER THE OAK AND BE WISEThere are some splendid oak trees at the far end of the garden, here in Capel Curig, and it’s a delight on hot days like today to sit under one of them, with a good book, and a cup of coffee. Bliss.

I love trees, and especially these large, oak, so full-of-other-worldly wisdom. Wonderful and mighty, majestic oak trees.

Some way through my relaxing read I put the book down, and picked up a new, picked off-the-shop shelf, psychology magazine. I like to keep abreast of what’s going. As one would expect, sadly, many of the advertisements were telling me what I was missing and how a four part course would assist me to live life to the full, or how one new book would allow me to become individuated in ten easy steps, or how a trip half way around the world and to a certain mountain would allow a Divine encounter, and so it went on.

‘So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out…’ Matthew 24:26a, The Book

We live in a time when we’re saturated with ‘self-help’ books, and I even saw a course on how to read the Bible. With an inward, wry smile I answered that predicament by thinking one only has to pick up the Bible and read it. But, no! Reducing it to bite-size chunks, even though I could do that myself, was an indispensable and much-need book for your bookshelf, or so the advertisement said. And, they would sell it to you for a handsome price.

With all of this comes, if we’re not careful, a general malaise, a feeling that we’re all  missing out, a feeling that everyone is getting on but we’re not, a feeling that something is missing and someone else has the answer…and it’s wrong. It is an advertisers delight, but an ‘assault’ on the individual.

‘Do not let the roles you play in life make you forget that you are human.’ (Roy T Bennett)

Ofcourse, we mature slowly and others may help, and other resources can assist. We can advance in a particular field, from being ‘new’ and a ‘novice’ to being ‘proficient’ and books and courses may assist, and that’s all good – but, where it counts the most, in your heart, your core, your bring, soul or spirit, you are what you are, and it’s good.

In the shade of that oak my mind ambled wonderfully. We’re already there, was the predominant thought.

What if those alchemists of old weren’t try to change a base metal, like lead, into gold. What if that’s a wrong interpretation, a modern parody that it way off the mark? What if those ancient alchemists were trying to turn it, or even their perception of it, to the essence of what was worth persevering – not something into gold bullion that would be worth a king’s ransom, but lead still, but an appreciation that in its own way lead is lead is lead and it is useful as lead, is of worth, is worthy? In that sense, lead is already ‘gold’ (or as valuable as lead is to lead, as gold is to gold.) Just different.

‘Life is a Long Journey between Human Being and Being Human. Let’s take at least one step each day to cover the distance.’ (Wordions)

Consider the oak tree that I’m sitting under – that was here before I was earth-born, and which will be here long after I go ‘home. It is a magnificent specimen. It doesn’t need a manual to be a tree, or a book on how to be a better tree, or a self-help course of ten steps to be an even better tree. It just is. And it does it well. It is beautiful in its oakiness’.

We may need manuals, books, classes for our work, our specialism or to enhance or increase our knowledge, but as regards our human-ness, you are where you are, you are what you are, and it’s alright.

The One who knows all secrets
is here, nearer
than your jugular vein.

(Rumi)

In the shade of that huge oak tree, I went back to my book and the psychology magazine fell to the ground, only for a few ants to crawl across it, and re-inforce the point: ants are ants are ants (‘Consider the ant and be wise…’, it says in ancient divine text), and that as human beings, humans are humans, and we have a status before the Source Of All that rests on our ‘humanness’ and not our knowledge-ability or intellect, our bank account etc.

Before the Giver Of Life a child stands foursquare and shoulder-to-shoulder alongside an adult, in integrity, worth and wonder. And, it’s enough.

‘You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.’ (Pema Chödrön)

 

Things That Go Bump In The Night: Random Thoughts & One View On Meditation

20170712 THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT 1You could be forgiven, especially after my (likely) encounter with the Gwrach y Rhibyn early yesterday morning, for thinking that a night in the woods would be out of the question. Oh, but you don’t know me.

In north Wales I live in a rural and relatively remote area, and I love it. It is a complete contrast to city life and my time spent in London. Here, near Capel Curig, I can relax, breathe easily and walk lightly upon the earth. It’s a great place – even when peering out of the living room window at lush, grey-green mountains in the distance – to let thoughts meander. And, tonight (the evening of 11 July, 2017) thoughts, for no seeming reason, were rife.

There was only one thing for it – a hike (albeit a short one this time) and a night under the stars. I have my favourite nearby places and haunts to camp, usually about an hour’s trek away from where I live, but last night a walk into the forest lasting about ten minutes would put me in thick forest, and would suffice. And, ‘awalking’ I went.

‘The sky grew darker, painted blue on blue, one stroke at a time, into deeper and deeper shades of night.’ Haruki Murakami,

And, after erecting the tent under a deep blue-black, clear sky and a ‘starry, starry sky’, sometime shortly before midnight, those rampant thoughts raced even more.

Alone.

