‘Tis Mystery All: Perception: The Need Of Soft Eyes And Soft Feet

20170815 TIS MYSTERY ALLI’m reminiscing. I’m in London and in my very little garden, and there’s part of me that remembers Capel Curig, in the deep in the wilderness of north Wales, many years ago.

As a child the garden of Ty Gwyn (translated as the ‘white house’, and so called because of its painted external stone work,) and where I live now when in Wales, seemed large and mysterious. It doesn’t seem as large now, though it is a fair size, but it is just as mysterious.

‘Mystery is a resource, like coal or gold, and its preservation is a fine thing.’ Tim Cahill

As I grew older, becoming physically bigger, the garden seemed to reduce in size. And yet, at the far end of the garden the rivulet, that I called Bach ac yn gyflym (meaning ‘small and fast’ in Welsh, because that sums up this rivulet) seemed to mark the boundary between the somwhat mysterious (that was all around me – it’s Wales, after all) and the very mysterious (that which was ahead of me and over the boundary marker of the rivulet).

Beyond Bach ac yn gyflym lay the ‘lightning tree’ and two arched trees, that as children, we called the ‘door to another world’. We played for many a long hour in those places – cautious about what might happen and daring each other to just be there for what might happen. Beyond those areas was ‘even more’ mystery. Beyond that was, to us, the ‘Yr ardal anhysbys’ or the ‘unknown place’.

It wasn’t that we were afraid, as children, to venture further into that unknown area, but there was part of us that wanted to preserve the mystery, to be in awe of it, and to regard it as a reminder of….

A reminder of what?

Sitting here at the garden table in a very small London garden, thoughts form and suggest an answer.

Crane your neck, arch your head heavenward at the night sky, and on a clear night you will see a myriad of twinkling stars. Some close, comparatively, some many hundreds of light years away. But, as you look at the cosmos, scientists tell us that about ninety percent of the universe is invisible, invisible to our our meters and scientific instruments, invisible to us. And, they don’t mean that some things are just too distant to be seen – though that is true – but they mean in essence. If you hold the tip of one hand’s index finger at arms-length, then ninety percent of matter between that finger tip and your nose is invisible. A real mystery.

As an adult I like mystery. It keeps things in proportion, reminding me that I don’t know as much as I thought I did.

As I child I was in awe of mystery, and hope that that’s still the same, now, as an adult. It is…sometimes. And, as a child my friends and I, until we were older, never ventured into ‘Yr ardal anhysbys’ or the ‘unknown place’. We revelled in the mystery. It harkened back to something other-worldly, of an ancient age, of a time-before, of sacred-time, sacred-space, of liminality (or ‘thin places’).

‘Under the guise of emptiness, the invisible keeps its secrets to itself. Yet the invisible remains the great background which invests your every gesture and action with possibility and pathos’. John O’Donohue.

It is easy to miss mystery. This can happen as our knowledge increases, and it can happen when we’re too busy or pre-occupied with modern life. It’s for that reason that I really enjoy and benefit from apophatic meditation (a meditative state focussing on nothng in particular), and kataphatic meditation (such as the Caim, or creative visualtion etc). And, as a child with a more limited vocabulary and without such understanding, we had ‘Yr ardal anhysbys’ or the ‘unknown place’ – a real place of mystery.

Perception matters. If we don’t ‘see’ the mystery or at least catch a glimpse, impression or ‘feeling’ of it, then we will miss it. The harsh light of modernity cannot uncover mystery. Mystery is subtle, it’s illusive and even shy, but it is real for those who revere and honour it, and are patient enough to wait for its emergence.

An Anishinabe (First Nations) man from Canada wrote:

The Four-Leggeds and the Windged Ones live to a different rhythm. Theirs is the rhythm of soft eyes and soft feet. Two-Leggeds have hard eyes and hard feet. When most humans go into the forest they enter with so much of the world on them that any possibility of feeling the sacred is removed. When we go into the forest we must become soft like the animal people and the tree people’.

I believe that ‘softness’ of perception is what children have, innately. And it was that that I was remembering at the garden table in my little London apartment’s garden. It was a reminder of how it used to be – a world of mystery, everywhere. Of having a ‘softer’ perception.

And, as adults we can lose that perception of the reverence of awe and mystery. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Even as adults we can regain soft eyes and soft feet, and ‘see’ the sacred all around us. Such seeing is a skill, and like a muscle, it can be developed and honed with practice.

‘To respect a mystery is to make way for the answer.’ Criss Jami

 

Through A Glass Darkly: A Celtic Perspective

20170703 THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY PERSPECTIVEDoes Channel 4 tv station still use the ‘4’ logo that is made up of disparate parts that change the whole of the logo depending on how you view it? And, as the camera moves around it, the jumble of parts suddenly becomes the number ‘4’, but only for a second or two, and then it’s just a jumble again as the camera moves on.

‘For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.’ 1 Corinthians 13:12, The Book

Perspective is all important.

I once ‘accidently’ got into a discussion with someone who wanted to convince me that the sun and moon were the same size, because during a total eclipse the moon exactly covers the face of the sun. I talked to them about perspective, and that the sun is much larger than the moon but much further away, but to no avail. Perspective fail!

‘A group of blind men heard that a strange animal that they had never encountered before, called an elephant, had been brought to the town, but none of them were aware of its shape and form.

Out of curiosity, they said: ‘We must inspect and know it by touch, to know more about this strange animal’. So, they sought it out, and when they found it they groped about it.’ In the case of the first person, whose hand landed on the trunk, said, ‘This being is like a thick snake’.

