Experiencing ‘Thin places’ As The Ancients Did

20200617 EXPERIENCING THIN PLACES

Have you ever experienced a ‘thin place’? Here’s a brief outline of what a ‘thin place’ is,  how you can experience them, and a poem about them.

What Is A Thin Place

Have you ever travelled some distance to an ancient site, and almost heard the cry of the ancestors call out to you over the millennia from that place? You might have been walking in a forest, witnessed a flash of sunlight break through the forest canopy, and felt a deep stirring within?

Perhaps, you were in a rush, walking through a city street, and you stopped to cross the road and someone with a baby in a push chair stopped beside you and the baby smiled at you, and you felt a ‘warmth’ from somewhere else move in your core. These are all examples of  ‘thin places’.

Druids and ancient Celts held the view, and latter-day ones, and others, still hold the view, that there exist places, times and events where the separation between here and the Other, that veil, that threshold to the spiritual realm, can be unusually ‘thin’ and can be touched, encountered, felt, experienced. These, they called them ‘thin places, and they still exist today, and you can experience them, too.

‘There is an indefinable, mysterious power that pervades everything. I feel it, though I do not see it. It is this unseen power that makes itself felt and yet defies all proof, because it is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses. It transcends the senses.’ Mahatma Gandhi

In one sense, the ancient Druids and Celts never ‘suffered’ with dualism as we do, and so it seems odd to speak of here and the Other. Perhaps, a way forward is to understand that that Oneness always exists. But, with our minds focussed on the busyness of the day, we need some encouragement and opportunity to have that awareness revealed to us. Like a muscle, such awareness grows over time, so that we can be more easily aware of ‘thin places’, and enjoy them.

So, a ‘thin place’ or caol áit (a Celtic/Gaelic word, pronounced ‘kweel awtch’) is a time, place or event where we are aware of the closeness of the Other.

Throughout the United Kingdom there are places described as holy or sacred by others – not just religious buildings, but, more than likely old oak or yew trees (some hundreds of years old), streams or valleys, standing stones and many other notable places which have been (and still, are) visited by celts (ancient and latter-day) and other spiritual pilgrims, such as fellow-Druid friends, and Wiccan friends etc. But, other places, such as forests, even city streets could be a ‘thin place’ as well as an ancient site in the country where you live. Geographically, though they abound in Wales and the other three countries of the UK, but, they are worldwide, there may be one or more’ thin places’ near you. They may not occur in just ancient places or places of grandeur.  Your local park? Your kitchen? Your backyard? Who knows?

‘The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience’.
Emily Dickinson

There could be times when ‘thin places’ occur – long-lived over the centuries or fleeting. You might experience a ‘thin place’ in an area on day, and when you go back to replicate the experience – nothing. The moment has gone. But, who knows what other times of opportunity (kairos, rather than chronos), will present themselves to you in the future, if aware. To be sure, sometimes ‘thin places’ will feel powerful and ‘electric’, and at other times may hardly be noticeable and almost ‘shy’. But, wherever you find one, revel in that moment, that encounter with the Other’. They always convey deep meaning.

‘I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.
And nothing
happens! Nothing…Silence…Waves…

–Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?’

― Juan Ramón Jiménez

And, then there are meaningful events where you might encounter a ‘thin places’. These might be  at various events, such as at the birth of a baby, at the passing on of a loved one, or at the announcement of some amazing or traumatic event, an impending storm, when we view beauty, for example. All of these can be the ‘judder’ that we experience in life that speaks of, and points to That Which Is Bigger Than Us, through the encounter of a ’thin place’. At times like that it catches our breath, time seems to stand still and we’re ‘catapulted’ into a higher reality.

How To Increase Awareness

‘Thin Places, as described above cannot be manufactured, but who knows how many we pass because we’re unaware? So, how do you increase your opportunity of finding  them? Well,

  • you could do some local research of ancient sites and ruins, especially ones marked in some way by those of yesteryear, or look for forest paths that take you to quiet areas, and
  •  you could hone your alertness. You might notice that there’s a strange feeling of quietness in a place, like the feeling of an approaching thunderstorm;  or you get a skin or inward sensation that is beyond description, then it may be a ‘thin place’, and
  •  be aware. You might pause in an area where such an occurrence is likely. Yes, use your senses eg sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste, but don’t forget that sixth sense ie intuition, and if needed, do check out the likelihood of a ‘thin place’ by meditating, by half closing your eyes and seeing with the ‘inward eyes’ of the imaginal.
  •  ‘open the door’. It might be beneficial to conduct a ritual in the open, and especially where you feel a ‘thin place’ may exist. If there isn’t a ‘thin place’ there, then you have still conducted a beneficial ritual. If you notice, however, that the ritual becomes very easy to do, ‘races along’ as though turbo charged, or you feel or notice the input of the ‘invisible others’ than you have ‘found’ a ‘thin place’. This could manifest itself as a feel, an event of synchronicity, or in nature, perhaps, by the inquisitiveness of an animal that approaches and stops to look on,  Ofcourse, it could be that the ‘invisible others’ have found you, and in your honest desire to look for to a ‘thin place’ they have brought it to you!

So, have you experienced a ‘thin place’ – a place, time, or event where the gap between here and the Other has been unusually ‘thin’?

 

Poem

Here’s a poem I wrote some time ago about ‘thin places’:

Atop a high mountain or in the dark valley below,
in the corner of your room, or in the hustle and bustle of the busy city centre,
may you find a ‘thin place’.
A place, or time, or event so unique, so full of wonder, so sublime.

A place where Heaven and earth collide,
and the diaphanous veil of separation is unusually thin.
A time where you can almost feel angelic wings beat against your cheeks,
and see the Divine smile shining through.
An event where your heartbeat quickens,
and you experience the mystery of the Other in the mundane.

A ‘thin place’ is a threshold, a limen, a holy bridge,
a door to the Throne Room, slightly opened.
It is a moment in time and space,
in which we can dwell, and dance, and move, if aware.

A ‘thin place’ is an encouragement, a sacred invitation to draw near,
to approach barefoot, in humility, in reverence and awe.
It is both seen and unseen.
Invisible we see you!

May you, in the wilderness of the countryside or the city, find a ‘thin place’ today, and be blessed.

 

Energy Is Precious: Introduction

ENERGY IS PRECIOUS

We’re all aware of the promptings of the weather forecast. In general, a forecast of low (physical, energetic) pressure may mean rain is on the way, or snow in winter, especially in northern areas. And low pressure and high temperatures may indicate a thunderstorm. A high pressure forecast, well, that may indicate a clear and bright, sunny day ahead.

I’m walking along a city street, turn the corner and it suddenly feels as though there is a gust of wind, but no hair on my head moves. It feels like a sudden temperature drop, but outwardly everything remains still. Inwardly there is an air of disquiet that didn’t seem to be there a moment ago. Either I am imagining it, or something else is happening. This doesn’t feel weather-related.

There is (something) more.

It is said, in such circumstance, that I have become aware of the slight changes in negative and positive energy that are located in urban (and indeed, in all other areas). We often move though such city and rural landscapes unaware of these energy patterns, energy eddies and dissonant energy.

The ancients were much more aware of these things.

‘Energy is precious, use your energy to build not to destroy’. Constance Chuks Frida

The ancients were much more attuned to these energetic, spiritual currents of the landscape, and would be drawn to such places, or avoid them, depending on whether such energy was stable and positive, or unstable and negative.

In walking that city street I would describe it, inwardly, like a ‘cold shudder’, a perception of negative energy, and such negativity has its effect in the physical realm of humankind’s daily life, I believe.

Why is it, that in London knife possession in Lambeth is three times higher than neighbouring Wandsworth, and Hillingdon had twice as many knife crimes as neighbouring Ealing?

Why is it that Doctor’s are issuing more prescriptions in the county of Somerset than in neighbouring Wiltshire?

Why is it that of those reporting ghostly hauntings in this ancient isle of Britain, there are many more sightings in the northern UK counties except for the neighbouring eastern parts of North Yorkshire and south-eastern parts of Cumbria, and yet abound in London and Somerset. There may be many reasons, but perhaps that link with positive and negative localised energy may be one reason.

