A Note From A Reluctant Edge-Walker

z 20171023 reluctacnt edgewalker

Having disembarked from the ferry at the port on the windswept Isle of Iona, I left the small village and headed along a path, as instructed. I knew the journey would take about half an hour, and so with light failing and with a flashlight in hand, I set off. All that seems an age away, now.

I’m back, and for various reasons it looks as though I’m going to be in London for a few more weeks.  Behind me, metaphorically, is the pilgrimage to the isles of Iona and Skye, and now I’m’ here. London.

I’m back. It’s a shock. A sort of punch to the solar plexus. Winding.

I had such  great experiences on those islands. Profound. Deep. Ancestor-Connecting, Loving. Source-encountering. God-filled ‘Thin-place’ experiences. I didn’t want to leave, and yet I knew I had to. I had so easily ‘acclimatised’ to that island lifestyle – and do believe one reason for that is something we all share – we all ‘possess’ (or, perhaps it embraces us), an inner, ancient, ‘drum beat’ that continues, wherever we are.

And, that same ‘drum beat’ beating in my chest, seems at odds with the ‘world’ that I now inhabit in London. The pace is faster, it’s shallow, its priorities are different, it’s loud, far too loud, and yet….

This is where I should be for now. I know it.

And so, I’m becoming more of an edge-walker, again. An edge-walker, one who straddles both spheres of spiritual and physical encounter, holding them in balance, in ‘tension’, equally, and joyfully. Yes, that balance is returning. And, once again I’m getting used to that way of living. It’s probably not what I would want – those islands still call – but it is the way it is for now.

Someone once wrote about the desire to be in heaven and to enjoy all that that means, but tempered it with the realisation and desire to stay here for a while to do the work that they had been called to. One destination was far better, but this ‘destination’ was necessary and expedient. For now.

Over the next few weeks, I’d like to ‘unpack’ some of my experiences experienced on Iona and Skye – both wonderfully ‘thin-places’. There were some great encounters of the spiritual kind, and perhaps another example of the necessity of us being edge-walkers was my physical journey from the port on Iona to the place where I was to stay.

It was my first hour on the Island, as regards this pilgrimage, and as I was a little wet. A light rain was falling, it was getting darker, and I came to the first of three gated fields that I was to pass through. The field presented no problem, and though these fields gently undulated so you had slopes and dips to encounter, it was a pleasantly green field to behold, although less was being seen by the minute as the light faded.

Not so the second field. It had a sign on its gate: Beware of the bull. I had hoped this was a farmer’s sense of humour running riot, but no. As I moved through the field in a direct line, following the path, there he was. Suddenly, and I know you will be shocked by this, but suddenly the peaceful presence that had embraced me on this island seemed to ‘evaporate’ and the ‘angel of common-sense’ spoke. I looked to the ‘spaces’ either side of this field and they were not navigable, and it was getting darker, and there were some treacherous drops around.

My pulling back into the non-spiritual was competed only when I decided to walk through the field, but on the furthest side of the field, as far away from this lumbering, brown, wonderful-but-wild beast. Once again I was an edge-walker on a spiritual journey but having to deal with physical challenges – and isn’t that like your daily life and mine, usually?

‘It seems to me that we do live in two worlds… there is this physical one, which is coherent, and there is the spiritual one, which to the average man with his flashes of religious experience, is very often incoherent. This experience of having two worlds to live in all the time, or not all the time, is a vital one, and is what living is like.’ William Golding

You will be pleased to know that the bull, having turned his head slowly to look in my direction, slowly turned it away as though thoroughly disinterred in me, for which I was grateful. He had discovered three cows in the neighbouring field and had wandered off in their direction.

And, so I journey on, both physically and spiritually, thus confirming that we are all, indeed, edge-walkers, working our way through life in all its spiritual glories as well as driving along highways, catching trains and buses, and dealing with our taxes. That ancient ‘drum beat’, though, still beats within your chest and mine, too. Pause, and you may here it. Hear it, and you might want to respond, my dear edge-walking brother or sister.

 

Into The Mist: Preparations For The Journey

20171002 INTO THE MIST PREPARATIONS FOR THE JOURNEY

After a long absence I finally heeded the call to return to Iona (and then onto Skye) on a short pilgrimage.  Time to reconnect. Time to return, briefly, to where it all started. An opportunity to ‘recharge my batteries’, and to hark the words of the ancestors, that great cloud of witnesses.

Go into the mist.

And now plans are taking shape. It’s so close to the start of the journey, that it’s important for me to concentrate, to prioritise and think about what resources I need and to get them in place, and to be passionate about this excursion. It’s one of those times where total commitment is needed.

I saw you dancing last night on the roof
of your house all alone.

I felt your heart longing for the
Friend.

I saw you whirling
beneath the soft bright rose
that hung from an invisible stem
in the sky,

So I began to change into my best clothes
in hopes of joining you.

Even though
I live a thousand miles away.

And if
you had spun like an immaculate sphere
just two more times,

Then bowed again so sweetly to
the east,

You would have found God and me
standing so near
and lifting you
into our arms.

