In Dark Times, Shine 1/5: Distinctiveness [Celtic Thought]

20170220-in-dark-times-1-celtic-thoughtIf you read the newspapers, watch tv or listen to the radio there seems to be more ‘darkness’ about than ever. Is there more confusion, fear and bitterness in the world, or are we just more aware of it?

Putting ‘fake news’ aside, just what is going on? I know a lot of people are unnerved by recent events, and maybe not without just cause, and it does seem the ones in ascendancy just get angrier and angrier, and that can spill over and affect us all.

‘It’s the end of the world as we know it…’, so sang R.E.M in (would you believe) 1987

What Do We Do?
keep-calm-shoppingAs a Brit I am reminded of the resurgence over the last few years of those war time posters (and cups and mugs etc) that say something like ‘[something witty here] and ‘carry on”!  I think there’s some truth in that. So, we carry on? Yes, but there’s more!

‘Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.’ Seneca The Younger

I do believe it’s not the end, but the beginning of something new. Sadly, Seneca got there before me, in saying that!

As a latter-day Celt, and speaking to you as a Celt, Celtic Christian, or Druid etc, we come from a long line and tradition that has ‘weathered’ many storms of change in the past. Times change. Truth remains. Indeed, in one ancient text it refers to such changes and perception of extreme and seemingly unusual feelings as being like birth-pangs. It’s a beginning of something wonderful and exciting – a call to people of vision – but  it’s not without pain, confusion, fear and some much-needed adjustment. But, take heart!

‘Fear is the cheapest room in the house.
I would like to see you living
In better conditions.’ Hafiz

We Carry On…
What so we do? I would suggest that we do not give into fear, are not provoked, and, at least ‘carry on’ in doing good. Let your light shine! But, there’s more.

…And Then Do More
hand-pixabay-1331323_960_720If we think in terms of light, love, positivity, good deeds, self-love, other-love, good-thoughts, prayer, wholesome  action, and yes, even ritual, then perhaps there’s scope for us to do even more (not necessarily in terms of the amount we do (but if you want to, that’s okay, but don’t overdo it)), but in the quality, passion and effectiveness of what we’re doing)! Yes, maybe we can step it up a gear!

Of the eight billion people on the planet, the Source of All has made you unique. There is no one quite like you, nor is there anyone with quite the same gifts, talents and calling. You’re different, and different for a reason.

‘Why fit in when you were born to stand out?’ Dr Seuss

So, be distinctive!

Now, once you know your distinctiveness and calling, then you can be ‘subversively’ good and be distinctive, and when someone notices your words or actions you can minimise the effect. In this sense subversive is used to mean action against the system of brokenness and fear and confusion by thinking, saying and doing good things. Even so, the response may not always be positive from other people, and  that’s one good reason for the low-key approach.

The other approach is to be openly distinctive and throw caution to the wind. Flaunt it, or at least don’t be covert. However, do bear in mind that, ‘Notwithstanding how good you are, you…[may]… be perceived as bad by the masses when you take the extraordinary steps that lead to distinctiveness…’.  said Ernest Agyemang Yeboah. Be cautious.

And Then…
hands-1926414_960_720However, we probably all need some energy – however we define it – for new work, or greater work, or deeper, or prolonged work. We can only give from a position of strength – in the sense if we have no energy or are exhausted, if we have nothing to offer that is refreshing or vibrant, then…..well, we will have nothing to offer, nor the ability to deliver it. Be prepared to do what you’re called to do, but do ensure that you have the energy and resources.

‘Every man and woman is born into the world to do something unique and something distinctive and if he or she does not do it, it will never be done’. Benjamin E Mays

Of course, this begs the following questions:

  • Do we know who it is that calls us?
  • Do we know our gifts and attributes?
  • Do we know what it is we’re called to do?

You might like to answer those questions – keeping it to yourself – to clarify the ministry or path you’re on and/or to act as an encouragement to spur you on (further). If you wish to email questions, or answers to these questions, specifically, by all means email me at: tadhg@tadhg.cymru]

‘Let your light so shine…’ Matthew 5:16a, The Book

Empowerment

Once we know our distinctiveness and calling, then power and energy ‘to do’ is needed. Tomorrow, in part 2 we’ll look at individual empowerment.

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Celtic Thought: Life On Boil?