As I continue to walk these city streets I come to Speakers’ Corner, which for years was (and still is) an area where many come to freely speak, rant and argue the most outrageous things. Ever since an 1872, an Act of Parliament allowed free speech, when such freedom was lacking elsewhere. Suddenly it feels as though ice has taken up residence within..

Nine hundred years ago, what we now know as Speakers’ Corner in London had another name. It had a famous, or infamous, lonely tree in its midst known as the Tyburn tree – or more specifically the Tyburn hanging tree! The first hanging took place in AD 1195. Gallows remained there for several hundred years and thousands were hanged.

The ancients were much more aware of these things.

Could it be that the contentious speech and verbal dissention of Speakers’ Corner is an echo of those former times, the result of negative energy built up over centuries and affecting some people who visit it, even today? Could it be that those counties and London boroughs with high crime rates are affected by negative energy that has built up over the years and resulted in an increase of knife crime, which itself adds to that negativity for future years?

‘….many buildings and rooms because of the way they are built can become ‘energy traps’, places where subtle energies stagnate unless effort is made to keep an energetic flow going’. David Spangler

And if so, what of your neighbourhood?

Such negative energy eddies could be the result of years of verbal argument in an area or a household. Positive energy areas could be the result of areas where praise and good things had formerly taken place.

I would suggest that, without being alarmist, because if we’re aware of such negative energy, we can better deal with it.

Past misdeeds may form energy eddies that in time may usually dissipate as dissonant, unstable energy, but may grow to such a size that they are almost self-perpetuating and longer-lasting. The haunted house or feeling of dread as we move through an area, or a sudden loss of physical energy in our system, may, infact, be the result of such a negative energy eddy.

Perhaps to the aware person, such as yourself, you can recognise it when, should it happen, part of that negative energy eddy breaks off, and like a trail of fog, like a psychic pollution, as you move through it, follows you. Perhaps energy, negative or positive is ‘sticky’? In such cases, just being aware of it is enough to dissipate its negative energy. And, you yourself have energy!

‘You are energy, and energy cannot be created or destroyed. Energy just changes form.’ Rhonda Byrne

And in any case, I do believe the ritual of the caim [see here] is of use to us, then.

I’m now leaving that area and walking through Hyde Park. Suddenly that inner ‘icy’ feeling lifts as fast as it arrived. The air feels warmer, my inner being feels relaxed and loved, and there is a peace around me.

It is reckoned that centuries ago pilgrims would rest here. Could their prayers and praise form a positive energy echo down the ages that can lift our hearts, even today? A positive energy eddy? In June 2008 many Druids gathered in Hyde Park and held a ceremony there. Could that positive energy that they left behind be what I was feeling, even today?

‘…we can change the world. We change it by means of a real energy that we ourselves have created. This is the most effective way… Thich Nhat Hahn

In our lifestyle, daily workings, in our rituals and ceremonies the accent is on positivity and in these ‘dark days’, more than ever there is a need for people, by their rituals, prayers and actions, in large ways and small, together and as solo people of faith, to reach out to a world that is crying out.

And now, I’m home. Writing this, meditating, and thinking ahead. The day has been long and varied. I feel tired, almost as if I have lost energy. And, that may be so. Speakers’ Corner, is a rather energy-draining place. But, I know what is needed to buoy my spirits, to add to my energy-levels. I know what is needed to energetically intercede for others, for huge areas, for nature. And, you can, too!

The aforementioned is just the beginning of this theme. As my Welsh grandmother used to say, ‘Mae mwy’, which means ‘there is more’. What about energy empowerment, energy loss, energy replenishment, our status and calling, energy residuality and (ofcourse) there’s more. More of this, over the coming weeks.

In a crowd, ‘…Jesus declared, ‘Someone touched Me, for I know that power has gone out from Me.” Luke 8.46, The Book.

 

The Peace Of Wild Things: An Encounter In Thetford Forest

20191013 THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS AN ENCOUNTER THETFORD FOREST

I’m in the depths of Thetford Forest. Some distance behind me is the hustle and bustle of a myriad of people near the visitors centre, using the café, experiencing zip lining or bbq’ing. But for those willing to venture away from the ‘near wild’, the voices in the forest call out.

 ’Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth… they preach… the ancient law of life’

As I pick my way through the damp forest – yes, although the rain is light it has been, and still is relentless – I am surrounded by wonderfully tall, sky-hugging lowland pine trees, some less than two feet apart from its neighbours. The sun is still high in the sky, but it’s shrouded by the trees, and so I’m walking in a twilight state, and so am being careful with face-high branches and twigs as I weave left and right.

The going isn’t that easy. The mud sucks ones boots down and makes walking laborious, and moss, like a green carpet, underfoot and dead, wet leaves give an alternative challenge, that of accelerated locomotion just when you didn’t expect it. Sometimes, my ambling though dense forest alternates between ‘clod-hopping’ and sliding all over the place. Not a pretty sight, but I wouldn’t swap it for the world.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought. I am life from eternal life’

The forest is alive. Even in mid-October animals scurry this way and that in the undergrowth, birds fly overhead, and there’s that wonderful pine, tree, somewhat dank undergrowth smell that is fascinating, distinctive and refreshing. I can’t resist but to frequently, look around, inhale deeply, and find some excuse to sit on a fallen tree. Yes, I know it’s wet, but I’m ‘armed’ and wearing a waterproof kagoule and waterproof trousers. It’s bliss. There is no such thing as bad weather: just inappropriate clothing.

And there, standing in the distance, obscured by undergrowth until I move closer, is Venus. The artist will tell you that this is a human-height sculpture placed in the forest to show off the skills of human ingenuity. The ecologist would encourage you to note the sculptures  ‘skin’ of forest colours, to denote life, and in this case to promote the idea of nature-appreciation, reforestation and more. But there’s more.

The forest is alive. And just as a bird might make a nest, a beaver make a dam, and a Fox make a lair, and  we would call it natural, so too, these sculptures evoke a deep spirituality that is, perhaps, natural for humankind. And so, it is fantastic to see the first sculpture of about ten.

It is almost as if the forest is pressing in to get a closer look at what humankind has done here, and it is a acceptable. Surrounded by elementals, dryads, some would say forest angels, there is a presence here, in the forest. And this sculpture ‘fits in’ perfectly.

 ‘A longing to wander tears  my heart when I hears trees rustling in the wind…’

And so I move on, exploring the forest. Something like a bright orange light, just for a split-second catches my attention to the right. I turn my head in that direction,  look intently, but… nothing. Nothing but dense trees and fern. A trick of the light? A reflection on the side of my glasses? Or the beckoning of a Guardian of the Forest? Whatever it was, it has got my interest and I move in that direction.

Ten minutes later I’m still walking and there in front of me are two more sculptures: David and Daphne.

‘When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me…Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent’

The two magnificent sculpture: David (as in, David and Goliath), and Daphne (who, and those who remember their Greek mythology will know, was turned into a Laurel tree, but Apollo made the tree into an evergreen tree thus conferring immortality upon her.

I sit here,  mesmerised at the two sculptures. Two thoughts  in my mind: David faced his monster and prevailed. Daphne succumbed and gave her life, and yet even then became immortal. Who says the forest cannot teach us anything? I may not have heard an audible voice as I sat on a wet log, but I do believe an elemental, a dryad, a fay, or an angel whispered into my  ears words too deep to hear as sound, but penetrating deep within the labyrinthine ‘corridors’ of the brain, where mind, body and spirit meld. Of course, you would expect me to say that: I’m an animist.

I spent another couple of hours moving through the dense undergrowth and tall trees, and encountered all the sculptures carefully placed throughout the forest, some ‘hidden’ so that only the most adventurous would find them, and reap the reward of encountering these Guardians of the Forest. As above, so below.

And then I headed back to the visitors centre, still with the hustle and bustle of many people enjoying the fruits and pleasures of ‘near wild’. I’m now sitting at a picnic table and am gazing back the way I had walked. Two hundred feet away from me, the ‘manicured’ grass gives way to the dense trees and I look on longingly, and yet I’m completely happy and satisfied. Green joy unbounded. It was a wonderful experience – to forest-bathe, to amble in dense woodland, and to encounter sculptures that evoke the deep spiritual centres within, and to meet…. well, to have met forest entities, known and unknown.

