Perceiving Anew: Doors To A Close Encounter: Imagination

20170908 PERCEIVING ANEW DOORS TO A CLOSE ENCOUNTER

‘Those who are Awake live in a state of constant amazement…’. (Jack Kornfield)

It was my first real full-time job and the journey across London, taking this bus, and then that train, alighting there and taking that particular escalator down to another platform for another train, and so on, was all new to me. Several years later, I was doing the same journey but without noticing much at all about the journey. And, on some occasions as I walked onto the platform to get my second train I’d stop, pause and think about the last minute or two of my journey, and not really have any memory at all of what had just happened. It was as if it had become so lost in the mundane that I hadn’t noticed anything at all, and my mind had gone blank. I couldn’t remember the advertisements on the wall, or who had passed me in the tunnels that connect one platform to another, and not even the direction signs.

I’m sure that happens to us all at various times.

Our minds not only wander, but they can seemingly ‘shut down’ or filter out much of what is really going on. It’s like reading a page from a book, maybe you’re in a hurry, and you suddenly realise at the end of the page that, although you’ve read it, you haven’t really read it and you no understanding of what the words meant. And, so you re-read it, and then it makes sense.

When perceiving anew, I think we need to ensure that we’re perceiving deeply. I love liturgy, I love poetry, but just reading the words on the page, as if by rote, academically, in a shallow manner only gives a surface-level of understanding. I want that liturgy, those wonderful words, to embrace me like a warm hug, to be like a Mediterranean sea that I can fall into. I want to connect. To be enveloped.

‘Nowness’

To perceive anew, I’d suggest being present in our mind is a first step. Thinking back is good, and planning for the future is good, but being present ‘now’ is even better.

And so he knelt down, closed his eyes, and prepared for a deep encounter. Around him, and invisible to him, hosts of powerful and ancient benevolent beings assembled. Some might call them ‘companions’, others elementals, other might call them the fae, or the Watchers, or angels. But, these Watchers crowded in to see how this person would encounter and interact with the loving-energy of the Source of All. A minute went by.

He could almost feel the distractions of the world being ‘unpeeled’ as he moved, inwardly, to some kind of inner stillness and peace. The wristwatch he was wearing, suddenly bleeped. It distracted him, and as he looked at it he remembered all the things he had to do. Opening his eyes, and getting to his feet, he rushed to the door to catch the 9.05am train. The moment had passed.

We can miss an awful lot by not being present. That ‘slipping back’ into not being present will happen, but perhaps an aim for us might be to work towards more times of ‘nowness’, and specified times of being present. Good habits are good. And, when present to be aware of what might be, what we might not see but can ‘sense’ or intuit, and that we’re surrounded by That Which Is Bigger Than Us. To be aware of the Mystery.

Aim: To be present in our mind, and to give our all to the moment, task, and event. To be fully alive. To realise there is more, and to be expectant.

Meaningful Actions

She now found himself, as usual, at the main service. She loved this service, all the pomp and ceremony, and ofcourse she loved the rich, majestic words that were used. They had the ability, as it were, to whisk her back in time, almost, and connect her to those that had gone before. Continuity. She listened intently.

It was then that she realised that the pace of the words spoken said by the person at the front seemed to be speeding up. Getting noticeably quicker. Instead of those words ‘inviting’ her ‘into’ the service and depth, they seemed to repel her. Could it be that the person saying those wonderful liturgical words was in a hurry, had important things to do? Were they even caring about those in the pews who were listening and willing to be transported into that Place of Encounter? She wondered. But, she had lost the thread of what was going on, and then seemed to just looked on at the liturgical activity as though she was an outsider. Things felt a bit ‘shallow’. She left. The effect of ‘distancing’.

It is easy to go through the actions and miss the meaning. I am sure you, like me, have been part of a ceremony where certain events have to take place in a certain order, or we’re involved in some kind of task at work where we had to process things in a certain order. It’s easy to get blaise. And, then you suddenly realise that someone will be buying the product or will be relying your calculations, or depending on you, and you’re not quite sure if your actions gave the process the due weight it needed. If someone is going to buy that product, we might ask ourselves did I put enough care and effort into making it, wrapping it etc? If leading a ceremony or providing a service we might ask ourselves if we have helped or hindered someone?

