Magic Café Revelations: All Life-Stories Matter

20171121 MAGIC CAFE REVELATIONS ALL STORIES MATTER

I am sitting in a café in London, and it’s magic. I know this to be the case, as over the door it says in big bright lettering, ‘The Magic Café’, and it’s one of my favourite places to relax. As a regular I’ve got to know the other regulars that frequent this awesome place.

I’ve probably mentioned it in the past: there is the yachtsman, the Portugese lady, the journal lady, the nanny, and the taxi drivers. As I sit here today, I wondered if they had a name for me, or if the journal lady had written about me as she writes copiously at her table, right now, supping coffee and chewing on a croissant?

Each one of us has a story to tell.

I was once at a meeting where a speaker, originally from London and had spent a number of years in a remote corner of Africa, only to return and recount his story. After fifteen minutes or so he said that each one of us has a story to tell, and suggested that one by one – there were twelve us in this group – we might tell something of our story. It hadn’t got far, infact only two people had shared their story, when the third person said something like, ‘But you’re story is so much more important, so full of awesome events, that we would like to hear more’, to the speaker. And so the story-sharing came to an abrupt end. Disappointed.

‘A bruised reed He will not break.; Isaiah 42.3 The Book

As I sit in the Magic Café, now, I imagine what each of the regulars’ story might consists of. I can imagine, and do. I wonder in what way their lives are similar to mine, and their will be similarities. In what ways different, and there will be great differences. I wonder in what ways your life story and mine co-incide. It does! At the very least it co-incides as I write these words and you are reading them. Interaction. And, there’s more. In a spiritual realm my thoughts ‘flew’ as I write these word, and your thoughts ‘fly’ as you interpret them. Mingling.

We participate in each others story because of that interaction via the internet, via physically meeting or emailing or commenting, or even thinking about each other; and participate in each others story on a cosmic level which, right now might be more than we can conceive, but one day we will understand fully. Imagine that.

‘If I’m gonna tell a real story, I’m gonna start with my name’. Kendrick Lamar

But for now, I use imagination to understand the depth of our connectedness. And would suggest the same to you. Imagination is a spiritual gift even though we play it down, or use it just as a figure of speech. And, imagination, right now, fuels my desire, our desire to get to know each other (more). The more I think about, say, the journal lady in this café, sitting just a few feet away from me, the more inquisitive I am about her (in a wholesome way), and imagination does change things.

‘…we are talking about spiritual transformation, mediated by the imagination.’ Sandra M Levy

Using my imagination piqued my interest, and that in turn brought about a desire to know that person as a friend, and that in turn lead me to talking to her, and interacting on a verbal level (and more). Ah, she’s a retired doctor, and yes, she loves to journal. I know part of her story now, and she knows part of mine.

Each one of us has an awesome story to share, and unlike the third person in that group, mentioned above, your story is as great as anyone elses. And our stories connect us.

‘Your story is different from mine because of different experiences. Even so, somehow or other we fit them into a Big Picture, we develop a sense of how our own stories fit into a larger one…’ Sandra M Levy

Our individual stories connect us to each other because our stories form part of the chapters of the ‘big picture’ of the cosmos or the big Book, and in such a Book there are no incosequential stories, no inconsquential people. Your life story counts, and it’s writ large upon the universe. All life-stories matter. Share your story. It’s a good one.

But, there’s more…

 

 

A Walk In The Woods: Light That Yet To Us Is Dark

20171113 A WALK IN THE WOODS LIGHT THAT YET TO US IS DARK

A continuing reflection on that nocturnal walk in the woods, near Capel Curig in Wales: Last time (see here for that journal entry) I had ambled through the woods to two arched trees that seemed to form a doorway.

As children, I and my friends had called these two trees Drws i fyd arall (pronounced ‘droo zi fid arrah’) which means ‘door to another world. Such was the imagination of us as children, and an indication of the games we used to play. Even as an adult, I still call these two wonderful trees Drws i fyd arall, for that is what they are to me and to those who can see with a childlike spirit.

And so, I’m sitting on a felled log looking at these two remarkable trees. And, I wait. It’s now well after 1 am. I can hardly see. It’s dark. Against my hands and face, the temperature is, oh so cold. I’m alone, except for unknown, nearby animals scurrying around in the undergrowth. Otherwise alone. Or am I?

I’m in awe in this sacred place, at this sacred time. It is liminal. It is, to me, a ‘thin place’. And, I wait. And wait, some more.

An encounter?