20170214-life-on-boil-celtic-thoughtOver the Christmas period I discovered the limits of the old cooker/stove I have. It’s small, it’s old, it’s well-used….but it works.

‘What matters is not the idea a man holds, but the depth at which he holds it.’  Ezra Pound

Over breakfast this morning, my thoughts turned to buying a new one – to entertain more (at least that’s my excuse). And, I’m also reading a Richard Rohr book that reminds us, deeply, of how those ancient Celts and mystics had a different perception about the world. Rohr also goes onto say that spiritual things, and especially our descriptions and thoughts about the Source of all, are but metaphors at the very best.

So, here’s a metaphor about life. Life is like a pan of water on the stove.

(Now I’m thinking of Forrest Gump, but that thought  has now passed). We earnestly want life to be untroubled and just ‘simmer’, we want an easy time, but life isn’t always like that. Sometimes, no matter how cool, calm and collected we are (and sometimes we might be an ‘agitation’ to someone unknowingly, and yes, sometimes knowingly) life gets ‘hotter’ and hotter’, and like it or not life ‘boils’. This strikes home as maybe the ‘fallout’ after an argument; a worrying ‘distancing’ from someone for some reason,and before we know it, it’s  too late to make amends; or some other calamity that seems to come out of nowhere rears its ugly head. Unwelcome news is always….well, unwelcome! Right now, I’ve had some ‘bad’ news. I have gallstones – apologies if you’re eating as you read this.

‘We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves…groan inwardly as we wait..’ Romans 8.22-23 part, The Book.

If life is like a pan of water on the stove, then sometimes, life boils.

And, to make it worse. Whilst my pan or yours (ie life) is boiling, some smart-alec, some holier-than-thou person (whose life only ever simmers, or so they tell us) looks on, condescendingly.  Our life is ‘boiling’, and now we have to deal with the ‘heat’ and judgementalism (from others, and sometimes even from ourself).

One of my favourite mystics from yesteryear, Meister Eckhart wrote: ‘Life is a boiling up and pouring out of itself, scalding and melting and bubbling within itself, light penetrating light. For life is as it were a gushing up, a thing welling up in itself, pouring a part of itself into another part, as it runs forth and bubbles over beyond itself.’

So, life is a boiling up!

Suddenly, as I sit here supping coffee, having read that, thought about it, life feels a little bit (more) understandable. Sometimes, life ‘boils’ or perhaps that is this life’s normal state, and the Source either sends it or allows it, and yet we in some almost-unbelievable way benefit from it.

This led me onto some more thoughts:

– we can be our own worst enemy, beating ourselves up. Stop it. The Incarnated One talked about showing love, and that includes us as well as others, and

– sometimes calamity will come our way and life will ‘boil’ – and those that look on because they say they only ever ‘simmer’ are either being untruthful or are missing out in some real and cosmic way, so don’t worry about them, and

– all things work to the good. If we’re promised by the Source of All that all things will be rectified, and we lose someone because of an argument and then ‘lose them ‘because they slip out of time and into Eternity, it may seem to be over, but the promise hasn’t been fulfilled! Logic (as well as deep spirituality) demands that it isn’t over, yet. There’s more to come, and I find that comforting. Life goes on elsewhere, and if things are not resolved here, then they are resolved there, and that buoys me up in the present. It means that if you or I went to a spiritualist (and I’m not advocating that – apologies to my spiritualist friends) then Great Aunt Maud who I might have upset just before she went ‘Home’ wont be upset with me – she’s in Bliss, (and it wouldn’t be Bliss if she were upset),  and finally,

– because of my already-there-because-we-never-existentially-left theology (but we just think we have left Bliss), we’re (still) in that place of Peace where the ‘boiling’ has stopped, where all things are resolved, but for the time being the physical world seems to obscure that Heavenly realm from our point of view. So, I’m really right there with Great Aunt Maud, reconciled.

Ah, if only more people thought like those ancient Celts, and Druids of old.

However I feel today, or you feel…whether we’re going through a segment of life which is ‘boiling’ at the moment, it will pass, and in one very real sense it has already been dealt with. In that Place-Beyond-Time all things have been resolved and reconciled in the most ‘bigly’ (to use a word by someone who’s name I can’t remember) way you can imagine. But, don’t spend too much time imagining…because for the time being we cannot possibly imagine that realm of total peace and bliss. Remember, such deep, spiritual things can only be attempted using metaphors.