For another one whose hand reached its ear, it seemed like a kind of fan. As for another person, whose hand was upon its leg, said, the elephant is a pillar like a tree-trunk.

Another blind man who had placed his hand upon its side said, ‘The elephant is a wall’. Another who felt its tail, described it as a rope.

The last felt its tusk, stating the elephant is that which is hard, smooth and like a spear.’

Each had a different idea about what the elephant really looked like. None were actually wrong, but neither had any of them an idea of the totality of what an elephant looked like. (Ancient Indian parable.)

This morning – yes, I’m still in London – I was out in my little garden looking at a site in the distance that’s about to be developed, and I gave thanks that, for a short while, I can see the River Thames as it flows nearby. The view is wonderful. But, there is part of me that, right now, would prefer to gaze a the green-grey mountains of slate and granite of home, Wales.

But, what we see and how we relate to it, depends on us. Doesn’t it?

Someone with me in London might like the ‘buzz’ of the City, others might not like the noise. If in Wales, some (like me) might revel in the majestic beauty of nature, but others might not be able to ‘acclimatise’ to the much slower ‘country time’.

This got me thinking. How we ‘see’ things affects what we regard as them being ‘of value’. Perspective is very important.

If I look at a tree, and I have axe in my hand, and as a Druidic-Christian see the tree as an ‘ensouled’ being or as having the Creator’s stamp on it, or as a panentheists (as I am, just like the early Christians) believe that that tree ‘inhabits’ God, then I will regard it differently than if I just saw it as a materialist might, as kindling.

So, in London, as I gaze upon that building site, it could be just a mess, or I could see it as an opportunity to create a product or service that will serve people, and in this case, might actually improve the local environment and be wholesome (and holy). It is then something much more ‘noble’ that a mere a bricks and mortar development.  In Wales, perhaps it’s easier to appreciate nature, or could it be that there’s so ‘much’ of it (in its wild state, because nature also  ‘inhabits’ the cities, too) that its easy to be complacent and unappreciative? And so, we still need to looker (more) intently, perhaps?

And, what about when we talk theology or chat about spiritual things, or the deep and profound things of life? Are we so immersed in twenty-first materialism that we only glance at the surface? Don’t answer immediately, please, because those ‘spectacles of materialism’ have an uneasy way of slipping over our eyes even without our noticing.

I’ve been to two funerals recently. The first was unbelievable tough on me (and close family) to endure, the other was tough to endue, but our perspective on these major events of life change depending on how we look at those events. The materialist, attending that funeral, might see a box, a coffin, a casket and nothing more. Someone else might have a hope of more, of new life as one is ‘absorbed’ into the earth. Others, such as myself, even in grief, separation and tears might ‘see’ (in their mind’s eye) that person in heaven, also known as the Summerland or Caer Wydyr (in Welsh, the glass fortress), and might confuse others by talking of pre-life (which happens to be one of my favourite themes) and that we’re all ‘there’ now (but that later point is for another time)!

But, what does this all mean?

It means, perspective will be different to different people, depending on their (our) location, inbuilt views, learned views, expectations (limited or otherwise), ‘tribal views’, and once we accept a multiplicity of views – metaphorically peak over the edge – then our voyage of discovery really takes off. There’s always more!

‘I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.’ John 16.12, The Book

So, be ‘open’! Step outside the cultural ‘norms’, move toward the edge – become an ‘edge-walker’ – have you ever noticed how all the interesting things, development, maturity and growth all happen at the ‘edges’? – and have a peak at a possible alternative, and maybe ‘more real’, viewpoint.

‘I live my life in widening circle that reach out across the world.  I may not ever complete the last one, but I give myself to it. I circle around God, that primordial tower. I have been circling for thousands of years, and I still don’t know: am I a falcon, a storm, or a great song?’ (Rainer Maria Rilke)

There’s more. There is always more to experience, more to discover, more to understand (differently). More, that catches us by surprise and challenges ‘old’ limitations. There’s more. Mae mwy (in Welsh)

[Note: The painting in the ‘header’ in today’s article is called ‘Escaping criticism’, and was painted by Pere Borrell del Caso, 1835-1910, a Catalan painter. He was well-known for this kind of optical illusion style of painting which is called trompe l’oeil, French for ‘deceive the eye’.].

 

Beauty Beyond Beauty: Celtic Thought

20170623 BEAUTY BEYOND BEAUTYGo into any art gallery or museum and you will see priceless objects. Some of them contemporary to us today, and some, especially from antiquity, can seem to us out of place, unusual or just odd, but, nevertheless, there is some special captivating quality that defies explanation, and which draws us closer.

Which one of us isn’t enthralled to see the Celtic and Druid patterns on rocks of old, on tors and other places, or early pagan  petroglyphs on hillsides or early Christian drawings in the Roman catacombs?

Look closely and there’s usually a story to tell, a certain significance in the symbolism and/or something which warms our hearts. Some element of beauty abounds, however we define that word.

‘Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.’ Confucius

Beauty can be glimpsed everywhere. Such as, the first time a baby recognises mum and dad’s face (and sometimes the baby does a ‘double take’ roll of the head to focus) is beautiful, as is a murmuration of starlings swirling overhead which can sometimes almost seem to incorporate the observer in the patterns they make, an ancient and noble tree seen is a wonderful sight, or an awesome sunrise or sunset is seen, or for me, the distant mountains as seen from Capel Curig in Wales quickens the heart, or when a plot twist or description in a book or in a poem is noticed and taken to heart, or deeply moving music. Beauty is everywhere.