It is easy just to go through the motions. In any ceremony, the words and actions are important, but their ‘effectiveness’ stems not from the actions themselves, necessarily, but from the care and attention, the love, intentionality and time we put into them. Depth.

Aim: To take time for meaningful actions, and to enjoy the liturgy and actions, and see them an a conduit to something more.

And, it may be here that many people might stop. But, not you.

Imagination
Le Point Vierge

But there’s more.

Accepting that being present is necessary, and the ‘invitational’ liturgy, actions, words and songs are wonderful, to be used and appreciated, and can usher us closer to the Source of All, there is more

Imagination is all important. Frowned on by some, seen as something relegated to childhood only, and seen as unreal, imagination is seemingly used only by advertisers who know its power, and then proceed to sell us this holiday, or that car, or entice us to spend money in yet another sale.

He got home from work. Feeling tired he slumped onto the sofa, and his eyelids started to become heavy and close. He felt himself drifting off, and it was such a lovely feeling, he just lay there. In his mind’s eye it was as though he was in a busy room. As his mind focussed it became recognisable as a café.

There were about ten tables, and about seven other people drinking coffee. It was a warm and cosy café. Not too light, not too dark. The walls were a magnolia colour, and had prints of paintings on them of the great masters. He looked around at the other people in the café. Others looked at him, momentarily. They looked normal. And yet something within him saw something was not quite as it should be, something was different. He didn’t have the words to describe it but the was more going on than meets the (minds) eye.

He let this dream-like episode play on. With a cup of coffee now in front of him, he sipped it. It tasted heavenly. It was then that he noticed all the other occupants had left, and it was just him and the barista, alone.

He could hear himself talking to the barista. ‘We’re alone, how extraordinary that it should happen just like that’,  he said as he clicked. The barista, a person who looked like she had been doing this work for a long, long time, learned over his table, and with the voice of an angel , said, ‘Honey, you ain’t never alone’.

He woke up. But sat there quietly pondering on the meaning of that encounter.

Using our imagination  as we move through the day and especially when in quiet times of prayer, ritual, ceremony etc – is of paramount important, and is yet another vital step of moving closer to an encounter with the Source of All. Imagination complements our actions, and ‘adds’ to them.

Ofcourse, in one sense we’re always close(r), never alone, and so why use imagination? But, it seems to me we benefit from those times when we know we’re close, and we can use imagination as a conduit to step into that Place of Encounter. Times that usher into that awareness are important.

Aim: To draw near using our imaginations as a ‘tool’ for liminal encounters, both externally and internally.

These inward encounters have been called various names down the ages. Some call them liminal doors, le point vierge, ‘thin places’, peak experiences, or to the Quakers they are known as the Inner Light. But, they exist, and imagination is one way of putting ourselves in the flow of events and times that lead to a deep, meaningful, ‘inner’ encounter with the Beloved. It’s the Meeting Place, and you’re invited.

Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing
and right-doing 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

 

Perceiving Anew: Seeing Through A Glass Darkly: 1 To Catch A Tiger…

20170906 PERCEIVING ANEW SEEING THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY 1Every so often there is talk about DNA advances, prehistory and the idea that some scientists have some of using the preserved DNA of the extinct mammoth. The thought goes that, although the mammoth DNA is incomplete it might be possible to use ‘bits’ of current-day elephant DNA to fill in the gaps. In theory, you might then end up with a living-breathing elephant-mammoth hybrid, but it could be the nearest thing to a living mammoth that has not existed for the last five thousand years.

‘The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost; for none now live who remember it. (The voice of Galadriel, The Lord of the Rings (movie))’

For some (few) years there has been a revival in all things Celtic and Druidic, and long may it continue. For through such passionate beliefs of people from all ages and walks of life, will come a greater community spirit, a greater appreciation and protection of nature, and a great appreciation of the things of the soul and spirit, and of spirits, elementals and the like, and a renewal of all that is good, wholesome and holy. and, the world needs it, fast.

