Home, The Land, Energy & Us: Home As Sacred Space

20180105 HOME THE LAND ENERGY AND US HOME AS SACRED SPACE

‘The least movement is of importance to all nature. The entire ocean is affected by a pebble.’ Blaise Pascal

In France there is a delightful word, terroir (pronounced tair-rwah) and it is the sum of all landscape features such as soil composition, valley or mountain terrain, crop growth habits and farming practices, that affect crops for wine growing. And, so landscape affects the taste and ‘body’ of each bottle of wine (though terroir can be applied to coffee, tobacco, chocolate, chili peppers, hops, tomatoes, heritage wheat, maple syrup, and tea). Minor landscape changes do, it seems, affect that crops outcome.

But, this isn’t an article about wine or tea etc, but about the way the land affects us, and how we affect the landscape or close environment, energetically. There is an interconnectedness, that we sometimes miss because we take it for granted or because it is ubiquitous. The landscape, or land affects us and we affect the landscape – whether we’re thinking about rural areas, urban areas or our homes.

‘The connection to place, to the land, the wind, the sun, stars, the moon… it sounds romantic, but it’s true – the visceral experience of motion, of moving through time on some amazing machine…’ Antoine Predock

In ‘A Celtic Way Of Seeing’, a wonderful book by Frank MacEowen, he talks of the eastern quadrant of the Irish Spirit Wheel, and how the energy of the hearth-keeper, the householder is evident there in a house. It is the perception of Celts, Druids, ancient tribes and those aware of the Sacred Earth.

But, if energy within a house is blocked then those in the house may suffer as they take on no energy or absorb negative energy. Haven’t we all been in places, homes or old or external places that ‘feel’ gloomy or lifeless, or places where ‘you could cut the air with a knife’?

Similarly, those who have some negativity in their psyche or ‘core’ may affect the environment or the house. Haven’t we all ‘felt’ places that seem abandoned because of negativity, a loss of interest, or an imbalance that devalues nature, the environment or a particular premises?

‘Round like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning on an ever-spinning reel…’

‘The Windmills Of Your Mind’, (Song). Written by Alan Bergman & Michel Jean Legrand.

There is an energetic circularity where an individual (or group) can affect the local environment, and in turn, the local environment (locale, premises, house) can affect an individual – either negatively or positively.

How we define or perceive that energy or power will depend on our viewpoint, but I would suggest that we, at least, think of ‘it’ as more than just an electric force-field, but as part of the loving fabric of the Universe, The Source of All, That Which Is Bigger Than Us, as having personality and more.

‘…Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.’ Luke 8.46b The Book

It can be a ‘downward’ spiral of energy, or an ‘upward’ of positive energy. It’s the later that I would encourage.

So for instance, how do we encourage positive energy within our homes?
How about an ‘Abundance Altar’ or space: and include a candle that you can light periodically and gaze at or perform a ritual at, and don’t forget to include representational items like a photo of some good friends (if you’re seeking more friends or deeper friendships), a small coin (for fiscal wealth), a bag of grain (for a good harvest) etc. Or use this space, when thinking of someone else’s wealth or use it to give gratitude for abundance.

‘An altar is like an airport where spirits take off and land.’ Steven Chuks Nwaokeke

A Healing altar or space for yourself or another for healing (or to give thanks for healing) might ‘lift’ your home. That space might include a candle (and yes, I do like candles so they’ll be frequent ‘tools’, and also the lighting and extinguishing of them is also good to denote entering and leaving sacred space-time). But, such spaces might include, also, the photo of a loved-one if healing because of bereavement is needed (and my encouragement even then, if you can,  is to be as positive as you can in affirming and giving thanks for that person’s earthly life), a small green plant to denote life and growth, or a band-aid to represent ‘repair’, or anything that means something deep to you.