‘Devotional singing induces in you a desire for experiencing the truth, to glimpse the beauty that is God, to taste the bliss that is the Self. It encourages man to dive into himself and be genuinely his real Self’. Sai Baba.

Whether it is before our eyes, a temporary event, the luminous truth ‘flashing like a kingfisher’, something at our peripheral vision, something heard or something sensed alone, beauty comes in many guises, indeed in many disguises.

But, is that it?

John Pritchard, in his book ‘Encountering the beyond in the everyday: Something more’, talks about beauty, and surmises there is more. There is a surface beauty – which is beautiful and not to be diminished, but there is even more.

Ah, ‘there is more’ is my favourite Welsh phrase – mae mwy!

‘The book or music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust them [alone]; it was not in them, it only came through them…They are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never visited’. Eveyln Waugh.

Beautiful works of art, artefacts, musical pieces or awesome events are, indeed, beautiful, but there’s more. Such beauty comes to us from beyond. Beauty (from) beyond beauty.

This storehouse of all that is good and holy and beautiful, this ‘Beyondness’ is known to some as Heaven. Others call it the Summerland, and still others call it Jannah. In the Welsh language it would be called Caer Wydyr (the glass fortress). The latter is my favourite, but I do confess to being a wee bit biased.

So, though you might only see an old tree, something mundane but which catches your attention and sparks something deep within your soul, or you might gaze when you gaze upon a wonderful work of art or hear music which lets your spirt soar, then, and in those circumstances you’ve caught a glimpse of the which is Beyond.

And, it’s not that you just caught a glimpse of Beyondness at a distance, rather, you have In some way been ‘flooded’, ‘immersed’, momentarily caught in the interactive two-way Flow between object and observer, and ‘incorporated’ in that beauty from Beyond.

It may not be able to be captured and stored; play the musical piece again and it may not have the same effect – such glimpses can never be artificially reproduced – but you can content yourself with knowing that you have witnessed a glimpse (and been part of That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves) of that which comes from Beyond, knowing that in another way, at some time in the future you may be so blessed again, if you have eyes to see!

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
and every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
and daub their natural faces unaware.

(Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

The Art Of Being Awake: Celtic Thought

20170615 THE ART OF BEING AWAKEIt’s 6.30am on a bright, sunny, wonderful London morning, and I’m sitting at my garden table, coffee in front of me, and I’ve just splashed a little cream on top of it. The sun is still low in the sky and the world is ‘fresh’. The cream on the coffee swirls around, effortlessly forming a galaxy-like spiral shape. Interestingly, did you know that the word galaxy comes from the ancient Greek meaning ‘milky’, and the English name for our galaxy – that smoke-like veil that stretches across the sky when there are no artificial lights about and especially when one is nearer the equator – is the milky way! Milky just like the pattern on my coffee. And, that got me thinking.

‘Dance above the surface of the world. Let your thoughts lift you into creativity that is not hampered by opinion.’ Red Haircrow

Apparently, the UK’s Astronomer Royal believes that all of us, indeed everything that we see around us in the created universe, is part of a sophisticated computer program run by aliens. According to him we all ‘apps’ or sub-routines in the program, and are ‘asleep’ to true reality. True! When I say ‘true’ I mean that’s what he believes, not that we are, necessarily, part of an alien’s computer program.

But it make you think about…..awareness…sleep…illusion…reality, doesn’t it?

There’s an ancient story of a young man who, part of a dysfunctional family, decided to do his share of cheating, and got what he wanted. However, he had to avoid his (now) angry older brother who had been cheated out of his inheritance – the older brother was, allegedly, of a size and stature to dismember his younger brother if he so wanted, and he probably wanted to do just that. So, the younger one, quite wisely, fled the scene.

Some time later in the day, tired from running he looked around for a make-shift pillow. The locale was quite ordinary looking, but he noticed a flat stone that would be an ideal pillow. He lad his head upon it, and fell asleep.

‘Therefore it says: “Awake you, the one sleeping…’, Ephesians 5:14a, The Book

He started to dream, a most vivid and real-type of dream. In his dream he saw a huge ladder fixed between earth and heaven, with celestial beings of some description ascending it, and descending it. Whether it was minutes or hours later, the young man awoke. His blurry eyes once again scanned the terrain, and it didn’t look any different. However, the dream had made a difference, and he declared, ‘God is in this place, and I didn’t even realise it’.

Yes, one man had to fall asleep to really wake up to reality!

The Lady Julian lived about some 650 years ago and was the recipient of several visions. She recorded them, and of one of them she wrote. ‘And in this [God] showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand… And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’ Creation in her hand? She was awake for that ‘showing’ to a different view of reality.

There’s another story of a young man, one of his kind – we know that because his name is an anagram of ‘one’! You’ve probably seen the movie. In the movie, Morpheus (also the Greek god of dreams) declares to this young man, that, ‘The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

Yes, Neo was living in a dream-world, and had to wake up to reality.

‘Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures. Jessamyn West

Are we asleep? I mean, are we asleep?

I don’t want to suggest that this reality we find ourselves in, is a mere illusion and inconsequential, because then I would be concerned that some may erroneously believe that they don’t need to be responsible for their actions toward other people, nature or the universe. And, we do!

But there is a sense in that we are ‘asleep’.