But, the world has changed from the heyday of the Druidic society of yesteryear and much has been lost. The Celts, the Druids were a story-telling community and the passing on of traditions and history was done orally. There are gaps.

Some try academia to fill in those gaps – much like using elephant DNA with mammoth DNA, and ofcourse this is right to try (academia, that is). It will take us so far, but it will not take us all the way.

Those that pin all their hopes on academia to fill in the gaps will find huge blanks, still.

Nevertheless, academic study as one tool amongst several is to be encouraged. The ‘challenge’, however, in academic argument is that proponents of it might think it is the only way, and also fall into the ‘trap’ of using Greek and modern-day dualistic thought (eg black and white, right and wrong, left and right, I’m right and you’re wrong etc) to advance their understanding of a non-dualistic culture. It cant be done.

To catch a tiger, you have to think like a tiger.

‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.’ (Albert Einstein)

The greater the culture is technologically-advanced, the more likely its people are to ‘see’ through dualistic eyes, and the more likely to miss the point.

It has been suggested that to fill in the gaps in Celtic/Druidic stories, understanding, liturgy and ritual, perhaps memory is needed. The kind of ‘cellular’, ancestor-linked memory that can be ‘tapped’ through meditation (at various places), through ‘thin-place’ encounters, through the Caim, through intuition, or through dreams, prayer or imagination etc. I think there is some (great) mileage in this.

‘Pass it on to your children, and from your children to their children, and from their children to the following generation.’ Joel 1.3, The Book

Then, one places oneself in the path of the ancient-future memory-stream of the ancestors, and those stories of old, knowledge and wisdom are re-kindled in our hearts, and come alive in our daily living and daily practices, to be told and shared.

‘I believe that there is a place where our vanished days secretly gather. The name of that place is Memory.’ (John O’Donohue).

To the purist and the academic this is nonsense, and yet this is the very way it was done by the very culture the purists and academics wish to know more about. To find out more about the Celts and Druids of yesteryear, to rediscover their ways, one need only to enter into Celtic/Druidic culture, ‘philosophy’, beliefs and practices, today, and many are doing just that. And, benefitting.

The wise amongst you will quickly realise that this will mean that I will perceive memories of the ancients differently to you. I may rediscover parts of the gap that are different to the gaps you ‘recover’; and we may even be at odds over some things if we compare (if we were to ‘see’ things from a dualistic, modern approach). But, why resort to current-day perception and understanding when dealing with an ancient culture?

Theirs was a culture where truth was not contained in a science manuals, not catalogued, cross-referenced or even written down, but it flowed, was debated and told as stories around the village camp fire. And, it didn’t matter if their were lose or ragged ends, or various versions of the same story.

We need to be encouraged to see things through ancient eyes.

For instance, take some of the books of the Hebrew Testament. Dualists or academics will scratch their heads as they discover that the books are not in chronological order. To ‘moderns’ they should be! That’s the way they would appear on a modern-day bookshelf, after all. However, to the ancients, the book order was decided by the length of each book – starting with the shortest books first (or, was it the longest book, first), and ‘it worked’ for them. And, when we hear the stories and legends of (Saint) Brigit, sometimes she’s firmly placed at the end of the fifth century, and then in other stories is described as a ‘nanny’ to the baby Jesus, five hundred years earlier! The ancients would have known about this ‘discrepancy’ and not batted an eyelid. The point is, scientific understanding and dualism was not important to the ancients, indeed, it was unknown. To them, the stories and the benefits it wrought to the village and individuals, the moral and deep spiritual meaning, and the comfort it brought was most important, was paramount.

We need to be encouraged to see things through ancient eyes.

‘Celtic spirituality is a kind of somatic archaeology, a study of unearthing the deep resources of spirit within ourselves by accessing the wisdom, power, and inherent knowledge of the body. We have largely been taught to ignore the body and the deep resources of spirit within ourselves’. The Mist-Filled Path, Frank MacEowen

‘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)

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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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