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?



A Prayer At Llyn Gwynant: Poem: Revisited


When the bitter winds blow,
and the rain pours onto the soul of your life.
When you stumble and fall,
and when tears well up inside, but find no release.
When friends and family are afar,
and those night-hours of abject loneliness seem altogether too close.
When bones ache,
and the future uncertain seems.
Then, may the Divine’s pure radiance pierce your darkest times,
and a spectrum of light fill your heart of hearts,
and show you, as a beacon, the narrow, sure way.

When thoughts race, and won’t be still,
and lightning rages in your mind, disturbing you.
When things seem to go awry, or indeed, when things seem to go right
but there’s an air of disquiet in your inner being.
Then, may He come to you. (He comes in the storm.)

May the Father bless you with His Divine quietness and solitude. Total stillness.
May the Son shine into the totality of your unique self. Perfect brilliance.
May the Spirit, the Divine breath, whisper into your ear that you are a much loved child of God, the apple of His eye. Unconditional grace.

And may you, wherever you find yourself, experience the ‘thin place’ of God’s inestimable presence.

Celtic Thought: The Art of Travelling Light In The Twenty-First Century


If you’re anything like me, you generally find that you accumulate things fast, and say, the house or apartment can easily fill up with clutter of all shapes and sizes. Then a periodic-spring clean is needed.

And then, generally, before disposing of things I weigh up their value – not necessarily in monetary terms, but in emotional or spiritual values, what memories are attached to an item, what it means to me etc.

‘Something that is yours forever is never precious.’ Chaim Potok,

We can do this in the physical realm as we look around at physical clutter and surprise ourselves at what we have amassed; we can also do this in the spiritual realm, and see what is weighing us down or holding us back (and on occasions we’ll find that an item straddles both realms, as if there is a real division between them). But, for the sake of this article, I’ve (artificially) used that kind of dichotomy, and talk, separately about the physical and spiritual realm.

Physicality: Eckhart Tolle tells a great story of a women who had cancer and only had a few months to live. On top of all that, she had lost a most expensive diamond ring. I say lost, but she was adamant that her housekeeper had stolen it. It consumed her waking thoughts and ate into the little time she had left.

Eckhart Tolle asked her four simple questions, and these were:

Do you realise that you will soon, perhaps very soon, have to let go of it?

How much time do you need before yo will be willing to let go of it?

Will you become less when you let go of it?

Has ‘who you are’ been diminished by this loss?

As time passed and the woman’s conditioned worsened, she thought about Tolle’s four questions, and thought less about the suspected theft by the housekeeper, and eventually, graciously  ‘released’ that item from her mind. She immediately experienced more joy, as she realised that she wasn’t, infact, defined by her possessions!clutter-360058_960_720

But, what about us? What physical possessions are cluttering up our space, and holding us back? My encouragement to you and myself is to make a list, look at our environment, to de-clutter ourselves of unnecessary items, and travel light on our sojourn, our pilgrimage as we pass through here. What could you live without?

‘Out of clutter, find simplicity.’ Albert Einstein

Spirituality: But, Tolle’s pertinent and wise  questions can also be applied by us to matters of the spirit.

Over the years we may have picked up spiritual ways of working, liturgy, ritual, theology, that were good at the time, but now don’t serve us in a positive way, and may, indeed, be holding us back.

There’s some interesting stories about Jesus after his resurrection that have a common thread running through them, as he visits a group of his friends. One of them, Thomas, doubts and is invited to feel Jesus’s wounds. On another occasion Mary Magdalene is told not to touch. And, yet on another occasion Jesus cooks breakfast for his friends, and presumably touches them in serving up a fish meal. So, what is going on? Touch, do not touch, touch! Are these contradictions as some have suggested?

I love conundrums like this, because it means we have to delve deep and put aside our preconceived ideas, that baggage we unnecessarily carry around, if we want to unearth the truth.

And so, deep spirituality follows, that I believe applies to us all.

‘Look within. Within is the fountain of good, and it will ever bubble up, if thou wilt ever dig.’ Marcus Aurelius

Do not…: Quick Latin lesson follows, but please don’t be discouraged. The Latin translation of the words of The Master spok to Mary  are ‘noli me tangere’ and are commonly translated as ‘do not touch’. Is this a contradiction (as elsewhere some are invited to touch)? No. No contradiction. But, at present, it’s still a conundrum. I do so love conundrums – they are really learning opportunities, if we pursue them and persist to the end.

Perhaps a better translation of ‘noli me tangere’ is not ‘do not touch’, but ‘do not cling!’. Then, it begins to make sense: touch, do not cling, touch! Logical! Reasonable! Consistent!

Touching is allowed, but clinging isn’t (helpful). Conundrum solved!

We are invited to touch – but do not cling. Whether we’re thinking of physical clutter or spiritual clutter, touching and analysing, reviewing etc is allowed (and is commended as we weigh up its value), but clinging isn’t.

Somethings (and not all) have to go! Spiritually-speaking, what could you live without?wind matterhorn-968_960_720.jpg

Clinging onto something, as though it is ours and always will be, unchangingly, is unhelpful and inaccurate, and cause heartache.

Note to self and to you: Do not cling. Do not be held back!

And these are wise words to sojourners or pilgrims, such as us, as we pass through here, because we are commended to travel light, and not be weighed down, ‘cumbered with a load of care’, as it is written somewhere.

Travel light, my dear friend, travel light! Do not cling.