That Celestial Café, That Magic Café: A Story From The Heart(h)

20190125 that celestial cafe that magical cafe

And so, there I was in the Magic Café in the heart London, today. It is one of my favourite haunts to rest, relax, read a deep and interesting book, and meet dear friends and chat. It has a ‘magical’ quality about it. Walk past it and you could be forgiven for thinking it is just another café. But, it isn’t. Things happen here. And today, in one of those moments of cosmic significance, as I sat there I gazed into a cup of coffee with a ‘galaxy-shape’ dollop of cream swirling around in the cup, and I pondered. And, I was reminded of something from oh so many years ago.

I was about five or six years of age, and was sitting at the foot of my grandmother’s rocking chair, and I was probably too near to the open fire in the hearth and so would constantly shift. I had been playing outside for some time, and had got bitterly cold, and was now trying to get warm.

My grandmother came into the room, gave me a cup of hot chocolate, and said, ‘This’ll warm you up, wee one’, and as I looked at it, there was a dollop of cream swirling around in a ‘galaxy shape’. I was mesmerised. My grandmother noticed and half-laughed.

‘Your heart knows the way; run in that direction’. Rumi

‘Imagine’, she said, ‘that in your cup you’re gazing at a galaxy containing a billion races of beings of all shapes and sizes, all living their lives without knowing that you’re looking at them’. I could imagine that, and I was in awe to think that I might have already sipped a few races to oblivion!

She told one of her stories, and the moment she opened her lips I was enthralled.
‘Imagine’, she said, ‘ that in your cup you’re gazing at a galaxy containing a billion races of beings of all shapes and sizes, all living their lives without knowing that you’re looking at them’. She continued, ‘Perhaps we all come from some kind of celestial café, and all the people we’ve ever known or even briefly met we’ve met before are in that galaxy somewhere.

‘I think there was a time when in that celestial café you and I, along with everyone else, were having a cup of hot chocolate. Oh, it was a wonderful place. No one got ill, not one died, no one aged. It was bliss’, she said.

‘And then, one day you and I, and a few others were chosen to go on an amazing adventure. As we looked out of the window, we saw a wonderful created galaxy, or perhaps as you looked down into that cup of hot chocolate in the celestial café you saw it too. And as you released a cube of sugar, even before it fell into the hot chocolate we left. And so did millions of others who were chosen for that adventure.’ she said.

‘But, why leave?’, I asked. ‘Ah, she replied, ‘ that’s the mystery. There is always a reason even if we can’t fathom it out now. But, one day we will’

‘And so, having left that celestial café for a very good, but unremembered reason, adventure started here in Capel Curig for us, and we’re living our adventure now. Others ‘landed’ in America, France, Germany, China, Russia and on all parts of the globe’, she said with a slight glint in her eye. ‘And it’s a most wonderful adventure to be lived to the full each and every day. And everyone you meet ‘down here’ will be people you’ve known ‘up there’ but might not remember right now’.

‘And, here you, a wee lad of five, gazing into that cup of coffee with what looks like a galaxy swirling around on its surface.’
‘One day’, she said, ‘it’ll be time to go home. Hopefully, that’ll be after a hundred years ‘down here’, and can you imagine what it will be like ‘up there’ when you get home?
I pondered, trying to put all this cosmic timescale into some kind of order, and then after a number of minutes looking up to the left, then the right, starting to mouth an answer but stopping before even a word was uttered, with furrowed eyebrows I calmly said, ‘no!’.

She laughed as only grandmother could. ‘Why, she said, ‘we’ll be sitting in a celestial café, drinking hot chocolate, and as you look into the cup you’ll notice the cube of sugar just hitting the coffee’.

Now, even at that young age I had noticed what I thought was a flaw in her storytelling.

‘But Granma, when you told that story, right at the beginning you said I had just started to drop the sugar cube into the cup, then you said you hoped we all lived ‘down here’ for a hundred years. But, if you and I lived for a hundred years and went back to the celestial café, how come the sugar is only just hitting the chocolate as though only a second has passed?’ I was quick!

‘Yes, you’re right, little one, but a hundred years ‘down here’ is only like one second ‘up there’.