Random thoughts vie for superiority. And in seeking to still them, or at least not give them prominence, I wait for an encounter. But, how to recognise an encounter?

There is an ancient story about a man on the run. Hiding, and in fear of his life he seeks an encounter with That Which Is Bigger Than Us, bigger than him. In his rational mind he assumes that the Source of All would come as a mighty wind, a huricane. A storm rages and rocks are shattered into pieces, but it is only a violent storm.

Then a most dreadful earthquake struck and the ground shook, but the Source of All was not encountered in that massive earthquake. And then, a huge fire arose. Whether it was a volcano spewing forth magma or fire from a cleft in between rocks on the ground that opened up, is lost in antiquity. But we do now that the Source of All was not encountered in that great and ferocious fire. The story then goes on to record that the seeker hid in a cave. And it was there that That Which Is Bigger Than Us, bigger than him was encounter. There in that cave, with the fugitive, was the Source of All manifest as an almost silent voice. Ofcourse, that was how this person encountered on that occasion, but isn’t the Source of All present in all things.

The Source: Manifest to us in somethings; present in all things. And that ancient story concludes, neatly, with an encounter of hope, but of one that defied that man’s expectations. Perception is important.

And so I sit in the dark of the night and wait. And it seems that nothing happens.

We travellers, walking to the sun,
can’t see ahead, but looking back the very light
that blinded us shows us the way we came.
Along which blessings now appear, risen
as if from sightlessness to sight, and we,
by blessing brightly lit, keep going toward
that blessed light that yet to us is dark.

(Wendell Berry)

And as I sit here on this felled log, I think long and hard: We come with our preconceived ideas of what an encounter with the Source of All should be like. And yet, isn’t there part of us that knows the Source of All is beyond our reasoning, and all we can do is but catch a glimpse. Not a thundrous word from the Source of All, but a still small voice that suffices. And it happens at times. We know, deep down inside of us, that we cannot force an encounter, but can only put ourselves in the ‘flow’, and know that the Source of All is the one who initiates it. And the Source does initiate. Our intentionality, though, is all important here.

And, how would we recognise an encounter? In one sense that seems to be the most important of questions, and yet it isn’t. If That Which If Is Bigger Than Us determines an encounter is good for us, then the Source of All will ensure that it is comprehensible to us. Not too much to overwhelm us. Not too little so that we will miss it. But enough, to satisfy. And so I wait.

‘…in the light of the ordinary day, we come
to the space between ourselves,
the narrow doorway, and pass through
into the land of the wholly loved’.

(Wendell Berry)

And, after what seems to be an hour, I look at my wristwatch and almost three hours has passed by. [And indication of an encounter, even if not felt or remembered.] In doing so I am ‘pulled’ back into mechanical time – time measured in hours and minutes at the spin of a wheel or the oscilation of a crystal – and I leave sacred time-space, that otherworly experiece that is fleeting and seeemingly fragile.

And I walk back home. Slowly, with the flashlight dancing on the trees and shrubbery, I pick my way back to the path, and the thought comes to me. I’ve encountered. And so have you. When lovers meet there is a time when words mean nothing, when words just get in the way, and their presence, being in each others company, is everything.

Tonight, and perhaps (now) as you read this, we can understand and know that we can encounter wherever we are, if we go beyond rationality as we understand it. This is not to say we should be irrational, but perhaps arational. The latter being outside and above rarionality. How else can we encounter the Divine? Anything else limits us.

So here’s my question to you: Bearing in mind our set or usual patterns of prayers or rituals, or habits, are we too rigid, too limiting in our expectations? How open are we to encounter That Which Is Bigger Than Us (or the Source, or which ever ‘name’ you’re confortable with), not on our terrms, but on the Source’s terms?

‘It’s we who breathe, in, out, in, the sacred’.
(Denise Levertov)

 

The Wind Blows Where It Wishes: Priorities On Iona

20171107 THE WIND BLOWS WHERE IT WISHES PRIORITIES ON IONA

I was recently fortunate enough to spend some time on the Isle of Iona. Here’s one reflection as I look back: I’m on the beach, near the water’s edge, and I’m looking out to sea. Grey clouds hang in the sky, and there’s a gale blowing in. There’s no one about, no one except a few squeaking seagulls flying high above me. And, it’s wonderful.

The sun is hidden by thick clouds so much so, that it is impossible to locate its position. The sea air is salt-filled and damp. The air is cold, crisp, and fresh. Mighty waves  crash loudly against nearby rocks with ferocious and unbridled power. It is nature wild and rugged, and it’s beautiful.