Firstly, the Gwrach y Rhibyn – the witch, that hag of the mist and portent of death! Fearful of the Gwrach y Rhibyn? No, when told numerous stories of that hag I was always taught to have a healthy respect for such beings, or if you’re not too sure whether such beings exist then insert the word ‘stories’ for ‘beings’. And, so I was taught to have a healthy respect, but no fear. However, as I sat there, outside the tent I can assure you that my eyes were wide open and I was alert. One cannot be complacent. I’m reminded of those people that rear lions from cubs and then invite a fully grown male lion into their house. I like reading about such events, but to me that’s one step too far.

Healthy respect.

If I encountered the Gwrach y Rhibyn out there, in the open, that’s okay…but to invite her into my house, where she could ‘turn’ and then I would have the problem of removing her, is quite something else. But, I’m not a fearful sort of person. Not silly, or ‘over brave’, but not fearful. I told you my thoughts were racing that evening. So, a healthy respect for the hag of the mist is good. But, all is well. She’s not here.

Other thoughts continued to flow like boats on an ocean. And, so it was an opportunity to meditate. There are different ways that word ‘meditate’ is used, and different forms of meditation, and for some of my friends the word and process is anathema, and it confuses me why they should think that.

Open mindedness.

The ancient and latter-day Celts and Druids are an imaginative lot. If you read some stories of old you get the impression of a myriad of shape-shifters and ‘magical’ things happening. Why, even dear St Patrick was said, at one time, to have shape-shifted into a deer to escape danger. And there’s at least one reference in the Book to a talking donkey. And, don’t even get me started on selkies and kelpies. Did these actually happen or where did they occur in the imagination of someone’s thoughts? And, does that really matter? They happened!

Joan of Arc at her trial: I hear voices telling me what to do. They come from God.
Robert: They come from your imagination?
Joan: Of course. That is how the messages of God come to us. (Scene I)

Those inner workings of the mind are important, and meditation is all-important. Bearing in mind different forms of meditation and interpretations of the word, here’s one definition: meditation is the ability to objectively hold a thought at arms-length, metaphorically’, and analyse it. It’s the one I was using last night in the forest, as I held each thought at arms-length and inspected it.

Analysis.

Meditation isn’t about letting your mind go blank (and so you don’t need to worry if anything will ‘crawl’ in that vacant slot (even if such negative things exist)). Right then, last evening, there was no probability of my mind going blank. As I sat there, quietly, a large number of thoughts moved through my mind, like boats endlessly sailing across the ocean.

Thoughts such as: What would those Christian friends (who don’t know if my Druidic tendencies) think of me if they knew? What would my Druid friends (who don’t know of my (Christian) theological degree and ordination) think of me if they knew? What should I do now about the possibility of moving house after Christmas? Should I re-paint the outside of my house? Should I take up Ben’s challenge (after I ‘thrashed’ him at chess) of a wrestling match? Actually, that one is easy to answer. Self-preservation kicked in.

‘Each flying thought, a flying thought pursues.’ C B Langston

But, other thoughts, for no real reason, raced though my mind, like speedboats on the ocean. Infact, very much like ocean-liners on the ocean. Meditation, in the form I was practicing that night, was very much like peacefully gazing out to sea and looking, intently, only on the distant area where the sea ‘touches’ the sky. Focussing on that area, you’re then aware of vessels passing in the nearer field of view but you pay them no attention. I’m sure you’ve done that, in reality, when on the beach. And, that for me, was last tonight’s meditation. Not focussing on all distracting thoughts, except for the one that I wanted to analyse.

Objectivity.

Each thought – about the Gwrach y Rhibyn, what some of my Christian friends might think of me, what my Druid friends might think of me, and Ben’s challenge – was analysed. This is not to say they worried me, nor that  I had to work through them, frantically. Quite the opposite. This form of meditation is all about focussing on one thought, holding it at arms-length, and objectively analysing it from all possible angles. ‘Well, I didn’t know I had so much emotional baggage attached to that thought’, and ‘Why do you, dear thought, keep returning, and you seem bigger than before?’. And, ‘This is a powerful thought…only If I grant it that power’, or ‘That’s an interesting thought, but I’ll come back to you later, dear one’, and so on.

We, each, have that power to hold thoughts in an objective way, and as with any muscle, the more we do it, the more it grows. The more we say to ourselves we cannot do it, it’s too hard or give up, so the faculty reduces. You are not your thoughts. You are more!

‘You are more than your thoughts, your body, or your feelings. You are a swirling vortex of limitless potential who is here to shake things up and create something new that the universe has never seen.’ Richard Bartlett

And so, as I sat there, and it was gone 2am before I turned out the torch’s light, I had systematically worked though a number of thoughts – many which you will never know about.  And, that may be a good thing. After all, What would those Christian friends (who don’t know if my Druidic tendencies) think of me if they knew? What would my Druid friends (who don’t know of my (Christian) theological degree and ordination) think of me if they knew? You can see the irony here, I’m sure: those few detailed admissions here, that genie is now out of the bag, for all to see. But, I’m that kind of guy. And, I trust you, anyway!

Between friends!

As, I laid there, and with sleep descending quite fast, I heard a rustle in the undergrowth nearby. That thought was nipped in the bud quite quickly, analysed within seconds and dismissed. If that was the Gwrach y Rhibyn, she had better not come between me and my sleep! Oh no! Needless to say, after what seemed only a few minutes I opened my eyes to the most glorious yellow and bright sunrise, and assumed, after all, that it wasn’t the hag of the mist. But, it makes you think! And, there I go again!