’Whoever has learned to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness’.

 

(All indented quotes above are by Herman Hesse, and from his book Baume: Betrachtungen Und Gedichte)

Where Are You Going? My Spiritual Path And Yours

20190826 WHERE ARE YOU GOING MY SPIRITUAL PATH AND YOURS

I’m in the cafe. ‘Shhhhh, if you’re quiet, you might hear it’.

Mark Nepo calls this the ‘Original Presence that keeps calling to us’. It never stops, and yet is so gentle it can be forgotten, ‘drowned out’ or explained-away by others. But it’s there, calling us  to our own, unique and adventurous spiritual path.

So, where are you going?

‘Where are you going?’, is a typical question you may be asked occasionally? To live a healthy daily life you may answer that you’re going to the store, to the gym, to work, or to see family or friends.

But, ‘where are you going?’.

There is a spiritual content to our lives. Our uniqueness not only rests in whether you are right-handed and I’m left-handed, you have brown eyes and I have blue, or you like baseball and I like cricket, or you’re a musician and I’m more of a storyteller – these are great to ascertain some of our uniqueness and get to know each other, but there’s more.

We, are each on a spiritual path, and if you’re reading this then, at this juncture in time and space, our paths have crossed, and that pleases me.

What follows is an answer to that question: ‘where are you going?’ Your answers will be different, your life and circumstances are different, your aspirations may not be the same as mine, and your overall spiritual path may be different, and yet in our diversity we share a deeply spiritual, unique, bonded commonality.

Do you ever have that unlocated inner zeal, a ‘fire within’ to do something?

Some would call it a ‘calling’, others the ‘whisper of the cosmos’, or the bat kol (literally ‘the daughter’s voice) that is the voice of God, its like the wind calling your name, and some  say it is a communication with our higher self. Do you ever get that? It’s within and yet something just ‘tells’ us that the message and desire originated from far beyond us.

Simon Peter asked him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus replied, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.’ (John 13.36, The Book)

In the middle of a busy, over-scheduled lifestyle it is easy for that inner prompting to get drowned out. And yet, it continues. It must be so important.

There is a temptation not to tell friends or family of that inner prompting, and to live the life of a ‘solitary’. Life is then easier, but it seems muted. But if we respond to that ‘calling’ without letting those around you know, they will know sooner or later. Oh yes. Something in what you say or do will be noticed – perhaps something offensive to them, or odd or just unexpected. When you dance to a different drumbeat bystanders will know your ‘moves’ are different to theirs.

But, do not stop your ‘dance’, whatever they think.

To divulge fully that inner prompting may be too much for them – it may ‘scare’ them or make life difficult for you. Perhaps there is a middle route? To share something, bit by bit, as much as they can handle and as much as you are comfortable with – whilst preserving something for later, and in any case each one of us on our individual spiritual path will grow, change and be transformed along the way and so we also need time to adapt.

Where are you going?
Where are you going?
Can you take me with you?
For my hand is cold
And needs warmth

There have been times when I have erred on the side of being too reluctant to share. Even, then others notice.

Others mean well, usually (and it has to be admitted that sometimes some people don’t mean well).

And so, there I was in my favourite haunt, ‘The Magic Café’ sharing that I would be walking ‘the Camino’ from the edge of France, across northern Spain to Santiago. ‘That’s weird’, someone said. ‘You’re not that fit’, another said. ‘But, it’ll take forever’, someone else replied. To each of these my thoughts replied silently. I thought: but I go to the gym three times a week and so I’m reasonably fit, but that person who spoke up doesn’t know that; it’s not that weird as people have been doing that 500 mile/800 kilometre pilgrimage for centuries, and it will only take four to five weeks!

Where are you going?
Far beyond where the horizon lies
Where the horizon lies
And the land sinks into mellow blueness
Oh please, take me with you

Some things I shared, some I didn’t. Why did I want to do it, was what I couldn’t share with them?

There are several reasons that people walk the Camino, and one of them is to honour a loved-one that has passed on. I aim to do it to honour my two late-parents, to honour the memory of them, and yes, to honour them. I like to honour the ancestors. Typical Druid you might say, but I’d point you also to All Souls Day in the church calendar.

This is the balance that one undertakes, and sometimes it is impossible to do. To be honest and open, to give as much information as others can handle, and still stay true to oneself and survive any misunderstanding.

Still in the Magic Cafe I could tell that perhaps I had said too much. The other person was shifting their weight from one side to the other, uncomfortably, as I replied. Their eyes seemed to glaze over and I knew I had ‘lost’ them.  Do you think that perhaps some others don’t want to know or actually can’t comprehend? It’s just a thought when explaining our spiritual path to others.

Many of you will know that I’m a Christo-Druid or is it a Druidic-Christian. I have no problem with that, it is my ‘calling’, and it works for me. The challenge is when a  Christian calls my faith into question. ‘You can ride two horses’, they say.  And, yet some Christians have no awareness of them following their faith and materialism, or of living a faith that has more in common with Silicon Valley than Jerusalem!

Oh, did I mention panentheism? Shhh, we’ll come back to that at another time.

And it’s not only some Christians that can be so blunt! A Druid friend said a similar thing to me  but from the opposite angle. This isn’t a rant or gripe, just an acknowledgement that even when you steer a clear path, others will be offended, or upset or confused. But, be true to yourself. It is your journey, a path to which you have been called, not them.

Ofcourse, in admitting the abovementioned I might now alienate some Christians who didn’t know of the ‘druidicness’ of my belief system, and then I might offend some Druids who might think I cannot be a good Druid with Christian beliefs. All I can say is: it works for me, I love you just the same whatever you think, I’ll support you on your spiritual walk come what may, and I’m the same old Tadhg that stumbles and picks himself up, and laughs a lot.

Let me skip the road with you
I can dare myself
I can dare myself
I’ll put a pebble in my shoe
And watch me walk (watch me walk)
I can walk
I can walk!

So, where are you going?

My hope is that you, like me, are headed into uncharted waters, beyond the boundary of the circle which is the horizon, and which is way beyond our comfort zone. It’s there, that spiritual growth, maturity and transformation happens. It’s when we do something different, encourage ourselves (which may or may not mean putting an actual pebble in your shoe), and change our walk (no pun intended), that things happen – maybe imperceptibly at first. To do this, we will need others of a like-mind in some way.

I shall call the pebble Dare
I shall call the pebble Dare
We will walk, we will talk together
We will talk

And so, I call my ‘calling’ that path of the Christo-Druid or Druidic-Christian. What does that actually mean? It’s difficult to say, but, here goes. In essence, my credo is: One God of love who is invisible and yet perceptible in many forms and who is ubiquitous; and we are called to honour each other and those who have gone before; and to care for all of nature… because we are all connected. Oh, did I mention animism, or is that too much information?

Ofcourse, there’s more…I do this through story, through ritual and liturgy (and actually enjoy it), and meditate and contemplate, and visit places of significance, and interact with people, and live life to the full. And, yes, I love coffee and books, and meeting people in cafes where deep and meaningful conversations (and encouragements) can take place. And, don’t get me started on theosis! I love theosis.

And so, we’re walking together, you and I. Different, but accepting. Different paths but the same destination. Separate from each other and yet connected. Isn’t life wonderful and full of awe?

And when we both have had enough
I will take him from my shoe, singing
“Meet your new road!”

What we do, how we live out our spiritual life, whether for you it is a practical-spirituality or a ritual/liturgical spirituality, ‘high’ or ‘low’ (whatever that means) or an amalgam of all, we can walk together as you encourage me and I encourage you. Please be encouraged! Never let time, our fast-paced society or others discourage you.

Then I’ll take your hand
Finally glad.

And then we’re walking hand in hand. That may mean others around you accept you – but you’ll probably meet new people at home or at work and the challenge starts again. Ofcourse, one suggestion is to also contact those who think similarly to you. Be encouraged by others who are on a similar path.