I’m alone. I’m standing on the Machair, (pronounced ‘makker’), the ‘raised beach’ on the westward side of the Isle of Iona – which is part of Scotland’s remote islands of the Inner Hebrides.

Yesterday when I was here my thoughts were calm, my mind quiet. Not so today. Thoughts come and go as I ponder on priorities. Any yet, it seems right to let the thoughts come and go, to let them surface and not to stifle them.

‘We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.’ William James

There are two thousand acres of island behind me, and a population of less than one hundred and fifty souls. In front of me there is nothing but sea. Just open water, wind-swept turbulent ocean. There is nothing for two thousand miles – I expected it to be more – until one encounters Nain, a town on the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada, which has a population about 1400 people. Each with different priorities to the small community here, and both Nain and Iona with different priorities to those who live in cities, and different priorities to me and you. Connected, but seprate, and each of our priorities all equally important.

Priorities?

That’s the main thought that runs endlessly around in my mind, as I stand on this isolated beach. What really is important? What actually lasts?

Right now, some of my friends in response to those questions, I think, would say action is important. I do believe, sometimes, that that is so. Others would say prayer or ritual is important, and I do believe there are occasions when that is right. Others would tell me that right doctrine is all important, and that less than that displeases God. Doctrine and what we believe may be important, at times, but right here, right now all of the aforementioned seems relevant to me. Right now the wind blows where it wishes, and another voice, underneath the murmur of the wind, whispers to my spirit albeit with  great clarity.

‘The end of all my labours has come. All that I have written appears to be as much as straw after the things that have been revealed to me.’ Thomas Aquinas

It is a disconcerting fact to know that what I think is important, may not actually be important. That what I think pleases God, elementals or Spirit maybe not actually please God, the elementals or Spirit, and that others may be closer to the Source than me or you. To my embarrassment, in the past, I have put myself in a position of believing I knew the truth as though it was all-important, only to realise that I knew very little. None of us do, in cosmic terms, know that much. And the comforting thing is: we’re not expected to. Knowledge will take us so far; wisdom will take us much further. Bu, there’s more.

The idea that at the end of time we all face an intelligence test, a right doctrine test or some other rest, to ensure that we’ve been on the right track is an error. What then is our priority for now?

What should our priority be? However we interpret it, however we work it out in our daily life, at home, at school, at work etc, whatever we do, there is an underlying priority and ‘force’ that seeks primacy. Yes, we can still work hard, pray, write and recite liturgy and doctrine etc, but what is our priority on the cosmic scale? There’s more!

It’s love!

Whatever we do love should surely be its foundation. Anything less than that, just makes us a hardworker, a liturgist, a ceremonialist, and probably condemnatory others, as though we have the monopoly on what is right and wrong. The wind blows where it wishes, and it is for me to understand that. I am not the door-keeper admitting others that conform to my doctrine; rather the Source, the Wind, Spirit is the one who ‘admits’, and the Source is inclusive and welcoming to all. The Wind blows where it wishes. I do believe the Wind is blowing in your life.

‘The power of Love, a force from above, cleaning my soul…’. Gabrielle Aplin

What is my priority? To keep up with the Wind, or rather the One who rides on the back of the wind. And not to keep up as if to exert myself in some frantic way, but rather to hold out my arms, as I stand on this windswept beach, as though my arms were mighty sails on a boat, and to revel in the knowledge that wherever the Wind blows is where I want to be. Isn’t that the same for you? And the depth of care for each one of us behind the Wind is love. Love.

The wind has picked up on this beach, and the storm comes ever closer.  I might like to think I am in control, but the weather doesn’t obey me, and the Source is not at my behest, either. It is easy to fall into thinking that. The Wind blows where it wishes. And, so far as is practicable (as we all have commitments to honour) what a joy to be known as Windswept – to allow ourselves to be blown about by the Wind, the Spirit and to enjoy the journey, to know Love and extend love to others. How we work that out is for each one of us to work on, as it will be different depending on events that present themselves to us – but when opportunity to be open to the Spirit occurs, to experience Love and to pass love on, we will know.

Suddenly my priorities don’t seem that important. Another voice can be heard under the murmur of the wind, and it calls to me, it calls to you, wherever you are. I am on a windswept beach on Iona, but there is no distance between each one of us – we’re all connected – and no distance of separation for the Wind, for the wind blows where it wishes.

‘The greatest happiness in life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather loved in spite of ourselves.’  Victor Hugo

 

 

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?

