Iona: A Remembrance & Experiential Lockdown Meditation Invitation

BLOG 111 EPHEMERA FULL MOON HARVEST MOON

Would you believe… it is almost three years since my last visit to the wonderfully idyllic isle of Iona. I need to go back, and would recommend it to everyone, to visit at least once. Here are:

  • some recollections which you may like, and
  • words that I wrote at the time (indented), and
  • an idea for a lockdown Iona meditation-experience for you.

Off the western coast of Scotland, Iona is a small island steeped in myth and ‘magic’, and the whole island is, I believe, a ‘thin place’ – a place where  Here and the Other are oh so close. When the wind howls you can hear the ancestors call, when the sea gulls screech on the beach, the Machair (pronounced ‘makker’) you can discern angel-song, and in the quietness you can hear the echo of ancient elementals whispering.

Having parked the car at Oban, it’s a fifty-minute long ferry ride to the Isle of Mull, a coach ride across Mull, and another ten minute ferry ride to the isle of Iona. I arrived at Iona’s port, Baile Mòr being the only one having stepped off the ferry onto the quayside .

I hear a multitude of voices call as with once voice.
Above the the noise of the waves and wind,
the Ancestors voices cry out, ‘Welcome’, to all pilgrims.

The Abbey is a special place, as well as the Nunnery. The weight of history presses in, and myth, shy at first, reveals itself to those who a patient. But, there’s more. History is important, and on this island it is fascinating, but only to revel in the history is to not hear those ancient voices that speak without ceasing.

My favourite ‘thin places’ of ‘thin places’ were St Oran’s Chapel, and the Sithean, and the Machair.

Smaller that the Abbey, and a more humble a building, St Oran’s Chapel sits alongsideblog 111 Untitled the Abbey but radiates extraordinary power. There, with no other people around me, I lit a candle for both my parents who had passed on (my Dad about six months earlier, and my Mother two years before that); and I lit another candle, vicariously, for people from around the planet who wanted a candle lit for themselves or for a loved one.

Longer than this candle burns
is the memory of those whom we love.
Their light continues on
and their love reaches us even today.

Before you get to the raised beach area, the Machair, is a mound about fifteen feet high and with a fifty foot circumference. You cannot miss it. You can see it a long way off, and on top of it you get a good, commanding view of the view. This is the Sithean Mòr or the C9D6FE84-55FE-486E-8F90-EBA22BAB6259Fairy mound, also known as Cnoc nan Angeal, that is the Hill of the Angels. Before Columcille set foot on it, it had been used by Druids for a millennia. It is a place of Encounter. The Druids gained the Wisdom of the Ages there, and Columcille (or Columba as he’s also known) conversed with angels. I couldn’t help but stand on the top of the mound, too.

Atop this high place,
you are called to both finish and start.
One liminal door closes, dear pilgrim, but another liminal door opens.
Go, with the Ancestors’ blessings.

And, from there, a two minute walk took me to the beach, the Machair. The sky was mainly grey cloud, the wind howled, the waves, some thirty foot high, crashed to the 762ADCF2-A981-4230-A559-F8FAEA223B89distant rocks. To say it was fresh was an understatement. It was bracing, it was a fierce storm, it was one of those wonderful-to-be-alive moments. And, there was more. This, too, is a ‘thin place’ of a ‘thin place’. As I stood, windswept on that beach, in the storm, paradoxically, there was a calmness; in the noisy waves there was a silence beyond all sound; and in the remoteness of the beach – there was no one seemingly about, apart from me – it felt like a thousand invisible, ageless, witnesses crowded in.

What we see is a fraction of what is.
With a seeing beyond seeing,
we glimpse the Universe as it is, alive and full of love.
We see the communion of the ones that have gone before us.
We are never alone.

The sun was sinking below the western horizon, and I made my way back to where I was staying for the week. That was then, but what of now? Your invitation! In the light of some others organising lockdown and virtual ‘tours’ and retreats on other themes, I wondered if you would be interested in an creative-visualisation. hour-long visual-meditation of an encounter on a ‘virtual’ Iona experience? I will send details, if you are interested, if you email me, at: tadhgtemp@googlemail.com

The Call is always present, calling those it wills.
Sometimes loud, sometimes softly,
sometimes in the wind, or Sun, or water, or earth.
Sometimes the call is  in that imaginal realm,
but is no less real.
Open your eyes of your heart. It is calling you.

 

 

BLOG 111 EPHEMERA FULL MOON HARVEST MOON

At Cnoc nan Angeal Or Sitheon Mor: Lift Your Heart Into The Wind

20180219 AT CNOC NANA ANGEAL OR SITHEON MOR FOUR MONTHS ONIt is difficult to believe that it was four months ago that I was on the Isle of Iona, the Isle of Druids, an island frequented by Columcille, also known as St Columba, over a millennia and a half ago.