And a…person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons that were there, and upon him that touched a bone, or one slain, or one dead, or a grave… Numbers 19.18 The Book

One more? How about a Purification altar or space? This could include…yes, a candle. But, maybe a small hyssop twig (a symbol of purification), or indeed any twig, that can be dipped in a small bowl of water, and used to ‘flick’ sacred water, or burn an incense stick or a sage-stick or smudge-stuck (bundle), or place a feather on the table etc. For more ideas do see Denise Linn’s book: Altars: Bringing Sacred Shrines Into Your Everyday Life.

Ofcourse these are just a few ideas – we’ll return to this idea over the next few weeks. How you use these altars or sacred spaces will depend on your background and requirements – they can be used as places to have there to energise the house, or as places to gaze or meditate upon, as places to go ‘inward’, or as places where you can perform a small ritual. There is power and potential here, so often neglected in our daily lives.

And, ofcourse, because of that connectedness, that circularity, our attitude and wellbeing also affects it – and so there is encouragement to you (and that includes me) to meditate on positive things, to read good books and poetry, and to look for the good, to give gratitude in all things. And, to remember, never to neglect the day of small things.

Our homes are an expression and an extension of our minds and hearts. Inner clutter and discord is expressed as clutter and discord in our homes.’ Frank MacEowen. De-clutter as a spiritual practice and opportunity.

 

The Curious Incident Of Brigid And The Bathwater: A Profound Story For Today

20180122 THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF ST BRIGID AND THE BATHWATER...The circle continues to turn. Imbolc, St Brigid’s Day, or Candlemas, as some call it, comes ever closer. Spring is in the air.

‘O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?’. Percy Bysshe Shelley

If we’re still in the season of winter, and we are (and, it started on 31 October, marked by the festival of Samhain, also called All Saint’s Eve by some, and progressed to its ‘height’ with the winter soltice, we’re now coming to the end of that season). Imbolc, 2 February (or a day earlier than that to some), marks the end of winter, and is the first day of spring.

‘There is a delightful phrase in Gealic, ‘Ag borradh’, meaning that there is a quivering life about to break forth.’ John O’Donohue

And, if today is anything to go by – it was so relatively mild, weatherwise – spring is here, or is ‘just around the corner’. I could detect a slight ambient temperature increase today, a change in the prominent wind direction, you could almost smell it in the air. Something had changed.  The circle continues to turn and this season is coming to an end.

And with 2 February in mind, our thoughts turn to Brigid of Kildare. Brigid is viewed in differing ways, by different people. To some Brigid is an ancient Celtic goddess. The goddess of fire. Indeed, a sacred fire burned in Kildare in ancient time, as was kept burning by priestesses. In this way it was thought herds would be protected and harvests would be plentiful. To others, Brigid is a saint, and at the time of Candlemass, candles are blessed (and lit by some), and Brigid is remembered as one who symbolises motherhood, new birth, the springing forth of seeds and, in the recent past, some would bless (even) agricultural tools on that day. It’s spring (or nearly, so), after all.

‘I am going to try to pay attention to the spring. I am going to look around at all the flowers, and look up at the hectic trees. I am going to close my eyes and listen’. Anne Lamott

Yes, you know I like stories, and here’s another about Brigid.

Brigid was known for her hospitality. For the weary traveller no expense was spared by her.

On one occasion, going about her day, she came across some very tired, hungry and thirsty lepers. The plight of those dear people had already touched Brigid’s heart, and she made them as comfortable as she could. She ensured that they had had some food, but were thirsty.

One of those near to Brigid came to her and broke the bad news news: there was no beer for those thirsty lepers.

Brigid was deeply concerned, and it is said, immediately sprung into action. At the back of some nearby buildings she found an old bath, full of dirty bath water. She put her hand into the bathwater and blessed it. As the attendant drew off pints from that bath they found that it had changed! No longer dirty bath water, but the finest, freshest and coolest beer you could ever imagine, which was served to all.

The lepers and others were delighted, and had more than enough to drink, and there was plenty of beer left over.

You will have to forgive me – flippant only for a moment or two – but isn’t Brigid the kind of person you would like at all your parties?