‘Thin Places’ In The City: Poem

20170929 THIN PLACES IN THE CITY POEM

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’.

It is 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.

 

You, The Hero: The Call To A Celtic Adventure

20170928 YOU THE HERO THE CALL TO A CELTIC ADVENTUREYou are the hero of your story. There is no one quite like you, and no one has a story of adventure like yours. Latter-day Celts were a brave and adventurous people – you only need follow the adventure of one of my favourites, Brendan the Navigator, to appreciate that. And, that spiritual ‘DNA’ runs in your veins. You are the hero of your story.

‘A true spiritual journey is beyond time and space, history and culture, guidelines and descriptions.’ John Daido Loori, Riding The Ox Home

There is a story told from ancient times of a man who was ‘called’, at seventy-five years of age, to leave his family and to become a ‘hero’ by being adventurous and travelling some distance to forge a great nation. In the movies this ‘calling’ is perceived as the voice of the Source of All, God, and the hero in question hears this loud, booming, commanding voice, and of he sets.

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”

Sung by Celtic Woman. Writer: Brendan Graham

There’s no reason to suppose that the Source’s voice, when ‘calling’ that man was so loud and booming, and it’s only an assumption that he set off immediately. But, it makes great tv and movie scripts. Like most people’s understanding of being ‘called’, I have a feeling that this ‘calling’ might have been a gentler affair, a whisper, and over a protracted period of time. But, it was, for him, an unmistakeable ‘calling’.

And so, one by one I mentioned to some friends of my planned adventure to Iona.

It might be that you are ‘called’ to do something else. It could be that you ‘come alive’ when you do a particular thing or plan to do it, or think of a certain place, or a journey toward growth or maturation or enlightenment/transformation, and that may be a ‘calling’ for you. Or, it could be a nagging feeling of ennui to do something and not accept the status quo. It might even be an ‘inner whisper’, and, having discounted it earlier, it might, yes, it might even be a loud ‘inner voice’ or shout!

I made a mental note to myself: #1 ‘Callings’ to something different and adventurous come in a myriad of ways – there is no standard format.

‘Iona? Oh, that’s a Greek island, isn’t it?’, one of my friends said. ‘You’ll get some nice weather there, then’, another said. I then put them right by informing them that it is as a small island off the west coast of Scotland. Another then another friend exclaimed, ‘….but it’ll be October, and cold’.

No matter who much I tried to convince these friends – others were understanding – I couldn’t convince them that this was the right thing for me to do.

I made a another mental note: #2 Be careful who you tell. It’s your ‘calling’ and not there’s. Those that understand will give you lots of encouragement and praise. Those who don’t understand may actually try to convince you that the idea is as ‘soppy as a box of frogs’. Remember, you don’t need to convince them. It’s you calling. You are the hero of your story. Choose wisely which friends you inform.

Do you feel like a hero, feel like you’re called?

‘…it is summed up in an often mutilated text…: ‘I am calling all of you, but so few of you allow yourselves to be chosen”, Matthew 12:14, The Book

When the ‘calling’ is first ‘heard’ it is felt within the confines of daily life, in surroundings that are familiar and ‘cosy’, and with friends around (and some of them may not understand). And, all this may be too much to ‘leave behind’.

The Abbot of the Zen Mountain Monastery tells an old tale [and no pun intended] of the ‘riding the ox home’ tale. The story centres around ten oriental prints, and the first print is of someone looking for the ox. They cant see the ox, have no idea of what lays ahead, only that they have an inkling that something is not quite right, and have a ‘glimpse’ of becoming aware of the possibility of a spiritual search and adventure.

Vigorously cutting a path through the brambles, you look for the ox;
rivers wide, mountains far, the path gets longer.
Running out of strength, mind exhausted, you cannot find it.
Rustling of maple leaves
singing of evening cicadas.

John Daido Loori, Riding The Ox Home

I made yet another mental note to myself: #3 At the beginning, events and ‘things’ may crowd in, and the ‘calling to adventure’ could be drowned out by the ‘mundane’, by already-made committments, by being too busy, or continually ‘kicking it into the long grass’, or wandering aimlessly listening to the cicadas, or even by well-meaning friends giving me brochures of wonderful holidays on some Greek islands.

I’m too old to worry about what people think, and close friends are happy for me to take off to Iona for a pilgrimage in response to a call to adventure. And so, plans are coming together, and it won’t be long for me, now.

‘Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.’ Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

You are the hero of your story. There is no one quite like you, and no one has a story of adventure like yours. Live that latter-day Celtic adventure now.