A Close Encounter With The Gwrach y Rhibyn?: Tadhg’s Journal

20170711 A CLOSE ENCOUNTER WITH THE GWRACH Y RIBYNYes, I was awake very early this morning, and having coffee in the garden looking toward some of the wonderful distant mountains that comprise north Wales. This is ancient land – the land of ancient Celtic Christians and Druids, and a myriad of others whose wisdom and presence still, wonderfully, permeates the land and air.

For this time of the year – the day time temperatures have dropped over the last few days – the air temperature this morning was ‘fresh’…but the coffee was piping hot. Bliss.

As I looked into the distance the green-grey colour – mountains mainly of slate and usually grass-covered – became lighter, more diffuse and paler as the early morning mist played on them. Clouds hung low in the sky. The air was still, somewhat ‘heavy’ as though a storm was approaching, birdsong was quiet except for the odd screech. Indeed, distant thunder rumbled. Or, it could have been the wind ‘rumbling’ around mountain valleys. It’s difficult to tell when the sound is some way off, muted and intermittent.

This morning, however, more than ever, I could palpably feel the rawness, wildness and ‘dangerousness’ of nature pressing in, in all its beauty. It was quiet. And yet there was a seeming expectation that there was more. A foreboding.

‘So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and…all the people who were in the camp trembled.’ (Exodus 19:16 part, The Book)

Sound became muffled, except for that raucous and occasional ‘unearthly’ squawk. Was it, infact, a bird? I had heard that sound before, but had never identified what made it – but that was when out on some evening or night-time walk, and always low as in the undergrowth and not high up in a tree.

Was it a bird? A wounded animal moving about in nearby undergrowth? It was now closer to me than ever before. All was quiet apart from that noise. ‘Clumps’ of mist moved across the garden – quite thick, but moving quite quickly – and as I gazed at the mist, my mind and imagination wandered. A bird, a wounded animal, or could it be the Gwrach y Rhibyn?

My grandmother used to tell me stories about the Gwrach y Rhibyn (pronounced ‘goo-rach ee ribb-in’. But the ‘ch’ in that second syllable is sounded like the ‘ch’ in loch, that is, a back-of-the-throat phlegm-clearing sound). Those words translate as ‘the witch of Rhibyn’. I had a wonderfully imaginative childhood! (And, it still goes on).

My grandmother always concluded those stories by saying that when you encounter the Gwrach y Rhibyn or the like, never fear or show fear, always be respectful and always learn with your ‘eyes wide open’. Such happenings she would say, always have a positive learning ‘message’ to impart to us.

The spirit-world around this world of sense
floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere
wafts through these earthly mists and vapours dense
a vital breath of more ethereal air.

(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

The Gwrach y Rhibyn was always depicted as an old hag, an ugly witch, sometimes with thick leathery wings, but always, so the story goes, the portent of misery and death. Rather like the wailing of the Irish bansidhe (pronounced ‘ban-shee’), or even the Cailleach from Scottish and Irish mythology.

She certainly got about – her name changes depending on the culture, but her reputation always remained the same. She was someone to avoid. Embraced in early-morning (or was it storm) mist my grandmother’s description of the Gwrach y Rhibyn as the hag of the mist made me shiver (or was the air temperature dropping even more?).

I sat there, now with limited visibility, the ‘thing’ that was squawking or screeching was even closer, but shrouded in mist. I was calm because I didn’t believe I was in any danger, but wary at the same time. Nature, the unknown, this mystery or was it the Mystery, was palpable, powerful, big, raw and wild, and so close, but (I believed) benevolent.

‘Live free, child of the mist – and with respect to knowledge we are all children of the mist.’ (Henry David Thoreau)

I sat there, transfixed (almost), in heightened awareness (and yes, everything did seem brighter) for some twenty minutes. Watching. Waiting. Listening. Observing. The periodic squawking or screeching seemed to be moving away into the distance now, further into the mist. Soon, the mist began to clear. I could see some distance now, and then, just then, out the corner of my eye I spied a dark shape some three hundred meters away, but only for a second or two! As I looked again, all I could see were the usual trees and boundary hedges. ‘Nothing untoward’, as my grandmother would say.

Was that’ shape’ the Gwrach y Rhibyn come to harass? Just a trick of the light? My imagination? Was the screeching of ‘something’ in the mist, a bird? I wish I could tell you, but I can’t. What I can say is that as I sat there embraced by that early morning mist (and I do believe it applies to us all), I experienced the unknown and the wildness of nature that was palpable, and I experienced it as an inclusive and yet powerful force, but also as an humbling experience.

‘A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born’ ( Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

There are some things we just don’t know. And there are some things we will never know. And there are some things we are not meant to know. That ‘event’, this morning, whatever is was, was one such event. And, you know what? I’m content with that ‘visitation’. I learned something vital about myself. I believe we all do in those infrequent but  amazing ‘encounter-awakening’ situations.