I know sceptics may ridicule the bathwater-into-beer story, but there are some deep and profound truths ‘buried’ in it, if we take time to discover them. The need to be hospitable, and the joy in being so. The fact that we live in a world of abundance. The ‘power’ that one good person has. The Universe (God, the Elements, The Source of All) is friendly. The power in a blessing etc. All wonderful truths that are ‘unpacked’ in this unusual and delightful story about dear Brigid.

‘Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems’. Rainer Maria Rilke

Spring is close. However, you view Brigid, it may be good to give thanks for her example, for this season of rest, to look forward to the coming season of spring and the springing forth of plants etc, for growth, and perhaps to light a candle. Fire, however, you view dear Brigid, is a worthy symbol of her, and the lighting of a candle on her day a notable action to do.

 

Wisdom 2: Resources For Wisdom Day

20180105 WISDOM 2 WISDOM DAY RESOURCESThe 6 January, for some people (myself included), is associated with wisdom and the celebration of wisdom: a time to seek wisdom’s infilling, a time of gratitude, a time of pausing, reflection and meditation upon the theme of wisdom.

Here are some resources that you might like to use (and adapt as necessary) for your wisdom celebration (whether done individually, as a family or faith group etc).

Explanations precede the liturgy here, that can be said as invocations, prayers and blessings etc, but you might find that even the explanations can be recited (by the leader, or to yourself) to inform others of what is about to happen and why, and so may be beneficial.

So, here are some resources for you to use:

—o0o–

Wisdom is present throughout the universe. The Source of All is ubiquitous, and so wisdom is to be found everywhere. Indeed wisdom permeates every atom of the universe.

Wisdom calls out to all who would hear her
She cries aloud in the streets,
she shouts in the  marketplace,
she speaks in forests, mountain tops and valleys, and
she whispers to men and women, and to the children of mankind.
Wisdom calls out to all who would hear her.

Wisdom says, ‘I will pour out my spirit on you; to you will I make my ways known.’

‘When calamity strikes you, when anguish comes upon you, and when distress seemingly overtakes you, I will be there,’ says Wisdom. ‘My hand will be outstretched, and I, Wisdom can be found’.

Wisdom is better than choice gold. There is no deceit in her voice, nothing crooked in all her ways. All that you desire cannot compare with Wisdom. Wisdom says, ‘Look for me, and live’.

[With Proverbs 1:20–33 and Proverbs 8:1-11, the Book in mind]

—o0o–

A celebration or invocation wouldn’t be the same without the lighting of candles, the light of which reminds us of the elemental nature of fire, simplicity, the harking back to a former age, or focusses our minds on spiritual matters and sacred time/space. It ushers us into liminality.

And, so a candle can be lit just before you recite the phrase that relates to the earth, and then light another candle just before you recite the phrase that relates to the air, and so on as regards the other two elements. There is no rush – so do take your time, pause, and meditate (safely, with your eyes open – always conscious of fire safety), between phrases.

Wisdom from above, come to us at this time.

Wisdom of the earth, come and be the foundation upon which we stand.
Wisdom of the air, blow through us and dispel obstacles, and make way for the new.
Wisdom of fire, come and fill our hearts with wisdom that empowers and radiates.
Wisdom of water, flow through us to nurture us.

Wisdom from above, come to us at this time.

—o0o–

Perhaps, a time of prayer is called for. Below are sugestions of people and groups that you might like to pray for. If you have a form of words already for prayer you can add the following topics, and perhaps pause between each topic and think deeply and/or visualise the outcome.

However, you pray, it is intentionality that is important, so don’t worry if you don’t get it quite right (in the opinion of some).

You might like to prayer for

– the wisdom of elders, who grown older with poise, grace and dignity, and are there for others [you might know of some, and might like to name them]

– the wisdom and energy of those who seek to heal the earth [and you might say some names of individuals or charitable ecological organisations that deserve support]

– the wisdom of those who are in leadership at a local, regional, national or international level [and you might like to voice their names or the offices of leadership they hold, whether or not they maybe be your ‘favourite’ leader or politician]

– the wisdom of those who work with people to alleviate their suffering, poverty, loneliness etc [and if you know of individuals do name them, or name charitable agencies]

– the wisdom of tireless, quiet workers, who with joy spread wisdom throughout our society, in large and small ways – these may be people who are known to you, a neighbour, a school-teacher, someone who is their for you eg a family-member etc

– the wisdom of nature – of trees, animals, the elements etc, all of which are ‘silent teachers’ that  are faithful to the cycle of nature and which impart their wisdom for those willing to pause.