 

Calas: A Brief Outline: Third Element

20170927 A BRIEF OUTLINE ABOUT CALASDepending on how you look at it, there are three, four or five Celtic/Druidic elements. Sometimes it’s best not to try to logically systematise them into one all-encompassing ‘theology’, but rather view the number of elements as being three, four or five depending on circumstances, our need and view at the time.

In classical thought, the four elements earth, water, air, and fire were proposed by Empedocles

Ofcourse, if you’re taking school or college exams you may not get rewarded for talking about the elements in such the way those ancient Celts and Druids did, but it is good to allow this classic and ancient view to run parallel with modern thought.

‘The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.’ Gloria Steinem

After all, when I was at shool we were told that there were only five bodily senses, and yet I read recently that there are, infact, twenty-one senses, including the sense of time, proprioception (the ability to tell where your body parts are, relative to other body parts) and equilibrioception (the ability to keep your balance and sense body movement in terms of acceleration and directional changes) etc.

Some time ago we looked at nwyfre (pronounced noo-iv-ruh) an old Welsh word for ‘sky’ relates to life and consciousness.(See here)

Nwyre could be seen as represented by air.

‘You already are in the eternal flow…’ Richard Rohr

Then, recently we looked at gwyar (pronounced goo-yar) meaning ‘blood’, which relates to movement, flow, change, transformation. (See here)

Gywar could be represented by water.

‘We both step and do not step in the same rivers. We are and are not’. Heraclitus

Then the middle, and so far, missing ‘element’ in this list is calas.

Calas (pronounced cah-luss) comes from an old Welsh word, ‘caled’, and it means ‘hard’ or ‘solidity’, and refers to the physicality of a substance. Calas could be represented by earth.

‘Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. Khalil Gibran.

To the ancients calas, though they will have called it by another name, solidity (rocks) or earth (soil) played an important part in ritual.

There is a great story in ancient text of a man called Nehemiah who, converting from his old religion and going back home, takes a huge amount of soil with him so that he can be reminded of his new-found faith and worship the One on ‘sanctified’ soil. He believed calas, solidity, was important.

There is another ancient story of Jacob who slept on a rock, using it as a pillow (and I’m assuming it was just at the right height so his head didn’t ‘drop’ as he slumbered, rather than being soft). But, the next morning he awoke after having a revealing dream, and immediately set about using that rock as a large stone on which to place others and form a pillar to mark the occasion. Yes, to the ancients earth and rocks, megaliths, stone circles, dolmens and barrows were important markers, to mark important times and events.

Ofcourse, in these modern times, many don’t accept the importance of calas, solidity, of hallowed earth and special rocks. or do they?

Underneath the Speakers’ chair in the House of Commons in London, is the Stone of Scone (sometimes called the Stone of Destiny) which some believe to be the very stone that Jacob used as a pillow.

For many years it was housed in Scotland, until AD1296 when it was ‘captured’ as spoils of war and relocated to England, where it remained. A rectangular, old stone, and yet prized by both the English and the Scots, and used in the coronation of British monarchs.

A very special stone, indeed. In 1951 the stone was stolen by four Scottish students, and found some four months later, but was what was found the real stone or a copy? Theories abounded that what was returned to the Speakers’ chair was a mere copy, and the original stone remained in Scotland, thus fooling the English.

However in 1996 the stone under the Speakers’ chair was finally returned, by Parliament, to Scotland. So, did the Scots get a copy that was under the Speakers’ chair (if indeed it was a copy of the original made by those students) or did they get the original? And the one now in the House of Commons, is that a copy or was it the one that was stolen, and therefore the original. Has a double bluff taken place? It’s like that old tv program called ‘Soap’, where by way of introduction the narrator lists all the tangled and complex relationships of the characters in the soap, and then asks the viewer, ‘Confused? You will be!’

Sometimes it’s better not to know, and sometimes it’s impossible to know, but rather to believe. But, it does show that, even today, though they may use other words, or might not even use the word at all, calas (solidity), whether some admit it on not, is still very important.

With these three elements –  nwyfre, gwyar and calas – we can ‘understand’ the physical nature of an object, it’s inner qualities, and the movement or flux between them. Without being controversial – you know me – it might be worth considering the idea of the Roman Catholic idea of transubstantiation. Even if one doesn’t accept the idea, it is clear to those that do and others, that there is a physicality or outward appearence to the bread, and inner quality, and an intangible movement from one to the other. All three elements interacting! Just a thought to think about (and without any stress).