I saw you dancing last night near the roof
of this world.

(Hafiz)

In today’s busy world it’s easy to give up, to kick plans into the ‘long grass’, or listen to others who don’t share the same spirit and commitment to the journey as you.

Don’t give up. Be encouraged.

Ofcourse, the journey may not be a physical journey for you right now. It could be your life-journey or part of it, a new venture, and what you do, what or who you ‘are’, what your calling is, and how you daily live that out.

For me, for a physical journey to Iona there are a number of considerations: check the car is up to the journey (and it is), pack appropriate clothes, maps and a compass are needed, thermos flask, flashlight, appropriate shoes, waterproofs, as well as thinking ahead about where I’ll stay, and more. All, very practical, all very necessary, and liable to become a chore…but I’m not going to allow that, for this is an awesome adventure into the ‘mist’. And, you’ll be pleased to know plans are well underway and I’m getting there.

For the life-journey the things we need in place are wholly different and will change from person to person, and depend on the calling that we’ve each received. But in each case, maybe there are some common questions that can act as hints as to what you and I require for our shared-but-different life-journey.

What is the one thing you do that brings you to life?

What do we require as essentials for our life-calling and working it out each day? Time? Opportunities to research and study periodically? ‘Tools’ such as a musical intrument, stones/palmstones, a book of liturgy, a staff, drum, a labyrinth, incense/’smudge stick’, water, candle etc? Time to mediate and ‘recharge our batteries’, to centre ourself, time to mix with others for mutual support, energy and encouragement, and to socialise? Yes, time to relax – ‘down-time’, however we define it, is important. The list goes on.

You will know what you require; you will know what’s ‘missing’.

And, so it is that in a few minutes I’ll return to preparing for my journey, first to Iona, and then onto Skye in Scotland – did I mention I start that wonderful journey this coming Sunday? I aim to still right articles each day – deo volente – and I hope, still, to hear from you, from those that read articles and comment.

Yes, I’m going to take you with me. Okay, maybe not physically – there are too many of you and some of you are twelve thousand miles away – but, yes, I aim to take you with me. That will be achieved by daily articles, and my new twitter account. And, it will be achieved because, in some strange and mystical way, we’re already connected!

Let’s stay in touch!

Hopefully, my twitter account is working properly now – but if it isn’t I’ve got a few days to sort out the ‘bugs’.

We are pilgrims on a journey,
and companions on the road;
we are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load.

(Composer: Richard Gillard Copyright © 1977 Scripture in Song/Maranatha!Music)

But, whatever happens right now – and ofcourse I’d encourage you to do this – you can go to my twitter page online via the link-button on my FaceBook site at any time (about half way down the left-hand column, I think), and once there, there should be a ‘follow’ button. If there isn’t  follow button, you’ll still be able to read updates whenever you return to that page.

Or, you can go to my twitter account now, by clicking here.

You should also be able to see live updates in the twitter ‘cartouche’ in the righthand column of this page on TadhgTalks (though it appears only on the generic page – available by clicking the large banner-photo at the top of the page, and the page which shows several posts. It won’t appear if you go straight to a particular post – so it you’re here and are seeing only one post – this one – please click on the banner photo at the very top to see several posts and then you’ll see twitter updates as they happen in the right-hand twitter ‘cartouche’). Any ‘challenges’ please email me.

I’ve also got a dedicated UK mobile telephone for you to use, to say hi, for queries or well wishes etc – for voice or text – and the provider is giffgaff (free giffgaff to giffgaff calls, I believe).

The mobile number is: 07743 956981

I’d love us to stay in touch, and more so as the time of my trip to Iona draws near and when I’m actually there – and would value your daily good-thoughts, light, love and prayers etc

‘Friends…they cherish one another’s hopes. They are kind to one another’s dreams.’ Henry David Thoreau

But there’s more, and it concerns you. If you’re well advanced in your life-journey and realise your calling, please email me. I’d love to hear from you – iron sharpens iron, and we can learn from each other.

If you’re not quite sure – and it could be that you’re at a junction in life, that another ‘season’ is starting or about to start for you (and it feels like you’re in a ‘mist’), and you would like some good-thoughts sent your way, please contact me. What you have, by way of thoughts about spiritual and practical ‘tools’ that work for you (or, that you require), do let me know as will assist me over the next few weeks in formulating how TadhgTalks can further assist you and others, and enable us to work together. You can comment here in all cases, or email me at: tadhg@tadhg.cymru

‘The mist becomes a visible cloak that conceals that which is ordinarily seen, while another invisible cloak is removed, making that which is usually invisible visible.’ Frank MacEowen, The Mist-Filled Path

Now, where’s my sun factor 40 sun cream?

Deep Calls To Deep: Iona Pilgrimage 2017: The Plan

20170913 IONA PILGRIMAGE PLANPeriodically, it is right, I believe to take stock of where we are, where we’ve ‘come from’ and where we’re headed, and where we would like to head to, where we feel called.