He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Revelation 21:5, The Book

Meanwhile, I’m still pondering buying a new cooker/stove. What do you think? Not necessarily about the last sentence but about the last few paragraphs?

 

Celtic Thought: [Don’t] Go With The Flow

20170206-dont-go-with-the-flow-celtic-thoughtHere’s a paradox: Do not go with the flow; do go with the Flow.

At the far end of my cottage’s garden in Capel Curig (in north Wales) is a rivulet. Hidden by trees and gorse bushes, it rushes by the northern boundary, invisible to all, except to me and a few locals. It’s so small – you can leap over it – it has no name, except for the one I gave it. To me, this ‘watery companion’ is: Bach ac yn gyflym. (See here for the Bach ac yn gyflym poem). Welsh geographical place-names are very descriptive, and it seemed right to call this rivulet by this name. It means ‘small and fast’. Very apt, very Welsh. Very Celtic, very Druidic!

And sometimes, especially in the spring and summer you can see some of the larger water-insects swimming along with the flow and taking it easy, and the tougher insets battling against the flow.

Do not go with the flow

When is it the time not to go with the flow? I’m sure there have been times when you may have succumbed to peer group pressure and gone with the flow, and followed majority thinking. It may have been the right thing to do, but sometimes, just sometimes there’s a nagging doubt that it was the wrong thing to do.

Sometimes we’ve realised, too late, that we shouldn’t have followed the majority. Yes, majorities can be wrong, or at least they can be going in a direction that is different to us because of different core-values held.

It is difficult to be part of a group, when, on most occasions you and I go with the flow;  and then someone suggests something – contrary to our core values – and then we just cannot go along with them. And then ‘eyes roll’, recriminations may start, encouragement to conform is felt, peer group pressure starts, or perhaps we’re then ‘sidelined’.

This might happen at work, in families, and yes, even in faith groups. Did you tithe? Did you assume the correct posture for prayer or for that ritual? I even remember when the question was ‘Are you a ‘who are’ or a ‘which art’. Do you start the circle in the East? Do you commence walking deosil or widdershins? And, so on. ‘Bear-trap’ questions that can intimidate, and coerce you into following others.

There’s a great, old, British movie called ‘A Man For All Seasons’  which is based on historical fact (albeit, loosely in places), which tells the story of King Henry VIII and the pressure he applied on various people to allow him to divorce his wife for another. Some agreed with him, and had a fairly easy life, such as the Duke of Norfolk. Others, like Sir Thomas More, although a dear friend of the King’s was treated harshly for not openly agreeing with the King (and wisely said nothing against the King, either).

In that movie the Duke of Norfolk seeks to coax Sir Thomas More to join him an openly support the King.

The Duke of Norfolk says: ‘Oh confound all this. I’m not a scholar, I don’t know whether the marriage was lawful or not, but dammit, Thomas, look at these names! Why can’t you do as I did and come with us, for fellowship!’

Sir Thomas More: ‘And when we die, and you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience, and I am sent to hell for not doing mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?’ ‘A Man For All Seasons’ movie, 1966 (staring Paul Scofield).

Okay, not wanting to emphasise the heaven/hell quandary of St Thomas More’s, which is something we can come back to at another time, but it’s an  interesting question, isn’t it? ‘Why can’t you do as I did and come with us, for fellowship?’

Those that act in one particular way may well be doing so because their ‘internal compass’ or core value allows it, and they are being authentic; which if you and I follow them, we may be going against our core values and therefore would be acting in an ‘inauthentic’ way!

In such cases, maybe it’s better to go with your core values, if those values are positive, uplifting and right, and not to go with the flow; but be prepared for the consequences as best and as positively as you can. Sometimes, there is a cost involved!

Do go with the Flow

But, there are times when it is right to go with the Flow. Okay, this Flow is of a different order to the one above (hence the capitalisation). Whenever we have the opportunity to go with the Flow, my encouragement is to seize it!

Ofcourse, it has to be the Flow, and not a ‘near-miss’, and in these circumstances the Flow is recognised as always being the Energy (also capitalised, because it is Personal, and to differentiate it from non-personal energy) that is patient, kind, humble, acts soberly, defers to others, is forgiving, is full of truth, believes the good (in you and others), is full of hope, endures a lot but never harms. (based on 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, the Book). If those good things are not evident, then it isn’t the Flow.