With the three elements (and maybe one or two others to consider in the future) we can describe that which is around us, but we make a mistake if we think these elements are impersonal. They are alive, and are mutiple ’eminations’ of the one Source.

Could it be that we ‘swim’ through God?

Gwyar: Up Close & Personal: From Tadhg’s Journal

20170925 GWYAR UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

It is a glorious day, all the more remarkable that it is the last Sunday in September and the weather is warm, still and dry, as I walk through this wonderful park, Bishop’s Park, which hugs the River Thames, here in London.

Sitting now on a park bench, and peering between the tree branches I can just make out some huge, white, high, fluffy clouds – cumulus clouds -driven on their way by some unseen stream-like force. Ofcourse, to the meteorologist that would be wind at about 5000ft. You and I know that behind that force is Gwyar – the flow, the energy of the Source.

Gwyar, a Welsh word is pronounced ‘goo-yar’.

The trees here are a mixture of recent plants and ones that must be a hundred years old, gnarled, noble, arching at peculiar angles, but all are subject to Gwyar. Gwyar flows through them, and the inherent cycles of nature of growth, maturation, shedding and resting are evidence of this. There are some wonderful trees here.

Gwyar is flow, movement, like streams of invisible water.

And then, my perception changes as a child rides a tricycle past me on the path. Giggling as he or she goes by, with a parent frantically running behind, the child is having fun, and is oblivious to anything else. The tricycle’s movement – ah yes, movement – his or her glee and the parent’s concern are all pointers to the presence of Gwyar – energetic flow.

Gwyar is an energy, but don’t think ‘impersonal’.

‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” John 7.38b, The Book

And then, as I perceive all these things, the clouds, the trees and their seasonal cycles, the child racing by on his or her tricycle, a parent’s concern and a thousand and one other things all form this park bench, I’m struck that I can grasp these things, and so can you by reading this page – and isn’t that amazing? That we are aware and can objectively look at things, and a few (that would still include you) are aware that we are simultaneously embraced by such things – that Gwyar moves through us, too! That the universe is made conscious because of us, and can look back at itself, is truly amazing. Gwyar.

‘Love is the water of life, jump into this water.’ Rumi

And now the child is coming past me again, walking, and from the opposite direction. The parent is holding his or her hand, and looking stern, and dragging the tricycle with the other hand. I’m guessing that the game the child thought he or she was playing wasn’t appreciated by the parent, and some anger was being displayed.

If it’s a negative emotion and some anger can be that, does that mean Gwyar has stopped flowing in that person? Perhaps, Gywar always flows but that person has chosen to ignore its promptings, stopped dancing in it’s life-giving flow and lost out to its benefits? Or, perhaps they’re oblivious to Gwyar and so are unaware that they’re operating, now, outside of its beneficial effects. Another way of looking at it is, the laminar flow, the kind of flow that you see in a gentle stream where the water is unimpeded, is interrupted, as if by a large rock. And then the flow becomes turbulent. Either way, the flow isn’t as it was before, and something is lost.

‘…but in this laminar flow, different sheets of time [are] moving at different rates…many different times coexist, flowing at different speeds, enshrining different worlds.’ Adam Nicolson, Sea Room

Ofcourse, in this case, with the child and his or her safety at stake, anger may be a legitimate response, and so Gwyar would still flow, beneficially. Indeed that parent’s concern may be as a result of Gwyar, itself.

Sometimes, Gwyar is not easy to recognise, but it is ubiquitous.

Yes, Gwyar is the ‘personal’ force that connects everything. Every person. Every tree. Every part of nature. The cosmos. The past and present and future. Events. That which is visible and invisible. All connected. Everything. There is no division to this Source-given, personal and loving, all-embracing flow. That’s Gwyar.

‘You are dreaming your thirst when the water you want is inside the big vein on your neck.’ Rumi

Don’t be anxious about accidentally stepping outside of its flow. Any concern you have might just be Gywar working away deep inside of you. And don’t be upset that you might not have regarded Gwyar before, or haven’t for a long time. Gwyer, isn’t an impersonal force, Gywar is love, and love forgives and forgets.

Gwyar is the Source.

Whatever we do, it’s Gwyar that enables us to do it. Ofcourse, I think at this point I would say to myself to do good things. If we make mistakes, errors or accidentally stray, Gywar understands, and maybe even expects that to happen. Those errors, in some strange way, can work out for the good.