It could be the kind of ‘rote living’. Years ago I used to travel the London Underground system quite a lot – hop on this train, walk through that tunnel, down the escalator and turn right, jump of that train and I’d reach my destination. And yet, for part of that regular journey, as I reflected say as I was boarding the last train for that journey, I’d have no memory of some of the tunnels and escalators taken. It was if I was asleep. Maybe you’ve encountered the same on a regular train trip or car journey?

Or, it could be that we’re asleep when it comes to looking at what’s happening around us. We can be so focussed on (what many call) the mundane, the material or human-event world around us, that we fail to ‘see’ a greater universe, a greater Universal Power at work. Using different ‘eyes’ we can catch glimpses, And then maybe it’s gone from our perception – but we know it’s there, we can ‘feel’ it, we can remember it, and can take heart from that encounter (until the next encounter).

‘Not only is the Universe stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can think.’ Werner Heisenberg,

And, there’s more. Even for those that have had glimpses of awareness, of being awake, there is a pertinent question that just begs to be asked: If we were asleep and have woken up, have we (1) unwittingly fallen asleep again, or (2) are there greater degrees of awareness yet to be experienced and so we shouldn’t be complacent or proud. This is not to unnerve you (or me) or cause any anxiety, but a gentle reminder to us that we live in a most splendid mysterious universe, at that at the heart of it is The Mystery . So, there could be, and I’ll go out on a limb, and declare that there is more. Even when we believe we’re awake, there’s more. Mae mwy.

‘The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open
Don’t go back to sleep!’

Rumi

The Art Of Perception: Celtic Thought

20170612 THE ART OF PERCEPTION 1There is a particular time in the Spring at Ty Gwyn where I live, near Capel Curig, back home in Wales, when the sunrise on the lawn is just right to ‘play’ upon the dew on the grass and light it up like a carpet of deep gold. It’s almost as if the grass is ablaze, alight like an electric fire as the sunlight grazes of the dew. And then a few minutes later, it’s gone. When my grandchildren visit I encourage patience in them to look out for it, and it’s worth it, it truly is – well, at least I think so. I’m not too sure about them.

‘I think it pisses God off if you walk by the colour purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it’, says Shug Avery, one of the wise women in Alice Walker’s book, The Colour Purple.

Drygrange Bridge over the River Tweed in Scotland is a place where I have to stop and pay attention. The Scottish border is some 40km behind me, at that point, as I drive north, but for me Scotland starts at Drygrange Bridge. The scenary there opens up, vast and wild, and when driving north, there is the exquisite River Tweed below, and to the left an awesome valley and the beautiful Leaderfoot Viaduct. Whenever I can, I stop the car, and spend a few minutes gazing at the scenery in awe. Words are not needed here. Indeed, they would be useless in that moment. At that moment the invisible has become visible. Do you think there is a connection between journeying, new places and perception? The unfamiliar enthrals us?

Ofcourse, the art of paying attention requires an unhurried attitude, and that’s even more difficult in our fast-paced world, today. But, it’s worth cultivating. It requires a different timescale, and a commitment to deeper perception.

Find an awesome scene and just gaze at it. Fumble for the camera, draw an outline sketch or speak into a vioce recorder about it, and the moment has gone. It’s happened to me when I’ve reached for the camera and adjusted the settings. Missed it. And what’s more, I’ve relegated myself to that of a mere observer, when I should have just gazed and basked in the glory of the event, and so would have been part of it. I-thou became I-it, sadly. Distanced!

‘…seek, and you will find…’, Matthew 7.7b

Deep perception can be practiced. It’s an acknowledgement of the other, and a surrendering, too, of analytical thought. It is about entering into the moment not as one subservient, and not as master of the moment, but as co-participant.

Paying attention is reward in itself.

As regards paying attention, the author Barbara Brown Taylor writes: ‘From behind the veils of my dark [sunglass] lenses, I study the particular human beings sitting around me [ on the subway train]: the girl with the fussy baby, the guy with the house paint all over his jeans, the couple holding hands, the teenager keeping time with both knees while he listens to music so loud it leaks from his headphones. Every one of these people had come from somewhere and is going somewhere, the same way I am. While I am sitting here thinking I am at the centre of this subway scene and they are on the edges, they are sitting there at the centre of their own scenes with me on their edges’. From her book, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith.

If a sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward spiritual happening, then many events can rightly be regarded as a sacrament, in the widest sense of the word. What we see, the food we eat and savour – we do take our time and savour it, right? Ofcourse, we need reminding as the world’s pace closes in and we gobble our food, or eat on the way to work. I know there are occassions when that might be necessary, but do – and I’m reminding myself, too – do find the time to savour food, delight in scenary, works of art and music, and to slow down and appreciate those wonderful and yet mundane (as if anything is really mundane) moments that we might miss, otherwise, and pass them right by.

In paying attention the inivisble and spiritual realm is glimpsed in this realm, at least for those that look.

‘The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.’ Marcel Proust

Fios Or Sleepless In Capel Curig: Tadhg’s Journal

20170123-fios-tadhgs-journalThe sun rose at 8.11am this morning in Capel Curig in rugged north Wales. Exactly, ninety minutes before that, I was heading south in my garden at my cottage, Tŷ Gwyn. And, it was oh-so cold.

‘Walking is also an ambulation of mind.’ Gretel Ehrlich

To put it into context, apparently, the UK is experiencing minus (Celsius) temperatures due to a ‘polar’ vortex moving across it. According to the Government’s Meteorological Office it wall last a couple of days. According to one newspaper, however, their headline read: UK Weather Alert: Britain to be smashed by Siberian Mega Freeze. To Last Until March.