Years later the story was still poignant, and it was only years later that I could ‘unpack’ the story for its full meaning; a message of cosmic proportions told by an elderly Welsh woman of some great age, many years ago.

‘It’s as though we’ve stepped out of that celestial café for one second, lived a full life of a hundred years ‘down here’, and returned to that celestial café and picked up where we left off. So. only a second (or less) has passed’. ‘Infact, many’, she said, ‘believe we never left that celestial café, but we just think we did. We’re still there, looking down as if we’re gazing into a cup of hot chocolate with a dollop of cream on it resembling a spiral galaxy.’

That story was told to me many years ago. But, it makes you think doesn’t it?

We think of the after-life, but what about pre-life? And, if there is such a notion, and I, like my grandmother believe there is, then we’ve either just stepped out for a blink of an eye and lived (or are living) a full life here on Earth and one day will return; or we have never left, but maybe our ‘dampened consciousness’ has, and it’s that revelation we come to understand when it’s our turn to pass on and return to that celestial café.

‘…a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day”, 2 Peter 3.8b, The Book

Either way, I do believe it’s a story that encompasses a fragment of understanding of our ‘beginning’, our current life, and our return ‘home’ for everyone. No wonder there are some people I seem to know and give a friendly nod to as I pass them in the street, but can’t ever remember seeing them before. It’s as if our memory of that celestial café has been erased for the time being, but we get a glimpse every so often.

Perhaps that annoying neighbour, that traffic warden, that good friend or infuriating friend is, even now sitting with me (and you) in that celestial café looking down and watching events ‘down here’ unfold?

As a young lad I was mesmerised by my grandmother’s story. ‘Drink up, your hot chocolate won’t be hot forever’, she said. But she knew! She knew of a place where hot chocolate never gets cold.

My grandmother passed-on in 1986. She went back to that celestial café, known by a myriad of other names: the Summerland(s), Bliss, Heaven, Paradise, Moksha, Nirvana, Ynis Witrin (Glass Island), Glass Mountain or Fortress etc,, and in that kind of celestial time-scheme it could be that she never really left or if she did it have been me (or you or one of your loved ones) that may have been waiting at the table awaiting her return?

‘I firmly believe that when you die you will enter immediately into another life. They who have gone before us are alive in one form of life and we in another. ‘ Norman Vincent Peale

My grandmother told some wonderful stories. I know we might each have different views on pre-life or the afterlife, but you have to admit (I think) that my grandmother’s story, well,  they make you think, don’t they?

 

 

That Place Of Peace: A Personal, Celtic Perspective On Death, Mourning And After

20180604 THAT PLACE OF PEACE DEATH MOURNING AND AFTERWith white roses and lilac-coloured flowers in hand I strode across the busy, noisy, bustling road, full of cars and people, and entered the cemetery. Passing the huge wrought-iron gates the world changed. Crossing that threshold, I left the world of busy-ness and noise behind. All was now at peace.

It was one of those sunny hot, June days – yes, even in London they get good weather occasionally, and that’s where I am for a while. London.

This, then, is a personal view, and some of my exploratory thoughts about death, mourning and what follows. Hopefully uplifting. My thoughts may be different to your views, but they are shared in the spirit of love and openness, and should you want to share your views and I hope you do, please do so by emailing me, directly. I am always happy to receive emails, and by so doing ‘iron sharpens iron’, indeed, and we learn and grow.

So, walking slowly through the cemetery there is, even in the middle of London, an air or peace, quietness and seeming solitude. Today, 2 June, is the birthday of my late dad, who passed on, just over a year ago, and the flowers are for his grave – a grave shared by my late mum, and nestling alongside those of my two grandmothers.

It’s an old cemetery, and I can’t but help notice that much of it is overgrown and sorely in need of mowing and some tender loving care – Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Council please take note. I remind myself to contact them. Moving through the cemetery to the newer part I walk towards one of the few wooden bench seats around.

As I got nearer, and eventually sat on the bench seat, I spied my favourite tree, a dear and familiar friend, just a few feet away, that many years ago I named ‘Y llygad’ (pronounced ‘e hl-gad), and Welsh for ‘the eye’ (see header photograph). It feels like I’m being watched. I do believe am! I’m comfortable with that, and happy.