These are just a few suggestions – do add to them. If you don’t have a form of words for prayer then speak from the heart – and ofcourse, I hope that you would be doing that anyway. Ofcourse you are. But don’t hold back. It’s intentionality that is important, not whether you get the wording or pronunciation just right.

—o0o–

And, enjoy it, too. Be joyful. There is wisdom in joy. Blessings to you on Wisdom Day, Tadhg.

 

 

 

Wisdom 1: Wisdom…She Cries Out

20180104 WISDOM 1 WISDOM SHE CRIES OUTWe live in an age of scientific marvels, a time when knowledge seems to increase by leaps and  bounds. I’m told, knoweldge-wise it could be said that we have ‘discovered’ more in the last thirty years than in the three thousand years before that. Phenomenal. And, yet in all of this surfeit of knowledge there is, in some, a nagging disquiet. Mae mwy, as they say in Wales, ‘there is more’.

We have knowledge; we need wisdom.

In our rush as a society to obtain knowledge perhaps we have lost something vital that some are only now (re-)discovering; the wisdom of the elements, of simplicity, of encounters with the Other (that some call the Source, the Word, God, or Spirit). And, we are indebted to those who show us alternative ways of being, however strange and different such ways are. It is when we encounter such ways that we understand and  value deep wisdom.

We have knowledge; we need wisdom.

The young man was at the end of his training, soon he would go on to be a teacher. Like all good pupils, he needed to challenge his teacher and to develop his own way of thinking. He caught a bird, placed it in one hand and went to see his teacher.

‘Teacher, is this bird alive or dead?’

His plan was the following: if his teacher said ‘dead’, he would open his hand and the bird would fly away. If the answer was ‘alive’, he would crush the bird between his fingers; that way the teacher would be wrong whichever answer he gave.

‘Teacher, is the bird alive or dead?’ he asked again.

‘My dear student, that depends on you,’ was the teacher’s reply.

We have knowledge; we need wisdom.

It has been said that knowledge is the accumulation of facts and data that you have learned about or experienced. It’s being aware of something, and having information. Knowledge is what we acquire through study, research, investigation, observation, or experience. The old Gaelic word for this would be fios – pronounced ‘fis’.

Wisdom, however, is the ability to discern and judge which aspects of that knowledge are true, right, lasting, and applicable to your life. It’s the profound ability to apply that knowledge to the greater scheme of life. It’s also deeper; knowing the meaning or reason; about knowing why something is, and what it means to your life.The old Gaelic word for this would have been eolas – pronounced ‘oh-lass’. In Welsh it would be called gwybod, pronounced ‘goo-bud’

We may be content with just knowledge, believing it to be sufficient, but as individuals, groups and as a society as  whole, wisdom in much needed, perhaps more than ever today.

‘Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks…’ Proverbs 1: 20-21, The Book

For some, 6 January is a day associated with wisdom, and tomorrow we’ll look at resources that you might like to consider using or adapting to suit your requirements as you consider celebrating the wisdom of the universe, this vital Source-given, ubiquitous ‘resource’.

‘In the beginning all creatures were green and vital. They flourished amidst flowers,’ wrote Hildegard of Bingen in her praise of the greening power, the Veriditas of God

We have knowledge; we need wisdom.

 

 

The Saining Ritual For New Years Night

20171229 THE SAINING RITUALIt’s coming up to the end of the year, and the new year is just around the corner. This time of year always brings back fond memories for me, and one of the most vivid and joyful is that of the ritual of the sain.

And so, the hallway grandfather clock ticked loudly, in its countdown to midnight, as the old year passed away. All of us had gathered there, and waited.  My grandmother came out of the kitchen. In one hand she held a few twigs of juniper that had been soaked in water (and shaken to remove the excess water), and in the other she held lightly smoking juniper twigs to ‘smudge’ each room.