The Flow is Spiritual! And, when it is authentic, when it is the Flow: Go with the Flow.

The Flow is the Source of All, God, ‘who flows through everything, without exception, and who has done so since the beginning’, writes Richard Rohr. And, error, he goes onto say, ‘is the state of being closed down, shut off, blocked, and thus resisting the eternal flow of what we’re meant to be.’

Richard Rohr mentioning those mystics from yesteryear, deserts fathers and mothers, and others uses their terminology and calls this flow: perichoresis. (See here for a brief article on this]. Perichoresis is the Divine dance.

‘When you’re all over, when you know you’ve done all that you can do
Put on your dancing shoes, it’ll see you through’. Steve Winwood

Some have seemingly ‘belittled’ and divested, (existentially and not essentially), the Flow in their lives, ‘distancing’ themselves from it [although the Flow is personal, and so ‘he’ or ‘she’ is better], and have reduced the Flow to a set of rules or a mathematical concept. But, the Flow is nothing less than the all-encompassing, inclusive and welcoming Divine dance to which you are invited, to surrender to the Flow as one gives oneself to one’s lover, to step onto the dance floor joyfully, and enter the flow, and really live.

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

 

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

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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.

 

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Celtic Thought: Lessons In [Over]Thinking.

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Did you ever see the movie, ‘Bruce Almighty’? It’s the one where Bruce Nolan played by Jim Carrey, is a television field reporter at his wits end. Life just doesn’t seem fair.

At one point, in the movie, Bruce is driving along asking God for a sign. As he drives he passes a road side indicator panel – the kind that warn of impending road works –  showing the words ‘Caution Ahead’. He doesn’t notice it.

A truck loaded with road signs (of the kind: yield, stop, slow down etc) pulls out in front of him causing him to mutter and swerve, and he’s oblivious to it. He asked for a sign, got it, and didn’t recognise it for what it was.

‘I had a dream that I was awake, and I woke up to find myself asleep.’ Stan Laurel

I’m one week into the new year, as are you, but I’m feeling a bit like Bruce Nolan. Expectant, but there’s a nagging feeling that maybe I’m ‘asleep’?

It all started a few days ago. I like good music, and do appreciate a good choreographed choir. I say that with some trepidation, because I wouldn’t win any votes on Britain’s Got Talent for my singing. So, a few days ago – oh, I do hope they invite me back – I was at a place (and that’s as precise a description as I’m going to give), where the congregation, many of whom are dear, sweet friends, just could not sing. I wept. Not because they couldn’t sing, but because it moved me. They had a joy, a love and a ‘holy innocence’ that reached down into my core and caught me up with their offering to the Source of all. A magnificent inclusion that was overwhelming. A ‘thin place’ event. And it was enough. I realised afterwards that I could have ‘switched off’ completely, and been critical, and missed something oh-so-special at that service.

Can we be so critical, that we miss being moved by the little things in life?

‘My friends are the beings through whom God loves me.’ Mark Nepo

And then, a couple of days ago, at my ever-so-humble, north Wales cottage, Tŷ Gwin, I had one of those wake-up-in-the-early-hours-of-the-morning events. It’s at times like that, that to get back to sleep, I like to go for a walk in the nearby forest – suitably dressed, ofccourse, and regardless of the time. As a Celt, a Christian and a Druid, I love nature, the wilderness, the barren places where ritual and/or meditation can take place, and where you can hear the Source of All. But, that night is was raining. Normally, that wouldn’t stop me, but I could hear the rain in torrents hitting the windows as it was caught by gusts of wind, it was even colder-than-cold outside, and if I’m honest there was a little bit of ‘stay-indoors-and-keep cosy’-ness that enveloped me, and forced me to remain within the cottage. What could I do?

So, unusually for me, I stayed put, and put the radio on for a while, instead. As I sat on the sofa in a semi-comatose state – well, drifting in an out of a day-dream state – I could hear the radio’s music in the background. Okay, I admit I am not a fan of Cyndi Lauper, but the song’s refrain continued to vie for my attention. I tried to resist, I really did. But, in the end I had to climb that metaphoric ‘staircase’ out of the day-dream state to listen more so. ‘If you’re lost you can look and you will find me, time after time; If you fall I will catch you, I will be waiting, time after time’.

