Into The Mist: Preparations For The Journey

20171002 INTO THE MIST PREPARATIONS FOR THE JOURNEY

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

Go into the mist.

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

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

I felt your heart longing for the
Friend.

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

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

Even though
I live a thousand miles away.

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

Then bowed again so sweetly to
the east,

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

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

(Hafiz)

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

Don’t give up. Be encouraged.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s stay in touch!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The mobile number is: 07743 956981

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deep Calls To Deep: Iona Pilgrimage 2017: The Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is a power here.

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

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

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

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

Expect the unexpected.

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

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

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

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

That evening, I considered the reason I was here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings, Tadhg.

 

Tadhg’s Journal: ‘The End Of The World’ Or ‘And I Will Walk 500 Miles…’

20170426 CAMINO TADHGS JOURNALI’ve been pondering what to do. There’s a few things I need to do, somethings that I’d like to do, but one of my plans is, for later this year perhaps, one thing that I’d really like to commit to, is…

…to walk the Camino de Santiago. A pilgrimage.

Over the last couple of years the idea has been ‘bouncing around’ in my mind, and I’ve read umpteen books on it and read the journals of those who have walked it, seen a few videos about it, and even studied one of the few journey-planner books that ‘concertina out’ to show you the route, variations, places of interest on the map, and locations of pensiones (basic hostels for sleeping and for breakfasting along the way, which sounds really ‘rough’) and alternative accommodation (which sound much more ‘me’ and much more appealing).

‘Walking the Camino de Santiago taught me the wonders of physical challenge, the wonders of spiritual freedom, and the wonders of baby powder.’ Christy Hall

The Route: One of the most popular, and the one that appeals to me the most is the route that leads from St Jean-Pied-de-Pont near Biarritz, in the south-western corner of France, along the northern part of Spain to Santiago. Some would say it is traditionally Christian county, and Celtic and Druid land, Basque areas and more, and I dare say all of those and others have walked (and still walk) the Camino because it transcends mere nationality.

It takes about 30-33 days to complete as it’s  800km long, that’s 500 miles (hence the song title in this articles heading, words from that great (umm, well ‘well-known’) Scottish duo, The Proclaimers.

However, glutton for punishment that I am, I’d really like to travel further, at least for another 2-3 days, and arrive at the coast, at a place called Finnisterre, literally, ‘the end of the world’. So-called, because the Romans, from yesteryear, saw it as the end of their empire, the end of their world.

Why do it? I was going to say, ‘because it’s there’, and that’s part of the appeal. The other reasons are that it has a long history. It’s the journey that is really important, and not the destination. It  is deeply spiritual. Pilgrims have been walking that route for over a millennia and I’d like to be added to that number, and it’s a route that is full of pathos,  meaning and history and wonderful myth (and that’s something for another time); and usually, there are two main reasons for doing it.

‘A beginner’s mind and a backpack is all you need.’

When you arrive at the end of that pilgrimage, you take the paperwork (a sheet that has been ‘stamped’ at major points along the way) to the Pilgrim’s Office desk. They issue a certificate of completion. There are two types of certificate: one is in Latin, and is issued to pilgrims who declare that they did the Camino for religious or spiritual purposes. Your name will also be written in Latin. That’s the certificate I’ll walk for, and I’m eager to see how they ‘Latinise’ my name, Tadhg. The second certificate is for those who did it for cultural or historical purposes. This one is written in Spanish.

It’s usual, when it comes to declaring the walk for spiritual reasons  for some to dedicate the walk in memory of a loved-one, and that’s what I’ll do – in memory of my dear late Dad and Mum.

‘Connect with others, nature, and yourself. Throughout the Camino de Santiago, it is tradition to greet anyone you meet with a “Buen Camino.” Everyone becomes a part of your expedition, a part of your story…’

There is a great movie/DVD called ‘The Way’. It stars Martin Sheen as a doctor, Tom, who receives an urgent call from the French police regarding his son, who….well, that would be telling. It’s a great DCD, a good storyline and shows off some of the scenery and meaning of walking the Camino de Santiago, The Way Of St James. Here’s a trailer.

Well, this is my intention. My aim is to do it later this year. I would value your prayers, energy, positivity, and well-wishes for this event, as I want to make it special, and also want to ‘take you with me’, metaphorically, as I’d like to report about the journey on a daily basis as it happens. But, it’s not for a while yet. It’s an aim. And, so back to more Camino research, studying and planning for me.

‘Wanderer, your footsteps are the road, and nothing more; wanderer, there is no road, the road is made by walking’. Antonio Machado

But, please start sending that much-needed energy. Regards, Tadhg.

Tadhg’s Journal:…And I will walk 500 miles…

99 journal 1 copy

Excerpt from Tadhg’s Journal: I know, I know. At this time of the year, ones thoughts turn to planning a winter holiday, holiday-breaks, but, today, after much thought and study, and yes, even prayer, I feel it’s right to commit to…

…a pilgrimage. And, am I excited? Rhetorical question. Yes, somewhere new, unusual and challenging; and maybe in Spain?