Ofcourse, it will not always be like this. Finally, or finally-finally there will be a time when we ‘rest’, at the culmination of our spiritual path, whether it’s in Annwyn, Heaven, Jannah or  Sto’Vo’Kor etc, and then, in that Land of Eternal Youth (or the Great Cafe in the sky, as I sometimes call it)  the challenges of this life will pale into smallness, and perhaps it is there (and then) that life really starts.

Ofcourse, how to live a life worthy of that calling is another issue, and one that Mark Nepo and others mention, and one that we’ll come back to soon. But, for now, as I sit in The Magic Cafe I’m online and  researching and planning for that Camino walk, maybe next spring. What do you think?

 

All unattributed indented references above come from the song ‘By my side’, from Godspell

Looking Afresh At What We Take For Granted: Awareness & Tea-Drinking

20190821 LOOKING AFRESH AT WHAT WE TAKE FOR GRANTED AWARENESS AND TEA DRINKING

We recently looked afresh at what we take for granted: at clouds and their beauty here and here, and then we looked afresh at deers and gnats and more in wild places and considered elements where we can be more aware of animals’ manoeuvres and there meanings, and learn from them, here.

And, now perhaps, it’s time to consider something that many will consider (at least the example) mundane (but hopefully, not enough to stop reading, as there is more, and I believe the following to be beneficial. Awareness and the mundane (as if anything can ever be considered mundane).

Time for the ancients, early Christians, ancient tribes, druids, celts and pagans of yesteryear was experienced differently to us. Now, if I use a mobile phone app to check  when the next bus arrives I calculate in minutes, to the minute, and on most occasions to app is accurate and usually never lets me down. Thank you London Transport and especially the bus drivers of Route 424.

Time-wise, we might want to hark back to those former days in totality, but that may not be possible – we have work to do, busses and trains to catch, places to go and most of us, therefore, work to the minute. But all is not lost. There are many occasions when we, like those ancients, can slow down, take a few minutes out of our busy schedules, pause and enjoy the moment.

My suggestion is, at least for each of us to consider a slowed-down event, call it a ritual, each day to enjoy slowing, deep thinking and appreciating life in all its fullness.

Perhaps, as I’m British, a cup of tea could be the physical metaphor or physical ritual to do this. Why not? If you’re not quite sure what to use to ‘slow time down’ and to ‘go deep’, perhaps a cup of tea is just what you need – doubly so if tea-drinking is not part of your normal day or custom. It’s not that tea is ‘magical’, its how we ‘receive’ it and appreciate it that matters. Slow! Deep! Meaningfully! With deep(er) awareness.

Just a cup of tea. Just another opportunity for healing.

And, so I make the tea. A tea bag in the cup or teapot? And if you use a tea pot, do you put one teabag in it and then one for the pot? When about, when putting the tea into a cup, do you put the milk in the cup first? It used to be said the milk would go in first to avoid the heat cracking the fine china cup. I’m using a mug. But you decide. They may be important decisions, to contemplate slowly, but once you’ve decided, do it slowly, with intentionality, with pleasure, with feeling and deep thinking. This, now, for me is more than just a cup of tea to slake my thirst.

Just this moment in newness. Just the hand touching the cup. Just the arm retracting.

Is it just a cup of tea? No, it’s definitely  more!

In this simple act there is deep meaning. It is part of my life and yours (if you choose to make it so). It takes time – time that we will never get back, time that will never be repeated. It is a unique act for this time, and so, it is full of meaning. The meaning we give it. Ofcourse, we might gulp the tea down quickly, quench our thirst and there may be times when that is necessary, but not now.

Slowly do I reach out. Observing with my eyes the milk patterns swirling around on the surface. For some reasons I feel led to half close my eyes, and do so. Pehaps there are less distractions this way. Perhaps I am ‘seeing’ without seeing?

I note the cup’s temperature, the smell of the tea, and more. In reaching out I notice the cool handle of the mug, but it’s getting warmer. Even as I ponder, there is change. Heat is ‘creeping’ to the cup’s handle. The cold, smooth pottery is now quite warm to my touch. Everything changes? But, I’m in no rush. I’m enjoying the experience.

Just this moment in newness. Just the hand touching the cup. Just the arm retracting.

And then, I lift the cup, bring my arm closer to my body. The weight of the tea means the cup slips, just a little in my grip, and so I tighten my grip.

Is it just a cup of tea? It could be – but to me, right now it is so much more. I could think about where the tea comes from, its processing, how vital water is in general, but right now I was to be ‘in the moment’. Deep thinking, perhaps beyond rational thought, and moving into that area of quietness is what I’m seeking. When people are first in love there is that period of chatter ie ‘whispering sweet nothings’ as they get to know each other, talk and laugh. But, there comes a point where, sometimes, chatter ceases and just being local to each other, in each other’s company is enough. Silence is then the order of the day, as it is now.

The fragrance increasing as the cup nears the lips.  So present.

I can smell the tea’s fragrance. It’s Assam tea- full bodied and strong, and it smells so rich. I am aware of the details, but I want to me even more aware. The awareness that is beyond words. The awareness of no-thought (or perhaps, the being present between thoughts. That gap of silence, where possibility dwells).

Noticing the bottom lip receiving heat from the cup, the top lip arched to receive the fluid within. Noticing the first taste of tea before the tea even touches the lips.

And then I raise the cup to my lips. It’s tea, but the thought of wine in a goblet runs though my mind. Careful not to burn my lips I blow a small stream of air across the tea’s surface. I know, I’m a big child at heart and this is not something that I would do if invited to the Savoy Hotel, but no one is looking and no one knows I’m doing it – no one except you, and I’m amongst friends.

I sip slowly. The strong and rich taste of the tea, even just a few drops ‘hit’ my tongue and my taste-buds go into action. From no-taste to a rich taste of Indian tea, the taste pervades my mouth. So different. So refreshing. Do delightful. Almost overpowering, taste-wise. So different.

The fragrance and the heat rising into the mouth. The first noticing of flavour. The touch of warm tea on willing tongue.

And, now I can taste not only the splendid flavour, but the tea’s heat on my tongue, inner cheeks and the back of my throat. my mouth is warming up, but. fortunately, it’s not too hot. It’s comfortable.

The tongue moving the tea about in the mouth.
The intention to swallow.

I want to swallow, but I don’t. Well, not immediately. To swallow immediately would be to do this by rote, unconsciously and without thinking. I want to go slow, to pause, to dwell in that moment. And, one of the best ways to do that is to linger here and not do what one would usually do. And so, like some tea-taster at the Twinings factory I ‘swill’ the tea around my mouth (and that’s probably another reason why I wouldn’t be invited to tea at the Savoy hotel), but the flavour of this tea is wonderful and I want to extract every last molecule of flavor.

The tea seems less hot and the flavour less flavoursome now, but this could be that my senses are ‘acclimatising’ to the temperature and the flavour. I so want to swallow, but pausing is beneficial.

I want to swallow the tea, but chose not too. Interestingly, I consider (now) which part of me was responsible for those two opposing thoughts? Did they occur in the same part of my brain, or from two different areas: the brain and the mind (after all there is a difference between those two. And oh, this thought occurred as I  drank tea. Imagine what you might discover doing this or something else, slowly?).

And so, I swallow that tea. Just one small gulp. It’s enough.

The warmth that extends down into the stomach.

I can feel the heat run down my oesophagus (well, actually it runs down a few inches of what is left of my oesophagus, down a modified stomach that resembles now an oesophagus and into what is left of my stomach – but you may not have wanted that information). But, I can feel the heat flow down and permeate my body in its very depths. It’s a heart-warming process – no pun intended.  And it’s an unusual experience when slowing down and focusing on the experience as if for the first time. Perhaps this newness is what the Buddhists mean by having a ‘beginners mind’ and seeing things afresh as if for the first time, over and over again; or what being born again (and again and again), means?

What a wonderful cup of tea.
The tea of peace, of satisfaction.
Drinking a cup of tea, I stop the war.

It was a refreshing cup of tea. But, so much more. There was the act of slowing, pausing, appreciating the moment and experience, being aware and ‘in the moment’, which may be thought of as all acts of gratitude to the Source of All. Why not?