Could it be that the Source of All uses any means he/she wants to get our attention, and to get the message across, even to the point of using Magic Radio? (105.4 FM in the UK for those interested, and also available on DAB radio). It’s an interesting thought.

‘…but [the Source of All] will rejoice over you with singing.’ Zephaniah 3:17b, The Book

And now as I write this, I’m wondering whether I should continue or whether it just sounds plain odd, daft, as soppy as a box of frogs? But, if you’re reading this then you’ll know the choice I’ve made.

Ofcourse, in concluding this, and mentioning two examples of something that I could have missed but didn’t, it begs the question: If the Source of All communicates with us, and I do believe that is the case, then ‘What have I…..umm, what have we missed, say, even in the last few days?’

This shouldn’t make us downcast, nor neurotic, but should gently, hopefully, tease an answer to that question, and positively spur us on to be alert to what Mark Nepo calls those ‘quiet teachers’ that speak to us all, all the time.

‘Often we find it easier to think our way around things rather than to feel our way through them.’ Mark Nepo

 

2017: Looking Forward: A Matter Of Perception

 20170102Well, what a year 2016 was! I’m guessing for some people it was a good year, for some a not-so-good year, and for some, maybe the majority, it was a year of mixed fortunes and views. How was it for you?

For me, I was surprised (and I’m not saying ‘pleasantly’ or ‘unpleasantly’ surprised) by major votes on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. This year, for me, also saw the ‘passing on’ of a dear friend who had only just reach his early forties, of a couple of family members enduring declining health, and a number of other seemingly negative things. However, globally lots of good things happened, and locally and in my circle of family and friends, too, lots of good things happened: someone moved to a better house, anniversaries were celebrated, someone got promotion for all the hard work they had put in, and you and I are here!

How we view the last year, and more importantly how we view, in expectancy, the new year ahead of us will depend on what we’re looking for. Perception matters!

‘…seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.’ Matthew 7:7b, The Book

Something to think upon: If we’re looking for negative things, that’s what we’ll see. If we’re looking forward with positivity, hope and an air or awesome mystery, that’s what we’ll see. We find what we’re looking for. Perception really does matters!

You know I’m going to encourage you to undertake the latter, and remind myself daily to do the same – to look forward with hope, and to give gratitude for the major and minor things that happen.

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

(Rumi)

Something to do: So, as an offshoot to this, how about making a ‘gratitude jar’?

A gratitude jar is simply a jar that stores all the things that you’re grateful for. They can be major things; they can be mundane (whatever that means) or simple things. Each day, at the end of the day you review the day and write one thing that you’re grateful for, on a piece of paper and pop it into the jar. By the end of this year you’ll have hundreds of pieces of paper to read, to lift you up and encourage you further. Ofcourse, you can decorate the jar if you’re artistically inclined. And some people put in photographs or theatre ticket stubs to remind themselves etc. And some, even use (sometimes) small pebbles with a word written on them – but you’ll probably need a big jar for this.

Can you list a few things, now, that you’re grateful for and which happened in the last year? Can you also list a few good things that you’d like to see happen in 2017, and which you can work towards?

For me…in looking forward, 2017 will be a year of change, and good changes at that. For instance, I’m intending to change the frequent jaunts between north Wales and London – I’ve been doing that for so long – and it will mean selling a house (and maybe relocating). I see this as a positive move, something to look forward to, and a challenge that will open a new chapter in my life. There’s no rush, but the thought-process has started.

But there’s more.

Some of you will know that for two decades (oh, actually twenty-two years) I’ve been (legally) part of a ‘large theological institution’ in a clerical (NSM) capacity and have worked within that framework (in working with disabled people, the homeless, those on probation etc, as well as other and ceremonial duties) and had a fair amount of ‘space’ to undertake Celtic and Druidic research and ceremonies etc. I’m grateful for that, and have had a great time. But, it’s time for a change. Although things could stay the same for some time to come, it seems to me that a new ‘season’ approaches. I’ll keep an associate membership with that institution, and will still be doing some of the ceremonial events for it, but this year sees me involved in, say, a ‘freelance’ practice, and I’m looking forward to that as it unfolds in unforeseen, challenging and interesting ways.