It was a family custom and one held by many in Scotland and Ireland, and quite a few in north Wales. Saining, or blessing was an old ritual, done especially at this  time of the year. In it we each ‘saw’ out the old year and ‘saw’ in the new, asked for blessing and protection for the upcoming year, and came together as one. It was a happy event.

And then the grandfather clock juddered, gears and cogs deep inside it ‘whirred’ and then it chimed midnight. With some reverence we walked, following my grandmother around the house. At each room my grandmother would open that room’s door (and leave it open), shake the juniper with water on it, say the (shortened) sain blessing (see below), allow the smoking juniper to let off its fragrance in that room (and, maybe give those twigs a bit of a shake), and then move onto the next room, as we all followed.

In each room , including the hallway and toilet, the ritual was the same, and the sain (or blessing) was spoken and repeated:

The sain put by Mary on her Son,
From the crown of thy head
To the soles of thy feet.
From the edge of thy brow,
To thy coloured soles,
To preserve thee from behind,
To sustain thee in front,
The sain put by Mary on her Son.

And then, at about ten minutes after midnight we would be at the front door. That door would be opened, as we all stood outside, and the final sain ritual would be said. The person who had performed the ritual would imbibe a small glass of whisky, and in our family everyone else would then follow suit.

And then it was over. Talking and singing of that wonderful song ‘aud lang syne’ would probably take place, maybe accompanied by another glass of whisky for all, or we would all go back inside the house for more revelry (and probably a closing all the doors now as the new year had been ‘invited’ in, and each room had been blessed), and we wanted to keep warm

Happy times to remember; and a great ritual to perpetuate.

Saining is a old Scottish, Gaelic, Celtic word for blessing, protecting or consecrating, the word (or similar) is also used in Ireland and Wales.

Traditionally saining rites, done at the stroke of midnight, involved water, and/or ‘smugding’ with juniper twigs, and moving from room to room (and maybe field to field), and/or the recitation of a prayer or poetry. This role might primarily fall to the lady of the house, but that wasn’t always the case. Flexibility rules the day, here. The ritual might conclude with the person performing the rite opening all the windows and doors in the house to ‘let our the old (year) and let in the new (year) and might involve imbibing just a small glass of whisky. The ritual was varied and might not include all of the aforementioned, but it was always an occassion that all looked forward to, and was quite joyful, with all the members of the family following the one performing the ritual around the house etc.

So, this new years night, how about performing a sain in each room of your house – don’t forget the hallway or the ‘smallest room’.

You can use the abovementioned paragraphs as a template but do vary it to suit your needs: instead of ‘smudging’ with juniper twigs you might light a candle or use a scented joss-stick; instead of whisky, you might use fruit juice; you can use the saining invocation used by my grandmother (or the longer version , below, or choose something else relevant to your faith or belief or write something yourself. Enjoy it, and make it a memorable occasion as you celebrate the end of one year and the start of the new year.

The prayers used by many of old in this ritual are Christian-based, a historical/family fact, but they can be adapted or replaced; and indeed have been successfully adapted and replaced and used by friends of mine of other faiths and beliefs – and so whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Druid, Pagan etc, I would suggest the ritual of the sain to you as a wonderful ritual for you and/or your family and friends at this time of the year.

Ofcourse, saining doesn’t only have to be done at the turning of the year. It could be done when moving into a new apartment or house, on the anniversary of moving in, or maybe once or twice a year as you feel it’s appropriate to bless a place, or invoke protection or if you want to ‘lift’ a place energetically. Try it. Enjoy it.

Enjoy. Blessings of the Sain be to you and yours, Tadhg

Note: The complete version of the Sain, invocation of for protection and blessing, is as follows:

The sain put by Mary on her Son,
Sain from death, sain from wound,
Sain from breast to knee,
Sain from knee to foot,
Sain of the three sains,
Sain of the five sains,
Sain of the seven sains,

From the crown of thy head
To the soles of thy feet.
Sain of the seven paters, one,
Sain of the seven paters, two,
Sain of the seven paters, three,
Sain of the seven paters, four,
Sain of the seven paters, five,
Sain of the seven paters, six,
Sain of the seven paters, seven
Upon thee now.