It was time wells-spent, a time when I ‘stepped out’ of ordinary time and into sacred time, and would invite you to do the same. There was a peace there, deep peace. A deep satisfaction. A veritable communion is a tea cup. What a wonderful physical metaphor, a physical ‘parable’, what a deep and meaningful way to ‘step out’ of the busy-ness of our daily life.

It’s was an opportunity to ‘go deep’ and know more about life, the universe and everything, or could it just be regarded  as just cup of tea with no cosmic importance? You get to decide. But, you would probably need to try it, or something similar, first to come to a conclusion, and there is my encouragement to do it, and to seek deep(er) awareness.

For me, it was (and when I do it, it is) a profound experience – but sometimes it does seem odd, peculiar, a waste of time, but that is to be expected. Our ego is ‘disturbed’ when we do something different, step out of our twenty-first century comfort zone, but it’s worth it if we are serious about reclaiming our ancient rights and practices, and thereby mature, grow and are transformed.

 

[All indented quotes above come from ‘Healing Into Life And Death’ by Stephen Levine]

Ancestral Thoughts At Llynau Mymbyr: Alternative Perception

20190808 ANCETRAL THOUGHTS AT LLYNNAU MYMBYR ALTERNATIVE PERCEPTION

Not far from Capel Curig in north Wales is the twin lakes of Llynnau Mymbyr (see this article’s header photo). It is a delightful area, full of myth and magic, legend and the feel of a ‘thin place’ about it. It exudes an energy that is both comforting and unnerving, it is an area where you can believe almost anything can happen. That expectancy flows though the very air like the ozone that one senses as a storm approaches.

As a child I used to frequent this area often – wonderful lakes, surrounded by tantalising (lake) beaches (albeit on the small side, but with intriguing rock pools, odd-shaped rocks and small pebbles of curious colours and shapes). And, I’m in that place again. It’s a sunny day, and a few clouds are sprinkled high above me.

Now, as I sit on a log with the water almost lapping at my feet, the view is a wonderful blend of grey-green, of slate rocks and mountains, and fern and lichen. In the very distance (in the photograph’s centre) is Yr Wyddfa, Snowdon, again, full of myth and magic, and though distant it dominates this area by is sheer presence.

The sun and clouds are reflected in the lake’s water, too,  and my thoughts drift. In what ways would those who went before us, our ancestors, think of this place: the pebbles on the lake’s beach, the few high clouds drifting by that I can see, and the sun shining down on me?

We often take if for granted that we know what they thought, and though we might get glimpses, I wonder if we can make that mental adjustment to ‘go back’ a thousand or two years and move about ‘in their shoes’. As a wee lad I used to love the Robin Hood tv series. Robin’s outfit was always clean and well pressed, and maid Marion’s hair was never out of place. I loved the series then, but in looking back now, ofcourse I know Robin Hood’s tunic would be muddy, smelly and probably patched. Maid Marion’s hair would have been devoid of conditioner (that hadn’t been ‘invented’), and if she lived in the forest she might have been missing a few teeth, and so not worry about ragged, dry, dishevelled hair. Apologies for being so graphic.

But we do get glimpses.

Our early ancestors may have had less knowledge of the way the world worked, but they had a greater and deeper appreciation of nature, and earthy wisdom.

With a notebook and pen in hand to take notes in wilderness areas – I don’t use computers in the field – my thoughts are drifting about: How would our ancestors have seen this environment or the world differently to us?

I do believe they would have had a deep(er) understanding of connectedness. As I look around my environment at Llyn Mymbyr I know that I am connected – but is it only a ‘cerebral’ understanding rather than a holistic one? How do I immerse myself in that belief? Or is it a case that understanding it then means I need only ‘surrender’ to that thought to imbibe its wisdom? Wise words about connectedness flow though my mind, words that I read some time ago:

‘Interbeing: If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are. “Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter-” with the verb “to be,” we have a new verb, inter-be. Without a cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are. [And,] If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow….”. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

Yes, we are all connected, ‘inter-are’, but not just with each other now; and in opening up ourselves to less limited thinking, we come to know that we are connected in deeper ways through space and time, and not only to humankind but to the rest of creation. Even the cloud above, we know now,  has an effect far more reaching than we might have realised than when this article began.

I’m still sitting on that log, and gaze at a pebble, just under the water, that has caught my eye. Did you know that this whole area is part of what is known as the Capel Curig Volcanic Formation? If you read the science books it will explain this means that the area comprises some 1400 yards thickness of compacted ash that erupted some four million years ago. This resulted in rhyolites (and igneous, volcanic rock which  rich in silica and sometimes have a glassy texture and appearance). I’m gazing at such a pebble. What an ‘ancestry’ for a small pebble about the size of a kidney bean.

I can’t resist it. I admit it – I’m a ‘feely-feely’ person. If I see an interesting tree, I not only want to look at it, but want to run my fingers over its bark. If there’s a market medieval cross in an ancient English village or a standing-stone in the middle of an expanse, I not only want to take a photograph but also want to touch it. Who knows what that tree has ‘seen’? Who else might have touched that ancient market cross or standing-stone and thought of future generations, like me, who might touch it. There’s connectedness right there!

And, so I pick up the pebble, and another thought flows through my mind, of something that I had read about some time ago. And it’s this:

‘A man, walking on a beach, reaches down and picks up a pebble. Looking at the small stone in his hand, he feels  very powerful and thinks of how with one stroke he has taken control of the stone. ‘How many years have you been here, and now I place you in my hand”. The pebble speaks to him, ‘Though to you, I am only a grain of sand in your hand, you, to me, are but a passing breeze [in comparison]’. Martin Lowenthal and Lar Short, Opening In The Heart of Compassion’.

This small pebble had also ‘spoken’ to me. We are each connected; the same, yet different; but we all ‘inter-are’. But, the story makes us think. We do get glimpses of a different and deeper perception of nature, the universe and our place in it, but there is always more. I placed the pebble back from where I had removed it. And sat there, and wondered.

In thinking of this article, I thought: what about where you are right now? What might someone have done and thought in your location a thousand years ago, what was their view of the universe, and in what way are you connected to them? Some would say that you are separated from them by time and space, but are you? I don’t believe so. We are all connected, but we think we’re not. And the latter is, in my humble opinion, error. We are far more connected than we release – just like paper and the cloud. There is always more to discover.

And, as I stood up, ‘dusted’ myself down, slowly strode back towards the car, another thought came to me:

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40b, The Book

I laughed out loud. Fortunately, no one was about – well no visible entities, at least. In thinking of connectedness and seeing things differently, and with that verse from ancient text flowing through my mind, a word formed deep within me: theosis. But, that awesome theme is for a future article.

 

[The article’s header photograph, cropped and overlaid with text is copyrighted by David Gill, and is used with permission: see here.]

What Are You Missing? Looking Beyond: Physical Metaphors

20190802 WHAT ARE YOU MISSING LOOKING BEYOND PHYSICAL METAPHORS

Take a look around you. What do you see? What do you really see? What is seen that is actually ‘pointing’ to that which is unseen and beyond? Puzzled? Here is an explanation of facts, from imagination, and from my journal of yesteryear and more recently.

’There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ William Shakespeare’s Hamlet

We are surrounded by metaphors, physical metaphors, that point to something beyond, above or below. Such metaphors are glimpses that challenge, inspire or instruct if we allow them, but to do that we first need to be aware of them.

There is a mountain not far from Capel Curig, that, like the rest of Wales, is complete with myth and magic, rumour and a whole host of legends that invite the brave, or perhaps repel the timid. Glyder Fawr is just one such place. It is part of several peaks. How many? Well the ‘set’ is called Tryfan (and therein lies the clue, as Tryfan is Welsh for ‘three peaks’). As regards a wonderful and profound climb some time ago – see here.

There are myths in Wales about giants on mountains, dragons in mountains, water-horses in lakes and rivers, and other elementals that live deep in the ground. We all knew they were myths, and many, even in Wales, laugh at such superstitions, but deep in our minds, and I’m thinking of myself and friends of yesteryear, we weren’t so sure that those myths should be disregarded, well at least not totally.