The above-mentioned will allow even more time to devote to one-to-one work, to the ‘opening’ of a new website (mentioned some weeks ago, somewhat delayed by a few weeks, but due midmonth), and more time to work (with others) as regards liturgy, ritual, ceremony of a Celtic, Christian and Druidic nature – all of which I consider so important and necessary. And, something I am definitely looking forward to doing more of. It’s exciting.

Part of the reason for mentioning these personal examples is to reinforce the idea that to some these could be negatives, but to me they’re positives. Perception matters!

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

(Mary Oliver)

And, there’s more! Part of the reason for mentioning those personal examples, is to ask about you.

What are you looking forward to? What good things are you planning, and what challenges might present themselves that you can turn around, or even (just) perceive in a positive light and make into positive (actually or learning) events? Perhaps, that’s the real meaning of being an alchemist?

So, what are you looking forward to, in 2017?

Of Pond-skaters And Kingfishers: Spiritual Stages & Progression

161227-pondskaters-1-celtic-thoughtIt occurred to me that, in one sense, that there are two sorts of people, whether they be Celtic, Celtic Christian, Druid or of another tribe or faith family.

The two sorts? Pond-skaters and Kingfishers. And, here’s why:

Pond-skaters: Pond-skaters are wonderful little insects that walk on water. With large and wide legs, relative to their body and weight, they can manoeuvre across the surface of ponds, and no doubt obtain all the food they need to satisfy them from other insects who, similarly, live in their 2D world; a world of north-to-south or east-to-west, or any combination of degrees, but always on the surface of the pond.

People who are like pond-skaters, are similarly living in a (spiritual) 2D world. Believing they can navigate anywhere, they too navigate north-to-south or east-to-west, or any combination of degrees, but always on the surface of their belief. It’s all they’ve known. They cannot, ofcourse, navigate anywhere living in that restricted in 2D realm, but they think they can, and so limit themselves unknowingly. They may be content and so not experiment. They may even be unaware of another dimension, and so not try.

Such people know their Christian liturgy or Druidic prayers and ritual, or that of another faith, but see it as something ‘mechanical’ or ‘magical’: if I do ‘this’, then ‘that’ results automatically. If I do this, because it’s expected, then a benevolent result will….ummm result. They, as ancient text states, ‘hold to the outward form of our religion, but reject its real power’.

Such people, may not even try to go deeper, but prefer just the ‘outwardness’ of ritual and prayer, and thus declare those who have gone ‘deeper’, those that are Kingfishers, those who are different, to be heretics, and therefore ‘write them off’, ignore them, or even declare them as dangerous.

Kingfishers: And, this brings me to people who are like Kingfishers. Those people who have undergone a change in perception.

Kingfishers are marvellous birds, well-adapted to fly at great heights and then descending at speed to catch a fish, dive deep into the water – yes, they break the surface of the pond and go deep. Kingfishers operate in air and water, in two realms, they move about in in 3D: they can navigate anywhere, they too navigate north-to-south or east-to-west, or any combination of degrees, but they have added the high-to-low dimension, and so thus have greater freedom that only Kingfishers (and not Pond-skaters) can experience.

Kingfisher-type people are those that love the outward appearance of ritual and liturgy (like Pond-skaters), and have the added dimension of going ‘deep’, of peeking behind the veil, and of being open to encountering the Source of All to whom that ritual and liturgy ‘connects’, albeit just a glimpse of the Source, ofcourse.

Kingfisher-type people would have a tough time relating their experiences to Pondskater-type people, and so it may be best, if you’re a kingfisher-type person, not to even try in earnest (though a hint, an encouragement to Pondskater-type people would be good, so long as it’s not too obvious – remember, to Pondskater-type people, Kingfisher-type people are heretics, and are therefore dangerous).

There’s more: James Fowler says something about this, and divides the growth of personal faith into seven stages, with a major division between stages three and four. Two things are noteworthy.

To bridge the gap between stages three and four, and so become a kingfisher-type person, demands some ‘judder’, some huge challenge in ones life (such as a close death, trauma, major illness etc, and an eventual overcoming of it and moving through it), and not everyone passes through this ‘judder’ to stage four and beyond. The other interesting fact that Fowler mentions is that each stage cannot comprehend the stage above it (especially at stage three when a major change needs to take place to enter level four, and so those especially at level four look as though they have ‘lost it completely’ to those at level three).

A question for you: So, are you a pond-skater of kingfisher?