Resting there for a few minutes, thoughts come and go.

In Celtic Irish custom, and it moved throughout some of Welsh culture, too, there is a thought that when someone is about to pass on, the ban sidhe (pronounced ‘ban she’), a ghostly figure, would wail loudly. Many would say they have heard her cries in the distance, and many fear her for obvious reasons. She does get bad press. Perhaps rather than a ghoulish figure, the harbinger of death, maybe she is (as many would affirm) a fairy woman, a spirit who laments the loss-to-come to relatives, and who guides the way for the deceased, through the veil that separates this world from the next.

’…the Celtic…tradition recognises that the eternal and the transient world are woven in and through each other. Very often at death, the inhabitants of the eternal world come out towards the visible world.’ John O’Donohue.

More thoughts arise. At my grandmother’s death (and before the funeral) several women spent sometime keening. Keening being an old Celtic action involving deeply moving spiritual singing by older women – not quite wailing, then, but more uplifting, and with the benefit of drawing alongside grieving relatives. Nothing negative at all. Those keening women cared.

As I sat on that cemetery bench even more thoughts arose. Around me are dear people buried, who, like me, breathed, loved, knew ill-health, life’s ‘ups and downs’, and lived life to the full, and have now passed on. Passed where?

’ Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.

Rumi

In the peace and tranquillity of that place, lofty questions arose. As I looked at some very old gravestones, some so old that that much of the writing had been worn away, it seemed to me that the Book of Nature (and science) showed that nothing is lost, that cycles exist and continued, and transformation takes place. Some believe that those who have passed on are even more alive in Eden, or heaven, to others they are in the Summerlands, and to others they are in Hy Braesil. I suspect these are different names for the same place, the final destination of humankind.

’Life is eternal, and love is immortal, and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.’ Rossiter W Raymond

Hy Braesil is one of my favourite terms, as it is wrapped in mystery and ‘magic’. Thought by some to be the place of life here-after, it is also said by some to be a mystical (physical) land far off the coast of north-west or western Scotland, and known to Celtic Welsh people, Scots and Irish people of old. Some say it only appears every six or seven years. Hy-Braesil, an island, was first drawn on maps in 1325AD by Angelino Dulcert, an Italian cartographer. It continued to be shown on maps until the 1860s.

Having rested there on that bench for a while, I moved off to the short distance to the family graves. Once there, I pulled the dead flowers out the flower-pots, cut the new flowers, save for one, and put the flowers in the flower-pots: one-third for my parents’ gravestone, and one-third each for my two grandmother’s gravestone flower-pots.

Wiping the gravestones, I then wait. On this occasion I have no prayer to say, only silent gratitude. It is enough, I believe. Gratitude to my late parents, my passed-on family, my ancestors and others. After several minutes I walk away, but not before a momentary head-bow.

Picking up the single rose, I walk in a certain direction – it differs each time. And then, on a gravestone, a different one each time, that is so weathered that no names can be read, or perhaps a gravestone that looks unkempt, I leave that single flower, as a mark of respect to that person, to acknowledge that they have not been forgotten.

But, for now they sleep. Or do they? From our perspective maybe they do, but in reality, maybe they are all more alive than ever, in a place where they no longer age, where there is no want and no sickness. Perhaps our perspective is wrong and needs to change? Maybe they are alive and it is we who sleep?

‘Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:’

William Wordsworth

Walking towards the large iron cemetery gates there are many profound, unanswered questions on my mind. Perhaps, there are somethings we will not know until we are ‘there’, and then those questions will evaporate as we will then know even as we are known. But, for the time being we revel in mystery and I am content with that.

‘We are all stories in the end, just make it a good one, eh?’, Dr Who.

Now, back in that busy street, cars speeding and people rushing about doing their shopping, it is easy to forget that we are more than just flesh and blood, as we unknowingly match the dizzying speed of a hectic world. But there is a distant echo, the voice of the Source, the bat khol, maybe the voice of our ancestors, or even an angel or elemental that whispers to each one of us that we are ‘Much more’. Be heartened.