‘I was born with the ability to see in metaphor. This has been my inborn way of relating to the living Oneness of things. From an early age, the world has spoken to me in this way. The analogous relationship of things has called, not in words, but in a silent language that has sow shown me, however briefly, the web of connection [of] everything.’ Mark Nepo, Seven Thousand Ways To Listen

Perhaps, these myths were not to be taken literally, and they were metaphorical, and ‘poetically’ warned passers-by, or perhaps they were to be taken literally? As children we loved the not knowing, and as I and my friends grew older there was always that lurking possibility that maybe there was something ‘behind’ them. Exactly, what physical metaphors purport to ‘show’.

At the base of Glyder Fawr is a rocky crevice – about ten feet wide, thirty feet long, and deep, very deep. As teenagers when would hike and have adventures, this was the place to go. Forever and a day, for as long as I can remember, and certainly as early teenagers, at the base of Glyder Fawr, we called that breach in the ground Uffern.

As young teens we avoided that pit in the ground, but as we grew a little older, a lot braver, more adventurous and somewhat stronger the ‘terror’ of Uffern (which is the Welsh word for hell) grew smaller, until one day a few of us, well-versed in abseiling, and belaying by then, tackled that void.

We climbed down into Uffern, climbed into Hell. With a lot of laughing and some seriousness, we were encountering then, though we didn’t know it at the time, a physical metaphor.

Physical metaphors, which may include outdoor adventure, nature observation, ritual or anything that is challenging and physical (as in tangible, solid, observable) are excellent tools for making change in each of us, and to awaken us to what is beyond.

Physical metaphors can interrupt our habitual patterns of behaviour, place us in an awkward and challenging situation and thereby open us up to new ways of thinking and doing things. In such situations our limitations and objections (of ‘Yes, but….) cease to have any power over us. People discover they must discard old, useless behaviour and replace it with something fresh, empowering and creative. Physical metaphors make us go, ‘wow’ in awe and wonder.

‘Communion is a ceremony based around food and drink…. In the Lord’s Supper, it is as if we are enacting a physical metaphor. The physical act of eating and drinking is very much like the spiritual realities it represents’. Ron Julian, Communion Metaphor, Gutenberg College.

I’m back at Uffern.  I’m older. This time alone, this time as an adult (and a mature, agewise, one at that) and it is probably the hottest day of the year. And I’ve climbed down to the base of the crevice. It’s silent, unusually so, except for the occasional drip of water that hits the small, two inch high pool of water that has collected beneath my feet. I’m alone (or am I?). It’s awesome, its wonderful, it is an amazing place. It’s rocky, damp, deep, cramped and full of jagged rocks, but it is bliss.

I can now ‘unpack’ the meaning of this physical metaphor, which to me ‘speaks’ of overcoming my teenage fears of this pit in the ground, my wariness that it could be a link between ‘our world’ and that of elementals. To be honest, I think it might be a doorway, but I now don’t fear those elementals, but see them as fellow occupants of this wonderful planet. And if I’m wrong and they don’t exist then they will not be present to hear what I’ve just spoken to them, and no one will ever know that I’ve even spoken to them (or tried), except now I’ve confess to you. So, you know. But, I’m amongst friends.

I’ve also discovered that the Earth holds a depth of meaning (no pun intended) that is only discovered if we are bold enough to step out of our comfort zone, to take risks and dare to do. I’ve also found that, perhaps, we are surrounded by a multitude of physical metaphors (in rural places as well as in built-up places) and each of them can be prompts to each one of us from Beyond to encourage to ‘see’ behind the visible.

‘We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world.’ Marcel Proust

At the base of Uffern I can relax and reflect on deep spirituality, to look at life that contains physical metaphors which anchor us to the world beyond, just as the gears of a car connect and change our foot actions into chemical-air-petrol formulations of a different order to propel the car. Connectedness.

What we see and do has actions far beyond the physical, and its for that reason I so love and cherish, and encourage liturgy, ritual and prayer and blessings, of observing and doing, of acknowledging that our seemingly small actions may have consequences (of a positive nature) far beyond our reckoning.

At the base of Uffern I have just enough time, before the light fades, to take some photographs of the amazing rocky strata that was formed and dishevelled during the last ice age, knowing that only a few have ventured to the base of Uffern, and so many have missed its beauty, and might otherwise have encountered an elemental. Ofcourse, I can’t tell you that I’ve seen one, by with eyes beyond eyes I believe I have, and from that I know the power of the imagination.

‘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

And now it’s time to climb out of Uffern. I have to admit the climb up is a lot more arduous that it looks, it takes a lot longer climbing up than scaling down, and I’m not as young as I used to be, but it was worth it.

Take a look around you. What do you see? What do you really see? A burning bush? The voice of the Source of All? An encounter with an angel, the fae, an elemental in the form of a physical metaphor? Take a look around. What is seen that is actually ‘pointing’ to that which is unseen and beyond?

 

 

Looking Afresh At What We Take For Granted: Wild Places: Deer, Gnats & More

20190720 LOOKING AFRESH AT WHAT WE TAKE FOR GRANTED WILD PLACES EVERYWHERE DEERS GNATS

Ah nature! It is true the ancients were far more ‘in tune’ with nature than modern humankind, but all is not lost.

It is possible to rekindle that which in us is muted and appreciate nature (in a rural setting as well as in an urban setting). There are benefits. Awareness of nature around us can give us new insights, not only about the universe, but ourselves; not only in preserving the planet and therefore preserving humankind; not only enlarging our wisdom about the physical world but also about that that inner world we also inhabit in our innocence and essence.

It’s a warm morning.

The temperature is rising and the current humidity level heralds an even hotter, balmy and sweltering afternoon ahead, and I’m in London. But, having travelled just a short distance, several miles west of London, I am quite comfortable sitting in the shade of a huge, ancient, gnarled and majestic oak tree. And it’s bliss.

This particular old and ancient oak tree is in Richmond Park in west London, a huge open area consisting of over 2,500 acres of unspoiled space, and which has protected status as an important habitat for wildlife. And, that’s where I am. I’m in a wild place.

‘All my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child. Marie Curie

There are six species of deer that inhabit the park, regal, wild and yet surprisingly tolerant of humankind. Red deer and roe deer are indigenous. Fallow deer were introduced after the Norman conquest, almost a thousand years ago. Other species arrived later.

And as I sit under this tree, wildlife, because of my earlier ambling has ‘retreated’, vanished, gone. And yet, within minutes, almost oblivious to me it returns. In many senses of the word, by being quiet and still I am becoming ‘invisible’.

It seems to me, that nature, once it has been disturbed, ‘returns’ seemingly in order of height, or weight or complexity. I’m aware of the insects returning first: butterflies, bees, assorted flies, and those black flies or gnats – the ones that seem to swarm and fly above your head regardless of which way you turn, or does that just happen to me?

I’m told the reason gnats fly around your head is because they are attracted to the carbon dioxide flume that you and I emit when we breathe out.

Most gnat  repellents rely upon us spraying ourselves with large amounts of chemicals or sweet smelling perfumes to help prevent gnats from landing and biting, but the trick, however, may be not to prevent the gnat from biting you, but rather to prevent them from finding you in the first place. If you wear a hat, allegedly, sprinkling it with Geranium or peppermint essential oil (properly mixed and properly applied) or anything that is peppery this will keep them at bay. You too, will become invisible to them.

I’m wearing a hat, yes, but no spray, and they’re back. So far, they seem to be leaving me alone, but they are there. Just a nuisance? Apparently not!

‘One should pay attention to even the smallest crawling creature, for these too may have a valuable lesson to teach us, and… may wish to communicate with…[us]’. Black Elk

Gnats are small flies of the suborder Nematocera, so I’m told, which also includes midges, craneflies and mosquitoes. And, whether we like them or not, they, even as small as they are, and sometimes as irritating as they can be, they do serve a purpose in nature. They are an important food source for birds, bats and larger insects, and they also pollinate flowers.

Should I move to avoid them? There is no point as they seem to follow me (and you), and hover over our heads! Nature is wonderful.

As I continue to sit quietly, bigger creatures seem to ‘return’ next. The tops of some long grasses ‘flick’ monetarily as grasshoppers spring off them, and maybe a mouse scuttles nearby, then a squirrel somewhat timidly draws closer. After many minutes, a small herd of deers come close – not too close, but close enough so that I can make out individual markings, and hear their grunts and sighs, and that distinctive ‘bark’ as the communicate with each other. Nature is awesome.