It could be said that one sign that you’re a pond-skater is if you haven’t read this far (and so you won’t be reading this) and have already dismissed the abovementioned out of hand or branded me a heretic. If however you honestly recognise yourself at this awesome level, do contact me.

In all probability, if you’ve read this far then maybe you’re a kingfisher-type person, at Fowler level four, maybe, or beyond. Do contact me, because stages five and above promise much, but each transition to another stage has it’s (minor) challenge(s) to work through, lest ‘arrestment’ settle in.

And, so there you have it. Pond-skaters or Kingfishers. What do you think?

Oh, The Power You Have…And Yet May Not Even Use.

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I know a lot of people. Some of them believe they have ‘god in their pocket’ and he’ll do whatever they want him to do. Others, believe in a ‘pantheon’ of gods, spirits and elements and seek to manipulate them with ritual and words. Still others, enter into the mystery (be it to encounter one God, many gods, spirits and elementals, and are more circumspect at what is going on). And, it this group – Christian, Celtic, Druid, other faiths – that intrigues and fascinates me the most, because it seems to be the more, honest, real, authentic and power-ful approach. For them, this life is an amazing process of journey and discovery.

Such a group, infact,  have great power.

One of my favourite tv programs was Star Trek. And, who  couldn’t but love and be irritated in equal measure than by Deanna Troi’s mother, played so well by Majel Barrett-Rodenberry (and yes, she was the wife of Gene Rodenbury, the program’s creator).  Majel played the part of Lwaxana Troi, annoyingly well.

If anyone forgot her status, as stories unfolded, she would quickly remind them that she was Lwaxana Troi, Daughter of the Fifth House, Holder of the Sacred Chalice of Rixx, Heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed’. She loved those grandiose titles and clung to them as if it was in them that power resided!

‘Great acts are made up of small deeds’. Lao Tzu

I am so confused by ‘fake news’. It’s now rumoured that the Russian government might have been at work to skew the Brexit result, or is that, itself, deliberate fake news? For those of a mature age, ‘fake news’ in old language is ‘telling lies’ and is frowned upon. I don’t know if the Russians have been up to no good, but I hear the UK government are taking it seriously. I think, in my humble opinion, that our Parliament ought to put its own house in order, first. I have lost count of the number of lies being told by Members of Parliament.

And, here is where power comes in. Our power.  What of the power you and I have? We have a lot of power….especially if we don’t vote for, nor support in any way any politician who lies, and maybe email them when our local MP or any major MPs tells ‘whoppers! That’s real power – the power to (more) hold out politicians to account.

I am concerned about plastic and microbeads polluting the ocean. Some governments want a voluntary ban by companies, some are bringing in legislation within a few months or years. I have a better solution. That we, as consumers, stop buying any sea-polluting or bee-killing product as from this week. Trust me, industry will get the message a week later, and nature will start healing…because of your power!

‘If people don’t think they have the power to solve their problems, they won’t even think about how to solve them.’ Saul Alinksy

The holding our MPs (more) to account and nature-loving buying-power are just two examples. You’ll think of more, I’m sure. But, those are at least two of my new years resolutions to make 2017 even better!

We don’t need hugely long titles like Lwaxana Troi to wield power, we don’t  need be in high Office. All we need is to exercise our democratic and buying-power rights, to exercise our power locally, and, additionally, to exercise our innate spiritual power, however you see it. So, please be encouraged to exercise your power, and if you want to ‘envelope’ it in wonderful Celtic Christian prayer and/or Druidic ritual – which I love and appreciate so much because it keeps me centred – even better. What about you?

Ora et labora: prayer and action.

Celtic Daily Thought: But At Times, Keep Your Shoes On…

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…Yes, sometimes, it’s good to keep your shoes on. Aha! Having wrote, yesterday, about those dogma-shoes of restriction (of extreme religion, ‘churchianity’ or the like, or any unwelcome and unnecessary restrictions) that we wear, and which cripple us and hold us back, there are some things that are good for us.

Dogma-shoes may be ‘out’! But, protective-shoes, are definitely still ‘in’. Life can be complex, I know.