It seems an age away, when I last visited the isle of Iona, off the Scottish rugged and wild west coast. Infact it was twenty-eight years ago to the month. Then, in my mid-thirties and with umpteen years of informal study, theological practice and experience under my belt, I stepped out of seminary, after a three year period of formal study. [Tadhg’s Journal: 1989]

Quote: ‘Too often we don’t trust our own deepest truth; it makes us feel too vulnerable or it seems incongruous with the person we think we are or must be.’  Emily Hanlon

And, right now, with various significant things that have happened this year, and a number of major decisions ahead, I need to return to the beginning, to where it all began in earnest for me.

Twenty eight years ago I was on the isle of Iona. Just south-west of the island’s centre is a path that leads westward. It leads to the seashore, but just before you get there, there is a small hill. The hill has two names. Some know it as Sithean, the Fairy Mound, others know it as Cnoc nana Aingeal, the Hill of Angels.

It was in AD563 that columcille, also know as St Columba, sailed from Ireland and settled on Iona, founded the Abbey on eastern part of that island, and from there (officially) set out to evangelise the Pictish tribes (of what is now Sctoland) and the rest of the country.

And so I sat on the top of the hill and pondered. To me, this place is Sithean. It was humbling. Humbling to know that 1426 years ago, that Columcille had sat or stood here, on this very spot – and according to Adomnán, Columcille was seen meeting with angels.

There is a power here.

I know that we don’t need to travel to far off places to encounter, that we can encounter wherever we are, and can even encounter using our imagination, our mind’s eyes or what some call our vision-eye. But, at this time, this place assisted me.

There is a peacefulness about the island, a ruggedness, and yet in the wind one can hear the soul of the island, or is it angels or the fae?

And as I sat there, I lay back, half closed my eyes, and rested. It ‘felt’ as if a ‘thin place’, a liminal-door had opened. In the distance, when the wind changed it sounded like children playing. Then the wind blew from another direction and the sound was lost, and then it was, again, ushered along with the breeze. I could hear the sound of children in the distance, high-pitched laughing and giggling. Playing? I immediately opened my eyes, sat up and looked around. No laughing. No children could be seen. There was just the silence. Silence, apart from the low ‘murmur’ of the continual wind blowing from the sea.

Wherever we are, we are encouraged to expect the unexpected. There is a story from ancient times, of a man sitting at his tent door. In the heat, desert heat, of the day, he looked over at the oak trees of Mamre. Suddenly, he saw three men standing there. He was gracious to them and offered them food. It is said that these three men were infact angels, and some believe that the man had, infact, encountered The Source Of All.

Expect the unexpected.

I lay back, again. Half closed my eyes. Some minutes later the sound of children laughing was back, but this time I remained still. It grew louder. And then suddenly the giggling sound, subdued but distinct, was all around me. I was bathed in innocent laughter. I remained there, not moving a muscle, enjoying the experience – knowing there was nothing I could do to enhance the experience. It was a sacred time, a sacred place. I just enjoyed it. So much so, that after many, many minutes I couldn’t help but fall into a light sleep.

I woke up about half an hour later. The was no sound, except for the howling wind. It had started to rain.

But, this is Scotland and I had come prepared. The rain was fine, but constant. Typical for this area. The Scots call it dreich (pronounced ‘dree-ch’. The ‘ch’ sound is like that in loch. It’s not a ‘k’ sound, but a guttural sound as if you’re clearing you throat).

I walked back to were I was staying, and pondered further my experience at Sithean, the Fairy Mound, or Cnoc nana Aingeal, the Hill of Angels, and that encounter

That evening, I considered the reason I was here.

It is good to draw away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, and if that means not going to a remote area like Iona, then perhaps a change of habit and a relocation of a few miles for a couple of days. But, then there’s always the imagination.

I sat there, pondering. As I gazed at the horizon the word reverence sprang to mind. John O’Donohue wrote: ‘Our world seems to have lost all sense of reverence…Ultimately, reverence is respect before mystery…Reverence is also physical – a dignified attention of body showing that [the] sacred is already here.’

Having finished theological studies, it was time to embark on further studies and a ministry centred on Christian Celtic, and then later, Druidic theology, but inclusively. In a way that would draw alongside all people, to share and to learn as iron sharpens iron, and to know them as friends. A fledgling ministry in serving The Way, that would grow, was my Iona prayer, then.

And so it started, twenty-eight years ago. And now with major changes ahead, I plan to go back to Iona, and to Sithean in the next few weeks. It will be a time of return, re-energising, and renewal for me. A time to decide the future of this ministry as vows need to be re-made, tasks finish but new ones approach, and a time to decide whether to write as I do here or write and lead workshops, and more. Good challenges ahead.

In your heart and mind’s eye, your vision-eye, in your imagination, I want to invite you to join me when I embark on my journey to Iona, and will write daily. It will be a time of return, re-energising, and renewal for me. And, hopefully for you, too.

Quote: ‘Life is a journey. When we stop, things don’t go right.’ Pope Francis

However,  articles continue as normal, and your company is always sought now, and even more so on the planned Iona pilgrimage.

Blessings, Tadhg.