Hyperbole? I hope so!

To be honest, this morning was ‘fresh’, it was about -2 Celsius, and yes, it was (lovely and) cold. Nose-stingingly cold. And, I as trudged to the end of the garden, I noticed there was rime on the trees; the air was fresher-than-fresh, the sun hasn’t risen, and all around me was an awesome, enveloping freezing fog that blotted out everything (almost). I couldn’t really see anything. Where was I? I wasn’t sure!

Lost in space? Sort of!

‘Some beautiful paths can’t be discovered without getting lost.’ Erol Ozan

And I revelled in that seemingly not-knowingness. Ofcourse, I knew where I was really, that is in my back-garden, but for a few seconds of not seeing anything to confirm exactly where I was,  a great feeling of ‘lostness’ came over me, and it got me thinking.

Perception? Different!

For a few seconds the ‘guide wheels’ of my eyes were off, and I couldn’t see anything to locate myself precisely in the garden. I could have been anywhere. Maybe there was a vague outline of a tree to one side – but it looked ‘flat’ against the misty, seemingly sky-painted, white backdrop, and it could have been a small tree some twenty feet away or a huge tree about a hundred feet a away. I surmised the later, but I really had no way of knowing.

How sure are we?

That was the question I asked myself when, some thirty minutes later I was back in an oh-so-warm cottage. How sure are we? We live in an age of exaggeration – about the weather and other things, and a time of fake news. It’s not always the ones that shout loudest and proclaim that they now, not always the ones who alone say that they are right, who are infact right. They could be wrong? I like it when someone says, ‘I’m not quite sure’. For then there’s evidence of a questing spirit and potential progress can be made.

Gaelic has two wonderful words that come in useful here – regarding knowledge, fake news or that ‘in my garden locational lostness’.

Eolas in Irish Gaelic (but, call me biased, as I think the welsh word gwybodaeth sounds better, but then I’ve a Welsh heritage) means knowledge, but related to bland information. I had some ‘information’ about my garden and where I was located (roughly), though my perception was limited by the fog. Eolas, may relate to the bland news in a newspaper, that is, just reading it as it is presented to us, as fact. Superficial knowledge, without enquiry. It takes us so far.

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

Fios in Irish Gaelic (gwybod in Welsh) has an altogether deeper, questioning meaning. It means ‘to know’, to really know. Although I was in may garden, I knew in my heart where I was – even if I couldn’t see properly. Fios takes us further. This kind of knowing is akin to the knowledge between husband and wife. It’s deeper! More ‘intimate’. I might know a married couple, but that couple know each other! 

And, so as I sat there, at the kitchen table with a hot drink to hand and thawing out, realising that we’re all presented with eolas, superficial knowledge; the real imperative – that only some do, sadly – is to ‘look beyond’, not just using our eyes, and to ‘see’ what is really there, really happening in our daily life and environment around us, really happening in the news and world around us, really happening in our spiritual walk, and to go deeper.

‘The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.’ W B Yeats

Some might say eolas is good, fios is better. Be inquisitive. Don’t accept surface answers. Explore. Ask. Seek. Go deeper.

Telling Place: The Story Of Jack (And What The Story Tells Us About Ourselves)

161115-story-of-jack

It seems we live in a world that has changed, and is changing faster in 2016 than ever before. Perhaps, never before was there a time to reach out to others in love, whether they are are of the same ‘tribe’ to us or another; a time to accept that we’re all different (and that’s what we have in common), and that despite our wonderful (and sometimes infuriating) differences, we can, if we really listen, hear That Which Is The Communion Of Us All calling our name and see ourselves as Family. I believe we need that sense of listening, deep listening.

And, here’s an old English story about someone who didn’t really listen:

Many, many years ago in a remote village, there was a boy whose named was Jack. He could have been a young Celt(ic Christian boy, or a young Druid, or a young pagan. He was so young he lived with his mother.

They were very poor, and his mother made her living by spinning, but Jack was so lazy that he would do nothing but sit by the corner of the room, and near the hearth in the winter-time. And, so they all called him Lazy Jack.

His mother couldn’t get him to do anything for her, and at last told him, that if he didn’t begin to work and contribute for his keep she would turn him out to get his living as he could.

This alarmed Jack, and he went out and hired himself for the next day, Tuesday, to a neighbouring farmer for a penny; but as he was coming home, never having had any money before, he lost it in passing over a brook. “You silly boy,” said his mother, “you should have put it in your pocket.”

“I’ll do so another time,” replied Jack.

On Wednesday, Jack went out again and hired himself out, but this time to a cow-keeper, who gave him a jar of milk for his day’s work. Jack took the jar and put it into the large pocket of his jacket, sadly, spilling it all, long before he got home. “Dear me!” said the old woman; “you should have carried it on your head.”

“I’ll do so another time,” said Jack.

So on Thursday, Jack hired himself again to a farmer, who agreed to give him a cream cheese for his services. In the evening Jack took the cheese, and went home with it on his head. But by the time he got home the cheese was all spoilt, part of it being lost, and part of it matted in his hair. “You silly boy,” said his mother, “you should have carried it very carefully in your hands.”

“I’ll do so another time,” replied Jack.

On Friday, Jack again went out, and hired himself, now, to a baker, who gave him nothing for his work but a large tom-cat. Jack took the cat, and began carrying it very carefully in his hands, but in a short time the cat scratched him so much that he was compelled to let it go. When he got home, his mother said to him, “You silly fellow, you should have tied it with a string, and dragged it along after you.”