From the edge of thy brow,
To thy coloured soles,
To preserve thee from behind,
To sustain thee in front.

Be the helmet of salvation about thine head,
Be the corslet of the covenant about thy throat,
Be the breastplate of the priest upon thy breast,
To shield thee in the battle and combat of thine enemies.
If pursued, oh youth, from behind thy back,
The power of the Virgin be close to succour thee,
East or west, west or east,
North or south, south or north.

(Sain, From the ‘Carmina Gadelica’)

Preparations For Winter Solstice 2017: Prayer For Winter Solstice Sunrise

20171215 PREP FOR WINTER SOLSCTICE PRAYER FOR SUNRISEYes, the winter solstice (Alban Arthan in Welsh) draws ever closer, and over the last couple of articles we’ve looked at (song and then liturgical) resources that you might use (or adapt) for yourself, or your family, friends or faith group as you consider celebrating this wonderful time of the year. Here’s another resource – a prayer of gratitude to the Winter Solstice-Giver, that you might like to consider using on the actual day of the winter solstice.

Prayer For the Winter Solstice Sunrise

Standing. Recite, facing south:
In this time when it is darkest,
we offer gratitude for all that was and is,
and for all that is about to be born in secret.

Recite, facing west:
In this season of expectation
we draw near in unity and peace for all,
to offer praise and worship to the Spirit of all.

Recite, facing north:
At this intersection of time and space
when Heaven touches Earth,
we look forward in anticipation and hope
to the year ahead.

Recite, facing east as the sun rises:
Yea, Lord, we greet you,
born this happy morning.
Sun of Righteousness, who brings the day and gives light,
testifies to birth, and re-birth in our hearts.
I/We welcome you.

Blessings, light and love be to you and yours, Tadhg.

Preparations For Winter Solstice 2017: ‘The Lighting Of The Five Candles’ Ritual/Liturgy

20171213 LIGHTING OF THE FIVE CANDLES RITUALYes, it’s nearly that time again, the time of the winter solstice (for those in the northern hemisphere). Yesterday we looked at a song for the this season and the actual event, see here, and today, as promised there’s more. Today, we’re looking at another idea to celebrate this wonderfully ‘thin place’ time, to celebrate the event of the winter solstice and to give gratitude to the Solstice-Giver.

How will you celebrate the winter solstice?

The Lighting of The Five Candles Ritual/Liturgy

Requirement: 5 candles (in appropriate holders etc for safety-sake, eg votive candles.)

The following ritual can be done/recited by you, and/or friends or family, and/or your faith group. Do adapt the words and action as you feel appropriate to make it meaningful to you. And, there is no rush. This ritual could take a minute or two (and could be part of a larger ritual that you might have planned), or you could pause before the ritual lighting of each candle and meditate, in which case the ritual might take many more minutes.

The liturgy is based on sacred text, but is inclusive and so might appeal to a ‘wider audience’ of another faith or belief without too much adaptation.  It is, after all, a suggestion, to encourage you to celebrate, and do something intentional and meaningful at the time of this wonderful event.

The four candles could represent the four quarters of the earth, the cardinal points, the four Gospels, the four elements, and the fifth could represent the Spirit? So, here’s a suggested liturgy/ritual.