‘Every creature is full of God and is a book about God’. Meister Eckhart

Still some way off, but close enough to relate to them, eye contact to eye contact is made, and it feels like a secret communion has taken place. Soul to soul? Shy, vulnerable and gentle as they are they approach even closer. A few of them, particularly those nearest to me in this small herd, are ‘side on’ to me. It’s a defensive strategy. They know I’m here, pose no threat, and yet they are wary of me, and rightly cautious.

The closest deer licks its nose. This wets its nose with saliva and the moisture on its nose improves its sense of smell, and then its ears twitch. It is checking me out.

Having researched me, those deers nearest to me, join the others is foraging, lowering their necks below the ‘browse line’ of the tall grass, with only a periodic lifting of their heads as if to double-check on me. They’re acknowledging that I’m no threat.

I remain still, watching them for about twenty minutes, and as cramp sets in in my ‘nether regions’ I have to shift my weight as I sit under this tree, and a few small twigs crack. It is enough. Immediately, a few deer’s heads arch upward quickly, gazing over the ‘browse line’ of the long grass and look in my direction, their ears twitch, and the deers let out a muted, but distinctive ‘bark’ – an alarm call to the others. Nature is so balanced – we can learn a lot from it.

‘Only animals were not expelled from Paradise.’ Milan Kundera

I watch, now, as they run away from me, in a zig-zag motion. Some do a typical ‘bounce’ upward before the turn and scatter, others who were ‘side on’ to me only have to do a quarter-turn to flee (which is probably why they were not ‘face on’ to me as one would expect, because then they would have to do an about turn, a half turn to flee. That would take more time and energy. ‘Side on’ to me is more efficient, quicker and safer for them).

Even, there departure is beautiful to watch. They all run for about two hundred feet, and then stop, regroup after a few minutes, and start lowering their heads to feed, with the occasionally lifting of their heads above the long grass. And so it goes on.

‘The truly wise person kneels at the feet of all creatures’. Mechtild of Magdeburg

Over the millennia deer have been admired, revered and even worshipped. They have been the subject of children’s stories, fables and myth. In English folklore, Herne the Hunter is said by some to be a ghost associated with Windsor Forest and the Great Park in the English county of Berkshire. He is said to naturally have deer-like antlers upon his head, ride a horse, torment cattle, and rattle chains.

It has been suggested that the concept and name ‘Herne’ is derived from an ancient source, citing that ‘Herne’ may be a cognate of the name of ancient deity Cernunnos in the same way that the English ‘horn’ is a cognate of the Latin ‘cornu’. It makes you wonder, yes? Cernunnos being the conventional name given to depictions of the ‘horned god’ of Celtic polytheism. Cernunnos was/is a Celtic god of fertility, life, animals, wealth, and the underworld. Ofcourse, the aforementioned is a brief outline only, and others will know more and have varied beliefs on this theme. This is an outline only, and an attempt to show how marvellously nature ‘speaks’ to us even through story and myth.

Indeed, Some see the qualities of Cernunnos are thought to have been subsumed into the life of the fifth century Saint Ciarán of Saighir, who is acknowledged as one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. When he was building his first tiny cell, as his ‘sacred journal’ tells, his first disciple and monk was a boar, followed by a fox, a badger, a wolf and a stag.

It’s time to go.

And so, I’m  walking back to the car, and within half an hour I will be home. Whenever you can escape to wild places, and even if you can’t, my encouragement is to pause and look at the wild things around you. Nature abounds in all its wildness even in the city, even in London (or wherever you are) for those who are aware. And though our ancestors may have had a head start on us in relating deeply to nature, it is a ‘skill’ that we can develop, especially as in essence we too are part of the web of nature and not apart from it; and that awareness can be awakened and grow.

Go out, go out I beg of you
And taste the beauty of the wild.
Behold the miracle of the earth
With all the wonder of a child.

Edna Jaques

 

Ritual & The Dream: An Encounter At Twilight

20190129 ritual and the dream

I hear your voice on the wind
And I hear you call out my name
“Listen, my child,” you say to me
“I am the voice of your history
Be not afraid, come follow me
Answer my call, and I’ll set you free”

Brendan Graham, and sung by Celtic Woman (see here)

Even with my eyes closing, I saw her. In a clearing in a forest at twilight, she was there, dressed in a long white flowing robe. It was quite dark but I was able to see more and more as my eyes slowly grew accustomed to the darkness.

There was no one else around, and yet I could sense somethings or some ‘people’ nearby. It was like the heaviness of air pressure due to an approaching storm, but there was no storm. Like the energetic cacophony of a room, ‘noise’ made up of many voices but without being able to distinguish any one voice. It was like the faint echo of something that had been said but was said no more. And yet, a presence or presences, invisibly persisted.

Even with my eyes closed, I saw her in my mind’s eye. She lit a small candle and placed it at her feet.

‘What is the purpose of ritual?,’ a kindly, deep Voice enquired from the forest around the clearing. Without hesitation she answered, ‘It is to wake up the ancient mind within each of us, and to weave the personal and communal in such a way as to relate the local to That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves’. Silence filled the forest once more. As I looked on and listened, it seemed the Voice had been edified.

‘What is the origin of ritual?’, another Voice enquired from the forest, the voice ‘hidden’ amongst the trees. It sounded feminine, evoking beauty, patience and youth, and almost encapsulated a laugh, gaiety as words tripped toward the woman. The woman turned to face the area where the Voice seemed to come from. ‘Rituals arise from the land and its guardians, and enter the imagination of all people, though some are unaware. They reflect the totality of our lives: the terrain, animal and nature in all its glory, the weather, stories and myth, individual and communal wounds, and hope’, she said. Silence filled the forest for some minutes. The Voice seemed content with now knowing that truth.

I moved closer to observe the woman. As she spoke I noticed she moved her hands as if ‘signing’ similar to that used for the hearing impaired, indeed her whole body was in motion when she had spoken. I was intrigued.

‘What is the benefit of ritual?’, yet another Voice asked from another part of the clearing, sounding rather like a child’s Voice this time, and making several attempts to get the sentence out. It seemed that the owners of these Voices were an inquisitive lot, eager to learn and enthusiastic with deep and searching questions. The woman, ‘signing’ and swaying gently, answered and said, ‘In ritual we become transparent and open to That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves. It ensures that the tears of our souls, those deep wounds, sometimes forgotten or buried, and which we all experience are sutured and repaired’. The forest fell silent again.

Sometime past and no Voice spoke. In a somewhat trembling Voice the woman added, ‘And in ritual that which is within us shimmers and shines, and aligns itself with the Source of All’. She smiled in my direction. Then there was silence. I looked around to gauge where the next Voice might come from.

Suddenly a loud, booming Voice, very loud infact, but benevolent, came from behind me, but alarmingly close to me. ‘What does ritual provide?’, it asked. Without hesitation and very confidently the woman turned to face the Voice, looking at me and beyond me, and replied, ‘It helps in our transformation. Fear, grief, rage, shame, or worry, hopelessness, confusion, that borne by the individual, community or nation is transformed with the aid of That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves’. The forest fell silent once more.

After what seemed like an age, the women bowed to the four quarters, the cardinal compass points, picked up the candle and walked slowly toward me. As an observer I expected to ‘wake up’ at this point, or perhaps for her to pass right through me as if in a dream, but she stopped in front of me. Unnervingly I was aware for the first time that she was aware of me now, and had been all along.

She stopped and through my nervousness I spoke to ‘break the ice’ and to fill that silence with something. ‘You answered the Voices well, and instructed them in the essentials of ritual. You must be pleased?’, I said to her.

She smiled, half laughed and sat on a nearby felled log in the clearing, and invited me to sit, too, and she put the candle the candle on the log between us. ‘You have it all wrong, she said, the Voices are not students but the Teachers.’

‘So, you’re the student and they were testing you?’, I enquired. ‘You’re getting closer to the truth, but you’re not there yet,’ she said, ‘The Voices are indeed the teachers, and if you like I was their assistant, but the student is you and those that read what you write!’.