“I’ll do so another time,” said Jack.

So on Saturday, Jack hired himself to a butcher, who rewarded him with a handsome present of a shoulder of mutton. Jack took the mutton, tied it to a string, and trailed it along after him in the dirt, so that by the time he had got home the meat was completely spoilt. His mother was this time quite out of patience with him, for the next day was Sunday, and she was obliged to make do with cabbage for her dinner. “You silly boy,” said she to her son; “you should have carried it on your shoulder.”

“I’ll do so another time,” replied Jack.

On the next Monday, Jack went once more, and hired himself to a cattle-keeper, who gave him a donkey for his trouble. Jack found it hard to hoist the donkey on his shoulders, but at last he did it, and began walking slowly and unsteadily home with his ever-so-heavy prize.

Ofcourse, one element needed by Jack was appropriate listening skills and commonsense, leading to adaptabilty as circumstances changed…something greatly required, in the main, today. And, perhaps we can, bit by bit in our daily lives reach out and really listen to people (whether we agree with them or not), and extend love.

However, maybe all things really do work out well in the end (to paraphrase the Lady Julian), for the story continued, still with poor listening and understanding skills by Jack, thus:

Now it happened that in the course of his journey, there lived a rich man with his only daughter, a beautiful girl, who was hearing-impaired and she couldn’t speak. She had never laughed in her life, and the doctors said she would never speak till somebody made her laugh.

This young lady happened at that precise time, to be looking out of her window when Jack was passing, unsteadily, with the donkey on his shoulders, with its legs sticking up in the air, and the sight was so comical and strange that she immediately burst out into a great fit of laughter, and immediately recovered her speech and hearing.

Her father was overjoyed, and fulfilled his promise by marrying her to  Jack, who was thus made a rich gentleman. They lived in a large house, and Jack’s mother came to live with them in great happiness.

I do believe that That Which Is The Communion Of Us All is calling our names to remind each one of us to see ourselves as Family and to extend love and understanding, if we have ears to hear.

Four Things We Can Learn From The Corlun Dŵr: Celtic Mythological Beasts

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In ancient times belief in the wee folk, the goodly people, the fae and other Celtic mythological creatures abounded, and though, in the main, this is not the case today, we can still learn a thing or two from that belief; still learn a few things from them! Whether you believe in them in the physical realm, the imaginal realm only, spanning both realms, or as a ‘romantic’ or poetic idea, there is some wisdom here to uncover and from which we can benefit.

But, first a brief overview of the Corlun Dŵr.

Name: Corlun Dŵr [pronounced kor-lun door], Welsh for water sprite.

Habitat: As one would expect, being water sprites, it is said that the Corlun Dŵr inhabit and/or live near water, especially near ‘the edge’ of their territory, such as rock pools onelemental-222-left-left the beach, the waters edge at the seaside where waves crash against the sand, the river bank, and even in puddles of rainwater. And, perhaps, yes, even in your house, if you have a bowl of water on the table or if your house is connected to the mains water supply, sprites abound! All these places are liminal access points to their realm, and locations where they might be found. Wherever there’s water, there are water sprites.

Wherever water flows, life flourishes:
wherever tears fall, Divine mercy is shown.
(Rumi)

Appearance: They are thought to be shape-shifters. Although their natural state may be half way between a green, water-like amphibian and that of a human (see right), they can adapt. There are accounts of them becoming frogs etc so that they can draw close to humans and observe us – so, that’s one good reason to respect frogs and other animals: you never know when it might be a water sprite.

There are reports of them becoming human-looking  (almost).  In such cases you might be forgiven that they are human, except that it is said that their outer clothing is always sopping wet, and that’s a clue to them being a water sprite in disguise. Nevertheless, they are described as beautiful  beings.

‘Every wave is a water sprite who swims in the current, each current is a path which snakes towards my palace, and my palace is fluidly built at the bottom of the lake, in the triangle of earth, fire and water.’ (Emile Zola)

Traditional benefits: It is said that, though they are somewhat ‘shy’ of humans, drawing close to them can have benefits. They are renowned healers; they give protection; awaken our compassion and sensitivity; confer artistic inspiration and a creative imagination, and romance and sensuality, and more.

Other benefits: What can we learn from them, however we view them and their existence?  I would like to suggest four things:

Firstly, we can learn to use our imagination, our mind’s eye and not just see the world as ‘bricks and mortar’, but , whether we live in a rural or urban environment (and even if it’s the latter, its good to ‘escape’ to a riverbank, forest or the beach occasionally) we can benefit from cultivating a ‘child’s perspective’ of the world around us, sometimes. It’s about growing a different perspective, and having a beginners’ mind.

‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ (William Shakespeare)

Secondly, we can learn to value (more) of the nature around us – even if we live in a city. It’s about appreciating the beauty of the world, a gift from the Great Provider, and ensuring that we, collectively and individually, and in large and small ways, leave the world as good a place as we found it – and so pass that gift onto the next generation, as the previous generation did for us. It’s about appreciation and passing it on.

Thirdly, it’s about thankfulness. We live on a planet where the oceans contain over 96% of water-landscape-1160264_960_720the water on the Earth. Water abounds on this planet, and yet, according to our current scientific understanding, it may be the rarest element in the universe. And, therefore something to treasure.  We use it and, indeed,  depend on it for life, and yet we do waste it and ‘abuse it’. I guess, the third learning point is to value it and to give thanks to the Source of All. And even, occasionally, to take a glass of fresh water, meditate upon it, and give thanks as you take each vital energy-giving, healing, refreshing sip of water into our body. Thankfulness.