With a longing to go back there, I set foot on Iona after a long gap of many years, and it felt like a home-coming. The desire to go there, was not a superficial visit to mark it as one more item ticked off my ‘bucket list’, but I believe the response to a deeply-ingrained inner longing etched onto the fabric of my soul. Have you been so called?

And on, or about this day four months ago I was walking around a grassy mound near Iona’s south-westerly beach.

This mound probably some fifty feet across and thirty feet high, is easy to overlook. And yet, it is so significant. It is known as Cnoc nan Angeal or The Hill of Angels, and to some it is also known as Sitheon Mor or the Hill of the Fae (the Fairy Hill).

However we view it, whatever we call it, it is a place of deep connection, another ‘thin place’ on an island that is itself a ‘thin place’.

I walked around the base of this mound, for no other reason than to ensure that, having entered the paddock by climbing a small fence, that I wasn’t sharing the field with a hefty Angus bull that might become angry at my intrusion. I was safe. There was no bull.  And knowing that, I climbed the small hill, paused and could then go ‘deep’ into matters spiritual and inhabit the place. What a privilege we all share.

‘…a ‘thin place’, the palpable presence of the Other in this place, time or event’

Columcille, it is said, often climbed this small hill to commune with angels. Others before him stood on that very hill-top, where my feet now pressed, and spoke with elementals, the fae and others. It is a place of energy and light, a place where the unexpected can occur, and if a place can exude peace and love, then Cnoc nan Angeal or Sitheon Mor can.

But, why was I standing there?

A Calling! A longing to do so, an echo from some distant land that I used to know, and to which I will return. We will return. Within each of us there is a longing etched into our very souls, woven into the very warp and weft of our being. A longing of self-discovery and transformation, a longing to know our true identity, a longing to ‘find’ our task in life, a deep longing to ‘be’.

‘We are homesick most for the places we have never known.’ Carson McCullers

This longing is there in all of us. Maybe it is buried under the weight of many years of material living and busyness. It’s time to revisit that longing. Such longing may be long-forgotten, bedazzled by the ‘bright lights’ of self-imposed habits that now seem to be ‘creaking’ or collapsing. The longing is still there. Can you hear longing, deep within you, calling out to you?

As I stood, four months ago, on that hill top where Columcille stood, I heard the wind and the birds, the nearby sea pound coastal rocks. I felt the wind, and rain and sea-spray, and then there was nothing. No-thing. And yet, everything! Without the need for dictionary or translator, as I stood there, windswept, alone (or was I?), and I was immersed in the song of the ages, and my soul sang back!

Perhaps, communing with angels or the fae or others, at that location (and indeed everywhere else), isn’t about hearing an audible voice or receiving a memorable instruction, but maybe it’s about being true to that calling, and true to ones innermost self?

‘You were created to be free; within you there is deep freedom.’ John O’Donohue

Four months ago I stood atop that hill, but not without some effort. Could it be that we need to ‘work’ at spirituality. Not in the sense of doing this or that to earn ‘points’, but in the sense of opening ourselves up to the moment, to surrender (and that’s not a word that many like), and to have a certain intentionality to enter into that moment. At other times it may take trauma or calamity to ‘open the eyes of our heart’. Other times, it may be purposely drawing aside. Then, we step out of our daily, materialistic, mechanical routine, and in doing so, we, at least for a while, enter into sacred time/space, and ‘be’, and encounter our longing, and recognise it as a dear friend.

‘Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.’

(David Whyte, The House of Belonging)

On that mound, I ‘returned’ to the beginning, and in the cold and the rain, the wind and salt-spray, the notion that I had been here (you have been ‘there’) all the time embraced me like a warm hug. It felt like a palpable hug. An angel? An elemental? A fae? I didn’t need to know. I didn’t want to know. To be there was sufficient. I can live contentedly with mystery knowing that, even if I am unaware, it is unfolding. That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves has our best interest at heart.

As I sit here typing now in hindsight of what happened all those months ago, and as you sit there reading this, are we all not ‘already there’? Isn’t longing knocking, still? And yet, there is ‘room’ to take hold of it, embrace it, dwell fully in the longing that longs to be known? Be aware.

‘Longing is a constant companion…It often comes in a dream. It may call from the trees outside. It often quickens at the hearth within our homes, and beckons us to come closer.’ Frank MacEowan

Oh, it was easy to scale that small hill, tick the box of ‘seen it, done it, and go onward….’, but isn’t there a wonderful need for all of us to pause and let the longing in us to be recognised, develop and come to fruition? Just ‘be.

Pause. Relax, and let that which is deep within ‘speak’ to you. The words may not be audible, and you may come in the form of a dream or an impression, a memory-flash, an indescribable yearning for that which is Other; and it may be immediate or it may ‘unpack’ itself over a number of days; or it may even be an inclination that becomes more noticeable over time as you look back.

‘If you think you’re hearing something
And you can’t think what it is
If you feel a quiet longing
Lift your heart into the wind.’

(Cyndi Lauper, Kindred Spirits)

 

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?