So there I was, this morning, moving some hefty paving-stones around the garden , and it was a damp and cold day. Brrrr! I had put on my ‘gardening boots’, bought some years ago and which have aged alongside me like a close friend, and they have steel toe-caps. They are not flattering. I wouldn’t win a fashion contest in them, but they are functional. And, I love them….if only because, ten minutes into moving these paving stones around the garden this morning (using a kind of paving-stone ‘walking motion’, of swivelling them to rest of alternating corners as I half-turned them – and, that sentence made sense to me, but apologies if it doesn’t really make sense)…one paving stone slipped (due to the cold and dampness in the air) and fell onto the toes on my left foot! Crash! But, toe steel-capped boots are a blessing, I’ve found. No damage done. Sometime it pays to have oh-so-unfashionable-but-restrictive shoes on, protective footwear, appropriate for the task in hand.

Having said, yesterday, to go barefoot – to remove any outmoded restrictions in our lives, perhaps sometimes, protective-boot-dogmas are needed (or progressive-boot-dogmas can be inserted there). Certainly, tangibly, that was the case today.

So there I was this afternoon, at the cottage. I met Ben for a match. Ben, who is a young-ish neighbour, and who was born in New York is physically strapping, a massive man, muscular and built-like-a-farmhand, sort of man. He’s astute, strong, full of energy, could floor Tarzan, overpower Superman and think nothing of it, and Batman wouldn’t even have time to reach for his bat-[insert here a gadget of choice], and as an amateur wrestler, Ben hardly ever loses. But, I beat him. Oh, yes, it wasn’t a technically pure match, but I beat him, fair and square. He didn’t like it. His ego was bruised,  due to my win. Did I mention I won? The match, for him, went downhill from the thirtieth minute. That was when I used my knight to take his queen, and the rest, as they say, was history. I love chess. But, if you employ a consistent strategy, a dogma-of-moves, the potential of winning is enhanced.

And now here I am typing, or is it word-processing? And, it dawned on me that there is a need for us to remove those old, restrictive dogma-shoes, that hold us back, but that’s only half the story.

There’s more!

There is a need for a framework in our lives, a belief. Call it goodly-dogma, lifestyle or relevant-faith, but it can be a force for good. Practically, steel toe-capped boots saved my poor little toes today, a good chess strategy assisted me to beat a friend at chess, and maybe a positive belief in the Good and That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves, is needed. I’ve found that to be the case. Goodly-dogma (that enables, and I know I’m now using dogma in a different way). But, what do you think?

The last word, well almost the last word goes to Ben, – he’s the wrestler chap. Having lost the chess match – oh be still, my rejoicing ego – Ben issued a challenge for me and him to ‘hit the mats’ next time! With suitable protection and strategy in place, it occurred to me that I might just beat him at wrestling, albeit that thought only stayed with me for several seconds. But,  fortunately for me, ‘sanctified common-sense’ or lifesaving-dogma clicked in, and I politely refused. Sometimes, that which ‘restricts’ us, certainly restricts us from accepting rash challenges can be the best way forward. Sometimes, my advice is: don’t remove your protective-dogma-shoes.

 

The Telling Place: The Story Of The Monk And The Moon.

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A thought: Black Friday , that day of ‘commercial rampage’, the day after Thanksgiving Day, is fast approaching. Even here in the UK, where Thansgiving isn’t celebrated – sorry, America – that ‘sales day’ will be screened on the tv news as some people will go wild, and wrestle tvs and other items from the hands of other shoppers, and head towards the tills, and save a few £pounds.

Values?

Here’s a story:

An aged monk, a devout man of faith, lived a very simple kind of life, all by himself, in a very small hut at the foot of a mountain. Each day he would perform a ritual, give what little food he had to the poor, and return home at night to sleep.

One evening in wintertime, a thief came to the hut, broke in, only to discover there was absolutely nothing of value to steal.

The old monk returned home, and caught the thief still in his hut. ‘You must have come a long way to visit me, my friend’, he told the thief, ‘and you should not return empty-handed.’ The old monk looked around, and said, ‘Please take my clothes as a gift.’

The thief was amazed and didn’t know quite what to say. He took the clothes and ran off into the night.

Now the monk sat naked, watching the moon. ‘Poor fellow,’ he said to himself, ‘I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon’. 

Priorities? Values clarification?

C S Lewis summed this up, when he wrote: “If we consider the unblushing promises of reward … it would seem that…our desires [are] not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about…when infinite joy is offered us, [and, we are] like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.’

Too easily pleased? What do you think?