‘Sip a cup of coffee..and all the fir trees grow warm’. Brian Swimme, The Universe Is A Green Dragon: A Cosmic Creation Story

And so it’s time to take a slow stroll home. Ofcourse I’ll be passing my favourite cafe on the way home, and so will stop there to pick up a take-away latte. The good plans we have, all that we hold dear, the wonders in store for us tomorrow, are all a sign of grace and love extended to us as it moves through us, or is it that we ‘swim’ through it. [And apologies for using ‘it’, but language dictates that personality must be he or she, and Gwyar is beyond gender. Not solely a ‘he’, not solely a ‘she’, and certainly not an ‘it’, but that’s all our only-takes-us-so-far language provides].

And, so I’m in the café, with my take-away coffee and as I head for the door the thought strikes me: right now as I’m in the café, and right now as you read this article, a steam of Gwyar is running from me to you. Oh yes, the timescale may be all wrong from our point of view, and we could be ‘days apart’ and miles apart, and yet I don’t think such restrictions apply to Gwyar. (And that’s an interesting concept when one thinks about the ancestors!) We are connected you and I via this personal, moving, loving force, and ‘upon its back’ I send you a personal blessing to you and those whom you love. That’s Gwyar in action, too.

‘I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.’ John O’Donohue

 

Gwyar: Ebb & Flow: A Closer Look

20170922 GWYAR AN EVEN CLOSER LOOKWarning: This article, just for today, contains theology.

There have been some fascinating programs on tv recently about the origin of the universe. Some programs looked at the smallest particles of matter than we know, so far: the quantum level. Other tv programs looked at the universe as a whole, and one has to marvel when informed that the observable universe is thought to be fifteen billions years old and contain eighteen million million million galaxies similar to our own.

The ancients, without contradiction to modern science, looked at it from another viewpoint – different, perhaps non-scientifically, but no less true.

To some of the ancients there was school of thought which stated that in the Universe the controlling power comprises of Three, and these Three operate as Three-in-One. Separate but a Unity, too! Paradox. And, between these Three energy flows. This flowing energy the ancients called perichoresis – the dance. They saw this ebb and flow of energy as a wonderful dance. It has always been this way. And, that ‘dance’ permeates the universe. It was their way of looking at the universe and trying to make sense of it.

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

Others may have viewed it differently and used other terminology. Each of them, and us (as we all come from different backgrounds may have differing views, but, hopefully, in sharing these we each come to a better understanding). I say that because what follows today, may be rather theological, and different to usual posts, but please read on and give me your views.

I’d suggest there is some value in it, whatever our wonderful theological backgrounds are, and whatever different words we use. There is a sense that, if we travel back far enough, we will arrive at what some would call a unified ‘perennial theology’ – back where it all started.

This divine dance, then, this flow, to the ancient Welsh Celts and Druids, and latter-day ones too, is known as Gwyar. Pronounced as ‘goo-yar’, it means water and generally in Druidic groups it is the flow of the liquid that the word describes, not the water itself. We looked in brief at Gwyar previously (see here), and how it flows through is and all around us, that it is ubiquitous, and is responsible for change, growth connectedness, communication. Today we delve a little deeper.

‘The energy in the universe is not in the planets, or in the protons or in neutrons, but in the relationship between them…In other words, it is an entirely relational universe.’ Richard Rohr.

As you take the bus to work, this energy is flowing through you, in and out, and in again. Walking down the street and pausing at a café, and when sitting outside to sip a latte, unbeknownst to you this energy may be flowing over the top of a neighbouring building, cascading down like a waterfall and you’re caught in an energetic, invisible, non-tangible spray. In the factory, in the schools, in a myriad of homes, in everyone, it is inclusive, never exclusive. That is Gwyar. And, as you gaze up at the stars at night, in the farthest reaches of space, Gwyar flows. Never static, always active, it flows where it pleases.

‘The foundational good news is that creation and humanity have been drawn into this flow! We are not outsider sor spectators but inherently part of the divine dance.’ Richard Rohr.

However, the more we try to ‘contain’ Gwyar and understand it using twenty-first century thought the more problematic our ‘theology’ becomes. In using the metaphor of flowing water, which is good in taking us so far, we still miss something. This movement, this flow, this energy, this Gwyar, is not impersonal. It is personal. It is alive. It is Life itself.

The more we try to compartmentalise  it and make it exclusive to us (or our group), and the more we try to ‘localise’ it – I have this flow but you don’t, then the less of Gwyar we benefit from. Oh, it always flows, but in such circumstances we may not be aware of it (so much), nor benefit from it (so much), and so miss out. We have a choice to put ourselves in the way of the flow, or not.