‘In one drop of water are found all the secrets of the oceans.’ (Khalil Gibran)

Fourthly, sometimes it’s good to have a focal point, a symbol, a picture in our mind’s eye of what could be, to galvanise our thoughts to remember something, to appreciate something or to do something. And, that’s where the Corlun Dŵr come in. However, you regard them – real in the physical realm, real in the imaginal realm, as a ‘romantic’ or poetic idea – they are a most useful and potent symbol to encourage us to appreciate water and the natural environment in all its forms. The Corlun Dŵr would like that. They are, after all, water sprites and are faithful, shy and somewhat reclusive Guardians of water.


 

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‘A Close Encounter With Nwyfre Of The Third Kind?’ Or ‘The Truth Is Out There’.

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Words have power. With a word the cosmos was called into being, people were raised from the dead, and with our words events are called forth, promises are made, and the future unfolds.

There is a delightful and an ancient Gaelic/Welsh word, ‘nwyfre’ (pronounced ‘noo-iv ruh’), which is deep and profound, and full of power, and beneficial to know as it may change our perception. It is a word that allows us to ‘peep behind the curtain’ – that veil that masks what really is, from that which only appears to be so. It’s a ‘thin’ word.

There is a thick forest not far from where I live in north Wales, old and dense; ancient. I love it. As a child most of us, not me, would avoid part of the forest where it was thickest because of a feeling of intense fear. Perhaps part of our childish imagination at the time, or maybe more? That area, even more dense than the surrounding forest, contained, what we called ‘Y goeden mellt’, the Lightning Tree, and most of my friends hated it, but not me.

‘The things that frighten us just want to be held.’  Mark Nepo.

I’ve visited there sometimes since –  and my respect for Y goeden mellt’, the Lightning Tree has grown more and more over the years. For more about my earliest encounters with Y goeden mellt’, see here.

‘..stands a lightning tree.
It’s limbs all torn from the day it was born for the tree was born in a thunderstorm.’

(The Settlers song, ‘The Lightning Tree’.)

As an adult, I learned that Y goeden mellt has power, or is it power that we give it? Nevertheless, it was a place to visit when one was awakened in the depths of the night and one couldn’t sleep, or when it ‘called’ by it. Deep thoughts, meditation or was it a dream occurred some time ago, there, a ‘dream’ about the ancestors. It is a ‘thin place. See here.

‘Oh Trees, Trees, Trees…wake. Don’t you remember it? Don’t you remember me? Dryads and hamadryads, come out, come [out] to me.’  C S Lewis.

And, then last evening I went to Y goeden mellt, with a friend, at dusk. We entered the forest, walked for some time into the thickest part of the forest, and then moved into the usually unvisited clearing. And, there in the centre was Y goeden mellt, the Lightening Tree.

Under my breath – I thought it might ‘spook’ my friend if I did what I usually did out loud – I greeted the Lightning Tree with something like, ‘Hello, my dear and ancient friend’. And, I lowered my head, temporarily, as a sign of respect. I think my friend saw that nod, but he remained quiet.

My friend found the fallen tree trunk which makes for a comfortable seat – not too close, not to far away from the Tree, and sat on it. I sat beside him. We were both quiet for some time, as the light fell, in awe of the majesty of the setting.

‘What do you see?’, I asked.
‘Trees!’, was his reply.
‘And, what else?’ I asked.
‘Trees, trees and more trees.’, he said, smiling.

I thought for a while, and then said to him, ‘And what about nwyfre?

On hearing that word, he immediately  looked up, gazed at the sky and the tops of the trees, and said, ‘A little nwyfre, sure….and it’s nice’.

Nwyfre, traditionally and literally is to do with wind and the sky. If you can imagine fast flowing, light clouds in a blue sky, say, or the wind ‘howling’ of the tops of trees, then that’s evidence of nwyfre. But, it’s more – to those with deep awareness, insight, enlightenment, to those who are poets and those who might have a ‘romantic’ inclination, it’s more.

‘The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone….’ John 3:8a, The Book.

Nwyfre, at its deepest and most profound, and I would say its most real level, is: Spirit, and the connectedness of everything because of Spirit, and the flow of energy (love etc) between everything.

As my friend looked around, he saw a gnarled tree in a clearing and localised atmospheric pressure skipping cross the tops of trees. He declared it was ‘nice’.

No disrespect to my friend, but there is more.

As I sat, gazing at Y goeden mellt, memories, and experience(s), respect and the feeling of being in a powerful place flooded my mind. I realised (and realised this some time ago), that much of this was in my mind. Call it a series of inner experiences, a jaunt into the imaginal realm, or a particular use of ones imagination, call it what you will, I know such experiences have happened in the past, and unbeknown to my friend, were happening now.

For him, nwyfre was a natural event.

For me, nwyfre is that and more. I knew it to be real and deeper and more profound, albeit using different ‘senses’. We see, only what we expect to find.  And, as I looked around, and my imagination ‘fired up’, I could see the gnarled tree that my friend was looking at, but I saw Y goeden mellt, a powerful being, imbued with the same life-forced that flowed through me (and through my friend, even though he was unware of it). It was as if a trillion fire flies flew along its branches and roots like veins in a body, and then they flew outward to surrounding trees, lighting up the clearing with almost neon, golden, lights in a myriad, swirling patterns. Light. Energy. Love. Power. Connectedness. Oneness. Love…all, in my mind’s eye.