As the first candle is lit the following is recited:

You/All: We walked in darkness, but you showed us the light. We pray for those that walk in darkness, that they, too, may see the light that shines in the darkness. (Based on Isaiah 9.2)

The following is recited, as the second candle is lit:

You/All: The light shines in the darkness, still. And the darkness did not comprehend it. We give thanks for the light that guides us. (Based on John 1:5)

The following is recited, as the third candle is lit:

You/All: You are the light of the world, and indwell us, so that we become a light in the world. We seek ways to live out that light in our life, in service to all. (Based on Matthew 5:14)

The following is recited, as the fourth candle is lit:

You/All: There will be no night there, because Your light will illumine us. We praise you for that great promise of light. (Based on Revelation 22:5)

The following is recited, as the fifth candle is lit. You might want to light the fifth candle and say the following only on the day of the winter solstice and/or Christmas Day, but it could be said at any time this season – you get to choose)

You/All: Light from Light Eternal, born this happy morning, we greet you. (Based on a carol, based on ancient sacred text)

Wishing you the blessings of this season of dark and Light Tadhg.

 

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

 

Nights Of Fog And Clouds: Liminal-Numinous Encounters

20170905 NIGHT OF FOG AND CLOUDS LIMINAL NUMINOUS ENCOUNTERSYes, I’m still in London. And last night was one of those nights where I woke up, at about 3am, and just couldn’t get back to sleep. They don’t happen that often – but I always think such interruptions might prove fruitful.

Usually in such circumstances I would have gone for a country walk, if in Wales, but I’m in London. And, so I relocated myself to the study, and there I sat, and pondered. And waited for an encounter with sleep. It didn’t arrive.

After about an hour – it could have been longer, or shorter, as time seemed irrelevant, and I had nothing really to measure it by – I half drifted off to sleep. It was as if a fog appeared. The study, still visible was rather opaque, obscured by this fog, but not totally – though it wasn’t the kind of fog that I’ve encountered in or near Capel Curig that moved in repsonse to air currents, and there no was smell to it, and no temperature change.

Room fog!

But, something felt different. I could hear myself breathing gently, hear the gentle ticking of the clock on the desk, but there was no other sound, and it seemed as though I should just remain as I was. Content. Content to let whatever was about to unfold, to unfold.

And, then, seemingly seconds later, I wanted to analyse this feeling, and my eyes became wide open, the fog disappeared and I was wide awake and alert again. I had no memory of what really happened, and I can’t tell you if ‘fog time’ lasted a few seconds or minutes or longer. But, something had happened. And, this got me thinking.

In physical locations or in the spiritscape of the mind, fog or clouds are an indicator that something special is about to happen. A(n) herald.

‘ Clouds and thick darkness surround Him…’. Psalm 97:2a, The Book

Time is skewed as we move into that sacred time-space, the liminal, and we may have no memory of what took place, just a pleasent ‘feeling’ that something significant had taken place as we look back and remember. Liminal encounters are usually experienced in the ‘now’ and ‘unpacked’ later as a memory of what happened. Has that happened to you?

Fog or clouds are an indicator that something special is about to happen or has happened.

On that night I saw a brilliant yellow-green light some 200 feet away from me, through the dense forest. I walked toward it. The air was colder than ever, the fog masked the exact location of the light until I got to within about fifty feet of it. At about forty feet from it – and the light source seemed about eight foot wide – it went out! Was it the Canwyll Corff, the corpse candle myth. Who knows?

Clackitt’s Wood, The Last Word (see here). Tadhg.

The Source of All, the Universe, elementals, That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves seems to use clouds, fog and the cover of darkness to draw near – whether this is a physical reality, or a just-as-real ‘inner’ visitation in our minds, mind’s eye or vision-eye. It’s as if unbridled power and energy and holiness must be ‘masked’ to ‘come closer’ to us, for our sake.

There is a story told that, in the 6th century, the poet Senchán Torpéist gathered the poets of Ireland together to see if any of them knew the story of the Táin Bó Cúailnge. None of them could give details that gave the whole story. They all only knew parts of it. And this grieved Senchán.

And so Senchán Torpéist sent three of the younger men to seek out a very old man who it was believed could tell them the complete story. They travelled far and eventually came to the grave of an ancient poet called Fergus MacRoich. Two of the young men travelled onward toward the next village for shelter for the night; one of the men stayed, and honoured the memory of Fergus MacRoich with a poem. And then slept by the great poet’s tomb.