‘Life is a pilgrimage. Each moment is to be lived in depth, because each moment contains God, hidden within it.’ (Banani Ray, Glory of OM: A Journey to Self-Realization)

Why?
Pilgrimage provides an opportunity to distance oneself from the regular, busy-ness of twenty-first century living, it gives time for quiet and deep reflection, it enables a greater encounter of God (or nature, or self, or the Source of All, however one defines that/those words) etc.

And so, there are spiritual benefits of awareness, and there are emotional benefits, social benefits as I encounter others along the way, physical benefits in walking as excess fat just drops off and the body is ‘tested’, as well as mental-orientated benefits with time to think, and more; and ponder the fact that (on this particular pilgrimage) thousands of pilgrims (some of whom aren’t religious) have been walking it for centuries. It’s a win-win situation.

I need to commit to it, also, to satisfy a ‘je ne sais quoi’ deep inside.

And I will be a lone walker! I do enjoy company, I really do, and some I’ve read about have walked the Camino is groups and got a lot from it; but for me, it has to be alone.

On this pilgrimage I need to be alone with the Alone.

‘Religion points to that area of human experience where in one way or another man comes upon mystery as a summons to pilgrimage.’ (Frederick Buechner>

Family and friends have suggested doing it for charity – very laudable – but I won’t, I can’t. I hope that doesn’t sound insular, selfish or callous.

You see the pilgrimage I’m thinking of undertaking is usually done out of respect of someone who has passed on, or it’s done ‘for God’, though many do do this pilgrimage for a variety of reasons which are deep and meaningful to themselves, and why not? It is a personal thing, pilgrimage. But, anything involving the collection of money would change the nature of the pilgrimage.

‘Man is a creature who walks in two worlds and traces upon the walls of his cave the wonders and the nightmare experiences of his spiritual pilgrimage.’ (Morris West)

Pilgrimage can be a life-changing, and transformational experience. A time of letting go of the old to let the new come in. Pilgrims don’t just visit a place as tourists might, but they come away inspired and changed by it in some way.

When?
Oh, not for a while. Having researched it, there is a lot to look forward to, to plan for, such as:

  • strong walking shoes: check
  • rainproof: check
  • change of clothes: check
  • GPS/Satnav/mobile phone: check
  • wooden hiking staff (as in hiking-pole) – think Gandalf: check
  • sunscreen and hat/cap: check
  • mozzi repellent: check
  • jar of Marmite: check
  • first-aid kit: check
  • whistle and compass: check
  • laptop (so I can FB update progress): check
  • a good book: check

and lots more!

Conversely, I’ve promised myself that none of that should should be used as an excuse to get in the way of delaying the pilgrimage unnecessarily. Ultimately, the pilgrimage is about ‘being’, and not only doing or only a list of wants.  But, maybe it’ll happen next Spring or autumn, because of family and ministry commitments now.

‘Journeys at youth are part of the education; but at maturity, are part of the experience. ‘ (Francis Bacon)

Where?
For some time I’ve been inwardly prompted to consider, and so, today, have committed myself, to walk the
 Camino De Santiago. A pilgrimage route still walked by thousands of Christians, though one doesn’t have to be a Christian or even ‘religious’ to walk it and benefit (which is just as well, because I think I really am a Druidic-Christian. Oh, did I say that out loud?)

Yes, a Celt (that’s me) walking though Celtic country (that’s Spain, well the northern part of it anyway) steeped in tradition, myth and magic. Lovely. You want to hear about some of the stories I’ve read about…oh, but that’s for another occasion.

I would start in southern France, in the quaint village of Saint Jean Pied de Port, and move eastward, enter Spain and cross the northern part of that country ending at Santiago – or maybe, ‘overshooting’ and going further. Thus ending at Finisterrae (literally the end of the world) and then ‘double-back’ to Santiago for the pilgrims’ service.

In all, that should take some five weeks as the journey is over 500miles/800km (and yes, give yourself a pat on the back if you knew the title of this post was a line from a song by The Proclaimers) – but I intend to savour each step of the way, and so will prepare for six weeks.

 ‘We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.’ (Proust)

Meanwhile…
There are many books and you-tube videos for encouragement. I have to say, in addition to much research and prayer, I’ve found Cheryl Stayed’s book about her hike across the Pacific Trail ‘Wild’, and the movie ‘The Way’ (starring Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez, about a father walking the Camino in memory of his dear son) informative and would recommend them.

So, What Now…
More prayer, more thinking, more planning…all to an exciting and defined purpose of walking, as a pilgrim, the Camino De Santagio. 

‘We don’t think about pilgrimage in this country. We don’t think about meditation. The idea of taking a six-week walk is totally foreign to most Americans. But it’s probably exactly what we need.’ (Emilio Estevez)