My friend, saw a gnarled tree. I saw more, as we sat there for about an hour in the ‘silence’ of the forest

‘There, in the silence that’s never quite silent, I realized that, if there are at least seven thousand wants to speak, there are at least seven thousand ways to listen.  Mark Nepo.

We were just about to leave, when my friend said, ‘That’s weird!’. Ofcourse, I just had to ask him to explain, and he did. He said that although it had got darker, he could see little blips of light in his peripheral vision. Not wanting to flood him with information about the deep meaning of nwyfre and wondering that, perhaps, he was starting to see reality at a deeper level, I said we should stay a few more minutes to see what happened. He didn’t agree. ‘It’s nothing’, he said, ‘just an illusion, just phosphene!’. And, with that he got off the felled log, and we hiked our way out of the clearing, with him in front of me. That was good, because, as is my custom Y goeden mellt got a nod from me and a barely-audible ‘good-bye’ as we left the clearing.

Back at the cottage, we talked about that experience. He was adamant that what he saw was an optical illusion. I wasn’t so sure, and said to him, ‘Perhaps it was more. Perhaps you actually caught a glimpse of nwyfre with your eyes, you mind’s eye?’

He replied, ‘Maybe, but whatever it was, it was nice’. I couldn’t leave it there, and said, ‘Only nice?’.

My friend, I believe, caught a glimpse of nwyfre in its fullness: Spirit, and the connectedness of everything because of Spirit, and the flow of energy (love etc) between everything, seen as an intricate and living web of light. He saw a glimpse, mainly dismissed it, but the ‘key has been dropped’. He had been introduced to that which ‘is beyond’, a ‘thin place of understanding’, and it’s up to him now to take it further (or not). I might just drop another key, prompt him with another encounter and learning opportunity. I might just invite him back, again, to encounter Y goeden mellt to witness nwyfre.’

‘Four hundred year old trees, who draw aliveness from the earth like smoke from the heart of God, we come, not knowing you will hush our little want to be big; we come, not knowing that all the work is so much busyness of mind; all the worry, so much busyness of heart…. ‘Mark Nepo

But, what about you?

In your mind’s eye, your imagination, in that imaginal realm that can be accessed in a number of ways ( such as through meditation, centering, deliberately entering a waking-but-day-dreaming state etc), you too, whether in a rural area or urban area can witness nwyfre in a way that is personal to you, and just as profound, wherever you are. So, what are you waiting for? Nwyfre awaits!

Celtic OrthoPraxis: Deep Speaking

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Deep speaking, the result of deep listening, is that weighty, verbal response that comes from deep within, from our very core, from the soul. It has nothing to do with the tone of our voice  – soprano to bass – but everything thing to do with communication about the human journey, a significant event, something that ‘hits home’, that means so much to us, and usually is ‘unpacked’ and cherished over time.

Deep speaking examples can be heard at State openings of Parliament (- one hopes), and in the work(s) of Taliesin, the writings of Lady Julian of Norwich, Rumi, Hafiz, St John of The Cross, Caedmon, sacred text(s) etc, in prayers, rituals and affirmations. But, only when we ‘go deep’. How often have we read great words glibly? Go deep!

“I am not eloquent.” –  Moses talking to God

Imagine Moses coming down that mountain, stuttering – probably not so good at speaking at the best of times, but even less so after a cosmic encounter, a numinous event – and we would probably be the same. Imagine, Jesus’s parables, a sage, or a koan, a story of great meaning ‘wrapped up’ in the ordinary but containing a great truth, being told. Imagine a new-born babies smile.  These are all noteworthy events that have evoked, or do evoke, a response, and it’s then that the potential for deep speaking takes over. Go deep!

“You must speak straight so that your words may go as sunlight into our hearts.” – Cochise (“Like Ironweed”)

Deep speaking is the attempt to put into words the ‘reaction’ to profound truths and/or events. Sometimes we stutter and stumble, sometimes we’re less than eloquent, and sometimes, as if from somewhere else, the words (and meaningful ones at that) just flow. However, I believe there is a ‘secret’ here: eloquent or stuttering, our response to the numinous is deep speaking, regardless! The measure is not about eloquence, not on the amount of words used, but on the intention to verbalise, and depth of meaning, and power.

I have listened to lots of hand-fasting and wedding speeches, eulogies at funerals too, and I never measure eloquence, voice projection, the timbre of a voice (and who doesn’t want a ‘crisp radio voice’?). No, I listen to the meaning, the weight, the force behind the words spoken – and not just the words, but the meaning, what they have said about the person in question and whether they have ‘summed that person up’, and invariably they have. They have achieved deep speaking, and in all cases it was so moving

“Choose your words meticulously and then let them rumble up from some deep furnace of conviction.” –  Ron Suskind,

And, deep speaking, as a response to deep listening, occurs when we allow what we’re hearing to pass beyond our mind, and into our heart. Ah, then we can respond. Ah, then we’ve achieved deep listening, and, ah, the natural result is deep speech.

“Meaningful prayer is a matter of the heart, not the eloquence of the words.” – Elizabeth George

Deep speaking, then, can be in response to a numinous encounter, to a babies smile, an awesome sunset, need only be a few words; but oh, those words are powerful, effective, and, well….they’re deep. They come from, not the mind, but from the heart and go straight to the recipient’s heart. Deep speaking is something, we can all do, do do, and should cherish. So, go deep! Speak from the heart!