Suddenly a mist enveloped the younger man. Now unseen by his two companions, this young man found himself in the presence of Fergus MacRoich. From that awesome encounter, which lasted three days and three nights, he learned many things from Fergus MacRoich. And many of the older stories – some of which were formerly partly lost, others lost completely – were now known to that younger man because of that liminal experience.

From that ancient story we can take heart that: those old stories, knowledge and the wisdom of the ancients, though seemingly lost to us, can be encountered and re-kindled; that there are ways of putting ourselves ‘in the way’ of numinous and liminal happenings using prayer, fasting, ritual, liturgy, meditation and even poetry etc.

Never minimise the effect of prayer, fasting, ritual, liturgy, meditation and even poetry etc. Never play down your status, and the power-from-beyond at your disposal. Never be so caught up in daily living that we miss those liminal events, those ‘Divine nudges’.

‘Thin places’ (see here) may be events and occurrences that cannot be scheduled, but maybe there are ‘thin place’-like experiences that we can encounter in certain ways. Encountering them by the use of music, poetry, liturgy, meditation, the Caim – perhaps because that’s so because we’re making ourselves ‘open’ to the experiences, and the experiences are happening more than we had hitherto had known about. In essence, such experiences happen much more often, but we were/are unaware of them. Until now.

As I sat there, in the study pondering these things I wondered how many times we have almost put ourselves ‘in the way’ of these numinous and liminal events and got distracted and unknowingly ‘pulled away’? How many times the Caim, as a ‘tool’ of ritual and intention might be of (more) use to us – and this started me thinking even more about the Caim (see here).

It was about 4am when I ‘crawled’ back to bed and waited for an encounter with sleep. It was an interesting night, albeit not an uneventful one, though. As I drifted off to sleep my last thought was, and one that I would dearly like to share with you now, is: Look out for fog and clouds in your life. Fog or clouds are an indicator that something special is about to happen to you.

‘The greatest stories are those that resonate our beginnings and intuit our endings, our mysterious origins and our numinous destinies, and dissolve them both into one.’ Ben Okri quotes

 

Haiku #10: Harvest Celebration With Alban Elfed In Mind

20170828 HAIKU 10 HARVEST CELEBRATION ALBAN ELFEDIn a few weeks time it will be Alban Elfed (which is Welsh for ‘the light of the water), and it is the second and final harvest of the year (for those of us in the northern hemisphere. It’s one of my favourite times of the year.

It will then be the time of autumn equinox (so I’ll come back to that in a few weeks). Then we’ll be celebrating the time of equal day and equal night, and have in mind water as water is the ‘dominant’ element for the season, and the westward-looking compass point is the ‘dominant’ point on the ‘wheel’ for that time. Oh. it’s a great time to indulge in deep thought, ponder nature’s provision and extend gratitude.

As you may know, I’m also fascinated by the traditional haiku – those short Japanese poems consisting of three pithy lines; and the lines containing firstly five syllables, then seven, then five. And here’s a few haiku (which can be viewed as several stand alone poems, or one of several verses) with Alban Elfed in mind. The Haiku, below, can be used in liturgy for that time or (just) as poetry for the season.

Nature’s circle turns,
and night and day are balanced.
Time for heartfelt thanks.

Water, that gives life,
often taken for granted,
appreciated.

The earth’s provision
at this bless-ed harvest-time,
for all people, stored.

Easterly winds blow,
renew our spirit’s within.
Congruous lifestyle.

Warming sun of all,
now, in this season balanced.
Sun of righteousness.

Nature’s circle turns,
and with gratitude given.
Source of All be praised.

The verses can be viewed as one poem with several verses, and if used in Celtic, Proto-Christian or Druidic liturgy/ceremonies you might like to consider facing the cardinal compass points as you read/recite it: Verse two, for instance, is about water, the dominant element for this season and so one would face west; verse three one would face north for the element of earth; verse three is about air/wind and so one would face east; and verse four is about the sun element and so one would face south.

But, whatever you do, and however you celebrate this time, my recommendation is that you take ‘time out’ to reflect and/or so something special and appropriate to give gratitude for the earth’s awesome bounty.