I thought about it, and drew a breath to ask a question. ‘There is more, but not just yet’, she said. She blew out the candle flame and the forest went totally black. Somehow I knew that she and the other presences, the Voices had left, and I was alone. After what seemed like many minutes, I opened my eyes, with her voice saying ‘There is more’, clearly echoing in my mind. Just a dream?

A few days later, I tuned the radio into a Sunday morning ‘thought for the day’ type of short program. The voice of an elderly gentleman could be heard. ‘And’, he said, ‘there is more… We need to build faith in ourselves as ritually literate people that can dress the wounds of suffering…’.

‘There is always more’, my grandmother used to say but in Welsh (which is: mae mwy). Perhaps those Voices (the bat khol, the Source of All, elementals, angels etc are speaking to us always, in our sleep and in our imagination, through our neighbours and other people, through the man on the radio program, and at other times, too, but, perhaps we seldom listen. Just a thought.

 

Table Talk: Traits Of The Wise Person. Some Thoughts

20190105 traits of the wise and spiritual person

‘Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small ‘unregarded’ yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.’ Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The scientific name for humanity, so I’m told, is homo sapiens sapiens – not just homo sapiens as that means ‘wise mankind’, but homo sapiens sapiens which means wise mankind that knows he/she is wise.

Don’t you think it is astounding that in all the known created universe we are not only the wise ones, but the wise ones who know we are wise (that is, we have that objectivity to ‘know’ it). Though, some may question the wisdom of some of mankind’s politics and assault on nature, and rightly so. And those thoughts were on our minds as, one by one, we met in a local café in London.

‘It was out of the dynamic of cosmic celebration that we were created in the first place. We are to become celebration and generosity, burst into self-awareness. What is the human? The human is a space, an opening, where the universe celebrates its existence.’ Brian Swimme, The Universe Is a Green Dragon: A Cosmic Creation Story

But if we are homo sapiens sapiens, the universe becoming conscious and celebrating its own existence, how do we define wisdom? As we, a group of us now, sit in the Magic Café in Fulham, we wondered what are the traits of a wise and spiritual person?

What qualities would an individual display, if he/she were wise and spiritual?

As I posed that question to several friends around the café table, we spoke of a number of qualities that most, dare I say, all spiritual people exude, and that we admired.

I’m old enough to know that these qualities know no bounds, and occur in people who are Celtic, Christian, Druid, Hindu, Muslim, Pagans, Sikh, Atheists and others, including those from other nations, and other tribes etc.

And, it’s for that reason that I do my best to surround myself with a myriad of spiritual people, from various tribes. And, somewhat tongue in cheek, I always say that in surrounding myself with such people their wisdom and spirituality exudes from them into my being, like a spiritual ‘osmosis’.

Who is to say otherwise?

It is clear, I think, that we have all sensed when someone deep and spiritual person has been in the room and we’ve ‘felt’ their presence, haven’t we? So who is to say that that kind of ‘osmosis’ isn’t true.

So what would we look for in a wise person, whether such people are Celtic, Christian, Druid, Hindu, Muslim, Pagans, Sikh, Atheists and others, or from other nations or other tribes?

Here’s a short list of traits that I and those around the café table believe that we would see in the wise and spiritual person (and which may be an encouragement for each of us to ‘work’ towards):

A lightness of spirit: There are some who seem to flaunt their spirituality with grandiose claims and words ‘ripped’ from the pages of academia. There may be a case where such seriousness is needed, but not in the Magic Café where I’m now mixing with friends and talking about spiritual matters. Now, there is need for a light touch. A wise person would, I think, maintain perspective and balance, that allows them to navigate the mundane and ‘magical’, and appreciate all as one. They have a confidence of inherent status (that we all possess, and which, sadly, some forget) that allows them not to try to spend energy impress, but to build up the other person.

‘So at the end of this day, we give thanks for being betrothed to the Unknown.’ John O’Donohue

A sense of humour: Just because something is important, it doesn’t have to be mind-bogglingly boring. Weighty matters can sometimes be communicated with humour or in story form, in a childlike manner with awe and the fervour of a ‘beginners mind’ (but this is not to be confused with a childish manner. There is a difference). Humour can lovingly ‘disarm’ our barriers and allow the truth to penetrate deeper, and before we know where we are, we find ourselves saying ‘aha’, declaring that ‘eureka moment’ of understanding. Jesus was a great storyteller.

‘An adaptive mind has better learning capability.’ Pearl Zhu

A degree of flexibility: Society changes, even our words change their meaning, and the spiritual person is one who is flexible, changing, and developing their practices as appropriate. Ofcourse, this will mean that you may, read will be, different to others, but that is half the ‘fun’ of being a unique human. Oh, and you will make mistakes along the way, but don’t beat yourself up. It’s how we learn!

‘Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance…’. Proverbs 1:5, The Book

An accessible manner: There are some, and it may have to do with ego, who claim secret knowledge and want to keep it that way, and want to maintain a distance between themselves and others. But, it seems to me that the wise and spiritual person doesn’t play the ‘secrets game’. Ofcourse, professional workings with clients and others needs to be confidential, and it may be that our outworking of our ritual practices are best conducted in groups that appreciate them, but I do believe there should be an openness in all things as far as possible, so far as is appropriate.

The secret knowledge, in one sense, is still secret but only because many don’t pursue it or open their minds to it, rather than because we want to keep it to ourselves so that we remain special. You are special anyway!

Let’s stop ‘tolerating’ or ‘accepting’ difference, as if we’re so much better for not being different in the first place. Instead, let’s celebrate difference, because in this world it takes a lot of guts to be different.’ Kate Bornstein

A reverence for nature: Perhaps at no other time in history, with out burgeoning populations and machinery that is ultra-efficient, is there such a  great and urgent need to display and work towards a (greater) reverence for nature (of which we are part). Everything contains the ‘fingerprints’ of the Divine, and so there is an encouragement for each of us to be wise stewards in, and of, the world that we inhabit. It is one of the reasons I love the Druidic attention and appreciation of nature, and that its ritual are (usually) conducted in forest groves etc.

‘We are living on the planet as if we have another one to go to.’ Terri Swearingen

An honesty and integrity: Most people have a pleasant instinct always to work with others, and yes, we all occasionally disappoint. Intentionality is all-important here, and the ability to undertake periodic reality checks, is essential, I think. No one expects perfection – you’re human after all, and being human is good. But, in our dealings with others (and perhaps politicians should note, also), honesty and integrity is important. Perhaps, a good maxim is: our word is our bond.

A person that looks normal: Okay, there may be occasions when, for ritual purposes, there is a specific form of attire to wear, but that cloak, the staff, the cassock and chasuble may be inappropriate on the number 211 bus in Dawes Road, Fulham in London.

But, when it is appropriate then adorn yourself with all manner of appropriate attire. In many cases it helps us and others to know that something different, deep and wonder is about to happen, that we’re stepping out of ‘mechanical time’ into sacred time. Although, thinking about it, a long flowing cloak and a Merlin-like staff would certainly get me a seat in a crowded number 211 bus in London!

A desire for knowledge: We never stop learning. The learning can have, and may still be, academic in nature, or it can be an informal and intuitive learning about nature. It is said that an ‘apprenticeship’ for a Druid of old lasted twenty-years, but even then, I do believe a Druid then would say, learning goes on. We never stop learning.

‘A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease.’ John Muir

A person who ‘connects’: I do believe that, often, the wise and spiritual person is, or is somewhere near, the centre of the community or connected to society in many ways. And, they are ware of being connected to Life in its fullness, being aware of the interconnected web of life and nature, of being aware of the mundane world and the spiritual, the outer and the inner, the sacred and secular, of prayer and action, the imaginal and external, and to know that there is no real difference between these.

And then…the conversation in the Magic Café changed, and as we supped our lattes, Americano, Espresso, Flat white and Macchiato coffees, occasionally peering out of the window and watching the world go by, we laughed, talked about myriad other things, and lived life, heartily and in good company. Ah, table talk! I love it.

But, what do you think? And, if you’re in/near London why not join us in the café next time?