I was in London for the whole of August, and more than ever London’s weather was changeable. Some days were cloudy, sometimes it rained, and on a few days the sky was totally blue, the sun shone and it was ‘scorching’ with temperatures hitting 32c/90f. I have to confess that, in London at that time of the year, it is too hot for me. As the sun shone down on me as I walked along the city street – far too hot for me – I chose to cross the busy road and walked on the shaded side of the street.

‘It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.’

J K Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

We have a choice to ‘walk’ within the flow or to ‘work’ against it. Times when we deal with a diffcult challenge calmly and fairly, when we relax and just laugh, times when we’re working hard at our job and achieving something, playing sport, seeing a baby giggle, witnessing a flock of birds swirling around in the sky, trees blowing in the wind, someone assisting someone across the road, being hospitable, feeling ‘cocooned’ in love or expressing our love for others,  and more, all these are the flow flowing through us, all these are hints of Gwyber, and we can be aware of it.

‘The Great Flow [this divine dance] makes use of everything, absolutely everything. Even your mistakes will be used in your favour, if you allow them.’ Richard Rohr

Now here’s a thought. And, here it gets theological. Many of us may have been taught about sin – even if you’re not part of a group that uses that word, you may be familiar with the notion. To many, sin is an action (or inaction) that upsets God (the Universe or whatever word you wish to use), and there are some who then believe that God delights in punishing sinners. And, yet the same people will also admit that we’re all sinners. Now, here’s the main thought. Suppose God (maybe, That Which Is Bigger Than Us) is upset at sin and not you and I, and has a distaste for sin because of its negative effect on us. And suppose sin is whatever we do that interrupts the flow, and it’s standing within the flow that God (or The Source of All) wants us to be? Suppose sin is stepping outside of the flow?

My son had just started to walk, and so this is a memory of some time ago. Oh, one he found his balancing skills, leg-motor skills he was off. It quickly becomes apparent to me as a new parent that other skills take some time to develop. On one occassion, before I could catch him, my son darted off, looked back at me chasing him and giggled. To him it was a game. To me, it was a case of catching my ‘runaway’ son before he… And then he tripped over some uneven paving stones, fell and cried. I picked him up, soothed him, as any loving parent would do, and gave him words of comfort, such as, ‘There, there, its all better now. Daddy’s here. But please don’t run away, and why not stand over there!’

Perhaps, those ancient ‘Thou shalt not’s as restrictions, the idea of sin being an opportunity for God to punish us, perhaps when I point the finger and say to others ‘I’m right, but you’re not’, is perhaps a wrong perception of what is going on. Perhaps, God, being an even better Daddy than I can ever be, just wants us to stand next to Him (or Her, and that would make God our Mummy, but I’m okay with that), and just be there in the flow. Perhaps those are encouragements, not admonishments, to step back into the flow?

‘Sin is behovely [useful or necessary], but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well,’ The Lady Julian of Norwich

Ofcourse, you may not ‘see’ things like this. Nevertheless, it seems to work. But, putting that aside, as we look around at the world, at events, awesome people, marvellous human acheivements on a cultural level and a personal level – yes, what you do is important – as we look at the wonders of nature, don’t we witness this flow, the Gwybar? And, don’t we feel the urge to be ‘absored’ by it, to revel in it?

Who hasn’t laughed when a baby recognises your face and a split second smiles, or paused at a magnificent sunset, or given thanks (hopefully, not sarcastically) when finishing a task at work, or played a musical instrument or listed to one being played and got ‘lost’ in the moment? That’s Gwyar, and we can choose to revel and dance in the flow, or resist it.

Yes, Gwyar is the flow of Life itself, and Gwyar is inclusive, ubiquitous and invitational, and regardless of what faith group we belong to, what words we use, we have a choice to go deeper and revel in the flow, this movement, this energy, to participate if we so choose, and realise that Gwyar is the Universe itself and is Personal. If we rest, if we look around us with a ‘softened’ gaze, if we open ourselves to the prompting of this ubiquitous Gwyar then we might, and I think we will, just ‘feel’ it pulsing through us.

This universe is a banner
that keeps fluttering.
Your heart sees the banner;
your soul thinks it’s the air that makes it move.
But the one who knows
how helpless air is
recognizes that everything
is nothing but God.

Rumi

Deep Calls To Deep: Iona Pilgrimage 2017: The Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is a power here.

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

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

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

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

Expect the unexpected.

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

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

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

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

That evening, I considered the reason I was here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings, Tadhg.